So, I decided to give Andromeda a whirl, as it comes out next week. Because Origin is a weird beast, anyone who pays for Origin Access gets a 10 hour trial (started yesterday) and gets 10% off any purchases through Origin (at least in the US), so this basically pays for itself. My trial time has come to a close, so I thought I'd talk about it.
One of the other reasons I'm opted to do the trial, was their recommended specs seemed kind of crazy. I've got a fairly modern system, but when they were gibbering about a 3 gig Nvidia 1060 and 16 gigs of memory, I decided to give it some testing. Basically when I got my current system, FO4 and Witcher 3 were the most demanding things on the horizon, so I built it to handle those (amongst other things a 6 gig 980ti and 16 gigs of memory). Andromeda also shares an engine with Battlefield 1, so anyone who can run that should be fine. Anyway, after 10 hours I have my answer: my system runs it fine. And it was bug free, no crashes or anything like that. It doesn't like alt-tabbing though, and wanted an updated driver.
So from a technical side, no problems. Animations are smooth (and pretty impressive with all the jump jets and climbing on ledges and whatnot- they did a good job). I've noticed a lot of gripes about the art style on various videos of the game- happily it doesn't bother me, but the facial style sometimes feels a bit Pixar or Disney-ish. Well, except for the crazy eyes in conversations. Whatever tech they're using to simulate facial reactions is pretty good, but the eyes often track to weird places and not the person they're talking to. Dunno if it's the programming reacting to someone walking by out of shot, but it comes off as the character is either crazy or a terrible liar with a horrible poker face.
Gunplay is good, and a big change from the static cover squatting you'd expect from the ME trilogy. You can still do that, but beasties run around cover, and humanoid enemies wander in on drop ships from time to time. Luckily running isn't on a limit, the jump jets allow you to take superior positions, and there are powers that allow you to make your own temporary cover (until you get cloaking if that tickles your fancy). The weapon inventory is somewhat like ME3, where you mix and match weapons and have to deal with a weight limit, except you only get two slots to start with (and can level that particular passive ability to get more slots and weight discounts). And there are also melee weapons. Which are sometimes just blades temporarily manifested from your omni-tool. It's fun, but a bit more challenging than most ME combat (except the end missions for 3 or the side missions in 1 with a big room and ~10 enemies), as the game will spring stuff on you.
There are also a crazy amount of environmental effects. The first mission has lightning all over the place and a... spoiler thing... generating a lot of atmospheric noise at intervals, and other noises from other sources in various place. So I at least found myself reacting to noises just in case they might be enemies. Sometimes they were atmospheric. Sometimes they were NPCs companions, climbing, using jump jets and grunting as they got around obstacles (the jets basically allows for a completely setting-reasonable pathfinding cheat). It can be distracting, but feels a bit more real.
Speaking of the companions, I found myself pleased by most of them (all companions but the Andromeda native(s) have been introduced, though not all are joinable...yet). Even the default companions are much improved over the usual fair of mopey and boring that usually characterizes Bioware starting buddies. The one I was dreading was less annoying than I had expected (at least in the small dose so far), and the other is actually full of fire, and seems fun. The krogan is probably going to be the most boring, unless he suddenly offers something other than 'be krogan' as a hook, which is fun but nothing new or particularly intriguing at this stage. Fun introduction though.
Sadly the trial area is not only timed, but there is a door beyond which you can't pass, which effectively seals progress (I tried very hard to get around it, as there were other areas that I could travel to, but for...reasons... weren't viable). But you get the opening sequence, the initial mission (which goes Bioware, as you'd expect), meeting up with the Nexus (temporary 'home,' effectively the Citadel) at which point the NPCs and side-quests rather open up. It felt a bit overwhelming for a moment but in a fun and very appropriate way. After a bit of running around (or none, if you feel like skipping it for the time being), you can set off into space. There are four systems to visit and the first real mission planet (beyond the 'tutorial/intro planet'). A bit of probing and scanning, and some are definitely worth visiting just for the visuals. The sights in the Andromeda galaxy are something to see.
I tidied up all the sidequests I could: got one left, which lacks convenient waypoints of 'go-here-next,' but there are a few others that extend beyond the bounds of the trial area. Which is good, as it means I don't have to go back to the Nexus to pick up more sidequests once the game unlocks for real. Happily you can pick up the save where the trial leaves off.
Also there is crafting. Lots of crafting. This can be good or bad depending on perspective (I find the scanning tool interesting and informative), but the good thing is there are multiple ways of getting resources, including npc missions that reward them, or just buying them. As well as scanning from orbit, finding resource nodes on planet or just finding them in loot containers. The buying is particularly important as some are far more common than others. Titanium, for example is something I desire greatly, because its the only thing holding me back from a new helmet. And I really, really want to replace my current style of helmet...
Sometimes the help messages (particularly on the tutorial planet or when a new game concept is introduced) go away absurdly fast.
Your father and twin. Yeah, story. And spoilerific storytelling devices. Don't care. Mostly they act as a writer imposed limit on who your character can be. I don't really want them, and they feel like a crutch so the writers can tell the story they want to tell... it isn't a problem yet, but ME3 is a cautionary tale of what happens when Bioware writers force Their Story into what is ostensibly a player-driven narrative.
Savior Complex. This game has it in spades. Don't expect anyone to do or accomplish anything. If you don't do it personally, it looks like it will never, ever get done.
Not as relentlessly grimdark (or grimderp) as the previous games. Things are bad, even extraordinarily bad, but there is a sense of exploration and challenges to be overcome rather than, well, an endless cycle of destruction for no sane raisin.
Not monochrome. It was a stylistic choice, but the ME trilogy was almost relentlessly monochrome, largely grey in 1 and 3, and brown in 2. That has gone away, and areas are a lot more interesting. As a bonus, nothing feels like a mini-dungeon that you spawn in and then are auto-teleported back home at the end of the level.
Options, options, options. I don't think much of the profiles, but it's very easy to swap between abilities, customize weapons and even change outfit colors. Points spent are permanent [well: you can actually go to your ship's medbay and pay credits to respec], but you can easily set up a playstyle, specialize in it to a ridiculous degree and play the character how you want to. For example, I'm leaning very tech specialist with no biotics and largely only combat passives (bonuses with certain weapons, and general health/shield/equipment benefits). I unlocked tactical cloak near the end (with no real fights left in the trial area- just some wandering respawning critters), so I haven't got to try it out, but I'm aiming for a melee/shotgun/pistol close-range assassin build, with overload to knock down shields and a cryo-spray effect (because for destruction, ice is also great, and would suffice).
You can also customize guns. By default, you've got magazines and ammo to worry about, but you can build weapons to use 'thermal clips' like mass effect 1, or get alien tech beam weapons or plasma weapons that use overheat systems. There are lots of mods and lots of weapons, and they are very different. The mattock 'assault rifle' barely feels like an AR (slow single shots, each of which requires a mouseclick), while the cyclone is a mini-gatling (takes a moment to spin up, then fires continuously)
Anyway, that's about it. I'm sad that my trial period is over at a door I can't open yet, but also rather pleased that I'm actually interested and engaged and want to see what is beyond the door!