fereldanwench: (Mass Effect - Selene Ryder)
[personal profile] fereldanwench
A combination of things made me renege my "I'm not buying Andromeda" stance. Needing a release from a long week, getting my tax return, seeing everyone's Ryders, seeing Sara Ryder's trailer, fuckboys complaining about gays and women ruining their series, etc. Or in other words: I'm weak, dudes.

I think I'm at about the 10-15 hour mark. I restarted after spending about 2 hours trying to accept my first Ryder's terrible facial animations, and on Friday I was bouncing around a lot between playing and chores, so my hour tracker doesn't reflect all that. Outside of the Initiative ships (Hyperion, Nexus, and Tempest), I've seen 4 locations, and I did just get all 6 companions.

Since I'm not too far, I doubt I'll be revealing much, but I'll put the story and character stuff under a cut.

Graphics & Optimization
Minus a few things I'll touch on later, the game is really beautiful. The environments are incredible--It seems like they really built off what was crafted in Inquisition in terms of getting the most out of Frostbite. The game also seems to be well-optimized for PC players. My processor and RAM are the two things that don't meet their recommended specs, but I wanted to test my limits: I put it all the high settings right out of the gate, and when I saw how smooth it was running, I decided to see if I can push for ultra. So far, so good. The only time I've noticed any lagging is when I'm running a video recording on Fraps for too long, but that's not a big deal for me.

Character Creation
Andromeda's CC is a slightly upgraded version of what was available in the original trilogy:

  • You have the default Ryders who cannot be edited and have to be played as is, and then there are 9 other presets for each gender that you can modify.
  • There's a good spread of racial diversity across the presets, but you can only make minor adjustments to their features rather than rotating through other shape options (like in Inquisition).
  • The skin textures are also locked into the preset, as are the eyebrows since they're a part of the texture.
  • There are some really cool tattoo, scarring, and makeup options.
  • The hair is fine, although most, if not all, of the options are gender-restricted. There are lots of bobs for female Ryder, and male Ryder has some nice undercuts that I wish were available to f!Ryder. There was a tweet from a dev asking what people would like to see in the CC at a later date--It sounds like they might be patching in more options at a later date.
  • There's a ton of variety in hair color, but the really bright and light tones highlight a lo-res hair texture.
  • You can edit your twin, but not your father; Alec will generate according to your Ryder's preset (kind of like the Hawkes in Dragon Age II).
  • You can also choose to keep the default names. Dialogue will reflect that decision; sometimes Ryder will be called by their first name instead of surname or "Pathfinder."

    The CC kind of felt like a step back from Inquisition, which (excluding the weak hair options) I think is probably the best vanilla CC in a BioWare game, but an upgrade from past ME titles. It's difficult to make a really unique Ryder; after seeing all the presets, it's easy to tell who used what preset during their creation.

    Also, not all Ryders animate the same. The first Ryder I made was created with preset 9--Her resting face was true to what I made in the CC, but her animations were ridiculous. I used preset 5 for Selene Ryder (icon), and she looks fine in most scenes. (I found a video the other day that demoed all 9 presets, but I can't find the link again. Will update if I do later.)

    Currently, there is no way to edit Ryder's appearance after you exit the CC, but it looks like the devs are actively making updates to the game based on player feedback, so I wouldn't rule out a Black Emporium-type addition at a later date.

    Combat & Exploration
    THE JETPACK IS DOPE. In principle, it's a fairly basic addition to the game, but a fun one. It's not as OP as the crazy jumping in Saints Row IV, but it produces a similar effect, in my opinion. It's a lot of fun hopping up on structures (which is essential in some missions), and it can be utilized in combat in some awesome ways. Slamming down on an enemy with your omni-blade is super satisfying.

    The combat is similar to the original trilogy, but it feels a lot faster paced. Ducking behind barriers is still an essential part of combat survival, but I found myself rushing enemies a lot more. It seems like Ryder can withstand more damage than Shepard, and the shields regenerate pretty quickly.

    Rather than choosing a locked-in class like in the first games, you can select your character's history in the CC, which determines your starting abilities, and then as the game progresses, you unlock combat profiles that you can activate at any point in the game. I think all the combat profiles are the same as the classes in the trilogy; I currently have Infiltrator active, which was my favorite build for Shepard. Biotics were never super appealing to me, and I haven't used them, but from what I can see from my companions, they went through some major upgrades.

    The Nomad is Andromeda's response to the Mako, but it is definitely enhanced. The boosters are still clumsy and can result in some hilariously bad navigation, but there are a few little upgrades that give the player a lot more control. My favorite is the ability to turn on six-wheel drive to get up hills--You just hold down the left shoulder button in addition to the right trigger, and the Nomad grinds its way up. A small but immersive touch.

    The Nomad is also very much a necessity for exploring these gigantic maps. Fortunately, unlike the mounts in Inquisition, it doesn't interrupt companion chatter. It comes equipped with a mining drone, which can help gather crafting material, but if you want to pick up materials from the world (like metals or herbs a la Inquisition), you have to exit the Nomad.

    Throughout the worlds, you can establish forward stations, which are similar in function to the camps in Inquisition. They act as a means of fast traveling, calling down the Nomad, and replenishing supplies. Ryder also establishes actual settlements; I've only set up one, so I can't speak too much to how they're integrated into the gameplay, but it feels similar to a Keep in Inquisition, but with more interactive abilities. Actually, a lot of the exploratory gameplay feels like they took some of the more immersive features that were cut from Inquisition and repurposed them for Andromeda.

    The main missions so far have been very long and spread out. I've had fun doing them the first time around since it's a new experience, but I don't know that I'd want to do them in another playthrough. The one on Eos was starting to get in drudging territory by the time I wrapped it up.

    Andromeda kept the planet scanning from the original trilogy, but it's a little more compact and with some animation flourish. I also just opened up a feature that is similar to the War Table missions in Inquisition. Ryder can send out teams of scientists, soldiers, and/or merchants to gather supplies and XP. I've only done a few, but I think the amount of time they take can vary, and there's a stronger emphasis on failure and success than just different outcomes.

    They also integrated multiplayer with single player through the Strike Team feature. I don't do multiplayer so I doubt I'll see how that works, but for people who do, it seems like a cool touch.

    The one thing I really don't love is travel across the 3 space stations/ships. The Tempest is about the size of the Normandy, minus waitng times in an elevator, and it docks at the Nexus, which is about the size of the Citadel. You also have to go back to the Hyperion for Ryder family business, but there's no quick dock there, so you're always going through the Nexus to get to the tram to take you back to the Hyperion. It's a little tedious.

    Crafting & Inventory
    I've not done much crafting--It's super overwhelming. The inventory interface is set up similarly to the original trilogy, but you have an item limit like in Inquisition. The crafting is just too much for me right now. There are separate sections, research and development, that produce different types of equipment and perks, and they're further divided into Milky Way, Andromeda, and Remnant (Andromeda's response to Protheans, basically) tech. I eventually got a feel for Inquisition's crafting after being overwhelmed, so I'm sure I'll figure this out, too, but it's not been a priority.

    Although it's not crafting exactly, I do want to mention the customization for Ryder's casual wear and armor, because it's a nice touch. There are a few color wheels and patterns that can be used to put them in something other than the stark white Initiative gear.

    Story & Characters
    I'll put the rest of this under a cut since it might get into spoiler territory.


    As of last night, I recruited all of my companions. Peebee and Vetra are definitely my favorites, Drack is a cool Krogan (he has a granddaughter who works on the Nexus, and their relationship is precious), I don't feel strongly about Jaal or Liam, and I'm neutral-to-negative on Cora. I mentioned on Tumblr that Cora is the first female BioWare companion I don't really care for, but I can't pinpoint what it is exactly that rubs me the wrong way. A few others chimed in that they felt like the writing for her character was weak and inconsistent, which I can see, but I think some of it might just be a personality clash.

    I also really like the non-companion Tempest crew. Suvi is adorable, Kallo is funny, and Lexi. Sweet fucking Jesus. Lexi. Natalie Dormer slays as her VA. I would probably romance her first if she was available because she literally makes my heart race. The only thing that kind of bugs me is that aside from Peebee, it looks like all the Asari have the exact same face model, including Lexi. But Lexi. Ugh. ♥

    I also have the pyjak, which is a cute addition on my ship.

    Ryder family spoilers: Yes, Mom (Ellen) Ryder was dead before the game started. Her death was apparently something that really spurred Alec Ryder into the Initiative. He's the kind of stand-offish father figure who obviously loved his family but had hardcore career and personal ambitions that made him kind of distant. It's so fucking tired and cliche. Just flipping their roles could have been something different and interesting, but I guess it'd be too much for the dudebros to see a mother figure in that role.

    Alec Ryder dies saving your Ryder after the first mission, and in doing so, Ryder becomes integrated with his AI, SAM, and becomes the Pathfinder. It seems like he had some dark secrets, and you unlock facets of Alec's life by finding memory triggers in different areas. I've only unlocked one so far; not sure just yet where it's going. His opinions on AI are really interesting, though. Very radical compared to what we encountered in the original trilogy.

    I've not really met Scott either. His cryo pod gets damaged in the beginning of the game, and he's currently in a coma. SAM was able to help Scott and Selene talk to each other briefly in spite of the coma, but it wasn't very revealing about who he is.
    Ryder family spoilers end.

    Naturally, things with the Andromeda Initiative didn't go exactly as planned. A 600 year long trip into another galaxy meant a lot of things went wrong: the Hyperion arrives later than the Nexus anticipated, and other ships are also missing, none of the Earth-like worlds were capable of supporting human life, and there is this dark energy mass called the Scourge that caused a lot of infrastructure damage and death. The Kett are your main baddies: super aggressive aliens that shoot on site and apparently abduct other aliens in the galaxy; the narrative pushes that they are Bad™ to emphasize that Ryder and crew are well within their reasons to kill them. There are also exiles from the Nexus--Initiates who rebelled against the authority--But I've not met them yet.

    There's a lot that could be unpacked and critiqued about colonialism, but I don't feel like it's within my intellectual capabilities to do it any justice.

    I struggle a little with the overall premise of the story--It fluctuates from feeling like I really need to lower my suspension of disbelief that this is plausible (even in dire straits, the Initiative has a ton of resources; this thing had to have cost trillions of credits) and feeling kind of distraught about the idea of waking up 600 years in the future. Ryder can talk about it a little with companions and NPCs, but I feel like that kind of thing would pack one hell of an emotional punch that I'm not sure the game can really deliver.

    The dialogue options are separated similarly to Inquisition: there's emotional, logical, casual, and professional responses, plus the romantic ones and impulsive reactions. In theory, I like this more than having a really explicit personality types like renegade or paragon, but in practice, it seems to make protagonists kind of bland; I had the same issue with that in Inquisition. I like having the option of more extreme, visceral responses and a distinct personality type, particularly for voiced protagonists. I might be in the minority on this one, though. I've read a lot of criticism about the renegade/paragon dichotomy, and while I would agree that it's flawed, I think it could still be used as the foundation for something simple but powerful.

    The dialogue has come under fire for being really silly, and I think it's probably some of the weaker stuff from BioWare, but I haven't encountered anything that egregious. "My face is tired" was probably the dumbest thing I've heard, but I get what they were going for. The voice acting is pretty solid (I love f!Ryder's voice), and there have been a few genuinely funny and heart-warming exchanges between Ryder and the crew.

    My biggest gripe is the "You're the Pathfinder and VERY IMPORTANT" conversation gets super heavy-handed. It feels like they're trying to establish the Pathfinder as a super important position that only one person can do (kind of like how Shepard was viewed as one of a kind), but it's too much to feel natural. Shepard at least had a solid background that helped give a solid foundation to their reputation; Ryder feels more like a blank slate. And Ryder does get some pushback from Initiative authority, but it feels unbalanced.




    All in all, I'm enjoying the game. It does feel distinctively like a Mass Effect game, regardless of the protagonist, and I think they improved on the open-world elements that were established in Inquisition. The game is huge, and it feels kind of overwhelming as a result, but it also feels like it's big with exciting stuff to do, rather than just being big and empty; in a lot of ways, it feels more like what I expected Inquisition to be. It's so big, though, and with so much to do, that I don't really see it as something to be replayed. I think it's going to be a fun, one-time experience, and I'm totally cool with that.
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    fereldanwench

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