While I may be an outlier in my appreciation for the original Mass Effect Trilogy ending, I was never adverse toward extending the story through additional stories. While, in my mind, the Trilogy ended things in a satisfying manner, there is something undoubtedly rich about Mass Effect’s style, setting, and narrative, with so much more to detail and uncover. For me, I am driven in most games to explore and Mass Effect held a lot of promise of that in it’s first game, until the singular plot focused my over all play. Even as I endeavored to complete every loyalty quest and see every vista, the theme of the Mass Effect games grew consistently more directed toward cosmic war. I love those games, but Mass Effect has yet to satisfy all of the interest I initially invested in it.
For this player, then, Andromeda’s early gameplay is full of promise and glory. The initial planet, Habitat 7, is a excellent mix of mid-century hard science fiction “weirdisms” and imaginative unknowns that drove me forward. The scanning mechanic, especially, is proving to be a fun way to gamify my curiosity, while its early constraints leaves me wondering what it might reveal when it is no longer narratively enfeebled. The HUD and combat controls also added to the experience, though I really needed to rebind an number of actions. Perhaps the most wow-inducing, the implementation of more compelling space vistas as seen from within vessels is a definite winner. The effect of showing very different “window views” depending on where you are in space and what is going on around your ship was very effective and connecting me to the space outside the hull. It gave gravity to the conceit that the setting is not just a ship interior, but a ship flying through a gigantic and unexplored Galaxy.
Andromeda, on the computer at least, is unarguably saddled with a visual disturbance in the form of broken facial animations. Your character, hearing of terrible news, looks on with a numb expression. That same, or virtually the same, expression is ubiquitous, even when the Protagonist is cracking jokes. Other’s expressions barely move, or change slowly…but, and there’s the trick, not all the time. I’ve caught a sideways glance from a side character that spoke volumes and evaporated in an instant within the first hour of play. There are also noticeable differences between the quality of the surfaces of the preset female face and the one I fashioned through the character creator. With eyes of similar shine as the skin and eyes that don’t always match the momentum of the head, the quick-start Sara Ryder is more problematic than the face I made. These facts suggest to me that this broken mechanic is, in fact, broken and not passed on to computer players “working as intended”. I played four hours of this game so far, and never once did I feel the urge to harass the Bioware employee that a sexist rumor swears up and down eroded these graphics with some accused impurity. I don’t believe the thought that the game creators were not as disappointing in this bug as I was ever crossed my mind.
To speak nothing of the cruel sexism that dominated the news of last weekend’s pre-launch.
Without revealing anything of the story, I found this early game gave me a powerful narrative compel to take my ship and explore the Andromeda Galaxy. The sense of responsibility and need for hope inherent in the mandate to traverse this space in search of Golden Worlds to settle and resources and allies to acquire are palpable. Most of the characters presented early on begin with complex and needs-based relationships with you already. Befriending/antagonizing them is more than a matter of getting to know your coworkers, these exchanges establish the only society you Milky Way natives have. The initial scarcity and need to rely on each other to survive drives passionate ties. I am given to wonder how the bridges and walls established in this story will create the foundations for this wayward civilization. The opportunities to explore appear to be the building blocks of this game. And the tools you are given toward these ends complete a strong array of features in what is proving to be a satisfying adventure. There’s no sourness to the fun when I pretend the traumatic journey thus far has rendered my character emotionally expressionless, numbly hurting until such time stronger companionship (and a handy patch) can bring forth her smile.