Lets face it, a lot of us are worried about this game based on information thats been coming out over the past week or so. Concerns range from terrible facial animations, to ridiculously bad dialogue, and terrible characters. Now, anyone that has EA/Origin Access on either Xbox One or PC respectively can try out the game for themselves. You get 10 hours to play and the story mode stops at pre-designated point. I reached that point about 5 to 7 hours into my trial, and so now I can give my impressions of a game that I’m not really worried about anymore.
When I first started playing the trial, I kept my eyes peeled for terrible animations and stupid dialogue. I’m happy to say that both seem to be very isolated cases. Not to say I didn’t see them, I did, but they didn’t appear to be as widespread as I had been led to believe. The running animation does feel floaty, but the facial animations more or less sync up with what you would have seen in the original trilogy. The reason it might seem worse at a glance is because the models and just the general graphics overall are of a much higher quality than anything seen in the previous three games. The closer we get to making things photo-realistic, the more stuff like this sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m fairly certain that’s what’s happening here. As for the dialogue, I noticed no pausing in between sentences, no weird responses or anything like. The one woman whose name I keep forgetting, the grammar nazi, she has so far been the only one with dialogue issues and you know what, I don’t care because she’s an ass and I don’t feel like talking with her anymore than I actually have to.
As far as gameplay goes, I found it to be just as good as Mass Effect 3's gameplay though I will criticize the UI. There’s a lot of clutter and navigating menu’s is a complete pain. I never had these problems with the previous three games, but now all of a sudden I couldn’t figure out how to get to the non-priority quests. I figured out that I could open up the map and just click on an icon to set the quest as my objective, a lot easier than rooting through the menu’s to find the actual quest page.
So what of the characters you’ll find yourself traveling with? Well, I can safely say that after 5 hours the only ones I like are Vetra, Drak, and Peebee. So the alien crew members basically. Liam and Cora just haven’t caught my interest yet. That might be because, despite spending most of those 5 hours with them, you don’t actually talk to them much. They talk on the missions, but other than that you don’t interact with them. I imagine those moments come after where the trial leaves off because the story isn’t yet at a point where the usual companion dialogue would happen. After all, I just got the Tempest and went on a mission. No one is standing around in their quarters waiting to talk.
So thus far I’ve given you minor gripes and what I like, general impressions. It’s good so far, but do I have any major complaints? Why yes, yes I do. The character customization is absolutely atrocious. So atrocious in fact that the default appearances of Scott and Sara are the best. Most of the head shapes you can choose from are similar to one another. For example, the male heads are mostly tall, almost rectangular in shape, and the one head I found that was close to my actual head shape, looked asian, and no amount of tinkering could get rid of that look. I couldn’t even get the skin tone to match mine. You can only go so white before it goes “Nah, pale people don’t exist.” The strange part is that some head types seem to be able to go whiter than others, though still not far enough. Perhaps it was just the lighting because in-game my character did look white, but sometimes I wasn’t entirely sure because it looked like he had a tan of some kind.
I also checked the female heads to see if they were any better, and I was equally disappointed. A lot of them are chubby-cheeked, wrinkled, compact or stretched, etc. Male or female, you won’t be making supermodels in this character creator. Gone are the days where you would be attracted to everyone, now you’ll be lucky if you can even make your own character look attractive.
As that last bit implies, yes, even the NPC’s can be rough on the eyes. It’s really just the human NPC’s because the Asari, Peebee included, look just as fine as they always have and strangely enough Vetra has an appeal to her. But man I just do not find any of the human women in Andromeda attractive. I can’t even tell how old Cora is. Her hair has black roots, but most of it is white, probably dyed, but her face just strikes me as older, like late 30's/40's yet her voice seems younger than that. She’s a mixed bag that I do not find interesting. And then there’s the matter of some characters, like Suvi, who look good at a glance from the side, but from the front not so great and she along with other characters seemingly like to put on way too much makeup. Considering I’m a guy I’m not really one to talk about makeup, I don’t use it, but I do know that there is a line where too much makeup is a thing. One character, the grammar nazi I mentioned earlier, uses tons of purple eye shadow and enough blush to make her cheeks bright red. I want Miranda Lawson back.
You may be thinking I’m some kind of horrible person for obsessing over appearances, but it’s just that I come to video games to escape from reality, to escape to a place where stuff is flawless, fantastical, and the first three Mass Effect games gave me that, the first two Dragon Age games gave me that though Inquisition completely failed on that front. Seeing Andromeda go for more average or just downright unappealing appearances as well bothers me, but not enough to make not play the game. I’ll just romance Peebee or maybe even the Hyperion’s captain if that’s an option at some point. They did say you could romance and sleep with people not on the Tempest crew.
Moving on from that I did find the available haircut choices to also be... pretty bad. They felt like variations on each other rather than radically different styles. You had some wild styles, some cool hip styles, some scraggly styles, I felt like I was looking through hair for hipsters. Bioware also apparently has yet to realize that long or even medium length hair exists.
Back to praising the game though, the environments are absolutely gorgeous and massive in scale. I spent a lot of time exploring Habitat 7 and Eos before my trial reached its end. I’ll explore a lot more when the game releases next week and hopefully the rest of the game will be great.