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Thread: Mass Effect Andromeda

  1. #286
    Master of Shinobi Gentlegamer's Avatar
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    Star Wars Battlefront 2 confirmed to suck more than the first.

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    Antiquing Hedgehog Lord QuickSciFi's Avatar
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    ^Lol.

    It's so funny how the past couple of years had a rising trend with devs being so self-righteous in their statements on how little importance should be given to single player modes in games that clearly should. And soon after the slew of bad press and fans just not giving a rat's ass about multiplayer and/or online only games with their wallets safely remaining in their pockets, they started eating all their words; beginning with games like Street Fighter V, Titanfall 2, and now with Star Wars Battlefront 2.

    I laugh at the transparency of it all.

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    Thank god that Criterion are also involved in Battlefront 2

    Maybe Criterion can show Bioware how to not fucking suck at near enough everything

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    So, I picked this up on the cheap since from the sounds of it, it's been patched to be about as good as it's ever going to be, and I was having an itch to play an ME game yet didn't feel like replaying one/all of the original 3.

    Initial thoughts (only up to the part where I've got the full team together thus far).

    Good:
    It looks reasonably pretty. Not the best AAA game you are going to see, not by a long shot. But it's certainly got some nice scenery.
    It has a very Mass Effect feel to everything. It's obviously not hard to ape the style of the original 3, but it's nice that they kept to it in the areas that needed it in order to stay consistent.
    Gameplay is relatively decent. It's no dedicated shooter, but the controls work well enough and combat and exploration are usually pretty fun.

    Bad:
    The setup for the main story is terrible. It opens up plot holes you could park the citadel in and still have room to spare.
    Lots of REALLY insanely contrived plot points that obviously served no point other than to be a gameplay/story element. Not a bad thing when done well, but this is not done well.
    Characters are... meh. Some are ok, but the combination of stilted (sometimes just flat out bad) voice acting, and some bland writing makes me care way more for some of the ancillary characters thus far than any of the main crew.

    Ugly:
    Still plenty of crappy cut scenes from a direction standpoint that have yet to be cleaned up.
    Lots of bugs and janky animations. It's very common for a scene to just "pop up" where it looks like they have dropped in the characters a split second before the camera cut to them. They jerk towards the camera, "fall" into place, etc.
    Some really bad assets at time. There was a scene on the new ship where I was in the Pathfinders quarters and it looked decent, it had a fairly OK background out the window (mostly a starfield). But then plopped right next to the ship was a moon or a comet texture that was so incredibly low res that it could have made a jpg from the mid 90's look like a high quality asset. I honestly looked like a really crappy high school play background, just needed someone to run just under the window with something on a pole with a string to "move" it across the window to complete just how bad it looked.



    If I would have bought this full price (especially one of the super expensive $70+ versions) expecting a game that was up to the level of quality of any of the first 3 games I would have been pissed if I couldn't have returned it.

    And speaking of the first 3. There were little details and nuances in them that just added so much world building. Going to planets in orbit and seeing them spin according to their own day/night rotation. Little details that just were noticed and appreciated.
    This game doesn't really have that kind of thing. Hell, the planets don't even spin. Not when "orbiting" them, and not when scanning them for resources either.

  5. #290
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    Quote Originally Posted by EclecticGroove View Post
    ...from the sounds of it, it's been patched to be about as good as it's ever going to be...
    I thought the team had a set schedule, with more patches coming in till this fall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by QuickSciFi View Post
    I thought the team had a set schedule, with more patches coming in till this fall.
    They have, but unless they put a LOT more work into it, there's going to be nothing but minor fixes and tweaks. The dead eyed stares are gone, but most of the remaining issues are fundamental problems with the writing/acting/direction itself, and more than a few things that are likely due to the implementation of the engine and tools used in the game. Those are all things that could be adjusted and fixed in a follow up game, but I just can't see them putting in the level of effort needed to more or less redo a rather sizable chunk of the game itself.

    The can do some DLC that stands out for sure, but the core game is not likely to get substantially better. Just a bit more polished and refined.

    I'd love it if I'm wrong, but this is EA, minimal effort put in to get the result they want. It's obvious this game wasn't a labor of love from someone to make a great ME game. It's cobbled together sci fantasy tropes and cliche's to make a very average (not terrible) AAA game.

    If ME 1-3 was a nice NY strip from a pretty good steakhouse, Andromeda is the cheap cut from TGI Fridays or similar.
    It's not terrible, you aren't going to spit it out and walk out of the place.... But that's about all you can say about it.

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    Check out just this one topic on BSN titled Visual Analysis and Critique of the aliens in Mass Effect: Andromeda by poster Sepphyr.

    A comparison between the current in-game models and the originals from the trilogy.

    I originally planned on writing this analysis on only the Turians in Andromeda. Something perturbed me the way the in-game models were made in comparison to the older ones of the trilogy (to the point where it was borderline changing canon information.) While gathering my source images, I decided to include some of the other species and point out their issues/differences as well. This analysis will look at things such as texture, posturing, and anatomy/biology of each species.

    I mention new races, the main antagonist, and teammates, but other than that I'd like to think this is rather a spoiler free critique/analysis. I'm still just at the beginning of the game myself.


    Turians

    One of the main things I noticed back when we only had a glimpse of the Turian faces in the trailers, was that the new Turian faces appeared very white, or blank in appearance. I’m not talking about a lack of facial markings either, but rather, a very bleached out base, underneath the markings- what would be the natural colors and patterns of each natural born Turian.
    Let me pull out my first example, the first Turian we meet in-game, Tiran Kandros.

    My first thought was “wow, his face is strangely white” and then “Oh, Tiran Kandros? As in, a relative of Nyreen Kandros?” which then led to, “Oh! Nyreen had a very white face as well, perhaps it's a biological trait.”

    Unfortunately, my assumption soon proved to be incorrect, as this flat white base crest kept repeating itself with multiple Turians we would come across in-game.


    Something else I noticed about the Turians was that, unlike their trilogy predecessors, the male Turians of Andromeda had sealed secondary nostrils.
    Here’s a comparison of Kandros (Andromeda) and Chellick (ME1):

    Some of you may be asking, “Well, how do you know those are secondary nostrils?” The answer is honestly- I don’t. However, the way the in-game models were designed before suggests this was an anatomical fact, by leaving such deep grooves in their noses, but also within the concept art:

    As you can see on the left, the artist very clearly shapes the forms of the nose in such a way that it is an orifice, and on the right when they draw the Turian expressing himself, the nose closes up. Now, of course, this may only be an early design choice, as Turians don’t raise their crests like a stimulated cockatoo (as funny as that would that be) in-game either. Despite this, I think we can all agree that the Turian species does have deep grooves in its nose, whether they are canonically nostrils or not.
    Strangely enough, they portray this more accurately with the current female Turian models, although it is still clearly designed as indentations, rather than deep grooves.

    Despite this being ignored, this could have been something easily improved upon by the texture artist. Which leads me to my next point…

    There’s simply not enough value changes to properly reveal the various physical forms in the Turian face. Because of this, even with the markings- most Turian faces appear extremely flat.
    What I mean by this, is that there aren’t as many shadows in and around certain areas of the face indicating what the forms are. For example, shadows under the cheekbones, the brow line, the jaw line.
    I’m making a lot of assumptions here, but it seems like whoever did the texture mapping, did a very flat job.
    I say this, because looking at the original models for the faces, they look very well crafted and finely detailed.

    My assumption is then, that for whatever reason, they were counting on the raw forms of the game models to add enough depth and shadow, without adding much more from the texture map.
    This is still evident in the darker faced Turians, because although they are darker- they lose their features because they aren’t properly shaded/highlighted in the face, aka the values aren’t working or are just plainly not there at all. This CAN change in certain lighting, but it would be better for it to remain consistent throughout the game.

    It seems like they added flat color, texture, and the facial markings, without adding additional texture map shadows/highlights. Now let’s look at an old Turian from the trilogy, particularly one without markings, and compare it to a blank-faced Turian from Andromeda.

    Perhaps you can see it more clearly? There is simply a lack of depth in the faces that I believe can easily be fixed by the texture mapping artist. For comparison, I will do some small edits in photoshop to show how I think this can be improved.

    I feel like this has happened in a few other places as well, including the original Human/Asari eyes with the game’s release. They also had just flat colors and didn’t account for the cast shadow that would come from the upper eyelid. The result was well, a soulless stare we all dealt with until the 1.05 patch was released. Of course, the human face issues are a whole other topic. Let’s move on.

    Digitigrade Legs

    A digitigrade is an organism that biologically walks on its toes instead of the entire foot. This includes animals such as dogs, cats, and horses. In contrast, an organism that biologically walks on its entire foot is known as a plantigrade, this includes human beings, most primates, and bears.

    In the original Mass Effect, the species were designed in such a way that they could be placed on a “human skeleton.” This is because of the technological barriers they had back in the day, and the animators could only work with so much. The results left us with alien species that are bipedal (walks on two legs) but have digitigrade biology/walking patterns.

    Though the Mass Effect species with the “backward knees” aren’t necessarily walking on their toes, they ARE still using the bone/muscle structure of a digitigrade, and thus, are using the physics of digitigrade legs.

    Mass Effect species that use this structure are Turian, Quarian, Geth, Salarian and Krogan.
    “dog legs” as Jack so lovely put them.

    In Andromeda, I’m sure a few of you, like myself, have noticed the awkward ever changing leg patterns of the Turians. Sometimes they are perfectly fine, upright, and other times they look strangely bendy, or- “off balance.” There is a very good reason for this, and it’s all in the placement of the knees in each species. I’ll try my best to explain this.

    First, let’s look at a few “awkward” examples.


    Vetra and Tiran here are probably a good place to start. Looking at these two, it looks as if Tiran is getting ready to do a wall sit, or position himself into a crouch, likewise, Vetra looks like she could spring into a jump at any moment.

    It’s a very common thing to see animal legs this way- as constantly 'bent'
    In fact, animals like dogs and horses, even though they appear to have 'bent' legs actually do have straight knees, and that’s the crucial part here. There is no mammal that stands upright with constantly bent legs.
    Think about how quickly your thighs and calves get tired when you’re doing a wall sit, how quickly you feel the need to straighten your legs out when you do a squat. That’s because knees are biologically designed in such a way to most effectively carry your weight when they are straight and are directly underneath the core of your weight (i.e; hips/body).

    It’s important to know how gravity/weight travels down the skeleton and into the ground. Creating digitigrade legs incorrectly will result in the creature/individual looking as if they’re about to fall over, or that they’re crouching, or that they’re about to jump up.
    It’s important to visually convey that when in a neutral standing position, the knees are always straight.

    Let’s look at how the original Mass Effect models handled this.

    Something to take note of here is that although all of these species look digitigrade, only the Turian and Salarian technically are. Jack calls Tali, a Quarian, “dog legs” but she is, in fact, plantigrade- her entire foot is on the ground, with an exaggerated bend in her shin bones. If there is a joint where her calf muscles should be, they never animated it in-game, or it is very subtle.

    In fact, it’s quite arguable who is a true digitigrade here and who isn’t. The most clearly defined is the Krogan, who has an obviously elevated heel, however, it is an addition to the heel which is flat on the ground. Does the Salarian have a joint where his calf muscles should be? Indeed, these are simply speculations. What’s more important are the anatomical design choices made here. Each of these alien species has a unique leg shape, with arguably varying joints and muscle structures, but what is consistent is that the knees are straight, not in front of them, and they are directly underneath the core of their weight. None of these profiles look as if they are about to jump or fall over.

    Angara

    Whoever it was that put the models in this state, be it a glitch or not (perhaps related to the awkward in-game human leg animations?) was also unaware of this fact while positioning the legs of the new Angara race. Let’s look at some of these guys.


    What’s interesting about the Angaran, is that they’re so close to being 100% fine- in fact, I love their design, however, you can see the same thing I pointed out before- that their knees come out in front of them rather than being directly under them. To fix this, all they really need to do is push the knees back OR bring their torsos extremely forward to balance the core of the weight.
    The second image here shows a posture they are in sometimes which looks much more normal than the one on the left. This is because being so hunched over actually creates balance for the legs which are already excessively forward.

    Krogans

    I don’t have much in the form of critique for these guys, but rather just comparing their changes for the fun of it and adding some thoughts of my own.
    Despite having the same protruding bent knee issues, they aren’t as extreme as the Turians or Angara.
    Something I would like to point out, however, is more texture mapping.


    Here’s a nice picture of Drack, our Krogan grandpa. Something that was consistent with the old Krogan designs, however, was the dark skin around the eyes.

    That small design choice always gave the Krogans such a predatory glare that I miss quite a bit with their new design. I realize that it wouldn’t work as well with the Krogan who have the darker colored eyes, but I still believe it would have been a nice addition via texture mapping. Along with that, some minor shading in the folds of their bat-like faces and scales. Just a little something extra to give more depth to the original model.

    The females have an interesting look about them in this game. I like that they kept the consistency of the smaller, flatter plates on the head/neck. It appears they’ve also widened the hips and given them possibly a bit of a thicker lower lip than the males. All understandable choices. Something I might have done with them, however, is narrow the jawline ever so slightly, just to give that feminine edge, perhaps also a more angular eye. This form of femininity, however, is arguably human in nature, and therefore not necessarily applicable for brutes such as the Krogan. Just a possible design choice.

    The Problem With The Archon…

    He has… well… childlike face proportions.
    A large forehead, small jawline, chin, etc…

    As the main villain, I imagine you’d want to stay away from something like this. But because I haven’t played the game all the way through yet, it’s possible that perhaps he is a young leader? Maybe something to do with the age or reproduction of his species is a core factor in the narrative? I have yet to find out, however, here are some more edits that I thought could be useful.


    I’ve lengthened his jaw, nose and mouth areas to those of a more average adult. I’ve also slightly scaled down the size of his eyes. I think even these small changes go a long way for the design of the character.

    The Kett as a whole seem alright. From what I’ve seen they have texture/model variations of their rocky exoskeleton like bodies and faces which are great. If there is anything to compare/critique it’s only the things I’ve mentioned before, such as the texture mapping and proper positioning of the legs/knees.
    Overall I do like their visual design.

    Salarians

    A huge issue with the Salarians is their eyes. Salarians canonically blink entirely upwards with their bottom eyelid. In Andromeda, they animate them blinking like any other species (both lids but mainly upper) which is a big flaw for those of us who are super nerds and like canon information to stay correct.

    Mordin and Kallo, respectively. You can see the blinking difference very clearly here.

    It’s a small animation change, but it’s important to those of us who are so involved with the IP. That’s why there was a few who became frustrated when it was revealed that Peebee had hair on her eyebrows- as Asari physiology in previous games stated they could never have such a thing.
    Information was released later that she had remaining “human genes” or something to that extent which could “explain” it.
    but that still conflicts with established Asari reproduction methods again from previous games, so, it’s a tricky rope to walk. I understand some things are sacrificed for design choices for overall better visuals but.. it didn't seem like a very necessary change to me.

    Back to the Salarians.
    Something else I’m sure fewer people have noticed thus far is that the Salarians in Andromeda DO have pupils and the way they have created the Salarian pupils is inaccurate from the original trilogy. Salarians are amphibian and have eyes that mimic this, with pupils that are horizontal. If you peer closely into the dark eyes of Andromeda Salarians, they have vertical slit pupils, which are very inaccurate.

    I’ve overexposed the image of Tann so you can see the pupil a bit more clearly. I’ve also traced it in a separate window to the right if you still can’t see it.

    So that’s all I have to say so far. As I progress through the game I may come back and add or change a few things to this super nerdy piece of writing/critique/analysis.
    Both Asari and Human species have the same issues which have been addressed many times in the past. In my opinion, they already took the first step by fixing the eyes and adding shadows. Now all they really need to do is drop the chin level in conversations, “half-moon” the iris with the upper lid of the eye, and fix the eye tracking animation to some level.
    There are mouth issues sure, but those go less noticed when you have solid eyes/eye animations. You can see here with the last patch that they’ve already done this with Addison.


    That's all my thoughts! Thanks for reading.



    TL;DR Milky way species have altered visuals that conflict with canon information.


    I'd love to hear some feedback. Since this is my first post on this site do let me know if I'm in the wrong place or anything like that.
    Do you agree with any of this stuff? Disagree? Am I wrong about texture mapping tech? Thoughts on Turian/Salarian physiology?

  8. #293
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    So how's that playthrough coming along, EclecticGroove. Don't leave us in suspense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thief View Post
    So how's that playthrough coming along, EclecticGroove. Don't leave us in suspense.
    Just finished the main story last night. In the epilogue section now.

    The first part of the game is all over the place.
    Story meanders a bit in the middle. You have this massive galaxy wide (maybe intergalactic?) invading force... and you just kind of don't see them for a big chunk of the game while you pop around doing stuff.
    End run is pretty strong, but still not up to any of the prior ME games.
    The ending leaves a lot unanswered, but not in a good way. It's like the end of ME:2 as opposed to the end of ME:1. It's obvious they are intending this to be the first of many... but they should have made it a more self contained story to make sure people were going to give a shit.


    Some cool stuff in it, there was absolutely some things that could have been used for a much better game.

    Bad writing hurts the game a lot. I mean, ME:1-3 were not always the most upstanding pieces of writing... but this game just has bad writing.
    Even many of the good ideas and scenarios in Andromeda are just dragged down.
    The voice acting at times, combined with that writing, just makes some scenes that are supposed to be taken seriously just come off as really stupid. The "my face is tired" line is, of course, an early and very well known example of this... but there's so much more.

    I can just imagine some of the VA looked at these lines they had to record and just knew it was shit.

    Most of the rest of the issues come from so much of the game being pretty generic. ME:1 took lots of Sci Fi tropes as well, but they did so with much more care. Andromeda feels like this was done because they didn't have the time (or interest) to do more, not because they really loved the staples of classic Sci Fi tv, books, and movies.


    All said and done, it's still ME, and it's not entirely horrible. But it's a thoroughly mediocre game at best.
    It's pretty, but not a showcasing of great graphics.
    It doesn't have too many game breaking bugs, but it has lots of minor bugs that crop up (even still).
    Music isn't bad, but it's pretty forgettable. I can remember songs from the original trilogy. But there's not a single track from Andromeda I can remember anything about.
    A lot more stuff to do than previous ME games, but almost all of it is useless fluff or filler. There's multiple find/fetch quests on pretty much every planet, but they contribute nothing. Even worse is that many of the side quests deliberately toss you all over the place to run around and waste your time... which is made far worse by the cumbersome method they handle moving around from planet to planet.

    And then the biggest issue for me, in terms of how this stacks up vs ME:1 (which this is the most comparative to). I just don't give a shit about most of the characters.
    There's some you are made to dislike because of the game, and fair enough.
    But the characters your supposed to like? Yeah, not so much.
    I would not be sad if the entirety of the cast outside of Rider was replaced for the next game. Sure some could be developed to be much better if they get some actual talent writing them (and directing the VA's), but there's not enough care there for me to give a damn if they just start fresh.

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    What about the gameplay; combat and exploration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thief View Post
    What about the gameplay; combat and exploration.
    It's fine, to adequate for the most part. But it's also not so interesting that it really makes up for the other areas it lacks.
    Look at a game like Kingdom of Amalur to compare it to. It's a decent game, but the combat, inventory/equipment systems and such are deep, engaging, and just work well. They make the game fun to play and progress, and can be just as deep as you want to get involved with.
    ME:A, as a story based single player game anyways, is nowhere near that level. Add that in with the issues with writing and VA, it just isn't enough to elevate the game to something I can see replaying a number of times to see different paths I could take, let alone for just enjoying the game in general.

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    I thought the game play got too old, repetitive and revealed it's flaws much too quickly. I much prefer the tighter more focused corridor shooting of ME2. Heck, even ME1 game play is much more enjoyable to me.

    Exploring wise - after getting 100% viability on the first 3 main planets was where I've had enough and just focused on the priority missions to get this game done already. I still kinda plan on seeing the rest, but not sure when that will be or if I'll be able to see it through to 100% completion.

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    The only part of exploration I enjoyed was the visuals in some areas, and the Nomad. It was how the Mako should have been in ME:1, the only thing I miss is having the weaponry on it.

    But everything else about it was just tedious.

    Looking at a solar system?
    Select planet/point of interest, wait for the goddamn "fly to animation" to finish... which you can only skip part of.
    Then the thing itself loads and you scan, maybe find something (and almost never anything truly interesting).
    Then wash, rinse, repeat.

    That process for an entire solar system can take almost 20 minutes at times. It shouldn't take longer than 5 unless there's an event or something you can land on there.

    Planet side there's just tons of garbage to find, but only a handful of really interesting areas. There's only a few points of interest, and there's always drop spawns of mooks dropping all over, so you're never "done" with it.

    I swear I've killed half the population of the Nexus already just exploring around.

    I also got annoyed by the big giant boundary bubble that is around every area. Instead of creating physical barriers that you can't get past (unpassable mountains, large rivers, oceans, etc) they just put an orange bubble that appears when you get too close.
    It is lazy, breaks immersion, and occasionally it appears in an area between you and another part you can go to that you could pass, but instead the game forces you to go a much longer way around.

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    I thought the MAKO and it's game play in some off the off world stages were way better. I really enjoyed figuring out how to traverse to certain parts of the map in ME1. MEA unfortunately has none of that puzzle solving game play that makes you think a little, just go from point A to B on the main road pointing the way, lol. No level design and game play whatsoever. So really, the Nomad is like the Horse in The Witcher 3, worthless. Meanwhile the MAKO and Skyrim horse scale mountains and rough terrain like a champ.






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