Monday 20 November 2017

Effect weakened by a limp script

Mass Effect Andromeda, (XO/PS4/PC), 3 Stars, Age: 16+

Mass Effect Andromeda
Mass Effect Andromeda
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Andromeda is what happens when a corporation throws a massive budget at a franchise but fails to fund the department of quality control.

This fourth instalment of the space opera from developer Bioware follows a highly regarded trilogy that had progressively become more engaging yet desperate to sate fans' wishes. So much so that the ending of Mass Effect 3 was altered after an internet outcry.

Here you can see Bioware trying to please everyone with a gigantic open-world space saga of an ark leaving Earth for a new galaxy, filled with quests, firefights, character interaction and a genuinely spectacular set of planetary landscapes.

Andromeda has much to admire in its scope and complexity - the skill trees, the various species and factions, the improved combat. Bioware also deserves respect for treating relationships and romance seriously.

But that overwhelming ambition comes at a cost, the most prominent being the awkward interface, the technical shortcomings and the wildly uneven script. No open-world game escapes into the wild without a few bugs, but Andromeda approaches comic levels of glitching.

Bioware also has a reputation for subtle character development, yet this storyline often seems outsourced to giggling teens given how eye-rollingly awful the dialogue can be. Andromeda will undoubtedly spawn a sequel or two, but a philosophy of less is more would be a wiser strategy next time.

Thimbleweed Park

(PC/Mac/XO), 5 Stars, Age: 12+

This time capsule has tunnelled back from the 1980s, a time when graphic adventures walked with a swagger. But Thimbleweed Park proudly inherits its pedigree from Ron Gilbert, creator of stone-cold classics Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion.

Gilbert practically ignores the last 30 years of game development to spin an off-kilter, funny yarn about two detectives investigating a murder in a bizarre small town. Retro graphics and the traditional point'n'click interface could prove anathema to modern players but TP can rely on more than nostalgia for its appeal.

With five playable characters and a fully voiced, sarcastic script, TP draws you into its weird world where the murder is soon the least of your worries.

Full of pop-culture callbacks and knowing nods to the conventions of gaming, Gilbert's long-awaited return will click with fans and inquisitive newcomers alike.

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