Mass Effect: Andromeda's Menus Are A Mess

Image: Kotaku

Divisive as it might be, Mass Effect: Andromeda has a lot to like. Its menus, however, are not one of those things.

Patricia summed it up nicely last week: in the first five hours, Andromeda can be real overwhelming. It's not just because the opening level on Habitat 7 outstays its welcome, or that the game effectively introduces you to two hubs in the Tempest and the Nexus. It's because Andromeda introduces a suite of more complex crafting, inventory and quest management systems that the series has never seen, and it's an awful lot to take in.

Mass Effect Andromeda Is A Game To Get Lost In

Mass Effect Andromeda is a huge game. I've played for a little under 20 hours now, haven't progressed too far in the plot, and I feel I could easily play for another 60 hours before I had to return to the main story.

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Inventory management is part and parcel of open-world RPGs. But part of Andromeda's problem is that on top of displaying your loadout on a weapon wheel, all of your quest lines, game lore, the map, research and development, blueprints and resources for both, profiles and XP metres are shuttered to a separate screen outside of the in-game action.

Several hours in, you'll already have collected a suite of blueprints that quickly become redundant.

The kicker, as you can see above, is that there's no option for sorting items. There's default settings for each menu, depending on the tab you're in. Resources are sorted alphabetically, irrespective of rarity. Armor and weapons are sorted first by class, and then alphabetical order, which is irrelevant given Andromeda is like every other RPG in that you'll always want to be wearing the best gear when possible.

Research is divvied up the same way, which is a royal pain given that you'll quickly amass a ton of blueprints that will quickly become useless, never to be looked at again. The only value for the blueprints is to display their bonuses and the requirements for crafting each, but those requirements are also visible whenever you visit a research centre - which you have to do, if you ever want to craft any of them.

Like Andromeda's opening level, it's too bloated. The mass of items helps add to the sense of size and scale, but when you're ducking in and out of your inventory for the 40th time it gets a touch tiresome.

Another bugbear is the contextual menus out in the wild. The transition is nice, but you'll be opening hundreds, if not thousands of crates and containers as you explore Andromeda, and after a few hours I found myself wishing the whole process was sped up a tad:

It's an old-school way of displaying menus that doesn't really belong in 2017. A pop-up that occupies the entire screen; contextual information that takes a second longer to parse than necessary. The information isn't that useful either: what does "low" value really mean versus "medium"? Why assign text-based values and not a figure that could be immediately and easily understood?

And speaking of wasting time, let's check out the loadout screen:

You can't access your loadout unless there's a forward outpost nearby, but even still, surely that transition could be faster. If the game can transition from an indoor environment to Andromeda's massive outdoor worlds without a loading screen, switching out your guns and mods shouldn't pose an issue.

Having a smart and snappy UI has become so important that Microsoft and Sony have overhauled their platforms - multiple times - just to ensure the interface doesn't get in the way. The PS4's recent change to the share menu is a good example: it doesn't take up the whole screen and tries to interrupt the experience as little as possible.

A simple lesson can be taken from Horizon: Zero Dawn, another game with a weapon wheel. You could select your weapon, but you could also view the ammo count for each bow type without having to select it. You could craft items on the same wheel, none of which interrupted your view of the in-game world. You could also view the amount of consumables available on the main screen, and every time you picked up resources the game also told you how many you just picked up, and the total currently in your inventory.

Given Bioware Montreal overhauled Andromeda's combat to be a more fluid, natural extension of the Mass Effect experience, it's a shame the UI and HUD didn't receive similar treatment. Not all hope is lost though, as fans of the The Witcher 3 discovered.

Mass Effect: Andromeda: The Kotaku Review

Mass Effect. Andromeda sprawls and sprawls, eagerly offering you so much to see and do, that it nearly loses itself in the process. In this massive and uncertain voyage into an alien galaxy, the best way to center yourself is to hold on to other people, and trust that the mission will accomplish at least some of its ambitious goals.

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WATCH MORE: Xbox News


Comments

    Andromeda can be real overwhelming.

    *pushes cowboy hat up with bent index finger*

    I've only played 3hrs but am I right in thinking that even the quest menu is borked? I was sure I had a whole lot of side quests but could only see the main quest...

    I haven't touched it for days... I've been focusing on Quantum Break which has been great (especially for $25 digitally). Remedy still providing the goods (and facial animations).

      All the quests are there... There's just apparently some sub-category stuff, such as per area/planet/etc, and dependencies on how they list them.

      Took me a bit to work out myself.

      Last edited 22/03/17 10:48 am

      Where can I grab Quantum Break for $25? Been meaning to for a while.

        It was online in the XboxOne store last week.

        It was $36 actually on the 14/03....

          I think Harvey Norman had it going for cheap the other day as well. That deal might still be going if you check their site.

            $44 at Harvey... Which I'd say is still worth it.

              Aight, I grabbed it on PC for $23. Cheers @Alex Walker too.

                Enjoy. It's a gem at that price.

                  Between this, Nioh, Mass Effect and that whole "being an adult" thing, I'm not sure where I'll get all the time.

                  Might focus on Quantum Break and leave Mass Effect single player for later when they iron out bugs and issues. Then play multiplayer only for a while.

                  @cnut The good thing about Quantum Break is it does the "End of Act 1" episode thing like Alan Wake did... So you can take a break come back to it and get a brief "in last episode" bit.

                  You don't feel like if you put it down for a month you'll forget what's going on. When you get to the end of the act it actually gives you the option to return to main menu as if it wants you to step away and have a think (and a rest).

                  That's awesome. I love that concept. Really looking forward to giving this a shot now!

        I got mine at Target around Christmas time for that price. It was a bargain as it's a great game.

      If you look under journal, that's where all your quests are, it's further sub divided into various categories

      the real kicker I think, you're confused is that you can only track one mission at a time, although you'll see everything on the map. you can set one waypoint aside from the main tracking one so it's a work around of sort to track 2 quests at once but it's still a biti underwhelming

    Is there a pool going for who can come up with the top "complain about Andromeda" article?

    Seriously. I mean sure, you don't like what you don't like, but the "Oh and this sucks in Andromeda too..." articles just keep on coming.

    It's like Kotaku has an axe to grind... And it's not even made by Bethesda.

      But we must all praise breath of the wild, it's so innovative and new........

        Now, now... Breath of the wild actually is new ;)

        Last edited 22/03/17 11:06 am

          Yes it certainly is Evil Ganon has captured princess Zelda and Link must go save her, that doesn't sound familiar does it?

            Strawman. Basic gist of the story is hardly the defining feature of any game, and certainly not this Zelda (let alone any of them really).

            Sub out Bowser, Peach and Mario into that line and you could describe both Super Mario Bros and Mario 64, but the three of them certainly aren't anywhere near the same game as each other.

              I don't think I said they were the same game, just that the background story sounded familiar?

            I mean sure when you put it that way.

            But then if I described pizza as 'bread with with meat and vegetables' it sounds like a sandwich.

              Yep its called a calzone. Pizza sandwich.

              Last edited 22/03/17 4:52 pm

            Oh no... I meant new as in a 'newly released product' and that's about it :p

        like a Zelda themed Assassins Creed right?

      I don't have an issue with Andromeda so much, it keeps within the Mass Effect universe. It feels like Mass Effect.

      I promised I wouldn't buy after believing the hype of "game of year" bollocks that Dragon Age: Inquisition and "return to form" that was being touted as.

      But it hasn't gone into "retcon" territory just lacks the detail people want and possibly the user friendliness.

        As a Bioware fan who was incredibly disappointed in Inquisition, I can confirm that Andromeda is a lot better than Inquisition in many ways.

      Andromeda articles draw readers, so the more Andromeda articles they write, the better for the site, while it is still in the zeitgeist.

        I get that, but I also don't think I've seen quite so much negativity directed towards a single game in the lead up to its launch... Perhaps I've just missed those previous occasions where there's an article every other day complaining about yet another aspect of the game of the moment.

        Some might say all the negativity is warranted, but it's feeling like it's starting to go from being critical to being petty. From the few hours I played due to the trial thus far, I'd actually say there's more good than bad... And we're hearing very little of that from Kotaku.

        Then again, perhaps I'm just lucky that I don't go into a game with the intent of picking it apart to the point its no longer enjoyable.

        Last edited 22/03/17 12:22 pm

      I don't know about the other writers, but I've definitely got some "this is great in Andromeda" articles in the works too. Promise.

        The article you posted the other day titled "Mass Effect Andromeda Is A Game To Get Lost In" was probably the most well rounded article I've found about the game. You did well in balancing the good and bad. So many are pointing out some flaws with the UI, or the facial animations, or the character creation and making it sound like the game's ruined.

        At the end of the day though, what are you actually doing in game? Exploring space and interacting with new people and Aliens. If it does this very well (aka the core gameplay), which it sounds like it does, none of the other stuff really matters.

          Thanks! Patricia's article also does a good job at describing some of the game's major frustrations, but also a lot of its strengths. She's played further in it than I have, as well as finishing the main storyline.

          It's not perfect, obviously, but in the end it's a damn fun game with that classic Mass Effect feeling. It's disappointing that a lot of people will be turned off it by the overblown reception. Admittedly it took me a while to get into the game at first, but I still got up at 6am this morning to play before work, and I never wake up early.

        Good to hear. People can be pretty susceptible to the way news is presented, even if you feel the game is 80% great/20% bad, if that 80% is all in one article and the bad is broken out into nine separate articles, people don't read that as "hey it's 80% good 20% bad", they read it as "hey there were nine bad articles and only one good one, all I'm hearing is mostly bad things". Part of that overblown reception you mentioned above is because of the way stuff like this is presented.

        I agree with @razgrizace, "MEA is a game to get lost in" was a great well-rounded article, it'd be good to see more of those and less "this one bad part needs its own article but all the good stuff can just go together". I mean, I do want to know that animations are janky, the character creation is a bit shit and the menus aren't great, but I want to hear about them in the context of the rest of the game, not isolated on their own so they sound worse than they are.

        Last edited 23/03/17 7:44 am

          Unfortunately, I feel like it's a lot easier to nitpick about the distracting things that stand out than it is to describe why the rest of it works (and it does work). But I'm definitely going to work on the latter.

        Side note, that moderation bug going lately is starting to get tiresome. I'm not even sure if my post above is visible at this point because it went into moderation twice while I was trying to fix it because of a single edit.

    Well i have managed to put up with the menus in ME:1 through multiple playthroughs including my most recent just last week, so if i can deal with looking through an unending list of 'polonium rounds, I, II, III, IV' etc, then i think i can deal with this.

    I havent played yet (gotta love getting 50kb/s download, been downloading for about 5 days straight and only finished this morning) but i see no problem with stuff being in the pause menu, cant say i'd want all the menus 'in game' like you said, i think i would find that more annoying.

    I'm not trying to defend it (if it actually is bad), it just doesn't sound bad, though maybe i'll change my mind when i finally get to play tonight

      Well i have managed to put up with the menus in ME:1 through multiple playthroughs including my most recent just last week, so if i can deal with looking through an unending list of 'polonium rounds, I, II, III, IV' etc, then i think i can deal with this.

      Hahah. I'm the opposite. ME1's interface and Mako-roaming are the reasons that every time I've done replays, I skip ME1 and use a savegame editor to set my event flags the way I want. :)

        Lol, i certainly didn't mean it was good, just not quite horrible enough to put me off playing (and i actually kinda like the mako, haha, its a car with a jetpack and cannon, way too cool)).
        It had been so long since playing and i needed to play virmire (love that sovereign interaction, and the standoff with wrex), plus i tried something i heard was funny, getting liara after you have done every other mission, its pretty funny her reaction.
        I was thinking of doing what you did actually but the above made me end up playing it.

      It's far worse than ME's interface, sadly. ME's was clunky but functional and fairly intuitive, just poorly laid out. This is an actual hot mess.

    Not all hope is lost though, as fans of the The Witcher 3 discovered.

    That IS good news! Only have to wait 1.5-2yrs for a fix, guys!

    I'm playing on PC and I'm not finding it to bad to navigate with mouse clicks and keyboard shortcuts. Being able to change quest objectives with a simple click on the map is really nice, though maybe I only feel that way because so many games I've played recently haven't offered that.

    There are a few annoyances though, like hitting J opens the quest journal, but hitting J again doesn't close it. You have to mash the escape button a bunch of times to back out of a bunch of menus.

    I can see why it would all be super annoying if you're playing with a controller. I can't even imagine dealing with all the submenus on one.

      The objective change via map was one nice feature that I just didn't expect for whatever reason, and like other games with such systems seems like it will remove the need to look at the quest log so often.

      By accident, I discovered that TAB will close back out of Journal/Map/whatever without needing to mash Escape.

      My biggest peeve is the double press needed to confirm most things.

    It's pretty clunky. Even just stuff where you have triggers to move left and right and then tabs inside each of those menus that you access with dpad left and right and then inside that you have full screen menus that can be opened and closed. I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to figure out how I change my equipment or apply mods only to realize it wasn't possible to do so until you deployed on a mission and stuff.

    But for me the real bugbear so far (and I'm not that far in yet) is the exploration stuff. It's so pretty but god damn is it a time-waster. Going from one system to another? ~15 second transition animation. Then when you arrive in that star system and you've got maybe six or seven planets to explore, and you zoom in on one and there's another ~15 second transition while it shows you flying there from your current spot and then it clearly loads the menu for that planet because there's a perceptible half-second lag before it comes up. That really needs to make it possible for me to skip the transition cutscenes because it's going to get old incredibly fast.

    I don't mind the game taking a lot of my time but it's still got to respect my time and not waste it on stuff like that.

    Really not getting the hate it's gotten for the animations though. They're not great but at least on my PC (admittedly at 1440p, maxed out settings) it looks really nice and maybe the character models are a little stiff with some odd expressions and everything but that's always been the case with Bioware.

    The character creator is utter garbage though. I ended up giving up on making a character that didn't look terrible and picking Default FemRyder (why isn't she one of the customizable presets?!) which is an okay model but would be much better if she didn't have this weird stooped chicken-neck thing going on which kind of thrusts her chin at everything and on some conversation angles looks really weird. I think they did all the body animations with an armor-on model and then re-used the same skeleton for the armor-off.

    Biggest disappointment for me so far (and I'm liking the game a lot) is the music. As the original trilogy went on they reduced the classic ME sound more and more, and it's basically gone now. The space exploration / start map music especially is really bad. If that's all they were going to write why not just slap the classic Uncharted Worlds theme in there? :(

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