I did not in fact stay up last night and play Andromeda, but man was it hard not to. Over the weekend I got to play some of the early access trial and to be honest this game at least in the early minutes of game play is exactly what I liked about the Mass Effect series. However first let me talk about the trial a bit before I go into that. You got the trial through being an Origin Access subscriber. Being in Origin Access gives you a discount on game purchases… that is roughly about what a month of the subscription is so it was honestly a no brainer to do that given that the discount functionally paid for itself. Through this it unlocked a 10 hour trial of the game… which seemed weird but I figured there was no way I would actually play all ten hours. So I pre-loaded the Trial and the game and wandered off on my mini vacation. Friday night when I got back into town, I sat down on the sofa and booted the game on my laptop, fiddling around with the character creator before my wife suggested it was bed time. I agreed and exited the game, expecting to have 9.5 hours worth of game play waiting on me. While the game exited completely and was missing from my hotbar… it was apparently still resident in memory somehow and Origin sat there ticking away my trial time while I slept. When I got up the next morning, ate breakfast and finally settled in to do some gaming… I was extremely disappointed to find out that according to Origin I had completed my trial time.
At the suggestions of Ashgar I tried using Origin customer support, because apparently in the past he had good luck with it. That was not really the case for me, because firstly the live chat feature did not appear to be working and instead of telling me that on screen while I was waiting for chat to load… it sent me an email telling me that to resolve my issues I needed to call the support center. That is a huge strike against any customer service, if I actually have to call and talk to someone…. especially given that I have a hard enough time explaining my problem without having to also attempt to decode a vastly different accent and speech pattern than that of my own. They had the option to ask for the support to call you, whenever someone was available and I did this… but knew immediately things were going to not go well when they asked me to get on the machine that had Origin installed. They started pushing me through steps to verify that Origin was installed… without actually listening to the issue that I was having. After about thirty minutes of working through someones flip file of instructions I finally got them to listen to the real issue, which was that Mass Effect did not fully close… and it ate up every last bit of my trial time. They gave me back 5 hours of trial time, which was frustrating given that I should have had 9.5 hours…. but after the frustrations I was ready to just settle for anything. Side note… if you ever do an Origin trial… make sure the game exits completely and open task manager to kill anything that looks connected to it. I even went so far as to kill origin itself and the memory resident helper program. This isn’t just a me thing because apparently the exact same bug happened to Tam yesterday and cost him whatever remained of his trial.
The next big bullet point is that the real fun for me with Mass Effect is leading a team and running missions. As a result my favorite Mass Effect game to date is the second one, because it had the most “Star Trek Away Team” moment, where we landed on a planet to assess what was going on and end up stumbling into adventure. The story of the series is excellent, but it isn’t necessarily the hook for me. Similarly the romance elements are interesting enough, but definitely not why I play the game and feel more like a mini game within the game. I feel all of this is important because lots of different people play Mass Effect for completely different reasons. So far… the game is scratching all of my itches and giving me a significantly better combat system to improve the feeling of exploring the galaxy. What I always wanted was a game that offered the same sort of tactical missions that the second game had…. with the ability to literally land on any world that the first game had… and it seems like maybe Andromeda is at least heading in that direction. Granted I have only just done the intro mission and am now exploring the first tutorial planet, but so far so good.
Please note there are absolutely some detractors to this game. Firstly even though it was the ammunition for some horrific bullshit… and I do not want to have any part of that… the animations are bad. It is no so much that the animations are bad themselves… it just feels like the rigging that attaches animations to the models is somehow faulty. Sometimes it is perfectly fine, and other times….. it is inhuman and creepy as your character duck walk runs through an area. The truth is though that this is nothing new and there have been countless other games with model and animation issues out of the gate… and I am hoping with additional patching this will go away. If not… I am hoping that someone releases an unofficial patch or mod that fixes it since playing on the PC gives me access to a bunch of these… I am looking at you play dough hair from Dragon Age Inquisition. Given that the models and animations are not why I am playing the game, I can look past them and get on with the fit bits of game play but they are most definitely immersion breaking.
The other big issue I have is the new dialog system. No I am not talking the lack of red and blue options but more the way that the game just zooms you into conversation without sending you to a secondary interface. Situations like this happen where I am talking to someone but doing so in an extremely awkward fashion that occludes most of the character to character interactions. A lot of the problems I have experienced with animation screw ups have happened while exiting the dialog system, so I am wondering if the two are connected. In the above image I snapped the shot just after exiting dialog and there is some weird layer separation going on with the colors. If you look at some of the edges you can really see it… but it is as though the RGB layers are askew. It fixes itself with time but during the dialog itself it feels like my eyes are out of focus. I don’t necessarily mourn the loss of Vanguard and Renegade the way most people seem to… considering I rarely if ever took the renegade option. Like sure… if I was tracking down a bad guy I would sometimes take the renegade option and shoot them in the head, but in moment to moment character interaction I am at my core a hero type. I find it damned near impossible to play a Sith or true dark sider in SWTOR… and that same thing spills over into Mass Effect.
All in all I have enjoyed the game quite a bit, in spite of its faults and am looking forward to getting home tonight and roaming the Andromeda galaxy. Ash, Tam and I are I think going to give the multiplayer a spin and in theory I got enough freebie packs that allow me to create something resembling a character load out that I like. I did not go with the super extra deluxe version that included some boosters, largely because multiplayer was not near the thing for me as it was my friends. However I am totally down for giving it a proper whirl. What I want to see however is more of these worlds and what exactly I can do to fix them. Mass Effect Andromeda already has me in its grip, and I don’t think it is going to really lose me any time soon. While I acknowledge there are issues, I am just taking a low sodium approach to it and realizing that there is a lot of good there that happens to cater to my very specific interests.