Mass Affect

Typo, for once, was purposeful.

I subscribed to Origin for $4.99 for a month to get a 10% discount on my $79.99 pre-order special edition of Mass Effect: Andromeda. For you non math savants out there it was a net ~$3 savings but that is only a cursory amount compared to how much this game is going to hurt my time and productivity. Also, as an Origin subscriber, you get  to pre-play the game for 10 hours prior to the launch tomorrow. Best $4.99 I have spent in a while.

The short synopsis is: great for Mass Effect fans. Like best game in five years great for ME fans (ME3 came out around 5 years ago for you non-players). Of course, that is only after five and a half hours of play, and barely scratching the surface of the game. I have read that there is easily 150 hours of content in this game for big fans to play through and that is how I plan on playing through it. Every little side quest, explore everything and talk to everyone – fully immerse and experience myself in the Andromeda galaxy. And holy $h*t are the graphics awesome. (Click on pictures to enlarge in a new window throughout this whole post)

I am playing on a gaming laptop but the play is smooth. The graphics this time around make the models almost too human, with smile lines, sweat on brows, it’s a bit crazy. I am not going to show any pictures that spoil the story line but I have been thoroughly impressed with the graphics.

It is a lot to take in. Even how imperfect his teeth are, for example. And while I have been impressed with the graphics, the game play is also a huge improvement from older Mass Effect titles. They added a Z axis with the jump pack which adds a whole new dimension to combat and fighting, including a jump / hover / scope in and shoot move. It’s a step up. In my short time, I have also enjoyed the scanning feature in which you use your Omni-tool to collect information on plant, mineral, and alien life. It’s interesting to see the thought and focus behind this new part of exploration.

Magic Mushrooms

It makes sense when you are exploring new worlds to use a tool like this and to learn more about the environments. My initial hours into Mass Effect: Andromeda has been a huge, amazing fun success and I fully expect to enjoy my time there over the next several weeks as I further explore the mysteries of this galaxy.

As far as story goes there are some potentially amazing plots already hinted at and while I don’t want to guess “out loud” at anything specifically (to ruin / spoil it for people planning on playing), especially this early on, let’s just say that I expect there to be no less than four or five major story arcs all intertwining. The initial stages of them that I have so far discovered have me believing they will be fun to more fully explore and experience.

What I haven’t been enjoying is the media coverage for ME:A so far. My google feed has been populating a lot of stories surrounding it and the more I read the more I shake my head and lose faith in the internet generation. Let’s cover some of the joyous topics I have read, shall we?

Animations are terrible: Not on PC, at least, nothing major I have noticed. A few weird eyeball angles here and there, but general movement has been smooth. I know a lot of these arguments stem from mouth movements and I believe this is a byproduct from how realistic the models look – causing the “uncanny valley” effect. While it is easy to make things look like people / uh, aliens, than it is to make them move and/or fidget like them. No one really stands perfectly still in any state, and building in those mannerisms would be extremely difficult. So while I have noticed a few things here and there, not once has it pulled me from immersion to the point that it stood out as a negative. Everyone jumping on the hate bandwagon is a reminder of another great game, Lemmings!

You can’t make your character white enough: This is a hilarious argument, and I actually came across several articles about this. Assuming this is Gamergate inspired but supposedly (again, guessing consoles?) the lightest you can make your skin is Hispanic / Asian, according to some. Really? Check out Mr. Whitey McWhiterton:


Really, he is so white not only does he have less rhythm than the table he is sitting on, but he also can’t jump. This is my character in ME and I wanted to see how white I could make him after reading the articles complaining how diverse programmers excluded white as an option. I spent very little time customizing him, but he is absolutely, very white. Almost unhealthily so. Time to go out and find a planet with multiple suns – white. But really, is complaining about skin color really a thing any more? I am more impressed at the wrinkles, dimples and skin bumps and holes than the color. Such great detail. Terrible haircut, sure, but I chose that to be a snowflake.

The game isn’t a proper reflection on the dangers of colonialism as it pertained to historical USA: (ie: Christopher Columbus is a racist murderer, and this game should give lessons in how evil of a past that was, not celebrate colonization by playing a game a couple hundred years in the fictional future that is also about colonization.) Although I do think ME:A2 could be nifty if it was all about scholars and politicians sitting around working on how much reparations humans will be providing to the displaced and killed Kett during the events of this game.

On a more serious note, and not attempting to minimize legitimate discussion about the historical significance of Columbus, discourse is great to have but it also needs to be placed properly. Mass Effect is the equivalent of the Avenger movies in terms of depth and critical thinking. It’s not meant to be Shakespeare. If you are a true fan and look deeper at things you will learn quickly that humankind has not done a great job integrating into the new universe: considered brash, pushy, and impatient. There is a lot more to it on deeper levels – there are fair and interesting critiques on humans and their place in the galaxy that goes beyond killing and getting it on with aliens. All of that is core game play though. The average player will rush 40 hours to the end without exploring things on a more nuanced level. That is okay, and I have done that in the past as well.

If you are going to use this series to discuss historical events and reference certain plot points in prior Mass Effect titles please do a little research. One piece I read discussed how the Geth were an unfair example of evil because they attacked a human colony in the immediate events of ME:1. Anyone who knows the history of the Geth know that is is much more complex there – that they were servant robots who developed a collective mind, and then slaughtered their Quarian masters to gain their freedom, conquering Rannoch (planet of their former masters) and forcing the Quarians to a nomad life upon the Migrant Fleet (also known as The Flotilla) It’s an interesting twist on emergent AI and far deeper than the characterization they used based on a syndicated blog post they may have read and tried to force it to represent their personal agenda. Many have not even played the game (or it’s predecessors) – it’s clear in their writing that they have a rudimentary knowledge of the series and pushing critical, modern day themes onto that rudimentary knowledge can make you sound smart when your audience doesn’t know any better either.

Hey, I am all for expecting more of games, but at least do the research. It is readily available with a bit of Google-Fu.

Timely grumpy Krogan

At this point people are just hopping on the bandwagon of negative reviews for the sake of fitting in and or getting a laugh at the fabricated gifs out there. Some ARE funny, but they aren’t representative of the game as a whole.  I also suspect there is a bit of Bioware / EA bashing (“The Man”) which is not always unfounded (I also make fun of EA on this blog for their many awards of Worst Company in the USA, etc.).

Either way, let a game stand on its merit for what it is. And currently that is an amazing, engaging space RPG with promise. Will the game continue to stand on the fifth planet of scanning and quest running? Only time will tell. It definitely has that new car smell right now and I will be giving it a go. And while my voice here may sound like rabid fanboy-ism I’ll be quick to point out if the game doesn’t last, or if things don’t stick/stop sticking.  Right now most of the negatives brought up about the game feel like a reach, or maybe platform specific but that hasn’t been my experience. It is a bit frustrating to read others using the game as a platform for their personal/political agendas without much evidence or demonstrated knowledge of playing or understanding it – and i think that is where the difference is. If it was critically done as a gaming piece that could be interesting.

Playing Clash Royale?

Mass Effect will have big shoes to fill and I fully suspect that some people will be let down by the hype. My personal experiences early in the game are overwhelmingly positive and if anything, I wish they went backwards with the title and did a prequel of how Earth found the first Prothean base and how they integrated into galactic life originally. Much of this is in book and wiki form already but that would have been a great backdrop to show human’s first steps into an existing galactic community and the challenges that would create, and some interesting writing and dilemmic choices.

Instead we have a civilian lead, cross species Andromeda Initiative convincing 100,000 explorers to cross galaxies and resettle 600 years away. I am certain the exact reasons why will grow more than “just because” and that in itself may be one of the grander plot arcs, but until that all sorts itself out I’ll be focusing on searching for a new planet to call home.

Without any pretext.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I have to say that those negatives (aside from animations) are the first I’ve heard of it. Generally, it’s been about poor UI, poor writing, poor human animations, and repetitive gamplay (padding).

    This is one of those things where if it was a pure EA game (or Ubisoft), a lot of this would be dismissed. People still have nostalgia around the original BioWare – the one before ME3. When compared to that bar, ME4 disappoints. When compared to gaming in general, it certainly seems above par. The doctors are gone, EA has a hand in the dev, BioWare of old is just another gaming company.

    I get my RPG kick from Obsidian now. And take games as the come otherwise. PS. Horizon is awesome 🙂

    1. I have my eye on Horizon but it will have to wait. I am a one game at a time kind of guy. I just finished the main story quest on Eos (first planet after tutorial) and it has been a great journey so far. I do have a post brewing about some of the underlying themes people should be looking out for. I fear that the way people rush though games they will miss the forest for the trees.

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