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[personal profile] alias_sqbr
My tl;dr review: this is a profoundly mediocre game that I mostly enjoyed. I wanted a mostly upbeat game where I got to play a queer woman exploring planets, shooting bad guys, and and kissing cute girl aliens, and that's what I got. If there were any other games that let me do all that I might have been more dissappointed with the quality of the experience, but there basically aren't, so. Also I had a health downswing so bad I'd normally have to lie in bed playing hidden object games for a week, which made the drawn out, simplistic nature of the game kind of a plus. My enjoyment fell pretty drastically once I got better haha.

Many people have gone into the game's flaws, and they are all absolutely correct! So I'm going to use them to structure my review. The reasons these flaws didn't ruin the game for me are all very subjective, this is definitely not a game for everyone.

I'm assuming you've played a Mass Effect game before, if you haven't: play one of the other Mass Effect games instead. They are all much better games. This game is for people who have run out of good Mass Effect games and want more badly enough to lower their standards.

Gameplay:

Terrible facial animations and other glitches:
I found this kind of endearingly funny? It was pretty bad in places, but I never hit any glitches that caused me serious problems (worst was having to save and restart once or twice) and connected with the characters and emotional moments despite the odd "lol why is her arm doing that" etc.

Bad character creator:
It did some things well and some things badly. My Ryder is gorgeous and I love her and I wouldn't change a thing. The NPCs did not always fare so well and I can definitely see that it would be frustrating if you had particular tastes the CC doesn't serve. Like...eyebrows in any other shade than black.

Long unskippable animations every time you move to a new planet:
This is so bad and could have been easily avoided with a "skip animation" button. Luckily the animations are quite pretty, and I really enjoy looking at images of space and spaceships, so this only really bugged me when I had to travel between multiple places in quick sucession.

Padded out with shallow side quests:
I enjoy wandering around pretty alien landscapes doing sidequests, and the landscapes are very pretty. I liked the sense of a large organic world full of hidden little stories you only find by exploring, even if those stories were kind of dumb. The padding is pretty gratuitous though, and combined in an annoying way with the long animations when a quest sent you to multiple planets one after the other with nothing to do but, say, find an alien base, kill some hostiles, and scan for the next location. Luckily I had heard the overall plot was not worth rushing for, so I took a pretty relaxed approach and just played it like a long hidden object game with space animations in between. Also! The game lets you finish many of the side quests after the main plot is done, so once I got impatient I just finished off the last few plot missions and now have a bunch of rocks to scan etc when I'm bored. The trick is to focus on the quests in the top two folders, anything below that is pretty optional and probably won't have much interesting stuff happen, so you just do it when it's convenient.

Other gameplay stuff:
Combat seems fine to me? I played on narrative mode which was so easy I could just hide behind cover and let my squadmates do all the fighting if I wanted, but still gave me the chance to shoot at stuff. I will probably play on casual mode if I play again, I was just feeling especially tired this week. Cam enjoyed the combat a lot on a mix of casual and normal modes.

SO MANY JUMPING PUZZLES. Uuuurgh, and narrative mode made no difference to the difficulty here. Had to get Cam to do one for me where I got lost and kept falling to my death when I tried to figure out where to go. Mostly it wasn't too hard, and I did enjoy some of the jumping, but I am complaining on principle because screw jumping.

There were also some other puzzles and they were not very good. Like, "ancient alien devices can only be opened by solving a game of sudoku" not very good. Luckily I like sudoku, and if you don't then all of these puzzles can be done with a walkthrough (UNLIKE THE JUMPING)

The Nomad is the new and improved Mako we were promised, it's a bit hard to steer sometimes but has multiple gears which help and gets no fall damage, which let me follow my dream of always driving in a straight line even if it's up (not too steep) mountains. Also you can apply pretty skins, mine is covered in stars :D

Crafting was highly uninspiring, too many choices and not enough ways of figuring out what was best, so I didn't bother except for Nomad upgrades.

Writing stuff:

Bad Writing and Plot:
It was pretty flatly mediocre, with the odd good moment and a few painfully bad ones. On the plus side it was fairly consistent (unlike, say, Mass Effect 3, which kept all it's really bad writing until the end) and I still got attached to the characters and pulled along by the story. It's on par with enjoyable enough B Grade games I have played in the past. The overall arc about moving to the new galaxy actually worked ok emotionally, I thought, even if the specifics weren't so great.

It relies a lot on nostalgia for the previous games, but of course this is a two edged sword. The finale, especially, made me think "this scene was done better in the game they stole it from" a lot. The setting and characters are all retreads of things that have gone before, but also aren't always consistent. On the plus side, one side effect of them being too lazy to even read the full Mass Effect wiki is they had a few female Salarians just...around? Also female krogan but they at least lampshaded that by mentioning in passing that krogans no longer have a gender segregated society, though I don't think they ever really explain why.

The overall plot is generic "plucky heroes on the frontier vs the weird looking space nazis". The sub plots are sometimes good and sometimes bad. The choices are sometimes interesting and sometimes not, and usually have at best superficial effects on anything outside the moment of choice. But after Mass Effect 3 I didn't expect anything different, and I just used them as roleplaying choices.

I did feel like I got to create a coherent, consistent, and fun to play character. I actually really love my Ryder: she's a lawful good nerd, fussily formal yet affectionate, and doggedly optimistic and idealistic even when it makes no sense. I also got to occasionally genuinely upset other characters and myself by making bad choices that seemed wise at the time, which is one of the core appeals of Bioware games for me :) I didn't ever feel SUPER invested in any of it but had a fun ride.

Focus on female love interests:
So on a personal, immediate level, I enjoyed having so many options as a female Ryder into girls. But on a broader level omg it is SO BAD.

Male love interests:
  • Squadmates: two straight dudes.
  • Non-squadmate crewmember with smaller path: one gay dude whose arc is all about his female bff who seems to basically be his queerplatonic partner.
  • Flings: one bi dude, a minor character that can only be pursued if you make certain plot choices many players won't.

Female love interests:
  • Squadmates: one straight and two bi.
  • Non-squadmate crewmember with smaller path: A lesbian, seemed cute enough.
  • Flings: THREE minor women you can have flings with, one straight and two bi. AND you can also have a fling with one of the bi female squadmates instead of a full romance.


From what I've seen the flings assume cheating on a long term partner by default, even if your Ryder isn't dating anyone(*). So male Ryder has five possible girls he can date, four of whom he can date at once, but can only date two guys total. Luckily I am mostly into f/f, and that was treated ok for the most part, though apparently the bi characters animations are less well done in the same sex romances. We got an Evil Ex Girlfriend for one of the bi girls again, stop doing that Bioware :/

Here's some more discussion.

Poor treatment of lgbt characters in general:
The gay LI Gil's plotline is apalling, huge emphasis on the importance of making babies and his relationship with a woman when there was nothing like that for any other love interest. It felt gross even from a distance, I can only imagine how it would feel as a gay dude romancing him (because he is literally the only option for a long term m/m romance)

There's a minor NPC trans woman who, when you ask her "why did you come to Andromeda?", says "I got sick of being called [deadname] in the Milky Way, now everyone calls me [name]!", revealing her deadname to a stranger after literally leaving her home galaxy to avoid being referred to by it. On the plus side, while very minor she is around beyond her introduction as a provider of side quests, and is clearly a well liked, competent, and accepted part of her community.

Her aside, everyone is assumed to be cis and binary gendered, even new alien species etc.

99% of the background relationships we see are m/f. One or two very minor same sex relationships show up in the form of random emails from NPCs etc, the only unavoidable ones involve someone mourning a dead partner. Including a Salarian?? THEIR ENTIRE SPECIES IS ARO ACE. Overall there's this weird, kinda heteronormative emphasis on the importance of "family" that erases cultures like the krogan and salarians that that were previously written as having very different social structures. The new friendly alien species, the angarans, have large extended families with multiple mothers which was interesting but not explored in much detail (I got so excited when the angaran LI referred to having multiple mothers lol)

The f/f relationships with bi female LIs made basically no reference to my Ryder being a woman that I saw, which was better than BUT YOU'RE A GIRL angst etc but overall it did not feel at all queer. Which would be fine in a setting that wasn't so heteronormative, but.

Racist plot about Colonialism:
Yeaaaaah. Like, I think the basic plot isn't inherently racist, there's nothing wrong with sending an ark out into a new galaxy to explore and create settlements. And the native alien inhabitants, the Angara, were a complex, sympathetic, advanced society, and the game let me treat them with more respect than previous games let show towards the also-kinda-POC-coded krogan. But. This game blatantly wallowed in Wild West Manifest Destiny Hooray For The Frontier 19th Century American mythology as much as Firefly. On the plus side it's way less white than Firefly, a lot of the human cast are POC, both major and minor. And the game leans heavily into old school Star Trek ideals of Diversity And Tolerance And Kindness Defeating The Space Nazis. There's a number of Bad Space Racists amongst the humans etc who are portrayed as bad people. But...

The Angara mostly have a mixture of African and Australian accents, presumably because That's What Native Black People Sound Like (note: not Aboriginal Australian accents, I'm guessing because the casting director wasn't aware that's a thing) They are mostly an Advanced Race Of Emotionally Expressive But Decent People but they are sad and oppressed and we, the Good Colonising Aliens, save them from the Bad Colonising Aliens. There's straw man angry anti-alien Angaran terrorists, all driven by sincere trauma from the Bad Colonisers yet having no goals beyond violence. We feel sorry for them, but since they literally never do a single good thing there's no guilt in stopping them. They exist to be contrast to the Good Natives who learn to love and trust and help the Good Colonisers.

There is a human soldier Gone Rogue in Native Lands with some very blatant Kurtz from Heart of Darkness imagery...and she's a black woman. She runs a prison colony that I have a horrible feeling is inspired by Australia, and there's never any suggestion of giving the angarans control of it back. If the writers didn't keep so blatantly trying to connect with 19th Century (or earlier!) colonisation imagery it wouldn't be so bad, but all the talk of Frontiers etc meant that even when the Angarans got decent treatment (and the game does give them a pretty happy ending) part of me was thinking "Is this how you think things actually ever went down in the Americas? Did you watch one too many Thanksgiving specials as a child?"

I think it actually did better by the krogans than earlier games? Their society feels way more well rounded and stable, with multiple competent, sympathetic krogan scientists who aren't motivated by a love of violence, something previous games...kinda implied was impossible. And you have the option to treat them and their society with respect and decency without the game taking "it is ok to perform eugenics on fast breeding savages" as a given. It's implied them switching to nuclear families is a sign of how much more well adjusted they are now, which, URGH, but it was really nice seeing female krogan just being people instead of Female Krogan.

I don't remember any chances to be all HOORAY FOR GENOCIDE, EUGENICS, AND/OR SLAVERY, so, yay? (Ah, Bioware)

Other writing things:
There were a lot of female characters around which was nice, many of them competent, complex, and central to the plot, including several female turians and krogan and a few salarians, not generally in especialy gendered roles. There was way less leering at random sexy female dancers than the previous games, and the one place that had sexy female dancers also had sexy male ones and also a sexy dancing turian whose sex (eg head frill size) I did not check.

As is usual for Bioware games, disability didn't come up much and when it did it was not dealt with very well.

The science makes NO SENSE. Do not think about the science. On the plus side, there's a lot of love of science, and the chance to be a very unmilitaristic science nerd, which I really enjoyed. It feels a little more Star Trek-ish in tone, which suits me better than the previous Military SF tone.

The science fiction is pretty derivative and thin, and a bunch of interesting ideas about AI and the nature of the self etc are played around with a little and then ignored. The scifi visuals are often pretty impressive, but borrow a lot from previous games.

I did Vetra's romance, and it was cute but understated. It was fine as a woman but would have felt kinda sexist as a dude in parts. I liked all the arcs the companions had, though none were very deep. I am...so happy I got to romance a lady turian. She is seven foot tall and covered in bone plates with razor sharp teeth and poisonous spit :D

There's a few "click right mouse button to do something impulsive" choices which I learned very quickly should not be done by default. I liked that about half of them are a bad idea, since a lot of impulsive decisions are a bad idea. You have to be very quick to do them which can be annoying when they're appealing but you're too slow.

Cam pointed out that your sibling's plot is a bit sexist if you assume it was written for a male PC with female sibling, though that means it feels a little subversive if you play as a girl.

Anything else:
I am sure I have forgotten something so this space exists for me to add last minute edits :)

(*)When I hit on (fling and full romance option) Peebee while single she said "Noone needs to know, I can be discreet" which put me off her romance entirely. When I flirted with (fling option) Keri while single I had the chance to say I might have to reconsider if I got a partner. Once I started dating Vetra I assumed there'd be a clear "Whoa, wait up, I have a girlfriend!" option somewhere along the line with Keri but there wasn't and I accidentally cheated D: So I had to go back to a previous save, feeling gross. Cam dated Keri and Peebee simultaneously and said it felt like poly to him, which would certainly make sense character wise. But neither of them felt like they were offering poly to me, just cheating. I did the start of the bi dude Reyes' fling while single and that was actually pretty cute and didn't feel like default cheating, but then plot decisions I made for non romance related reasons cut things off. Can't speak for the straight female fling option.
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