This was a difficult post to write. There’s just so much wrong with this game’s writing that I had a hard time organizing my thoughts. I’ll need to do several follow up articles to cover everything that went wrong with it, but suffice it to say that the glitchy gameplay and hilariously bad facial animations aren’t the only things wrong with Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Which is a shame because I wanted to like this game, I really did. It sounded like my fantasy Star Trek game, exploring and communicating with strange new alien species while commanding my own starship. Unfortunately Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a sequel to Mass Effect…
It’s a remake.
A poorly done remake at that.
Rather than take their clean slate and create a new Mass Effect universe, Bioware instead has opted to simply retell the same stories we’ve already seen but without the nuance and skill that made the originals so memorable.
[[Spoiler’s to Follow]]
All That Matters is the Ending:
Mass Effect Andromeda
As I said before, there are just so many problems that I’ve had to limit this post to the top three problems I felt were the most crippling.
Here are those three problems and why they derailed what was Bioware’s last chance to impress…
1. Ryder’s Dialogue is Awful
There’s so much wrong with the dialogue in this outing of Mass Effect that I can’t possibly squeeze it into this review and a thorough dissection of what went wrong will be coming soon. However, I do want to point out one huge problem with the dialogue that cripples Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s every attempt at creating any kind of drama:
Ryder doesn’t care.
Or if he does, the dialogue doesn’t inform me of his feelings, which is basically the whole point of dialogue. Ryder’s dialogue is often completely inappropriate for the dramatic situations he finds himself in.
The biggest example is during a raid on the Archon’s ship after it has captured the Salarian Ark. Ryder discovers the remains of dozens of Salarians who have essentially been vivisected and their organs removed while they were still alive. An atrocity straight out of the darkest periods of human history.
I had been completely indifferent until this point, Mass Effect: Andromeda hadn’t managed to evoke a single emotion from me. But now, finally, I was pissed. It was the first time I felt genuine hatred for the Kett because it was the first time Andromeda showed me why I should hate the Kett, rather than simply telling me.
At one point I passed by an observation window where two Kett scientists were still operating on a Salarian. Vetra and Jaal, my companions for the mission, began beating on the glass, with Jaal roaring with rage and threatening to kill every last Kett on the ship. At this point I was pumped, my face was actually hot with anger, and I was ready to slaughter every god damn rock-faced alien on the ship with my bare hands.
Shortly after that, Ryder and company found a Krogan who had been Exhalted, and finally I was given a chance to hear Ryder’s opinion the matter. I chose the casual option, thinking this would allow him to vent his anger in a profanity laden oath to crush the Kett.
“I’m really starting to hate these guys.” – Ryder, after seeing Nazi-style medical torture and experimentation.
That was his response to the horrors he’d witnessed. Ryder wasn’t angry, if anything he just seemed slightly annoyed at seeing the atrocities being committed around him. All of that anger I felt, the first actual emotion the game had succeeded in drawing out, evaporated in an instant. The complete nonchalance of Ryder destroyed Andromeda‘s own dramatic tension. And this is ultimately a problem that crops up again and again.
I understand wanting to differentiate Ryder from Shepard, and in many ways I do enjoy how less sure of himself Ryder is, but making the character less self-assured doesn’t mean lobotomizing the characters emotions. Ryder never yells, never cries, rarely laughs, he seems utterly incapable of expressing any strong feelings. The result is that the dialogue completely hamstrings the emotional scenes in the game. When Jaal finds out about the origin of the Kett, I wanted to express sympathy. To reach out and grab him, tell him we would find a way to help or make the Kett pay for this atrocity, but instead I was limited to four tepid options, each more bland than the last.
There are a handful of scenes that have an interrupt option, but even these seem tame compared to the old Paragon/Renegade interrupts of Mass Effect 2 and 3. When you first meet Peebee, you’re given the option to push her off. Except that’s not really what the character does, you just sort of gently move her aside. Even when given an old school renegade interrupt in shooting the Cardinal at the Kett base, Ryder does it with such indifference that it loses all impact.
While I appreciate the effort to get away from the Paragon/Renegade system, the new system is ultimately too shallow to do anything with the roleplaying part of this RPG. First of all, the categories are way too nebulous and vague, what I would consider an emotional response is far different than what Ryder would end up saying every time I picked that category. Secondly, Ryder often ends up saying something completely different to what you’d expect based on the prompts you’re given. And finally… no one really seems to care what you have to say anyway.
The most jarring part of the game I’ve encountered came at the very beginning, just before taking off in the Tempest. Liam asks Ryder how he’s holding up, and one of the responses is to be honest and tell Liam you’re having a hard time with your father’s death. Ryder says something to the effect of “I hear voices, and not just SAM’s,” or something like that.
And Liam has no response. The camera just zooms out slowly while Ryder and Liam stand there in the most awkward silence possible. I really hope someone has a video of this sequence, because it’s the most unintentionally hilarious moment in the entire game. Like on a certain level it almost works because what can you say when the last best hope for humanity admits that maybe he’s losing his mind. Yet it does nothing for furthering the characters of either Ryder, who never brings up the emotional toll of his father’s death again, or Liam, who you think would report such a conversation to the doctor or at least offer some words of encouragement.
The story of Ryder slowly losing his mind to grief might actually have been an interesting story to explore, but unfortunately it doesn’t because –
2. Andromeda Focuses on the Wrong Stories
Andromeda not only had the potential to give us a new take on Mass Effect, but also sold itself on that very concept. Yet time and again, they opted to simply retell the same stories from the original trilogy instead. I mean if this wasn’t made by the same company as the originals, this would be blatant plagiarism.
It starts with a fledgling humanity trying to find its place among the stars, there’s a big bad threatening to destroy humanity (the Kett) and lurking just beyond is an unknowable horror threatening to destroy the galaxy at large (the Scourge). There’s an ancient precursor race wiped out by a mysterious force. Your companions are a Krogan, a Turian, a male and female human, the Quarian is now an Angaran, and of course Ryder is the new Shepard.
It’s not like there weren’t plenty of other, better stories right there in front of them. For instance, let’s talk about Drack.
Drack has an enjoyable story and he’s likable enough, but ultimately he’s a pale imitation of Wrex. His granddaughter Kesh, on the other hand, could have made for a much better Krogan ally, allowing us to get a new perspective on the Krogan. Kesh is a Krogan that’s defined by her intelligence and her wits, rather than her savagery, and I would have loved getting to know her better. Kesh’s character and history was a story worth the telling
Even how Andromeda tells the story of the Krogan species is a retelling of the original Mass Effect. The Krogan again come to the rescue of the other species, only this time it’s mutineers instead of the Rachni, only to be once again completely screwed afterwards. There was a much better story to be told right there in front of them in the form of the Nexus’s first year and its battles with the Kett.
The Krogan could have been the heroes of this new frontier, in fact Eos would have been the perfect habitat for them considering their resistance to radiation and its similarities to Tuchanka. Drack and his squad of scouts were already destroying the Kett handily when you first meet up with him, in fact the Kett are just fragile little gemstones compared to the walking tanks that are the Krogan. Instead of having yet another story of Krogan humiliated and defeated, we could have had a story about a Krogan race resurgent and triumphant.
There were a dozen different ways to tell this story, Andromeda was offering a fresh start, but instead of writing their own story they simply traced over what was written there before.
The biggest wasted potential of Andromeda is in how it utterly failed to build on its own premise. I was genuinely excited by the prospect of exploration and discovery becoming the cornerstone of this new Mass Effect, it sounded like my fantasy Star Trek game, going to distant worlds and discovering new civilizations. I expected to find Andromeda alive with species both wondrous and grotesque. Yet exploration and discovery, despite the dialogue repeatedly telling you you’re an explorer, aren’t the focus of the story.
Instead it’s a story about an evil race of aliens trying to wipe out humanity. Only this time the aliens are far less interesting, both visually and narratively, and instead of a charismatic villain like Saren we get the near mute Archon who feels like Corypheus 2.0. The fight against the Kett dominates the storyline, but ultimately I found myself struggling to care about any of it.
You know what I did care about? Finding the missing Arks, building colonies, and exploring the galaxy.
The missing Arks are perhaps the most perplexing part of the narrative, because it’s never made to seem all that important. It’s presented to the player as busy work, something to do while you’re out in case you get bored, but don’t worry yourself over it. If you ask Cora, Kallo, or the Turians about the missing Arks, they all share the same basic indifference.
“Yeah, they’re missing, and we’ll let you know if we hear anything about it, but don’t worry yourself over it.” That’s what it always boils down to, and it did more to ruin my immersion in the story than any other element of the game. Finding the the missing Arks should have been a massive priority, if not because of the humanitarian implications, than at least because of the resources each one contained.
Saying they’re lost and the Nexus doesn’t know where to look is a completely unacceptable attitude for the narrative to be presenting. During the course of the game, you extrapolate the currents of the Scourge to find a centuries old artificial planet floating in deep space. Yet when trying to find the Arks, SAM can’t estimate the Ark’s trajectory based on their final destination? Find out where an Ark would likely run into a Scourge cloud?
The Kett could still have played a role, the closest I came to actually becoming engrossed in the storyline came when I was rescuing the Salarian Ark. Racing to find the Arks before the Kett would have been infinitely more involving than trying to beat them to Meridian ended up being. Instead of yet another race across the galaxy to find an alien artifact before the bad guy, Andromeda could have told the story of finding friends and family amid alien stars.
Building outposts is certainly presented as important by the narrative, but unfortunately the gameplay doesn’t reflect that importance. So many of the quests sounded fascinating on paper; finding out why so many settlers became pirates, hunting down poachers on Voeld, putting to rest the many people who died trying to found colonies. Unfortunately, as interesting as these quests sounded, actually completing them was a chore. Everything devolved into a go to this point and either scan, collect, or kill an objective.
Similarly, while getting a planet to the minimum viability rating took time, once an outpost was settled it was instantly completed. I wasn’t expecting to build my outposts into bustling metropolises like Ilium, and in fact I actually like how large the outposts are, I just felt cheated that they start out that size. Huge satellite dishes, shield generators, sensor arrays, and dozens of buildings all show up over night. It would have been more rewarding had the outposts started with a smattering of buildings and slowly grown larger as you complete quests for the colony.
Finally, Andromeda suffers from the same problem as every other sci-fi franchise that’s tried to reboot its property in a different galaxy: the new galaxy is boring. This seems to be such a common failing that its hard to blame the relatively inexperienced writers of Andromeda for failing this test. Voyager’s Delta Quandrant was a lifeless wasteland whose only permanent species was the Borg, and Stargate Atlantis’s new galaxy held only Space Vampires and the Not-Space-Vampires. Similarly, Andromeda’s Heleus Cluster is home to only the Angara and the Kett.
Mass Effect’s Milky Way was teeming with varied and interesting lifeforms, all with fascinating quirks and physiology. While on subsequent playthroughs I saw how Mass Effect 1’s first Citadel section had pacing problems, my first visit I didn’t even notice them because I was engrossed in getting to know all the different species and rich history of the universe. Talking with the Elcor ambassador and learning their species’ charming speaking patterns is one of my favorite memories of the original trilogy. Andromeda feels utterly devoid of life by comparison, not only are there only two species, but those species aren’t even properly fleshed out.
Every Angara I went through went through great pains to tell me how big their families were, as if the writers were hoping that one trait alone would be enough to curry interest in their new aliens. It’s not. Meanwhile the Kett are religious extremists, but we never find out any meaningful details about what they worship or why.
And all of this eventually comes together to ruin what could have otherwise been a serviceable ending.
3. It’s Ending is Rushed and Unearned
Unlike Inquisition’s pitiful final battle with Corypheus, where he essentially falls over dead with little fanfare, Andromeda at the very least delivers a visually spectacular battle that could have been very satisfying. Unfortunately, the ending is completely let down by the fact that narrative never earns such a colossal battle. I’m going to pull out an old school picture from my first review of Mass Effect 3.
I pulled this out during my initial Mass Effect 3 review to illustrate how the ending had failed to provide a falling action and resolution. This time I’m pulling it out to illustrate how Mass Effect: Andromeda failed to create the rising tension necessary for a good climax.
To be fair, the original Mass Effect could suffer this problem too. If you didn’t do Virmire as your final mission before the ending, finishing up whatever main quest was left could feel like busywork by comparison. However, by Mass Effect 2, Bioware had managed to nail an almost perfect curve for their rising action.
Over the course of Mass Effect 2, the stakes of the story slowly ramp up and that’s reflected in the action. From the slower first act where Shepard begins to uncover the Collector’s identity and plans, to the second act aboard the seemingly derelict Collector ship, and finally the crescendo of the Reaper’s attack on the Normandy and the Suicide mission. The rising action was so finely tuned that it never felt like it was rushing through the story, nor did it ever feel like it was being unnecessarily padded.
Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s story somehow managed to feel both incredibly padded and extremely rushed at the same time. The rising action serves several important purposes; setting the stakes of the story, revealing the villains abilities and goals, and gradually ramping up the action. Unfortunately it failed to do any of those things.
The stakes of the story are never clearly defined. In a broad sense, the very survival of humanity is at stake, but it’s not enough to simply tell us that. The story needs to provide specific threats to human survival. They even try to throw your twin in there as something at stake, but since the twin has only a handful of lines, we never get to feel emotionally invested in that character. Human survival has been the stake of every Mass Effect game, but this is the first time I never felt any actual danger from the villains.
Much like Corypheus from Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Archon never establishes himself as a credible threat to either humanity or Ryder. The plot was constantly telling me I was in a race against time, but I never felt that was the case. Where as Saren was fully capable of finding the Conduit and using it, the Archon was consistently unable to use even the most basic of the Remnant’s technology. What’s the rush? The guy has been banging his head against this thing for who knows how long, I really don’t feel like time is a factor.
Meanwhile the Kett at large, unlike the Reapers or Collectors, never become the larger-than-life villains they pretend to be. Ryder’s small team manages to wipe out multiple Kett bases all by themselves, they never attack any of the incredibly soft targets that are Ryder’s new outposts, and the Angara continue to resist them centuries after first contact. The only points in the Kett’s favor are their genetic manipulation and the strange mind control they use.
If this had been the first time Mass Effect had shown us a villain that can genetically manipulate species and dominate their minds, that might have gone a long way to making the Kett a credible threat. However, just like everything else, this a story that’s already been told by the original Mass Effect. The Reapers did it all to a much more effective degree than the Kett.
Not that the Kett couldn’t get there, they could have if the story had been allowed to breathe a little. Andromeda was just hitting its stride when I was rescuing the Salarian Ark, and at the time I thought that was about the midpoint of the story based several factors:
- The stakes had been significantly raised by threatening the extinction of the Salarians in Adromeda.
- The Kett became far more threatening due to how close they came to wiping out the Salarians.
- The action was by far the most intense of the story.
However, rather than build on the momentum this mission built, Andromeda opts to launch straight into its endgame. An incredibly boring endgame at that, taking place inside the derelict hull of a Remnant superstructure. Visually the levels are nice to look at, but narratively they actually reduce the stakes of the game. Instead of giving us people to save, and cool characters to put in danger like the Salarian pathfinder, without something at stake other than “get to point X”, there’s no thrill. No danger.
No, I take that back, I did get a good laugh out the ending sequence.
When the Archon launched into a “I let you win” speech after activating Meridian, I laughed out loud, it was just such a ridiculous idea. This bumbling, incompetent moron who has been pawing at inert pieces of rock trying to activate Meridian suddenly becomes this mastermind and it just destroyed by suspension of disbelief. Like Mass Effect 3’s ending, in which the Citadel suddenly appeared over Earth because reasons, the Archon seizes control of the Hyperion and abducts your twin. How he even knew there was a twin is a question that was never answered.
The hijacking of the Hyperion also punches some rather large holes in the already flimsy plot. For instance, the Nexus had been hanging there in a near crippled state for nearly a year before Hyperion shows up, why have the Kett not attacked it before now? The ending also glosses over exactly how the Kett boarded the Hyperion while it was moored to the Nexus. Do none of those ships, or the Nexus itself, have any kind of defensive armaments?
Finally there’s the one choice that seems to actually affect the ending, whether you had all the pathfinders. I was just tired of all the fetch quests by the time I reached the ending and couldn’t be bothered with another “go to point A and scan object B” mission, so the Turian Ark went undiscovered. As a result, Captain Dunn died.
My response to that?
“Who the hell is Captain Dunn?”
I had met Captain Dunn at the very beginning of the game, which was near forty hours earlier, and once or twice for a couple of side quests. I was never given an opportunity to know her as a character. I mean I obviously clued into the fact that she was the Hyperion’s captain, but that fact alone doesn’t mean her sacrifice is going to have any kind of emotional impact. It’s as if Bioware saw how much everyone loved Captain Anderson’s final moments, and decided that it was the label of Captain that everyone loved rather than the character himself.
In the end the story was just too rushed for the ending to have any kind of weight to it. In fact the whole game feels rushed. Somehow, despite having five years to work on it, it was rushed. Or perhaps simply overly ambitious.
Either way, I really wanted to like this game. Unfortunately it ended too soon and left me asking only one question:
What was the point of it all?
Disappointing to hear. (And I trust your judgment.) Mass Effect 2 was near perfect IMHO. That’s the minimum standard I think they need to meet.
Yeah, I’m thinking of doing an article on Mass Effect 2, because it was just a brilliant gem of writing.
I’d be very interested to read that. Story-wise, the two that stand out for me besides ME are BioShock Infinite (you’re review made me pick it up) and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which I’d love to get your take on, but I know you’re busy). I wouldn’t say they are perfect games, but the story stayed with me for a while after I played them.
Great review John. I kinda expected Andromeda to be a letdown. Bioware seems to have forgotten how to write compelling stories or make an interesting game in terms of side quests or interactions between characters. I go the feeling they were just going to make open world ala Ubisoft style with nothing of substance in it. Gonna wait for a sale if I do get it.
Oh btw, have you thought of playing the Souls games? Dark Souls 1, 2(if you want to play 2) and 3. The narrative, the gameplay and the DLC are something to behold, especially the final one that just released. I have not many words to describe it. And have you heard of Nier:Automata?
Yeah I was also expecting Andromeda to suck, and in fact if I wasn’t intent on reviewing it, I wouldn’t have bothered buying it. I will say the gameplay is probably the best it has been, so yeah if you get it on sale with all the inevitable DLC included, it’s probably worth 20 bucks or so.
I have been struggling on and off with Dark Souls 3. Unfortunately I’m not a huge fan of the ultra-hard, supposed to lose often, type of games. So I’m not sure I’m getting a chance to appreciate the narrative, since I’m constantly bashing my head against a wall with most of the bosses. I may just get some cheats for it hahah
I’ve been hearing about this Nier Automata over the past few days and hearing great things. Hopefully I’ll get it soon and write up a review.
Do you think Bioware is on a downward spiral? I’d love to see an article on that if that’s the case.
I think Bioware is now towards the end of a downward spiral, unfortunately. This is no longer the Bioware that once made Dragon: Age Origins and Mass Effect 2. I’ve never done an article on how a business like Bioware has gone down hill, but it’d be an interesting challenge. I’ll take a shot at it.
It seems like Bioware crumbled under the pressure of its early successes. In trying to live up to what they perceived as “the next level in gaming,” they lost sight of that which needs to remain a constant: a solid narrative upon which to place that next level.
That’s probably a good chunk of it. Unfortunately, I also think there’s something extremely toxic about EAs corporate structure. Because a lot of the talent that worked on Mass Effect 1 and 2, and Dragon Age Origins, had quit by the time Inquisition rolled around. It’s practically an entirely new writing team on Andromeda.
No wonder it feels like they were fumbling in the dark. It’s KOTOR and KOTOR II all over again (at least for me).
They have been on a downward spiral ever since ME2 peaked as far as I’m concerned. Granted, ME2’s main plot was already slightly dumbed down but it was at least thematically appropriate and climactically satisfying and the side-stories were fantastic, but man, I really did not like a lot of ME3 and DA2 was also kind of a mixed bag. It seems bad things just started happening in their time after becoming an EA developer. Talent started leaving and corporate demands started interfering, such as getting games out on time for fiscal year release and also the fact that the CEOs of BioWare opened 2 new studios and lost oversight I think. You actually see this a lot in the industry in some ways; good developers get too big and it starts to inflate their ability to make quality. There’s sort of a peak and then it just goes downhill, but some studios keep going and going like Naughty Dog (unless UC4 is a sign of a decline :S)
“How he even knew there was a twin is a question that was never answered.”
Actually that WAS answered. The Archon gets a copy of Ryder’s memories in one of the prior story missions. So he knew “everything” about Ryder. Also explaining everything else, like how they suddenly found the ark and whatnot. You must have noticed how the Archon injected Ryder with that syringe and the SAM connection failed etc…
Everything else you said I experienced pretty much the same way. Nice to know that Captain Dunn can die. So there are some choices/consequences after all. I often wondered if anything mattered.
What I also took as bad taste, was how they left stuff out like the quarians, who have a lot of fans, only to then put a transmission from them in at the end, which can be nothing but a thinly veiled DLC announcement.
I still liked the game a lot more than DAI, simply because I enjoy the combat. It wasn’t because of the story or characters.
I especially agree with your statement, that the story should have been about something else. There was one part of the story that was at least somewhat appealing to me and it was about the mysterious benefactor and the murder of Jien Garson. Something that sounded like such an important part of the story, but then was completely dropped never to be heard from again… I would have loved to find out what that was all about. Maybe they are going to sell this as additional DLC too…
Shameless plug, here’s my post about the game: https://nambulous.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/mass-effect-soft-reboot/
Wait…seriously? Wow, it’s kind of crazy how little I remember of a game that I just played a week ago. I swear to God I don’t actually remember that happening. Was this on the Archon’s ship when he traps you in the force field or whatever it was?
Yeah the Quarian DLC message was originally part of this review too lol, but it turned into a huge rage-tangent so had to cut it, it will probably show up as a separate post at some point.
I also loved the gameplay actually, which is why it was such a shame that it wasn’t used to tell a better story. The Jien Garson mystery was easily one of the most compelling parts of the story. Another story that would have been far more interesting than what we got, had it taken front and center rather than a sidequest. Yeah, I can almost guarantee it’s a future DLC. Assuming of course that Andromeda hits EA’s hilariously optimistic 3 million copy threshold. If it doesn’t, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance Mass Effect dies here, and perhaps Bioware.
Well officially, anyway, I think we all know Bioware died years ago. 😉
“Was this on the Archon’s ship when he traps you in the force field or whatever it was?”
Yes! That’s exactly the spot! You are trapped in the forcefield, then the Archon shows up, uses this syringe on you and later he gets access to all or at least most of Ryder’s memories. Has an extra sequence and everything. 😛
Hahah bizarre that I don’t remember that when it obviously must have happened. I guess maybe I just tuned out for a while there, since that scene occurs shortly after Ryder’s total indifference to dead and dying Salarians/Krogan just jolted me right out of the story.
Uh, it’s true but I think it’s a testament to how poorly this game set up each individual story-beat. Wow, suddenly Archon is just on the Hyperion? Compare it to Saren who we KNEW had to get to the Conduit to insta-warp an army onto the Citadel to Andromeda where they just casually cut to the SAM-node room and Archon is just there and there’s panic.
The story planning and scenario writing is just bad.
Not to mention the part where Ryder loses his Dad and the twins barely express any sign of sadness, disappointment, regret. You know anything resembling a human being. Maker’s breath the Ryders make the Inquisitor seem like a well written character.
Its seems like everything that went wrong with DA Inquisition was put into the Mass Effect Universe and we the consumers are much poorer because of it.
What gets me annoyed with Bioware is that they should have stuck to their guns about the endings and picked one of them like Destroy and gone forward. But instead Bioware chickened out they didn’t want to admit that ME3 endings sucked but they didn’t want to revisit the Milky way galaxy even though there were still many stories to tell. Like the krogan being cured, the number of species on the verge of extinction, trying to rebuild after a devastating galactic war. Not to mention the dozens of characters who we could have reunited with like Liara, Garrus, Wrex, etc.
But no Bioware decided to pick a galaxy that should have been impossible to visit with technology available in the games. Created a dumb reason for the Andromeda initiative to exist in the first place and tried to reboot everything so they could have their cake and eat it too.
My Ryder actually had some sort of crazy grin on her face, when she was told that her father was dead. Like she was happy or something. So bizarre.
I agree with what you said about the galaxy swapping. What angered me the most about it, is that they didn’t even do anything with the potential a new galaxy could have offered. You have only 2 new alien groups and those aren’t even very interesting. Disappointing!
Yeah, that’s another tangent I removed from my main review, how Ryder doesn’t care about his father’s death. It’ll be coming up in a separate article.
And yeah, everything that was wrong with Inquisition shows up in Andromeda to a worse degree. Honestly yeah, it would have been better to just power through their shitty ME3 ending and keep it in the Milky Way. But then I can also see their dilemma, ME3’s ending just broke so much of the canon that it would have been difficult. Though not impossible, especially if Bioware just did a solid retcon of the entire ending.
There are probably a dozen or more fan fics out there with Shepard waking up aboard the Normandy sickbay (after ME3 ending) and “everything” was just hallucinations from massive blood loss. 😀
The only upside IMO is the game-design of the exploration gameplay. Instead of a vague score called “power” which you have no idea how it works practically when you’re the leader of the organization who still goes to hunt bears for people (because… that makes The Inquisition more powerful?) I can at least compliment Andromeda for its idea of having to Terraform each planet with the Remnant tech, then settle an outpost and resolve the conflict on each planet which then when this is done, the planet reaches 100% viability. I can understand what that means because it makes sense. The climate is habitable for your average person now, there’s no danger of all out war or conflict between the leaders of the area and the Nexus has an outpost there so it is governed properly.
That is IMO a huge improvement over whatever the hell I was doing in Inquisition. But as you say, it just sucks this game isn’t primarily about Ryder being a Pathfinder. Instead it’s about Ryder being “the chosen one” who stops the bad guy when there was a tremendous opportunity for BioWare to double down on the idea of colonization and the sort of conflict that could lead to. All Milky Way life is at stake in Andromeda, there’s turmoil within the leadership and planets are uninhabitable but instead of making this a STORY BioWare decided to make the conflict of settling worlds an optional metagame that feels tacked on (or is it just the main plot that feels tacked on here?).
Also, in terms of game-design vs story they have to figure out next time how to make a game within this “Inquisition formula” without having a protagonist that constantly wins just because the player needs to feel rewarded. An easy solution would be to say “if you choose to help the Krogan, there will be less viability somewhere else” and things like that. You never just win, you make choices with sacrifices and if they were really good at this they could make a plotline throughout these scenarios that tie into the overall themes and the plight of Ryder as a character. Instead it’s all just one bloated and missed opportunity.
Yeah power was definitely an easier metric to visualize than whatever weird thing was going on in Inquisition.
Yes the lack of any actual choices or decisions to make is a major downside. I mean I criticized Inquisition’s choices for not having an impact, but Andromeda not having at all was incredibly disconcerting. Like without any choices to make, what was the point of making it an RPG? They should have just made it a straight shooter.
Yes, I agree. I think sometimes BioWare has a tendency to have moments of “THIS IS A BIG CHOICE, IT WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES” but then it kinda cops out by not showing directly enough how it affects the current story as opposed to a sequel (this is where ME123 failed at large) but the moment of making those choices whether it was Ashley or Kaidan or who should be the next Divine was intense and rewarding in the moments and within those stories. It became a problem for Mass Effect to keep showing the consequences of dead characters whilist still integrating a potentially dead cast into the plot of the sequel, but Andromeda doesn’t even try which is a completely “no-winners” situation and a sign that BioWare just kinda gave up. I know the Lead Writer of ME2/3 hated having to account for player choice and he’s the creative director now so whoop-dee-doo 😛
I have some hope for DA4 though since the new Lead Writer, Patrick Weekes who wrote Solas’s character and Trespasser DLC (and Mordin, and Rannoch in ME3) cared a lot about writing the different choice scenarios back then.
“I mean if this wasn’t made by the same company as the originals, this would be blatant plagiarism.”
What if I told you that the developer behind this game was in fact not the same team that made Mass Effect 1 and the creative director is the same guy who wrote Mass Effect 3’s endings and shoehorned Cerberus into every single plot of ME1 in his comics? Mac Walters may have written Wrex and Garrus in ME1, but he took over from the former Lead Writer Drew Karpyshyn who wrote all of ME1 and ME2’s main plot and if you think about it the “plagiarism” already started with 3 when Mac soullessly turned Illusive Man into Saren 2.0 and had something with a Prothean VI that would reveal the key to reaching the point of stopping the conflict (like the Conduit) all in an attempt to “make it like Mass Effect” because as it turns out I don’t really think Mac Walters is the mastermind of the franchise he thought he was just because it felt good being entitled “Lead Writer” as the old guard left.
Not only that, but BioWare Montreal is a team largely comprised of exactly fans of the original series as opposed to veteran BioWare staff. The writer of Liam and Jaal are the only trilogy writing staff that remained and Chris Schlerf, who is a “writer for hire” kind of guy who also wrote Halo 4 (which also felt like fanfiction in some ways) wrote the main plot for this game… and then he left the studio long before they were done with all the things outside of the main plot. Also, there were 10 writers on this game. Too many cooks in the kitchen for one vision unless the creative direction was tight (but alas, Mac Walters is not that guy)
I honestly don’t think 10 writers are all that much, on a game of that size. Just imagine what an amount of text is in that game. All the dialogs, all the quests, all the email, logs, terminals…
Whatever is their problem, I doubt that’s it.
Yeah, actually at the request of another reader I’m doing an article on Bioware’s downward slide and doing some research on it. Sad how much of the talent behind Bioware is actually gone, to the point where this is an entirely new company.
I strongly suggest you check out the “Mass Effect X series later” video series on Youtube that shed some light on the development of all 3 games. Also, a lot of BioWare’s legacy writers that left are now writing for games such as Banner Saga and the upcoming Beamdog IP which is actually led by a lot of the lead-devs of Dragon Age Origins.
Thanks for the tip, I’ll check those out. I didn’t know about Beamdogs new game, I thought they just did remasters of old games. I’m excited to see what they come up with though, especially if they have DAO alumni on board.
David Gaider is the creative director and Brent Oster is the Lead Designer. That’s a roleswap from DA:O where Brent was Creative dir. and Dave was Lead, but David is both writer and director this time. I’m crossing my fingers and hopefully he isn’t forced to write some Corypheus villain that does nothing this time.
Love this article. It very clearly points out some of the most egregious flaws. (I will be linking this to people who ask me why I didn’t like the game, because I get all rage-y and kind of foaming at the mouth when I try to explain it myself.) Honestly, there are so many flaws, from giant sweeping plot holes to tiny wtf moments, that you could probably get a few dozen articles about them!
I actually rage quite halfway through the ending wrap up because I was so pissed at the ambassador thing. Does anyone know WTF that was about? To me (and again, I totally didn’t actually finish, just got past that part and bailed) they were so obsessed with following ME1’s formula exactly that they felt the need to make this big decision at the end. But I 100% did not understand WTF they were talking about. I need to appoint an ambassador? An ambassador is a diplomat appointed from one group to speak to another group. Who the hell was this ambassador supposed to be speaking for, and to whom? I heard through various dialogue that the ambassador would represent all of Heleus (how exactly does one person represent at least 4 very different groups and who the hell are they representing them TO?), they would represent people not part of the Nexus (wtf, why would Nexus leadership appoint someone to represent others, not to mention, again, that’s like 3 different groups, and why the hell aren’t they electing their own fucking ambassadors???), or that they would represent Nexus (in which case 1) how the hell do you get this far with no planned professional ambassador, 2) why the hell wouldn’t we have multiple ambassadors stationed to the various groups we’ve met/created, and 3) why the fuck was the Moshae an option???).
Just… Ugh. So much of this game was just, “wait, what?” for me, and the ending was just that times 1000.
Oh yeah, wow, I didn’t even think about who the Ambassador was going to represent. Honestly by that time I had checked out mentally, because yeah, Andromeda was a god damn mess. That’s an awesome point though, because you’re absolutely right, who the hell is this ambassador representing? Wow, this game is just so messed up.
Glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks for pointing out how stupid the Ambassador choice was.
I was confused by that as well (since no one bothered explaining anything and it just suddenly popped up out of nowhere), but I figured this Ambassador position is supposed to be the diplomatic representation of the Nexus for the rest of the cluster. I thought that was the case, because Director Tann (the Salarian dude out of the 3 Nexus leaders) complained when I picked the Moshae for giving influence to someone who’s not from the Andromeda Initiative.
If that’s not it, then I completely misread the situation. Only BioWare would know, and maybe even they didn’t think about this much, given how they just threw this in at the last second, completely out of nowhere. I actually hate it when they do that, come up with something crazy in the last 5 minutes of the game. 😛 But let’s not go there. 😀 😀 😀
Yeah, if there was any logic to it, it seems like it should be you picking someone to represent the Nexus. It’s just so incredibly weird that the Moshae was even a choice that I couldn’t understand what they were getting at. It’s interesting to hear that if you pick the Moshae, Tann bitches. That would almost make the whole thing make sense–like Ryder just threw the Moshae in out of nowhere. Except that if you don’t pick the Moshae, and talk to her afterwards, she bitches at you like you’re usurping a position that should belong to the Angara. Which completely screws up any logic they almost had there.
How did you miss the turian ark? Even if you don’t follow the quest pathline, doing Vetra’s loyalty quest gets you there. And if you learned anything from ME2, it’s that loyalty quests are important.
All you have to do is look up when on the low gravity planet. Bam, there it is.
Best planet by the way. Needs a better name the H-bunch-of-numbers.
But, after doing one play with 98% complete and everyone lives… kinda dull to play again. Still kinda love it thou.
Really? I did Vetra’s loyalty quest to save her sister on the shattered planet. Didn’t run across the Turian Ark.