BioWare Should Be Ashamed Mass Effect: Andromeda Still Needs Such Big Patches

The latest entry in the hit franchise that sold more than 10.2 million units has failed in so many ways. And the damage might be too far gone to be repaired.

There’s no way to mince words here: Mass Effect: Andromeda is one of the biggest failures, if not THE biggest failure, to have dropped in 2017, which is especially disappointing in contrast to the other stellar games that this year has hosted so far.

Some of us began to see the writing on the wall in the months that led up to the title’s March release, but the ill-fated sequel’s flaws go a lot deeper. BioWare and Electronic Arts were fully aware that this endeavor was a disaster in the making early the game's development cycle, and they stayed the path anyway.

The question that we all deserve the answer to is: Why sully one of the most influential series with a subpar product just so you can make a quick buck? Oh wait, yeah — yeah that’s probably it, isn’t it?

The space opera series isn’t just a fan-favorite, it’s a beloved game property that's celebrated by millions of players, and the powers that be simply saw an opportunity to make even more money off of the name, despite the quality of the product that they ended up shipping.

The performance issues are one thing (and not a small one, mind you) but the design of the game itself is one that just feels so regressive to BioWare’s work in previous entries. It has no business being in a new entry that’s been released after the likes of ME 2 and ME 3.

To some respect, I could see where the team did everything that they could to distance the new game from the original trilogy, but a lot of the refinement is lost in favor of forcing a lazy touch of innovation into the title — kind of like that imitation crab that you see in the sushi rolls at the supermarket.

This shit looks like a third-rate Groucho Marx
routine, and this is only one of many

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a Mess All Around

OK, let's just jump in and start with UI, which is more cumbersome than the weapon wheel from the original ever was. Why? Because gameplay is often stunted by the unintuitive loops of access you’ll need to navigate, even when simply equipping any specific firearm you're reaching for. The contextual sensitivity for navigation is a needless chore as it'll often require pin-point precision to interact with anything. The act is so touchy that it'll often force the player to repeatedly reposition themselves in a futile attempt to even get the damn sequence going.

Since we're on the topic of navigating menus and button prompt navigation, the world of Andromeda itself is also a nightmare, as there are no mini-maps to speak of that will conveniently guide you through it. No, it would seem that BioWare thought it would be wise to bury those helpful waypoints and guides instead under a few layers of screen in the pause menu.  The shooting is a bust too, as the player will find themselves struggling with the dynamic cover system actually working to your advantage, often miscommunicating most of your serpentine

The shooting is a bust too, as the player will find themselves struggling with the dynamic cover system actually working to their advantage, often miscommunicating most of your serpentine jukes with a flying hug to the nearest walled surface. It's like players magnetically pulling into it.

And don’t get me started on the switching between your secondary arms…

Animation and Story: A Horror Story in the Making

Of course, the more infamous issues plaguing the game come in the form of shoddy animation and crappy story. The mannequin-like movements of each character's mouth, while spewing out indolent dialogue, is more than bad enough to distract you from noticing how bad the writing is, and that’s just the icing on the crap cake. While previous antagonists were never all that in-depth, they were magnitudes more interesting than the Kett could ever hope to be.

In an attempt to make the new enemy this strange, mysterious new threat with its own clandestine agenda, the sense of mystique is instead lost on them being boring as shit. The lackluster opposition isn’t the biggest problem though. Instead, it’s the uneven pacing and tone that will make you completely disengage. Nothing here is consistent, and it ultimately boils back down to the lousy animation.

It’s easy to assume that a narrative heavy game like Mass Effect would get motion-captured animation, but that simply wasn’t the case as the project was coded by hand. And man, were these hands idle.

As surmised by the former head animator of the Mass Effect trilogy, Johnathan Cooper, he theorizes that a lot of the animations were sequenced to repeat on a set of algorithms that would dictate when the frames would recycle -- and when they won’t or shouldn't. 

Rushed Patches Won't Fix These Issues

These, and many of the other issues, are things that rushed patchwork won’t be able to fix. While a lot of attention has been heaped onto tweaking the mechanics, the campaign suffered from a plethora of buggy missions that ranged from janky to downright broken, rendering them either inoperable or even inaccessible during the course of the story.

Certain Architect missions weren’t just buggy, they were incomplete, like the infamous Architect on Elaaden quest or the mission in Voeld that involves rescuing a team of missing scientists. This oversight, and so many of the other bugs, is a testament to how half-cocked this rushed mess of a game is.

A lot of these issues were among the grocery list of problems that Update 1.06 addressed, mind you, but they were problems that are simply too egregious to have completely bypassed the playtesting stage. These are problems that people like you and I paid over $60 to uncover — instead of it being the other way around.

That’s not OK — Mass Effect: Andromeda exemplifies everything that a sequel shouldn’t be, especially as the precursor to the next-generation trilogy that we were all sold on. Between Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst and Andromeda, it’s starting to seem like Electronic Arts is mostly focused on their bottom line, more than the reputation of the critically-acclaimed franchises that they’re milking new releases out of.

Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 are some exceptions to the trend, but even EA should realize that shooters and sports titles will only carry them so far; why waste the opportunities that they have with the larger-than-life properties that they have under their belt like Mass Effect?

We can only hope that Andromeda stands as a lesson for everyone involved, because it’s a situation where we all lose, whether you’re a gamer or a company figure — no one comes away from a debacle like this clean. EA and BioWare have a lot of shit to eat after this one, and I don’t even feel the least bit sorry for them.

Published May. 29th 2017

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