Mass Effect: Andromeda- A Greatest Hits Throwback (Spoilers)

Since Mass Effect 3 hit the shelves in 2012, video gamers who’d loved the groundbreaking and ultra successful original Mass Effect series were eagerly awaiting the 4th installment. You can see my previous blog on the original Mass Effect here. If you don’t know about the original, it was an amazing game. Unreal graphics. Totally awesome voice acting. Leaps and bounds from playing Super Mario on Nintendo. Having said that…expectations were pretty monumental for the 4th game and unfortunately BioWare failed to deliver a game as breathtaking as any of the originals (Mass Effect 2 was the best one in my opinion). Now, Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a BAD game as some of the popular reviews have stated. Is it a great game? No. But, it’s entertaining. And that’s probably enough to keep the payroll at BioWare going on schedule. Below I’ll go over some pros and cons from the game if you’re so inclined to continue reading. (WARNING: SPOILERS) At the very least, it’ll make your play-through a little more enjoyable…after all you’re gonna invest 50-75 hours of your life if you complete the game.

See that guy above? That’s Drack. He’s by far the best character in the game and if you’d like to have an enjoyable play-through…take him everywhere. This game lacks in character development which leaves the journey feeling pretty flat. It’s too bad because Drack has some good dialogue and emotional moments in the game that would make some Hollywood writers kick themselves for not writing it into their movies. ‘Parents aren’t meant to be a goal or a finish line. We’re the starting line. Where you go from there? It’s all you.’ Now that’s a damn good line. Especially considering the fact that a lot of younger gamers out there might not have the opportunity to learn life lessons from competent and wise elders. Some young gamers might have a horrible upbringing and may glean some wisdom from that line. So, kudos to whoever wrote Drack’s dialogue on the BioWare staff. Damn fine work. Drack stands out because he’s a character that’s got depth, whereas all of the other characters are kind of just there. Even Ryder, the main character, is a bit boring. That’s not good. But hey…Drack is good. So yeah…..use Drack. He makes the game fun.

I played-through the game twice. Once as a male Ryder and once as a female Ryder. I never completed the male play-through because playing as a female Ryder was more enjoyable and what I thought was the more meaningful choice for the game. Sometimes you sit down to play a game and you can be either a male or female and the gender choice seems arbitrary, which it usually is. In this game, it made sense to play as the daughter to the original Pathfinder because #1 she is the older sibling of the twins (her and her brother are twins) #2 it stings a little more that the father (Pathfinder) sacrifices his life for his daughter rather than his son and #3 the female Ryder’s voice-acting is better than the male Ryder. The male Ryder’s voice acting came across as boring and robotic. It also kinda makes more sense in the relationship with Reyes Vidal to play as a female because…what testosterone filled leader runs out of a storage room holding hands with a random smuggler after a forced make out session precipitated by possibly getting caught and killed? What a dumb scene that was. So, whether you’re a male or a female or what have you….I think you’ll have a more enjoyable time playing as a female Ryder.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is clearly a throwback to Mass Effect 2. Throwback Video Game Day! #tvgd #awesome It’s basically the J.J Abrams Star Wars. A safe bet. Familiar for fans. Entertaining but…not too risky or original. And that’s fine. It’s unfortunate for seasoned gamers and die hard fans but it’s not entirely disappointing because there’s still some value in it. It’s clear to see all of the similarities in the story arc and details in the game. The main character is thrown into a situation where their choices will alter the universe, they have to assemble a team of unlikely allies to defeat a superior adversary (one of which is a tough, bad ass Krogan- exactly like ME2), the superior alien race is mysterious and no one knows where they came from and they genetically manipulate those that they destroy (similar to The Reapers) and the ship looks exactly like the one in Mass Effect 2 (The Normandy). There are more similarities but those are just some of the glaring ones. Mass Effect: Andromeda is not very original…and that’s fine because it’s a fun action game to play. If the gameplay were bad as well…. then yeah, the game would be total shit. So, if you’re gonna play it. Just be open to some mindless entertainment and don’t expect to enter groundbreaking new territory. I mean, the crew at BioWare couldn’t even come up with a better back story for the bad guys (The Kett) other than, they’re imperialistic and want to assimilate the inhabitants of the Andromeda Galaxy at any cost. That’s a real easy way to not put the time and effort into creating character depth and an engaging story. War is complicated. Leaders and Warlords are complicated. I’d imagine that there would be intricacies to mass warfare on a universal scale. Not just…we’re going to kill you. You’re bad. I’m good. The end. In Mass Effect: Andromeda. It is what it is.

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Here’s another big kick in the junk for veteran gamers. Your choices don’t matter whatsoever in any real type of way. For a detailed list of the consequences of your in game actions, click here. I had a big problem with Dragon Age: Inquisition for this same reason. When you watch a fictional film or read a book, you suspend belief and get involved emotionally, pretending that the characters choices and lives have meaning. It’s the same with a video game. When a consumer invests their time and money into an adventure, they want to escape reality and be entertained. They want their time to be valued. And when the story is flabby and the choices they make have no real meaning in the progression of the game, it’s a big let down. The game places a big value on the initial decision to make your first outpost military or scientific. It seems like a big deal that will effect the rest of the game….and it does not have any effect apart from inconsequential reactions from team characters and npc’s. Mass Effect? More like…Mass NON Effect. Har har har. There are several choices to be made but none carry the weight of choosing between Ashley or Kaiden in ME1 (your choice leaves one of them to die in a nuclear explosion-removing that character from all future games). Also, I would have thought that the programmers would expand on the squad choice dynamics that were introduced in ME2. In the final mission of ME2, you had to travel with 3 companions but also assign tasks to your other remaining companions. If you sent the civilians back to the ship with a companion that didn’t have the right skills, they’d die. If you didn’t choose the right teammate to lead squad #2, they’d die. There were various options where some or all of your team could live depending on the choices you’d made as a leader. That was cool. We all know it’s a video game and it’s just entertainment. But man….THAT FELT REAL. The choices in Mass Effect: Andromeda seem real at first but they’re just messy, fake versions of formerly effective features made to draw an audience in. It’s a disappointment but again….take the game for entertainment value. Worthy of one play-through and then returning it or trading it in. I only choose a handful of games to play each year so I’ve got high standards when investing my time and money into a game. So, if you like action games and stunning visuals. Go for it. If you’re looking for something more….wait until something like Kingdom Come: Deliverance comes out.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post and that it’s in some way added to your knowledge base and your life in a positive way. As always. Do you best. Be kind to yourself. To your neighbors. And to animals and plants alike. And Follow The Golden Rule as best as you can.

The Mass Effect Trilogy

Old news….I know. But there are probably some folks out there that are into video games who haven’t played the Mass Effect series. There are tons of blogs out there about these games which you can see here, here, here, here and here…so I’ll just outline some cool things about the game, give a general overview and explain why I think it’s worth a purchase and play through. After all….it’s only $39.99 now for all three games in the Mass Effect Trilogy. Pretty amazing deal.

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First off, if you don’t like science fiction….don’t play Mass Effect. But if you do like science fiction…..GET IT NOW!! As a gamer, I know very well that a really good video game release is similar to a really good movie release…..few and far between. Each Mass Effect game has its uniqueness to it, which is great. I think they perfected the mechanics in the 3rd game as it had a little bit of both of the good qualities from the first two games. No gamer will ever be entirely pleased unless they themself design their own perfect video game…but these were really, really, really solid. Overall though, it’s an exceptional RPG action game with fantastic artwork, very few glitches and bugs, great writing, an immense amount of options, amazing voice actors and it’s extremely entertaining and immersive. There are so many combinations and variables in this game that you could probably play it 50 times without having the exact same outcomes. It’s fun and well worth the money. Plain and simple.

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Without giving away too much to the newbies to this series, the first game plays more like an RPG with action elements in it. The second game plays a lot like an action game with RPG elements. And the third game….well I felt it combined both pretty well. If you can handle the slight gameplay changes….and you enjoy both the action genre and the RPG genre…you will be satisfied. Also the celebrity cast of voice actors includes people such as Martin Sheen, Carrie-Ann Moss, Lance Henriksen, Keith David, Seth Green, Adam Baldwin and Freddie Prinze Jr.. That just adds to the overall quality and makes you feel like you’re playing a movie….but it’s YOUR MOVIE.

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Now, there were some serious issues and outcry from fans (myself included) over the blatantly flat ending of Mass Effect 3. Wisely though, the game creators took note and updated an extended cut version (which is good) and is available to download into your console for free. It goes without saying that when you invest 120 hours of gameplay into something….you want the outcome to be believable. The original ending was ATROCIOUS….but since recently playing it again…..I noticed that the developers fixed the problem and the ending (whichever you choose based upon the decisions you make throughout the trilogy) is satisfying. (See below for my spoiler/opinion on the ending).

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Are there lots of great games out there? Sure. Are the new console games going to blow away the old PS3 & XBOX games? Probably. But I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t play one of the highest budgeted and lauded games of recent years. The Mass Effect Trilogy is a lot of fun. You can play as a woman or a man. You can play as a bad-ass or a boy scout. You can have relationships with the other characters as a friend or lover. You can escape into an expansive world, which you actually have a hand in creating, and come away feeling like you’ve accomplished something on your terms. Have you ACTUALLY accomplished anything other than wasting your time playing a video game? Maybe…..The writing in these games is so good and the characters are so different that you encounter racism, xenophobia, sexism and a multitude of moral decisions that need to be made. You might actually learn some things and encounter social situations you may never see in your day to day life. You may even improve upon your own personality. People frequently complain that games only promote violence, but one of the overall themes of this game is tolerance and cooperation. It’s just a video game… but Mass Effect is also an exercise in morality. It’s escapist entertainment at its finest which is like crack for video game junkies. But it’s also a very intelligent game with a lot of heart.

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M.A.V.B.L.O.G. SCORE- 10 out of 10. It’s fun. It’s fun. It’s fun. And it leaves you wanting more. Regardless of the minor flaws…..this game is awesome. You create your character from top to bottom and you have some freedom in how you design and play your very own Commander Shepard throughout the series. I highly recommend investing the 100-120 hours it takes to complete the trilogy.

Thanks for reading. As always. Be good to yourself. Be good to those you encounter. Even animals.

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My Spoiler Alert: DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED PLEASE!!! GO PLAY THE GAME!

If you’ve played all the games you’ll know what I’m talking about. So for those of you on the fence in choosing an ending…..here ya go. In the first game your mission is to defeat the bad guys (Saren & The Reapers) of which, Saren gets indoctrinated by The Reapers so he is essentially working for them. You win. In the second game your mission is to defeat The Collectors who are working for The Reapers. You win. In the third game the villain, The Illusive Man, becomes indoctrinated by The Reapers and after his death you are given three choices: CONTROL (of which The Illusive Man tried but couldn’t succeed…and btw you die) SYNTHESIS (of which The Catalyst TELLS YOU that it never worked sucessfully in the past……and btw you die) DESTROY (where you’re guaranteed to defeat your enemy The Reapers……and maybe you’ll die) or REJECT (where you reject the options The Catalyst presents….. and btw EVERYONE DIES…..and then someday in the distant future people figure out how to defeat The Reapers). It’s pretty clear cut to me that destroy is the only true option. The Catalyst is an ancient Artificial Intelligence or VI that controls The Reapers and IS THE BAD GUY (because it controls The Reapers who have terrorized the galaxy for millions of years). It is giving you these choices because NO ONE has ever made it that far, which is probably a manual system reset that the AI cannot choose. Also, if you have a high enough score and you choose the Destroy ending….Shepard lives. It’s the ONLY outcome where Shepard lives. So yes….Destroy is the ONLY option because it goes along with your character and the entire storyline of the series. Find bad guy. Defeat bad guy. Save galaxy.