Archive for the ‘Mass Effect’ Category

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Mass Effect 2: Prepping for the Final Journey

February 10, 2010

The index finger of my left hand has completely locked up, and I have no one to blame for it but myself.

I’m coming upon the final mission in Mass Effect 2, and at this point it’s all about tying up loose ends. That means finishing any leftover quests in my journal, visiting any unexplored systems, and making any incomplete upgrades to my team and ship.  The last of these requires a ton of resources, much of which can only be obtained through scanning and launching probes at a planet until it looks like some kind of freaky overgrown blowfish. Over the last couple of days, I’ve spent most of my time in this game holding down the left trigger button on the Xbox 360 controller performing these scans (I guess even here you can’t escape the dreaded farm), so serves me right for being a completist. On the other hand, my armory is now the envy of every weapons enthusiast in the galaxy.

Warning: The following section contains spoilers! You have been warned!

Area(s) covered: Derelict Reaper

All along, I had been expecting a final addition to my crew due to the presence of an empty slot in my squad list, and so I wasn’t surprised when I finally got to meet Legion. It’s kinda neat to be able to see a Geth up close without worrying about it shooting me in the face. Apparently I need to work on repaying the favor, because I kept accidentally firing on him during his personal quest (what can I say, I’ve been conditioned too well when it comes to AHHH IT’S A GETH! KEEEL EET!). To be honest, Legion hasn’t really been impressing me outside of combat. He has got to be the most infuriating squad member to talk to. While I realize that some of that was intended, something else isn’t adding up here. So you say your race can govern yourselves efficiently because you can process data with thousands of your buddies at the speed of light, eh? Well, in the end you still needed me to make the big decisions for you, so ha.

Things are also looking up on the romance front with Garrus, who is currently busy “researching” for his special night with Shepard. Well, there’s no shortage of primary resources on the internet, my Turian friend! On a related note, Shepard discovered male-enhancement junk mail on her private terminal the other day. Even the Cerberus spam filters can’t stop them, what chance do we have?!

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Thoughts on Mass Effect 2 Companions Pt. 3

February 6, 2010

Well, my better half is nudging at me to slow down a little in Star Trek Online so he can have some chance of catching up to me. After all, I did start playing a few days before him thanks to the early start program for us pre-order buyers. So I took the day off from STO today and instead played a couple hours of Mass Effect 2, finishing off my companion loyalty quests. I had left Mordin, Jacob and Grunt for last because I had decided earlier on that they were the three companions I was least interested in. However, it turned out that their quests were three of the most fascinating and fun. Go figure.

Mordin Solus

Okay this guy scares the crap out of me, in the Steve-Buscemi-in-Con-Air kinda way. He’d never been on my away team until this point, when I finally let him off my ship to do his personal quest (and it’s a quest that raises some serious ethical issues that are far heavier than anything I had ever expected to find in a video game). When I was done, it made me realize that Mordin freaks me out even more than Jack. At the same time, I’ve decided he’s also the most interesting companion on my squad, hands down. Even when he’s talking slowly enough to understand, everything that comes out of his mouth just makes me cock my head and go, “Say what?” There’s a side to him that’s pragmatic to the point of callousness, but every once in a while you also get to catch a brief glimpse of compassion. A killer doctor and a benevolent psychopath, this Salarian is just a walking contradiction. I love it.

Jacob Taylor

For the first half of the game, every time I talked to Jacob, the thought “Gee, this guy is feeling more and more like Kaidan version 2.0″ kept running through my mind. His personality bored me, his conversations bored me, and his background story bored me. It wasn’t that he was a terrible character, but compared to all the other colorful personalities I had on my ship, Jacob just felt…bland. I figured he was just another soldier boy with a pretty face and a troubled past, and I wasn’t expecting all that much when I went along with him to do his quest. But as it turned out, there was more to this guy than I thought. Granted, it had more to do with the nature of his quest than Jacob himself (the quest did have some bizarre circumstances), but for now, Jacob gets a pass from me. A little too late to hop on the Jacob romance train though; at this point, I’ve already decided that Shepard’s heart belongs to Garrus…so brace yourselves for lurid details on some alien love in the days to come.

Grunt

Me no likey Grunt. Again, one of those characters with a decent backstory, but comes up short when compared to some of the others, especially considering we got some really cool aliens this time around. Besides, the tough-Krogan-with-a-ferocious-appetite-for-violence act has been done before — it’s called Wrex (and he was a lot more badass too, if I might add.) Since there’s only room in my heart for one Krogan companion, sorry Grunt, this just makes you the Diet Coke of Wrex. But man, your personal quest was damn cool, I’ll give you that.

Go back to Part 1 or Part 2!

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The Dialogue Wheel – Pros, Cons and the Falcon Punch

February 3, 2010

Playing Mass Effect 2 has led me to think about the dialogue wheel, the nifty little system that allows the player to choose conversation options when interacting with NPCs in the game. This isn’t my first exposure to it; I was familiar with the dialogue wheel from the original Mass Effect, and it has already been confirmed that Star Wars: The Old Republic will feature a similar if not identical system.

The idea behind it is pretty simple: the dialogue wheel comes up whenever you encounter an NPC you can speak with. Your dialogue choices are arranged around the wheel, and usually just a short snippet of a summary of what you want to say is shown. In Mass Effect, there’s even a pattern as to how these dialogue options are placed. Often, you’ll find the “paragon” or the goody-two-shoes option on the upper right, the “renegade” or the badass option on the bottom, and a more neutral option sandwiched between the two.

Given that the company behind the Mass Effect games is also the one behind SW:TOR, it’s pretty safe to assume that this pattern may be utilized in the upcoming MMORPG as well. Frankly, I’m pretty happy about this because I’m quite a fan of the dialogue wheel, though I do have some concerns. But first, let me go through the pros of this system:

1. It’s clean and tidy. A lot of UIs for MMOs are already way too cluttered, but the dialogue wheel is compact while still managing to serve its purpose.

2. It’s easy for the player to learn where everything is on the wheel. For example, in Mass Effect, whenever you wanted to learn more about something, the “Investigate” option will always appear on the left, and the “Charm” and “Intimidate” options are always going to be on the upper and lower left, respectively.

3. In my opinion, the most important advantage of the dialogue wheel is that for full voice-over games like Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic, you really don’t need anything more than the brief summaries that are shown. After all, what’s the point of displaying the full dialogue option when it’s just going to be read back to you seconds later?

And now for the cons. For the most part, the summaries on the dialogue wheel correspond well to what actually comes out of your character’s mouth…but sometimes you might just be surprised. The dialogue wheel leaves opportunities for players to select a response with the intent for their character to behave or say something in a certain way, only to have them end up doing something totally unexpected. For example, I doubt many people saw the following coming when they chose the dialogue option innocently labeled “I’ll shut you up!”

Sure, you can point out that any result would have been a renegade response based on the fact that the option was on the lower right portion of the wheel, but the last time I checked, sucker-punching someone in the face isn’t the only way to shut them up.

The fact that the summaries might not accurately reflect the full response is the biggest disadvantage of the dialogue wheel and my main concern regarding its implementation in SW:TOR. It’s all fine and good when something like this happens in a single player game like Mass Effect. Really hate the outcome of your choice? No problem, just reload and try again. But MMO players don’t often have that kind of luxury. While I have faith that Bioware will figure out a way to ensure their players won’t accidentally commit some major action without getting plenty of warning, not ever knowing for certain what your character might say or do will make many think twice before locking in on a dialogue option, thus making this system a possible impediment to the immersive experience and to a player’s overall sense of control.

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Thoughts on Mass Effect 2 Companions Pt. 2

February 2, 2010

My Mass Effect 2 journey continues. Three more companion quests down means three more satisfied teammates and a slightly more loyal crew than before! Shepard can sleep a little bit easier now.

Jack

If Shepard was the head of a dysfunctional family, Jack would be the rebellious and out-of-control teenage daughter, the type you see ending up in Teenager Boot Camp on the Maury Povich show. Sometimes I just want to grab her by the shoulders, give her a good shake, and tell her to grow the hell up. I’m not a fan of badass for the sake of being badass (see my thoughts on Zaeed), and I was somewhat disappointed that Jack’s character seemed to be heading dangerously close in that direction. It’s hard for me to like “psychotic” type characters because there’s often no rhyme or rhythm to their motivations and thus no room for them to grow. More often than not, they either a) remain static, or b) end up doing a 180 on their personalities when shown “the error of their evil ways” and I’m not sure either of those options are particularly desirable when it comes to what I want to see for Jack.

Tali’Zorah

For the first time, I’m starting to understand the intrigue that all my male friends seem to have for this character and I don’t mean in the I’m-wondering-what-kind-of-sexed-up-wildcat-she-is-under-that-suit kind of way, though I admit there’s something very irresistible about the mystery. Tali has the advantage of being in the first Mass Effect, so we know more about her than many of the others. Like Garrus, she’s changed a bit, no longer the young Quarian on her pilgrimage now, but an older woman taking on more responsibilities for her people. I really like the way her character has evolved, though she remains the fiercely loyal companion I had come to know and love from the first game. Her personal quest literally had me holding back tears at some points, and it’s amazing how a character whose face you don’t ever get to see can manage to make a connection like that.

Samara

Though it might not seem like it on the surface, Samara is really quite a badass–the kind of badass I do like: poignant, yet not overdone. I’m still ambivalent towards her character, however. Like Shepard’s other recruits, Samara has her own personal demons to deal with, plus she hasn’t exactly had the most pleasant life (just once, I’d like to see a happy and well-adjusted companion on the Normandy) so maybe I’ve just become desensitized to all that. Like I said, ambivalent. I could have done with or without her in the game or on my team. Since there are no spoilers here, I guess I’ll just say that it could have been worse.

Click here to see Part 1 or go on to Part 3!

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Thoughts on Mass Effect 2 Companions Pt. 1

January 31, 2010

I’ll admit, this post is mainly here because I promised a friend of mine that I would write up a bitch-fest on my thoughts regarding the character of Zaeed Massani, the Mass Effect 2 DLC character that was available at launch. And well, with the Star Trek Online servers down for maintenance once again, I figured, why not now? I’ll update my progress in Mass Effect 2 while I’m at it, though I haven’t had much time to spend with the game since my husband has commandeered the Xbox 360 for Modern Warfare 2 this weekend. I’ve started working on gaining my teammates’ loyalty by doing their personal quests, so I’ll throw in my thoughts on a few of the other characters as well.  Once again, Bioware has succeeded in introducing gamers to a fantastic bunch of characters (though *ahem* some are clearly better than others). As usual, this post may contain spoilers, but I’ll try to keep them out and focus on the characters themselves.

Miranda Lawson

Two words: ice queen. Plus she’s arrogant to boot. For someone working for a pro-human organization, Miranda sure seems eager to distinguish herself from the rest of her species, never missing an opportunity to let you know just how perfect she is. That said, while my Shepard may be nasty towards her while I’m in roleplay mode, in real life I’ve never hated a character simply for their negative qualities. In fact, I actually quite like Miranda as a character, and I think Bioware has certainly done an amazing job with creating her. Being able to see her character unfold before you like a book has really made her grow on me, especially once you hear her story and start to understand the motivations behind her actions, and doing her personal quest was the turning point.

Garrus Vakarian

I was cheering when the first preview videos of the game came out revealing that my favorite Turian with the cool last name will be back. Garrus’s abilities meshed well with mine in the original Mass Effect, which made him an exceptionally reliable companion to bring along when I did my missions. I also viewed him as a sort of kindred spirit to my Shepard character, as his way of thinking and doing things closely matched the way I sought to play my own character. Granted, he’s no longer the same Garrus in Mass Effect 2, but in my opinion he’s changed for the better. He’s also currently one of the love interests that I am actively pursuing in-game, and I’m so glad I made that decision. During his romance arc, Garrus delivers what is quite possibly the best line I have ever heard in a video game: don’t click if you don’t want Garrus romance spoilers. Oh, Garrus, why are you so damn awesome?

Thane Krios

Thane has a pretty intriguing and unique personal quest and I think he’s pretty cool, though I had expected to like him a lot more. I understand what they’re trying to do with his character but I just can’t get into him, probably because I’ve actually known and dated people with personalities just like his, and let me just say this: tall, dark, handsome and brooding isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I enjoy hearing the stories about his life and I appreciate his presence as a crew member on my team, but that’s as far as it’ll go. I romanced him for about thirty seconds before I realized there’s just no way this is going to work–I can’t listen his whole sensitive-yet-deadly act without thinking about Edward Cullen in Twilight! That’s just so…wrong.

Zaeed Massani

Okay here we go. Oh boy, where to start? If this was Survivor: The Normandy, Zaeed would be the first one voted off Team Shepard. This is just my opinion, but I have to say I’m extremely disappointed in his character. I never expect much from DLC content, but sometimes they can surprise you. Bioware has impressed me in the past, with the character of Shale in Dragon Age: Origins. This was a companion who, like Zaeed, was a DLC companion available for download at launch to those who purchased the game. Shale was great from the get go–the character actually had me laughing out loud on several occasions. Zaeed, on the other hand, just made me want to knee him in the nuts.

First of all, it doesn’t feel as though Bioware tried very hard to integrate him into the game. Yes, he’s DLC content, but even the tiniest things could have gone a long way in making him feel like part of the Mass Effect 2 story, the same way Shale felt like part of the Dragon Age story. But as it is, Zaeed feels completely separated from the rest of the game content. He stands there like a tool blurting out random stuff at me, and with the exception of a single comment made about him by Kelly Chambers, no one else on board the Normandy seems to know or care that he exists.

This is all something I can deal with if the character is done well, but I don’t even think he’s all that interesting. It’s almost like Bioware wanted to save up all their good ideas, and for the DLC they just decided to fish into their big box of cliches and happened to pick out “angry tough guy”. Still, even the most boorish of tough guys can become memorable characters if done right. With Zaeed, maybe if they had gone with a little more Clint Eastwood and a little less Crocodile Dundee meets Steven Seagal. And perhaps it’s appropriate that his room is adjacent to the trash compactor, because I want nothing more than to crush him into a little cube and eject him out the airlock.

Go on to Part 2 or Part 3!

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Mass Effect 2 Companions: Gotta Catch ‘em All!

January 28, 2010

Yes, that’s right. I made a Pokemon reference.

Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Mass Effect 2 (and to a lesser extent, Mass Effect 1). You have been warned!

Areas covered: The Convict, The Krogan, Horizon, The Quarian, The Assassin, The Justicar

My adventures with Mass Effect 2 continued over the last two days as Shepard travels all over the galaxy recruiting her team for the final mission against the enemy. Three days of playing under my belt and I’m still not done getting them all (yep, this is going to be a loooong game)! And wow, what a great bunch of characters. I’m already frustrated that I only ever get to take up to two of them with me out on missions.

I did notice one thing as I was playing. So far, Mass Effect 2 is fitting the “formula” that their other games tend to follow, i.e. completing the initial mission, followed by going to 3 or 4 different places before going to a final destination, which then culminates in an epic conclusion. In Mass Effect 2, the initial mission is there and I don’t doubt that we’ll get an epic conclusion, but the difference is in the stuff that happens between them. Instead of getting 3 or 4 long missions to do, here we’re getting almost a dozen missions that are relatively shorter, in the form of recruiting members for your team. I like this better in some ways, as we’re getting the opportunity to explore more environments and meet more characters.

My FemShepard is still no big fan of Cerberus, and I had quite a good time pushing Miranda’s buttons when I recruited The Convict, who took up residence down in my hull (hmm, do I really want some psycho mucking about near the engines of my ship?) The Subject Zero proved to be no less irritating, unfortunately, as she tries to convince me what a bad ass she is by bragging about her past shenanigans–vandalism, stealing a military ship, destroying a space station…well, guess what? I’ve done that all too, bitch.

What she lacks in geniality she makes up for in fighting prowess, however. Jack is an absolute monster in combat, with her insane ability called Shockwave. Being a Sentinel with some biotic powers of my own, I had a lot of fun throwing enemies around with her.

My next stop was to pick up The Krogan on Korlus, which is a literal scrap pile of a planet (why don’t I ever get to recruit from paradise worlds with tropical beaches?). After grabbing him, he too gets stashed down in the cargo hold, which I guess is where I’m keeping all the crazies. On the surface, Grunt is your average Krogan who just lives to fight (also in accordance with his backstory) but his “no point” pun about Turians actually made me LOL. Guess that laboratory tank also programmed him with a sense of humor.

Meanwhile, my assistant Kelly Chambers seems very interested in Garrus. *Gasp!* So not only does she steal my haircut, now she’s out to steal my Turian too! Though she does admit we’d make a cute couple.

My recruiting is interrupted by an emergency stop on Horizon, where I have to defend the colony from a Collector attack. The Praetorian boss fight kept giving me trouble until I worked out a strategy which involved it focus firing on me while I kited it around a bunch of crates in the middle, giving towers time to take down its shields. Not two minutes after the boss goes down, Kaidan Alenko steps out from behind a bunch of crates to welcome me back to the world of the living…with a damn hug. Where the hell were you when I was getting my ass handed to me by a bunch of Husks?

Predictably, Kaidan is not pleased that I had joined up with Cerberus, and refuses to see reason. Typical angsty Kaidan. Congratulations, you just made my choice to cheat on you in this game that much easier.

After Horizon, it was a quick stop off on Haestrom to recruit The Quarian, who turns out to be none other than Tali. The combat here was made more interesting by the fact you had to avoid contact with direct sunlight, which made for a lot of running around from one safe spot to another while trying to fight off waves of Geth.

With Tali safely on board, I took a break from the main game to pick up Zaeed. Not much to say about him, really. He’s like Shale from Dragon Age: Origins in that he’s a new character available at launch through DLC, but unlike Shale he neither has the interesting backstory or the winning personality. I don’t think I’ll be using him much.

Then it was off to Illium for The Assassin and The Justicar. Here, I finally got to meet Thane Krios, the dark and brooding Drell who talks like he’s from an Anne Rice novel. Jacob seems to take issue with my decision to bring a dangerous assassin on board, but given we already have a tattooed psycho and a violent and unpredictable Krogan in our hull, I think an assassin’s the least of our worries. On Illium, I also encountered Samara the justicar, a “warrior monk” type character who rights wrongs in the galaxy as defined by her strict code of justice…and I suppose running around in a skintight low-cut jumpsuit is part of the job description. Her character is interesting in the way it allowed me to see the motivations behind my choices to kill or not to kill when I play Commander Shepard. I’m a Paragon, no question about that, and will only kill when it’s absolutely necessary, even if it means giving a criminal a second chance.

With just about the full crew on board, my entire ship is accessible to me now, though EDI still keeps reminding me politely when I’m in the wrong restroom (that thing sees way too much!) Next step: gaining loyalty!

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Mass Effect 2: The Return of Shepard

January 27, 2010

Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Mass Effect 2 (and to a lesser extent, Mass Effect 1). You have been warned!

Areas covered: Introduction, Freedom’s Progress, Omega, Citadel

It has begun. While MMOs are my games of choice, every once in a while I am known to enjoy a little console gaming on the side. After a quick trip down to the game store, I had in my hand a brand-spanking new copy of Mass Effect 2 for the Xbox 360. The second installment of my FemShep’s epic adventure is about to unfold, the details of which I will chronicle here. Only one thing is for certain: it’s going to be hard not to stay up until 5am playing this game every night, but I’m going to try and pace myself.

The game starts off with a bang, literally. Shepard’s beautiful ship the Normandy is ruthlessly attacked and torn apart by an unknown attacker, and everyone gets ready to bail. We see Shepard, ever the noble and courageous one, making the attempt to get every single member of her crew off the ship alive (though maybe the whole “I’ll haul Joker’s crippled ass out of here” was juuuuust a tad bit harsh…yep, Shepard says it. Just try the renegade speech option! ) It took a while for me to orient myself, as you’d be surprised at how different the Normandy looks when she’s in flames and crumbling all around you. Shepard reaches Joker and they attempt to escape together, but it’s too late. The cinematic segments that follow are just to die for. As Joker makes it to safety, an explosion rips through the scene, sending Shepard hurtling off into space to her death. Cue main title and intro music.

What a great way to start the game. With Cerberus finding and literally rebuilding Shepard, Bioware found the perfect way to link the first game with the second while allowing players to select their appearance and class, even if you imported your Shepard from your saved game files! I, of course, opted for this to be a true sequel–same face (the default female, which I personally found the most appealing) and same class (Sentinel) as my Shepard from the first Mass Effect.

Some of my other thoughts on the game so far:

- I love the new Normandy! My captain’s quarters look more like a suite on a luxury liner, complete with leather seats, a state-of-the-art sound system, and even a friggin’ aquarium. And what’s this? A framed picture of Kaidan on my desk? Oh, Bioware, you make me laugh.

- Joker’s back at the helm! But he’s not the only familiar face aboard the Normandy v2.0. Oh my God, it’s the kindly Dr. Chakwas! After completing the quest to bring her a bottle of brandy (in retrospect, liquoring up your ship’s doctor probably isn’t the brightest thing to do), the two of us shared a drink and raised our glasses to the memories of our fallen comrades. It was one of the most touching moments I’ve seen in a game.

- I could tell that the writers of the game were trying very hard to make you see the softer side of Cerberus. For roleplaying purposes, my Shepard’s not going to be so easily swayed. As far as she’s concerned, Cerberus is little better than a terrorist organization and she’s only in it to stop the Collectors. Sorry Miranda and Jacob, I’m going to be a bitch to you guys for a little while longer.

- What the hell? My assistant Kelly Chambers seems to have stolen my haircut. In fact, we look so much alike, the two of us could be sisters! This is going to be wee-ird!

Commander Shepard

Kelly Chambers

- On Omega, I discovered that Elcor make really funny bouncers!

- I am amazed at how many of my decisions in first game have come back to haunt me already, and not just the big ones. On Omega, I encountered Helena Blake, who claimed I helped her out with a favor two years ago. It wasn’t until I looked her up on the Mass Effect wiki that it all came back to me. I’m looking forward to more like this.

- I’m not crazy about Professor Mordin Solus as a companion and I doubt I’ll take him out on missions that much, but he did win me over by calling Kirrahe “a bit of a cloaca”.

- As some of you already know, Garrus is back! With his recruitment, as far as I’m concerned my team is already complete. Lucky for him, my Shepard happens to be one of those females who like facial scars, heh heh.

- I chuckled a little at the games vendor on the Citadel, who told me about a great game called “Galaxy of Fantasy” that has over 11 billion players, an easter egg that is clearly a reference to World of Warcraft. Ha, I knew there would be a way for me to relate this post to MMOs.

I’ve already encountered a couple bugs. The major one was during the Archangel fight where the game would not proceed as intended, and reloading to an earlier save point was the only way to fix it. Despite little hiccups like this, I still find myself enjoying this game a lot so far.

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