Mass Improvement Andromeda – Pacing
Mass Effect Andromeda is the best RPG I have played in the last decade. Now, to be fair, I have always had a soft spot for Sci Fi over Fantasy, and I didn’t even play others such as The Witcher Series (couldn’t get comfortable with the combat, turned me off of it right away). I also put barely 20 hours into Skyrim. That is why I am being clear that that is a strong “in my opinion” and from “my enjoyment” standpoints. Regardless – many people find a game that just clicks for them, and ME:A is one of those for me..
This doesn’t mean that I can’t wax poetically about things that I believe would have made the game better. This is a hopeless wishlist series because these things definitely will NOT change in the existing title – but I still think that they are good things to discuss to maybe introduce in sequels (please, gaming gods, let there be sequels) and perhaps even good lessons for future RPG designers. The Mass Improvement Andromeda (MIA) series is when I look at things that I feel could have been done in a better way, on all sorts of scales. First thing that could have improved was the introduction to the game.
Much has been discussed about the hectic MEA tutorial planet and first planetary exploration in the game, where humankind travels 600 years in cryo-sleep to start shooting at the first aliens they see on the first planet they crash on. This is a hectic, intense tutorial scene, where you are quickly introduced to the varied systems you will be playing for the next 50-200 hours – from movement, to scanning, to shooting and everything in between (but mostly shooting and scanning). No doubt the designers were trying to show what the game had to offer and felt that introducing the main enemy (the kett), the main mystery (revenant technology) and killing off your dad (making you the pathfinder) all had to happen in the first 30 minutes. It didn’t. Well, except the “kill the dad” part.
After that hectic-ness things slow down and the gameplay hits a strong exploratory and discovery pace. I believe this pace should have been in from the get go and alluding to the main enemy in a more nuanced and satisfying way. For example, when you crash land on the planet maybe find charred bodies, or find evidence of an alien race that looks militarized. Maybe some datapads with language you don’t understand that you can start investigating. Breadcrumbs that there is something out there and they may not be so nice, building suspense, until you finally get an encounter. The revenant technology discovery would have been plenty enough content on the first planet and allow you time to absorb what is going on, before introducing the second threat and major plot point. There was plenty of time to do so.
I suspect the counter argument is that today’s gamer would be entirely bored with that – that a payoff has to happen quick. I think it sets an unrealistic pacing expectation and throws too much to fully appreciate too fast and is part of the initial turnoff for many people who did not enjoy the entry into MEA. What is done is done, but hopefully in future iterations they pay closer attention to better, more suspenseful methods of introducing the plot.
For complete clarity – my sarcastic caption on the photo above is based on reading Metacritic reviews as I wanted to see why the game is scoring lower than I believe it should. Sadly, the review section is taken over by agendists and I was disappointed to read the types of comments attached to the low user scores that had nothing to do with the game parts of the game. I suppose this is the new normal now.
“When a company forgets why people play games, and instead pushes social agendas, they make games like Mass Effect Andromeda….”
“But what we don’t need are 20th/21st century earth social issues shoe-horned into a futuristic space fantasy…”
“This is what happens when Bioware hires based on ethnicity (so they can pat themselves on the back for their diversity) instead of actual talent”
“..it’s that bad, and that is without even mentioning the horrible radical feminist BS they just had to drop on this game.”
“Ugly characters and facial expressions”
“Everyone seems to be black, there’s no way to have a white or asian skin for your character ”
That’s a whole other discussion, and one I know I’ll never be able to reconcile with here on this blog or on the internet in general. It is a shame (for humanity reasons) that this is what the pain points of the game are being reduced to.