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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (458)

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Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 3/5
Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3/5
Metro 2033 3.5/5
South Park: The Fractur... 4/5
Sundered 3.5/5
Mass Effect: Andromeda 3.5/5
Life is Strange: Before... 4/5
God of War 4/5
Doom (2016) 3.5/5
Armada 3.5/5
Detroit: Become Human 4/5
Destiny 2 4/5
Horizon: Zero Dawn 4.5/5
Oxenfree 4/5
Murdered: Soul Suspect 3/5
Kirby Star Allies 3/5
Celeste 4.5/5
Dark Quest 2 3/5
Just Cause 3 3.5/5
Guacamelee! 2 4/5
The Incredible Adventur... 4/5
Rise of the Tomb Raider 4/5
Dead Rising 3 4/5
Layers of Fear 3.5/5
Prey 3/5

Next 25
 

Mass Effect: Andromeda   PlayStation 4 

Mass Defect: Andromeda Tries Hard, Falls Short    3.5/5 stars

Mass Effect had a pretty big impact on the gaming landscape but most people now remember it for one thing: how it ended. While Mass Effect was a good start, Mass Effect 2 was nearly perfect, Mass Effect 3 took was nearly as good... until the end ruined it for pretty much everyone. Mass Effect: Andromeda tries to take things in a new direction - a different story, different characters and a different part of the galaxy entirely. But in their rush to provide something new, BioWare and EA bit off more than they could chew resulting in a game that, while having a decent story and gameplay, suffers from lack of polish and focus. The end result is a game that is solid yet unfulfilling - and while it may not deserve quite all the negativity it has received, it certainly could have been better.

Presentation: Mass Effect has always been at the forefront of looking damn good. And, in this aspect, Andromeda is a step backward. From stiff character animation, game stutters, jaggies and pop-in and even random game crashes - I found the experience underwhelming all around. A lot has been made about how the game looks - and I have to agree that it's a bit on the ugly side. Look, I'm never one to pride graphics over the game experience, but in this case the roughness hurts the experience. I don't need every game to look perfect, but I do want it to look comparable to its budget. As a major title, there is no excuse for the issues I encountered. If you followed the development of this game at all, you would no of the many issues it went through during this process - including changing the game engine, mechanics and other things - such that at the end there was such a crunch, it hurt the final product. A clear lack of vision is what truly turned this game from something special to merely something decent and it's too bad, as I found the story intriguing and the characters interesting. Had there been a better vision behind it - who knows, maybe it would have rivaled the original trilogy.

Story: As I said, the story is pretty good. The game follows a group of several arks that have left the Milky Way behind to setting in the far-away Andromeda system. While the voyage takes place between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3, the 634-year journey means the actual game takes place far into the future - with our group of intrepid settlers having passed the time in cryo sleep. But, alas, during their long voyage, the Golden Worlds that were promised have been transformed due to the sudden presence of a dark energy dubbed The Scourge. They also have to deal with a violent alien race, the Kett, who are a genetically-modified race who essentially take the best traits from any race they encounter and integrate it with themselves before transforming the vast majority into Kett while killing off the rest.

Early on, your character (once again, male or female with a very rudimentary character creation tool) is proclaimed the new Pathfinder (that is, the person in charge of finding habitable worlds to settle). This is only after the first Golden Planet turns out to be a storm-laden disaster zone - and your father, the human Pathfinder (voiced by the talented Clancy Brown) is killed after sacrificing himself for you. This also means the advanced AI dubbed SAM is downloaded into you as well. After barely escaping the planet, you find yourself on the Nexus, the spacestation that is supposed to be the center of government and Pathfinder activity - only to find you are the only Ark that has arrived. Things are bad - most of the Nexus leadership, including the initiative facilitator Jien Garson - has died, leaving salarian Jarun Tann (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) in charge. The eight in line, his is more bureaucrat than leader, and this is reflected in the mutiny that occurred, where by security chief Sloan Kelly (Indira Varma) left and now leads a more lawless colony. It also resulted in the exodus of most of the Krogan, who have also formed their own colony. Along with Tann, the Nexus is led by one of the few Krogan to remain, Nakmor Kesh (Allegra Clark) who serves as general maintenance, turian Tiran Kandros (Steve Pirot), new head of security and Foster Addison (Zoe Telford) head of Colonial Affairs with her second William Spender.

While the addition of the human ark helps raise hopes, it turns out that so far all the Golden Worlds have all been proven uninhabitable and the one near-viable colony established was quickly wiped out by a Kett attack. Thus there is a lot of weight put on your shoulders. But you are not alone, as you find yourself with a capable crew: Cora Harper (Jules de Jongh) who was in line to be the next human Pathfinder until your father gave it to you, is a powerful biotic and commando. Liam Kosta is an upbeat former police officer turned crisis response with and a versatile soldier. The ships doctor is the Asari Lexi T'Perro (Natalie Dormer), who is maybe a bit too eager, but has a lot of wisdom. You soon pick up more crew: turian smuggler/support unit Vetra Nyx (Danielle Rayne), rogue scientist and firecracker Asari Pelessaria "Peebee" B'Sayle (Christine Lakin), Krogan veteran Nakmor Drack (Stanley Townsend) and grandfather to Kesh, whose 1400-year experience on the battlefield is put to good use and Jaal Ama Darav (Nyasha Hatendi), a member of a new species, the Angaran, who are discovered fairly early in the game. The crew also features salarian pilot Kallo Jath (Garett Ross), science officer Dr. Suvi Anwar (Katy Townsend) and technical officer Gil Brodie (Gethin Anthony). All are part of the Tempest - an advanced ship built to explore and survive the Andromeda system.

Most of the game is spent exploring various systems and making them viable for colonization. Early on, with help from Peebee, you find out many planets are home to the Remnant, an advanced and mysterious mechanical race that also features the ability to terraform planets. Ryder (voiced by either Fryda Wolff or Tom Taylorson), thanks to her AI, has the ability to harness the power of the Remnant and uses this to help make many planets viable for the colonists. But that isn't the only goal - finding the remaining Arks, figuring out what the Kett are up to, making friends with the Angarans, smoothing things over with the rebels and Krogan and, of course, boning your crew (sorry, finding "romance") are all part of your mission. As this is the biggest Mass Effect game, you get to drive around most planets in a buggy - and those planets are varied, from a radioactive wasteland to a frozen, uh, wasteland to a planet the is wildly overgrown to a mechanical metropolis - at least the game does a good job of shaking things up. Everything leads up to confrontation between you and the Kett as well as a revelation between them and the Angaran as well as a deeper mystery involving the Remnant. All in all, the story is solid, interesting even - it just needed a better game to be a part of.

Gameplay: The game isn't too much changed from the original trilogy. It mixes action with a heavy narrative - there is just as much shooting as there is talking. The combat is a bit more flexible - more quick and mobile if you will. You still have a loadout that includes up to four weapons (when you unlock them), with a very wide variety of pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and sniper rifles depending on your playstyle. You can also equip various pieces of armor. In addition, you can also shape your character via profiles - these are varied to focus on combat, tech or biotics (or a combination of two of the three) - as you level up your character, you can unlock various perks and combat abilities in each class. Likewise, your choice of companion also can level up these abilities, though they are more limited. I found a mix of tech/biotic for my abilities to be more suited, though combat abilities helped (mainly for weapon damage) while my favorite companions were Drack and Peebee for most of the game.

The game is much more open-world - with four main planets to explore, drive around with plenty of side missions, secondary characters and just nice little touches to find. While there is plenty of dialogue, I didn't find it as influential as previous games where your choices really affected the outcome. Still, you do form a nice bond with your crew and the romance options (at least for the female Ryder) are quite varied. I accidentally locked myself in with the most boring character (in my opinion - Liam) but that was my own fault. Unfortunately you can't dump a character and hook up with someone else - alas. There is also an interesting story going on with Ryder and SAM, as well as with her father - some darker influences behind the scenes (including references to the Elusive Man) - and even a teaser for a would-be sequel (that may or may not ever happen now). While some may find some of the quests a bit on the fetch side of things, for the most part the game keeps things interesting.

There is also a crafting option for new weapons and armor, as well as the ability to send out Strike Missions (or even do them in multiplayer mode, which, of course, I ignored) for random equipment and such. As you expand the colonies, you also get the ability to spend Andromeda Viability Points (AVP) - which offer a wide variety of perks from gaining resources every few hours, to better market prices to bigger inventory to more mineral deposits on planets - and other such gains. Some are only unlocked after raising the viability of certain planets to a high enough level (which, if you're a completionist like me is no problem). It just gives you extra incentive to complete as many tasks as possible. Each major race (Colony, Kett, Remnant and Angara) also has their own tree of weapons/armor/mods you can unlock by gaining Research Points (in a variety of ways). The only way to unlock everything is to play through multiple times for those who really want - but there is also quite a wide variety here to choose from as well.

Replayability: There is a New Game+ mode, along with the standard different romance options but otherwise there's not that much incentive to go back again.

Overall: While Mass Effect: Andromeda is not without fault, it also doesn't deserve quite all the backlash it got. Had the game not gone through so many changes during its development and arrived with more polish, it could have been something special. As it stands, it's something good but not nearly as memorable.

Presentation: 3/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Replayability: 3/5
Overall (not an average): 3.5/5

 

 


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