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Mass Effect Andromeda or Good Gameplay, Bad Bugs and Ugly Faces

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , , on April 1, 2017 by Rabidgames

First things first – Mass Effect Andromeda is not an unplayable mess as some corners of the internet might want to tell you. You can have fun while playing it. It is also no “SJW wet dream” or some other bullshit the alt-right trolls spout, it is just a game. However, the technical shortcomings, especially the ugly human faces (aliens are mostly fine) and the abysmal facial animations ARE bad. Really, really bad. And make no mistake, they’re inexcusable in 2017.

Besides the facial mess, there’s also badly written dialogues, at times terrible voice overs (a fucking female Krogan speaks exactly like a human … what happened here?) and the ridiculously boring exploring solar systems (where your ship travels to each of them for sometimes nothing at all but a description of a lifeless gas giant, and you don’t even get to probe Uranus) to complain about. And there are quite a few bugs and glitches in Andromeda, too, ranging from the animations even more fucked than usual to save bugs that can make you lose hours of progress if you don’t save regularly on different slots. Always do that!

So what the space-traveling fuck Bioware? And what the fuck EA? Did you really think you could just release this mess without getting any criticism? Andromeda was in the making for 5 fucking years, and lifeless androids representing humans and lame writing about tired faces are the result? If EA follows this road of releasing seemingly unfinished and definitely unpolished games, the future of gaming surely is going to look like a galaxy after a reaper sweep.

But all this aside – which is no easy task, but let’s look into it nonentheless – Andromeda is actually well worth the time. Once you struggled past the average and slightly boring tutorial and the Mass Effect 1 Citadel-style Nexus introduction, the game comes alive (upon your return to the Nexus, it really feels alive, while the first time, it feels barren and a bit bland). Although wait – the first hours are a chore, and then the game gets better? Who comes up with this, especially considering we had the EA Access trial of Andromeda on the One, resulting in quite a bit of the flak the game is getting now. Shouldn’t the first hours be full of gripping entertainment and the most polished content?

Anyway, once you are on Eos, your first planet to pathfind your way into your new job acquired tragically in typical Bioware fashion, you’ll notice a similarity with Dragon Age Inquisition: A massive open area waits for you to be explored. But don’t fret because that’s actually where Andromeda comes alive- while Inquisition’s areas felt and quite frankly were static (not much ever changed no matter what you did), you terraform entire planets in Andromeda via main missions that involve puzzles and nicely built levels that are a joy to go through, you establish outposts and repel enemy forces, and you get a feeling of satisfaction from all of it, not just by numbers, but also by making the planets look more hospitable. You also get to visit different planets, and while they are mostly cliché – sand desert world, ice world, jungle world – they look great and there’s plenty of things to discover and of course shoot in the face.

Fighting is still a mixed bag of tricks though – on the one hand, no power wheel means there’s hardly any tactics left in Andromeda – unless sending your squad somewhere is deemed a tactic. Building combos with team mates depends on luck and you hoping it works, so most of the time, you do it all yourself. Then again, jumping and the fact most battles can be fought in large areas enable you to fight enemies from atop buildings, making sure that annoying super-strong brute can’t reach you – at all. Cheap? Yes. Fun? Oh yeah! Changing profiles mid-battle allows you to switch from Engineer to Adept quickly so you can adapt if you prepare. But be careful – focussing on one role makes this role extremely powerful, so choose wisely – a jack of all trades will be worse than a Biotic God! But it can’t hurt to at least develop two sets of skills so you’re prepared for every situation.

Where Andromeda excels though is by offering you a lot of side content that will make your life easier – if you want. Crafting a strong weapon that shoots lightning or shotguns firing exploding bullets? Or you just gather what you find, sell it and buy weapons. What’s not to like? Furthermore, by raising your AVP level (pretty much a colonisation tracker) you can thaw more colonists, giving you bonuses. You do this by … well, playing Andromeda one way or another. You also get materials by exploring systems (boring) and driving around on planets (cool) with your Nomad, a Mako 2.0 but without a turret gun for some reason.

Oh, and the multiplayer of Andromeda is also great fun. In a nutshell, it feels like a harder version of Mass Effect 3, which is pretty much what fans have been asking for. This time though, you don’t need to play it to raise numbers, you simply get loot for your campaign, which is great. If you don’t feel like playing multiplayer (though it is fun), you can play strike missions either on an in-game terminal or on your smart phone, and you get the same rewards. Or you do both and get more! This is exactly how you should build a game – around different ways to reach the same goal, letting the player choose what to do.

So, should you buy Andromeda? Well, probably not yet if you’re not a big fan. To be honest, the gameplay is fine, the game picks up pace after 10 hours, yes, but still, all the technical shit is irritating. But here’s the thing – if you can deal with the bugs, if you can deal with the animations and the dumbed-down combat, your reward is you’re one of the first to explore a new galaxy!

Word of advice about the tone of Andromeda though – the darkness and impending doom of the first Mass Effect trilogy are gone. It makes sense though. You have a motley crew of young adventurers whose task is to explore. Sure, the stakes are high, but these folks are still more light-hearted and … well, cringeworthy at times. That being said, when Andromeda is aware of its silly dialogues, it works. Some of the writing is so bad it becomes great again, pretty much lie a B-movie. Sadly, it doesn’t always work. So watch a few videos with dialogues early in the game to see if you stomach it. And then, you have an A.I. cracking jokes …

Because in this one regard, Andromeda is still a Bioware game: You can spend hours just talking to everyone. The game can easily be played with a few quests to level up and fight on one planet, an hour of talking, a bit of exploration and a few skirmishes on another planet, crafting a few weapons and reading some emails, and so on. After ten hours or so, Andromeda hands you the reins to exploring a new galaxy of hopes, dreams … and silly faces.

Rabidgames wonders: Andromeda can be viewed as a case of “don’t judge a game by its cover”, or rather by its first impressions. There is beauty to be found behind the ugly faces and the bugs, yet it all depends on if you’re willing to take the risk of getting annoyed by the different writing and the weak opening hours. But one thing’s for sure – for a game that could very well make or break Bioware, Andromeda is simply not good enough. It is a decent albeit unpolished game, fair enough, but it is one of the worst Bioware games, too.

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Dragon Age Inquisition or Bioware’s Redemption

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , on December 10, 2014 by Rabidgames

A few years ago, many of us vowed never to buy a Bioware game again. After the flawed Mass Effect 3 and the utterly broken Dragon Age 2, it seemed evident Bioware was yet another studio swallowed by the behemoth EA, swallowed and then spit out to die and rot.

Thankfully, we were wrong. Dragon Age Inquisition is proof our assumptions are not entirely true and the swansongs were premature. Granted, there’s the tacked-on multiplayer, which is too unstable if not even broken to be judged by now – but Mass Effect 3’s awesome multiplayer aside, who gives a shit about multiplayer in a Bioware game? Granted, the fighting system is miles better than the “action button” themed arena battles with enemies respawning for no apparent reason in DA2, but still lacking the depth of the “last real Bioware RPG” Dragon Age Origins (e.g. no more penalties for dying).

But Inquisition truly feels like a Bioware game, a Bioware game for the old fans and the new ones alike. The battle system is slower and more tactical (we can finally zoom out properly on consoles), there are more dialogues than ever before it seems, there’s a deep customisation system, and there are also additions: The war table where you can get different results from sending different people to deal with things ranging from diplomatic missions to assassinations, the much-talked Skyrim influence which shows in the huge areals littered with things to do (some are waaaaay too obvious, but there is still lots of room for exploration), and there are various new activities to discover everywhere.

Dragon Age Inquisition has one problem though, one problem that might discourage some: After the prologue, you get thrown into the Hinterlands – a massive open area with dozens of quests and lots of things to explore. Problem there is most quests feel rather like a MMO: “Kill these wolves!”, “Gather then pieces of meat!” or “Go there!” But do not fret, fellow Inquisitor, for as soon as you can proceed, proceed. Afterwards, Inquisition opens up and the story picks up pace and gets better and better.

In any possible way, Dragon Age Inquisition is a great RPG and a great game – and last but not least, also a great Bioware game. Bioware pushes all necessary buttons: Tactical fights where the party composition can make a huge difference, expansive talking sessions to your companions, choices en masse, and above all, a story where even most villains have their reasons. Yes, Inquisition doesn’t allow you to destroy the world (at least not in the first 30 hours), but it is up to you if you want to be a benevolent and democratic Herald of Andraste or rather an egoistic and vengeful angel of fear.

Some sentences about the love life of the companions in Dragon Age Inquisition: As long as we actually talk about the whatever-sexuality of virtual fictional characters, we have not reached the level of tolerance we pretend to have reached. If you really care if Dorian is exclusively gay, or that you can only romance two chicks as a hetero Inquisitor … well, why do you fucking care in the first place? As long as there’s even talk about it, we’re not there yet.

Mind you, Rabidgames has only played Inquisition for 30 hours, and it feels he has barely scratched the surface. Yes, this game is a proper RPG behemoth – as it should be. For once, the claims it might take 100 hours to complete a game might be true. Good news for most of us, bad news for our social lives …

Rabidgames is enchanted: From the ashes of Dragon Age 2 and that infamous Mass Effect 3 ending, the phoenix has arisen – just as the Inquistion arose out of the destruction of the conclave. Bioware redeems itself, and let’s hope the days of EA indoctrination and the action button are over for good. Welcome back, Bioware. It feels good to be friends again!

November Will Be Gamergeddon!

Posted in Gaming these days ..., News with tags , , , , , , on September 13, 2014 by Rabidgames

So far, this year has been a game drought … We had Watch_Dogs and Wolfenstein, but that was more or less it, wasn’t it? But come November, we’ll all be drowning in games – long, big games …

Let’s have a look at Rabidgames’ wanted list:

11/11
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Assassin’s Creed Rogue

18/11
GTA V
Far Cry 4

21/11
Dragon Age Inquisition

So … who can afford to buy 5 AAA games, 5 big releases, let alone play them, if they are released within 2 fucking weeks? Let’s not forget there’s also a time before November with FIFA 15, Alien Isolation, The Evil Within, Shadows of Mordor, Sherlock Holmes, Raven’s Cry and WWE 2K15 looming …

Honestly, are publishers dumb? This question goes out to Ubisoft especially: How stupid is it to release two Assassin’s Creed games at the same fucking day? And even more stupid to release Far Cry 4 one week later … Have they lost their mind? But in general, why the fuck are there virtually no games during summer, but comes September, the gaming world gets crazy?

Mind you, these are just the games Rabidgames is interested in … there are more out there …

Rabidgames is scared: Most likely, one or two of the above games will not make it on the day 1 purchase list. Why? Because no one on earth has the time to play 5 games at the same time, of course! Different publishers too dumb to take a look at schedules – fine. But Ubisoft is just insane … makes you wonder how they’ll justify that decision …

Mass Effect 3 Demo or Not Overwhelmed

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , , , on February 14, 2012 by Rabidgames

OK, Rabidgames played the single player demo for the upcoming uber epic sci-fi RPG soap opera Mass Effect 3.

First of all, the narrative comes off incredibly weak (does it really say Bioware?). Before the game starts everyone hates you, then humanity loses contact to everything, you get summoned to help them, the Reapers attack, all hell breaks loose, you’re the good boy/girl Shepard again and the tutorial starts.

Wait? While the Reapers annihilate humanity all around you and your lonely squad mate … you have to play a damn tutorial? Yes, you do. As a result, there is no insane action, and nothing feels epic about the start. Nothing. What about a virtual reality tutorial where Shepard is practising … and then Mass Effect 3 starts? Sounds better somehow.

And it doesn’t stop there. While the Reapers wreak havoc and kill humans by the dozens in nanoseconds, you are supposed to gather forces throughout the galaxy to ultimately come back to earth and liberate our dear mother from the Reapers. Hang on a minute … Wouldn’t the Reapers have cleansed the earth within hours, them being eternal and powerful and deadly? Anyway, you will likely spend (in-game) weeks cruising the galaxy looking for help in Mass Effect 3 Also, former friends Cerberus try everything to kill you despite them being the focus of the Reapers as well (OK, Rabidgames admits there is hope Bioware finds a clever solution for this weird logic).

OK, the gathering allies part. Fucking hell Bioware, you are really stealing from your own backlog, aren’t you? And do you think no one will realise? Ever? Mission failed!

Let’s see:
Reapers threaten galaxy ————–Darkspawn threaten Ferelden
Spectre Shepard ———————– Grey Warden
Unite all peoples of the galaxy —— Unite all factions of Ferelden

That’s a tad too obvious, don’t you think. It smells like Dragon Age Origins all over again. Just because it worked once does not mean you have to recycle it!

Alright, so the narrative either doesn’t make sense or it’s a cheap rip-off. But what about gameplay?

Luckily, that’s where Mass Effect 3 shines. You can play the way you want to – and you can develop your character more than you could in Mass Effect 2 – even in the demo! Grenades are back, your health doesn’t fully recover any more, and you have more abilities to choose from. Above all, the enemy A.I. has improved a lot. Those Cerberus guys you face try to flank you whenever they can, they move around and duck to avoid your fire and the turrets are a cool addition as well. Your squad mates are still a bit dumb though. Rabidgames also learned the hard way that taking cover does not always spell safety in Mass Effect 3. If the angle is right (or wrong) you get still hit. Good move, Bioware.

Rabidgames wonders: What’s wrong with the world? Bioware manage to develop a game with good gameplay mechanics yet they completely fail to craft a decent story around it! Maybe there is more to come, but there are big black holes sucking in logic anywhere. Even if the action is fine, the narrative falls flat on its sorry ass – and that’s basically the death penalty for a Bioware game. Let’s just hope the story is not as bad as it seems now …