Moving to a new galaxy to escape Shepard’s Shadow.
If my twitter feed isn’t subtle enough, I am a huge fan of Mass Effect and Bioware in general. When Mass Effect Andromeda was announced I was both excited and nervous. There were a lot of things I loved about the series (though the Mako wasn’t one of them) which made me cautious in regards to getting my hopes up. This is the first solo game without Shepard and entourage, a series of characters I spend most of my teen years with. I was worried that I might hold onto what was instead of embracing what is.
The story takes place between ME2 and ME3 with arks containing Turians, Salarians, humans and Asari set off to colonise Andromeda. By the time they reach Andromeda, it’s six hundred years in the future. The player can choose to between the Ryder twins, either female or male depending on what you feel like. I chose female Ryder first because I wanted to know what it was like romance the new alien species, the Angara.
Ryder’s role in the game is to find habitable planet for the people of the arks to settle on and prosper. Ryder is also aided by an AI system called SAM implanted in her head. In the beginning of the first three games, the players had to choose between classes such as a biotic, soldier, infiltrator etc. With the added help of SAM, Ryder can access these classes and tailor points into Biotic, Tech or Soldier. I’ve put most in biotics as I like floating people into the air.
However, I have gone into soldier and put points there to help my character access more guns. This does mean that SAM is always with you, being a voyeur to Ryders entire life, which I think is a fair trade for that many abilities. I do enjoy these systems as it enables me to have more of an ability to explore. In the last few games, choosing a particular class meant I would sacrifice a certain aspect like being unable to use heavy guns.
Setting this game in Andromeda was a good idea as it is a whole other galaxy to explore whilst avoiding the storylines that happened in the Milky Way i.e. The Reapers and Shepard. I do like the narrative thus far as it’s far enough in the future (and another galaxy) where the characters are unaware of the events of ME3 and the plot is not driven by this. It does include little easter eggs of previous characters of the Mass Effect trilogy but they don’t feature prominently within the narrative. It gives a nod to the fans who have been with the series to start whilst not alienating new players.
The developers even have a new big bad called the Kett, who seem to want to dominate planets. Their plan so far seems to involve the ancient tech of ‘remnant’ which opens up vaults that terraform planets and make them nice, cosy homes for people to live on. When Ryder woke up from cryo-sleep on the Hyperion and goes to open vaults, I won’t lie, I kept thinking of Borderlands.
The game thus far seems to be a mash up of ME2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition (another Bioware game). The world seems more open, filing the missions in the categories of priority, systems, allies and tasks. It extends the game somewhat allowing the player to explore the system before doing the main storyline. I am a ‘complete everything’ sort of player which is why I’m doing a first impression piece. And my word, is there a lot to do. I am currently level twenty-eight and I not even half way through the main plot line. If you love expansive games full of exploring, I would suggest playing MEA.
There are the traditional loyalty missions of the crew, who interact with each other more on the ship, fleshing out who they are as people. The Tempest is the ship which ferries around Ryder in their search for a home which is a huge ship filled with interesting characters and research stations which help you develop armour, weapons etc. You can also jump someone’s bones pretty much after meeting them, fast-tracking romances even before loyalty missions. Much like the last Dragon Age game, you can even romance those who are not part of you’re immediate team like a pilot or a smuggler from one of the less hospitable planets.
Obviously, I have a few gripes with the new game as everyone one does. This includes the inclusion of the Nomad or ‘the Mako 2.0’ as I like to call it. I’m not particularly a fan of forced driving through a game. I can understand the protection of a vehicle through rough terrain or radiation filled planet. However, the controls are evil and the Nomad does not do well on corners in tight spaces. The one redeeming feature of the Nomad is the conversations your teammates will have, even poking fun at Ryder’s driving.
The characters animations also seem a bit stilted, though kudos to the voice actors for really putting the emotion in the voice. Apparently, Bioware are coming up with a patch to have more expression on the face which I look forward to and appreciate they are listening to the fans. Ryder occasionally has a hilarious glitch where the rest of the face won’t move but the eyes will, making it look like they are screaming internally.
As someone who has a few eye problems, I found it difficult to read the tiny writing for the instructions on certain things. Like drive the bloody Nomad properly. And who thought it was a good idea to do light blue writing? It barely stands out half the time. I’m still of the opinion that players should get to see what colour the writing is in and maybe the font too while we’re there. It’s annoying but it can be resolved by me peeling myself off the sofa and getting closer to the TV.
Despite some of the flaws, I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have played thus far considering I have made it to a high level. I may have also spend an entire day playing the game without realising I forgot to eat lunch. It is truly an immersive world which has the player explore so many different planets. This may take me a while to complete the entire game (including all the minor missions), but I look forward to seeing how it ends and I dare say I’ll be a little sad when it does.