Andromeda Part 17: Welcome to the Bungle

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Feb 12, 2019

Filed under: Mass Effect 82 comments

The next stop on our tour of the Heleus Cluster is Havarl. Like the other planets, the climate is out of whack. Unlike the other planets, this place suffers from an overabundance of life rather than a shortage.

Havarl

Havarl is overgrown with a thick jungleYet another single-biome planet.This is the one planet where you can’t drive the Nomad. and all of the native flora and fauna is exceedingly dangerous. Everything is toxic, poisonous, or filled with murderous intent.

The game says this is the ancestral home of the Anagara and that they had to abandon it when it became too inhospitable, but that doesn’t really fit with what we’re shown. I’d expect to see bits of Angaran cities poking out of the overgrowth. They’re a spacefaring species, so their cities must have been pretty impressive. But instead the “cities” are just endless sections of Remnant architecture that form horizon-smothering black walls around the play area. I imagine this is another detail that would have been ironed out if the game had been given time for polish.

I do like that this world offers some contrast with the other four and isn’t yet another lifeless hellscape for us to colonize.

As with the other worlds, you need to visit the monoliths, then do the vault, and then the game tells you the planet is stabilizing. Then you run around and do fetch quests and kill the mooks congregating around map markers until the planet hits 100%. Whee.

These walls completely blot out the horizon, reducing this planet to a single a box canyon. Shit guys, put some overgrown cities on the horizon. That's what skyboxes are for.
These walls completely blot out the horizon, reducing this planet to a single a box canyon. Shit guys, put some overgrown cities on the horizon. That's what skyboxes are for.

The big plot on this planet is dealing with the pervasive racism the Angara practice. On one hand, having some degree of tribalism or prejudice is usually a good thing for worldbuilding. It can make your world feel large and complex by highlighting the various factions within it. It doesn’t even need to be capital-R Racism to work. Sure, conflicts based on geography, religion, and skin color are easy and obvious, but you can base the conflict on all kinds of things. Urban vs. rural. Traditionalism vs. technophilia. Laborers vs. academics. Young vs. old. Entrenched ruling class vs. newcomers. Hedonism vs. asceticism. Idealism vs. pragmatism. Group conformity vs. personal liberty. All the writer needs to do is suggest these sorts of factions exist within the culture and the audience can extrapolate a much larger world from these small details.

Sadly, the writer can’t do that here because they only made one alien race for us to meet and they’re basically a stagnant monoculture. The only divide among the Angara is that some of them are space racists that hate all aliens, and the rest… aren’t? What you end up with is a theme repeated again and again where the cool and awesome Humans teach the backward Angara that racism is bad. (The Humans also brought a bunch of sidekick races with them, showing how open-minded and progressive they are.) The whole thing is shallow and cringe inducing.

The exchange comes down to something along the lines of, “You’re NOT going to kill me? Man, I would have killed you without hesitation. I guess I need to rethink my entire worldview. Thank you, Human.”

Okay, I see some purple trees. That's good. We finally have a planet that doesn't look like part of Earth. The game needed a lot more of this sort of thing, but this is a start.
Okay, I see some purple trees. That's good. We finally have a planet that doesn't look like part of Earth. The game needed a lot more of this sort of thing, but this is a start.

Barf. It’s really disorienting how hard this game is working to copy a bunch of extraneous details of the Mass Effect setting, while the creative sensibilities of the author run directly counter to everything the first game worked to establish. In a way, it reminds me of the way Shadow of Mordor copied the trappings of Tolkien while running directly counter to it in terms of the tone of the world:

When a book or movie is adapted to video games, we often get hung up on the small details of lore and whether or not the writers get it “right”. And that’s fine, up to a point. It’s nice when the writers take the time to get all the little details just so. It feels good to see that thing from the book or movie, fully realized in a game world that meshes with our prior experience or imagination. But when you’re adapting a work of fiction, getting the lore right isn’t nearly as important as matching the original in tone, themes, and aesthetic texture.

I know the original game occasionally flirted with the idea that Humans are special, but it also had lots of moments where Humans were at a clear disadvantage compared to the other species. Here the special-ness of Humans has been embraced as a central part of the world. Humans are intellectually, technologically, and morally the superheroes of Andromeda.

You can’t fool me, Andromeda. I knew Mass Effect 1 personally. You sir, are no Mass Effect 1.

Star Map

Humans are special, but their special-ness doesn't even come from our protagonist. Instead all our superpowers come from the omnipotent narrator AI we invented, who is a character with no conflict, no growth, and no arc.
Humans are special, but their special-ness doesn't even come from our protagonist. Instead all our superpowers come from the omnipotent narrator AI we invented, who is a character with no conflict, no growth, and no arc.

Getting back to the main story: We’ve recently rescued the Moshae and she takes us into a vault on their homeworldNot Havarl, their old Homeworld. I’m talking about Aya, where we accidentally made first contact after accidentally bumping into the Kett flagship. for the next batch of exposition. Because Humans Are Special, Ryder is able to effortlessly and instantly read this Remnant computer that the Angara have never been able to figure out.

These terraforming vaults are somehow “connected”. The vault shows Sara a map of the Heleus cluster, with all of these lines connecting the systems. It looks a bit like an internet map. If you follow the connections it all converges on a single location, which is called Meridian. We know nothing about this place, but Ryder theorizes that it’s some sort of central control station for all the vaultsShe’s right. I think she inherited Alec’s copy of the script.. If we could find it, then we could activate all the vaults remotely and terraform the entire cluster in one go.

The Humans stop by and explain all this technology to the locals, and then the locals turn around and make decisions about what what the heroes should do next. Once again: This is backwards.
The Humans stop by and explain all this technology to the locals, and then the locals turn around and make decisions about what what the heroes should do next. Once again: This is backwards.

This star map shows all these connections converging on Meridian, but Sara says we need to “find” Meridian. Huh? Aren’t we looking at a map? Isn’t it, right now, showing us where Meridian is? Don’t these points of light correspond to the star systems in our immediate vicinity? There aren’t that many stars here in the Heleus cluster, so it seems like we ought to be able to work things out from here.

I can accept that this map isn’t actually a map and is actually an abstract diagram. It’s just that the dialog doesn’t ever address this. Sara is looking at a map that appears to show us where Meridian is, and then she says we need to find Meridian. It’s just sloppy.

I don't know why you aliens couldn't figure this shit out. Didn't you try waving your hand at it and being smug?
I don't know why you aliens couldn't figure this shit out. Didn't you try waving your hand at it and being smug?

But whatever. Fine. We need to find Meridian. The Moshae was a prisoner of the Archon, and she reveals that he already knows where Meridian is. He had some sort of artifact showing the way. He keeps this artifact on his flagship. So Sara decides we need to assault his flagship and steal this intel.

Except, if it’s that easy to storm his flagship, then why are we even afraid of the guy? Ryder keeps talking about him like he’s this invincible foe and we need to find a way to beat him, and now she’s devising plans that involve making a direct assault on his seat of power. I can totally buy the notion that our scrappy outsiders from the Milky Way have a tactical / technological edge that makes the assault possible, but if that’s true then why don’t we just kill this guy and be done with it? Why storm his ship to steal a map to gain a super-technology to stop him if we can just storm his ship and wreck his shit?

No, I'm not offline. YOU'RE offline. My internet is just fine.
No, I'm not offline. YOU'RE offline. My internet is just fine.

I’m not saying the game should end here. I’m just saying it’s weird that nobody notices or discusses this idea and nobody worries that assaulting the Kett flagship is an impossible task.

To find the Archon’s ship, we need to track down a traitorous Angaran who’s been in contact with the Archon. We find this guy at Kadara Port, so that’s where we’ll be heading next.

Kadara Port

Oh look, yet another main character is a Human in a leadership position. So far we have Alec Ryder, Foster Addison, Sloane, Reyes, Bradley, Jien Garson, Nozomi Dunn, and the player. Did we forget to bring aliens with us, or are they all stuck serving drinks and sweeping the floor?
Oh look, yet another main character is a Human in a leadership position. So far we have Alec Ryder, Foster Addison, Sloane, Reyes, Bradley, Jien Garson, Nozomi Dunn, and the player. Did we forget to bring aliens with us, or are they all stuck serving drinks and sweeping the floor?

Kadara port is a seedy location with smuggling, dive bars, illicit drugs, thuggish cops, and murder in the streets. Up top is the nightclub, and down below are the slums. It feels like the Heleus cluster version of Omega from Mass Effect 2. And like Omega, it’s ruled by a super “cool” character. And like Omega, your dialog options are constrained to “swaggering hardass dunce” and “bootlick”. You can’t just be professional and ignore her posturing.

Sloane started out as chief of security aboard the Nexus, but now she rules Kadara port. Like, literally. She’s got this big throne room and everything. I’d love to know if she got her face tattoos before or after the rebellion. Did Alec Ryder recruit this Mad Max looking nutter to be his chief of security, or did she give herself a makeover after the rebellion?

Speaking of the rebellion, let’s stop and look at the Andromeda timeline. Fourteen months ago the damaged Nexus arrived in the Heleus cluster with their leadership DOA. In the fourteen months since then:

  1. The Nexus forms a new leadership and wakes up a bunch of personnel.
  2. They survey the area, discover the golden worlds are a bust, and move the Nexus to a safe location away from the scourge.
  3. They deploy equipment and personnel to create two different outposts / colonies.
  4. After some indeterminate time, the colonies fail due to the harsh environmental conditions and constant Kett attacks.
  5. Sensing that they’re all trapped on a space station with dwindling supplies and the leadership has no plan, the inhabitants of the Nexus get nervous. The inhabitants begin making demands or asking for information. Also they want to wake up their families. They are rebuffed by the Nexus leaders.
  6. The people protest / riot.
  7. The Nexus leaders cut a deal with the Krogan, offering them more political power if they’ll get the rioters under control. The Krogan do as they are asked.
  8. The Nexus leaders screw the Krogan. (Somehow this ends with the Krogan leaving and not with them simply killing the leadership.)
  9. The rioters steal a bunch of supplies and strike out on their own, becoming Exiles / Outcasts.
  10. The Outcasts scout around and find Kadara.
  11. Sloane wipes out the local Kett, which solidifies her position as leader.
  12. The Outcasts construct(?) and settle Kadara port. (The game claims the port used to be an Angaran location, but this place is clearly made of Initiative modular buildings and looks nothing like the distinctive Angaran style. So this is a problem with either the writing or the art design.)
  13. Sloane becomes queen or whatever.
  14. Someone invents a narcotic and Sloane builds her economy around it.
  15. The city bifurcates into haves and have-nots, complete with slums under the city and separate nightclubs for the two economic classes.

That’s a very busy fourteen months!

Also note that there aren’t any dates attached to any of this. How long between arriving and the rebellion? How long did the rebellion last? Months? A few days? Mass Effect 1 had dates of major historical events that stretched back centuries and allowed us to form a clear picture of what happened in the past. Here in Andromeda, we can’t even get a basic frame of reference for what the rebellion was like, even though that event happened recently and is currently a driving force in the plot.

Wait, they got KICKED OFF? And they had nothing? Earlier the story claimed they left, and stole tons of supplies.
Wait, they got KICKED OFF? And they had nothing? Earlier the story claimed they left, and stole tons of supplies.

This writer must hate worldbuilding.

In any case, Kadara Port is presented as matter-of-fact, and the current situation is considered normal. The city feels lived in. It’s not like people say things like, “Man, what a wild couple of weeks this has been! Sloane is running things now!” Instead it feels like the current situation has been the status quo for years.

I moved to a new apartment a few years ago, and fourteen months later I was still thinking of it as the “new place”. Fourteen months is nothing.

The Rediscovered Country

The designer is trying to accomplish two contradictory things here. They want the player to be the Pathfinder. A trailblazer. They want the player to feel like they’re exploring the new frontier. At the same time, they want to have established cities and locations filled with humans and they want us to get into gunfights with other humans out in the wild. (Shoehorning in boring human foes when it doesn’t make sense? Where have I heard that one before?) These two ideas are fundamentally incompatible and are probably the result of different creators pulling the project in different directions.

Making things worse is that this timeline undercuts both ideas. Fourteen months is long enough that the player feels like they’re showing up too late to count themselves as a trailblazer, but it’s not long enough to justify the city being this firmly settled and lived-in. It certainly can’t justify how so many people have gone all Lord of the Flies out here in the wilderness, to the point where they’re beyond reason or redemption. These people aren’t just criminal, they’re practically feral.

Everything is fine.
Everything is fine.

How I’d have done it:

This timeline doesn’t work and the writer is making things difficult for no good reason. If you want to have the player exploring an already-settled place, then just move the timeline so that you’re waking up a few years after the Nexus, rather than just fourteen months.

Or better yet, get rid of these human settlements, fill the cluster with new aliens to meet, and let the player be a goddamn explorer.

There’s a lot wrong with Kadara, so we’re going to need to spend another entry on this place to sort this out.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Yet another single-biome planet.

[2] This is the one planet where you can’t drive the Nomad.

[3] Not Havarl, their old Homeworld. I’m talking about Aya, where we accidentally made first contact after accidentally bumping into the Kett flagship.

[4] She’s right. I think she inherited Alec’s copy of the script.



From The Archives:
 

82 thoughts on “Andromeda Part 17: Welcome to the Bungle

  1. ElementalAlchemist says:

    I know the original game occasionally flirted with the idea that Humans are special

    They do more than flirt. Humans being special is the backbone of the trilogy. Certainly in ME2/3.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      He’s talking about ME1, hence “original game”, singular. It was much less prevalent in ME1.

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        Less prevalent, but still much more prominent than flirting.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Indeed, primarily ME2/3, not so much ME1. That’s exactly what Shamus is saying. ME2/3 are so bad they’re awful, let’s forget they existed.

      1. Geebs says:

        Reposted from PC Gamer, reposted from Polygon:

        “We’re definitely not done with Mass Effect,” says Darrah. “There’s a lot of stories to be told. We could pull on the threads we put down with Andromeda; we could pull on threads from Mass Effect 3. There’s a lot of interesting space to be explored.”

        Yeah, that’s right, guys. The correct direction for Mass Effect is definitely to draw inspiration from the two worst games in the series.

        Also, as demonstrated above, if you go “pull(ing) on threads” in Andromeda, the whole thing falls to pieces immediately.

        1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

          Honestly, I can’t see a future mainline ME game working any better than Andromeda. Unless they reboot the entire franchise or start retconning hard I can’t see them being able to do anything meaningful or interesting you could do in the Milky Way to justify doing a game on. Making an Andromeda 2 could have been interesting… but only if you could go back in time and re-write the plot of Andromeda to be worthwhile enough for someone to care about a sequel- which is a bit late 2+ years after launch!

          …That having been said, if they were willing to do something different and somehow got a decent team together for an RTS game using the various races as factions I’d be pretty interested. Not being an RPG you could write a story about, say, a small scale war in the Terminus Systems a few years before ME1 with the protagonist playing a prominent role in it without wondering why badarse N7 operative Commander drapehS never encountered their suspiciously simillar peer Commander Shepard.

          1. FluffySquirrel says:

            It’d be a pretty decent setting for a 4x as well really.. yeah, I could see something else like that working fine

          2. Chagdoo says:

            Need an Andromeda remake. Just do it all over

    3. Ivan says:

      I believe, when Shamus references “the original game”, he is referring to just Mass Effect 1.

  2. Gautsu says:

    Sloane was absolutely the worst edgelord ever. I spent every conversation wanting to kill her, until miraculously, I could for once

    1. Coming Second says:

      I wish you had the option of killing Aria Mk 1. At least she had Carrie-Anne Moss as an excuse for the drooling way the writers treated her.

  3. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Human exceptionalism is the scourge of the Mass Effect series. In the first one the Alliance’s economy was behind the courts of Deekuna, but afterwards humans were superior to aliens in every. single. aspect! So annoying! I want to discover cool aliens and carve my place in the galaxy, not have a game constantly patting me on the back for being homo sapiens.

    1. Humans being special in some particular way is fine. Dash Parr is wrong; everybody can be special, because they can all be special in their own way.

      Humans having all the special, though, is just bad writing.

  4. Karma The Alligator says:

    I like how in those screenshots Ryder looks like she’s wearing a literal Star Trek red shirt.

    Please tell me Sloane is in the process of unfolding her legs rather than actually sitting like this, because people don’t sit like this, her right knee is way too high.

    1. Liessa says:

      There are also YouTube videos of a cutscene animation glitch that makes her body go all stretched and twisted. Look them up, they’re hilarious.

  5. BlueHorus says:

    …get rid of these human settlements, fill the cluster with new aliens to meet, and let the player be a goddamn explorer.

    You don’t even have to make up another alien race; this could be another Angaran city. They’ve been around long enough to a) create a colony b) create a narcotic c) have political disagreements over said narcotic d) have smugglers illegally make/supply it e) have outcasts who believe it’s the user’s choice f) have a war/schism over the issue g) etc h) etc i) etc

    As a bonus, your new Angaran splinter group/colony adds depth to the whole race. Other Angarans can have opinions on Kadara like ‘That’s a lawless dump full of pirates. I wouldn’t go there.’ or ‘I went there when I was young. Nearly got hooked on [insert drug here]. Man, that stuff’s nasty.’
    …almost like you’ve added a…history to your sci-fi aliens or something.

    And then, if you REALLY must, you can still have your human crime boss – Sloane just rolled in with a load of guns and took over the place at gunpoint.
    See, humans are the best at everything! Being violent crimelords AND at overthrowing said violent crimelords.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Perhaps we should just be grateful we didn’t find a clone of Aria (self-styled as Cadenza) running things.

  6. Jabberwok says:

    Does the game ever explain what “stabilizing” Havarl means? Sounds like its only problem is that it’s too good at supporting life, so I would assume it means ruining the environment enough to cause an extinction event.

    Also, every time I see screenshots of human characters from this game, I can’t shake the feeling that they must’ve been designed by the marketing department of Urban Outfitters. These people do not look like Star Trekian space soldiers to me.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Basically the vault regulates the plant growth and stops abnormal animal mutation.

      1. Hector says:

        … What? That doesn’t!

        Does Not Compute!

        1. Coming Second says:

          Shh. It’s ok. Everything is fine.

          1. Hector says:

            STRANGE GAME.

            THE ONLY WAY TO WIN IS NOT TO PLAY.

      2. tremor3258 says:

        My first thought was this was ridiculous.

        Then I remembered as a gardener I often have to go in to root…..

        I’m not sorry.

    2. PPX14 says:

      Hahaha I saw Sara’s red and grey top in the screenshot and thought ooh nice sweater!

  7. Jack V says:

    Maybe the game should be about those 14 months where all the interesting stuff happens :)

    1. Ivan says:

      Ya. The old “Is this the most interesting event/period in this person/group’s life? If not, why are you not telling us that?”

  8. PPX14 says:

    Gosh that planet description is cringeworthy. Maladaptive.

    The abnormal mutation suggests something is terribly wrong with Havarl’s ecology…

    dun Dun DUN!!

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      “If only we had some sort of ancient super-technology to deal with this. Like flamethrowers.”

      Also: “unsustainable growth patterns”?
      What, is the planet a late-stage-captalism corporation now?
      Unless the plants are consuming precious, non-replenishable resources, that seems like a problem that will solve itsself. Or at least one that can be adapted around.

      Why would the Angarans abandon the whole planet for that? We can kill our planet, and we’re doing it by accident!

      1. Coming Second says:

        Is it an accident if you know you’re doing it? I would characterise it as humans not being able to help themselves. Or indeed any other lifeform on this planet.

        Which may be why the HUMANS ARE SPECIAL! trope seems to be so popular in sci-fi video games. In escapism, it’s very comforting to be told homo sapiens are great problem solvers who overcome intractible dilemmas others cannot, rather than the pretty awful truth.

      2. PPX14 says:

        Well it’s because Angarans are stupid. We humans are just a lot better all round of course, even our failings like unsustainable pollution are just facets of our inexhaustible pragmatism and heart.

      3. decius says:

        The problem is that the planet is harder to kill than the Angarans are. Which is pretty much the same problem foretold for Earth: Not that it will become barren, just that it will be devoid of humans.

      4. Jabberwok says:

        Yeah, that makes no sense. If there’s really too much plant life, all they need to do is bomb whatever area they plan to build in. This does not sound like a problem for the planet’s environment. Any world with highly developed life on it would be a sign of an environment stable enough to support billions of years of evolution. Unless we’re talking about some sort of demonic space plants that need to be cleansed by activating The Holy Altar to “restore the balance”.

        1. Daimbert says:

          If the growth rate is high enough and is on all areas of the planet, then the planets would grow back/over from adjacent areas and it might take too much effort or energy to keep them away. Especially since you want to have fertile land in your colony to farm on, and so you can’t just sterilize an area and plunk yourself down there.

          1. Biggus Rickus says:

            Theoretically, the food supply could be imported in much the way a city feeds off of rural areas. However, there would have to be some reason to maintain your presence there, be it the provision of a uniquely useful trade hub or the presence of a rare resource on the planet.

          2. MelfinatheBlue says:

            They could always do what the people in the Aeon Flux movie did. They had big walls with cameras and auto-sprayers using pesticides (or at least that’s what it looked like, they mentioned needing to keep stuff away). Granted, if you’re enclosing a lot of potential farmland, that’s a big wall and there’s no telling how the uncontrollable growth thing will affect the crops….

            1. Nimrandir says:

              Yeah, I read The Colour Out of Space. I’m not eating anything benefiting from otherworldly growth enhancement.

            2. Sartharina says:

              And when those pesticides become fertilizer?

              1. DrBones says:

                Nanomachines rigged to eat plant matter and/or flame throwers that also shoot salt. I can’t see anything wrong with THIS plan!

          3. Jabberwok says:

            There could be plenty of issues with the plant life on the planet, but my problem might be with the use of the word ‘stabilize’. That implies the environment is unstable. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean in this context. Unstable and ‘difficult for humans to build a colony on’ are not the same thing at all. But I mean, no explanation that involves those fix-everything magic towers is likely to satisfy.

      5. Sartharina says:

        I can completely believe that space magic making everything grow too fast would make the planet uninhabitable to the Angarans

        First off, let’s look at the plants – Wet, growing plant matter does not burn easily. Also – Flamethrowers are not free. And, the plants could be VERY resistant to bombing. Sure, we can clear small amounts of the jungle with flamethrowers and bombs, but that is unsustainably cost-inefficient. Saws and axes could also work, but, again, slow. Pesticides – well, they start out effective, but the ridiculously fast growth means that pesticide-resistant strains develop and take over almost immediately… and might even be

        It’s also having an effect on the animal life as well. There aren’t enough beekeeper suits to go around to keep everyone from being devoured by carnivorous flies or dying to microorganisms. Sure, military powered armor and quarian-style environment suits would work, but they’re not feasible to give to everyone. And they are only as good as the martial skills of the wearer at protecting from the megafauna that have been evolving and going more aggressive.

        And then… the Angarans are animals too, and being afflicted by the planet. Birth defects everywhere, and nobody knows how to handle deformed babies, and too many refuse to accept the crotch-monsters as people. So, time to GTFO.

        1. Jabberwok says:

          “And, the plants could be VERY resistant to bombing.”

          Sure. I mean, it sounds like they are basically magic plants anyway, so any explanation is as good as another. This is the problem with moving away from science fiction and into the realm of fairy space land. Of course, if they wanted to go full space wizards it would actually be less of an issue. If this weren’t Mass Effect…

          I mean, are these supposed to be ‘real’ plants? Maybe they explain what makes them magic, I dunno. Haven’t played it.

      6. Lachlan the Sane says:

        I can see the “unsustainable growth patterns” thing… kinda working at an ecological level, assuming that the Vault works off broken space-magic? Like, let’s say that the plants on Havarl require Elements X and Y in the soil to grow. X is quite common but Y is rare. Now let’s say that the Havarl vault is pumping ridiculous amounts of element Y into the soil, and all of the plants are going crazy for it; but the Vault isn’t replenishing the supply of element X and the plants are basically growing so fast that they’re going to starve themselves to death. It’s like Plant-Malthusianism.

        Some ecosystems on Earth do work off these tightly-balanced chemical requirements — rainforests, for example, have super fragile soils that replenish nutrients very slowly. But explaining this kind of thing in fiction requires time and patience on the part of a worldbuilder, and the ME:A writers clearly had neither.

        1. Boobah says:

          The rain forest comparison doesn’t work; the depleted soil there is largely because the crops grown on the slash-and-burn cleared rain forest aren’t returned to the soil; ‘twould rather defeat the purpose.

          All the element X in the plants isn’t leaving the local ecosystem. Any plants that die decompose and their element X is available for new plants.

          No, it’s lazy writer(s) throwing around what they consider alarming-sounding buzzwords that they don’t really understand, at least in part because they aren’t willing to spend any time thinking about them.

          Maybe I’m being a bit harsh there, but I still have whiplash from bouncing off of Doctor Who‘s “Kill the Moon” last month.

    2. Jbc31187 says:

      In MA1 (is this a drinking game? It feels like it should be) one of the filler planets had a similar problem. The plant life was too… abundant, I guess? In the case, the plants were too horny. They constantly produced pollen in such amounts that no one could live there. Colonists would die of allergies. Filters would get clogged constantly. The end result is that you have a prime garden world that’s simply too expensive to inhabit.

  9. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    My takeaway from the 14 months was that this was the worst “time of arrival” that the writer could have picked to make an interesting story. I think you either have to arrive properly with the Nexus and take part in all of that initial chaos, or you’ve got to make our ark’s arrival way later so that the timing of the events makes more sense.

    For all the failures that the Initiative racked up in that time, you do have to sort of give them credit for how quickly they were able to fail at everything. Even if you look at the Nexus, they somehow managed to get a significant portion of it built before failing at getting it built. It’s impressive to get that much done in such a small amount of time. They failed more in 14 months than a competent crew could’ve succeeded. I guess when you’re successful at something, it takes longer because you see it through. Success slows down progress: It dissuades you from quickly moving on to the next failure.

    1. tremor3258 says:

      Truly, there is no start to the Initiative’s talents.

      (Also human exceptionalism creates a pirate slum that looks a decade old in a couple months! Go humans)

    2. Coming Second says:

      It comes back to the writers’ constantly compromising with themselves and winding up pleasing no-one. Clearly a discussion was had about the tension between the central pitch of the player being a genuine trailblazer, and the difficulty that created in terms of easily producing mooks and environments for the player to shoot up. So they set the game 14 months after first arrival so they can try and get away with both. It doesn’t make sense and is profoundly unsatisfying, but hey, you get a whole bunch of feral humans to shoot and interact with, and that’s why you’re playing Mass Effect right?

      It feels like the ME team really lacked a strong voice, somebody with the authority and vision to say ‘Alright everyone, shut up. This is the tone, these are the themes. This is who the main character is and where they’re going, and this is who the villain is and what they want. Everything else compromises with sustaining those things. Got it? Alright, let’s knock it out.’

      Or maybe they had that voice, and the men upstairs knocked him or her back. Or they did know where they were going with it, but a whole bunch of stuff got changed in pre-production and they had to try and patch it together the best they could. As ever with a AAA studio, everything regarding the process is totally opaque and we only find out years later how we wound up with the bucket of slop that we did.

      1. Trevor says:

        It is kind of Mass Effect’s original sin that it’s a squad-based cover shooter. The enemies magic space marines fight best are other magic space marines. Seamus has gone into great detail about how the later Mass Effect games went off the rails and had to insert Cerberus as an antagonist that vied with the Reapers for the title of your primary opponent so that you could shoot at more space marines. But it’s not at all clear that had the team that put ME1 together stayed to finish the trilogy that it would have been any better. They set up the Reapers as techno-Cthulhu and that’s not something you should be able to just shoot in the face with a squad of three guys. If they show up, everyone should be dead.

        Now here, again, you’re exploring a whole new galaxy and new planets and etc., but because the mechanics are a squad based cover shooter, you’re shoe-horned into fighting other dudes with guns that are about your size. You can’t really explore new worlds. Mostly-empty worlds with aggressive fauna? That’s basically Monster Hunter: World and not really the space-marine vibe we’ve built the franchise on. So we’ve got to go with worlds that are full of aliens like us and that kills the Explorer theme we had envisioned.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I’m going to disagree on the ‘original sin’ part. In his retrospective, Shamus put forth a convincing argument that ME1 left the team in a solid place to design games with this exact gameplay model. It feels to me like the problem arose when Shepard’s closing line about stopping the Reapers got translated as destroying them.

          1. Trevor says:

            I think it was always going to be a problem, as it is with most Cthulhu/Eldritch Horror games. The ideal scenario is bursting in, and stopping the summoning ceremony, catching a glimpse of the madness in the half-opened portal before it shuts forever. Not letting Cthulhu be summoned and then gunning him down as he rampages through the city. However, in games, shooting some mooks/higher level mooks who are trying to summon the boss is less satisfying then actually shooting the boss himself. Killing Saren and Sovereign and stopping their summoning ceremony worked for the first game and as the first act of a story, but I don’t know that you could pull that same plot for the sequels.

            There definitely was a shift in ME2, particularly since they took the system that was mostly dice based RPG with some gun mechanics to a fully gun-based cover shooter.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              I’m with you that the tone shifted with ME2, but I don’t count that a flaw with the original concept; rather, I think it stems from an industry-driven need to ‘go mainstream’ and ‘be bigger and better.’ I don’t think EA would have let that structure fly based on the sales numbers they wanted, but it doesn’t mean a series of games in that trajectory were doomed to failure.

              Unfortunately, we’ll never know if a Cthulhu-like plot would have worked, since the sequels leaned into a mashup of Firefly and Blade Runner.

          2. Jbc31187 says:

            It helped that you weren’t *just* shootin’ doods from cover. You were a diplomat and a detective and even an explorer, if tagging resources counts. All important jobs that you couldn’t just send in a battalion of space marines to shoot.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              Precisely. The quest for information and answers pivoted into a more direct space opera.

            2. Karma The Alligator says:

              Funny how you pathfind more things as Shepard than as Ryder.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          Not sure. ME1 ended on a fairly workable ‘we have to appease the Reapers/prevent them from arriving’ situation that fit a small team of experts (who shoot mooks from cover).It would have been entirely feasible to write a series of RPGs that were based around a looming threat that would kill you…if it turned up, so make sure that doesn’t happen!
          A race to track down a ~million year old ‘TURN OFF REAPERS’ button or finding the super-hive-mind that co-ordinated them and reasoning with it could have worked.
          Hell, ME3 even had a mission where you tracked down one of the original creators of the Reapers.
          (but because it was ME3, said creator was a idiotic blowhard hiding in a deep-sea trench who had nothing useful to say. Also, it was an optional DLC because EA Games).

  10. Joshua says:

    “Except, if it’s that easy to storm his flagship, then why are we even afraid of the guy?”

    Reminds me of the Curse of Strahd adventure for D&D 5E. Although there’s a pretty defined beginning, the rest of the adventure basically boils down to searching for three magic items, recruiting one key ally, and then confronting Strahd himself in some location (probably Castle Ravenloft), all the while he gradually sends harder and harder foes against you to toy with you.

    The problem is that the locations of the three magic items, ally, and place where you confront Strahd are likely to be random (unless the DM chooses otherwise), and it’s perfectly possible to have some of these early quests be in Castle Ravenloft itself. So, as a low-level character, you go into Strahd’s personal stronghold, kill his mooks and raid his possessions, and then don’t confront him until later somewhere outside his castle, all the while he is taking all of this with good grace and merely toys with you.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      A good DM would have it that the players can only do things in the Castle when they KNOW Strahd is out and about doing something else. Then there’d be intrigue about finding out his schedule and HURRYING through the castle to avoid being killed. They can also use his absence as a reason why the stronger threats don’t automatically activate. And if the players aren’t feeling the urgency, you could always have Strahd return…

      1. Joshua says:

        There’s a little ambiguity into how Strahd is keeping tabs on the PCs. In some parts of the module, it talks about his various mortal spies and how they pass information. In other parts, he just magically seems to know everything the party is doing. Plus, there’s the issue that the castle is huge and knowledge of its interior is rare.

        Still, it’s an intriguing idea that would definitely limit characters taking a rest, and therefore trying to avoid combat.

  11. Syal says:

    Earlier the story claimed they left, and stole tones of supplies.

    Well, that’s the thing; they stole the tones, but not the copier. All it was good for was smearing across their leader’s face.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      And repainting everything to look old and used, I guess.

  12. Mattias42 says:

    Regarding that ‘map that’s not a map.’

    Maybe it’s just too old, and the stars have drifted/changed too much?

    I mean… that’s the sort of numbers a super-computer AI (cough) should logically be able to crunch if the date is even reasonably intact, but maybe that was what they were going for?

    Still, yeah, that’s not a good sign when my off the cuff ‘maybe’ has more logic to it then the shrug they seem to have gone for in-game.

    1. Terradyne says:

      Which could work as a plot point if it also wasn’t noted that there didn’t seem to be anything there before they left, not quite seven hundred years ago. That’s barely enough to notice any stellar drift, let alone lose anything.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        That could have been interesting, actually, if the entire spire system was as ancient as it’s hinted. The reason the Andromeda gang being able to decode an artifact in an afternoon which have stumped the locals for centuries, could have been because they’ve got those 700 year old star-picks from outside the cluster itself to compare and contrast with.

        You’d need some compelling reason these ‘Precursors’ made their stuff so well it’s still around, but still somehow went bye-bye…

        And~ let’s be honest, I don’t think gamers would have trusted Bio-ware with untangling THAT type of yarn again, anytime soon.

  13. Nimrandir says:

    As a follow-up to my comment on the last entry, after reading the title, I rose from my chair and applauded, with a single tear rolling down my left cheek.

  14. MelfinatheBlue says:

    Map reading is obviously a skill that Pathfinders just don’t learn… Sheesh.

    And wtf is Ryder wearing? Late 2010s fashion has come back around several centuries later in Andromeda? Yeah, that’s not really believable. It’s a less egregious version of the Medici collar (the high lace thing) that female boss chick who tricks Jensen wears…

    Yup, I’m now complaining about Andromeda’s fashion. I think Shamus is covering everything else ?

    1. Coming Second says:

      Zhao was a bad character in a lot of ways, but man I loved that collar of hers. It suggested the devs thought about future fashion and the way time is a flat circle, rather than just going with something generic and cyber punk-y.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      I believe that’s the ‘hoodie’ casual clothing option. Apparently sweat shirt technology has to evolve if humanity is to reach the stars.

  15. Dreadjaws says:

    There’s simply no amount of time large enough that justifies the damn outcasts always being 10 steps forward from the Initiative. It’s just preposterous that the disorganized, traitorous, bickering thieves and murderers can deal with settlings easier than the damn organization created with that specific purpose. Granted, they were all originally part of the same, but it really looks like the outcasts are mostly soldiers, with the occasional engineer.

    And by God, how I loathe Sloane. It’s like the Andromeda writers either entirely missed just how much no one liked Aria or they figured that the reason people didn’t like her was because she wasn’t human. I really don’t understand how they can fail so much at reading the immensely obvious.

  16. Teltnuag says:

    The xenophobic Angaran splinter group was baffling to me. The only aliens they had met before we showed up were the Kett, who unabashedly have tried to eradicate the Angara. What was this massive philosophical difference that would cause these people to split when their entire species is being threatened by a singular entity? That they hate the Kett, while the mainstream Angara… also hate the Kett due to the fact that they are attempting genocide against them?

    1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

      I think it was more about trusting the Initiative to not turn out to be the Kett 2.0 the moment they felt secure.Which would be reasonable enough, the Initiative make a lot of talk about wanting to colonise the Heleus cluster and no-one ever takes a step back and wonders if maybe the Angara might also want a planet or two of their old civilisation back after the Kett are gone.

      That having been said, the game never makes this clear, so the distinction may be entirely in my head. Certainly if my interpretation was true you’d expect the split to be more narrow, the Roekaar being a faction in whatever political system the Angara have rather than outcast terrorists sufficiently separated from the good guys to be shot on sight with no repercussions.

  17. Ayrshark says:

    Despite this games many failures I can say without a doubt that it’s graphically amazing at times and Havarl showcases that. Unfortunately that’s about all it has going for it as I can’t even remember what quests were here because, well, they weren’t very memorable. As for Kadara…well…I have nothing to really say about that place. I stopped playing right after meeting Sloane because I was waiting on replacing my cpu due to performance issues at the port. I somehow lost my cloud save so I couldn’t continue where I left off after upgrading my system. The sheer stupidity of everything I had to endure beforehand prevented me from wanting to get back to where I was. I think it saved me time, effort, and brain cells.

  18. Dev Null says:

    “Everything is toxic, poisonous, or filled with murderous intent.”

    So basically, it’s Australia.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Don’t be ridiculous… the insect wildlife is less dangerous on Kadara.

    2. Matthew Collins says:

      Or social media? :P

  19. Gareth Wilson says:

    Every time the unrealistic timeline comes up, I think of that Kids in the Hall sketch about the guy whose flight was delayed for 35 minutes and resorted to cannibalism.

  20. RCN says:

    So we start Mass Effect with “humans aren’t that special” which almost never showed up in mainstream media.

    Then in ME2-3 we moved down, way down, to “you know what, humans ARE goddamn special, fuck you” once EA got its hands on the IP proper.

    And now, in ME:Andromeda, we’ve moved further down to Star Trek TNG seasons 1-2? Where “humans aren’t only special, they’re insufferable about how special they are and everyone else is shit.”

    I wonder how it will be in ME:Alpha Centauri the Last Frontier (the furthest place the new EA writer could think of). Or, rather, I shudder to wonder.

    1. Pinkhair says:

      They coulda taken some cues from Alpha Centauri.

      I don’t know but I’ve been told, Deirdre’s got a network node!

  21. Xander77 says:

    You’d think Shadow of War would make the theme of “hey, power corrupts in this universe and no one is getting a happy ending by putting on a ring and going on a killing spree” clear enough for everyone who found the original way to subtle, but I guess some people just need things literally spelled out in proper text.

    1. Shamus says:

      Oops. That was supposed to say “Shadow of Mordor”.

      Fixed.

  22. Philadelphus says:

    Except, if it’s that easy to storm his flagship, then why are we even afraid of the guy?

    This is like if only Sauron had a map showing the location of Mt. Doom, so the plot of Lord of the Rings involved storming Barad-dûr directly in order to take it from him.

  23. Gabett says:

    I really hate that we barely get any information about the rebellion (or mutiny? whatever) in the game. I would like to know the answer for those questions you listed, especially about the timeline, and many more. But no, you only get to see that if you buy the book. The most frustrating thing is that you are supposed to make a very important decision based on information that is locked away in that book, information your character should obviously have, but the player doesn’t get any dialogue options about. It’s Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts all over again.

    And I would *really* like to know how a bunch of criminals managed to
    1) defeat the kett (which the Nexus people somehow couldn’t accomplish on Eos with more ressources)
    2) establish a new colony on Kadaara, establishing themselves as a ruling force (and the local angara are okay with this why? from their point of view the Milky Way races were just another invading force at that point in time)
    3) establish mining outposts on that one asteroid (they got the equipment from where?)
    4) establish yet another colony on Elaaden (admittedly that was the Krogan’s doing, but there are still a bunch of other races around that have something going for them)
    And they did this without a proper command structure, minimal ressources, minimal intel, after a traumatic experience, and they probably had to evade the Scourge *and* the kett before they even got to the places where they accomplished the improbable.
    And why didn’t it occur to the Nexus after two failed attempts on Eos to check out the other golden worlds? Even if they knew they weren’t golden, maybe they could have been more hospitable (which, it turns out, they were).

  24. PPX14 says:

    The title of this post makes me laugh far more than it should do

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