What About Andromeda?

By Shamus
on Mar 12, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games

About once or twice a week someone messages me on Twitter, or in the comments, or sends an email to the Diecast, asking for my thoughts on the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda. While it’s probably clear from my lack of interest in the subject that I’m not really looking forward to the game, I guess I should tackle this topic head-on.

The “Angry Videogame Nerd” is a really common trope. Lots of people have made successful careers – far more successful than mine – out of being humorously outraged at each new attempt by the videogame industry to entertain them. I try to avoid negativity for the same reason I try to avoid a lot of swearing: Not because it’s wrong, but because that’s usually the easy path and I don’t want to end up using it like a crutch. I want to be good at this job more than I want to be successfulAlthough to be clear, I really DO want to be successful. and so I don’t want to take shortcuts that will pull me out of the “analysis” niche I’m working in and into the already-crowded “exaggerated outrage” market.

I know a lot of my content focuses on analysis and story diagnostics. Since there’s usually more analysis to be done on things that are broken rather than things that work, this ends up giving the site a negative feel. I really want to avoid being pigeonholed along with the angry guys. I’m not knocking their content. Even though we’re reviewing entertainment, we’re also making entertainment, and strong emotions and bombast are pretty entertaining. I’m just saying that’s not the sort of niche I’m trying to fill. I mean, if I’m trying to be an “angry videogame nerd” then this site is a failure, because my anger isn’t nearly intense or bombastic enough to set me apart from the crowd.

If you pick the Blue Thing, then you`ll mindlessly buy each new Mass Effect Game, only to be disappointed. If you pick the Red Thing, you`ll scream outrage into the BioWare forums, complaining about games you haven`t even played yet. If you pick the Green Thing you`ll buy every Mass Effect game and then lose interest and stop playing about 25% of the way through. No matter which one you pick, people will argue with you.

If you pick the Blue Thing, then you`ll mindlessly buy each new Mass Effect Game, only to be disappointed. If you pick the Red Thing, you`ll scream outrage into the BioWare forums, complaining about games you haven`t even played yet. If you pick the Green Thing you`ll buy every Mass Effect game and then lose interest and stop playing about 25% of the way through. No matter which one you pick, people will argue with you.

I also don’t want to be known as a one-trick pony. I don’t want to be the Captain Ahab to the Moby Dick of Mass Effect. I don’t want to be “that one guy who’s always ragging on Mass Effect like a crazy person”. I wrote an entire novel worth of analysis on the Mass Effect trilogy. That got me a lot of new readers. But if I cater too hard to that group then this site will become a lightning rod for Mass Effect ire. Again, that’s not what I want to be known for. I try hard to make it clear that my analysis comes from a place of genuine affection. I really do love videogames and I really do enjoy playing them.

And finally, some people really are excited about the game. I disagree with just about every bit of marketing and game design I’ve seen so far, but other people are hyped. Bitching about Andromeda before release will annoy those folks and start a bunch of arguments for no good reason. I’d do it if I had something incisive to say, but EA’s marketing is such a cyclone of bullshit and manufactured controversy that we have no way of knowing what the final game will feel like. If anything, giving them a bunch of press would just feed the hype machine and reward them for their shenanigansAnd yes I realize this post does exactly that..

I honestly don’t know if I’ll be getting the game. I want to get it if it’s going to be a return to the tone and sensibilities of the original. (Because then I would enjoy playing it.) I want to get it if it’s going to be flawed and compromised in interesting ways, because then we’ll have problems to analyze. But if it’s just going to be a big idiotic mess of plot holes, railroad-y cutscenes, softcore alien-shagging, contrived choices, thin characters, lazy contrivances, and ill-fitting fanservice shout-outs, then I’d rather give the thing a pass.

Analyzing flawed games is fun, but above some threshold the flaws collapse under their own weight and it becomes a waste of time to attempt to enumerate all the problems. I call this point the “Hitman Absolution Limit”. Once a game fails spectacularly enough, criticizing it feels like trying to demolish a heap of rubble.

At any rate, this is why I’m not slamming each new trailer and interview tidbit from the Andromeda hype train. Maybe I’ll get it, maybe I won’t, but raining on the parade Mass Effect fans are having won’t do any of us any good. Let EA’s marketing put on their silly show. We’ll see the truth for ourselves in a couple of weeks.

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Footnotes:

[1] Although to be clear, I really DO want to be successful.

[2] And yes I realize this post does exactly that.


is a programmer, an author, and nearly a composer. He works on this site full time. If you’d like to support him, you can do so via Patreon or PayPal.

A Hundred!20There are 120 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. Elemental Alchemist says:

    While I have no doubts MEA will have plenty to pick apart, from what I have seen so far I suspect it is trending towards the rubble analogy. Maybe I will be surprised, but I’m not expecting it will provide enough investment to warrant the energy to deconstruct in any great depth.

    Probably more interesting will be the broader picture of how the game fares and where that places Bioware in the view of the EA hierarchy. With middling performances from DA Inquisition and SWTOR, their future as an ongoing concern, at least one consisting of three separate studios, must be fairly closely linked with a strong sales performance from MEA.

    • My interest is kind of minimal. I mean, sure, I’d like to have something next-gen-y to play (since I have a nice PC that I spent a lot of money on and the game I play the most just turned ELEVEN YEARS OLD), but not one thing I’ve seen so far on Andromeda has made me think, “hmm, could be cool”. All I’ve seen is half-second splices of cut scenes that leave no impression other than “sort of badass or something”, and, frankly, if that’s what I want I don’t need to buy this no doubt expensive game.

      For comparison, I ponied up $129 dollars for the Pillars of Eternity sequel BEFORE I EVEN WATCHED THE TRAILER.

      • Thomas says:

        A lot of the most recent gameplay videos are focusing on the funny if that piques your interest

        Nothing has 100% sold me though

        • A good joke depends too much on surprise and timing for me. I don’t want to watch them in a trailer.

          I’m more interested in complex conflicts (which aren’t necessarily quite the same thing as a good story).

          I also like the character build system to be complicated enough that it takes me 3-4 playthroughs to find a build I actually like. This is one of the major reasons I like DDO so much.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Good news on that front, with the Custom Class design of Andromeda, builds will have the most complexity possible in the series so far. For example, there’s an achievement for using Charge while Cloaked to kill a mook. Something that was impossible for the entire rest of the series.

    • Harper says:

      I know SWTOR was a disappointment, but wasn’t Inquisition the best selling Bioware game?

      • I dunno, I know it sold lots of copies, but I don’t think that necessarily means very much. I’d be more interested to know how profitable it was.

        • Elemental Alchemist says:

          Nobody knows how many copies it sold besides EA. What we do know is that the physical console version never made any top sellers lists in the critical first month or two after release, and that in subsequent earnings calls EA was very particular about the wording they used to describe its performance. All indications are that it performed “below expectations” (as Square-Enix might say). Beyond that it is difficult to determine, but certainly EA have never gone out of their way to crow about it being a sales powerhouse.

  2. Mr Compassionate says:

    I find it difficult to feel interest in the franchise anymore.

    Mass Effect and Bioware in general now exist to produce massive blockbuster action games that make for excellent, visually exciting trailers but when you dive in the story starts to feel contrived and simplistic with many plotholes both tiny and large building up in the background. It’s not a smart sci-fi franchise pretending to be a dumb action movie for the sake of trailers, it’s a dumb action movie pretending to be a smart sci-fi for the sake of the old fans.

    I honestly gave up after Mass Effect 2 because I knew it would go downhill fast. The signs were all there, the atmosphere was all wrong and from everything I’ve seen ME3 kept that up. I hope Andromeda proves to be a fresh start for the franchise but by this point anybody who’s thinking they’ll finally bring back that Mass Effect 1 thoughtfulness is, pardon me, a bit deluded.

  3. Joey245 says:

    Very well said, Shamus. That’s a healthy attitude to take at this point. I want Mass Effect Andromeda to be good, simply because I grew up with the Mass Effect games and I want to return to that universe again. But we’ll see for ourselves in a couple of weeks, just like you said.

    I’m cautiously optimistic, but I won’t be heartbroken if it turns out to be Mass Effect 3 with a fresh coat of paint.

  4. Redingold says:

    I’m hoping that the problems with the Mass Effect series were caused by them shifting gears so drastically halfway through, and that with Andromeda, they’ll be more able to maintain a consistent tone and story. Even if it’s not the tone I want from Mass Effect, it might well be enjoyable in its own right.

    That’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

    • MarsLineman says:

      Same here. I watched a video of the first 13 minutes of gameplay, and it tickled my brain a bit like Mass Effect 1. Even though I hated DA:I and this game seems to be aping its offline MMO-ness, the initial plot/ emphasis on exploration have me cautiously optimistic for a turnaround

      Plus, you know, jetpacks (and I loved the gameplay of ME3 even as I hated almost every other aspect of the game)

    • Yeah, it’s CONCEIVABLY possible that the “reboot” will open them up to doing ENOUGH interesting stuff that it’ll be playable.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Yahtzee isnt angry,he is snarky.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I also don’t want to be known as a one-trick pony. I don’t want to be the Captain Ahab to the Moby Dick of Mass Effect. I don’t want to be “that one guy who’s always ragging on Mass Effect like a crazy person”.

    Well then,you should write about the other thing that made you a bunch of comments.And that is religion.So,how about that new buddhist prime minister?

  7. Corsair says:

    I dunno, Shamus, I like the idea of you coming into the Diecast with a West Country accent, vowing revenge on Casey Hudson.

    Would that make Josh Ishmael?

    • Paul Spooner says:

      The final post before the site goes offline is all,
      “To the last, I gripe at thee; From TV Trope’s heart, I stab at thee; For hate’s sake, I spit my last post at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned video game! Thus, I give up the keyboard!”

  8. Phantos says:

    On the subject of being too “negative”: I notice most of Spoiler Warning is… complaining.

    Like, a LOT of it. Most of it is bellyaching. I think you folks enjoyed Fallout: New Vegas, and that’s it. Even games you claimed to love just fell into a death spiral. It’s like you guys think a game being good means you’ll have nothing to talk about, which makes you use bad games as a crutch more often, which just exacerbates the problem.

    Even the games you choose are usually violent, grim, gritty, edgy, dark, brooding affairs, and I wonder if that’s also having an effect on the “mood” of a season.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You must have blocked like the half of the show then,because the thing that is most prevalent in spoiler warning is lame puns.Lots and lots and LOTS of lame puns.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      This is why I’d like it if they would avoid Bethesda/Bioware games for a while. They can be a bit snarky/negative about other games, but the length of your average Beth/Bio RPG is so long that it can end up being more negative than intended, especially if they end up having to fill time with repetitive quests and encounters.

      • Miguk says:

        In a game that long, they end up just trying to rush through it as fast as possible. It really hurt when they were playing KOTOR. There’s a lot of long boring stretches that are mandatory to win the game, like Kashyyk and the undersea base on Manaan. They ended up playing all the bad parts and skipping all the side quests, a lot of which were really good. There also wasn’t any time to just walk around the environments and talk to the “villagers”.

        I wish they would just skip over the boring parts that they have nothing to say about.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Even the games you choose are usually violent, grim, gritty, edgy, dark, brooding affairs

      That’s AAA videogames for you.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ok,lets put the joking aside for a bit and talk seriously.People tend to remember the most recent thing more than what comes before it,and the crew usually keeps their negatives for later,when they can all collectively dump onto a thing,while most of the positives they say rather early into the season.But for most of the games,they said positive things about as much as negative things.Its just when they start talking about bad things,they pile up on it all at once,instead of spacing it out like the good things.

      Also,like Shamus said,its easier to talk about bad stuff.So when they have some positives,its usually just a few “I like this” and “This is well done”.However,when theres something negative,not only can they rail on it for a while,they at the same time say “I wish they did this instead” or “Check out how this other game did it,they shouldve done the same here”.

    • Syal says:

      Even the games you choose are usually violent, grim, gritty, edgy, dark, brooding affairs, and I wonder if that’s also having an effect on the “mood” of a season.

      Tune in next time, when Spoiler Warning plays Hyperdimension Neptunia.

    • I don’t really watch Spoiler Warning–the only games I like to watch are the ones where everything that happens is just completely insane. Like the Marlo Briggs game and Fallout 4.

      I’m not really looking for criticism as much as “wacky hijiinks” I guess. I prefer to read the criticism.

    • Midnight On Mars says:

      I agree. I was thinking about spoiler warning as I read this. It’s basically a thousand videos of endless complaining, puns, and crazy bugs. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I definitely put spoiler warning in with the rest of the humorously angry video game nerds category.

    • Durican says:

      I love keeping up with these articles, but I had to give up on watching Spoiler Warning for that reason. There’s only so much continuous negativity I can stand before I need a break. The delicious puns do help a lot, but sitting through hours upon hours of games that I enjoy being nitpicked to pieces gets tiresome.

      I’m not saying the format is wrong, because that approach absolutely has audience appeal. I’m just not in the target audience. There are let’s players out there who can express their enjoyment and excitement in a game and still be entertaining to watch, and I’ll rather stick with those. Frustration, annoyance and nitpicking is entertaining in short bursts, not as much for a full episode. For a Game Grumps example, I’d rather sit through an hour of just Danny than an hour of just Arin.

    • Zekiel says:

      This is why I love the Half-Life 2 spoiler warning so much – a lot of the time is spent gushing about why awesome it is, and why that’s the case. (Admittedly this is sometimes by contrasting with other games.)

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I disagree with just about every bit of marketing and game design

    Really?You dont like jetpacks?But they are jetpacks.Everyone loves jeptacks.

  10. Sleeping Dragon says:

    For some reason (I can’t recall the source) I’m under the impression that ME:A is taking the mechanical cues from DA:I and I honestly just don’t have it in me to play another game like that. Add to this that I was perfectly fine with closing the ME world on 3 (the quality of said closure notwithstanding) so I’m kinda done with that world. Overall it’s difficult to express just how lacking in investment I am regarding this title.

    • Elemental Alchemist says:

      I’m under the impression that ME:A is taking the mechanical cues from DA:I

      Some elements at least. The horrible war table timed missions for example. There appears to be a mix of DAI’s fetch quests and ME1’s planet POI stuff, like scanning/mining minerals, as side-quest filler. There’s a crafting system that also seems to draw somewhat from DAI (although possibly simplified).

      • To be fair, even the DA:I team realized that Scavenger Hunt: The Scavenging wasn’t the most fun game mechanic they’ve ever designed. A lot of the limitations of DA:I were due to the weird bridging of console generations and some other poor-in-hindsight design decisions that they made.

        The content that they produced AFTER they dumped the old console generation was all AMAZING.

        So if they came out and said “It’s just like the DA:I DLC only with space and guns” I’d actually be interested.

        • Harper says:

          I liked the narratives for the DLCs but is there any way for the combat not to be such a slog to get through?
          Bioware’s idea of upping the difficulty seemed to be giving every bad guy a health bar the length of your screen

          • Hah, yes, I forgot about that part. That was annoying. But I think it’s time that we accept that nobody plays these games for the COMBAT.

            Well, not unless they’re nuts, because it’s boring and tedious at best.

            • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

              I was about to say -what DLC did you play? Jaws of Hakkon gave us a new world, new plot threads, and more information about the world of Thedas. The other two were dungeon crawls. And not particularly interesting dungeon crawls.

              I was so disappointed in them, it pretty much killed my second playthrough. Like ME3 -if that’s the ending, what’s the point of starting?

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          I heard good things about the DLCs narratively but when I think of DA:I and then hear of “planets to explore” I immediately think in terms of the open world maps and the single player MMO hunt for the 10 monkey butts.

    • Daimbert says:

      DA:I is the big thing stopping me from replaying the Dragon Age series, as it took me 90 hours to finish and by the end I just wanted it to be over. While I didn’t mind the War Table timed missions much — as a casual gamer it worked reasonably well for me to start one of them, log off for the day, and have it be done by the next time I could play again, except when I was putting in day long runs because I just wanted to finish the damn thing — they did add to the overall “offline MMO” feel, and for the most part I was obsessive over finishing all the quests in an area before moving on to the next one — and thus to the next story quest — because I was worried that I’d be too low level if I didn’t. This meant that I spent most of my time doing the mostly uninteresting area quests instead of doing the more interesting story quests, which meant that my impression of most of those 90 hours is doing busywork. I don’t want to do that again.

      I found with that that Bethesda style open worlds don’t mix well with detailed stories. If MEA goes for the same sort of thing, I will definitely, at least, not like the game very much.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        I was fairly okay with the War Table missions actually. The time factor for unlocking some things was annoying but otherwise I was fine with having even a slight reflection of being a leader of something and sending other people out to do things (and some of the narrative chains were nice if I remember correctly). What I disliked was the constant slog back and forth through the semi-open world maps with the repetitive quests of find this or that resource. Normally I like exploration but this just felt tedious (though admittedly I have less time for games nowadays which may be a factor, on the other hand I recently started DS and I’m for some reason fine with throwing a couple of hours into grinding for souls and upgrade components to be able to progress).

        • Daimbert says:

          Yeah, that was kinda my impression of the War Table as well: I really liked the idea of it and using a timing mechanism was an interesting way to track when they finish was interesting. But the timing really did treat it like an MMO, because it kept counting when you “logged off”, and while that in and of itself wasn’t that bad adding in the resource missions — both in a specific area and for later quests — really enhanced that “grind the area quests until you’ve done them all and finished the area and then move on” that really bugged me.

          • There really weren’t many interesting trade offs in the war table missions, either. Overall, it was a degenerate system. That means boring. It was a bit analogous to the Rest mechanic in games like Neverwinter Nights 2. It never mattered how often you rested, you could do it after every fight if you wanted to except in random zones where you couldn’t (unless you went back out the door, usually, and then THAT didn’t matter EITHER). So picking spells and managing resources didn’t ultimately matter much.

            If you would GET missions that you had to DO within a certain time frame and you could quit a mission in progress (and fail it) and some of them had WILDLY different results depending on WHO you had do the mission and many of them would open up quests–that would have been different. But it wasn’t much integrated with the rest of the game and you could pretty much ignore most of the missions if you didn’t feel like doing them.

            That’s part of their design ethos that gets my goat, because it’s been really obtrusive in the past few games. “We’re going to make a HUGE game but because we know 90% of our desired player base has no attention span we’re going to make almost all of it completely irrelevant”.

            That is fundamentally bad design. A work of art is an INTEGRATED thing. You don’t compose a great painting and say “oh, and over here I’m going to add a cartoon cat giving you the finger but you can just ignore that bit if you don’t feel like it”. NO.

            I’m not saying that they should FORCE you to do EVERYTHING. But whether you do it or not has to be INTEGRATED into the game. It should affect SOMETHING, even if it’s only that you wind up fighting the end boss under level and he whoops you until you find a way to barely cheese through the fight. FINE. At least that’s SOMETHING. If you’re max level and you still have 4 areas to do and you’ve bought every upgrade you care about, that game ain’t integrated.

            • They just really don’t get how “choice” works in video games. It really can be something as minor as “you got the fighter armor instead of the mage armor” or “you skipped a section so now you’re under-level so this mandatory section is going to be hard”. You chose a specific way to do something and it has an effect. Boom. Done. It doesn’t have to be some profound thing, but it changes the game a bit.

              These are precisely the choices they like to degrade and make insignificant, while talking about how you can make BIg Choices by picking this dialog option vs. that one that never actually affect anything down the line.

              • Daimbert says:

                I pretty much completely disagree with this.

                First, on the concept of choice in video games: I don’t think that “real choice” is necessarily or even primarily mechanical. Ideally, my choices should impact my character story more than they necessarily impact the mechanics of my character, especially in something that is RPGish. The main reason for this is that, in my opinion, it’s bad to have a character choice in an RPG where the decision is made on the basis of the mechanical advantage rather than on what makes sense for that character. The more I have to rationalize choosing the mechanically ideal option for the character I’m playing the worse, in my opinion, the role-playing, story and characterization get.

                Which leads to the second comment: I don’t think things like the War Table need or ought to have major mechanical impacts. Doing that means building in the things that have had a hugely negative impact on my experience in ME2, ME3 and DAI. The problem is that if someone doesn’t find the War Table or all of the area quests or the planet/system exploration interesting, it doesn’t do anyone any good to present them with the choice of “Well, either do them or miss out on these things that you might need to actually COMPLETE the game”. In ME2, the planetary exploration was pedantic, annoying, and even expensive — cost of probes and fuel — but if you didn’t do it enough then you couldn’t get the materials to get the upgrades that you needed to keep some of your crewmembers ALIVE in the final sequence … characters that you liked and wanted to keep around. Thus, not doing it could have a major negative impact on your experience with the game, but doing it WAS a negative experience in the game. The same thing applied to the system exploration in ME3. It was boring and the Reaper mechanism required you to remember what you had and hadn’t scanned across missions, but if you didn’t do it then you’d lose out on the War Assets, which had an impact on the ending. In DAI, I was obsessive about clearing out all the areas before advancing the story because I was deathly afraid of being underleveled, even though doing those quests bored me to tears much of the time. I ended up, then, getting no XP from enemies in the story quests because I was overleveled, even though the game didn’t bother to give me any hint on how many things I needed to do to get enough XP to be able to handle the story quests.

                Doing something that you don’t find interesting to get rewards that you might need to continue the game is pretty much my idea of “grinding”. Grinding, for me, is not fun.

                For these sorts of things, you don’t need to have integrated and mechanical rewards if the mechanisms are INTERESTING, because then players will do it on their own. And if they don’t find it interesting, giving mechanical rewards runs the risk of them being forced to do what they dislike just to be able to advance in the game, which never goes over well. And the main issue with this is that it’s the more casual players who are going to be forced to do these things, because they need more advantages to get through and aren’t as interested in trial and error to find ways to get past bosses that they aren’t high enough level to get past with the straight and normal strategies. However, those are also the sorts of players who are more likely to react badly to doing uninteresting things in their limited play times. These sorts of rewards, it seems to me, tend to work better for players who don’t actually need to care as much about ideal equipment and levels, and so are able to skip them more easily … even though these players also tend to be the ones who are willing to grind out these sorts of things to get those rewards.

                For the War Table specifically, deciding which approach you wanted to use was more than interesting enough to me, and seeing the results based on the different approaches — even if it had limited mechanical effect — was also fun. Balancing which missions which people did on the basis that I wanted to use a more diplomatic approach with one mission which left having to use the military on another was also interesting. I even don’t mind different rewards for which approach you used, because it is a valid in-character decision to say that a certain approach sounds better to you but the other approach would give rewards that are better for your overall quest. But that last one only works if I can be confident that choosing as my character won’t end up making it too difficult for me to proceed later in the game because I passed up something I really needed, because otherwise I’m going to be forced to choose one option not because my character would, but because as a player I need that specific mechanical advantage. The less that happens to me in a game, the more likely I am to enjoy it.

                An example might be the S-links in the Persona games. Doing the S-links gets you advantages when fusing some Persona, and especially with being able to get the final one. But if you max out a couple of S-links, you are likely to get Persona that will see you through the game if you learn to use them, even if you miss out on some of the more or most powerful ones. This means that, in general, if I don’t find an S-link appealing or find it too hard to get I can ignore it without it ruining the game for me; I still ought to be able to get some very useful and powerful Personas only doing the S-links that DO interest me. The bigger impact is in the final scenes … but only have those people you actually like in those cases works better and makes for what I’d call a meaningful choice for the character.

                • This is a good way to end up with “the story is in this box that takes place in this universe, and the gameplay is in this other box that takes place in a completely different universe with different rules”. And then you have lovely stuff like “I’m a blood mage and I just charged into a room full of Templars who hate blood magic and let loose with the biggest blood magic spell I know and . . . nobody noticed!”

                  I’m not interested in reading a non-interactive novel where I periodically have to slog through a bunch of tedious fights to get to the next portion of it. (Although if it’s sufficiently fun and full of puzzles sometimes I like games like this anyway.) Likewise I’m not particularly interested in fighting a bunch of “bad guys” because they showed up.

                  Something about the game has to be INTERESTING, meaning COMPLEX and MULTIFACTORAL. They have yet to design mechanically interesting and rewarding combat. The way they do story it’s too expensive to have a lot of branching paths and options.

                  That means that the “activities” (puzzles, making decisions, etc.) need to pick up that slack.

                  There are games in which the war table as is would have been unobjectionable. This was not one of them. It was a degenerate system on top of a bunch of other degenerate systems. It didn’t really add anything significant to either gameplay or story.

  11. Echo Tango says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t link to the eponymous Angry Videogame Nerd. :)

  12. Henson says:

    I have no idea if Andromeda will be good or not, but I’m really enjoying the twitter community pointing out the slipshod work of the 3D modelers and animators in the promotion material, backward guns and all. Bioware’s B-team, mayhap?

    • Elemental Alchemist says:

      Bioware’s B-team, mayhap?

      Pretty much. It’s made by the Montreal studio, who did the ME3 multiplayer and the Omega DLC. The original Edmonton ME team is working on a secret project.

    • Viktor says:

      It appears the backwards guns were a ratings move, something about not being able to point a gun directly at the viewer in a game trailer because it’s threatening. Seems like a dumb rule, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s accurate.

  13. Grampy_bone says:

    The lack of buzz with this game is noticeable. If sales of a sequel are a referendum on the previous game, I think this one is going to tank.

    • Mintskittle says:

      That’s certainly true for me. After seeing the decline in story quality for more alien-shoots, combined with the current marketing, I have almost no confidence in ME:A being anything I want to invest time and money into.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      Less “a referendum on the previous game” and more “The last two games had the momentum of a trilogy”.

      I think we’re seeing the result now of Bioware’s confused idea of who this game is before. The RPG fans don’t care anymore, and aren’t producing buzz. The shooter fans who might have been picked up by it being more action-oriented don’t have that buzz to draw them in, and it was never a good enough shooter to draw them in independently.

      I’d say it would be interesting to see what happens if the game bombs, but honestly I think it’s too late for the kind of course correction that would shift them back toward making RPGs.

  14. Bloodsquirrel says:

    ME: Andromeda is coming too far after the fall of Bioware has been completed for it to be interesting to rag on, IMO. ME 1-3 and DA 1-3 show the transition from an RPG studio to the shallow-action-game-welded-onto-an-overly-elaborate-dating-sim studio that they’ve become. Seeing that progession makes the analysis interesting. The fact that they were a studio I once loved that was making crap now made me care.

    But I have a feeling that they’ve settled into their new niche now. Unless Andromeda does something unexpected, we can just say “It’s more of ME 3” and call it a day. DA might have more strange flailing about to do before it settles, but who knows. And they’ve been garbage long enough that I don’t care to hear about them any more than I care to hear about whoever’s making COD nowadays.

    I’d rather see Shamus analyse Tyranny, or something else that’s flawed in a new, interesting way.

  15. Baron Tanks says:

    The one thing that has stuck with me most about Andromeda is the about face turn some people seem to be doing. I know a bunch of very loud detractors of ME3 that are all aboard the hype train for this one and excitingly looking forward to its release. Now I’m all for giving things a second chance, but the memory loss is real strong in this one. And I’m not sure what about the marketing (I’ll admit, I’ve probably seen about 2 minutes worth of moving or still images) is inspiring this confidence. It looks like the same surface trappings to me. And the in between game, DA:I also doesn’t help. That shows to me that when BioWare does play it save, they produce a complete snoozefest (mechanically and story wise). Even the defenders of that game say most of it is redeemed in the ending and DLC, but I’m sorry, I already bowed out about 30 hours of samey combat and fetch quests ago. So when the devs say they have learned their lessons and on top of that they’ll take queues from Inquisition, I just shrug and keep moving.

    • Christopher says:

      In some ways, I have hopes for Andromeda precisely because it is made by the ME3 multiplayer guys. It looks to have a lighter tone, better, more open gameplay full of jetpacks and pretty landscapes full of contrast and saturation. It is set thankfully far away from all the other games. At this rate my biggest complaint is that none of the partymembers look particularly romanceable and that character animations and faces are still crappy.

      On the other hand, I think it might be a good for people who don’t actually like Bioware’s games that much, like me, to just stay away from them. I’ve played a fair number of them them now, and at the end of the day they’re not my thing. Their reputation as a studio was great, lots of my friends like them and their games are very popular, so it was easy to try some. But it’s clear they’re not for everyone, and after a decade of bellyaching enough is sort of enough, or I’ll soon morph into a Fallout fan. I have tried 6 of their games and none of them fit just right. I can’t keep buying their games because I like a few aspects of them and then complain for hours about everything else and repeat that pattern forever, expecting sympathy. Pattern recognition should kick in at some point. Unless Andromeda turns out to be a magic gift from the gods that’s absolutely fantastic by all acoounts, I’m probably not gonna touch it. I’m tired of being a wet blanket.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The people who did what you describe are mostly the ones who were disappointed by the ending of me3,not the ones who thought the game broke apart long before the ending.

      Also,for many,like myself,the story is no longer relevant,but the improvements in gameplay are recognized.Despite all my hatred towards me2 and me3,I do recognize what they did for gameplay.And now that I can completely ignore the story,I can get aboard with it.Also jetpacks.Everyone loves jetpacks.

      • Baron Tanks says:

        That’s true. I really loved the ME3 multiplayer, was a great time with a set group of friends to play it with. I ended up probably putting 3-4 times the hours into that than I did the single player (for reference, I played ME3 through once, while I played ME2 through 5-6 times*, basically one with every class in 3 years). So I guess my main beef (so to say) is that the Mass Effect name just invokes a certain expectation (perhaps unrealistic) in mind and that I’m afraid they’ll not live up to that (neigh won’t). So basically I could ebe interested in a game like Mass Effect Andromeda (solid-ish gunplay with light RPG elements set in a galaxy to explore with the kind of production values that are associated with a game of this budget) if they broke with the name and presented it as their own thing, rather than invite the comparison to earlier editions of the franchise.

        But it’s obvious why they can’t (and would be insane to) do that and miss out on the sales and impact that the Mass Effect brand still holds.

        *I’ve only really retroactively soured on ME2 for having a nonsenical (at least as the middle part of a trilogy) plot. I did enjoy it for its gameplay and starring colourful and interesting characters. Sorry Shamus, you played a major role in poking holes in how I look back on ME2!

      • Daimbert says:

        I’m the opposite: I can tolerate the story, but the gameplay changes were what ruined each game for me.

  16. Christopher says:

    I’m not sure you can avoid the negative image when so much of your analysis is explicitly focused on broken stuff. You’ll do a let’s play of Hitman Absolution, talking (justifiable)shit about it all the way through. Then they made Hitman 2016, a game that seems to have fixed every problem. That game gets an article that mentions that it’s really great and then goes on for much longer about the always online thing. If your analysis so rarely goes into why good things are good, then there is no balance, even if you’re less “outrage guy” and more “something is wrong here” guy. Or “tasteful, understated nerdrage”, to put it that way.

    I think analysis like Batman and FFX helps, because those are games you’re into. But they are in some ways less interesting than the Mass Effect retrospective. When something doesn’t work, you’re very good at pinpointing what that flaw is. I’m not trying to offend a blog I read every day and like a lot, but I don’t think you’re as good at expressing why and how something is good in an entertaining way.

    I do follow some personalities/critics/let’s players that manage to be positive about games often, but mostly they’re in the comedy camp(Giant Bomb) or they go incredibly deep into a few games they are very knowledgable about(Epicnamebro and the Souls/Bloodborne series). So I’m not saying it’s easy to do that kind of analysis or anything. But I think it’s necessary to improve at it if you want to change your image, not just avoid the easy targets.

    • Ahiya says:

      Definitely agree with this.

      Really, I’d love for more articles doing indepth analysis of how features and quest lines do or don’t work. A playthrough video series just is not a good format for that. I’ve been coming here less and less since playthroughs became the main content format, because that’s not what I’m looking for. Shamus’ strength was always programming content or analysis of features, quests, art or other structural aspects of games and now that’s mostly gone in favor of the exact type of let’s plays that every video game personality is doing.

  17. Karthik says:

    I find myself cautiously looking forward to Andromeda, in spite of the promotional material giving off a by-the-numbers vibe.

    It’s irrational and a little deluded, but dammit, no one else is making anything with the tone of Mass Effect 1! It’s an experience I am jonesing for.

    I don’t care about the RPG systems or the romance and I expect the main plot won’t make a lick of sense. But for a sci-fi setting with exploration, discovery and (crucially) context, or a reason to care: The Mass Effect series is all we have.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its not irrational or deluded.The problems of me2 and me3 werent that they were bad games,but that they were bad as sequels to the story established in me1.Majority of the problems with the story wouldnt exist if all three were stand alone games.And since andromeda is mostly stand alone,it wont have most of the problems those two have.So it has the opportunity to be an actually good game all around.

      • Baron Tanks says:

        Its not irrational or deluded.The problems of me2 and me3 werent that they were bad games,but that they were bad as sequels to the story established in me1.

        Now you can put it the way Shamus did in a novel sized analysis. But this is the most succinct summary. Not bad games, but games that don’t hold up as the middle and end of a trilogy.

      • Karthik says:

        Where I think I’m deluding myself is in expecting a game with the careful worldbuilding and tone of ME 1, considering:

        1. The ME 1 writers are all gone,
        2. It’s the writers from ME 2 and 3 in charge of Andromeda,
        3. ME 2 and 3 were so much more popular with the audience at large,
        4. The marketing is very paint-by-numbers (“The Remnant”, anyone?)

  18. kdansky says:

    My guess: It’s going to be Gears of War with a different paint job, and role-playing will be replaced with lots of cutscenes.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      ME3 already played nothing like Gears. The way weapons and powers work and the complete de-emphasis on using cover as cover really changed the game feel completely.

  19. boz says:

    ME-A director is Mac Walters (lead writer of ME3). Listed writers are John Dombrow (senior writer in ME3) and Chris Schlerf (who left Bioware in September 2015 and started working at Bungie).

    In case someone was wondering.

  20. Dayfly says:

    I do not know why people have hopes for Andromeda. I’ve felt let down by every single Bioware game released after Dragon Age: Origins. And having recently replayed Origins, I felt it did not age particularly well. Remove the flash and sparkle from the perviously unheard of level of production, and you are left with a typical ladder day Bioware game, with
    – expository dialogue
    – a clothesline of time wasters masquerading as sidequests
    – a hackeneyed idiot plot of a main story
    – blatant player gratification verging on obnoxious pandering

    Enough is enough for me. In four games (or five depending whether DA:O counts) games Bioware managed to turn me from raging fandom to utter apathy. Every single time a new game is heralded as their best ever, with a bigger world (not a point in its favor), unforgettable characters (20 people you get to sleep with!), and epic story (yeah right). It’s not going to happen and I believe that if we could bottle up EA, Bioware and Mass Effect Andromeda and sink them all in the Mariannas Trench, we’d all be much happier.

    • Miguk says:

      The biggest red flag I’ve seen in the ME:A hype is that we’re promised even more fanservice pandering than before. It’s turned into this bizarre power fantasy about being able to have sex with anyone you want regardless of their gender/sexual orientation or even species. You’re just so hot that every sentient being in the galaxy wants to physically interact with your genitals.

      Basically what we’re going to get is a 3D equivalent of Hatoful Boyfriend, except with aliens instead of sentient pigeons… and it’s going to take itself seriously.

      • Sam Douglass says:

        “Basically what we’re going to get is a 3D equivalent of Hatoful Boyfriend, except with aliens instead of sentient pigeons… and it’s going to take itself seriously”

        All that would basically sell me on Andromeda if the other issues plaguing it (Seriously Bioware, would it kill you to update your animations?) didn’t put it on my ‘wait until 3 months later when more nuanced opinions are circulating’ list.

  21. Karthik says:

    We’ll see the truth for ourselves in a couple of weeks.

    I don’t think it will be that straightforward. Barring technical issues, I expect the reviews are going to be great all around, because the problems with Bioware’s games are deep-seated and usually take a while to surface. Glitz and flash go a long way in the launch period.

    Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3 both had great reviews at launch. It wasn’t until a few months later that the former came to be seen as a disjointed collection of busywork and the latter as a classic that held up.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      That has less to do with problems being “deep-seated” and more to do with the generally poor state of game reviews. Plenty of people noticed the problems with DAII and ME3 right off the bat.

      Professional game reviewers have sort of a checklist approach to game scores.

      Are the graphics good?
      Are the production values in general good?
      Is there content?
      Is it properly following the important trend of the day?

      If it checks all of the boxes, the 10/10! Details like “Aiden Pierce is an asshole” or “Mass Effect 3’s ending is garbage” rarely seem to come up.

      Compare them with movie reviewers, and you’ll see a lot of difference. A movie might get a 5/5 from one critic and a 1/5 from another, because they’re more willing to base it off of their personal reaction to the film. Games rarely get that kind of spread in their score- there’s a much tighter consensus, which makes no sense when fan opinion diverges so wildly on a lot of games.

    • Christopher says:

      Mass Effect 3 sits at a comfortable 93% at metacritic I believe. So yeah. Going to reviewers to figure out if a game is worth my time seems fruitless.

  22. Son of Valhalla says:

    I think I can sum this entire thing up in one article title. Mass Effect: Andromeda, the Fall of EA (Who it’s not like they’ve already been falling for years now, we’re just now finding this out?).

  23. Steve says:

    I agree: neither Andromeda, it’s characters, or it’s combat and rpg system, such as they have been presented, feels particularly interesting. And there is something a bit disconcerting about the level to which the informal twitter marketing of this game is simply Leisure Suit Larry in the Galaxy of the Lounge Lizards

    • Christopher says:

      You mean those tweets where someone responded to a fan and said “Yeah Andromeda is totally space porn, not kidding” and some sites reported on it? Because I’m pretty sure that counts as sarcasm. I was only bothered by reporting it as news, which prompted him to say “Of course I was just joking(You idiots)”.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        To be fair,this is bioware,so it wouldnt be surprising if that was not a joke.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I was only bothered by reporting it as news, which prompted him to say “Of course I was just joking(You idiots)”.

        It was reported as news because someone reasonably assumed that might be the case, asked him if he was just joking, and he replied “Oh I’m not”.

        I just Googled it and of the first five articles that come up, all five contain the “he says he’s not joking” angle, at which point it becomes an entirely reasonable thing to report(you idiots).

        • Christopher says:

          Are you really saying that you took him saying “Yes it’s totally softcore space porn” seriously? Even after an “Oh I’m not kidding”, I thought that was the most obvious joke in the world.

          He’s a lot more gracious than me and has apologized for not getting the sarcasm across, but man. Remind me to not make jokes on the internet. I think there are a lot of reasonable things to dislike ME’s new direction for, but there’s nothing more sleazy here than in the very first Mass Effect and its marketing.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            Reminder: Don’t make jokes on the internet and then say you’re not joking.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            I thought that was the most obvious joke in the world.

            Coming from you or me,it would be.Coming from someone from valve or obsidian,it would be.Coming from someone involved with making mass effect,not so much.

            • Christopher says:

              I can see that up to a point, but not to the point that you really think they have abandoned all pretense and are just making Leisure Suit Larry now. Like yeah, all those new systems and trailers they rolled out for the open world, skill tree and combat movement were totally just a beyond Hideo Kojima level prank. It’s all boning from here on out, and you’re gonna love the new multiplayer they made.

              Thinking that’s the case just sounds to me like “Well, I don’t like Bioware anymore, so I’m gonna take this joke at face value like I’m passive-aggressive Drax the Destroyer”. Bioware’s sex scenes are significantly milder than anything I saw in that first season of Game of Thrones. They could reach that level in Andromeda and still not be softcore porn. I might have been tricked by the joke if what they had put out in trailers was a 2D visual novel exclusively for the PC with a censored version coming to steam.

  24. Wide And Nerdy® says:

    I’m a bit torn. I enjoyed each of the first three games in spite of their problems. For me, even subsequent playthroughs of ME3 don’t really lose momentum till I hit Illium and have no DLC left.

    But I played Dragon Age Inquisition which is the worst game I’ve ever played through two and a half times.* I was riding the enthusiasm I still had for Dragon Age (the problems with DA2 were there but they didn’t really bother me, I just speedcheated my way through the fighting and enjoyed the story) and there was the pretty scenery and shiny 8th gen graphics, and there was that song on the path to Skyhold which worked for me the first time and made me feel like they’d recaptured DAO’s atmosphere.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it took me a long time to start loathing the game. Possibly because of the aforementioned enthusiasm but also because, while the ending wasn’t as bad as ME3, it once again made all that grinding useless and that just drops the bottom out of subsequent playthroughs. And it was more fun and varied grinding but somehow that made it worse, because I burned a much larger block of time before hitting that empty feeling. With a match 3 or a clicker, it takes a few days. This took weeks. And at the end, I realized this didn’t feel at all like what I wanted out of Dragon Age.

    So I’m dreading the prospect of that with MEA. Lots of grinding that amounts to nothing, a game that has the trappings of the setting but is missing the feel and the substance. But worse, it will be something where they’ve listened enough to the fans that they know how to make you THINK you’re getting a Mass Effect experience for a while.**

    Like, they’ll throw some cool mass effect-y type alien and cultural concepts out there, they’ll hint at larger questions, and then distract you will lots of grindy shooter/explore/collect gameplay long enough that it takes you dozens of hours to realize the experience isn’t materializing. They’ll fail to bring the cool concepts together into a larger whole in an interesting way. They’ll change the rules of how the tech works (even within the same game, I can forgive changes between games).

    And then there are other concerns we won’t get into here that will definitely keep me from getting this at launch. But when it does come time to buy, I’m not sure who I can turn too to tell me that this is a game worth playing. I have a feeling its going to generate love and hate from people for reasons I wouldn’t necessarily love or hate the game for.

    I’m almost hoping its really really bad or that the thing I’m not getting into here is really apparent all over the place in the game so I can say “Oh good, I was smart to wait and now I can move on.”

    I’ve gotten to where I can play the earlier Bioware titles and just accept them as complete stories with no need for continuation.

    *(I know, I know, two and a half times. Clearly the game was good right? Well no. I can play a mediocre game for a long time. And while DAO, DA2, ME1-3, were all memorable experiences for me, DAI just wasn’t).

    **Clarifying. I don’t mean they’re trying to trick you. I mean they listen to the fans on their forums who are not themselves very good at identifying what actually worked about the game. They identify stuff they liked but they don’t understand the set up or the complementary pieces that make their favorite stuff work for them.

    • DA:I would have been a lot better if they’d brought back the interludes from DA:O where you got to see what the bad guys were up to while you were doing your good guy stuff. They had them in KoTOR, too, and it put a lot more personality on Darth Malak. I don’t recall that ME ever had anything like that, but in “future” games you can find recordings and stuff that flesh out the bad guys. Corypheus was SUCH a bland villain. He was DUMB.

      Solas was a much better villain but they didn’t really do enough with him.

      • Harper says:

        Wow, I never noticed that until now, we definitely needed interludes with Corypheus. The idea of a powerful mage trying to find their god and finding his throne empty and so then tries to become a god himself CAN be interesting if you really delve into his psyche

        • Ahiya says:

          That would have been amazing! But we know that the DAI team had to cut content for time constraints, so I can see why they didn’t.

          I hope that now they’re more familiar with the Frostbite engine they can make content more quickly and add more depth to the game.

    • Daimbert says:

      But I played Dragon Age Inquisition which is the worst game I’ve ever played through two and a half times.

      My final summary on DAI was “If I never play this game again, it will be too soon.”

    • Karthik says:

      a game that has the trappings of the setting but is missing the feel and the substance.

      This. The recent Bioware games feel like they’re working when you start. But it builds slowly towards story collapse as the problems mount and the promise of cohesion falls to the side.

    • Ahiya says:

      Eh. It sounds like you enjoyed the game through 2 playthroughs and then got sick of it, does that make it a bad game? Because by those standards I’ve only played 1 good game.

      This idea that games should always be entertaining every time you play them is so strange to me. Of course design decisions get really old and stale after you’ve played the game a few times. But if you did enjoy those previous playthroughs, finding the mechanics dull on the 3rd repetition doesn’t mean those previous playthroughs magically become bad.

      People don’t expect movies or books to be just as exciting the 3rd/5th/whatever time through, although it’s great when they are. It’s always odd to me when people expect every game to do be just as fun as the first playthrough.

  25. Mephane says:

    Off-topic, first time on mobile here, some observations:

    * Always prompted to open a mobile-friendly view, but that not only changes stuff like the margins, but also the and disables the following entirely:
    * I can hold on an image for a popup menu that also shows the mouseover text, but that is cut-off hard with no way to expand. Any chance off always showing the full text in a yellow box beneath?
    * Comment input fields are vertically much narrower compared to the labels and other text; and the entire comment help (the stuff with “Luke, I’m your father”) is massive and I’ rather have the option to hide it entirely.

  26. Geebs says:

    I have just tried to play through ME2 again (because ME1, which is the game I actually wanted to replay, kept crashing) and my goodness there is a lot of shooting dudes in the face. I did the Lair of the Big Toothy Red Feller DLC and just gave up. Given that the most exciting thing ME3 managed was shooting dudes in the face through a hole in their shield, and given that Andromeda’s innovation seems to be using a jetpack to get a better angle for face-shooting, I’m not really feeling it.

    In other news I’m really not sure I can be bothered with EA games anymore given the horrible broken mess of crashes and password recoveries they tend to degenerate into a couple of years after launch. I wonder whether the Cerberus Network is deliberately a terrible, time wasting, broken piece of crap in order to maintain in-universe consistency with all of their other projects?

    • Coming_Second says:

      I was going to say “It would need to have killed vast numbers of humans for no reason to qualify”, but knowing EA they probably have gone that extra mile somewhere.

  27. Tim Keating says:

    You know, there’s an interesting opportunity here that is staring you in the face.

    If you want the game analysis to be more positive, pick some games you think worked and talk about how and why. This probably popped into my head because I was playing Horizon this weekend and thinking about the effective use of intrinsic vs. extrinsic mechanics.

    Just food for thought.

  28. Cybron says:

    I’ve never put you in the angry video game nerd box. Instead, I usually group you in the “critics” category, alongside people like Mr Btounge and Super Bunnyhop. I feel like people confuse “critical and funny” (which you are) with “angry” (which you usually aren’t).

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I usually group you in the “critics” category, alongside people like Mr Btounge and Super Bunnyhop.

      No mention of Chris Ludonarrative Dissonance Campster?

    • Philadelphus says:

      Yeah, for what it’s worth Shamus, you’ve never really come off as “angry” to me (having been a regular reader for perhaps two years now or so). More generally you come off as…disappointed, that something could have been so much greater, and isn’t. The constructive criticism you offer for many of the problems you point out makes it clear that you’re doing this from a place of appreciation and affection rather than merely accentuating the negatives to be funny/controversial/whatever.

  29. Vermander says:

    If anything, most of your criticisms come across as “I’m disappointed with this, I know these people are capable of doing better,” rather than “this is crap and I hate it!”

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