Hodderscape plays Mass Effect: Andromeda
Photo credit: Alan Dyer / VWPics / Alamy Stock Photo
Posted on April 10, 2017 in Games with tags Mass Effect, Mass Effect Andromeda, Video Games
We took time off work to play this game. Was it worth it?
It’s the game that everyone is talking about (if you’re not talking about Breath of the Wild, that is). Mass Effect: Andromeda is controversial; planned for release in 2016, EA/Bioware delayed publication until a few weeks ago. Fans worried it wouldn’t be ready. They worried about the facial animation. They worried about the characterisation.
It seems that some of the worries weren’t totally unfounded.
Before you go on, be warned. If you haven’t yet picked up your controller/gamepad/keyboard, you’re about to get very, very SPOILERED.
So, onto The Good:
It feels much more free-flowing than ever before. The lack of formal class is a good thing. Who doesn’t want to be biotic/combat/tech with a full-on flamethrower? Enemies actually seem to think tactically. They run for cover when you try to shoot them, instead of standing out in the open waiting for your M7 Avenger to find its mark. Most things strewn around a battlefield can be used as cover, and some work better than others. So instead of heading for the shield apparatus that’s casually been left out, find a rock, or a box, or the side of the Nomad, and fight from there. Be creative! Or just launch yourself off a building and slam into your enemy a bunch of times. That’s always fun.
The characters (especially the relationships).
Though the crew of the Tempest is limited compared with the good ol’ days of The Normandy (ME2 era), the companions hold their own. Particular favourites include Drack and Vetra and their friendship – take them out in the Nomad and they won’t stop talking. Liam and Jaal have also bonded pretty well; them getting to know each other through their clothing and swearing each other was as confusing as it was endearing. From trailers, I feared Peebee would be annoying, but she’s actually pretty funny, and less of an ingenue than Liara was in ME1. Cora’s the only one that leaves me a little cold; she gives me Miranda vibes (and I never was a fan of Miranda).
Bioware/EA have developed their romance system, too. Finally, not every romance begins at the same time, and ends just before you leap into the baddie’s lair. Each character is different and will respond differently to flirting. Though they still don’t know how to approach Turian romance scenes.
(Some) of the loyalty missions.
I love a good loyalty mission. You get a bit of backstory for the characters whilst solving puzzles and fighting bad guys. From what I’ve seen so far, the loyalty missions are quite varied. Liam’s, in particular, was good. Expect changes in gravity, puzzles, and quite a bit of humour, though you’ll have to go with the flow for one scene where a window in a starship explodes and Ryder and the team are not sucked into the void.
The pace really picks up here, and there are some unexpected revelations. Also expect questions to linger beyond the end of the game, setting up subsequent installments in the series.
I wouldn’t be a marketer if I didn’t also give a nod to the dual marketing strategy, with both Sara and Scott Ryder front-and-centre in trailers/videos/images. Though MaleShep was the lead for the original Mass Effect trilogy, I feel Bioware vastly underestimated how many people would play as FemShep. Maybe it was something to do with being voiced by the brilliant Jennifer Hale that persuaded thousands to play as a female protagonist. I peersonally felt the voice acting for FemShep was vastly superior to MaleShep. Plus I wanted to romance sexy Garrus.
Onto The Bad:
Good lord, the bugs. Sometimes people walk strangely. Sometimes you come out of a room and a guard is half in a wall, crouching. Sometimes you’re in a fight and you spot a red blip on your map. Searching for the enemy, you’ll spot them floating in mid air, standing around with nothing better to do. Kill them and sometimes they don’t drop to Earth – they just hang there, in limbo, forever. And some missions forever show up on your map even though they have been completed hours ago. It’s frustrating.
The facial animations.
They’re so awkward. I guess Ryder might be meant to convey awkwardness in the above gif, but maybe she’s sad? Happy? Confused? Without the dialogue, it’s honestly difficult to tell sometimes. The weird facial animations took me out of the game too often for my liking.
Some of the missions.
These end rather abruptly at times and oddly end at the point where they just start to get some momentum. You’re forced to make the ‘big decisions’ without too much information to hand. Or a storyline has been teased for so long and yet is very quickly resolved, completely lessening any impact it might have had. For example, finding out who the Charlatan is on Kadara – the build-up for this was all well and good, but very quickly ended with an impact that left me unsatisfied.
Mass Effect usually does well with its morally grey choices. Do you pick Ashley or Kaidan? Destroy or keep Maelon’s data? Here, there are too many big decisions that directly relate to the Paragon/Renegade binary that Bioware have tried to move away from in this game. Do you do the thing that everyone will hate you for, or the obvious correct choice?
Overall, Mass Effect: Andromeda feels 80% done. Despite the delay to ensure we all had the ‘right player experience‘ I can’t help but feel that the game could have done with a whole load of refining. Whether the plan was to publish it and send out patches/fixes/DLCs subsequent to launch, or the team was in fact perfectly happy with what they put out, it’s hard to say. I’m enjoying the game for what it is, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
Andromeda feels like a more successful ME1 when we wanted a better ME2. 7/10.