Posts Tagged ‘Mass Effect 3’

So. Let’s talk about Mass Effect 3, shall we? I know I’m a week or two late, but like I’ve had work to do and then that thing happened last week and I’ve only just gotten around to completing it Monday night. In a word: unsatisfying. Which is weird because I enjoyed every single second of that game, right up until you go into the Citadel for the finale – which according to my save data happened at 45 Hours and 51 minutes. That’s nearly 46 hours of awesome followed by ten minutes of “oh”. Considering how much effort you put into that game it could almost be a slap in face.

Now, I’m no stranger to ‘er, what?’ endings – Battlestar Galactica I thought handled it as well as it could, and I liked that ending. The ending to Joe Haldeman’s Forever Peace is similar to what Mass Effect 3 has seemingly tried to do – I won’t go into details, but in many ways it does way more, and yet far less than Mass Effect 3‘s ‘ending’, and I was still satisfied. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that I only had to read one book to get there, as opposed to playing through three games, but my point is it’s not the fact that they introduced a seemingly all powerful being right at the very end that’s responsible for everything which is why it was unsatisfying – it’s the way it was handled.

Assuming this is the ‘real’ ending, the framework there could still be interesting, it just needed more exposition: some cataclysmic event persuaded say the ‘first’ races that something like this should never happen again, so they create an army of all powerful machines to ‘cull’ the galaxy every 50,000 years to make way for the newer, younger races, and so the cycle goes. “All this has happened before, and all this shall happen again”, as Battlestar Galactica puts it – the ChildIllusion at the end, an avatar of this ideal and probably the remnant of whoever’s idea it was in the first place, again, that’s fine. The Illusion Baltar/Number Six in BSG, the Enigmatic Voice of God from Forever Peace… that all works fine for me. IF that’s what it is. However…

Now, interestingly there’s a popular theory circulating around about the ending not being the ‘real’ ending. What this video, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, and give this article a read to, as it analyses that theory as well as the current ending in general. If the indoctrination theory (or a similar result – the supporting evidence could point to a number of things) turns out to be true, then I take all of this back – bravo Bioware. However, there’s still the fact that, as of yet, we are left with the ending as it is, so regardless of what happens next, Bioware still presented us wither something that is either quite possible the most unsatisfying ending ever, or a poor the worst delivery of an ending ever (even if the ‘real’ ending is far better).

It still doesn’t account for things like the Normandy crash landing on that planet, because if there is something going on here, I don’t really see the point including those scenes, unless it’s to feed the illusion that this is the real ending. But then it’s so poor I don’t see why you would do that either.  The thing that upset me the most though is that, regardless of what’s real, or what’s not, I didn’t get what I was promised. Not sure how familiar you guys are with the choices, but I chose the Synthesis ending as I wanted to see what that would look like. They didn’t show me what that would look like, so that was kind of annoying.

Interestingly though, I have a save file for the start of that ending sequence, so I can go back and change which ending I choose if I want. I probably will, because if rumours are true then the ‘Destroy’ option is the one you want to be choosing anyway. So we’ll see.

Whilst I’m here, a couple of other general points that struck me:

* Kai Leng – this character should have been Ashley or Kaiden, whichever one died in Mass Effect 1. Not only would it be a perfect addition to the whole stand-off they developed between Shepard and the alive one (which was over a bit too quickly for my liking, but at least you could see it brewing), it would have really played on the fact that Shepard was straining under the weight of all those who had died. You hear Kaiden’s (and Ashley’s, I assume) voice during the nightmare sequences, so it would have been a nice transition for Shepard’s regrets to be literally thrown in his face like that.

Plus, I don’t really like the whole idea of adding in someone that brand-new at this stage anyway – Kai Leng seems to have an unjustifiable amount of hatred for you considering you’ve never met him, and the only method the game has to try and balance it out is via Anderson, as in the book Ascension (which is where Kai Leng comes from), it’s pretty much Anderson vs. Kai Leng.

* The Citadel – is no one going to ask how the Citadel was attacked, taken over, and then physically moved across the galaxy to earth in the space of what could only be a few hours?

* Limitations of the Formula – It’s sad, but in some cases the formula for the franchise – i.e. the decisions that have far reaching consequences – seems to have limited them slightly when it comes to the first game. A lot of time is given to Liara, and Kaiden/Ashley, as they were always going to be in the third game. However other characters get proportionately less time, with the odd exception of Garrus who gets a truck load of time – but then I think its set up so that it’s highly unlikely that he dies. Even Kaiden/Ashley’s screen time gets dramatically reduced after the Cerberus Coup (assuming you’re not romancing them), as it’s possible for them to die during the coup. With all these different combinations, Bioware obviously had to choose carefully where to devote resources, but in some pits it’s disappointing how little there is. (Wrex for example, despite being there from the beginning, doesn’t get much time. Tali, who was my romance option, didn’t get as much time as I thought she would) Speaking of screen time…

* Legion – He remains one of the best and most interesting characters in the series, and it’s a shame he couldn’t have done more. Like ME2, Legion appears late in ME3, and whilst to be fair he’s there right up until you finish the Quarian segment, I still wished we’d had more time with him. His mission where you infiltrate a Geth server (i.e. go into cyberspace) is, like Operation: Overlord, one of my favourite missions. It’s different and interesting, much like Legion himself (itself, whatever).

* The Crucible – smelled of Deus Ex Machina from the moment I heard of it and given the context of the ending (what it is now, what it could be etc…) its very existence doesn’t even make sense.

I’ll think I’ll stop there for now – I’m rambling and in danger of not making much sense myself. You get the idea I hope, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what Bioware’s next move is.

Oh… spoilers, by the way.

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So, as previously mentioned, I’ve been playing through all of the Mass Effect 2 DLC. There’s quite a lot of DLC for this game – there was a bonus character and a couple of new missions that you got for free provided you purchased a new copy of the game, there was another lot of free DLC post launch, and then a series of paid-for packs. Personally, I miss the days of expansions, so I haven’t quite gotten on-board the whole DLC train yet. I didn’t pick up the premium packs until there was a sale, and even then It took me this long to get around to playing it all. At least there shouldn’t be anymore, what with Mass Effect 3 so close and all.

Over all, I’m glad I got all the content in a sale – some of the premium items were a bit disappointing, but the free items were as good as you’d expect a free pack to be. I was also kind of disappointed that – aside from The Arrival – none of the extra content really fitted well with a completed game. All of the content is designed to fit in with everything else during a play through – which further encourages you to start a new play through I guess. That is one way of getting added replay value, but personally I’m not the type of gamer to replay games over and over, especially in a short space of time. That’s partially why it’s taken so long to get around to this. I would have liked to have seen more independent missions, or missions that weren’t blatantly meant to fit in during the pre-completion chronology of the game. Anyway, there were a few packs, so I’ll go through them in the order I played them:

** SPOILER ALERT **

Kasumi’s Stolen Memories

This pack introduced the second downloadable character after Zaeed, who was a bonus character you got free at launch provided you purchase access to the ‘Cerberus Network’ (which came free with a new purchase anyway). As a character, Kasumi seems fairly interesting, and her abilities are especially unique and very useful in fight. In fact, once I’d unlocked her she was a permanent member of my squad along with Legion in all of the DLC incursions after that. Considering this was a premium pack however (Zaeed was for all intensive purposes ‘free’), I had two main problems:

First off, Kasumi’s integration into the game was at the same level as Zaeed’s – Limited. Now, I’m willing to concede it wouldn’t have been an easy feat to retro-actively add Kasumi into all the important bits considering this pack was released well after launch, but considering we had to pay for it Bioware could have tried a bit harder. The problem I had with Zaeed is that, after you’ve met him and done his loyalty mission, that was it. He had no proper conversation engine: so if you went to visit him in his quarters, you wouldn’t go the conversation interface, he’d just be like an NPC, just more chatty.  It was exactly the same with Kasumi. She had no decent interactions outside of meeting her and her loyalty mission, and so you stop having anything to do with her pretty quickly.

Lastly – her loyalty mission itself had a lot of wasted potential. It started off well, with you having to infiltrate a party and crack into a safe without anyone noticing – different from the norm and was mildly challenging. Then there was the obligatory shoot-your-way-out segment, and then… oh. Nothing. It was kind of short, overall, and they wasted an opportunity to do something interesting with the memory device itself, especially considering what they did in the Project: Overlord pack. Overall, too short and the character is not given any room to grow… although at least she’s useful in a fight – never used Zaeed if I didn’t have to.

Firewalker Pack

This was the first major DLC pack for the game post-launch, and the last one to be given away for free. It’s main focus was to introduce the M-44 Hammerhead into the game. It was a hover tank, and the five ‘assignments’ (mini-missions) that came with it all had gameplay that revolved around the use of the his tank. It was great, as it was like having the Mako from Mass Effect back, just with more firepower and less of a bitch to use on awkward terrain. For a free pack, there was a respectable amount to do here, and the fact that the gameplay was completely different stopped it from being just more of the same.

The only we can really complain about is that – apart from Project Overlord – no other DLC pack featured the Hammerhead. Seems like a slightly was of resources to me, but hey it was still a nice little pack to play around with post-game.

Project: Overlord

Speaking of Project: Overlord, this is hands down my favourite DLC pack of the bunch. Basically, your called to a planet were a Cerberus-funded operation has gone awry. In attempts to control the Geth much like how Sovereign/Saren did in Mass Effect, some scientists have been experimenting with fusing VI and Human Intelligence. Again, not to give away too much ,but this is pretty interesting techno-thriller esque pack that combines both on-foot missions and even Hammerhead segments, making it pretty comprehensive and a good hour, hour-half’s worth  of gameplay

There’s even an interesting segment where, prior to the final ‘boss’, you’re actually fighting in virtual environment whilst the last key piece of the story are revealed to you. A really good segment, and it’s such a shame that Kasumi’s pack didn’t do something similar once they’d recovered the greybox with the memories in them. My favourite bit is the end, which managed to forge an emotional response almost equal to the climax of the main game. Ultimately, I feel videogames should strive to forge emotional connections with the players as often as possible, and this DLC pack certainly did in its closing moments. It all seemed so harmless…

Lair of the Shadow Broker

This pack is also in many ways the best pack, but it’s not my personal favourite. Unlike Overlord, it didn’t really connect with me emotionally, and to be honest I felt some of the segments were a bit boring and repetitive. It doesn’t make use of the Hammerhead, and the gameplay could have been taken from any point in Mass Effect 2. Saying that, this pack was a decent length, and it also had the most impact on the wider main game, making it really worth the money. As the name suggests, you finally help Liara track down the Shadow Broker and there’s several parts to this pack – tracking down Liara and dealing with the assassin sent to kill her, infiltrating the Shadow Broker’s Stronghold, and then a boss-fight with the broker himself.

As I said, a lot of it is pretty standard fair, even the boss fights, so there’s not a lot about the gameplay that will keep you interested. Also, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t remember Liara being so mono-tone and emotionless. Her performance seemed a bit wooden, if I’m being honest, although it might have been an attempt to show how she hadn’t been really ‘living’ since Shepard died – there’s some better moments towards the end. The most interesting thing about this pack is what happens after you’ve done the mission. For reasons I won’t spoil here, you get access to the Shadow Broker’s facilities, which offer you various little meta-segments like ‘investing’ in missions or causes for a cash return, buying charts to mineral rich planets, and even video logs – although the point of these still escape me. There are even amusing and insightful dossiers on several of the main characters.

Overall, not the most inspiring pack, but in terms of content and integration into the main game, definitely the one most worth buying I think, apart from Overlord.

The Arrival

Last, but not least, is The Arrival. This is really the only pack catered for post-completion, as it deals with the impending Reaper invasion and sets things up to lead in nicely to the start of the third game. Again, much like Kasumi’s pack, it starts of interesting as you have to infiltrate a prison in order to rescue someone. There’s even an achievement to do it without raising the alarm – something that I think should have been incorporated into the actual gameplay. Considering you were on your own as well, it had the same effect as the Firewalker pack in introducing an interesting and different way to play the game. Once you rescue the prisoner, you then have to naturally fight your way out, but this doesn’t last too long and you’re soon on your way to the second ‘half’ of the pack.

I won’t go into too much detail – but in essence it mainly involves more shooting and escaping. There’s a kind of hoard-like section were you have to survive for as long as possible against waves of enemies (there’s an achievement for surviving all the waves, which despite trying for an hour couldn’t do), but apart from that there’s not a lot too this half. The main character for this pack has an annoying accent and doesn’t really give a good performance, but the ending is pretty cool in an “impending doom” kind of way.

The rest of the DLC (apart from the launch DLC which I didn’t count as I played it at launch) were weapon and armour packs, which I refuse to buy as I think it’s the ugliest personification of the DLC business model. Sure, add in new weapons, armour, whatever in with the other content packs (which they did), but I draw the line at those kind of packs.

Bit of a long one today, but feel free to leave your thoughts.

So, on the face of things, today has not been that great a day. Well, it’s been alright… well, kind of disappointing, but I’m already over it. Still, nothing’s really gone right this entire weekend, so I’m in a bit of a funk. And I spent more than I really should have today, which is never a good feeling.

A long time ago, in a place far, far away (known as ‘Surrey’ to the indigenous population), my uber-cool matte black Xbox 360 Elite died on me. Not, as you may have expected at the time, of the Red Ring of Death. Despite having RROD’d on me about three or four times since I’d bought it (I always managed to bring it back to life) – it died of an altogether different problem related to the graphics card. I can’t remember the code name for the problem, but it killed it, good as dead. Right in the middle of a review as well, which was annoying.

The Microsoft PR chap (who I won’t actually name because the last time I ‘named’ him in something I actually got him into trouble. Oops), was nice enough though to send me out a replacement pretty sharpish though, saving me the trouble of having to go through Microsoft’s Consumer Support options and/or buy a new one. The only catch, was that it was white – same specification as an Elite, just the wrong colour. At the time I didn’t think it would really matter, and I was kind of desperate, so I said sure.

Fast forward to today, and that turn of events finally bit me in the ass. Despite being the same specification as an Elite, the fact that it was the wrong colour meant that GameStation wouldn’t give me Elite prices on the trade-in value. Something to do with trading standards. Damn those people, protecting consumer interests!

Still, I got my xbox slim, and I managed to get some extra money off by insta-trading in Deus Ex, which came with it (I reviewed it on the PS3, so I already have it). It’s not the matte black version though, it’s the shiny black, so it’s going to get all smudgy. I’d hoped that by the time I’d gotten around to it, all the slims would be matte black, given that Microsoft said they were going to discontinue the shiny casing.

Of course, that wasn’t the only thing that made today a bit naff – add in the fact that I was supposed to have taken care of everything yesterday (took longer than I thought to figure out a way to back everything up), so I couldn’t go to the bank today. Gamestation also weren’t taking pre-orders for the Mass Effect 3 special editions, because apparently it’s still ‘TBC’ (odd considering a fellow games journo told me they were running out). Annnnd, thanks to GamesCom and leaving it till this weekend, it was too late to return an item I didn’t need.

I tried to cheer myself up by buying Source Code, which I’ve wanted to see for a while… but then that made me feel guilty as I’d already spent enough that day (had to do food shopping too). Oh, and the cute girl in Gamestation who sold me my DS Lite didn’t recognize me. Sad Face.

Hmm. That came off as a little whiny, didn’t it? Oh well, you’ll live.