Mass Effect: Andromeda – Five Small Changes With Big Benefits

by Joe Juba on Mar 22, 2017 at 12:30 PM

BioWare’s newest installment in the Mass Effect series is now available, leaving Commander Shepard behind and putting players in control of a new hero in a new galaxy. Response to Mass Effect: Andromeda has been mixed among fans and critics (read our full review), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. However, with a few tweaks, appreciating what the game does well would be a lot easier.

The point of this exercise isn’t to list everything we wish Andromeda did differently (like fewer glitches and a more compelling villain). Instead, the focus is on a handful of minor adjustments that could make the game more enjoyable without overhauling the core experience.

Easy Profile Swaps
Though you can technically switch Ryder’s active combination of three powers (and the associated profile), the system has two major problems. First, you have to do it through a couple menu layers, which disrupts the otherwise fluid nature of combat. Second, all of your powers go on cooldown when you swap from one profile to another (even powers that are shared between the two builds), so your strategic opening often passes while you wait for your skills to become available. If you’re in a biotic-focused build, switching to a tech-focused build to take out an advancing enemy’s shields doesn’t do you much good if you need to wait 10-15 seconds for the Overload ability to be ready. This clumsiness certainly doesn’t live up to the promise of effortless flexibility that Alec Ryder demonstrates on Habitat 7, but being able to swap between a selection of ready-to-rock profiles at the tap of a button would address the issue. If that makes it too easy to spam explosive combos, put the profile-switching function itself on cooldown, not the individual powers.

Streamlined Scanning
Conceptually, the idea of scanning your surroundings in a faraway galaxy is cool. In practice, having to switch back and forth between the scanner and regular exploration is a hassle. You move slowly while scanning, most of the things you scan are generic pieces of tech without interesting context, and the process trains you to sweep areas and look for bright orange highlights, so it discourages you from actually examining the environments. I still like the idea of scanning, but I would like it to be less intrusive. Maybe it could be a visual filter you flip on and off. Maybe it could just be automatic, highlighting important things for you without requiring active participation. I’d prefer either of those options to the busywork that scanning currently feels like.

Eliminate Glyph Puzzles
No one looks forward to any minigames associated with unlocking doors, chests, or other objects that are standing between you and cool content in any title. At their best, these diversions are tolerable, but calling them fun or worthwhile is a stretch. Mass Effect 3 learned this lesson, eliminating the hacking minigames that were present in Mass Effect 1 and 2. Mass Effect: Andromeda brings the concept back, making players solve Sudoku-style glyph puzzles in order to unlock an ancient civilization’s technology. These puzzles aren’t terrible, but they definitely aren’t fun, and the game would be better without them.

Clearer Interface
Sifting through the menu system, finding the information you’re looking for can be strangely difficult. First and foremost, the quest log should be reorganized to be more user-friendly. Finding a specific quest that isn’t a main mission or part of a loyalty thread can be a nightmare, because the method by which they are sorted is not predictable or intuitive. The crafting system also needs work, because the process has too many steps and requires you to wade through too many menus between when you start your project and when it’s combat-ready. Simplifying the way players interact with the game would go a long way toward making it more fun to play.

No More Inventory Limit
Most RPG fans are familiar with the concept of managing inventory space. That’s not a bad thing by itself, but it’s frustrating in Mass Effect: Andromeda because the limit feels arbitrary and pointless. Your guns, armor, and mods all take up inventory slots, but the reason isn’t clear. You can’t switch out your equipment on the fly (you can only swap at forward stations and when you deploy), so Ryder clearly isn’t carrying all of that stuff around at once. If you’re not carrying it around, then why limit the number of options in Ryder’s armory? By getting rid of the cap, players would able to try more weapon combinations, have better armor options, and keep all of the mods they find to fine-tune their gear’s performance. As it is, you are constantly forced to dismantle or destroy items to make room, making your selection feel too lean.

For more small changes that would make a big difference, read our installments focused on Final Fantasy XV and No Man’s Sky.