Overstaying Your Welcome

 

“Fifty-one hours? I’ve only been playing for 51 hours?!” This was my initial thought after taking a look at my playtime for Mass Effect: Andromeda. I had been convinced that I’d clocked-in at least 70 hours. So, discovering that I’d only played for about 50 hours should have been pleasing or at least something of a relief. Instead, all I could think about was just how much longer it had felt. That wasn’t the even the worst part. No, the real kicker here was that I hadn’t even finished the game yet!

Having dozens of hours of content is not an inherently bad quality for a game to possess. If the game is able to make that time feel fun and/or rewarding, then it’s often held up as a major selling point. What if much of that playtime feels pointless or, even worse, boring though? What happens when players start looking forward to the end instead of enjoying the journey? What happens is that the game ceases to be fun and becomes something decidedly not fun: a chore.

I started Mass Effect: Andromeda knowing that it was supposed to be a long game, and I was even rather excited about that. I’d gladly spent at least a hundred hours or so in each of the previous ME games, so I was definitely all set for the long haul in Andromeda. At ten hours in I was still having a blast. At 20 hours I was still having fun with the exploration and the combat, but was starting to feel like the story hadn’t advanced much. At 30 hours in I felt things were moving too slowly, so I decided to ignore everything that wasn’t a character quest, Heleus quest, or “Priority Operation”. Even that wasn’t enough though, because here I was, 50+ hours in, and I still had a full-blown laundry list of “important” quests to wade through. It’s at this point that the heart of the problem became apparent. It wasn’t that the game was running long or that there was a lot to do, but rather that all these so-called “important” quests weren’t actually important at all. They, just like the obvious busywork that was everything that fell under “Tasks and Assignments”, were simply just more borderline inconsequential things to do.

For the most part, I’ve been left wondering why I bothered doing most of it. Aside from the initial Ryder, squad member, and ark missions, which at least added some character background or resolved some mystery, I can’t really recall a mission that added anything except playtime to my experience. There were no interesting scenarios, no wrinkles in mission design, nor even much information revealed about the Remnant, the Kett, or even the Angara. In fact the one time that I did find something I thought was interesting, it wound up amounting to nothing anyway. I should have had the chance to learn about the pre-Scourge Angara, but nope. There were no new reveals to be had. At this point, I’m really hoping that there’s at least some sort of story acknowledgment for getting every planet up 100%. If there isn’t, then it’ll be hard to convince me that most of the game wasn’t a waste of time.

I probably sound like I absolutely hate Mass Effect: Andromeda, but I actually don’t. I’ve enjoyed the main story. I think the combat is the best in the series. I genuinely like (most of) the characters, and I even like tooling around in the Nomad. My problem with it is the same one I had with Dragon Age: Inquisition: there’s just too much fat on it. The original trilogy of games were just fine with around 35-40 hours of play each, so one would think that Andromeda would have been fine without most of the busywork too. A game that tightens-up its belt and only provides what’s needed (and perhaps just a bit more) will always leave the player with a better impression than a game that provides mountains of unnecessary content. The former is fondly-missed while the latter inevitably winds up overstaying its welcome.


What do you think of Mass Effect: Andromeda and games like it?

Lede image captured by Hatm0nster

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Khayl Adam says:

    Shame to hear, I still haven’t gotten around to playing Andromeda but the buzz hasn’t been very positive 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cary says:

    After putting in a little more time with the game this past weekend, I’ve also hit around 50 hours. It’s been great so far — I really like just how flexible the game is in allowing players to roam as they see fit — but, I’m totally with you on the useless “Tasks and Assignments” sidequests. I completed a few of them early on, and they gave me…what? A couple AVP points apiece? Yeah, not much thanks after laboriously flitting back and forth in order to find/fetch/return something. So I’ve been ignoring them since. It’s made the experience feel much tighter.

    That said, I feel like I’ve yet to establish a decent balance between progressing with the story and building Ryder as a meaningful character. You mention Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the unfortunate similarities are there. I had the same issue with Inquisition, where, because of quest-bloat and how easy it was to get sidetracked, I never really took the time to establish relationships between my Inquisitor and the rest of the characters in the game. The same thing is happening in Andromeda where I’m getting so caught up since doing quests that I completely forget to interact with my crew. As such, I’ve not yet become interested in any of them. In the original ME trilogy, the games were more structured and included downtime between major missions for Shepard to talk the crew and be social. It made for a good balance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Quest bloat is absolutely the main problem here. It’s all just extra stuff to do that doesn’t matter in the slightest. The previous games had sidequests too, but they were handled differently. They were given to you in small amounts in order to keep the story moving forward. Talking to the crew was a priority. In Andromeda, neither of those things are true.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gamegato says:

    This reminds me of Xenoblade Chronicles X. That game gives you a ton of missions to do, although none of them actually help you. They give you a very small fraction of experience, and a few meager coins, and since the story quest missions are so hard, and the only way to be able to possibly do them is to level up a ton or buy expensive items with coins. Some quests are fun to do, but offer little reward.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      That sounds incredibly tedious. How long would it take to prepare for a typical story mission?

      Like

      1. Gamegato says:

        An hour to a weekend. Some monsters give you more experience than others, but those are usually hard to kill, or they wreck your stuff, which costs a pretty penny to repair. It’s really hard to find a place in the large open world that has easy to kill monsters, and it takes even longer to level up enough to do a story mission.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hatm0nster says:

        Wow…okay that actually sounds much worse than anything I’ve played thus far. Does the game have any redeeming qualities? Is the combat fun at least?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Gamegato says:

        The one redeeming quality is the open world.The open world is huge, and is pretty fun to explore. But eventually all the joy of exploration stops because you just end up fast traveling place to place. The combat is kind of fun, but since the only way to level up is to constantly kill monsters… combat loses it’s shine. There’s never a shortage of monsters to fight in the open world, but actually most monsters are really hard to kill, so you just end up spending one or two minutes fighting them. Eventually you unlock some items that make combat much more easy and eficient by giving you super strong attacks, but even when you have those items, combat is still hard sometimes because enemies can break those items, which costed a ton to buy and a ton to fix. So yeah, the open world is the redeemer, as well as some creative missions, but combat is definitely not something thing to remember.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hatm0nster says:

        That’s too bad. Having an interesting world to explore is a definitely a good thing, but I guess it all comes back to having enough interesting things to do in that world.

        Like

  4. I liked Mass Effect: Andromeda, but I’m in full agreement that it overstayed its welcome by quite a bit. The sheer volume of busywork that’s thrown at you is overwhelming at times. It got to the point where only my desire to complete the missions kept me plugging away. The completionist in me only BARELY convinced me to continue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Did you do all of the Tasks and Assignments or did you end up sticking to the more “important” missions?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suffered through everything…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hatm0nster says:

        Hoo boy… well congrats on getting through all of it at least. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah, I’d agree with this, and I’m one of those psychopaths who loves tedious busy work. I have no shame in admitting that I spent hours upon hours chopping wood and serving pints in Fable II – possibly more hours than spent completing the main quests. I love fetch quests and “go here, kill X amount of Y” quests. But even I found a lot of the quests and tasks to be pointlessly long.
    I think the biggest problem is not the amount of quests or even their length, it’s how decentralised they are. Tasks and mission givers are spread all over the maps and often require long drives to reach, not to mention feel drip fed (appearing only after you’ve unlocked a planet or repaired its vault or on a visit after these things or after or after or after or bloody after…) forcing you to go back to planets you’d already thought you explored. This means you often spend most of your time backtracking unnecessarily. Finish a quest on one side of the map, drive across to the other to start a new quest, find out that you have to drive all the way back to the other side of the map. Now, I know they’re going for the whole “organic exploration” angle, but it bloody sucks. Worse is when you find yourself going back and forth for no notable reason except to maybe justify the rendering of one more background Turian (like the beginning of the mission where you have to find the sick woman? Start in the Hyperion’s habitation deck, then go to the cryo facility, than to the Nexus docks, around the docks, then to operations, then back to the docks all to talk to a few spare NPCs… and then you have to start looking for her in space!)
    Compare that to the Witcher 3 (because of course), they centralise where secondary quests are given (villages and their noticeboards) and then generally contain the tasks to be completed within a certain area near where the quest was given, and often have these quest areas overlap. It also means you visit individual areas less frequently, so you don’t notice that the NPCs are spouting the exact same two lines over and over and over and bloody over.
    I love Mass Effect: Andromeda, I really do, but it feels like they’ve gone backwards in so many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      You know what, you make a good point. Having all of this stuff would be much less obnoxious without all of the backtracking and the sheer amount of travel time involved.

      Mass Effect 1 had lots of borderline pointless tasks, but they didn’t feel as annoying. Its not that the tasks were any better, but there are two differences. 1) They often rewarded you with at least a little insight into how the world worked, and 2) Getting around took much less time . All you had to do was go to the map (after a load screen), select your system (5 second cutscene), select the planet you want and see a short (10 second) cutscene. That’s it. In Andromeda you have to watch a cut scene, choose your system, watch another 30 loading screen), choose your planet (wait another 15 seconds to travel), choose to land and watch yet another 30 second cutscene. You get one more bonus loading screen if you choose to go to Kadara too. So much waiting!

      Like

  6. I think “too much fat” has become a common problem in these large games that promise hundreds of hours of gameplay time. I’m sure when I was younger I’d be all over it and spend weeks at a time doing everything in a game, but approaching 30, my time is a lot more limited these days. I really enjoyed the way BotW approached this and allowed almost everything to be optional. Side quests got you some cool rewards, but you didn’t need to do them to finish the game. I think had had the reverse reaction to you. Once I hit 40 hours in BotW I could have finished the game if I wanted to, but ended up doubling my playtime because I wanted it, but I loved having the freedom.

    That said, would you like to share your articles in our FB group? We’re a growing community of gaming bloggers and we’re always looking for more writers to share their work and discuss all things gaming. Just search for “Game Bloggers United” on Facebook. 🙂

    Like

    1. duckofindeed says:

      Yeah, now that I’m older, I, too, no longer enjoy games that force in too many meaningless tasks just to make the game longer. I’m perfectly fine with long games; they make my money go farther than shorter games. Nevertheless, the hours I spend need to be worth doing. FFXIII took me over 100 hours to beat, and they weren’t fun hours. Ni no Kuni also took me a massive amount of hours to complete, but every bit of it felt worth it.

      Breath of the Wild is definitely successful in terms of being a huge game that is genuinely fun to spend countless hours in. The game didn’t have to force us to do anything; we explored and completed tasks and solved puzzles solely because it was fun and rewarding.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. simpleek says:

    While I do love Andromeda so far, I’ll admit, having too much content in a game is becoming a bit tedious than fun. The trend of overbloating a game for the sake of making it longer is doing more harm than good. I think the sense of less is more would be better for games in the long run. Not to mention we all don’t have a ton of time to spend hours on a game like we used to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      We expect to spend a lot of time with an RPG, so it’s not so much the amount of time itself that bugs me so much as it is the feeling that that time is getting wasted. If the game can make most of its run-length feel worth-while, then great. If not, then please don’t waste my time.

      Liked by 1 person

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