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.
"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."
"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.
"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.
i dont think ill ever get tired of trashing the new Mass Effect pic.twitter.com/jwXxdaRCtU— Nathan Ranney (@RatCasket) March 16, 2017
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 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.