After biting the bullet to play on the PS4 Pro instead, my sour feelings for the performance issues on vanilla Xbox One has passed. The upscaling and more stable fps helps a lot with this game. Here’s hoping the Scorpio will make up for my digital copy soon. So, make sure to utilize your strongest machine whether a PC or a PS4 Pro. It will help make this a better experience.
Mass Effect Andromeda starts off on the wrong foot when the plot and the game’s performance are placed into cryostasis for 600 years. Initially beginning right before the events of Mass Effect 3, four Arks with 20,000 people from four distinct and classic species we know from the Milky Way galaxy are sent to a 600 year trip to scout for a new galaxy to inhabit.
Sadly, the game in general feels just as dated as ME3. Graphically and perfomance-wise, but combat and a new perspective makes up for this rocky new beginning of a beloved franchise. So give it some time to warm up and it will get better.
“Keep going. It gets better.”
Commander Shepard’s saga left an enormous hole in the hearts of the fans. Even more so being left with an ending to the trilogy that left many heads being scratched to this day. Andromeda tries to fill that hole with all it has, but just like many of the early planets we are tasked to pathfind, it just isn’t viable enough. But just like those said planets, it all gets better. So, give it some time to grow on you.
Given the plot has taken a brand new direction and the Andromeda galaxy feels very empty, that’s exactly how it is meant to feel. The aliens we know and love were from our home galaxy and are with the humans to find new homes in new galaxies. Although we are introduced to the kett and Angaran races, the new galaxy is sparse of life and lacking in brand new species. We are left to mingle with our classic Turian, Krogan, Salarian and Asari neighbors. The game does explain why the rest of the races do not join the Andromeda Initiative. So, at least we can understand why the rest of the varied alien species from the previous games in the franchise are absent in the expansion to Andromeda.
A note for those who like to play a specific gender: this game will utilize either twin in the story so if it might feel off playing a specific gender you are used to playing, try switching things around. I usually play females for my RPGs, but for a number of good reasons, I preferred playing as Scott Ryder instead of Sara Ryder in Andromeda. It just felt right. Bioware made the Ryders relatable. They aren’t telling the story of a legendary commander, they’re placing you to feel what the Ryders feel when faced with new dicoveries as a noob explorer. So, enjoy the ride with something you can relate to. It will help. Eiither way they will have flaws. Sara will look and act odd. Her bad animation just seems to stick out more with her large eyes and ‘forever smile’. Scott feels like a wimp on occassion because of his barely growing beard and how he says things. Both of them consistently look derpy thanks to the odd facial animation they employ…
The first stumbling block with this game is the poorly designed character creation system. As RPG gamers, we expect to create a character to relate to or to be our protagonist to a story we want to be told. Most games give us much freedom to do whatever we want to do whether there are presets or not.
Mass Effect Andromeda fails us with this by limiting our customization within the specific ethnic preset we are given. We cannot make a fully custom character, per se. On top of that, we can’t even tweak default Ryders a little just to make Sara stop smiling or Scott look a little more badass.
In the end, default is the way to go. Other critics and gamers are sharing all the monstrosities they play with and that’s another path to choose when playing a game of this caliber. (lol) But I am glad to share that the Tempest (your ship hub) will host a way to change your appearance for a cost anytime. So, with EA and Bioware addressing this (with many other) issue, we may be able to still create a beautiful creature in the near future.
The reason why Mass Effect Andromeda feels rather sluggish in the beginning is due in part of two possible factors:
You’re still shaking off that cryostasis with too much adenosine in your system and Bioware makes you feel it in terms of gameplay. And…
The challenge the Ryders are faced with seems very miniscule, contrary to fact.
Pathfinders are to find a viable planet for humans to colonize and live in as “New Earth”. No big evil all-encompassing baddie or a badass background like the hero of the Blitz. Nothing. But pathfinding is super important too, though! And that Scourge cloud is looming over very ominously.
These two factors join hand in hand and are simply subjective perspectives to justify a poor development choice (which is quite common for fans to do with the franchise, apparently, with the whole indoctrination theory for the first trilogy).
Being a gamer who had started this game over 4 times already figuring out how to make my Ryder look or just because I jumped from Xbox One to PS4, I can now appreciate that the introduction to the game isn’t as long as it really feels. Obviously, the Mass Effect franchise is ripe with information that just slaps itself in front of you and sometimes you can’t seem to say no to reading that Codex or datapad entry… That, and keep asking questions to all NPCs until all options are grayed out… That’s me… So, a normally short introduction could easily run you a few long sluggish hours of just soaking up information. That is, of course, an option. So, by all means, if you mind reading all the given info, skim through them and enjoy the actual game! There will come a time where you’ll ask yourself a question and the codex may provide the answes anytime.
Another nice upgrade (I think it’s an upgrade) is the new conversation options. Mass Effect fans will miss the Renegade and Paragon choices, but in exchange we have a more intuitive mood options. Generally, it isn’t exaclty hugely story influencing, but more on what you want to say to agree or disagree with a certain NPC. It’s more personal than mandatory, like in real life. Are you going to dispute or support other’s opinions or lay down your own? Are you going to be casual or more distant to your peers? And of course, flirt away with your chosen target.
The game gives us about 5 different mood options. emotional, logical, casual, professional or the occasional flirty. All of which pretty much lead to the same direction, but I found that some options lead to better responses depending on how good you read their character. In other words, to get the ‘best’ sounding response for your role-play, you would want to read the NPCs character personality to asses what your ‘best fitting’ reply should be.
I personally like this more over a streamlined linear approach the franchise had prior, and the good-cop-bad-cop thing is a thing of the past. I do wish they implemented a little morality here to make some extreme responses to certain dialogue, but then again, that would defeat the point of entire scripts. Besides morality, I wish the sample text would elaborate more on what Ryder will actually say. Most of the time it can be vague or misleading… Either way, I like it as it is, morality removal aside.
Combat and Maneuverability…
…has shown the biggest growth in the franchise. Not only do we finally get to jump and dash (megaman style), we also have a few features that make Mass Effect Andromeda‘s combat aspect feel so much more alive.
Profiles are now introduced (later in the game) along with a freedom to pick a growth that fits your playstyle. Unlike in the older games in the franchise, we are not stuck to being predominantly one ‘class’, per se. You can now be a full combat, tech, biotic or any mix of any skill tree. I love the freedom. Make sure to choose a starting class by making a custom Ryder before starting the game, even if you will use default aesthetics. Setting your initial ‘class’ will help you in the prologue by unlocking skills you want to begin with.
These profiles tweak your character a little too. Minor, but cool details. For example, if you choose to work with a biotic or vanguard class, your jumps and dashes are all biotic powers instead of jump-jets. Explorer class expands on these by adding a teleport-through-objects, biotic blink dash! Cool little tidbit huh? Heads up on those skill points. 😀
(Alec Ryder, your dad and original Pathfinder, really makes N7 soldiers seem like a whole step more badassy that we are accustomed to when we talks to his custom AI, SAM, switching profiles on the fly in the prologue.)
Loadouts are a bit of a hybrid from what we’re used to. I do miss being able to switch loadouts between all 4 weapon classes anytime in the older games from the get-go, but I’m glad to say that at least we are able to bring any 4 weapons once the slots are unlocked in Andromeda. Which kinda suck, since the weapon slots are locked behind a skill tree progression… Then again, more weapons (higher weight) also equal slower biotic skill cooldown. I like playing with biotics, so I take an assault rifle with the vintage heat processor aug for infinite ammo with overheat just so I can have optimal cooldowns.
The game mixes things up even more by giving us a Research and Development aspect. This allows us to discover new gear from all the scans we take and build them for use on the field. This allows weapon upgrades and augmentations, which is super cool. There’s an aug for everything. Seek out that Vintage Heat Sink I mentioned above. Mass Effect 1 fans will be pleased to know that we can have infinite ammo in exchange for overheating in a well-balanced way.
Which brings me to the final cut of the cake. Graphics and performance. The saddest aspect of the game is here. This is the games weakness that is being poked and prodded since the beginning. It simply feels a little outdated, but heck, doesn’t stop the game from being a good game.
Poor animation, screen tearing, fps drops, you name it. The animation, in my opinion is wrong, in general, not bad, per se. The rigging of the face make the cheeks go up when meshes blink or speak. This is just bad modeling anatomy. This and the exaggerated expressions or entirely wrong expressions in general become a cute distraction along the way…
My first Ryder was Sara. In the same scene above (where Scott does the eyebrow thing after being asked about their dad’s death), Sara stares blankly, but her default face has a slight smile making her look awfully insensitive… But, I mean, just look as Scott! Do they even care?? (lol) Here’s another funny compilation. Skip to 0:36 if you wanna see what Sara does to the same senario with Scott up there. (ROFL)
The game is still promising, albeit a little funky around the center, but I’ve been hooked. I was able to finally pass my Switch to my wife who is now doing random stuff in Breath of the Wild. To be able to do that, I suppose Mass Effect Andromeda has piqued my inner craving to a sci-fi RPG. Heck, patches are still possible. Let’s see where the wind blows on this one depsite its obvious flaws…heh! XD