I didn’t intend to start the new Mass Effect just yet. The plan was to finish Horizon Zero Dawn, since I thought I was heading towards the finish, and then get to ME:A without feeling distracted.
But then I’d finally gotten HZD’s Shield Weaver armor, a set of armor so powerful it’s almost game-breaking, and decided that was as good a point as any to set HZD to the side and give ME:A a quick spin.
In the creative world, you can usually tell how someone is going to audition simply by how they walk into the room. When it comes to new books by new (to me) authors, I tend to give the author a chapter or two – not just to see if the story is interesting, but to see how the author uses language to tell that story. When I fire up my weekly Spotify Discovery playlist, I’ll give everything a very quick spin but if I’m not wowed immediately, I’ll skip ahead to the next track. (I feel comfortable doing that if only because there have been tons of songs that do, in fact, wow me immediately.)
When it comes to games, it’s a little bit trickier. I can forgive some technical jankiness here and there if the moment-to-moment gameplay experience is compelling, especially in big-budget AAA titles, if only because one expects those kinds of things to get patched. Even the day-one disaster of Assassin’s Creed Unity got better, eventually, though that game had larger issues than simple glitches.
So, then: I’d been doing my best to avoid any and all media concerning this new Mass Effect game, as I am a rabid ME junkie and wanted to go into this new game as unspoiled as possible. But I am also a human being who uses the internet from time to time, and so it was inevitable that certain, er, wonkiness would come to light.
But, uh… holy shit, the first twenty minutes of ME:A are a bit of a mess. Maybe it’s just the Xbox One version, but GODDAMN this game is janky as hell. I’ve played the original trilogy all the way through, twice, and I know how the game is supposed to feel in my hands, and ME:A feels completely alien to me. (To be fair, I have spent the last 30 hours playing HZD, which might affect this impression.) But more to the point, it is super-janky, even in places where you wouldn’t expect the hardware to be taxed all that much. Even the character customizer is kinda shitty.
I made it about 10-15 minutes into the first real planet-side mission before turning it off, somewhat in disgust. Tutorial pop-ups would flicker on and off so quickly that it was impossible to read – I still don’t know how to engage with ammunition pickups; combat feels very stiff, even by Mass Effect standards; the scanning mechanic is not explained particularly well and it’s very unclear how it’s supposed to work, and while I might be picking up certain resources by scanning I don’t know what I’ve picked up or why (which isn’t helped AT ALL by the fact that the in-game computer system that would explain this stuff is necessarily disconnected for narrative purposes).
I’ve decided to stick to the original plan, which is to finish HZD and wait for ME:A’s day-0ne patch. HZD is really good, you guys, I can’t emphasize that enough. I know everyone’s playing Zelda or whatever, but still: HZD is great. If nothing else, it’s raised the third-person action/adventure/RPG bar rather high, and ME:A’s first 20 minutes fell way short.