Discover more from Learn By Doing
In defence of Mass Effect: Andromeda
Maybe we should learn to manage our expectations.
I finally finished Mass Effect: Andromeda this week.
And then I immediately started a New Game+ run.
This is a huge thing for me, I can count on one hand the amount of games I’ve played more than once. When I’ve finished a game I’m done, I just don’t have the patience for multiple playthroughs.
But somehow, Andromeda got me. I’m already some 8-10 hours into this new run, mere days after my first one, and this with a new story patch waiting for me in FFXIV.
I’ve been playing Mass Effect Andromeda on and off since it came out in 2017, mostly in small bursts and then not touching it for months before getting back to it. Mainly this is the fault of my own mental health/life and not as much the game itself as some might think.
For those who don’t know, Mass Effect: Andromeda was the fourth game set in the Mass Effect universe (heh), featuring a new protagonist and a new storyline.
Fans were excited for more Mass Effect and hoped for something better after being up in arms about the ending of Mass Effect 3 (which I might write down my own feelings about at some point) but when it was released it was a buggy, janky mess and it got torn to pieces by critics and fans alike. At the time it had the lowest Metacritic score of any BioWare title in the low 70s but has since given that title to Anthem with its mid 50s score in 2019.
We now know that the development of ME: Andromeda was fraught with problems ranging from scope, changed leadership and vision, internal division and the infamous Frostbite engine making everything much harder than it had any right to be.
Knowing these things it’s almost a wonder that the game came out as playable as it did.
Sadly, most players either didn’t know or care about this and the game has since gotten stuck with the status of being a terrible game, only worthy of being a source of bad memes.
A lot of the criticism voiced against it is valid; the graphics are on the weaker side, animations and talking to NPCs especially tend to be quite buggy with a lot of instances of the camera settling in weird places, NPCs simply walking out of the frame while you’re talking to them and weird facial animations etc. And the UI navigation is clunky and often feels like a mediocre console port on PC. Combat works really well though, and while the writing isn’t as tight and polished as people are used to from the previous Mass Effect games, I would argue it isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.
Now that I’ve finally finished the game I feel like the hate towards this game is exaggerated and probably more rooted in people’s disappointment at it not living up to what the fans hoped it would be.
So while I do get where all the critics are coming from I can’t help but feel like people are also missing out on what is in essence a pretty good story and world building.
While the rushed development shines through in just about all aspects of the game, the overall story is interesting and there are a lot of good plotlines, story beats, and general world building. Sure, there are a fair few clichés and heavy handed writing, but it works and the way Ryder is written, they feel almost like a Mass Effect version of a sassy Hawke from Dragon Age 2 (who I, and I believe many others, adored).
I really enjoyed a lot of the characters, their interactions, their growth, and their personal stories. I enjoyed exploring the new races and their beliefs and struggles as well as this new galaxy full of mystery and history. Things don’t have to be super refined to be good in my opinion and it’s sad to see so many people disregard the whole thing because of the drop in expected quality.
And the gameplay is actually good when it comes to combat, I really enjoyed it and I’ve spent my fair share of hours in the multiplayer section.
Lastly, while I haven’t done too much of the crafting aspect in the game, there’s a lot there and it feels like you can do some really bonkers things which is always fun.
I’m actually sad that we’re likely never going to get to see more of Andromeda since there were some loose plot threads and hints of more mysteries to explore.
Especially seeing this recent interview with Mac Walters who is a BioWare veteran of 19 years who worked on all the Mass Effect games in some capacity along with Jade Empire and Anthem. In the interview he laments the fact they never had a chance to make a second Andromeda game.
"I only wish we had been able to then do a second one, because then you would have really seen that polish just like we did from [ME1] to [ME2] on the original [trilogy]."
Quote from the Eurogamer Mac Walters interview
So, here I am, playing a second round of a game that is generally hated by the majority of the fanbase and thinking about how expectations, assumptions, and hype can really screw over how you experience something and how important it is to be in the right state of mind for each thing you experience to have its full impact.
I have been struggling over the years with my relationship to this game and my playthrough of it, often because I’ve mentioned to people I know that I should get back to it and most of them have in different ways said “why? It’s a trash game so why bother?”. This has coloured my view of the game and made me feel ambiguous about playing it on more than one occasion. Sometimes I’ve even wondered to myself if I’m wrong for enjoying it?
It’s really just in this last stretch where I sat down with the intention of knocking something off of my ever growing to-do list/backlog that it hit me and I found that mental space where I could appreciate it for what it is without other people’s opinions (and all of our expectations and hopes) colouring my own.
I was able to slow down and reconnect with that enjoyment, which was both weird and amazing.
But it has also made me wonder, what is reasonable to expect from game devs?
How do we tackle our own feelings around a game when it doesn’t live up to what we’ve made it up to be in our heads? How can we re-adjust our perspective to give something a fair chance?
Because it sure as hell doesn’t sit right with me to lay all the blame on the devs, they can’t be responsible for their entire fandom’s hopes and expectations. There’s a discussion to be had here about catering to your audience and them having to make sure their feelings of entitlement don’t go overboard.
But those thoughts, and others, may need their own essay; I have a lot of thoughts on the state of both sides of game development and gamers/consumers of the art/media that is games.
For now, I’ll just round this rambling off with a wish that more people can treat devs more kindly and be open to playing and judging games on their own merits rather than on their own expectations. Which is something I will work on as well going forward, so it won’t take me another six years to play through a game.
Until next time!
Hi, hello, trauma talking with this one. As a general rule you’re never wrong for enjoying something even if other people dislike or even hate the thing. The heart wants what it wants and all that.