Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda - Criticisms

I just finished up Mass Effect: Andromeda.  The game has gotten notably bad press over some aspects of the game.  For a series that got stellar reviews on the prior generation of platforms (on gamerankings across all platforms, about 90% for Mass Effect, 94% for Mass Effect 2, and about 90% for Mass Effect 3) the reviews on newer platforms for Mass Effect: Andromeda have been quite bad (74% on Xbox, 69% on PS4).

Here are some things I think were bad about the game.  Some simple changes could have made the experience far better.  Needless to say ...


1) Unable to skip cutscenes

Perhaps my biggest irritation was the inability to skip pre-generated cutscenes and the general horrible "flow" of completing quests.  For example, lets say you've just completed a mission and need to fly back to the Nexus to talk to someone to complete the quest.  You have to

A) somehow get to the Tempest (via extraction via Nomad or going to ship, whatever)
B) watch an unskippable pre-generated cutscene flying off planet
C) goto planetary controls
D) zoom out from your current planet
E) select the solar system the Nexus is on
F) watch an unskippable cutscene flying over to the solar system
G) select the planet the Nexus is near
H) watch an unskippable cutscene flying over to the planet
I) select that you want to dock at the Nexus
J) watch a pre-generated cutscene fying into the Nexus
K) do whatever you wanted to do on the Nexus
L) When you leave, watch another pre-generated cutscene leaving

The 5 unskippable cutscenes just makes the entire process tedious and horrible.

Why could you just fast travel to the Nexus or any number of planets with a single selection?  It would have helped the "flow" a lot better.  It would have easily made the game a lot better.

(Update: After a patch update you can skip the cutscene in 'H' ... but that's only 1 cutscene you can skip).

1-A) Bad "flow" in the game

Related to the above.  There were many "flow" parts of the game that were just annoying.  The tiniest things could have made it better.  Kadara is a great example of horrible flow.

Lets say you want to complete a mission that's somewhere on the Kadara wasteland.  Take all of the above (replacing Nexus with Kadara), but ...

K-2) select from the terminal you want to travel down to the slums
K-3) walk outside of the slums
K-4) fast travel wherever you need OR call in the Nomad

Why can't you just go to the outside immediately?  Why isn't the Nomad just there already?

These are all "flow" issues that make the game more irritating.  Some of it always exists, but there was just a little too much of it.

2) Too many "dumb" quests or "fillers"

Every RPG out there has what I typically call "dumb quests".  These are quests like fetch quests ("can you fetch me this item") or finding quests ("if you come across these items can you please bring it to me").  Some are typically fine, as it forces/gets the user to explore a bit more than they otherwise might.

However, Andromeda just seemed to be awash in these quests.  As an example is the "movie night" quests.  Throughout the game your crew wants to throw a movie night.  You have to get movies from the Nexus, a bootleg movie from Kadara (BTW, why two movies?), some snacks from somewhere, some booze from somewhere else.  Maybe more that I can't remember.  Just so everyone can have a movie night.  Ugh ...

In Aya, I remember atleast 3 tasks in which a Turian asks you "I can't get into the city, can you buy some stuff for me"?  This happens THREE times with the same Turian.  Ugh ... 

In addition is there was a ton of "dumb exploration".  As an example, out of the maybe 30 galaxies in Mass Effect Andromeda, I think only about 10 had missions on them.  The vast majority of them are just filler solar systems that you can't explore or do anything except scan for anomalies or minerals.  Near the end of the game they introduce about 6 new solar systems to explore.  You get a mission in exactly zero of them.

The game could have been much better by limiting this aspect.  There was no need to add so much "filler".  I'm wondering if DLC is planned down the line to add things todo in all this "filler".

As an example of how much filler there was, the website how long to beat lists the following times to complete everything in the game:

Mass Effect - 44 hours
Mass Effect 2 - 50 hours
Mass Effect 3 - 49 hours
Mass Effect: Andromeda - 93 hours

Yeah ...

3) Bugs

In any major RPG nowadays there will be bugs.  I recall a healthy chunk in Fallout 4.  However, the bugs in Mass Effect: Andromeda just seemed more annoying or just crossed a threshold of annoying.  I generally consider animation bugs tolerable (I recall onetime I walked into a room in the Tempest and simply died by falling into space b/c the floor hadn't been generated).

However, there seemed to be a nice chunk of quest bugs where waypoints weren't set correctly.  So I wandered aimlessly for awhile or eventually had to look online for tips.

I also had to restart/reload the game a number of occasions (I recall once the game hanging, I reloaded, and the Nomad had somehow ended up being inside a Vault).  A few times is tolerable, but it was more than the normal acceptable level.  At some point, you are doing quests and can't complete it, so you just accept "I guess it's just bugged".

4) Constant scanning

I enjoyed the scanning aspect of the game, but there was just too much "look around in this area for the thing you need to look for."  At some point you scan all around you hoping for things to go faster.

5) Disappointing end battle

I was disappointed in the end battle.  Instead of fighting the archon, you just end up fighting tons of remnant (like you have been doing the entire game) and an architect, which I had already fought 4 times in the game.  What about an epic battle with the Archon?  IIRC, at some point he says something like "I control all the remnant" ... so perhaps the end battle could have been remnant and him versus your team?

6) Suspension of disbelief

There was a tiny suspension of disbelief problem I had in some elements of the story.  I'm completely ignoring the fact that the Angaran learn English nearly instantaneously after initially speaking to you in their native tongue (you just accept it for the game to continue).

At some point while playing I thought to myself, "I'm killing a lot of people."  Given that the game was supposed to be about humans and the other Milky Way races escaping the Milky Way to try and make a new home for themselves, it seems odd that I would be killing so many people.  I can accept there were "exiles" that left the Nexus, and perhaps I might kill a few here and there.  But I'm just killing tons of outcasts, collective, scavengers, traitors, exiles, etc.

The settlement on Elaaden made no sense to me either.  If there is no water on the planet, why would anyone even settle there?  My bet is that the Mass Effect team thought "We have a planet that's initially too cold to settle, so we also need a planet that's initially too hot to settle."

In addition, why is everyone so violent and willing to steal, kill, and destroy each other?  Weren't certain criminal elements vetted properly before traveling to another galaxy?  One tiny quest in the game attempts to address this, but it was a bit hard to suspend disbelief.


Online there are criticisms of the animations, lack of character depth, and story.  While maybe not as great a game as some of the earlier Mass Effect games (notably the wonderful Mass Effect 2), I would not pan the game on this alone.  Some story elements could have been better (such as the whole "SAM memory triggers" ... what a let down at the finish).  It could have been stronger, but it wasn't that big of a deal.

It's all of the little things above that just made the game not as good.  Some tiny subtleties in the game flow could have made it much more enjoyable.  Making the game a little "smaller" probably would have helped alot by getting rid of a lot of the filler and suspension of disbelief.  Add in a little bit better QA and a better boss battle at the end, and it could have easily been a game reviewed in the 80% range instead of 70% range.

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