While Mass Effect: Andromeda is getting a lot of flak for its issues, there are some merits that should be highlighted. They finally made exploration in Mass Effect fun. And all they needed to do was borrow the new direction the last Dragon Age took with its map design.
The original Mass Effect had some on-planet exploration. But it’s fondly remembered as being not the best part of the game. The environments are bland, it’s easier to just plow through enemy camps or cheese it by sniping long range rather than facing them head on. The vehicle, the Mako, is also one of the oddest vehicles you can ever control. Subsequent games dialled it down immensely where exploration becomes limited into hub areas and levels became more tight and linear.
Andromeda brings back the on-planet exploration and it is now actually fun. The planets you will be dropped into are gorgeous– but nothing as radical as the planet in the prologue that featured floating rocks and thunder strikes. Most of the planets are familiar sci-fi tropes: lush planet, ice planet, desert planets, etc. Yet all of them are crafted well enough that you can ogle at the view while driving along to the next objective marker.
On that note, the driving is immensely better now. Your new vehicle, the Nomad, handles like what a vehicle should. It can go full speed in 4WD mode and if you needed to climb steep heights, the 6WD mode helps you get there.. for the most part. This is no Mako, so don’t expect to just climb any mountain you see. The Nomad can also be further upgraded- some more important than others- and offers different paint jobs you can put on.
The interesting part of the exploration comes from the map design. Not only are the sights look good for screenshots, it makes you think of a path to get there. It’s no flat open world, you have to put some effort to navigate the land. And the size this time is not too daunting. If Inquisition’s first map the Hinterlands was just one splurge of landmass that could be used for an MMO and daunting to traverse at first, Andromeda’s maps are a bit smaller in comparison. Though Bioware claims that the maps are as big as Inquisition’s– it doesn’t feel like that on your first arrival.
As for what is in the maps themselves, prepare for tons of quests. Andromeda is definitely feature rich in content- it’s a game that will make you busy for a long time. But when it comes to the quality, it remains slightly questionable. Most of quests are filler fetch quests for the most part unfortunately, but you’ll know that immediately by the word “task” in the quest title.
If you just love having more things to do- you’ll love Andromeda. The quests keep on coming even after subsequent visits when you made progress in the story. But the main part of why you are running around harsh planets- figuring out how to put an outpost for the colonists- is definitely worth doing in each of the planets. Some of the sidequests are also worth doing- somehow they figured out what the Mass Effect equivalent to a dragon- it’s an interesting boss encounter.
Stay tuned for our full review of Mass Effect: Andromeda.