Friday, 19 May 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda

I've been playing Mass Effect: Andromeda for the last few weeks. I got it on the day of release (for the PC), and I finished the main storyline a couple of days ago. 102 hours, spread out over 41 days. I absolutely loved it.

What I find hard to reconcile, is the internet rage that accompanied the launch - utter outrage that has now culminated in the plans for future content, and indeed any sequel, being put on hold as EA and BioWare Montreal deal with the fallout.

Let's be clear here. There were problems at launch. Problems that absolutely should have been picked up and dealt with by a Quality Assurance team prior to release. That's probably what's more upsetting about this - almost all of the issues are avoidable.

There were some desperately poor animations - such as Sloane's weird, bending neck at her base in Kadara, along with horrible, dead-looking eyes on most of the human characters. The clunky crafting user interface that meant I barely crafted anything (although I didn't really need to). It didn't help that the game was being sold at such a high price - £50 on console, and £40+ on PC. For that price, people have a right to expect a polished, bug-free experience.

But, you know what, there was an awful lot to like about it too. I've always been into Mass Effect for the story, the combat was always something I had to 'get through' to get to the next story point. But in Andromeda, I actually loved the combat. The jetpack was great. Sniper rifles are wonderful, and the bigger, more open spaces meant I could approach situations from a different angle instead of being funnelled down a corridor.

The Nomad was terrific - and using it on the low-gravity moon is an instant, smile-inducing experience. I hated the original Mako sequences in Mass Effect, but the Nomad is fast, handles well, and can get to hard-to-reach places without making you grind your teeth into dust.

I really liked the supporting cast. A lot's been said about the crew of the Tempest, mostly from people who it seems just wanted to have their old Mass Effect crew back. Well, sadly that was never going to happen. But the new team: Kallo, Suvi, Lexi, Gil, Drack, Liam, Cora, Jaal, Vetra, and Peebee, all get their moments to shine.

A lot of the little moments are things that will only come about if you have a certain pairing with you. For example, go driving around Kadara with Peebee and Jaal, and you'll probably come across the moment where Peebee tries to prove that Jaal's pretending to be asleep by coming onto you - it's unexpected, and it's a wonderful moment.

I think that's what I'll take away from Mass Effect: Andromeda. So many little moments that mean it's actually competing with Mass Effect 2 for me as my favourite of the series.

I find it hard to fathom that a game can have such a negative reaction when I've put over 100 hours into it, and it never felt like a chore. I have a very low tolerance for bad experiences in games. I barely got started with Dragon Age 2 - it never clicked for me. In fact, I've never finished Dragon Age: Inquisition either.

EA and BioWare absolutely need to have a look at what went wrong - but they (and the rest of the game-playing community) also need to have a look at what went right. There's a terrific game in there, and I for one would like to see it continue.

Unfortunately, despite its finale teasing what would have been potential story hooks for a continuation, it doesn't look as if there will be a resolution. There may not even be a sequel. In the rush to condemn the game, people have instead condemned the series to an uncertain future.