Posts Tagged ‘Romance Arcs’

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Mass Effect 3 Ending: I Hate It And I Don’t Hate It

June 20, 2012

Three and a half months later, I am finally finished with Mass Effect 3. I know I’m late to the party, but I wrote this post anyway because I was immediately asked left and right about my thoughts on the ending. Obviously, the rest of this entry will contain spoilers, so if you still wish to avoid them, feel free move along; I’ll understand. I myself have been dodging spoilers like a madwoman dodging missiles in a Michael Mann movie since March.

So here goes. After all that I’ve heard, I braced myself for the ending. From the hubbub, you’d have thought BioWare committed the worst travesty of travesties when it comes to the final moments of the game.

Now why do I feel like I’ve been punk’d by the entire internet? As the final scene after the credits played, I found myself staring at the screen and thinking…what the hell, it wasn’t that bad.

I sought to do some post-game research and discovered that those who dislike the ending mostly fall into one of two categories. There are those who hate it because it’s weak in providing different endings (read: there is essentially only one ending.) Okay, point. In this, I am in complete agreement. Especially after seeing that video, changing the colors in the cutscenes to make things feel more different is like rubbing salt in the wound and reeks of laziness.

However, with regards to the second camp, or those who are upset with the game because they wanted a “brighter” ending? What? Why? The hell with that, I say. A not-so-happy ending does not a sucky ending make. Some of the best stories ever told have “crappy” endings. The Fox and the Hound. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Romeo and Juliet. Pretty much almost everything written by Thomas Hardy.

Somewhere in the middle of playing the second game, I think that’s when I realized the Mass Effect series is one of those stories. In fact, I made up my mind right then and there in January of 2010, that this is the only way things could possibly end. The best case scenario could only be bittersweet.

Maybe deep in my heart I’ve always known it, expected it. It’s not just because of the “hero always dies” trope. It’s just that after three installments, I knew that Mass Effect has become so huge that to demand the “perfect” ending is an act of futility (or a programming impossibility). In such cases, perhaps deeply unsatisfactory and confusing story conclusions which lead to speculation, rage, etc. are an inevitability, and if I’m to ask my inner cynic, possibly even intentional. Because hey, they got us all talking about it, didn’t they?! If their goal was a memorable send-off, well then bravo, they’ve done it.

(And while I’m still in Cynical Mode, might I add that I feel Indoctrination Theory is grasping at straws (albeit some very dedicated grasping) and giving BioWare way too much damn credit? The irony is, I’m not entirely sure BioWare didn’t get exactly the result they wanted by having people formulate and discuss IT, under the guise of “Uh, yeah, we’re simply letting the players think and interpret things on their own! That’s it!” Of course, that does lead me to wonder if those who cling to the theory are in a way the indoctrinated themselves, desperately looking for the order from chaos (!) they are missing from the ending. But hey, now I’m just getting all meta.)

So ultimately all the choices I made over the course of all three games didn’t really have a smidgen of impact on the final ending, but I can’t really say it broke my heart. Let’s keep things in perspective; the ME series was never open-world, open-ended, open-anything. There really wasn’t ever that much choice to begin with, even going back to the first game (making Sophie’s choice with Ashley or Kaidan, anyone?) Always, I just made my FemShep do what I felt was best, and I am content with the result — even if that turned out, in the bigger scope of things, to be the only result.

Despite that, I’ve been allowed to make dozens of decisions that changed my journey in myriad ways. The game’s appeal has always boiled down to forcing you to choose between a rock and  hard place and then living with the consequences; for me that means no going back to an earlier save or “do-overs”. I’ve celebrated my smart choices, and likewise suffered intense regret from the not-so-smart ones. But all those choices, both good and bad, were mine, dammit. I lived with them, carried them with me.

In the end, it’s BioWare’s prerogative to write whatever ending they want, but for me it’s the entire experience that matters. I don’t think that would have changed, even if they’d decided to throw dog’s vomit into the last few minutes of the finale.

Still, while I’m not dancing with joy over the ending to ME3, I’ve nevertheless embraced it. And that’s not necessarily to say I didn’t like it, because I think I do, in fact, like it. What can I say, I have a soft spot for downer endings. Perhaps, speaking of Romeo and Juliet, the best way to explain my thoughts on this matter is with the following clip. Out of the entire last act the game, do you know which scene broke me down the most?

It’s this one (since I romanced the crap out of Garrus, obviously):

“Forgive the insubordination, but your boyfriend has an order for you…come back alive.” And of course, that was the one objective the game had to go and make me fail oh so spectacularly. Now I’m in that bar in the sky drinking by myself and Garrus is…well, wherever he is, we’ll still dream of turian-human babies together.

By now, you’re all probably sick and tired of the number of times I’ve extolled the joys of BioWare romances. But I do really enjoy them. I’m a romantic, but my favorite fictional stories always tend to be the ones featuring star-crossed lovers that end in tragedy. I’ll be the first to admit I may be screwed up, but to me it isn’t a great love story unless my heart feels like it was stabbed through with a dagger and torn out of my chest by the end of it. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I did like Titanic. And Nicholas Sparks also has me eating out of his hand, so sue me.

Sigh. It always comes down to love and romance for me. Out of everything that happened in the ending, that scene with Garrus is probably what I’m most torn up about. Even though it has so little to do directly with the final moments, looking back at it after I’ve completed the game still leaves me feeling gutted. Like completely gutted. Lying on a fishmonger’s block, G-U-T-T-E-D. Yeah, I kinda hate it. But then again, that’s also why I like it. Which just about sums up my views of the ME3 ending.

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SWTOR Companions: Prospects For Fan Writing

May 29, 2010

Note: I know I’m a little later than usual when it comes to discussing the Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update, but reading the new information on companions as well as the IGN interview really gave me a lot to think about. Before I continue though, a word of warning: I didn’t realize there was going to be so much gushing and girly-ness when I wrote this. I guess I’m feeling giddy because I’m going away for the weekend.

I think a lot of people are concerned that the companions in Star Wars: The Old Republic will take on too much of an important role, and start discouraging grouping and social behavior. Frankly, I’m not too concerned about that. Granted, if anyone can make the idea of playing with AI companions seem more enthralling than playing with real people, it would be Bioware’s talented writing team. But personally, I’m into MMOs to play with others, so having companions isn’t going to stop me from being social.

Instead, what I’ve actually been mulling over, are the prospects that SWTOR companions will have for roleplaying and fan lore. This may be a somewhat esoteric subject, but I’ve encountered enough fan writings on other peoples’ MMO blogs to dare hope that I’m not the only one excited about the possibilities.

RP isn’t something I usually do openly in-game, but I am constantly spinning out stories in my head and on occasion I will write them out. Long time readers of this blog will remember my strange attachment to Sleer, my Vulcan science officer in Star Trek Online. Or maybe it’s not so strange after all. I am reminded of a Nerf Herder lyric here (a band whose name is a Star Wars reference! Oh, how nicely this post is coming together…):

You don’t want a boyfriend
What you want is Mr. Spock…

Okay, so I admit I have a crush on Spock, and that Sleer is like my Spock from The Original Series. There are similarities between the two of them in the STO stories in my head (which I will never, ever, EVER put to paper because they’re just far too embarrassing). Sleer is my First Officer, he’s half-human, and I even dressed him up in TOS garb in-game. At the same time, I’ve also given him his own unique character traits and personality (or at least as far as a Vulcan can have a personality) to flesh out his relationship with my character T’Androma.

"Dammit, Sleer, pay attention to me!"

What can I say? I am a self-confessed mushy romantic. I read trashy Harlequins, watch weepy chick flicks, and “ooh” and “aww” over real life love stories. And so when it comes to games, it’s inevitable — whether it’s role-playing or writing back-stories for my character, I will inject a bit of romance.

And that’s the beauty of Cryptic’s character creator — they’ve given us a chance to work with a blank slate, to customize our characters and companions and write in their back-stories however we please. My only regret, however, is that other than them popping up every so often to tell you the status of your mission, there is absolutely zero interaction you can have with your bridge officers.

SWTOR companions, on the other hand, will contribute to your adventures in much greater ways. They are given motivations, personalities, traits like “honorable” or “roguish” or “flirtatious”. Hardly a blank slate, but their personalities won’t be set in stone either. Apparently, players can change their companions’ attitudes and moral leanings through an “Affection system” much like the one we saw in Dragon Age: Origins. I’m super excited about this. It means your interactions with your companions will be dynamic, even if the end results aren’t exactly what you had in mind.

Meet Vette, one of the Sith Warrior's known associates. I'm betting that she's probably romanceable.

Still, I think this will give roleplayers a whole different realm to work with. For the most part, it seems choosing SWTOR companions are about tactical options and strategies, but I have to admit, I’m pretty psyched about the fact you can romance them too. From Carth to Alistair to Garrus, I do love and use certain characters a lot just because they happen to be my Bioware boyfriends.

*mild spoilers ahead*

For example, I am reminded of my first playthrough of DA:O where I chose Alistair to fight beside my human noble in the final boss battle in the Dwarven arena. Amidst roaring applause, I asked him to kiss me after our victory, right there in the middle of the ring. The result on screen was cinematic perfection, the kind of scene you would see in epic romance movies after the hero and heroine has conquered some force that kept them from being together.

Yeah, I know that’s really corny and nerdy so feel free to make fun of me, but the only thing that pissed me off was that no one else was in the room at the time to witness that awesome moment. The point is, I already manage to pull this sort of thing with single-player RPGs, and I believe the nature of MMOs will make it even easier to roleplay beyond the main story line. I’m purely speculating here, but I’m guessing there will be fewer cases of finality, like the kind you’d find in DA:O where if you just so happened to be a poor little city elf, Alistair dumping your ass pretty much meant the end of the romance.

*spoilers over*

I’m sure the interactions with SWTOR companions will be heavily scripted affairs as well, but I think we all can still have our fun with them (and if you can get over the possibility of walking into a highly populated area with a few dozen versions of your companion standing in front of you). I am very much looking forward to shaping my companions through dialogue, building relationships with them, and expanding on the stories that come out of it. When the time comes, I can only imagine the RP perspectives we’ll be getting from all over the blogosphere.

Even though you might not have the complete freedom to build your team from the ground up the way you want, I think it’s a small price to pay to have companions with elaborate personalities that will actually interact with you. Or, you know, at the very least, acknowledge you’re alive when you walk into a room.

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Garrus is In, Kaidan is Out

February 17, 2010

It looks like I’ll have to re-order my list of top 3 Bioware boyfriends to include Garrus Vakarian, who as an in-game love interest has just blown Kaidan Alenko out of the water. For an alien, he’s proving to be much more adept at satisfying my video game romantic needs than I could ever have imagined. I’ve just passed through the Omega 4 Relay to start my suicide mission, and who should I find waiting for me at my quarters but my favorite Turian, who’s just in time for our blowing-off-steam session.

And what a sweet and utterly adorable scene that was. It’s much shorter and low-key than the racy love scene we were treated to in the first Mass Effect, but the beauty here is in its subtlety — Shepard and Garrus do not even share a kiss (though I admit it wouldn’t have been a very pretty sight getting lip-locked with a character that, well…doesn’t even have lips) but this is still one of the most romantic and touching moments I have ever witnessed in any video game. The chaste scene is for the best…lest we forget the good Dr. Mordin’s warning about chafing (and um…ingesting) when it comes to Human-Turian sexual relations.

So, while Alistair of Dragon Age still takes gold when it come to being my best Bioware boyfriend, Garrus can claim second place, and thus his royal whiny-ness Kaidan Alenko gets booted out of the top three (that’s for Horizon, you dirtbag!). See, Garrus? The galaxy may be messed up place and you’re quite possibly the most awkward and weird-looking alien thingy that ever existed, but yes, there are still some things in this life that can go just right.

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A Post Dedicated to my Bioware Boyfriends

January 25, 2010

While this isn’t exactly a MMO-related post, I’ll never turn down a chance to write about one of my favorite gaming companies, Bioware. Not only are they the makers of Mass Effect 2 (which launches tomorrow so expect to see many posts about the adventures of my FemShepard in the near future), they are also the developers behind the highly anticipated MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Through their story-driven RPGs, Bioware has brought us some of the most memorable characters in gaming…including our favorite in-game love interests. True to tradition, it is said that SW:TOR will have romanceable companions, and Mass Effect 2 also has a number of characters confirmed as romance options, available for both male and female Shepards. Being a huge fan of Bioware romance arcs, you can bet your ass I’ll be macking on at least one person aboard the SSV Normandy.

So on this eve of the Mass Effect 2 release, without further ado I present to you this post in honor of my top 3 Bioware boyfriends (Warning: May contain spoilers).

3. Kaidan Alenko – Mass Effect

I had looked forward to Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko’s romance arc from the very first moment I encountered him aboard the Normandy…until I actually had a conversation with him. This man clearly has a lot of baggage but not a whole lot of personality. Still, while I may rag on Kaidan a lot, he does have many redeeming qualities that make him quite endearing, provided you can get past his whole angsty biotics-experimentation-ruined-my-life shtick. Consider how the man has had enough traumatic experiences in his life to make him a murderous psychopath three times over, but instead, his experiences have actually taught him open-mindedness and self-restraint. He is also extremely loyal to those he cares about, both as a soldier and as a lover, and a part of me is already dying a little inside when I think about how I’ll cheat on him in the sequel…well, no, not really.

2. Carth Onasi – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

It seems Bioware has a knack for writing angsty men, and KOTOR’s Carth Onasi is no exception. In many ways, Carth’s whiny-ness is on par with that of Kaidan’s (and sometimes even surpasses it), but at least the former has some semblance of a personality. In fact, there are many times in game where Carth can be just downright petulant and moody. One moment he’s flirting with me after we survive a crash landing on Taris (five minutes into the game, I might add!) and the next thing I know he’s guilt tripping me with his crankiness and trust issues. While certainly not in-game-boyfriend-of-the-year material, getting on his good side required a lot more than simply finessing the conversations (namely patience), which made his eventual declaration of love to my character all the more satisfying.

1. Alistair – Dragon Age: Origins

WARNING! Incoming swooning fangirl rant alert: OMG I *heart* Alistair!!! The characters of DA:O were by far some of the best written I have ever seen from any game developer, and Alistair is easily the most appealing in-game boyfriend out of any of the previous options. He’s strong, sensitive, funny, committed…and royalty, for God’s sake. While he can have his annoying emo moments (he is a Bioware man, after all), Alistair is in many ways the stereotypical Mr. Right, straight out of your latest dungeons-and-dragons-themed issue of Cosmo, complete with the fluffy-puppy eyes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s a fantasy RPG after all, so why can’t we dreamers dream? Of course, the cherry on top was my fortuitous choice of a human noble origin for my warrior, as it turned out to be the only way to rule Ferelden at his side (and he should be ashamed that his queen can out-tank his ass any day).

Honorable Mentions:

Zevran Arainai – Dragon Age: Origins

I’ll admit, while I loved Zevran for his wit and candor, as an in-game love interest he was unfortunately easier to make than a peanut butter sandwich. I exchanged many vicious insults with him on another playthrough of DA:O as a Dalish Elf, but that didn’t stop him from jumping my bones at the drop of a hat. While the whole situation allowed for many instances of hilarity, it became difficult for me to take “romancing” Zevran seriously, even after a sensitive side to him started to emerge later on in the relationship.

Sky – Jade Empire

Sky would have been an excellent romance if I had been able to get into the story of Jade Empire. I felt that the game, while decent, was too short and lacked some of the depth you saw in other Bioware titles. As a result, my experiences with the game haven’t been too memorable, and the details of the romance arc with Sky remain somewhat fuzzy in my mind.