Until now, I can’t think of a game I’ve fallen in love with that was poorly received universally.
That’s not because I read reviews of games and use them as a guide for how I should feel about the game, but perhaps because aggregate reviews are for the most part, a good indicator if something is well made.
As review aggregates aren’t necessarily reflective of taste, though, I’ve certainly had the opposite reaction. In recent memory I found Uncharted 4 to be an unbearable slog, Gears of War 4 to live in the same frat house as Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, and Nioh bland and uninspired. I don’t hold any of these opinions in the hope of being contrarian, it’s just the general feeling I’ve received when walking away from them.
I’ve tried to play all three installments of the original Mass Effect trilogy several times over.
I own all of them and have tried to attack them at every angle. Even getting thirty hours into Mass Effect 2 wasn’t enough to sway me. Everything about its world seemed to be an amalgamate of every generic made-for-TV SciFi movie of the past twenty years. I found character interactions wooden and topics that were really supposed to get me, like the Genophage, hamfisted. The combat felt somehow rigid and sloppy simultaneously. The character building was as narrow as the corridors that populate most of the places you go. Most egregious to me though, is that the veil it wore to convince you that it was going be a sprawling space adventure was ever so thin.
So. Mass Effect: Andromeda. The controversy spiraling out from its pre-release cycle is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The absolutely toxic vitriol of teenagers lashing out at people who supposedly worked on the game. Gamergate 2.0. The facial animation memes. The list goes on. Fast forwarding to its release date, it received middling scores, getting knocked for its writing, character development, quest structure. You name it. It’s the sort of game that as somebody who likes to write about games, one can’t ignore. So I bought it despite having every reason, including my disinterest of the original trilogy, to bounce off it.
I sat down last Tuesday morning with a cup of tea, one of my cats asleep next to my monitor, and started to play Mass Effect Andromeda. I looked up at the clock and six hours had passed. I made a sandwich, grabbed a beer (hey, it was my day off) and continued until my girlfriend came home. I found myself totally immersed in its world, combat, and the sense of discovery. I came to the startling realization that I really like this game.
At about ten hours in I haven’t discovered any goofy bugs. The facial animation, while a little at odds with what a character is saying sometimes, is leagues beyond something like Fallout 4. The combat, while not as razor’s edge clean as something like Bloodborne, is definitely fun. And most importantly, I genuinely feel like Sarah and her crew are on an adventure. Being stranded 600 light years from anything resembling home comes across well.
Unless this game totally folds its hand, I’m quite pleased with it so far, which is far from how I thought I would feel. That being said, there is a good chance that my reaction to the game is directly correlative to my negative feelings about its predecessors. Essentially all of the issues I had with Mass Effect 1-3 have been addressed in one form or another, from the combat to the sense of exploration.
It’s really disheartening to me to know that because of the negative buzz surrounding this game that it may never receive a sequel, that this branch of the Mass Effect universe may never live beyond what we have in Andromeda. I can’t help but feel that the meme-machine culture that is birthed out of Twitter and Reddit have guaranteed this game DOA. Part of me wonders if this game would have had a more healthy life cycle if it was released in the era of print media – in a time when public opinion was not so immediately malleable and quick to jump to conclusion.