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New Mass Effect patch: what a difference an eye makes

The eye patch

The first of several planned updates designed to address various criticisms of Mass Effect: Andromeda [official site] landed yesterday, and though it comprises 20 main fixes, one stands out above all else. If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the glassy sexbot stares of MEA's launch version certainly contributed to unfavourable impressions. The new v1.05 update's toned down the inhumanity of the game's human eyes, and, superficial as it might sound, it has me warming to the game a little more.

I've seen the change referred to as an 'eye shader', but truth be told I don't know either if that's the correct term or how much of a rejigger it entails. All I can speak to is the results, which are surprisingly profound in some characters.

Where once eyes were weirdly white and static seeming, as though someone had painted them onto their eyelids so they could fall asleep in church, now they're significantly more naturalistic, seeming to possess depth and a little soul thanks to various light and shadowing wizardry. It's humans and asari - the most humanoid of MEA's ally races - who benefit from this change, as the more overtly alien peepers of yer Salarians, Krogan and Turians didn't suffer from the initial issue.

Like I say, on paper it's a small thing, but in practice it's making a big difference. My key issue with MEA is that I've struggled to connect with its characters, and while dialogue and performance are clearly the main elements there, it seems that weirdly unrealistic eyes set in a game that otherwise strived for photorealism played a significant part in feeling that these were not credible people.

Not mentioned in the patch notes but strikingly obvious when returning to previously-jarring characters is that the 'applied with a hose from five metres away' makeup effect has been toned down too, and again this makes more of a difference than one might think. For instance, even notorious NPC Foster Addison, she of the 'my face is tired' meme, now comes across more like a short-tempered robot than a clown who was hauled out of their dressing room mid-way through facepainting and made to recite technobabble at gunpoint.

Honestly, these tweaks makes all the difference. Not enough difference to redeem clanging lines or the odd duff performance, but because I'm now starting from a point of 'hey this seems sort of like a real person' that stuff is a mite less jarring. I mean, clearly there's a ceiling on how much can be done to make dialogue zing without physically re-recording it, but I can totally see how a string of patches that improve the still-marionettish facial animations and poses, rethinks the oddly plasticky hair and is less blatant about how it spirits background NPCs off the stage will amount to a more convincing game.

Facial animation fixes are mentioned in the 1.05 patch notes, but I'd say that there's a way to go on that stuff yet - conversations and cutscenes remain slightly surreal in that regard. More broadly, for every moment when I'm thinking 'hey, this is so much better', I run into major NPCs acting like Autons all over again:

In other words, I'm still wincing often, but the difference between this and the previous version of MEA is that I can see a path to a meaningfully better game starting to materialise. A new option to skip some of the pointless planetary cutscenes has also begun to make MEA feel more fluid.

The net result of this is that I've now decided to bench my game for a few weeks and start afresh a couple more patches down the line. I'm certain I'll have a better experience that way than I will if I keep wading on through my disappointment, waiting for some hail Mary moment that is unlikely to come.

Here's the list of fixes in v1.05, which Origin should automatically update your game to if you fire it up now.

  • Improved tutorial placement
  • Increased inventory limits
  • Single-Player balance changes: Ammo crates, armor, weapons, nomad, profiles, attacks, and progression
  • Multiplayer balance changes: Weapons, cover, and enemies (check back for detailed notes on balance changes)
  • Improved matchmaking and latency in multiplayer
  • Added option to skip autopilot sequences in the galaxy map
  • Decreased the cost of remnant decryption keys and made them more accessible at merchants
  • Improved logic, timing, and continuity for relationships and story arcs
  • Improved lip-sync and facial acting during some conversations, including localized VO
  • Fixed an issue with Ryder’s movements when running in a zig zag pattern
  • Improved the appearance of eyes for human and asari characters
  • Fixed various collision issues
  • Fixed bugs where music or VO wouldn’t play or wasn’t correct
  • Fixed issue where global squad mate banter sometimes wasn’t firing on UNCs
  • Fixed issue where player was unable to access the Remnant Console Interface after failing decryption multiple times
  • Fixed issue where fast travel is sometimes disabled after recruiting Drack until the player reloads a save
  • Fixed issue where Ryder can become stuck in the start of Biotic Charge Pose
  • Fixes issues related to some saves
  • Fixed issue where objective sometimes becomes un-interactable for players in multiplayer
  • Streaming and stability improvements

More to come further down the line apparently, including improvements to dialogue.

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