Andromeda Part 7: A Little Less Conversation

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Nov 27, 2018

Filed under: Mass Effect 80 comments

A lot of the dialog in this game is bad. Not just regular bad, but embarrassing and infantile. Yes, you can find some good bits here and there, but the low points here are shockingly low. Silver lining: Nobody here is as annoying as Kai Leng. (Assuming such a thing is even possible.)

Probably the most infamous conversation in the game is the one where we meet the Director of Colonial Affairs, Foster Addison. This conversation has it all. Cringy dialog. Mismatched vocal performances. Terrible animations. Uncanny facial expressions. Obvious false-choice dialog. Frustrating dialog options that won’t allow for obvious responses. Overly verbose dialog. Exposition that’s both over-long and yet somehow vague. This conversation probably isn’t the worst example of any of those problems, but it is this unique moment where all of these problems intersect and manifest at the same point.

I get the impression this is where a lot of the audience checked out. At this point in the game, maybe the player is feeling a little restless and wondering why they aren’t having a lot of fun or connecting with the characters.

Is there something wrong with this game, or am I just sad because I miss Garrus and Tali? Maybe I need to give this game some time. Maybe things will improve once we get the introduction and exposition out of the way.

And then we meet Foster Addison…

Oh wow. It’s not just me. This game is actual garbage.

This section is so bad that people are compelled to devise theories about how it could possibly be so terrible.

Let’s Talk to Foster Addison

Looks like you got me figured out Addison. I killed my dad just to annoy you.
Looks like you got me figured out Addison. I killed my dad just to annoy you.

As an example of the cringe-inducing conversations this game has to offer, here is our first meeting with Addison, Director of Colonial Affairs aboard the Nexus:

Foster Addison: (Angry and confrontational.) All right, what happened?

Ryder: To who?

Addison: (Still angry.) To “whom”. And your goddamn father!

So this person opens the conversation by correcting your grammar and being angry at you because your father is dead. I didn’t actually care about Alec Ryder and his dumb plans, but I imagine his daughter probably loved him. This dialog comes on so strong I thought the writer was setting up a cartoon villain. I was waiting for some kind of renegade interrupt to punch this lady out. But no. This isn’t a villain. It’s just a person who’s really inexplicably rude. Which, fine. That could be good for manufacturing cheap drama, but the dialog wheel won’t let you push back.

Addison: (Softens slightly, still irritated.) Sorry. My face is tired from dealing with… everything. And right now, I just want to know what happened with Alec.

Ryder: (The game won’t let you answer the question. You get two options and they both lead to the same result.) I don’t want to get into it. Things went wrong – and now I’m the one you have to deal with.

Addison: (Angry again.) Alec Ryder wouldn’t accept that kind of ultimatum. Damned if I will. We’d never have left home if we…

Ultimatium (noun) : A final demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which will result in retaliation or a breakdown in relations.
Ultimatium (noun) : A final demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which will result in retaliation or a breakdown in relations.

Dear writer: That’s not what “ultimatum” means. An ultimatum is an offer given with a threat that it must be accepted. Ryder simply redirected a question.

This wouldn’t be a big deal except you just did the who / whom thing. For some reason. If this character is supposed to be fussy, exacting, and pedantic, then they should stick to that. If you’re trying to show that they’re incompetent and hypocritical, then you need to let the player call them on it.

Also, she claims she won’t accept this “ultimatum”, which would imply she expects you to answer the question. Except, she just keeps rambling and changes the subject. It feels like this this linear dialog was written as a stream of consciousness and then never proofed, edited, or reviewed before being handed off to the voice actor.

Also… “My face is tired?” Is English not your first language? What?

None of these mistakes ruin the scene on their own, but every line is just a bit off-kilter or distracting in some way. The cumulative effect is one of either boredom or annoyance. This is the dialog equivalent of having the camera slightly out of focus and off-center for half a scene. Sure, you can still follow the action. But why didn’t anyone catch this?

Addison: (Sighs.) Not “home”. The Milky Way. This is home. This… mess. We don’t have a lot of options, Ryder. Maybe you’ll prove your father right. After fourteen months of failed colonization, you’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

The reasonable response to this is to point out that those fourteen months of failure are all on Addison, not Alec. Alec was in Cryo sleep and Addison was running shit. She’s basically condemning Alec for failing to predict how incompetent she’d be. Which, fine. Flawed characters can be interesting. But as the player you just stand there and take her nonsensical venting and you can’t respond.

Ryder: (Ask about Addison’s relationship with her father.) You called my father Alec. No one does that.

Addison: A lot of us joined the Initiative because of his vision. What he shared of it, anyway.

Ryder: (Spontaneous non-player response.) Were you friends, or…?

Addison: (Still angry and confrontational.) I’m not your new mother, if that’s what you’re asking. Or his friend.

Addison: He hated that I didn’t use his title. But no one’s a Pathfinder until they’ve pathfound something. Much like a Colonial Director without colonies.

So this woman just bluntly states that she’s deliberately disrespecting your father, who just died to save your life. She admits she’s disrespected him for as long as she’s known him and that he didn’t like it. Fine, this woman is a rampaging asshole. Why aren’t we allowed to do something about it?

Also, Addison’s position is wrong. And hypocritical. If I’m hired as an accountant then I’m an accountant, even before I show up for work on day one. That’s how job titles work.

This wouldn’t be so irritating except she was introduced as “Director of Colonial Affairs” and she didn’t feel the need to argue with that. But as she points out, there aren’t any colonies. Going by her own logic, we should be calling her “Foster”. Or “Dipshit”.

I should go.
I should go.

She’s disrespecting a dead colleague to his bereaved family, with nonsense hypocritical reasoning, in an angry voice. And the dialog wheel won’t let you DO anything. This dialog isn’t just wrong, it’s actively frustrating. Ryder doesn’t even drop her slightly creepy perma-smile during the exchange.

Why would the writer do this? Why is the writer forcing you to be berated by this petty dingbat for irrational reasons and not allowing you to push back? That’s where the drama comes from! Two people! Debating! Through dialog!

Ryder: (Asking about the hostiles.) There must be some kind of plan for encountering hostile aliens. We can’t have been that naive.

Dipshit: We expected life, not an enemy that refuses to talk. They don’t attack – they disinfect. We’re nothing until we’re bacteria. (Beat.) Sorry. Fourteen months and you stoop to poetry. That’s how bad it is.

Dipshit: Talk to Kandros if you haven’t. He’s unfortunately become the head of our “military”. And as soon as he realizes it, we’re in the shit.

Ryder: (Spontaneous non-player response.) You don’t trust him?

Dipshit: I trust him to defend us. I do NOT trust a rising military influence in our supposedly civilian Initiative. We came to make history, Ryder. Not repeat it. (Beat.) Ugh. Goddamn poetry.

This is just ghastly. Addison talks about “poetry”, but nothing she says is remotely “poetic”. The bacteria thing is just a really clumsy analogy, but the writer thought they were being “poetic”.

(And she never even answered Ryder’s question. Instead she changed the subject to complain about something that’s completely unsupported by what we’re shown. Kandros doesn’t seem to have any desire to seize power and he’s one of only two people in the Nexus leadership who isn’t a complete incompetent.)

I’m not going to transcribe the rest of this dross, but you get the idea. At the end of the conversation Addison makes sure to point out how much she doesn’t trust Ryder.

Hang on, you have logs that told you what happened to Alec?!? At the start of the conversation you acted like you had no idea what happened to him! When we came aboard you didn't even know he was dead!
Hang on, you have logs that told you what happened to Alec?!? At the start of the conversation you acted like you had no idea what happened to him! When we came aboard you didn't even know he was dead!

How I’d have done it:

It’s not like these two don’t have things to fight about! Rather than ranting about bacteria and poetry, or disrespecting the recently-dead, Addison ought to be grilling Ryder about her lack of qualifications. Alec put his daughter on the Pathfinder team and passed the title to her despite her lack of training. Addison has every right to be mad that all their hopes are riding on the actions of this unqualified whelp. But instead she complains about a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with Ryder.

On the flipside, there’s plenty of stuff Ryder can say here. Addison is complaining about Alec’s plan, but Addison has spent the last fourteen months exploring new frontiers in failure. Since waking up her team has founded a failed colony, gotten a bunch of people killed, enlisted the help of the Krogan as muscle to keep order, created a brutal police state which led to armed rebellion, saw thousands of personnel abandon the Initiative, betrayed the Krogan which led to them abandoning the Initiative, and then sat on her giant spaceship doing nothing while the lights went out and the food ran low. The only reason the two of you aren’t sitting in the dark right now is because you’re sharing your electricity with her.

This would make for a great argument. One person is unqualified and unproven, and the other is an established failure. Sara is grieving and Addison has been living without hope, so both have a lot of reasons to be emotional. You could decide if you want to lash out and make it clear you won’t be pushed around, or you could play nice and build bridges. Instead we get lots of dialog that doesn’t flow naturally, doesn’t make sense, offers almost nothing new in the way of exposition, and which doesn’t allow for reasonable player responses.

This mess of a conversation is a mandatory exchange in the early stages of the game, where you’d expect to have lots of polish. Baffling.

The Vague Rebellion

Cora, why are you behind Tann's desk? That's a really strange thing to do in the context of a meeting.
Cora, why are you behind Tann's desk? That's a really strange thing to do in the context of a meeting.

Not being allowed to push back against Addison is frustrating, but that conversation is even more inexplicable when you compare it to the very next one. We meet with Director Tann, who is now the leader of the entire Initiative. Tann is a bit of a cagey politician. After a few interactions with him you get the sense that he wants to take credit for successful things and distance himself from failures. He likes to give you “permission” to do things you’re already doing, to pretend like he has authority over you.

He’s maybe a bit of a weasel, but harmless in the long run. He certainly never disrespects your family or pointlessly impedes your efforts the way Addison doesHe does oppose one of your plans later on, but he does so for reasons other than “I need you to fill out tons of paperwork for no reason”.. I actually kind of liked him, the way I liked Udina back in Mass Effect 1. He’s an interesting foil for the player and I wish their sparring went a bit deeper or led to some payoff.

Some people will dislike Tann because recently a bunch of colonists rebelled and left. They’re now called the Exiles. I imagine a lot of players just assume Tann was a brutal dictator and he’s just putting on a nice face for us. That’s certainly possible, although the bigger problem is that the writer never stops to explain how the shooting started or who was at fault.

Newsflash: Murder isn't exclusive to the Milky Way.
Newsflash: Murder isn't exclusive to the Milky Way.

Later in the game we’ll meet some of the Initiative exiles, and the vast majority of them have – in the space of just a few months – reverted to Mad Max levels of lawless savagery. They will attack their follow humans without provocation and can’t be reasoned with. Maybe the story is telling us that the seemingly-harmless Director Tann is actually guilty of some pretty gruesome human rights violations, or maybe the exiles were all bad eggs. The story makes it sound like they rioted not because of anything that Tann did, but because everyone was in a dire situation and Tann couldn’t fix it. In other places it feels like the colonists were big babies who were angry that risky voyages across dark space turned out to be a mild imposition for themBoo hoo! I demand you wake up my family from cryo storage even though there’s not enough food to go around and there’s no place for them to live!. The writer is all over the place here and we can’t figure out to what degree Tann is a tyrant or the colonists are entitled dingbats.

It actually reminds me of the frustrating gaslighting Mass Effect 2/3 did with Cerberus where one person would tell us they’re practical Human-first idealists and another would show us they’re cartoon space Nazis, and you couldn’t explore this through dialog. You couldn’t tell the Cerberus supporters about Cerberus war crimes and the Cerberus supporters would never tell you about the supposed Cerberus good deeds.

What were the issues that drove the rebellions? Who shot first? When did it happen? How did it escalate? How many died?

But Shamus! Isn’t it good when a fictional world offers multiple viewpoints?

Yes it is. And if different sides had different accounts on who shot first then we might have something to work with. This whole thing is so vague that we can’t really think about it.

What is this blue dust cloud outside the window? We weren't having any space-weather when we arrived at the Nexus. Oh well. At least it looks cool.
What is this blue dust cloud outside the window? We weren't having any space-weather when we arrived at the Nexus. Oh well. At least it looks cool.

At a couple of points in the game you’re offered the option of offering amnesty to Exiles, except you can’t ask reasonable questions about their crimes. If this guy stole food and ran away, then sure. Now that we’re stable let’s welcome him back to the fold. On the other hand if he was murdering unarmed civilians during the rebellion then I’d just as soon he remained an exile. Maybe he’s a reasonable guy pushed to desperation by extreme circumstances, or maybe he’s a violent psychopath who was just looking for an excuse to start killing people. Heck, if the story would just acknowledge this it would be fine. SAM could tell you that we know this guy is an exile, but we have no way of knowing what he did. The problem isn’t that you’re not allowed to know everything, the problem is that you’re never allowed to ask.

Which means that instead of Ryder being asked to answer the Hard Questions, it seems like she’s just another dumbass that doesn’t know how to assess risk.

Director Tann

You've decided to allow me to pursue the only course of action available to us? You're a cunning one, Tann.
You've decided to allow me to pursue the only course of action available to us? You're a cunning one, Tann.

In either case, the player doesn’t know about any of this when we get to the Nexus. And yet the dialog wheel enables you to push back against Tann as soon as you meet him. You can accuse him of being an opportunist and point out his slimy behavior, even before he’s done anything even mildly objectionable. Can Ryder see into the future? Why is the player allowed to spar with the harmless Director Tann before he’s even a problem, but they’re never allowed to give the slightest resistance to Addison the hateful obstructionist jackass? These two conversations happen back-to-back, which makes the discrepancy even more jarring.

I haven’t begun to scratch the surface of the dialog problems in this game. We’ll talk more about this stuff as this series goes on.



[1] He does oppose one of your plans later on, but he does so for reasons other than “I need you to fill out tons of paperwork for no reason”.

[2] Boo hoo! I demand you wake up my family from cryo storage even though there’s not enough food to go around and there’s no place for them to live!

From The Archives:

80 thoughts on “Andromeda Part 7: A Little Less Conversation

  1. ShivanHunter says:

    This would make for a great argument. […] Instead we get lots of dialog that doesn’t flow naturally, doesn’t make sense, offers almost nothing new in the way of exposition, and which doesn’t allow for reasonable player responses.

    This reminds me of similar complaints from the older ME retrospective – mostly from ME3 – it’s as if, somewhere along the line, the writers forgot how to make an argument about something, so instead they just write some people talking angrily about whatever comes to mind. I got the same impression just about every time I was supposed to be arguing with someone in ME:A (at least until I stopped paying attention). “Wait, what were we arguing about? Where is this conversation supposed to be going? Why can’t I say [blindingly obvious thing]? Oh whatever, just let me start shooting things again.”

    1. GoStu says:

      Something else forgotten in the Milky Way was how clear power structures that you can build a struggle off of later. These jobs come with responsibilities and naturally supply something for the characters to be arguing about.

      In Mass Effect 1, it’s established pretty well that you started the game as a member of the Alliance military and you’re serving under Captain Anderson on the Normandy, before you’re promoted to Spectre and start taking (loose) orders from the Citadel Council. These details help establish drama later. It works for bigger-picture stuff about how you’re free to move on your own initiative (useful for the protagonist of a somewhat-sandboxy game), and also for smaller character moments like the conversation with the Alliance admiral inspecting the Normandy.

      No such detail appears to exist in Andromeda. Obviously being THE Pathfinder is significant in some way because there’s only one such job and who gets it is a source of drama, but where does the Pathfinder’s job fit in the overall Initiative? Is Addison your boss? In the first conversation above, is Addison finding out who replaced Alec as her subordinate, or just as the head of another department? Is she trying to cow the new guy/girl into reporting to her and increase her own power, or is she just kind of a bitch?

      Similarly, how closely are you expected to follow Tann’s orders? As pointed out above, he’s in charge of the entire Initiative, which means you should be taking his orders, but the balance of power is never made abundantly clear. If you bop around doing sidequests for the next few in-game days before taking the mission he tasks you with, are you simply exercising your initiative as Pathfinder or are you actively flouting his orders? If Addison tells you to do something, is it a request to a colleague, an order to a subordinate, or is she trying to pull a coup on your office? Any of those three would be possible and could help characterize her better (and set a core relationship for the writer to build on), but because it’s never established it can’t be used in any direction.

      1. guy says:

        I got the impression the Pathfinders were supposed to command the scouting and initial settlement teams, then hand control over to the civilians.

        With the Golden Worlds trashed, that plan went to hell and now no one is really in charge but the pathfinders have AI uplinks and military training.


    Apparently there’s a tie-in novel for Andromeda that covers the Uprising, but they never really cover it in game. What makes this even worse is that the player later meets Sloane Kelly, former head of Nexus Security turned iron-fisted, Machiavellian (in my opinion) dictator of the most successful Milky Way colony prior to the player’s arrival. Apparently Sloane- a woman perfectly comfortable with letting her men beat people half to death in broad daylight- defected to join the rebels in response to Tann deciding to use the krogan to put them down. Which indicates that either she’s had quite the change in character since being exiled or that Tann fucked up so hard that even Kelly felt he’d gone too far.

    The problem is that we never really get enough information on the Uprising to know which is which. All we really know is that after it became clear the Nexus was failing to accomplish anything, people started to get unhappy and this unhappiness built up either to public protests or outright armed rebellion (I don’t think it’s ever made clear the scale of the violence that occurred and given how little physical damage the Nexus sustained I always viewed the claims of a literal civil war a bit suspect). After some form of stand-off or confrontation the dissenters get exiled and shortly afterwards the krogan get pissed and leave. Given that the Nexus started off making colonisation attempts and failing miserably, you’d think this’d be an effective death sentence for anyone exiled as they’d be effectively marooned in hostile space. Except the Outcasts (a gang of Exiles under Kelly’s command) head to a former angaran world controlled by the kett and take over the place- forcing the kett almost entirely off planet with apparent ease. The krogan set up shop on a different world and are able to make their own colony without fear of kett attacks. While I suppose you could argue that the kett simply cared more for controlling Eos (where the Initiative failed to set up outposts) than Kadarra (which Kelly took over) or Elaaden (now home of New Tuchanka), this isn’t even counting the smaller, less notable Exile colonies such as Advent (sited on Eos and mentioned by some friendly Exiles you can encounter in a side-quest on the planet). Apparently the Initiative need Ryder to make any colonisation attempts viable but groups of literal refugees are able to set up shop wherever they please and the dominant military power in the sector is completely unable to stop them.

    The Uprising in my opinion is one of the worst handled parts of Andromeda (at least in terms of background lore). It’s treated kind of like the First Contact War in ME1, except where the FCW was fairly unimportant beyond “some turians and humans don’t get along because of this”, the aftermath of the Uprising defines about 2/5ths of the planets you come across as well as how the Initiative pre-Ryder has fared. I don’t need to know why the turians initially invaded Shanxi to get that some might still view Shepard as a bit suspect. But given that Ryder meets pretty much all the major players in the Uprising in person at a time where the Uprising is still fresh in people’s minds, it is a bit jarring I can never be quite sure why the Exiles were exiled. Or what exactly they wanted. Or what specifically sparked this off in the first place. Or what caused the Tann/Kelly split. Or…

    1. ShivanHunter says:

      I remember mercilessly making fun of Sloane Kelly’s character design even before the game was out. Her weird punk aesthetic is the polar opposite of what her backstory is supposed to be, and meeting her in-game only makes the problem worse. It feels like the writers were trying to go in three different directions writing her and never really figured it out.


        To be honest, I like the idea behind Kelly. If you keep your eyes open in the side quests she’s involved in it becomes apparent that as bad as her tin-pot dictatorship is, she’s fully aware that she can only push people so far before facing armed revolt and thus goes to great pains to ensure her men don’t cross that line. I believe there’s some ambient dialogue where one of her men is getting chewed out for charging too much protection money from someone living in the slums of Kadara and when she’s introduced to the plot she’s about to execute an angaran criminal solely because doing so will appease the local angaran population.

        She’s basically the epitome of “Renegade” morality in my opinion, she does unquestionably immoral things and doesn’t care who she fucks over to accomplish them, but she does so because that’s how she gets results. Like I said in my last post, she managed to kick the kett off a planet and colonise it while the Initiative (with presumably far more resources) failed to even set up an outpost on a single world. You could do some interesting things with having her success tempt the Initiative to mimic her brutal methods or deny themselves a potentially powerful ally by making a moral stand against her regime.

        The problem is that her backstory as you’ve pointed out makes no sense, Jien Garson (the founder of the Initiative) apparently hired her specifically for the security role despite her most recent career experience being getting discharged from the Alliance military for punching a superior officer in an argument. Apparently, Garson figured a woman who got into fist fights over what she called “bureacratic bullshit” was simply passionate and exactly the kind of person you’d want in charge of policing a long term colonisation project. You then make matters worse by having her side with the rebels in the Uprising specifically because she felt Tann wanted to punish them too violently, before heading off to Kadarra where she keeps people in line… through violent intimidation.

        In comparison, Tiran Kandros who Shamus mentioned in the article and who replaced her as head of Nexus Security, was a respectable soldier in the Turian Hierarchy who before joining the Initiative had been assigned to a counter-terrorism unit. After arrival in Andromeda he was part of the security team for a group of prospectors who were captured by the kett and was able to free himself and the others. During this period (if the Mass Effect Wiki is correct) the Uprising took place so he was conveniently out of touch with Kelly or anyone else who might later become Exiles. When he returned a lot of people look up to him for his heroic actions and this support allowed him to form the Milita- the Initiatives militant arm- whilst also making him the obvious replacement for Sloane Kelly as head of Nexus Security.

        As far as I can tell the only possible reason why Kelly would have been seen as more suitable for the role in the first place was that (again according to the wiki) there was some initial suspicion that he’d been sent to spy on the Initiative (although why a spy would stay with the Initiative on the trip to Andromeda is beyond me).

        TL;DR: Kelly really should have been some low level Initiative menial labourer with a chip on her shoulder who ended up becoming a ring-leader for dissent with Tann’s policies during the Uprising and managed to carve herself a violent little niche as queen of Omega 2.0.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Man, the goddamn Uprising is an unmitigated mess. Clearly they just wanted to have an established backstory that would allow for the story to be set after Ryder’s arrival, but they came up with a concept and didn’t even bother to pretend to develop it. The fact that a few small groups of people are perfectly able to establish colonies in places where the damn Initiative couldn’t (despite being far more powerful than them) is fine for shooty-shooty stuff, but makes absolutely no sense story-wise, even if we don’t pay attention to the time passed.

      All this does is make the people at charge look like completely incompetent dunces, right before you’re tasked with following their requests. If the game had at least had the balls to let me call out these idiots while talking to them (like “Hey, how ya doing, incompetent idiot? What else did you screw up and need me to fix today?” or “I just solved another one of your self-inflicted problems, Director Fuck-up.”), I’d feel much better, even if I had no choice but to accept their missions.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        As far as I can tell, the only reason that this uprising happened was so that it would create a plausible reason for us to be constantly running into other Milky Way species out in the cluster and shooting them in their faces.

        I imagine it’s easier to come up with a BS story that allows them to use the same basic character models than to create an interesting variety of bad guys.

        But the consequences of this choice is that it only makes the Initiative look even more like incompetent know-nothings and it completely undercuts the idea that we’re in any way explorers because everywhere we go, we run into the actual Milky Way explorers who’ve already found all these places and have settled them with varying degrees of success.

        1. GoStu says:

          I’m 99.99% sure that’s exactly what it was. They spun off “Exiles” so you could have humanoids to shoot without needing to make every enemy in the game be either Kett or Angara.

          Never mind that they seem to do just fine in the absence of any “support” from the main Initiative, who is failing miserably at colonization. In practical terms, it seems like your best chance to succeed is getting as far away from the Initiative as possible. Not that Ryder or anyone else notices.

          1. Syal says:

            You can even make that work pretty easily; one of the alien races offers basic support in exchange for subservience, and swaths of people take them up on it because at least the aliens aren’t Addison. Then, now that there are exile colonies everywhere, the aliens change the rules; in order to keep getting supplies, the entire Initiative has to submit. Thus, humanoid enemies, with working colonies, fighting you at the behest of Hostile Alien Group A.

    3. They did this in Dragon Age: Inquisition, too. Patrick Weekes wrote a fantastic novel setting up the large, three-way conflict between the Orlaisian (spelling? Orlesian looks wrong, too) powers. I mean, the novel was seriously good. And then they almost completely drop it in game. They don’t set it up in the early stages of the game. You don’t meet people fighting for or against one side (well, you can, but mostly they just say “hey, I’m on this side, would you plz do something about the damn demons already?!” You don’t get any opportunity to get the “ground floor” perspective on the sides. Then they plop you down in an “intrigue” section, say “here are the three options, pick one”, involve a bunch of pointless fighting and collecting mini-games under TIME PRESSURE so that you really have NO CHOICE but to rush through at top speed.

      It honest to god felt like the DEVS had decided that the backstory was boring and dumb, so let’s just make it into another idiot “choice” with no background and next-to-no impact other than maybe making some of your companions mad.

  3. Gautsu says:

    I wonder how the story in the game would have gone if they flipped the paradigm, with the human ark arriving 14 months earlier to an empty galaxy. It would give credence to the officers you meet in the opening actually being characters rather than just props for the intro. It would have given you a chance to actually explore the new galaxy, having to scan planets to see which were viable. It could have made for interesting binary decisions on setting up colonies, lacking the resources of the Nexus behind them. It would give you the actual true first contact with the kett and angara.

    And then 14 months later the Nexus arrives. All the shit that happened on board prior to you arriving in game has happened, but now you get to see the circumstances around it. You get to help make the decisions that will then affect your Andromeda and deal with the repurcussions of this, instead of playing clean up after the worst group of decision makers to be met in a gaming environment.

  4. Philadelphus says:

    Ryder: There must be some kind of plan for encountering hostile aliens. We can’t have been that naive.

    Dipshit: We expected life, not an enemy that refuses to talk.

    Huh, apparently we really were that naive!

    I thought that was hyperbole about how bad the dialog was, but…wow. This dialog is pretty terrible. Is this maybe the problem that it’s hard to write a character smarter than yourself?

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      Apparently we expected fully developed species with sentience and conciousness, millions or billions of individuals, a functional civilization connecting them, modern levels of technological advancement and industrialization, functioning space travel and possibly interplanetary colonization, all developed entirely on their own without any influence from our own galaxy.

      But the idea that those sentient individuals might disagree with us?
      Completely inconceivable.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        This is what I wondered: They weren’t expecting aliens that didn’t want to even talk, so then – what were they expecting?

        Despite the fact that it was a completely different galaxy, they seemed to be expecting to find people who were more-or-less like us, and who would share roughly the same values and beliefs. They should’ve been expecting anything from hyper-aggressive aquatic people to superintelligent blobs of light energy. It’s insane that they would’ve expected anything like what came out of the Milky Way. So in a weird sense, the Kett are closer to what they did expect to find than what they didn’t expect to find.

        But even if we don’t toil over that self-contradicting nonsense, you’d think they would’ve done a better job of preparing for the outcome that they’d have to defend themselves militarily no matter how unlikely they thought that outcome would be. They didn’t know what to expect, so they decided to not prepare for anything.

        1. Liessa says:

          It says a lot about Andromeda’s plot that the stupidity of the Initiative’s “no military needed, just flowers and rainbows here!” attitude is barely worth mentioning, because all the other stupidity is so much worse.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

            It also brings up the question of why-the-heck-did-you-bring-the-Krogan-then?
            Because one of the few valid reasons for taking those guys is if you expect a fight.

        2. Tremor3258 says:

          Especially bad since the Milky Way’s basic interstellar social structure and technology is the result of Reaper cycles. The Citadel trap had already been fired when the Initiative started.

          Any reasonable planner would assume millions of years of technological superiority would be a distinct possibility, with exploration and development of resources far beyond what the Council races simply had the time to do.

          The fact this doesn’t seem to have been thought does give more weight to Cerberus being a major backer.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Is this maybe the problem that it’s hard to write a character smarter than yourself?

      In that case, they shouldn’t have let a preschooler write the characters.

      I imagine somewhere, in the middle of the night, Michael Bay is playing Andromeda, he reaches this part of the game, hears the dialogue and says “Man, this is fucking retarded!”

    3. Mr. Wolf says:

      The part that I find the most inconceivable is that “hostile aliens that refuse to negotiate” is exactly how the initial stages of the First Contact War went, yet somehow they didn’t expect this?

  5. Destrustor says:

    I’m pretty sure the “ultimatum” Addison is referring to is the specific part in Ryder’s line where she says “Now I’m the one you have to deal with.”

    I think that does count as an actual ultimatum.

    1. ShivanHunter says:

      Except it still doesn’t really work – Ryder’s not making a threat or an ultimatum, she’s informing Addison of a change in command which is entirely out of anyone’s hands. And it’s still a weird way to follow up after asking what happened and getting a non-answer. It’s a non-sequitur.

      It feels like the writer had a general idea of Addison’s archetype, and wanted her to be confrontational and abrasive because she’s at her limit dealing with the exiles, but didn’t bother modelling what she actually wanted at that particular moment from that conversation (same with Ryder, really, but she at least has the excuse that she’s just responding to Addison’s inane drivel). So Addison just says whatever vaguely confrontational thing comes to the writer’s mind.

      1. Henson says:

        I think you may have hit on the main problem here: the writers have a general idea of what many the conversations are about, but don’t have any of the details worked out. As such, the words they put to the page are whatever comes to them in the moment, regardless of whether or not they fit with all the other bits of dialogue. The writing paints in broad strokes, but doesn’t have any structure. The result, naturally, is vague and muddled.

        1. King Marth says:

          Much like the animation, it looks like the dialog was in its first, nearly auto-generated draft and that somehow got sent to voice actors.

          Pity that the script can’t exactly be patched after release without basically redoing all the assets.

    2. Scampi says:

      That’s also what I thought. Nevertheless, I think the line is still stupid as there seems to be no real alternative to dealing with the pathfinder, if there’s only one person appointed to that position.
      What’s the alternative? Would Alec step down from the same position if he was in Addison’s shoes?

      “You have to deal with me now.”
      “Nope, I resign.”

      Because THAT’s a responsible person you want in a position of power.
      Was this line written to make a case that Alec was irresponsible and self-important?

      1. Asdasd says:

        Also, she keeps having the conversation. If she was really serious about not recognising Rider Jr (rejecting the ultimatum) she could have just let her talk to the hand.

    3. Karma The Alligator says:

      I guess she would see it as an ultimatum considering how confrontational she is, but to me that appeared more of a “wasn’t by choice for me either, but that’s how it is, so we better learn to accept it” line. Then again, I haven’t seen the scene, so I have no idea how those lines are delivered.

    4. Furo says:

      Yeah, I’ve understood her in that way too.

      I still wouldn’t call it an ultimatum, because there’s no an explicit or implicit threat from Ryder, just a statement. And if she’s so fussy with the language, she could’ve used more exact expression herself :) But yeah, at least that way her words don’t sound nonsensical, just inexact.

  6. Trevor says:

    I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with Addison which it never does.

    You meet an overtly hostile NPC who is theoretically your ally in the first town. As an RPG player I’ve seen this before and it usually goes one of two ways. 1). You learn the lesson that not everyone is what they appear to be. You gain a greater appreciation of the NPC by learning about her backstory, she gradually warms up to you, or something to that effect. Usually the NPC steps in unexpectedly late in the game and does something really good for you and it’s heartwarming. Or, 2). The dipshit remains a dipshit all game but you get to give her her comeuppance late in the game and that feels great.

    Neither of these happen. In fact, whether it’s Spender, or the Three Sabers, or the pregnant scientist side quest, there’s a ton of content in the game around you cleaning up her mistakes. The game never gives you the option to have her punished/exiled for those failures and there’s no real reward for keeping her around.

    1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

      That’s the weird thing about Addison on the whole and with this conversation in particular: She’s been at this for 14 months and has seen nothing but failure. We roll in and immediately save the day by supplying the Nexus with power and her first order of business is to accuse Ryder’s father of failure and then project that failure onto Sara despite the fact that we just got here successfully while everybody else involved in the Initiative has already failed spectacularly. Perhaps all she understands at this point is a fail state because she shouldn’t be asking why we failed: She should be asking why we have been the only success where everyone else has failed.

      I wanted to be like “Girl – slow your roll. Save this sass talk for any of the number of people here who actually have failed.” And she never really has a full character arc. At best, she goes from a grudging disrespect for Ryder to a grudging respect for Ryder. But in both cases, the “grudging” part is misplaced and that misplacement is never addressed in a meaningful way.

  7. Syal says:

    “All right, what happened?”

    “To who?”

    …why is the assumption that “what happened” had to happen *to* someone? We’re six words in and this conversation has already become surreal.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      I know, first thing that made me scratch my head, I’d have said “A lot happened, you’re going to have to be a bit more specific”.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        That would have been a good line too.

        “Ma’am, how do you intend to deal with this imminent crisis?”

        “Which one again?”

    2. Profugo Barbatus says:

      I can somewhat brush that aside as to Ryder trying to clarify “You talking about me, my dad, the ark, or someone else?”. It’s a pretty vague question. I just think that it stands out more because everything following is bad, and never really works.

    3. Bloodsquirrel says:

      If my dad died, and somebody relevant to him asked me “What happened?”, I think I’d be able to guess who they’re asking about meant. Just seems like it would be on my mind a bit.

    4. Terradyne says:

      Because presumably someone came up with the the “to who / to whom” set of lines first, and tried to come up with some kind of justification to make them work, thinking that it was clever characterisation rather than making the conversation stilted and unnatural.

  8. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    To me, the uprising actually represents one of the many things that’s wrong with the characters in this game. They were trying to model this one after the first Mass Effect, so I’ve got not problems using it as a standard here. I think that if the writing were of the quality of the original, we would’ve had a character join our squad who was from the rank-and-file of Nexus security who could’ve given us a reasonable defense of their choices: “We were being backed into a corner by a mob that was growing increasingly angry and violent and once they became actively dangerous, we had to do something…” And then at some point, we would’ve picked up a character out in the wild (I was hoping Drack would be this character) who would represent the exiles’ point of view in a cogent way: “It was cold and dark and we were running out of food and water and my children were still sitting in stasis. Everything was slipping away bit by bit and the Nexus leadership expected us to quietly sit there and die a slow, painful death…” The uprising is supposedly this defining event that informs the current status quo, but it’s left vague in a way that feels like it’s all hearsay even from the people who were presumably there. I don’t necessarily think that this was an egregious mistake, but rather emblematic of a lot of problems with Andromeda: It’s wrong in a way where I’m not outraged, but rather I’m like “meh.” Instead of firing me up, it just makes me cold to the game.

    The dialogue in this game is mostly a travesty. It’s frustrating how often someone will say something stupid and not only can you not push back against it, but there will be auto-dialogue where you have no input into that bit of conversation at all. Not that it really matters when the dialogue wheel does give you a chance to chime in, because no matter what you pick, you’re going to say the same thing and you’re just picking the tone in which you’ll say that thing.

    I was actually relieved to hear that they were getting away from the Paragon/Renegade system, but I was greatly annoyed to find that they threw out the baby with the bath water. What made that system bad was that it essentially locked players into one pattern of behavior and pulled us out of the narrative by forcing us to meta-game instead of looking at the merits of our options and choosing each on their own terms. What was great about the Paragon/Renegade system was that it allowed for a wide variety of player choice, including morally dicey decisions. The outcomes didn’t always match up to the moral character of the decisions, but choosing the different options could take the narrative in a lot of different ways. But that part of it went away too. Ryder makes very, very few actual decisions: Most of the decisions are pre-made for us and we can only decide the tone of voice we use as we dispatch those decisions. If you’re going to give me a dialogue wheel, let me use it to actually make choices instead of using it to hide the fact that most of our choices are complete illusions.

    1. GM says:

      Sounds like it would have the trouble of losing two storylines into a weird twin of a one,where choices don’t really have a heft of a choice having a meaning.

  9. ccesarano says:

    From a bystander’s perspective reading this stuff, it sounds like Tann’s position is where they planned for a “paragon/renegade” binary perspective. You’d be one or the other depending on how you dealt with the Exiles. I don’t know if this is how it works in execution because it sounds like no one thought deeply enough into it – which makes it all the worse if this really was meant to be paragon/renegade.

    Addison was either never meant to be someone you felt paragon/renegade about, or they never managed to finish all the dialogue branches and thus we’re left with the computer responding for the player. Regardless, I was trying to think about how this might be more satisfying with player responses, where “paragon” ones would have Ryder constantly interrupted and “renegade” would have Ryder shutting Addison down, with the intent that as the game progressed and Ryder became a more confident leader the “paragon” options would eventually have Ryder not only speaking more confidently and boldly, but more capable of shutting down Addison’s arguments. The problem is “renegade” is harder to figure out an evolution for. By being so confrontational do you merely create a worse and worse relationship? Wouldn’t that punish people for wishing to speak a certain way?

    That’s when I realized what I really wanted was some fusion of the Alpha Protocol response wheel so it’s not tied to “good” or “bad”, but certain types of responses at certain times will ultimately result in more negative consequences while others more positive, even if the character is not ready to give satisfactory replies. Which is the real problem with this theoretical system. If a player is given a choice they’re not going to be thinking of proper character arcs and dramatic pay-off. They’re not going to want to “learn how to deal with someone” like they might have to in real life, where they’ll be stubborn and unchanging and you just need to figure out how to adjust your own approach if you wish to make any progress. Could players want that? I don’t know, but I feel like it would be received very negatively at first.

    Regardless, I cannot say what the writers did or didn’t intend, but the end result certainly feels like they didn’t think as thoroughly about all of this as they could have.

  10. BlueHorus says:

    “No-one’s a pathfinder until they’ve pathfound something.”

    And this woman dares to use the word ‘poetry’?!

    I think after a bit the only thing that could have redeemed this conversation was a late ‘get out the Cretin-Beating Stick and run her off the Nexus with it’ option.

    Though Director Tann sounds like a good concept, at least. Perhaps as the situation on the Nexus improves, he becomes more personable. He was only working so hard to ‘appear’ in control because he thought he needed to and the situation was so desperate.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      I also cut Tann some slack because he’s up front about the fact he was something like 8th in the line of succession to command the Initiative. He never imagined the half-dozen people above him would be taken out of the picture so quickly. He’s a middle-manager bureaucrat thrust into a top leadership position and trying desperately to not appear like he’s in over his head.

      1. Trevor says:

        I really liked Tann and Kumail Nanjiani gave a great performance as his voice actor. He’s a little slimey and tells you many times that your success is his success. But he never does a heel turn like Udina or falls into a “shifty politician” stereotype. The game wants you to distrust him, but I never really bought the reasons why. He just seems like a regular guy, in over his head, who is trying to do the best with a shitty situation. His mistakes aren’t out of malicious intent or incompetence, they come from lack of resources. Even the best poker player will be bad if dealt a shitty hand. Tann is dealt a 9 and a 2 and everyone else in the Initiative is pissed off at him because he hasn’t made a royal flush out of that.

        1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

          To be fair, Udina didn’t do his heel turn until the third game – way past the point where it would’ve made any sort of sense. Who knows what would’ve happened with Tann had this done well enough to greenlight a couple of sequels.

          But count me among those who actually liked Tann’s character to some degree and could appreciate the position that he was in. And I like the idea of a foil who is ultimately an ally with the same goals, but who may differ from my character ideologically.

  11. Len says:

    The second link in the first footnote in the Mass Effect article on Kai Leng leads to a site with viruses popups and shit. Might want to remove that.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      Weird, it works just fine for me.

      This is the link I’m seeing:

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        They mean the links to the chainmail bikini webcomic in the ME retrospective 46 article. I’m also getting warnings from them, because apparently the domain they were on is gone.

    2. Matt Downie says:

      Seems kinda appropriate for Kai Leng.

  12. Dreadjaws says:

    Addison and Tann seem like polar opposites from a writing perspective, as if the two characters had been written by completely different people.

    Addison is a complete jerk with no justification who’s constantly harping on you despite her being the incompetent one and you the one who has to fix her screw-ups, and the game never even lets you call her on it and receive a proper response. The one time in the game she recognizes she did wrong she does it for the wrong reasons. She’s a terrible character with no redeeming features, no interesting arc and the game just asks you to accept it without offering any alternative, like finding someone who can do the job better (or, at the very least, refuse to keep directly talking to her).

    Please note that the game allows you to do this very thing elsewhere. When, for instance, doing the whole Asari Ark mission, you get to appoint someone else as Pathfinder, based on the fact that the current one made one slightly shady decision, even though you should have absolutely no saying in Asari affairs. Meanwhile, Addison has a history of terrible decisions, and it seems that every major problem you have to deal with that it’s not directly Kett-related is her fault one way or another, due to her incompetence or outright malice. She’s also rude and disrespectful to everyone she crosses paths with, which means she’s a constant source of tension for the people around her. Despite this, you’re just forced to accept her in the job, as the game never even considers to let you do something about her, even when you can see that there’s people in the game that are far more capable.

    On the other side of the spectrum, Tann looks like a bit of a pragmatist. He’s been given a job he wasn’t really prepared for but is actually doing the best he can, even if he does take credit for things you’ve done. Yet he’s still not confrontational, he’s able to admit when he makes mistakes and, like ME1 Udina, he’s entirely honest about his political intentions and decisions. Despite this, the game allows you to call him out when you don’t like what he’s done. Even if you don’t like Tann’s decisions, you can understand them. Even if you don’t care for him as a person, you can see he’s a properly-written character (at least for Andromeda’s standards).

    Tann is good enough that I sometimes look forward to our conversations. Addison is so bad she makes me miss Miranda.

    1. Thomas says:

      That’s one of the frustrating things about Andromeda, it’s so inconsistent. You can have a conversation with two characters and one will have a good model, bearable animations neat characterisation and dialogue – and the other will look like a steam asset flip written by a Russian not yet out of school.

      And the two characters are equally likely to be plot relevant.

  13. Liessa says:

    It’s not like these two don’t have things to fight about! Rather than ranting about bacteria and poetry, or disrespecting the recently-dead, Addison ought to be grilling Ryder about her lack of qualifications. Alec put his daughter on the Pathfinder team and passed the title to her despite her lack of training. Addison has every right to be mad that all their hopes are riding on the actions of this unqualified whelp.

    I can’t recall if it’s in this same conversation, but I’m pretty sure Addison does raise this at one point – she says something along the lines of “if we wanted a hereditary monarchy, we’d have left half our gene stock behind”. And yes, she’s an obnoxious jerk – and incompetent and hypocritical and all those other things you mentioned – but on this particular issue I’m 100% in agreement with her. If I were playing, I’d have wanted to respond with something like “I agree, and I’m not particularly happy about having an AI shoved into my head without my knowledge or consent either.” The frustrating thing is that the game doesn’t allow you to agree, or even acknowledge that she has a point – just as it doesn’t allow you to dispute the things she says that are obviously bullshit.

  14. Thomas says:

    Addison exhausts me. Everything she says is slightly inhuman to the point I get tired trying to map what she says to what a real person would say.

    Even if this was written by a random graphics engineer you’d have a decent chance of better dialogue. And it’s a critical main path conversation! Just bewildering.

    Even Addison’s face looks like she wasn’t designed as main character.

  15. seeker says:

    100% unrelated to the above: is there a place to find the chainmail bikini archives? Google directed me to what appears to be a domain squatter.

    I told one of my players that LARPing was verboten at my table and it led to me needing to find the “No LARPing” panel, which I failed to do.

    1. Shamus says:

      I can’t reach Shawn and his site vanished months ago, so my plan is to re-post the series here. I’m still working out when / how.

    2. OldOak says:

      Sometimes could be a helper (YMMV).

  16. Tonich says:

    Also… “My face is tired?” Is English not your first language?

    Actually, as an English-as-foreign teacher, I’d say this whole dialogue sounds like a bad translation job to me. Bad word choices and weird phrasing, jokes lost in translation (at least that’s my take on the “poetry”) – that’s what I too often see in my students’ translations.
    I wonder, maybe there really is a language where that phrase actually means being tired/exhausted/unnerved?

    1. Thomas says:

      Huh, this was made by a Montreal based studio. I wonder if it was written by a first language French speaker?

      1. Tonich says:

        Hmm, actually, that’s possible, and it would explain quite a bit. I’m sure there are French speakers around, maybe someone could confirm that?

      2. Karma The Alligator says:

        I am not aware of anything in French that would translate to that, even through Google translate.

        1. Tonich says:

          Ohhh, there goes another theory. And I was getting kinda attached to it. :)
          Thanks for clearing this out!

          1. Karma The Alligator says:

            To be fair, a translation issue was also my first theory, just not from French (I’ve been reading a lot of badly translated Japanese texts lately, so that looked a lot like something that got translated without understanding the meaning behind it).

    2. Coming Second says:

      The most likely explanation is the one posited in the reddit thread Shamus linked to: That this is actually a line that was cut from earlier dialogue, where it has context that makes sense of it, and then re-used later on. Why it was re-used so crudely is another question, but one that can be answered by Bioware’s observable approach towards dialogue throughout this game (they didn’t give a fuck).

    3. Geebs says:

      What really bakes my noodle about that line is that it sounds exactly like a fourth wall breaking joke about her ghastly facial expression (that makes it look as if the reason why the Exiles left was that Addison appropriated the Initiative’s entire supply of Botox), but the VO must have been recorded months before the scene was animated.

  17. Vlad says:

    Can I just point out that the question “To who(m)?” is not, in any galaxy, something someone would instinctively respond when asked “What happened?”

    1. I can totally see Inspector Clouseau using “whom” as a response.

  18. Joshua says:

    Later in the game we’ll meet some of the Initiative exiles, and the vast majority of them have – in the space of just a few months – reverted to Mad Max levels of lawless savagery.

    Unrelated to the point of this specific article, but this is something that bothered me a lot in this game. Everything is established in a really bizarre timeline. The Exiles and Krogan establish themselves on their worlds remarkably fast and well. They’re not in the progress of, but finished construction of their settlements. But how? They were exiled or left on rather poor terms, yet had the resources to establish and become something beyond footnotes on the galactic stage. Aya, in some bizarre way, feels smaller and just as established as the Krogan Settlement and Kadara, in spite of them being on Aya for far longer. They have a government, organization, economy, and desires to expand in no time.

    Made even more bizarre when we colonize places and *they* just instantaneously appear. Not even a day/night cycle and fade to construction. Just a snap of the finger. Honestly, Andromeda could have happened over the course of a day or the course of a year, and I’d never be able to tell.

    1. Trevor says:

      Kadara is an Angaran port that had been seized by the Kett. Sloane Kelly leads her exiles on a surprise attack on the port, they kill all the Kett there and claim it for themselves. So they’re seizing previously-established infrastructure. You’re forgiven for missing that because the Kadara port architecture does not look like any of the Angaran settlements we encounter elsewhere in the game. It should look like Aya, but with a lot of punk/Mad Max paint on it (because that’s Sloane’s aesthetic, I guess), but instead it has the Initiative buildings all over it. It’s a huge missed opportunity that Kadara doesn’t feel like the Exiles holding onto something Angaran but instead feels like “We just set up Mos Eiseley on top of a mountain.”

      That’s how Kadara port is finished. I got nothing on how the Krogan were able to build Elaadan. You can fan-canon an explanation about how Kadara gets Nexus resources from Spender and that’s why it seems so finished, but he’s actively trying to screw the Krogan, so that handwave doesn’t apply to them.

  19. modus0 says:

    She’s disrespecting a dead colleague to his bereaved family, with nonsense hypocritical reasoning, in an angry voice. And the dialog wheel won’t let you DO anything. This dialog isn’t just wrong, it’s actively frustrating. Ryder doesn’t even drop her slightly creepy perma-smile during the exchange.

    Why would the writer do this? Why is the writer forcing you to be berated by this petty dingbat for irrational reasons and not allowing you to push back?

    While I’m not defending this, remember that this exact type of issue has been there since at least Mass Effect 2, when you could never discuss *why* you’re working with Cerberus.

    1. Coming Second says:

      Yeah, this specific attitude towards dialogue and player agency has been part of Bioware’s style since the EA take-over, and it’s hard to know what to pin it on exactly. A lot of it seems to me to originate from script decisions which are virtually impossible to justify – Shepard dying and being resurrected by Cerberus, a whole bunch of Milky Way people splitting off and easily colonising Andromeda – and because they can’t be justified a malaise sets in amongst the writers about justifying anything, because what’s the point? Disassemble or just kind of wave at it.

      You see much the same thing in F4. Nobody understands what synths are or what the Institute is doing because the writers themselves don’t know, each of them is constantly passing off explaining this shit to somebody else.

    2. Vinsomer says:

      I recall being able to say on more than one occasion (but especially on Horizon) that I’m working for Cerberus because they’re the only ones taking the human disappearances and Reaper threat seriously. That point is also echoed by many other characters, Jacob and TiM especially.

  20. ClaimedInfinity says:

    I don’t understand what is wrong with “My face is tired”. Just googled it like (“face is tired” -andromeda -mass -effect) without brackets and got around 200 000 results. Most of those aren’t even remotely related to Andromeda.

    1. OldOak says:

      As an “English not my first language” speaker, I must confess this rubbed me strangely since I read it.
      Somehow I get it could be a good written metaphor (incidentally I’ve just read today “Her tired face […]” in one of Frank Herbert’s novels). I guess in spoken language the metaphors are not that much appreciated in English (not even in fictional speech).

    2. kincajou says:

      Essentially, the problem is that the line is unnatural and doesn’t flow. It’s hard for me to explain but i’ll give it a shot (my approach to language understanding is very instinctive, which makes it difficult for me to explain the “why” of things other than “it doesn’t sound right”).

      To start with, it’s a line that you’d probably never encounter in normal english converstation. I guess that there may be instances when it can be used to serve a particular purpose (induce specific pathos, expand the atmosphere into something theatrical, imply something about the character that’s speaking …) but in this instance, the writer is simply trying to convey a verbal conversation and as such it isn’t a sentence that is commonly used and feels very out of place (a bit the same effect that you get when, as a beginner of a language you speak/write in that language… there will be a phase where what you say is “technically correct” but doesn’t flow or make sense within the established unspoken conventions of the language).

      From an english speaker’ perception, “my face is tired” doesn’t make sense because it isn’t an expression that is used to express general fatigue. usually to express fatigue you’d be referring to the wole entity (“I am tired”/”i’m exhausted”). Of course you can specify that a part of you is particularily tired, but the purpose of that is to draw attention to that part of the body and it allows to contextualise things (“i can’t run because my legs are tired”/ “i can’t smile because my face is tired”) . So in this context , the one off line feels alien, it feels like something is missing. (why did you bring up your face? is there something in particular i should notice about your face? Oh… you’re just saying the whole of you is tired! Well that’s a bit of an awkward way of expressing it)

      Furthermore, with the fact that the viewer’s interest is further asked to focus on the character’s face, the dissonances in the animation become even more jarring (especially in the pre-patch game) and it becomes intevitable to think that she’s trying to explain why she looks like botox had a field day in her cheeks, or like a lizard man is wearing her skin.

      So, not only does the line sound unnatural because it would only be said in some very specific contexts/registers to which this scene does not apply (the writer is still trying to get across a relatively normal, if angry conversation imo and not really attempting anything artistic…even because it just wouldn’t fit the tone and atmosphere of the game/scene). It also highlights the animation problems and further pulls the player out of the scene.
      It’s not that you couldn’t get this to work with a number of explanations (lizard men and skin) but it doesn’t work for what it’s intended to do.

      As for your google search, it’s important to remember that there is a distinct difference in vocabulary and communication between spoken and written language (and different contexts). Written language is often allowed to be more expansive, technical and complex than spoken language. Imo when we speak we aim to communicate in relatively simple terms to get messages and points across, it is unusual to have normal conversations where the lexicon and sentence structure become particularily poetic.
      Conversely if you’re writing you have the time to redraft your sentences and change words to strike exactly the emotions/feelings/atmosphere that you are aiming for AND your reader has the time to digest each sentence you write before having to move on to the next, so you can put hidden meanings in your words, deeper contexts…etc. (Which allows mellvile to make Captan Ahab speak in ways that are more misterious and prophetic than anyone would ever speak in real life without pulling the reader out of the book… )

      So to wrap this all up: yeah, it may be a valid sentence technically but context, atmosphere and register play a lot into these things. In this particular situation where we’re mimicking a non-theatrical, non-poetic, bog standard conversation between two charachters (neither of which is ever portrayed as being poetically/artistically enclined) it just doesn’t fit (and the line delivery is also bad).
      What’s worse, it emphasises other problems the game has and makes the whole situation very comical/alien/akward and strikes against everything that is intended.

      Sorry for the long post, i hope it’s informative :)

      1. ClaimedInfinity says:

        I got your point and I think the expression where you’re referring to a specific part of your body as being tired is highly contextual in any language. But as far as I understood that is no literal expression in this case and it means she constantly had to keep poker face as a director and lost it a little in the conversation with pathfinder because of some sad news. So for me it just felt a bit forced but not so much. I can understand though that combined with pre-patch animations this line had a very different feeling. But post-patch animations are good, a little rough but better than anything in the OT.

    3. Karma The Alligator says:

      The problem stems (and I could be wrong, but every example I’ve seen seems to be this) from the fact that “someone’s face is tired” is used when describing someone’s looks, not your own, to say that they look tired, not when trying to say that you yourself are tired. You wouldn’t say “I look tired”, would you?


        Pretty much, in English you’d refer to yourself as a whole when talking about how tired you are (i.e: “I am tired”). Allison here claims her face specifically is tired as an explanation for how irritatable she is. The problem being that while “I’m tired and therefore grumpy,” works as an idea in English, “One specific part of my body is tired and therefore I am grumpy,” reads as odd and highly specific. As a native English speaker it comes off as a non-sequitor, a random statement made without apparent connection to the rest of the conversation. While in context you can work out what is trying to be said (she’s talking about part of her being tired, this is shortly after she snaps at Ryder, therefore she must be claiming fatigue made her shout at Ryder), the connection isn’t clear and so the (native-English-speaking) audience is taken out of the flow of the conversation.

        Allison then follows up her comment by explaining that her face is tired because she has been dealing with “everything”. This makes the comment even more confusing because the audience hasn’t had enough time to mentally expand her comment about facial fatigue to the rest of her body. The result is it seems like she’s claiming that her face, on its own, has been working overtime. Since the face is only really used for facial expressions, this leads to the audience wondering how she’s been dealing with problems if her only response has been to emote at people and what exactly that has to do with how angry she is at Ryder. Why is her face the only part of her that’s tired? Is she trying to be metaphorical and her “face” is representing something more obscure?

        Basically the line is probably intended to sell the idea of Allison as a fairly normal woman who’s spent the last 14 months being horrifically overworked trying to keep her side of the Initiative from completely falling apart. She isn’t fully apologising for being angry at Ryder but is aware that her initial dialogue was rather aggresively impolite. The problem is that the choice of words used are so awkwardly specific they disrupt the flow of the conversation by forcing the listener to use the context of the conversation to sort it out. I suppose to an English-as-a-second-language speaker using context to uncover the meaning of a phrase in English might be natural enough that her words wouldn’t seem more than an unusual metaphor but if English is your first language it’s rather jarring to suddenly have to do so in a normal conversation.

        It’s kind of the inverse of the Rachni Queen in ME1 where the way she used awkward and nonsensical phrases (refering to Shepard’s “musics” as “colourless” e.t.c) was used to make it clear that the rachni were a truly alien species that percieved the world in a fundamentally different way and were struggling to communicate in a manner Shepard could understand. Here we have a human speaking in her native tongue using a phrase that also forces the player to step back and play the interpreter… Yet it’s now in part of the conversation where context suggests she’s trying to come off as relatable because of a fairly mundane problem.

  21. WWWebb says:

    This part had me thinking back to all the early plans for this game. The idea that you would spend the game actually “pathfinding” new worlds that were somehow procedurally or randomly generated. All these Nexus people would have been part of some resource minigame where you choose who to thaw when and are assigning resources to multiple colonies. I was hoping for early game Civilization where you’re a scout out finding sites for cities and running into barbarians or other civilizations.

    Then that got thrown out the window, and they tried to throw together an Ubisoft game: travel between multiple maps solving problems with violence and dialogue wheels; one of those maps has a base you get to spend resources developing, then after advancing enough subplots, you get to go to a special NEW map to finish off the plot.

    1. Coming Second says:

      Whilst the earlier idea sounds neat and cool, I think it would have been a disaster honestly. Certainly in the kind of timeframe EA would have given them to produce it in. RNG and a new engine and this approach to writing/directing?

      It probably would have been an interesting disaster though, and you can certainly argue that would have been preferable to the mediocre but ultimately competent game that landed.

  22. IkkeTM says:

    So, I’ve finally come to the last post of this great dissection of the mass effect series. I really appriciate both your series and the games for the most part. You quite put the finger on a number of nagging irritations I had about it.

    When discussing Andromeda though, I feel there is a point about the setting you might have overlooked. It ties into the fermi paradox, the seeming contradiction between the age and vastness of the universe, and the lack of any definitive proof of alien life.

    Consider how life evolved on earth over the course of billions of years, and humanity over the past thousands. If the dark ages had been avoided, we might have been in space a few hundred years ago. If fire was discovered not ~200k years ago, but ~250k years ago, that means we’d likely be a space faring civilisation for some 50k years now. If multicellular life had develloped a few million years earlier, or self replicating organisms some hundred millions, you can see where this is going. The variations in the moment of becoming a spacefaring sapient species ought be at least in the millions of years. This is something that always greatly bugs me in classic space opera settings: “ancient races” that are a few thousands year old. That’s practically simultanious.

    I love how the original mass effect not only answered this problem of space opera’s by introducing the reaping that culls the crop, thus explaining how spacefaring races come about at roughly the same moment, but more over made it a central plot element. It creates a plausible(-ish) answer as to how we get this equal start universe. The 37 million reaper you find evidences that the writers knew about the sort of timescales they were dealing with. And if you think about it, it really is a plausible, terrifying solution to the fermi paradox. They could have gotten a lot more mileage out of that horrorwise too, but well, you dissected the odd mix of clever and dumb in mass effect extensively.

    But then we get to andromeda. Without reapers. Why are there no millions of years in difference here? Without cyclical harvest, why is there no millions year old civilisation here? The eldest species, the jardaan, who created the remnant and angara are a few thousands years off, nothing big. And… the implausibility caused by writers not comprehending the sort of timescales involved is back in full force.

  23. Vinsomer says:

    While the concept and presentation of the Initiative is completely borked from the beginning, I will say this: I think the initiative’s lack of military firepower makes sense, even if it’s only accidentally comptent worldbuilding.

    The trip to Andromeda was not easy. The colonists could only bring so much with them (which is something that is stated by a few characters IIRC). Choosing to bring guns would mean less colonisation materials, less colonists or less food, things they would definitely need more than weapons if projections were accurate.

    And the real-time scans of Andromeda did show the cluster to be completely uninhabited. So I can understand why they didn’t take too many weapons, as they probably expcted to face little more than dangerous wildlife, not a militarised, hostile alien force.

    And even though it’s sci-fi, with plenty of alien civilisations, the truth of space is that it is so vast that betting that you don’t run into anyone or that lanet that is uninhabited stays that way for 7 centuries is one of the safest bets you could make. The scenario that the Initiative find theselves in is like being struck by lightning in the same place twice.

    What’s frustrating is this could have been cleared up with a line or two of dialogue. Or they could have just said that power cells wouldnt survive 700 years (I mean, what power cell would? And the opening of the game has the circuit overloading because, well, no conventional electrical circuit would survive 700 years either), so all their weapons and ammunition have to be manufactured from day zero, weakening defence significantly.

    Perhaps one of the worst things about the world is that even I, and internet random, can think of costless ways to plug some of the many holes in the worldbuilding, which shows the lack of attention to detail.

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