Thursday, 14 March 2013

Mass Effect 3 - The Citadel DLC





Endings can be a bittersweet ordeal; especially if it belongs to a series you’re particularly passionate and enthusiastic about. For me, Mass Effect has been one of these, having fallen in love with the game almost instantly after playing the first one way back when. It’s a game I have spent the most amount of time playing, carefully and lovingly creating different stories for Commander Shepard and his/her crew. Now that I’ve come to terms with the actual ending for Mass Effect 3 (only after the extended content, may I add), I would easily place the series as my favourite trilogy ever released (waiting on you, Dragon Age 3....) So, as you can guess, I was incredibly excited (and a tiny bit sad) when Bioware announced their final piece of DLC titled ‘The Citadel’. I’ll admit, part of me was a little dubious though – their last instalment ‘Omega’ was a little lacklustre – but I scraped some points together and got downloading.
 
As the title suggests, the content takes place on the heart of all galactic civilisation – the Citadel. Shepard takes the Normandy for some much needed TLC, agreeing to meet Joker for some sushi in a restaurant and from there, all hell breaks loose. I don’t want to give too many spoilers away regarding the plot for obvious reasons, but let’s just say that it wasn’t what I was actually expecting to happen. It has some good twists and turns, as well as leaving you a little bit frustrated at one point (not in a bad way though.) It adds a couple of interesting and well written characters to the mix, as well as bringing back some of the old faces. You can’t help but feel nostalgic.

The first part of the DLC brings a great mix of different scenarios to the table. You’ve got a great stealth based section, involving a silence pistol (particularly fun if you’re playing Infiltrator, like me). There’s a fun undercover mission regarding a casino and then your usual all out firefights in some interesting locations (my favourite being a used car shop – very classy.) Each section is equally as enjoyable for different reasons, although I was a little bit disappointed by one of the locations, as I would have liked to have had more time to explore it (don’t wanna give any spoilers, but it had some great potential for some nice additions to the lore of the game.)
The enemies in the game are a new ‘faction’ as it were. They blatantly take design concepts from Cerberus and fight more or less the same, but there a few changes. Their version of Guardians are particularly nasty, carrying weird shields and a machine gun that really hurts. I got forced into some really nasty corners at times, especially after being pinned down by their snipers (who take off a lot more damage than Cerberus’ Nemesis...and can go invisible.) So yes, the combat keeps you on your toes but it’s not uncomfortably difficult, allowing the content flow nicely. The casino section is well placed and also helps to break up the endless gunfire and killing things (a trait that Omega suffered from, I think.) 



The greatest thing about this DLC though, isn’t the story per say. Nor is it the action and set pieces you have to fight through. It’s the pure fan service that this content oozes. I absolutely loved it! Every single second is fun, hilarious and just simply enjoyable – I mean, I sat up till stupid o’clock playing it because I couldn’t put it down. And I’ve never laughed so much out loud either whilst gaming (well, Portal aside). The dialogue is witty and the banter between the teams is just fantastic, showcasing the great sense of comradeship between the characters that have been through thick and thin since the beginning. It also has its ‘heart-warming moments, where I felt genuinely touched by what was going on around me.

The second part of the DLC couldn’t be any more different. After Anderson leaves you his apartment so you can get some well earned R&R, you can casually interact with the other members of your team. Despite all the fun I had shooting up the place, this part of the ‘Citadel’ DLC was actually my favourite. As you may have guess from my previous reviews of things, I’m a big fan of characters and their development throughout the story. This section of the DLC is a chance to spend time with the characters again, and it brings some truly quality moments to the game. One of the missions you have to complete is to throw a party and you can invite whoever you like over to have a good time and get drunk with you. Sounds a little weird/petty, but honestly, seeing all the Normandy crew together in the same room, having fun is actually rather tear jerking. They stand around, having playful banter and fun despite their differences in beliefs/backgrounds – it makes for a truly moving scene. Plus the party itself is actually hilarious. Just wandering round rewards you with some fantastic conversations, although I think Zaeed and Garrus kinda steal the show, surprisingly.

Now the Normandy team are a strong cast of individuals, this DLC makes sure that every character gets their time to shine. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that I ended up crying with laughter whenever Traynor showed up. Bioware favourite Liara also gets some fantastic moments, and the light-hearted mockery between Ashley and Tali also raised a few chuckles with me. More importantly, it also brings some much needed depth and face time to some of the characters that were kinda sidelined throughout the story. If you’re a fan of the ME2 team, like myself, then this DLC brings some much needed catch up time with your good ol’ ‘suicide squad’. For example, it was great to have more interaction Miranda (my personal favourite character) and seeing her with Shep again was incredibly cute (...sorry, girly mode over.) It’s also great for fans of Jack and Jacob, who got their characters sidelined rather lamely. So yes, pure fanservice but I don’t care – it was brilliant.



All in all I was pleasantly surprised by the Citadel DLC. Not because it has a fantastic story, because even though it’s good, it does have some glaring plot holes and parts that make you arch an eyebrow. And if you’re looking for something with lots of shooting and action, then yes the first part of the DLC may satisfy you but I wouldn’t pay 1200 MS Points just for that. If you’re the generic gamer of this day and age who likes things to die and doesn’t give a damn about story or in depth dialogue because you need constant shooting to satisfy your short attention span then avoid this like the plague! This DLC is for the hardcore fans of the series – people who have loved it since the beginning and have an attachment to the characters. People like myself, who wanted more character interaction and a fun, satisfying conclusion to an emotional rollercoaster of a game that can take itself a little too seriously sometimes. In my opinion this DLC is exactly what Mass Effect 3 needed. An ending to a game that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, despite how sad I am to walk away from it all. This is the best ending I could have asked for. It's a great send off. Kudos Bioware – I shall miss the fun we had together during this series.



As Miranda says to Shepard: "We had a hell of a ride, didn't we?"
"The best."

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Catherine




Love's a tricky thing, isn't it? Well Vincent, the unfortunate main character of Atlus' puzzle/platformer 'Catherine,' finds that out the hard way. Now, I'm a big fan of games that are just a little bit different from the norm, and this is one of the most refreshing games I've played this past year. Catherine boasts both an impressive and thought provoking story line and fun (as well as annoyingly addictive) gameplay. Considering these are, personally, my two most important features in a game, it's no surprise that I found Catherine to be a really engaging and enjoyable experience (and I realise how that might be interpreted in the wrong way...I mean the game, for all you dirty minded people out there. Honestly....)

Catherine is the first game developed by Atlus to be on the current gen consoles. As the makers of my favourite all time games (Persona 3 and Persona 4 - I honestly couldn't choose which one I like better), I was rather excited to see how the game would play out. As well having character artwork by Shigenori Soejima, the soundtrack is written by my one of my favourite composers - Shoji Meguro. Throw that in with a weird, yet compelling storyline and interesting characters - this game sounded like heaven on a bluray disc to me. And I wasn't disappointed, although...heaven was probably not the right way to describe it. It's more like hell...but for all the right reasons.

So, what's it all about? Well, Catherine takes you through a week in the life of Vincent Brooks - a 32 year old guy whose comfortably pathetic life gets thrown into turmoil when his long term girlfriend, Katherine, wants to settle down and get married. Things go from bad to worse when he then wakes up the next morning with stunning blonde beside him, conveniently also named Catherine. Confused and incredibly stressed out, Vincent's dreams turn to nightmares as he is haunted by the important decisions he now must make in his life. Not only that, but there’s a strange rumour going round that people who fall in their dreams and don’t wake up before they hit the ground, die in real life. Are these situations connected? Well, that’s what Vincent’s trying to work out. I know - it doesn't really sound like a conventional story concept for a video game, which is one of the reasons why I found Catherine to be such an appealing game.



The story is interesting in a sense that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ options. Usually, in game where we pick choices, there are blatant evil and good options, that can see main characters being jerks who punch people in the face for no reason or saints who save kittens and puppies. In Catherine, there’s no such thing. Vincent can’t really be evil, nor can he be some goody-two-shoes. The options are more neutral. It’s kinda refreshing in a way and feels more...human? Whatever you’d call it, it’s a nice change. At times, Vincent might drive you insane as you wonder if someone could really be that stupid, but he’s actually quite an endearing character. You genuinely feel sorry for him and the situation he’s found himself in. I found myself actually rooting for him and wanted him to figure out what the hell was going on. It’s the same with the other characters too. The two ladies are also great characters. On paper, Catherine looks to be definite winner, what with her cuteness, laid back attitude to relationships and all. Yet, there was something about Katherine that made me warm to her and I genuinely felt sorry for what was happening behind her back. Vincent’s friends are also quite an interesting bunch too, but then again, I’d expect nothing less from a game developed by the same people as Persona!




The game itself is split into two playable 'sections' if you will. The first being at Vincent's local bar called 'The Stray Sheep'. It's here where the main chunks of the story play out. This is usually done through the use of very pretty anime style cut scenes that depict Vincent's day and the dilemmas he faces. At the end of each day, Vincent meets his friends at the bar and this is where you control him. Here you can interact with the bar's other patrons, choosing your actions and dialogue, all of which affects the outcome of the story. You also receive text messages from both of the K/Catherines. It's an interesting mechanic - you pick how you want to respond in quite a detailed manner and this all affects your relationship and interactions with the two ladies in Vincent's recently troubled life. I actually really enjoyed the 'Stray Sheep' sections of the game. You got to know the characters that frequent the bar, getting involved with their problems and struggles and there's a really nice sense that your choices do affect the way they progress through the story. Once you're done drinking and chatting, you can then decide when you want Vincent to head back home, leading up to the next playable section of the game.

Each night in his nightmares, Vincent is forced to climb up a tower, stage by stage (in his boxers, may I add) until he reaches what is only referred to as 'perfect freedom'. These stages make up the main playable parts of the game and involve pushing and pulling out blocks in order to make steps to progress up the tower. Sounds simple when said like that, but there's more to it. As you climb, the stage slowly falls away below you, meaning that there's always that constant pressure to climb up faster. Not only that, but each stage implements new mechanics, getting trickier as you go. To begin with, it's simply just about climbing upwards as fast as you can, but then it begins to add in different types of blocks. Spike blocks, for instance, kill you if you stand on them. Then there's ice blocks, which makes you slide off at a rapid pace, often making you loose your footing. In a nutshell, the idea behind these sections is actually relatively basic, but Atlus have made the game freakin hard! It's very punishing and can often be frustrating. There were many occasions where I sat, staring at the obstacles in front of me thinking "bloody hell, how the hell am I supposed to do that?!" Trial and error are an important aspect of this game - you make mistakes and you will die...usually quite horribly, might I add. I mean, how often do you get stabbed by a chainsaw wielding baby...? (Yeah, it's that Japanese...) You have to progress up the tower learning from what you've done previously, so having a certain degree of patience is a definite necessity. Now I'm not the greatest platform gamer, and I'm not the most patient person either, but I actually found myself really wanting to progress through these levels, just to see what's going on in the story. There was a strange sense of determination, as I vowed I would not be defeated by some giant wall. Luckily, each stage isn't really that long (although it took me half an hour to do some small segments of it), so it's broken up quite nicely, meaning you get suitable breaks from your frustration. There's a real sense of achievement when you reach the top of each level though - I was usually pretty dam pleased with myself when I finally conquered each stage.


At the end of each level is a ‘boss stage’. These consist of being chased upwards by some horrible demon thing, manifested from Vincent’s fears and worries. Each one of these bosses tries to kill you, or affect you in some way that makes climbing the tower incredibly difficult. I found these sections both challenging and fun, as they make you utilise the techniques you learned during that stage, only in a more deadly environment. Try having to figure out which blocks to move whilst having a giant hand trying to impale you into the wall with a fork. It’s fun...trust me.

I could sing this game’s praises for this entire review, but I guess it's important to cover the negatives as well. Truth be told, there wasn't really much that annoyed me about the game. One of it's biggest problems was the fixed camera. I found the camera angles during the climbing stages to be a little irritating, as sometimes I couldn't quite see where I was supposed to be going, or where I actually was in parts. The control system, whilst simple and mostly effective, requires a lot of precision. I was playing this on Playstation and I found myself using the D-pad to control my climbing (in fact, I never even touched the analogue sticks during most of the gameplay.) This leads me to wonder how I'd ever manage to play it on Xbox (not doing a controller comparison, or rating one over the other) because the D-pad isn't the...greatest. Analogue sticks would make it tricky and maybe even more frustrating...at least, in my opinion. And, as I said before, the game is very, very hard. Some people might be put off by that, so I guess it’s worth mentioning again.



Overall, Catherine is definitely one of the most interesting games I've played this year. I know it's been out for a little while now, but this is actually probably the best time to buy it. It's not a very long game by today’s standards (I racked up about 13-14 hours finishing time.), so some people probably wouldn't wanna pay £40 for it, but it's definitely worth getting preowned. It's a real gem of a game - I can honestly think of nothing else like it that I've ever played. And, to say I'm not the greatest fan of platform games, this is definitely on my recommendation list (should you care to listen to my opinion of course). It's got great replay value too and a variety of different endings and cutscenes depending on the choices you pick. I found the ending I got was actually really awesome, so I'm a little begrudged to do anything differently, but my curiosity will probably get the better of me eventually. It also might be worth looking into if you fancy trying something incredibly challenging. I'll swallow my pride and admit that I only played it on the easiest setting (I wanted to know the story, ok?) but the harder difficulties are renowned for being rather challenging. In fact, they had to include a patch with the North American release that actually made the game easier. So if getting your ass kicked repeatedly is something you like in a game, then maybe you should check this out.

Anyways, I digress a little (as usual). In short - Catherine is a game you should definitely play, at least at some point in your gaming life. I suppose that the important question is, which one will you choose - Katherine or Catherine? I picked the one who voiced my favourite Bleach character...(yeah, I know right.)



Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Witcher 2 - Enhanced Edition Ramblings


Ramblings

After destroying Dragon Age 2 multiple times, I’ve been hungering for a new Fantasy RPG with an epic storyline to keep me hooked as I’m slaying bandits and un-dead monsters with my two handed greatsword. Skyrim was a great RPG, don’t get me wrong, but it was a little lacking in the story department. So, I decided to take a chance with the Witcher 2 and buy it on its Xbox 360 release day, hoping that it’ll fill the fantasy shaped void currently in my life.


"Looking forwards to killing some more monsters, that's for dam sure."


Meeting The White Wolf

After a half hour tutorial, I found myself being thrown headfirst into what begins as a slightly confusing story. The thing is, events from the first game are hardly explained and it takes a little while to get a grasp on what’s actually going on. Truth be told, I felt a little hypocritical actually. I always like to play games from the beginning of a series and dislike gamers who feel they can jump into them halfway through (Mass Effect springs to mind again....). However, I’m pretty certain my laptop would explode if I tried to install any games on it, so I begrudgingly had to skip out on the first instalment. The game doesn’t really fill you in with what happened in its prequel, so newcomers to the series are left in the dark a little to begin with. I was introduced to characters that would be familiar to others, but to me, I had little reason to care about them yet. I guess that saddened me slightly, but that could be because I’m such a fan of well written characters. That’s not to say I didn’t start to get attached to them however....

So the story revolves around Geralt, the gruff, white haired monster hunter who wakes up in a dungeon after being charged with the murder of some king or another. Actually, the narrative at the beginning of the game is actually quite interesting. You’re taken to questioning and a soldier/spy named Roche asks you to recount the events that led up to the king’s death. You can pick which order you wish to hear the prologue in and slowly get brought up to speed with the current situation. You play through the important events of a tide-turning battle between the King and some woman’s rebel soldiers. Admittedly, I was kinda bored during the prologue, but that’s probably because I didn’t really have a clue what they were talking about (see above.) There are some nice set pieces though and it does help you get to grip with the games mechanics. However, it was only once the game got going with its first chapter that I really started to get into it.


"Because smiling is totally overrated in a protagonist."


Swords, Sex and Surprised Parents

One thing that I’m sure you’re probably already aware of is that this game is very much adult orientated. There’s swearing, sex and violence...and lots of it. Personally, I actually found it kinda refreshing to play something that doesn’t really hold back. Yes, there’s lots of colourful language, and while some may argue it’s not really necessary, it sorta feels in place with the setting. At the moment, I’m surrounded by peasants and sailors, so you expect to hear some f’ing and blinding every so often. And they like to talk about ‘ploughing’ a lot too....but then again, I’m not one who’s easily offended anyway. So just a heads up if you’re playing in the same room as your parents or relatives or you’re not down with bad lingo. And there’s a fair amount of boobs too, so be mindful and have a pair of headphones on you...just in case.

As for the game play itself? Well, there’s tutorial at the beginning instils that mechanics of the game into you quite nicely. You’re taught all the basic things you’ll need outside of combat (meditation, alchemy, dialogue system and all that jazz) then takes you into an arena where it teaches you about the combat. I got a little bit confused here, as there’s actually quite a bit to take in but then again, I was playing this at three in the morning, so that could be why. The combat itself reminds me of Dark Souls a little bit – lock onto your enemy and choose strong attack or quick attack, or combine the both of them. The moves Geralt pulls off are pretty stylish and he dives and prances around the battlefield like a total badass (admit it, my lingo is amazing). You can either take the offensive, or play it cool and make Geralt block and riposte instead.

One of the things I like about the game is the way you have to approach the combat tactically. Not only are you armed with two swords (one for dealing with humans, and one for monsters) but you also have an array of traps, bombs and throwing daggers, all of which you need to utilize when dealing with the different types of enemies. At one point in the game, I ran into this cave and straight into a group of Nekkers (weird, human-like things for an accurate description). Suffice to say, I didn’t last very long once they’d swarmed me. So, I reloaded and set traps for them this time, learning from my mistakes the first time. The boss fights seem to be like this also. Even though I’ve only had to fight one so far, you have to research your target and then choose how you want to proceed. You can rush straight into the fight, but you’re better off utilizing your research, even though it takes longer. As for the fight itself? Well I had to fight the giant creature using a bit of trial and error, learning how to damage it and where to stay away from. Naturally, I died multiple times during this process. Luckily for me, I just had to reload it...but I felt a little sorry for Geralt who repeatedly had the crap kicked out of him whilst I perfected my strategy. As a result, there’s a sense of achievement when you finally slay your target and it feels like your hard work paid off. I made Geralt wear that trophy with pride.

Let’s move away from the combat now and talk about what you get up to outside of all the monster slaying. Even though I’m still only on the first chapter, the area I’m currently in is reasonably sized, with a main town, a more rundown town area outside and a surrounding forest with many hidden little secrets if you take the time to explore them. You’ve got all your standard RPG elements in the town – crafting items and weapons, alchemy and mixing potions, lots of little mini-games (arm wrestling, gambling and fist fighting). There are a lot of quests outside the main story (nowhere near as many as Skyrim, mind), ranging from killing monsters to investigating ruins, to beating five people at arm wrestling. One thing that annoyed me a little was the lack of direction when you take a quest. Now, I don’t normally like games to hold my hand through and tell me how to do everything without giving me chance to explore it myself. The Witcher is actually pretty good at that, and I enjoy having that freedom, but sometimes I think a little bit of guidance is necessary, especially when you have to explore the entire forest. For example, one quest I undertook was to hunt some of those pesky Nekkers and destroy their nests. However, I had no idea where said nests would be and the forest is quite a large area to cover without some kind of marker to point you in the right direction. That said, there was part of me that kinda enjoyed trekking through the forests, tracking down my targets as I carefully covered areas I thought they’d might have nested. I did manage to track down three out of the four, but the last one began to get on my nerves a little bit.


"No, Geralt. The last remaining Nekker nest isn't there, so no, I'm not letting you have a closer inspection."


Oooooooodrin! Where are youuuuu?!

Now, I’m all about hi-lighting the good things about a game, but sometimes you need to talk about the negatives as well. And there are a lot of loading screens in the Witcher. Normally I’m not too bothered by loading screens, but for some reason I’ve picked up on these ones, which means there must be a fair few. Although it doesn’t generally take too long to load up new areas, I just found that sometimes they break up the flow of the game and it starts to get a bit annoying. It doesn’t help when you accidently pick a wrong door, have to wait for it to load, leave it, only to have to wait for it to load again. Considering my excellent navigational abilities, I have to suffer this a lot. Plus it has to load every time I want to scroll through my menu windows (eg. from Items to Character Development). Since I spent a fair amount of time checking my quest objectives, and then having to look at my map, I get a little bit fed up of waiting. And while I’m talking about the menu, I found it a little bit messy. The items are sort of bunched together, and even though you can filter them into separate categories, I just found it a little disorganised. Maybe I have some form of OCD that I don’t know about yet, but I just wanted an option where I could clear it up a little bit and make it easier to work with. Your quests are all bunched into the same section – there’s no ‘main quest’ or ‘secondary quest’ distinction. I guess that’s not really that important, but it gets a little confusing when they’re all squashed together. And whenever you take a new quest, it automatically makes that it your active one, regardless if you were currently doing something else. You then have to wait for the menu to reload itself before switching back to whichever one you were previously doing. It’s a small thing, yes, but it gets a little irritating after a while, and I like to think myself as a fairly patient person.

Also, if you thought the whole ‘arrow to the knee’ was an incredibly overheard sentence of Skyrim, trust me - it’s got nothing on the Witcher’s dialogue. The dialogue itself is really well written and well delivered, but when you’re running around in the village, you often overhear people talking about this and that. The thing is, they say the same thing every single time you pass by them. Considering you spend a lot of time going back and forth, finishing your quests and whatnot, you hear this same dialogue a lot. Yeah, as you can imagine, it does begin to grate on you after a while.

The game does feature a ‘stealth mode’, where you have to progress through certain parts of the game by sneaking around and trying to avoid being spotted. Some people may think it’s an interesting addition, but I actually find these sections rather tiresome. It kinda reminds me of my Metal Gear Solid playthrough – one minute I’m hiding with my back pressed against a wall, when suddenly I’ll just skip off and run into the enemy without intending to. I just find the controls during these parts a little tricky and I began saving it at frequent intervals because of the multiple times I had to reload it. It’s not that they’re difficult, but again, there’s lots of trial and error involved. Unusually, I found myself wanting to run amok with my sword and kill everyone instead, but there are usually too many guards to even stand a chance.


"The Stealth Mode...my least favourite mode."

Ending Thoughts

As much as I’m enjoying the Witcher 2 so far, it doesn’t seem to have that certain pull about it that makes me want to abolish my plans for sleep and play it until my eyes hurt. I find that strange, because it has everything I usually want from a game – an intriguing story, great characters, fluid and fun, yet tough combat, a good selection of quests, good tactical element – yet I’m only really playing it for an hour or so at a time, with regular intervals. What’s the reason for that? Well I can’t quite put my finger on it. Geralt is a good main character and, although I’m not really that fussed about his appearance, (yes, I’m a vain gamer) he’s both interesting and bearable enough for someone with a built in personality. Although I have noticed that for a monster slayer, he doesn’t really fight that many monsters, which is a little weird. The rest of the characters are also quite a cool bunch – Vernon Roche is one of my favourites at the moment. The story is a good, old traditional fantasy tale with a healthy dose of kingdom politics thrown in there. It is engaging and it does its best to try and avoid the usual clich├ęs, which is nice. There’s also the ‘branching off’ element to it, where your choices determine the outcome and there seems to be some hefty differences in the story depending on the decisions you make. I personally love games like that. Usually that’s an element that draws me into the game and makes me want to replay it, but at this precise moment in time, I’m not really that fussed. Maybe once I finish the game and see the whole thing come together then I’ll be inspired to see how that ending might change with the other choices. It’s a little frustrating in a sense, because it’s a great game and one of the better new releases I’ve play this year so far. So would I recommend this game? If you like traditional fantasy RPG’s then absolutely. If you only like FPS’s where you can shoot other players in the face, then perhaps not...unless you wanted to branch out or something. But in my humble opinion, this is a dam good, solid game and definitely worth your investment.

A couple of other points –

·         It’s definitely not an easy game, that’s for sure. It punishes you for your mistakes and makes you learn from them, but there’s something satisfying about killing finally defeating your opponent. It feels like all your efforts paid off.
·          It’s very pretty, if graphics are something that determine a game purchase for you – the opening cut scene is really something spectacular (I’ve watched it multiple times.)
·         The control system is pretty neat and easy to get to grips with. The only thing I found tricky was when trying to select a different spell – my cursor wouldn’t stay on the one I actually wanted, which was a little annoying.
·         Everything is done in real time, including combat, some cutscene button inputs and even when you’re changing weapons or spells. In fact, changing a weapon in combat is pretty cool because instead of pausing the fight, it slows it down instead, so you can watch some pretty cool slow motion.
·         The levelling up system is solid, as well as character customization (if only I could chop off that blasted mop of white hair though...) You can’t really fault the RPG elements to the game if I’m being honest.


Later's potatoes.
Sarah

Friday, 16 March 2012

Mass Effect 3 Ending Rage "Spoilers"

Everyone that knows me well enough knows that I am such a Mass Effect fan girl. I’m always going on and on about how amazing the games are and how great the story is, like some kind of school girl gushing about her crush. As soon as I started playing the first Mass Effect, I realised that this was going to be a series I would fall in love with. I enjoyed every aspect of the game, from its rich and detailed storyline to its believing and wonderfully crafted characters. The combat of the first game was a little ropey, but that was soon fixed by the fantastic sequel, which added more depth and a more tactical approach to its gameplay. Even after the first few hours of playing, I was completely hooked.

So, what is it about the series that I like the most? What makes the game something so extraordinary that I would go as far as to make Mass Effect one of my favourite game series of all time? It’s down the fact that you make the Mass Effect Universe your own. Through the character of Commander Shepard, you can shape the protagonist into exactly what you want and the choices you make effect the entire world around you. You control the events of the story, the relationships with the characters, even the type of hero you want Shepard to be. Having that amount of control over the course of three games is astonishing. The choices you make in the first game have implications and ramifications in the second. But it’s not only that – it’s such an emotional story. The nature of the game forces you to make sacrifices. Do you save somebody because you care about that character, or do you sacrifice them in order to save a civilization that you know will help you with the inevitable war? It a definite heavy hitter emotionally and that’s one reason why I believe it’s such a good game. It makes you care about the characters and it makes you care about the consequences. Not only do I want to save the whole universe, but I also want to make those sacrifices count. I want revenge on the Reapers for making me leave a squad member behind. I want to make the deaths of those characters during the Collector mission mean something. I didn’t want it all to be in vain.

So why am I hating on Mass Effect 3?

As soon as I heard the faintest slither of news about Mass Effect 3, I was excited (understatement) I was already counting down for it's release when Bioware was still trying to schedule in Martin Sheen to do his voice over sessions. I mean, I had my Collectors edition pre ordered in July. So yes, as you could probably tell, I was eagerly awaiting the finale of my favourite game series.

So when I got my hands on it, I was more than ready to rip into it and get it played. Everything about that game was perfect - just what I'd been hoping for. The story hits you hard and makes you care. This isn’t just about aliens anymore – it’s about Earth. You can only watch in amazement as the whole world is changed in a matter of moments. Its bloody good stuff. And it just gets better as the game progresses. You build your forces to try and take on such a colossal threat and you honestly don’t know how you’re going to pull this off. The sheer scale is overwhelming. I honestly loved every second of knowing that I was going to have to do something seriously awesome to beat back this seemingly invincible army. My Shepard fought off Reaper soldiers like a man possessed, using some serious fire-power through some extraordinary cutscenes and set pieces. I honestly thought it was the best game in the series so far. Everything up until the last five minutes of the game was amazing....

....and then the ending sequence started. Everything I loved about the game and the series was crushed in a few minutes. I could only watch in horror as I was forced to play through the most disappointing ending I have ever, ever experienced. All my favourite moments from the game were instantly forgotten, replaced by sheer horror as I realised nothing I did in the past games even mattered at all. The many games I’d played, prepping multiple endings and picking different choices all in preparation for this one moment....well, I’d just wasted my time.

What’s so bad about it? Well, the actual idea behind the whole Reaper invasion makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. You’re introduced to a random character at the last minute (dubbed as StarChild. Yeah...it's a kid), with no explanation as to who or what it is. Then you’re told the reasoning behind the whole thing: “Organics and synthetics will always fight one another. So to stop this from happening, we’ll send an army of synthetics to wipe out all organic life every 50,000 years. That way, we can save them by turning them into a Reaper and they can join in next time!” Erm...what?


Then you're presented with a choice. You can either:

  • Choose to wipe out all synthetic life (including the Reapers and one of the races you might be friends with). However, the organics will create a new form of synthetics that will eventually turn to war against them (apparently). However this will kill you in the process because you’re partially synthetic.

  • You can harness and control the Reapers. This will also kill you in the process.

  • You can fuse yourself with the magic beam and combine all synthetic and organic life, creating peace. However, (you guessed it) this also kills you in the process.

By this point I was so horrified, I chose to just kill everything as a big SCREW YOU!

The worst part is that no matter which option you decide to take, the ending cutscene is actually the same. The only difference you get between the three of them, is that the explosion is a different colour. So, for all the hours I put into the series, all the love and care, all the difficult choices I made, all I got from it was a red explosion. Wooo....what a reward.


What annoys me the most about the ending is the fact that all the choices you’ve made through the entire series, all the relationships you build...it’s all for nothing. None of it even has an impact. So, you’re telling me I played through those games, making me consider those serious and emotional decisions for absolutely no reason? Is there actually any reason for me to even play the first two games?

It feels like Bioware decided to try and make something arty, something that would be debated. Instead it makes no sense. It’s like the ending of the 3rd Matrix film....And there are so many plot holes that just appear in the last five minutes...it just ruins everything that was so carefully and lovingly constructed in the first two games and even during most of the third one.

I mean, I’m all for Shepard dying at the end, but I wanted that to be my choice. That’s the core reason why the ending is so frustrating to me - I have no choice in the matter. For a game that’s all for giving you options and shaping your universe, the lack of this in the ending is what ultimately ruins it. So much so, that when I imported my next Shepard to begin the end to her story, I actually switched it off after half an hour deciding that I didn't actually care. It’s not like my choices mattered anyway.

All in all, Mass Effect 3 is a truly awesome game. It really is. (I'll go more into these at another time) And Bioware really did manage to make it unforgettable...but not in the way they intended. Which is a shame, because this ending is how the series will be remembered, not for it great storytelling, gameplay or characters. So, I think I can safely say that despite ME3 being an incredible game, Mass Effect 2 keeps hold of its title of being one of my favourite games ever.

Rant over.

Hey There!

Hey, how's it going?

My names Sarah and just to say straight off that I'm a very passionate gamer. I spent a fair amount of time gaming and I even work part time in games retail, so it's fairly safe to say that I'm pretty into my video games. Because I have such an interest in them, I also have a lot to say about them. So I'm pretty sure that most people don't really care, I just needed somewhere to air my thoughts on various things video game related which is why I've set up this blog. I'll be reviewing games, talking about them and just generally ranting about them too. Whether or not anyone reads them doesn't really matter...I'm sure you understand that sometimes you just need somewhere to express what's on your mind. This is what I intend this blog to be. Ramblings of a gamer. Straight from my mind and onto virtual paper.

Unfortunately, I feel like a dying breed of gamer because I'm not really into my online multiplayers (I've never owned a copy of Call of Duty or Battlefield or FIFA) and I'm not really a big fan of FPS's either (although that's not to say there aren't any good ones out there because there are.) I'm a story gamer. I play games as another means of experiencing another world, meeting characters and getting involved with the events that a game takes you through. So I play a lot of RPG's, yeah, but I'm into other stuff as well. Bioshock had a fantastic story and that was an FPS. For me, it's all about how you keep me engaged with the power of story telling. That said, LittleBigPlanet was fun too. So I like most games - I'm a fan of creativity and playing something that's a little bit different from the norm. So, generic churned out games may not be my thing, but I'm always willing to give most games a try.

So yeah, drabble over! I'll start airing out my thoughts. If you have any opinions on anything I post up, then please share them. I love nothing more than talking with fellow gamers :)

Peace,
Sarah