“I’m Only Human”: The Interesting First Impressions of Mass Effect: Andromeda

Wow.

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 Good

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.

well-done

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.

Mass Effect™: Andromeda_20170321225255

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.

Mass Effect™_ Andromeda_20170322030547.jpg

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.

The Bad

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.

Mass Effect™_ Andromeda_20170322005152.jpg
This is Ryder’s good side, believe me…

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.

The…

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.

deal with it shepard

Two comments from my friends:

  1. “It’s dramatic, but it’s like… teenager drama.”
  2. “[The developers] had to know that a majority of their audience was going to be around 30…I mean, they had to, right?”

Redeeming Qualities

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.”

Mass Effect™: Andromeda_20170322003337

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.

Mass Effect™_ Andromeda_20170322052229.jpg
And sometimes they get a little sand in their shoes…

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.

Bottom Line

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Mass Effect™: Andromeda_20170321142646

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!
~ Athena

PS Be sure to check out our other posts about Mass Effect  (and its endings) if you’re just joining us!


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31 thoughts on ““I’m Only Human”: The Interesting First Impressions of Mass Effect: Andromeda

  1. I haven’t played this (it’s not out here yet!) but I’m going to hold off for now. Previous installments have been quick purchases for me, but the feedback on this one has been less positive. I may well pick it up in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! That’s so ridiculous that UK fans have to wait. I really don’t understand why that’s still an issue.

      As of right now, it’s still on my “need to play it” list. I think coming off Dragon Age: Inquisition I just expected a little more from it. It’s not an objectively *bad* game. Combat is fun and controls are responsive, but there are just some… weird things that were startling for even a BioWare game.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! This is my favorite question on the Citadel.

      And I’d rather dance with Shepard than watch my Ryder try to emote, if that answers your question…

      Once I have more time (and some more footage) I’ll have to put together a video of “best” facial expressions or something.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I wrote a similar review of my first impressions. Not as detailed as you, but I wasn’t as thrilled with the companions. One basically being an Asarian Sara from DA Inquisition. The others are just stereotypical of their race, none leaving me with wow moments or being bipolar at times. Huntress and Roses comes to mind, if you got that yet. I get sidetracked in all the side missions so my game time is hard to compare to what people say 7 hours in means to them.
    But like you said, it’s BioWare and so far I still see a lot of potential.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ll have to check out your review! Yeah I’m trying to withhold my final judgments until I’ve completed the entire game. I see what you mean about the Sera-type character; I did think that Sera had a fascinating character arc (at least how I played my Inquisitor), and she was an interesting person, to say the least, so I have hopes for our new asari associate…

      I should have said I played enough to complete the first main mission (I think?) which took about seven hours from beginning to going back to the Nexus. But I’m looking forward to seeing the world unfold a little more and reach that potential that it has!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I’d say I’m in the beginning of second main mission, but have diverted to Hoth. So far no wampas but I could use a tauntaun and the Omni tool should work for housing purposes.
        I can be found at ironblood.kassedyne.com
        Not strictly about anything, and have only been working on that site for a couple months now in my spare time.
        As far as potential goes, this game have a greater potential for future content and add on material than Destiny ever did on launch. It’s Mass Effect, but with the potential to be so much more than the original trilogy. Especially with this new ancient technology that is all mystery at the moment.

        Like

  3. haha reading through these comments brings back all the great memories from the original mass effect

    i’m about an hour into it, been playinv on instansity and hit a road block with a fight and took me a while to beat it before i could finally go to sleep! couldn’t sleeping knowing those aliens got the best of me. I think i’m still in the tutorial area and the characters are still trying to figure out what habitat 7 is and who the aliens are

    but yes the combat is amazing! the animations were odd but man the game really comes together when you get in the heat of battle, it’s intense

    i’m reading the story suffers from pacing issue, there is good stuff here, just a little convoluted when trying to find it sometimes

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yay! Glad you’re having fun jumping in to the new galaxy! Yes the combat is very streamlined! I’m starting to get the hand of it, so I’m liking it a little more than I did at first. Wow, I bow to your prowess, playing on insanity!

      Since I’ve really only completed the first main mission I hesitated to write off the entire story as having poor pacing, but yes as of now that’s what it seems to be…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am actually waiting to play this over the summer, which is saying much about my self control, because if I already had the game NOW, I probably wouldn’t be able to resist, lol! That said, the complaints seem to be the same across the board for Andromeda, and I get a little sad that this is so. That said, it did take me around the same amount of hours to really get into the groove with Inquisition, and ME1 was pretty tedious at times, but both were pretty much two of my favorite games in goodness knows howany years.

    Great review though!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks! Well, at least if everyone is saying the same thing, maybe it’s not one person just being overly-critical, but you’re right, that makes it a little sadder.

      Really? I’m surprised. I can’t really comment on ME1 because I came to the party so late and already had all sorts of preconceived notions about it, but I never found that game to be tedious. Same with Inquisition; I thought the pacing was actually well done in both of those games, but I do know that BioWare is always guilty of “exposition dump” at the beginning of new games, particularly if that game is in a new “world,” so to speak.

      Like I’ve said in other comments, I’m withholding my final judgment until I play the whole game, because this could just be the slow prologue before the story begins, sort of as if we played through Shepard’s “military history” background, which probably wasn’t nearly as exciting or profound as her work as a Spectre…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Enjoyed reading your first impressions! I know next to nothing about this game, so I’m learning a lot from your article. It sounds overall interesting to me, though I can see why you might be disappointed if you’re not hooked that far in, especially if BioWare is known for good stories and characters. I look forward to reading more thoughts. Since it’s a different direction for the series, would this be a good game to start with?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! It really is an interesting game, and like I said, it’s sucked me in regardless of any flaws, so that speaks volumes, too.

      Regarding when to jump in, Andromeda isn’t really “connected” to the original trilogy, so you could definitely start here! It does have a bit of a slow start, as others have mentioned, but it’s not as if you’ll be missing story details by not playing another Mass Effect game first. Although, to add a little more confusion and to not really answer your question (haha?), technically any Mass Effect game was made to “stand on its own.”

      To be somewhat frank (and perhaps more calculating than anything else), I’d say if you were going to play Andromeda now, it’s a great time because a lot of people are talking about it and you’d be “in” on the discussions. But if you do that, definitely play the original trilogy at some point, too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “There was lightning, poisonous gases, platforming, electronics were flashing, things were burning…” You had me sold on this game after that line, haha. If a game’s story pulls me in, I can always forgive technical faults. This could be the year I finally get into Mass Effect, but it will have to be after Dragon Age (which will be after HZD. Damn, this is a busy gaming year!).

    Awesome first impressions post! I hope Andromeda surpasses your expectations in the end. Have fun 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha yeah that’s quite a description, isn’t it?? It’s shaping up into a good story, and I’m sure eventually I’ll become accustomed to Ryder’s face… 🙂

      You *do* have a busy gaming year ahead of you! I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on all things BioWare once you finally get a chance to play those games! 😀

      After HZD, of course 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! As I play longer I may write a “second impression” since my opinion is evolving as the game continues. The combat system will not disappoint! It’s very streamlined and responsive, and although I don’t have a lot of experience with shooters, I was able to pick up the handling quickly. Overall, I feel absolutely comfortable recommending this game!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m about 14 hours into the game so far (2 of which has been spent with the multiplayer) and I like it quite a bit. I wasn’t bothered by the perceived slow start due to the nature of the quest as it appears at the outset. I’ve been enjoying just tooling around in the galaxy, helping Eos get settled and playing the politics of the Nexus. I have in the last few hours experienced some of the bugs others have gotten but nothing that has drastically effected my overall enjoyment of the game. I feel this is going to take up a large amount of my time over the next month.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point. It’s possible I was very eager for something to happen, and perhaps BioWare was going for a slow build – after all, we’re not in the middle of an attack or a war. We’re settling a planet, which isn’t supposed to be as “crazy” from the outset. I’ve been watching through the let’s play videos as I upload them, and although it’s a long, long build, I’m beginning to see some interesting details that are making the galaxy come alive.

      And yes, this is going to be a long and exciting adventure!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m going to have my full review up soon, and Jennifer was kind enough to write the Story section of it since she’s further along than me. I can’t say that I’m happy with the game, but it’s hard to put it into words without talking extensively about it.

    I’ll keep you posted. I’m glad you’re liking it though!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Haven’t played Mass Effect Andromeda. Haven’t been paying too much attention to it, thus far. With games like this, I know I’m not going to pick it up right away, but when I do, I want my experience to be as virgin as possible. So, probably don’t have much to say, but I’ve got a keyboard and brain full of thoughts so here I am anyways.

    What I have seen of the game… I don’t know. I was really hoping it would be more different than the original trilogy. Mass Effect 1-3 was a series that I put so much emotion into, and 3 closed the door on it. It feels like Andromeda is more reopening the door than creating its own identity, at least from the marketing materials I’ve seen so far. Makes me a little more jealous of the old experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your keyboard conveying the thoughts from your brain to me! I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I can understand that concern from the promotional material. ME3 took a slight step toward shooter, and MEA seems to be taking that step again, for sure. I’m trying to withhold judgment until I’m done, though, so hopefully it will be a game that can stand on its own, even though comparisons to the original trilogy will be inevitable.

      But yes, so far I would not say that MEA has usurped the original trilogy, at least in my experience, yet, although I am still optimistic about it as its own game.

      Liked by 2 people

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