Mass Effect: Andromeda First Impressions

The wait for the next installment of the Mass Effect franchise is finally over, and with all major game releases we have been asked the ever returning question: is it worth my money, though? Ash, Joe, & Cole have all given their different perspectives of their time spent with the early portion of the game and wanted to give you some insight on what to expect as you weigh the option of making the purchase or not. With all of the early impressions beginning to surface on Mass Effect: Andromeda, the HUD Crew wanted to be sure to give you our initial impressions with our first hours of the game to help you understand if some of the complaints actually hold any merit- as well as our initial thoughts on this massive game.

Ashton’s Take:

Andromeda was my most highly anticipated release of the year. Prior to the launch of the Switch, I was, as I said in one of our podcasts, even more excited for Mass Effect than I was for Breath of the Wild (of course, I hadn’t yet anticipated just how amazing BOTW would be). Because of my sheer levels of hype before its release, I’m naturally feeling a little underwhelmed by Andromeda, but it’s definitely too early to make any final judgment. I like most of what I’ve played a lot, but it hasn’t yet captured the magic of the original trilogy–some of my favorite games of all time–just yet. Here are some random thoughts I jotted down as I played- both good & bad:

  • Character creator is no good…

  • I miss the codex narrator for primary entries. He was one of my favorite little details about the first three games.

  • Facial animations are every bit as bad as I was worried they’d be after seeing that first gameplay trailer. It’s weird for a series that set the bar for expressive characters to have fallen so far behind the pack.

  • Graphics out “in the field,” however, are gorgeous. The Frostbite engine sings with explosions and sprawling landscapes.

  • Checkpoints are annoying as hell. Why can’t I quicksave anywhere I please mid-mission?

  • Where’s my power wheel?

  • Issuing commands to companions has been reduced to a single keystroke, and it sucks. I want to call out for specific powers

  • Why go through the effort of animating raindrops on character faces if it’s going to bypass their helmets? It looks silly.

  • Unskippable cutscenes? Really?

  • Music’s & mobility are great!

  • Combat’s fun and fluid, and the biotic powers I’ve used so far feel amazing

Unfortunately, what marred my experience the most was the constant crashing I experienced during cutscenes. Seems like it’s a relatively widely reported occurrence, and it might have something to do with my specific video card (Nvidia GTX 970), but I literally wasn’t able to progress beyond the prologue mission due to one of the series of cutscenes inevitably freezing on me. If only I could just skip it…

Joe’s Take:

I’ve been doing my best to avoid any spoilers leading up to the release of Bioware’s latest iteration of Mass Effect. The ME series has always been one of my favorite franchises, and I wanted to experience Andromeda with a fresh mind; free from prejudice. But sure enough, I couldn’t help but see the avalanche of criticism regarding ME:A’s animations. While I admit this tempered my expectations, I still jumped into the game as soon as I could.

After clocking in about 10 hours into the story, the flawed animations are noticeable, and while this can be world breaking sometimes, the series has never been known for its great animations, considering Commander Shepard’s dancing has been meme-worthy long before Andromeda’s release. Outside of cutscenes, gone are the days of the camera cutting away to conversations, with ME:A using a slight camera zoom to frame NPC’s during interactions. And while these decisions give the game a less cinematic feel, the soul of Mass Effect is alive and well in Andromeda’s universe. The story is enthralling, filled with intrigue and moments where the game can even play with your preconceived knowledge of the series. The combat is exhilarating, and I’ve been most impressed with ME:A’s cover mechanics, although cover seems to be a lost concept to your A.I. squadmates, leading to some frustrating encounters.

But Andromeda’s action truly comes alive in multiplayer, the mix of different classes and combo powers showcases the level of intensity the firefights can truly amount to when a team knows what they are doing. Gamers familiar with the series’ previous multiplayer offerings will feel right at home; playing matches earns points that you can use to buy packs of randomized loot, which can contain new classes to play as, or maybe the next exceptional weapon to utilize.

Overall, Mass Effect: Andromeda is not perfect, but the game does offer something unique to the series, while still being familiar. The criticism is deserved, but don’t let it deter you from having a fun experience.

Cole’s Take:

Mass Effect: Andromeda has some big shoes to fill, so it was only natural to see the realm of hyperbole take its effect on the new entry when early impressions started to surface on less-than-stellar animations. While I don’t want to add fuel to the fire, with every passing glitchy cutscene, framerate drop during action moments, or jarring facial expressions has me wonder why not hold the game a bit longer to cover more polish? Believe me, the last thing that I wanted to do was wait any longer to get my hands on the next entry in one of the most impactful franchises I have ever played, however, internal reviews or QA must have raised the flag on this to some length before it ever reached out fingertips. Nevertheless, Mass Effect: Andromeda is finally here and with it, my emotions begin a roller coaster ride.

I want to make this very apparent- I am only about 4-5 hours into the main campaign at the time of writing this, so there is still MUCH that I have yet to experience in this massive RPG. My initial impressions started out pretty rough- not being able to get over characters flashing in and out of the scene, wrapping my head around new jump physics, and a younger band of characters with more playful dialogue that took me by surprise following Commander Shepard’s more stoic and noble approach. However it was at the final moments of the first main mission that I began to realize that I was doing this game a disservice by putting it in a constant comparison of earlier titles- after all, I had spent more than a hundred hours with my old companion Shepard. The more I play, the more it becomes very apparent that the concept of a group exploring new uncharted areas in the galaxy is very appropriate for Bioware because everything has seemed very foreign thus far. But in small doses I see the greatness of its predecessors shine through, and it is these moments that make my heart skip a beat that this new band of characters might actually be able to make their way into our hearts the way the last bunch did. It’s going to take time and commitment, an open mind on our parts, and the ability to remember that while the Shepard Trilogy was incredible, it took time for him to establish himself in our psyche. At this point, I’m cautiously optimistic and open to a new set of adventurers.

Enough of what we think so far, we want to hear your thoughts. How has your time been so far with the game and do you think the visual complaints that are plaguing the release valid? Let us know in the comments below as we put together the HUD’s final review in the coming week.

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