PT: Playable Teaser… Trailer… Thing

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Don’t be fooled by this peaceful scenery.

When catching up on video game related news last week and reading about Gamescon 2014, I stumbled upon news of a Silent Hill game cleverly disguised as something called “P.T”; which turned out to be an absolutely frightening playable teaser of sorts. The articles stated it could be downloaded and played on the PS4, so I ran home Friday night and installed it. Another reason the gaming world is abuzz with excitement is because there’s some well known people behind it… Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead poster boy) are featured. I’m also excited to see the development team are Japanese. No offense to my fellow North Americans, but there’s something about the way Japanese handle horror that makes me wet myself in fright.

I didn’t play the demo. Barely touched the controller, in fact. I’m chicken enough with Silent Hill games without factoring in that this gem is FIRST PERSON. I don’t know about you, but games in first person point of view add an extra layer of “OMG I am so effing helpless and petrified!! Someone save me!” So I made Steve play it while Sara and I watched on and made multiple peanut gallery comments. And jumped in our seats. More than once.

Without spoiling too much about the teaser, the main gist is you control, through First Person POV, a man in a looping hallway, with no options besides movement and zooming in the camera. It’s very Silent Hill 4-esque in that regard. There’s even a hole in the bathroom. It’s not as big as The Room’s hole, but it certainly felt like a nod. Anyway, you path this hallway/house multiple times throughout the demo, taking notes of the eerie details that keep changing on you while feeling helpless to protect yourself or escape. Some of the jarring details are small and really require close attention. Seeing as how you can’t do much besides walk and look at stuff, make sure you observe your surroundings! Many of the finer details are what makes this teaser so remarkable.

The other Silent Hill nods made me happy as well. There’s a mirror in a bathroom that, when zooming in, can make your reflection vanish! It’s reminiscent of both Origins and Silent Hill 3 to me. The room in SH3 where Heather’s reflection does something wonky (It freezes and/or gets bloody, I believe) and then you have to run out of the room before slowly dying… Yep, scared the crap out of me when I first played it. In this demo thing, Lisa is the name of the pregnant wife who was apparently murdered, and one of the quotes scribbled on the wall begins with, “Forgive me, Lisa…” There’s absolutely no way the name Lisa isn’t a reference to poor Silent Hill’s Lisa.

Usually I find jump scares to be a kind of cheap way to scare the audience. But because this demo does such a fantastic job of setting the mood and putting the audience on the edge while solidifying the general Silent Hill approach to effed-up scenery, I have no complaints in that regard.

My complaints lie only with the teaser’s approach to puzzles. The puzzle to actually unlock the big Silent HillS reveal is basically impossible to figure out alone. The puzzle before that is hardly better. When we had to reference online forums to find out how to progress and stumbled upon dozens of threads with frustrated and confused gamers trying to work out how to solve a puzzle, I was pretty turned off. We all know survival horror games are no strangers to puzzles. That’s fine. But you have to have some sort of hint as to what the puzzle is, or what you’re actually trying to accomplish! So far there’s a whole lot of guess work and trail and error involved in triggering the steps to the solution. Not that you have any indication of what the steps are, or what you’re actually trying to achieve. I understand they wanted players to work a little for the big reveal at the end, but this is utter nonsense. When the collective gaming community can’t even figure out or agree to what triggers the puzzle unlocking or whether you even need a microphone plugged in or not… There’s a problem. This isn’t a social puzzle game, people, it’s a survival horror game, which is intended to be a solitary experience.

Completely random puzzles aside, I’m now pretty damn excited for the next Silent Hill game. It can’t be any worse than the last two that have been released, after all, but P.T. is very promising. I’m not convinced the entire game will be first person, seeing as how the closing pans out and shows Norman Reedus’ character walking into town in typical Silent Hill fashion (without fog, *sniff*). The teaser also had no weapons or anything, which would also be a big pill of doubt I’d have to swallow, given the series’ tradition of bashing enemies with steel pipes. I wouldn’t be completely opposed to not having weapons, as long as it didn’t turn the game into something like Outlast, which I wasn’t crazy about.

So what did you guys who played it think? I, for one, am quite excited to see what this team will do to breathe fresh life into the Silent Hill series. I found this teaser to be a pretty promising start.

Dragon Age II

Dragon Age 2 Cover Art

 

Just like with the Mass Effect video game covers… I have no idea who this well-dressed bloke is.

I absolutely adored Dragon Age: Origins when I played it on the PC a few years ago. Actually, it was the first Bioware game I’d ever played. I fell in love with the characters, battle system, and world. I was completely engrossed in it’s stylish storytelling and relationship building. I hadn’t played a game anything like it before, and I fell in love with it. Under normal circumstances, I’d be the first in line for a sequel to one of my favorite games. Gaming Gods know I’ve forked over my hard earned money to play BAD sequels too many times over. For some reason I listened to the fanbase’s concern this time around and refrained from playing it until Steve bought it used from Gamestop. We decided it was time to get up to speed before Inquisition is released later this year.

All I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t buy this game. And I’m glad my friend didn’t pay full price for it. I wouldn’t necessarily come out and say it is a bad game, per se… I mean, I did enjoy the hack-and-slash approach it took to battle. And the leveling system was solid, mainly because it imitated Origins. Despite my boredom or straight out hatred of some of the characters, their banter was edgy and hilarious most of the time. Unfortunately, it is a shallow and rushed game, evident from beginning to end.

I completely agree with the general sentiment that Dragon Age II has no real feeling of accomplishment. Or, you know, plot. The experience is akin to playing about 30-40 hours of side quests. The first act is, quite literally, doing enough side quests to earn 50 gold. I’m being 100% serious here. And it sets the tone for the entire game, as DAII feels like a string of forgettable side quests with no real purpose. Some of the character-specific quests are interesting, I’ll admit.

After you do a bunch of seemingly unrelated quests, BAM! You’re at the end of the game. The grand climax with no climax at all.  In fact, the only reason I knew we were at the end of the game was because they did a similar “point of no return” room with one-on-one conversations with each party member, akin to Origins and Mass Effect. We were sort of like, “Wait… we’re at the end of the game already?” It wasn’t “already” as in the game was too short (It is shorter than Origins, but long enough for me) but because there were no significant events that felt remotely close to major end game revelations. I don’t know about you, but when I’m getting to the last couple of hours of a really good game, I can feel it in my bones.

As Dragon Age II is sorely lacking in anything else for me to discuss, and Bioware’s main selling point for me is usually the great cast of characters they write, I’m going to talk about all of the cast members and what I hate about them:

Bethany

Here’s Bethany. The main character, Hawke’s, sister, and the reason you can’t side with the Templars in the Mages vs. Templars battle if you have any family values whatsoever. Don’t get too attached to her or start relying on her as your healer. The developers figured you didn’t need a third mage, so they take her away from you for the vast majority of the game. I’m convinced it’s because she was one of the only characters I actually liked. And just to be jerks about it, during the 2/3 of the game you don’t have access to her, they kept her image on the character select screen. Jerks.

Fenris

Here’s Fenris. This game’s version of Zevran, with funky markings and an uncharacteristically deep voice. Most of his dialogue and character background revolves around him whining about his time in servitude and being on the run (even though he’s all settled in Kirkland with his own house and everything. At least Isabela hangs out in the bar). Due to our group dynamics and preferences, we never really used him so I can’t attest to whether he’s useful in battle or not. All I can say is that when he got pissy with me for siding with the Mages and stood against me, I didn’t miss him in the least. Go whine about your crappy life to the Templars. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to give a crap.

Varric

Behold Varric. I know you can’t tell he’s a dwarf for lack of an abnormally large and/or braided beard, but he is. I wasn’t aware there was such a thing as dwarves without beards until Dragon Age. Anyway, I did actually like him. He’s a sarcastic, opportunistic smart-mouth who also happens to be a bard. As I chose the snarky conversation options 95% of the time, he and I got along smashingly. A lot of his dialogue is funny and interesting. He has a unique equipment trait as well. Unlike the other characters whose weapons you will change out periodically throughout the game, Varric never loses sight of Bianca, his beloved crossbow. His unique skill tree is dedicated to abilities for it/her, and Bianca levels as he does. You can also count on him having something to say every. single. time. you enter The Hanged Man bar.

Merrill

This is Merrill, another pointy-eared, pointy-nosed elf with facial markings who insists on talking funny and using blood magic. She’s so… mousy and naive, despite the fact that she uses BLOOD MAGIC. As cute as it was when Isabela made fun of her, the whole naivety act got old real quick. “Gee, I don’t know why the Dalish hate and fear me. I’m so sweet and innocent and, look, a rainbow!” … “Because you’re using black magic and trying to use a demon to put a cursed mirror back together, you idiot!”

Andersedited

Ugh. Okay. This is Anders. He’s one of the characters I absolutely loathe. First of all, we were barely into act one and he was assuming our female Hawke had the hots for him. Um, no. Not even close. Seeing as how you’re possessed by a demon and in total denial about it, “He’s not bad! His name is Justice for cryin’ out loud!” Then Anders basically blackmails you into accidentally assisting him with doing something completely off-the-wall and “What the hell were you thinking?!” stupid… All for “Justice.” It’s actually revenge, but it’s how he justifies the dumb, uber-violent thing he does. Which, supposedly, the spirit-demon thing didn’t make him do (Yeah, right). As another complete annoyance, because Bethany is taken away from you as a party member for most of the game and Merrill is a Blood Mage, Anders is your only choice for a healer unless you decide to play as a Mage. We played as a Rogue, for the record. And we decided to go without Anders most of the time. That’s how much we disliked him.

Isabella

In case you couldn’t tell from this image, here is our resident T&A for the game. If you care about something silly like her name, it’s Isabela. She’s received a major makeover from Origins. You may not recognize her, but she was the skill teaching pirate you could engage in a threesome with if you played your cards right. Her character hasn’t changed much at all. She really exists just to set the feminist movement back about 100 years. Isabela is a walking stereotype. A hyper-sexualized town bicycle. Or whatever the pirate equivalent would be. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t laugh at her jokes and banter (most of which were quite funny.) After all, we chose her as our romance partner. She’s not the type to get all jealous over us visiting the local harem from time to time. And I didn’t particularly like any of our other options. She’s a great partner in and out of battle, to be sure. I’m still wondering how her assets can be that perky without wearing a Victoria’s Secret Bombshell bra.

Aveline

Here we go. Prepare yourselves for a super rant. This is Aveline. In direct contrast to Isabela, she’s your total Girl Power character. A female TANK, who leads Kirkwall’s Knight Guard. She literally commands respect from dozens of soldiers and works to keep the city (and your party if you didn’t decide to play a tanky warrior) safe. Normally this is the archetype I root for. There should definitely be more woman in roles like this in video games. But there’s a slight problem here… She is an insufferable, holier-than-thou know-it-all. I can’t stand her! And, like Anders, we were basically stuck with her because she’s the only tanking character you get. I’m also convinced the writers either gave her a multiple personality disorder or they were just messing with the players, because she just doesn’t make sense. As in Origins, the decisions you make affect your party member’s opinion of you. Nothing I did ever made her happy, even when I thought it would. Then, when I thought I had her all figured out and started making decisions just to spite her, I’d get friendship points! WTF? At one point in time I gave Aveline a shield as a gift and she even managed to turn that into a negative! Finally, my Hawke was like, “Look bitch, it’s just a gift. Take it or leave it.”

There you have it. This time around, Bioware managed to create an entire cast of characters that I either tolerated  because they were funny or I completely loathed. Well, there’s Bethany, but she hardly counts. They even managed to screw up the cameo appearances from Origins. Alistair, Zevran, and Leliana (My previous flame) all have short, meaningless cameo appearances that left me scratching my head asking “What was the point of that?” Except for Zevran… His cameo appearance existed so he, Isabela and Hawke could partake in a little naughty time together.

This game is so descaled and rushed compared to Origins, I actually don’t blame the fanbase for being disappointed in it. Instead of adding onto the great character customization options and gearing, you barely get to choose what they’re wearing. Weapons and accessories only. The side quests all blend together with the main quests. I only knew what was what when I bothered to check my quest menu. The maps were recycled over and over again, with cheap fake walls put up to cut certain areas off. Overall, the game was bland.

Now that Dragon Age 2 is cheap to purchase, it might be a good idea to pick it up and get caught up before Inquisition comes out. Don’t expect a grand, epic game like Origins or you’ll be disappointed. Instead, look at it as a decent medieval fantasy action/RPG game that thinks it belongs in the Dragon Age universe, and you should be okay.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

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 All the gravity defying, it confuses me.

In lieu of finally beating Final Fantasy VII, I decided we should go ahead and watch the movie sequel, Advent Children. I’m sure most of you in their target audience has already seen it; Final Fantasy veterans who have a soft spot for VII, or enjoy seeing beautiful HD models of characters we remember as blocks and polygons. I’m a complete sucker/fangirl who buys into most of this stuff that tugs at my nostalgia heartstrings. I’ve seen this movie a few times, it’s on my shelf, and I figured now would be a good time to write about it.

I’m writing on the “Complete” edition, which includes about 25 minutes of removed scenes from the original release. These are scenes that had no business being taken out in the first place. They actually explain where the hell Denzel came from (but if you want the full monty, watch the included anime that is literally his entire background story) and lots of Sephiroth giving Cloud stabbies. Like, lots of stabbies. Blood everywhere. It was awesome. The first time I saw the Masamune shank Cloud through the shin I knew I was in love. Like I said, I’m not entirely sure why they removed so much of Sephiroth’s badassery, but seeing that made me happy. Otherwise, Sephiroth and Cloud’s big battle is a lot of them flying through the air and slashing buildings apart. I didn’t realize that after Holy and Meteor were summoned, gravity just stopped existing. Selectively, of course.

I don’t mean to say that I can’t suspend my disbelief because of the cast’s new affinity for zipping around in the sky instead of actually fighting. This is based on a video game where Tifa could pick up and drop kick monsters that were literally twenty times her size. I just wasn’t crazy about the fact that all the fight scenes (Minus Tifa’s fight against Loz, which is my favorite part) take place on bikes or in the sky.

Much like the game it is based on, the plot is something you don’t want to think too hard about, lest you melt the portion of your brain dedicated to processing logic and critical thinking.  Just take the movie for what it is; a chance to revisit Midgar two years later in gorgeous cinematic glory with a mandatory visit from Sephiroth at the end. In terms of characters from FFVII, you’ll see a whole lot of Cloud and Tifa. They look great, if you can ignore Cloud’s Geostigma bleeding. Ok, Tifa looks great. It appears as though she even got a breast reduction, which confuses me because I’m not sure how she thinks that’ll make Cloud pay more attention to her.

What they’ve done personality-wise to the characters is a bummer; Cloud is an annoying emo whine-ass, pining over a girl he barely knew because he was unable to save her (she wanted to die, get over it). And Tifa is, ya know, still a doormat. She should’ve moved on a long time ago. She finally gives Cloud the ass-kicking he deserves, but sadly, that’s her defining moment in the movie.  The rest of the playable cast in FFVII are lucky if they get cameo appearances. Hey, at least that means Barret can keep up with the “absentee father” role he’s so good at. This time around, instead of blowing up Mako reactors he’s drilling for oil. Way to hop from one method of slowly killing the planet to another!

If nothing else, with the little bit of the supporting cast you do get to see, they look good! Red XIII got some fancy jewelry, Yuffie ditched the green for some stylish black, and Vincent is… Vincent. Obnoxious pointy-gold shoes and all. In fact, during the movie you’ll see a lot more of the Turks. They play center stage, pretending ShinRa wants to make up for almost getting the planet destroyed by hiding Jenova’s head from her wannabe-baby-Sephiroths.

Spoiler: Rufus somehow survived the ShinRa tower blowing up with him inside of it.

Aesthetically, the movie is absolutely gorgeous. Even a few years later. Just don’t get too hung on it conceptually. I have to admit, I’m pretty biased against sequels in general. Especially with games that have endings crafted to let the audience develop their own theories. FFVII and FFX standout to me as the main entries that do so. Ironically enough, they’re the ones that have the sequels. It wasn’t enough to have the scene of Red XIII and kitties looking over the ruins of Midgar and wondering if humanity survived or not? It wasn’t enough to watch a teaser of Tidus swimming towards the surface, and wondering if it was him being given new life or if it was just a memorial scene? No, they had to go and milk them some more.

Only watch this movie if you’re a Final Fantasy VII nut. You’ll probably be disappointed with the story and characters, but the movie really isn’t marketable to anyone outside of FFVII fandom. There’s really no hope of understanding or enjoying what is going on if you haven’t played the game.  And if you have played the game, your chances are only marginally higher.

One other cool thing I forgot to mention: awesome soundtrack with great mixes of some of the game’s original soundtrack!

Nintendo Announces Major Mario Kart 8 Update And Mercedes DLC Pack For August 27

Yes!! Two of my major complaints will be fixed… And the added bonus of quickening the character select/kart options is a great addition!

My Nintendo News

Nintendo has confirmed a substantial update will be provided for Mario Kart 8 later this month, alongside the free Mercedes DLC pack. The major update will see an optional on-screen map added to TV display – a significant feature we mentioned was missing in our review – and the default menu selection after a Grand Prix race will be adjusted to the “next race” key, rather than the “view highlight” button.

Alongside those two updates are a number of smaller yet significant fixes, aiding in an enhanced user experience. Your preferred or last used Kart customisation will be saved to your system, shortening the lengthy process of choosing your cyber slick or monster wheels, plus you can copy and edit other players’ highlights in Mario Kart TV. Other key areas addressed are:

  • Scoreboard area can be selected so you can view your total coins, online record of wins and losses…

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Retro Review: Final Fantasy VII

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I still don’t know how his scrawny arms swing that sword.

This review is months in the making. My friend/co-blogger Sara and I get together about once a week for mommy time and kid play dates. Once upon a time, I discovered she’d never played Final Fantasy VII. As you can imagine, I was shocked and appalled, and told her she had no choice but to play it through with me. Even if it would take months.

And it did.

But it was so worth it.

As most of you probably know, FFVII is almost 20 years old. And boy, does it show. Playing this game again as a jaded adult makes its production flaws and outdated graphics/music even more obvious. The weird, blocky polygons just seem so awkward compared to FFVIII, Chrono Cross, or any other RPG from the Playstation era. FFVII does have some of the most iconic boss battle music EVER (I had to crank it for “One Winged Angel” even though Sephy didn’t survive long enough to blow the universe up on us). But for every catchy song that stands the test of time, there’s another little ditty that makes you feel like your ears are bleeding.

When I say “production flaws,” I guess what I really mean is “terrible translation flaws.” Please speak up in the comments if you disagree, but I find the dialogue really hard to follow and make sense of half the time. This typically results in me scratching my  head and wondering how the characters drew the completely illogical conclusions that they did throughout the course of the game. My friend Sara is the kind of person who asks WAY too many questions. Oftentimes, my only response to her inquiries about what what going on or how things were happening was, “Because reasons. Now shut up and play.” It doesn’t help that some majorly important background information is completely optional and easy to miss (like Vincent’s connection to Sephiroth or Cloud and Zack’s plight.)

Then there’s the multitude of typos and grammar issues. I’m a reader (and like to think I’m a writer) so they’re really distracting to people like me. Nothing is more annoying and mood-breaking than reading a typo during a scene that’s supposed to be pulling at my heartstrings. When Aeris dies, Sephiroth hints at Cloud’s true identity, then the screen goes black and he says, “Becauase, Cloud, you are a puppet.” I think that’s the exact typo, but I could be wrong. Anyway, when there’s no music and literally nothing else to look at besides that one sentence, it glares at me like a deer in the headlights. Especially because it makes me chuckle at the misspelling when I’m supposed to be either sad that Aeris got shanked (Yeah right, more like ecstatic she won’t be wedging herself between Cloud and Tifa anymore) or contemplative Sephiroth’s words and what the hell Aeris thought she was accomplishing.

My other favorite typo is the prompt screen during the Battle Arena. When the player is asked if they want to continue to the next round, they have to select “Off course!” instead of “Of course!” I’m still trying to figure out what that means. Off course? As in off-road monster truck driving or something?

Another ongoing laughter-inducer is the really, really bad translated-from Japanese-to-English ebonics. They take multiple (and mostly unsuccessful) jabs at utilizing slang, but Barrett’s dialogue is absolutely hilarious. Couple that with the blatantly obvious stereotypes and you’ve got comedic gold; if you’ve got the same depraved sense of humor my friends and I have, anyway. I don’t know if Japanese culture has many of the same stereotypes against black people as American culture does, but seeing as how they really laid on thick the absentee father/short tempered/completely clueless shticks, I don’t see how it could possibly be a mere coincidence.

Speaking of depraved humor, did I mention we opted out of utilizing the characters’ given names for less… conventional names? Some of them are too dirty to mention, but I strongly suggest playing through the game with Aeris’ name changed to “Some Slut.” Trust me, you won’t regret it. In fact, you’ll probably be taking screenshots of all the great quotes.

While Final Fantasy VII does have a great story (when you can make sense of it) and memorable characters (and by “characters” I mean Sephiroth and stereotypes), the area in which it truly stands the test of time is the battle system. As much as I love Final Fantasy VIII, for example, you’ll never hear me say, “Gee, I loved spending 10 minutes drawing 100 magic spells from enemies whenever I was in a new zone. Drawing magic spells during a super important boss fight totally didn’t detract from the urgency or mood. They should bring that back!” But the materia system is something I bemoan current games for not emulating. The materia and equipment set-ups in this game seem limitless. It encourages the player to experiment and constantly swap materia around. You never know what uber-powerful combinations you’ll find.

You’ll need the materia combos that make you feel invincible if you plan on taking on the Weapons. I can’t say Sara and I participated this time around, but FFVII really takes the cake when it comes to having multiple, challenging boss battles. I took on Ultima Weapon, despite how stupidly annoying chasing it around the world map was. It seriously would fly around aimlessly for over five minutes at a time. I kept purposely bumping into it on the Highwind, hoping the impact would jar it into doing something. Seriously, what a stupid time sink. It’s almost as much of a stupid time sink as reloading the game over and over when your Chocobos don’t make the right Gold Chocobo breeding fodder. There is absolutely no way anyone figured out how to breed a Gold Chocobo on their own unless they had  a whole lot of time on their hands and dumb luck.

As an aside, the Knights of the Round materia made me very grateful Final Fantasy X incorporated the option of turning off summon animations. Holy crap.

I’m going to admit that I’m a bit of a poser. While I’ve played through FFVII 6 or 7 times by now, I haven’t ever killed Ruby Weapon. It’s on my to-do list, really. But with how long it took Sara and I to plow through the plot on a “Three hours a week if we’re lucky” schedule, and sacrificing Dragon Age II time with Steve to do some optional grinding, I figured it wasn’t happening this playthrough either. I’m keeping this save file on my PS3 so Steve and I can kill Emerald and Ruby later when we’re between games, but for now they can continue aimlessly wandering the planet.

What do you guys think? Does FFVII stand the test of time? As someone who has quite a bit of nostalgia attached to it, I’d say so. And the factors that don’t stand the test of time stand in as comic relief even though they weren’t originally intended to be. I posed the same question to Sara, who was experiencing this ground-breaking RPG for the first time, and her response was something like, “Well, it brings a whole new meaning to the ‘length versus girth’ debate.”

Yes, I’m paraphrasing.

Mass Effect: Ascension

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Run for your lives!!

I went ahead and read the second of Karpyshyn’s 3 Mass Effect-centric novels. Actually, I read it in two days.

Much of what I said in my review of Revelation holds true here. The novel is a great addition to the Mass Effect Universe for fans of the video game series. I enjoyed this book much more than Revelation for a couple of reasons, and they’re purely biased on my part: One of the main characters is a young autistic girl, and you see a lot of Quarians in this book.

If you found the Quarian culture fascinating in the books and are thirsting for more of the enviro-suited aliens, look no further. A good portion of the novel takes places in the Migraint Fleet. Unlike the events of Tali’s loyalty quest in Mass Effect 2, the characters in the novel actually spend time among the Quarian’s living quarters. You get a much more intimate sense, as the characters do, about the Quarian’s plight; living on cramped ships with limited supplies, and how that, in turn, fosters their strong sense of community and loyalty. I really appreciated this because it was sorely lacking in the video games.

If you don’t care one way or the other about the Quarians, there’s always Cerberus! The Illusive Man is a character in the book. It’s great to get an idea about other “business ventures” Cerberus had sunk its teeth into. Besides, you know, spending billions of credits resurrecting Shepard. Instead, they spend 10 years and tons of money on an autistic, biotic human, hoping she will be the key to leveling the playing field for humanity in their struggle to be recognized on the galactic homefront.

Kahlee Sanders plays front and center in this novel again. I like her a little more than in Revelation, though her reactions (or lack thereof) in certain circumstances seemed either unrealistic or sorely lacking in emotion. Then again, the author doesn’t tend to delve too deeply into many character’s thoughts and emotions besides the red sand addict. Grayson, “father” of the autistic biotic girl Cerberus had him raise for over 10 years, is a red sand junkie. Seeing how red sand affects humans was also a great dose of information the games didn’t have time to explore.

Ascension takes place between the first two Mass Effect games. With that being so, the author has to skirt around some of those player choice plot points. Those couple of bits are glaringly obvious, but I suppose they’re almost unavoidable. I didn’t pick up on any editing oversights in Ascension, either.

As with Ascension, so far I find the books entertaining and quick reads. They’re a great avenue for gamers like myself going through Mass Effect withdrawals. Plus, Quarians and Illusive Man!