Andromeda Part 16: Morda Meets The Eye

By Shamus Posted Thursday Feb 7, 2019

Filed under: Mass Effect 139 comments

Elaaden is where the Krogan decided to settle when they left the Nexus. There’s some local politics you need to sort out here to stabilize the region. Morda has appointed herself as “Overlord” of all Krogan here. She’s bellicose, confrontational, and prideful. She’s also proof that bringing the Krogan on this expedition was a foolish move, surpassed only in the foolishness of betraying them. I much prefer stories that have a sort of inevitability to them, where mistakes are grievous but understandable. The mistakes made by the Andromeda Initiative are so idiotic that I sometimes lose interest in helping out. I often find myself thinking, “Screw it. These morons deserve everything that happens to them.”

Assuming you’re not going to turn the game off, you’re going to need to deal with Morda. There’s another Krogan, Strux, who is more cunning and less overtly warmongering. I really thought the game was setting up a choice between a warmonger Krogan leader or a devious Krogan leader, but you can’t actually side with Strux. Instead, Strux attempts a coup that brings about his own downfall, and the only choice you get to make is if you want to screw the Krogan yet again. Like the confrontation with the Cardinal on Voeld, it’s like the writer deliberately ignored an interesting choice to offer you a shallow one.

Morda

Too much pouty, not enough shouty.
Too much pouty, not enough shouty.

The idea of a warmongering Krogan leader makes sense. Having said that, I really hate this character. She doesn’t feel like a Krogan to me. She comes of as snarky, sarcastic, and whiny. She has a lot of passive-aggressive lines, which makes no sense to me. Passive aggression is for people who are afraid to be overtly aggressive and confrontational. If anyone should be comfortable with aggression, it’s a Krogan.

On top of this, her vocal performance is really odd. She’s not fearsome, she’s catty. She doesn’t sound like a queen or a war chief. She sounds like an entitled diva. The last female Krogan we met was in Mass Effect 3. She came off as very wise and practical. Morda doesn’t seem have either of those attributes. I never felt like she was particularly cunning.

Er. You're going to smash your OWN FACE if I don't leave? Did anyone proofread this before sending it off to the voice actor?
Er. You're going to smash your OWN FACE if I don't leave? Did anyone proofread this before sending it off to the voice actor?

Shamus, it’s not like the Krogan are limited to  a single personality! What’s wrong with mixing things up a bit?

I can believe that occasionally a Krogan might act like Morda. What I find hard to swallow is that the other Krogan tolerate her as leader. If these guys are impressed with Morda then they should be begging Drack to take over. He’s smarter, more experienced, stronger, has a more impressive list of accomplishments, and has a more Krogan style of leadership. The writer doesn’t give us anything to explain why she’s in charge or why anyone is following her.

More importantly, in a story where all the aliens seem to be off-brand and out-of-character, Morda seems less like the writer is mixing things up and more like the writer didn’t have a handle on the setting they were working with.

Morda is a foil for the player and the most important character on Elaaden, so she really ought to be more impressive. We should find her imposing, not annoying.

Drive Core

Ryder, why are you upset about a Remnant spaceship? Aren't you supposed to be an explorer?
Ryder, why are you upset about a Remnant spaceship? Aren't you supposed to be an explorer?

Out in the desert, there’s a crashed remnant spaceship. Morda wants the drive core. On one hand, she says she wants it to power her colonyHang on, isn’t power a solved problem? None of the other outposts, colonies, or cities need exotic Remnant technology to make electricity. Morda’s base seems to have working lights and things, so she already has electricity. What’s driving this particular need?. On the other hand, it could easily be turned into a weapon of mass destruction.

Ryder goes out to retrieve the drive core, only to find Strux has already obtained it and hidden it away. You recover it without his knowledge and then go to meet with both Strux and Morda.

Strux blames the theft on Ryder. He accuses Ryder of stealing the drive core, announcing that his clan will “recover” it. He’s hoping this move will rally everyone behind him so he can depose Morda. But then you announce that you have it, and this turns the conversation in your favor?

Part of game development is knowing how to use the tools you have. If your cutscene engine doesn't allow you to frame and choreograph a fistfight, then DON'T HAVE A FISTFIGHT. Have Strux shot from off screen, and then cut to Morda holding a gun and sell it with a musical cue. Stylized minimalism is better than bad execution.
Part of game development is knowing how to use the tools you have. If your cutscene engine doesn't allow you to frame and choreograph a fistfight, then DON'T HAVE A FISTFIGHT. Have Strux shot from off screen, and then cut to Morda holding a gun and sell it with a musical cue. Stylized minimalism is better than bad execution.

He accused you of stealing it, and to clear your name you announce that you… have it? What?! Strux does sort of incriminate himself at the end, but this scene doesn’t make sense as written. He accuses you of stealing the drive core, and is then outed as a liar when it turns out that he’s telling the truth. From Morda’s point of view, nothing is said that should exonerate you. It’s your word against Strux, and she’s got a huge prejudice against everyone from the Initiative. Ryder only wins here due to writer fiat.

Anyway, Morda and Strux have the most hilariously awkward fistfight since that time Kirk karate-chopped the Gorn in 1967. Morda wins, and Strux runs off.

In the end you can either choose to give Morda the drive core, or you can keep it. She promises war if you choose the latter. This isn’t a bad choice on paper, but by this point in the game I didn’t have any trust in the storyteller and I didn’t feel like I had enough information to make an informed choice. The drive core itself is a random macguffin and you have no way of knowing what it can do, how badly the Krogan need its power, or how hard it would be to turn into a weapon. You don’t know the details or timeline of the Nexus rebellions. Morda’s personality is so strange that I couldn’t get a feel for how seriously I was supposed to take her saber-rattling. Instead of trying to make this decision using my knowledge of the world, I found myself thinking, “I wonder what the writer plans to do with this.” Everything is so vague you could easily justify any outcome.

Crafting System

Here is the research station, where your scanning of alien consoles gives you research points to build a better helmet.
Here is the research station, where your scanning of alien consoles gives you research points to build a better helmet.

I realize this game was unpolished and barely came together at the last minute. So it’s not a big surprise that the crafting system ended up just as dodgy as everything else. Still, they picked the least interesting way to break it.

When you’ve got a pure power-building system like this in your game, there are two different ways it can be broken:

1) Unbalanced. You can use the system to gain absurd levels of power that trivialize the game. Essentially, the system gives you too much power for too little cost.
2) Pointless. The system doesn’t give out enough power to make it worth the player’s time.

A balanced system is always best, but if you can’t have that then I am a big believer that you should err on the side of unbalanced rather than pointless. Bob Case made a similar complaint in his video on the new wave of retro isometric RPGs. It’s possible to make a gameplay system so perfectly balanced that there aren’t any meaningful choices for the user to make or any interesting strategies for them to discover or explore. All those numbers become meaningless and the whole thing ends up being a really complicated means of making a simple aesthetic choice: Do I like shooting guys with large guns or small guns?

In Mass Effect Andromeda, you gather up research points by scanning technology in the gameworld. Then you use those points to purchase different branches of upgrades. Then you drive around the open world and lay down mining pods to harvest minerals for you. Then you go back to your spaceship and use the minerals to build the items you’ve unlocked through research. It’s an involved process and turns into a lot of menu busywork.

Everything is fine.
Everything is fine.

The thing is, the game strictly limits how much power you’re allowed to get with these systems. You need to harvest those minerals, but there are a couple of premium minerals that are tightly controlled, so you aren’t going to be able to craft many good items. For example, a gun might require Omni-Gel, Copper, Nickel, and Element Zero. By the end of the game you’ll be drowning in the first three, but that last one is really hard to come by. Element Zero is the the only “real” resource here, and that’s the one that will limit your ability to craft itemsAnd if you make a mistake, you can’t dismantle or recycle the unwanted item to get some of the eezo back. Which means the game discourages experimentation..

Just to make sure that you don’t do anything clever like put all of your eezo into one really good weapon, the game also puts a level cap on things. I can’t unlock tier 2 shotguns until I’m level 10, or tier 3 until I’m level 20, etcI’m not sure of the exact thresholds. The wiki doesn’t list them and the game doesn’t display a requirement once you’re past it.. This means there’s a hard limit on how strong you can make your weapons at any given time.

I'll admit I thought the cryo gauntlet was kind of cool (halfhearted pun intended) and remained useful long into the game, but in all the dozens of items a crafted, that was the only one I found noticeably useful.
I'll admit I thought the cryo gauntlet was kind of cool (halfhearted pun intended) and remained useful long into the game, but in all the dozens of items a crafted, that was the only one I found noticeably useful.

You find plenty of weapons and armor. You get them from containers, you get them from fallen enemies, and you get them from loot crate drops in APEX missionsA time-based game where you send squads out on jobs and they report back later after several hours have passed in realtime. It feels like a shallow mobile game. But it only takes a couple of seconds and it yields a steady supply of goodies.. The game usually provides stuff appropriate for your level. So even if you go out of your way to gather research, collect minerals, and build items for yourself, the best you can hope for is to gain access to a tier of weapons a little before the game starts giving them to you for free. I pushed as hard as I could against the system, and I was never ahead by more than a single tier of weapons.

The difference between the weapon tiers is so slight that it’s just not worth the hassle. The game is tyrannical about controlling your access to power, but in the end the gains are so minor that it’s better to not bother.

I don’t think crafting adds anything to Mass Effect, but if you decide you need to include it for some reason then I’d much prefer it as a tool for making absurd or unbalanced builds for those that love grinding.

Moving On

It's still uninhabitable, but it's a few degrees cooler so... whatever. Let's just move on. Maybe Morda can use her new drive core to power the largest air conditioner in the universe.
It's still uninhabitable, but it's a few degrees cooler so... whatever. Let's just move on. Maybe Morda can use her new drive core to power the largest air conditioner in the universe.

Once again, the player needs to visit three monoliths to unlock the vault, then clear out the vault to fix the climate. Am I allowed to complain that it makes no sense that the vault can lower the overall temperature of the area, when nothing changes in terms of incoming sunlight and atmosphere? No? Then I guess I don’t have anything else to say about Elaaden.

Next week we’re off to the jungle. Sort of.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Hang on, isn’t power a solved problem? None of the other outposts, colonies, or cities need exotic Remnant technology to make electricity. Morda’s base seems to have working lights and things, so she already has electricity. What’s driving this particular need?

[2] And if you make a mistake, you can’t dismantle or recycle the unwanted item to get some of the eezo back. Which means the game discourages experimentation.

[3] I’m not sure of the exact thresholds. The wiki doesn’t list them and the game doesn’t display a requirement once you’re past it.

[4] A time-based game where you send squads out on jobs and they report back later after several hours have passed in realtime. It feels like a shallow mobile game. But it only takes a couple of seconds and it yields a steady supply of goodies.



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139 thoughts on “Andromeda Part 16: Morda Meets The Eye

  1. DeadlyDark says:

    “Morda” is a slang word for “face” in russian. Feels appropriate, for the MEA

    1. Christopher says:

      Mord means murder in a lot of languages, including my own, and an a-ending to a name is a common thing for girls’ names. So I just read it and think Murderette.

      1. Geebs says:

        In the Mass Effect universe, “Morda” is dangerously close to “Mordin”.

        Given what Mordin did to the Krogan, that’s a bit like like calling your daughter “Megelesa”

        1. Coming Second says:

          I never liked Mordin’s name. Sounds like a particularly murderous dwarf.

          1. AzzyGaiden says:

            Yeah, while most of the other Mass Effect races have somewhat internally consistent naming schemes (Asari=long, dramatic and feminine, Krogan=monosyllabic and consonant heavy, Turian=aristocratic, vaguely Roman, Quarian=the more apostrophes, the better) I never felt like the writers ever really figured out the Salarians.

            1. Scourge says:

              Reminds me of Bad fantasy Writing prompts.
              By the Apostrophes in an elven name alone can you judge how old and powerful they are.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                It just shows how far the genre has come, right? I mean, Tolkien’s elves didn’t have any apostrophes in their names.

                1. Coming Second says:

                  With any luck, by the middle of this century we’ll have elf names that are purely punctuation.

                  1. MadTinkerer says:

                    “Listen, you fools, we must stop the ,:’;` invasion! There is no time to waste!”

                  2. Nimrandir says:

                    I look forward to the elsplanation on how to pronounce the advanced, letter-free names.

                    1. Nimrandir says:

                      Darn it — I ruined my own joke. That was supposed to read ‘elfsplanation.’

                    2. BlueHorus says:

                      I think you mean ” e’splanation “.

                    3. Agammamon says:

                      They’re really Khoisan?

                    4. DerJungerLudendorff says:

                      I don’t know how elfse it could have been read.

    2. Tonich says:

      Haha, you beat me to it. Like, by far. :)
      Also, I think that makes the line about punching her own face even funnier.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Jokes like that do make my face tired though.

  2. DeadlyDark says:

    Yeah, I’ve touched MEA’s crafting and it is quite restrictive. Shame, since DAI crafting system is actually quite good, and I think I enjoyed it far more, than crafting in other games.

  3. Chris says:

    “In the end you can either choose to give Morda the drive core, or you can let her keep it.”

    What, so you either give Morda the drive core, or you let her keep the drivecore?

    1. Shamus says:

      Whoops. Fixed.

      Man, did anyone proofread this entry before posting it to the blog?

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        I think you’re vastly overestimating the professionalism of the author.

        1. The Big Brzezinski says:

          As though a more professional author would be as much fun!

        2. DerJungerLudendorff says:

          I’m blaming unrealistic scheduling from upper management.

          Or perhaps it’s become part of the style, like Bethesda.

      2. tmtvl says:

        Though it could be a reference to the Monty Python spam sketch, I wonder if you meant to put “copper” twice in:

        copper, Omni-Gel, Copper, Nickel, and Element Zero.

        Also an accidental “is” instead of “it”:

        Am I allowed to complain that is makes no sense

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          Am I allowed to complain that thisis makes no sense

          Shamus, you tried to fix that line and somehow screwed up even further.

        2. Asdasd says:

          copper, Omni-Gel, Copper, Nickel, and Element Zero.

          Is that the recipe for a glaive-glaive-glaive-guisarme-glaive?

          1. Nimrandir says:

            We’re not sure; there’s never one in stock.

            1. Scampi says:

              And still, I’m somehow sure there will be a new delivery next week.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Also related: your example crafting recipe calls for “copper, Omni-Gel, Copper, Nickel, and Element Zero”.
      While I suppose it’s possible that Andromeda has two different types of Copper (eg Allotropes)…I don’t think the game is that scientifically-minded.

      EDIT: Goddamn it, Ninja’d AGAIN. My comment-fu is weak.

  4. Bunkerfox says:

    “In the end you can either choose to give Morda the drive core, or you can let her keep it. She promises war if you choose the latter. ” So our choice is to give it to Morda, or let Morda have it anyway?

    1. Thomas says:

      Shamus was thinking about ME2’s final choice.

  5. Christopher says:

    I dunno if that voice performance or that fistfight is worse.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      What? That fight is great, I haven’t laughed that hard in ages!

      What do you mean, it’s meant to be serious?

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Krogan never struck me as fistfighting types to be honest, between all the natural plating and the hump they feel very top heavy to the point that while they may be able to hit for massive damage I would almost expect them to be prone to falling if they wanted to put their mass into the punch and it did not land, or at least having to follow the punch exposing themselves to an attack to a ridiculous degree, and they’d have to put everything they’ve got into it if they wanted to cause harm to another Krogan.

        Personally I’d say they’re more predisposed to grappling, where strength, resistance and ultimately endurace would be of more significance. If fighting a smaller/weaker Krogan or something more squishy (like a human) grabbing and crushing or pinning to the ground and either crushing with mass or grabbing at an extremity (like a human head) and smashing it to the ground seems practical. If fighting a Krogan of similar size probably knocking them on their back, in which case their own mass works against them. and going for the throat would be good (didn’t someone in the first or second game mention something about slicing Krogan throats? or snapping necks?). In this case punching may seem like a good idea to throw the opponent off balance but it would probably be more effective to ram them with your entire bodyweight, especially since it would get your closer to the neck and, assuming their limbs stayed on the “outside” of your grapple effectively force them to punch/stab ineffectively against your armoured hump.

        So yeah, I may be putting way too much thought into this but between the way they’re built and their natural resistance I’d say if/when punching occurs between Krogan (am I misremembering it or have we seen some in Grunt’s loyalty sequence) it is more a move that is meant to assert dominance than cause actual damage.

        1. Biggus Rickus says:

          Their combat style of charging people and the headbutt to display dominance also fits your theory, but nobody making Andromeda gave much of a shit about prior characterizations.

          1. trevalyan says:

            Yeah, I’m not sure that passive-aggressive snark should be a regular conversation style among a species who think headbutts are witty rejoinders.

          2. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Right, it was headbutting we’ve seen before, not punching!

            1. Dan Efran says:

              So “get out of my face before I smash it” is actually a plausibly Krogan threat: “…before I smash it [against yours]”.
              Finally, some on-target worldbuilding!

              1. Scampi says:

                Or maybe it’s a common farewell to subordinates?

              2. DerJungerLudendorff says:

                “Get out of my face or I will get in yours”

        2. Gruhunchously says:

          Yeah, instead of the cringy extended fistfight, Morda could have just silenced Strux by headbutting him. It would have been easier to animate and would have been consistent with what we’ve seen of krogan culture so far.

          1. Thomas says:

            It backs up Shamus’ theory that the writer didn’t really understand Krogans.

  6. John says:

    Oh, man. Crafting systems. I love crafting systems. I hate crafting systems. They get their hooks in me and they won’t let go.

    I’ve been playing a lot of Divinity: Original Sin this year. It has a pretty good crafting system. I think. By the mid-game the weapons and armor I can craft are almost always better–in terms of either damage output or damage reduction–than the stuff I find, to the point where I almost never use the stuff I find. The only thing found items have going for them is that they sometimes come with various bonuses–immunities, for example–that you can’t get with crafted stuff. There are also some item categories–belts and bracers, for example–that can’t be crafted. Every time you level up–even if you don’t increase your crafting skills–the quality of the items you craft goes up. Fortunately, by the late game level-ups are infrequent or I’d spend all my time crafting.

    Once upon a time, I also played a lot of KotOR 2, which also has an extensive crafting system. The crafting system in KotOR 2 is broken. I don’t mean overpowered-broken, I mean buggy-broken. The way it handles breaking items down into components cannot possibly be what the designers intended, and meant that I always put a bunch of points into the main character’s Repair skill that I would rather have used elsewhere. Sometimes items I was working on suddenly vanished.
    Sometimes they spontaneously duplicated. I spent all my time in KotOR 2 crafting anyway. The combination of the crafting system and the constant shower of loot–which I sometimes think is the real difference between the two KotORs–meant that stores were pointless. There was nothing to buy that was better than what you could find/upgrade and the things that you found and didn’t use were more valuable as spare parts than as credits. I spent all my time at workbenches, neglecting the fate of the galaxy. I felt bad about it, too, until I realized that the moral of KotOR 2 is that the galaxy is an awful place full of awful people and that it deserves whatever awful things happen to it.

    This has all been a very round-about and long-winded way for me to say that if Andromeda’s crafting system sucks and is pointless then maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’d be the one crafting system that didn’t eat my brain and let me just play the damned game already. Except the game is Andromeda. Sigh. Nevermind.

    1. Hal says:

      I get what you mean. I’ve got a dozen Skyrim characters and I’ve never skipped the crafting system.

      My primary exposure to crafting systems was Skyrim and WoW, and I don’t think there’s much to say about WoW. Like all MMOs, everything is meticulously restricted so that you are in a limited range of power at any given time, and since WoW has an economy to worry about, certain limitations are put on crafting items to limit supply. I remember playing during Wrath of the Lich King, when several of the professions had a once daily restriction on creating specific crafting materials. This made them exceedingly rare, as were the items you made with them. People payed good money if you could make the material for them.

      The irony is that most such gear was almost immediately replaced once you started raiding. It ended up acting as a gatekeeping mechanic by the community; if you didn’t buy/craft that gear, you weren’t “ready” for raiding.

      Skyrim was frustrating for similar restrictions. You couldn’t craft gear beyond your level because it was restricted by perks and skill level. Meaning you spend half the game carting around dragon bones and obsidian ingots waiting for the day you can finally craft the gear . . . except by the time you can, you’re already finding that gear on your own. Lame.

      Yet somehow I never skipped any of that because it’s a good source of income, and in the early game you are starved for cash. I guess that’s as good a reason as any to keep crafting.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’m in the opposite positon, I mostly dislike crafting systems. I’m fine when it’s a core mechanic and I enter a game with that idea (like Monster Hunter and similar games). Heck, I actually love hunting for resources if that’s what I expect from the game, like exploring caves or digging mines in Minecraft. What I don’t want is bothering with a crafting system when my focus lies elsewhere, like combat in Original Sin, or exploring the world in Skyrim.

      That said In case of D:OS I was playing it in co-op with a friend who is sort of into crafting so I still got access to some of the good stuff though.

      1. Jabberwok says:

        Mass Effect was always at its best when it was focused on story-telling and tight gameplay. Crafting and resource gathering just bogs that down. But it seems like they went full sandbox for Andromeda, which was probably not a good choice at all. Overall, this sounds more like Ubisoft in space than an ME game.

        Crafting is just one of those mechanics that has to be tacked on to everything now, because it’s been successful in other games, and it easily pads out play time. I think it’s fine in Bethesda-style RPGs that are already about unfocused meandering. But in action games, it usually feels like a waste of time.

        1. Thomas says:

          It’s not really sandbox, the world isn’t reactive or systems driven at all. It’s more like ubi-box.

  7. Vinsomer says:

    You don’t actually have to go to Elaaden. I’ve played through the game twice, and one time I didn’t even set foot on Elaaden.

    Normally, I’d be glad that such a huge, mediocre section of game can be skipped. But the fact that the story couldn’t even invent a reason for you to go there, or think of a number of interesting things to delay the final battle on Meridian, is telling.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      Is that why it’s another orange desert world? Because it’s optional and they never expected anyone to go there, so they half-assed it (even more than the rest of the game, I mean)?

      1. Vinsomer says:

        I don’t think the game is half-assed. The development was rushed and turbulent.

        I do think it was done to cut costs, so that assets could be reused.

        I also think Bioware seems to just love deserts, as Inquisition had 3 desert areas.

        1. Coming Second says:

          The thing about deserts is, you don’t have to put much in them.

    2. Pax says:

      I feel like there are two arcs to the game – the main plot, and the actually being a pathfinder bit, i.e. going to every potential colony world and doing all the planet stuff to make it habitable, including the Remnant Vault – and they don’t actually expect you to try and be a pathfinder until after you beat the main plot. My evidence for this? I 100% every world before going to the final battle and in my “congratulations, you did all the things!” cutscene, the Final Battle World was one of the places thanking me. Geez, spoiler much, game?

      1. Vinsomer says:

        But, at the same time the survival of Captain Dunn depends on having rescued every ark before the final mission, and people you save all show up. The game’s story does expect players to have played everything before, even if it doesn’t force you to.

        So when you have a story which stresses urgency, presents you with the solution, then, at least on a narrative level, not giving players a reason to do that content at all, never mind prioritise it over literally saving everyone everywhere, is pretty poor.

        It would be one thing is doing the main mission first and doing it after everything else led to interesting story developments around the board. But it doesn’t.

        They could have made the game somewhat like pokemon, where the newer titles (gen 4+) have a number of interesting quests in the post game. Actually, that could really work. Like having DLC expansions, just… in the game itself.

        1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

          I thought you only needed to do Cora’s loyalty mission/ find the asari ark for Dunn to survive? Certainly I don’t see finding the turian ark as having any impact on that scene. Disregard that, the wiki says you’re right. Even then though, all this changes is whether or not a single NPC who stopped being important tens of hours ago survives to stand around in the postgame party for a short two minute conversation.

          Honestly I’d have to agree with Pax that this game felt like it had multiple different “main quest” stories despite only one being actually required do to progress. The only ark you find following exclusively the main quests is the salarian one, the turians is found in a side-quest chain and the asari are in Cora’s loyalty mission, add to that the fact that Eos is the only planet the main quest forces the player to colonise and you end up with a pretty strange split in the story.

          Up to Eos, Ryder is the Pathfinder who needs to Pathfind (ha-ha) planets so the Initiative can settle them and solve their supply shortages, while they’re at it finding out what happened to the missing arks would be pretty handy. After Eos however, the main plot begins to revolve around finding Meridian so the magic Remnant tech can solve all your problems before the Archon finds Meridian and uses it to… Be evil or something.

    3. John says:

      There was once a brief, magical, shining moment in which Bioware not only didn’t expect you to 100% complete every area before moving on to the final battle but designed things in such a way that it was actually tricky to do it. The second act of Hordes of the Underdark is the usual Bioware “here’s a hub and four spoke areas for you to do quests in” shtick. If, like me, you played the original Neverwinter Nights campaign and Knights of the Old Republic first, you probably thought you knew what you were in for. You’d do all the quests in all four areas and then move on to the climactic confrontation. But no. If you return to the hub area after completing the main quest in your third spoke area, you get kicked right to the climax of the second act. No warning, no chance to go back and do stuff you missed. It’s awesome. It makes the world seem more alive and the villain more proactive than is typical for RPGs. It’s probably the thing that I love the most about Hordes of the Underdark.

      The loophole that allows you to do all four areas is that the climax doesn’t kick off until you go back to the hub area. If you want to do a fourth area, you just need to head straight there after your third. I’m not sure if the oversight was deliberate. In any case, most players–at least their first time through–will probably go back to the hub after their third spoke area in order to unload all their loot and report back to the primary quest-giver. I know I did.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        They’ve done something similar since then. Acquiring the Reaper IFF in Mass Effect 2 could put you in a position where you have to decide between saving the Normandy’s crew and earning the loyalty of your squadmates. I suppose it’s not a hard cutoff, but it’s close enough in my book.

        Also, I think I remember BioWare taking some crap over that decision. The overall culture of gaming in the Neverwinter Nights era skewed more towards replaying games than the current trend of experiencing all the content in a single playthrough. I’m not saying that’s a positive change, but I hesitate to blame BioWare in specific for it.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          The thing that was bad about the Reaper IFF is that EDI brought the problem to you. So there should have been an option where EDI says “Can I install this right now?” and you have the option to say “No, wait on that.” The main quest will not progress until you agree, but with that simple change, players won’t be locked out of character loyalties simply for agreeing to do the main quest on a reasonable timeline.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            It really seems like an easy fix. I lucked out on my ME2 run, thanks to the fact that I really liked my crew while really hating Cerberus, so I had the minimum possible mission count at the IFF stage.

            1. Gruhunchously says:

              I just listened to my paranoid RPG instincts telling me that doing the next story mission could potentially cut off side content, and put off getting the IFF on those grounds. I didn’t realize how right I was until later on.

              1. Thomas says:

                Same – they do try and flag that the IFF mission before you do it.

                It leads back to the audience driven reason above. If I knew a game had a hard cut-off point, I’d go to lengths to avoid it.

    4. Teltnuag says:

      You don’t even need to go past the Angaran base on Voeld, or scale the tower on Havarl, or do any vault except the first one. You can complete the game while only doing like a fifth of what seems like the main content, which is rather silly.

  8. Karma The Alligator says:

    I hate when crafting systems restrict what you can make even when you have the required materials. If I go out of my way to grind for end game stuff (which is usually hard to do) I expect to get end game stuff.

    So what happens if you keep the core? Do you fight more Krogans from then on?

    1. Viktor says:

      I’m cool with it in some cases but not others. Skyrim ties crafting limits not to your level, but to the skill ranks and perks you’ve invested in crafting, which makes sense and allows you to grind your way to OP gear much faster than a level limit would*. Other games which impose a level limit or gate crafting ability to main quest flags, those are BS.

      *Also the game is already busted, so breaking the crafting system doesn’t really make you any MORE op than you would be otherwise.

      1. Syal says:

        Yeah, stat limits on using weapons are more bearable than level limits; you can usually build around them, and also rationalize them as “this is too heavy for me” or “without higher dexterity I’ll just hit myself in the leg”. Level limits are arbitrary things, designed specifically to gate the fun behind a grind.

        Best version I’ve seen was Torchlight 2, where everything had both stat limits and level limits on an either/or basis, so you could power-level one stat to use something early, or wait until the level limit to use it with a different build.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          I think I prefer Dark Soul’s version, where you only need a percentage of the required stat (I think it’s 50%) if you two-hand the weapon, so you can still somewhat use it until you get the required stats.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            The bummer there is that two-handing only gets around strength requirements (which makes sense, as you don’t get nimbler or more faithful by changing grip), so the hotfix only works for specific characters.

  9. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Ha, I never realized that Morda threatened to break her own face, that’s hilarious!

    For the crafting the menus are hell, but you can actually produce some good stuff. The weapons and armors themselves are indeed almost never much better than the current tiers, but the mods we can put in them are insanely powerful.

  10. Trevor says:

    The whole Remnant starship plot on Elaadan is one of the stupidest, shallowest plots in a game filled with them. The only purpose the Remnant ship has is that its drive core is a power generator. You can use its power for electricity generation, or in the wrong hands it could be used as a bomb. Which is a plot that could happen basically any time after humans put nuclear reactors on ships. You don’t learn anything about the Remnant at all from one of their capital ships.

    Which means that in the game total you have:

    Habitat 7 – There’s weird ancient alien tech that does bizarro stuff to the atmosphere.
    Eos – The tech can be used to make the atmosphere habitable for people. Also it’s pointing us to another vault on this planet called Aya.
    [The Aya vault is under Angaran control and you need to do a bunch of chores for them before they let you in]
    Aya – This place called Meridian is the center of the vault network. You should probably go there, I guess.
    Meridian – The Remnant are left over machines from a now-extinct alien race that was responsible for bioengineering the Angar… oh wait, it’s Boss Fight time. Pew pew the Archon until he dies and you win.

    So for roughly 90-95% of the game’s run time, from the moment you turn on the vault on Eos to the end of the game you learn practically nothing new about the Remnant. It’s bonkers and stupid.

  11. Matt says:

    Wait, so Morda is a female Krogan? What happened to them rarely leaving home and being fiercely protected and fought over by male Krogan? This seems similar to Peebee, where the writers went so far out of their way to play a character against type that they unwittingly made them just a human with some Krogan makeup.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Obviously there’d need to be female Krogan if they had any intention of having a colony past first generation. Also, while I haven’t played the game myself, I remember from an earlier post or comments that they were offered some kind of cure (or “partial cure”?) for the genophage as part of the deal where they’d be the military of the initiative.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      FERTILE Krogan females is the key. I would guess Morda is infertile and therefore not highly valued in the same way.

      1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

        Eh, there’s some throwaway dialogue early on that reveals the krogan in the initiative somehow semi-cured the genophage. The krogan colony on New Tuchanka has some more dialogue and notes you can read that seem set up to imply krogan dating is rapidly moving towards being roughly the same as human (click here and scroll down to the ‘Datapads and Terminals’ section to see what I mean, specifically the ‘New Fathers’ and ‘Social Interactions’ lines of messages). On top of that, the lone krogan to stay with the initiative (Kesh) IS a fertile female with no-one pointing that out as making her a valuable resource strategically.

        Overall, I’m inclined to assume this is less a case of some codex entry or conversation getting cut at last minute so some vital piece of information was lost and more the writers at Bioware being uninterested with exploring how an alien society might behave differently from a (Western, 21st century) human one.

  12. BlueHorus says:

    It seems weird that the race whose main defining characteristic is ‘direct and aggressive’ would have a character that just…isn’t.
    I suppose it’s good that MEA tried to avoid the stereotype, but yeah: Morda definitely doesn’t seem like a figure that a Krogan like Wrex or Grunt would follow.

    …could it be that she’s actually a member of another race inside a Krogan robot-suit? Maybe even…

    …A CERBERUS INFILTRATOR!!!1!1!!!
    (They’re just that good.)

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      How many of “her” people does she get killed?

      1. tremor3258 says:

        This is a vital question to determining if someone is working for Cerberus.

        Or at least a really, really effective question. (As noted in Citadel, Miranda is the most effective Cerberus project leader ever).

        1. Liessa says:

          Surely it’s the number of humans she gets killed that’s the real giveaway? Remember, Cerberus is a human-supremacist organisation, after all.

          1. Thomas says:

            Cerberus screw-ups are equal opportunity. Everyone dies.

        2. Nimrandir says:

          Wait, Miranda’s more effective than whoever was in charge of the thresher maw project? How many humans has she killed?

          1. tremor3258 says:

            Sorry, should have specified I meant at killing Cerberus personnel. Though I guess reviving Shepard and the Destroy ending should put it in at least range of the thresher maw project? Though you do shoot a lot of humans before that.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            Put it this way: She was in charge of the Lazarus Project, which was designed to bring Shepard back – and succeeded. This was actually quite a useful thing to do.
            It also ended with the death of almost all Cerberus personnel, the robots going crazy, and the (metal) building burning down.

            Meanwhile, in the Thresher Maw Project, only the test subjects were killed; there’s no mention of the scientists dying, or any property damage.
            And, of course, the result was that Cerberus learned that giant man-eating space worms are dangerous…which probably wasn’t news to people outside Cerberus.

            So. The Lazarus Project was more successful than the Thresher Maw Project on 2 counts:
            1. Causing Needless Death and Destruction Via Idiocy (the Cerberus criteria)
            2. Doing Something Useful (the Everyone Else criteria)

            1. Nimrandir says:

              That’s fair, but I must confess I assumed the scientists were also slaughtered by the thresher maw.

              1. Shamus says:

                I always assumed that as soon as the scientists transmitted their findings back to TIM, he dispatched a platoon of space marines to murder them all. I mean, that’s what you do with scientists once a job is over, right?

                1. Nimrandir says:

                  Based on the IFF mission, I figured they were taken as part of the subject pool.

                2. Geebs says:

                  It’s all well and good until the Journal of Applied Xenoingestion asks for an amendment to the paper and the only guy who knows how to use LaTeX is already somewhere in the terminal ileum.

                  1. Nimrandir says:

                    That’s assuming the referee doesn’t get eaten by varren before submitting their review.

            2. Gruhunchously says:

              We can also feasibly add any Cerberus personnel that Shepard went on to kill after being resurrected to Miranda’s record as well. This would include multiple armies, Kai Leng, and potentially, The Illusive Man himself, which would almost certainly qualify her as the most effective Cerberus agent.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                Whoa, whoa, whoa. The only person who could ever kill the Illusive Man is the Illusive Man. You just don’t let subordinates murder your protagonist.

                1. BlueHorus says:

                  But…what if Kai Leng wanted to kill TIM? Would he succeed? Would TIM just kill him with a mini-laser that was concealed in his cigarette the whole time?

                  Or would the game just stop because the writer couldn’t decide and went home to cry/sulk?

                  1. Nimrandir says:

                    I could imagine this as a planned secret ending trajectory, where Kai Leng kills Shepard in the Cerberus base, becomes the player character after overcoming his indoctrination via sheer badassery, then leads the final assault on the Reapers.

                    Upon reaching the Citadel (unharmed, obviously), we engage in a high-octane parkour chase to beat TIM to the power core (!!), culminating in a swordfight whose pure awesomeness generates a purple blast wave which spontaneously turns all other life, organic and synthetic, into human supermodels.

                    The idea was ultimately scrapped because the design team couldn’t bring themselves to let players ruin their favorite character.

                    1. PPX14 says:

                      we engage in a high-octane parkour chase to beat TIM to the power core (!!)

                      Hahaha!!

                    2. tremor3258 says:

                      I may need to save this as a reminder that while making people feel things in video games are important and can create well beloved franchises, there is another side to it when you screw up this badly.

                    3. Nimrandir says:

                      Thank you — I think?

                  2. PPX14 says:

                    He would calmly stub out his cigarette on the glass of his star-view window, melting a small hole through which a deadly ray of solar radiation would stream, giving Kai only enough time to contort his face in terror and exclaim “wait, what are you doing?!” before being blasted through the chest. But… then the Illusive Man would turn around in his real chair in front of a blue-giant star going supernova, and deactivate the hologram that just killed Kai Leng. “Relinquishing control…”

        3. Agammamon says:

          “Sir, the numbers are in – we have a 4.7% uptick in the number of ‘industrial accidents’ in our projects, this puts us 1.2% above our nearest competitors, the Krogan.”

          “We’re number one! HUMANITY, FUCK YEAH!”

  13. Shen says:

    Will never understand level caps and scaling for weapons in games. Something you get used to if you play a lot of RPGs but it feels like a shortcut fix for a broken system that people just started assuming was a desirable feature. Bethesda pull that crap a lot :
    “Hey, congratulations on doing that quest early for the unique gear you want for your build! And we even lowered the levels of the enemies to make sure it was fair, because you’re allowed to go where you want! Now, here’s either a crappy version of that unique gear that will be thus rendered useless in like three level ups OR you can’t use it at all until you’re level appropriate for the area that we lowered the level of to accommodate you.”

    Just baffling. Either take off the caps for rewards or flatten the power levels and make games based around skill rather than statistical superiority.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      One of the best mods I installed in any game fixed this in a really simple way. The Witcher 3: Scaled Equipment.

      Everything you owned (weapons, armor, schematics) automatically scaled to your current level, and it also leveled up with you. So choosing equipment became about the abilities or effects you gained from it, rather than the numbers.

      It worked SO well that I wish more games did it.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        I did something similar with Borderlands 2: I’d use the save editor to scale the equipment to my level, because I wasn’t going to farm uniques stuff any more than was fun.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        There’s a variant ruleset for the Pathfinder tabletop system that tried to do this with magic gear. Characters could basically ‘attune’ themselves to particular weapons and armor, so the numerical bonuses assumed by the system were coming from the character rather than the item. That leaves more room for cool abilities on your stuff instead of having to worry about level scaling on monsters.

    2. Joshua says:

      It really only makes sense to me when you have Multi-Player, or some other ability to pass gear on to characters who shouldn’t be nearly ready for it.

    3. Agammamon says:

      Its not really an RPG thing though. In an RPG, the levelling allows you to take on more and more powerful stuff – yes, *comparitavely* you stay at about the same power level compared to the stuff you’re fighting, but at level 2 you were struggling against a couple Kobolds, while at level 22 you’re struggling against minor gods.

      Leveling up the same enemies to match your power level is just something that people who don’t understand why RPG’s are built like they are do when designing a game.

      And, to be blunt here, most of the current crop of game designers are young – they’re implementing stuff base on their understanding of someone else’s implementation of the thing that *they* understand only through someone else’s implementation of a TT mechanic. Its a multi-year long game of Telephone and so why old games did what they did isn’t understood but, by God, you will do it because ‘that’s the way its always been done’.

  14. GoStu says:

    I pretty rapidly NOPE’d out of the crafting system when I realized that:

    a) My existing weapons were doing the job pretty well
    b) The new ones I was going to craft weren’t a substantial upgrade
    c) The resources I needed to actually build them were like a bad mobile game: bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, and real currency

    I swear, they must have been planning to sell Element Zero as a microtransaction, or shackle it to some other gameplay feature (participate in multiplayer, get some Eezo?). This system can’t have been a mistake. With EA in the works somewhere, jammed-in microtransaction feels like a natural explanation.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      The hope for microtransaction cash could have been a factor. Development on Andromeda started around the time Dead Space 3 was going gold, right?

  15. decius says:

    So… crafting systems.

    Look at Morrowind’s. You can do lots of insane things with Enchanting, some of which break the game and some of which break the game. On the one hand, you can make a sword that drains health from every enemy in a large radius every time you hit an enemy, and attack fast enough that you heal faster than any group of enemies can hurt you. (Drain health in area on hit)

    On the other hand, you can put on a gauntlet that, while you are wearing it, replaces your gauntlets with a fancy enchanted one, and when you take it off, it replaces the gauntlets that you were wearing when you put it on. (Bound gloves on equip). Putting such a gauntlet on crashes the game, as an emergent feature of the paradox involved with a glove that takes itself off when put on, and puts itself back on after being taken off.

    But there are lots of existing equipment, available from shops and loot, that has bigger effects than anything you can make yourself, so there’s some stuff ‘better’ than anything you can make, as long as it’s one of the designed pieces of equipment. There is plenty of brokenly overpowered equipment just laying around with hints to the location strewn about haphazardly.

    Would it impair ME:A’s gameplay if you could play around with weapon design and adjust range, ROF, ammo capacity, and accuracy of some custom weapons- not independently of each other, but on a glorified point-buy system that explicitly lets you make a single-shot pistol that is very slow but does almost as much damage as a top sniper rifle?

    Build a system, balance it to be really hard within that balanced system, and then sprinkle in things that are above the balance level in interesting ways. Make the player likely to run across several such interesting unbalancing items, and make each one either situationally worse than the standard curve or put some use limit on it, to prevent a degenerate strategy from developing.

    1. Coming Second says:

      I often think back to Morrowind’s ludicrous Enchanting system – how broken it was, the preposterous items you could create, the spectacularly off-the-gradient items you could find lying around – and consider how much fun it was, and how little it actually mattered. It was just there. If you knew exactly where to go and what to do, you could swiftly build a character that trivialised the entire game. Did it matter? No. You didn’t have to do it, anymore than you don’t have to cheat, or quicksave every ten seconds.

      It was just something that could make you feel like a demi-God in a way no RPG, Bethesda-made or otherwise, has deigned to give us since. From Oblivion onwards they made their games treadmills, where your experience is tightly and smoothly managed at every step, so they’re assured every player is doing the right thing at the right time so the monsters can have the right number of points. It’s a smoothing down process clearly influenced by MMORPGs that’s gradually turned Bioware and Bethesda (amongst others)’s produce into a thin, bland, but ever-so-expansive gruel.

      1. FluffySquirrel says:

        Also made replaying the game interesting and fun too.. once you knew the system, you could break that game over your knee, and be the true nereverine you deserve to be. It was great

        They just keep stripping more and more of the fun stuff out sadly.. while the gameplay is often better.. loses more and more spark as time goes on

        1. Geebs says:

          The scaled loot in Oblivion and Skyrim was such a terrible idea. In order to solve the problem of players expending effort on figuring out how to level their character, they instead forced the player to memorise how long to put off each quest in order to get the item they wanted.

          They at least did manage to channel the inevitable sense of disappointment on opening the grand chest at the end of each dungeon (and finding a lockpick and an iron helmet) to keep the player in a constant state of bathos for fourty whole hours. Which is some kind of achievement, I suppose.

          1. Matthew Downie says:

            They didn’t ‘force’ players to memorise that stuff. They may have rewarded players who did, but most players are able to ignore the details of the levelling mechanics.

  16. Nixorbo says:

    It feels like a shallow mobile game.

    Funny you should mention that

  17. Nimrandir says:

    The last female Krogan we met was in Mass Effect 3.

    Unless I’m remembering wrong, you have to meet Kesh before you can go to Elaaden, right? This doesn’t really affect the argument, though, since I’d put Kesh way closer to Eve/Bakara from ME3 than your description of Morda.

    It’s also pretty damning of Andromeda’s writing that a critic can straight-up forget a character.

  18. King Marth says:

    Having some resources be much more common is a standard trick, the handful of rare resources actually gates content while the rest is there to allow you to be continually picking stuff up, plus feeling good about how you already have 3/4 of the material requirements for the next gun. A good game will put a semi-useful consumable with a recipe only using common resources, which acts as a sink but not actively constraining use except for degenerate strategies actively spamming the consumable.

  19. Dreadjaws says:

    Jesus, Andromeda’s crafting system gets on my nerves. Stupidly overcomplicated, filled with unnecessary busywork just to pad the playtime and yes, it’s almost entirely pointless.

    Thing is, there are a couple of really useful items you can craft. The “beam emitter” upgrade combined with damage mods for your weapons is almost a game-breaker (Cardinal fights are over in a matter of seconds with this), and the “vintage heatsink” mod is a blessing for those who prefer not to have to worry about ammo. Choosing mods and upgrades so their negatives cancel each other (such as using a high-damage but low fire rate mod for a sniper rifle that already has the minimal possible fire rate, for instance) is a hoot.

    Of course, the scarcity of main resources and the stupid obsoleteness system means that those upgrades are only really useful for a small period of the game from the moment you craft them. You either craft them soon and use them for a bit until they become obsolete or you suffer for most of the game and leave them for the end. Mods can fortunately be reused, but some upgrades are so rare that it’s a miracle if you ever find more than one.

    1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

      The crafting system in Andromeda is convoluted. Which is sad, because I’m usually a hardcore crafter and this game just beat that out of me. It’s just so ridiculously overwrought. Why does it take navigating multiple screens to create one gun that’s marginally better than the one I’m using? Having “research” and “development” be two different screens is nonsense.

      I don’t know how many times I thought that I’ve properly researched something, then I go to the development screen to actually build it only to find that I can’t build it, either because I don’t have all the necessary parts, or that I somehow screwed up in the research part and didn’t actually unlock the thing I was trying to unlock. Sometimes, the whole system is just arcane enough to be frustrating.

      How about how you can only research a weapon or armor piece up to level five? To unlock its higher research levels, you have to go to the “advanced” version. So if I want to make an Avenger Rifle VI, I have to find “Advanced Avenger Rifle” in the research menu and unlock its first level. Why? I can think of programming reasons why you might do it that way, but I would think that the User Interface design needs would trump that.

      If we must insist on a crafting system where “research” and “design” have to be two different things, there has to be a better way than making them behave as two different systems on two different screens. Maybe just make the research points be one of the “ingredients” in the crafting screen and the more advanced a weapon is, the more research points it takes.

      Or how about the fact that weapon and armor mods are researched and developed with the same research and development interfaces, but some of them can be built into the weapons and armor in the development screen and some of them are added during the weapon and armor loadout screen? So much hamster-wheeling to get barely nowhere.

      1. Trevor says:

        To be fair, the Mass Effect series has never been great for crafting. The upgrades and trash loot avalanche of the first game were almost as incomprehensible as this system, with the added annoyance of, about 80% of the way through the game, the system telling you that you were out of inventory space and you needed to melt a bunch of your old guns down for Omni-Gel now.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          When was there crafting before Andromeda? I don’t count adding mods as crafting.

    2. I was pretty cool with the crafting system, since I just found a good pistol schematic to level up and stacked “beam emmitter” and “vintage heat sink” on it to make a star trek phaser with great damage output. Being as I was trying to get into the captain Kirk “action explorer” vibe, I was pleased enough.

  20. tremor3258 says:

    Is it okay to be disappointed neither of them thought to shoot each other? Most Krogan traditional power struggles seem to have adapted to allowing shooting in this degenerate era.

    On the other hand, Krogan have some respect for land ownership, etc. I suspect the ones who joined the project weren’t the successful ones. (Do Krogan have telephone sanitizers?)

  21. Agammamon says:

    Hang on, isn’t power a solved problem? None of the other outposts, colonies, or cities need exotic Remnant technology to make electricity. Morda’s base seems to have working lights and things, so she already has electricity. What’s driving this particular need?

    On the other hand, it could easily be turned into a weapon of mass destruction.

    Asked and answered.

  22. Agammamon says:

    You need to harvest those minerals, but there are a couple of premium minerals that are tightly controlled, so you aren’t going to be able to craft many good items.

    These are the worst possible systems. Its identical to how the McDonald’s ‘Monopoly’ game works – you need to collect 4 things, 3 of them are relentlessly common and the 4th is limited to exactly how many winners in each tier they want to have. Common to the point that there’s no reason to have any of the others except to engender a false sense of progress.

    Warframe does the same thing. It might work for a brand new player, but if you’ve been playing for a while you end up sitting on a massive pile of common resources – so many that you’re never gated by them and could be removed from the game without affecting balance.

    In fact, removing them could *improve* balance since you now only need to worry about the availability of one or two materials for each item you can better tune their rarity.

    a gun might require Omni-Gel, Copper, Nickel, and Element Zero. By the end of the game you’ll be drowning in the first three, but that last one is really hard to come by. Element Zero is the the only “real” resource here, and that’s the one that will limit your ability to craft items

    And this is Mass Effect – its not like you need an in-game lore explanation as to why it needs Copper and Nickel. All the tech runs on Omni-Gel and Eezo anyway.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Speaking of why you need certain resources I present to you this ME comics.

  23. shoeboxjeddy says:

    Probably the big “Uh oh” moment for me on my first day of playing Andromeda was running straight into the crafting system like it was a telephone pole. I read what the tutorials were saying, frowned, re-read them, looked at crafting just a basic thing to get the hang of it, and eventually retreated from the whole system in confused disgrace. I COULD NOT understand how we went from “choose a gun you like and upgrade the stats five times (or 10 times on a New Game Plus)” to THIS monstrosity.

  24. Joshua says:

    Your criticisms on the vault are becoming less and less, which is hilarious. If only that translated to their inclusion being less and less.

    You are absolutely right on the crafting system, for the most part. Levels and mods are largely inconsequential. Especially a lot of the ones that go into crafting guns, themselves. That part especially frustrated me because the game was arbitrarily restrictive. Your gun can hold 1 or 2 rare mods (and I say 1 or 2 because I definitely couldn’t always pick 2, but sometimes could) that actually had interesting impact on the utility of the weapon, or you add a bunch of mods that increase a particular aspect by 3-5%, which isn’t a very satisfying figure as a player. When I got tired of the game being an absolute chore, I downloaded a bunch of mods, one of which changed those values to 10%, which felt significantly more rewarding. And it honestly made the uninteresting bullet sponge enemies less of a nuisance. Especially the scavengers, adhi, and wraiths. Hate those things.

    There was the bioconverter/tech health combo which was some value of broken since it effectively gave you infinite ammo (a lot like the Spectre Gear from ME1 in that specced right, you never overheated), only requiring you to occasionally use a tech power (doesn’t matter which one at what, just a tech power) to not drain yourself of health. But the game also made getting the bioconverters hard to get (until you had enough, at which point, here’s a million…), and the fact that the first one is crafted without the ability to craft more is ridiculous.

    The APEX teams are weird. I still actually use the app because I am crazy, But it’s weird knowing I can go into my game, get all the gear the game wants to supply me with through that, and then effectively melt it all down for more resources or money. Past a certain point, those resources become arbitrary values with no real impact.

    Then you create a new weapon, spend an inordinate amount of time navigating menus (and also clearing out “new entries” flags everywhere…), go to your locker, and… wait, back up. First craft a useless, cheap weapon. Go to your locker, unequip the weapon you were originally using and equip the blank. Disassemble it to get whatever mods were in it and some resources. Go online to a wiki to craft your gun and figure out which mods actually work and interact well in the crafting process, because the game is either incorrect or silent on those. Craft it. Go back to your locker, swap the weapons out. Equip the attachments you want to on it. Go planetside. Fire the weapon. Hope it behaves the way you want to. Hope it’s damaging to some capacity. Play for a short bit. Realize you’ve leveled up enough for the next tier. Find some research points. Go back to your ship. Repeat.

    It’s such an uninteresting process, with predominantly uninteresting weapons. I don’t understand why weapons that were impossible for the average person to use in the Milky Way (Black/Widow in terms of actual usability, a lot of other ones in terms of accessibility. You can’t just money that away like it states you can.) are present, why Remnant tech’s distinct feature is the feature we had established already, or how heat sinks are so universal they apply to other galaxies, with regards to Kett weapons. Exile weapons look stupid as well.

    The weapons are a far cry from ME3’s weapons, with most having a sort of personality or distinction to them. When I am constantly confusing one weapon for another, you’ve messed up in designing them.

  25. Hector says:

    So, Ryder just flat-out steals from potential allies in this game, in order to prop up the shaky rule of a hostile tyrant? Is thus right, and if so, what were the writers thinking?

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      I’d say they weren’t, based on everything said so far.

    2. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

      Eh, if I recall the sidequest it goes more:
      Here Morda is being a dick -> Head to Elaaden to investigate, meet Strux -> Morda makes some bitchy comments at you, asks you to go get Thing from Remnant ship -> Go to Remnant ship -> Thing is missing! -> Follow trail -> Shoot some random Exiles -> Oh hey Strux is evil and was the one who stole Thing. -> Go back to Morda. ->Fight scene, Morda wins. ->Decide whether to give thing to Morda or keep it for the Initiative. -> Realise it doesn’t really matter anyway because Thing doesn’t actually do anything.

      So it’s less “steal from potential allies to support a hostile tyrant” and more “do errands for no real reason only to get railroaded into a ‘moral choice’ where there isn’t any context to make it meaningful.

      1. Hector says:

        In what way is Strux evil, apart from inconveniencing the MC?

        1. Agammamon says:

          In this sort of game there is only one thing that marks a person as evil – because the writer said so.

        2. jbc31187 says:

          There’s no real reason. I think what the writers were trying to say is that Morda is loud and aggressive, but honest, whereas Strux is quiet, polite, and willing and able to wait before stabbing you in the back. In a better game- say, ME 1- this would be more explicit. Morda would be a pain in the ass, but if you work with her you can trust her. You may even be able to control her, at the expense of her people’s happiness. Strux would be nice and polite until he was in a position to start dictating terms- say, right before the theoretical climax when you need a Krogan battalion in the worst way.

          And you know, that’s not a bad thing! The first Dragon Age game had the sneaky rotten Dwarven Prince and the upright honorable Dwarf Noble. The prince used poison and assassins liberally, the noble was forthright and supportive. And it turned out the prince was a reformer who would upend the unjust caste system and send you troops in the final battle, while the noble was too hidebound and traditional to be effective.

          I think this is what was intended back at the not!Citadel, with “My face is tired” and Director Salarian. “Face” is kind of an asshole, but that’s supposed to signal her honest ways. Director is a fair-weather friend who’ll take credit for your success and leave you to your failure. But thanks to clumsy writing, Face-lady is just an incompetent tool you can never call out, while the Director comes off as middle-management way out of his league but trying his hardest, while the PC is an aggressive jerk.

          1. Hector says:

            Thank you for clarifying. Haven’t/won’t be playing this one.

  26. Nimrandir says:

    Next week we’re off to the jungle. Sort of.

    Words will not be able to express my disappointment if Guns N’ Roses lyrics don’t find their way into next week’s installment.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      We have fun and… well I guess you could call them games?

  27. Archguru says:

    The bottlenecked material requirements for the crafting system pretty much go away if you heavily use the APEX squad system. This is the single-player benefit for using the MP system.

    And there are several bonuses to crafting your own weapons. The augmentation slots allow for a decent amount a variety. It also puts most of the platinum status weapons at the top for singleplayer game as you can add 5 augs to these. Double mod slots open up the options on the guns. The above mentioned tech/health/infinite ammo trick is one really powerful setup. Seeking plasma on the Dahn shotgun, automatic fire on the Valkyrie, overboosting combo damage are really powerful options in this game.

    The UI is crap and the material income is low if you’re not abusing APEX, but this system is heavily in the overpowered side of the equation if you can use the system.

    1. Teltnuag says:

      It’s definitely on the “unbalanced” rather than “pointless” side if you get past the obfuscating interface and find the broken combos. Having a high powered shotgun that fires like an assault rifle and never needs to reload trivialized most of insanity for me as it lets you do stupid things like charge straight into a Destroyer and burst it down before your hover even runs out.

  28. “It’s possible to make a gameplay system so perfectly balanced that there aren’t any meaningful choices for the user to make or any interesting strategies for them to discover or explore.”

    Well, there’s kind of a third option that involves having enemies where some things work and some don’t, so you can do this thing where you’re ultra-powerful and “unbalanced” but there are things out there that are just flat-out immune to everything you can do, or you can be a middle-of-the-roader who is decent . . . enough, not really “OP”, but can tackle any situation.

    This is the kind of game balance that I like to see. I generally like playing a middle-of-the-road toon, and I kind of enjoy it if the game rewards OP builds and playing a middle-of-the-road toon is actually pretty difficult, because this is where crafting really comes in handy. A proper crafting/customization system really comes into its own for jack-of-all-trades builds where you just HAVE to squeeze out the last little 1% of everything to make it worthwhile to play instead of just saying “Screw it, I’m going full retard DPS like everybody else” (or full retard Tank, or full retard Heals, or whatever the Ultra build options are.)

    To me, that’s the way to do a game that’s both “balanced” and has meaningful build choices . . . are you going to take the path of least resistance, do a “full retard” build that’s optimized to do one thing and one thing only (and, as a result, sometimes winds up sitting around pouting because they can’t do anything meaningful right here), or are you going to bite the bullet, embrace all the weird arcane screwy bits of the game and try to build a character that can KINDA do everything just well ENOUGH, but never just hits a wall that they can’t pass?

  29. MaxEd says:

    My two favourite crafting systems so far found in Arcanum and the recent ATOM RPG. Both games, I think, went for making “crafter” a separate “class” (since both are classless, it’s not really a strict class, but rather something you can mix in). The idea is that if you put lots of points in your crafting skills, you can save lots of money by not buying expensive weapons, and instead craft alternatives from trash you can find lying around. I.e. in ATOM RPG, the cost to buy a good pistol can be around 3000 roubles, but something comparable, you only have to spend maybe 1000-1500, depending on how willing you’re to scrounge and steal necessary components (in fact, the last option can reduce the cost of crafting to zero, but you’ll need to put points in stealing as well as crafting).

    On the other hand, if you don’t put points into crafting, you might develop other skills – like gambling, for example, – which would allow you to acquire money more easily, and thus more easily afford those expensive weapons. So in the end the system ends up somewhat balanced via economy of money and skillpoints: things you can craft are equally powerful, or even a bit more powerfull than things you can buy/find, but doing crafting requires you to forego other character development options. So in the end, it all comes down to what play style you prefer. Which is actually great.

    Interestingly enough, few games actually go this route. Aside from Arcanum and ATOM RPG, I can only maybe name Underrail, but there crafting is a bit more powerful – and therefore necessary – than in both of those. In most other games, including Divinity: Original Sin 1 & 2, I always felt it was mostly unnecessary (and in case of Andromeda’s fantasy cousin, Dragon Age: Inquisition, utterly useless and boring).

    1. Jabberwok says:

      Different genre, but Dungeons of Dredmor takes a similar approach. Each type of crafting is its own skill. Putting points into them gives access to a lot more recipes, and the different types usually complement each other. It’s a dependable way to get good gear if you want to engage with the system, but it does take skill points that could be put it into combat or magic. But characters without crafting skill are much more dependent on the random generation to find gear.

  30. MadTinkerer says:

    1) Unbalanced. You can use the system to gain absurd levels of power that trivialize the game. Essentially, the system gives you too much power for too little cost.
    2) Pointless. The system doesn’t give out enough power to make it worth the player’s time.

    A balanced system is always best, but if you can’t have that then I am a big believer that you should err on the side of unbalanced rather than pointless. Bob Case made a similar complaint in his video on the new wave of retro isometric RPGs. It’s possible to make a gameplay system so perfectly balanced that there aren’t any meaningful choices for the user to make or any interesting strategies for them to discover or explore. All those numbers become meaningless and the whole thing ends up being a really complicated means of making a simple aesthetic choice: Do I like shooting guys with large guns or small guns?

    One of these days I want to make a game that has perfect balance as default, but then randomly slightly-unbalances everything according to specific restraints when you create a new game. Basically, I want to take the “meta” of e-sports and apply it to single player and/or co-op gameplay. And, if you like a particular meta, you can save the seed and only ever play with that particular meta if you want. Maybe even let the admin player edit the meta directly.

    1. beleester says:

      I’ve seen a couple of examples:
      1. The random recipes mod for Factorio shuffles the cost of each item, which means that your factory ratios will change so you can’t rely on premade blueprints to be optimal.
      2. Rule the Waves (very grognardy game about designing battleships) has a mode where it randomizes the effects of different technologies. The idea is to replicate how, historically, battleship designers didn’t know what the best battleships looked like and they had to experiment. Are all-big-gun designs really the future of battleships? Are torpedoes as big a threat as they look? Nobody knows!

  31. Ayrshark says:

    I never managed to get to Elaaden before I stopped playing so it’s nice to know I didn’t miss out on anything actually good or, at the very least, interesting.

  32. EOW says:

    Ah, the crafting system.
    I remember spending a lot of time crafting the third tier of a weapon i really wanted, tracking the various power ups you can use during building to give it more properties (another thing that discourages experimentation, as they are rare and you can’t get them back).
    Took me about 3-4 hours to gather materials and stuff.

    Then in the very next mission i open a chest and find the tier 4 version of that weapon, with most of the same powerups i had put on it.
    I basically said “screw this” and never bothered with crafting ever again.
    The game suddenly became better.

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