Mass Effect: Andromeda (Sniper)
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts

A fibrous jungle world with poisonous pools of water, a scorching desert with strong radioactivity, and a gusty polar escapade in what looks like the worst-ever Minnesota winter... these open-world planets provide a constant array of photogenic vistas, while being driven around on via a finely detailed Mako v2. Characters are well-animated and feature some wonderful texturing detail, such as the snowflakes that accumulate in inclement weather-- although the play environments do occasionally have a bit of the unpolished "map creator dumped pre-canned static objects on the scenery" look about them. The PlayStation 4 Pro renders the game at 1800p with HDR10-- an added bonus.

Mass Effect: Andromeda has music, but this reviewer is darned if he can recall any of it; some kind of generic, up-tempo stuff plays during combat, but otherwise the game lives and dies by its ambient sound effects, the noise of the player vehicle's engine and tires as it smashes about terrain, and the kind of predictably excellent voice acting that one would anticipate in a blockbuster release such as this.

Where the original games had small and mostly linear boards, while later BioWare games such as "Dragon Age: Inquisition" featured mind-killing, yawn-inducing, icon-bloated open-world flows, Andromeda strikes down the middle; the planets are open-world, but not as littered with busy-work-- and are intermixed nicely with more linear zones, such as caves or enemy headquarters. The cover-based combat is both minimalist and nuanced, while the user interface and control scheme never get in the way.

As a spiritual successor to "Star Control 2", the original Mass Effect was far and away the best game in the series, and it is to this game that Andromeda most closely tracks, bringing back vehicular exploration and the first title's meaty RPG mechanics. And yet, it simplifies in good ways, such as only having inventory management for the primary character. It does have some pacing issues as it oscillates too infrequently between story sections and chore work. But the way that it produces intrigue almost makes this release feel more like an ancestor of Commodore 64 classic "Wasteland". It's not perfect, but Andromeda just might be the new best title in the series.

Sniper's verdict: