First Access Impressions: Mass Effect: Andromeda’s Multiplayer has Potential, but also Flaws.
Subscribers to EA Access received a gift this past Thursday: 10 hours of early access to Mass Effect: Andromeda, including the multiplayer. Mass Effect 3 was the first time in the series that multiplayer was an option, and it was an incredibly successful addition to the franchise. What’s new in Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer, and is it as good as ME3? Here are my four observations from five hours of multiplayer during the EA Access trial.
Gameplay is Similar to Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer, but Different
Fans of the first Mass Effect game to go multiplayer will find much that is familiar in Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer. The structure of the game is similar, with a squad of four facing 7 waves of enemies, followed by an extraction wave. Most waves simply require the squad to clear the area of hostiles, with waves 3 and 6 mixing it up a bit by requiring the squad to upload data by activating a computer and holding the point until it finishes, or having one or two squad members crouch over a MacGuffin, unable to fight until that’s complete. Other wave objectives from Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer didn’t appear for me, such as carrying a payload across the map, though it’s possible I simply didn’t receive those missions, or that they will be added later.
Other basic gameplay elements have changed very little, if at all. Dying starts a timer for squadmates to come over and revive the player, which thankfully does not require the player to endlessly tap a button to extend. Consumables, such as self-reviving medigel and ammo packs may be purchased through gameplay credits, experience points are used to purchase and upgrade abilities for the character being played, and the player starts with two characters from each class, offering a variety of starting choices.
While the general feel of multiplayer is similar, there are noticeable differences. The jetpack on every player opens up the map for a more three-dimensional battlefield. Additionally, the jetpack is used for quick dashes in all directions, helping players scoot in and out of dangerous areas quickly. The jetpack and dash can even be used in tandem, jumping high and scooting sideways over an obstacle. The jetpack also allows for a crashing melee attack from above. Cover locking, where crouching securely attaches the character to a piece of cover, is gone, replaced by a more free-form of movement behind various pieces of cover, which takes some getting used to.
The Lobby UI is not Intuitive
I’m all for options, customization, and depth when it comes to any kind of gameplay. But a multiplayer lobby has to be done just right. When you jump in a lobby, you might have between 5 and 30 seconds to configure your character before the other three people start to get itchy ‘kick player’ trigger fingers. ME:A’s multiplayer interface is anything but simple. Clicking around can result in Internet browser windows to EA’s storefront opening up when all you wanted to do is change weapons, and finding exactly what you want is not easy. Certainly knowing the what, where, and how will come in time and patience, but ME3’s interface far outclasses the graphically upgraded ME:A interface. Speaking of which…
Graphics Show a Clear Five Year Leap Forward – Fun Takes a Step Back
After playing a few rounds of ME:A multiplayer, I knew I had to fire up ME3’s multiplayer for a more recent comparison. Matchmaking was dicey, and apparently I lost a bunch of characters I earned and loved to play since the last time I installed ME3, but once I got going, it was like I never left. Storming around as a Krogan, smacking Geth from one end of the map to the other, tossing powerful grenades that took out three at a time, while at the same time feeling vulnerable if I got too far away from the rest of my squad, it made me sad to realize that ME3’s multiplayer probably won’t last too much longer. ME:A’s multiplayer just didn’t seem on the same level of fun, and while maybe that fun will return as characters become more powerful, level up, and acquire better weapons, it’s just not there yet. Graphically, however, the difference is like switching over to 4K from 1080p. ME3’s graphics are still holding up five years later, but ME:A looks gorgeous, and well worth sinking plenty of hours of gameplay into, should the fun make the jump along with it.
There Are Still Glitches Present
It was widely published earlier this month that the beta for Mass Effect Andromeda’s multiplayer had been scrapped. Whatever the reason, it is not unthinkable that the 5-day trial is being used as a late beta, as there are still notable glitches. My first two matches ended in game crashes that left us unable to finish. More than once I fell off the bottom of the map, once getting stuck in a corner, until I was clipped through the wall and fell. There was very little negative effect to falling, as the jetpack allows players to jump off the map with ease, with the game simply depositing the player back on the battlefield. While it’s more than likely that many problems will be resolved in the day 1 patch, it’s disappointing to see this many basic issues in a AAA title with content that’s been released to the paying public.
Sadly, my time with ME:A’s multiplayer is up for the time being. Mass Effect: Andromeda releases in North America late today, and the full verdict on Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer can be reached.