This time out you begin by choosing whether you’re a lady or a man called Ryder, daughter or son of a leading figure in an expedition to leave the Milky Way and start new lives in Andromeda. Using magic telescopes the various familiar races of Mass Effect were able to spot “golden planets” in the new galaxy, and setting out in massive ships called arks, each race shipping about 20,000 passengers, they set off on a six hundred year trip in cryo-tanks to reach the new lands. It says, “We can be anything, do anything!” If that’s the plan, the game isn’t showing its hand in this early section.
You’ll want to know about combat. It’s fine. It’s better than previous Mass Effects, because it’s been set free. You can still use your Biotic tricks like flinging people into their air, then popping off their head with your favourite gun, but now you can do it out in the open world rather than in some silly corridor. There are lots of ways to approach fighting, and you can spec up as a tank, a ninja or a ranged fighter, or a wizard, essentially. Enemy AI is nothing to get excited about – mostly they bob up and down behind cover – but then that’s true of every game ever.
The game throws #content at you in fistfuls, not pausing to tell you why or how you should care. You can craft absolutely bloody everything (which does afford the rather important ability to name your own equipment), from a madcap confusion of ludicrous curved lists that don’t scroll properly, where every action requires seventeen different clicks that confirm that you want to confirm that you want to craft the thing you don’t know if you need. You can gather minerals by exploring, and you need them for crafting or upgrades or whatever, and they’re so madly distributed.
Side quests feel like something from a 2004 Korean MMO. Just complete nothingness, running from map icon to map icon, scanning objects with your scanner when told to, and then AI companion SAM letting you know that, yup, the source of the defects has been found/animal has been captured/toddler reunited with rabid tiger, despite your actually doing nothing relevant to the tissue-thin narrative.
We’ll know by Monday. Meanwhile, if you want to, you can pay to play these first few hours via Origin Access and get at it on Thursday.