GIRE: Mass Effect: Andromeda

At the time of this writing it’ll be two weeks since Mass Effect: Andromeda came out and yes, I did indeed buy it. Impressions so far?

Oh.

My.

God.

It’s gorgeous.

It’s everything I thought it’d be and some more.

Spoiler-free review, if you could call my early impressions a formal review.

I only knew the very basics heading into the game because I wanted it to be as close as a total surprise as it could be when I got it. I knew that you were going to have a choice between two playable characters; that it was going to take place in an entirely different place and time than the original; and that it was not going to be scored by either Jack Wall or Sam Hulick.

That’s literally all I knew.

Which is a bit of a deviation from how I usually approach new games. I research story, characters, trailers, wikis, everything. But because I love Mass Effect so much and BioWare hasn’t disappointed me, I was going to embrace it as it was. Yes, I’m one of those in the minority that was completely okay with the way the original trilogy ended, with AND without the additional oopsie-daisy DLC.

But that was a few years ago. Let’s talk about Mass Effect Andromeda.

Story recap:

You’re part of the Andromeda Initiative and you’re exploring a new galaxy far, far, far away from the Milky Way.

Things I’m liking so far:

-          The characters are fleshed out and I’m enjoying the back and forth between a chunk of them.
-          The soundtrack is beautiful. It feels totally Mass Effect but there’s something different about it. Not better, not worse, just unique in its own right. I mean, I recognize the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack was aural perfection, so I won’t compare Andromeda’s to it completely yet, but I will say it’s very good.
-          The story is great so far.
-          You have a scanner on you that you’re supposed to use to…well…scan things since you’re pretty much getting all new data for your systems. I thought it’d be annoying to use but I find myself scanning thing, even baddies in the middle of a damn battle.
-          You can hover-jump and dash now, which comes very handy in hairy situations.
-          I feel the difficulty has scaled comfortably to the point where the combat feels familiar but the challenge has been upped a bit. It’s no Dark Souls but it presents a good enough challenge that I'm not just tearing through everything as a Vanguard.
-          The side missions are addicting and diverse. It’s not like in Mass Effect 1 anymore where it was, land on a planet, investigate anomaly, kill geth, and scan the crashed probe for asari writing/UNC insignias.  While it keeps me from progressing in the main mission, I like doing these because it doesn’t feel like I’m grinding for no reason. I’m getting better equipment, more credits, more loot, from doing the side missions.
-          I’m really loving the terraforming aspect of the game, the ideals of first contact, how you react, what you do, it’s a novel approach. Someone on a friend’s wall said it’s basically Mass Effect meets Star Trek. Which seems appropriate. (Disclosure: I’ve never seen Star Trek beyond a few episodes of the Picard Series)
-          Multiplayer’s the fun kind of challenging, but I haven’t really explored it much yet.
-          It’s a different game. Like I said above, it’s still Mass Effect, but it’s different enough from the rest that it’ll have that appeal to both Mass Effect veterans and newcomers to the series (with a few Easter eggs)

Things I’m ambivalent about so far

-          The item development system. It’s very…dragon age-y. Basically, you have to buy or loot weapon/armor/consumable schematics, then have the proper metals (which are easy enough to get) and then you craft the item to get it. I kinda liked the whole, buy a weapon, then just mod it as you see fit from past games. But…narrative wise, it makes sense.

Things I’m not liking so far

-          There is a learning curve to Nomad AKA Mako Reloaded. You can switch from fast mode or all-wheel-drive mode that you can use to get over the harder obstacles. Also…it doesn’t have weapons.
-          The organization of the Tempest (your ship).  Maybe I’m just used to the time spent on the Normandy Maybe it’s because I’m so used to three games and a lot of hours on both iterations of the Normandy but I am not a huge fan of how the ship’s laid out.
-          Save points during ‘priority’ missions are rarer and there’s no quick save options. For instance, I was clearing out [a thing] and when I got killed, I was right at the entrance to [the thing]. It’s only like 2-3 minutes lost, sure, but still a bit annoying.
-          Tracking things on the radar. Sometimes it feels as if the waypoint I mark doesn’t really stand out and if there’s a flagged quest, the circle-indicator isn’t super obvious and you have to use the map a lot to re-orient yourself.
-          I don’t like the [redacted] puzzles. It’s goddamn Sudoku. I hate Sudoku.

Now to address the elephant in the room.

One of the things that started hitting the blogg-o-sphere was the facial animation being like crap. The way everyone and their mother made it seem was that the animations were somewhere along the lines of Superman 64 and Money for Nothing. They’re not, not to me. It’s a great game. I don’t think the issues stand out. I’ve seen some reviews stating that the animations are of lesser quality than the ones in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Having played DA recently, I’ll be honest when I say that I can’t tell the difference. It’s not because I’m an unrepentant Mass Effect fanboy (I am), but it’s because I really don’t have the eye to tell the difference.

I think honestly, the big deal made over the facial animations helped set my expectations from the game a little lower and thus helped avoid any disappointment. But in all honesty, Bioware has not disappointed me in every one of their games that I’ve bought.

If you're wavering, I hope that this is good enough to convince you to get it. If not, hey, you do what you want :)