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Mass Effect: Andromeda — spoilers for some stuff on Kadara, like that quest where you’re trying to find that person who was wrongly exiled. Also some spoilers for a plot point in The Last of Us.

Butch:

Well, did a ton, but, in typical MEA fashion, I don’t think I have much to say.

Grabbed PB’s thing from Havarl, which, of course, sent me to Kandara. Ok, fine. I have work to do on Kadara anyway. Still haven’t even gotten the outpost up. I’ll go there, do just enough for the outpost.

I go there, I get into a bar fight with Drack (which was pretty great, was nice to just sit back and watch Ryder kick ass instead of having to do it), told him I wouldn’t tell Kesh, we’re cool.

Then….stuff happens.

First hexagon: Confront so and so. That’s the objective. Confront so and so. Totally forgot who so and so was or why I was confronting so and so. But I did it! And got….something.

Second Hexagon: Find evidence of water tampering. “Oh yeah….I kinda remember that….I should be mad, right?” But I did it! And got….something. (It was that turian running that hotel place. Which WOULD have been cool, as we went there and thought it was a friendly respite in the desert, and we should have put two and two together when we found the dead angarans. Which we MIGHT have done if the game didn’t have so much padding that we forgot all of it. Another instance of the game getting in its own way.)

Third Hexagon: Rescuing someone from something. Random cannibals. Why were they cannibals? Were they nuts? Was this gratuitous? Was this some commentary on how exiling folks and making them outcasts over and over drives them to desperation? Who knows? Why? Because I forget why I was rescuing this person. Another instance of the game getting in its own way. Maybe this would have been a cool quest? Who knows? But rescue I did and got…something.

This got me to 39%. Need 40. So I said “Ok, fuck it, I’ll turn on their damn vault.”

So I turned on their damn vault. This took longer than it should have, because that vault was a damn maze. But at least I got some box when I got lost, which I’m sure is important to someone, and if I give it to him I’ll get…something.

This got me to 72% viability! Perfect! I’ll just set up this outpost and quit….wait….where’s the triangle? Why isn’t it working? WHERE’S THE OUTPOST! ****checks journal**** Wait, what? There are complications? I have to do the REYES shit before I can even GET the outpost that will have 18 new quests that I won’t do?

So I quit in a rage.

This game cannot get out of its own way. Those quests (probably) had themes. Those quest (probably) had characters and story arcs and good stuff. I would have (probably) had bloggage for days on those quests had the game gotten out of its own way. But I don’t, because they were all jumbled together with a ton of other hexagons and I don’t have any idea what stories or characters or themes were in there.

This game just has too damn much. And, what’s even more annoying, it isn’t good stuff jumbled up with old flags. It’s good stuff jumbled up with old flags AND OTHER GOOD STUFF. The good stuff jumbles ITSELF up. There should be SO MUCH GOOD here. And there isn’t cuz there’s too much good.

Feminina:

Yeah, that sounds about right.

I liked Drack’s bar fight, although I once again fumbled the QTE (for some reason, I just can’t get those things in this game!) so I got punched and knocked out. When I came to Drack was kind of shaking his head and saying “wow, kid, that sucked” or something, but it was all in good humor, and I also promised not to tell Kesh.

I also don’t know why that group of whatever was kidnapping people to eat them…I guess…food is super scarce? The outcast life is so tough they have no other options? It’s really that terrible out there? I don’t know, it seemed sort of gruesomely out of nowhere, and I felt a bit useless.

“Well, thank heavens I rescued YOU, anyway. Now feel free to go back to your crappy but slightly less horrible home and try to live with the trauma of seeing dozens of other people slaughtered and eaten in front of you…I’ll just carry on myself…”

I suppose we’re addressing the root causes of the horror by making the planet more livable so that in future people won’t HAVE to turn to cannibalism, but it was kind of like “well…that happened…”

And yes, you have to deal with Reyes before you get the outpost. I also went away for quite a while before I came back to do that. I don’t know why, I was flirting with him and everything, but I just couldn’t deal with any more Kadara at that point.

Butch:

Oh no! It turned into a nutsy kung fu romp that Jackie Chan would have envied. It was awesome. So awesome.

As for the cannibalism and “well, that happened”–that’s been the whole game. Hasn’t it? How many damn vaults have I activated? It was out of nowhere, and, even though this game is darker than the others, it’s not THAT dark. When The Last of Us went there, it made sense. This? Less so. Especially not in such a throwaway quest.

Man….. I sorta want to tell Kadara to keep its fucking outpost. Keep it. Just keep it. But I’ll regret that, I bet.

Feminina:

There’s a little bit of story with Reyes, and another ‘choice’ moment so…you know, do it and we can talk later. The fate of Kadara rests in your hands, Pathfinder.

Games seem to use the “descent into cannibalism!!!!” story a lot as kind of a cheap way to generate horror, and I agree it felt particularly odd here. Just, out of nowhere, a random sidequest, “OMG cannibalism!!!!” and moving on…

As you say, in TLOU it was more thought out and better done, so it made more sense. I seem to recall there was a whole explanation for how they started eating dead bodies out of desperation and progressed to hunting strangers for meat, etc. Because they had to feed the children! You could almost relate, and you could buy the whole thing in a fungapocalyptic wasteland where you can’t grow anything because violent raiders are always crashing your settlements.

This…this was just weird. But whatever, game. Maybe this was just a group of particularly desperate outlaws who progressed rapidly past the “stealing peoples’ food” to the “just eat the people themselves” phase (even though most humans in most societies are not all that eager to eat other humans, and PRESUMABLY the Initiative would have performed some psychological testing to try to weed out those with weak commitments to the idea of human life in general as worth preserving, but then, we can see how successful that was purely by the large numbers of people who abandoned the Nexus and started killing each other at the first opportunity, so…again I say, whatever).

Also, I am very sad that I missed a kung fu romp. Siiiigh. I really don’t know why I had such a hard time with the quick-decision moments in this game.

Butch:

Dude, it was awesome. It really was.

And that cannibal bit didn’t even generate horror. It was pointless. I didn’t even scan first, so when Ryder was all “I know” to “They were going to eat me,” it wasn’t scary, it was huh? The bodies just looked like every other body in the game.

Odd. And misplaced.

Feminina:

I think maybe it was meant to cast a specific light on Sloane Kelly’s regime, like, “this is the kind of horror people face with her in charge”?

Because there’s this whole conflict on Kadara between her group and the mysterious Collective, and you obviously have to throw your weight behind one or the other of them at some point, and I’ll be honest, it was really kind of difficult for me to keep that whole struggle straight or to figure out why I should favor either one of the groups. Maybe that bit was intended to be a data point on one of the two sides?

It didn’t really work, if so, but that’s the only thing I can think of…innocent person wrongly cast out by Sloane’s forces, nearly eaten by horrible cannibal group. Although it was also the guy in Sloane’s forces who confessed to the error and sent you after the innocent person in the first place, so it’s all very grey even at that.

Butch:

I should probably do Sloane’s shit. I haven’t touched that since the set up. More good stuff that got buried.

This game had too much good to be this annoying.

Feminina:

I wonder if we would like it better if we weren’t so determined (in your case a wavering determination) to check out everything on the map? Maybe it’s really designed to reward a less committed approach?

“There’s something for everyone and we totally expect that most people won’t do most of it, so we want you to be able to ignore half the quests and still get a rich, full experience of Andromeda!”…?

Because I agree, it really did seem to drown in its own options sometimes. Which is not a unique problem, we talk about our distracting and endless to-do lists in every open world game, but maybe that’s a sign that open worlds are not the ideal game format for obsessive players? Or are we simply approaching these games with the wrong expectations?

What if there were an option where you could simply turn off certain types of quests? Like, “I don’t want to see or receive any ‘task-level’ missions,” and then you wouldn’t see hexagons for them, wouldn’t hear their dialogue, nothing. They wouldn’t even exist for us. That would immediately cut down on the volume of stuff to do, while leaving main story missions (and presumably most themes) available.

Would we use that option? Or would we feel obligated to know what was out there, even if we sort of hated the fact that we would spend 50 hours on essentially meaningless tasks as a result?

Butch:

I dunno, what’s the point of expecting people not to do stuff? That seems quite an investment in a whole lot of content that no one expects anyone to see. Why make a game where you don’t want people to go places?

Just make a more linear game. You know, like the first MEs. No one complained about those.

Or Uncharted. Or, to some extent, Tomb Raider. No one really minds linear games. They get good reviews, people buy them. If it ain’t broke…

Maybe we try to do too much. And maybe we’re off because, as stated, this is an open world sequel to a bunch of rather linear games. Had UC4 been open world, say, we’d have probably balked at it, even if it was a good open world game.

But, that said, they kept the tidbit from olden games where quests really mattered to the end. Take The Witcher 3. Sure, there were quests all over the place, but only the decisions in the big ones really mattered at the end. This one? You can tell from it recording shit in the codex that all these little ones matter. And we still have memories of companions dying because we didn’t go gather shit to upgrade the Normandy. And there’s no way to KNOW if the side quests matter (I really hope the tasks don’t), so we don’t know what is safely skippable if we want a “good” ending.

But switching off certain types of quests is a great idea! Maybe “Turn off the stuff that isn’t vital to the game/theme?” I’d be into that. Except, for some games, AC4 comes to mind, that would leave one empty assed map.

Feminina:

I guess they would figure that even if almost no one gets everything awesome you’ve done, everyone gets some of it? And different people get different parts of it, so you’re ensuring that there’s huge amounts of content that will satisfy the most demanding (in terms of “I want more to do!”) player?

I really don’t know how much, if anything, any of the tasks had to do with the ending. I was definitely anxiously aware, as you say, of the history of ME games and losing companions in the final battle, but I didn’t see anything in the endgame that seemed to reference any of the tasks. (“If only we’d hit more rocks for science, Suvi might still be alive!”…is not a thing I heard.)

There have to be SOME things that don’t have any effect on survival at the end!

Butch:

The tasks can’t matter. They just can’t. If they do, well, sorry Suvi, thanks for the memories….oh hey Chloe! How YOU doin’?

Feminina:

I don’t see how they can matter. Everyone in the world would be losing companions right and left, because surely only about 30 people completed all those tasks.

Butch:

Maybe that’s why it’s on hiatus.

“Well, we had this great sequel planned, but it turns out everyone died. Oops.”

It would be kinda funny if, after all that, the game was all “Sure, everyone was loyal, you had every bomb and plenty of fuel, but DAMN, turns out those rocks were vitally important.”

Funny in a rage inducing way.

Feminina:

Yes. Very funny. “We hope you had fun ignoring all those boring tasks, because that’s all the satisfaction you’re going to get from this after EVERYONE DIES.”

That honestly WOULD be funny, but only long after the fact, when the rage had faded.

Butch:

Nope. Even after the rage subsided I’d be enraged.

Feminina:

All right…it would be funny if it happened to someone else, though, right? Ideally someone we hate. That would be hilarious.

Schadenfreude 4evah!

Butch:

Go ahead. Say it.

Feminina:

Burlap lingerie slogan!!!!

Damn it, I choked.