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Thread: Just bought/currently playing/recently completed

  1. #9241

    Default Re: Just bought/currently playing/recently completed

    Quote Originally Posted by Death_cometh View Post
    I wonder if the forum will stay up long enough for me to bother writing a review for Mass Effect Andromeda?
    Just do it please :)

  2. #9242

    Default Re: Just bought/currently playing/recently completed

    Mass Effect: Andromeda is a sequel/reboot of the Mass Effect franchise set in the Andromeda galaxy. You play as Ryder, a member of the human colony team and when you awaken in your new galaxy you find that things have gone tits up for both your ship and the Andromeda Initiative in general and it is up to you to save the day. As Pathfinder you are in charge of exploring the Andromeda galaxy with your crew and along the way you have to save the Milky Way colonists, make friends with the locals and shoot some bad guys.

    The first thing that I noticed was that Mass Effect: Andromeda goes through a lot of effort to create allusions to the first Mass Effect. It gives you a new Commander Sheperd, new Normandy, new Mako, new Citadel and discount versions of the original crew. It even follows a lot of the story beats as Mass Effect. If executed properly this could have been a great idea by giving returning fans a blast of nostalgia but instead it just drew more attention to just how poor Andromeda is by comparison. Well there is my opinion given away in the first paragraph. Mass Effect: Andromeda is game of many, many, many flaws and being a pale imitation of the first game is only the first of them.

    Let’s start with the story. The premise of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s story is pretty simple. A group of humans and aliens from the Milky Way believe Commander Sheperd’s story about the Reapers so they pack their bags and bugger off to a new better galaxy with black jack and hookers. Moving the story to another galaxy is a great idea and exactly what I would have done with the story. Mass Effect 3’s ending is controversial and by simply removing it from the equation Andromeda at least had a fighting chance. However that is where the good story ideas stopped and pretty much every other part of the story is a mess and worst of all the game wastes this great idea pretty much from the start. Along with the new galaxy Mass Effect: Andromeda has changed its major themes to new beginnings and exploration are both immediately missed by the plot and while the various characters in the story talk on and on about these ideas the story never actually explores them. Every planet you visit to already have other people/aliens living there so you are never exploring anything. The game also drags along a whole bunch of pointless old plot threads from previous games that serve no real purpose and are never adequately explored.

    Andromeda’s story also feels like it starts in the wrong place with the intro being the human ship crashing into mysterious space anomaly and the Pathfinder team being sent down to the planet to investigate where they meet the new bad guys and find the ever present Bioware “mysterious ancient civilisation device” trope. The main plot is built around all of these things and it is entirely wrong, these all feel like they should be in the background of a better Mass Effect game to set up for a sequel especially because as a result of these huge plot points the game never explores its themes. The plots always seems very forced, like everything is there to fill a specific role rather than to tell a story; the game needs mooks so they gave us mook aliens, the Andromeda Initiative is in trouble and lead by a bunch of people who couldn’t run a bath yet are somehow in charge of such an important problem because the game has to give us stuff to fix. It makes it feel like a video game rather than a real universe. This plot by necessity makes Andromeda’s story feel like two different stories fighting with one another: the story that they want to tell vs the story that gives us stuff to do. The result is that for some reason the stakes always feel off. A lot of the story beats feel like they don’t matter and then there is a sudden jump in stakes towards the end and it makes the game feel very uneven and like the developers are reaching for a climax they haven’t set-up correctly because the game needs a big climax.

    Another story problem is Ryder and SAM. SAM is an AI that is supposed to help augment Ryder in their role of Pathfinder. However due to the terrible writing SAM comes across as if he is reading the script. You will be in a dangerous/interesting scenario and SAM will just immediately starting giving you exposition and immediately kill any tension or interest in what is happening. You will be in a completely strange and foreign alien construct in a different galaxy and SAM will immediately tell you exactly what it does, how it does it and how to use it and all that I could think was “Thanks SAM, this game was almost getting exciting and interesting”. The magical Deus Ex Machina powers of SAM also give Ryder the stink of Chosen One protagonist. Instead of Ryder having agency and being an interesting character, Andromeda relies on Ryder being the only character who can use SAM’s script reading powers to save the day and while all the other characters go on about how important Pathfinders are for no discernible reason.

    Even Bioware’s usually high quality world building is missing from Mass Effect: Andromeda. The game can’t seem to decide whether it is a detail orientated sci-fi (think Star Trek) or drama first sci-fi (Star Wars) and the weird middle ground it ends up in just doesn’t work. The game goes through a lot of effort to set-up rules and uses all sorts of technical terms and then it just ignores them or constantly shifts their meaning according to the needs of the plot. All this does is open up plot holes because some technobabble thing will suddenly be able to do something that rendered the last hour of gameplay pointless so why even bother in the first place? It feels like the world building is ass backwards; everything feels like it started life as “We need the player to do X. What is the shortest way to get there?” whereas good world building tends to start by creating a world and filling it with stuff and seeing what conflicts arise and letting the story follow that. You could see this in Mass Effect 1, the basic premise is laid with some extra concepts thrown in for flavour and everything else grows out of that. In Andromeda there is no world building beyond what is needed to advance a plot point or mission and any singular point.

    Along with the change of setting Mass Effect: Andromeda has also shifted to an open world. This is was a terrible choice because the open world massively conflicts with the Bioware gameplay loop. In the previous Bioware games you would: meet a quest giver, walk a few rooms down, meet a NPC who gives you some more information, walk down another hall, meet another NPC, shoot some mooks, make a choice and then return to the original quest giver who is a five minute walk away. This has not improved by making all of these elements kak far away from each other with a whole lot of empty space in between. Andromeda has also taken this one step further but often spreading this gameplay structure over multiple planets making it even more of a trek to finish missions. The open worlds are all big empty sand boxes that don’t contain much to do, are not interesting to explore and hurt the level design as a result they basically function as overly elaborate poor made hallway. It creates this problem that I often forgot what I was doing and why I was doing it because the 30 minutes between objectives would just murder the pacing. The Nomad, which is basically the Mako from the first game without the gun, is a nice edition because it makes the maps feel big and gives you a good way to travel around the open world however it doesn’t really fix the problem that there isn’t anything to do in the open worlds.
    Unlike the open world, the combat in Mass Effect: Andromeda is really good; probably the best in the series. The shooting feels tight and all the characters have jetpacks so when the level design has some verticality then Andromeda can be plenty of fun. The problem with the combat is that there is very little variety, the Nomad’s lack of a turret and any other interesting mechanics means that the only thing you can do is go to places and shoot stuff. This creates a weird situation where the only activity in the game is going to places and killing people so the game is designed so that every problem can be solved by going to places and killing people. It becomes absurd especially as you get near the climax.

    This problem is exacerbated by the RPG mechanics surrounding the combat feel completely pointless. No matter how much I levelled up or what points I put into skills, the combat never changed. Whether I had one point in something or had it maxed out, it always seemed to do the same damage and had the same impact. The same thing can be said about a lot of the extra mechanics and systems in the game. You can craft better weapons and armour but they don’t feel or seemingly function better than the gear you already have. You can improve your settlements and their viability but that doesn’t change anything in the open world. All of this however is completely irrelevant. Doing it adds nothing to gameplay.

    Now I know what you are thinking, “This is Mass Effect, who cares about systems and the combat? The roleplaying is the most important part”. The problem is that the roleplaying and dialogue in Mass Effect: Andromeda is utter, utter trash. The first problem is that they removed the renegade and paragon system and replaced it with 4 options that basically translate as nice, smart, serious and sarcastic. This new system simply does not work, firstly because you often don’t know exactly what Ryder is going to say so you sort of play it safe and are nice to everyone because any other choice could make you sound like a **** unintentionally and secondly because most of the dialogue choices do not matter, you are simply agreeing or agreeing sarcastically. The dialogue in general is also just a mess with you being unable to get the information that you want or need to make a decision so once again instead of roleplaying you are dumbly acting. I found this extremely annoying because this just made the already poor story even worse and the huge hole left by the removal of the paragon/renegade system isn’t filled by anything so all you have is shooting dudes and pushing buttons.
    I don’t know how but Mass Effect: Andromeda managed to look terrible on the PS4 even with the newest update. It is not just the “meme-able” facial texture ****-ups either. The art direction feels non-existent and I often look at things and wonder how a professional art designed managed to make a chest that looks like a pile of rocks? Most of the maps are bland with one exception and the amount of assets is laughable. The animations look unbelievably stiff even when they aren’t broken. The lip-syncing is ghastly and I honestly couldn’t believe it when I first saw it. Most of the game looks like a cheap asset flip not something made by one of the biggest studios in the industry. The only thing that ever looked good was some of the space stuff. However I don’t know if that is because space just naturally looks cool or if I have a soft spot for cool looking space stuff (probably both). I don’t know how you manage to make a game look this boring without doing it on purpose.

    Now for the rest of the mealies in this pile of crap: Ryder is massively over animated so it feels like operating a barge, they always take about 2 steps more than you want so you often overshoot what you are aiming for and it makes seem like Ryder is drunk. This feeds into a second problem where the prompts are way too sensitive and contextual so you will over step what you are trying to use because of over animated Ryder and as a result you won’t be able to activate the prompt so you will have to turn around and try again. I had to turn on subtitles because the game maintains fixed positions on NPCs so if you start talking to someone and your party member is supposed to give more information then you will miss it because they are standing too far away to be audible. There is also lots of important information that is given while you are exploring that can’t be repeated but SAM or one of your squad will just randomly talk over it so that you miss it. Enemies also have a habit of spawning inside of objects and being functionally invincible which is a problem when an objective requires you to kill all the enemies. The game is just buggy in general with weird glitches all over the place and prompts not working properly, I would often have to press the use button multiple times to open a door or talk to someone. Despite the apparent power of the Frostbite engine Andromeda has an incredibly choppy frame rate and it suffered from tremendous pop-in of both textures and characters. In levels that are densely populated it was a common occurrence to see characters appear in mid-air in the default pose. The most frustrating problem however is the loading screens; not just the obvious ones but all the “hidden” ones too. Things like doors and elevators that are meant to hide loading screens are everywhere and some take forever to open and all that you will find behind them is a couple of rooms and an NPC. Why does the game need this many loading screens? What is it doing with all of its resources?

    Overall Mass Effect: Andromeda is a failed attempt to reboot a very popular franchise that fails to even understand what it is trying to do. It fails on so many levels it is astounding. Other than some occasionally pretty scenery and decent combat there is really nothing to recommend in Mass Effect: Andromeda.

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