How to Extract Fun Out of Mass Effect Andromeda


I am not going to beat around the bush. This is a very bad game compared to the previous Mass Effect entries. There are glaring design problems that are completely inexcusable from a team of this caliber. Make sure to watch my first impressions video below in which I go over most of these problems. No I am not going to harp on the shitty facial animations. That is NOTHING compared to the real design and technical problems. Much time has passed since my first impression and now I am ready to give you guys some more.

Gladly, I can say with no fanboyism, that there is plenty of fun to be had while playing Mass Effect Andromeda. The problem is the game is riddled with fun-sucking landmines which you need to avoid in order to reach the fun. You heard that right, Mass Effect Andromeda doesn’t just lack fun, it actively attempts to ruin your experience through very backward gameplay design. Here are three great examples of BioWare “admitting” to and fixing  horrible design choices:

  1. They released a patch which doubled your stupid fun-crushing item limit from 50 to 100, and now it upgrades all the way up to 200 instead of just 80. I am very pleased with this change. Thanks BioWare for realizing how fucking stupid you were for putting this tiny 50 item limit here.
  2. This game utilizes these sudoku-like puzzles to unlock vaults on planets. There is an item which will automatically solve the puzzle for you, but it was originally rare and prohibitively expensive. The same patch reduced the price to something trivial and made them available at more merchants. Sorry I lack details as I actually quite enjoyed these puzzles and never used this item. However I completely understand people who didn’t and they must have had a very frustrating time with these puzzles.
  3. Scanning planets, everyone’s favorite activity from previous games, makes another appearance. Except this time you need to spend ~10 seconds traveling from one planet to another, even inside the same system. Honestly, I thought this was a “hidden” loading screen at first. The idea that this un-skippable cutscene of traveling from planet to planet just to harvest 13 iron was superfluous didn’t even cross my mind. Never underestimate your enemy. This patch also added a skip button to these animations.

Anyway. Here is the best advice I can give you for maximizing your enjoyment of the game. Spoiler Free.

Don’t Play on Insanity

The start of the game is nearly impossible and frustrating… But I did it to myself. I asked for hard, I got it. I’m not mad, however there is CERTAINLY a problem with how the game scales early.

Once you get out of the prologue the trouble really starts. At least half the game’s combat takes place on hazard planets. This means you have a life support meter that depletes while you are exposed to radiation/cold/heat/cancer. The fights on insanity last SO LONG that it is very likely you will need to retreat just to replenish your life support. This involves sitting in your car for 5 minutes to get it back… Yawn. On some battles I had to go back to my car SEVERAL TIMES just to get my life support back.

Then you have to contend with the auto save system, which is spotty at best. You probably expect to die a lot on insanity. But do you expect to die 3 minutes travel time from the battle? Because that is going to happen. Getting burned out early from the frustrating combat is pretty much guaranteed.

It is important to point out that the achievement for beating the game on insanity can be claimed either by beating the game on insanity, or extracting on gold difficulty four times in multiplayer. If you plan on going hard on multiplayer, this achievement is pretty meaningless.

I would encourage you to start on hardcore if you are seeking a challenge and go from there.

Do Planets in Order of Fun

This game primarily takes place on 5 planets, the Golden Worlds. If you want to avoid frustration it is important to save the bad/annoying planets for last. They are much easier to manage when you have better skills, armor, guns, car and experience. Here are all of the planets from most fun to least fun:

  • Havarl (Fun!)
  • Kadara
  • Eladeen
  • Eos
  • Voeld (9th Circle of Hell)

The first planet you explore is Eos. You will notice that I put Eos second to last… A mind-boggling choice for the player’s first experience with open world travel. Suffer through this shit planet and soon you will get the choice to go to Havarl or Voeld.

This is the most important decision you will make in this game. Make sure to go to Havarl first. Because if you go to Voeld first there is a 10% chance you are going to break your fucking console, and a 100% chance that you want to play a different game. Once you harvest Havarl for all of its goods and deck out your car you should be able to handle any planet you want. But I recommend you use my order.

When Offered the First AVP Reward, Take Hidden Caches

When you start settling planets, you get to wake people up from cryo sleep. You are given a long list of groups to wake up and they give you various rewards. It’s pretty overwhelming at first and you might be temped to get something like cash or minerals.

The first one you want to do is the one which reveals hidden caches. It puts treasure chest indicators on the map on all the planets you are going to go to for the rest of the game. These chests are full of plenty of good loot like guns, armor, consumables, and rare materials (remnant cores). Your life much easier, and you will have more fun. It has considerably more value than the other pods, and it will make your exploration experience better. You will unlock around 20 total pods over the course of the game so don’t worry about missing something.

Purchase All Car Mobility Upgrades First

You are going to spend a ton of time in your car driving around mountainous hazardous planets in this game. You want to make this experience as easy as possible so you can have fun actually doing your various quests. Giving the car all of these upgrades will ensure you can travel over hills and jump-boost over gaps without worry. Getting to where you want quickly is very helpful.

Additionally, because of the horrible design of open-world encounters, your car is going to be your sole source of cover for many battles. This is why some of the defensive upgrades are also helpful, especially advanced life support.

Tag All Forward Stations

Speaking of making travel easy, here is a tip I didn’t fully realize until halfway through the game. When looking at your map on planets you will see these icons resembling a lunar lander. These are forward stations, they provide a safe environment for you to: go back your the Tempest, change squad mates, change load outs and call your car. What I didn’t know for a long time is that clicking on an active forward station FROM the map allows you to fast travel to it!

The first thing you should do when coming to a new planet is immediately zig zag to all of the forward stations. Then you can teleport to any location on the planets without wasting time driving around and running into stupid Kett dropships at every mile marker. This will probably shave 10+ hours off your gametime.

Don’t Worry About Crafting Until About 30% Into the Game

  • You don’t know what is good
  • You don’t know what you want
  • You don’t have enough materials
  • Crafting is frustrating

Those are just some of the reason you shouldn’t worry about it until you are good and comfortable. No sense pulling your hair out dealing with the crafting interface just to make a gun you are only going to use for a few missions. A much better idea is to collect junk while experimenting with all the guns you find. Around level 25-35 you will start to understand what you need, at which point you will have enough augmentations, materials and research points to deck yourself out.

Don’t Waste Your Time, Do Story/Loyalty Missions

This game can boast being a 100+ hour game, but 80% of that is not gameplay they should be proud of. All of the fun is hidden inside the story-progressing missions and loyalty missions. The loyalty missions also unlock the 6th rank of your squadmates’ abilities. This makes them better in combat, which makes combat more fun for you.

When you start moving forward into the game you will see like 25 quest indicators on a planet! Look at all these amazing missions! Don’t kid yourself, they are almost all complete garbage, and it’s actually hard to tell what is real and what is a useless waste of time. Learn to navigate your journal and pick out the important stuff before you find yourself 25 hours deep with nothing to show for it.

Could Troi Really Beat Data in Chess?

Do you guys watch Star Trek TNG? Of course you do. Well hopefully you will remember this episode called Conundrum as well as I do. The is the historic episode in which Data is defeated in chess (3D chess) by Deanna Troi. I remember seeing this when I was in middle school and kinda scoffing… Yeah right as if she could ever beat Data. Data seems surprised that she devised a completely “new” strategy to an already well-researched sequence of moves. Troi explained that chess is a game of intuition… (Something Data’s programming cannot provide.)

I revisited by episode again when I was in college as I was watching the show again, and I was completely APPALLED! Humans can’t even beat computers now (Circa 2006), and Data is a million times more sophisticated then today’s machines. What are they trying to do in this stupid episode!? Suggest that Troi is better at chess than the most powerful computer in the universe (arguably)? Surely chess will be completely solved by then, don’t these writers know anything? Didn’t the scientists on staff who help with the script know anything!?

I must admit, later I found out that solving chess isn’t as easy as I originally thought. It isn’t simply a matter of time, there truly are more possible game-states than atoms in the universe.

Let’s take a short detour to really analyze why it might be impossible to solve chess. If you watch the Numberphile video you will see the mention of Shannon’s number, which although is pretty simplistic is most well known estimate for the complexity of chess. Shannon theorized that there are 10^120 possible different games of chess. Scientists estimate that the entire known universe “only” contains 10^80 atoms. This means if we assign one chess game per atom, we will not have enough to contain them all!

For a computer, storage space would be the first problem. As of 2012 it takes 1 million atoms to store a single bit of information. Let’s say someday we get that down to one atom per bit. Even if we could store an entire game of chess in a single bit (a bit only stores a 0 or a 1) we would need to harvest every atom in the universe and still not be able to create a large enough hard drive.

But what if we could! Well if you take every atom in the universe and put it into a line, that line would be 10^70 meters long (diameter of an atom is 0.1 nanometer). Traveling at the speed of light, it would take 10^54 years to travel from one end of this line of atoms to the other. That means if a computer wanted to access all of these bits of data just a single time, that is how long it would take the computer just to travel to each bit, let alone access it. (Thanks to @FreddyZ for the math help.)

So maybe it isn’t THAT obvious that Data should win. But he still should right? Troi has never been recognized as an exceptional chess player, or any kind of strategist at all. I suppose she would be stronger than your average human given her empathic abilities, perhaps being able to read the next move but Data is immune to such nonsense.

During the Alpha Go vs Lee Sedol Go match it finally dawned on me! Computers weren’t always so amazing at chess! I need to check the dates:

This episode originally aired in 1992. Deep Blue didn’t defeat Kasperov until 1996! The writers (and scientists) at the time were probably working on the assumption that computers will never be better than humans at chess. They probably tried to look it up too, and the only thing they found was Shannon’s Number (more games than atoms in the universe) and concluded, because computers can’t brute-force chess, they can never beat the best human players.

I still think it was pretty bad writing, because during the scene Data lists the correct named response to his named attack. If his attack, and resulting defense are both named move sequences then they have been well studied, surely Data would know the entire “book” on both maneuvers. Which means he would not be surprised by any defense. Even if it was not what he anticipated. But he reported the correct response to his attack, which means that must be the BEST defense. Obviously it isn’t if Troi completely countered the defense and set up Checkmate in the next few moves, that doesn’t make sense. Also, Data clearly puts Troi in check, but she does NOT move her king out of check. In the next move Data can simply capture her king. I suppose the rules of 3D chess are never canonically explained, so I guess we need to accept that “checking the king” doesn’t actually mean anything in this game?

Oh well, I suppose suspension of disbelief should ease my mind of this. The idea that computers lack “intuition” and 3D chess is more complicated than regular chess in some strange way are probably enough voodoo science fiction to make it possible for Troi to win. But it is very interesting for me to get into the mind of the writers at the time and really wonder what they were thinking when they wrote this scene.

If You Don’t Support Colin Kaepernick, You Probably Don’t Get It

I have been seeing a ton of really ignorant stuff going around about Colin Kaepernick not standing for the national anthem. Really stupid memes and comments that make me embarrassed to call myself a human being, let alone an American. I want to put it into perspective for some people that are obviously missing the point badly.

Argument: Colin has no respect for the flag, the anthem, America or the troops.

This is an argument about racism and inequality in America. If you think he is wrong, and America is perfect and has no racial problems, that is an argument you can attempt to make. But don’t pretend this is about respecting the national anthem. That is a pathetic and transparent deflection, and if you don’t know that, you are dumber than you sound.

People “disrespect” American symbols when they don’t feel like America is representing its own promises like “freedom and justice for all” and “pursuit of happiness.” It is the duty of every American to defend the ideology that made America great, not the symbols. From this perspective Colin is a bigger patriot than anyone jumping in to defend the Anthem. He is defending freedom and justice. You are defending a song.

Argument: Colin is rich/privileged/successful, therefore his argument about oppression is invalid.

His protest was never about his personal oppression. Obviously he knows he has it pretty good. However, allegedly, he can no longer simply stand by and enjoy his privilege, wealth and success while others that he feels solidarity with are oppressed. This is a classic “attack on the person” fallacy and has nothing to do with the point he is trying to make. If you don’t think black people are oppressed, then you can make that argument. But “accusing” Colin of being rich doesn’t refute his point.

Argument: If Colin hates his country so much why wont he leave

There are so many things wrong with this… Firstly, protesting something, or standing up for a cause doesn’t mean anyone hates the country. You can certainly love the country and what it stands for, but still protest something, for example police MURDERING people without cause, or states passing laws about who can get married. Everyone loves “freedom and justice for all” the problem is that isn’t happening for all. Once again, if you think it is, you can make that argument. But telling Colin to “get out” is not that.

Secondly, what if every person who wanted to make America better simply left when they realized they didn’t like something?

Thirdly, even though Colin could leave, he isn’t fighting for himself. He is standing up for people who are not millionaires and cannot just leave if they don’t like it. They are stuck here.

Finally, even if America was the absolute, hands down, best country on Earth. Even if you think it is. That doesn’t mean it cannot get better and the status quo is good enough. Was America the best country ever when it had slavery? Was it the best country ever when women couldn’t vote? IT COULD HAVE BEEN! But I would say it got even better when we fixed problems, and it can and should keep getting better.

Argument: Colin has not been oppressed

So what? I have never been oppressed either, yet I somehow have the NERVE to advocate for racial equality, and so should you. Unless of course you are a racist.

I am sure there are more but who has the time to fend off all the stupidity in the world? Probably people that get paid for it.

Stop Mindlessly Spreading this “Look Up” Poem

This “Look Up” anti-social media video was shared on my Facebook timeline six times this morning, which is weird since this was published almost ten days. It is amazing how many views this video has and how people seem to mindlessly agree with the sentiment and share it. Well before you do I have some thoughts I want to share about this anti-social media movement. Make sure to view the original below my video.

Many REALLY ASTUTE people are feeling super good about themselves because they are the only ones that realize how IRONIC it is that this video is going viral on the internet and how you can ONLY see it via social media. Newflash: not only is that blatantly obvious, the author even draws attention to it by telling you to STOP watching the video.

You know what I do find interesting? How this video has ads enabled. Usually when a well-intentioned public service announcement is presented without ads, but in this case Gary Turk is making several thousands of dollars from this video being shared on social media. It’s almost as if he transcended the whole medium and realized that an anti-social media message is what it will take to go viral and make a bunch of money. It takes a special understanding of people’s stupidity to know that. Kudos.

Taco Bell Finally Upset Me

Taco Bell is my favorite place to eat. I even wrote a whole article on my blog about how awesome Taco Bell’s vegetarian options are. However this particular Taco Ball, the one I go to most often, has been truly letting me down. I am a reasonable person who has worked in the food industry a considerable amount of time. I have a good feel for when I am being annoying or crazy and when I am not. This situation should have been handled differently.


Looks like Taco Bell ended up seeing this video and wanted to make it right. I really appreciate that. Today when I checked the mail I received a pleasant surprise! They gave me (and Shane) four “two free item” certificates, three $5 gift certificates, four little hot sauce pins, and a hand-written card. Very well done.


Christmas Sucks

You know what is the worst part of Christmas? Getting a really amazing, thoughtful, wonderful gift from a friend or family member. Then you feel HORRIBLE because you never got them anything back. Guilt for Christmas.

Here are just a few more reason I think Christmas sucks.

Let’s Review Lifehacks Vol 2


Another pile of juicy lifehacks, are they any good!? Better watch and find out. I do want to point one out specifcially that I find baffling. Apparently if you eat an apple from the bottom up instead from the side and around you can eat the whole thing as if the core wasn’t there. Not sure if this is some kind of 4th dimension quantum mechanics trick of folding space because I don’t get it. You need to see it to believe it.

McDonalds a Bad Experience

That’s How They Do It In Thailand

Xbox Live Usability Nitpick

This is what it looks like when I sign in to Xbox Live. Can you spot the fail?

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