Last week, a number of outlets (including Gameplanet) were invited to check out a preview build of BioWare's upcoming ARPG Mass Effect Andromeda.
Unfortunately we couldn't make it to the session, but I've scanned the internet and compiled what appear to be the main takeaways, from publications that played anywhere from 90–240 minutes of the game.
Overall, it's shaping up nicely
"Within its first mission, Andromeda sets most fears straight…. it felt convincingly like a Mass Effect game. I enjoyed Dragon Age Inquisition, but after five years of waiting for a new Mass Effect chapter and a fresh start for the series overall, BioWare needed to do more than just transpose its Frostbite template for fantasy gameplay into the sci-fi genre. Andromeda's combat, characters and stories thankfully hold up… The game's aliens once again steal the show."
"I was worried that this new universe would end up like No Man's Sky — expansive and beautiful, baiting explorers but turning up empty... Just a few hours with the game was more than enough to change my mind.
"The most important thing I learned from the preview was that Andromeda feels like a Mass Effect game should. It's got the world, and the characters, and even those last-ditch moments of desperation."
"Well, now I’ve played it. I feel better. In fact, I’m pumped."
Combat is slick, but auto-cover isn't
"BioWare has used Mass Effect's move to Frostbite to beef up its combat. Much has been made of the decision to ditch the series' traditional character classes (although stat-boosting Profiles with similar names are unlocked when you specialise in a relevant field). So, if you want, you can now be a biotic engineer with soldier skills who wields a massive krogan hammer, and when you become Pathfinder you can switch between Profiles on the fly.
"Another big change is Andromeda's move to dynamic cover, which takes a little getting used to - initially it feels imprecise compared to ME3's snap to cover feature, but the shift to more varied terrain means it comes in handy. One big negative, however, is the removal of the powers wheel, and with it the ability to command squadmates to use specific abilities.
"Overall, combat is saved by Andromeda's addition of new movement options - a boost jump, a further boost via horizontal jets and automatic mantling. It means you can hover above the battlefield and shoot down over cover, or boost up to the top of a building and snipe down with ease. It's faster and more fluid than any Mass Effect so far."
"Andromeda looks like the other Mass Effect games, and for it not to play exactly like one was disorienting."
"A lot of actions — like taking cover — feel like they should have a prompt button, but don't. It ends up feeling clumsy a lot of the time, but likely it'll just take some getting used to. Even taking ammo and health happens without a prompt: you just run up to the marked boxes and they get refilled."
"There is one aspect of combat that felt clunky: cover. Cover is no longer a snap-in, snap-out system, but is something your character will dynamically hunker to as appropriate. The theory is that this makes more objects viable pieces of cover, but it made me often unsure of how safe I was from enemy fire. I don’t know if it’ll continue to feel clunky or get better as I get used to it but I hope it’s the latter, since the rest of combat feels pretty damn slick."
Nomad > Mako
"I'm not yet sold on the Nomad, I have to admit, but Kadara's drivable area was fairly compact and I was in somewhat of a hurry to see as much as possible, so used the game's fast-travel option when specific points became unlocked. Right now the best I can say is that the Nomad handles better than ME1's Mako and its on-board robo-mining function is better than ME2's planet-scanning."
The dialogue system is divisive
"Regular dialogue felt more open thanks to the expanded selection of responses. You can now choose either an emotional, logical, casual, or professional response in many instances where you previously just had a Paragon/Renegade option."
"I'm not sure how I feel about this system, honestly — there's a big difference between, say, a sad 'emotional' response and an angry 'emotional' response, and it can still be difficult to correctly anticipate the tone Ryder will respond with."
The animation is fine, the game is gorgeous
"Less impressive are the faces, which as with the previous trilogy often have something strangely uncanny about them. One imagines this has something to do with the sheer amount of facial animation needed for the game, and fans of Bioware’s games are no doubt a little used to that facial jank by now, but it still bears mentioning. Generally speaking I think the game is visually striking, however."
◆ The Nomad has two modes: rear wheel drive mode that’s focused on speed, and a much slower all wheel drive mode that allows you to climb steep surfaces
◆ According to Polygon's Arthur Gies, crafting and modification is a "major, major part of the game, with a preposterous amount of blueprints to research and then build".
◆ Character customisation includes gender, nine preset heads that represent a variety of races, and sliders for everything including skin tone and eyebrows.
◆ The gender you select has an affect on Andromeda's story.
◆ There's a full quest log like in ME1 and ME2.
◆ Each story planet in Andromeda is as big as the entirety of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
◆ The game also pays attention to who you talk to and who you don't talk to, and what optional side-quests you do and how you do them, and these things affect how aliens react to you.
◆ The squad mate with the least lines in Andromeda still has more than Shepard in ME3.