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What’s in Your Box: Back to Space

/ Apr 15th, 2017 No Comments

Mass Effect Andromeda

Each week, we here at Gaming Illustrated are always playing a number of different video games. However, we may not be talking about them in reviews or editorials. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth talking about, but for any number of reasons an avenue to speak on them doesn’t come up. To remedy the issue, we’re going to ask our staff (and you, honestly) what’s in your box?

What’s in Greg’s Box

Hello again my fine boxi! It’s that week, the week where I only discuss Yooka-Laylee. The week wherein I become a chameleon and a bat, transcending far beyond the need for other games. So let’s get to it!

My Heart is a Collectible

Yooka-Laylee is absolutely breath-taking; from the visuals and score to the humor and details. It’s an incredibly well-loved game from a design/development stand point.

Getting the bad out of the way: Damn some of these camera angles! While not a huge road-block, there have been a few moments the camera got the better of me, but it’s luckily been relegated to specific areas that have a fixed camera and are thus avoidable or surmountable.


I just met you and I already love you.

It feels good to again be collecting random items to unlock new areas, solving puzzles and just exploring. In the same way Breath of the Wild captured my imagination at how open-world should be done, so too does Yooka-Laylee take me on journey where I create the path.

Nothing can compare to just how truly open Breath of the Wild is, but Yooka-Laylee does a great job of trying.

I’ve been taking Yooka-Laylee slow thusfar and to really drag out the experience, but even going slow I find myself ripping through the game, but then again I have years of experience with this specific genre. The game boasts over 1,100 items to find, not counting the secret items/easter eggs scattered about.


A quiz you say? To the DEATH you say?! I’m all in baby.

One cool tidbit I’d like to end on is that the Playtonics, the in-game modifers/cheat codes gathered by completing challenges actually save for the entire profile. What this means is that if one save file has completed the game, all unlocked Playtonics can be used in a new file, allowing players to use game modifiers from the get-go.

Anyone looking for a hard mode should know one of the Playtonics does facilitate just that, by permanently limiting how much life Yooka and Laylee have.

On a sadder note, Mass Effect: Andromeda has been shelved by me with Yooka-Laylee releasing, but luckily Kalvin has been giving that title ample love! And it’s not too say there isn’t a space themed level in Yooka-Laylee so, close enough right?

What’s in Kalvin’s Box

I am heading back to California to visit family, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been checking out some games. While I am still firmly into Persona 5 and still loving it, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about this week. No, this week I’m going to talk a little bit about another favorite RPG series of mine. I have been digging into some Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Ambitions of a Ryder

Mass Effect is a series that I have a soft spot for. The first game completely stole my heart, and the second one is one of my favorite games. While some people absolutely reviled Mass Effect 3 for its ending, I found the gameplay to be the strongest of the series with some truly memorable moments prior to its troublesome ending.

Despite having such a love for the series, something about Mass Effect: Andromeda didn’t hit me right. The hype wasn’t quite there. I don’t know if it has been too long since I played the previous games or if the promo material was underwhelming, but I felt like, “Oh a new Mass Effect, cool…”

Regardless of my tepid reaction, when I finally fired up Andromeda I got jazzed for more Mass Effect. In spite of my renewed excitement it is hard to play the game without a nagging voice in the back of my head reminding me of the previous games. Andromeda is played best with the original trilogy firmly out of mind because compared to what came before it the early hours are lacking, but on its own merits the game is pretty dope.

Mass Effect Andromeda

We got a Krogan!

One of the most distracting parts and my biggest gripe with Andromeda is the way faces look in the game. It isn’t all faces though, just human faces. There is a huge uncanny valley feel to them. Something is off and I can’t say exactly what.

Some are fine like Liam, but others look like their melting. It doesn’t make sense given the solid faces in Dragon Age: Inquisition and even the other alien faces in the game, which look great. It also is a shame in face of excellent environments too. The human faces become the one drawback to an otherwise great looking game.

A really obvious drawback to the game is the writing is weaker than the prior games. The dialogue feels not as sharp as the other games. It still has the interjections of humor, but not as sardonic, which made playing a roguish Shepard such a fun experience. Ryder isn’t a bad character, but he/she doesn’t have that same gravitas as Shepard.

That is partly a story constraint, which is highlights another issue with the writing. The set-up is solid: traveling to an unexplored galaxy to find a new home and be an intrepid explorer is cool. What hurts the premise is you aren’t the Pathfinder outright. You are the daughter/son of the Pathfinder who has some serious daddy issues, and the job of Pathfinder falls in your lap.

Mass Effect Andromeda

Damn, dog.

It isn’t as compelling as the first human Specter and last hope against the reapers. Naturally as someone dropped into a position of responsibility you are less sure of yourself and you spend a lot of time getting up to speed. It works in a tutorial capacity, but it means the story takes a while to get going.

However once the story gets going, it is really draws you in. When you start exploring new planets, uncovering the mystery of the vaults, and gaining new squad mates the game gets super engrossing. It feels like Mass Effect except with strong level design and gameplay.

The gameplay is one of the strongest aspects of the game. Like Dragon Quest: Inquisition did for Dragon Age, Mass Effect: Andromeda re-defines the gameplay for Mass Effect. The shooting is much stronger with better aiming and dropping into cover not feeling as cumbersome. Plus abilities are given hot keys to prevent an pauses or lull in action resulting in more dynamic combat.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Combat is fantastic in Mass Effect: Andromeda

Tweaking the abilities to no longer be tied to a rigid class system helps open up combat. Now you can mix and match abilities from different classes all at once. This means and you can pick and choose your favorite abilities and combine powers in unique ways. Without a limit to skill points, there is no limit to how you can experiment.

Another game changer for combat is the added mobility of the jet pack. Your jet pack is the most exciting new addition to the game. Now you can get a boost into the air and side dash to give you more control on the battlefield. With increased evasion and movement battles feel more fluid.

Mass Effect: Andromeda has some flaws, but overall it makes some smart changes for the benefit of the series. If you have been on the fence that is totally understandable, but it is definitely a game worth checking out.

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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