Mass Effect: Andromeda’s animations have been complained about and mocked ever since early pre-release footage. In the days leading up to release the noise only got louder with the bubble finally bursting a few days later.
Having played the game a good deal, I can agree: the animations aren’t great; facial animations, in particular, are pretty bad.
Humans make odd faces, many of which are not very natural. Often characters look like you pulled someone off the street and asked them to act. Many times the animations wouldn’t be bad per say, but would be jarring. For instance, a character might quickly transition between exceptionally happy and profoundly sad. The game’s heavy emphasis on storytelling means bad facial animations are immediately evident.
There are much smaller animation problems in other aspects of the game. For instance, when your weapon is put away Ryder’s movement feels like you are moving on ice.
In spite of some wonky animations, I’ve found ME:A to be thoroughly enjoyable when combat is at its finest. So I decided to gather some other RPGs with bad animations that also happen to be pretty darned fun.
All in the Family
Bioware’s strong suit has never been animation. While it did not suffer from the same degree of bad facial animations as the likes of ME:A, it's combat animations were arguably worse.
A common running theme you will find on this list is that half of what makes an animation good is how the character controls. This is to say when you have the controller in your hand does the action you are doing feel like it matches with the actions on screen. Does the character move in sync with your button presses? Is the character responsive? Etc.
While ME:A’s combat feels smooth and responsive, DA:I’s can feel like a weird mashup between action game and RPG. It is not quite as action-oriented as a full blown ARPG, like Darksiders, but it is definitely not as rooted in RPG tradition as Dragon Age: Origins was.
Bad, but Not Oblivion
Bethesda is similar to Bioware in that they have also helped drive the RPG genre in recent years, but they also have some pretty bad animations in their games, and their name also starts with the letter ‘B’.
Now let’s not pretend that Fallout 4’s animations are great. The characters often look stiff when moving. And enemies in particular either don’t react to being shot, or they completely overreact by flying 15 feet upon getting hit with a kill shot.
I would even go as far to say that facial animations look less natural in Fallout 4 than in ME:A. However, I think that most reactions have smoother transitions and are less jarring than what happens in ME:A at times.
Picking on the Little Guy
This game is really easy to suggest. Do you like 2D platformers? Do you like the Souls games? If you answered yes to both of those questions then you will almost certainly enjoy this game. In fact, one of the main knocks on the game was not that it did a poor job copying the spirit of the Souls games, but that it was so close to those games that it lacked its own identity. Something that wouldn’t actually be a problem had the developers in question been From Software or their past employees.
Salt and Sanctuary's jilted animations are more forgivable since it was developed by a small team, unlike the other games on this list. It is reminiscent of stop-motion paper animation. So if you like that art style then you will probably like this game's style.
Beauty is a Beast (to Control)
One of my first impressions/concerns of Final Fantasy XV after watching gameplay footage was, ”this looks fun but sluggish.” It looked as if there was so much concentration placed into making an attack feel weighty that it ended up making it feel slow and unresponsive. Similarly, some of the animations were made to look so aesthetically beautiful that they don’t actually feel all that good, like jumping.
When I first played ME:A, I wasn’t in love with the look of the jump -- although it wasn’t bad -- then I realized it felt great, and this made me love it way more. This was the opposite reaction I had to the jump in FFXV.
That being said, FFXV is a fun road trip with your pals, especially the earlier parts. And there’s something cathartic about that.
Cutting (and Clipping) Corners!
It can be hard to watch footage and get the feeling that the animations in Berseria are bad (they just don't look it). But playing the game conveys a huge lack of polish.
When you press the analog stick forward it feels like your character instantly starts running at full speed; the transition between standing and running is not smooth at all.
Your character also doesn’t rotate smoothly when running. It often looks like you are merely running straight and then your character is just rotated when they change direction. The character does not bother to lean towards the direction they are moving as they shift their weight.
It's a lot of subtlety that was not there in the PS2’s generation, but which was brought into animation on the last gen of consoles.
Moreover, many of the attacks in Tales of Berseria yank your character around, removing them from their “center of gravity” so to speak. For instance, there’s an attack where your character hops right of where she was standing and leaps from right to left while swiping. She starts in the middle, jumps off the the right, and then yanks over to the left before unnaturally resetting in the middle. In short, the animations feel low budget.
Thankfully the anime style helps save the day. Character models don’t need to be as detailed because of this. A lot of the dialogue that’s delivered via text blurbs is also accompanied by anime portraits. And the fully animated cutscenes are honestly gorgeous.
Blizzard is too Busy Counting Benjamins to Care About Animations
There are a couple big reasons that WoW’s animations are bad:
- WoW is an old game - sure it has overgone some makeovers, but it at its core it is still an old game.
- It is an MMO - fancier graphics make it harder for people to run the game, thus reducing your viable demographic. It is a balancing act.
One of the aspects that make MMO animations look so bad, WoW’s in particular, is the way characters move. They hop and spin in mid-air in a way that is unnatural even for video games. They walk through other characters. Bulky armor often clips through level geometry, particularly in buildings. Attacks track an insane amount.
Alas, bad animations have not derailed this behemoth MMORPG as it has aged well over a decade plus.
You don’t have to look far to find bad animations in the RPG genre. RPG’s have often been at the forefront of the industry when it comes to pushing new gameplay types, as they often abstract new ideas and concepts into creative gameplay. But extra breadth and depth of systems have often left RPGs lacking in the artistic departments. After all, creating high-quality art for 60 hours of content is harder than for 10 hours of content.
It’s undeniable that games like Fallout 4 do not have the same polished gameplay, including animations, as games like Call of Duty. But that’s not the draw of RPGs, it never was.
Do you even care if RPGs have bad animations? Or do you think that RPGs need the polish in gameplay and animations? Let us know in the comments below!