I’m really not into Mass Effect Andromeda

The Mass Effect series has provided some of my favorite moments of my entire ‘video game life’ (even Mass Effect 3!). Up until last night I was incredibly excited for Mass Effect Andromeda, and thought for sure I would be buying the game. The only decision I had yet to make was whether I’d get it for the Xbox One or PC. However, the two hours I spent with the 10 hour EA Access trial last night has almost entirely dissuaded me from buying the game.

Right off the bat I found myself annoyed with the writing. Not only was the set up a bore, but the dialogue between characters, both during cut scenes and during background conversations was cringe worthy. At one point one of my squad mates uttered something to the effect of “Did that hurt? YEAH BECAUSE I SHOT YOU IN THE FACE!”. I almost shut the Xbox off right then and there, but I decided to keep trudging through to see if anything exciting would happen. It never did.

My time on the first planet felt like nothing but busy work. Run here, then here, then here, Scan some things. Shoot some things. On and on. I know this isn’t wildly different from the other games, but at least on those games there’s a real sense of purpose. The whole Pathfinder concept just comes across as cheesy, right from the start. The opening dialogue trying to make the journey to Andromeda seem like some “grand adventure” just made me cringe, and as I spent more time as Ryder I wished there was a button Nier Automata style to just shoot myself in the head and get a game over screen.

To make matters worse, the combat just feels sloppy. I found it difficult to line up shots (kind of slow, but all over the place at the same time) which sucked because I had been playing Mass Effect 3 all week and loving how solid the combat feels in that game. The guns and abilities feel like they have very little bite, and there’s no satisfying “pop” as you drop enemies like there is in Mass Effect 2 and 3.

Even worse than the combat are the textures, animations and voice acting. The first planet isn’t very pretty to look at (a darn shame after spending time with Horizon Zero Dawn or even Breath of the Wild), but beyond the art style there are some incredibly flat, muddy and ugly textures (the dark matter particularly). The animations have probably been ragged on enough by everyone else on the internet, and I could probably ignore them if it weren’t for the god awful voice acting. Some of it has been so bad that I nearly burst out laughing. Specifically, the first lines out of the female Turian’s mouth on the Nexus are horrendous. Shortly after speaking to her I had to turn the game off and boot up Mass Effect 3 instead, I couldn’t take it anymore. She’s not alone, however, as most of the characters sound like they were voiced by the developers themselves, blandly reading lines into a microphone with no enthusiasm or emotion.

Lastly, there are some really bad pop in issues, most noticeable while on the Nexus. As I found myself running into rooms, entire groups of NPC’s would pop in two or three seconds after I entered a room. Maybe this is a bug that gets fixed with a patch, maybe it’s a limitation of the Xbox One, but regardless, it really screws with any sense of immersion you might have.

Ultimately, I’m not even sure it’s worth my time to play another couple hours of the free trial. I feel like I’ve seen all I need to see. I don’t think I could take another minute of easily the second worst game I’ve played in 2017 (second only to Ghost Recon Wildlands, another game that suffers from some of the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard in a video game).

I don’t mean to hate on Mass Effect, I really wanted to love the game as much as I’ve loved the rest of the series, but I don’t think it’s possible at this point. At least I can take some relief in knowing that Andromeda was developed by an entirely different team than the original trilogy, and I think in the long run many will come to look at Andromeda as a sort of B-level spin off, rather than a continuation of such a great series.

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Destiny: The Taken King is a blast so far!

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Destiny’s third expansion The Taken King released today, a week after the 2.0 patch introduced a significant amount of changes to Destiny’s gameplay. I ordered the expansion and the $20 Collector’s Edition upgrade, and so far it seems like the purchase has been worth it.

I didn’t really play any Destiny after the 2.0 patch launched, so I was still level 32 when I jumped into the game earlier today. With the level cap raised to 40, I decided to it would be worth checking out the House of Wolves quests I had never finished in order to get some experience. Even though much of my time spent in Destiny since the Taken King release has been spent with older content, I still feel the impact the newest expansion has made. Earning experience instead of hoping to get the right loot to increase light level feels great. I also thoroughly enjoyed the House of Wolves quests as I finished the quest line and gained a handful of levels in the process. Not only was I leveling, but I also came across a ton of Taken King gear along the way (mostly greens and blues). It felt great to see so many engrams flying all over the place as I blasted my way through enemies.

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Sorry for the quality of the screenshots, I was streaming to Windows 10 and couldn’t take any in game screenshots while doing so.

Once I did get to the Taken King content, it blew me away. The cut scenes, music and voice acting are all phenomenal. I had never experienced something so well produced during my time with Destiny previously, and I was literally in awe. I had also never been as excited while completing story content in Destiny.

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The new locations are visually pleasing and the new enemies are a blast to fight. They introduce new mechanics that are exciting to encounter. I’ve only completed the first story quest and the Sunbreaker quest but both were an absolute blast. In fact, the Sunbreaker quest is my favorite Destiny story mission by far. Unleashing the power of the new subclass was incredibly thrilling alongside the epic music and relentless onslaught of enemies. I can’t wait to see what else the new subclass has to offer.

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So far I’m loving The Taken King, and can’t wait to spend more time with it!