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'Mass Effect: Andromeda' expectations wobble after previews go live

Official material for 'Mass Effect: Andromeda' has emphasised galactic exploration. — BioWare/Electronic Arts/AFP pic
Official material for 'Mass Effect: Andromeda' has emphasised galactic exploration. — BioWare/Electronic Arts/AFP pic

SAN FRANCISCO, March 18 — In the week before its release, early impressions of “Mass Effect: Andromeda” are setting the scene for what could be a rough launch, though those troubles could fade in context of broader reviews.

Canada-headquartered studio network BioWare is well known two franchises in particular: The medieval fantasy era “Dragon Age,” and the sci-fi space opera “Mass Effect.”

Released in 2007, the debut “Mass Effect” marked BioWare's first foray into original, long-lasting franchise development, and their first release as part of publishing giant Electronic Arts.

Continuing a role-playing tradition exemplified by “Baldur's Gate” and “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” (both previous BioWare games, as it happens), “Mass Effect” delivered regularly-occurring combat, detailed characterisation, choice-driven conversations, and visual and audio spectacle in abundance.

As first in the award-winning franchise, it necessarily left a lot to the imagination — something that, in retrospect, could have worked to its advantage: A whole galaxy was out there, and who knew how its multi-threaded storyline could possibly conclude?

Ten years on and those with advance copies of “Mass Effect: Andromeda” have been allowed to share opinions on the game's first few hours before review embargos lift on March 20, while the first “ME:A” missions are being offered five days early to EA Access and Origin Access subscribers who, naturally, can livestream and gif it to their heart's content.

But the early word hasn't lined up with expectations, as scripted dialogue and character animations have come in for a particular hammering.

Visual design is excellent, with texture and detail applied to gorgeous environments and principal characters, taking them beyond those of 2012's “Mass Effect 3,” and combat has been punched up a notch, a welcome improvement to one of the franchise's core elements.

Such qualities make the lack of advancement in facial animation, still equivalent to that of 2007's “Mass Effect” in one comparison, plus various bugs, glitches, and walk cycle oddities all the more jarring.

So too is the apparent degradation in characterisation and script, as the “Andromeda” crew of experts speak in too-obvious generalities and motivational platitudes.

A title the size and scope of “Andromeda” will have its launch issues, of course, leaving plenty of game time for these stumbles to become incidental; reviews published upon release should bring a fuller picture. — AFP-Relaxnews

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