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A Mass Effect: Andromeda, no spoiler review. The first 10 Hours.

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I've been looking forward to this for five years in spite of the wickedly horrible climax to the original trilogy that made a mockery of the illusion of agency and was, literally, "Pick a color, any color, it doesn't matter. The revised ending (greenlit coincidentally two days after EA's stock price dropped 12% in the midst of the fan rage.)

But I'm over it. Really. ;) 


These are my thoughts after spending time with a preview of the game through EA Access. $5 for 10 hours of play five days before the official release seemed like a fair deal to me.

Andromeda is not really any sort of continuation, but rather a pretty firm reboot. It puts the tech and the races away from a Milky Way facing annihilation at the hands of the coming Reaper invasion and puts them all on the back end of a trip to colonize the Andromeda galaxy. But, rather than make you, the protagonist, a hero on the way to legendary messiah like Commander Shepard, you're Scott (Or Sara) Ryder, an untested explorer made "Pathfinder" after a twist of fate undoes the original Pathfinder. So now, you and your team set out not only to find a new home for the 20,000 colonists you came with, but also solve the mystery of why, while you were in cryo for the 600 year journey, every "Golden world" previously scouted is now nearly uninhabitable and awash in barriers of dark energy.

As in any Mass Effect game, in between going on your three-person away missions, you come back and wander around your ship to get to know your crew. Interacting with them furthers the story and deepens the relationships to the point that romances are possible. I've only really scratched the surface of that at this point, but they are fairly common archetypes, from Cora, the serious professional soldier, to Liam, the former security officer with a sensitive side looking for a fresh start. As expected, the voice acting is solid even if some of the animations are a bit off. Hopefully that'll be patched through sometime later, but, coming from an age of 8-bit gaming, it really doesn't break the experience for me.

If the original trilogy is about combat as you race to save the galaxy, Andromeda is about looking through every nook and cranny to see what's there and how it helps you forge a new home. The opening area is as large as several opening areas in the previous games and I still didn't go through all of it. The scenery is interesting and there are plenty of places to go to find items and scan the environment for materials and research bits to craft upgrades to your weapons and armor, the R&D for which is intuitive and arguably can't get a lot simpler. I love galactic exploration in that once you plot a course, you pull away from the map to essentially travel there in first-person. It's sort of a giddy sensation given how beautiful the planets and galactic environments are. That part is VERY "Go where no man has gone before" and I don't see myself getting tired of it anytime soon. (ever)

As it's been refined in the first three games, combat continues to be tightened and it's very solid now. Weapons sound and feel like they have punch and gone is the enemy "pop up and shoot/wait to be shot" AI of previous games. While they aren't geniuses enemies are a lot more aggressive in their own movement and on "Insanity" difficulty you will be punished quickly for mistakes. Environments and puzzles now have verticality and the jetpack on your back is easy to learn to use, not that I jet around much while being shot at.

You are no longer locked into a specific set of class powers as has been the case before. Want to have a soldier's weapon skills with an Engineer's combat drone? Done. An Infiltrator's cloaking device to position yourself for a ramming Vanguard charge into them? Done. It invites experimentation (i.e.more exploration) and keeps the combat fresh.

The problems seem small to me, like the animation bumps and annoyingly small texts on the XB1, (nearly illegibly small even on a 65-inch screen) though the latter is set to be fixed fairly quickly.

8/10 so far. Despite some issues, it's turning out to be the experience I hoped for.   

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