Its finally time, Mass Effect Andromeda is upon us. Can the Mass Effect universe survive without everyone’s favorite N7 Specter at the Helm? Well, I’ve put down some cash for the trial on the newest installment so you don’t have to. Here is my first impression of Mass Effect Andromeda on PC.
First things first, creating your character. I was a bit surprised that you couldn’t just make a few adjustment to the default character model that they have set aside for quick starting the game (these are the models you see in the commercials). Instead, you are given 9 varying builds from different ethnic groups to start building your character from. You have some decent options sculpting your character, but it doesn’t get nearly as detailed as Fallout 4. I’ll admit that I kinda rushed through this process and ended up not liking my character all that much. Make sure you spend a few min checking all the angles on your character. You are going to spend a lot of time looking at them (I screwed up the jawline on Ryder). So this lead me restarting the game with the default look and playing through the first world twice.
The upside to running through the first level a couples of times is that I got to compare the Normal vs Hardcore difficulty, mouse/keyboard vs XB1 gamepad and the graphics with and without the grain filter. Lets start with the the controls. The game is very much built around using a gamepad, and while using this I actually found that the camera was more fluid when switching between normal gameplay to the new scanner that your character has. The menus are also much easier to control while on a gamepad. Combat has a few perks with how your 3 combat abilities are bound to the bumpers. However, as I moved up in difficulty, keyboard and mouse won out as my preferred control method. Hardcore difficulty increases the emphasis on headshots and without that precision you end up wasting full clips on the generic enemies leaving you out of ammo for armor/shielded foes. I feel the keybinding for vaulting obstacles feels off, but that can always be bound to another key in the settings.
If you haven’t been playing the previous trilogy in anticipation for this game, I would say start on normal difficulty. The firefights are still challenging and you’ll get to enjoy some of the new combat mechanics for this game. Andromeda shakes up combat by adding a vertical aspect to battlefield. Your exploration team is fitted with jump jets that allow you to jump and hover in the air or jump over cover for an unexpected attack. This booster also can be used as an evade or gap close for an melee attack. Overall, this adds an increased speed to game play that is somewhat reminiscent of Vanquish. You need to master these mechanics for hardcore mode, as a lot of your time will be spent trying to make it to the next spot with cover. Enemies will punish you hard for being out in the open.
Your role as the Pathfinder in this game also revamps the way the classes and abilities work. After choosing your initial class at the beginning of the game, you will have the option to unlock abilities from all the classes from the trilogy when you level up. As you purchase more abilities, you will auto unlock more classes. Your class in the game, ex: Soldier, Infiltrator, Engineer, etc., can be changed at will to give you perks to your abilities. Personally, I believe that most people will fall back into their old patterns from previous games. But, I like that the option to try a new gameplay style isn’t locked behind rebuilding my character for a new play through.
There is definite shift in tone from the first game. The desperation that is present in the game is much like Interstellar. You are alone, there is no help coming and you have to survive. The colony mission you are on is living proof of Murphy’s law and you have to figure out keep these colonists alive. I found it interesting that the game lets you know that anyone could of technically been the pathfinder. The role is more of a rank than anything, as pathfinders lead recon teams on colony missions, and have increased access to the ships AI.
Much like the previous entries the game shines through the extra details you get through the character conversations and side missions. In my attempt to burn through the main story as fast as possible, I skipped the available side missions. It was only when the final reveal on EOS was blocked in the trial that I went back and found some really interesting character dynamics and the history of what had happened on the colony ship that you join up with. The side missions also felt appropriate to be handed off to your character as you are the only team with the experience to go, as you are actively exploring worlds to colonize. It was also interesting to realize that I don’t remember seeing female Turians or Krogan in the previous Mass Effect installments. Well, you will in this game.
Finally lets take a moment to talk about the graphics. If you’ve seen any trailers you should already know that its a pretty good looking game. In fact, I would call it a wallpaper generating machine. It looks amazing and at about any moment you could take a screenshot and you have an new background. By default the game has a grain filter that is turned on. Personally I believe the game is more stunning if its turned off, but this does seem to make some jagged edges on curved surfaces a little more visible while sitting near your screen. On the down side, I have seen some oddness during gameplay. A few character models have jumped slightly during cutscenes. The eyes are off on some characters during conversations they end up giving you an odd 100 yard stare. And once while talking to a hologram apiece of the background was sticking out of her head. Additionally background characters will also sometimes seem out of focus/low resolution in some of the cutscenes. It hasn’t affected my enjoyment of the game, but your mileage may here.
But the bottom line is this, so far at least, if you like the previous mass effect games you will probably enjoy this. All your favorite races are back. Your new squadmates are more memorable than Ashley, Kaiden or Vega ever were. And if you have any doubts, a PC and 5 bucks gets you 10 hours to try it out. If you hate it, you can always play Mirror Edge Catalyst in the EA vault.
For the curious, here are some screenshots from the game. Please note that these could be considered SPOILERS.