With Mass Effect Andromeda on the horizon, fans are clamoring for a chance to play the game. Thankfully, EA’s early access program gave many fans of the space-epic franchise a small peak into what the game will have to offer. While 10 hours is certainly not enough for a game as large as Mass Effect, it is enough to give us a glimpse of what is in store down the line. First impressions can be pretty important though. So how did Mass Effect Andromeda do?

The game starts off with character creation. The choice to limit you to a human in this game is not unexpected, but is disappointing. Since it is a completely unrelated story to the original trilogy, it would have been nice to have some of the other races available to play as. Instead we are given human faces to choose and customize. Not much has changed in this regard – classes and role are largely the same with only minor tweaking.

From there you’re launched into the game where your character wakes up from stasis after being asleep for 600+ years. The game makes quick work of the exposition that sets the premise for the game. For Bioware fans it will come as no surprise that the dialogue system mirrors the one used in 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, where the tone of a response is made apparent by an icon in the dialogue wheel. While I find this system helpful it still does not always accurately convey what it is you are actually going to say when you select a particular option.

Dialogue struggles in general, however. This becomes more apparent when characters are just rambling off to the side. If the acting isn’t spot on however, you can also blame the writing on this one. Character’s interject unnecessarily with  responses and opinions to things that make zero sense. After saving the landing party from an explosion with a biotic barrier, one character says “I didn’t know you were a biotic,” in a tone that sounded surprised but certainly not repulsed. The biotic character’s response; “Don’t worry it’s not contagious.” These disproportionate responses from characters continues as the game tries to shoe-horn in characters in the beginning by noting the character’s opinions even when it is unwarranted.

Still, there is some promise. Direct conversations tend to be a little better (but not always), and many of the aliens actually do a better job since they seem to inherently have more character. Many of the humans you will meet in the first part of the game tend to be flat or have rather dramatic lines. Voice acting isn’t the only problem unfortunately.

Facial animations are also really weird. The Mass Effect trilogy was awesomely rendered in Unreal Engine 3. With this new generation of games, Bioware has made the move to Frostbyte Engine. This engine is incredible, and the results were fantastic for Dragon Age: Inquisition. It makes the issues with ME:A seem all the more strange since the studio already has plenty of experience with the graphics engine.

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Character’s eyes are like those of a soulless doll that roll around in sockets that seem glaringly too big.

Becoming a hilarious meme overnight, the conversation with an NPC called Addison says  “Sorry, my face is tired,” is just the tip of the iceberg for Bioware’s animation woes. Character’s eyes are like those of a soulless doll that roll around in sockets that seem glaringly too big. Reports have also been made about huge animation bugs where NPCs have strange walking behaviors. I did not see any of these during my play time but it’s a well-documented issue.

So, is Mass Effect terrible? No. The game does a lot of other things very well. For starters, the environments look great! Textures look very sharp and the game has some incredible ground clutter. The alien worlds that you visit are vibrant with color. The layouts and designs are interesting and no two places looked the same.

The cover-based shooting mechanics are what you would expect from Mass Effect at this point with the addition of a jetpack that allows you to jump greater distances than you normally would be able to. This allows for some tactical positioning that was not really available in previous entries of the series. If you are playing a PC you may want to rearrange the layout of the controls, but once you have a configuration you are happy with, I think most people would agree that mechanically speaking this game is incredibly solid.

Multiplayer is more of Bioware’s successful formula of cooperative play through against a hoard of NPCs. Players work as a team to complete objectives and score points. For me, it is one of the more fun multiplayer platforms. The sharp gameplay mechanics translate seamlessly into the multiplayer maps. The maps themselves can feel a bit cluttered. Being a cover-based shooter, the maps are littered with places to take cover and can get in the way of general movement sometimes. This is where changing the hurdle button from left Ctrl to a button on my mouse became important.

ME:A hasn’t made the best first impression, especially with all the hype that came with it. For many of us, the original Mass Effect games were groundbreaking and original and it’s going to be hard for any game to fill those shoes. I have my fingers crossed for an excellent story and some really good patches that will lift ME:A just a little higher.

Did you play the trial of Mass Effect: Andromeda? What did you think?

– Dave Hill (GamingU Editor)

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