Tag Archives: mass effect

Mass Effect (again again)

A friend of mine has been discovering Dragon Age and then Mass Effect for the first time.  It’s been pleasing to see how much he’s enjoyed all the games, even though some of them are pretty long in the tooth these days.

It also inspired me to go and play Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 again (I’m about 10% through ME3).

It’s a bit depressing how badly Andromeda stands up to Mass Effect (certainly 3) in terms of story and emotional engagement.  The side stories in Mass Effect 3, the overheard conversations, are heart achingly tragic and poignant.  And they’re not even part of the overall story, you can’t even always influence them.  There’s a elderly lady in one location trying to contact her son, who’s in the military.  You don’t know if her son is okay or not, but you know she’s got memory issues, because she’s confused and doesn’t realising she’s been having the same conversation for several days.  You get the conversation in snippets, and the response from the woman she’s speaking to is so real.  There are loads of conversations like that, moments, ‘real’ lives, telling a story of people affected by war.

Andromeda tried, but it missed, and I guess while it’s mechanically a good game, it just doesn’t have the heart present in ME3 (BioWare have form here, DA2 didn’t have the same heart as DA1).

Anyway, just a short post in passing – Mass Effect, the whole trilogy, is still worth buying and playing if you’ve never done so.

An open letter to BioWare: Thank you

I broke my foot (lisfranc fracture) and arm (upper humerus, with displacement) playing short tennis on holiday in late August 2016.  I had surgery on both of them (plates and pins) and have been recovering since the start of September.  The first few weeks of that meant no use of my foot at all, so stuck in one room in the house peeing into a bottle and using a commode.  My arm was in a sling, and I was under strict orders not to bear any load on it.  For the past few weeks, I’ve had a heel-load bearing cast on my foot, which means I can hobble short distances, but I’m still pretty much limited to a single room because I need to keep the foot elevated as much as possible.

When my wife spoke to the occupational therapist (they did a home visit before the hospital would discharge me) they talked about exercises and what I could and couldn’t do, and my wife mentioned the consoles.  The OT was quite happy for me to use the Xbox One controller, because it would exercise my wrist and fingers without putting any load on my arm, and keep some activity in that part of my body.

Mass Effect 2 LogoI was in too much pain for the first few days at home to do anything though – which meant a lot of television.  Eventually I decided to stop the brain rot caused by that and whacked Mass Effect 1 into the Xbox One now that it’s playable under the backwards compatibility feature.  I completed a full play-through with all the DLC.  That led to Mass Effect 2 (360 only, not backwards compatible yet) and some fun and games getting the ME1 saves to import (saved on the Xbox One, but used on the 360).  Another full play-through with all DLC.  Inevitably, I finished ME3 (and all DLC)! after that as well.  It’s not the first time I’ve played them, although I’ve played ME2 most, I’ve completed ME1 and ME3 a couple of times at least.  I think that was around 120 hours of gaming.

I have Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age: Origins – Awakenings and Dragon Age II, but only on the 360 (and it was started to smell pretty hot on the days I played ME2 and ME3).  Also, although I absolutely love DA:O & DAOA they do feel a tiny bit tired now.  I’m not as enamoured with DA II overall, although the DLC improves it.  So, I put Dragon Age: Inquisition into the Xbox One and then played that (and all the DLC, which is new to me), and have just finished.  164 hours in total.

One hundred, and sixty four hours of game play.

daI’ve loved BioWare games for a long time, they’re a part of my gaming history on the PC and consoles.  Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights have special places in my gaming memory.  I loved the dialog, I loved the characters and the phrases.  Hell, myself, my wife and our gaming friends are still using quotes from the Baldur’s Gate series1 , when roleplaying, gaming and sometimes shopping.

Here’s a short list of why I love the games.

  1. Commitment to single player content.  Look I get it, I played Everquest for over 7 years – I was seriously into that MMO, so I know the joy of gaming online with actual real folk, having conversations with real human beings and sitting up until 4 o’clock in the morning with someone you’ve never met to help them win a piece of loot that’s just pixels backed by a database entry.  I understand multi-player fun.  But when I’m playing multi-player games, I want to collaborate.  I don’t play tabletop roleplaying games to fight against the players, and if I play online multi-player games I don’t want PvP to be the whole point, even if it’s team based.  More than that – sometimes I want a single player experience.  Sometimes I want to read a book on my own, not watch a movie with 300 other people, and gaming is no different.  I want to be the protagonist, to drive the story with a supporting cast, at my own pace, using my own imagination and in my own little world.  You guys deliver that, you guys get it, and you guys clearly love it.  Please, never lose that.
  2. Massive games.  Truly huge.  With structure.  Not huge in the Oblivion or Morrowind ‘er where do I go now’ way, but huge in scope and content, with a solid, structured layered story that helps you decide where to go and what to do when you get there.  It’s a truly fine balance and you guys usually tread it perfectly.
  3. Dialog.  You don’t always get it right, but when you do, it’s sublime.  It might be cheesy, it might be corny, it might be sentimental, but man we love it.  I love it.
  4. Complex morality decisions.  I cure the genophage every time, I have to, someone else might get it wrong.  But every time I’m forced to think about it, to think about the nuances and the impact.  I forgave the Wardens.  I unify the quarians and the geth, even though I know it’s futile, because fuck war.  Sometimes, I sit and stare at a single conversation option for 10 minutes, sometimes longer.  Do I save you and condemn the galaxy, or do I condemn you and save the castle.  Yes please.  More.
  5. Characters.  Your characters will stick with me for ever.  No less than some of the best books I’ve ever read.  Minsc, Wrex, Tali (yes, yes, I’m always a Talimancer), Oghren, these are characters I’ll never forget, and the interactions between them all are moments I’ll enjoy like the best form of entertainment in any genre.

You don’t make games.  You make interactive fiction of the highest order, and I salute you.

I have loved your games for a long time, and stuck in one room for weeks has allowed me to enjoy them all over again with an intensity usually disrupted by trivial things like sleep, eating and work.  In a world of expensive entertainment, your games offer some of the best return in pure gaming enjoyment, well before you factor in any of the ongoing conversations, memories and replays.

Long may it continue, long may you continue, and long may you focus on content rich, single player focussed interactive fiction which puts the player in charge of the outcomes.

In summary – thank you for the last 18 years of games, and thank you for keeping me occupied during my recuperation.

NB: This time, I actually didn’t mind the ME3 endings either, I tried all three, I’m sure the blue one is best overall.  No spoilers.

NB2: Now the 360 has cooled down, maybe I should give DA:O and DA:OA another shot.  Tired or not, I think it’s time a lowly dwarf from Orzammar saved the world, again.

  1. Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, give him a sword and he can chow down on the marrow of evil! []

Reports from the sofa

I’ve been unwell on and off since around December.  Repeated colds which would come and go, and much more frustratingly, a cough which would come and go, and which at one stage was very bad indeed.  Eventually, my GP diagnosed it as whooping cough (yes, I know), and some antibiotics sorted it out.  It flared up again a few weeks ago, but only lasted a couple of days, and I’ve been pretty okay since.  Reports suggest it can take a few months to really get back to full health, we’ll see how it goes.

The reason this is important (in terms of this blog post) is that during the worst bouts of coughing, where I was basically coughing every 30 seconds, having something to absolutely focus on was the only way of either controlling it or ignoring it sufficiently to not go insane.  The two things which allowed me to achieve this were watching movies and playing computer games.

In March, I have spent a lot of time playing computer games.  This then, is a summary, a report from the sofa.

MasseffectlogoMass Effect

This wasn’t the first Mass Effect game I ever played.  I played the 2nd first, because I picked it up cheap when I first got the Xbox.  However, after loving it, I bought this as well.  This play-through, which started in February and ended in March was probably my third or fourth complete run through the game.  BioWare did two things with Mass Effect.  They delivered an amazing, interesting story supported by accessible game-play, and they learned from the experience when they went on to make the second game.  I’ve got all the DLC (downloadable content or add-ons) for the game, and the full play-through took 42 hours.  Decisions you take in the first game impact the second and third in the series (if you import your character), and so I was careful to make all the decisions in the way I wanted them to play out in the next two games.  I romanced Ashley, despite hating her bigoted opinions, because I’d never picked that option before.  I was planning to romance her through the 3rd game as well (staying true to her in the 2nd, by not romancing anyone) – but it didn’t work out that way.

I loved this play through as much as I did the first time.  I find as long as I leave enough time between play-throughs to make the dialogue fresh and interesting again, the game is as enjoyable as ever.

ME2LogoMass Effect 2

The 2nd game in the series fixes the most annoying feature of the first one, which is the equipment/loot system.  In the first game, you spend a lot of time sorting out gear for you and your party.  In the second, the whole system is streamlined and handled at a much higher level.  That alone would ensure I loved Mass Effect 2 more than 1, but it’s not the only thing BioWare made better.  Dialogue is more interesting, choices are more interesting, the missions are more varied and the general world in which you play is fleshed out in greater detail.  The one thing I preferred in the first game over the second was the layout of the Citadel.  In the first game it’s a sprawling location you can roam around as well as use fast travel stations, but in the second, it’s locked down more tightly and feels a lot smaller.  Considering the supposed size of the Citadel in-game, that can be disappointing at times.

Thanks again to owning all the DLC and being addicted to side missions, this time it took 48 hours to complete the game, finishing around the 9th March.  It should have only taken around 46 hours, but thanks to being an idiot, I had to take the collector base 3 times to get the ending I wanted.  Mass Effect 2 is the near perfect gaming experience for me, a blend of story, humour and action, with real in-game consequences of taking particular actions.

Mass Effect 3 LogoMass Effect 3

Up until this March, I’d only played Mass Effect 3 once.  I was pretty vocal about how much I hated the end (read here, massive spoilers), and the other issues in the game.  I’d never played any of the DLC other than the Prothean one released on day 1.  Since then, BioWare have released lots more DLC, including a free pack which updates the end.  BioWare promise it doesn’t change the end, it just clarifies what’s going on.  I was dubious, but I wanted to play the new DLC, and give them a chance.

Well, I still think there are issues, but I’ll give it to BioWare, they significantly improved the end for me.  There are three choices at the end, and on the first play-through there was really only one that gave what felt like the ‘right’ end.  Now, all three (four if you include the ‘no choice choice’) give far more satisfying ends and are described in a way which resolves many of my primary concerns.  I won’t spoil them here, but essentially, all the endings make sense now, and all of them result in some kind of victory, the only question is what are you prepared to give up to get that victory.  I’m still a bit sad that I had to be let down by the ending the first time, to get the better explanation the second time, and the new endings were tainted a bit by my memory of the originals.  However, you have to hand it to them, they realised they’d made a mistake, and they fixed it as well as they could without fundamentally changing anything.

Overall, the new DLC’s were excellent (Leviathan, Omega, Citadel), and I enjoyed this play-through much more than my first.  The game is quite happy to poke fun at itself, especially in the Citadel DLC, and that humour really shows how much the writers love the game, the characters and the fans.

Overall, the play-through was 57 hours (which is just over half of what I spent playing Skyrim).  For a third-person shooter that’s not a bad amount of time!  This time around I even played some of the co-op on-line content and really quite enjoyed it.

Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 have to go down as one of the most legendary gaming experiences ever, surely.

dishonoured logoDishonoured

I don’t know how many hours I played Dishonoured for.  I’ve already traded it back in (bought for £15, traded back for £7), so I can’t load the save game and see what the played time was.  However, HowLongToBeat says it’s around 15 to 28 hours depending on how much stuff you want to complete.  I’m a fairly slow player, cautious and sneaky in games like this, so I’ll guess at around 22 hours.  Dishonoured is an excellent sneak-em-up set in a mysterious steampunky world and populated with some truly horrible people.  You can play the game in your own style, using a combination of violence or stealth to complete your missions, and despite essentially being an assassin you can choose to leave as many or few people alive as you like along the way.  The ending apparently varies depending on how many folk you dispatch, but while being fun, I didn’t feel the need to replay in a different style.  Conversation is interested, but the choices are limited and while there are side missions, they’re few in number and actually feel more like edges of the plot than truly side elements.

Actual game-play was really fun and the game easily kept me interested and engaged, despite playing it almost straight after the Mass Effect trilogy.  I completed the game with only about 5 kills, and some of those were accidental, honest.

Dungeon Siege III LogoDungeon Siege III

I’ve had this for ages, but had only played for around 2 hours.  After Dishonoured I was looking for something to really absorb me, and restarted from scratch.  I was pretty hopeful early on, but the game slowly became more and more repetitive, and essentially, a button-mashing 3rd person combat game.  It’s nothing like the original two games, which included full sized parties, and was based around a pause-and-go, click combat system.  Number 3 limits your party to two, the combat is real-time and requires control of your character and a limited number of skills with power bars and the like.  If you like button-mashing combat, then it may be for you but after 8 hours I gave up.  The story isn’t interesting enough to keep me trying to beat enemies that wipe me out in seconds with no obvious route to success.

Army of TWO TDC LogoArmy of TWO: TDC

We finally traded in the PS3 and all the associated gubbins, along with a few games, and as part of the trade-in deal put a pre-order down on Army of TWO: TDC after playing the demo.  I was looking for a FPS which was fun and relaxing, and Army of TWO fits the bill.  I knew it would be short, and I knew I wouldn’t play it more than once, but it was still enjoyable and satisfying.  Essentially, picked this up on Thursday, finished it, and traded it back in on Saturday afternoon (~£24 trade in).  I guess it was around 14 hours over those three days to go all the way through the story with a couple of stop-starts when I had to redo most of a complete chapter.  Fun, and essentially free, but not the kind of lengthy campaign I really enjoy in single player games.

Far Cry 2 LogoFar Cry 2

While I was trading in Army of TWO I looked around for something to play that could keep me busy for a while, and picked up Far Cry 2.  I know #3 is out, but I thought I’d give #2 a go initially, since it was in GAME’s 2 for £10 range (I picked up Bulletstorm at the same time).  I’ve played for around 3-4 hours, go through the tutorial and tried a few missions.  So far it’s fun.  I’m struggling a bit with the lack of feedback in terms of how stealthy you’re being (if at all), and the ‘no cover’ system is a little frustrating.  Otherwise, I think if I get into the game’s mindset I could find myself playing this for a good few hours.  However – I took a break to check out Bulletstorm and, well, read on …

Bulletstorm LogoBulletstorm

Well well well.  I played the demo when this first came out and while I thought it was interesting, I was clearly not in the mood for an irreverent, puerile first person shooter.  Apparently, this week, I’m absolutely in the mood for it.  Bulletstorm has some very high quality voice actors (from Mass Effect, in fact), some hilarious dialogue, a lot of swearing, some very annoying enemies, and some interesting weapons.  Technically, it’s a very solid first person shooter, with the feel of Gears of War without the cover-mechanism.  However, where the game really shines is the method of rewarding points (so you can buy weapon upgrades, ammo, etc.)  Each basic kill earns some points, but more complex kills earn more points, and the first time you perform a particular kill you get extra bonus points.  For example, shooting a bad guy nets you 10 points, but kicking that bad guy backwards and then shooting them, earns you 25 points.  Kicking the bad guy off the edge of a platform (earning you the Vertigo kill) is worth 50 points.  Add in blowing things up, an energy whip which can pull bad guys around, a combination of weapons and enemies, and the action is both frantic and humorous.

Yes, it’s silly, yes it’s slightly offensive, and yes, it’s utterly manic, but I’ve not had this much fun playing a true FPS ever.  The story is no worse than many first person shooters, while being better than some, and having some very high quality voice actors really helps.  Knowing that the actress for voice of the female character is the same as the one which played Female Shephard in Mass Effect gives the line “I will kill your dicks” even more added value.

I couldn’t stop playing yesterday and at times I was crying with laughter.  In one fight, where I dispatched about 20 enemies with a single shot to an explosive barrel, I was waiting for the combat to end, wondering why it wasn’t, but there were no new enemies.  Eventually, about 8 seconds after the explosion, I saw a lone falling enemy, through a window, who floated past us into the ocean giving me my first Fish Food reward.  Truly awesome gaming.  I can see me playing this a lot.

Mass Effect 3: Thoughts

A lot has already been written on the web about Mass Effect 3.  If you’re a gamer or you follow any gamers on social media sites, you must already have heard about ‘the ending’ and why a lot of fans are unhappy, and the gradual increase in ‘stop crying’ posts in response.  I just wanted to put my thoughts down after having played all three games.  Be warned: there will be huge stonking spoilers ahead, you can’t avoid commenting in depth on the game without spoilers.  In fact, spoilers below for all three Mass Effect games basically.

Continue reading Mass Effect 3: Thoughts

Inter-species marriage

So, let’s assume we discover other life out there in the universe.  Let’s assume that the other different intelligent species we discover are emotionally compatible with humans (i.e. we think in similar ways).  I appreciate this is a stretch.  Assuming religious organisations survive the discovery of life beyond Earth, would those religous organisations which refuse to accept same-sex marriage be okay with different-species marriage as long as the two intelligent life forms asking to be married were of identifiably opposite sex?

Maybe I think about this too much.

Or maybe I’m playing too much Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect

Mass Effect 1 and 2 are old hat, been out ages, surely no one in their right mind would start talking about them now when Mass Effect 3 is just around the corner?  Well, I’m not in my right mind.

Grete played (plays?) ME1 and ME2 to death on the PC, she loves them and the Dragon Age games.  I had ME2 on the Xbox 360, played it one and a half times, and then sold it on to fund more games.  I promised myself that’s what I’d do with nearly every game I bought, new or second hand.  I didn’t want to end up with a huge pile of games, played or unplayed.  Anyway I never bought or played ME1.  With ME3 around the corner, Grete wanted to see ME1 and ME2 ‘on the big screen, with surround sound’, so she picked them up super cheap for the Xbox from the local store.

I picked up the DLC’s for them both (the ones I didn’t already have for ME2) and thought I’d give ME1 a shot.  It’s pretty good!  It’s odd playing ME2 before ME1 for a couple of reasons.  First, you kind of know where the story is going, but the flip-side is you go through a lot of ‘aahhhhhh riiiggghhhttt’ moments when you discover stuff that leads to things you did in the second game.  Secondly, the mechanics change a lot between games, and having to handle a million equipment upgrades in ME1 was not fun, especially knowing ME2 gets rid of that mechanic almost entirely.

But what really sets ME1 and ME2 apart from the general gaming population is the story and the characters.  I love it and them, and ME1 proved no less enjoyable than ME2.  In fact, I got 60 hours of game-play out of ME1, and another 45 hours out of ME2 even though it was my second play through.  ME2 straight after ME1 was a much better experience than previously, and being able to bring the ME1 character along made some of the decisions more personal.

I love the setting, the Space Opera style and the world building.  The little details and the massive scale work really well together.  I’ve spent the last two weeks feeling like I want to write a huge epic space opera story myself, although to be honest, what I most want to do is all the world building that goes into it.  Never could find a story inside myself I wanted to tell enough to actually write anything.

Mass Effect 3 demo looks good – very interesting approach offering three play styles.  Story mode – reduced combat involvement, full dialog options; Roleplaying which is the same model as the previous games; Action which reduces conversations down to cut scenes (I’m guessing you can still pick Paragon or Renegade using the triggers) but provides the full combat experience.  If more companies can pick up that approach, offering just as much content but with a range of roleplaying levels it would be excellent.  I’d love to play Modern Warfare with a significantly improved roleplaying feel.

Not sure how the multi-player will work out – and I hope the ME3 mechanics (which look to be somewhere between 1 and 2) don’t overwhelm the play.  I’m sure we’ll find out.

Either way – the Reapers had better watch out, I intend to convince the entire Galaxy to make a stand, and Hold The Line.