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4:21 AM on 02.02.2015

Finally Understanding How Great Mass Effect Is

Recently I've started playing through games with my girlfriend. Games that are enjoyable for her to watch as well as for me to play. It started out with Deadly Premoniton and we had so much fun we decided to do some more games. After thinking about our next game for a while I thought; She loves Star Trek... wouldn't an obvious choice be Mass Effect!?... and here we are.

ME Logo

We breezed through the first game and she was hooked. We intentionally left most of the side quests out to get to what I considered to be the best installment in the trilogy, ME2. This second episode has not failed and we're both enjoying this one greatly. So comes one day when she's busy and I had nothing to do. Still very much wrapped up in ME as a whole, I decided to try out ME1 on a higher difficulty, something I've never done before. Little did I know that this would become my first true playthrough of this game.

I first got the game back in 2009, well after the original hype had blown over. I was aware of the game but it didn't seem like something I would enjoy. Lacking something good to play one day though, I decided to give it a go. Being a bit too eager to get in on the action I didn't realize you could customize Shepard and ended up with good ol' vanilla soldier man, possibly the most uninteresting character in the entire universe. Couple that with the first planet I visited, a brown rock with almost nothing on it, driving... possibly the most hilariously bad vehicle ever conceived in a game and I had this game pegged for the most over-hyped piece of crap ever produced. I turned it off and was utterly disappointed.


After a while my initial disdain had crept back a bit, and being eager to get some actual enjoyment out of my investment I decided to jump back in. After all, everyone seemed to like this game so much and I wanted to know why. Turns out, all I had to do was get off that god-forsaken rock and do some real missions, and I was enjoying myself a lot more in no time. After finishing the game I actually liked it quite a bit, enough to wanna play it again (by this point I had learned you could play as different classes and customize your own character!). I rolled with femshep this time around and some other class than soldier, can't recall which one though. Not surprisingly I had even more fun and thought, this is how the game is intended to be played. A bonus was the fact that Shepard speaking no longer made my brain hurt. I did eventually play it through a third time before the release of ME2, to clean up the story a bit and go into the next chapter with a game state I liked. At this point my feelings for the game had gone from over-hyped piece of crap to Sufferable gameplay with a compelling story. It turns out though, that for all the time I spent playing this game, I hadn't really played it at all.

I had never played it on anything higher than Normal Difficulty. I had never visited a shop in the game, never switched out my armor (beyond the very first one you find), omni-tool, biotic amp or used any upgrades apart from the occasional ammo swap. Steering clear of any side-missions, lest they send me to some barren turd again, I had completely missed out on the fact that there are Specializations for your class. Being generally against Achievements in games, due to their often poor and pointless implementation, I brushed them off here as well, not knowing they were actually cleverly designed. Each weapon and power having a corresponding Achievement which, when unlocked, allows you to choose that weapon/power as a bonus talent when creating a new character. For example you could get Barrier on a Soldier which they normally don't have access to.

Having started the game on Hardcore this time around it's been necessary to visit shops for better armor and other upgrades early in the game. I've wanted to do more side quests to earn some extra exp and buff up my character. All that inventory and gear management I previously considered pointless now felt necessary and fulfilling. Planning out the talent points and which squad members to bring on a certain mission actually mattered for the first time. I feel like a lot of effort was put into making this a competent RPG from a gameplay standpoint, but playing on an easier difficulty you completely miss the point because you don't have to go out of your way to beat it.

As it stands now, this is probably my new favorite game in the series. Where before I thought ME2 improved upon its predecessor in every way possible, I now see a gaping hole of lost potetial. While still an excellent game in its own right, I think it could've been so much more. For all the complaining I do these days about games holding your hand and forcing mechanics down your throat, when presented with ME1, I failed to see that this was a game that didn't. A game that encouraged me to explore and find out its intricacies on my own. It took me 8 years and 4 playthroughs, but better late than never right?

Happy Shep

I'm now looking forward to an Insanity playthrough and I'd like to encourage anyone that feels like I did, to try the game out on a higher difficulty and experience it the way it was intended. I've certainly had loads of fun with it.

All that said...

I should go!


4:36 AM on 02.01.2013

The Cruel Irony of Gaming: Sickness

After reading Pixie's latest I had a thought about the cruel irony of gaming. So we all have jobs or education or something that takes up a lot of our time. Well, even those who don't probably don't spend all day, everyday, gaming anyway(!). So when we're feeling sick and can't go to work, attend classes or focus on studies, it's a great time to give the ol' gaming platform of choice a spin! But herein lies the problem, most of the time you just don't feel like gaming, even though you have plenty of time and nothing better to do.

As I mentioned I once tried to play F-Zero GX to distract my mind from the horrible hangover I was suffering with not so great results! It probably wasn't the best choice in hindsight but I did try Metroid Prime too and it didn't make me feel better either. But some games must be better than others when the fever is eating away at your mind and you're coughing up your lungs right?

If I try for example to play a RPG when I'm feeling like shit I just can't get any enjoyment out of it. I don't know if it's because being constantly reminded of your real and hurting body takes away much of the immersion or if it's just that thinking about stuff in general is a pain in the ass. I typically try to play something that's easy on the optic nerve and doesn't involve much planning, organizing or micro management. Preferably it's on a handheld, curled up under a blanket with a cup of tea, away from the prying eyes of the world. Something like Pokémon.

So what do you guys play when you feel like you've just been to Jonathan Holmes' Planetarium, or just feel generally broken?   read

5:02 AM on 01.25.2013

Demoed - Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

I sat down last night with a good scotch and some hands-on time with the Revengeance demo to see what I thought. I'll not only talk about what I thought about the game itself, but also about what I thought of the demo. Often I find myself really put off by how bad these scraps of gameplay you're getting thrown at you really are. These are my impressions.

The Demo

Firstly I had a look at the options menu. Not much there, you get a few different control schemes to choose from and that's about it. You get to choose between the easies, normals and hardses, although hard seems to be locked out at first, presumably until you've run through the demo once.

It begins by throwing you into a tutorial VR (you can opt not to do it) that shows you the basics of how the sword works. Holding down L1 enters "Blade Mode" where the left stick controls the camera and the right stick makes the chopping happen. It's an extremely straight forward tutorial which gives the feeling of "easy to learn, hard to master". It's also never particularly fun to be chained in a long, mind-numbing tutorial so a plus there.

After the brief tutorial follows a, for a demo, lengthy cutscene (but this is a Metal Gear game after all). It also features probably the best "doctor" ever! You are inserted into the mission area in true Metal Gear style via airplane-pod-thingy while the basics of the surrounding plot and the mission goals are explained to you. Voice acting is for the most part quite good with the one exception being Raiden himself. However, I think this is more due to the writing at this part.

As you make your way off the beach you're soon engaged in combat by cloaked humanoid hostiles, armed with swords. Some glorious bloodshed ensue during which you try to chop them up in the right place to enabling their "fluids" to be extracted. This mechanic serves to keep Raiden's body functioning and is not the same as a health bar. After this the game opens up into a bigger area where soldiers are posted in various positions, allowing for a stealthy option. You could just opt to go in katana blazing of course but this tends to get you shot at more. Holding down R1 engages your free run mode á la Assassin's Creed which let's you traverse your surroundings like you were water.

There are also Gekkos that put up more of a fight but can also be stealthily dispatched at the press of a button, given that you are undetected. These will kick at you and try to ensnare you and take a lot more punishment than your average human foe. The parry mechanic comes in handy here. Aiming with the left stick and pressing square at the right time executes a parry, which if executed with precise timing allows for instantaneous counter attacking.

After a relatively short romp with the Gekkos and enemy PMC soldiers you're ambushed by a miniature, AI controlled version of Crying Wolf with a chainsaw attatched to the tip of its tail, that also throws searing hot knives at you. After trying the peaceful method, very unlike Raiden, of reasoning the monster to death a mini-boss battle is played out after which the demo comes to an end.

In short, the demo was pretty good in presentation. A not too long tutorial, some narration to provide enough background and motivation to work with and a few different kinds of enemies and situations to try out all the toys. The only thing I can think of is that it's unfortunately pretty short, however, nothing stops you from playing it again a few times. I guarantee you will not have a perfect run the first time!

The Game

So what do I think of the actual game? To start out simple the visuals are very satisfying but hey, it's 2013. A minor gripe I had was the brightness though. I can't say how the rest of the game is of course, but the demo level is mostly outdoors, brightly lit and contrasts are very hard to make out. It doesn't help that enemies dress in the same sandy brown as everything else in the scene but I guess that's the point of a soldier's clothing. There is an "enhanced vision" mode that outlines enemies in clear red but this mode is not available during combat and disengages automatically when the sword is drawn.

It controls nice and tightly and leaves little to want in the musical department. Personally I'm not a big fan of action games like Devil May Cry, I don't dislike them, but I don't enjoy them a lot. I do however love me some Metal Gear which is why this game interested me in the first place. In the gameplay department there isn't very much of that however. It's more like DMC in a Metal Gear outfit but there's nothing wrong with that. Hell, even Metal Gear games don't involve that much actual playing!

So to come to a consensus, it seems to be a solid title overall, with a heavy focus on action oriented swordplay with combos, parrying and ninja-running. In the end, not something I'm super excited about, but might pick up for the story elements. After all I'm not gonna have a bad time with it.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is due out on XBOX 360 and PS3 on February 19 in NA and a few days later in the rest of the world.   read

6:33 AM on 01.24.2013

I need a gaming doctor...

Help! I need someone to diagnose me and I don't think a normal doctor will do. I need someone a bit mentally disturbed and possibly anonymously addicted to licking the ends of batteries for better or worse. Think we can work with that?

2012 has been mad, like so many good games and so little time to play them all! I've tried my best, I really have. The Steam autumn sale didn't help either. Batman Arkham City for €3? The Witcher Golden Spunk Edition €2.40?? And Dishonored, Far Cry 3, Legend of Grimrock, Borderlands 2, Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, Dragon's Dogma and much much more. Many of these games you can dive into and stay submerged for several hundred hours and I tend to do just that. Lately though my backlog has been growing at an alarming rate.

I have a confession to make. Most of the above listed are games I loved, yet I've not finished half of them :o I have replayed Dishonored three times, but I've never gotten to the end. I'm perhaps an hour or two from the ending in Borderlands 2 yet I can't bring myself to boot it up. I meticulously cleared the first island in Far Cry 3 of bandits and stabbed every last red shirt in every single location but when I got to the second Island I just... stopped. The joker is still at large in Arkham City and Geralt of Rivia has a supernatural boner far from satisfied.

What's wrong with me? I used to play games for their story, not mainly but it was a big deal breaker for me. Now I find myself not caring in the least what happens to Corvo in the end, even though the city of Dunwal captured my mind like few. I will probably never know what Handsome Jack's final pun was, or go home to Hollywood with my rich white friends. It's like I've got some sort of gaming ADD.

Will all these games be there for me when I need them one day? When I've been home from work, sick for a week? Or will they rot away in my Steam library, forgotten and all alone? I don't think I'm growing away from games, I sure hope not anyway! It's too big a part of me, but the guilt is almost unbearable! Maybe I'm simply suffering from post-vacational shock and have had a light OD on games.

2013 looks like it's gonna be even worse what with the new console generation rolling in.This will be interesting...   read

6:53 AM on 01.23.2013

Is mobile gaming really the future?

I have no doubt in my mind that Android and iOS is a legitimate gaming platform that has to be counted at the end of the day. I even find myself playing mobile games occasionally, it's not like I find them less worthy, but the talk seems to be that it is going to redefine gaming as we know it almost like it is going to replace the console experience. Will it really? I wouldn't think so.

No one could argue against the fact that the market for mobile gaming has grown immensely the last few years. I've read what seems like hundreds of posts on Destructoid about everything from smaller indie to Triple-A devs "shifting their focus to mobile gaming". And yes, it certainly has its uses to be able to pick up your phone and just play something un the commute for example. We have games like Angry Birds and Temple Run selling millions upon millions of copies, way more than any console/PC game needs to be deemed successful. Now I don't think that mobile gaming is just a fad (much like 3D and motion controls) that will go away, but will it really kill traditional gaming as we know it? I think not.

On the console front there is a generation shift going on, PC gaming is on the rise and over at CES picture quality is soon exceeding reality. I cannot sit on the bus and immerse myself in a 100 hour+ RPG, or a fast paced FPS. These things are reserved for home, infront of the TV or other monitor of choice. Meanwhile the technology is improving at a rapid pace and already you can play games from earlier this generation on your tablet or phone. However, this has also seen the birth of peripheral controls for touch screens, because the touch controls just won't make the cut. Another sign that the home experience isn't going anywhere yet.

Granted, tablets and phones will probably be powerful enough to run the full console experience long before this decade has come to an end. Will that then kill consoles? It might, but in a good way. Gaming on a big screen will always be the more enjoyable alternative but if your tablet can run the games then there isn't really any reason to keep the dedicated console. You can just hook up your tablet to the TV and connect a gamepad via bluetooth and game on. It wouldn't be a problem then, to take your tablet over to your friends' house, or just move to another room of your own place for that matter.

So is mobile gaming the future? Yes. By that I mean that the way we see gaming now, the mobile vs the console way, will change and meld together. The most important factor will remain unchanged though, the games. There will still be the games that you want to play at home infront of your TV and vice versa. Indeed, instead of the Steambox, perhaps Valve should just work towards fully integrating steam into tablets?

This is a world I would be comfortable living in, as long as games don't change I have no problem with gaming changing. But the day traditional games are no more, is the day I die inside.   read

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