Bioware’s Open Environments Have Failed (Pt.3 Andromeda)

Ah…Andromeda.  The galaxy with no Shepards, no Wrex, no Liara, and certainly no Garrus.  It’s a whole new world full of infinite possibilities, and yet not.  Some six hundred years after the end of Mass Effect 3, we have the Ryder clan aboard a capital ship named The Ark (so original) being suddenly awakened by a mysterious thing named The Scourge.  I know, it sounds like a made-for-TV SyFy movie.

FemRyder with friends.

We’re a long way from home and have very few creature comforts remaining.  All of humanity as well as Asari, Krogan and Turian lives are in jeopardy.  What is a girl to do?  Goof around in some ancient ruins and shack up with a fully realized AI inside your mind, of course. 

Aside: I found SAM to be incredibly annoying and both omni-present and all-powerful.  It was to the point that Ryder was just a host body for a unshackled AI that really had all the power.  What kind of role-playing nuance is that?

That aside, your father is the Pathfinder tasked with shepherding humanity +others to the new galaxy of Andromeda.  Oh wait no, your father isn’t the Pathfinder because HE DEAD.  Yeah, really early on, your father bites the big one and you become Pathfinder.  Why?  Because it was his dying declaration.  You’re unproven, incapable, but now you’ve got a AI shackled to your mind.  LET’S GO KILL SOME ALIEN BADDIES.

Alright, so the story is a little wonky and creative decisions don’t make much sense, this article series is about how the open-world concept has failed Bioware.  Andromeda has several fully-accessible planets which are so large that you’ll spend most of your time in the new Mako named Nomad.  Hurray, the ghost of ME1 past has arrived at last.  

The original pathfinder, your father.

I will admit that these worlds are massive.  Massively empty.  Oft scattered with ruins and rubble, sand or ice dunes just like in Mass Effect 1.  Perhaps Bioware is trying to replicate their formula for their first entry of a new series.  Yeah, it doesn’t work out that well.  The majority of the planets you have access to are wilderness.  In the original Mass Effect trilogy it can be said that we didn’t see the vast majority of the planets they had us visit.  That’s okay though, as spongebob would say, imaginaaaation!  We can infer and imagine what the rest of Feros, Virmire, Omega and even Earth are like, but in Andromeda we are given a land rover and told to explore.

It’s not hard to explore.  It’s tedious. Most of the game’s quests are about raising the viability of a planet to a certain threshold so that it can be livable.  Woohoo?  Mostly, as Ryder, I felt like I was the highest class gopher in all the seven universes.  Go here, find this, get this, now.  After thirty hours of mindless repetitive questing, I started to wonder just how much this game was modeled after Dragon Age: Inquisition.

This open world diluted the overall experience to the point of being able to spend an eight-hour play session without managing to get anything notable done.  Sure, I can craft and fight monsters and level up and talk to my companions.  None of that is meaningful though.  For all this game’s scope, it’s still missing that heart of the original trilogy.  It’s missing a likable MC — and no, SAM does not count — and it’s clearly missing that sense of immediacy that came with tackling the Reapers.  

Nomad travel on Voeld.

For all the time I spent in Andromeda, I only vaguely remember the names of the main foe, including what their motivations were.  Think about this: you traveled on a six-hundred year journey over millions of light years and your first and only intergalactic foe is humanoid is shape.  Wut?  Even the first Mass Effect produced several races that were absolutely not humanoid.  Giant jellyfish even!  But no… you must fight the Kett (yes, I just had to look that up.) They are nasty, hostile and lacking even the most basic sentience for their ground troops.

It’s like the Geth problem except not interesting.  Initially you couldn’t have any contact with the Geth due to them being primarily hostile, yet later on you can befriend and accompany one, furthering your learning of how they came to be.  The Kett are simply a placeholder enemy for when a truly interesting one will show up. Take this quote from the official Wiki: 

“The kett have been shown to be highly militaristic, and look down on other species considering them lesser beings, this can be shown from the fact they experiment on prisoners with genetic traits considered useful and kill prisoners with traits deemed useless and have enslaved angara who are subject to the same treatment.”

Mass Effect Andromeda Wiki

That’s the entirety of what is written regarding Kett culture.  How convenient too, that their lower level minions are essentially mind-controlled.  No need to have them be real people.  They’re just drones in a larger army led by a super evil bad guy named The Archon.  He’s like the leader of a militaristic space-cult some 2.5 million light years from here.  Oh right, that’s exactly what he is.

It’s a big world, it’s a big empty world, it’s a big empty world where you fight mindless personality-less enemies.  These realizations come slowly and starkly as you progress through this masterpiece of failure.  

Well, it’s worth noting that the only other sentient race you meet — as the Kett aren’t primarily sentient — is the Angara. They’re really no different than some subcultures we have on planet Earth.  They’re not only hot-blooded mammals just like Humans, but they also feature Male and Female types.  This just feels lazy and unimaginative.  We traveled all this way to find what?  A “good” race of humanoids and a “bad” race of humanoids.  Oh and that bunch of robots that attack us when we’re planet-side.  Who are they?  What’s the Remnant?  I’ll tell you.  The Remnant is exactly the same as the Forerunners in Halo.  Ancient mythical race with super advanced technology that during dialogue, “shouldn’t be possible, *gasp* omg.”

*sigh* I’ve ripped on this game enough, so let me leave you with a few ways Andromeda does it right. 

  • The graphics are nice.  If we’re going to be on a big dumb empty planet, might as well have it look nice.
  • The combat is both engaging and fun.  Think Destiny with decent AI enemies.
  • In some ways, Ryder makes sense.  If I was awakened after six hundred years in cryo, only to have my father die, I’d be a bad leader too.  

I’ll always remember Andromeda as the “one that bastardized a potent linear formula and set back the series several years in popularity and development.”

Huzzah, we made it through that turd-burger.  Now onto one of my favorite series of all time: Dragon Age.

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