For my first ever Blog review, lets start with a game that is... controversial in its quality. But before we begin, let me qualify my post with certain facts first that may or may not influence your perceived credibility of my review.
I did not purchase the game for myself, having lost general interest in the Mass Effect series as a whole. I purchased it for my partner, who is a big Mass Effect fangirl, and did not initially plan on playing it. I also bought it on PS4, since my partner's PC set up did not meet minimum requirements and I did not want an EA game contaminating mine. I started playing it after my partner had ditched it to play through the original Mass Effect trilogy instead, and I must admit I went in with a cynical eye. There are certain aspects that I had wanted to see the return of, since they were what I wanted a Mass Effect game to bring back, but I also did not expect them to implement them satisfactory.
Once you start a game, one of the first things you'll encounter is the character generator. While I managed to create a reasonable looking character the options seemed rather restrictive and strangely enough one of the difficulties I found was trying to dial back the hipster look. Most of the hairs and beards are the kinda things you expect douchebags in Starbucks to have, but then Mass Effect 3 had turned into some sort of weird episode of Jersey Shore so this kind of thing seems to be a common feature of Bioware games now. You get to also choose your sibling's appearance too as well if you want, and whether Shepard was male or female (but that's it). Starting the game, you then have about ten minutes worth of cutscenes to get through before finally geting control of your character, which is also the point you start to notice certain issues.
If you have been following this game in the news at all, you have surely heard of the controversy surrounding the animations and the appearances of characters, and there is something definitely off about them. This is NOT due to uncanny valley issues, some have claimed this and it is not the problem, as the characters quite often don't even look or move right, one character moving her lips energetically while the rest of her face and body remains rigid for instance. I dispute the claims of some that there was some sort of "SJW agenda" that was going around, as the shittiness seems to afflict everything here equally. The simple fact that the real problem is that the game was clearly unfinished when it was released and even with the patches its still not at what I would consider release-quality. This game, when I played it, was still in Beta or possibly even Alpha state at release, and its not just the animations as I will soon cover.
The locations are also very... bland. Even when you get to the jungle planet or are roaming around in the NOMAD, there just doesn't seem to be anything that stands out, which is a major failing in this game that runs through a lot of its features. The NOMAD works fine, I was always a fan of the MAKO though so I was happy to see the ground vehicle exploration bit return. Just a shame that the planets are just so... dull! And then missions make you go back and forth between them retreading the land you just travelled for like half the game! Which is another problem: for a game on space exploration there are about five or six planets to explore...
Now, the story. Dear god the story: I don't know what they were doing here but the further it goes on the more you go "Huh??" Seriously, this is again another symptom of "Too early" I think as the story seems incoherent and gets more incoherent as the game goes on. It's like you are playing a tabletop roleplay game where the GM has no clue what he's doing and is making shit up as he goes along. Oh, and at the start you cannot understand the aliens you encounter and its a big deal that no one knows what they want, then suddenly they start to speak English with no explanation, as if the devs went "Yeah, we can't be arsed with that anymore". The new friendly race you encounter, I can't remember their name (which tells you a lot of how memorable I found them) but not the bad guy race called Kett, the other one that is obnoxious in how they are portrayed as being awesome despite being some of the most uninspired shit around. Every moment you spend with them I kept thinking "When can I go back to dealing with Asari and Krogan please?" They were obviously the developers' pet favourite race, yet all you feel when dealing with them is "Where's the cool funky aliens like the Hanar or Elcor?" The thing that got me the most was how the game felt like it was pretending to be a Mass Effect game. I read a quote somewhere that pretty much summed up the issue: that the game felt like someone had copied someone elses homework and changed things around without really understanding what it was they were doing. It felt often like people doing their best Turian or Asari impression. The human female companion pretty much being a wannabe-Asari is pretty symbolic of this I guess.
The actual gameplay: there is potential here. Rather than the rigid classes of the previous installments you instead have the freedom to take any skill you want, and set up profiles (named after the classes of old) that give you bonuses and selects the skills you want to use. Unfortunately, again it feels released too early: the skills are not balanced against each other, and despite the game wanting you to feel free to spread your focus around the three fields (Combat, Tech, and Biotics), you feel penalised for spreading too much, especially since each profile limits you to THREE (3) active skills you can use per profile, and swapping profiles puts everything on cooldown. Add to this the further issue that the interface is horribly configured and setting up favourite profiles and switching between them in combat is a chore and you can again see the "unfinished" feature pop up again.
Overall, while I got some enjoyment from it, the more you play it the more frustrating it becomes, both in playing and in story. After a few days of playing, I suddenly realised that I could play and finish off the Witcher 3, a game that has been out for two years now and which I had to play through again because of having lost all my saves when my hard drive died, and yet it still pulled me away from this game and I have not looked back. This game could have had the potential to draw me back to the Mass Effect franchise, there were many things that it brought to the table such as the fresh start to the setting, the return of ground exploration, a lighter story etc that should have made it a hit with me, but they failed. I didn't want to hate this game, on the contrary I liked so many IDEAS they had in the game, and I really don't hate this game, but due to the unfinished nature of this game I cannot recommend it at full price and I found the end result to be "bleh".
The Jazz Score: 4/10
The Jazz Statement: Bleh