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Are Mass Effect Andromeda's Opening Hours Really That Bad? (Yeah, Kind Of)

Kat weighs in with her own experiences and cautions people against judging a game by its opening.

Analysis by Kat Bailey, .

Well here we go: Mass Effect Andromeda is still a week away, but fans are already savaging its graphics and writing following some... um... mixed reactions to its opening hours.

Here's a small sampling of the articles that have been circulating around the web over the past couple days.

Rock Paper Shotgun

"The first few hours of Andromeda are a gruesome trudge through the most trite bilge of the previous three games, smeared out in a setting that’s horribly familiar, burdened with some outstandingly awful writing, buried beneath a UI that appears to have been designed to infuriate in every possible way."

PC Gamer

"Andromeda starts off in the worst way possible, barely introducing you to a brother and father you’re supposed to care about before putting them in grave danger, then handing you the Pathfinder torch in typical Bioware 'you're the chosen one' fashion. First contact devolves into a gunfight within seconds, and the big alien threat are goofy rock-faced bad guys who we know next to nothing about other than their ships are big and make scary sounds. On top of it, the first real mission in distant space takes place on a planet that could pass for Arizona at a glance. It’s big, angular, and requires solving Sudoku puzzles to interact with. At four or so hours in, Andromeda hasn’t given me a single reason to keep playing."

Others have been a bit kinder to it.

Eurogamer

"Andromeda's story, after five years on the boil at BioWare, leaps through the narrative hoops needed to refresh the series. I've just finished a playthrough of the original Mass Effect trilogy, and boy did those games end in a dark place. Switching back to Andromeda after the hell of a galaxy under attack, BioWare's new take on the series' future is simply a more enjoyable place to be. It's brighter in look and tone, unbound by much of the series' baggage - story-wise, Andromeda is just what was needed."

Fan reaction has been very negative, focusing in large part on the somewhat questionable character models. "Maybe Andromeda is secretly about robots disguised as humans and aliens trying to colonize the new galaxy. Maybe that's why their expressions are so off," one Reddit user wrote.

Suffice it to say, Mass Effect Andromeda isn't even out yet and it's already getting a lot of heat. It's a case study in how a piecemeal embargo can end up blowing up in your face.

Unfortunately for BioWare, Mass Effect Andromeda's opening really is pretty weak. As I watched the the Pathfinder's crew of pioneers bumble about in the midst of what was supposed to be chaos, I found myself thinking about Mass Effect 2's much stronger and more intense take on the same situation. In Mass Effect 2, it feels like the world is basically coming to an end as the Collectors appear and carve up the Normandy like a roast. It immediately sets up the Collectors as a formidable and terrifying adversary, and it makes for an intense few moments as Shepard staggers through the burning remains of her ship before finally falling to her death. It's a hell of a hook, making Mass Effect 2's bookends some of the strongest in the series.

By contrast, Andromeda's opening moments feel weirdly sedate, featuring none of the intensity of Mass Effect's other introductions. What should be a creepy trek through the abandoned Nexus manages to be completing lacking in atmosphere. There's none of the excitement and danger you would expect from your first step into a foreign galaxy.

The kett, who are... yeah.

The main problem, I think, is that Andromeda isn't daring enough with its setting. Its villains, the mysterious kett, lack the presence of previous villains like the Geth, the Reapers, and the Collectors. The Remnant feel like the Protheans: Mass Effect's previous stab at a forerunner species. Even the Tempest's crew feels in large part like reheated leftovers from the original game. Nakmor Drack is a grumpy old krogan with a taste for battle. Gee, I wonder where we've seen that before?

For all its problems, though, Andromeda's opening hours also hint at something bigger. Eos is a vast planet, and there are many more like it peppered around the Heleos Cluster. A glance at the character customization reveals a return to the RPG elements fans have been craving: skills trees, crafting, character classes that can be leveled up, and more. It suggests that Mass Effect Andromeda deserves a chance, even if it gets off on the wrong foot.

That's the problem with judging the first few hours of a game off streams and comments. Games like Mass Effect Andromeda are massive, and their opening hours aren't always indicative of how they'll ultimately turn out. How many games have you played that had a mindblowingly good opening, but ultimately fell apart in the second half? Ghoulish character models aside, I'm not sure Andromeda's opening hours are representative of the whole game. Dragon Age Inquisition certainly deserved better than to be judged on the Hinterlands.

Unfortunately for BioWare, there's been a rash of really good games recently, and many people are apt to take one look at the opening and say, "No thanks." But as for judging the game as a whole, I'd say people might want to hold their fire and wait until the reviews hit next week.

The First Mass Effect is a Great Game Not Just for its Time, But for All Time

THE MASS EFFECT TRILOGY REVISITED: In the first of our three essays revisiting the Mass Effect trilogy, contributor Doc Burford makes an argument for the original game being the best.

Mass Effect 2's Final Mission Was the Apex of the Series

MASS EFFECT REVISITED: Why the grand finale still hasn't been topped.

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 41

  • Avatar for SargeSmash #1 SargeSmash 8 months ago
    Some absolute classic games have really slow starts. Suikoden II immediately comes to mind. And one of the greatest RPGs of all time, Knights of the Old Republic, is rather boring for the first eight hours or so. I'm not too worried yet.

    (As for a non-classic, Infinite Undiscovery's opening is one of the worst I've ever played (bad stealth sequence, bad escape sequence, bad escort sequence, all at the start!) but ended up pretty solid overall once the first few hours are done.)
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #2 NateDizzy 8 months ago
    I feel bad for those who had Andromeda at the top of their "most anticipated" list. It's always a bummer to hear the game you've been looking forward to isn't turning out to be the bee's knees. Still, if Persona 4 and the Trails of... series has taught me one thing, it's that a slow start isn't indicative of the full experience. However, I gotta say those face animations (or lack thereof) are nightmare fuel. Please tell me that's not the final build. All in all, I think I'll wait a few months before even considering picking up Andromeda. It's not like I'm lacking for options in 2017.Edited March 2017 by NateDizzy
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  • Avatar for Thad #3 Thad 8 months ago
    I never got around to playing ME3 because I wasn't interested in signing up for an Origin account. Sounds like the series peaked at 2 anyway.
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  • Avatar for gigantor21 #4 gigantor21 8 months ago
    If EA didn't want people judging it by the opening, then they should've have allowed the press to do previews for it--or, alternately, ONLY do previews for the opening instead of giving them more time with the game. Plus the hideous animations would be a problem no matter how much of the game was shown.
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  • Avatar for Thad #5 Thad 8 months ago
    @SargeSmash Odd, I'd say Suikoden 2 is the only game in the series that *doesn't* have a slow start. False flag, mass murder, chase, jump off a cliff...it's pretty exciting stuff .

    Granted, it goes from there to tidying up a basement. But the opening is plenty engaging.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #6 Kat.Bailey 8 months ago
    @nimzy I've played my share of RPGs that start off really slowly before significantly heating up. Hell, some Zelda games too (side-eyes Twilight Princess)
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #7 brionfoulke91 8 months ago
    Well... seeing as how I find the original Mass Effect games to be overrated, I can't imagine possibly liking anything about the new one.

    But hey, it's okay people. We already have our sci-fi classic game of the year, it's called NieR Automata, and it's fabulous! Let's not be greedy!
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #8 chaoticBeat 8 months ago
    I reeeally reeeeeeeally hope that the single player adventure pans out. Regardless, the multiplayer looks crackin' and was one of my favorite parts of 3! Excellent coop. :3
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  • Avatar for edwardc.wilson66 #9 edwardc.wilson66 8 months ago
    Yeah, we all know any new game has to be perfect right out of the box or it sucks and no one will ever play it.

    *sigh*

    The original Mass Effect wasn't perfect right out of the box. It too started slow. So may other really good RPGs started slow. How many people today would look at KOTOR or Baldur's Gate and say 'OMG THESE ARE EPIC!' They started slow and ended big. How many want to wait that long to start ranting? Too few.

    Yes, the game has problems. Yes, the animations are wonky. Yes, the AI needs help. Yes, people on the internet are people on the internet.

    Frankly? I have a crappy PC and I couldn't care less that my FPS is tanking. I am having fun. Not everyone will. I bought it knowing it couldn't possibly live up to the sheer level of hype and I couldn't care less.

    Then again, I didn't really MIND the ending of ME3, so I must just be stupid. Maybe I am. But I am going to play the HELL out of this game anyway.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #10 brionfoulke91 8 months ago
    @edwardc.wilson66 Well it doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be fun... or interesting... or original in some way. If it doesn't do any of those things in the first few hours, then you can't blame people for putting it down.
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  • Avatar for sketchlayerjosh #11 sketchlayerjosh 8 months ago
    That's a real shame. To be honest, after Drew Karpyshyn left the series, the writing in Mass Effect had...problems. Varied opinions on the ending aside, ME3 was able to carry the momentum of the characters and scenario that had been built before it, but the dialogue itself became very...rote? I guess, would be the word? Lots of very melodramatic "We have to do this! To Save the Earth!" lines that lacked the nuance or texture of the previous games. Sort of like the difference between the first two X-Men movies and the third one.

    Hopefully things improve in the subsequent hours! It'd be awful if Bioware came up with some great systems, but the story got away from them. But also! Bioware has become the bastion for "progressive" games, and right now there are tons of angry people on the internet who are upset any time someone suggests something crazy like gay people being allowed to exist. They're probably looking for any reason at all to hate the new ME. So I'll probably stick with trusted review sites (like US Gamer) and try to avoid the "general buzz."Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2017 by sketchlayerjosh
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  • Avatar for swamped #12 swamped 8 months ago
    "Unfortunately for BioWare, there's been a rash of really good games recently[.]"

    Yeah if the game ends up getting trashed, I think this is going to be the nail in the coffin. Just really bad timing.
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #13 chaoticBeat 8 months ago
  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #14 NiceGuyNeon 8 months ago
    A weak start hasn't dampened a truly stellar experience for me, but first impressions are arguably as important, if not moreso, than a big explosive finale.
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  • Avatar for Totalninja #15 Totalninja 8 months ago
    I actually really enjoy a good slow burn. What's alarming to me is the thought that the writing and the animations could prevent me from getting immersed, which would ruin the game. Failing to get people emotionally invested is death for a story driven game.

    I'll withhold judgement until the release, but I'm not filled with confidence.
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  • Avatar for ojinnvoltz #16 ojinnvoltz 8 months ago
    I liked PC Gamer's preview where they had 5 editor's sharing their thoughts. 2/5 liked it, the rest are gonna stick it out. I already decided to put Andromeda on the waiting list because Nier: Automata, Persona 5, and Prey. I'm hoping it doesn't sell that well so there's a price drop by the time I get it.
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  • Avatar for descent303 #17 descent303 8 months ago
    @edwardc.wilson66

    "Then again, I didn't really MIND the ending of ME3, so I must just be stupid. Maybe I am. But I am going to play the HELL out of this game anyway."

    I'm totally with you, this is going to be a day one purchase for me regardless of what people say about it. However, that doesn't mean the early impressions aren't disappointing. The characters should really look better than they do, and I'm worried that they've taken some of the worst aspects of DA:I.

    I'll put it this way, I don't think there's anything that could put me off getting this game, but a series of missteps here could definitely put me off the next Bioware game. Similar to how removing dedicated servers made me concerned for MW2 but didn't stop me from buying it. MW2 did however stop me from buying any further Infinity Ward games.
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  • Avatar for descent303 #18 descent303 8 months ago
    @edwardc.wilson66

    "Then again, I didn't really MIND the ending of ME3, so I must just be stupid. Maybe I am. But I am going to play the HELL out of this game anyway."

    I'm totally with you, this is going to be a day one purchase for me regardless of what people say about it. However, that doesn't mean the early impressions aren't disappointing. The characters should really look better than they do, and I'm worried that they've taken some of the worst aspects of DA:I.

    I'll put it this way, I don't think there's anything that could put me off getting this game, but a series of missteps here could definitely put me off the next Bioware game. Similar to how removing dedicated servers made me concerned for MW2 but didn't stop me from buying it. MW2 did however stop me from buying any further Infinity Ward games.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #19 NiceGuyNeon 8 months ago
    @edwardc.wilson66 I don't see how the first Mass Effect had a slow start. It has a very compelling start, actually. You're sent on a mission that goes awry, humans are turned to husks, a Spectre is a traitor and no one believes you and you have to prove it to begin your manhunt (alien hunt, whatever).

    It's actually a textbook example of how to have a wonderful start to a game, and the world building of an entire series.

    That doesn't necessarily mean Andromeda will suck because of a slow start. Games have started slow and snowballed into glorious chaos like in Spec Ops: The Line but I think the issue we are seeing here is that people are not finding the start interesting.

    One of the most important things about the Mass Effect trilogy is that it is constantly interesting and intriguing.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #20 NiceGuyNeon 8 months ago
    Deleted March 2017 by NiceGuyNeon
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #21 NiceGuyNeon 8 months ago
    Deleted March 2017 by NiceGuyNeon
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #22 Ohoni 8 months ago
    I enjoy the gameplay and the story is interesting enough so far, none of that bothers me, but the character creator is absolute trash, and no game developer should feel good about himself for releasing such a thing in 2017.

    Even very basic options like being able to change the shape and color of the eyebrows are off the table, you cannot change the shape of the nose at all, just it's size and position on the face. the hair all looks like dayglow plastic, with no real shading to it at all. it's just preposterously poor.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #23 link6616 8 months ago
    @NiceGuyNeon I never did get into ME1 that deeply, but that first mission really is a nice start.
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #24 TheWildCard 8 months ago
    @NiceGuyNeon A very good point.

    Most rpgs start slow, but there's a lot people looking to write off Bioware at this point, a bad first impression isn't helping. I'd be more worried about the facial models/animations. Because if they are representative... yikes.
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  • Avatar for camchow #25 camchow 8 months ago
    Playing through the demo and just got to part where you get the new Mako (it's name escapes me, whoops). So far it's been... hmm. OK. Hints of greatness held back by some really strange design choices (only 3 active abilities? wtf) and honestly pretty bad facial animations. I feel like the main crew isn't too bad but all the other NPCs are just bad. Idk, maybe it wouldn't look and feel bad last gen but I've been spoiled with games that DO have great faces and animations. Idk. Game feels a bit rushed but I'm going to keep at the demo. I really do love how mobile you are in this game compared to the other Mass Effects, LOVE the jet boosts.

    It's been fun over all minus the bit where you are walking around the station. Idk, maybe it's the lighting or sound design but the station this time around feels so boring, I just had to get off of there as soon as possible.
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  • Avatar for orient #26 orient 8 months ago
    I love the original Mass Effect trilogy (3 was silly in parts but no where near as bad as people make it out to be), but I must admit...I'm glad I have another three dungeons waiting for me in Zelda (took me 30 hours to do my first one - better pick up the pace) and a Resident Evil 7 save to go back to. That's roughly a month of incredible gaming before I can even think about Mass Effect, and hopefully by then it has received a patch to fix some of the more terrible animations, backwards guns etc.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #27 SargeSmash 8 months ago
    @Thad : True, after a rousing start, it takes about ten hours or so to get going again.
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  • Avatar for MyNameIsMe #28 MyNameIsMe 8 months ago
    Does it make me a bad person that I'm kind of glad Mass Effect isn't that great? I still need to finish Horizon Zero Dawn. I'm just starting to dig into Breath of the Wild. Nier is still in its shrink wrap, Torment is in my download queue, and we're a few weeks away from Persona 5. I was worried Mass Effect was going to launch to "Best game in the series!" accolades, and then I'd have to quit my job.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #29 NiceGuyNeon 8 months ago
    @TheWildCard yeah the animations are pretty iffy. That's really not promising for a series where conversations play such an important role to the experience.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #30 SargeSmash 8 months ago
    @NTWHA : Probably a bit too early to make that call... although I understand the sentiment. I'm knee-deep in Zelda, want to get HZD and NieR, and also want to play this! And that's not counting everything I dropped for Zelda...
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  • Avatar for jakeryan96 #31 jakeryan96 8 months ago
    They should have never released it early and then had an embargo. The loss in sales they are going to experience as a result of this stupidity should serve as a warning sign to other companies considering doing things this way. The internet trolls decided to take it upon themselves and bash the game even though they experienced what like five hours of the single player campaign and barely got out of the starting area? Either let the press review the full game or don't let them review any of it. This piecemeal approach is moronic.
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  • Avatar for camchow #32 camchow 8 months ago
    @jakeryan96 idk man, I appreciate this approach. Worked for Nioh. I would have never thought to buy that game if it wasn't for their pre-release demos. I'm glad I got to try Mass Effect before it's release next week. Still on the fence if I'll get it or not though.

    I think it is just that the product they are releasing isn't the best it could be. Sure it might be a mistake on their part to share that with everyone but I'd rather them stumble like this than hide away reviews until launch day.
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  • Avatar for Rocjames77 #33 Rocjames77 8 months ago
    @NateDizzy lucky for me Persona 5 is the only game that's very high on my list. Now if that game sucks, than I might have to take up stamp collecting
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  • Avatar for Rocjames77 #34 Rocjames77 8 months ago
    @Thad the multiplayer in ME3 was some of the best I've ever experienced. I recommend going back and playing them, because both are great games
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  • Avatar for livliv #35 livliv 8 months ago
    one of the best games
    agario hacks
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #36 Nuclear-Vomit 8 months ago
    Game will turn out fine..... as long as I get to punch out annoying reporters.
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  • Avatar for dard410 #37 dard410 8 months ago
    Unfortunately, this seems like the natural culmination of the trend in making open-world games big, BIG, bigger than any other game before, etc. Bioware kept bragging about how this game was so large, had so many voice actors, etc. Unfortunately, there's often a tradeoff between quality and quantity (exception: Witcher 3). By focusing so much on quantity, I'm worried Bioware didn't put as much care into the little things that make the ME games great. I'm seeing this problem not only with the animations and the opening storytelling, but also the music (really bland) and the dialogue choices (not much better than ME3). I think gaming needs to rebalance and put more emphasis on quality than quantity.
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  • Avatar for Thad #38 Thad 8 months ago
    @SargeSmash I'd say the assassination in Muse is where it really gets rolling. That's less than ten hours, isn't it? It's been ages.

    Could be worse. Suikoden 3's slow burn takes *30* hours before the game gets exciting.
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  • Avatar for joshrogers36 #39 joshrogers36 8 months ago
    @NateDizzy I am one of those for sure. Ever since their first E3 showing I was insanely excited. After what I am seeing though I am super worried. Thankfully, I have learned my lesson on buying season passes before playing the game years ago, and wont do that for ANY title anymore including ME: Andromeda, but MAN I want this game to be great but I don't have time for it to be a game that "gets good" 30 hours in lol. Too many new titles I have not played yet to spend what little time I have waiting for Mass Effect to get good.
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  • Avatar for TheSensationalSean #40 TheSensationalSean 8 months ago
    Luckily, I have Breath of the Wild to hold me over until the dust settles on this one. The ME trilogy is amazing, so I'll end up playing this regardless.
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  • Avatar for erikstutzman #41 erikstutzman 8 months ago
    Isn't that like disliking the first couple of bites of a meal and being to just keep eating, that disgusting taste in your mouth will get better (or you will at least get used to it)?

    Why should a poor-to-terrible opening be accepted any more than a game that falls apart in the second half?
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #42 SargeSmash 8 months ago
    @Thad : Yeah, Suikoden III is slow. It's my least favorite game in the series, honestly.
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  • Avatar for Thad #43 Thad 8 months ago
    @SargeSmash Worse than 4?

    I actually like 3 once it gets going. But there's no way I would have stuck with it through those first 30 hours if the first two games hadn't already earned it the benefit of the doubt.

    It also felt like it was really ramping up the world-building and an overarching plot for the series was really getting going. Pity that the remaining games in the series were prequels and never really followed up.
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