By now, anyone who is a diehard fan of the series has probably already purchased Mass Effect: Andromeda. Despite it being the lowest scoring in the franchise, with a 74 on Metacritic, it still qualifies as a fairly decent game. Although I haven’t quite completed the single-player campaign as of writing this, mostly due to so many outstanding games releasing in March, the overall experience has been enjoyable with a few minor concerns regarding both visual and gameplay mechanics. However, this article is going to mainly focus on the Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer and how Bioware missed a huge opportunity to extend the story through the game’s online play.
More of the Same
If you’ve played Mass Effect 3 then you already know exactly what to expect out of the multiplayer in Mass Effect: Andromeda. Functionally, it’s pretty much the same thing. Up to four players can team up on a variety of maps with a few different objectives, but it basically boils down to a glorified ‘horde’ mode. Each map is relatively small and players must survive waves of enemies with increasing difficulty.
Each wave has a different ‘objective,’ such as assassinating key targets or disabling devices, but in the end it’s about surviving what the game throws at you. There’s no exploring, there’s no meaningful dialogue or hidden pieces of lore; it’s simply kill or be killed. Additionally, there is a fairly decent progression system where players can level up their characters and earn shiny new loot, which can even be handled on the APEX HQ mobile application. Objectively, there’s not much wrong with this mode and many players do in fact really enjoy the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda, but it could have been much more.
Adding Spice to APEX Missions
What initially intrigued me about the multiplayer system in Mass Effect: Andromeda was the introduction of rotating APEX Missions. In the single-player campaign, Ryder can task special teams to complete APEX missions that earn special currency and loot rewards. Most of these rewards are only usable in the campaign, but the Mission Points can be used to buy some items in multiplayer or recruit additional APEX squads.
However, there’s also the option for players to work together and complete APEX missions themselves and receive bonuses for doing so. Furthermore, the mission descriptions, along with the press announcement, made it sound like the APEX missions would expand the story or at least deliver some intriguing side content.
“The fight for a new home continues today with the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s first free event – Multiplayer APEX Missions. Beginning today players can join the elite APEX forces and take part in the first of several ongoing story-based missions that will feature new playable characters, weapons and items. The first APEX Mission, “Drack’s Missing Scouts,” is available from March 23 until March 27 and will task players with investigating a new map, Firebase Paradox, for a potential kett threat.”
This sounds awesome, right? Every few weeks we’ll get to explore new worlds with new characters while killing new enemies with powerful new weapons. What’s not to look forward to? Well, not exactly.
Instead of delivering exciting new context to the Andromeda Galaxy or adding depth to the game’s characters, we’re given essentially the same standard missions with a few tweaks. APEX Missions might introduce a new map, unlockable weapon or type of enemy, but you’re still stuck in a small zone fending off hordes of enemies without a real purpose.
In terms of uniqueness, players do receive bonus experience and credits for completing APEX Missions. The map, enemy type, and difficulty are all locked to deliver a similar experience each time, and there are special modifiers attached to each mission.
For example, ‘Recover Supplies’ provides players with 800 percent starting max ammo and power supplies, but they can no longer refill ammo at stations. In ‘These Beautiful Killer Bots’ players have -25 percent maximum health and shields. Other missions might make shotguns more powerful while weakening sniper rifles. These are interesting little twists to the gameplay that increase rewards, but Bioware definitely could have added more compelling content to at least a few of the APEX Missions in terms of purpose.
As a game developer, Bioware has always been known for the high value of its story-driven content. Until recently, most of its games didn’t even have a multiplayer component, which was perfectly acceptable.
However, in the last few years Bioware has started to deliver multiplayer components in their main titles, for better or worse. This started off with Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition where the single-player and multiplayer modes were completely separate from one another.
Moving on to Mass Effect: Andromeda, multiplayer is now connected to the campaign in probably the most minute way possible. Sending squads out on APEX Missions is essentially a watered down version of the War Table from Dragon Age: Inquisition where the only interaction is a short debrief with attached reward. On the other side, choosing APEX Missions in the multiplayer mode, instead of the random missions, simply adds a few unique modifiers and rewards.
What would truly add depth to both game modes is linking single-player and multiplayer in a meaningful way. It’s not something that would really be that difficult. Instead of reusing the custom multiplayer maps, the developers could easily pull assets from the Andromeda worlds and create mini-missions that actually follow the APEX Mission descriptions. The same types of objectives could even be used but instead in a story-driven way.
These wouldn’t have to be long missions. Currently, multiplayer missions take about 10-15 minutes, which is about the time it takes to complete a side quest in the campaign. I’m sure the development team could handle such a small project every couple of weeks or produce a dozen that rotate throughout the year to give players who might have missed one a chance to catch up.
Completing these missions in the multiplayer mode could trigger some minor but interesting events in the campaign. Maybe there are small clips displayed of the battle while walking through the Nexus or a few new lines of dialogue are unlocked for the supporting characters. These additions could be extremely minor, but they would add tons of flavor to Mass Effect: Andromeda by making every action in both single-player and multiplayer feel important.
Overall, the Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer can be a lot of fun in short bursts, and the extensive progression system could easily hook certain players for long periods of time. However, it’s just a little unfortunate that not more was done to make it relevant to the massive story that’s present in the single-player campaign.
Related: Bioware, Co-op, Electronic Arts, Mass Effect, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Multiplayer, RPG, Xbox One