(The following is a First Impressions of the first five hours of the game, and contains no spoilers. I will be writing a full review in the coming weeks as I work my way through this game properly. Enjoy.)
Five years ago, a game called Mass Effect 3 was released. The last in a trilogy that had attributed a great deal of critical acclaim, the science fiction universe that the team at Bioware wove together was one that captured the attention of a lot of fans, myself included. With memorable stories, a great sci fi setting and characters that you can actually care about, Mass Effect as a trilogy was deserving of the credit that it got. Now, there was a certain issue with the 3rd one’s conclusion, but that’s not what I’m talking about today.
No, today we’re talking about the latest addition to the Mass Effect universe; Mass Effect Andromeda. Knowing that the story of the trilogy ended on such a conclusive note, Bioware figured, “why not move over to the galaxy next door?” And why not indeed, a new galaxy to explore, new civilisations and worlds to find. That’s the core of many space fiction stories. While I did have my reservations about a new setting, I can’t deny that it excited me, so I was keen to start the first few hours.
Having played those first few hours, I can say that this certainly isn’t a bad game; I can say that a lot of work was clearly put into the gameplay and the background for this Andromeda Initiative (The 600 year journey to the Andromeda galaxy) and I really don’t want to underestimate the amount of work that goes into creating a new game, set in a new galaxy, with completely new characters.
However, when looking at how the characters are animated within the first few minutes of the game, I can’t help but wonder what was prioritised in it’s five year development time. Character animation has never been the strong suit of any Bioware game, I must concede; and it may not be as important as telling a good story, but I’m noticing it as a problem now more than ever.
As I played through the opening levels of Andromeda, part of me just felt empty while playing; like I got the feeling that this would be all that there is to the game, just this empty space. Empty space with interesting things in it I will admit; I am fascinated by the Andromeda Initiative and the idea of colonising multiple new planets and making a new home and a fresh start.
The original Mass Effect game benefitted from highly developed backdrop; multiple species that you got to meet and learn their fascinating history from, a galaxy already settled by humans and other races in a number of interesting ways. You see how galactic civilisation has evolved, and the additional games built on that and refined it.
But Andromeda has a lot of unknowns, I don’t know how this story will pan out, I don’t know if I’ll like these new characters just yet, or if my character will be the centrepiece to an epic galaxy spanning setting. I hope it does, because I loved Mass Effect, and I want to like Andromeda.
Oh and regarding gameplay? There are a lot of new things thrown at you in the space of a few hours; gunplay, a faster pace, different class profiles, and more subtle ways in which the interface works. It will take some getting used to, and I don’t remember Mass Effect 2 being as unusual to get into. Not that it’s bad, its a lot to take in, and not necessarily delivered in a seamless way.
I can’t help but wonder if this manner of Bioware game is a little dated now, with so many of their games following this kind of formula, and similar games being better made and telling better stories. (please consult Horizon Zero Dawn and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt) Mass Effect is not a unique game any more, not after ten years.
I’ll be sure to elaborate on this when I get around to doing a full review on Andromeda. Despite a slow and confusing start, I do have some enthusiasm for continuing this story.