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4:25 PM on 09.08.2010

FFXIV: Another helping

Hi all, here is my new Leonardo Da'Pimp outfit.

Ok, after another day or so of Final Fantasy XIV I will give you some more tidbits that fell out of my beard. The game could use some improvement. Some are saying its not good. Even going so far as to say it is a 'bad' game. This is not the case. It is an average game at this point with some flaws. Flaws that COULD BE addressed if the higher ups are in the right mood and the moons align. This might be more difficult though since there is no obvious way to send feedback to Square Enix in their beta. A rather glaring oversight on their part if they want to know how well their game is doing.

Ok, on my second day or so of the game I went about smacking some monsters in the face. Each monster has little colored symbols that resemble shields next to their name when you target them. Blue is easy prey, Green is decent challenge, Yellow is tough, and Red is Very Tough. Forget trying to take on the Red guys. They will eat your lunch and make you fall down and examine the nice textures of the ground close up. So I stuck with little dudes. Beetles, rats (yes rats, cliche), and sometimes a sheep. Very menacing sheep! Anyway after a hour or two of that I decided it was time to go find a shield for my Gladiator. As he was a tank job I thought it would be prudent to have something to block hits with. So I teleport back to Laguna Laboona (not actual name but more fun to say) and began hunting for an NPC to buy a shield. This was to turn into an epic journey the likes of which I had not fully prepared myself for. Not one vender in all of the city, all of the land, had a shield. Not one. I figured maybe one of the Hand guys had made one and were selling them. So I went around looking for the Retainers that sell people's stuff. I could not find them anywhere. After searching for an hour it turns out the they are kept in a separate zone in the city called the Wards. You have to zone into each ward and there they stand. Waiting around to let you browse their wares. That this was not immediately able to be seen from the city map made things incredibly difficult. Nor did any NPC specifically state which area the zone started in (Southern Islands btw). There was no Market Wards post on the map anywhere. So I wandered around aimlessly until I said to hell with it and went to the internet for help. After a bit of googling I discovered this secret yet not secret extra zone within the city. You might ask why didn't I think they would be in a seperate zone to begin with. Well seeing as there seems to be no loading zone area in the world map (unless you count the ferry which I will touch upon later) there was no indication that there would be a separate zone. This is some shitty design mechanics at play here that need to be fixed before they decide to ship this thing. People cannot read your mind Squeenix. Especially not those minds you have over there that made something like Cait Sith a reality.

Well after I found that secret market area there was still no shield to be found. Well maybe there was but you have to search EACH INDIVIDIUAL RETAINER. There is no search function, oh no. You have to go to each NPC and search them. One by one. This is not acceptable. Here is a deal breaker for me. If your economy is based on this system it will not work. Period. No one wants to stop and go through hundreds of NPC just to find one thing. Make a damn search function Square. C'mon!

Now after that little escapade I found out that the only shield vendors were in another city. Uldah. Across the ocean. Well not such a big deal as there is a ferry you can take that takes you to the other continent. After hopping aboard, waiting about five minutes, I was in the continent I needed. Then I needed to hoof it to Uldah. About a ten minute hike. I stopped along the way to attune with the other Aetharyte crystals there. Once you attune to them you can teleport to any of them all over the world. Kind of makes the ferry obsolete after one trip but whatever. I am sure the fishing guys like it. So I get to Uldah and it happens to have a Gladiator guild. Which I can't join. Yet I suppose. This here is another problem with FFXIV. No clear cut explanations of what you can or cannot do. It never says you can join once you get to a certain level. It leaves you in the dark. We need some info here. How do you join a guild? When can you join? How do you get guildmarks? Guildmarks, btw, are special currency that lets you buy things from that particular guild. It is not explained how you get these but I am betting being a member of the guild helps. There is far too much left unanswered in this game and no real way to find out. The opening cutscenes only setup some overarching story that you are supposedly part of. But nothing on what to do or where to go. For a new MMO this needs to be part of the starting experience. Even though I played FFXI for years I found it rather daunting just figuring out basics of the menu system and combat. Give us a tutorial mode of some kind, Squeenix. C'mon!

Well that is all I have for today. I will give you and update some time later. I am hoping things will smooth out over the next couple weeks.

A lovely sunset and some Roeg ass in your face.   read

7:42 PM on 09.05.2010

A taste of FFXIV for ya

After some frustration with servers not letting me sign up for the beta I finally coaxed it with threats and weeping to download the client for me. Now, after many downloads and patches sittings, I can give you some impressions of the game so far as I have seen it. You already know the premise so I won't bore you with details. I jumped right in and started with the big dudes, Roegadyn. I just call them Roegs. There are two kinds, as is the norm for all the races it seems. I picked the Hellsguard race because why would you not pick a race named Hellsguard? After some limited character customization I was in the game proper. Or was in some cutscenes anyway. Then after THAT I was in the game proper. You pick a starting city similar to FFXI. I picked Limsa Lominsa. Mainly as it was a coastal city and I like boats. The over all presentation of the game is very pretty. Though there is some issues of draw distance where textures farther away will get much higher bump mapping after a certain radius is reached. If that is the norm for the game or if my machine is simply not set properly remains to be seen.

Adventurer's Guild/Pub

Anyway the game proper is rather thick with its own mythology and rules. I wandered around a good bit of the city just trying to figure out where to go. By the way if you are familiar with FFXI then you will be familiar with the movement in FFXIV. You can still use the numpad for lots of movement but now the WASD is involved too as well as hotkeys on the keyboard. Tabbing at objects still works too though its hit or miss if it highlights what you want and it doesn't seem to work in first person mode. I got some early quests from the Adventurer's guild in the middle of the city where all the newbies start out at. I picked a Gladiator for my job as I was going for a tank class. Though switching to Maruader, my other job, was as simple as equipping that weapon. The catch is that you have to go into the menu system and change what Actions you have for that particular weapon. Also there is no auto attack, or at least I have yet to find it. You have to hit the attack button for every hit when your stamina bar allows it. There are different attacks you attain at different levels of course but you will start out with the simple light swing. How the magic users do it I have no idea. I will have to try that out later. The stamina bar is basically telling you when you can make another action, be it an attack or otherwise. Its fairly straightforward and doesn't take too long to get the idea.

Epic battle with a sheep

The other jobs available under the Discipline of the Hand, worker jobs, are support types that make items to be used in the game. I got a Blacksmith by buying a hammer and equipping it, that simple. Synthesizing, this worlds version of crafting, is done as you would expect. Taking object A and mixing with object B. Or different numbers of Object A and making a new object. Its not difficult to do but can take some getting used to to figure out how the process works. The Blacksmith has three modes of synthesis. Standard, Rapid, and Bold. Each of these work in a slightly different way. And depending on the object being synthesized and the materials used and your skill it can vary on how is the best way to approach it. I have yet to figure out how you can sell these items you make to other players except through Bazaar. Which means selling it myself. Though from an NPC in the game I am told I can hire 'retainers' that will sell them for me. They also do other things like crafting and such. Not sure how that works. Will find out later on though.

Crab mount

The quests in the game are know and guildleves. You have to get them from a guild to do certain tasks. The first ones you get are from the Adventurers guild and you go about killing various creatures of course. Certain areas have these nodes called Aetherates. I believe that is the right spelling. You touch them and attune yourself to it so when you die you warp back there. They also act as teleport nodes. You can teleport to any one of them you have visited before from your menu screen. It is very handy for getting to spots for your guildleves in a hurry and back to the town. Though you have a limited number of anima charges to do this with. What those are I have yet to discover or how to replenish them.

One really irritating feature of the game is that if you fail your guildleve for any reason you cannot redo it. It simply is gone. Seems a bit of a shitty way to handle your mission structures. Also you only have a 30 minute time limit or at least that has been the limit for all mine so far. I should point out that the Disciplines of the Hand and War have different types of guildleves. War ones involved what you expect, killing monsters for various reasons. But the Hand ones have you crafting items for clients. This not only levels your experience in that job but also raises your skill levels too. From what I can tell these Hand jobs *be mature* can act as support roles even in battle. How that works I have yet to find out.

Having played FFXI for a few years I can tell you that XIV is very similar to it in many ways. Though the graphical side is vastly improved the various new gameplay mechanics are still somewhat clunky in comparison. The combat is different yet it still has macros you can program in for a string of moves to be used. The quest system is the biggest change of all. Rather than go to random NPC you now drop in at various guilds for your missions now. Its more centralized that way but it makes some of the random NPC you see standing about seem superfluous and there only for window dressing. Maybe they actually open up later or will in the full game I can't yet tell. Suffice it to say that I am still learning this game and am actually eager to learn more. It keeps you interested at the least. If only to make you wonder how the hell to get new gear since there is no auction house.

Cya next time

I will drop in again to update you on some new findings as I come across them and give more detail once I have it. Stay frosty.   read

6:27 PM on 07.03.2010

PS3 now gets more BOOM HEADSHOTS!

Penguin United showed up at E3 to show off their new peripheral for mouse and keyboard control on the PS3. According to them (and to many on the spot interviews of people playing it) it works very well with almost no noticeable dead space or jagginess. Let's take a look at their video and see for ourselves.


Looks promising and a definite alternative for those wanting to play some console shooters but just can't break the old K+M habit.   read

12:06 AM on 03.17.2010

A Very Merry Unbirthday to You Destructoid!

Four years later and still around, in internet time that is tenure my friend. You have made it beyond all the one time startups that started out and then faded away. You have stayed hard and rigid despite the flaccidity of other sites that lie limp and forgotten on the side of the road. And we all are better for it. After my time here I can safely say that I feel part of a community and not just someone that visits a website. That is what Destructoid is about, a community of people with similar ideas and values that enjoy good times and ribbing over things they share interest in. I thank everyone that welcomed me here with open arms and open hostility as well. Here is to four more years may they always have plenty of offensive jokes!   read

6:51 PM on 03.16.2010

Destructoid helmet contest anyone?

I am suggesting a Destructoid helmet contest, I think Hamza is gonna go for it! If so, we will be making our own helmets to try and see which is best! And the winner gets....well hell IDK. I'll let them figure it out! So lets see if we can make that happen! Time to stir the creative juice pot on this one!   read

6:09 PM on 03.13.2010

WTF is up with...pockets?

Why do game developers make pockets but do not allow you to put anything in them? What is in those things anyway? More ammo? A cellphone? A sandwich? Who can say certainly not the developers. So many games have so many mystery pockets its mind boggling. I have more than three pockets so why can't I carry more stuff? Why only two guns and a couple grenades? I can hold at least six grenades, some semtex, three knives, a garotte (something games are sorely missing besides Hitman), a GPS, some marbles, my iPod, a yo-yo (also a garotte in a pinch), and maybe a Hot Pocket if I am feeling peckish.

The real question is why do game developers feel the need to add in modeling and texture for pockets and yet refuse to do anything with them. This also applies to accessories like knives or another pistol that seems to never be used. Or an ammo belt that is in plain sight but never used if you run out of ammo for your weapon. What is the purpose of that? Is it like the belt that Chewbacca wears? ( I am nearly convinced that is a belt of smokes he keeps on hand) Of course there is the reasoning of set dressing but come one now! Give us a break already. This is the next generation of games! Why is there no pocket physics!? I say this is an injustice! Sure Alone in the Dark did something similar to what I am asking for but they did it badly making you have to look through it while still being eaten which is always a bad thing. At least acknowledge the pockets existence! If my quasi military guy is wearing a vest with fifteen compartments and pockets all over it don't give me crap like a three item inventory max.

You are directly lying to me and everyone else that you don't have more space than that. If you aren't going to have more space then don't make a model with more pockets, simple as that. Stop confusing us developers and start giving us more shit to put in our pockets!

PS: Digital is a dumbhead   read

6:39 PM on 03.06.2010

PAX East contest: Beardo and Me


This is my entry with the help of Beardo, my sentient beard that sometimes takes control of my mouth and eats bits of food I drop into it. I am submitting this for my entry as a guest editor for PAX and Two Worlds II. Now I have to go and feed my beard, he gets cranky if he misses a meal. Thanks for watching!   read

11:49 PM on 02.20.2010

The new gaming rig (Why? Because No One Demanded It!)

So I got my tax return back and decided it was time to update my PC. I had built my old one about 3 years ago and figured now was a good a time as any. I kept it to the basics. Since this new generation has a new CPU system from Intel I would need a new motherboard, in this case an ASUS P7P55D Pro. A new CPU, an Intel i5 750. I decided to go with the i5 rather than the i7 as it was about a hundred cheaper and not a huge difference in performance save for Hyper Threading. Then came the memory, 4 gigs of 1600 DDR3 ram. I went with four instead of six because the 1156 motherboards do not support tri channel ram so I just went with dual. And lastly I got two graphics cards. ATI Radeon HD 4850 1gb ones. I usually go with nVidia for my cards but this time around I wanted a bit more power for less money and two ATI in Crossfire mode was cheaper and performed better than a single nVidia at around the same price. The rest of the stuff like a case, power supply, keyboard, monitor, etc. I had already and didn't need to upgrade those. Below are some pics. Also I don't yet have the Crossfire bridge in yet as my cards did not come with one so I am only running on one card right now. Why XFX left those out I don't know. But just on that one card i was about to get over 3 times the score on 3dMark06 than I did on my old system. A major improvement there. I hope to not have to upgrade this thing again for at least another three years. Total cost was roughly 800 dollars for the whole shebang.


11:27 AM on 02.19.2010

Why Gaming Consoles are not Lesbians

It is quite obvious that gaming consoles are not lesbians, and therefore not as full of win. They should be female with the boobs and the naughty bits so they can make out and be sexy and then everyone is happy in the pants.

Boobs make things better

It is a rule of nature and man that boobs make things better. You cannot argue this fact as it is a true one that can never be debated nor disproven by anyone. Anything with boobs becomes your master immediately. Worship at the boobs of your choice.

Lesbians making out is always a good thing

It is a proven fact that when lesbians make out a baby dolphin gets its wings and goes to heaven. Thus if you see lesbians making out look to the sea to watch the ascension. If a game console could do that then I would buy one every day. They can't so I only bought one once. ONCE!

All lesbian girls play games while naked

This is something that needs to be known and why aren't developers making games that appeal to this audience is a mystery. All girls game naked and usually with controllers or peripherals on them. In fact there is no girl that does not game naked, lesbian or otherwise. They do this as it reduces lag for their games. Men cannot do this because they are smelly.

Video games taste good to lesbians

Game consoles are inferior to lesbians as they are lower on the food chain. They are eaten by them when lesbians are hungry and cannot go to the food store in time.

So in conclusion, lesbians are better than video game consoles and have more processing power. The End.   read

8:59 PM on 02.06.2010

My Expertise: Runny, Jumpy

Jumping. It has been a staple of games since a little plumber leaped to impossible heights for his portly Italian frame onto an ill fated goomba. Jumping was just the first step into the genre known as platforming. I find that platformers are more about flow than about strategy. And perhaps the only games I excel at most times. Timing and better than average reaction time to the environment are key. It is difficult to put into words what makes one good at a platformer. It seems to be more about just understanding how the character moves and then adjusting your expectations based on that. From the early years of my gaming memory I was hooked on such games as Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and Kid Icarus on my Gameboy. These games were the ones I would come back to over and over again.

My experience in platformers really defined how I looked at most games. A somewhat bias outlook but one that carried over nonetheless. Shadow Complex was a good idea of what a new type of platformer can do though it is not strictly a platformer in the sense of older types. More similar to Mega Man than Mario, but then again Mega Man is considered an old school platformer as well just with some shooting elements. Still it doesn't yet feel as if it is a true platformer in the way the Mario Bros. and Mario World did. I believe a very good idea of a platformer is exemplified in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. One of my favorite games of all time MAINLY because of the acrobatic platforming sections more so than the combat. I thought the new Prince of Persia was a fantastic game for its extensive platforming sections that downplayed the combat. This is mostly because of my personal preferences however and couldn't care less of others opinions dealing with such things as the broken story progression and ending, of which I loved that as well by the way. No the great thing was that I felt elated with the wall dashes, slides, flips, jumps, leaps, and general acrobatics in the new POP. So much so that I yearned from some other games to pick up on this formula. The controls felt as smooth as I remember the older 2d platforming games of my heyday. The NES and SNES were strewn with tons of those genre games. And with good reason. It was simple to put such gameplay in the limited horsepower of those systems and still make them not only fun but looking good too.

I can't really say what it is about platformers that draws me in so much. I suppose it is the simple ability to jump to impossible heights and fall without getting so much as a sprained ankle. Even more than flying, jumping was much more fun. I spent hours in Crackdown simply leaping from building to building, collecting those enticing agility orbs so I could jump even higher. In Little Big Planet you enjoyed a world of your own imagination just as you did as a kid. In Tomb Raider the scrambling across ledges and leaping to catch another always made me eager for the next tomb to be thoroughly raided. The simple ability that seems more than human and yet so easily understood as human of leaping, running, jumping, climbing. It's like being a kid again but now you have nearly no limits and no scraped knees. That elation of simple enjoyment that you get from climbing a tree or running as fast as you can is translated when Sonic races across a screen to jump onto a spring and fly through the air to land on some bumpers and fly in another direction. That sense of freedom that is felt on a trampoline is reflected in Jumping Flash as you rocket skyward to your next point. When you pull of a particularly tricky run through obstacles and enemies in N+ you feel accomplished. Splosion Man reflects the sillyness of the incredible gaps of free space one crosses in platformers to reach a goal in a perfect example of platforming goodness and a lesson in its frustratingly difficult challenges. VVVVVV shows that it doesn't have to look next gen to be fun, frustrating, and fast paced.


I notice a trend in many newer platforming games is the use of weapons. Sure Mario could spit fireballs but that wasn't really a main focus of the game. Perhaps its merely a new facet of gaming but I prefer a game that relies mostly on its moving through the levels rather than worrying about shooting enemies. A sandbox game seems to be a natural progression of the platformer. Your Crackdowns, Prototypes, Assassins Creeds are all examples of a very platform heavy game that also doubles in the action department. These cross genre games are very fun and satisfying but I find myself itching for some old 2D type gaming. Braid was certainly a welcome addition to that genre adding in its own gimmick of time manipulation that made for some rather head scratching environmental puzzles. As for future titles I can't say for sure. To be honest when a new platformer I hadn't heard of comes out I am just as surprised as most as they seem to be not nearly as hyped as the larger AAA titles of today. Which is rather sad in a way. Mirror's Edge was about the last nearly pure platformer I can think of in recent history that was hyped as much as any other game. And that didn't do so well due to some control issues that came up.

Truly good platformers are not only fun but difficult. I mean this in a way that makes them rewarding for accomplishing a level after working at it. Timing just the right jumps at just the right times is just as difficult as taking out an enemy in an FPS or landing that combo string in a fighter. You feel just the same kind of rush in running through a gauntlet of dangers and coming out unscathed as you do when you finish the raid in an MMO or scoring perfectly in a music rhythm game. They are smaller moments to be sure scored by simple landings or a brief run through a near impossible maze. But let me tell you when you finally reach your princess in the RIGHT damn castle this time you are king of the damn world.   read

7:53 PM on 01.31.2010

Mass Effect 2 vs Half-Life 2?

Bioware has reached a point in their games that has now peaked with Mass Effect 2. It is now safe to say that it rivals Half Life 2 in the game and story area. I do not say this lightly as I hold HL2 in very high esteem so you can imagine how ME2 must have affected me to come to this conclusion. But it most certainly has blown all my expectations out of the water as one of the best games produced by Bioware and even this year. I would even go so far as to say it might make game of the year. It is still very early in the year and often games that come out earlier are overlooked later on but this one just could be the one to make it. Now the rest of this article is going to have some spoilers. So fair warning to you now. Reading on will give away some key moments in Mass Effect 2 but I feel I need to point them out to show just how good this game is.

Spoilers Ahead!

I played ME1 just before ME2 so I was going in with a fresh outlook in my mind of the next chapter in Shepard's journey. Bioware handles the reset of Shepard into a new game very well so that someone new to the game can jump right in with a custom character. I played the PC version so I cannot say how the 360 version worked but importing your save from ME1 was fairly simple as it gave you in game option to do so. Your choices had an effect on certain outcomes later in ME2 as you find going in. It lists your choices at key points in the game like who you choose to let die during the Virmire mission and if Wrex was alive or not. All very nice touches to what is essentially the next chapter in that story. And it does feel like another chapter as you dive headlong into Mass Effect 2 with the Normandy being blown to hell and Shepard dying in space. Only to be brought back by a shadowy secret organization known as Cerberus. A pro-human group looking to use Shepard to face the threat of the Reapers.

The main baddies of this chapter though are a proxy of the Reapers known as the Collectors. Named such as they seem to collect everything from technology to people for unknown purposes. Now they are taking entire human colonies for whatever reason and Cerberus is on the case with Shepard leading. It should be noted that Cerberus is a shady bunch that isn't too worried about bending or even breaking laws and ethical boundaries to see that humans benefit from it. That Cerberus is such an organization is integral to the overall storyline and influences many of the characters choices and consequences. That you start out with these people rather than the full backing of the Council as you did the last game says something about how Bioware decided to change up the storytelling here. In fact you don't even meet the council at all this time around. And have very little to do with the Citadel. They could have just had you working as you were as a Spectre for the Council but they decided to shake things up. In fact your status as a Spectre is of almost no consequence during the game at all. Something so integral to the first game was hardly even used in the second which is pretty damn ballsy on a storytelling viewpoint. They were not content to rely on it for pushing the game forward. Instead you find yourself hitting more resistance than ever now that you are part of the Cerberus group or at least working with them on stopping the Collectors.

But enough on that, the real biggies are in the story and how what you thought you knew was not what necessarily is. Sure others have pointed out the differences in game play mechanics such as the improved cover system or inventory reduction and upgrades but that is not really what makes the game so intriguing, at least not to me. Now each character is well fleshed out this time around. Every new member of your crew can be won over to be loyal to you by interacting with them and learning their story, even doing missions to help them that reveal who they are and what drives them. No cardboard cutouts to be found here but real characters that come across as genuine. From the scarred psyche of Jack, who is angry at the universe and keeps everyone away to keep from getting hurt to the Asari Justicar, Samara, who has to live with the burden of being the executioner of her own children. Everyone of them has a distinct personality that makes them who they are and pulls you farther into the world of Mass Effect. My personal favorite this time around is Mordin, the Salarian scientist with a very blunt attitude and a guilty conscience. His matter-of-fact attitude and fast talking explanations that go on and on are so fun just to listen to I found myself trying to talk to him all the time. That right there is a mark of good character design. And then there is the bit where he sings some Gilbert and Sullivan. I shit you not.


Even Joker is not such a defensive prick this time around and actually has some cool moments. His rapport with EDI, the Normandy's onboard AI is rather fun and humorous. But there is one particular part in the game that stands out. That is Joker's mission when the Collectors take over the ship. He has to hobble to the rescue by avoiding enemies that are pouring into the Normandy and he can't even get up to a fast jog. I actually died a couple times when I took the wrong route and my face got eaten by a Collector. It is a stand out moment in ME2 that really brings it to a whole new level story wise.


The voice acting in this one really shines even more than the original did. They really put a lot of effort into those roles and damn do they deliver on the goods. A prime example is Martin Sheen's role as the head of Cerberus, the Illsuive man. The voices seem to fit so perfectly on the characters you would think they were born just for the roles. It immerses you so much into the atmosphere you feel as if you are watching a sci-fi epic instead of actually controlling how that epic plays out. The dialogue choices I made were more in the vein of how I thought my Shepard would react and not so much how I would. To be able to try and think what a character would do that is separate from yourself and your own opinions was a very good feeling for me. It made Shepard feel more real with his own life and choices to make and I was just the little voice in his head from time to time. I am not one of those people that wants to put myself in the shoes of the protagonist. Instead I want to be joining them on their adventure and watching it unfold. So this for me felt great.

Romantic paths this time around are more numerous. For myself I choose Tali, my favorite from ME1. She was a very different character than the others. Eager but not as self confident. It gave her a unique feel and personality. I recall when talking to her in late stages that Shepard gave a little smile on occasion. That was a nice little touch I thought and really made it even more believable that he actually liked Tali and she wasn't just the choice of the moment and he remained stone faced. This time around it wasn't just conversations that get you a romantic option. In fact if you sided with a different character on a key point in the game it could end a relationship. Another nice little touch. And that is what really sets ME2 apart. All the nice 'little touches' that make it on the whole a very great game. A sum of its parts if you will.

There are even more story twists as you go along that really flex the writing staffs muscles on this game. Such as recruiting Legion, a Geth. Turns out the Geth you had fought in the first game were actually a splinter faction from the original Geth that rebelled against the Quarians. They had evolved on their own to create their place in the galaxy and were not interested in having the Reapers do it for them. In fact they wanted to fight the other Geth, who they call Heretics, and the Reapers which explains how one joins your crew. This leads to tensions with Tali later on as you can imagine and how you resolve it can change your relationship with her as well. The emphasis on choices is expounded on even more here. One key moment to me was from the first game, sparing the Rachni queen. You meet an Asari who passes on a message thanking you for helping her. Whether you meet her again in ME2 I am unsure as I have not fully explored everything yet but this one touch made me feel I made the right choice. And perhaps it will even be a major point in the third game who knows.

A major twist in the game is similar to the one from the first game where you find out the Reapers built the Citadel and mass relays and not the Protheans. Turns out the Collectors are Protheans that the Reapers modified to be their slaves. Not only that but they are building another Reaper as it seems they had past civilizations do for them before. Each time they wipe out a civilization they have them build more Reapers for them it seems. So they grow and evolve with each new one they destroy. In fact the new Reaper being built looks like a human skeleton when you encounter it at the end, foreboding the end of humanity. The malevolence of the Reapers and the threat they represent never seemed so insidious as at that moment that you see the missing human colonys being reduced into genetic sludge to help build a new Reaper.

The story of this game and its enormously epic presentation to a galaxy on the brink of destruction all pans out here in this second act of the Mass Effect trilogy. It easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Half-Life and Halo in terms of scale and depth in a sci-fi magnum opus. Hell I would put it up against Star Wars for sheer breadth of characters and thematic presentation. It really is that good. I not only recommend getting it but also Mass Effect 1 if you really want the full package. I do not go on at length about most games but this one has certainly hit all the right buttons for me and I look forward to what Bioware has to offer in the next installment. A great game, a great time, and great fun.   read

8:03 PM on 01.28.2010

Star Trek Online Impressions Finale: The Voyage Home

Ok, so the beta is over and the dust has settled. As of writing this its been a couple days since the last time I played. I was collecting my thoughts on the matter and looking back at what I had experienced in the Star Trek Online world. I will try to summarize my thoughts and opinions that have accumulated up to this point.

The game's presentation is top notch. They nailed the atmosphere of Star Trek wonderfully. From the opening menus to the characters to the world your character inhabits its easily recognizable as the Star Trek universe. Every sound, every wall panel, every flip of a tricorder to scan something immerses you in that mindset of being there. The details do not only go into the window dressing but into the stories and missions as well. You not only meet some characters from the Trek universe but get to go on missions with them. They tell you bits of their back story that you might already know being a Trek fan and new information that is all new and expands the universe even more. I got a major kick out of Leonard Nimoy having some voice over work in this game and nostalgia flooded over me in a nice warm wave. Those touches to a franchise so ingrained in our culture really give it some appeal there.

Now for the gameplay there is really two games here. The starship portions, of which there is a large majority of, and the ground missions. As I have said before the starship battles are very well done here. The backdrop is meticulously detailed with asteroids, gaseous nebula, planets, moons, ship debris, and all manner of starstuff to fill the vacuum of space. The lighting effects really work well here as phasers, disruptors, torpedoes and the like act as active light sources that reflect off ship hulls and whatever else is nearby. The battles in space feel tough as your ship takes a pounding from barrages of beams and torpedoes hammering at your shields. You almost feel each impact and can imagine your little guys on the bridge being tossed around in true Trek fashion as they battle Klingons. A good sound system really brings it all together as with surround sound you can hear the direction of fire and explosions. The closer you zoom into the action the louder it gets. Just try to get over the fact of no sound in space and you will enjoy the hell out of it.

Then there is the ground missions. This is an entirely different animal. If you are alone you control your away team of whoever your bridge officers are that you selected to go with you. Thankfully the ally AI for your team is very well done. They know when to heal and when to buff. They do not often screw up and many times will save your ass if you get incapacitated. The weapons and armors you get throughout the game are typical of an MMO. Always seeking out the next best thing. But you also have to keep in mind your NPC team. Keeping them decked out as well as yourself will be key to this game. As for the ground missions themselves there is a fair amount of combat involved here too. Although the enemy AI can be rather dull witted it makes up for it in sheer strength. Very few pushovers when it comes to the NPC enemies. In fact many of them can be real tough mofos and teach you about the virtues of dodge rolling really fast. A alternative to fighting missions there are some talk to NPC type missions. Where you try to solve things with words and scanning things. These were rather rare in the beta I played. I hope that they flesh out more of these missions to make them more in depth in the full release. The actual mechanics of movement and combat are fairly straightforward and simple to pick up. No big surprises here. Your team has their own abilities as well that you can activate or they will themselves. As of the beta it seems you get a maximum of 4 away team members. However if you invite another player into your team they will replace an NPC team member at random. This was a bit of a gripe as if they replaced a Science officer and there were no others then there would be no one that could heal in the team making it rougher going. In space battles it doesn't usually matter who joins your team but on ground missions the setup needs a bit more strategy.

The missions structures are defined by who gives them. There are simple ones such as kill x number of enemies in y location. Another type is to explore a portion of the galaxy map. Usually this involves flying around in a space until certain anomalies appear and you enter a system for a random encounter of some kind. It can involve fighting or scanning objects or away missions that involve fighting or bringing supplies to colonists. There are also fleet action missions. This involves you and other players completing goals in large scale battles against enemy fleets. These are rather fun in the sheer scale of them. Then there are the story based missions. These usually progress the main story of the MMO forward. And this is where you usually run into characters from the Trek universe. Homage is paid to the franchise in these missions very often. From nods to characters, episodes, stories, or just small details. It's all there for you to explore and interact with. Settings in the Trek universe are well thought out and interesting to visit. But this is more enjoyable for a fan of the series and not so much a newcomer. Though they make it all interesting enough that even a newcomer would find it interesting. Or at least that is the hope here.

Overall the game is a good representation of Star Trek but still needs more work to truly capture the heart of the franchise. More focus is on battles rather than exploration and diplomacy that made up more of the majority of the movies and shows. Perhaps the full retail will have more emphasis on these. But as this is an MMO they probably wanted to appeal to a wider audience. The gameplay is fairly solid and they have worked out a lot of the initial bugs that were hindering the game up to this point. Also they improved the interface system and NPC system as well. Who is to say what other changes will come about once the game is fully released.

My final thoughts is that this is a good game and has a lot of potential. During the beta there were many enthusiastic players to meet and join up with for all sorts of missions so I think the community is already in place coming out of the gate which is important. For now all I can say is that if you are going to get this game and are a fan of Star Trek you will enjoy yourself. I know I did.   read

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