Early impressions of Mass Effect: Andromeda aren't all positive and hint at potential writing and gameplay issues.
Mass Effect: Andromeda brings players a fresh start to the beloved sci-fi series by developer BioWare with its all-new cast of characters, all-new setting, all-new villains, for a new console generation. A week away from its long-awaited release, details of the fourth Mass Effect instalment are starting to paint a clearer picture of what the vision for the trilogy followup really is, and there are now concerns it may not be a great one.
Reviews will not release until next week and the PR teams of publisher Electronic Arts have set the embargo just the day before release and we imagine it's because they expect the early impressions to be not all-positive, and given this year's over-abundance of well-received triple-A titles, that's a worrisome sign. So, expect a focus on super-fan streamers instead who won't be too critical. We do know that EA is being very strict and limited on providing early review access to only select outlets which means they don't want it out there in a big way. By comparison, Sony pushed hard to get Horizon: Zero Dawn in as many hands as possible to spread the word because they were confident in their game. We can't draw any conclusions from that side of it, but it's not a positive indicator.
And the Mass Effect series doesn't need bad signs right now. We've already been through this with Mass Effect 2 when it dropped some story, exploration, and RPG elements in favor of better combat gameplay and lovable supporting characters, and again with Mass Effect 3 which failed to service a quality ending (the developer literally created an extended ending after the fact to address fans) and deliver on story threads established early in the franchise.
As for Mass Effect: Andromeda? Well, early word from the heads of BioWare hinted that they were attempting to improve on all fronts and do something new. Not too new though since new aliens will be mostly humanoid and bipedal and there will be some new version of the Citadel, but new-ish. They're bringing back the vehicle exploration from the original game, but making it better. They're opening up exploration and combat so it's not relegated to corridor cover battles. They are even giving more freedom in progression but loosening up restrictions on class-based gameplay, and linking the multiplayer mode with the story, without making it an annoying requirement like it was in ME3.
This sounds awesome!
But then we started reading the early impressions. They all seem to agree that Andromeda does absolutely feel like a Mass Effect game and that it's a big game, but no one is saying it's better than the other ones (so far). Some however, have negative things to say which has us concerned.
Forbes isn't impressed by the auto-cover system (something we don't like in the recent Ghost Recon: Wildlands either), the lack of a minimap while driving (it takes extra clicks to get to the map), or the starting crew of supporting characters. They also callout the lack of climbing mechanics, the auto-save system, and plastic-looking human characters as negatives. Other potential detriments or weak points include the galaxy map interface, scanning, and research/development/crafting system, and relatively small open-world areas.
We're shocked about the interface issues and planet scanning given how dumb that was in Mass Effect 2, but the only major concerns here at a glance are the character stuff if that doesn't improve. The character story arcs should be the best part given that this is a BioWare title.
But then there's Rock, Paper, Shotgun's impressions who straight up label the first hours of Mass Effect: Andromeda as "not good."
"The first few hours of Andromeda are a gruesome trudge through the most trite bilge of the previous three games, smeared out in a setting that’s horribly familiar, burdened with some outstandingly awful writing, buried beneath a UI that appears to have been designed to infuriate in every possible way."
RPS's biggest complaints focus on the writing of the characters, story, and quests in the opening hours and the examples they provide are definitely not something to get excited about. But this is all introductory content of the game, since everything about its setting and characters is new. We should expect tutorial like missions and lots of exposition up front and lots of exploration and high-stakes story content later.
The Giant Bomb podcast crew shared some early impressions on this week's episode (#472) from a preview event and had almost entirely negative impressions from guest Peter Brown (GameSpot) who's a newcomer to the franchise, citing the interface structure and gunplay as weak parts from the first few hours.
These are just a few of the early impressions that lean on the negative among many that are straight-up positive or just descriptive of the early events and as any Mass Effect fan knows, these games are very large, with deep stories, and Andromeda in particular has a lot of newness to offer. We'll know more how Mass Effect: Andromeda is received compared to its predecessors when the review embargo lifts on March 20th and as fans get their hands on it a day later, but it's disappointing to see such negative feedback already when hopes were high for the game to have the best of what came before and more.
Are you optimistic or are you tempering expectations on BioWare's latest cosmic adventure?
- Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017) release date: Mar 21, 2017