So Mass Effect Andromeda had a review on this very site that didn’t sit well with me. It really panned the game. Fair enough you might say, but I think the reviewer didn’t like the Mass Effect universe and thought the game should be something else. I don’t think he got the appeal of Mass Effect.
Let us start with the first and most important question. Is the PC version better than the console version?
I, of course, mean the graphics but come on, if it wasn’t for those damn consoles and their awful limitations we would probably be playing on a type of holo-deck right now so let’s see how much better the PC version is than the stupid consoles that are holding back the entire gaming world. Overkill on the other name for this site, The PC Master Race? Maybe.
So for the first time in ages, the PC has a killer nail in the coffin for console reason that someone should buy the game for PC over console. (High pitched Southern American homosexual stereotype voice) GRAPHICS!!!
OK consoles have their place but seriously, have you seen this game in 1440p? It’s like visual porn. Yes, some of the characters eyes don’t quite look right when they deliver one of the millions of lines of dialogue but my god this game looks great.
I saw a PS4 version of the game and whilst it was OK, playing the game in high resolutions makes it look phenomenal.
I played the game on an i7 4790K, an MSI GTX 980 twin frozr and 16gb of Corsair RAM in 1440p on an Asus ROG monitor. I had none of the reported stutter or lag and I think this was nothing to do with the power of my rig. After launch, the game had a few teething problems but subsequent patches have seen this issue and others eliminated.
In fact, on Ultra settings and recording I never saw anything below 70FPS so the game runs incredibly well.
Having read many reviews about the game I think a lot was made of the character modeling and facial animations. Before I mention it, I want to point out the type of game Mass Effect is and the amount of “stuff” in it. It’s not an a-b platform with every line rehearsed and delivered in a predictable order. This is an on the fly adventure with more dialogue than in pretty much any game I have played before. If you get up close and personal with any character you will see skin blemishes and even pores on their skin. Think about that for a moment, not only can you “sort of” do what you want, be where you want, talk to who you want, if you walk up to any character, you can see the pores on their skin. You would have to be a madman to think that every line of dialogue should be accompanied with the correct emotion portrayed on all those possible faces.
There is so much to love about the game and the worlds are so much more alive than in previous games, they have a real presence and each area feels real, outposts feel emptier than the bustling metropolises. This again is a standout difference that the console versions can’t match, there is, improved geometry complexity, higher resolution shadows and better quality horizon based ambient occlusion and thanks to my Nvidia card and G-Sync monitor I got to enjoy it all.
I checked with a friend who is running an i5 and GTX 1050 and he too saw no less than 40fps at 1080p. Drop the settings to high/medium and results were even better 60fps consistently and still looked better than anything the console versions could produce.
I saw some footage at 1440p on an HDR monitor, my eyes bled at how everything looked. I could have been watching a Hollywood blockbuster but this sort of quality comes with a price tag that makes me wonder how many people have HDR capable monitors and the sort of rig to take advantage of all this tech. There are still issues with HDR in general at the moment and so it’s not a problem for 99% of people. It does look amazing though, just not sure I could deal with the input lag.
So, it’s better than on console because it looks great but what is the game like, any good?
So, elephant in the room, there is no Sheppard. If you are like me you will be thinking “Mass Effect without Sheppard is like Tomb Raider without Lara Croft” but do not worry, the story is so good that a few hours in and you will be thinking “Sheppard who?”.
Let’s start by looking at the story, I can say that in my opinion, this is the best Mass Effect story to date. The Andromeda Initiative sets out from the milky way with 100,000 of its inhabitants heading for our nearest galaxy, Andromeda, or more specifically, their new home, The Helius Cluster.
We start our story as we find out that habitat 7 is not as welcoming as first expected, in fact, it’s the arse end of hell and that all of the so called “Golden” planets are not a great place to start a new life.
There were 7 Andromeda Vessels each with a Pathfinder. Your father is the Pathfinder of the human ship and so I don’t spoil anything too much I will cut a long story short and say that you are now the Pathfinder and it’s up to you to find a place to call home for the entire human contingent.
It’s at this point you can choose to play as a male or female. After you choose you will either be Scott or Sara Ryder. Then it’s a bit sad, you may cry, then you get to start your adventure.
With my protagonist chosen, I played as Scott, I started my exploration and discovered that there will be two antagonists or three, well sort of three but two really.
The Remnant is looking to protect their technology and will defend it at all costs and the Kett, well they want to destroy everything but themselves, and the third group, sort of, are the rebels. Sort of, maybe, depends on what you do. The first few hours are all about laying the ground work and setting up stories, it’s something Bioware do very well and here is no exception.
So, Ryder (that’s you), is almost immediately off to explore. The first thing I noticed was how combat had changed from the previous games, being able to use a jump jet and new dash ability gives the game some verticality and allows for fluid movement over terrain or to solve simple problems. You can use theses skills when battling too and this is probably my only minor critique of the game. The combat is great, fluid and fun, however, it was really hard to take an enemy seriously when he would let me beat him about the head, neck, legs back and chest just so he could finish his flanking move.
When the combat comes together it works really well but there are still the same old issues. Your AI party are retarded, people equipped with a long range weapon will stand right next to the person you are shooting at all the while taking damage so they go down meaning you will have to put yourself in harms way to revive them. You can do this over and over and they will still get back up and do the same. No AI is perfect and I am certainly used to gaming and dealing with dumb AI that causes me more problems than it solves in many games.
I didn’t find the minor combat problems to be too much of an issue if I am honest, Mass Effect has never really been about combat and Andromeda has arguably the best combat in the series.
The biggest draw for Mass Effect has been the dialogue. I am going to remind you just how awesome everyone thought the dialogue wheel was when Mass Effect launched. I have read reviews calling the dialogue wheel dated! Calling it dated is like bemoaning the gas pedal being on the right in a car because it has been done before. It works so well, why would you change something so perfect.
In Andromeda, the dialogue wheel has been supercharged and instead of the obvious paragon/renegade choices you now can choose a tone and the conversation will flow from there. There are essentially four emotional replies and these can be angry or casual or businesslike and how you react will affect the long game. Your words and actions will carry with them long lasting, impactful markers that will set the tone for the rest of your dealings with that person or subject.
OK, let’s talk about the facial animations that people have been moaning about. They aren’t great, but really, what do you want? A game with the scope and scale of Mass Effect Andromeda or a linearly pathed and scripted small platformer where all the choices aren’t really choices and your fate was predetermined based on whether you pressed the good or bad button?
There were GIFs all over the internet showing other graphical glitches, I saw one with Ryders’ fathers’ arms shaking and then going in circles while music played so it looked like he was dancing. It was funny however, there are not many games that get this sort of negative treatment. It is not very often that a game like this appears and I think people have forgotten how spoiled they are. This game has so much dialogue and so many choices that it was inevitable that some of the facial animations don’t match up to the emotions being expressed. The people complaining about it are probably watching an old Kung Fu movie right now and laughing because peoples lips aren’t moving properly with the words.
The breathtaking scale of Andromeda is overwhelming at times. I was drawn in by the stories, intoxicated by the sheer amount of missions available and every mission feels like it has a purpose, a reason for being in the game.
This is a huge win for Bioware. I want to explore every side mission and quest because they are so good and so interesting. When the Krogan crew member, Drack, tells me there is tells me there’s trouble with his species, I immediately wanted to go and investigate this story line because I knew it would be fun and multi tiered.
It’s not just the “proper” quests, the ones with a story behind them that are interesting to play. There is a gripping weight, the under story, the meta-narrative that creeps into every pore of the game and makes your ever action in Andromeda have meaning and weight.
The ‘golden’ planets need to be researched for viability. Your actions on these planets earn you points towards making them a new home. The more quests you complete, the more the planets viability meter increases. Explore a planet and you will at some point find a Remnant cavern, complete the cavern and unlock the tech associated with it to make the planet a safe place to live, however, sometimes just getting into the cavern is a complex affair. The puzzles aren’t too complicated but you can find yourself missing important glyphs in awkward areas. I spent hours on planets just finding these locations without bothering with the storyline because it was so much fun. Bioware is very good at this type of subtle story, it isn’t in your face yet you find yourself drawn in. A console exploding on the Nexus has me turn detective trying to find a saboteur when actually I had returned for an entirely different reason.
Managing your to do list is a little overcomplicated initially and when you consider the sheer number of outstanding tasks you will have, ah, outstanding, it can be hard to focus on what to do next. I currently have 41 missions unfinished, 2 of those are on the main story ark and every time I am in the middle of one task I seem to find 2 more that need completing. I will be playing this game for HUNDREDS of hours.
I personally didn’t like the multi-player mode. It is combat focussed and wave-based. The first is fine however, I just don’t like wave-based tasks and so I am not really qualified to comment on this area. I will say that the little I played of it I enjoyed but again, there was too much left to do in the single player that it may be a year or two before I get time to take a proper look at it.
Mass Effect Andromeda has a few flaws but they can all be overlooked because the scale of the game is overwhelming. The story is told over an incredibly vast yet detailed galaxy. It was full of intrigue and mystery, the side quests were just as interesting and I love the way that missions would present themselves in such a natural way. Exploring is fun and cruising around in the Nomad, hopping in and out to complete tasks or discovering new areas fulfilled many childhood dreams of what the best game would be. Conversations are fluid and despite some issues with the facial animations, I enjoyed them immensely.
The combat is better than in previous Mass Effect titles, the story is better, the scale is grander, I think this is a worthy successor and was worth waiting five years for. I hope Bioware is listening though because I do not want to wait another five years to get the next installment.