Mass Effect has been a long standing symbol of great gaming. From its beginnings as a new age RPG, to it’s most recent, more action based sequel. It’s been reviewed by fans and critics time and time again.
The most notable moment coming from the trilogy’s ending “scam”. A final sequence so utterly disappointing and obviously forced in that the creators released a free DLC that was supposed to correct and address the outcry of fans. This DLC did nothing of the sort, and Bioware’s parent company, EA, continued to force out continuous paid DLC stringing along players in the hopes of digging just a bit deeper into their pockets. Praying on their desire to feel like the hours, years, and hundreds of dollars they spent on the series wasn’t a colossal waste.
I was, and am, one of those fans of the series. I cling to my Mass Effect roots and bitterly fight for a world where the trilogy holds it’s rightful place in the annuls of gaming history as the masterpiece it could have been. And now we make it to the next chapter of Mass Effect. A completely new story, with new characters, new goals, and a new chance to redeem the mistakes made in the past. Both inside the game, and through the development overlord EA.
So what can we expect from the newest inclusion? Some have been fortunate enough to play the game before it’s release but only a small fraction of the content is known even to them. So let’s talk about some of the key features.
Yes multiplayer is back in a big way. This is a double edged sword. The multiplayer introduced in Mass Effect 3 was an obvious, and forceful way to cram more replay value into the game. It also served as the platform for micro transactions, the marketing tool of the 21st century.
Despite the unnecessary inclusion of multiplayer, it did hold it’s weight both in terms of actual entertainment value, and story relations. The idea was that on different worlds squads were fighting the war along side Shepard and his team. So each battle gave your single player campaign a better “War Asset” rating. Which eventually led to the 100% complete (or as complete as EA allowed) ending.
Mechanically it was actually pretty fun as well, and with frequent updates that brought in new classes and weapons it did have quite a bit of sustaining power than you typically find in these sorts of forced multiplayer sections.
How the multiplayer will return in Andromeda is uncertain, but it is certain that it will be back. Let’s just hope that the other aspects of development aren’t catered to appease the necessity for a multiplayer function.
Let’s face it, Mass Effect had a pretty good balance between open world and streamlined storytelling. Basically telling the player, yes you can progress with your mission, but unless you take the time to explore the world around you, things will go south very fast.
Obviously some sections are better than others. The mako for instance was a terrible way to explore the world. Everything from it’s clunky controls, to it’s complete negation of your teams powers and the games real mechanics was a terrible choice.
Unfortunately it appears that sort of vehicle reliance is once again part of Mass Effect, for god knows what reason. It’s my understanding that a good deal of players enjoy vehicles in games but I feel like those same people are separate from the base population of what the series is marketed towards.
However, Andromeda has been said to be the largest game in terms of exploration and world building. On par with the likes of Elder Scrolls or more likely, The Witcher 3. That’s a huge statement to make considering those series are some of the decades best examples of open world done right. A majority of tasks feeling fresh and purposeful. As opposed to the typical MMO RPG formula or strangling the gameplay with repetitive but unlimited tasks for countless hours.
Andromeda is said to be striking that balance between story driven tasks, and free roam exploration. Something by which the previous games were narrowly able to achieve. And in some cases falling short. And let’s face it, in a game where a new galaxy is your backyard, the main selling point SHOULD be continuous exploration.
The story of Mass Effect is one of the ages. A truly beautiful trilogy with a few hiccups, but mostly complete in it’s telling of a wonderful tale. The full scope of the series is brought into focus and a threat bigger than the galaxy itself looms over all life really drilling in the fear of continued advancements in artificial intelligence.
But that’s not all Mass Effect had going for it. All the while we were given front row seats to the evolving life altering situations numerous character were going through. Oftentimes influencing their story in meaningful and occasionally deadly ways. We forge friendships, and more, with nearly every race. We create rivalries, and enemies with those who can’t be reasoned with, and eventually form a team capable of taking on the greatest threat the universe has ever known.
Despite all of this we never really learn about who we are as commander Shepard. We were given a brief choice of background which ultimately serves no purpose. Then the story is more shaped around our friends and current situation.
Ignoring the past has been the way a lot of games deal with the spontaneous birth into existence you face when controlling a character who’s middle aged at the very start of your interactions. Yet I can’t help bu feel like there should be more to it than that.
Here is where Andromeda stands to raise the bar. It’s said that the story will be more “personal”, and I take this to mean we might actually get to see more of who we are, and where we came from. With a story that revolves more around our personal choices rather than the influencing of those around us. It’s difficult to say for sure but that’s surely something to look forward to.
One of the main features of Mass Effect has always been the finding and using of space found resources to forge more powerful weapons and abilities for your team. With the precedence set high on exploration I have to imagine we are going to spend a good deal of time pick up items that contribute to our team on this front.
Using Dragonage Inquisition as a base for what we can expect from Mass Effect I think we can imagine what that might look like. The gathering of items can be effective for giving the players continual rewards during game play but it can also work the exact opposite.
Not every players will want to run from map edge to map edge picking up bits and pieces of a puzzle and in those instances will that player then feel outclassed by the combat of the game? Or worse still, will it not matter one way or another? Meaning, you can complete the game faster, or at the same pace by completing forgoing these additional tasks. Giving them no purpose in the grand scheme of things?
After thinking about the resource gathering it’s a natural step to talk about the RPG mechanics. Traditionally Mass Effect has been considering a “New Age RPG”. With a mix of real time, and turn based, pause functions for issuing commands. Also the changing and upgrading of equipment to suit your needs. However, time has whittled the series’s RPG elements down to all but the bare minimum. Giving it more of an action game feel rather than role-playing.
This is a big fear moving into Andromeda. That in order to bring in a larger audience the deeper elements of RPG game play will have to be removed, thus creating a more or less, generic experience regardless of your personal choice within the system. Also like forcing everyone to drive the same car, but allowing you to choose the color. It’s my opinion that this is a natural progression for every series who’s publisher cares more about the short term gain rather than the long term staying power of the product. A sad but realistic truth to the gaming industry.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Well as we come to what I can consider the end of this second brainstorming session on Mass Effect Andromeda we still beg the question, is it going to be any good? And to that I can really only give the most obvious answer. Yes it will be good, but no it won’t raise the bar for the Mass Effect series. No it won’t set a new standard for open world gaming, and no it won’t be the answers that the Mass Effect fans deserve.
Instead of all that we are likely to get a fun, but surface level experience clearly produced with the intention of squeezing more revenue out of the already widely advertised series. Just like comic book movies, remakes, and sequels bank off the already established name they inherit, Andromeda will follow that example.
We may never get an experience of Mass Effect like we had with the first two games. Even Mass Effect 3 was hit hard by the desire to drain the wallets of players rather than create a masterpiece. And for that reason I don’t believe Andromeda will be any better. If only worse than what we were put through in the final moments of Mass Effect 3.
But I may be wrong. Maybe Bioware shook off the shackles placed on them by their tyrannical overlords at EA. Maybe they are going to deliver us an experience on pay with that first Mass Effect and Dragonage game and redeem themselves as being one of the most powerful forces in game development. Instead of the develops who choked in the final quarter and gave their magnum opus to a team who couldn’t recognize good work if they were slapped in the face with it.
Only time will tell, and as today is launch day, that time is running short. So as Commander Shepard would say; “Keep the hope alive people.”