If you bounced off it because you started with ME1, well, that’s vastly improved, IMHO, and less likely to make you bounce off. I would say, though, first time you play ME1, it’s probably worth mostly sticking to the critical path unless you’re really intrigued by the other stuff. The most likely place for ME1 to bog down now (after they largely fixed the combat and generally improved the game) is in the non-critical-path exploration stuff.
With ME2, there’s only one thing you need to know - don’t tell them to build the “[noun] IFF” until you are absolutely ready to go. Beware those three letters!
ME3 is the the most self-explanatory in terms of approach. Whilst they made some missteps with the story conceptually, the general design and flow of the game is better than the previous two - you can basically see them getting better at it. If only they hadn’t gone open-world with Andromeda (which isn’t a bad game, mind, but it’s very much a 7/10 game - basically 9.5/10 action CRPG combat and visual design, 6/10 open world, and 7/10 story, which is to say, better than most developers who aren’t called Bioware or Obsidian or CDPR (2077 has a totally legit main story, anyone telling you otherwise is selling you a bill of goods, frankly) or now ZA/UM, but just like, not spectacular.
All they really need to do for ME4 is replicate the gameplay from Andromeda, stick it back in a level-based or less-open-world structure, and get a good story. Even the last bit is easier than it sounds, because the biggest flaws with Andromeda’s story break down into two areas:
Lack of polish on the dialogue and animation caused directly by the 18-month development timeframe. A lot of the dialogue is just bad, but in a very specific way that screams “We only had one draft!”, like, you can see the concept, but it hasn’t been polished/refined to that Bioware shine that even DAI had. The cutscene/dialogue animation was in large part outsourced because they simply ran out of time and lot of it is just bad. The biggest sign of “Oh shit no time!” is that all the Asari in the game share the same- sadly unattractive - face model (except PB), which is just unfortunately hilarious.
A basically bad idea for the entire story concept, particularly the main character. ME1-3 are essentially power-fantasies to some extent in the same way that stuff like The Witcher or Pillars or indeed most CRPGs are. Shepard is competent, tough, and doesn’t take any shit, like a good action hero-type. You can choose whether you’re a kindly Star Trek-type or a tougher '80s action hero-type, but they’re this pretty compelling character either way (unless you hate both Star Trek and '80s action heroes somehow).
Whereas Ryder… I get the idea. Ryder is the son/daughter of a Shepard-type individual, and at the start of the game, whilst they’re semi-competent, they’re young, uncertain, and lack charisma. To an almost excessive degree. And the idea was clearly that Ryder would have an arc/journey towards badass-ness. And Ryder does. They gradually get more and more competent and confident over the course of the game, and by the end, well, they might not be Shepard, but they’re well on the way.
Trouble is, it takes most of the game before this is even noticeable, and some people clearly didn’t notice it at all, and just stuck with their first impression - that Ryder is reticent and inconfident figure who feels kind of wrong for this kind of game.
And a lot of the companions kind of are designed around Ryder and Ryder’s journey, which means they’re not very compelling either.
Anyone gone completely off-track! I’ve been playing Slay The Spire lately, which remains a masterpiece capable of eating any amount of time