Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The tragedy of Andromeda

I must rescind of few of my previous statements about Mass Effect Andromeda. To be specific, I called the supporting cast boring. This is not true, I just had not gotten to the loyalty missions yet. They are not all likeable, in fact two of the six would have been airlocked into deep space after their missions if that was an option, but not being likeable does not mean that they are not interesting characters.

Their interactions with one another also improved as the game went on. There was no equal to Tali's self aware snark 'I have a shotgun' from Mass Effect 2 (how could there be) but parenting advice from a 1000 year old Krogan is right up there along with Jaal and Liam standing feet apart, butt naked, learning how to insult one another. Jaal also flirted with Cora quite a bit and I got a little jealous (of Cora). My Ryder got none but if he did he would have totally gone for Jaal.

The game also mustered up a decent ending and some sensible (and sensibly short) post game content. The good guys find the Halo life generating Dyson sphere, there is a big fight in which allies made throughout the game make cameos, a pretty good boss fight and everyone lives happily ever after. Ryder talks to each of his crew one last time and, after all planets are at 100%, he has a planet named after him.

It was the planet his father died on, but don't think about that too hard.

There was also blatant hints at either DLC or a sequel. A message from the Quarian ark arrives staying to stay away, the Archon's second in command escapes and Cerberus (and the Illusive Man) were clearly involved in the initiative's funding. Cerberus scientists actually show up in a missions doing terrible things to non-humans.

It is most unfortunate that there will be no pay off for any of this. This is part of the tragedy of Mass Effect Andromeda. It is a good game. Barely. With a better developer, or better oversight by the publisher, or a more constrained scope at its outset, or a different game engine, or any other of the million things that went wrong with it during its sordid path of development going right it could have been great.

For every flash of excellence here, like Jaal dodging a bullet or Vetra beating the pathfinder at rock climbing or Liam having his internal combustion car sent to his new home at sub-light speed, there is a janky animation or piece of abhorrent voice acting or game breaking crash in a cut scene. The way it ties to the original trilogy, that the entire initiative is a desperate attempt to save the Milky Way species from the Reaper invasion most likely funded by Cerberus, is wasted. The game makes this reveal about thirty hours too late and then never comes back to it.

I want to know about the politics behind the initiative and if the benefactor really is the illusive man. I also want a better enemy as the kett, let's be honest, the borg, have no depth beyond assimilate, er, exterminate, sorry, exaltation. They are evil because the game required an evil race and are easily the weakest part of it.

By the smallest of margins, Mass Effect Andromeda is good. It being merely good killed it and may kill the studio that made it. With Bioware moving on to more Destiny like environs this may be the last true Bioware game we see for a long, long time which makes Andromeda's happy ending a little less happy.

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