Mass Effect 3 got a new ending, so why can’t Mass Effect Andromeda also change to meet our expectations?
“There are almost no meaningful choices in Mass Effect Andromeda. As long as you tick off major side content, every decision seems to boil down to a slightly different sequence of events in the final mission – if that.”
Mass Effect Andromeda is a huge game, and pretty absorbing once you get through the rough start, forgive the many bugs, and consign the fetch quests to the devil.
Clearly Mass Effect Andromeda needs further patching, and that’s something BioWare has promised to deliver – but we’re wondering if the developer is at home to some helpful suggestions and constructive criticism. You know, since it listened to the internet once before.
As such, here’s a very serious list of all the things we’d like changed in Mass Effect Andromeda. This list, by its nature, will be pretty grumpy; an equivalent list of all the things we love in Mass Effect Andromeda would, unfortunately, pretty much spoil the whole game.
Make interplanetary travel more convenient
Okay, sure, yes, the little animations that play when you land or leave a planet are probably there to mask a loading sequence. I can live with that. I can even cope with the animations that play as you move between clusters and destinations on the map, although they make me so impatient I want to scream. But why can’t we pick a previously-visited destination from a list instead of chugging through the cluster map every time? Why do we need the little scene that plays whenever you actually get off the Tempest on a planet, where Ryder walks a couple of steps and then disappears, and then reappears in a helmet? Why can’t we choose where we want to deploy since the Nomad could be dropped anywhere? Why can’t we deploy in the Nomad rather than having to run over to it?
Add all this stuff up and going from one location to another, as for example when completing one of the dozens of multi-planet fetch quests required for character loyalty and secondary ops, just becomes a dragging chore. Perhaps it feels better when you’re on drugs and get excited about the groovy space transitions?
Send the citizens of Kadara some working doors
There’s something really wrong with the doors in Kadara Port. Instead of opening at a touch of your Omni-tool like every other non-secure door in the game, they apparently need to be laboriously hacked every time you want to move between the docks and the market, or just go to the pub.
I understand it’s a rough and ready frontier town, and maybe maintenance is more slapdash than other settlements, but I cannot believe the people of Kadara are willing to put up with this nonsense.
Get rid of the invisible rocks outside the lift in the Kadara Slums
Whenever Ryder gets out of the lift at Kadara Slums, they get stuck on some invisible rocks. I have to remember to jump or run around this ghostly barrier. Why would anyone leave cloaked obstacles outside a lift? It’s a hazard.
Add another LZ for Kadara
Whenever Ryder needs to do something in Kadara’s open world – which towards the end of the game seems to be about every other minute, despite the way side content bounces around the cluster map – Ryder has to disembark at Kadara Port, take the lift to the slums, circumnavigate the invisible rocks, and then leap over a fence and run a short distance. This is a laborious process and does not make up for the fact that at least you don’t get the whole walk-a-few-steps-vanish-and-reappear-with-helmet thing. Let us land directly on the surface after our first visit, geeze.
Blow Kadara up
You know what, just get rid of Kadara altogether. Only one delightful thing happens on the whole planet, and that could be easily moved to a location I don’t dread seeing pop up in my quest log. First story DLC: Kadara gets blown up.
Bring back grabs
Okay, I get it, the cover system is more analogue and dynamic than the old snap-on, snap-off system, but there are still times when I run right up to a rock or a wafer-thin barrier and there’s an unshielded, unarmoured grunt enemy huddled right up against the other side … and my only option is to go around.
What I really want to do is press the melee button and have my character reach over, grab that trash enemy by the neck, and haul them over to stomp them flat. That’s what we used to do in Mass Effect 3, and the absence of this move from Mass Effect Andromeda is a deep disappointment to me.
“NPCs in Mass Effect Andromeda never seem to be caught up on where you are in the game’s timeline. It’s really hard to feel you’re making impactful, consequential decisions and affecting the world state when literally nothing changes.”
Do something about the multiplayer bugs and servers
Mass Effect Andromeda was built on a brand new engine, right? So it shouldn’t have the same problems as Mass Effect 3, right? Somehow, though, they’re all there. The constantly dropping server connections. The bugs that strike mid-match and leave you unable to move your character properly. The stingy loot box algorithm. The people who use push to talk and push just to sigh heavily into the mic even though it is they who are the problem. Okay, that last one isn’t really BioWare’s fault, but otherwise it’s kind of amazing how closely they’ve replicated the whole experience on new tech.
Make NPCs even slightly aware of the world state
I don’t know if BioWare just assumed everyone would sprint through the main quest and then come back to explore side content later, or if there’s some sort of scripting error, but NPCs in Mass Effect Andromeda never seem to be caught up on where you are in the game’s timeline.
For example, Gil can email you about Jaal well before you meet him. There’s an NPC in the first settlement who will apologise to you for something that you cannot encounter until the third-to-last critical path mission. NPCs whose quests you’ve resolved will loudly complain about their problems whenever you walk past. It’s really hard to feel you’re making impactful, consequential decisions and affecting the world state when literally nothing changes.
Oh, and if you’re going to make a thing where if you don’t change your name then NPCs will use that name, then at least make sure NPCs don’t use the default name if I do change it. The love of my space life keeps calling me Sara and it’s very distressing.
Add more smoke and mirrors to the choice system
Speaking of changes to the world state, wow, there are almost no meaningful choices in Mass Effect Andromeda. As long as you tick off major side content, every decision seems to boil down to a slightly different sequence of events in the final mission – if that. Huge choices, which narratively seem impactful, will result in a squadmate potentially being angry with you for the space of one conversation, or one NPC you met five minutes ago being replaced by another one you also met five minutes ago.
This is no different to a lot of games, but it is different from past games in the series. In Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 squad mates could die, permanently, and in Mass Effect 3 it was very, very easy to wipe out an entire race. I understand some people didn’t enjoy feeling like they’d screwed things up, and that’s probably why BioWare changed things, but the developer hasn’t done a very good job of disguising the fact that Mass Effect Andromeda’s story barely branches at all and you can make your decisions pretty much at random.
Add the Geth, Cerberus and the Reapers back as multiplayer factions and call it VR training or something
Yeah okay, so the Andromeda Initiative left the galaxy before the Reapers arrived. But it’s not my job to dig BioWare out of its lore problems. It’s my job to say: I see what you were going for, but Nullifiers are no substitute for Ravagers.
None of Andromeda’s enemy factions have much personality in either single-player or multiplayer. The generic outlaw group includes a stack of non-human units with special names that you never learn about in the lore and feel mostly like DLC multiplayer characters waiting to happen. The Kett seemed promising initially, and I was expecting a Reaper-like reveal of the origins of their units, but it turns out they’re just, like, the heavy one and the sneaky one and the tank. The Remnant are probably the most varied and textured enemy faction, and they’re faceless automatons.
So throw them all in the bin and bring back the ones we like. Not the Collectors – those guys are massive jerks – but all our other our dear friends. Those Cerberus snipers that shouted “wanna biscuit” all the time. The Marauders with their adorable little faces looking like the :3 emoticon. The terrifying disruption of the Nemesis. The genuinely frightening Banshee. The enormous tank Geth platforms, and in fact the Geth in general, with their terrific flashlight head weak points. Yeah. That’s the stuff. I’ll buy that DLC.
Do something about excess AVP and skill points
The Nexus caps out at level 20, but you can keep earning AVP long after that. You don’t keep unlocking Cryo Pods, though, and the AVP system switches to a minus number, suggesting you have -475 AVP until your next level, or whatever.
Brenna is playing Mass Effect Andromeda on an Alienware 17 with a GX 1070, kindly loaned, at her request, by Alienware Australia’s PR representative.
This seems to me to be further evidence BioWare neither expects nor wants you to do Mass Effect Andromeda’s side content, which explains a great deal, but plenty of us are going to do it anyway and the fact that the game can’t handle it is pretty embarrassing. Give us something to do with that excess AVP. Trade it in for multiplayer credits, maybe. That would suit me.
Similarly, you run out of things to spend your squad mates’ skill points on long before you run out of content or levels. Why do they keep accumulating? It only reminds me that I have spent 20 hours of my life opening doors in Kadara Port for no good reason.
Shut SAM up
“Do we really need to be told that THE NOMAD CANNOT BE CALLED IN HERE when the Nomad is sitting right there next to us, or even worse, when we are sitting in the Nomad? Do I need to be told how to take cover and reload my weapon in every encounter in a 100 hour game? Do I need to be told these things when I’m in the Nomad?”
It’s not easy to design a system that will alert players to important information when a significant proportion of us cannot be trusted even to glance at the UI, let alone work out what simple symbols mean, but having a flat-toned AI tell us every time we move over invisible hazard and mining borders is the most irritating solution conceivable.
Is it not possible to decrease the frequency of SAM’s pattering? Like, if a player has moved in and out of a hazard zone three times in two minutes, perhaps just shut him up for a while. Perhaps, once a player has spent an hour in a hazardous environment and presumably understands it, he could only speak when life support gets low? It seems like there are plenty of sensible adjustments BioWare might make.
Also, gosh, do we really need to be told that THE NOMAD CANNOT BE CALLED IN HERE when the Nomad is sitting right there next to us, or even worse, when we are sitting in the Nomad? Do I need to be told how to take cover and reload my weapon in every encounter in a 100 hour game? Do I need to be told these things when I’m in the Nomad?
Have Nexus politics mean anything at all
Arriving on the Nexus and meeting the directors was so exciting. “Look at how these four characters are pulling in opposing directions with their vision of how the station should develop,” I thought. “It may be difficult to balance their various needs and desires. I bet there’s some sort of faction approval system or something, and consequences to who I side with.”
Nope! Nope! None of that! They’re all just questgivers, and only Addison ever does anything especially compelling or spends enough time onscreen. Tann’s entire function is to be Your Unsupportive Slimy Boss, Kesh seems super interesting but is sidelined, and poor old Kranston is both sidelined and very boring.
This is a game with tremendously more recorded voice acting than any other Mass Effect before it, but none of it is for anything. We could have half the number of NPCs – maybe a quarter – and just as much meaningful content.
Bring back Shepard
I mean, while I’m making requests I may as well go all in.