Ok so I wrote up a big post recently about Mass Effect. I think I made my adoration for the first three games pretty clear in that initial post. I wrote that post in anticipation of the new Mass Effect game, which came out a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the game is terrible. I hate it. I was hoping to finish this game to push out a full review on this blog, but I can’t bring myself to play it anymore. I’m done, I’m tapping out. I’m just going to touch on a few things here, I really don’t want to bring any more attention to this game than it already has.
The open world setting is not working out for Bioware. They tried it out first with Dragon Age: Inquisition and they’re continuing with it here in Mass Effect Andromeda. I had a hard time getting through that game because of the open world trappings. I like Bioware games for the world building and storytelling that is unique to their games. A lot of those elements come together through the specifically curated levels and dialogue between characters. When you open a game like that up to an open world setting, you’re giving up a lot of the control you have over the player. Fill that world with a ton of boring and meaningless filler content and you have a game that feels light on Bioware magic and full of boring content.
This was prevalent in Dragon Age: Inquisition, but they’ve doubled down on this concept in the new Mass Effect. Most of the quests I’ve been given up to this point are fetch quests that are more at home in an MMO. The quests that are part of the main storyline aren’t all that interesting in and of themselves because I’m not interested in the characters or story (I’ll get to that next). But I also don’t like them because many of them use the open world environments instead of specific, well curated level design to tell the story. Nothing about the locations you visit feel special, it all just feels like a big empty world that can be reused and recycled for fetch quests later.
Ok this is the big one. The reason I fell in love with Mass Effect in the first place was the characters. When I met Garrus, Wrex, Liara, Tali, et al, their personalities were unique. They were quirky. They were well defined. Some of their personality traits may have fallen into trope territory, but because this was a new series — in a new universe — in a fun game — it was easy to forgive that. In this new game, the characters feel like retreads of previous Mass Effect characters. Drack is maybe the biggest offender here. I literally can’t tell the difference between him and Wrex. He’s almost a one for one stand-in for Wrex. He has a granddaughter and he left the Milky Way, so there is a little bit of contextual difference. But the core of the character feels like a carbon copy.
On top of this, the dialogue is poorly written, and the back stories given to the characters are boring. One of the human companions, Liam, bores me to tears. His companion quest revolves around fetching a movie for him to watch on the ship. The player character is also annoying. This may just be me being crabby about the game, but everything he says bugs me. I really hate the characters in this game.
Ok so the open world sucks, the characters suck, but at least the story is going to be interesting right? Nope. Story sucks too. I think it was a smart choice to set this game in a different galaxy and in a different time from the first games. It distances this story from the first trilogy in a smart way and gives the writers a lot of breathing room to do different things while remaining in the same Mass Effect “universe.” However, the premise alone can’t bear the narrative weight of a 40+ hour game.
The story revolves around you as a young man or woman being tasked with finding a planet for the human race to colonize. It makes video game “sense” to have one person go out into the galaxy and be responsible for this task, but it doesn’t make actual sense. It’s a hard premise for me to buy. It seems like they could have put more effort into explaining why you as a young person get to have control of this nice expensive ship and have full control of what you do and where you go. Even going back to being a Spectre would have been more believable, even if it pulled a bit heavily from the original games.
Moving into a new galaxy, you’d think there’d be a bunch of new alien races. However, we get only one new race to cooperate with, and one antagonistic race. The plot twist with the antagonistic race is foreshadowed so bluntly it practically slaps you in the face. I also hate that the primary bad guy is just a super sized version of his lackeys. It feels like something pulled out of a dumb action movie. It just sucks. Bioware has so many good games and stories under their belt that this kind of tropey story telling is incredibly disappointing.
I waited five years for a new Mass Effect game. The last one was in 2012, and it didn’t live up to the previous game. I was hoping that Bioware had spent the last five years figuring out where they went wrong and fixing it for this new game. But it seems that the direction they are taking is a more corporate route. It feels like EA has a bigger hand in the direction their games and stories go, which is a big shame. I was hoping that Dragon Age: Inquisition was just a one off, but it looks like this is the kind of game that Bioware is interested in making from here on out. I will not be buying another Bioware game again, until I hear something has changed.
I tried hard to push through all of my frustrations and finish this game, but I just can’t do it anymore. I have a crib to continue working on, I have a pregnant wife to care for, I have a life to live. I want to spend my free time doing things I like to do, not pushing through a bad experience just to see the end. Maybe they turn things around in the back half of the game. I doubt it, and I’m not sticking around long enough to find out. What a bummer, the pedigree of this series is so high that this game had the potential to be an all time great. Instead, this game is so bad that after 20ish hours I’m giving up.