***No spoilers here!***
With Mass Effect: Andromeda right only a few days away from release (today if you are lucky enough to live in the US), I’ve found myself at a bit of a crossroads. A lot had changed in the five years since Mass Effect 3 debut, despite it being a pinnacle of gaming that displayed fluid and heavily detailed graphics, complicated and engaging character arcs and one of the most debated endings in video game history. The Mass Effect series struck a chord with me that I did not anticipate; how could a game touch my very soul? I’d never felt so inspired and ultimately part of something greater as I joined the wider Mass Effect community and welcomed Commander Shepard and co into my heart. But Andromeda is going to be something very different.
Set between ME 2 & 3, Andromeda begins with the best the Milky Way system has to offer: those taking part in the Andromeda Initiative. Soldiers, scientists, artists, craftsmen; anyone with any relevant skills needed to create a new home for the various Milky Way races. Bioware set the precedence that a lot will be riding on – yet again – humanity’s shoulders as we pioneer this initiative and that the lead pathfinders happen to be human, as opposed to our race being the last council race inducted into the ranks of the Spectres. Humanity’s place in the galaxy is being solidified and amplified by Commander Shepard in this timeline already, so it is fitting that humans should lead these explorers to pastures new.
Over the past five years, I have tried to remain as spoiler free as possible. Naturally, Bioware has made this exceptionally easy, as small pocket of information were sparsely released. Only since E3 last year has Bioware really upped the anti, particularly since November 7th, N7 day, last year. Since then, it’s been an almost constant stream of information, with the likes of IGN releasing the first few hours if gamely as reviewers and pro-website got their hands on the review copies. As I wrote this, Xbox and PC gamers can enjoy the first 10 hours of the story plus the multiplayer with EA and Origin Access. Spoilers for these crucial first few hours can be found en masse on YouTube, yet I have chosen to keep myself in the dark; not least of all because I’m on a flight to Berlin.
The hype for this game is ultimately very real; it has been an incredibly long five year wait. I have put hundreds of hours into replaying the original series, reading the books and even dabbling in some of the fanfiction to stem my excitement for more Mass Effect. This game promises to fine tune the combat, dialogue systems and fluidity of the game all the while maintaining an overall familiar feel that fans of the original trilogy can immediately identify with. We have already been introduced to a plethora of exciting and attractive characters that I can’t wait to romance the space suit off, though there are rumours that yet again we can’t romance any Krogan teammates, which comes as surprise to fans of all genders and sexualities loved romancing Iron Bull in Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Remaining spoiler free has been a difficult journey as I literally can’t sleep with excitement. I plan on doing a Twitch stream and my first attempt at an “unboxing” which will probably just be me crying with joy before the overwhelming frustration as it takes ten hours to install. I am fearful of the post- Andromeda lull, however, as I’m a bit of a loss in regards to what games to be excited for. Horizon Zero Dawn, Nioh, Nier: Automata and Breath of the Wild have all launched to outstanding receptions and I worry that Andromeda firstly won’t match the hype – it will for me, regardless – and that I’ll be in a gaming limbo: so many great games already released, with not a whole lot to look forward too. Admittedly, that’s a fault on my part; I haven’t bothered to look far enough beyond ME: A to know what’s coming except for Red Dead Redemption 2 at the end of the year.
Whilst remaining spoiler free has been relatively easy, one “spoiler” I haven’t managed to avoid is the apparent Gamergate related rage regarding the facial animations – particularly amongst human characters – and how it has been pinned on one woman, namely Allie Rose-Marie Leost. Until recently, she worked with EA and Bioware as the apparently lead facial animator and has several years’ experience doing just that. She has been slandered with accusations of sleeping her way to the top as if a woman can’t be good at her job and objectively attractive. Whether we think the facial animations look good or not, how many of us could turn around and do a better job? As opposed to ending passive-aggressive comments with a smiley emoji to appear less of a dick (quick note: it makes you appear even more like a total wipe) or being downright obnoxious and sexist.
I will probably defend Andromeda to the end, regardless of how it looks. One needs to consider that if the facial animations are the main or only agitator, then perhaps it’s because Bioware has produced one belter of a game; I guess I just need to wait until Thursday to find out.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on March 21st in the USA and March 23rd in Europe and the UK.