At the time of writing, version 1.05 of BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda is sitting on an Xbox One, daring me to quit my productive university work and install it. Issues such as lifeless eyes, a transgender faux-pas, and the now infamous “noot noot” mouth animations are slated to be fixed, alongside some minor balancing tweaks and bug fixes. As a result, now feels like a good time to discuss some of the issues, and the surrounding criticism that has circled the otherwise perfectly enjoyable game since its release.
Before I start, I should probably preface this with a disclaimer- I am a Mass Effect fanboy; Andromeda could be an unplayable mess where nothing works and you have to manually brush your teeth on the Tempest every morning and I would still find myself at least somewhat compelled to defend the game. However, despite the claims of trolls and wildly overreacting members of the gaming community, Andromeda is no such travesty. It has issues, certainly, mostly regarding animation and the occasionally frustrating bug, but overall it is a very solid game, with BioWare delivering on its strongest suits once again, with good, three-dimensional characters, an engaging storyline and a universe that feels like it could be real.
Unfortunately, while I could talk all day about the nuances of Jaal’s character, or just how ridiculously awesome the Memory Triggers quest was, the fanfare currently surrounding the game is regarding those aforementioned faults, and as such needs to be addressed. I think the upcoming patch is necessary for the game to achieve its true potential, which is sad. On the other hand, in an age of No Man’s Sky and that god-awful Batman game, these issues are, in my opinion, trivial. While it’s unfortunate that more and more developers are relying on post-Day One content to “fix” the problems with their games, context is required- Andromeda is still an excellent game even without the patch, and the willingness of BioWare to release this patch so quickly while dealing with all of the issues fans had with the game, shows that they genuinely care about the quality of their games.
To address the issues directly, I would now like to talk about the animations in the game. Problems with the Pathfinder’s “zig-zag” walk and whatever Foster “Pingu” Addison’s deal was are undoubtedly annoying and immersion breaking, and should not have been in the game at this point in development. Addison, especially, with her expressionless face and make-up that looked like it was applied by a child in the dark, was at times so poorly done that it made me laugh. At some other times as well, with mouth movements in particular, I felt like I was being taken out of the moment by some ropey animations. On the other hand, there are some truly excellent sequences within the game- I have yet to see any grossly unnatural body movements within the gameplay sections, for example, and Cora’s romance scene is flawlessly executed, if surprisingly explicit. And finally, while the default Sara Ryder has come in for criticism by some, I personally have no complaints regarding her animation or appearance.
Another criticism levelled is regarding the eyes of some human and asari characters, as well as the identical model used for almost every asari within the game (Peebee being the only one with a different face). The default Scott at times looks like he is falling asleep, and the texturing makes some characters aimlessly stare into the middle-distance with lifeless eyes (cue Jaws quote). On the other hand, the more alien species have incredible detail placed on these areas, in particular the Angara and Krogan, who at times look genuinely lifelike. While this inconsistency is annoying, this is another problem fixed in the patch (and from the few screenshots I’ve seen, it makes a huge difference).
Finally, there has been minor controversy with Dr. Hainly Abrams, a relatively insignificant NPC at the Prodromos outpost on Eos. Through dialogue, she reveals that she used to be called “Stephan” and left the Milky Way for a new start. As such, this pretty strongly suggests that Hainly is transgendered (although it would not be unforgivable to not know Stephan isn’t also a girl’s name in the future, as some players assumed), making her the only such character in the game. The problem, to my understanding, is not with her inclusion (assuming you live in the real world), but with her off-handedly “deadnaming” herself- which is not something that people in that situation do, especially to complete strangers. Therefore, some members of the LGBT community were offended by this, and pointed out the mistake. Speaking as someone with little knowledge on the subject, this was not something I was aware of, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have not known this before. In the same vein, I don’t think it is outlandish to assume that Andromeda’s writers, who probably included the detail in the name of inclusivity, also did not know this, and meant no offense. Therefore, considering that Dr. Abrams’ dialogue is listed in the patch notes as a change, they have admitted to their mistake, and corrected it at the first opportunity- again proving that they care about their audience’s enjoyment of the game.
Overall, while I can accept that I perhaps view the game with Element Zero-tinted glasses, and what I look for in the game is not necessarily universal, I refuse to accept that Andromeda is an objectively bad game. For every wooden animation there is a stunning backdrop; for every doll-eyed stare there is a heartwarming character moment, and for every irritating bug there’s a boatload of great gaming experiences. So, for anyone who thinks the game is “literally unplayable” or any other unnecessary hyperbole, I suggest you put down your pitchfork and take the game at face value. Maybe you’ll actually enjoy yourself.
The views expressed in this article are purely my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Minimum Effort, who are probably sick and tired of Pete playing Mass Effect for the 5th time in 18 months.