2.537 Million Light Years Away…
Yes, you read that title correctly. I have written a Replay article about Mass Effect: Andromeda. Yes, that Mass Effect Andromeda.
Mass Effect Andromeda is the fourth instalment in the popular Bioware science fiction rpg series Mass Effect. It was supposed to serve as a soft reboot of the series following the conclusion of the Commander Shepard trilogy. Unfortunately, this did not go according to plan.
Mass Effect Andromeda was released back in March and to say it received a mixed response from critics and gamers alike is quite the understatement. Citing a plethora of technical issues, weird character animations and sub-par writing, Mass Effect Andromeda was labelled a failure and a disappointment. This frosty reception lead to lacklustre sales and Electronic Arts seemingly putting the franchise on hold indefinitely.
Despite all the negative press, when Mass Effect Andromeda went on sale on the PSN recently, I decided to see for myself. Surely it couldn’t be that bad could it?
The good, The Bad And The Ugly Facial Animations
In the interest of full disclosure, yes Mass Effect Andromeda is riddled with bugs. The facial animations of the characters are strange and sometimes borderline terrifying.
Most characters, only move the bottom half of their face when they speak. While this isn’t a problem when the person speaking is a Salarian, Turian or Krogan, when either a Human or Asari is speaking, it looks like they recently had botox injected into their face.
Sometimes when you are exploring a planet’s surface, be it in the Nomad or on foot, about 40% of the time when the game auto saves, it temporarily freezes. Ryder’s character model isn’t the only one that freezes either as sometimes enemies would freeze for a moment when getting off of transport ships.
And yet, I played the game for 72 hours. I played a game that has been described as completely broken and borderline unplayable, for 72 hours. How you ask? I’ll tell you how!
Lock And Load
I’m going to come right out and say it. The combat in Mass Effect Andromeda is amazing. The best the third-person shooter combat has been in the entire franchise. The addition of the jet pack, tight aiming controls and a simple but effective cover mechanic is what made me stick with this game to the end.
Whether it was some of the set piece battles with the Kett, fighting the Remnant in one of the many vaults, fighting wildlife in the jungles of Havarl or fighting against one of the massive Remnant Architects, I loved every minute.
While it was a little annoying sometimes that I could no longer direct my squad mates to use their techniques when I wanted, it didn’t matter. The combat is so good in Mass Effect Andromeda in fact that it feels like a completely game. Like night and day.
It Was Never Going To Be Shakespeare
The writing in Mass Effect Andromeda isn’t as good as the writing from the original trilogy. In fact the writing is bad. But, it is bad in that so bad it is actually good sort of way.
The writing is so bad that it reaches the point of cheesy. But, the writing is so cheesy that it strays into science fiction B movie territory. Once I made the B movie comparison in my head, I actually began to enjoy it.
Drack, the Krogan member of your crew on the Tempest, ended up becoming one of my favourite Mass Effect characters by the end of the game. He is grumpy, full of cheesy action hero style one liners and it got to the point where I just had to have him in my team.
The actual plot of the game sadly is sort of rehash of the struggle against the Collectors in Mass Effect 2 but against the cheesy B movie backdrop, it is actually fairly forgivable in my eyes. It was never going to be Shakespeare now was it?
The Root Of The Problem
I have a confession to make. The point of my choosing Mass Effect Andromeda for Replay this week wasn’t about me discussing the merits of this game at all. Mass Effect Andromeda had a troubled development cycle. This fact was highlighted by its lead writer and senior development director quitting. The entire project was then scrapped three years in. And finally it was rebuilt into the Frankenstein’s monster that it is today in just eighteen months.
Notwithstanding its troubled development, Mass Effect Andromeda was ruined by something else. It was ruined by hype. Modern video game fans have expectation that I believe are getting to the point where they’re no longer feasible to meet.
Gamers want cutting-edge graphics, perfect gameplay but are no longer willing to wait the four to five years that it now takes to make a high quality AAA games. Then when games don’t meet expectations, gamers take to the internet to spew hate at developers and trash games that are actually quite good when given a chance.
What makes this hateful practice even worse is how selective gamers are in their expectations. Bioware get tonnes of hate because Mass Effect Andromeda wasn’t perfect but Bethestha get to churn out open world rpg’s that are more riddled with bugs than the underside of a log.
Mass Effect Andromeda is nowhere near as broken as Skyrim or Fallout 4 were when they released. And yet Mass Effect Andromeda garnered a tonne of criticism while Bethestha continue to release unpolished game after unpolished game. An honourable mention goes to Electronic Arts in the case of Mass Effect Andromeda though for forcing Bioware to pull a Dragon Age 2, just for the sake of bleeding more money out of a beloved franchise.
Decide For Yourself
I want everyone that reads this article to replay Mass Effect Andromeda for two reasons. First, because Mass Effect Andromeda is a solid 6.5 out of 10 science fiction action rpg or an 11 out of 10 if we’re playing it wearing the rose-tinted glasses people play Bethestha rpgs wearing.
Second, I want you to play Mass Effect Andromeda because it is a monument to how a game can be ruined by hype and unrealistic expectations. If gamers don’t slow the hype train, AAA game makers are going to keep selling us unpolished games riddled with bugs.
It saddens me to watch this happen to a medium that is so close to my heart. So please, next time a little patience and a little understanding and we might get the games that we really want.