The Witcher 3 is my go-to title when it comes to comparing role-playing games (RPG) in 2017. Honestly, in my opinion, it's the best RPG that has been released for some time and still looks great today. When Mass Effect: Andromeda finally hit the Origin store, I was fairly excited to see what Bioware could do with a clean slate and the power of EA's Frostbite engine. Visually, Andromeda looks stunning, but one cannot simply overlook the sheer number of bugs, glitches and other issues that plague the game.
I've since stopped playing after around 26 hours (according to Origin) and have fired up a new game as Geralt to see how the 2015 title fares against what Bioware released in 2017. The results left me nothing other than stunned. Immediately, while both games are by no means similar, I noticed many differences that left me baffled as to how the company behind Knights of The Old Republic, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect managed to miss the ball, even with a new team.
My Gwent is tired
It doesn't take long to spot just how much of a divide there is between those who rave and enjoy Andromeda and those who absolutely despise it. Whatever reasons either camp may have for their opinions, I'm still on the fence. I can't quite work out whether or not I like Andromeda. It's such a strange experience and is one that makes it difficult for me to continue through the main story. I highly recommend you check out our official review, in which Senior Editor Jez Corden picked up on a few points I raise here:
To put it bluntly, Mass Effect: Andromeda seems like the victim of its own ambitions. The developer, BioWare, cited the likes of The Witcher 3 as the inspiration for its open world and quests, but it very barely reaches beyond Dragon Age Inquisition's grind-heavy, narrative-thin open world areas.
The open world areas, so far, have been dotted with pointless fetch quests, copy-and-pasted formulaic missions, and color-swapped creatures. Don't even get me started on the bugs, hitching, frame-rate issues, and other engine anomalies.
Andromeda is riddled with bugs, even after 1.0.5 was released. Honestly, I couldn't go for more than 20 minutes before noticing some form of glitch. I'm not talking about minor things like texture popping or basic oddities, but actual issues that take you right out of the pathfinding experience. Enemies levitate and remain in a pose, taking damage. Others are inside terrain, firing at you from rocks and seemingly immune to return fire.
Another major issue I had was the dialog, which pulled me right out of the immersion. You've already heard, read and seen the countless "My face is tired" memes, but there are other parts of the script that make you sit back for a second and think, what? Which leads me onto some of the bizarre political pushes that are placed throughout the game. I'm usually one who prefers to separate art from the artist when it comes to politics and beliefs. The same goes for video games.
That being said, something I liked about the older Mass Effect titles was the diverse characters and how players were able to go down the path they wished. Take romance, for example, which allowed you to engage in a variety of formats. Male-to-male, male-to-female, and female-to-female. I applauded the developer for including this functionality without hampering the overall story and dialog. This isn't how I feel about Andromeda, though.
Looking at various scenes and conversations online, it almost becomes awkward, and I don't understand why the developer would make such content appear forced. Some of the dialogs are downright awful and aren't limited to just the romantic paths. Take the following scene, for example:
Not only does it not flow well, I would be slightly concerned if this particular person was heading up a team to locate suitable planets for various species to survive on.
Then there are the animations, the facial expressions, and a strange representation of a human. It's just weird. And it's mainly the humans I have an issue with, while Krogans and other species appear to be just fine. Faces don't feel like they're properly entwined with the conversation, and expressions are sometimes simply blank. Some things have been addressed in a recent patch, and I'm sure Bioware will release a few more to tackle bugs and other issues players have raised, but I don't think any number of patches will fix this game for me.
The Crones of Eos
Returning to The Witcher 3, I'm reminded of the outstanding animation and conversation systems in place. The world feels alive and invites you to explore every nook and cranny. Non-playable characters are interesting, most with some sort of backstory or even a quest line. And all this is set in a war-torn land.
You get a sense of just how dire the situation is for civilians caught up in battle, ravaged by looters and bandits, or left baffled at what to do once The Wild Hunt leaves the village in ruins. When locked into a conversation, facial expressions, the tone of voice, the writing, it all creates a gloomy atmosphere that completes the experience. It feels real. The same can't be said for Andromeda.
I enjoyed the settlement deployment, as well as the mining and exploration in the Nomad, and thought the Scourge to be an interesting anomaly to uncover in the inevitable sequel. Some of the dialogs made me chuckle and a number of guests were thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. I also loved the crafting system (excluding the UI). There are more than enough positive points about Andromeda. At the end of the day, it is a fun game.
I can't bring myself to hate the game, but I also can't love it. This is incredibly frustrating, and not only because I'm a Mass Effect fan, but because I was so intrigued by what could have been. Bioware had formed an entirely new galaxy, opening up the gates to endless creativity. I have hope, though. I'm certain the developer is taking in feedback about the game, and I'd wager we'll see a better second installment in the trilogy.
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