Forget the face animations, forget the glitches, forget the amazing open world. This is a travesty. Mass Effect Andromeda’s character creator is the most restrictive and disappointing of any modern Bioware game, in a game series where character customisation is incredibly important to many players.
Just so you know, I love my Ryder. She’s got purple hair, because that’s now an option and honestly how can you not. Her winged eyeliner is on point. Up close, you can see the little freckles and blemishes on her face. She looks like a real person.
In fact, it’s quite easy to make a character that looks properly human with Andromeda’s new character creator. I was struck by how realistic my Ryder looked while I rotated her in the creation screen, though they never look quite as nice in game as they do on that screen.
No, it’s not hard to create a nice character in Mass Effect Andromeda — unless you want a character that doesn’t look like any of the presets.
See, Andromeda bases its character creation heavily around nine presets. These presets are what your father’s appearance will be based off, as well as allowing you to customise your twin from the same set. The problem is, presumably to keep the Ryder family looking like a family, you’re not allowed to stray far from the preset.
The options for changing face shape, eye shape, eyebrow style, mouth style and nose style are now completely gone — you just have to pick the preset with the features you like best to begin with. You can also only adjust skin tone a few shades either way from the preset. While you can change the size and position of different facial features, it’s incredibly difficult to get your Ryder’s face to differ dramatically from the preset.
For some reason Bioware also chose to lock hairstyles to their respective genders, even though some (if not most) of them were quite neutral in that regard. As a short-haired woman, I can only look on at the mens’ styles with envy.
Andromeda is guilty of another character creation sin that Mass Effect games have been roasted for in the past. Just like in the original, the game opens with a long, unskippable cutscene before a dramatic reveal of your character’s face — and any horrible flaws and angles you that looked normal in the character creator.
I gave the character creator to a friend to have a go, and she came out with a Ryder who was… very similar to mine. Only this one had no gap between her nose and her lips. It looked fine in the character creation screen, but once we loaded her into the game we got this monstrosity:
Before I settled on my own Ryder I had to reload the game and start from scratch twice. My first try looked way too much like my desk neighbour and Gizmodo journalist Rae Johnston for comfort, considering how many aliens I’m planning on romancing. The second try looked almost the same, but with a chin that disappeared every time Ryder made a certain expression.
Unfortunately if you don’t have player-character face like Rae does, it’s probably going to be difficult if not impossible to create a Ryder that looks like you (if that’s your jam). I certainly didn’t find any presets with any resemblance to my face.
Thing is, in my first forays with the character creator, I was enthralled. The game waves so many options in front of you — cool, spacey makeup, tattoos your mum definitely wouldn’t approve of, awesome chemical burn-like scars, a hugely expanded seletion of hair colours including unnatural colours and even gradients. But then you realise the choice is a lie.
It’s disappointing, especially after Bioware indicated that the character creator would mostly take its cues from Dragon Age: Inquisition — a game with such robust CC that I used to spend time making faces that I would never even play with, just for the fun of it.
@Tispeculiar No it's similar. I liked DAI's and we didn't want to reinvent the wheel
— Aaryn Flynn (@AarynFlynn) February 26, 2017
So why fix something that ain’t broke?