The day has finally arrived, Mass Effect is once again upon us. I had pre-ordered the game and upon receiving a phone call from my wife, I was notified while I was at work that the game was in! Oh boy! Of course I asked my wife to take a picture of the download key and send it over. Remotely installing the game while at work? Hell yes! I got my priorities in check for those who are worried.
For those going the PC or pure digital route, the game install is 45 GB, so be sure to give it plenty of time to download before you schedule some play time. For PC owners, be sure to update your video card. Upon starting my game, Origins warned me that my driver was slightly out of date and recommended the newest one. Reading around this fixes some graphical issues so I would recommend to take the time to do this. My driver download and install was between 20-30 minutes but I didn’t plan ahead unfortunately so I had to wait.
With these set backs, I did start a bit later than anticipated and ended up playing a couple hours, finished around 12:45am on a work night, so there was definitely something to keep me hooked this long, as I’m feeling the hurt this morning. At any rate, here are my thoughts on my play through so far.
First things first, character customization, I didn’t like it. It doesn’t yield too many options and feels more limited than in the past. I dug the default look, and couldn’t make any other person who looked cool enough. A lot of the faces had a wimpy timid look, not a quality I want associated with the discoverer of new alien worlds. There is a neat area referring to Sheppard and what gender they were in your play thoughs of the original trilogy. It’ll be interesting to see how he is tied into the story. I decided to go with a female Ryder with the default look, her face seemed to have the most life to it, and kind of sparked this innocent curiosity in the character. I also played the original trilogy as a male character, so I’m curious how playing as a female will pan out.
Upon the opening moments of the game, you learn that your character Ryder has been aboard the Ark Hyperion for 634 years, carrying 20000 passengers in hopes to populates new potential worlds in the Andromeda galaxy. Your crews mission is to touch down on a planet known as Habitat 7. However once you arrive, things start to going wrong very fast and this is where the game begins.
Once you get to walking around, I was even happier I went with the default look. Seeing a lot of the NPCs around the Ark Hyperion, they all resembled different custom sets seen in the character creator. Nothing like creating the saviour of the galaxy, just to find out several people look exactly like you. There’s some nice details in the faces, Ryder’s lips looked extremely chapped as she woke up, makes sense, probably didn’t get much chance to moisturize over those 634 years in the cryo tube. I will say as she woke and spoke, at times there were some odd facial expressions. These aren’t in my eyes anything game breaking, I think the whole controversy of the facial animations has been blown way out of proportion. It does not detract from the game in anyway. The rest of the game looks stunning. Let’s instead focus on things like this…
and one more!
The game environments and characters for the most part look amazing. Habitat 7 is teeming with exotic plant life, huge floating rocks, huge creatures flying in the distance, alien tech, lots and lots of lightning, it’s a sight to see. I’m running the game on Ultra settings and so far it’s holding up quite nicely. Frame rate only really dropped on the Ark Hyperion, and it was minor when there were many NPCs on the scene. Otherwise in combat, the game runs super smooth.
I will point out two minor things I saw during my early play through. There are occasions where things in the background sometimes flicker. An example is when you are about to land on Habitat 7, you can see the planet in the back ground through the ships cockpit, however I noticed every now and then, the image briefly disappeared for a split and came back. I noticed this again on the planet, the background was blurred as it was out of focus, and it occurred there as well. The other really odd thing I noticed was after Ryder crashes and repairs the crack on her helmet. She gets up and it appears to be raining as there are drops forming, but oddly enough, they are on her fore head and clearly not on the visor. Not sure what happened here, because other angles of her visor showed drops on the visor, maybe it was the angle it was seen at, not sure. Either way, these are super minor and in no way shape or form, ruin the experience, but does expose some of the unpolished pieces in the game.
One thing that stands out is the audio in this game. I’ve always loved Mass Effect for their sound tracks, incorporating conventional classical elements with sci fi sounding effects that tear through your speakers. It’s sounds as sci fi as you can get. Even down on the surface of the planet, the music really sets a edgy mood. Lightning strikes are quick and fierce. There is a tower that pulsates some unknown energy every now and then. It all creates a great sounding environment, and really adds to the mystery and danger of it all. In combat, the sounds pick up even more. Gun shots sound very pleasing, you can hear your enemies fire in the distance echoing through the rocky cliffs, it all creates a big sense of space. Your biotics also have this satisfying bass sound as you launch them towards your enemy. They sound and feel heavy very very heavy, and watching your enemy fly away is priceless.
Combat in this game is fiercer than it’s ever been. Back when I played Mass Effect 3, I cranked the difficulty to Insanity. It was a blast as it made all the battles so enjoyable and intense. The same can be said here, Insanity mode makes it’s return here in Andromeda, and man it’s so much fun. Enemies are tough to take down, and they come at your from all angles and ambush you, so you always have to be on your toes. I’ve chosen to play as a pure Biotic and loving every moment of it, whereas in the past I played as a Vanguard for the hybrid feel. I feared they would be squishy and taken down easily on Insanity mode, but if you are smart and use cover effectively, you’ll make the fights easier for yourself, although they still won’t be a walk in the park.
Your arsenal early on includes your pistol, machine gun and biotic ability. Guns feel like they have a kick and Biotics pack a 1, 2 punch. Firing while still in cover is a nice addition. It feels sloppy, which is it should, but man it really works well for those moments where an enemy catches you by surprise and you start wailing away at them. The panic you would feel in this moment is conveyed nicely because the guns shakes uncontrollably and the view is partially obstructed and I feel like the subtle camera shake all adds to this feeling and makes you as the player feel panicked as well.
One part of combat that comes off as annoying is your team mates AI. I think this has been a prevalent theme through all Mass Effect titles. Your crew just sometimes doesn’t get it. A few things I noticed. After killing an enemy, and clearly seeing them fall to the ground, my team mates decides 2 seconds later it’s highly appropriate to toss a grenade at the enemy right in front of me. Another moment had me behind cover in a very intense gun fight that I had to keep retrying again and again. I took cover behind a crate, and one of my team mates was on the other side. When I popped out of cover, they also did the same, but just stood their staring at me blocking my view of the enemies. When I went back into cover they went into cover as well, and this kept repeating until I just ditched that spot. Pretty annoying stuff.
One of the funnier things I noticed was in the team banter during combat. Overall the team banter is cool, but one particular thing that I think Liam did in the same fight that had my dying over and over. If I wandered to far from the fight, he would sarcastically say “Where are you going?” in his posh like British accent. Fair enough, I shouldn’t be wandering away from the battle, he should call me out on this. But pretty much every time I died, he had to call me out on this, because my dead lifeless corpse apparently left the battle. One particular funny moment was a grenade that landed behind me. It instantly killed me and launch me into the air over the ledge, and of course, good old Liam just had to wonder where I was going. Mind you, my body is spinning uncontrollably from the explosion. I wasn’t too annoyed by this, just found it down right hilarious.
The game starting area is essentially a tutorial to get you accustomed to the games mechanics, which is fine. It’s quite easy to figure out most of it without the game telling you what button does what. Tutorials pop up indicating how to use your jets, shoot use Biotics and more. The game does still find is necessary to tell you after you’ve heavily relied on certain abilities like your Biotic throw over the course of several intense gun fights that pressing 1 launches your Throw ability. Great, thanks for the tip for something I’ve been using for the past 30 minutes. Not a game breaker, just again shows some lack of polish.
The new dialogue wheel is welcoming. Instead of just being given choices for plain black and white good vs evil dialogue, it plays on 4 different dialogue options. These are emotional, logical, casual and professional. These choices make you really consider what you will say. One statement could favor the mission, the other a specific person. It plays more on mood of the situation rather than good or evil. I find it adds an interesting twist, as in the past, when given dialogue choices, I very quickly and naturally kept picking paragon, which kind of took the thought out of some choices because for me, being a paragon is naturally very easy. Now it challenges you to think a bit more about how you will handle each choice. What effect this has outside of dialogue is hard to tell so far. It’ll be very interesting to see how these all strong together throughout the game.
So far I’ve pointed out many great things about Mass Effect Andromeda, and some minor things that are funny at most, but far from game breaking. However there is one problem that I can see becoming a huge nuisance for many players, including myself, especially if you are someone who wants to play on Insantiy and will naturally be dying a lot. Save states are bad. You can’t save in the middle of priority missions and during these moments, the game relies on auto saves. The problem is the game does a very bad job of deciding where your check points are. It does not save for you right before encountering a mob of enemies, and instead, if you die you are constantly brought very far back. I really hope this gets patched, because I don’t take well to games not respecting my time and making me needlessly keep walking to the same point over and over again.
All in all, my early impressions of the game are pretty positive. Despite the areas where the game lacks polish, it is mostly in areas that to me aren’t game breaking by any means, they really just lead to comedic moments for me. In the end, what really makes up for it is the games combat. It’s a blast to fight in this game, which is good because you will be fighting a lot if that’s any indication from the early parts of Andromeda. Only thing that I really think needs to be addressed is the issue with save states. I’ll probably still push through it, but I could see it driving me insane over time. Otherwise, I can’t wait to see what the next many hours of Mass Effect Andromeda hold as I’ve barely scratched the surface. Sadly I will be away for the next 4 days so I won’t be able to get back into the fray until early next week.
Who else has had a change to play Mass Effect Andromeda and what are your thoughts so far?