I’m afraid to be disappointed by Mass Effect: Andromeda.
I don’t like playing games when they first come out because it tends to shape the way I experience the game. There are a few reasons for this. I tend to be a cheapo Steam-Sale-Scummer, and that plays a crucial role in a lot of my delayed purchases, but more relevantly for Mass Effect, I’m not a fan of playing things that are in the process of being received. I try to avoid hype wherever possible, because expectations can destroy a game for me. My favorite way to first encounter a game is with very limited expectations, shaped basically by the title, genre, and maybe an elevator pitch.
That being said, it was hard to avoid ME:A criticism in the weeks leading up to its release. It was the opposite of the good press that anticipated and followed Breath of the Wild, another game I waited a few weeks to start playing. With Andromeda, however, there was no escaping the internet reception aparatus. From animation glitchiness everywhere on Twitter, to GamerGate legacy harrassment against developers and animators, criticisms of poor writing, it seemed inevitable that the game was going the way of Mass Effect 3: despite any good things the game was going to do, the hype machine was destroying the possibly for a first impression.
The first time I played Mass Effect 1, I didn’t enjoy it. The same thing happened when I played Mass Effect 2. The Mass Effect games were an acquired taste for me. I had played the KoTOR games, and was excited to see a new Bioware IP that might throw back a bit to its predecessor, but I wasn’t ready for new fangled third person RPG shooter that Mass Effect claimed to be. I wanted KoTOR 3, but I didn’t get it. I didn’t like the characters, and I found the setting tedious. The Citadel was a chore to navigate because of the elevators, the world seemed relentlessly massive (and my sense of direction proportionately small) and the Mako somehow made me long for Highway 17. That all said, I played it on the Xbox, and one thing I quickly learned when the PC port came out was that the game was simply not made to be experienced on a console (sorry, it’s true).
Meantime, Mass Effect 2 began similarly poorly, and made me quit before the second act. I didn’t like the conceit of being reanimated, I didn’t like the first characters I encountered, and I found the Illusive Man lacking. It took a bit of convincing, but eventually it dawned on me that my frustration was being carried over from my experience with Mass Effect 1. A friend convinced me to replay ME2, and it quickly became my favorite game in the series. All I had to do was drop whatever I had learned about it from ME1 and replay it with an empty template, and I found myself enjoying the world twice as much as I did the first time around. Sure, I still dislike the Illusive Man, and I don’t care much for some of the characters, but replacing my preconceived notion of a trite space opera with an Arthurian quest made me truly feel the magnitude of the suicide mission by the end. In fact, playing ME2 in a new way gave me a new avenue to appreciate ME1, and, likewise, ME3. With a successful entry point, I was able to overcome previous misgivings and enjoy what was once a tedious experience.
KoTOR may have ruined my first play of ME1, but ME2 saved ME1 and ME3 for me. I don’t want a repeat of that with Andromeda. I wanted to go into it without any sort of preconception of what it was going to be, because I wanted it to succeed on its own merits. Instead, it looks like it’s going to fail on them.
Here are some first impressions, all negative (despite how I am, overall, enjoying the game), that relate to how the previous games handled things, before a future podcast on them:
- In previous games, the dialogue would always cut into a back-and-forth conversation (shot/reverse shot) with Shepard talking and then the other participant. Ryder, on the other hand, occasionally has over the shoulder conversations with people. This seemingly insignificant thing is, actually, infuriating. I can’t see the person’s mouth moving as well, which causes me to empathize less with them, especially when they’re Angara or Turian.
- I’ve never been very happy to explore the planets of the universe with a scanner, but God damn this game makes it their mission to bore the hell out of you with planet scanning. It takes so long to go from planet to planet, and you can’t skip the navigation. But I need that 100% galaxy exploration! ugggggggh
- Not being able to save in certain areas. No. Not okay.
- Crafting? What? Stop.
- I’m 20 hours in and I feel totally lost. I have no sense of purpose aside from the various mission pointers gesturing in myriad directions. I don’t like the “what for an email” mechanic. I don’t like that I don’t know when people are going to give me more things to talk about. Companion conversations feel vaguely empty.
- On a similar note, Cora Harper might usurp Ashley Williams for most boring companion.
- But seriously, fuck the over-the-shoulder conversations.
- What is with these awful side quests?