Long time no blog. Let’s rectify that, shall we? And talk about some of the things I’ve been up to since finishing Floating Point. Namely: I’ve been playing Mass Effect Andromeda.
The Internet seems to have a hate boner for this game. Cherry picking glitches and bad animations, weakly written lines, generally digging up as much evidence to justify disliking it as possible. Well, I’ve finished the game, unlike sideline haters, and I can say: It’s excellent. But it’s also different than earlier ME games, in a way that really scratches my specific narrative itches. So your mileage may vary, that’s okay… but here’s why I liked it.
The original trilogy had you playing Shepard, an N7 soldier, grizzled veteran and confident champion who could immediately and effectively resolve situations without a worry. It was a military power fantasy, being able to swing your problem-solving might and combat skill around, being part of multiple chains of authoritative command, etc. A way to bridge the gap between the modern military shooter crowd and the RPG crowd, honestly.
But I’ve never been interested in military shooters, war stories, things like that. Not my thing. Andromeda, on the other hand, is an entirely civilian effort consisting of explorers, scientists, and researchers. When trouble comes their way, there’s shootybang, but mostly they’re approaching it as intellectuals. You’re exploring the unknown as a gallivanting adventurer, a pulp scientist by way of Indiana Jones. There’s no real military here, no war, just a struggle for survival and understanding of hostile environments. Sidequests feel more natural because the plot is set up so that everything you do contributes to the colonization efforts — you don’t feel weird getting a cat out of a tree while giant alien gods are about to eat a planet, for instance. The story setup makes sense and allows for a more freewheeling and fun adventure.
And the dialogue? Amazing! But again, different. Not to everybody’s liking, and I get that. It’s far less of a drama and more of a “buddy cop” feel, where you always have an option to quip instead of be smoothly professional. Your character is a newbie when it comes to his/her role in things and it shows, with them stumbling through affairs at first, and that’s great! It’s so refreshing to play someone who’s not utterly confident and hypercompetent. The back-and-forth banter with your crew, a gang of misfits and thrillseekers, it feels great. Is the dialogue juvenile? Absolutely, in all the best ways. These aren’t professionals, they’re bold seekers of the unknown, diving in with two feet. That reflects in their attitudes. This is a story which wears its heart on its sleeve, for better or for worse, and I for one love it for that.
So while there are absolutely some janky aspects — weak animations, terrible UI, weird crafting — I don’t think those are enough to completely crack the shining gem underneath a few lumpy bits. It’s not a retread of the ME games, it’s something new and weird and wild, and I’m down with it. I had a ball.
And fortunately… now I’m done with it. I have a bad habit of being unable to put down a good book once I start reading, focusing on it to the exclusion of everything else. Which means not touching something else I’ve been working on. What something else? I’ve hinted at it before, but… later this week we’ll have a formal announcement. Keep an eye out.