Like the crew of the Tempest, the Gamasutra crew awakened from a long slumber this weekend and found themselves in a strange new world—one where a new Mass Effect game from BioWare explored not just interesting aliens and their myriad romances, but dizzying open landscapes, crafting systems, and more.
Since the entire Gamasutra team has different opinions about the game (and sadly the BioWare producer who was going to join us for an interview dropped out at the last minute) we decided to spend an hour examining the game, trying to find the clearest takeaways for developers who may want to learn about what Mass Effect: Andromeda gets right, and what it doesn’t.
Some quick highlights are below, though you should be sure to watch the full conversation up above!
The game doesn’t benefit being released so close to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild provides a very, very different look at how crafting and exploring can be used in an open-world setting, and there’s a big difference between Breath of the Wild’s innovative exploration of the genre and Mass Effect’s more streamlined, traditional (in the sense of the last few years) design.
One bit of trenchant insight that editor Alex Wawro offers is that Breath of the Wild does a very good job making every bit of exploration and crafting essential to the player, while Andromeda tries to sell the player on the idea that their work is for the betterment of someone else, and sometimes that doesn’t pan out.
There are no shortcuts to player empathy
Like Hangar 13’s Harrison Pink told us a few weeks ago, there is no way to get players to care about characters just on the basis of family relationships—which is a trap that Mass Effect: Andromeda unfortunately falls into. But just because the story gets off to a slightly confusing start doesn’t mean there’s something to learn from that stumbling. We reviewed the overlap with the recent release of Horizon: Zero Dawn, which managed to subvert tropes about dead family members in order to build player interest.
How do you wrangle with game mechanics you don’t like?
If you’re a game developer (or industry-focused reporter), it’s not easy to talk about how features in a game are “bad” since some part of your brain is no doubt muttering “there but for the grace of God go I.” While critics and players are often more free to (justifiably) critique the “fun” of game design, there’s a very thin line to walk when talking about another developer’s work. We shared our thoughts on finding that productive balance during the stream, especially in the wake of how much of that criticism has slipped into actual harassment of game developers.
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