Jetting Across the Battlefield
Mass Effect: Andromeda combat is a huge step up from the trilogy. The character is very responsive; battles are intense and fast and might require frequent repositioning to stop enemies from flanking; covers are taken automatically ala Mass Effect 1. It would take quite a bit of time to get used to it, but it is definitely worth it. Any problems in other categories of the game such as excessive scanning and steep learning curve I can forgive for the addition of jetpack. It is impossible to stress just how good it is and what depth it brings to a multi-layered battlefield, especially in multiplayer scenarios.
Taking in attention all of the above, the game has stepped up in difficulty by a reasonable amount. That is why players are given a choice of a variety of settings from casual story-mode to hardcore aggravating Insanity. Additionally, players can take advantage of multiple load outs and profiles.
In short, a profile allows you to spec your character according to your wishes. Expecting heavy Synthetic resistance? Use the Engineer profile and twist it to your liking with certain non-engineer abilities and passives. Facing squishy organics with biotic shields rendering Engineering un-effective? Switch into Adept or Vanguard and show ‘em whose biotic is stronger. Load-outs make those changes easier, allowing to save a pack of weapons, consumables, abilities and more and switch to them effectively.
The usage of these features is completely up to you. I have played through the game as Infiltrator / Engineer mix just fine without using multiple loadouts and other Profiles, even if it had been quite tight in some fights and switching over would have made it so much easier. Another new addition is that load-outs now allow players to take multiple weapons of same kind, minus melee.
Is It Really That Rosy?
The game is not perfect and has its fair share of problems and minor annoyances. While not game breaking, it can certainly spoil otherwise glorious moment.
Did you like Batman’s detective vibe? If so, you are in luck. Because despite BioWare’s promises, scanning is very much a required thing. Additionally, due to new “compass” (hello, Elder Scrolls) type navigation and multi-layered locations, it can be frustratingly hard to find exactly what you need to scan.
In-game interface is clunky and overwhelming. Quests, codex, abilities, inventory, everything is split into multiple folders containing multiple folders. It takes a lot of time and nerve to find exactly what you’re looking for. More, players are limited by only having three active abilities, which I find ridiculously few. However, I understand that between jetpack, evasion, scanning, consumable wheel, etc. BioWare had only that much buttons left for console-players and it obviously traveled into PC version as well.
Crafting and Researching are both un-intuitive and unnecessary complex. Additionally, except for mods for Nomad itself, which made the life much easier, I found no need to actually construct anything. Most blueprints for armor I got were enhancing biotic abilities that did not bode well for pure Engineer. Weapons can be looted from enemies and in later parts of the game bought for hefty sums of credits from vendors.
Companions’ AI seems to be messed up. They frequently change targets, leaving half-dead enemy to pound on the player and seeking a new shiny NPC to tackle. X key is your friend. It would divert attention of your squad to a particular location or enemy if clicked once or make them get back to you if held long enough.
The star system to star system travel shows off long (sadly, un-skippable) “worm hole” animation, and when you finally arrive at the needed planet, the game takes you too close and then slowly zooms out of it. Admittedly, I have taken a liking to alt-tab’ing out of the game while traveling and returning when I am sure Tempest has already made it to destination.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is a very solid game. BioWare had obviously taken their lessons both from original Mass Effect trilogy as well as Dragon Age series and mixed it with fair dose of experience of other AAA titles of late. It is not Inquisition in space, although the influence of it is clearly seen.
The learning curve of the game is quite steep and first few hours (I would give it around 4 to 5) can be quite overwhelming as controls, interface and much smoother reaction of the character settle in, but it gets better. The pluses of the game far outweigh its minuses, including somewhat stiff animations and sometimes “grainy” shadows.
If you want to play Mass Effect 4 with Shepard and nothing else, the game might be not for you. However, if you are open to an idea of an adventure in an open world of one of the most beautiful sci-fi settings out there…
Andromeda awaits, Pathfinder.