Mass Effect: Andromeda Official Launch Trailer


It’s been five years since the Mass Effect 3 ended Commander Shepard’s fight against the intergalactic menace known as the Reapers. While there were many who didn’t like how the trilogy ended by way of choosing which color circle it was still a satisfying conclusion to one of best game series in recent memory.

One bittersweet note was the fact that it was the last game that I played co-cooperatively with long-time site video game writer Semtex Skittle who passed away a year after the game’s release.

From what I’ve seen of Mass Effect: Andromeda since it was first announced two years ago this looks like a new direction in the series that Semtex Skittle would’ve found refreshing and worth revisiting the game universe.

This launch trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda definitely follows in the cinematic trailers of it’s three previous entries. Here’s to hoping that this new story in the series lives up to the original trilogy’s legacy.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Has Arrived


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I’ve not been buying that many games this year, but this is one little title from EA’s BioWare I know I must have and play before year’s end. That title is the third game in their fantasy rpg series Dragon Age.

Dragon Age: Inquisitor will mark the arrival of BioWare onto the nextgen platforms (Xbox One, PS4) and looks to combine what was good with the first two titles in the series while trimming off what went wrong with those two.

The game already looks gorgeous from just clips and gameplay videos shown leading up to this release. If the title looks to expand on the world-building that has been laid down by the first two titles in the series then I should expect to be playing this game for at least a minimum of 80 hours, if not more.

Now, I just need to decide on race and class for my character.

Trailer: Dragon Age: Inquisition (Official E3 Trailer)


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With Mass Effect 3 now over a year gone it’s time for BioWare to concentrate on moving forward with it’s fantasy rpg franchise which seems to have languished on the sidelines after the very controversial second title in the series. I speak of BioWare’s Dragon Age series and what fans of the title seem to consider a lost opportunity to make it the fantasy equivalent of Mass Effect.

The first game in the franchise was well-received but not without some complaints about the title’s gameplay mechanics being too reliant on micromanaging and less on intuitive controls. The second title was suppose to fix the problem when it came to combat which it did, but then this sequel brought up complaints about a storyline that felt rushed and game environments which relied too much of reusing the same backgrounds and layouts.

Now we have the announcement from EA and BioWare that the third game in the franchise will look to combine the good things about the first two games while looking to fix the problems which many saw as keeping the franchise from reaching great status.

Dragon Age: Inquisition arrives at this year’s E3 with a trailer which looks to be pre-rendered cinematics but with the title set to be released on the upcoming nextgen systems of the Xbox One and PS4 there’s a good chance that future gameplay trailers will look exactly like this trailer. Only time will tell whether that’s the case or not.

Dragon Age: Inquisition looks to drop on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and Microsoft Windows in the Fall of 2014.

Oh yeah: Morrigan and Varric are back!

Shepard’s Last Dance


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Well, it’s been quite a journey, hasn’t it? We’ve followed Commander Shepard across the years, and across the galaxy, battling against nothing less than our complete annihilation. But there’s one last shot in the chamber, it seems, as a sinister conspiracy seems aimed at killing off the legendary Commander Shepard. Such is the plot of the new Mass Effect 3 “Citadel” DLC, now available for 1200 MS Points.

Note that this review openly discusses details from the original Mass EFfect 3 game. So if you somehow still haven’t played it and still want to, come back and read us later. It’s alright, I won’t be offended.

I know that people have mixed feelings about content DLCs for Mass Effect 3, the ending of which is very definitive. Even with the “best” ending and the added fluff of the “Extended Cut” DLC released last summer, there isn’t anywhere else for Shepard’s story to go after the credits roll. While the “best” ending leaves Shepard’s ultimate fate ambiguous, Bioware has told us that Shepard’s story is over. So what is there to add to the gameplay of Mass Effect 3? I actually think Bioware has done a decent job of addressing this; I enjoyed the “Leviathan” DLC if only for its interesting story reveal. “Return to Omega” is cutting room floor stuff; the conclusion of Aria’s plot arc belonged in the original game, but at least its spot in the Mass Effect story makes sense. But “Citadel”… “Citadel” is one fine DLC. I would have said that the gold standard for Bioware’s DLC before this one was probably “Lair of the Shadow Broker”, which added substantially to my Mass Effect 2 experience, had an interesting plot, and some interesting combats interwoven with some great moments for Liara and Shepard.

“Citadel” is better, and it is better because it honours what has been Mass Effect’s biggest strength all along: the characters. The party interaction. The dialogue. The combat system in Mass Effect 3 is very polished, and it functions very well for what it needs to do, but I would not play Mass Effect 3’s campaign for just the combat sequences. Instead of just fighting through waves of mooks, Shepard finds himself blending into a gala at a casino, blending in at the roulette table and socializing with the who’s who of the Citadel… in between casually shutting down cameras and bypassing security while a companion distracts nettlesome guards. Meanwhile, another companion is sneaking through the ventilation system, all so you can get one single crack at someone who may or may not have answers Shepard wants. It is probably worth noting that this DLC is simply not self-serious in the way that the rest of Mass Effect 3 is. If you feel a shift in tone is dramatically inappropriate, this DLC could rub you the wrong way I suppose.

Things open with orders to put the Normandy in to the Citadel for refits and repairs, where our old friend Admiral Anderson has given over his (ridiculously) swanky Citadel apartment for your use. Anderson does not anticipate ever leaving Earth again; even if he survives the final confrontation with the Reapers, the effort to rebuild Earth is something he knows he can’t walk away from. Once there, you end up meeting Joker for sushi in a highly exclusive restaurant on the Citadel. Things go south soon after, and Shepard is forced to deal with yet another problem dragging him away from the master situation of the Reapers. Things culminate in what could possibly be the most difficult combat in the game (about which I will reveal nothing at all; better that way). I found that I didn’t mind.

The thing about “Citadel” is that it’s genuinely lighthearted and funny, with razor-sharp writing. It’s a remarkably refreshing detour from the otherwise dour tone of Mass Effect 3. The game’s tone is, largely, completely warranted… but this DLC provides a break from the agonizing struggle of the war that the original game really, for the most part, lacked. Combat sequences breezed by in a frenzy of faced-paced action and constant party banter, making me think fondly on the constant party interactions from Dragon Age II. The respites between the action sequences are more of the same. Granted, just shoving characters into the setting of Shepard’s ultra-unbelievably-luxurious-swanky Citadel apartment doesn’t feel as organic as another scenario might… but gathering party members on the Normandy is a bit of a contrivance as well, isn’t it? Let’s give Bioware a pass here. They try hard to get your old squad members involved. Tons of characters return from the previous games, offering them more screen time than they otherwise received in Mass Effect 3… including the opportunity to once again use fan-favourite Wrex as a squad member (really, what’s a squad without a Krogan?)

If you’re still angry about Mass Effect 3’s ending, after all of the time, discussion, and the “Extended Cut” DLC (and, if you are, I certainly don’t blame you – it was a travesty) then you may not find the send-off this DLC gives to the characters and the scenario any more satisfying… but, on the other hand, you might. I thought it was a nice fan-service sort of addition to the Mass Effect canon, and a fun adventure besides. Incidentally, this DLC occupied me for at least three hours so far, and I haven’t gone through everything it offers. You should make your own decisions on whether it is priced fairly based on this.

What I Played Today: Mass Effect 3: Leviathan!


Technically, I played it yesterday.

So, remember how everyone hated the ending to that highly anticipated, trilogy-culminating, pre-order bonanza of a FPS RPG called Mass Effect 3? I do. Later, when Bioware got around to releasing an expanded and updated ending, it seems like only about half of the original ME3 crowd came back to see it. Part of it might have just been exhaustion over the whole ME3 ending saga – it was mostly fatigue that kept me from running to my XBox to plunge into the depths of the new ending. I suspect others are sticking to their guns; they heard that the “new” ending isn’t really new at all, just an expansion on existing events and themes. So they’re not interested. The Indoctrination crowd didn’t find much to love in the new ending, so diehards of that theory or whatever… probably didn’t need to rush back to see things unfold.

Others I suspect are in a third camp. They want an excuse to play the game again, but they don’t really feel like doing Chronos Station and Earth. At least, not as a standalone. It’s not like those missions were some glowing paragon of what ME3 could be. All of the heavy stuff happens earlier, and Earth doesn’t have the fun factor that the final assault on the Collector Base did. It’s kind of a long slog, when you get right down to it. In fact, the whole game is pretty heavy, and I’m not sure it bears back-to-back play-throughs with as much grace as the previous installments did. I, at least, noted Mass Effect lover and apologist, have completed Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 probably a dozen times each. I have completed Mass Effect 3 once. Just once. I continued to play the multiplayer occasionally, keep that readiness nice and blue, and waited patiently for a time when I would feel the urge to play the game once again.

It turns out that the urge returned when BioWare finally dropped their first single player content DLC: Leviathan.

Leviathan starts with the story of a man named Dr. Bryson, a scientist on the Citadel who is investigating celestial phenomenae. Specifically, he is rooting around through old monster legends and other such seeming nonsense for any kind of clues that might have survived from a previous cycle about the Reapers. In the course of this research he discovered something that is – potentially – even more interesting… an artifact that is linked to a space monster they’ve dubbed ‘Leviathan’. A creature so powerful that it was capable of downing a Reaper in single combat. Something that seems impossible. But, Bryson does have this weird glowy artifact, and he seems pretty sure… and, since we’re completely desperate for even the tiniest possible edges at this point in our seemingly unwinnable battle against extermination… I eventually acceded that it was probably worth tracking down Bryson’s assistant, who went to an asteroid mining facility in order to follow up on a possible second artifact. Needless to say, hilarity ensues, and Shepard embarks on several missions, broken up by return visits to the lab for analysis, before the climactic scene on an eerie ocean planet about which the less I say, the better.

In terms of DLC, Leviathan is no Lair of the Shadow Broker. While it does appreciably expand on some story elements of Mass Effect 3 (specifically, you gain some fun information about the Reapers. This DLC answered one of my most irritatingly nagging questions about the background of the Reapers. Fun!) and it provides a handful of fun missions – the ocean planet, it’s worth stating, is a gorgeous backdrop for the mission that takes place there – it lacks the character driven tension of Lair. I would put it more on par with the “Arrival” DLC for ME2. You don’t have much reason to get invested in the new characters you meet, and so they feel disposable in a way the core cast never would have. That having been said, I don’t know how many of you returned to ME2 to complete Arrival, but I felt it was a well-spent $10, and I feel the same way about Leviathan. It has a good atmosphere, a couple of cool weapons and new modifications for your gun toting pleasure, and a very impactful revelation at the end.

Incidentally, if you have any interest in ME3 single player DLC at all, there’s extra incentive to acquire Leviathan. Fan interest has seemed much less driven for ME3 DLC than in previous titles… presumably because the ending to the game is as final as it is. Shepard’s story can’t continue, it can only expand.

Song of the Day: An End, Once and For All from Mass Effect 3 (by Clint Mansell & Sam Hulick)


Earlier this year we saw the release of the final entry in BioWare’s epic space opera video game series with Mass Effect 3. The initial response to this game was a near-unanimous critical praise and acclaim. Yet, as people finished the game a very vocal group of gamers and fans of the series were more than just a tad disappointed with how their favorite series came to an end. The venom and hate that poured from an ending that didn’t seem to cater to how these gamers thought the series would end became so loud that BioWare did something unexpected. The company, especially it’s founders and head honchos, decided to amend the ending to the game with a downloadable content that just came out in the last week or so. It was content that expanded on the ending to the game. It wasn’t enough to placate and satisfy those who felt betrayed by BioWare, but for some who did complain the ending was a good enough expansion to the game’s original ending that, while not all was forgiven, BioWare helped themselves in repairing the rift which grew between company and fan-base.

Let’s just say that I wasn’t one of those who complained about the ending. I thought it was sublime and the ending I chose fit in well with how I saw the game ultimately should’ve ended with how I had chosen my character to act, talk and behave throughout the three games in the series.

It’s from the recent Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC that I pick the latest “Song of the Day”. It’s the song the piece of orchestral score which plays through all the three original endings but extended beyond the original version of the score that ended abruptly. “An End, Once and For All” extends in this new version for a much more dramatic and satisfying end to a series that I consider one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had in over three decades.

I give much thanks to the game’s two orchestral composer in Clint Mansell whose contribution could be heard in the beginning of this chosen score. Sam Hulick adds his own voice to the score as the music moves toward an epic crescendo which finishes the song.

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If you want to witness why I thought the Synthesis Choice was the ending that made sense then watch the video below.

Mass Effect 3


I finished Mass Effect 3! The first video game I’ve ever finished! … Or, at least, for a long time.

Shall we talk about it?

Mass Effect 3 is (ostensibly, we know how sequels work these days) the conclusion to the story of one Commander Shepard, a human of exceptional skill, whose whole history is determined by the player. Shepard has journeyed long and hard to make people aware of the threat posed by the Reapers, synthetics bent on annihilating all organic life. From what I’ve seen, Mass Effect 3 is receiving decidedly mixed reviews. I think most of the negativity is oriented toward the ending, and we’ll talk about that later, but I’m going to start with a list of things that are ‘to like’ about this game. Even though if you have even the slightest interest in the franchise, you’ve already bought it.

Mass Effect 3 improves on the gameplay of Mass Effect 2.

Let that statement hang in the air for a moment. Why? Because I already thought Mass Effect 2’s gameplay was incredible; the game’s best feature, aside from its variety of characters and character interactions.

It still pads its play time by giving you lots of relatively minor quests, and forcing you to scan systems for ‘War Assets’ which involve running from Reaper forces and wasting a bunch of time. This is nothing new. After all, we drove the Mako around identically featureless planets in ME1, and we scanned for resources in ME2. The difference to me is that while we’re running around the Citadel recovering missions in ME3, we’re also subjected to background conversations between the inhabitants of that great space station. Their lives are affected by the war, and overhearing snippets of conversation lets us understand how so. It drew me into the setting of a (seemingly) hopeless war more than any activity aboard the Normandy. After all, Commander Shepard runs a stealth vessel with the most deadly folks around aboard. We don’t have any reason to fear the Reaper forces for the most part, because we’re better than they are. But on the Citadel, the Everyman is on the run. The Everyman fears that they will never see loved ones again.

In a holding area for Refugees, there’s a teenage girl waiting for her parents who has a variety of conversations with a C-Sec officer about her parents, and their transport, and when it’s going to arrive. It’s kind of heartwrenching. But also extremely appropriate.

In the field I suspect players will find much to like. The variety of enemy types is vastly improved over Mass Effect 2, as you combat the forces of the Reapers (now with more than just Husks and minibosses!), the forces of Cerberus (who are varied and deadly, very appropriate) and the traditional Geth opponents as well. I often felt that ME2’s opposition was pretty vanilla, but the unique properties of the enemies in ME3 make them feel much more varied even if (as I suspect) the actual number of “different” enemy types is not much different. The variety of powers IS improved, and now re-implements the use of grenades (an odd omission from ME2!) while keeping the basic gameplay mechanics of the second game intact. The most tangible difference is that you can now see Shepard’s hit points reflected in a bar with five segments. Once a segment is totally depleted, it only replenishes with the use of Medi-Gel. This is a significant feature of the game, especially on the harder difficulties.

Weapon upgrades are back with a vengeance. They operate like they did in the original Mass Effect, only +1. Now, you can acquire more advanced versions of weapons, and install increasingly powerful upgrades, to customize weapons to fit your playstyle. All classes now wield any weapon you like, with the newly devised penalty of heavier weapons slowing the recharge time of your special powers. So, a Biotic Adept is fully free to carry a sniper rifle and assault rifle, but it may mean that their Singularity cools down three times slower. Is that trade-off worth it? The answer is no, but it’s still definitively up to the player.

I was favourably impressed with the character moments and interactions in this game. Your own mileage will vary based on choices in previous games (and yes, while I have heard complaints that your choices don’t have a significant enough impact on the ending, they certainly have a significant impact on the game at large) but I was treated to a number of unexpectedly poignant and emotional character moments from both new and old faces. To me, this is the best work BioWare has done yet in terms of the characters involved… perhaps even exceeding Dragon Age II (although that entire game is so character-based, it’s a tough comparison). Some may be disappointed that many of the discussions no longer involve choosing options on the conversation wheel, but rather just talking it out after the fashion of conversations with companions Zaeed Massani and Kasumi Goto in Mass Effect 2.

I hesitate to say more, because it’s a story game, and I won’t be the one to spoil things for those who haven’t completed it.

Multiplayer!

Yes, there is now a multiplayer mode. It feeds the single player in that you can use any multiplayer character of level 20 as a War Asset, and in that it improves your Galactic Readiness score. For anyone who is wondering why your Galactic Readiness sits at a mediocre 50%, this is why! The multiplayer mode is a horde-styled mode where you fight against any of the three enemy forces (Geth, Cerberus, or Reaper) on one of several small maps, over the course of 10 waves, and then a “bonus” wave in which your squad waits for extraction. Three difficulty levels are available, which mirror normal, hardcore, and insanity level enemies, and thereby force different tactics to be used by the players.

I’d heard rumours that the single player was also supposed to support the multiplyer, but I’ve seen no evidence of that.

If you’re into Horde modes, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the multi-player here. Just be aware that you’ll have to work your way through a lot of matches to earn weapons and characters if you want the full experience, and getting a character to level 20, while not hard per se, can be time consuming. If you’re only looking to supplement your single player experience, your mileage will vary with the multiplayer mode.

And that’s where I’ll stop. I’d be happy to answer any specific questions, but I certainly don’t want to spoil the game for you. Just know that it’s a good game, and I hope you like it.