Mass Effect Andromeda’s Character Creator Is Disappointing

Mass Effect Andromeda’s Character Creator Is Disappointing
Image: Kotaku

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.

Image: Kotaku

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:

Image: Kotaku

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.

Image: Kotaku
Image: Kotaku


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.

Image: Kotaku

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.

So why fix something that ain’t broke?


  • I was pretty disappointed at the hair/beard selection of both sexes.. well the females don’t have beards, but you know.

    • The beards don’t line up with the hair properly. I made a character last night whos beard missed sideburns so they were running parallel with a 1cm gap between.

  • so let me get this right Bioware the once masters of the epic RPG. Forgot their most impressive skillset and made some of their characters unremarkable and left the story lacking. They made a UI that is not up to the task of a long RPG. But they also forgot to create a way in which players could highly personally the character which they will be spending 100 odd hour with. Thats RPG 101. If you want to engage players for that long with your game, you need to give them the tools to become engaged physically and emotional with their characters.

    • ‘physically and emotional with their characters’. Mate. I enjoy romping through space as much as the next guy but I think you’re over invested in this thing we call video games.

    • I believe the team that made this game (they’re not pre-existing Bioware staff) are a new team that have never worked on a full, triple-A title before (at least that’s what I’ve been told).

      Whiiiich seems like a potentially silly idea to me, if so. Given how highly regarded the Mass Effect universe is.

    • Because character face customization is the only real way to engage players in an RPG.
      Like in Baldur’s Gate, or all of the Final Fantasys.

      • who said it was the ONLY way? other than your hyperbolic sarcasm I mean. Even compared to the last Bioware games both Mass Effect and Dragon Ages this is a step back.

        • Factor in the insanity from people who are acting like the sky is falling over the animation issues, etc, and one could absolutely be excused for thinking it is apparently now the only way to engage players in an RPG.

      • You can customise faces in Baldur’s Gate! You can literally import whatever picture you want. 14yo me enjoyed this.

  • Can we start an online petition to request all character creators in games to allow trial in the actual game environment then allow jumping back into the CC to fix the ‘was beautiful but is now freaky-as’ faces? No? What about we all make cup-cakes with these freaky faces on them and send them to Bioware? No? Fine, I’ll just slope off and throw a tantrum after the umpteenth spectacular failure. 🙁 Again…

    • I’d like to have all games based off a common character creator. So you have the option of importing your DA:I character into Fallout 4 or Mass Effect. You could have it tied to your PSN/Xbox/Steam account (with the ability to modify it whenever you want of course).

    • You think that Bioware, as a company that’s done this about 1000 times, would have this all down pat by now.

      It’s a single player game, let us change our faces at the end of the tutorial and then put a magic box somewhere in case we want to do it again!

      DA: I was the worst- it had that crazy glowing light in the creator that meant it was really hard to judge your characters skin tone until it was too late.

      • Problem is, Bioware is no longer a company.
        After the purchase from EA, all they are now is a brand-name for the IP. There’s nothing Bioware about anything they do. It’s EA all the way down.

        • Yes and no. They did release all the Mass Effect games after the EA purchase (the first one was finished though) and people will come and go form any company in that time.

          As I said below, I think the flaws in this game stem from an urge to have a “bigger” open world at the expense of a more tightly crafted experience. That’s still sh*tty direction mind you, it doesn’t excuse the people in charge.

          • Hmmm, on top of the “bigger open world”, is the world itself actually dynamic? [Asking as I’ve not really seen a definitive answer to this question, and you appear to have a grasp of the game 😉 ].

            I’ve said in previous discussion on the ME games, that my biggest gripe with the previous three was that in the beautiful universe they created, all of the environments were completely static and lifeless. NPCs standing in the same spot, no matter how often you went there, everyone saying the same line as they waited for the player to come past. I guess as a linear shooter, the average player brushing past will just consider it all “background” set pieces. But to me, it really sticks out and is quite jarring.
            Frankly, in the footage I’ve seen of ME:A so far, even the huge beautiful open world still looks completely static and cookie-cutter to me.

            Do you think this is still the case in Andromeda?

          • I’ve only played it for an hour, so I can’t comment. I’m just going off feedback, marketing and my experiences from Dragon Age: Inquisition.

            It’s funny, because for all the shit Dragon Age 2 (rightfully) copped it’s really the other side of the coin.

            The original ME series struck a great balance between world size and story focus, so did Dragon Age, then DA: 2 came out was was thin on gameworld with a well focused story and people hated it, and now with Inquisition and ME: A they’ve made massive worlds with an unfocused story and characters.

    • Perhaps just do what Saints Row did and put plastic surgery clinics in the game world?

  • Since my post from this morning is still ‘awaiting moderation’:

    Only played about an hour last night so only got a very early impression buy HOLY SH*T IS THAT CHARACTER CREATION TOOL TERRIBLE!

    I started over about 3 times then went with the default character.

    The presets are all retarded looking and then it locks you into certain “features” that stop you creating the character you want. For example you cant pick your characters eyebrows, so you have to pick eyebrows you want from the (9 or so) presets…. But then you can’t change other things like skin textures. So some people just can’t be as white or as dark as others (why the f*ck does my white guy have a tan after 600 years in a box?).

    Don’t even get me started on the hair. 10 or so options, 8 of which look like a cross between One Direction and Eric Bana’s plastic Ray Martin wig from Full Frontal.

    You can’t even just have a bit of stubble, you have to have at least a semi-thick beard… Which doest line up with any of the hair options so the beards come up about 2cm forward of the sideburns…

    I know it seems petty, but if I’m going to spend 50+ hours looking at this guys head and two sequels to follow I don’t want his f*cking sideburns running parallel to his facial hair. Ridiculous.

    Isn’t this an EA published game running on an engine that has about 6 really good character creators? They could have used Gameface even.

    • On the plus side, the default Ryder characters look a lot better in-game than they do on the character creation screen, where they somehow manage to look really derpy. I tried a custom face that looked dumb and decided to just go with the default in the end too, and was pleasantly surprised.

  • I want to pen a short article posing a question, to see if I’m the only one that thinks like this.

    Bioware have created three on the whole, very good Mass Effect Games prior to adding Andromeda as the new entry in the series. This game series prided itself on immersive story telling and the development of characters, I also felt like the combat in ME3 was fun.

    How, if at all, has this game improved upon what has gone before it? Almost all of the voice acting I have seen in gameplay shorts are cringe-worthy, the facial modelling of characters seems to be a serious regression from what has been achieved previously and the combat doesn’t seem to be an improvement on the previous iterations except for adding the verticality of now being able to jump.

    Normally I would chalk something like this up to being the first in a new series, and that developers will get better with experience. However I get no solace from this ideology after reading all of the different stories about developers and artists are ‘no longer’ working for Bioware after the conclusion of the game.. does this mean that Bioware are doomed to make the same mistakes of this game, by employing people who have not had the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and have less experience with the software used by the studio?

    I originally had taken the day off from work this Thursday to play, but I’ve now cancelled that and will just go into work instead as this game no longer excites me 🙁 I have literally just gone through the four stages of grief in writing this haha.

    • Honestly? I think Andromeda actually combined a lot of the best things about the trilogy’s seperate games that haven’t co-existed before. Exploration and discovery (vehicle included) from ME1, crew dynamics from ME2 and fun combat from ME3. Maybe it doesn’t have the overall impact of the original trilogy as a whole, but as a singular game I think it stands up to the rest, if that makes sense.

      Either way it’ll be interesting to see what the fan reaction will be once it’s released (and once people are allowed to play more than the two most average missions)

    • I’m certain it was mostly bad direction, prioritisation and project management.

      As soon as you make the world a ‘sandbox’ it becomes harder to meaningfully direct. It also soaks up a ton of resources building the world, makes storytelling hard, makes implementing meaningful decision making hard ect.

      I’d rather be funnelled or nearly-funnelled around a series of well-designed small-medium sized worlds following a branching but tightly scripted narrative than given a massive open space, and illusion of choice and a bunch of fetch quests.

      I’ve only played for about an hour but this game seems like Dragon Age: Inquisition light (in space).

      • Witcher 3 proved that it’s possible, but – in the words of Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw – “you have to work until your bollocks drop off.”

  • Eric Bana’s plastic Ray Martin wig from Full Frontal oh boy you just gave me all sorts of fond memories!

    • You can thank Bioware for bringing the memories flooding back. I’m sure it was their intent.

  • Each to their own, but they should have invested more time in the models and other characteristics, instead of silly facial tattoos that look stupid and totally out of place. Or ridiculous clown makeup options.

    • I at least managed to make a character I liked in the last series.

      I haven’t used a default character…. well ever until now.

  • I don’t default… but if I try a character and it’s completely bollocksed I make it my life’s work to make a decent character. Research. Detailed online instructions.

    Took a week once…

    • It’s taken me 6 goes and I’m writing this as I watch the unskipable intro for the 4th time.

      Good luck.

      • I was lucky to get a custom female Ryder I liked the third time around… Fully expected to spend half the 10 hour trial in the character creation.

        Simply cannot stand the default female face. The male option may as well not exist far as I’m concerned also, just like the male Shepard option in previous games.

        Because lets be honest, Femshep was the superior choice.

        Also, fuck unskippable cutscenes. Even if it doubles as a sort of loading screen at times I don’t care, just let me have my choice and make me stare at a black screen to enjoy my petty cutscene skipping victory.

  • It must be depressing going through life constantly disappointed with everything. I usually play default looks so I should be fine.

  • Mass Effect Andromeda’s Character Creator Is Disappointing

    You sure it’s not a bit shit? 😉

    Nah why the title change?

  • i restarted the games beginning 3 times due to the horrible character creator – first time i tried making one that looked like me, it didn’t really due to the limitations but it sufficed. then i loaded him into the game and it looked scary awful. restarted and tried to make a shephard-ish guy but that just didn’t work. then went default. sigh. i did however change the sister as her default toon is the stuff of nightmares….and to top it off you dont get to see her in game for a couple of hours so i might have to restart again….

    • I lost count of how many times I watched my Inquisitor climb that rocky ascent in the fade to escape to Thedas in the intro. Usually after I’d played far enough to watch him or her stare into the sky and grimace with an expression that no human face should be able to make.

      It must’ve been over a dozen creation attempts, watching the intro bullshit, before I decided/discovered that for that particular moment it’s not actually possible to create an Inquisitor who looks like an actual, biologically-spawned organism rather than a horrible accident at a chemical factory.

    • That Shepard thing might be my biggest gripe. There’s only one shaved haircut and it’s scraggly as fuck looking, like it was made by someone who’s never seen a shaved head before. Hairs all pretty much go the same direction on a real head, they don’t zigzag randomly all over the place.

  • in a game series where character customisation is incredibly important to many players.

    Something worries me about representing the issue like this. It’s almost like we’re trying to give ourselves an objectivity over qualitative assessment in games. I mean, this is a feature and features in games have been a bit shit before. Some have regressed and some have improved but ultimately these features always change and sometimes streamlining doesn’t work they way you’d hoped. What i find really strange is almost like this line is trying to imply harm or discrimination by the game not having as fully-featured a creator set than others in the series. I mean, we can critique it but that isn’t the same as implying a greater level of tangible responsibility by taking something “important” away from players like their identity has been restricted. For me, this kind of gets into murky water where it feels like an objective case has been built around a feature. I was horrified last generation when we couldn’t accept the ending as simply divisive instead we had a contingent of reactionary players who apparently understood narrative and literature so much better than everyone else that they had to objectively prove then ending was bad because choices were binary. Now it is. A story is bad if choices are binary. That’s the rule. Obviously there are many ways in reality to use binary choices in a meaningful way but how many people would ever care to see that now that we’ve set the rule? I feel like now we’re moving away from critique and we’re supporting the idea that if a game doesn’t meet our expectations, it isn’t disappointing, it isn’t a criticism – it’s offensive because it took away something “important” to us. Not a feature that many games have in varying degrees of quality, a part of ourselves.

    That’s the tone i feel from so many responses from people who haven’t even played it. It might be shit, that’s fine – I just have a weird vibe that we’re supporting people taking feature quality personally, that we’re trying to set the objective definition of “bad”. I would like art to be respected, i’d like it perceived holistically as it’s supposed instead of being broken down arbitrarily into the worst parts of themselves. Doesn’t mean you need to like it, just that art represents itself in many ways, especially in games. The artistry behind something like Night in the Woods is very different from The Last of Us but both have a different focus and want to make different things meaningful. Night in the Woods has a way of making walking meaningful and insightful, TLOU has a way of making crafting meaningful and intense and we understand this because of context. I’m seeing context disappear more and more in discussion and less of a willingness to give anything the benefit of the doubt. It’s almost like we’ve picked our teams and we’ll stick to them no matter what we’re challenged with.

    • That’s the tone i feel from so many responses from people who haven’t even played it.
      I’m curious how you would know this.

      The 10 hour trial via EA/Origin Access has been available since the 16th, so plenty of us regular non-reviewer types have very much had access to the character creator at the very least.

      I actually don’t disagree with your overall point. It just seems like you’re implying most people talking about it actually haven’t used it, but given the availability of the trial there’s basically no way for you to know that unless they specifically state as such.

      I personally didn’t find myself hung up on the character creator, but to be fair its really nothing more to me than a means of getting to what I actually wanted to do…. Play the game.

    • I am very, very fair-complected. All the characters I’ve created, from time immemorial, have been fair-complected. Why? Because it is difficult for “me” to see “me” in the character if that character is tanned, or darker-complected.

      I despise that you have to choose a preset, then “alter” it. I despise that the one female character (yes, I am female) looks like a brooding idiot. I despise that, no matter how much I try to tweak her, I can’t change her eyes, so that she appears a bit less stupid. I despise that, with the darker-complected characters, makeups and hair colors in the warm tones are all that really look “human” on these characters. I can’t go with the cool tones I like, I can’t get even THAT stupid-looking “fairest-complected” of the presets to be even as fair of complexion as Cora.

      In all, it doesn’t matter to me how good the game may be; I can’t immerse myself in it long enough to play it, and to enjoy it. It feels like I’m driving someone else through the story, rather than being able to sink in, relax, enjoy the story, and see myself as this character.

  • I honestly think we are to spoilt as gamers these days I remember playing my blocky ass Lara croft and never complaining, from the review it’s actually an amazing game, so you cant choose how big your eyelids are who cares?
    Horizon zero dawn is an amazing game but you can’t alter your character there.
    We have a great game with amazing graphics and people are more butthurt you can’t alter minute details

    • Yup, you have a point, the problem is, why did the Mass Effect CC tool offer a lot more customization possibilities five years ago ? Things are supposed to improve… that’s why ME fans are upset, which is understandable.

  • OK lets use logic here for one second.

    Lets look at the resume for a person who may or may not be the “lead” facial animator.

    They graduated in 2013 so we will start from there and not include the sales position at guess clothing since that has nothing whatsoever to do with animation….

    Worked as a 3D artist at Atomic Cartoons doing what we don’t know for 2 whole months APR to MAY 2013. Kids animation

    Then worked at NERD CORP from SEPT 2013 to OCT 2014. More kids animation.

    Then left that presumably on her own for go to work in the booming and lucrative prop painting industry for one whole entire month.

    Then Back to Atomic Cartoons as an “animator” for kids cartoons. for a year

    Then after all this “real world” experience animating “human faces” she lands a job at EA and somehow becomes the lead facial animator on MEA. As we all know the wacky facial expressions from kids cartoons easily translate those same skills into animating real human expression ….wait am I on to something wacky kids cartoons faces and wacky MEA facial expressions man I think we have a solved the mystery shaggy.

    I have to throw the BS flag here either she is the liar or people who put her into that position are lying for her so their asses are not on the line(shift blame). Either way, yes in fact there is always one throat to choke. Either the project lead or the project manager of the division manager etc, etc. At the end of the day its not a team effort in failure some ONE(person) made this happen.

    However, as I am always about resolution I can offer a fix. As the great Brock Samson said “I like it with the helmet on”. Add an helmets always on feature to hide those wacky, zoinky, jeeper creeper faces and problem solved!

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!