Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer takes one step forward and two steps back

As someone who absolutely adored Mass Effect 3’s co-op multiplayer mode, I was naturally quite excited when I found out the mode would be making a return in Mass Effect: Andromeda. However, while Andromeda’s multiplayer component retains much of the spirit from its Mass Effect 3 incarnation, it also takes some noticeable steps back when it comes to functionality, quality, and long-term appeal.

New Paint, Same House

I don’t mean to look a gift horse in the mouth since I know how rare it is for a developer to focus solely on co-op for its game’s multiplayer component, but there’s just so much about Andromeda’s multiplayer that either hasn’t really changed much from Mass Effect 3 or somehow feels worse. To help illustrate my point, I have included a few specific elements below, noting how they differ from Mass Effect 3 to Andromeda.

Character Creation And Customization

Mass Effect 3: Players could choose from a large assortment of different character archetypes (race + class combos) and customize each individual character by giving them a custom name and tweaking the color and pattern of their armor. The fact that almost every character wore a helmet and could be given a custom name helped to facilitate role-playing.

Andromeda: There is admittedly still a large collection of different characters to play as but custom names can now only be given via the Mass Effect APEX HQ mobile app (the names don’t appear in Andromeda proper, just the app) and BioWare seems to have continued its trend from Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer of assigning specific story backgrounds to each character, thus killing off any roleplaying potential. Also, characters still cannot be customized any further beyond their armor color/pattern despite the fact that certain characters no longer wear helmets.

Gameplay

Mass Effect 3: Players had to survive through waves of AI enemies bearing down on them and would occasionally have to complete an objective like securing a control point or escorting a probe.

Andromeda: The format is basically the same with players having to survive through waves and complete objectives, though the new traversal mechanics like boost jumping and dashing do make matches a little more interesting. However, the boost jumping and dashing have come at the cost of being able to actively take cover, so it’s not as nice of an addition as one would have hoped.

Melee Attacks

Mass Effect 3: There was a large range of unique light and heavy melee attacks spread across the various races and classes players could take into battle. DLC additions such as the Project Phoenix Vanguard and N7 Slayer further expanded the range of potential melee moves. Virtually all of the core human classes (Adept, Vanguard, Engineer, etc.) also had unique heavy melee attacks.

Andromeda: Melee combat has been reduced to an awkward-feeling single punch (there are no more light and heavy attacks) that has poor tracking and lacks the satisfying weight which Mass Effect 3’s heavy melees had (this is a problem in Andromeda’s single-player campaign as well). Some characters (like Krogan and Asari) still have race-specific melees but the unique human class options like the Sentinel’s double Omni-Blade slash are gone. The leaping ground slam which players can perform by meleeing while in the air certainly looks cool, but it too has a very spotty track record of being able to reliably hit foes even when you use it right next to them. The special cover-grab melees from Mass Effect 3 are also gone.

Unlocking New Content

Mass Effect 3: A bulk of the game’s content was unlocked via randomized item packs which could be purchased with in-game currency or real cash. This system was admittedly never an ideal one for players who wanted to unlock a specific weapon, character, or other item, but over time BioWare made it more tolerable by introducing special packs that came with a higher chance of unlocking specific categories of items like characters or weapons.

Andromeda: Again, the randomized pack system has returned with virtually no changes. I was hopeful that there would be some way to unlock specific weapons and characters by putting in a little extra effort but the only items which can currently be bought directly are character upgrades and even then only a limited number of upgrades are ever offered at one time. Also, item packs which come with a higher chance for specific unlock types are not included (though they could come later).

In short, aside from some fun new ways to move around the map and the unique Strike Teams feature which helps to tie the single-player and multiplayer components together, virtually everything about Andromeda’s multiplayer is about the same or worse than it was in Mass Effect 3. Granted, I’m sure BioWare has plans to drastically expand the scope of Andromeda’s multiplayer during the months to come, but it’s a shame that the final state of Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer didn’t serve as a baseline for what would be in Andromeda from the start. I’m sure I’ll keep playing Andromeda’s multiplayer from time to time, but for now at least, the spark which inspired me to pour hundreds of hours into Mass Effect 3’s co-op efforts just isn’t there.

UPDATE: The original version of the article stated that multiplayer characters can no longer be given custom names. As it turns out, they can, but only through the Mass Effect APEX HQ mobile app. The above text has been corrected to reflect this.