This is going to be a gripe post.
I’m nearing the end now, or at least it feels like it. I’ll have a summary post at that point, but the general themes so far have stuck through. There are bits and pieces that work, and others that don’t. The ones that don’t are unfortunately systems/mechanics. The things that work are the small story bits, but it’s highly inconsistent.
Truth and Trespass is the most perfect example of this. There are some spoilers here, be warned.
This quest happens after you find the Salarian ark. Seems that there’s a possibility that the Salarians sabotaged themselves. This is a very cool premise, given that the lore of Salarians is that science >>>> reason. So, there’s potential!
What happens next is you running across 5 locations. Moving between locations takes 2-3 minutes, depending on the loading screens. Then you need to get to the quest locations, which is another 2-3 minutes. Often times you have to run through a small set of enemies once there. Not challenging in any shape, just filler. Then you either scan or talk to an NPC. There are no options presented, it’s just reading dialogue.
The final step does have a decision point. You find the truth of the matter and are given the choice to exact justice or exchange freedom for information. This is one of the few times where I thought about it for more than a few seconds. The information is presented as being extremely valuable, and the damage is already done. So you’re not actively preventing something, it’s simply a “justice” question. I therefore opted for the information path.
I was rewarded with a codex entry of 3 paragraphs with information that I had already gathered through other means. Well, that and info that 2 other races existed (but not meet them in this game).
So, nearly an hour of running around, what appears to be a difficult decision, and I get a codex entry. This is bullshot-level quest design.
ME:A’s largest issue is history. ME:2 & 3 were good games, with good writing. The ending of ME:3 is a separate discussion for this point. When we quested in those games, there was impact in the decisions. Changing the leadership of the Krogan, reversing the genophage, freeing the Geth. Those were big deals. The actual quests were in rather unique, isolated locations, that were thematically appropriate.
ME:A does little of this. Many quests span multiple planets for no reason. Aside from three quests (Krogan, Primus, and Exiles) there doesn’t appear to be any decision point that has any in-game consequences. When there are no consequences, then why bother making a choice in the first place?
There is a pile of breadth here. Lots of stuff to do. Piles. There’s just no depth.
The sad part is, if this was a new IP, it would be somewhat acceptable. The fact that this game carries the Mass Effect name, there are expectations that are simply not met.