Mass Effect Andromeda thoughts so far

I’m not 100 per cent sure what it is but Mass Effect Andromeda just isn’t geling with me like previous Mass Effect games did.

Sure, it’s been a while since I played and finished Mass Effect 3 (and don’t shoot me but I didn’t have a problem with the way it originally ended before fans made a noise about it and Bioware changed things), so things might be a little fuzzy in my old man brain, but I can remember the narrative and dialogue in ME3 being much better than that in Andromeda. Much, much better.

I don’t what it is with the dialogue in Andromeda. It just feels off. It doesn’t feel right. It feels forced and cliched at times. It feels clunky, too, often delivered unemotionally so I didn’t get invested in the characters and what was happening.

I tried to see if I could find my review of ME3 I did when I wrote for Fairfax NZ but I can’t find it anywhere but I know it was a game that I couldn’t put down as I guided my Commander Shepard to the final battle against the Reapers. Andromeda, which is set 600 years after Mass Effect 3, involves new characters, new situations and new enemies as you guide Pathfinder Ryder through the Andromeda system to find new worlds to inhabit.

Mass Effect Andromeda just isn’t capturing my attention like previous Mass Effect games did. I just don’t want to spend hours playing it like I did Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect 2. Sure there are a shitload of side quests and while some are genuinely fun, most, sadly, are uninspired.

Since I started playing, the game has been patched, so some of the freaky walking stuff and creepy faces has been removed but things still look a little off to me in the character department. Environment wise, especially planet-side, things look really nice. Andromeda is generally a nice looking game – as some of the screen shots show – when it comes to planets and environments but I’m just not finding it as enjoyable as previous Mass Effect games.

I thought some of the voice acting was flat as well, with some of the voices sounded unemotional and uninterested in what was happening around them.

There’s depth to Bioware’s latest game, though, with a deep skill tree for players to customise their Pathfinder to exactly the type of hero they want. Those gamers who love tinkering with stats and the like will find much to keep them busy here as Andromeda has a lot of boosts, buffs and augments to experiment with.

Does her face look a little odd or is it just me? It’s the lips, right?

This guy’s standing just a little too close: Like bisecting my Ryder a little too close!

This NPC is called Angry Woman. Yes, Angry Woman.

The combat was solid enough, with the upgradable biotic powers useful in close quarters combat, depending on the skill tree you were going down. One thing I didn’t like, though, was a Sudoku-like puzzle that has to be solved when you tackle the game’s vaults.

I’ve never been good at Sudoku so these really frustrated the hell out of me (It wasn’t helped by the fact that most of the time you’ were forced to fight remnant forces every time you got the puzzle wrong).

The in-game menu system was confusing to navigate easily and graphical glitches abound: From NPCs doing weird things to stuff just sinking through other objects. I don’t know whether it was just my game but every time Ryder initially excited the Tempest (his spaceship) he wasn’t wearing a helmet but a split second later, he was wearing a helmet (Funnily, enough, Ryder’s squad mates weren’t wearing helmets, though). Personally, I feel as if the game could have done with a few more months in the oven, to polish things up a little.

Look, glitches aside and less-than-inspiring dialogue,  Andromeda isn’t a bad game and I’ll likely stick it out for a few more hours just to see what happens but for me, it’s just not a great, must-buy-right-now game, and that’s kind of sad when you think about it.

 

 

 

My most anticipated games for E3 2015

Ten years ago this month, I went to my very first E3 gaming convention.

It was 2005, and I’d managed to convince my bosses at the metropolitan newspaper that I worked at in Christchurch, New Zealand, that  video games were a big thing and if the company was serious about keeping up with trends it needed to send me to E3, the huge three-day gaming show in Los Angeles.

It worked and after a few months of planning I jetted off to what would end up being a memorable experience, perhaps not so much for the games – I can’t actually remember much from that show – but for the memories:

  • Catching a taxi from the hotel I was staying at – The Standard in Hollywood (which was really quite average actually but one afternoon I saw actor Forrest  Whittaker milling about the lobby)  – with Alex Garden, the founder of Relic Entertainment. I didn’t realise it was him until he handed me his business card.
  • The incredibly sore feet after three days of running from hall to hall after realising that I should have left more time between appointments.
  • Seeing the game Stubbs the Zombie in action at a hotel near the LA Convention centre.
  • Chatting to Peter Molyneux and being swept away by his enthusiasm for the industry (it was to be the first of three interviews I did with him over the years).
  • Walking what seems like miles with James Burnett from Gameplanet in 2010 after we just decided to walk from Hollywood to somewhere. I can’t remember where we were going but a shop assistant was flabbergasted that we were contemplating walking rather than taking a taxi.

I ended up going to E3 two more times: In 2009, once again as correspondent for Fairfax NZ and The Press,  and in 2010 as part of the team for NZ gaming website Gameplanet, and each time I have fond memories of what happened and what I did probably more than the games.

Looking back on my trips to E3, part of me misses the noise, the buzz, the flash, but mostly I don’t. It’s a lot of hard work, especially if it’s just you, and frankly, a lot of the games on show are in a state that is quite different from the finished product. Besides, I’m too old to attend major gaming shows now.

This year, I don’t have a lot of anticipation for many games at E3 and I don’t know how really relevant it is any more, given that leaks are common place and one of this year’s major games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is already out.

Maybe I’m cynical, but I think that the gaming industry is in some sort of stagnation at the moment where re-masters are all the rage and the easy option for publishers.

That said, there are probably three games that I’m particularly keen to learn more about (and one that I hope will be announced). Here they are, in precise, particular order in terms of most anticipated.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Eidos)

What: Mankind Divided is the sequel (of sorts) to 2011’s DX Human Revolution, an action/stealth/RPG game set in a cyberpunk universe where human cybernetic implants and augmentations are all the rage. Set two years after Human Revolution, Mankind  Divided sees the return of gruff-voiced hero Adam Jensen.

Why: You’ve seen the latest trailer, right? Man, that captured my attention right away. How could you not be impressed by it? Deus  Ex Human Revolution is still one of my most loved games in the DX  series: I just love that cyberpunk setting, despite the game’s bosses being complete arseholes to defeat before they patched the game (it was later revealed that the boss battles were outsourced to another studio), and I loved that you could play it all guns blazing or creeping in the shadows, remaining unseen. I liked it so much I bought it on PC when it was on sale during a Steam sale. I have high hopes for this game.

Likelihood: It’s already been confirmed. We just need to see it in action

Mass Effect 4 (Bioware)

What: This game hasn’t been confirmed or officially announced (I don’t think) so this one is pure conjecture on my part, but [hopefully] Mass Effect 4 will be the sequel to one of the best series in the last  gaming generation, pitting the male/female Commander Shepard against a domination hungry race called the Reapers.

Why: I loved my time with Mass Effect 1 through to 3 [although, I must confess I didn’t actually have the stamina to finish ME1] and ME3 had some genuine contemplative moments where the fate of characters you’d interacted with for three games depended on your decisions. The ending [s] of Mass Effect 3 had gamers up in arms because it didn’t gel with decisions that they’d made but I didn’t have a problem with it. Rumours circulating the web indicate that ME4 will move away from the Shepard story arc, which will be welcome, but I really  hope ME4 tells us what happened to the Reapers.

Likelihood: Possibly but nothing has been confirmed. It would be nice, though.

[And one totally out of left field] A new Hitman game

What: The Hitman games are the ultimate for fans wanting to pretend they are an elite assassin. Featuring the bald-headed Agent 47, the Hitman games are well known  for giving gamers the ability to complete missions in a number of ways, using the environment to take out a target.

Why: I love Agent 47. He’s one of my most favourite game characters and while Hitman Absolution had flaws, I still played it  through to the end There are rumours that developer IO Interactive are planning a new Hitman game sometime this year [or announce one] so my anticipation levels are high for this one.

Likelihood: Nothing has been confirmed that it will be shown – yet – but IO Interactive have hinted that it’s working on a new game. I have high hopes.

While I was writing this I thought to myself “Oh, there will probably be more games as I watch the press conferences that I’m interested in” (I’m mildly interested in Fallout 4, but I didn’t like the previous games) but these are one that I’m really, really excited about and two that I hope happen.

Tell me what you’re most anticipated about from E3 this year.

DragonAge Inquisition: A game that steals time from me – but I’m not complaining

DragonAge Inquisition: Action RPG that is great fun.

DragonAge Inquisition: Action RPG that is great fun.

I’ve been meaning to write something about DragonAge Inquisition since, well, I first started playing it a couple of weeks and 25 hours ago, but every time I sat down, fingers poised over my keyboard, I was instead drawn to the DAI desktop icon, which I promptly clicked and started playing the game.

I think that action in itself says a great deal about what I think about Bioware’s latest action-RPG: That’s it’s good enough to distract me from writing some thoughts about it.

I’ve always liked Bioware’s games – and I didn’t even rage at the ending of Mass Effect 3 – but after playing the first two DragonAge games I wasn’t sure I’d be interested in the third in the series. I didn’t get as deeply involved in DA as I did ME but after a handful of hours with DAI, I was hooked.

dai_review10Inquisition is an action RPG  where the player controls a character of your own making, depending on the class you choose. I chose a mage and if I have one regret about things it’s that I rushed through the character creation menus a little too quickly, getting a rather generic character. If I have one piece of advice, it’s spend a bit of time getting your character just right: You’ll be playing him or her for dozens of hours so you want to be happy.

The game opens with your character appearing from a green rift in time, just one of many that has opened up along DAI’s game world. As you gain the trust of those around you, you’ll face off against demons, templars … and dragons, if you’re brave enough.

While the first few hours of DAI are fairly pedestrian, stick with it as after a while the game opens up and becomes truly stunning, especially once you reach the Storm Coast and recruit tough guy Iron Bull. Don’t rush from the opening Hinterlands, though: Take your time and explore, close fade rifts, do jobs for farmers, collect magical shards. Just take your time.

DA Inquisition is also a game where you can actually spend hours just doing side missions for the people of Thedas before you even tackle the main story missions. That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s a good way to build up your party’s skills as some of the demons and monsters can be quite tough.

It’s also amazing what you’ll stumble across as you explore the land. I came across a giant fighting a dragon while exploring the Storm Coast.  I get too close but I climbed a nearby hill and just watched the incredible feat. The first time I stumbled across a dragon my party was underpowered so was wiped out pretty quickly.

sep_2_-_quiversDA Inquisition’s combat can be as complex or as easy as you want thanks to the game letting you pause mid-battle to survey your surroundings and issue orders to your three squad mates. It’s a nice option but most of the time I just blasted foes in real-time with spells from my staff.

I’ve ready a few people have had problems with DAI – I’m playing it on PC – and have experienced once crash to desktop and a DX Diaglog error when I start a few missions using the war room. It’s apparently an Origin issue, so I’ll keep investigating.

Would I recommend DragonAge Inquisition? Wholeheartedly yes. It’s an amazing game that has set the bar high, as well as issued a challenge to CD Projekt Red’s now-delayed-again The Witcher 3 for the crown of best action RPG.

We’ll have to wait until May to see how The Witcher 3 stacks up.

Thanks to the team at EA Australia for the PC code that was used for this review