I'm about five hours into Mass Effect: Andromeda, and so far, it seems like Bioware has created a behemoth of a sci-fi action RPG.
Our review will drop later in the month, but for now, here's 20 minutes of the very first mission. Note that the footage has been lightly edited to get rid of stuff like "the two minutes where I didn't know where to go".
Some quickfire thoughts, in bullet-point form:
- As many of you know, the story involves a journey into the Andromeda Galaxy, where humanity must find a new home. The task of finding habitable planets falls on you, the "Pathfinder". Wouldn't you know it, once you actually arrive at Andromeda, the "golden planets" you scouted ahead of time aren't what you expect them to be. Actually, little of the colonisation scheme goes according to plan, with some ships getting lost, some people stuck in cryo, others staging a rebellion, and in general, supplies are dwindling fast. The tension is immediate: You're in a completely new territory of space and nobody can help you. Everything is going to shit. Can you untangle the mess?
- Character creation seems like an improvement — I made someone who appeared human on the first go around, without feeling too much regret once I saw them in action.
- The new dialogue system is MUCH better. Now there are a many different types of responses, none of which are the obvious right/wrong/paragon/renegade choices. I've found myself picking liberally, depending on what felt right.
- The voice acting feels more natural now, because you're not a gruff Specter.
- Combat is more intense and kinetic, largely because of the added mobility. I can run, I can dash, I can get in the enemy's face. On normal, the game seems harder, too — I've died in the tutorial mission / first real mission, which I've never experienced in a Mass Effect game before.
- I love that I can mix and match abilities, regarding of what specialisation I pick.
- Then again, the number of SYSTEMS and CHOICES are kinda overwhelming, and Andromeda throws you right into the thick of it. Where older games felt as if Bioware were making a compromise between an RPG and an action game, it feels like they have gone full throttle in both directions this time around. Combat is thrilling, but you're also going to spend a lot of time managing resources and equipping different things.
- I was surprised to find that the tutorial mission had several optional side-quests I could pursue, and that the map was so big, I had multiple path options too. In the mission you can watch above, there's an obvious critical path, but you can also stop and investigate more of the planet, if you'd like. So many choices! The game feels more on the scale of Dragon Age: Inquisition, though I haven't seen any filler yet.
- Gun customisation is back, and you can add all sorts of modifications and tweaks. I accidentally gave my pistol a big scope, which made using it unwieldy.
- There are so many small environmental details that pop out even in the middle of combat, whether it's floating debris, or cool little lights lining the fancy new technology you encounter. Andromeda is a looker, and Bioware uses that power to great effect — planets look alien.
- There's a whole lotta scanning in this game. You're going to scan everything from containers to corpses, Batman-style.
- I haven't gotten to know all of the characters very well, but what I've seen thus far has me intrigued. The female Turian I've met seemed more kickarse than Garrus (!). I've met a racist Salarian. I've met a very... forward Asari. I've met a lot of people who are just trying to get by under trying circumstances. Nobody is boring. Even the most annoying characters have a reason as to why they're being so dickish.
- This game has some of the fanciest haircuts I've ever seen.
We'll have more on Mass Effect: Andromeda in the coming weeks.