I’ve been playing through the Brutal campaign of StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void lately because I’m a masochist. However, gamers that are more up on their rad factor are focused on an entirely different space opera, Mass Effect: Andromeda. Instead of the usual outrage over sex xenophobia (the Google results will bring you down a crazy rabbit hole), or more commonplace headlines revolving around same-sex couples, ME:A has been beleaguered with headlines that haven’t been kind. Complaints about odd facial animations chief among them. Facial animations don’t need much context, so I happily went down that rabbit hole to see what was up. The criticisms appear justified.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with Legacy of the Void, a game that’s now older than dirt in video game years. I mean, Uptown Funk was the #1 song back then. Pretty crazy. And yet the talented folks of Blizzard managed to make convincing animations with their antiquated technology and techniques. What’s more, the creatures that they made convincing in their emotions, their deliveries don’t even have mouths. Yes, the super intelligent telepaths in LotV emote in a more believable way than the lifeless and/or wacky humans in Andromeda. Don’t believe me, take a look at all the Protoss you can handle (specific clip).
I don’t believe it’s an issue of Andromeda hitting the uncanny valley either. Unfortunately, I think it’s simply lower quality work. Look at the way Artanis, Rohana and Karax interact in the specific clip. They sway with their speech to emphasis points. The eyebrows dance above the gleaming orbs. The area where we’d expect a nose even contorts moving believable, if by human expectations, with the brow. I think the defining factor is that all of this, despite being on an alien, comes together so eloquently because the voice acting jives with these movements.
I guess the Mass Effect world was better off with all the masked alien species…