Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hello Galaxy

Mass Effect Andromeda is out now. I had been looking forward to it as a fresh start in a new galaxy with a new broad objective; 'establish a foothold' as opposed to 'prevent the eradication of intelligent life by an overzealous species of sentient machines that think they are gods'. So far, I think I have pretty much what I wanted.

I'm still in the early parts of the game, having established my character and his role as Pathfinder for the Andromeda Initiative. I've been with my crew down to the planet of Eos and successfully terraformed its atmosphere enough to establish a colony. Next will be to rendezvous back at the Nexus with the Director of the Initiative to plan my next move. It will likely be to the standout planet on the chart discovered in the Remnant vault on Eos. That one was different from the rest somehow.

One thing I appreciate about the game so far is just how little most people know about what is going on in Andromeda, and what they're doing there. Ryder and crew  pretty often are clearly spouting conjecture as to what things in the environments around them do or how they came to be where they are. This is the sort of exploratory, scientific approach you would hope people in this position would take. Probably the most interesting choice I have made in terms of roleplaying so far was to decide between founding a military or science-focused outpost to begin with. The game pretty clearly indicates this first founding is a landmark and the decision you make here will set a tone for the rest of the game.

In terms of playability, and with respect to the game's nature as a third-person cover-based shooter with super powers, this is probably the best Mass Effect to date. Ryder is much more mobile than Shepard ever was, and much more flexible in terms of skill paths and variable loadouts, as well as available equipment choices. This makes for more possibilities on the battlefield, as well. Ryder's enhanced mobility extends to the non-combat exploration of the worlds presented here, as well. I love the jump pack and dash/dodge abilities. These allow for enhanced verticality of terrain in the game, too, which is important in large, open environs like the game is serving up to this point. It feels good to play, for the most part.

I can't really judge the writing, plotting, or character development authoritatively yet, since I am still so early in, but it's been fine thus far; if not stellar, also mostly not terrible. There is one really poorly done character (Addison), but she stands out for it, making me wonder if somehow it wasn't a conscious move somehow to make her like that. Many characters have odd-looking facial features or animations, Ryder included, but I don't find it too distracting--yet. There was one obviously erratic instance of blocking in a cutscene that took me out of the moment, and there are some issues with audio samples overlapping each other or being cut off unexpectedly, but again I'm not too bothered by them.

All in all, I think the game is off to a fine start. My taste in Sci-Fi is probably a little more forgiving or allowing for the slow burn than some, of course. I am definitely looking forward to playing a lot more of Andromeda, though.

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