Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda First Impressions

Mass Effect was the game that finally convinced me to get an Xbox 360. An epic space opera RPG series from BioWare meant that it was a day one purchase. Subsequently, every title under its deluxe edition aftewards was purchased day one. Mass Effect easily became one of my favorite video game series and yet, I wasn’t that excited for Mass Effect: Andromeda. I did end up purchasing that game under its deluxe edition on the first day but even after 11 hours thus far in our neighbor’s galaxy, I don’t feel as enthused as I have with the original trilogy.

I’ll get the obvious out of the way since it’s been the talk of the gaming news scene for the past week: there are bugs and some animation quirks in this game. I do still defend the animation that is not an actual bug. It won’t win any awards for best animation but it is serviceable. There’s a great round table talk featuring industry animators about the complexity of animation in video games and how Mass Effect: Andromeda might have gone about doing its animations and why it ends up looking like mannequins acting.

I really haven’t found any major bugs like other people have. I would get some weirdness where I’m traveling along in the Nomad and the game world would just stop for a couple of seconds and then start back up again. I have actually seen that before on a previous title that I tested and it is most likely linked to the game world loading. In fact, Mass Effect 3 gave me more problems, especially near the end of the game, where the game world would not load after opening a door or it would freeze during a critical moment and when I reloaded the save, it freaked me out thinking that the save data had been corrupted. With the technical issues that I really haven’t encountered addressed, I’d like to talk about the characters.

The animations of the characters was duly noted and I want to mention that the human characters at least, look like they walked out of a wax museum. And when they’re in low lit conditions they can look very flat. I’m not sure if that’s a characteristic of the Frostbite engine, since I haven’t played any other games with the current iteration of that engine. A quick search shows that that’s probably not the case but it does look close to the way Dragon Age: Inquisition looks. Also, my character has sort of a lumpy face.

As far as personality goes for characters, so far I haven’t really grown attached to them but I also have not conversed them too much. The few chats that I have had with my crew indicates that there is definitely more under the surface. If past BioWare games are a clue then at least developing the relationships will be a strong point of the game. There is not a female alien that I want to romance this time so I guess I’ll just go with Cora. Maybe on my next playthrough I’ll give Vetra a shot.

The environments on the other hand, are gorgeous. They’re not very memorable, especially not the Remnant vaults but they are beautiful to look at. The vaults, at least the one that I went into, has a very monochromatic feel to it that makes it easy to get lost in and that electric fluid blends in very well with the environment on some areas making it easy to accidentally get shocked. Considering that there are more of those vaults, I’m not looking forward to them.

After about 11 hours with the game I am underwhelmed but I am still enjoying it. I think that my expectations from the past Mass Effect games and even how other modern RPGs like Witcher 3 were executed has colored my expectations. And since we do build on past experiences that is fair in a sense. If this was called something else and not a part of the Mass Effect universe, I’d probably be a bit more elated by it. I’ll have a proper review when I finish the game.

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