Tag Archive: bioware

“And it’s another ambush.” This innocuous, almost throw-away line of dialogue near the end of a side mission on the ice planet Voeld was one of the most compelling moments in my time with Mass Effect: Andromeda. Not because the situation or even the line itself was particularly thrilling, but because the exasperation with which the line was delivered was exactly how I had felt for about the first 30 hours of the 65 it took me to finish the campaign. The seeming self-awareness by Ryder was the first time I found myself able to finally relate to the new hero of one of gaming’s most beloved series, and yet succinctly summed up one of the main reasons why I was not enjoying myself.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is of course the fourth main game in BioWare’s epic space-faring RPG franchise. This latest chapter technically begins between the original Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, where a former N7 named Alec Ryder and his children sign up for a program known as the Andromeda Initiative, a space-exploration mission that sends them—and nearly 100,000 others from select races—off towards the Heleus cluster in the Andromeda galaxy while frozen in cryo-stasis upon special ships aptly called Arks. The journey is set to take just over 600 years, and the hope upon arrival is they will be able to colonize “golden worlds,” planets that appear hospitable for life from the Milky Way. Taking control of one of Alec’s fraternal twin children (male or female), you soon realize that the worlds you had hoped to forge a future on are no longer golden, and the ill-timed death of your father makes you inadvertently the tip of a new spear that must be forged if civilization is to thrive on this new frontier.

This task of finding and terraforming new worlds is one of your two major objectives in Andromeda as the newly designated “Pathfinder” for the Initiative—and I quickly grew to despise it. Ryder must make five planets viable for life to live on, but the process is the same each and every time: activation of ancient technology on each world to expedite the terraforming process while completing mundane tasks for people on or wanting to go to the planet. It’s bad enough the worlds can be boiled down to “ice world,” “jungle world,” “sandy desert world,” “rocky desert world,” and “hive of scum and villainy.” Combine them with monotonous, circuitous fetch quests that have you bouncing around the galaxy and suffering through long, unskippable interstellar travel scenes before getting just a couple of lines of dialogue and a green check mark in your menu, or being sent to an outpost to kill all the bad guys, and I honestly almost wanted the Initiative to fail. They’re the most transparent and dull quests an RPG can provide, especially with minimal main story involvement, and it all just felt like a mechanism to bloat the game’s length from the 30-35 hours it could’ve been—which would have fallen in line with previous games in the series—to the 65-75 hours you’ll likely need to do everything now, should you choose to do so like I did. If ever there was an argument that bigger isn’t necessarily better, Andromeda makes it.

The other major issue with this task is that it makes the universe feel like a knockoff of what the original trilogy had provided, as your job is just building this galaxy up to original Mass Effect levels.  When I landed on the Citadel in the original Mass Effect, the alien races and the scope of everything blew me away. When you land on the Nexus (wannabe Citadel) in Andromeda via the Tempest (wannabe Normandy), many alien races like the drell, quarians, elcor, hanar, and volus—to name just a few—have all been cut. Only the krogan, turians, salarians, asari, and, of course, humans, have supposedly made the trip from the Milky Way. To replace nearly a dozen other species from the original trilogy, all we get are the new enemies (the kett), one new ally (the angarans), and the references to a long dead race whose technology plagues Andromeda (the remnant). In a game that felt like it was trying to sell itself on exploration and new experiences, it’s depressing how little there was in Andromeda to genuinely explore and get excited about, since it all felt so familiar and barebones. BioWare should have streamlined the side quests, not the Heleus cluster.


Luckily, your other main objective in the Andromeda galaxy will feel a lot more familiar, and is a lot more fun. Along your viability journey, you’ll come across the aforementioned kett, a ruthless alien race bent on conquering every species in the known universe. While not focused on all-out destruction like the reapers were in the original trilogy, the kett are interested in assimilation, and they are very curious in everyone who just appeared from the Milky Way. This conflict makes up the majority of the game’s story beats, and the missions associated with stopping the kett not only provide more variety than the viability ones, but are heavily grounded in the dialogue and character development we’ve come to expect from a BioWare game. The leader of the kett, the Archon, is the epitome of the ruthlessness that embodies his people, and my only complaint on that front is I wish there was more of him—and more length to this storyline in general—as he worked from the shadows most of the game.

Speaking of characters, it wouldn’t be Mass Effect without a ragtag group of aliens and humans coming together to represent the diversity this fictional galaxy is supposed to be all about. I was a little shocked that the group just seems to be thrown together rather quickly and haphazardly—you’ll have your entire squad by the start of the second planet—but I couldn’t help but develop strong emotions towards each and every one of them. In fact, the long chains of events that culminate in their loyalty missions might have been my favorite objectives in the game. And, because all of the characters don’t know the fate of the Milky Way since they left after the original Mass Effect, it is interesting to see them wonder about what might’ve happened, how old prejudices like those between salarians and krogans are still running strong here in Andromeda, and how they sort through the mysteries and baggage they brought with them which often prompted them to leave everything they knew behind in the first place.

What strengthens these relationships the most, though, is dialogue. Although some of the dialogue—and the acting in general—is hit or miss, more options than the Paragon/Renegade choices of the original trilogy have been offered to help provide a better, more rounded Ryder than Shepard. Some answers are more professional, while others more emotional. Some are guarded; others show a softer side to Ryder, and in turn, possibly your teammates. It’s a welcome bit of nuance for one of the series’ core mechanics. There’s even an opportunity within some cutscenes—almost like a Telltale game—where pressing a trigger button will have Ryder act impulsively, which could profoundly affect relationships down the line.

Of course, you’re not just talking in Mass Effect: Andromeda. The third-person shooter gameplay from the main trilogy returns with some tweaks to them. A new cover mechanic has been added that really doesn’t work as well as it should—most of the time, you’ll hug a corner you didn’t mean to, and even then you’re often still at least partially exposed. And, credit to the AI here, if you do stay in cover for too long, the enemy will quickly try to flank you. So, your best bet is to keep moving. A new jetpack that gives you some pure jumping ability has also been added that allows you to float when aiming, but really, flying above all your cover just makes you a prime target.


The jetpack also introduces some teeth-grindingly frustrating platforming sections to the game. Exploring the ancient ruins you need to navigate in order to turn on each planet’s terraforming machines is a torturous exercise in futility. Adding jumping to a game with an emphasis on exploration makes sense, but it lacks the finesse necessary to keep the mechanic—and vertical navigation in general—from becoming nothing but a chore. Ryder never sticks a landing after a long jump, often times leading to him tumbling off an edge, and it is very difficult to judge distance here because the camera is positioned far too closely to your character. It’s perfect for a third-person shooter, not a third-person platformer.

The last major addition to gameplay is that four of the five planets you need to make viable require you to traverse them in the Nomad, the new version of the original Mass Effect’s Mako. Simply put, the Nomad sucks. You need to change gears to climb even the slightest incline on every planet, it lacks any sort of weaponry—which would have made the more bad guy-ridden planets a lot more fun instead of constantly having to leave the vehicle to shoot people—and even when you are able to climb up a mountain that should be accessible, you’ll find blue neon walls appear to signify the edge of the world, forcing you to take the long way around every mountain. Driving was almost as much of a chore as jumping.

As you complete missions, explore the landscape, and take out kett and remnant, you’ll level up like in any RPG. Much like the more nuanced dialogue options, there are many ways to make Ryder truly unique to you here in Andromeda. Dozens of power options fall under combat, technology, or biotics, with three non-passive choices being able to be carried into battle at a time (though they can be switched out on the fly via the menu screen if a situation should change). By spending points in each category, you’ll also unlock profiles, which give boosts depending on your playstyle. For example, the Soldier profile is exclusively combat tree-heavy in its bonuses, while others mix and match two of the three trees in its bonuses, with one profile skewing to all three. I preferred the Vanguard personally, which was a mix of combat and technology.

For as easy as leveling up is, though, the new crafting system is as much of a chore as a lot of the other systems added to this game. You can’t craft on the fly, having to either find a tucked-away research & development console somewhere on a planet, or return to your ship, which always takes back off into space for some reason whenever you return to it. I really don’t know why you can’t just go into the ship without it leaving dock and triggering the same annoying cutscene—trying to cover up the game’s awful loading times, perhaps. Collecting resources is easy enough, but building and equipping items is so bothersome I only touched the R&D consoles when I absolutely, positively had to make a change or craft a quest item.


While on the subject of load times, now is also perfect to talk about how broken Mass Effect: Andromeda is from a technical aspect. Animation has never been a BioWare strong suit, but there were many instances while I was playing that the animation was busted or weird on another level. I’ve seen three different Drack (your krogan ally) walk into the galley on the Tempest at once; I’ve seen PeeBee (asari ally) blink out of existence in the middle of a conversation; I’ve seen the Nomad spawn in places it shouldn’t, like inside buildings; I’ve fallen through the world on fast travel points, and had Ryder randomly give speeches from cutscenes in missions that I completed hours prior. I’ve seen some shit in this game, and that’s not even including the long load times, the awful draw distance, and the instances where the game literally comes to a complete halt if you drive too fast in the Nomad as the planets you are driving on struggle to load into your game. This game is going to be getting patches for a long time.

Besides the campaign (which comprises the overwhelming bulk of Andromeda) there is also a multiplayer component. Andromeda basically borrows the wave-based, horde-like multiplayer from Mass Effect 3 and updates it with new maps, new enemies, and some new objectives. There’s also dozens of new loadouts available that can be unlocked, but I personally would rather just be given a couple characters that can be more deeply customized than all these starting templates that need to be unlocked. There are also microtransactions to purchase credits to unlock items, but going that route is wholly unnecessary. (Of course, I think the multiplayer part of Mass Effect is unnecessary to begin with, though.)

Fighting seven waves of enemies with friends to obtain items—some of which can be carried over to the campaign, like credits and crafting materials—loses its luster very quickly to me. That’s especially the case now that the single-player campaign allows you to send CPU “Strike Teams” to do the missions instead, getting you all the gear you want without the time commitment of having to find friends to play with and stepping away from the story. Managing these teams from a console on the Tempest was a lot more fun and a lot less time consuming than the multiplayer, but if wave-based survival with some objectives is your thing, there are also a lot worse choices out there than what Andromeda provides. Also, I had no issues connecting or finding people to play with, so that’s a plus at least.

Mass Effect: Andromeda isn’t a bad game—but it is far from what we expect from the series. Poorly written fetch-quests, a dead universe that requires the player to bring any semblance of life to it, and more glitches than can be found tolerable in a game like this horribly mar the experience. There is a strong foundation of characters and story that is being laid down here, which gives me hope for the future, but this new chapter of the Mass Effect saga is a high price to pay in order to reinvest in a universe so many of us had come to love.


Publisher: Electronic Arts • Developer: BioWare Montreal • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.21.17
There is a strong core of characters and story bedrock laid down in Mass Effect: Andromeda, but between questionable design choices, boring missions, and glitches galore, it’s hard not to view BioWare’s journey to a brand new galaxy as anything less than mission failure.
The Good The main story and new cast of characters are often as compelling as those left behind in the Milky Way.
The Bad Lots of busy work fetch-quests, a sense of everything being too familiar for being 600 light years away, and bugs—so many bugs.
The Ugly I fell harder for PeeBee than I expected.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by EA for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I got to guest host on Nerd Alert this week with Kim Horcher. We talked about myriad topics, including the newest love interest in Mass Effect: Andromeda!

Former Assassin’s Creed producer and Ubisoft Toronto managing director Jade Raymond is opening a new studio with EA, the two jointly announced yesterday.

The new studio, named Motive, will be located in Montreal. EA has a strong presence already there with EA Montreal and Bioware Montreal, the latter of which will now share a space with Motive.

Motive will be purposed with creating its own original IP, while also assisting on other projects. Besides launching Motive Studios, Raymond is also taking over leadership of Visceral Games, located in California, while Scott Probst will still act as general manager.  The first project for Raymond and Motive will be to help Amy Hennig at Visceral with her new, still unrevealed Star Wars game.

While it should be interesting to see how Raymond balances her time between Montreal and California, this is a huge coup for EA and we can’t wait to see just what Motive brings to the table for Star Wars and whatever original projects it may cook up.

According to a preview from Playstation Official Magazine, Dragon Age: Inquisition will introduce a new metagame system to the series revolving around castle keeps.

Keeps serve as focal points in each of Orlais’ many varied regions. Each one the player captures unlocks new quests for their character.

With players serving as the Inquisitor, keeps also allow you to assign varying amounts of Inquisition agents to maintain it and its surrounding region once in your control. The more agents you assign to a keep, the more you can put it to work for your hero.

For example, you can have agents build a mine to bring in more cash.  Or you can make your agents rebuild a colossus to improve keep morale incase it finds itself in conflict with invading forces at some point. This leads me to believe that keep defense will also play some role in this new metagame.

The OPM preview also draws a parallel to Assassin’s Creed in some ways with this new feature, and I have to agree as it sounds a lot like the Kenway Fleet or Brotherhood building aspects from the more recent games. Either way, it looks to add some much needed gameplay depth and variety to this third chapter in Bioware’s epic medieval fantasy.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is slated for a Q3 2014 release on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

Don’t fear the Reapers

Part of what’s made Mass Effect so amazing as a series is how much the direct choices you make as a player not only affect you in game, but beyond. And the concluding chapter in this tremendous trilogy doesn’t let up at all in that regard, as choices made in the first two games come back to reward or haunt you in unforeseen ways as you continue to fight against the Reapers.

Whereas the first Mass Effect was all about introducing us to the major players and ME2 was about building up relationships and your own personal task force, ME3 is all about cultivating the relationships from the first two games in order to best prepare the galaxy into forming a united front against the Reapers, who now even pester you in the galaxy map, which adds a new layer of danger to the previously mundane process of probing planets. Every task you complete and planet you successfully probe will affect how much military strength you can muster, and by crossing the wrong person or making the wrong choice on how to allocate available resources, you can strengthen or weaken the armada you’re trying to create.

The story’s also a bit more engrossing this time around, as there are a lot more cinematic, big-movie moments—and they all look amazing, as the visuals are probably the most impressive in the series to date. This more fluid story telling really helps the game flow, and fans of the series will appreciate a lot of throwback references that sometimes come from nowhere and will instantly put a smile on your face.

The weapons, armor, and RPG leveling-up system have also been streamlined so that players who want a more action-packed experience are doing less item hunting and navigating menus. Plus, there’s also a “narrative” difficulty option that really fleshes out conversations and the customization for those players who’d prefer the more traditional RPG experience.

The combat controls feel tighter and field tactics are also smoother this time around, but the cover mechanics introduced in Mass Effect 2 are still very delicate, and movement’s much more deliberate than you’d want in any type of a shooter. And that isn’t what you need in the heat of battle, as you’ll often accidentally roll away from cover when you’re trying to stick to it. Coupled with a flawed damage feedback mechanic that doesn’t properly inform players how much damage they are taking, and combat can still be irksome at times.

But Mass Effect 3’s greatest problem is its new multiplayer system. And it’s not the fact that it’s an amalgamation of Battlefield 3’s class system with Gears of War’s Horde mode, as I love both of those games’ multiplayer options. No, my problem lies in the fact that you’re pretty much forced into playing the multiplayer in order to unlock the best possible ending in the single-player mode. This aspect, called “Galaxy at War,” starts where the galaxy’s 50 percent ready to take on the Reaper threat as soon as you begin your single-player game. But instead of collecting more assets in single-player or completing side quests to improve on this number, you need to win multiplayer matches, which correlates to your armada readiness in single-player mode—this means players will be forced to play a mode they might not necessarily want to get into right away. Plus, there is no local split-screen options and a lot of times the best co-op multiplayers all allow you to have your buddy sitting right next to you while you play.

Mass Effect 3 is still an awesome game overall, of course, as the few negatives just happen to stand out against what is an otherwise mostly blemish free experience. Even the Kinect options are a lot more enjoyable than I had anticipated, although I found myself falling back into old game play patterns a few hours in as I’m just not used to screaming at my TV (when not watching a sporting event, anyway). The conclusion to the story is phenomenal, the action’s great with legions of new and old enemies alike, and the multiplayer’s fun and addictive, even if I don’t like how it affects your single-player campaign. Not to mention Mass Effect 3 has one of the more moving scores I’ve heard from a game in a while and fantastic voice acting for all our returning favorite characters, and a nice job by some new folks like Freddie Prinze Jr. as James Vega. Fans who invested in the first two games will know the wait for this third game was well worth it, and BioWare shows why they’re some of the best storytellers in the industry.

SUMMARY: Mass Effect’s brilliant story remains intact, and if you played the previous two games, the payoff’s more than satisfying. Some cover and combat issues remain unsolved, though, and the idea of participation in a completely separate multiplayer mode potentially influencing your single-player ending is mind-boggling.

  • THE GOOD: Brilliantly concludes one of the most epic trilogies of this console generation
  • THE BAD: Multiplayer tie-in to single player, combat and control nitpicks
  • THE UGLY: Joker wanting to get it on with a robot

SCORE: 9.0

Mass Effect 3 is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.

Originally Published: December 20, 2011, on EGMNOW.com

THE BUZZ: One of the most highly anticipated MMOs of the year, Star Wars: The Old Republic is set in a time period rarely explored in the fiction of this darling sci-fi universe. And Star Wars fans have always been some of the most diehard no matter what galaxy they may be from. So it wasn’t a surprise that when a Collector’s Edition of SW: TOR was announced that pre-orders came in by the bucketful. But now that players are starting to receive their Collector’s Editions, they are finding a starting mistake made on the part of EA and Bioware.

Many of the product keys are missing from the boxes and therefore players are being denied access to the game they have for so long been waiting to be a part of. As seen on a thread dedicated to the issue on the Bioware forums, this problem is happening all over the world as you can see for yourself here: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=37565

This was originally brought to our attention by consumer Dan Fabrizio, who had bought two of the Collector’s Editions, one for himself and one for his girlfriend (lucky gal), but only received one product code. He had this to say on the subject after waiting on hold from customer service for nearly three and a half hours and only receiving several automated responses from a Bioware bot: “I am very frustrated by the lack of customer support we’ve received from Bioware and EA. I am still a huge fan of Bioware, but you can’t help but lose a little faith after something like this happens followed by the subsequent treatment we have received as fans.”

EGM’s TAKE: It’s one thing if this was an isolated incident, but considering that it seems to be happening to dozens of these Collector’s Editions, someone clearly messed up and the consumers are suffering for it. And the fact that Bioware has been slow to respond, if at all, to many of these consumers is just poor business practice and surprising from someone like Bioware who are typically so fan-oriented and friendly. It could just be an issue falling through the cracks, but for those affected by this debacle, it’s like as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I guess this is what happens when you focus more on cosplaying at the stock exchange than customer service, though.

What do you guys and gals think of this? Have you had problems with the collector’s edition of Star Wars: The Old Republic? Do you think it should be a top priority for BioWare to fix this? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Back in December I had the chance to attend the 2010 SpikeTV VGAs and work the red carpet. Here I had a chance to speak with the only version of Commander Shepard for most people, Jennifer Hale, the female version of Commander Shepard for Bioware’s Mass Effect series. We chatted about how more people should look at her as the only Commander Shepard and how it is to be in such a widely popular series.

Originally Published: March 22, 2011, on youtube.com/Rcars4885

I come to you once again with your weekly geek fix from my mother’s basement! This week’s episode sees me review Generation Hope #5 from Marvel and Dragon Age II for Xbox 360 from EA and Bioware. My hot chick pick of the week is Carol Zara from DigitallyBlonde.com and this week’s theme is the end credits theme from Dragon Age II, “I’m Not Calling You a Liar” by Florence + The Machine.

Originally Published: January 24, 2011, on youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Dragon Age: Origins from EA for the Xbox 360.

Originally Published: January 17, 2011, on youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Mass Effect 2 for the Xbox 360 from Bioware and EA.