Mass Effect Andromeda Review

600 Years Through Dark Space

The only experience I have with the Mass Effect series is when I downloaded the demo for Mass Effect 3. I played a couple minutes of it, had to put it down, then it was lost to memory until now. I’m not saying it was a terrible experience. I remember being fairly busy at the time. I was interrupted with something family related and just forgot to pick it back up. Mass Effect Andromeda’s story starts as the story of Mass Effect 2 concludes but before Mass Effect 3 starts. A rather creative approach as a lot of us, at this point, know how fairly hard it would be to continue after Mass Effect 3 . This way, Bioware basically has a clean slate to keep this franchise going. If only it was successful. I purchased the game on release day and before I could pop it in my PS4 to enjoy, it was already being torn apart by reviewers. A lot of which, if not all, were avid fans of the previous installments. Maybe this was just a case of nostalgia and longing for the glory that once was. The very case that plagues the Final Fantasy franchise. Having practically no experience of what Mass Effect really was about, I harbor no expectations and biased opinions towards the latest installment of the series and perhaps I can provide a different insight.

Minutes into the game and I am already annoyed. Aside from minor mission bugs that truthfully, weren’t game breaking in my case, we have dialog, and all kinds of animation issues that start. That’s when I started to truly think about why this game is being ripped apart online.

Dialog:

The majority of which is very cheesy and, for a lack of better description, lifeless. The kind that brings a new and different appreciation for fan fiction authors (not all, but most) out there. Now couple that with lackluster voice acting and you have a recipe for a “skip every scene” button mash.

Animations:

One of the first things you’ll most likely notice is the glaringly awkward animations. Be it your Ryder taking a stroll, jumping, dodging bullets, or just plain talking, its flaw is prominent. At times, my pathfinder runs like a discombobulated clay doll with extremities flailing about seemingly broken. At first, it was actually quite hilarious. But after the 3rd, 4th, 20th time it occurred, it was no longer as well received. It shouldn’t have been from the start but it had amusement value then. Still, the worst of it all was the facial animation. Games like these that offer character customization, play into the vanity of us gamers. At least for me, I try to make my characters as good looking and least comical as possible. I understand that looks are subjective but unless it’s on purpose, most of us want a decent looking character. I will have to look at him or her the duration of my time in the game. First, you are provided with meager options on the customization. With what was provided, I tried my best to create a decent looking pathfinder in a decent amount of time. My Ryder somehow came out with a perpetually surprised look. His eyeballs were ready to pop out of their sockets at any given time. Kinda hard to take him seriously especially in solemn, somber scenes. Why even give the option of customization when you’ll just end up distorting and disfiguring us?

Gameplay:

Andromeda offered multiple classes to choose from that one can either customize according to play style or just settle for presets. Each class had its own passive and active skills, both defensive and offensive. I had a blast disposing of those that refused to be nothing more than a pebble in my shoe in fun and creative ways. It complimented the plethora of weapons Andromeda provides quite well. Where its lacking is armor. There are only a few to choose from and you can upgrade them to max. You’ll need points that can be earned through missions(main and side), exploration, and discovery to upgrade your weapons and armor, so choose wisely where you allocate these points. The combat itself was average but I wasn’t expecting it to be breath taking so it did its job. There isn’t much more to say really. One aspect I had nothing to gripe about.

Story:

The potential for something amazing exists in Andromeda. I mean, quite literally, there’s a new galaxy for it. You travel over 600 years through dark space trying to escape the threat of extinction in Mass Effect 2. You awake from cryostasis to find yourself at war with a genocidal alien race. You are tasked with the title of Pathfinder and all the responsibilities that comes with it. It is your burden to find a new home for the thousands of humans and aliens alike that boarded this expedition. You’re in a monumental adventure, making history, and you would think that your decisions would actually matter. Outside of the main story line and even in some cases, within in it, it doesn’t. Colonists are being plagued by deserters turned bandits in a recent uprising. You, the Pathfinder, finds a path to quell the injustice and you receive a very forgettable display of gratitude. And if that wasn’t insulting enough, such tasks and requests are duplicated in the rest of the habitable planets in the galaxy. There is no real consequence to the decision you make despite the game’s effort in urging you that there is. You do your valiant grandeur. Speak your eloquently moving speech. They move on indifferently, in most situations,  and so do you to the next rehashed, reskinned call for help. I’ve noticed differences in dialog, so there’s that. Perhaps these adventures would be more meaningful and colorful if you brought along people to share the fun with. Well, you can have up to 6 characters that you can cycle through to form your party of 3 and go pathfinding. Each have their own unique backstory dictating their interactions with your Ryder’s decisions. Given the right response, sex, and preference, you can even have romantic relationships with them. Some of their conversations between each other can be humorous while others, annoying. I didn’t have any favorite and experimented with different combinations especially when doing their own personal quests to earn their utmost loyalty and still came out with generic results.

Replayability:

I suppose sense of ownership and responsible expenditure saw to it and made sure I at least finished the game getting as much as I can out of my investment. But at some point I had to tell myself that the fun was exceedingly fleeting when it was there and the rest resembles a Saturday morning chore. Some games rely on their replayability values through grinding for the best armor and the best weapon to own everyone that looked at you funny. And even in that same monotonous grind fun can be found if implemented correctly. A modicum amount can be found here and I feel like I’m being generous with that. It does have online multiplayer function. But it has microtransaction temptations and nothing you accomplish there can be transferred to your offline file. It might as well be its own separate game.

Overall:

Andromeda was fun–sometimes. But it was overwhelmingly disappointing; mind you I came in to this game with no expectations so that’s saying something. Don’t rent it, don’t buy it. If you must, I’d say wait for that huge price drop and hope that they had fixed the abundance of flaws (I’d list more but they do go on) that is littered throughout the game.

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

Come for the Game Play, Stay for the Story

Humanity has reverted back into a primitive, tribal way of life. Lush vegetation has conquered tattered ruins of what was once our thriving cities. Mechanical beasts that resembles creatures of prehistoric times roam the lands. This is Earth now and we follow Aloy, a charmingly strong-willed red head, on her journey to understanding her existence and how she fits the mold of this world, with the many faces she’ll meet along the way. Some less memorable than others. But I’m more forgiving in this regard as your main focus is the development of Aloy. The ones that truly matter and affects her the most are well done. I’d be more disappointed if none of the characters you meet added the least bit of color to your adventures. To date, I don’t know of any console game that is as visually stunning as Horizon Zero Dawn especially if you have a system that can run it in its rendered 4k.

     The story may be at first, slow, but the aesthetics of the environment that the game walks you through is distracting enough that you really won’t notice. After about 2 or so hours in, the story picks up, piling on more questions to the questions you already have to grip your curiosity. It is an open world and, as such, offers many distractions. The game however, delivers enough sense of urgency that you are compelled to stay focused and not wildly distracted like you would be in oh–Skyrim, for instance. Depending on one’s efficiency, that main quest line can be finished in 30-40 or so hours.

     Of course there are dangers lurking beyond that hill cresting the sunset; most of which will be machines. Perhaps some bandits roaming the trails looking for their next meal. Fear not, Aloy is trained in range combat with various bows, slings, traps, wires, and ropes along with a spear should the fight come close. A wide enough array of strategies can be employed against different types of enemies. What worked for your current adversary may not dent your next challenge. You can approach situations stealthily if a more frontal assault is not to your style. There are plenty of patches of tall grass to ambush unsuspecting robotic lizards from. It is refreshing and keeps the game from going stale too soon out of sheer repetitiveness–something that plagues a lot of action RPG’s of late. You can even arm yourself with weapons torn off from certain enemies.

     Usually, games with aesthetics of this caliber, fall short on either combat system, or story telling. Guerrilla games exceeded expectations, if not lived up to the hype, with this game; especially for their first title that is not their usual genre. But it’s not all praises and accolades for Horizon Zero dawn. The game offers little to no incentive at all in terms of replayability. Everything can be achieved in this game, from the plethora collections of data logs entry to enrich oneself in deeper lore of this world, to sidequests, ultimate equipments, and trophies in the first play through. Unless you want to just have another go at the story line to see how NPC’s would react through different dialogue options but that is really nothing a quick “save and reload” trick couldn’t remedy. That is not to say, you can’t continue your adventure after the main story line. By all means go out and hunt more challenges. Parcour your way above mesas and cliff tops and take a moment to enjoy and immerse yourself in Horizon Zero Dawn’s breath taking vistas, if nothing else.

     So, buy or rent? This one really boils down to personal choice. I’ve come to love collecting the games I play. This may have been influenced by the fact that I work a lot and my time is stretched thin between that, family, and life in general. I like the convenience of having my copy, digital or otherwise, ready to pop in for some play whenever I get a bit of free time. As I’ve mentioned before, the main story line itself can be done in 30-40 something hours. If you have a long 3-4 day weekend saved up, you can easily binged play through this. But with a quality this good, best to make room for it in your shelf.