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.

Shepard’s Last Dance


Mara_Brooks

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.

Arleigh’s Favorite Five (…Songs) of 2012


I must admit that in 2012 I didn’t get to listen in full many new albums outside of soundtracks. My Fave five of 2012 Songs will reflect this fact, but still with the lack of variety in my past year’s listening habit I thought the songs I came up with for the list I still would’ve put on a much bigger favorite 2012 list if I had need to come up with one. Without further ado he are the Fave Five (though it’s more Fave Six but I decided to combine the first entry’s two as a tie).

  • The Fave Five starts off with a tie that comes from the same film. Both songs come from the soundtrack to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While the film may not have been up to some audiences’ high expectations the soundtrack itself by Howard Shore (and for “Song of the Lonely Mountain” as sung by Neill Finn) continued the high-quality of the Tolkien soundtracks which began with the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. “Song of the Lonely Mountain” is a much more folk rock addition to the soundtrack while the “Misty Mountains” was actually part of the film itself when the character of Thorin Oakenshield sings it with his band of dwarfs while at Bilbo Baggin’s hobbit hole in the beginning. Both songs so a great job of telling the story of the quest that begins with this first film in the new trilogy.
  • The theme song 2012’s Skyfall was a throwback to the classic James Bond theme song’s of the Sean Connery and Roger Moore Bond eras. In fact, I thought it’s one of the best theme songs the long-running spy thriller franchise has had these past 25 years. It helps that you have Adele singing the theme who seems to be able to hit the right proper emotional notes during the song. It’s really hard to think of Skyfall the film being as good as it is without making sure one mentions Adele’s theme for it. I’d take the leap and say that the song itself may even be better than the film itself.
  • Mass Effect 3 was the epic conclusion to what was this gaming generation’s version of the original Star Wars space opera. It was a story that spanned the galaxy with memorable characters, thrilling action and some very good writing. There will always be the vocal minority who seem to think the ending to the trilogy was bungled by the writers over ta BioWare. That’s a whole different debate altogether. One thing that doesn’t seem to bring out the pitchforks was Clint Mansell’s score work for the game and it all culminates with the song simply titled “An End, Once and For All” which in it’s extended version more than makes up for whatever deficiencies the ending it orchestrally-scored may have had.
  • Another game’s music makes itself to my Fave Five list and this time it’s my second favorite song for the year of 2012. It’s from Halo 4 and it’s a song that brought new life to the venerable franchise. It didn’t just make the end credits more than just memorable, but also surprised many fans of the franchise’s music since the song wasn’t composed by the franchise’s original music composer, Martin O’Donnell, but by Kazuma Jinnouchi. It’s the one song in 2012 that I must’ve listened to on repeat for hours on end and probably in the high hundreds by now. It’s a song that brings back memories of the scifi soundtracks of the 80’s. It’s a work that I easily can compare to the best that’s ever been composed by luminaries in the genre like John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Michael Giacchino and others.
  • What can I say. The song speaks for itself. How can one not say this was the best song for 2012.

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.

Song of the Day: Protectors of the Earth (by Two Steps From Hell)


With Mass Effect 3 having been released to the masses earlier today it also means another official launch trailer which also happened to use a piece of music from the band Two Steps From Hell. BioWare used a song from this band to score their launch trailer for Mass Effect 2 two years ago. That song was “Heart of Courage” and it was a perfect choice made by the folks from BioWare.

This time around their latest pick from Two Steps From Hell to score their launch trailer for Mass Effect 3 would also come from the band and is also the latest choice for “Song of the Day”.

The song is “Protectors of the Earth” and if that is not an apt and perfect choice for a game whose tagline is “Take Earth Back” then I don’t know what is. For one thing it adds a level of epic grandiosity to the trailer and the visuals chosen to help highlight the strengths of the game. What better way to usher in the installment to the Mass Effect trilogy than with music will help inspire gamers to, as the game’s tagline has been pushing, “Take back Earth”.

Trailer: Mass Effect 3 (Launch Trailer)


It’s the Day of Days for gamers worldwide as one of the most-anticipated games of this generation finally comes out.

Mass Effect 3 completes the sci-fi rpg trilogy from BioWare and with each game’s release the need from gamers just continued to increase. At the stroke of midnight on March 6, 2012 EA and BioWare held official release events at four different locations around the United States as hundreds, if not thousands, of gamers braved cold nights to be the first to get their hands on the final leg of Cmdr. Shepard’s journey to save the galaxy from the extragalactic mechanical race intent on harvesting all living organisms from the galaxy as they’ve done every 50,000 years.

The last couple of weeks have seen several trailers and tv spots marketing and hyping up the game as it led to today. BioWare ends the wait by releasing one last trailer and it’s simply called the “Launch Trailer” and to say that it is epic would be just the tip of the iceberg.

Enough talking…Time to take Earth back!