I Liked Mass Effect Andromeda

Is that enough of an inflammatory click-bait headline for you? If it is, good, because you’re the kind of person I want to be talking to right now

See, I finished Mass Effect Andromeda last week. And I liked Mass Effect Andromeda. Sure, there were some annoying parts, a bunch of fech-questy shit I ended up ignoring as I got tired of it, and no I didn’t gather every mineral. But I’ve grown to accept that these things are a part of RPG games these days and are a part of Mass Effect games in general. Every single ME game to date has been a bit repetitive at points, and this one was THE LEAST repetitive ME game that I’ve played yet.

Also, the last sequences of the game were AMAZING! The Meridian! The entire galaxy coming together in a final battle! Everyone rallying to your side! Space and air combat! Big ass ships and huge battles! The final battle against the big bad! That awesome epilogue that makes you feel soooo good!

So, while enjoying the high I received from playing the game, I made the mistake of going on the internet. And seeing a couple of articles from RPS. And some fan forums. And immediately my high was replaced with frustration and disappointment. At the world.

OMG Everyone Hates ME:A

Everywhere, I see hatred for this game. Not complaints. Visceral hatred. And sure, people are providing valid complaints. But people are also complaining about the most inane things like:

All of the facial animations are weird and everyone looks deadpan.

Yup, I saw this and thought it was a bit weird. A week later, they released a patch that fixed this bug and everything looked great. No harm, no foul.

How dare I not go raging on Twitter about how stupid everyone looks? I guess. I grew up in the age of early PC-based 3D rendering, playing games like Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, and all of the GameTitle 3D games. Everyone looked like a hairy ass cheek back then, so the fact that the eye animations weren’t working in an otherwise beautiful game didn’t bother me one iota.

Does this make me a horrible person, or a horrible gamer? You decide I guess. But my strategy for dealing within minor bugs that don’t affect the gameplay? Get over it.

OMG its soooo repetitive!

Really? Have you ever played a video game before? Have you ever played an RPG that requires you to grind for hours and hours before you can proceed to the next area? By the way, I know you have, because you have absolutely played World of Warcraft. Are you part of the same audience that sings the praises of rogue-likes and the endless stream of platformers? Have you ever played an ME game before?

If any of the above are true, you are a hypocrite. In case you still have your rose-tinted nostalgia glasses on, here’s why every ME game was more repetitive than this one:

  • Mass Effect 1: Every mission that wasn’t the main story track had to do with you flying to some world that always looks like a moon and crashing a warehouse compound party that happens to be the only piece of civilization on that entire godsforsaken planet.
  • Mass Effect 2: Was basically ME1 but with all of that actual combat and moving around replaced with holding the right-mouse button while dragging your mouse across a round object.
  • Mass Effect 3: Was the least repetitive of the OG saga, but everyone inexplicably hates that game, so I won’t even mention it.

ME:A is the least repetitive ME game I’ve played to date. And for that matter, one of the least repetitive games I’ve ever played. Dragon Age and Witcher gets boring as hell sometimes too. But I was surprised how many side missions had large and fairly well-developed storylines. If you dissected the mission into its basic parts, sure you end up going from planet to planet and either killing some dudes or talking to some dude and fetching a thing. But in between those steps, you’re given real reasons for doing the thing and a story for why the person got into the situation where he/she needs the thing. And I, at least, found them interesting.

Gamers also seem to forget that there is always the option to not do a thing. You can absolutely choose the conversation equivalent of, “I’m a pathfinder bitch, ain’t nobody got time for your troubles” without any ramifications. Sure, anal retentive gamers want to do all of the things and get all of the achievements, but THAT’S ON YOU. If you decide you want to do all of the things available to you, and then complain that the developers made the game boring, then you’re the idiot, not the devs.

I found finding and mining resources fun, until I no longer needed to do it because I had crazy amounts of resources. It became less fun. Therefore, I stopped doing it. Problem avoided.

The romance relationships are soooo boring!

Go out and “romance” an IRL girlfriend and then tell me the fictional relationships that require very little effort and give you all of the rewards are boring. I haven’t found that any of the romance relationships in any of the ME games are all that interesting or fulfilling. This is actually the first ME game where you get a legit sex scene for two of the characters. In previous games you either got a peck on the cheek or some heavy dry humping. Regardless, if you bought this video game expecting softcore porn, maybe you should spend a bit more time doing Bing video searches instead. Or buy an actual romance sim.

Also, the non-romance relationships on the ship are actually really good. At the end of the game, I genuinely cared about my fellow crewmates. I didn’t do the loyalty missions to unlock their last skill. I did it because the writers did a good job creating a character with emotions and feelings and a compelling backstory that really got me caring for them.

For the first game in a new saga, that’s pretty impressive. After ME1, I didn’t give a shit about any of my companions. It wasn’t until ME2 nearly killed them all that I started to care.

There aren’t enough good male gay romances.

This is a fair point. It didn’t affect me that much because I normally prefer Fem-Shep/Fem-Ryder over the male equivalent, but I understand that a large portion of the audience of the game gets shafted (or not, in this case) by the creators’ choices. I would have loved to get a full-on fuck scene with Reyes. That guy is damn tasty and deserves better than a sunset snuggle session with some whiskey.

I also found it odd that the only crew member that you can have a gay thing with is a guy who’s not even going with you on missions. Liam’s girl only, Jaal is a walking romance novel (omg so cheesy), and the Krogan is…well…a Krogan.

But then again, there’s more options than there were in any previous Mass Effect. So, at least there’s progress.

They created a trans character and didn’t do her justice

This is also a fair point. Although I don’t think I ever encountered this person in the game. At least I don’t remember it. Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Most game developers wouldn’t put a trans character in at all. Even fewer would respond to the criticism and actually saying that are deepening the discussions and encounter around this individual. Bioware is doing both. Good on them for that.

Bugs

I know, I know, this is the most important and most criticized element of this game and should have been put first. But guess what, I wrote the post and I wanted to get the other things out, so deal.

There are hundreds (seriously, count them) of videos documenting and complaining about the bugs that Mass Effect Andromeda shipped with. There was one video I saw that claimed to explain exactly why everyone hates ME:A, and all it did was rant about how bugs are awful for 40 straight minutes. I understand that people are frustrated. They want to buy a game on day one, install it, and be treated to a bug-free experience. We all do.

But I’m conflicted on this point. The reality is that most gamers expect a game that looks beautiful, has 80-120 hours of content that doesn’t feel repetitive, has a large and fully open world, has a ton of options and customization, is fully voice acted, has a killer score, and is also free of bugs. But publishers don’t give studios the budgets or time necessary to do everything on this list, especially because nobody likes to pay more than $60 for a game.

And yes, publishers and developers have people that do QA testing. But I know people who’ve done that kind of work, and because much of the budget is going to paying the incredibly skilled developers that are creating the features and worlds that people want, the QA team ends up being some underpaid college interns who work 12-hours a day running the same missions over and over and over again trying to find any bugs. And since we’re talking PCs and consoles, we’re talking millions of possible hardware configurations that simply cannot be tested. These studios basically have to create a virtual reality Hollywood-class world for an audience that’s a tiny fraction of the audience of a Hollywood movie that also has to run on millions of types of hardware, and for a fraction of the budget of a Hollywood movie.

To say I understand their plight is an understatement.

Sure, there’s some appeal to the idea of making games simpler, smaller, easier to test. Indie games have gotten a lot of attention for this. But these are games made by small teams in their spare time. They either cash out at the end of a project, or they just wasted several years of their life for nothing. And most of the time, the latter is the reality. The success of Super Meatboy, Fez, and Minecraft are guaranteed by nothing but luck. They are the top of a very large pyramid, filled with layers of millions of developers who tried just as hard and had just as much vision, but some remote factor turned their passion into failure.

Let’s also not forget that the entire history of gaming is filled with buggy games, many of which were never patched. Those wearing rose-tinted glasses will never remember how games for the NES, SNES, heck, even the Playstation, were many times more expensive than the games of today. You’d even be gambling your money away with such a purchase because unless you had several magazine subscriptions, you’d never know if the game was good, whether it was too buggy to even be able to finish, or whether it was just not fun at all. And let’s not forget that without an internet connection, that game would never be patched. And if you got a dud, you might be able to get 10% of your money back by selling it back to a used game dealer.

But beyond all of my inner arguments about whether we should feel entitled about bugs or not, I’ll divulge this one little factoid. I encountered a total of two bugs during my entire run of the game. I told you the first one, which was quickly patched. The second was at the epilogue of the game, when Addison was giving a final speech to me and her head suddenly flipped 180 degrees. It was a funny moment in an otherwise serious speech, but it was by no means, game breaking. I played it on the PC, which is the native platform of ME games, so maybe consoles are worse off. I don’t really know. I’m even running a 5-year old Intel processor and an AMD graphics card. I typically get more bugs on AMD GPUs. But this time? Nada. I don’t know what to tell you folks, but I had no problems.

But my experience has me wondering how legitimate these bug reports even are. YouTube has allowed for an entire content culture to emerge around finding weird bugs and making fun of them. Are these legit game breaking bugs, or are these bugs caused by people deliberately breaking the game so they can find something funny to post on YouTube and manufacture some sort of controversy so they get more views? Considering that YouTube encourages and even funds those that are the loudest and the angriest and the most controversial means that latter is most certainly true, at least to some extent. In my experience, the game was great, beautiful, pretty much bug free, and I want to encourage Bioware to keep moving and pushing forward.

In my day, if you played a game and encountered a bug, you’d snicker and move on. Now, people encounter a bug and scream and whine and bitch and post it all over the internet and say how terrible of a company these devs are. Considering this behavior, and considering my experience, I don’t give one rat’s ass about people complaining about bugs on YouTube.