Mass Effect Andromeda - Fails where Mass Effect succeeds, and succeeds where it fails

The game can be exceptionally beautiful. Sometimes.

I'll be honest here, after what happened with the ending of Mass Effect 3 and how Bioware responded to the situation, I wasn't really sure if I could ever get into a Mass Effect game again. It's one thing to purposely make a terrible ending because you want the game to go viral(And then claim the fans "just didn't get it" when they challenged how fucking stupid it was), when, I mean, you could have made the game go viral for making a kick-ass ending, but I digress.

That's when Dragon Age Inquisition hit. During the development period they kept making claims that many people, including myself, just couldn't believe. "There's one level so big it could fit every level from Dragon Age Origins" and so on and so forth. I mean, really? The guys who released fucking Dragon Age 2(Even if I loved that game I was completely aware of everything wrong with it and definitely do not "give it a pass") and ruined Dragon Age 2 are making THESE kinds of promises?

Well, the game came out and they were right. The game was big. The gameplay was actually super engaging albeit strongly dumbed down from even Dragon Age 2. But, there was this misplaced reliance on things that the franchise just didn't need. There were too many quests of just "Go here and do a thing. Go here find a thing. Go here and talk to a person". It was like an MMO. The world of Dragon Age, the games where I would spend HOURS talking to everyone and their mothers and seeing this intricate world being built before my very eyes, often because of my own decisions, is now this massive real thing I can go and explore. No more invisible walls(Okay, there were still invisible walls).

The game was as wide as an ocean, yet as deep as a puddle. There were concepts and ideas that just didn't happen. Characters would talk about how you, The Inquisitor, would lead an army and speak with delegates and leaders from all over the world. You would get a castle from which to do so. And you would hear that these delegates and leaders are actually at your castle, yet... you could not speak with them. It seems your role as delegate was as much fluff as the class abilities of a D&D character. You were hyped up, but it went nowhere. And you'd get bogged down in so many fetch quests you could spend 30 hours in the prologue. So many exciting new ideas, and soooooo many terrible ones. It seems with every step forward, they made one and a half back.

BUT. They said that they have learned from this feedback. The new Mass Effect game, they said would be the first to incorporate it so they wouldn't make the same mistakes. No more fetch quests. Instead there would be engaging quests where you would engage with and engagement. And stuff.

But then the game came out, and holy fuck what HAPPENED.

Everyone is busy getting their rocks off because of the terrible facial capture and even worse animations, and it's true, they are fucking terrible. For the most part you can ignore them, and I spent somewhere around 70 hours beating Mass Effect Andromeda so I got my fair share of bad. It wasn't really easy for me to ignore, but I did my best. But in reality the animations aren't the worst part of the game. It's the complete lack of imagination and creativity with the narrative that permeates most of the game.

You star as THE PATHFINDER, a person who is tasked with the role of FINDING A PATH between this uncharted landscape of the Andromeda Galaxy, because shit was getting rank in the Milky Way so we bounced the fuck right out of there. Anyway. Your FATHER was a PATHFINDER but then he died and gave it to you to save your life because nepotism. So then you start finding aliens and stuff.

Alright look I'm just gonna skip some of the stuff here because it's a long game and a lot of stuff happens. Basically, you show up and there are two alien factions fighting and have been fighting for a long time, the bad guys are winning and the good guys are losing, insert PROTAGONIST and things may start to change. Even in Andromeda however there are still these "great powerful precursor races" that existed a long time ago and died out, leaving mysteriously advanced technology behind that servers some vague as fuck purpose that they are going to hint at in the DLC and maybe finally explore in the sequels. (Editors note: I bet it involves a bunch of arbitrary decision making that doesn't go anywhere).

It's kinda... I don't know how to put it. But back in the original games we get to explore the Milky Way and see all of the established races and learn all of the cool intricacies of things. Things stand out. There are many unique aspects of the world that makes you crave answers. In Andromeda, it's like, things sure are different yet the alien races are the same? The Angaran as they call them have the heads of a Cobra and the face of a Lion and they are honestly kind of inept at everything they do. They always talk about how special you, the Pathfinder, are because you are the ONLY ONE who have managed to find a way to defeat the Kett(The evil alien race that exists for nothing but villainy), but all you end up doing is shooting them in the face.

This is the first way the game fails to deliver how special and important you are in the narrative because all you do is just shoot the kett in the fucking face and everyone's all like "WHOA WE CAN'T DO THAT". So, fuck.

The story is that you're looking for these Vaults all over the Andromeda Galaxy, which when activated begin terraforming the planets they are found in, which allows a lot of these "Golden Worlds", worlds that were targeted specifically because of their potential habitability all the way back from the Milky Way, are now uninhabitable. But with the vaults you can turn that shit around and start establishing outposts and grow the frontier of space as your Arks(Giant space ships that contain thousands upon thousands of people who will establish their lives in Andromeda) begin to find their ways home.

The Arks each contain a Pathfinder, their own version of a Protagonist who will lead them to new worlds and civilizations and help chart your new home. The Human Ark had a Pathfinder in your FATHER but he died, leaving you in charge. There is a Turian Ark, Asari Ark, Salarian Ark, and also an ark filled with the undesirable racers like Elcor, Hanar, Volus, Quarian and also possibly Batarian. But they are all missing, leaving it up to you(Of course) to Pathfind them.

The overall story is that you are looking for a planet called Meridim, a golden planet that also has some greater connection to the Vaults.

So you go out and begin the game and shit.

The gameplay, ironically, is pretty fucking tight. The extremely high level cap ensures that you have plenty of time to level your character up and max out quite a lot of powers as you customize the powers and abilities that you have. In this game I went Biotic, which is unusual for me as I usually go Soldier. But what with the added abilities and customization aspect I decided that being super powered would be the most interesting route.

What I found right after starting the game however is just how fucking awful the character creator is. Like, holy shit. I spent 45 minutes moving sliders back and forth and ended up with someone who looked genuinely underdeveloped. She looked terrible. And there was nothing I could do. One eye was also smaller than the other, which was weird. That's when I noticed that most of the faces you make all have that one weirdly sized eye. Considering how awesome the character creator was in Inquisition I was really hoping it would be just as good, but no, it's fucking terrible. So I ended up killing my first character and just going default lady Ryder.

It was a little disappointing, but I guess I played the other games with Default Mark Vanderloo Shepard so it wasn't such a huge loss. Except it was, because the facial animations in this game are the fucking worst. Sara Ryder legitimately has a goofy look on her face the entire game, like she just farted and is readying a "WHO SMELT IT DEALT IT" joke, but alas, no one takes the bait and the joke goes nowhere.

Speaking of jokes that go nowhere, the game itself is just so boring for so much of it. It has you establish outposts and explore these MASSIVE(Legitimately massive) levels, but it's all just MMO fetch quest bullshit. "Go here and scan a rock, go here and find 6 drones, go here and find 3 data pads", I just couldn't stand it. I mean I had to do it because this is a Bioware game and usually these sidequests end up meaning something later. Unfortunately I don't think any of them actual did anything other than padding the playtime I racked up, which made me very frustrated.

They said they learned their lessons after Dragon Age Inquisition but this game lacked any sort of clear direction when it comes to this shit so they probably just hired a guy to learn this lesson for them and then fired him later on.

The game also completely disrespects the players time. And I mean, holy shit, some of the decisions in this game are the most insane things I've ever seen. They go straight passed "quirky design decisions" into "seriously did FUCKING NO ONE PLAY TEST THIS". Your ship, the Tempest, explores the galaxy much like the Normandy did in the other games. Except this time instead of controlling a tiny little ship on the galaxy map, you have to pick a system and then watch a 20 second hidden loading screen until you get to the system. THEN you have to pick the locations in the system and watch another 20 second hidden loading screen as you fly there as well. And some of the systems can have a bunch of stuff in them. Nothing noteworthy, but stuff to fly to nonetheless. And it takes fucking FOREVER to do so. How this got passed any sort of QA --  ah who am I kidding this game had no QA. Moving on.

So the thing with the not respecting your time keeps going too. Remember planet scanning from Mass Effect 2? You pick a planet, open your scanner and move around a cursor while these menu shows when you are close to any amount of resources. Simply launch your probe from the ship at the press of a button and collect your minerals. In THIS GAME HOWEVER, you have to drive the Nomad, (which is a lot like Mako from Mass Effect 1 except complete fucking garbage until you install like 30 upgrades on it) and you DRIVE AROUND THE PLANETS LOOKING FOR RESOURCES. It's not convenient anymore, it's not simple. It's time consuming and because of this I never gave it any thought whatsoever. I was out of resources a lot in the early game but instead of having to spend 40 seconds loading into a goddamn planet and then finding these zones and hunting down where the resources are hidden, I just said fuck it and kept on with the game.

Another funny little quirk of the game are the emails. So Mass Effect is no stranger to emails. I don't remember if they were in 1 or not, but they were in 2 and 3. You walk up to your terminal, open your emails and you are good to go. This game is like that too, except you have this super powerful A.I. literally injected into your brain who can do a whole host of things which are almost impossible, yet it can't let you read your emails. So what does this mean? Well, let's say you are on Eos, the first real planet you get to spend time on. You are on Eos, you've done some missions and one of them ends with "Check your email". So you leave Eos and go back to the Tempest(Which, you can't just board the Tempest, you have to go back to space for some fucking reason) and THEN read your fucking email. But then you read it and it says some garbage like "Hey I'm on Eos come find me".

I'm not even kidding. SO MANY quests in this game usually involve you having to leave the planet you are on to check your email only to be informed that you need to go back to the planet you just left. I was up to my ears with this shit. HOW THE FUCK DID NO ONE DECIDE TO LET YOUR A.I ROBOT BRAIN FRIEND LET YOU READ EMAILS. HOW HAVE WE REACHED THE POINT IN OUR LIVES WHERE WE LIVE WITH SENTIENT MACHINES YET WE CAN'T EVEN INTERFACE WITH OUTLOOK!?

Interestingly though, somewhere near the end of the game I started to find it... endearing. Not the glitches or broken shit, I fucking hate all of that. Something happened with the cast of characters that made me like them. I hated them and the story for most of the game, but once you get to know them I found them all very interesting, except Liam because that guy has no fucking character and he's so basic.

Commander Shepard was a doomsayer. In his story he was a man(if that's who you chose to play as) who walked around talking about how the end is nigh and we should be ready for total destruction. Unfortunately even though he had some pretty concrete evidence everyone and their mother basically told him to fuck off, which is sad. He found enemies instead of friends and people who just were not willing to hear him out constantly. It never really felt like you had friends in those games. But in Andromeda, once you start meeting up with the other Pathfinders, you are hit with a lot of faith and trust. Not from the leadership of the Andromeda Initiative, ergo: Your bosses. No, those people are all incompetent and fuck up literally everything they do. But the Pathfinders all join together in this sort of "Fuck the boss, we're going to do what we have to do to survive" and after doing a bunch of sidequests and building up a bunch of relationships with other characters, they start singing a similar tune.

I found it very endearing that you have allies to rely on and help you that DO NOT need to wait until things are at their worst to realize you were right the whole time. Instead, they just say fuck it and band together. I wouldn't say this was desperately lacking in the original games, because that's just not the story they were telling. But in this game it is, and I'm actually very glad to see some sort of positivity about the protagonist. Like a true celebration. Because where Shepard did INCREDIBLE shit, he was always told to fuck off. Where Ryder does cool shit, she found friendship and support.

Now, the game was frustrating and quite boring for the first MAJORITY of it. But as I said above, once you get to know your squadmates it can get a little better. The one place I honestly didn't expect the game to do well was the ending. Whereas Mass Effect 3 shit out the worst ending to a franchise I've ever seen, Mass Effect Andromeda actually takes it up a notch and gives you a gloriously triumphant finale that actually reaches a natural climax. Sure, the main villains are the most awful one note "WE HATE YOU BECAUSE YOU LOVE THINGS. WE WILL DESTROY THE THINGS YOU LOVE. WE DO BAD THINGS BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT US TO DO THEM. THIS GAME NEEDED A FUCKING VILLAIN SO HERE WE ARE" I've ever seen. At least the Reapers were interesting, up until they decided to neuter Harbinger and not let him actually do anything in ME3.

But Andromeda fought hard for me to not like the ending. As the game went on it got progressively glitchier. There were dialog options that didn't have a wheel, effectively locking me out of the game and requiring me close it down and restart it again. There were cutscene glitches where, during a key moment of the game, a squadmate... merged with Ryder and clipped through her the entire way through, ruining any effort this cutscene could achieve at drawing out "emotion". There were times where the frame rate would get so low I'd swear to god I was playing in what HAD to be 1 frame a second.

It was a slog. I became legitimately excited. Friends would turn up, the music which was otherwise just as one-note as the villains was pumping, there was a glorious scene of all out war that almost outshined anything from Mass Effect 3. I got so invested into the game out of nowhere. What used to be idle interest in seeing how this fucking thing ended was... elation! I was elated! I was hyped! The ending is awesome, I can't believe it!

And I beat the game. I completed it. I had finished it. In the hour or two that it took the game to find itself, only at the ass end of my 68+ hour journey, I was on board. Unfortunately, I had done just about everything that I could, so my journey had ended.

Mass Effect Andromeda is not a good game. It's broken, buggy, and honestly I openly mocked and made fun of the game for most of my playthrough. It was hard to take it serious when it made so many obvious missteps. But eventually it was good. Genuinely. I can hate this game if I wanted to for a lot of things it did wrong, but I cannot find fault with the ending. It was a good send off for the story and made me excited that, maybe if these guys can figure out the whole "developing a video game thing", the next Mass Effect might be good from start to finish. Like the others. Except 3 though because it was good from start to almost-end and then became a shitfest but you know what I mean.

Oh yeah and the multiplayer is a sack of shit that won't stop crashing, which is a sad irony because there were the guys who were supposed to have developed the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3, a mode I invested 500+ hours into and had the time of my life. So, shit.

Also look at that face

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

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