A Beautiful Buggy Mess: Quality Content in a Blemished Package

Should we expect perfection?

Disappointment is a tough pill to swallow. When you put all your hopes into the anticipation of the next big thing (be it game, movie, or other media), it’s failure to live up to your expectations comes close to feeling as though it’s a personal affront. Did the creators not know that your credibility as a fan rests on this being the best thing ever? I’m being hyperbolic, of course, but if you read some of the comments following the reveal of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s animation issues, it seems that many (or perhaps just a few very vocal) people actually feel this way.

Many professionals in the field of gaming have come to the defense of Mass Effect’s team. Former BioWare employee, Jonathan Cooper who was the lead animator on the first Mass Effect before moving on to work on Uncharted at Naughty Dog, took to social media to discuss the massive task of animating a big non-linear story like Andromeda. “Animating an RPG is a really, really big undertaking,” he wrote on Twitter. “Completely different from a game like Uncharted, so comparisons are unfair.”

That’s the biggest takeaway from this whole controversy, if you can call it that. Whether the resulting uproar is a byproduct of the hype machine or merely a symptom of fans expecting their favorite series to constantly outperform previous installments remains to be seen, but no one can deny the wealth in the variety of gameplay that lies beneath the less than ideal surface.  Andromeda is the first open-world Mass Effect game and with big worlds come an endless number of possibilities. How perfectly polished can we reasonably expect every detail of such a big game to be?

A Beautiful Mess

I didn’t originally set out to add to the conversation about Mass Effect because I haven’t played the game yet. This discussion does, however, relate to a game that has consumed all of my free time this past month and I have been dying to talk about it. I finally got into Fallout 4. Okay, so I’m like a year late on this one, but perhaps what may be a trip down memory lane for some will shed new light on the issues people have with Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Fallout 4 is the first Bethesda game I’ve played, but I knew what I was getting myself into after watching my husband get consumed by Skyrim way back when it originally released on the 360. I couldn’t believe how much he could love something that often looked like it was on the verge of a game-breaking bug. Then, I got sucked into an adventure of my own.

I can’t pinpoint the moment I really understood the appeal of Fallout 4. Perhaps this was always the perfect kind of game for me, just waiting to draw me in. The one thing I know for sure is that my love for this game overshadows imperfections that would force me to walk away from a less engaging one. It’s had its moments and crashes- usually after I neglect my “Save Often and Always” mantra- that, had I not been more invested, would’ve resulted in chucking the game disc across the room (a cathartic upside of purchasing physical copies, to be honest) and calling it quits forever. Is it still frustrating? Of course! But the actual crashes happen less often than you’d expect and the tension of a stutter that lasts just long enough that you think it’s going to crap out before it successfully loads is part of the fun. Or maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment.

The vastness of Fallout 4 still amazes even as I push closer to the hundred hour mark. Every time I load it up, it takes about a half an hour just to get everything in order to go out into the world. I need to check on my inventory, see how my settlements are doing, craft some upgrades, choose and find the best companion for my next mission and then I can begin doing whatever I set out to accomplish in the session. The amount of work that goes into creating a story and world that makes me care about the little things like these is way beyond any explanation I could try to put forth here. Some say that bugs can break immersion in a video game, but I’m in way too deep to even really notice them, let alone care.

Quantity vs. Quality

Many debates have been had about the value of game reviews and if they are detrimental to the industry on the whole. The job of a critic is to critique which includes pointing out the flaws of the next release, no matter how anticipated it may be. It’s the responsibility of the consumer, however, to ask himself a vital question when faced with the ugly truth: how much can you let slide? Is this an experience you would still enjoy despite its imperfections?

With Fallout 4, I was able to endure some things that I would find inexcusable in other titles. Much like what’s been said about Mass Effect: Andromeda, you have to consider the scope of the project before you can rail on little details. When you can spend hours upon hours getting lost in every corner of a huge world, you might not be that bothered by some weird-looking facial animations. If I had to choose between a perfectly polished shallow game and the limitless possibilities of an interesting open world, these days I’d choose the latter. I guess I would rather look at the forest and marvel at the wonders within than obsess about a branch that seems out of place.


Aquila P.

Aquila is a long-time lover of all things Xbox from Boston, Massachusetts. A musician and teacher, when she’s not gaming she likes to take in all things pop culture. You can read more of her writing on movies, television and music on her blog