One of the most highly anticipated games of the year, Mass Effect: Andromeda, finally released last week and there’s already so much to say about the game. It’s a new adventure, story, and cast of characters. It may feel familiar, but there’s a lot about Andromeda that already feels different. Mostly in a good way so far.
When I received my game in the mail on release day, one of the first things I did as soon as the game installed on my Xbox One was take the time creating my own Ryder. It was a strange feeling at first to get my head around the fact that this is the first Mass Effect game without any link to Commander Shepard. I got over it quickly and dove straight into figuring out the kind of character I wanted to carry my entire experience and story that awaited in Andromeda. I already knew I wanted to play a female before the game came out, so that wasn’t a hard decision to make. As I scrolled through the many customization options for a female Ryder, I decided I wanted to play a female who was distinctly Asian. As an Asian female gamer, I have yet to see video games that features a prominent Asian female character. Luckily with a series like Mass Effect, you can tailor your experience however you want it to be. With that in mind, Vera Ryder was born.
One of the most notable and fantastic new features about the customization in Andromeda is how the look of your character will automatically customize how your sibling Ryder and father will look like in the game. In the case of my Ryder being very much Asian in her features but with striking blue eyes, her brother Scott took on the same similar features. You’re also given the option to customize the sibling slightly if you don’t like the look of his hair or the color of his eyes the default generates from your main character customization preferences. Or you can add additional details like tattoos and scars to the sibling you won’t be playing the game as. The only one you can’t change is your dad Alec Ryder. You get to see how the father looks when you actually start playing the game itself. The first time I saw Alec Ryder, I certainly had no complaints with how the game generated the look of him. If anything, I would say he looks very much like Vera’s brother Scott. Or Scott looks like his dad. Either way, it was a cool feature BioWare came up with to ensure your player immersion isn’t broken by a weird mismatch in features across the Ryder clan, if you choose not to go with default Sara or Scott Ryder.
Without going into any spoilers for the game, so far I’ve completed Prologue: Hyperion and its first mission called Planetside. One of the first things you’ll notice about the first few hours of the game is how beautiful the world of Andromeda looks. Just like the previous Mass Effect games, BioWare still knows how to capture that sense of wonder and beauty of space and exploring new worlds. One of the things you’ll want to do often in the game when you’re in any new area is to pull up Ryder’s ability to scan objects. Aside from gaining information about the strange tech or resources you’ll find scattered on planets, scanning earns you Research Data credits you can eventually use towards crafting equipment. I have yet to know how significant gaining these points will be, as I’m far too early in the game to do much with them at the moment, but I make sure to utilize the scan feature as much as possible.
Combat in the game still feels exactly as you remember it from the previous games with some new additions, like Ryder coming equipped with a jet pack booster on her suit every time you step off the ship to explore the new territory you’re in. Jumping from one high cliff to another feels far more fluid and easier than those times I played as Shepard in the previous games. Then again, Shepard and her team didn’t come equipped with cool jet packs when they were out on missions in other planets. Leveling up characters and figuring out how to spend ability points for each character feels much trickier without a designated class or specialization in place. BioWare deciding to leave it up to the player to design their character’s and crew’s abilities without confining the players to a specific class type is something I don’t think I’m particularly fond of. Sometimes when I’m in the menu to distribute the ability points for Ryder, Liam, and Cora, I’m always worried that maybe I’m not spending the ability points in a way that will make my characters stronger rather than weaker. I much rather have structure than sort of building your own class set. It just feels much more disorganized and stressful than it should be. For me, at least. I guess time will tell if I’ll eventually warm up to this new create your own class feature of the game.
I still have a long way to go with the game, but I can say I’m liking what I’ve seen so far. Stay tuned for more impressions and progress on the game when I officially start writing up video game challenge progress reports in April. It’ll be a special edition of my usual video game challenge series for the blog until I’m able to complete the whole game to my satisfaction.
Have you started playing Mass Effect: Andromeda? What are your personal impressions so far?