Welcome to the Andromeda Initiative

Tuesday night after work I rushed to my daughter’s daycare and then home to check the mailbox and see if I had a package from Amazon waiting for me. It was like I was six years old all over again. You remember, right? When you’d rush home from school to frantically check the mailbox and see if whatever gadget you had sent away for after collecting enough cereal box tops had arrived? Well, I was in luck. Waiting in our mailbox, just as I had hoped for, was a package from Amazon that I knew contained the latest entry in BioWare’s science fiction space opera – Mass Effect: Andromeda.
As much as I wanted to drop everything and play the rest of the night, I did my best to keep expectations tempered because I knew the responsibilities of adulthood called first. My wife was still at work, our kitchen was a mess, and we were still going to need to figure out what to eat for dinner. I knew my wife would be okay with me slipping away for a few hours to dive into the game, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t give her a reason to second guess that decision. So I spent the next 45 minutes juggling a fussy baby, cleaning the kitchen, and prepping dinner while Andromeda installed on my Xbox in the basement. My wife got home around the same dinner that was ready, and I anxiously shoveled food into my mouth, trying not to come across as overly eager to escape my adult life by hiding in the basement to explore a new galaxy and see what new alien species I could discover. After dinner my wife told me she was going to need to take a shower after she fed the baby so she would need me to watch my daughter. This meant that my adventure into Andromeda would be delayed or interrupted. So instead, I volunteered to feed the baby while she showered which meant the rest of my night would be freed up after that.
So finally, at around 8pm, I was able to boot up Mass Effect: Andromeda for the first time. After a day of waiting I was able to spend about two hours with the game before bed. I would have stayed up later, but I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Getting up at 5:30am really puts a damper on one’s ability to stay up much past 10pm during the week. But in those two hours I was able to get a feel for different components of the game. So here’s a quick recap of how my first night with Andromeda went.
The first thing I touched was multiplayer
As much as I love the single player campaigns in each Mass Effect game, Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer stole the show in such a way that I knew I had to make the multiplayer in Andromeda a part of my experience with the game. That’s why I bought the game on Xbox over PS4. I pay for an Xbox Live subscription and couldn’t justify signing up for PSN just to play multiplayer on one game.
I didn’t actually get into a match on Tuesday night, but I did get a chance to check out how it was structured. Character progression looks about the same, and character classes look similar to what we are accustomed to from ME3’s multiplayer. The interface has changed, but the core of what was there from a character standpoint remained. The loot boxes looked pretty much unchanged as well.
There was a tutorial that I was just about to dive into, but ultimately decided against it because I knew I had limited time with the game and wanted to get a taste of the campaign as well. So I let multiplayer as it was and plan to dive in much more over the weekend.
Character creation is unimpressive
I’ll be blunt. The character creator in Mass Effect: Andromeda is the worst character creator I have ever seen. I spent 20 or 30 minutes trying to craft a decent face on both male and female Ryder only to walk away with a slightly modified version from one of the defaults. And in my opinion, the defaults aren’t even that good. I will probably carve out some time to just work on character creation, but my first impressions were not very positive.
It feels like Mass Effect
After feeling out the multiplayer and character creation options, I finally dove into the single player. I was cautious. Reviews have been mxied and so much has been made about the technical issues and animation jank that I didn’t want to get my hopes up. After all, I love this series. It literally brought me back into gaming and helped me realize how much gaming means to me.
So far the single player campaign has not disappointed me
It feels like Mass Effect. It’s admittedly a small sample size, but so far so good. It’s a little bit odd not seeing Commander Shepard and his crew. I miss Garrus, Ashley, and Tali. It’s almost like moving to another town when you’re 15 and starting at a new high school. You see people you think you might relate to, that remind you of the cliques at your old school, but you just aren’t sure yet.
After the opening segment aboard the Hyperion Ark, our shuttle crashed on an unknown planet’s surface and Liam and I spent the rest of my first play session trying to reunite with the rest of our team only to run into a hostile alien race that we watched gun down one of our crewmates in cold blood. We were able to reunite with Cora and Ryder’s father at which point my eyelids were just to heavy to continue so I called it a night.
Although limited, I really enjoyed what I played of Andromeda. I absolutely love the sense of exploration the game conveys and the new squad has connected with me more than I thought they would. So far, so good.
Combat has potential
I only went through two or three combat sequences, but really enjoyed what I experienced. Combat in this game has been advertised as being very different from previous games in the original trilogy. Combat is much faster paced and it seems as if hunkering down behind a specific piece of cover and biding your time, the strategy that worked so well in Mass Effect 2 and 3, won’t hold up in Andromeda. Enemies consistently flanked us and flushed us out of cover and snuck up behind me on a regular basis. I am still figuring it out, but combat seems fast paced, fun, and a step up from previous titles.
Graphically the game is off
The environments in this game are beautiful, let me get that out of the way. But the characters in this game look like something straight out of an Xbox 360 or PS3 game. I’m typically not one to pay too much attention to graphics in a game, but the character models in this game are hard to ignore. I kept thinking about how detailed the characters in Batman: Arkham Knight look compared to Batman: Arkham City. Arkham Knight is a very clear graphical upgrade from Arkham City. I’m not sure I can say that about Andromeda compared to Mass Effect 3 when it comes to these characters models.
Overall my first impressions are positive. There are some rough edges and signs this game was clearly rushed out the door before it was completely ready, which is a shame, and a trend in modern game development I am not a fan of. But so far I haven’t experienced anything that has hampered my experience with the game. I won’t get to dive in much more until the weekend, but will try and sneak in extra time before that if I can. Andromeda is scratching that Mass Effect itch and I am looking forward to diving in deeper.
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