Seven hours into BioWare’s latest entry into the Mass Effect series, and there’s quite a lot to unpack! We’ll be talking about gameplay, mechanics, story development, and overall impressions of the characters and the game, but no information regarding main story lines or details about specific characters will be discussed. This article is about as spoiler-free as they come!
The most attention-grabbing feature of the game so far has been the combat mechanics and the introduction of vertical movement into the game. This has already resulted in some interesting puzzles to solve, as well as some new platforming opportunities during the game. Combat is fluid and satisfying, and the ability to switch between different kinds of specializations or powers is seamless, using only a few button presses to switch between close attacks and ranged powers.
BioWare obviously put a lot of time into their combat sequences, and to my eye it begins to flirt with more of a “shooter” genre over what I consider an “RPG” feel, or relying on control of the battlefield through utilizing your and your companions’ powers effectively. This isn’t a good or bad change; it’s simply different. And since a few of us were playing “pass the controller,” remember which buttons had which powers, and who was playing with what load-out, made for some exciting moments when coupled with the vertical capabilities of Ryder and the learning curve that comes with all new games.
The scenery is beautiful. The environmental graphics are gorgeous and detailed, and I found myself taking more than a few pictures as I completed the missions. As the game takes place in a new an unfamiliar galaxy, the sky is the limit with what the artists could create and put into Andromeda, and even in the driest desert there is beauty in the clean oranges and reds of the sands, and loving attention to detail in the small (and harmless) dust devils that pop up every once in a while.
I really like that you can explore the entire landscape, as well. When we were playing, we wound up going to a “part two” area of a mission before completing the first part, cleared the area, drove around in the Nomad wondering why we couldn’t solve the puzzle, and then drove back to the beginning to finish what we had started. The map is huge, but never felt empty, like some other open worlds have struggled with.
The Pretty Good
One of the earliest levels felt less like a tutorial and more like something a player would come across later in the game, insofar as stimuli on the screen goes. There was lightning, poisonous gases, platforming, electronics were flashing, things were burning… it was as if the game was saying “Hey, this is everything you are going to deal with in this game. Have fun!” After speaking with my fellow players, we agreed that the “baptism by fire” approach was a little unexpected and at times visually overwhelming.
Then there are the facial animations. Wow. Just… this is on an eighth-generation console, and… the facial animations of Ryder are laughable. She seems unable to emote, and when she does it looks forced and not like a human’s facial movement at all.
But this is BioWare. They are known for their stories and their characters, not their facial animations or mechanical prowess. So, while my friends and I laughed (a lot) about Ryder’s facial expressions, I’m willing to give BioWare a pass on this.
I hesitate to throw out the word “disappointing,” since I’m only seven hours in to what will obviously be a long and full game, but with each BioWare game I’ve played, by the time I was seven hours in, I was hooked, either by the characters or the story. At first I thought it was hype letting me down, but I was just as excited for Dragon Age: Inquisition (if not more so) as for Mass Effect: Andromeda, and my excitement felt validated as I played the opening stages of the game. In Andromeda, seven hours in and I finally felt like I did something, compared to, say, the original Mass Effect, in which – even accounting for the BioWare information dump – seven hours in meant you had visited Eden Prime, visited the Citadel, gotten a few side-quests, and set off to find Liara T’Soni or travel to either Noveria or Feros. Far more disappointingly (cough) some character lines were delivered poorly, and the writing tended toward overly-dramatic or – worse – hoaky, and overall the story seems to take itself completely too seriously.
Two comments from my friends:
- “It’s dramatic, but it’s like… teenager drama.”
- “[The developers] had to know that a majority of their audience was going to be around 30…I mean, they had to, right?”
As always in a BioWare game, the story will again be what saves it. It took seven hours to get there, but I’m in a part of the story that I’m actually interested to see what’s going on. Staying as spoiler-free as possible, we’ve moved beyond “OMG these aliens are shooting at us!” to “Oh, there’s something happening across the whole galaxy that is greatly unexpected, is unable to be explained, and is hugely important to my mission.”
And, where there is good BioWare story, there is good BioWare character writing. Last night when I was playing I wouldn’t have thought I’d type “good characters” in relation to this game, but upon reflection… the characters are solid. I have had a personal/emotional reaction to each one of the main companion characters, and like I’ve mentioned in articles about avatars and emotional connections with characters, when a character who isn’t real is able able to elicit a value judgment – either positive or negative – on themselves as a person (“he’s annoying,” “she’s so nice,” etc.), that is a well-written character.
One of my companions seems like a bit of a lone wolf, but she gets the job done and I’m warily accepting of her because she’s loyal to me so far. Another one seems so on top of things it’s like Ryder doesn’t even have to contribute sometimes, and I have a lot of respect for her. Yet another really irritates me every time they open their mouth to say anything.
But each one of those characters has made me feel something toward them, and those are good characters. And so, in spite of some wonky faces and regardless of some really terrible delivery of dialogue, seven hours in and I’m willing and ready to jump back in for more.
I was playing the game with BadgersAndBowties (check out the new let’s play if you’re interested!), and at a pause in the game we started to discuss what we’d been experiencing. I tentatively asked, “So… what do you think of it?” There was a slight pause as we looked at each other. We’re both BioWare fans, and it was clear we were trying to gauge the other’s reaction before being honest. Finally, she said, “It’s not… exactly what I had been expecting.”
I agreed. The dialogue and faces were distracting, and while not game-ending, it was noticeable. I wanted to feel more accomplished for my seven hours of play. I was disappointed my beloved BioWare seemed to have taken a step backward from Mass Effect 3. But I’ve had time to mull over the experience since we finished our marathon game session.
I’ve re-written this section about six times. That sums up how I feel about the game: conflicted. I really liked some parts of it. I think the characters have the potential to be incredibly interesting, and the big mystery is already nagging at my mind. I’ve already had to remind myself it’s not Reaper meddling this time, and I’m really intrigued.
I think BioWare took its franchise and moved in a different direction. Looking back (and going through the let’s play videos we recorded) it’s possible that they were trying to set up a slow start in order to try and elicit feelings of uncertainty and wanting something to happen, already, because we’ve been waiting so long, just like Ryder, for our adventure in Andromeda to begin.
Honestly, I think Mass Effect: Andromeda has the potential to be a really wonderful game. The fact that I’m seven hours in and that’s my assessment is somewhat worrying, but the story kept me playing for seven straight hours, and is calling me back for more.
I’m only human, after all.
Have you been playing Mass Effect: Andromeda? If so, what are you thoughts on it? How far in to the game are you? Let me know in the comments! And I know it’s a lot to ask, but if we can keep the comments as spoiler-free as possible for the moment, that would be so very kind of you. Some readers mentioned they are trying to play without any spoilers.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you
in Andromeda soon!
What’s next? You can like and subscribe if you like what you’ve seen!
You can also:
– Support us on Patreon, become a revered Aegis of AmbiGaming, and access extra content!
– Say hello on Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+!
– Check out our Let’s Plays if you’re really adventurous!