5 years after Commander Shepard’s exeunt, the stage is set for the next act in the Mass Effect franchise. Enter the Ryder twins: Sara and Scott. They are part of a 600 year long, one way expedition to the neighbouring Andromeda galaxy to find a new home for humanity. That is, if everything goes according to plan. Andromeda has its own races with different levels of technology and their own existing conflicts. Not to mention that the information our pioneers hold is essentially 600 years old (and as it turns out, woefully out of date).
I was graciously invited to Bioware Montreal’s offices to learn more about Mass Effect Andromeda’s development as well as try the game for myself. Here are my first impressions.
What I liked
As previously noted, the new leads in this space opera are the Ryder twins. Previously, you’d chose to play either male or female Shepard. In Andromeda, you chose which siblings to play and the other takes on a supporting role as an NPC and adds for an interesting plot device.
You can mold Ryder to your playstyle. You invest in abilities and skills, unlocking Pathfinder profiles as you go, each granting bonuses and special attributes. You can change your profile at any given time, essentially changing the focus of your character. A system that may be daunting at first for those new to RPGs, but that gives players the freedom to build the character they want to play.
Jumping into Combat
One of Bioware’s focus was to rebuild the combat system so that it wouldn’t be a shooting gallery but more like an all out arena. So they added a recent quintessential shooter feature: a short range jetpack. Much like what we’ve seen in Titanfall, Halo and Destiny, the combat in Mass Effect Andromeda is now more movement based: jumping from one level to the other and even darting forward to rush an enemy. Cover mechanics were also tweaked to avoid breaking the flow of combat; instead of “sticking” to a wall or object, you’ll see a shield icon appear on screen when behind an element that grants cover. Enemy AI was also reworked to take into account the movement and cover mechanics. All and all, the combat in Mass Effect Andromeda feels very dynamic and exciting.
The Promise of Exploration and Epic Tale
The team at Bioware Montreal said that space exploration is a big focus in Mass Effect Andromeda. Your vessel has no weapons and is meant solely for scouting and traveling. The game’s world is said to be massive, to the extent of the one in Dragon Age Inquisition. Each explorable planet is memorable and plays a part in the game’s story. You’ll also have to take into account resources and life support when exploring new worlds. Vehicles like the Nomad will help you navigate the unknown terrain but you’ll need to make sure you are ready before heading out into the unknown.
As of now, I’ve only experienced a fraction of it. However, if it’s anything like it was in Dragon Age Inquisition, we are in for quite the open world experience propelled by a compelling story.
What I Didn’t
My Face is Tired
When diving into Mass Effect Andromeda, my immediate reaction was “Why does everybody look, sound and act so weird?” I know I’m not the first to comment on Mass Effect Andromeda’s lackluster animation and character models, but man, it’s just subpar. Let’s be honest, Bioware isn’t known for life-like characters and is known to recycle animations from game to game but at the very least, each new release showed some kind of improvement…
Now that the franchise has officially moved to Montreal, I beg of you Bioware, make good use of the local talent base and studios. Start fresh with new motion captures and rebuild your bank of animations for future games.
Stick to the Script
As noted above, DAI had compelling voice acting. Mass Effect Andromeda does not. Some of the main characters sound like they are just reading from a script. For a studio and a game franchise known for their epic stories and compelling character interaction, this is a huge disappointment. Dragon Age Inquisition had great voice acting that really brought the story to life. Mass Effect Andromeda, not so much.
Mass Effect Andromeda’s gameplay feels solid and will deliver a great sci-fi experience. However, for the franchise to keep it’s place at the top of the list of its genre, Bioware needs to greatly improve performance and motion capture as well as character models.
DISCLAIMER: Mass Effect Andromeda review copy was provided by EA. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.