Shena’s E3 Highlights

All the big press conferences and interesting events of E3 2015 are now over, and I’m still sorting in my head which games I’ll be scrambling to find the time to play next year! This year there were some announcements that excited me more than I care to admit, while others I sort of shrugged off, and some that made me happy for fans of franchises that I don’t necessarily follow.

Let me start by saying that I think Nintendo totally bombed their pre-recorded show. The puppets coming out at the beginning was cute and all, but they failed in using that Muppet-esque distraction as a decoy from their shoddy presentation. It started out with a new StarFox game. I’m glad for the people who have been begging for a new StarFox game for years, though it isn’t something that interests me. The gameplay will have to be amazing to win people over, because the graphics certainly aren’t doing it. Seriously, how embarrassing. After playing Bayonetta 2 and experiencing what the Wii U can put out graphically, it looks terrible. At least during SquareEnix’s conference they came out and said, “This demo was only in 30 FPS but the game will be 60,” to let the audience know if something is indeed downgraded because it’s a work in progress.

Nintendo had a super terrible 3DS multiplayer Metroid title… thing. I don’t even know, because they didn’t bother to go into detail on that even though fans have been BEGGING for a Metroid game for years. They did delve into the 3DS multiplayer/co-op Legend of Zelda game that NOBODY WANTS. But, you know, couldn’t go out of their way to show what they’ve been doing with the Zelda Wii U game they showcased a year ago.

With Fire Emblem off of my personal radar, Nintendo still had a few titles that I am looking forward to: Xenoblade Chronicles X, “Super” Mario Maker, and that 3DS Paper Mario meets Mario RPG game looks fun too.

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I honestly don’t usually get excited about mech games!

Xenoblade Chronicles and Mario Maker got dates which makes me really happy…. December 4 and September 11, respectively. So that’s two E3 games from Nintendo being released before Christmas. I loved Xenoblade Chronicles, and really wish I had spent more time with the side quests and other optional content. Mario Maker looks like a great dose of fun creativity. I can’t wait to see the levels my fellow gamers develop that I will undoubtedly die 1,000 times on.

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A goomba pyramid…. genius.

I also watched most of Sony’s press conference. The new IPs like Horizon and No Man’s Sky look pretty awesome. The Last Guardian made a lot of people happy, but I’ve gotten “Meh” about it after all of these years. The Final Fantasy VII reveal made me shed fangirl tears… Although now I’ve got my cynical glasses on, just waiting to see if SquareEnix is going to screw it up like they have everything else in the last decade. (Okay, except FF:RK. Srsly, it’s the best F2P game ever.) I know I’ll be playing it either way… whether they totally eff up the battle system and shoehorn in all the stupid FFVII compilation crap.

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If nothing else, it will at least be pretty.

Unsurprisingly, there was also fun gameplay footage from the new Uncharted game. My hubby and I are looking forward to playing A Thief’s End, so the vehicle driving sequence with all the Drake/Sully banter kept us at the edge of our seats.

I’m shocked there was nothing God of War related at Sony’s event, but I suppose it is for the best.

Going back to SquareEnix. First E3 press conference ever. And it shows. Well, as a fan of JRPGs (growing up, anyway) some of what they showed did intrigue me. Especially that Kingdom Hearts mobile game that I’m positive NOBODY asked for. In all seriousness, I really liked what we saw of KH3 (still no release date time frame.. no kidding). The battle system looks as fun as the story is convoluted. At this point I don’t even know if I should recognize the characters playing chess in the trailer… Someone help me out here!

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Seriously, who is this Rikku look-alike?

I haven’t played Just Cause games yet, but the third game looks like a lot of fun. I’ll have to do some research on them. Judging from the footage from Just Cause 3, I think I could get sucked into the sandbox carnage on display. There was also more FFVII (including an IOS port alongside the PC port), more Final Fantasy World or whatever the hell it is called, a new Nier project, more Deus Ex Machina, and the rather secretive Tokyo RPG project. Tokyo RPG project seems to exist to solidify their dedication to creating JRPGs.

I’ll admit my focus has shifted to Western RPGs in recent years. In the last year, the RPGs I enjoyed the most were probably South Park: The Stick of Truth and the Mass Effect trilogy (I didn’t start playing them until last year). And, I’m happy to announce… there were new games announced for both series! The new South Park game is titled “The Fractured But Whole.” Let that sink in.

While I am disappointed that no new details for Mass Effect were divulged outside of the title and release time frame, I’m still excited. While many might harp on my for wishing this… I was really hoping for a Mass Effect trilogy remaster. I need an excuse to play the trilogy again. The thought of slogging through the first Mass Effect in its current state pains me, but I can’t picture just picking up Mass Effect 2 from the start. I’m weird like that.

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Bioware swears this is not Spiderman wearing N7 armor.

And those are pretty much all the games that I’m personally excited for. I’m jealous about Tomb Raider, but seeing as how it is a timed exclusive I suppose I’ll get over it. Hopefully Uncharted won’t come out too late and will scratch that itch for me.

What were your E3 highlights?

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Dragon Age: Inquisition Rant

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Fear my glowing green palm of death!

Steve-O and I finally wrapped up our Dragon Age: Inquisition run a couple of weeks ago. It’s taken me longer than usual to sit down and write this because A.) I had two shorter posts to write, and B.) I wasn’t entirely sure how to properly convey my feelings towards this game. I think the best way to come out with my feelings is to say that I did not completely fall in love with this game like the rest of the internet appeared to have. Aside from complaints about the glitches we come to expect from Bioware games (more on that later), everything I read sang praises about Inquisition. Good story, great characters, excellent battle system, lots to do… So what’s not to love?

Part of me feels like Bioware went overboard with their response to gamer complaints about how limited the setting in DA2 was. Yes, it was a lot of repeated maps and having Kirkwall as the only city was cheap and snooze-worthy. But you know what else is snooze-worthy? Spending 5 hours wandering the same map collecting mats and shards, especially after taking a half-hour detour to get from point A to point B. Between the pointless map wandering and real-time war table quests, you can’t tell me Inquisition isn’t chock full of padded game play hours. I love sandbox games, don’t get me wrong, but make all my wandering at least somewhat engaging. I was bored to tears after an hour of exploring maps to gain Influence that I didn’t really need every time I sat down to play. After suffering through the first couple of maps we committed to doing what we had to do to kill all the dragons and be on our way.

Speaking of the dragons, aside from their elemental weaknesses, the fights are all very samey. For a game titled Dragon Age, you’d think some more work would’ve gone into making the dragon fights feel more varied and exciting. Basically, you fight them to get the loot and that’s it. No epicness is truly felt here.

There’s no epic feelings with the dragons or with the story. Having played DA:O and DA:II I can safely say that the story falls somewhere in the middle between how awesome Origins was and how bland II was. The writers didn’t do themselves any favors by incorporating half-assed time travel crap and a completely cliche main villain. A baddie who wants to be the newest all-powerful god in town? Join the club, buddy.

I think one of the things about Inquisition that irks me the most is the supporting cast. I’ve come to play Bioware games for the characters more than the overall narrative. Sadly, I didn’t like ANY of the new characters. Not a one. Hell, I liked the cast of DA:II better! At least in DA:II the characters I disliked fell into a “Love to Hate” relationship status with me (Aveline) and there was none of that here. The only characters I was interested in were from previous entries: Leliana, Varric, and Cassandra… all, coincidentally, characters we didn’t have the option of romancing either due to our gender or because Bioware says so. We flirted with the idea of romancing a couple different people, like Sera or Josephine, but they eventually turned us off so we decided to fly the game solo.

Plus, we were pro-mage and basically no one else is. Even the mages themselves were against my actions when I expressed favor for freeing the mages. Yeah, makes total sense. Bunch of self-loathing assholes. Vivien can piss up a rope. I can’t stand her.

That’s right: Inquisition is the only Bioware game I’ve played where I did not partake in romancing a character. Compare that with Origins, where I romanced everyone, or Mass Effect, where I was fiercely loyal to Liara (to the point of obsession) throughout the entirely trilogy.

Compounding these complaints with the horrific experience we had the last two nights we played the game really soured our taste buds. The second-to-last evening we spent with Inquisition we partook in the drawn out, fancy-schmancy ball, where our Inquisition rubbed noses with royalty and tried acting like the upstanding citizens we weren’t. Anyway, we had a glitched door that would not load the next room which was, you know, required to proceed with the game. Thinking it was an issue with switching to the digital version from the disc, we deleted the digital version, re-installed the game disc, and played. We researched the issue online (evidently the geniuses at Bioware screwed their game up even further with one of the patches). Realizing our issue was due to a patch and not the way we were playing, we switched back to digital, only to be met with our game refusing to load, period. It wouldn’t work the rest of the night.

We never found out what happened, but the following morning after my PS4 updated it worked fine. Scared that we would lose over 60 hours of progress to more bugs, and getting bored with the game, we decided to plow through the main story mission and move on with our lives.

For this, we were rewarded with two slaps to the face.

First, we made the mistake of trying to bring Cole with us. News flash: If you don’t do his personal quest, you don’t get to use in the final battle. Ugh. Okay, fair enough. But, and here’s where I thought my head would combust, THEY DON’T ALLOW YOU TO GO BACK TO THE INVENTORY AND TAKE HIS GEAR OFF!

In what world does that make any sense?!?!

And because we had no one besides our actively party appropriately geared, we ended up bringing a naked Sera into the FINAL BOSS FIGHT.

And guess what?!

We STILL had the glitch where the final boss fight–ya know, the part of the game that’s supposed to be all super climactic and shit– became broken because we damaged it too quickly.

Yes, you read that correctly. We did too much damage to the final boss before some invisible time frame with a NAKED ROGUE. I’m sorry Bioware, was I not supposed to explore your large, boring maps and do your countless, boring side quests to get better gear and level my characters? I kinda thought that was the point of open-world games.

In the end, we had to reload the game and I picked my nose while the rest of my team whittled away at it because I was too scared to break it again.

Google it, it’s a real glitch. Along with the previous one I mentioned. That’ my friends, is Triple A, Game of the Year material.

I am dumbfounded, to be honest. And I’m also reliving the tragic experience I had with Skyrim when I literally couldn’t beat the game until a patch came out to fix my terrible luck with broken games. Know how I responded to Bethesda for releasing a broken game? I boycotted them.

Now I’m terrified the new Mass Effect with be a broken, glitchy, padded game with boring characters and a lackluster story. And that makes me a sad panda.

Because I really want to play Mass Effect, and I really want it to be good. Like I wanted this game to be as good as everyone said it was.

Plus, if I boycotted every developer that released a broken game I’d be playing nothing but retros and indies. But I guess that’s a tale for another blog post.

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.

Mass Effect 3

Again, I’m not sure who this scowling man is.

Well, it’s time. The bittersweet moment where I come to this blog to post some of my thoughts about a game I’ve recently completed. Except this isn’t just any game. This is the conclusion to the critically-acclaimed sci-fi trilogy released by Bioware; a company that I’ve come to really respect after playing the Mass Effects and Dragon Age: Origins. I’m having a hard time collecting my thoughts for this entry, despite the fact that we went camping for a week after I binged on ME3 until I saw the end credits roll. I was determined to finish it before being unplugged for a week. I sacrificed a lot of sleep, which I NEVER do after having a baby and sticking to a strict workout regimen. Basically, this was a big deal for me.

What I’m saying is, I became a bit obsessed.

After seeing the credits roll, a familiar sort of depression sank in. The journey was over. I saved the galaxy from the Reapers. The characters I fell in love with were nestling into the closure that Bioware and my FemShep brought to them, and didn’t need my input any longer. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve only felt this way after completing two other games that currently top my Top 10 list: Final Fantasy X and Xenosaga Episode III. After finishing these games, I just sort of existed in a lull for a week or so, taking my sweet time transitioning back to reality, unable to divorce my mind from the amazing experiences these games offered. Thankfully, I had a camping trip with friends and family to keep me occupied this time.

Okay, I promise I’m done gushing now. I find my posts more interesting to read when I’ve got a mile-long list of complaints to vent out. While Mass Effect 3 is now one of my favorite games EVER, that doesn’t mean it is perfect. There are a few things I’d like to address that really irked me.

1.) YOU DON’T GET A KROGAN IN YOUR SQUAD. Seriously, when did ANY fans say they thought having Wrex and Grunt as squad members was a sucky idea and they’d rather have more boring humans in their group? If they exist, send me their addresses so I can hunt them down because I found this to be completely inexcusable. I love my meatshield krogans. Something tells me Bioware heard fan complaints, because in The Citadel DLC they let you have Wrex if you don’t get him killed beforehand.

2.) Controls suck less, but they still suck. My main gripe is using X for running (and taking cover, and the wannabe parkour jumping). This makes your right thumb occupied with sprinting so you can’t use it to move the camera around and search for loot. Loot is a big deal to me.

3.) ALL THE DLC. And the $$$. Sure, I will never drop a penny on extra multiplayer map packs. But I downloaded and paid money for FOUR different DLC bundles, priced at at least $9.99 a piece. This game is two years old, for crying out loud, you’d think they’d be cheaper. While the DLC is technically optional, I suppose, I can’t imagine my ME3 experience without it. From Ashes gives an extra party member with important background information and Leviathan discloses more important historical facts about the Reapers (As in: where the hell did they come from?). Omega, which I’m in the middle of playing now, may not be mandatory for garnering helpful information, but it should have been included in the game because when you see Aria in The Citadel she tells you about the mission! Little did I know, I had to PAY extra to actually help her with her pet project. And, The Citadel, while being completely optional, is something no Mass Effect fan will want to miss. It is the writers letting loose and letting the characters just have fun. I laughed a lot. And, of course, there’s Extended Cut (The infamous backpedaling). Which is free… but still. Getting DLCed to death has become a major gripe of mine in the last few years… and I just majorly supported it with ME3.

4.) Multiplayer in a single player campaign. Single player for two installments. Huge hit game series. Hmm, let’s incorporate multiplayer missions that directly affect how well the galaxy can defend itself against the Reapers and make that affect end game events! Great idea! … NOT.

Now that I’ve got those off of my chest, I have to say, Mass Effect 3 was phenomenal. I said I’d stop gushing, but I need to say this: While the Xenosaga trilogy blew me away with its character development, story, and universe, I think the Mass Effect trilogy might top it for me. When playing video game series, as a gamer you’re always nervous when you pick up the next installment. Are my favorite character still here? Did they screw up the battle system? Is this one going to suck compared to the last one? I will defend Xenosaga until the day I die, but I can’t really stand up for Episode II. The second entry stripped all fun out of the battle system and they lost a lot of fans trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. If I weren’t so obsessed with the characters and driven to see the events unfold (and didn’t have a strategy guide), I would have given up. And maybe nowadays I’d quit in exasperation. While Episode III redeemed the series for me, I think they’d already lost too many fans. But in the case of Mass Effect, each game is better than the last. Sure, I was disappointed with some of the character interactions in ME2, but other than that each game vastly improved upon the last. After playing Mass Effect 2 I wondered how it could get any better. 

Oh, did it get better.

Character leveling and skill upgrades remain largely unchanged. They did add mini skill trees for each ability so you can see the progress and choose between two options in the later tiers.

ME3 Skill Tree

                   This should give you a general idea.

 Not a huge difference, but I liked seeing the advancement and choosing options for 3 tiers instead of only the final tier like in ME2.

After the significant overhaul (though I think “removal” would be more accurate) of the equipment menus in ME2, they sort of backtracked a little bit. Not in a bad way, but to give the player at least some sense of customization that was missing from the middle game. You can change Shepard’s equipment but still can’t change the squad mates. Sorry, but deciding which purple helmet you want Tali to wear or whether Liara looks better in black or white doesn’t count. But weapon modifications are back! Each weapon has two mods you can add to it. These mods are either purchased from stores or picked up while exploring. And trust me, there’s basically no inventory management to worry about.

Speaking of stores... Does anyone buy these ship models?

Speaking of stores… Does anyone really spend their hard earned credits on ship models?

Another improvement that I didn’t think could get any better is the way they handled scanning planets for resources. There is no more element mining for upgrades! Big cheer from this gamer! Instead, you scan items and wreckage for war assets, intel, fuel, or credits. Once you start scanning in a cluster or galaxy, you’re given a percentage so you know when you can move on. This streamlining comes with a price: scanning alerts Reapers. If you scan, they’ll come after you, and give you an automatic game over if you let them catch up to the Normandy. I wasn’t crazy about this new feature. Especially since I waited to do 90% of my planet scanning at the same time. It got tedious and frustrating. I felt like I was wasting time darting in and out of a galaxy to rush and pick up something or do some scanning before the Reapers caught me. If you’ve alerted them, they won’t go away until you move on and do something else first! I was irritable after half an hour of playing cat and mouse.

Unsurprisingly, my main praise goes to Bioware for their ability to write great characters and stories. Each of the main characters you’ve known since the beginning have pretty satisfying character arcs and interactions. You’ll get to visit their homeworlds on the premise of uniting their race to your Reaper Killing cause, but along the way they’ll grow and make you love them even more. Unless you don’t have enough Reputation, then things will go south. Since I forgot to mention this earlier: Do side quests ASAP! 

Now I’m going to take a low jab at Ubisoft: In case you haven’t heard, they’ve been under a lot of flack recently because they claimed they “Don’t have the resources,” (Loosely interpreted as “Can’t be bothered”) to incorporate female models in the next installment of their annual cash cow, Assassin’s Creed. Well. All I can say is that I find it interesting Bioware could, and successfully gave characters the option to be a female in a vast story that expands 3 games with hundreds of interactions with NPCs. Many of which are tailored by the sex you selected when creating Shepard. As per the cover art, it’s assumed you’ll be the brooding man with the close shave. Not only did Bioware give you the option, they also created unique situations and dialogue for FemShep. In the third game, they took it up a notch by drawing very specific attention to it. One of the more subtle, but most satisfying moments, in ME3 were the conversations with a certain female Krogan. If you’re a female, she not only confides in you, but also expresses admiration at the great responsibility humanity has placed on a female. It tickled my fancy to not just be given a different character model (that Ubosift can’t be bothered with) but to also change dialogue and outfit the experience so that it didn’t feel at all like I was playing a subpar role. Never, in the entire trilogy, did I find the conversation nuances inappropriate or with that “This is definitely meant for a male” vibe.

I do have some story complaints, but they seem to just whimper in the shadows of Mass Effect 3’s generally great presentation. I knew about the ending’s big controversy, so I barreled towards it with anticipation. After experiencing my ending, taking advantage of Youtube to watch the others (there’s 4 altogether depending on what your ultimate decision is) and then speaking with a friend who got the original crappy ending… I can say I’m glad I got the Extended Cut. It actually, you know, explains the aftermath of your choice. I can honestly say I liked the ending(s)… Mine, at least, was bittersweet, with enough disclosure to satisfy me but some open ends to let me interpret a couple of things as I see fit. With all this hubbub about a Mass Effect 4, I’m sort of confused. The four endings have vastly different implications about the future of the universe. It’d have to be either a prequel or be an alternate universe/spiritual successor sort of deal. Which I’d be okay with, I just don’t want them to mess with my Shepard and my story.

I know I’m obsessed with this game because even though I already watched the credits roll, I’ve gone back and decided to wrap up some side quests I didn’t complete and play through the Omega DLC which I got kind of late. My gaming time is crunched thanks to adulthood, so I don’t usually do anything extra with games… Especially after I beat them. As of right now, Mass Effect 3 has killed other video games for me. I truly have no desire to play anything else yet.

In closing, here is a picture of my newest video game girl crush and one true love to my FemShep: Liara T’Soni. She’s intelligent, blue, and has a nice rack. What more could a human ask for? Oh I know, how about a lover that could literally mindf*ck you? Sold!

Liara

 

 

Dead Space 3

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Before I started playing Dead Space 3 I was considering writing a blog post about why I hate “Free to Play” games. The reason I can’t stand Free to Play games is because I hate being bombarded with “Buy this” ads all over the place, and half the time completing the game without spending any real money is a monumental task. I’d much rather fork over money for the game and call it a day. Which leads to the grand realization I had while playing Dead Space 3.

It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a game anymore. Whether you spend two bucks on a downloadable game for your smart phone or pay full price for a console game. We can now expect to be assaulted every time we load up a game to spend more money. After spending sixty dollars on a game, updating my system and installing the damn thing, EA still isn’t too ashamed to harass me for more of my hard earned money. How many hours does someone working the federal minimum wage in the United States have to work to be able to buy this game on release? Only to be asked to spend more money on stuff that should have been included in the game? Were the projected sales for this blockbuster title not high enough to have a decent profit margin? Give me a break.

I know I risk sounding like a crazy conspiracy theorist, or someone giving EA a bit too much credit, but it seems to me (read with George Carlin’s emphasis) that it’s no mistake there is next to no tutorial explaining the weapon crafting system or how to properly utilize your scavenger bots to get enough mats to actually make something worthwhile. They must’ve figured I’d get sick of trying to get ahead, and in frustration drop five bucks on some already crafted guns I could’ve created myself if given  any guidance whatsoever on how to do so. I believe I was about a third of the way through the game when I figured there had to be some way of getting enough Tungsten to actually make something worth using my first playthrough. I went online, and thanks to kind similar-minded gamers, I was able to watch a video showing how to deploy a scavenger bot properly. Then it was paydirt.

I have no conceptual problem with weapon crafting, really. If you’ve played the other installments, you know what to expect when you’re working with a rip core or a line gun blueprint. My only problem is the inclusion of an entirely new system with no guidance. Sort of like my first day of working at Burger King: “Here’s a headset, here’s the cash register, have fun figuring out what all the buttons do on your own.” Thankfully we weren’t above screwing around until we made a couple of cool guns. Essentially, you have an upper and lower gun, both of which you can add upgrades to (more on that in a minute), so in most instances you’re really carrying around four guns when you have two weapon slots.

And you better figure out how to make some necro-stopping guns pretty quickly, because they won’t stop for you. For being reanimated dead bits of flesh flopping around, necromorphs are unbelievable fast. Faster than Isaac, that’s for damn sure, who can never manage to find a sense of urgency. Even when there’s ten necromorphs crowding around him. You have no choice throughout most of the game (unless you like dying and replaying the same bits over and over) to abuse your stasis and find a gun worth using. Upgrade your stasis as soon as you can. Even when maxed, I still didn’t feel like I was slowing them down enough. Actually, my gaming buddy and I ended up putting stasis on our ripper blades, which was a godsend.

Creating a sense of urgency is the only remote semblance to survival horror this game has. If you still expect to get some frights out of this series, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. This installment is more akin to an action-shooter with a taste for the visceral. During a couple of ridiculous crash scenes I had to stop and make sure I wasn’t playing an Uncharted game. Nothing “survival” about it when enemies drop ammo like trails of blood and you can make your own healing items from the over-abundance of mats spewing from dismembered bodies. The only item management you’ll be doing is negotiating between how many spare stacks of ammo you think you should be carrying around. Most of the item creation mats don’t even take up inventory space. I don’t understand the rationalization behind it all, because upgrade circuits and other core upgrade items do go in the actual inventory. This is just nitpicking, because like I stated earlier, you’ll be carrying around so much extra ammo you won’t blink dropping a couple stacks of it to make room for weapon upgrading goodies. And even if you’re worried about ammunition, next time you find a bench you can make some out of scrap metal (a mat that doesn’t take up inventory space) anyway.

Ah, benches. When you aren’t in need of one you come by one every five minutes. When three of your scavenger bots are waiting at one to give you a whole bunch of goodies, they’re nowhere to be found. And don’t even get me started on Suit Kiosks. There must be one of those for every ten benches. When it got to the point where we had the guns we were sure we could commit to sticking with and the enemies suddenly had three times the resistance to the line gun, we said “Okay, better upgrade hit points and armor. Now… where’s a suit kiosk?” Nowhere, that’s where! Not too many of those out in frozen tundra marker alien planet, or wherever, but benches somehow exist.

While I’m on the subject of upgrading and suit kiosks, I have a question to throw out there. When upgrading the Hit Points on Isaac’s RIG, the game tells you it adds 25Hit Points for each step. What does that mean!? There are no numbers in the game anywhere to indicate how much damage enemies are doing to Isaac, or even how much HP he has in the first place. I really would have liked to see some numbers in this game, since we’re obviously beyond the point of pretending this is a survival horror game. I wish more games had the option to turn damage/healing numbers on.

Two of the main selling points about this game I remember reading about are the added co-op feature and weapon upgrading systems. Okay. I said to myself, “Dead Space is going the Resident Evil route. But at least if it isn’t gonna be scary anymore, my gaming buddy and I can play together and it’ll be fun.” Wrong! Well, sort of. The co-op is not local/splitscreen co-op. It is online only, something I didn’t realize until playing the demo. A big disappointment for me. I’m old school I guess. I’d rather be sitting next to someone I am playing with and be playing with a friend rather than some stranger online. As if to rub salt in the wound, while wandering around deep space and such I saw doors with “Co-op only” signs hanging like some VIP event I wasn’t invited to. There’s one out of two down.

As with the weapon crafting, I did like it to a certain extent. Blending two of my favorite guns into one was immensely satisfying. The reviews and such parroted the hundreds of crafting options in the game. I’ll admit, I have a secret fear of missing out on great items in games when I have to rely solely on my wherewithal to create things. And while you could make hundreds of different guns, there are only so many combinations that make sense or hold more than experimental value. After getting more than a handful of upgrade circuits, it became painfully apparent that I couldn’t increase the shotgun’s rate of fire as much as I thought I could. There are invisible caps on item stats, which I began to notice while adding +2 Rate of Fire, for example, yet nothing would happen. I suppose increasing the rate of fire would make it stop being a shotgun to a certain extent, but where’s the fun in that? I want to be rewarded for going out of my way to find upgrade circuits. It is frustrating when the enemies keep getting faster and stronger but you’re stuck in progress because the developers don’t want you going ten minutes without using stasis or crafting items at a bench.

There’s only so many guns that give the impression they do anything to these epileptic necromorphs on speed. Like the shotgun. After getting killed in an optional mission about five times, we decided to backtrack five minutes and turn our Ripper-Line Gun combo into a Ripper-Shotgun combo because the Line Gun was suddenly incapable of decapitating limbs in one shot, even with maxed damage. And, when an enemy doesn’t lose a leg, they’re in your face before Issac gets around to reloading the damn thing. The shotgun, we found, at least had some stopping power. But god-forbid if you have to reload, because even with only one arm left for a limb, a necromorph will still crawl on top of you before the gun is ready to be shot again.

It’s as if the developers are screaming, “Stasis! STASIS! OMG isn’t stasis awesome? Use it!” Yes, I agree, it is pretty awesome. So awesome that I don’t stand a chance killing more than one enemy without using it if I don’t want to lose half of my health. You know what would be more awesome? Is if you could shoot it more than five times and the duration lasted for more than three seconds on enemies, even after maxing out the stasis module on the RIG. Oh, and NOT tying stasis to the rate of fire stat on the current gun he’s shooting. It defeats the purpose of having it. Say you shoot the gun and miss or don’t chop off a leg. You’d like to be able to shoot the enemy with stasis to give yourself time until the gun is ready to be fired again. But in the case of the slower weapons that actually do a decent amount of damage, the stasis is mysteriously not ready to be used either. You’re tied with the weapon’s cooldown, so to speak. And in the many instances when you’re stuck in a room with waves of necromorphs coming after you, every second counts and this feature becomes unbearably annoying.

Yet Telekinesis has an infinite usage pool. This frustrates me, because I never used it during fights. The only time I used it was when the game makes you for puzzles and the super-powered Telekinesis you get in the final chapters that will make you go, “Wow, wish it did this ALL the time!” I find Telekinesis too unreliable. Maybe if there was a way to guarantee I’d pick up a bladed limb instead of a foot or something else among the dismembered limb pile I would have used it more often.

Enough about that. Let’s talk about the riveting story. I hope you sensed the sarcasm in that last statement. When it comes to storytelling, I always look towards characters and character development to carry the tale along. In Dead Space 3,  I was left wishing they’d left Isaac as the under-developed Engineer doing everyone else’s menial tasks for them like he was in the first installment.

The story devolved into a terrible love triangle. The two boys vying for the female’s attentions acted like pubescent junior high boys. It was unbelievable. Can someone tell me, is this an accurate reflection of how jealous boyfriends truly act? I know there are only so many human vaginas out in necromorph-infected space, but come on! It also would’ve been nice if the female in question was left to make the decision herself, but the writers made it for her, unsurprisingly. I don’t expect many video games to have accurate representations of strong women, so I really shouldn’t have been too put-out that their idea of a great female character is a chick with her breasts popping out who can’t decide if she’d rather date the Marker-crazed PTSD Engineer, or the macho soldier who acts like he beats her around the house if she doesn’t have dinner cooked on time. And she even makes excuses for him! “He doesn’t normally act like this,” she says… Yeah, we’ve all heard that before.

A writing professor I had once told me killing a character off is a poor storytelling mechanic, and (SPOILER!) in this case, I agree. And, (Another spoiler!) the character who wins the gal is the one who doesn’t get shot by the main character, if you can imagine that.

The presentation in DS3 is as beautiful as ever. The graphics look great and the sound is flawless. Isaac’s stomp has never been so gratifying. I’ll admit, I breathed a sigh of relief when I played this game because I found out it IS possible to release a new game without it being overburdened with technical errors, glitches, and bugs. The game ran almost flawlessly on my fat 60gig PS3. I did have a scare when a door in Chapter 14 kept making the disc loop and refusing to load, but as it turned out some teeny smudge on the disc was the cause.

All in all, DS3 is yet another example of developers trying to fix something that isn’t broken, and irritating a lot of the core fanbase in the process. Someone in the company must’ve said, “Well, now that Dead Space is a couple of installments in, people who are buying the game on release already know what to expect, so let’s shake things up a bit!” Their idea of shaking it up a bit is trying to make it more of an action game, which undoubtedly results in having the worst of both worlds. Adding in people shooting back at me instantly turns a game into an action-shooter in my mind. Then to combine that with the clunky and slow controls that are common to the survival horror genre is disastrous. They even went out of their way to add a Dodge Roll. Tapping L2 twice on a PS3 controller is pretty obnoxious, and in DS3 not worth the effort because it never ONCE got me out of taking a hit. I always found avoiding damage to be the point of dodging and/or rolling, amirite? I will, however, praise the addition of optional missions because it was nice getting a couple more hours of play out of my experience, though it doesn’t offset the co-op only missions I missed out on.

In the future, I don’t plan on purchasing the next Dead Space title on launch, unless it can be confirmed beforehand that the developers have decided it is going to be a third-person action/shooter and not a poorly designed hybrid still masked as a survival horror. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’ll probably still give you my money because I’m a desperate fangirl who just wants a gory scare.