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Mass Effect Andromeda guide: Elaaden, 100% viability and The Journey to Meridian

24 Mar

Mass Effect Andromeda is building to a climax – and we don’t just mean in the romance system.

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The Journey to Meridian contents

Objectives and mission flow

Boss: Destroyer

Boss: The Archon’s Sword

Elaaven secondary quests

Endgame secondary quests

This chapter of Mass Effect Andromeda takes us to a point of no return, so if you’re the sort who likes to get all your side questing done before the big climax, now’s definitely the time to get moving on that.

The priority op itself, The Journey to Meridian, is pretty straight forward, although it does involve some great battles, including two major bosses.

Reaching this mission progress most “on hold” secondary quests to the point of completion. Of particular note is Know Your Enemy, which updates with a last email as you begin The Journey to Meridian. This quest leads into another called Dissension in the Ranks, which can decrease the difficulty of the final priority op, as well as being narratively satisfying. Be sure to grab the email and proceed to Voeld to complete the quest chain before you kick off the main mission.

You won’t have many more chances to clear out side content once you get properly started with The Journey to Meridian, so if you want to be as prepared as possible for the very final battle, there’s a lot you should get done. Hitting full viability on all planets is a good target, and can be achieved without ticking off every single quest. As such, we’ve also included a list of all the content on optional planet Elaaden on this page.

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The Journey to Meridian objectives and suggested missions flow

Find more tips, tricks and explanations in our Mass Effect Andromeda guide and walkthrough.

As mentioned above, this mission is something of a point of no return for Mass Effect Andromeda. Although you will still be able to play after the final priority op, some secondary content will close or alter to reflect the end of the main narrative. Additionally, you won’t have a chance to increase your Andromeda viability once you get moving.

We’re stressing this a lot now because we want to be sure you don’t miss the message: get everything done. Check your email. Talk to everyone. Go everywhere. Look at everything. Sure, you can do it later, and it’s not like the galaxy’s gonna blow up if you don’t, but since you have the chance to make a perfect run on it now, why not do it?

Alright then, here’s how we suggest you tackle The Journey to Meridian. The only tricky bit in this mission is a branching path where you need to visit each destination – a pair of towers, one in the north and one in the south. Each includes a boss battle, and one of these is with a Destoryer, a new enemy type you won’t have seen before.

The mission culminates in a major boss battle with The Archon’s Sword and transitions immediately to Meridian: The Journey Home.

  • Optional: visit the Nexus, Hyperion and Tempest to update conversations and side quests
  • Optional: collect Elaaden side quests (see list below)
  • Optional: clear all available side quests and planet scanning
  • Optional: Achieve 100% viability on all outpost planets
  • Meet with Nexus Leaders
  • Speak with your sibling
  • Interact with the terminal in the Tempest Research Centre
  • Call a crew meeting on the Vidcon
  • Travel to Meridian in the Civki system
  • Explore the Remnant City
    • Use the console
    • Cross the bridge and use a second console
    • Use gravity well and fight through Kett and Remnant
    • Investigate the North Tower
      • – Battle through the Remnant
      • – Activate the console to open the door
      • – Enter Exploration Systems
      • – Activate the four consoles: NW, NE, SW, SE
      • – Activate the final console
      • – Kill the Destroyer mini-boss
    • Investigate the South Tower
      • – Battle through the Kett and Remnant
      • Optional: solve the Remnant Decryption to loot a treasure room
      • – Activate the console to open the door
      • – Enter Research Sector
      • – Battle through the Kett and Remnant
      • – Kill the Ascendant mini-boss
    • Return to Core 17
    • Battle the Remnant and Kett on the bridge
    • Use the gravity well
    • Activate the central command console
  • Kill The Archon’s Sword boss

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The Journey to Meridian mini-boss: the Destroyer

Encountered in the North Tower as a mini-boss, the Destroyer unit actually turns up a second time during this mission, so get used to it now.

The key to a Destroyer encounter is to use the environment to your advantage and stay mobile; distance will keep you out of its annoying area of effect attacks, but you’ll need to evade its main cannon, and hunkering down behind cover is a bad idea – it has an explosive response to that tactic.

You must control the adds. Your first priority should be to take down all the Assemblers, to stop them building more units, and then the Nullifiers. We found it easiest to point our squaddies at the Nullifiers while we whipped around clearing up the smaller mobs.

When you’re ready to face the Destroyer itself, go for its most obvious weak spot – the two turrets. Although dropping the turrets makes the Destroyer more mobile, it also prevents it unleashing one of its attacks, and significantly eats into its shields. Critical damage bonuses help a lot here.

Once you’ve dropped both turrets, just keep your distance and dodge when the main cannon fires, and you’ll win the war of attrition, As ever, consumables will help you hit it harder and faster.

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The Journey to Merdian boss: The Archon’s Sword

The proper boss of The Road to Meridian is sort of like a Destined on steroids, except that Destined rarely call in so many adds you want to throw your controller at the screen.

Add control is so, so important here and it’s the constant spawns that really make this encounter challenging. Since there’s so much going on it’s very difficult to order your squaddies about efficiently, so if you are good at clearing large numbers of adds quickly, you might want to leave Drack and Cora at home and bring those more at home with distance battles, like Vetra and Jaal, and point them both at the Archon’s Sword while you do mob duty.

High ground is very important in this encounter, and you can really help yourself out by using the environment to funnel enemies into chokepoints. You will have to face Anointed and a Fiend as well as the squishier Wraiths and Chosen, so you definitely need to think about something to smack down shields as well as punch through armour. Ability wise, anything you’ve got for controlling groups is great, and if you’ve specced your powers to detonate with radius damage you can really benefit from combos here.

If you only have limited disruptor ammo consumables, save them for the Archon’s Sword himself, as his shields are a bother. Whenever the Archon’s Sword gets a bit sore he’ll cloak and wander off, usually calling in a bunch more adds. Keep track of him by watching for that weird swirly cloud Destined generate, and make sure you don’t let him flank you while you’re coping with the mess.

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Elaaden secondary quests

Elaaden is a dry and dusty planet, and home to New Tuchanka, the outpost established by the Krogan after they were kicked off the Nexus. This planet is entirely optional, but there’s heaps to do. You can set up a new outpost, even.

  • Elaaden: A New World
    Enter the Tempest after visiting Kadara to view a cutscene unlocking this mission and the planet Elaaden.
  • Settling Elaaden
    Land on Elaaden to unlock.
  • Conflict in the Colony
    This is the main Elaaden mission chain and unlocks after you visit the planet and enter Paradise.

    • Parlay with the Krogan
    • Investigate the Remnant Derelict
    • Search for the Stolen Remnant Drive Core
      • If you give the Drive Core to Morda the Krogan and Nexus resume friendly relations and you can build an Outpost on Elaaden.
      • If you keep the Drive Core for the Initiative you’ll receive 1,000 Remnant research points and 2,000 Credits in addition to standard mission rewards.
  • The Flophouse
    This is the main base mission of Elaaden, and is tackled during the quest chain above.
  • Architect on Elaaden
  • This battle becomes available if you establish an outpost on Elaaden.

  • Taming a Desert/Making This Dust Bowl Livable
    Approach any of the three Elaaden monoliths.
  • Water Supply
    Use the console in the Flophouse.
  • The Mind of an Exile
    Unlocks with a comm from Lexi after you enter Paradise.
  • Gray Matter
    Unlocks sometime after completion of The Mind of an Exile.
  • Hard Luck
    Speak to Nora Tallis in Paradise Sands.
  • The Rebel
    Speak to Kent Halsey in Paradise Sands.
  • Save Dr. Okeer’s Krogan Research
    Speak to the Krogan geneticist at New Tuchanka.
  • Rising Tensions
    Speak to Shaman Kortik in New Tuchanka; must have unlocked Parlay with the Krogan.
  • The Search for Ljeta
    Speak to Rorik in New Tuchanka. Unlocks after resolving the main Elaaden mission chain.
  • Crisis Response
    Acquired from a datapad in the Flophouse.
  • Aspirations
    This sidequest marker is in the southeast of the map. The door won’t open until you’ve interrogated Vehn Terev in Hunting the Archon.
  • Task: A Flower for Kesh
    Unlocks after completing Drack’s loyalty mission. Speak to Vorn to begin.
  • Out of Gas
    Drive around the north of the Elaaden map until the Nomad breaks down.
  • Dismantled
    Acquired by approaching map icon Remnant ruins.
  • Task: Cache Flow
    Scan a Remnant device at any Remnant site.
  • Task: Little Mouse
    Collect a Little Mouse datapad in a random encounter.
  • Task: Volatile
    Destroy a volatile container in a random encounter.
  • Task: Infection
    Scan an infected outlaw corpse in a random encounter.

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Other endgame secondary quests

There are several secondary quests that open up during the final few priority ops of Mass Effect Andromeda, or when you touch down on planets and systems you won’t have visted unless you’re pursuing other secondary quests. Here are some that are easy to miss if you’re not checking in regularly:

  • Life on the Frontier
    You’ll receive an email from Sid sometime after reaching Aya.
  • Contagion
    You’ll receive an email from Captain Dunn when you return to the Nexus after Kadara first becomes available.
  • Task: Investigating Embezzlement
    Speak to the dock manager in the Docking Bay area of the Nexus after opening Kadara.
  • Task: Beer Run
    Speak to Wilma just outside Kesh’s office on the Nexus after visiting Kadara.
  • Taks: Outpost Supplies on Elaaden
    Talk to Merixus at the docks on Aya after building an outpost on Elaaden.

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Mass Effect Andromeda Naming the Dead visual guide – screenshots and map locations for colonist bodies

23 Mar

Mass Effect Andromeda has a quest called Naming the Dead, and it is a pain in the arse.

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Early in Mass Effect Andromeda you’ll probably stumble across Task: Naming the Dead. This (extremely) secondary mission has you finding and scanning deceased colonists on Eos. The quest is triggered the first time you find one.

This is such a minor quest that we’d normally recommend just ignoring it, along with 95% of the “Task” section of Mass Effect Andromeda’s quest journal, but Naming the Dead is hugely annoying if left unfinished because every time you wander around Eos Ryder will talk about it, even if you’ve already scanned the dead colonist they’ve spotted (and you probably haven’t; Ryder can see through walls, apparently).

So do yourself a favour and finish Naming the Dead as soon as possible. It’s still best to do it after you’ve cleared the Eos vault and advanced the main Mass Effect Andromeda plot a little, to clear the radiation on Eos. That makes exploration much less of a chore.

Unfortunately, there are no map icons to guide you to the dead colonists’s bodies. That’s where we come in: without further ado, here’s where to find every dead colonist in Mass Effect Andromeda and kick Naming the Dead right out of your quest journal so it never interrupts a vital audio prompt ever again.

Naming the Dead colonist body locations

1. Promise: Theo J. Harwell
Visit the Eos settlement ruin called Promise and search behind the buildings near the big circular structure for this body. If you’re back on Eos later in the game, there’s a merchant right nearby.

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2. Resilience: Gordanus Trenitus
Head directly south from Theo J. Hartwell’s body until you reach Resilience, the second Eos settlement ruin. Go down to the lower level. The body is in an area with Kett mobile cover barriers. For some reason, it tends to bug out and vanish after scanning, so our screenshot shows the location, but not the body itself.

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3. Resilience: Thysa Ylar
Move further south from Gordanus Trenitus’s body and search along the balconies and stairs around the cluster of buildings to find this body.

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4. Resilience: Porter M. West
Search the gully east of the lower Resilience site for this body.

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5. Northern monolith: Tegan C. Avante
This body is by a big rock by the road that goes past the monolith where you meet Peebee.

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6. Central monolith: Amira S. Pavlov
There are several bodies at the second monolith. Pavlov is on her back with one arm stretched out.

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7. Kett Research Centre: Darin T. Anton
Head to the Kett facility at the southernmost monolith and look for the autopsy room on the north side of the central complex; the body is on one of the tables.

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Note that you can always return to scan a body a second time to check the name, if you’re not sure which ones you’ve done so far. Except for that damned Turian in Resilience who vanishes! Truly, he is the final boss of Naming the Dead.

Mass Effect Andromeda conversation options guide: what those dialogue icons mean

22 Mar

Mass Effect Andromeda’s conversation system may baffle series newcomers and BioWare fanatics alike. Let’s break it down.

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Mass Effect Andromeda follows in Dragon Age’s footsteps by introducing a tone system to dialogue, where your responses reflect your attitudes and behaviour rather than driving you down “good” and “naughty” paths, as with the old Paragon and Renegade system in previous Mass Effect games.

These four tone dialogue icons come in addition to several other more mechanical conversation option symbols used throughout Mass Effect Andromeda and past games, and it’s not always obvious what it all means.

On this page we’ll provide a quick summary of what each icon on the Mass Effect Andromeda conversation wheel means, and what effect it will have on your game progress. Let’s start with the ones that have consequences for your game.

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Conversation branching dialogue icons

Except in situations where you’re choosing between tone responses, the dialogue icon shown on the conversation wheel in Mass Effect Andromeda will indicate if the choice you’re about to make will have a consequence on the conversation and your relationships, or merely provide more information.

The four conversation options you need to worry about in this regard are shown above. Here’s what they mean to your Mass Effect Andromeda progress:

  • The branching arrows dialogue icon usually comes in pairs or even greater numbers, and means you’re moving the conversation forward. Once you choose this icon, that part of the conversation will end, forever, and you can’t choose one of the other responses.
  • The question mark dialogue icon will provide more information on a topic, or even open a submenu of further questions. Choosing this won’t end a conversation or lock you to a particular response.
  • The two people dialogue icon means you’re taking steps to forge a friendship with a character. It won’t lock you out of romance options, and can help open up loyalty missions.
  • The large heart dialogue icon is the flirt button Don’t be afraid to use it often; it takes many uses and plenty of time to lock in a relationship. See our Mass Effect Andromeda romance and banging guide for more.

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Tone wheel conversation options icons

Although the dialogue icons described above have important consequences for your Mass Effect Andromeda progress, the tone wheel is all about shaping your character. Ryder’s personality is gradually built up by what you choose in dialogue – but these choices rarely have any sort of gameplay impact. They’re just there to make you feel that you have some say in the events unfolding around you – even when you don’t.

You can check the progress of your Ryder’s psychological progress at any time by looking through the Codex. Lexi regularly updates your profile as you make Mass Effect Andromeda your own through conversation options.

There are four tone dialogue icons in Mass Effect Andromeda, although often you’ll only be given a choice of two. These are:

  • Emotional dialogue icon

    A small heart always shown in the upper left of the conversation wheel, emotional conversation options are for those who wear their hearts on their sleeves, showing empathy and sympathy – but also sometimes anger and disgust.

  • Logical dialogue icon

    A cog wheel symbol in the upper right of the conversation wheel, logical conversation options are pragmatic and to the point, efficiently communicating Ryder’s intentions and needs. Ryders who choose this option get things done no matter what distractions arise.

  • Casual dialogue icon

    A spiral in the lower left of the conversation wheel, casual conversation options allow Ryder to joke around, lightening the mood and deflating swollen egos. This is for Ryders who face the world with a smile and see everything as an adventure.

  • Professional dialogue icon

    A spiral made of right angles in the lower right of the conversation wheel indicates a professional conversation option. These Ryders get the job done, and approach others with a formal courtesy that some may appreciate, and others find a bit stiff.

Unlike past BioWare RPGS with tone wheels, making repeat choices in the same category doesn’t seem to alter your Ryder’s ambient dialogue, and although you’ll get different reactions from NPCs depending on your choice of tone, it doesn’t seem to matter much which dialogue icon you choose when you’re given this sort of conversation option in Mass Effect Andromeda.

As such, you should feel free to play Mass Effect Andromeda choosing Ryder’s responses to fit the situation; maybe you’ll want to sympathise with a friend here and there, and other times you might want to be coldly professional when speaking to an authority figure you disagree with it. This is your story, Pathfinder; do as you will.

Mass Effect Andromeda monolith, glyph puzzles and Remnant decryption guide

21 Mar

Mass Effect Andromeda wants you to play alien sudoku. The hows, whats and whys of monoliths, glyphs and Remnant decryption.

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Mass Effect Andromeda is littered with Remnant ruins – the scattered evidence of a long lost race of beings, now represented only by shattered, half-buried structures and mechanical automatons.

The Remnant, whatever they were, had access to amazing advanced technology – so alien that none of the races in Mass Effect Andromeda, be they Heleus locals or Milky Way arrivals, can interface with it. Except Ryder, of course, through the magical anchor – whoops! We mean SAM, the AI fused with their brain.

Find more tips, tricks and explanations in our Mass Effect Andromeda guide and walkthrough.

This is really important because each landable planet in Mass Effect Andromeda contains three monoliths covered in glyphs, which you’ll need to decrypt in order to access the vault, the central control system for all Remnant tech on the planet. Once you’ve explored the vault, which you can think of as a sort of dungeon, you’ll increase the planet’s viability – which is good news for everyone. For example, clearing the vault on Eos means you can come back after a few missions and find that annoying radiation has cleared.

Clearing monoliths by scanning glyphs in Mass Effect Andromeda

To track down monoliths in Mass Effect Andromeda, open your map on any landable planet and zoom out to spot three symbols that look like twisted spires. Click on one to activate and track a quest to activate all three. Once you’ve dealt with them, it’s off to the vault.

Unfortunately, resolving monoliths isn’t just a matter of shooting the baddies who protect it and looting any nearby containers, as with general Remnant ruins found all over Mass Effect Andromeda.

For starters, you’ll need to locate any nearby glyphs. Glyphs are those weird symbols you’ll see when you try to interact with the central console at a monolith (and also in some other Remnant ruins and dungeons, on switches and chests. Because nobody speaks Remnant, you often need to work out some of the glyphs in order to be able to communicate with Remnant technology.

Most monoliths in Mass Effect Andromeda require three glyphs to solve. To find a glyph, open your scanner (D-pad down on consoles and G on PC) and examine the ground around the central console. You’ll see a number of glowing wires or paths leading away around the environment.

Track each of these wires from the base of the console to the far end and then scan the glyph they terminate at; in normal view it looks like a faint tracing of blue energy, but through your scanner it’s a glowing square, flat on a surface. This often means clambering all over the structures that surround the monolith, and many times the glyph will be on top of an object or behind it. Don’t forget to press the actual scan button once you find the glyph, and be sure there’s no object between you and it when you do so.

Once you track down every glyph attached to a monolith, either Ryder or SAM will tell you you’ve collected all the glyphs you need. Head back to the central console to begin Remnant decryption.

Remnant decryption in Mass Effect Andromeda

With all glyphs scanned, activate a monolith’s central console to begin Remnant decryption.

Remnant decryption in Mass Effect Andromeda is basically sudoku, although the grids are usually smaller and the divisions can be all sorts of shapes rather than just squares. The rules are the same, however: you cannot repeat a glyph in any row, column, or division.

If you’ve never played sudoku, there are all sorts of logic tricks to help you solve them. Here are our hot tips for Remnant decryption in Mass Effect Andromeda:

  • Find an empty square and click through (“browse”) all available glyphs. Give them nicknames so you can differentiate them easily. This just makes it a bit quicker, mentally, when you’re working out what’s missing from a row – like “I’ve got a hat, a pair of socks, the L and the hawk, so I need the jam jar”.
  • Look at the glyphs that have already been filled in. Are there any rows, columns or divisions that are missing just one glyph? If so, you can fill in the blank with whichever glyph is not already present.
  • Count all the types of glyphs and see which one is the most common. If you have three of one kind of glyph and the puzzle board only has four rows and columns, there’s only one place the remaining glyph of that kind can go without conflicting with its buddies.
  • If you find a row, column or division with just two missing glyphs, try both of them in the empty squares. Odds are you’ll see one of them can’t work in one of the spots, which means it has to go in the other.

If all else fails you can override Remnant decryption with keys, often found in Remnant ruins or sometimes purchased from shops.

Once you’ve completed a Remnant decryption at each monolith, you’ll unlock the vault – where more Remnant decryption awaits you. You’ll be doing a lot of this in Mass Effect Andromeda, but practice makes perfect.

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Mass Effect Andromeda reviews: all the scores

20 Mar

Mass Effect Andromeda has been with critics for over a week. What’s their consensus on BioWare’s latest?

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Mass Effect Andromeda has already taken a viral beating after its ten hour EA Access trial produced a series of amusing animations errors and awkward dialogue.

But there’s a great deal more to Mass Effect Andromeda than the ten hours EA offered its faithful, and if we were put off by a little bit of jank, we probably wouldn’t be such massive BioWare nerds around here.

So let’s have a look at what critics have had to say about Mass Effect Andromeda after plugging away at it for over a week. Does it get better? Does it make more sense in context? Is it a good starting point? Will franchise fans get the service they long for?

All these questions, and more, are probably answered in the Mass Effect Andromeda reviews below. You could read them and find out, rather than just sifting through the scores. Just an idea.

In our own Mass Effect Andromeda review, we had to admit it’s a pretty rough effort – BioWare’s B-team, eh? – but with that lovely heart you might consider worth the effort.

There’s a definite spread to Mass Effect Andromeda’s reviews, and that’s not something we often see in such big releases. Very interesting.

All scores here are out of ten except where otherwise noted, and are arranged in descending order with outlets who choose not to award scores at the bottom.

Mass Effect Andromeda releases March 21 in North America and March 23 in Europe and beyond, for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Mass Effect Andromeda review: rough as guts for the first 10 hours, but worth fighting through to the heart

20 Mar

Mass Effect Andromeda: it gets better.

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Mass Effect Andromeda is like a cake baked by an inexperienced chef. Failing to account for the delicate chemistry of baking, they’ve tripled the ingredients and chucked it in the oven for three times as long. The outside is a burnt crust and the inside is a gooey mess, and putting it back in the oven is not going to resolve things; on the other hand, there’s a narrow band of perfectly baked cake you can pick out if you’re determined.

For the first hour, I loved it. Then I hated it for nine hours. After that I started to love it again, but now we’re now locked in an uncomfortable homeostasis, swinging back between and forth between the frustration and boredom I endure waiting for the good bits, and the brief frenzy of passion when said good bits crop up.

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Thanks to the EA Access trial period, it’s no secret that Mass Effect Andromeda has been in what might be called a bit of a state during the review period, which certainly hasn’t helped. In an earlier draft of this article, I reluctantly listed off an enormous number of bugs and issues I’d encountered (far more than Alex saw, despite also running the PC build), but a late patch has made a significant difference to many of these problems, for me at least. Perhaps we can thank feedback from the early access trial for this.

Brenna is playing Mass Effect Andromeda on an Alienware 17 with a GX 1070, kindly loaned, at her request, by Alienware Australia’s PR representative.

Prior to this latest patch Mass Effect Andromeda was a worse experience than BioWare’s previous Frostbite effort Dragon Age Inquisition, which is awkward for everyone involved. Although I didn’t spend enough time with the latest update to give an unreserved recommendation, I feel confident enough now to say this isn’t the egregiously broken affair it was for the first week I spent with it – but that’s not to say it’s two unqualified thumbs up from me, either. There are other issues to consider.

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Mass Effect Andromeda features all the usual excellent BioWare highlights of likeable characters, interesting scenarios and witty banter – but they’re delivered poorly, in ways that feel exasperating in 2017.

By now you will have seen the GIFs and videos showing off the facial animation problems in Mass Effect Andromeda, and I don’t feel we can write this off as “bugs”, because it’s present on and off throughout the entire game. Ryder’s face going through convulsions in a single scene is easy to put down to an error, but the terrifying way Cora’s eyes show too much white and fixate somewhere on your chin at all times is not.

Later content is much more polished, so that you’re less likely to want to push your squadmates out an airlock rather than bond with them.

Bizarre, jerky posture and walking animations abound, even when things seem to be working well, so that it’s a great relief to get in among non-human characters where you don’t feel the awkwardness dragging against your perception. The good news is that later content is much more polished in this regard, so that when you start doing the loyalty missions you’re less likely to want to push your squadmates out an airlock rather than bond with them.

There are timing issues in a lot of cut and dialogue scenes in Mass Effect Andromeda, so that good writing and voice acting fall spectacularly flat, and well short of their potential. You don’t have to be a comedy genius or cinematic master to spot hundreds of instances where a tiny tweak of timing – removing the second of silence between a character cutting off and the event that supposedly interrupted them, or inserting a beat before a punch line – would have made things so much better. Again, later content seems to be better in this regard.

It’s remarkable how little respect Mass Effect Andromeda has for its own strengths, too. Squad banter, whether it’s ambient or mission-based, often just cuts out part way through because you pass over some invisible threshold, or because the game wants to tell you something it’s told you a dozen times in the past few minutes, or for no discernible reason. While it’s frustrating to hear all those sweet bantz cut out part way through, you can also miss critical story and mission information this way, which is a real problem.

This is something other developers have solved, but here we are in 2017 and every time someone talks in Mass Effect Andromeda you have to drop the controls and hope the game finishes playback of the five minute dialogue someone has decided to place in a ten second corridor, or the ten second dialogue in the five minute room ahead will override it. This does not improve as the game progresses, unfortunately.

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Bad animations, timing and dialogue cutting out dogged BioWare through the past generation and it’s frustrating to see no improvement in Mass Effect Andromeda. Perhaps we cooed too much over the studio’s strengths over the past years and didn’t offer enough constructive criticism? Well, here it is, overdue but issued sternly: BioWare, you are undercutting your own work by not raising the bar on this stuff.

Before I give over on the story, writing and voice actors side of things, I have three complaints. The first is that Mass Effect Andromeda follows Dragon Age Inquisition’s formula of having its protagonist thrust into a position of authority for absolutely nonsense reasons, but in a science fiction context it’s much harder to accept everyone just going along with it.

There’s little to differentiate “your” Ryder; no matter which of the four tones you choose in dialogue, Ryder comes off as a jokey, friendly goof. Dialogue choices feels far less meaningful than the Paragon Renegade binary did.

The second is that there’s little to differentiate “your” Ryder; no matter which of the four tones you choose in dialogue, Ryder comes off as a jokey, friendly goof. This is fine, and is clearly meant to distinguish them from consummate badass Shepard, but dialogue choices feels far less meaningful than the Paragon Renegade binary did, and less differentiated than previous BioWare games with the tone system like Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition. (On the other hand, the two Ryders are themselves somewhat different; Sara is the dorkier of the two, especially when it comes to flirting.)

The third complaint is that the early hours of the game are stuffed with wince-worthy moments, which, again, you’ve probably seen GIFs and videos of (“my face is tired” and the floating rocks, for example). I don’t think it’s good enough to say “it gets better after ten hours” when it comes to video games, but for the record: it does, mostly.

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Right, let’s talk about gameplay, which breaks down roughly into combat and everything else.

Combat is rapid and mobile, but ultimately shallow and repetitive. You know how Mass Effect 3 multiplayer sort of slimmed down the core game’s combat systems, limiting your character to a small set of powers but giving you loads of classes to play with? Mass Effect Andromeda trims the fat even further, so that you can only ever carry three powers into combat, but can change profiles to load up a different set at any time.

In theory this means you’ll be juggling heaps of different abilities mid-combat. But since you are limited to a certain number of delineated presets and changing them involves going into the pause menu, in practice you won’t do it much. Additionally, it makes no sense to invest in additional profiles and powers; doing so just prevents you reaching the most powerful extremes of any specific set of skills.

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On top of that, you have very limited squad control – much less than in previous Mass Effect games. You can order your squad to attack a specific target or to stand in a particular spot, and that’s it: you can’t make them use powers, you can’t issue orders while action is suspended by a quick menu. When ordered to a position, squaddies become useless, often gormlessly facing away from enemies attacking them from flanks or behind.

If you’re a Mass Effect veteran you probably grok what all this adds up to: you can’t reliably perform combos with your squaddies, and you can’t use your pals to control territory in a tactical way. Combat is pretty much all on you.

On the one hand, this forces you to focus your build very closely so you can set up and execute combos independently and rapidly, and be the driving force in each encounter. This is something previous Mass Effects didn’t necessarily highlight as well as they could have, since loads of people played them as straight third-person cover shooters, and it’s really satisfying to get it right.

On the other hand, it limits viable playstyles, and all of them feel largely the same – pop combo, duck into cover if necessary, rinse, repeat.

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When it works, it feels pretty good. You can do some amazing things by combining powers, weapons, melee, dodges and jumpjets, and the combat animations are much better than others in Mass Effect Andromeda. But it gets repetitive fast, just spamming the same three powers over and over again, even if they are very cool, and switching profiles just means you commit to spamming a different set.

Enemies take a heck of a beating – even grunts need a couple of blasts of a shotgun or a combo to put down – and both bosses and bigger enemies are just bullet sponges, even if you bother to change profiles and use consumables appropriately.

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Doing the same things over and over again is a real theme of Mass Effect Andromeda. BioWare talked a good talk about quality side content, but even a few hours in the journal bristles with boring fetch quests which seem designed both to pad out the game by a couple of dozen hours and to sell the official guide; many of them have no map tracking at all, and the environments are huge. Popping a bit of dialogue at either end of a frustrating and thankless scanning quest is simply not enough.

You can’t fault BioWare on the whole “content” front; if you want a game with hundreds of hours of things to do, regardless of whether those things are fun, Mass Effect Andromeda has you covered. It’s kind of boggling how big it is if you want to go for true 100% completion – which you shouldn’t, by the way, as the afore-mentioned fetch quests are not needed to reach full viability and offer little meaningful reward. It feels like someone made the decision to pack in as much as possible, right up to the last minute, instead of knuckling down to make a smaller amount of game a better overall experience.

Main quest content and the more substantial or story-driven side quests like loyalty missions are a real mixed bag. Some of it is just great, driving you from tense encounter to tense encounter and rewarding you with beat after beat of dramatic story shifts. Other parts are clearly designed to push you to the whole open world thing, and drag along dully as you fill in checklists so you can move on to the stuff you want to do. Why BioWare chose to put some of the dullest parts right at the start where you’re most likely to give up in disgust, and to lock great quests behind collectibles, is a mystery for the ages.

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Oh, I should probably mention you can unlock perks and send AI squads on missions, in both cases similarly to Dragon Age Inquisition, and that’s all fine. The crafting system also leans on Inquisition, but if that’s not your bag you can mostly ignore the whole thing once you finish kitting out the Nomad. But while we’re talking about systems in common from Inquisition, the menus are an appalling mess, cluttered by unnecessary notifications that you have collected a new type of useless junk or whatever, which are very hard to clear.

The cluttered, unintuitive and crankily navigated menus are baffling, and unless you’ve come from Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and Dragon Age Inquisition it’ll take you ages to make head or tail of them, let alone start putting together useful builds and equipment from them. That’s just another reason why the opening hours are so painful. BioWare: I love you, but this UI nonsense has to stop.

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Mass Effect Andromeda is very far from perfect, and its problems feel very last generation. At first glance, and even after longer examination, it suffers greatly by comparison with other recent releases.

And yet, at the end of the day, this is a Mass Effect game. It has what you probably came for: the characters talk to you, and to each other, in ways that make you want to be a part of their world.

It feels off to write so much about what’s wrong with Mass Effect Andromeda when what’s right with it can be summed up so succinctly, but I think that’s the conversation we need to have if BioWare is ever going to pull it socks up and get better at wrapping its talents up in functional and worthwhile games.

In the interest of injecting just a little balance, though: yes, there were moments that made me laugh, that melted my heart, that filled me with sorrow or anger. I don’t want to spoil any of them. Most of them happen beyond the first ten hours. Possibly a desire not to spoil these moments is why BioWare front-loaded Mass Effect Andromeda with the utter tosh of the opening quests.

Dig further in, and the BioWare magic is intact in Mass Effect Andromeda. It’s up to you how much raw batter and burnt edges you can stomach to get at that delicious cake.

Go download the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire client so you’re ready to ink it up next weekend

15 Mar

Splatoon 2 will be Switch’s first big multiplayer title. Get ready.

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Splatoon 2 is throwing a test party, and everybody with a Switch is invited.

Although the free demo session doesn’t kick off till next weekend – check the Splatoon 2 demo opening times for more information on that – you can download the client now.

Just log onto the Switch eShop and look for Splatoon 2 Global Testfire. It’s available on both the Japanese and North American storefronts now, but if your region hasn’t posted the client yet maybe try tomorrow.

Splatoon 2 Global Testfire will be open over six short play sessions, so you’ll want to mark your calendar and set an alarm or two to make sure don’t miss out.

Splatoon 2 introduces new weapons and maps, and as part of an apparent eSports push, also supports LAN play and private spectator mode.

The first Splatoon was one of the absolute treasures of the Wii U era and while it’s something of a shame to see it replaced so quickly it’s great to see the unusual shooter get another chance at winning the large audience it deserves.

If you weren’t onboard last time, don’t let the colourful graphics fools you. Splatoon has the distinction of being one of the few shooters that’s both satisfying to play on a tactical level while also being family-friendly enough to fire up in front of (or even with) your offspring.

Nintendo wanted to ship 2M Switch consoles by the end of March, and it looks like it’s going to make it

15 Mar

Switch sales have passed 1.5 million units worldwide, according to one analyst group.

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Switch has had a great launch, smashing Nintendo records all over the place, but the platform holder is yet to talk hard sales figures.

Sometimes that’s a cause for worry and sometimes it’s just business practice. This early on, we’d be thinking the latter – and after a recent report on Switch sales, we’re even more sure Nintendo has nothing to hide.

Industry analyst firm Superdata has collated information from Famitsu and GFK’s retail tracking services and estimates Switch sales are somewhere around 1.5 million worldwide.

That figure includes 500,000 in the US and 360,000 in Japan. European total data was not provided but the firm said 85,000 Switch units were purchased in the UK alone, and a further 100,000 in France.

What makes this even more extraordinary is that those sales figures are first week only – and it was a short week, too, with Switch releasing towards the end of the retail tracking period. With that in mind, Nintendo’s goal of shipping 2 million Switch consoles by the end of March certainly looks feasible. It’s possible retail re-orders have already pushed sell-in numbers past that point even if sell-through is lagging behind a little.

Nintendo and various chart tracking services have all said Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had strong launches in Japan, the US and the UK. We probably won’t get any actual numbers till Nintendo’s next financial briefing, though.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seems to have been the Switch’s primary mover and shaker, so we’re all hopeful Nintendo can followup on a good beginning with a steady stream of first-party releases.

Horizon Zero Dawn update 1.04 fixes heaps of bugs, doesn’t actually double your outfit stats, sorry – full patch notes

14 Mar

Horizon Zero dawn has been updated to address a few bugs and progression issues. Some story mission spoilers follow.

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Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most polished open world games we’ve ever seen, but projects of this scale can never be perfect. Of course Guerrilla hasn’t given up on that front, and here comes a new update to take us one step closer.

A patch can’t solve all your problems, but maybe our Horizon Zero Dawn guide and walkthrough can.

Horizon Zero Dawn 1.04 is all about fixing bugs, apparently. Although we didn’t have any progression problems, it looks like some players did, as Guerrilla has trotted out a lew of fixes in main and side quests. Unfortunately there’s one instance where you’ll need to reload an earlier save, if you have one, even after applying the patch.

Some time after posting the patch Guerrilla discovered a new bug introduced with Horizon Zero Dawn 1.04, which makes it seem like all outfit stats have been doubled. This is only a UI error, unfortunately; you’re not actually as fireproof as you think you are. Something to bear in mind as you forge into battle.

Here are the full patch notes for the Horizon Zero Dawn 1.4 update.

    Main quests

  • Fixed an issue in “The Proving” where one of the attackers would fall down the slope.
  • Fixed an issue in “The Womb of the Mountain” where the spear would not be in Aloy’s inventory if players opened a treasure box with a DLC item before retrieving Aloy’s weapons. Note: Players who have already encountered the issue will need to reload from a game saved prior to this quest.
  • Fixed an issue in “A Seeker at the Gates” where players would be able to enter the gates of Mother’s Watch when fast-traveling to this location.
  • Fixed an issue in “A Seeker at the Gates” where the quest objective would not update from “Go to the Carja Border Fort” to “Kill the corrupted machines”.
  • Fixed an issue in “A Seeker at the Gates” where players could not progress through the Carja Fort.
  • Fixed an issue in “The City of the Sun” where Erend wouldn’t spawn after the dialogue with him ended if players rushed past the civilians on the bridge.
  • Fixed an issue in “The Sun Shall Fall” where players couldn’t return to Dervahl if they fast-traveled during the objective “Talk to Dervahl”.
  • Fixed an issue in “The Grave Hoard” where skipping the conversation with Sylens at the end of the quest and immediately restarting would prevent “To Curse the Darkness” from starting.
  • Fixed an issue in “Deep Secrets of the Earth” where players couldn’t enter the bunker if they fast-traveled away from the objective after they had interacted with the bunker.
  • Fixed an issue in “The Terror of the Sun” where Aloy would respawn in an empty arena after being killed by the Behemoth. Note: Players who have already encountered the issue will need to go to Sunfall, at which point they will be teleported back into the arena to continue the quest.
    Side Quests and Activities

  • Fixed an issue in “Hunter’s Blind” where the objective would not update after talking to Talanah.
  • Fixed an issue in “Hunter’s Blind” where players could kills the Glinthawks before the actual objective was triggered.
  • Fixed an issue in “The Foreign Lands” where players could already deliver the bow to Lakhir before being instructed to do so.
  • Fixed an issue in “Fatal Inheritance” where the objective would fail to update after disabling the lure device and speaking with Ranaman during the quest.
  • Fixed an issue in “Blood on Stone” where the Rockbreaker would not surface correctly if players fast-traveled from and to the quest area just before the start of the sequence.
  • Fixed an issue in “Death from the Skies” where the Stormbird objective would remain active after deactivating the lures and fast-traveling from and to the quest area.
  • Fixed an issue in “Redmaw” where Redmaw would be alive again if players left the quest area during the objective “Talk to Ahsis”.
  • Fixed an issue in “Redmaw” where the marker for the objective “Talk to Ahsis” would be invisible outside of the quest area.
    Game Systems

  • Fixed an issue where exploration music would drop out after a long period of play.
  • Fixed an issue where Aloy could become ‘stuck’ in her sliding animation.
  • Fixed miscellaneous issues to improve the overall play experience.

Dunno why these Zelda: Breath of the Wild making of videos went offline, but they’re back and still great

14 Mar

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may be one of the most ambitious games Nintendo has ever produced, and a look behind the scenes will not dispel the magic.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a very different kind of Zelda game, but at the same time, its roots are obvious enough to make you reach for a packet of hair dye.

Zelda fans waited a long time for Breath of the Wild, and although that patience seems to have paid off, it seems fair enough that they might have questions. Questions like, what took so long? What goes into making one of the best-reviewed games of all time? How did Nintendo hit on this apparently magical formula?

Get to grips with this gigantic game in our The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild guide and walkthrough.

The answers to some of these questions and more can be found in a fascinating three-part video series from Nintendo on the making of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

There are no story spoilers in the videos, but they do detail a number of gameplay systems and mechanics, and you could argue that discovering these on your own is part of the fun, so you may want to hold off if you haven’t yet played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and intend to. If you have started playing and you’re struggling with combat, though, you’ll discover a heck of a lot of cool new ideas here.

As well as exploring gameplay the video goes into some of Nintendo’s inspirations, like Japan’s Jomon period, which influenced the visual design. There’s also some footage of the NES-like 2D prototype of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, among other prototypes and concepts. It’s super interesting.

Nintendo took a couple of these Zelda: Breath of the Wild behind the scenes videos down for a few hours, but they’re back up on official channels now for you to enjoy. And oh look, they’re all embedded here. How convenient.

There’s a Dark Souls Easter egg in Ghost Recon: Wildlands because no modern game is complete without one

14 Mar

When aliens try to piece together the history of our civilisation from the contents of somebody’s PS4 hard drive, they’re going to assume Dark Souls was our most important cultural touchstone.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands includes a little nod to Dark Souls, because of course it does.

Dark Souls and its extended family may be considered niche due to their difficulty (although it’s hard to think of such well-known games as anything but mainstream), but they’re hugely popular among developers, as evidenced by how many games these days include a small tribute to the franchise.

The most popular way to reference Dark Souls is to include something akin to the iconic bonfires, and that’s what we find in Ghost Recon: Wildlands, too. YouTuber xGarbett takes a look at it above.

The Witcher 3 had a similar Dark Souls easter egg, as did Just Cause 3 and Overwatch. Borderlands 2 has a stack of Dark Souls Easter eggs, and you can find references in World of Warcraft, Mirror’s Edge, Fallout 4, Destiny, Killzone Shadowfall, Dota 2, Skyrim and the From Software-published 3D Dot Heroes, too.

More importantly than these cute little references to a beloved game, Dark Souls has already had a powerful impact on triple-A and indie game design, and is certain to leave behind an enduring legacy. We’ve seen some flat out clones of the series, like Lords of the Fallen, and mutated iterations of it, as with Titan Souls.

Some games cherry pick bits and pieces of the From Software formula, like Nier Automata’s corpses, and you could argue that shades of Dark Souls are felt in most third-person action games these days, through evolving RPG systems and an emphasis on high risk high reward combat.

If we are to see no more Dark Souls games, as seems likely, it’s nice that some of its ideas live on – and that developers like the Ghost Recon Wildlands team continue to pay tribute.

There’s a Dark Souls Easter egg in Ghost Recon: Wildlands because no modern game is complete without one

14 Mar

When aliens try to piece together the history of our civilisation from the contents of somebody’s PS4 hard drive, they’re going to assume Dark Souls was our most important cultural touchstone.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands includes a little nod to Dark Souls, because of course it does.

Dark Souls and its extended family may be considered niche due to their difficulty (although it’s hard to think of such well-known games as anything but mainstream), but they’re hugely popular among developers, as evidenced by how many games these days include a small tribute to the franchise.

The most popular way to reference Dark Souls is to include something akin to the iconic bonfires, and that’s what we find in Ghost Recon: Wildlands, too. YouTuber xGarbett takes a look at it above.

The Witcher 3 had a similar Dark Souls easter egg, as did Just Cause 3 and Overwatch. Borderlands 2 has a stack of Dark Souls Easter eggs, and you can find references in World of Warcraft, Mirror’s Edge, Fallout 4, Destiny, Killzone Shadowfall, Dota 2, Skyrim and the From Software-published 3D Dot Heroes, too.

More importantly than these cute little references to a beloved game, Dark Souls has already had a powerful impact on triple-A and indie game design, and is certain to leave behind an enduring legacy. We’ve seen some flat out clones of the series, like Lords of the Fallen, and mutated iterations of it, as with Titan Souls.

Some games cherry pick bits and pieces of the From Software formula, like Nier Automata’s corpses, and you could argue that shades of Dark Souls are felt in most third-person action games these days, through evolving RPG systems and an emphasis on high risk high reward combat.

If we are to see no more Dark Souls games, as seems likely, it’s nice that some of its ideas live on – and that developers like the Ghost Recon Wildlands team continue to pay tribute.

This Overwatch glitch makes Mercy’s wings extend and glow, perhaps too glorious to be an accident

14 Mar

Overwatch players are spamming emotes to make Mercy shine like the techno angel she is.

Overwatch is a pretty polished game, but here’s a glitch that slipped through the net. Not that we’re complaining, mind; we wouldn’t be surprised to find out this one was let through intentionally.

Discovered by rosilia on the Overwatch subreddit, the glitch is activated by hitting the hello emote while airborne. Mercy’s wings extend considerably and glow brightly, which just looks rad.

Some players have joked that the glitch is Mercy’s E ability, blinding her opponent temporarily – or that it’s a hidden reference to Diablo 3.

If you can’t get it to work, here are the OP’s instructions:

“I basically jump and hold down space, and quickly let go to say hello with the communication wheel before holding space again. I did this for about ten minutes and every time was successful. I haven’t tested it out with the keybinded version yet though.”

Commenters in the thread said the glitch only works while Mercy’s pistol is activated, so try that too.

Mercy mains say they’ll be spamming the heck out of this in Overwatch. While it’s maybe a little bit distracting, many players seem to feel Blizzard could just let this stand and call it a feature. It’s just too lovely.

Unsurprisingly, Horizon Zero Dawn players have killed a lot of turkeys, and not that many Thunderjaws

14 Mar

Horizon Zero Dawn gives you plenty of options, and most of us take the soft one.

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Horizon Zero Dawn is full of fierce beasts intent on stomping Aloy into a fine paste. Taking down some of the tougher enemies involves planning, quick wits and a bristling arsenal of tools.

Struggling to put down Thunderjaws? Maybe our Horizon Zero Dawn guide and walkthrough will help.

However, there’s something else Horizon Zero Dawn is full of: turkeys. Turkeys are one of a number of wildlife species gadding about Guerrilla’s magnificent landscapes, along with foxes, raccoons, fish and boar. Of all the animals, they’re the easiest to murder. They often pop up right under your feet, they don’t flee as rapidly and cleverly as foxes, and they die in a single hit, unlike the boar.

So this update on Horizon Zero Dawn telemetry from Guerrilla Games should hold no surprises for you: Horizon Zero dawn players have killed over 14 turkeys for every Thunderjaw they’ve offed.

That’s Horizon Zero Dawn game director Mathijs de Jonge there, revealing how often we bash away at innocent turkeys. 20 million turkeys! They’re not even used for that many ammo pouches. How many health potions do you need? Gosh.

Without spoiling anything, Thunderjaws aren’t the toughest thing you’ll face in Horizon Zero Dawn, but still: would you rather fight a turkey (small, weak, can’t fight back) or a Thunderjaw (enormous, hardy, armed with half a dozen nasty weapons)?

In real life, I’d take the turkey any time. Armed with Aloy’s amazing weapons in Horizon Zero Dawn though? Hunting Thunderjaws is fun, cats.

No Man’s Sky update lets you take your fancy new Path Finder vehicles anywhere – full patch notes

13 Mar

No Man’s Sky got a great new update last week, and Hello Games has already made it even better.

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No Man’s Sky continues its evolution from refund fodder to something you might want to revisit with another quick patch.

This patch comes hot on the heels of the No Man’s Sky Path Finder update, which made a huge number of excellent changes and additions.

One of those additions was ground vehicles, which are good fun, but in their initial form, they could only be spawned on your home planet. That made them kind of useless for exploring beyond that, and since that’s kind of the point of No Man’s Sky, players were understandably annoyed by it.

Luckily, Hello Games heard and quickly acted on the feedback, and now we have No Man’s Sky patch 1.22, the most significant change of which is the ability to spawn your ground vehicles anywhere you like. Nice.

Here are the full patch notes for No Man’s Sky 1.22:

  • Exocraft Geobays can now be crafted on any planet – this means vehicles can be summoned anywhere (whereas previously, vehicles could only be summoned on your home planet).
  • HUD markers have been added to allow you to easily navigate back to an Exocraft Geobay
  • Fixed a bug that caused vehicle weapons and mining lasers not to drain charge
  • Fixed an issue which could cause the Starship cockpit to vanish when exiting
  • Fixed some freighter door texture issues
  • Fixed a rare crash when scanning from a vehicle
  • Fixed a rare crash when feeding creatures
  • Fixed an issue which caused weapons to miss-fire when using Plasma Launcher
  • During warp the quick menu now hides properly as intended

Battlefield 1: They Shall Not Pass – check out 6 new melee weapons and all the new weapon skins

13 Mar

Battlefield 1 gets a stack of new hand-to-hand weapons in its next DLC, They Shall Not Pass.

Battlefield 1: They Shall Not Pass adds a pile of new boomsticks, but there’s plenty in there for those who like to get up close and personal, too.

In the video above, Westie talks us through the six new melee weapons coming to the Battlefield 1 multiplayer sandbox when They Shall Not Pass releases March 27, which range from minor variants of existing gear to all-new additions.

All the new melee weapons in They Shall Not Pass can be equipped in your standard loadouts, so now everyone in Battlefield 1 can carry a sabre. Three of them will be acquired by completing assignments, but we don’t yet know how you grab the other three yet. Map pick ups? Puzzles? We’ll have to wait and see.

They Shall Not Pass also brings heaps of new weapon skins to Battlefield 1. Each of the new weapons in They Shall Not Pass comes with seven skins on top of the default look.

The new They Shall Not Pass skins are divided into three rarities: Special, Distinguished and Legendary. According to Westie, “All of the Special skins are named the same, and have the same style on all of the new weapons. The Distinguished skins are all named differently, but look similar across all weapons, and the Legendaries are all the same design, but name different and fitted differently to each weapon.” Sure, Battlefield 1, if you like.

Mass Effect Andromeda combat observations for the multiplayer hounds among us: cover, controls and creatures

10 Mar

Mass Effect Andromeda is about rootin’, lootin’ and shootin’. Time to talk about the third one.

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Mass Effect Andromeda takes a different approach to the series than we saw in Mass Effect 3, but that doesn’t mean the fundamental attractions of BioWare’s last space romp aren’t present.

We’ve already talked about Mass Effect Andromeda’s banging. We’ve also talked about consequential choice in Mass Effect Andromeda.

Mass Effect Andromeda’s combat feels more modern than Mass Effect 3’s, and if you’re not a big shooter fan you may have to unlearn some of your deliberate tactical habits in favour of a more reactive, action-oriented play style.

So now let’s talk about combat, and start with a confession: I loved Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer, and am super excited to see something similar return in Mass Effect Andromeda, which has been built with the team responsible for ME3’s multiplayer in the lead role.

While we haven’t yet gone hands-on with Mass Effect Andromeda’s multiplayer, an honour reserved for PAX East attendees this weekend, like Alex I did get to try general combat during a recent preview session.

In Mass Effect 3, there was little difference between single-player and multiplayer combat except that Shepard was an invincible beast compared to multiplayer characters, and we don’t expect to see much change between the two modes in this new game, either; BioWare’s aim seems to be to make multiplayer and single-player a seamless experience in Mass Effect Andromeda. So observations made in single-player may have relevance in multiplayer too, and I was generally pleased by what I saw.

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My first observation is that cover is more analogue now; Mass Effect Andromeda battlefields are laid out more organically, rather than having everything snapped to a grid in neat right angles to each other like Mass Effect 3. Moreover, cover objects come in a wider variety of shapes and sizes, adding up to something more subtle than the on-off protection of the original trilogy.

This means you can’t just assume you’re totally safe from direct fire because there’s something between you and your foes, and you can’t plot your battles as if you were laying out a strategy in Advance Wars. Flanking is much easier, but that applies to both you and the enemy.

Enemies can come from almost anywhere, and as well as guarding against attacks from the full 360 degree spectrum, you need to account for elevation.

Enemies can come from almost anywhere rather than being funneled in from the four cardinal points, and as well as guarding against attacks from the full 360 degree spectrum, you need to account for elevation. Enemies can jump, and I even saw one come rolling out of cover and then crawl, evading the headshot I’d had lined up for when they popped out. This won’t surprise or worry those who’ve been playing games like Destiny, Titanfall or even recent Call of Duty games, but it’ll be a bit of a shock to those with a pure RPG background.

All this encourages you to keep moving rather than hunker down, and to be aggressive to avoid getting stuck in crossfire. Luckily, you have the mobility to match; being a bit of a shotgun Vanguard fan at lower difficulties, I especially appreciated the jump jet for quickly getting me past obstacles and into the heat of the action. The jump melee ground pound attack is an utter joy, and I cannot wait to see the krogan version. (Yes, there are krogans in multiplayer; don’t you relentlessly scan every Mass Effect Andromeda trailer?)

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These changes and additions made Mass Effect Andromeda’s combat feel much more modern to me than Mass Effect 3’s, and if you’re not a big shooter fan you may have to unlearn some of the deliberate tactical habits learned in Mass Effect 3 in favour of a more reactive, action-oriented play style. That said, terrain knowledge and positioning are still super important, and it’s definitely not all twitch skills.

Also: the controls are a lot better. I put over 130 hours into Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer, 99 of which were spent cursing the fact that, on PC at least, a large number of functions were mapped to the same button, with hilariously irritating results.

This is not the case in Mass Effect Andromeda, and after shooting a few faces with a significant reduction in my usual rage levels, this was the first combat issue I raised with producer Fabrice Condominas.

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VG247: I notice that not everything is on the space bar any more. What an excellent change to the controls! Let’s talk about that. Why did you take everything off the space bar?

Fabrice Condominas: In gameplay in general we added a number of functionalities – jumps and evade and so on – so for that, first: you need buttons. Mechanically, I’m talking very mechanical, you need space on the controller and the keyboard and it has to be accessible.

The second thing is obviously we try to improve, and there was often conflict with several functionalities using the same buttons.

[Laughing hollowly] Yes there really was.

Don’t worry, we knew that. We were experiencing the same thing. So for us it’s just an improvement. It’s a natural evolution of the game.

The screams in my fireteam, man. “I’m trying to rez you, but I keep going into cover!”

You’ll notice we also removed the button to enter cover, so it’s way more flexible. Also it’s the idea of, you remove the button, you remove tension – and you can suddenly add something like jump or evade. But it’s also just faster, more flexible and more fluid.

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I was shooting some sort of doggy thing, that could cloak…? I don’t know what it is yet. When I shot it, its head sort of disintegrated a little bit, well before it died. So can you target specific body parts to remove armour, that sort of thing?

Yes absolutely. The majority of baddies have weak points, equivalent to the headshot. Body parts where, if they have armour you can remove the armour – even specific anatomy, so you can remove what would be the equivalent of a shield, for example.

Without spoiling it, is there anything just, like, as bowel-chillingly unpleasant to turn up unexpectedly as the Banshees in Mass Effect 3? I’m a big fan of Banshees.

We do. I can think of two of the enemy types that you might encounter that are fairly annoying, hard to kill and have common behaviour with the Banshee.

In terms of enemies the thing that gets me, the thing that when it comes together is just a real pleasure: we have massive creatures. So that’s a personal taste: I like fighting those massive enemies.

Oh, I’ve seen one in a trailer! That big tentacle thing. Someone on Tumblr joked that it was a love interest.

I’ll let you find out. Tentacles! [chuckles]

That would be a first for BioWare.

Mass Effect: Andromeda releases March 21 in North America and March 23 in Europe and beyond, for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

PS4 tops February NPD as we all hunker down ahead of Switch launch shake up

10 Mar

Oh boy oh boy, next month’s NPD headline might be something different.

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The PS4 has once again proved to be the bestselling hardware in the NPD’s monthly US retail chart.

This situation has been the norm ever since this generation of consoles debuted, and it’s getting a bit dull. We’re all pretty excited for next months’ report, where hopefully we’ll see some change up thanks to the Switch’s launch.

In the meantime, though, Sony’s success is not surprising – especially given the release of Horizon Zero Dawn right at the end of February and Nioh earlier in the month. Not to mention Resident Evil 7’s platform-exclusive VR mode from the end of January.

Xbox only had Halo Wars 2 to fire back with, but it still managed to dig up some positive news in its NPD response statement. According to Microsoft, the hours played on Xbox One in February jumped 11% year-on-year, while unique users increased by 35% year-on-year. So while Xbox may be behind PS4, it’s still growing nicely, and that’s what’s important to Microsoft.

Interestingly though, Xbox said GTA 4 going backwards-compatible helped drive engagement during February. Detractors may scoff, and access to the back catalogue of the Xbox 360 does not make up for a lack of exclusives, but backwards compatibility is a great feature that clearly gets a lot of use.

Anyway, the NPD group will be back next week with a full report on hardware, software and accessories, so stay tuned.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has you play as Star-Lord, no Hollywood cast onboard – new screens

10 Mar

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series gets new screens and details ahead of PAX East this weekend.

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Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series has players in the role of Star-Lord, Telltale confirmed in a press release today.

The original story takes us “from Earth to the Milano to Knowhere and beyond”, and is “set to the beat of awesome music”. Along the way, the Guardians of the Galaxy crew discover “an artifact of unspeakable power”.

“Each of them has a reason to desire this relic, as does a ruthless enemy who is the last of her kind, and who will stop at nothing to tear it from their hands,” Telltale said.

The cast of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is pretty A-list for video game voice acting, although sadly none of the actors from the movie make appearances. That would cost so, so much, and for a dialogue-driven game, be very difficult to fit in with their schedules Here’s the list:

  • Star-Lord: Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series
  • Gamora: Emily O’Brien (The Young and the Restless, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor)
  • Rocket: Nolan North (the Uncharted series, Pretty Little Liars, 47% of all video games)
  • Drax: Brandon Paul Eells (Watch Dogs)
  • Groot: Adam Harrington (The Wolf Among Us, League of Legends)
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Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series will release during northern spring. Platform details are not yet available but you can count on all the usual suspects, and a disc-and-season-pass dealio will be available from the get-go. We expect Guardians of the Galaxy to kick off in April thanks to a bit of a leak.

Expect Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series news this weekend, as there’ll be a panel at PAX East. It will also be one show at SXSW the week after, with a live Crowd Play session.

Mass Effect Andromeda Nomad footage makes us wish we hadn’t called the Mako ugly in middle school

10 Mar

Mass Effect Andromeda has a ground vehicle you won’t want to leave in a Thresher Maw nest. Unprecedented.

New Mass Effect Andromeda footage from ongoing IGN First coverage gives us a good look at the Nomad, the new ground vehicle.

The original Mass Effect had a ground vehicle called the Mako, and while some people loved the exploration aspects of it, others just hated driving the clunky old thing around and getting it stuck on mountains. Ticking every side content box in Mass Effect required a lot of Mako time, and feedback was negative enough that BioWare mostly dropped ground vehicles for the two later games.

But Mass Effect Andromeda reintroduces that exploration emphasis, and so here we are with a successor: the Nomad. As you’ll see in the video above, you can call the Nomad from forward beacons, which also serve as fast travel points and reveal nearby points of interest.

Players can make mining claims in Mass Effect Andromeda without exiting the Nomad, and it has a six wheel mode upgrade which can help them overcome difficult terrain. That should take a lot of the frustration out.

Additional upgrades can improve the Nomad’s shields, agility and other features. Upgrade are available as blueprints at many of Mass Effect Andromeda’s merchants, and range in rarity through a number of tiers.

Mass Effect Andromeda releases this month for PC, PS4 and Xbox One and about half the VG247 staff are practically frothing in frustrated impatience.

Expect as much Mass Effect Andromeda coverage as we can possibly sneak past the overlords just as soon as we get it in our uncomfortably damp, long-fingered little paws.