My Mass Effect Andromeda Review.

So, just about 8 days after release, I finished the game. Origin is saying 107 hours played. Since, I’m on the other side now, and my fear going in was that I may regret spending 90$ CAD on a pre-0rder and my greatest fear that the game would just turn into Dragon Age: Inquisition in space. Let me express it in explicit terms, I most certainly do not fucking regret anything. This is a worthy successor to the Mass Effect Trilogy, that should be commended because of the sorry state of the original 3 colored “lots of questions for everyone” BUY MORE DLC endings left the franchise with. Andromeda even manages to incorporate most of the Mass Effect Trilogy with the Arks departing before the Reapers and Star Brat destroy the milky way galaxy.

I’ll reiterate some of my first impressions, along with some newer points:

  • The Facial Animations, this is the very definition of overblown and internet hyperbole. It’s like a decently painted portrait hanging slightly askew, for some people this is maddening, some people don’t even notice, some people don’t give a shit, some people don’t give a shit but have to tell you its a problem and shout be fixed before you hung it, and other as breaking (turian councilor reaper airquotes here) “immersion” that effect are so great one can only express their disgust by posting memes and exclaiming “dey bork muh ammershun” in the same vein as the south park’s “they took our jobs.” It’s definitely an issue, don’t get me wrong as you can fix a portrait hanging slightly askew with little effort, as Bioware Montreal should fix this issue and with quality control should have caught this issue some time during this games 5 year development cycle.
  • The Story and Characters, this a more flexible and credible criticism/critique because taste and preference are completely subjective. So, if you hate scifi, you aren’t gonna like the story anyways. If you hate pronounced character flaws, you’ll hate the characters. If you hate some cheesy or odd ball humorous delivery of dialogue, you’ll probably hate the characters and story. I actually liked the story, it delivered on a number of fronts, it was compelling and did a fine job integrating the Planetary Viability and your choices into a coherent story with likable, and interesting, characters that ended in a satisfying way. To me a bad story is one that relies heavily on contrivances and handwaving explanations or just a lack of imagination, Andromeda has relatively few contrivances and even less handwaving explanations/story elements. So to me the story was not bad at all, it was actually a very decent story with some very compelling moments. The Characters were a little rougher to get to know and like, as what can one game do to compare to the original trilogy’s memorable and loved core characters. As I progressed through the game I enjoyed all the characters to some extent, I thought Peebee and Liam were pretty bland and even unlikable at first but progressing through their loyalty missions, another great aspect of the game, I actually started to like them. The non human crew were easily the most interesting and likable characters, especially Vetra and Drack. Jaal was also pretty good. From the human crew, I thought Gil was the most fleshed out character. I found Cora’s hero-worship of the Asari a little offputting but it made sense for her character. I kinda hated Liam at first, as I didn’t think some one could be that stupidly near-sighted and implusive but over the course of his loyalty mission, which was extremely good, I grew to like him.
  • The Voice Acting. I thought this was another well done aspect for the most part. Compared to the original trilogy, it definitely holds up. Clancy Brown is great, Kumail Nanjiani is pretty good, and it’s hard not to like Natalie Dormer as Lexi. Fryda Wolff and Tom Taylorson had difficult act to follow from the excellent voice work done by Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer, but definitely hold their own in comparison.
  • The game environments,  skylines, and the galaxy look great.
  • The Custom Character Creator, this one is definitely a disappointment, it feels like misstep, or more a backstep than a side step, when compared to Dragon Age: Inquistion’s Custom Character Creator. It felt very limited, with only a few choices that looked decent.
  • The Combat, easily the best of the franchise. This game took Mass Effect out of the cover based 3rd person shooter, and turned it into a satisfying experience where you aren’t limited by a class system that imposes talent choices and weapon preferences. And you can be extremely effective with a more mobile frenetic playstyle with very fun evade and jump/leap/hover abilities. For Example, Melee combat is around 90% viable, you’ll have use a gun or some type of ranged ability for some enemies but you can cut through enemies in an extremely fulfilling way. The limit of 3 equipped abilities was definitely a questionable call but it plays out very well in the profile system. In my play-through I mostly stuck to a variant of the Vanguard set up, using Charge, Annihilation, and Lance with my weapons of choice being Shotguns and an Assault Rifle for mid to long-range. You remember the Volus in the ME2 saying he was a great biotic wind? Well My Fem-Ryder was a fucking Biotic hurricane.
  • A well done conversation/dialogue system that is an improvement over the Super Boy-scout or Space Jerk paragon/renegade system of the previous games. I liked the different tonal responses you get for conversations as it adds the replayability. along with the choices and interrupts.
  • Exploration and Settlement Building. This was another well done aspect of the game, you get a decent sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in setting up a colony and making it viable. This aspect of the game was incorporated into the story and done extremely well. You really get to explore massive levels that doesn’t feel empty like the majority of the DA:Inquisition levels did with its very shitty mmo type quests.
  • The Inventory system. A bad design choice, no one was clamoring for an inventory limit, and a small one at that even with the AVP perks that increase it.
  • The Music and Sound. This was something that was a little bit of a let down, as the ME trilogy had some great music/soundtrack. The iconic Vigil theme from Mass Effect, the End Run and Suicide Mission tracks from ME2, the gripping An End Once and For all of ME3 and Andromeda while decent has none the memorable themes/music.
  • Crafting and Mod system. This was something satisfying to do, it was nice to be able to craft equipment and weapons and being able to impart some cool additional effects to abilities or add a very nice damage buff.
  • The Multiplayer. I’m glad it’s not directly tied to the story or affects it outcome anymore, I heard it’s even pretty fun. I wouldn’t know because I play Mass Effect games for the single player story and could care less about a multiplayer aspect being added into a single player RPG.
  • A singular ending with different variants based on your choices. I prefer an ending like these/this because they can be more in-depth and impactful. They also tend to be more flexible in terms of sequels and off stories.

For the tldr’ers, this a good game with some flaws, I liked and enjoyed nearly every aspect of the game. It’s a worthy successor to the original Mass Effect Trilogy, and a good Mass Effect game that delivers on every element that Mass Effect games are played and loved for, namely interesting and likable ship/squadmates, a decent story, and interesting choices to make with consequences. Also, the ending sequence was great. The game has some flaws for sure, the animations being the biggest issue. The questionable inventory limit and the limited custom character creation being other glaring flaws.

If you are numbers type of person. I’d give it an 8/10, a good game with some flaws, with more merits than flaws.

This is game I think that will be appreciated more later, when the meme vitriol and die-hard bioware haters lose interest and jump onto the next fashionable thing to hate on comes along.

Advertisements

Mass Effect Andromeda, 1 week later after release.

I am about 75% through the game at the moment, with 77 hours played so far.

I’m looking forward to reviewing and sharing my thoughts on it when I have finished the game, which should be about 1 or 2 more days from now.

My first impression is this:

The meme about facial animations are 80% overblown, you know it’s there and it is does detract from the experience slightly. However, if you are playing the game rather than waiting for something to break “immersion” (imagine me doing Dr. Evil air quotes here), you notice in the same way when you see a picture hanging slightly off-center. For some people, this is maddening, other’s don’t give a shit, and for some others this is the SJW or Virtue Signalers ruining the world for the straight white male aged 18-60 that takes them out of their safe spaces.

The other criticism of the characters and story being, picture me doing Dr. Evil air quotes again, “bad” and “terrible” and “Bioware beating you over the head with stick of diversity, sexual orientation, and feminism,” is also overblown. The story and characters are interesting so far, and some of them develop pretty well. Most of the meme-type lolbad, imagine the Dr. Evil air quotes again, “critiques” or “criticisms” are focused solely on the intentionally awkward romance scene with Suvi or the offball humor. The options for the dialogue are done pretty well most of the time.

The game looks amazing, the environments and skylines are some the best looking in any game so far. Riding around the massive levels of various planets you explore in the Nomad, is pretty fun and you can really appreciate great looking environments.

The combat is extremely satisfying, the best in any mass effect game so far. However, the lack of hot keys for weapons and consumables is huge oversight. The limit of 3 equipped powers is also a questionable decision but it actually plays well in the profile system.

The exploration aspect of the game is great, it really nails the milky way species hanging on by their finger nails for survival and how resource starved they were before the Hyperion arrived.

Anyways, I’ll be doing another post soon with my review and my thoughts when I finish the game in a few days.

Mass Effect Andromeda.

So the reviews are out, the early trials are done, and people want to know whether their money was well spent or not.

I am waiting for 9pm PDT for the game to unlock, and find out for myself whether I will regret a 90$ preorder or not.

For most people, I am gonna say 9/10 people, think that Andromeda is/was developed by the very same studio that developed games like KOTOR, Jade Empire, Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, Neverwinter Nights and its expansions, Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the Mass Effect Trilogy. I’m gonna tell you straight out, people who think that are not only 100% wrong, they are also willfully ignorant, and are tainting their reviews/critiques/criticism by that belief. Bioware Edmonton developed and created all those games you remember and loftily hold up as standards for a Bioware game.

Mass Effect Andromeda, was developed by Bioware Montreal, their first game for that studio. I’m sure people on that team have developed other games before, but as a studio Andromeda is their first and only game so far. The team worked on Omega DLC for Mass Effect 3. This means a different vision and design, writing, and different standards from your “typical” Bioware game.

It was also known for at least the 4 or 5 years it was in development that this was a Bioware Montreal game, and not the venerable Bioware Edmonton studio.

I am eager to find out myself how the game is, but from initial impressions (Victor Lucas from the Electronic Playground/Reviews on the Run/Judgement Day, who as been involved in the gaming industry and reviewing games since 1997,) it generally seems like a disappointment to most. However, I think it’s wise to reserve judgement until more people have played the game and see what the typical Mass Effect fan thinks. I say this because there is sometimes a fundamental disconnect on “Critical Reviews” by *cough* gaming journalists for a Mass Effect game in particular. When the reviews and judgments rolled out for Mass Effect 3 initially they were hugely favorable with the game being praised at excellent. However, these same reviews also happened not to mention the 3 colored, lots of questions for everyone, Buy More DLC endings that were present at launch. Pre-extended cut, of course. And many of the same reviewers, also continued laud and commend Bioware on the very disappointing vanilla endings we got as more and more people finished the game and were outraged about the rushed ending. An ending that was described by the Devs as not an A or B or C type ending and not an ending that would raise more questions than it would answer. Reviewers felt the need to defend their review score by marginalizing the outrage over the endings by claiming it was just a vocal minority and that people who did not enjoy the ending were being whiny, entitled, children who can’t or won’t appreciate the magnificence of the 3 colored explosion, lots of questions for everyone, Buy more fucking DLC ending we got.

Mass Effect games in particular are usually meant to be repeatedly played through, to experience the game as a different role, romance a different character, and make different choices. In your typical review, you don’t get a sense of this. They are just playing through as quickly as possible to get their review out first so more people click to read it or watch it on youtube. They are also usually click baity, more often than not, with the emphasis on getting out there first.

Review scores are often only useful for people on the outside looking in, in terms of gaming this means the mainstream, on whether what ever game is worth your 60$ USD, in my case 90$ CAD. In a mass effect fan context, review scores are less than useful, and only are worth it for pointing out glaring flaws, bugs, or question design choices.

I often wait to buy any game, until it’s on sale for 40$ or less. Games I’ve bought recently for these prices or less, are: Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Rise of the Tomb Raider, DOOM, Far cry Primal. It will also probably be the case for games like Dishonored 2, Nier: Automata, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, etc.

To me a Mass Effect game is not about combat, animations, multiplayer, graphics, or even gameplay. It’s about interacting with your crew, making difficult choices, creating a character, and relationships. All I care about in a mass effect game is story and characters.

All I’m hoping for from Andromeda, is a decent story with interesting characters and making impactful choices with actual consequence or meaning.

I’ll post again in a few days or a week to really discuss how I think Andromeda is or whether it was worth my 90$ CAD.

If you are looking for a recommendation or not, that is entirely up to you, but don’t let some meme bullshit about facial animations be your only reason to not try it out. If money is an issue, then by all means wait for a sale, there is no harm in waiting and you are often more than satisfied with your purchase when it costs 40$ or less.

As for me, I’m going to wait the hour and half or so, until my game unlocks so I can see if Bioware Montreal was able to successfully make a decent mass effect game and if the changes were positive or not.

See you on the other side.

What I am playing/listening to/watching/reading/looking forward to for March 2017.

Damn, these months going by so fast.

Anyways, I’m gonna start with gaming because it’s my primary interest and this month, Mass Effect: Andromeda is gonna be released. I caved and ordered it, after watching the gameplay vids. Specifically, the combat and talents video. Can’t wait to play it. Preload starts on the 17th, which makes it as good fucking omen to me, as it’s the same day as my birthday.

At the moment, I’ve been playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, I’m liking it so far as all the changes have been, for the most part, positive ones. The combat was kinda weird at first, but I liked it after some play time. The combo finishers are a little finicky, as is tool combos, but still it’s decent. The game seems rather short, both storywise and length wise, and it’s filled with a lot of side missions and collectibles that are at best, just barely above meaningless. Still, while the collectibles and side quests were mediocre and some times tedious, I ended up doing them anyways, which makes them sufficient enough to hold my interest. I can finish the game at anytime by doing the short story missions but I like exploring London, I also like that there is a small part of WW2 London to explore. So it was well worth the sub 40$ price I paid for it, I even got all the DLC on a sale for cheap too. The Last Maharaja was rather short and only slightly interesting. Dreadful crimes was a nice contrast the typical gameplay of Assassin’s Creed, I’m a sucker for detective type gameplay, so I ended up liking it a lot. I haven’t got around to the Jack the Ripper stuff yet, so no opinion on that right now but I’m looking forward to it.

I straight up quit playing WoW. For the same reason as most do, are at least a similar reason many do, my/their friends. My reason is that my friends moved away from doing Mythic Plus dungeons, something I enjoyed and was able to keep up Ilvl wise and DPS wise with heroic raiders. But really, no one ever quits and its usually just a matter of time before going back but at the moment I have no desire to play and I haven’t played a single minute in the last 3 weeks. I still have gametime, up until the end of March, but I really don’t seeing myself playing WoW anytime soon.

Onto audiobooks now, I used my 2 audible credits to get The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski (the last book in the Witcher series) and The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, they will be released on the 14th and 21st respectively. I’m looking forward to both, but more excited to listen to the Lady of the Lake as it will complete the series for me and I’ve been waiting over a year for it.

I finished The Story of Your life and others by Ted Chiang and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman last week.

I immensely enjoyed Gaiman’s North Mythology and his extremely good narration. I was already familiar with most of the north myths and gods from the Saxon Stories/Last Kingdom series, but I enjoyed the re-telling of the myths and Gaiman’s short introduction to the stories. It was definitely worth pre-ordering and was something I was looking forward to listening to for months now, and it surpassed my expectations. So far all the Neil Gaiman stuff I’ve picked up has been great, and his narration is quite good.

The Story of Your Life and Others, was excellently narrated by Todd McLaren and Abby Craden. However, the short stories were hit and miss for me, although it was more hit than miss. I picked it up to listen to the short story that Arrival was based on and was not disappointed at all, it was a good story with very interesting points to consider. I particularly enjoyed Tower of Babylon, Understand, and Division by Zero, those were especially good and were very intriguing concepts to consider while listening to a compelling story. I thought the last 3 stories were uninteresting and rather boring stories, which were The Evolution of Human Science, Hell Is the Absence of God, Liking What You See: A Documentary, but they did provide some interesting ideas to consider.

I am currently listening to The Aeronaut’s Windlass: The Cinder Spires, Book 1 by Jim Butcher, narrated by Euan Morton. I am about 7 hours in and very much enjoying the story and characters so far. I was hesitant about it and worried that I would not like the this book but I find the story, world, and characters quite compelling. I especially like the ship combat so far. I am only 7 hours into the 21 hour audiobook but I am definitely liking everything so far. The narration is good so far as well, that was my biggest concern so far and I am happy that my initial worry is not an issue.

I still have Lifeblood + Bloodcircle by P.N. Elrod and The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell to listen to but I’m confident I’ll finish them by next month. It’s been nice to just pick up a new series or jump to a new book when ever I like or care to, it’s reaffirmed my desire to listen or read at least 2 books a month again.

I got around to watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as well as Inferno, this month. I thought Fantastic Beasts was a solid and enjoyable movie but something I’ll probably only ever watch once. Inferno was decent movie as well, it made me want to check out the books even more. I have this thing where if a movie is based on a book, I like to read/listen to the book version and see how well adapted it was. I’ve already read The Da Vinci Code but that is the only book in the series I’ve read. After watching Inferno, I was compelled to add the Langdon books to my audible wishlist.

I also picked up Arrival on bluray, well worth the money to me, as I loved the movie. And having read the short story is was based on, I like it even more. The special features are pretty good, it really shows that Denis Villeneuve has a great eye for talent. I was also intrigued that many of the people he worked with on Sicario also worked on Arrival. Both of which are favorite movies of mine.

I’m picking up Dr. Strange on blu ray this week and I am looking forward to watching it again, I just hope there are some decent special features for it as that is really what makes picking things up on blu ray worth while or not.

Assassin’s Creed is out on the 21st on blu ray this month and it’s something that I may pick up as well.

Star Wars: Rogue One is available on streaming services this month as well, I’m hoping it will be on the canadian version of Netflix. I’ll pick up the blu ray on April 4th for sure.

I binged watched 5 episodes of the Expanse last week, it is an extremely good show and I can’t wait to finish season 1 and then get into season 2 which is current airing now. I will definitely pick up the audiobooks, probably within the next few months.

Like I said at the start of this post, I am extremely looking forward to playing Mass Effect: Andromeda later this month. I am also hoping that John Wick 2 and Logan are released on blu ray quickly as I really want to watch both.