Developed by XS Software, Andromeda 5 is a humble free to play browser-based space MMO that lets players explore an expansive universe of 20 galaxies and treats them with hours upon hours of exploration, spaceship combat, and the view of the grandness of the cosmos. It sounds nice on paper, yes, but not as much as you might think. Considering the plethora of other amazing space-themed MMOs, one would expect most games to compete with the stellar standards of predecessors past. Despite being released in 2012, Andromeda 5 fails to do just that.
First of all, we should keep in mind the purpose and aims of browser games. These are simple casual games aimed at folks gunning for some fun but without the desire, patience, cash flow, or all of the above, to participate in bigger, full-on MMOs like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV. There isn’t anything wrong with that and with the climate in the industry these days, casual games much like Andromeda 5 can be enjoyable and addicting. Players get on, do some quick missions or PVP, win or lose, then jet off and come back later for another fix. It’s like the fast food of the MMO industry – nothing wrong with that at all.
But browser games need to have a schtick or gimmick if you will, that keeps folks, well, having fun. Unfortunately, Andromeda 5 seems to have missed the memo on that. The basic gameplay is nothing special, but not uncommon for browser games, and that is the point-and-click gaming. With your spaceship, you right click on hostile or neutral mobs wandering the vastness of space to attack them and use skills gained from leveling. Many other browser MMOs manage to add depths and layers of intricacies while still maintaining the simplicity as to not to turn-off their targeted casual base. However, Andromeda 5 fails in this aspect as what you see is just completely what you get.
It appears that the space combat is merely a reskinning, or re-theming, of older point-and-click MMOs like Ragnarok Online, with spaceships in place of a warrior or paladin character whacking at enemies. This extends to equipment due to how basic the inventory and gearing management are. Skills are awfully rigid as well, with un-customizable skill slots of 1-9. Click on an enemy, throw a laser skill, ba da boom, you’re done. Move on to the next unfortunate hostile NPC.
But combat can be forgiven to some degree, even if it is the core in almost every game in existence if the other elements of the game balanced it out. Sadly, most of the other parts are lackluster as well. A large portion of any player’s Andromeda 5 time revolves around accepting and doing quests from various NPCs in the expanse of the galaxy. Most of these quests are – brace yourselves – kill and fetch quests. Yep. In the colorful cosmos of the future, NPCs are still asking you to shoot down palette-swapped mobs with different names and to pick up various minerals from said mobs, usually in arbitrary sets of 5, 8, or 12. With this, the game comes off more as a way to waste time rather than killing time or feeding the urge to have fun. The core of the game can be so painfully generic that I wondered in my intermittent times of play why I kept trying to progress.
Andromeda 5 isn’t without its positives, of course. The background of the collective cosmos is stunningly beautiful. At first, I was expecting generic copy-pastes of star-sloshes here and there to create an illusion of the massiveness of space, but exploring further throughout space, I realized that not a single frame and pixel is repeated. Each splash of the 3D background is unique as unique can be, giving players a different view as they hover about, combating aliens and space pirates to no end. It’s an ironic tone in comparison to the dull and repetitive gameplay – an unfortunate combination. The ship models look good as well and, with several types of ships, there are lots that are eye-catchingly great. Even with the constant palette swapping of enemies, they all still look well made; just lazily distributed.
Sadly, the beauty of the environment is ruined by the myriad of randomly zigzagging hordes of mobs awaiting their destruction. Most of the time, it becomes so tedious to travel space without accidentally attacking a passing mob and getting sucked into a fight. Sometimes, even their zigzagging is a cause for frustration due to your ship’s initially short range and the speed in which they change direction, making kill quests even more annoying than they should be. This problem with range is also prevalent in gathering materials due to your ship’s initial mining laser have such a short range that sometimes I mistake the lack of obtaining it to lag.
The music of Andromeda 5 is also worth noting. Though just a mere several scores, the limited amount of tracks are crafted well enough to evoke a sense of wonder that space exploration holds for every fan of the genre. Along with the visuals, the music makes drudging through the infinite expanse of mob killing bearable and somewhat enjoyable. It’s interesting to see that Andromeda 5 focused on ambiance and feel much more than gameplay, eschewing the latter’s improvement, but maintaining that of the former. I can only surmise that it is because the developers knew they had lacking gameplay in the first place, deciding instead to work on its base strengths. It didn’t work, but at least we know they’re good at ambiance.
But perhaps the greatest flaw of Andromeda 5 is its severely slow loading times. Players can pick either their browser or a beta client to play the game, but neither have any real differences from one another other than the client taking up a few chunks of your hard drive. The loading screen informs folks that loading an area for the first time is takes much longer than subsequent times, but that doesn’t seem to be the case all the time. There are certain periods where areas will load almost just as long as the first time and some occasions where it will load seamlessly. Also, in before you say it’s my connection. It isn’t. The game just has a lot of problems server side and, with the concept of browser games as fast food, it doesn’t help its case any more than its gameplay.
Updates from the devs are few and far in-between, bringing up new content only when there’s something to add to the cash shop. Content, in itself, is lacking once you explore the touted 20 galaxies. There isn’t much else to do other than doing previously missed quests or collecting more resources for who-knows-what. I’ve read somewhere that there’s PvP, but a combat system like Andromeda 5’s begs the question if it’s even any good. I would have also said that there would be other folks who could guide me around as to what to do besides exploring and repetitive mob killing, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, despite the time I’ve spent in the game, find anybody to interact with. Perhaps it’s my odd log-in times, normally not in the peak hours, but that still puts me off from the game.
There is also, as I’ve noticed in the cash shop, a severe pay-to-win model in the game. You can literally buy every single advantage to be found in the game with real money, hurting your chances at being the best pilot in space. That is, of course, you’re willing to spend some of your hard-earned dough to compete in a middling game. To be fair, the game does give you the option to grind out the resources to obtain the best gear, but they can take an insurmountable amount of time just to stay competitive. If there are other players to compete with, that is. Frankly, as far as I’m seeing it, the developers have all but given up in this game, relying on the most likely very small income they gain from those willing to spend on the game.
Don’t get me wrong, Andromeda 5 is an OK game; it’s just extremely basic. This is a browser game we would expect from a decade past when developers were still testing out the waters of the industry. But in these present times, Andromeda 5 falls short, lacking in any uniqueness, support, population, and, really, just a black hole for fun. I can’t find any reasons to recommend Andromeda 5, but I will say that it’s not a bad starter game for any MMO newbie or for kids that are just looking for something to do. Space MMOs aren’t so uncommon these days and there are dozens of other, better titles that can stimulate the mind with intricate combat, evoke the whimsy for exploring space, and have continuous support from the developers – all of which are the things Andromeda 5 lacks. If only the game were as beautiful as the galaxy it hosted, only then would it have a chance at surviving the harsh MMO landscape.