It’s hard to complain about Mass Effect Andromeda; it’s not the game I want it to be but it’s still the game I’ve devoted over forty hours to already. Even though I’m enjoying the game well enough, I was happy to see that EA is delaying the next title to address some issues (and it probably doesn’t help to see Injustice 2’s amazing facial animations that make Mass Effect look like Steamboat Willie). I have definitely ideas about how the game could be improved next time. Here are five quick suggestions.
A Little Less Cute
I’ve been complaining a lot about the Nathan Draking of your protagonist in Mass Effect; while Shepard was always serious, Ryder always seems pretty light hearted. That can be kind of fun, but it does undercut the weight of some of your confrontations. She also seems to get flustered with her various romantic partners which makes me feel like I’m playing a very unusual episode of Ally McBeal. Worse still is Peebee, whose goofiness and impulsiveness is grating at times. She endangers everyone’s lives at various points. She barrels into battles and forces you to save her. She calls the whole crew together to tell them all how much she likes them. If my Ryder had an other viable romantic options on the ship (sorry Vetra), I would have dropped her off early on. I’m not saying that the next game needs to be as heavy as Mass Effect 3, but a little more gravity to the characters would be much appreciated.
A Lot Less Driving
I’m not sure why the Mass Effect series keeps bring back the Mako experience. In Andromeda, you spend plenty of time in the Mako (now the Nomad) and go bouncing around different landscapes. In itself, that’s fine. The driving is very open and empowering early on, the dialogue between characters can be very fun and enjoyable, and the environments are varied and beautiful. After a while, though, it becomes a little boring. These worlds are BIG, and really the only thing you’ll find after a lengthy drive is another base, or cave, or bandit camp. The planets are beautiful but there’s really nothing to see on them. It’s a shame, really, because the environments are pretty but it’s hard to enjoy them when you’d rather be playing through a mission and advancing the story. Mass Effect has the same issue we raised with Deus Ex in that you are given a big open world to explore when we’d rather have focused quests. Mass Effect 2 worked well but sending you on specific missions in particular locations. This driving element needs to be put away; it’s not essential to the Mass Effect experience and only slows down the story.
More Focused Side Quests
One very easy problem to fix with Mass Effect are the side quests. Like a lot of RPGs, Mass Effect is loaded with way too many sidequests and a lot of them involve traveling to a distant planet to find a single crate or speak to a single character. The run and fetch side quest works alright in a game like The Witcher, where you can always teleport to a location relatively close to your target. In Mass Effect, though, traveling to a point on a planet often involves leaving one planet and traveling several systems away. The time it takes to leave orbit, find the planet, orbit, land, jump in the Mako and speed to your destination starts to get really old. To be clear, there’s always room for the odd fetch quest to keep the completionists playing (quests that the rest of us can safely ignore) but the more central sidequests should be more focused and more detailed. Centering the side quests on a single planet, or building out the side quests with a little more interaction would make them a lot more enjoyable.
Relationships Need a Little More Multidirectionality
Flirting starts early in Mass Effect and you can start various romances right away, which is a little odd (c’mon, Ryder, be a little patient!). The relationships all run up to a point where you can decide whether or not you want to commit to a particular romantic partner. Whatever you decide, that’s it. If you choose someone, the other characters come off the table and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you say no, you can never change your mind. All of this makes the relationships a little nerve wracking; one wrong step and you’ve locked into a relationship for the rest of the game. I appreciate that Mass Effect isn’t trying to be a relationship simulator, but it seems like there is some room here for a more dynamic relationship building element. Does no one break up in space? Do potential partners never re-think their early refusals? I realize they don’t want to devolve into the Sims or anything, but it sure seems like there’s a more room here to develop more dynamic relationships.
Ryder Needs To Be Able to Read Her Emails Anywhere
Is there any element more annoying and anachronistic than Ryder’s need to return to her computer terminal to read her email? Nobody on Earth today has to go to a computer terminal to read email. What happened in the future that locked emails into computer terminals? Every time you return to your ship, SAM (your AI) reminds you that you have new emails waiting on your computer terminal. It’s never explained why you couldn’t have received these emails on the planet. It’s ridiculous to think emails can be sent all the way through space to the Tempest but not then sent on to Ryder. So, instead, whenever you return to the ship, SAM intones that “you have new email.” SAM is also in constant contact with you, can’t he read you your email? It’s a really irritating and inexplicable element in the game that oughta be revisited in the future sequels.