Archive for the ‘spoiler’ Category

Most companies manage/intend to improve their games in some way over time, so I absolutely wanted to play Transistor because I thought Bastion was interesting. For whatever reason, I have to say I liked Transistor less than Bastion. The great graphics are back, but everything else feels almost like a step back. They definitely tried to do something here, there are a lot of powers that can be used as active or passive abilities and the mix is up to the player, but it didn’t engage me much. I just picked some combo that seemed to work and stuck with it for the entire game.

What I couldn’t get into at all was the story (although I really wanted to – at first when it still showed promise), which probably explains my lack of motivation to get through this. I don’t think I would have finished it, if it wasn’t relatively short. Even now I have no idea what it was supposed to be about. I waited for some twist or explanation that never came. The characters are (trapped?) in a seemingly digital world, but how they got there, or what their origins are, remained a mystery. I tried to come up with explanations of my own, to make some sense of this at least, but I never like it, if something has so many holes, that the story will only work if I fill in all the blanks myself. I’m not willing to tell a story to the storyteller who I’ve paid to tell me a story. :P

Anyway, the game goes into its version of NG+ right away after finishing and all I thought was HELL NO. The game really overestimates how good its gameplay actually is (this ain’t XCOM). And I think I’ve said enough about the story (I don’t care if there is a super-awesome fan explanation somewhere that elaborates on everything).

So yeah, I wouldn’t buy it again. Sorry. Their new game is a party based RPG as far as I know, this already sounds so much more to my liking. :)

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Prey

I liked Prey a lot, I especially enjoyed it more than the last Deus Ex (although that one wasn’t a bad game either) – this is the kind of game this Prey is most similar to. It has such an odd genesis, resulting in having nothing in common with the other Prey, which is fine, I guess.

Prey is an unrelenting exploration game (is the term metroidvania applicable here?). It has a ton of gameplay systems and most of them are working very well, most other games don’t even have half as many. Inventory, hacking, repairing, recycling, crafting, turrets, sneaking, gunplay, zero gravity, scanning device, accessible computers, toy gun, upgradeable suit, upgradeable scanner, multiple supernatural abilities, countless objects are movable/destructible, character progression through neuromods and probably more I’ve forgotten.
I cannot even imagine how one would pitch this. It sounds like someone just trying to throw in all the buzz words. But they actually delivered on all of it. Quite rare. And it’s still fun too. :D

The ending made me mad at first, but there was “another ending” after the ending credits, which redeemed the game. :P If the first stop would have been the actual ending, this would have sucked so hard. :D I don’t know if they intended to mess with the player this way. Probably.

Because I’m so slow it took me 52 hours to complete this (according to Steam at least).
Honestly the game was great, I can only complain about the bugged Kirk Remmer quest. This bug is in the game since release and they should have fixed this by now.

PS: The player can somewhat protect turrets with the GLOO cannon and I feel like an idiot for not realizing this during my playthrough. It says everything about this game that there always is another way to do something. :)

I already thought during playing Mars: War Logs, that their games are essentially like RPGs BioWare would have done 10 years ago, before they “pivoted” towards a focus on DLC, microtransactions and tacked on multiplayer – just on a smaller budget. That’s not even saying that everything in this game necessarily feels “cheap” or “small”. There are a lot of solid RPG systems in this (fighting especially has improved since MWL) and they obviously did motion capture. The movement of the characters ingame, but also especially during fights in cut scenes, look rather impressive at times (or maybe even all the time). IMHO this is done better than what e.g. MEA had to offer – a game which probably cost a thousand times more money. :P

The “cuts” are once again most noticeable wherever it comes to the story and the characters. While I’m usually not looking for mere padding in games, elaborating on a few things here and there really could have helped Bound by Flame. Too often, developments between characters are so sparse, it’s hard to overlook how abrupt e.g. companions jump through “the motions” that are typical for games of this genre.
The game is very detailed in other areas. All the numerous weapons (swords, axes, hammers, daggers, crossbows) look fairly distinct, unique even.

This is also why I was never a huge fan of enormous game worlds. It can work out (of course), but all too often a bigger game world only creates the problem of having to fill it with something (which in turn will too often lead to garbage/filler content) or there will be only this giant dead space for the player to be bored in.
If I would have been involved in this game’s development, I would have opted for a smaller game world. Bound by Flame doesn’t really allow for much in its areas except for killing enemies and finding some loot here and there. There is a lot of traversing through huge areas in this game. Thankfully the ability to run really fast was included. It would have been so much worse without this.

In the end I enjoyed this game a lot more than MEA (having already mentioned it and all), because at least the world felt original and their heart seems to be in the right place. Who knows how great this game could have been, with more quests/side-quests and more depth for its characters (it’s not like they can’t do good/memorable characters, Fatso comes to mind). Oh and I would have been okay with a lower difficulty level. I’m not one of these Dark Souls masochists and Bound by Flame can get relatively hard in some areas. I wouldn’t want to play this on its highest difficulty setting. But people are different, naturally. I can imagine some people would like to check this out because of that.

I really want to play Technomancer now. I heard it still has some of the same problems of their other two games, but since I can live with them, I’m almost certain that I would have fun with that game too. Maybe I also should check out if they are working on a new title. :)

Ever since I first played Baldur’s Gate I and II (which was roughly a 1000 years ago, I believe), I thought there was this weird disconnect between the ending of BGI and the beginning of BGII. I ends on a high with Sarevok defeated and being a hero and all, then II just has you waking up in a dungeon. Now I perfectly understand that the show must go on and all, but it felt like something was missing there. And why was Imoen a mage now? So when Siege of Dragonspear was announced, aiming at telling what went on between the 2 games, all I thought was FINALLY. This made so much sense to me. The only thing I haven’t learned during Siege of Dragonspear, was why Jaheira has a different character portrait in BGII. Clearly being a widow doesn’t become her.

Despite my interest, I managed to hold off on playing SoD until now. The campaign is pretty good and it’s weird to play a new infinity engine game after a whole lifetime. I still had my BGEE saves so I could jump right in. The game itself has gotten at least one new patch in the meantime as well, so it looks a little bit more modern now than it did last time I played. The new journal is probably the biggest difference. It even has a text search now. That’s really cool.

The campaign kept me interested the whole time, I didn’t play any other games until I completed it. I especially liked that they made it matter a lot which characters were in the party. They didn’t just make remarks this time or had a lot of banter, they could also offer their respective skills in dialogs. It makes so much sense, why wouldn’t a party with a specific cleric/healer be able to offer better help than one without?

Other than that it’s mostly what one would expect, but who cares, as long as its told well? And it does do a good job of answering all these questions I had. Mostly. At the very least it wraps things up much more nicely than the original releases did. That by itself is all the reason one needs to play this.

I finished this game (and several others I apparently couldn’t be bothered to add here) like 6 months ago after stopping to play it for almost a year because my PC (or its mainboard) died and for whatever reason I wouldn’t continue right away after replacing my faulty hardware. I even added Blackgate months ago, despite playing it after Arkham Knight.
All the technical difficulties really threw a heavy shadow over my experience with this game. And technically I played this game after it would do little more on PC than this, this or this.

It’s too bad really, because BAK doesn’t deserve a negative view anymore (the production maybe might still, but no longer the actual game and content). The game runs really smooth now and is less buggy than Origins, which received even less love long term. In Origins they never even bothered to fix the buggy cape.

The entire Arkham series might just be a singular extravaganza. At least for me. I’m sure other players can come up with other long-running game series which might qualify/compare, but these have been stellar since the beginning. I’m not surprised that problems arose when they were trying to go THIS big. It’s the curse of the sequel, that no one ever tries to go smaller and be more focused.

Despite this being rather saturated at this point, I still hope the Arkham fighting style and exploration isn’t going to vanish. It’s a damn shame no one considers catwoman a strong enough license to give her her own game. This would also be the ideal scenario in which they could go smaller. Just do a heist game with various missions. It wouldn’t even require a large open world. Building several solid missions would do it for me.

The bat tank/mobile was the target of a lot of criticism and ridicule. I liked driving it. Of course it was stupid that every riddler-room suddenly required it, but at least they tried to properly integrate it into the game. They made it more than just a stupid gimmick and I appreciate that, I have seen games do a lot worse in this regard.

The graphics are amazing, to this day I think this is the most detailed and beautiful open world city every created (for a game). This is probably a huge part of why Telltale Batman looks so horrible. In comparison, one might think there are at least 10 years between those games, although Telltale Batman was released after BAK. Telltale seriously should have used THIS engine for their game. Since both of them had the Batman license, this should have been possible somehow.

Although the Arkham games sadly never were as strong story-wise as I would have wanted them to be (they didn’t even bring back Dini for BAK), it was still very cool that they tried hard to give everything an ending that they ever touched in the prior games. This sure as hell was yet another tremendous task. In gaming, even big franchises usually get shitty endings or even none (if this makes much of a difference). So I’m happy for every exception.

The super short DLC story bits taking place before or after the main story of BAK IMHO only demonstrate, how they could have done significantly more with this engine and world. Why not add a bigger adventure with another character? It seems like a waste. This game would have warranted a proper expansion, think Witcher 3 – Blood & Wine. Actually, now I’m wondering why they didn’t do just that. Even with the debacle of the initial PC release, their cred on the console versions should have been high enough to keep going.

Sefton Hill did confirm they are working on a new project, but there’s no information at this point what this project might be and yet it seems plausible that it will have little to do with the Arkham games. That’s okay though, they deserve a break after developing 3 of them in a row. ;)

PS: BAK probably marks the last game for which I can upload screenshots (or anything), because after all these years my WP space is finally full. :) Glad I didn’t delete all too much just to keep pushing this moment.

Really loved this game and enjoyed it tremendously. Also another prime example what incredible mileage one can get out of great voice acting.

Anyway, the game is about teaming up with a ROM (a robot with true AI) in order to find out what happened to its creator. I know, right? SAY NO MORE.

The game has it all, lots of characters, places multiple solutions and several endings. It even has an epilogue. Finally a game where I can’t complain about an ending being to abrupt!

I’m still wondering what Dana Zane was doing in this game, she was a character in another good game I played a while ago – of course I haven’t done any research, but at first glance these games don’t seem to be from the same dev, so I have no idea how that came to be. It’s quite intriguing though, since I tell myself that I play all these games more or less by coincidence.

The Deadly Tower of Monsters is one of these games, which essentially have only one central narration, but manage to get a lot of mileage out of it regardless. There is even a little bit of Stanley Parable thrown into it here and there. I like it!
The game is built around the idea that a director is recording a commentary track for one of his old movies, which gets a new DVD release.

So this director has a ton of stories to share while playing, but also addresses things the player does. It’s done really well, they have thought of a great many scenarios. While the gameplay and the graphics and the sound are all good, the director and the assistant commenting on everything, is the main event here.

It was actually shocking to me how good the graphics were. Both animation and design were much more imaginative and creative than many AAA games I played in recent history. Finally something that has true memorable and distinctive design and isn’t just some generic outing like a thousand other (therefore) forgettable games.

Without them having to say it outright, I was constantly thinking of Ray Harryhausen, tons of the monsters moved/were animated exactly like beasts from his movies. They nailed that stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone even trying anything like that in a game. I had to wonder if it’s harder to animate something that looks like “stop-motion model animation” in the Unreal engine, than it is to do it like everyone else.
It took me only 5 hours to complete the game and I’m really happy I haven’t missed this fun gem.

Ghost 1.0 has the same name problem, I thought, Dex has. Searching for these games is a nightmare and I can only imagine this hurt their success. They are both really great and I think I’m growing fond of this metroidvania type of game. I can’t say I’ve played many, but pretty much every one I have played was a huge hit to me. Dust comes immediately to mind, which is another of my all time favorites.
Ghost 1.0 has good gameplay, good music, nice graphics, good controls, great story and characters honestly and… Does a good game need anything more? I don’t think so. It’s all here.
I enjoyed the game a lot, although I suck at it. There’s this rescue mission in the game and it took me ages to complete it (I hate that it’s not possible to save during this long mission, it has to be completed in one session). Maybe it’s supposed to be hard, because the menu allows the player to skip it, but geez… I had to do some scenes like 10 times before I was able to pass them. :D In a worse game this might have kept me from finishing it.
The game offers more smaller side-missions after the main story is done. These shorter missions (which have to be unlocked during the main campaign) are also very brutal as far as I’ve played them so far.
The game definitely lacks whatever type of frame-limiter. It runs with ~2700 FPS, which seems like a slight overkill…

Hard West is kind of between XCOM and Valkyria Chronicles, as far as the story (or a story) is concerned and uses a “choose your own adventure” vehicle to tell it, it resembles a little bit the interactive slides in Pillars of Eternity. The gameplay is straight XCOM though. I wish the tactical battles would steal even more from XCOM, since there aren’t that many disruptive events within a mission. While the game has a ton of guns (too many almost), there is little else and the guns don’t really differ much, besides their range and damage – so there are usually ~5 guns that fulfill the exact same role. For all the typical Western tropes, this game has no scenes on trains and there are no Gatling guns. In that regard it’s the opposite of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, which obviously constantly has Gatling guns. :P
The story is told in several loosely connected and separate campaigns. Nothing carries over between those campaigns, so all earned gear is gone again. I mean, ultimately you only need the gun called “the judge”, but still. :P
There is also no leveling for individual characters. All characters can be equipped individually (there are also cards which can buff stats), but all this stuff can be given to whomever.
The graphics are good and the sounds are alright alright alright, but for everyone who likes the old west and XCOM, this doesn’t matter all that much anyway, since there is no competition here. I’m glad I played it and I had fun, but it won’t become an obsession like XCOM 2.

PS: After Mad Max this is only the second game to have darker screenshots for whatever crazy reason. The brightness in the game itself while playing it was ALRIGHT.

Funny thing is, after playing Torment, I thought why not go back and play Planescape: Torment again? So I installed it, with all the mods and whatnot, approximately 1 day after I did that, this Enhanced Edition was announced. So I was obviously going to wait for it to come out. GOG even gave a discount to everyone who already had PST in their account…

As if that wasn’t a lucky break, it got even much better, because I only played PST once, like 10 years ago and I’ve forgotten A LOT about it. So there I was, playing this game about an amnesiac, who sometimes has flashbacks, as a sort of amnesiac who had flashbacks about his first playthrough. THIS is probably the ideal way to experience this game!

Story, characters, quests – all totally hold up. I can even say, at this point, this game was way ahead of its time, since there are games now which fail to pull off some elements as good as Torment did it 18 years ago.
I can only criticize the ending and the bit leading up to it. The game starts with enormous amounts of text (which is good because the writing is almost always quite remarkable – better than many current games, not kidding) for everything, so much in fact, that the ending just feels rushed in comparison – it might not have been as noticeable in a lesser game. I really wish it could have been elaborated upon a bit more.

Sure, it’s possible to piece the most important parts together, but again, in comparison with the detailed rest of the game, it’s “short”. It really made me wanna read the book, in hopes of reaching a deeper insight, but of course it’s not really available anymore. So scratch that. A nice moment like the one at the ending of Witcher 2 (a huge/long conversation about everything that happened in the game takes place :D), really would have been welcome here.

The EE itself is rather well done, I mean… full text search for the journal? Hello? It’s like a dream come true! It’s amazing (tab-highlighting is the best!). They introduced several features I was hoping for, all without really taking anything away (but to play it safe, they added options to shut down all the new stuff). It’s without a doubt the best way to experience PST now. It always pains me a little to say this, because I don’t want to undermine all the tremendous work all the modders have done over so many years – it’s beyond the shadow of a doubt their merit as well, that these games are still alive after all these years and yet there are just some things even all the mods couldn’t improve.

I had a single issue with this EE, the game would crash when opening the map screen in several locations (thankfully the game auto-saves with every map transition). This is definitely something I hope they can still fix. I could outright reproduce it in the drowned nations and it happened in inner curst and on the baator map too. In the hive, for example, it never happened, although I used the map there a thousand times. Other than that, this thing seemed to be rock-solid.

GOG Galaxy counted 49,5 hours, while Steam counted 63 hours for my Torment: Tides of Numenera playthrough. Of course these numbers aren’t exact, since I sometimes let them running without actively playing, but obviously they aren’t so far off that I could say Tides of Numenera was shorter (something I heard repeatedly which is why I’m considering this as debunked now).

PS: The thing with the screenshots is true about this game too, I was so immersed, that I forgot all about taking any, which is why I now have none of many interesting areas…

I’d definitely see TP as one of the games “we” owe to crowd-funding. Games of this nature just aren’t the norm, you know, with a little bit of character and all that. I’m just always wondering if this is clicking in any meaningful way with broader audiences. As a backer, I’m pleased with this game, this game did a lot for the people who get all the references actually, but you certainly can’t get rich off of ME. But then again, I already got what I wanted. But then again, if I want to play a sequel… I’m just hoping they get to do another one, doesn’t even have to be a direct sequel. These guys seem to be at their best if they just get to develop a true original, instead of being tied to whatever franchise.

Honestly, I don’t have all that much to say about the game itself. The only thing I absolutely want to point out, is that the puzzles weren’t as hard as they were in those old games. IMHO. There were quite a few, but they were always fair. The majority of obstacles were designed in a way, that had me knowing what I had to do on top of knowing WHY. From that position it’s never THAT hard to solve a puzzle. I never had to resort to combining countless items in sheer desperation, just hoping for something to happen at some point. That’s something I did all the time way back then. Well I did.

Another good sign for me is, that I took almost no screenshots, because playing the game had me so consumed, that I forgot all about that.

What? I’m supposed to throw in some criticism? No I’m not, I can do whatever the hell I want to here. :P But okay. The only thing that is at the top of my head, is how characters describe the world. There are 5 playable characters in TP and except for some unique situations, every character says the exact same thing when looking at whatever. This really disappointed me. The characters are very different people and there is no chance in hell they would describe anything 1:1. It’s possible to explain that away, even in the game’s own logic, but still. I would have loved it if Ray and Reyes, for example, would have had their own sentences.

It’s possible this has to do with budget, but The Cave also had these long stretches which were identical for all characters, no matter which you took inside – in other words this might just be a Ron Gilbert thing. I don’t know.

Continuing in this line of thought, it’s odd that these 5 characters kind of work together, although they never talked to each other outside the very ending, in which they suddenly start, I wish there would have been much more of that. Most of them never even meet until later in the game, so they shouldn’t even know each other, let alone collaborate. It would have been great if the story somehow would have offered an explanation for that. Sure, games back then certainly didn’t have anything like that either, back then people were happy they got to play more than one character, but this is certainly one of the characteristics of older games that didn’t need to be conserved for today. Especially in adventure games which are supposed to have a focus on story and such. Games like Oxenfree get a lot of mileage out of nicely written dialogs and character stuff, is all I’m saying.

But these are all minor nitpicks of course, so everyone who’s into this genre should have a good time. And it’s not as if everything is the way it was during these earlier days. There are more than enough moments, which underline how much can be done, even if the graphics appear to be this oldschool at first glance. I really loved how Ransom’s trailer “moves” depending on how Ransom shifts his weight. The game has several of these nice little “tricks” to offer.

Will this game have an effect like Monkey Island did? Probably not, but I never expected it to in the first place (this might sound harsher than it is supposed to; one of my awesome skills). The devs have also given the game great after launch support. I personally didn’t encounter any bugs during my complete playthrough, but they quickly fixed everything that could be a problem for someone anyway. :)

tl;dr I wonder if they intended to sort of redo Mass Effect 1, or if it was some accident. Mass Effect 1, in all of its wonky and sluggish glory, sure had its faults, but it also had a soul and suggested vast potential. It made people dream. That’s why many people, including myself, liked it. Mass Effect: Andromeda might merely be reminiscent of Mass Effect 1’s soul than offer one of its own, but I’ll take it (it’s the JJ Abrams age [flashier than the original in some regards, but adds overall nothing new which happens to somehow cheapen the experience, at least for some] after all). Was probably an accident. :P A lucky one.

And now, my dear 0 to 1 readers, please enjoy my unedited (I promise), just typed down, full text:

I’ve read several good/true articles about Mass Effect: Andromeda, but they still seemed to not fully realize the one, most glaring and obvious thing about this game: EA remade Mass Effect 1. Mass Effect: Andromeda is to Mass Effect 1, what Star Wars: Episode VII is to Star Wars: Episode IV. It’s a soft reboot. The Normandy is now called Tempest, the Citadel is now the Nexus (honestly, running around in the huge Nexus and Ark segments could not possible feel more like the Citadel from ME1, they even have these tram sequences which fill in for the elevator rides :D) and the Mako is now the Nomad. These things barely look different. It’s a different take to the degree, that it seems perfectly plausible, that only different drafts were used, from art which was created back then for Mass Effect 1.

The elements Mass Effect 1 is remembered by the most, are a ton of wonky bits and pieces such as the inventory (you had to clear it out a lot and it needed way too much micromanaging) and especially the Mako drive sections on whatever planet. Those are, let’s say: unforgettable. :D Lots of people still (myself included) loved the game for its potential, even if it was never fully realized.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is seriously the 2017 version of that, in a more sluggish engine (this game suffers from not sticking to Unreal, shame on EA). :D
And yes, I think this is such a nice thing to say about a game which tried so hard to be nothing more than a skin for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I was so seriously let down and disappointed by DAI, it’s painful. I never really regretted buying a game before. But then why isn’t MEA as bad and as frustratingly disappointing? The reason for that is gameplay. In DAI the whole gameplay consisted out of holding one button down when there was a fight (because of the ranged attacks of my mage I was at least spared to awkwardly run around, this one button down-holding is even worse with a melee fighter) and waiting for it to finally end (Atari 2600 era games were more exciting to play) and picking Elfroot between fights. This too is the nicest way in which I can still describe Dragon Age: Inquisition. :P All the awesome lore was wasted on this one.

Mass Effect: Andromeda on the other hand at least has solid gunplay, which next to everyone should like, who is into third person shooters generally (I like this concept). It is also heavily supported by interesting abilities which are actually fun to use. While the biotic charge (easily my favorite ability from Mass Effect) sadly feels different here than it did in Mass Effect 3, it’s still awesome to flash through an encounter like this. I can’t even think of a game in this genre, which offers the same. This fact, of gameplay that is actually fun, also includes the driving around. Again, in Dragon Age: Inquisition the mounts were total crap, because they were only slightly faster than being on foot and it also canceled out all the party banter – the only thing that made walking around for hours (to pick Elfroot) barely tolerable. The Mako, uh – NOMAD on the other hand is a lot faster than walking and has some options like jump jets. Again, FUN. The Nomad also doesn’t forbid party banter. Come to think of it, the Mako back in 2007 didn’t either! How did they manage to forget this lesson for DAI?

The freedom of movement has never been better in a Mass Effect game. The character now supports quick, actually helpful, dashes and the jump jet is a lot of fun. It’s also so appropriate for this setting.
So even if there are a lot of insulting faces and facial animations, bugs (too bad EA couldn’t afford another 3 months of beta testing), badly optimized engine, too much MMO-esque collecting shit […] at least the game in between is actual fun to play. Something they had completely forgotten to implement in DAI.

It also tremendously helps to imagine, that these zones are closer to what they originally wanted to build, when they could only do these barren landscapes in Mass Effect 1, planets which only differed by having different colors (well mostly). On most of these (side-) planets in ME1, you couldn’t do much more than pick up the same 2 things (Tali had to open all of these damn probes :P), it helps remembering how it was back then, when one is about to complain here.

Still, I guess now it’s time to talk about the main bad guy here, the root of all evil, the mother of mediocrity. And that is, to the surprise of no one, “open-world”. Unless you happen to be CD Projekt RED (or maybe Rocksteady before Arkham Knight), open-world is almost generally the cause for an unmissable decline in overall quality of content. It might be a good idea for some games like GTA, but in general you have either quantity or quality. The fact that “every” dev now tries to shove an “open-world” into their game, whether it makes sense or not, prevents many of these games to be anywhere near as good as they might have been otherwise (I’m skipping the debate here, if these several different zones even qualify as open-world or what brand of open-world those are then).

If I would have been the game director on MEA, I probably would have cut 50% of its content (although MEA entirely lacks actual places/cities like Novigrad in Witcher 3! Why not build something astonishing like that?!?). I’m not even kidding – I don’t like obvious padding. I meant hate. Mass Effect 2 was criticized too (by some), for abandoning some of the ideas of Mass Effect 1, but they were only being realistic, about what they were able to do and what not. As a result, we might have gotten a game that might have felt smaller in scope, but at least their focus made the content we did get pretty good. To me, Mass Effect 2 was their Empire Strikes Back. Best characters in the whole series and there were actual stakes, since everyone (including Shepard) could die. We are not seeing anything like that anymore.

It’s not just that squad mates in MEA can’t even leave you and it doesn’t matter what you say to them, they also recruit themselves. That is so weird. They just show up and declare themselves crew, without giving the player any options. Mass Effect 1 could be played from start to finish without even recruiting some of the people! The mere existence of that option is awesome. This must also be the sole thing DAI did actually better than MEA, because at least there you can send several of your potential companions to hell. Wouldn’t it be interesting for the pathfinder to end up alone, if the player messes things up or simply wants it that way? Yes, so we obviously can’t have that!

MEA isn’t exactly as buggy as some describe it, I had maybe 2 (minor) quests which were outright broken and couldn’t be properly completed. It’s more about the general unpolished feeling of… almost everything. It’s a very clear case of a game which would have needed a beta of at least another 3 months, easily. The craziest thing that happened to me during gameplay, was when I was driving up a mountain with the Nomad, while also using the booster. Suddenly I was just standing there on foot with my companions and the Nomad was gone. It was so bizarre. Thankfully there is fast travel in this game. I would have died out there in this desert on foot otherwise.

What actually drags the whole game noticeably down, is how sluggish gameplay feels overall (Andromeda shouldn’t have shipped like this). Other than what some videos might want people to believe, MEA isn’t that much of a major bug infestation as many other games. This game is far from Arkham Knight for example. And yet, there is constantly something happening, usually minor, that reminds you that they could have done much more QA on this game. Or should have. Even if they would have done 3 more months of beta instead of releasing, they would have had their hands full. That much is painfully obvious. What’s aggravating, is that Mass Effect would have sold 3 months from now too, just with much nicer reviews/reception. There is such a long list of glaring glitches in this game, I don’t even want to type it down anymore. It’s 10+ things everyone will encounter who plays this for just a few hours. I wanted to type it down, but I can’t now. I didn’t even try to make screenshots of the problems in this game, and yet I accidentally captured a lot of them, simply because this doesn’t need any kind of special bug hunting.

The real tragedy here is what I call by now “the BioWare problem”, because they are known for hardly fixing anything, which means if a game releases in a bad shape, this is basically how it’s going to stay. Some other companies do a “Director’s Cut” of their games a year later and MEA is a prime example of a game which could desperately need that. But none of that is going to happen ever, instead the game ends with announcing the next DLC – they are going to sell for more money.
Quarians, which are usually a fan favorite, are very prominently absent from this game, but just before the campaign ends, you receive a transmission from their ark, which is really nothing but a very thinly veiled announcement of the Quarian ark DLC. Which will probably cost at least another 15 bucks. If not 20.

A few more things about the potentially strongest part of the game, the combat: Adding the jump jet was a great idea, no doubt. It’s an ideal fit for such an action game, although it makes it harder to overlook, that outside of combat, e.g. during running around on the Nexus, walking can be a little bit like walking in water – I wish controls would be faster, more responsive; even ME3 was more slick in this regard.

The various powers/abilities alongside the now trusty guns make it a lot of fun to fight all the various enemies. The guns are still the same ones which were introduced as early as in Mass Effect 2 in 2010. That’s not a negative for me, since I like them (the weapons are also the sole noteworthy “loot” in the game, there is nothing else unique/of interest to find). It’s kinda cool to come back to them and have something familiar wait for you. The various weapons, which were really fleshed out in Mass Effect 3 were always a strong point for the game. It’s about guns and conversations after all. Especially in ME3 all guns had these distinct features of sound and behavior, not just their looks to make them memorable. Of course they also added a lot of new weapons, although those haven’t gripped me as much. A few weapons out of the ME3 arsenal seem to be missing now, sadly. I immediately noticed that the M-12 Locust seems to be gone, which disappointed me, it was a favorite weapon of mine in ME2. For some crazy reason they nerfed it in ME3 into an almost useless state (which also contradicted the ME2 lore, that it was this super-powerful weapon and therefore rare collector’s item) – at least as far as the MP was concerned.

Another very weird choice/bad call was made, when they removed the SMG category in MEA. Yeah – SMGs are now “pistols”. That’s… why? I don’t get it. Of all the things they could have cut, this is what they chose? Maybe that’s part of why some weapons like the Locust vanished, since they are so clearly not pistols. As fun as the combat mostly is, I couldn’t help but notice, that guns usually don’t “feel” powerful, because they do not have any effect on enemies, except have the game subtract the damage values if you hit them correctly. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? In ME3 there were ragdoll effects going on left and right and heads were ripped off almost constantly. Did they save money on animations? Is this a ratings thing? Na, saving money sounds more likely. :D

But speaking of animations, one of the things I loved about ME3MP, was that all the various characters had their very own dodge animations. Didn’t matter if you played as an Asari, a Vorcha or a Human. All of them had their own lore-friendly animations. That was great! In the multiplayer of MEA however, all characters seem to have (obviously I haven’t unlocked all of them yet) the identical jump jet-dodge. Sad! It cut out a lot of flavor. Speaking of MP. Something feels a little bit off in comparison to ME3MP. It really shouldn’t, since it is an almost direct copy of it. There were hardly any changes made. The jump jet is welcome here as well, although it is surprisingly not as necessary as it is in the single player, since there are not really any obstacles to overcome. In MP it’s purely there for fun. The best new addition to MP however is, that you can now mute these bastards, who hear loud music while playing and don’t close their mikes. Or who do even worse things like singing or screaming suddenly. Once I had a guy fight with his girlfriend while he was playing ME3MP. Also, a lot of people were on the phone during their sessions. It’s inconceivable how crazy some people are. Finally I don’t have to rip my headset off any longer and play in total silence just to protect my sanity. :P

So what’s left to say? I liked how quests often used all gameplay elements the game has to offer. Driving, shooting, scanning and the galaxy map. I even kind of liked the Space-Sudoku, at least there’s something besides shooting and walking/driving (I’m the one person on the planet who didn’t hate the minigames in ME2 for the same reason). Some quests contain following a trail on the galaxy map and are ended by landing somewhere and fight it out there. That’s great, to tie it all together like that. As far as I’m concerned, I would have loved it if they would have gone much farther with that. I would have liked one or two missions in which you would have to sneak in somewhere, for example. Or maybe even just as an alternative, with different rewards then.
What they didn’t do with the galaxy map, is the starting of new quests. Back in ME1 it was possible to find new quests like this, by scanning something. All the MEA galaxy map ever does, is to offer resources or XP. All quests are given/started on the Nexus or one of the 5 zones. Meaning, you’ll never find anything interesting while scanning whatever star system which doesn’t have already an open quest or a planet to land on. All that’s going to happen, is sitting through the beautiful and super-long planet to planet flight animations. Each time.

The main story is just kinda there, it’s not really endearing besides offering more interesting levels to play through (and have your squad mates say contextual things – the best story mission in the game is probably Liam Kosta’s loyalty mission because it’s FUN). The story is basically, a bad guy shows up and then you kill him, that’s it (he isn’t even scanned, although I’m sure I scanned everything else in the game :P). If you think you could subsume every story like that, you are not as right as you like to believe, because in this scenario, that’s actually it. There are countless Star Trek episodes with a deeper and more thought-provoking plot. I don’t know why they couldn’t just steal something (they usually don’t have any problems with that). There are so many solid sci-fi stories out there. The story isn’t emotional either, which would be one method to make even a mediocre story memorable, or at least more enjoyable at the time. It doesn’t help that, even here, they couldn’t stop themselves from making the PC a special messiah/savior again. It’s always unnecessary, but especially so in a setting like this. The pathfinder is just a glorified scout essentially, that’s seriously it and yet everyone acts like they just met god. It’s crazy and off-putting. Why is BioWare even doing this? Do they believe that all their players are narcissists or people with very low self-esteem who are desperately looking for something like this? It does not compute.

The most intriguing story piece for me was, that the Andromeda Initiative was secretly funded by a mysterious benefactor and that Jien Garson was actually murdered and not killed in an accident – which means it was probably somehow tied to the former. Of course all of this is completely dropped and never resolved. So maybe this is just another hook for a future paid-DLC like the Quarians (I hope they burn in hell if it is), or it’s just a red herring. Either way, it’s a serious letdown. Making the whole game/story about finding out what the true purpose of the Andromeda Initiative was, would have been so much more thrilling already, than anything in the story we’ve gotten instead. You could even have revealed that the bad guy was the benefactor and he only founded the Andromeda Initiative to have his victims come to him willingly, that this was his technique to get a hold of new test subjects. Nobody would have missed people then, because officially they wouldn’t have gone missing like people who were kidnapped outright, it could have been presented as a slightly smart plan. That would have been such a cool twist and it also would have helped to make the bad guy more relevant instead of being little more than a placeholder for the circumstance that there “has to be” some villain (they even have a Darth Maul in this game, the main-villain has a sidekick named “the sword” who has zero lines in the game and only shows up to be killed – silently). 5 years for this non-plot…

Before I forget it, I have scanned every single star system/planet in Helios and yet it only says 96% at the very end (all the individual systems show 100%). I wonder why that is. Does this mean the final 4% can only be completed by buying additional DLC?

btw: If anyone found it a little odd, that every single Batman villain was always in the same part of town Batman was in in the Arkham games, will really love that “every relative of every character” from the Mass Effect series mysteriously joined the Andromeda Initiative so they could be encountered by the pathfinder in Andromeda. :P Conrad Verner’s sister, Zaeed Massani’s son…

PS: Fighting the architects was much more fun than fighting the dragons in DAI, although it’s obviously the exact same thing. It’s not forbidden to be brave, to be original, to do fresh and maybe even exciting new things you know. No idea why I just said that. :)

PPS: The squad mates are nothing to write home about. You could mention them on a blog somewhere, if you must. I guess. Although Cora (probably the most normal-looking face in the game), Peebee/Not-Sera and Drack/Not-Wrex were a lot more likeable than people were lead to believe initially. It’s a little bit jarring though, that they have people like Natalie Dormer in the game and gave them hardly anything profound to say. The Ryders sound a little bit generic to me, no memorable voices who stand out the way Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale did.

Speaking of the Ryders, both male and female Ryder always exist in the game, they probably stole… took inspiration for this from Fallout 4, although it is done better here, since you can play the other one (you didn’t pick at the start) at some point. That was a nifty idea (the game could have needed so much more of), so congrats to who… WHOMever came up with it. :)