I really enjoyed the original mass effect trilogy they were nowhere near perfect the combat in me1 was bollocks the companion ai a bit janky and of course the three coloured ending of me3 made people lose their minds I forget what else was wrong with them it's been a while me:2 was basically the high point.
ME:A is a new game set in the same universe as me1-3 but set in the Andromeda galaxy and with all new characters and new storyline.
Basic plot a multispecies initiative have dispatched 4 arc ships (massive colony ships filled with settlers travelling in cryo sleep for the 600 year trip) one for humans one for the assari (blue alien women with tentacle heads) one for the taurians (sort of avian aliens) and one for the salarians (sort of pointed headed aliens) these ships were preceded through space by an advance party which included a mix of races and also some of the Krogan (big lizard aliens) who were going to setup a station for them to coordinate called the nexus.
They had picked out "golden planets" to settle on then buttoned up and set off. Flash forward 600 years and you are just arriving in andromeda in the arc hyperion (human arc) and are being defrosted. But to the surprise of everyone things in the intervening 600 years have gone to shit. The other arcs that should all be there too are missing the nexus station is fucked and half the staff rebelled and got exiled. The golden planets are no longer golden suffering from adverse conditions like extreme cold extreme heat highly radioactive etc and there is a weird energy nebular thing that nearly destroys your ship on arrival.
You are part of the pathfinder team an outfit whose job is to seek out good planets and through the event of the opening of the game you end up in charge and bonded to an AI called SAM. You also encounter the game's main antagonist the Kett a race of aliens you discover quite quickly.
From there you get a ship a crew and a job to figure out what's going on and to find places for you hundreds of thousand of cryo sleep colonist to go.
First off the animations and specifically the facial animations. Yep they are really bad, or at least the human or humanoid alien ones are oddly the turian solarian and krogan animations are fine. Some of the animations of the characters are odd there are also some really strange instances where characters wander off in the middle of cut scenes when talking to you so you are looking at empty space and their voice is coming from somewhere behind you. But this is really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. It should have been fixed before release but there are other things that interrupt your enjoyment more.
You only get three active skills at a time, there are three "classes" of skills soldier, tech (sort of engineer), and biotic (space mage). Each of these has a variety of active and passive skills that you can put points in and each has options as you add more points to get things like better damage or increased range etc. You then select 3 active skills you can use at a time out of something like 40 possible ones. You also get to set one profile which is an additional modifier that adds stat bonuses and some special skills on top of that these are unlocked as you put points into the class skills one for each specific class and then some for mixes of two and one for all three. You also have the option to set favourites which allows you to set a favourite 3 skills and a profile then switch to it at will during combat (at the penalty of a all skills going into recharge) there are 4 of these and I've not really used them much sticking to one set of skills for the most part.
Combat has been fairly revamped over ME3 with the addition of the jump jet and air rush skills allowing for much more verticality. Most of ME3 was cover based shooting now you can jump high and jet about performing ground pounds and firing from the air and enemies do their best to flush you from cover keeping moving is key. Skills have various combinations that do extra damage as well as conditions like elemental effects like fire stun and freeze. My favourite combo is the pull push combo. Pull can grab normal unshielded enemies like a star wars force choke pull them across the map to you (it also primes them for a combo) then with push you can hurl them at scenery or other enemies and also trigger a detonation for a biotic combo.
Combat is fun and faced paced probably the best yet in an ME game even with the bizarre 3 skills limitation. There are a lot of different skills some crowd control some offence some defence some combinations. One of my other favourites is the biotic barrier which makes a reflective shield that absorbs incoming fire and can reflect it back at a target which is quite effective and also great for recharging the shields in a fight while doing some damage.
Weapons are shotguns pistols snipers and assault rifles. You can by default carry 2 you can buy or craft them and better weapons can have modifications equipped to tailor them. However you can only change weapons at a special loadout terminal which are few and far between this effectively discourages changing from what you know as there are a lot of different weapons all with different characteristics and since you have to go back to a forward station terminal to change them or get stuck with something crap you mostly don't change them out much. The same goes for armor although I've not changed it from the initial set I got for preordering as nothing seems to have better stats for my character. It's a stupid limitation I can see making it not possible to switch during combat but by limiting it to loadout terminals it makes that bit of the game very restricted. The weapons are pretty fun but very varied and can change a lot based on the mods equipped or used during construction. Some of the shot guns act like grenade launchers or fire beams some assault rifles also some snipers are basically rocket launchers and some are just normal there's a lot of variation and the way it's setup discourages trying it out.
Most of the game is similar to mass effect 1 in that you fly to a system wait for the unskipable flying to that system animation to finish pick a planet wait for unskipable flying to the planet animation to finish then if there is a landing sight pick that (and wait for the unskipable landing animation to finish). The animations are nice enough but they start to drag and especially when you are just going from planet to planet scanning for hidden stuff and resources to get the 100% explore on a system it ends up taking forever.
Anyway you land on the planet and missions flow from there it's the usual odd mix of "SAVE THE PLANET FROM FLESH EATING SPACE CLOWNS!" to "FIND MY MISSING SOCK!" bioware seem like they really lost how to do side quests that are interesting. For moving around the larger planets you get the Nomad. Similar to the MAKO from ME1 it's a bad arse space buggy with booster jets, jump jets, slower 6 wheel drive mode for driving up mountains, and it functions as the mining scanner. You get various upgrades that give it better speed or boost and a shield and also paint jobs. It's fun to drive around high speed and jumping off cliffs and so on. The mining scanner aspect is like the mining from ME2 with the planet scanner you go to designated mining zones hit a button and get a graph of whats there as the amount of various materials goes up you can deploy mining probes till you run out of resource there's no limit on the number of probes but you can only deploy them where there aren't any others in range so it's usually 3-4 for each area. The objective is to maximise the amount of stuff before harvesting which you can then use for crafting. It's tedious and not very fun you just end up driving in circles to max the graph. There are also just random node of materials left in the world you can pick up not sure why. Scanning is also something you end up doing a lot of. Your character has a scanner you have to scan objects in game for quests or to get research points it's a bit like witcher 3 sense mode or Horizon Zero Dawn's focus thing but done badly.
You have 2 companions at a time they offer their skills and occasionally get involved in the conversations. They also have banter between themselves when wandering or driving about. Outside of the mission zones on the ship or bases you can talk with them. Talking has changed a little from ME1-3 gone is the paragon and renegade system there isn't really anything to replace it. Conversation choices are now one of 4 flavours emotional, logical, professional, and casual. There are a few special ones for the romance or some that are just move things forward. I heard that the game tallys up how often you use certain responses and then adjusts all the dialogue to more fit that but I've not seen that in action as far as I can tell as I'm still on my first play through. There are very very occasionally ME2 style interrupts but I've seen only two so far. Voice acting is fine the dialogue varies it's not amazing writing I'll be honest.
The companions are somewhat bleh most are cardboard cuttouts none of the interesting things we've seen before. We have Drack the grumpy krogan. Liam the british human ex cop whose all cockney. Cora the biotic soldier woman who is incredibly bland. Verta the Wheeler dealer supplies getting turian who keeps going on about her sister. PeeBee the crazy asarian who is always joking but spikey and doesn't reveal much. Jaal the angaran has so far been the most interesting he's from one of the new races. There are a few other side characters you can talk to the ships pilots the engineer the doctor but they stay on the ship.
Most of the gameplay revolves around going to planets sorting out their problems so you can set up a colony on them and then some tidy up and the odd followup mission. Mostly that involves finding these remnant vaults which are these ancient terraformers that someones left on the planets and which for some reason you go round just turning them all on without knowing what they are or who built them or why. They are manned by robotic enemies that you have to take out and are controlled by alien sudoku puzzles. As you complete tasks and unlock the vaults the planets viability increases till the atmospheric or radiation or poison hazards drop and you can setup a colony which might then have further missions.
The game then has a secondary system where the more colonies you have the more of the cryo sleeped personnel you can defrost and you can through a points system choose more military personnel or science or trade and each offers it's own benefits. It works fairly well.
On top of the colony missions there are other goals thing like finding the missing arks and what the bad aliens are upto etc the story is there it's not wonderful but it works.
The graphics are ok the faces and such seem bad the eyes seem too big and the iris not a colour seen in nature. If you choose a male character and want a beard they just draw it on the face like it's put on with a sharpy. The models often look really odd. Most of the space stuff is pretty and the spaceships and tech designs are good. Tempest (the ship) and Nomad are nicely designed.
The interface is shoddy badly designed menus and a lot of functionality divided up or in specific places. Ie you cna't get your email unless you go to the ship some quests won't advance till you read a specific email so thats a trip back to the ship. The trade and research terminals are seperate so if you lack some resource you have to quit move to the left select the terminal find the thing you want to get and the quit and go back. Making that one system would have been a lot better.
There are a lot of annoyances in the game that could have been polished up and fixed the animation issues the menu and UI the systems and how the interact the bland faces with their weird starring eyes. They could have put a lot more effort in the side quests making them more interesting it definitely has an element of Dragon Age Inquisitions Syndrome where there are a load of good primary quests bogged down with a hundred crappy fetch quests or non interesting side quests.
There's fun to be had the combat is interesting and good fun jetting around the enemies then popping up to blast them then smashing down with a ground pound and firing off a few powers feels great but the rest feels like it needed another six months or so serious polish.
It's not the mass effect game we were hoping for it has some nice innovations and some puzzling reversions like they've unlearned things they learnt in ME2. I know this was made by an inexperienced team not the same people that did ME1-3 so perhaps this is to be expected but we've come to expect better from the mass effect brand and bioware as a studio.
As I said there is fun to be had and a lot of the fuss is overstated but still it's a 6 or 7 out of ten sort of game good for a laugh especially if you like the mas effect universe and want more but not great