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Mass Effect: Andromeda
Steerpike
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April 24, 2017 - 10:53 am
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Sorry specifically to you, Steerpike. I know you two were close.

Thanks xtal. It's true, Tali was my lovemuffin. Taking her along at all on the Suicide Mission was hard for me. I imagined extra dialogue of all the other characters muttering about how whoever went with Tali on any particular section would probably live, while everyone else was sure to die. In the end it wasn't quite that much of a bloodbath for me -- I lost Jack and that Asari matriarch lady, chiefly because I hadn't done either of their loyalty missions. And I hadn't done either of their loyalty missions because (A) I didn't like them and (B) the Suicide Mission got sprung on me so there wasn't time.

The Suicide Mission was a really brilliant bit of design (until the skelebot), and it's surprising that we haven't seen it attempted again. I'm sure it was very complicated to design and balance, but an RPG composed of missions like that, where a much larger squad is divvied up to fulfill multiple simultaneous objectives, seems like it could be very engaging.

To Andromeda's credit, some of the characters have more texture than those in DA:I, and some of the flavor stuff -- like the crew message board -- is much better overall. I feel like Andromeda's heart is in the right place, but maybe the world has moved beyond the Bioware "style." It and Black Isle essentially defined dialogue-driven western RPGs, and innovated massively in so doing. But recently Bioware's content has felt lacking in subtlety. This isn't exactly a new problem -- Bioware's dialogue has always been defined by Yes/No/I'll Kill You -- but it feels like more of an issue now, even though we haven't really seen much of an alternative.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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April 24, 2017 - 12:27 pm
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Dix said
Is it weird that I'm having this low-level schadenfreude from observing the response to Andromeda? I've always thought Mass Effect above average but never agreed with any of the rave reviews or people who say it's their favorite series ever or whatever else. Maybe that's why the original ending to ME3 didn't bother me. Now I'm kind of enjoying seeing it stumble and everyone realize there's not some magic thing that the series has that makes it great; there are just moments of really outstanding execution in the original trilogy that make it hard to remember all the not outstanding parts.

I think I may be a very twisted individual.  

Well you may be a twisted individual, I can't say, but you are not alone on this.  I have probably said this elsewhere so sorry for the repeat (look, I often forget on Tuesday what I posted here on Monday) but I only played 1 & 2, and by the time 3 came out I had lost interest.  I liked 1, but the moronic inventory management almost broke the deal.  I also liked 2, mechanically at least, since I thought the RPG parts of 1 were kind of crappy and I liked that they simplified most of it and focused on the cover-shooter aspect.  But after a while I realized that every mission was pretty much identical despite the seemingly different setups.  And the story was complete nonsense.  I like this deconstruction of it:

http://www.shamusyoung.com/twe.....le/?p=7004

and also this, which is super long but good (the Mass Effect 2 bits start at part 15):

http://www.shamusyoung.com/twe.....e/?p=27792

I've also said (or thought) that Bioware peaked at KoTOR.  Any improvements in Mass Effect were cosmetic (and in some cases fell headlong into the uncanny valley and served as an extreme distraction for me).  And why did it always appear that their arms were not properly attached to their bodies, or even the right dimensions to match said bodies?  Anyway, that's my subjective take even though nobody asked for it.

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xtal
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April 24, 2017 - 12:39 pm
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I don't doubt their good intentions either. Besides, it's probably just a bunch of decent people trying to make a living.

I haven't had much of a problem with the character dialogue and conversations; no more than I would in any of the other Mass Effect games. Though I don't like the whole email reading thing they've implemented since ME2. I know it's optional flavor stuff anyway, it just always seems so badly written, I think "what's the point?"

Here's another wrinkle I never really thought of - you can't read emails on your omni tool. You have to go to one of the proper consoles on your ship. Now, there's a small chance this could get a Battlestar Galactica 2004 explanation (we had to turn off the network blah blah because cylons blah blah) but I think it's just an oversight. But think about what a funny oversight that is. We can read email wherever we want today. In the year 28xx when Andromeda takes place? Nope. Must go to your computer. Lol.

What do you think of the Tempest? I've found it irritating to navigate. It also seems oddly lifeless. I do like the idea of the galaxy map being up at the front of the ship by a giant window, though not much can be seen out of it.

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xtal
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April 24, 2017 - 12:50 pm
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Synonamess Botch said

I've also said (or thought) that Bioware peaked at KoTOR. Any improvements in Mass Effect were cosmetic (and in some cases fell headlong into the uncanny valley and served as an extreme distraction for me). And why did it always appear that their arms were not properly attached to their bodies, or even the right dimensions to match said bodies? Anyway, that's my subjective take even though nobody asked for it.  

KOTOR is one game I'm a bit surprised hasn't been HD-ified and tossed at us again. A true classic in my books.

Here's how I'd defend Mass Effect in the aesthetics department. I think it had a cinematic quality that KOTOR didn't have (and didn't try to achieve, in fairness). It's easy to forget about as the years go on, but I was deep in the trenches of Bioware fandom in 2007 and have a sharp memory of the time: Mass Effect was sold as this very cinematic role-playing game; the conversation wheel was revolutionary in that regard. The smooth conversations weren't even really possible before Mass Effect in voice acted games.

I overlook a lot of Mass Effect 1's shoddy action gameplay because I felt that there was an understanding that, while fun, combat wasn't going to be the bread and butter of this game.

Anyway, my point was that Bioware may not have improved their character model game at the industry standard rate, but they had something entirely different on offer.

That film grain, man. That was a thing people cared about! I cared about it.

 

edit: btw for anyone curious how my quote boxes are readable, I've been selecting all the text in them and changing the text colour to black. Seems the default for a while has made the quote boxes very light coloured and tough to read. So there you go.

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Steerpike
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April 24, 2017 - 1:23 pm
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Really? It's not supposed to be very light. It's not very light for me... or does it look light to you guys?

...

KOTOR was a masterpiece. An outstanding game in so many wonderful ways.

I admire the Mass Effect trilogy (jury's still out on Andromeda, though like Dix I tend to see it as a separate "franchise" anyway) for what it set out to do, and what it (largely) accomplished. It created a sprawling epic with characters you truly cared about and moments that were truly meaningful.

It's interesting to look at it in granular pieces and realize how absurd some of it was -- xtal's breakdown of the plot above is actually pretty much on the nose. There's very little nuance to be had, and at most it's at the level of a bad Sci-Fi Channel movie.

This ties in with some issues related to mechanics in Bioware games. Their dialogue system, in ME and elsewhere, is troubled. The choices you're presented with often don't match what comes out of your character's mouth. It's often felt misleading to the point of being deceptive. Then there's stuff like having to visit a terminal to read your email. As you say, it makes no story sense.

As to the Tempest... it seems weird that the crew quarters are behind the garage -- basically every time everybody gets up in the morning they shamble in to the galley to eat breakfast, then take a space-shower and walk through the grimy maintenance deck to get to their space-desks. And it's not clear why some things are connected (or not connected) to other things. And I could do without the transparent walls that look like thin air until you bump into them. 

Overall it feels like a place I have to move around in, rather than one I want to move around in. But the Normandy felt the same way to me, for the most part. As did the Ebon Hawk, if I remember it correctly.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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xtal
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April 24, 2017 - 2:21 pm
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I'd take the Ebon Hawk over the Normandy or Tempest. Ebon Hawk went for Millenium Falcon 2.0 and nailed it. I like a claustrophobic space ship. We're already in a giant vacuum of death, why not get more enclosed!

That there is no KOTOR 3 (TOR doesn't count, TOR fans) is one of the great mysteries.

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Synonamess Botch
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April 24, 2017 - 2:44 pm
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xtal said
Here's how I'd defend Mass Effect in the aesthetics department. I think it had a cinematic quality that KOTOR didn't have (and didn't try to achieve, in fairness). It's easy to forget about as the years go on, but I was deep in the trenches of Bioware fandom in 2007 and have a sharp memory of the time: Mass Effect was sold as this very cinematic role-playing game; the conversation wheel was revolutionary in that regard. The smooth conversations weren't even really possible before Mass Effect in voice acted games.

I overlook a lot of Mass Effect 1's shoddy action gameplay because I felt that there was an understanding that, while fun, combat wasn't going to be the bread and butter of this game.

Anyway, my point was that Bioware may not have improved their character model game at the industry standard rate, but they had something entirely different on offer.

That film grain, man. That was a thing people cared about! I cared about it.

Oh I agree that the cinematic effect they went for was pretty impressive.  I just objected to people claiming that it represented something revolutionary gameplay-wise (which it did not).  Fundamentally it was still the dialogue tree, and actually an even more simplified one than KoTOR's.

Is it an irony that they ended up with cover-shooter combat being the focus?  If so, I don't really blame them.  If you're going to make a big-budget game you have to make some compromises.

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Dix
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April 24, 2017 - 2:45 pm
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xtal said
That there is no KOTOR 3 (TOR doesn't count, TOR fans) is one of the great mysteries.  

That's not actually much of a mystery. As far as BioWare is concerned, The Old Republic DOES count. That was always BioWare's line on the matter: The Old Republic is intended as the continuation of the Knights of the Old Republic series, and BioWare chose to devote its resources to the MMO instead of a single-player expansion. The timing of its creation leaves little wonder about the decision; development began at the height of the post-WoW MMO boom, and in the early days of EA's ownership of BioWare. The studio that created The Old Republic was opened specifically for that purpose.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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Synonamess Botch
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April 24, 2017 - 2:50 pm
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Steerpike said
It's true, Tali was my lovemuffin.

Tali is a sweetheart and all but...umm, dude that mask.  You're taking a big chance is all I'm saying.  It's the accent isn't it.

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xtal
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April 24, 2017 - 3:11 pm
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I'll make a more sensible point regarding Mass Effect: it's like Halo in that it made its genre (action-rpg) more viable on consoles. Certainly nothing in the actual conversation game was upped, but the delivery method improved.

My dislike for The Old Republic is strong. I know it's doing fine in its own little corner but do not care, and have little sympathy for all the publishers who thought it wise to chase WoW's success. Whereas something like Lineage II or Guild Wars 2 was always going for a particular niche, TOR wanted to be WoW 2, and it failed hard. I quit that game in two hours.

I shouldn't have said mystery, I should have said bummer. It's a bummer that there's a big story-focused MMO instead of a semi-linear game like its predecessors. To me, anyway. I don't buy their line; maybe it's true, it just sounds like publisher speak. (It's certainly what EA wanted to do.) I have a friend who swears by TOR as well but I just can't. I'm allergic to the post-WoW MMO.

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Synonamess Botch
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April 24, 2017 - 5:49 pm
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xtal said
I'll make a more sensible point regarding Mass Effect: it's like Halo in that it made its genre (action-rpg) more viable on consoles. Certainly nothing in the actual conversation game was upped, but the delivery method improved.

Yeah that is an excellent point.  And I think it's perfectly valid to claim that it was largely responsible for the success of Western-style console RPGs.  Yes we've always had the console RPG, but it was mostly Japan's game.

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Steerpike
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April 25, 2017 - 9:44 am
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Absolutely -- there's basically two types of Western style RPGs, the Bioware type and the Bethesda type. They're both markedly different from their PC ancestors. WRPGs were PC games for the longest time, leaving JRPGs to dominate the console realm, but that's no longer the case. With Kickstarter and indie RPGs we're seeing some back-to-basics PC RPGs, but to be honest I'm not sure how well they'll do in the long run. Players have changed along with their games.

The "MMO style" of design is something that I always question when it's integrated too heavily into single player games. The sprawling structure and hundreds of often disconnected quests assigned through !-marked questgivers seems to work well enough within the nature of MMOs, but can lead to a lack of cohesiveness in a more directed game. It also, I think, encourages a little sloth among developers, since for the most part the tasks you're given are highly template-based affairs, five or six basic scenarios endlessly pasted and re-worded.

DA:I had some of that -- less so the copy/paste quests than the dozens and dozens of irrelevant "please find my uncle's missing shoes" tasks, plus of course the icon hunting that's more a mainstay of the Horizon/Shadow of Mordor/Tomb Raider open world action game. And it sure feels like Andromeda has a lot of the same. RPGs are obviously based around quests, and sidequests are obviously necessary to fill out the containing structure of the game itself, but I've never liked it when said sidequests feel both pointless and randomly scattered throughout the play area as if from an upended bag.

Botch: yeah... it was the accent. There was a lot of apprehension about what might be going on underneath that mask, but the accent is kryptonite to me. If I could get the Maiden in Black's voice to replace Siri on my phone, I totally would.

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xtal
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Steerpike said
If I could get the Maiden in Black's voice to replace Siri on my phone, I totally would.  

This gave me a hearty laugh. Thank you.

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Steerpike
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April 25, 2017 - 1:40 pm
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Of course, even the Maiden in Black would get on my nerves after a while if all she ever said was, "I didn't quite get that, Matthew," which is pretty much all Siri ever says to me.

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xtal
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April 29, 2017 - 12:33 pm
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This piece at Waypoint argues that the Tempest is a crappy ship, as well as bringing up that complaint about reading emails that I brought up earlier. The last paragraph had me nodding my head:

"Ultimately, the Tempest is a monument to the mundane busywork that pervades Andromeda, a game as bloated and laden with repetitive tasks as it is gargantuan. Instead of improving on the Normandy, the Tempest builds on its mistakes, repeating them when it's not adding new ones. It might be the perfect ship for Andromeda—a soulless reproduction of its predecessor that's not different enough to be memorable, nor similar enough to evoke fond nostalgia."

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