Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Mass Effect: Andromeda

Disappointed but not surprised

I’ve never made a secret of the fact I game to relax. I started out as a console gamer but have moved more and more to the laptop for my gaming needs. Like so many others, I’m a big fan of the Mass Effect trilogy. Also like so many fans, I’ve watched with a jaundiced eye as EA took over Origin and “little things” like customer support seemed to falter.

When Bioware and EA announced, finally, the latest installment in the Mass Effect universe, I was hopeful. The ending of ME3 left me a bit skeptical but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I even pre-ordered the game and played the first 10 hours under Origin Access, there were glitches but, overall, the game was satisfactory, especially since I assumed there would be updates before release.

Let’s face it, there is no excuse for the poor facial animations or the return to character animations that often looked like they had been done 10 years ago. Bioware did listen to the critiques and has tried to correct at least some of it. That continued with the latest patch yesterday. Of course, there is still that ghostly white shine in character’s mouths — although it does seem a bit less than before. But it is too little too late and, apparently, even Bioware admits it.

More on that in a minute.

While Andromeda suffers from some “WTF were they thinking” problems, not only with the facial animations but with dialog that often has you wanting to slam your fist through the screen — and let’s not discuss some of the bad delivery of those lines — the combat is fun and engaging. If you can zone out on the rest of it, there’s a game there worth playing.

Now, back to Bioware.

When it was announced that Bioware’s Montreal studio would be developing Andromeda, a number of us wondered if the powers-that-be had lost their minds. The Montreal studio had not developed a game on its own (at least not that I can remember). Sure, it had worked to develop DLC for ME3 but that’s a far cry from developing a full game, especially one of the studio’s cornerstone games.

Then there were the concerns voiced after Dragon Age: Inquisitions came out. Again, a decent game but not really up to what we’d come to expect from Bioware. There have been other missteps as well, enough to wonder what is going on in the company.

Now, on the heels of the release of the latest patch for Andromeda comes word that Bioware has put any further games in the Mass Effect franchise on hold. There’s no official cancellation but there are no plans to begin working on the next game in the series. Worse, at least for those of us who have purchased Andromeda, there is no sign that Bioware is working on story driven DLC for the game.

At least, if it happens, it is doubtful it will come from the Montreal studio as most of the gave devs there who had worked on Andromeda have been shuffled off to other projects.

And that, my friends, makes me wonder again wtf is going on. If you have a game that is so widely anticipated as Andromeda and then is released with as many problems, why in the hell are you rewarding the team responsible and by keeping them on and moving them to other key projects is rewarding them.

Does this spell the end of Mass Effect in any of its iterations? I don’t know. It sure doesn’t look good right now. Worse, Bioware and EA have breached their trust with their customers with this game. There is a level of expectation they have built with us through the previous Mass Effect games and that has not been met. Even with Inquisition, again not nearly as good as the previous games in that series, we got story driven DLC. The studio didn’t abandon the game or its fans — and that’s what it looks like they are doing now.

Considering the fact I’ve been trying to work with Origin tech support all week and finding them just about as helpful as the tree in my backyard, to say I’m leery of buying anything from them in the future is putting it mildly. And that’s a shame since EA and Bioware have been home for several of my favorite gamin franchises.

Here’s hoping Bioware pulls its head out of its ass before it screws up another franchise — in other words, Star Wars Battlefront II fans, beware. Some of those devs from Andromeda are being moved to your game.

More on ME: Andromeda and future projects

Yesterday, I blogged about my experience and thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda – PC after the first couple of hours of game play. There are a couple of things I want to add to that post, especially since I have seen a number of reviews wondering what the hell Bioware thought when they made the game. Mind you, these reviews are from sites that I usually find myself, if not completely disagreeing with then at least thinking they have taken it a bit too far. Those reviewers and professional players (youtube channels) I respect and who tend to be my go-to when I’m not sure about a game, all seem to agree with my take on the game so far.

If you look at some of the reviews, you’ll see folks bitching about the animation of the faces of a number of the characters. Yes, there is some issue. But to say the animation has taken a step back not only at least one generation but years of game development is to overstate the case. My take is that there are two issues. The first is that some, if not all, of the concerns will be taken care of in a first day/week patch. And let’s face it, we all know there will be such a patch. Very few major games are released now without such a patch happening.

Second, and this dawned on me yesterday as I played for a few minutes, some of the animation — especially when we get a closeup of a character’s face — is like what we had when TV shows were suddenly broadcast in HD. We see every flaw in the complexion, etc. There is one cutscene in particular where we see a closeup of Sarah Ryder and it is all facial pores, imperfections and — well — normal skin. Just not what you’re used to seeing in a video game

Another complaint I’ve seen — and this predates the early access release on Origin — is that Bioware seems to have tried to make Sarah Ryder ugly. Again, who the fuck cares? I’m not particularly fond of everything about the way the default Ryder looks but you know you? She looks normal. Not every video game character, and especially not every female character, has to be a “beauty”. Don’t like the preset character, use the customization options. And get the fuck over yourselves.

Is the game perfect? No. But no game is. Some are better than others. But for most of those who are complaining the loudest, they either haven’t played the game yet or they are like me. They’ve played some or all of the 10 hour early access and, to be honest, that doesn’t get you very far into the game and, if they really thought about it, there will be patches to deal with some of the issues they have brought up. I’m willing to wait and see what happens before passing final judgment.

So far, this Mass Effect feels more like the original Mass Effect in a lot of ways. There are things I like and some that I don’t. I look forward to truly being able to explore the game when it is released and there isn’t a time limit imposed on how long I can play.

In other news, I want to once again thank everyone’s support of Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). I especially want to thank those of you who have left reviews. You guys are great. Please keep the reviews coming. They really help. Now I’m off to work on Nocturnal Rebellion and plot the next Eerie Side of the Tracks title. Well, actually titles. I figured out yesterday the order for the next three titles in the series (one short story as well as the follow-up to Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks) and then the next novel which will be Ciara’s story). The next book, however, after Rebellion will be Victory from Ashes (Honor and Duty series) and that one is already plotted and a very rough draft mostly written. So, busy writer am I, especially since I have a couple of editing projects I’m working on as well. That means I need to get off of the internet and get back to work.

First Impressions

Yesterday, I joined a number of gamers taking advantage of Origin Access to play 10 hours of Mass Effect Andromeda – PC before the game’s official release. No, I didn’t play all 10 hours. For one, I couldn’t download the preview until 1630 hrs. Then I had to take care of a couple of things, be somewhat social with family and, as I said, I had a migraine. So, I played approximately two hours and that is enough to confirm that I am looking forward to playing some more.

I am playing the game on PC. Specifically on a ROG laptop. My video card won’t let me run the game at max specs but, damn, I don’t need to. The game is beautiful and I saw no stuttered or any other video issues.

To save a few minutes, I accepted the default build for Sarah Ryder. When I start a new game and am not on a countdown clock, I will play with the character creation possibilities. I did choose Sarah for two reasons. One, I played mainly as FemShep in the original ME trilogy. For another, the clips I’ve seen of the game leave me thinking Scott Ryder is pretty much a whiner. There is something about his voice I don’t like. So, for this limited play, I went with the character I felt would annoy me the less.

I’ll admit, the opening sequence is longer than I expected. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But when you are watching the clock counting down, every minute of actual game play counts. Once you get through the opening sequence, you learn a little about your character and the mission. I’m going to try to go through the rest without any spoilers. So, no real discussion of plot until the game is out and I’ve managed to play more of it.

The controls are familiar. There are two main changes from the previous games. The first is your scanner. It allows you to scan tech, flora and fauna and the information you gain as a result can have an impact on the game later on. The second change is you have a jetpack. That’s pretty cool and it gives combat a whole new dimension.

There are some easter eggs you come on pretty early into the game as well. When you get to the Nexus, you can find a model of the Normandy SR2. There are also recordings from Liara. No, she isn’t a character in this game — at least not so far and not from what I understand based on interviews I’ve read with Bioware designers and execs.

There are other changes as well and I am reserving judgment on them until I’ve played some more. You aren’t tied to a class like you were in the other games. In other words, you aren’t a Sentinel or Soldier or Engineer, etc. You also can use any weapon, or so I understand. That means the decisions you can add powers/abilities to meet the sort of combat you want. The Paragon/Renegade system is also gone. That means you choose your conversation options more on how you think your character would react to the situation instead of almost automatically choosing the answer that best fits the “nature” you chose for your character.

What is going to be interesting as I progress through the game is seeing how the game developers address the events in the original trilogy. After all, more than 600 years have passed since the end of the trilogy. There is no canon ending, or so I understand. (And I still have issues with the ending of ME3). Still, there are issues that could be mentioned/addressed no matter what your particular ending was.

All in all, I am enjoying the game and am considering doing what I rarely do — pre-ordering the game. More than that, I am considering buying the deluxe edition of it. Not because I care about the multiplayer packs or extra outfits but because I like the score for the game so far and would wind up paying the price difference to buy the soundtrack. No decision yet but that’s the way I’m leaning.

Fair warning, if you are a multiplayer fan, ME:A does have multiplayer and it is getting pretty good reviews so far. However, there are micro-transactions included in it. That’s something I don’t like.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the game so far and will keep playing until my 10 hours are done. The release date is March 20th in the US.

In the meantime, if you need something to read,  Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is now available for download. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered it. Thanks to those of you who are buying it now. I have one more favor to ask. Please leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long. Reviews are one way you can do “word of mouth” to help spread the news about the book.

 

Oooh, shiny

This time every year, gamers turn their attention to E3 to see if there will be new console or handheld gaming system announced and to see what new games are going to be teased. This year is no exception. Even though E3 hasn’t officially started, there have already been some exciting news coming out of the different venues.

Let’s start with EA’s press conference yesterday. I know, I know. EA is an abomination with Origin, etc. It also has some of my most anticipated games. So I guess it is a case of better the devil you know. . . .

Battlefield 1 has been much hyped and anticipated. It is a first-person shooter set during World War I. Due to be released this Fall, EA has been hyping this game for some time now. Looking at the gameplay trailer shown yesterday, it is easy to see why.

Titanfall 2 is another one I’m looking forward to. One of the biggest complaints about the original Titanfall was the lack of a single-player campaign. Titanfall 2 will correct that oversight and if the campaign lives up to the gameplay trailer EA released yesterday, it is going to be a lot of fun.

Finally, the game I am both looking forward to and dreading is Mass Effect Andromeda. I’m looking forward to it because I loved the Mass Effect trilogy, even with the botched ending of Mass Effect 3. I’m dreading it because I’ve been disappointed too many times by games, movies and books that don’t live up to the previous work in a series. I’m not actually worried by the fact EA/Bioware has delayed the release to the first quarter of next year (the last I looked). I would rather them do that than to push out a game that is too buggy to play or, worse, is nothing but a poor shadow of the previous games.

I will admit, I had hoped for some gameplay footage but that will have to wait. Instead, EA released this clip.

But EA wasn’t the only developer to release some exciting news. Bethesda, developer of one of my other favorite games, Dishonored, had some news of its own to release yesterday. First up was word that they would be releasing Quake Champions.

Next up is for those of us who have been drooling over the new Doom but who have yet to drop the $60 or so to buy it. Bethesda and Id are going back to the roots of Doom and offering shareware — oops, a demo — of Doom. For a limited time, you can download and play for free the first level on the campaign. Even better news, you can do it on your PS4, XBox One or your PC.

And then there was word on what is probably my most anticipated game so far: Dishonored 2. Coming out in November, if I remember correctly, it picks up with the characters from Dishonored some 15 years or so after the end of the first game. As with Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, you can play as either Korvo, the playable character from Dishonored, or as Emily. Both have their own set of abilities and the video shown yesterday is enough to have me planning on getting the game just as soon as I can.

Ubisoft has its press conference later today. It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

I can hardly wait

For years, Bioware has been one of my favorite game developers when it comes to RPGs. There are a number of reasons why but it all really comes down to one main thing — the story. The first Bioware game I remember playing is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. That was quickly followed by Jade Empire. Later came the Mass Effect trilogy and the three Dragon Age games. I have played these games across platforms and, for a few, have them for both console and PC.

I’m not one of those who demands that the main playable character be female just because I am. Nor do I worry about what their race or sexual orientation might be. What I worry about are gameplay mechanics and story. Both are integral for my enjoyment of a game but, in an RPG, story takes on even more importance than it does in any other sort of video game.

It’s been a year or more since I’ve put any real game time into playing the Mass Effect games. Instead, I’d been immersed in games like the three Borderlands games, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Tomb Raider and more. I’d revisited games like the Ratchet and Clank games on PS3 (and PS2). Let’s not forget Jax and Daxter as well. All are fun and all for different reasons.

E3 2015 has been going on this week. For those not familiar with it, E3 is sort of like Disneyland for gamers. It is when the major studios and developers announce their upcoming games. Sometimes we get to see in-game play. Other times, we get in-game cinematics. Among the most dramatic announcements this year was the upcoming Fallout 4 and the upcoming release of Final Fantasy VII for Xbox One. For me, one of the highlights was seeing the video from Mass Effect: Andromeda, the long awaited next game in the Mass Effect galaxy.

Bioware hasn’t said much about ME: Andromeda yet. It has said this:

[T]his game is very much a new adventure, taking place far away from and long after the events of the original trilogy. You will play a human, male or female, though that’s actually not the character you saw in the trailer (more on that later). You’ll be exploring an all-new galaxy, Andromeda, and piloting the new and improved Mako you saw. And through it all, you will have a new team of adventurers to work with, learn from, fight alongside of, and fall in love with.

That last sentence is the essence of much of the philosophy surrounding Bioware games. They want a game the gamer can become fully immersed in. There is more to the game than running escort missions or hunter-gather missions. You can develop relationships with the non-playable characters. You can romance them, if you want. If Bioware follows past history, and I know of no reason why it won’t, those romances can be hetero or gay. It doesn’t matter. You choose the path you take, and that includes celibacy.

For now, ME: Andromeda is scheduled to drop during the holiday season of 2016. That is a long time away. Next year’s E3 will give us more, hopefully some gameplay footage as well as an actual release date. Until then, I will play the original Mass Effect trilogy again, maybe more than once since it has been awhile since I last played it. For now, here is the trailer for the upcoming game.

 

 

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