A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Mass Effect 3

Laughing While Gaming

This weekend I was playing Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and decided to tap the Krogan Warlord Sentinel for play. It’s a predominantly melee based character, so never having really played him before, I poked around online and found some build advice for the skillset.

What I discovered was sheer joy.

Seriously. I spent every match running all over every map, “slapping” enemies out of the way, headbutting, and swinging my giant hammer imbued with biotic energy to one-hit-kill Brutes and more.

Built properly, the Krogan Warlord is a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut. That said, he’s only “nigh-unstoppable” because he can get synch-killed by Banshee’s and others if he’s not careful. I ran headlong into an insta-death at the pointy ends of a Praetorian and it wasn’t fun.

Now, the laughing part… whenever the Krogan Warlord starts his rage, he laughs. After some kills he laughs. With this preponderance of laughing, first you smile, then you start to laugh a little bit, then you’re cheering and laughing with abandon. He’s running, smacking enemies, laughing, and it’s so much fun!

Anyway, I thought I’d share that today. Games that make us laugh are difficult to make and this little thing here was a total surprise. I don’t think I’ll play him all the time, but he’s certainly a favorite.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. “Now we can get back to doing what Krogan do best: saving everyone else from giant monsters.” – Urdnot Wrex

Gaming Inside of my Comfort Zone

I was going back and forth yesterday on Twitter with a friend of mine and the concept of playing outside of one’s comfort zone came up. That said, I want to talk about playing INSIDE the comfort zone first, so I’ll get to the outside part next time.

There are a lot of games out there. The ones I feel most comfortable playing are the ones I can pick up and just run with without a second thought. When I sat down to play Dragon Age: Origins, for example, it was like pulling on a new pair of shoes that looked and felt extremely similar to my last pair. I still needed to break them in, but I was already familiar with the process and it was pretty quick since I wound up doing a lot of walking in a very short period of time.

So there are games that are, in and of themselves, within the comfort zone. For me, it’s a space flight simulator, a turn-based strategy game, a Baldur’s Gate derivative. These are the kinds of games I grew up playing.

Well, what about the games that don’t fit inside the comfort zone automatically? I can still be in my comfort zone even then, given the right opportunities.

For example, I love playing self-sufficient characters. My favorite D&D character was a Psychic Warrior who, with proper power choices, I was able to fight effectively, defend myself against a myriad of potential harms, and heal myself. To this day, I still play that way where I can. My Captain in Lord of the Rings Online is one such character. When I played Star Wars: The Old Republic as the Smuggler, I chose to be the Scoundrel and went straight down the healing tree. I did the same thing as a Mercenary Bounty Hunter and a Commando Trooper.

If I don’t have just one character, I believe distinctly in the balanced party. While Dragons Age is wholly within my comfort zone, I maintained a solid party of a rogue (for lockpicking primarily), a mage (for healing), a warrior (for tanking), and anyone else (for DPS). Yes, that restricted my play a bit, but it made decisions really easy when I went to make party choices. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I always had the four types of soldiers represented and then the two extra soldier spots would be where that particular playthrough was different from earlier ones. I’ve had those two spare slots taken up by a heavy and a support and an assault and a support before and that allowed me some considerable latitude in play style.

In Civilization IV, I set up the environment if I can so that my civilization is totally contained and secure before spreading out and taking new lands. I focus on infrastructure so that I can develop a powerful military at the drop of a hat and a few turns. In Star Trek Online, I chose a ship type that can take a lot of damage, then I proceeded to make it deal a lot of damage and be able to handle every situation that could come up. A long time ago when I played the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, I built a deck that was affectionately referred to as “Whatever you do, I stop and make you regret it” or something like that. Essentially it was a balanced deck that countered many things the other player could do and then could crack them on the knuckles for doing it.

For me, it’s all about the balanced approach. Mixed arms and combined tactics to provide a well rounded and quality experience. I suppose I’m the kind of guy who likes to dip into every style to ensure an approach that can respond to every issue that might arise. In some games it’s just the simple “just shoot them” strategy. In others it’s more nuanced. My particular comfort zone playstyle is a kind of go-with-the-flow thing and it totally works for me.

The real trick for me is finding that comfort zone in each new game I pick up. Sometimes I’m lucky, like with Borderlands 2 where I started playing the Mechromancer and was pleasantly surprised how it flowed with my playstyle. Other times I’m not so lucky, like with Neverwinter where I played a long time as a Cleric before realizing that the Guardian Fighter was where it’s at for me.

An odd little thing: the Mass Effect series started in, I think, 2007 (yup). When that game came out, I played it for a week straight and loved it. Truly loved it. Turns out, I’d played its predecessor, a little game from 1986 called Starflight. Now, it’s quite a stretch to go from Starflight to Mass Effect, but the ship shape was kind of similar, the ground vehicle was (aside from armaments) was remarkably similar, and the stories I developed for my Starflight crew in my head was rivaled neatly by the stories developed for the crew of the Normandy. Look it up. Starflight inspired Mass Effect. Mass Effect has essentially been in my comfort zone since I was 4 years old. How about that, huh? Oh, I beat ME2 and ME3 each in a week as well. I’m that kind of gamer, just can’t put a good game/book down.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding and playing inside your comfort zone. It allows you to kick back, relax, and just play.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. There are no quotes I could find quickly about the benefits of staying in your comfort zone because everyone’s trying to be all inspirational on the internet and encourage people to do stuff that’s new and “outside your comfort zone”. I maintain that you need to be aware of what your comfort zone is prior to stepping outside of it, hence why I started with this piece instead of the next one. If you know your comfort zone and you stray from it, you always know where it is for when you need to get back to it for whatever reason.

A Little Overwhelming

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Borderlands 2. This past weekend I added a fair amount of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. Last night I played some Diablo III and now I’m itching for it. Tomorrow the expansion to XCOM Enemy Unknown will arrive (XCOM Enemy Within). Around the 18th, Lord of the Rings Online is going to reformat gameplay to make combat flow better and to reduce the number of skills my poor Captain has.

It feels like a lot. Typically around summertime I start wondering what there is to look forward to in gaming and I always forget that the big things happen right before the holiday season in the October-November range.

So, on the games I’ve mentioned…

In Borderlands 2, I finished the DLCs “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep” and “Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty”. I started in on “Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” before I got sidetracked.

In Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, I started playing with a group of people that I met online and who are looking to have a good time. Fortunately for them, I’m pretty good at ME3 multiplayer these days, so I was coaching some of them here and there and we netted a bunch of awesome victories. It’s so much fun playing with people who really want to do well. I really lucked out here.

In Diablo III, my friend was playing a level 40 Barbarian and I happened to have a level 39 Barbarian, so I popped into his game and found myself woefully underpowered for playing Nightmare difficulty at Monster Power 10. I had to redo my build and pick up some new equipment, so we’ll see how things go there. Also, is it just me or is the auction hall more overpriced than usual these days? I hope people realize that if they price things to sell, they’ll actually sell them.

I’m planning on starting a new XCOM game tomorrow that will probably detract from all other gaming (except social gaming because I’m not about to say, “No, I can’t play with you because I’m playing with myself” because that’s totally uncool). Also, as I was writing this, a friend insisted that we hadn’t fought each other in multiplayer yet, so I guess that’s what I’m doing tonight!

Depending on the level of the change and how it feels to play LOTRO, I may stick that out longer than a day of gameplay when the changes come. I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping I’ll play it a bit more often in the future.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with my gaming habits right now.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Good plan? Great plan!” – Tiny Tina

Scraping the Sky

The other night, with the help of a friend, I managed to finish Inferno difficulty in Diablo III. About time, right?

Recently I found a build that made playing my Wizard fun again and since then I’ve been shopping for gear to make my job a lot easier. Right now though, I’m pretty much as good as I can get without grinding up millions of gold for slight increases here and there. I don’t know if I’ll see a drastic DPS increase like I did when I started focusing on Critical Hit Chance and Critical Hit Damage stats.

The only issue I really have with my current build is when I’m in Archon. As it turns out the right-click attack is an awesome super laser and I use it all the time when Archon is active. The moment Archon turns off is the moment my right-click turns into Teleport. So, if Archon runs out, I typically don’t notice it until I’ve teleported into the middle of a bunch of baddies. Very unfortunate. I tried to relocate Teleport to my left-click, but the game won’t let me put a non-attack power in that spot. Tragic, but I suppose I’ll figure it out eventually.

Last night my friends and I tackled Monster Power 7 Inferno difficulty and struggled against some really well built unique and rare monsters. Still, we made a profit even after the ridiculous repair bills. After a while only two of us were playing, so we kicked it down to MP4 and kept going. Again, the unique and rare monsters were the real challenge (also, my friend has just hit inferno, so his equipment isn’t up to par just yet and he gets one-shotted pretty regularly).

Around playing Diablo III, I’ve also been playing Mass Effect 3 multiplayer (which I’m going to do as soon as I’m done here). I’m pushing my characters up to level 20, promoting them, then spending all the money I gained getting there, then doing it all over again. It’s a surprising amount of fun now that my client-side lag issues are practically non-existent.

Anyway, I’ve got some characters to level in ME3, so…

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “To all my people in coach, and to my first class folks; We’ll show you how to scrape the sky.” – “Scrape the Sky” by Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.

Stepping Back Into MMOs

Until this past weekend I’ve been mostly playing single player games. That ended as I jumped back into Star Trek Online.

My current project is to make my Chimera-class Heavy Destroyer a fully functioning ship that I have fun breaking out every now and again. The first job is building the three parts to the Nukara Appropriated Munitions set, followed by building the Nukara Strikeforce Technologies set. I recognize that they’re not the best sets in the game, but I’m here to enjoy myself and I’m turning the Chimera into a beam-boat, so nyah. Also, it’s going to take a while to build up enough dilithium for all the parts I’d like to put on her. I’m currently uninterested in working on fleet projects, so that works in my favor. Once this is done, I think I’ll be able to focus on the fleet again. Side note: I’m going to be naming her after my dearly departed dog, Terra, once she’s done and ready for deployment. Durable, fast, and powerful… that’s Terra.

I’ve also had a bit of an itch to hop back into Neverwinter. I haven’t had a chance yet to see just how amazing it looks on this machine, but I did hop in briefly to max out all the settings when I installed it. Shouldn’t be anything short of spectacular looking.

I’m craving some DC Universe Online as well. I made a Power Girl facsimile (Power Girl is my favorite) and I’m hoping to get back to her soon. She’s so satisfying to play!

Other MMOs on my machine right now are Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Lord of the Rings Online, Champions Online, and Uncharted Waters Online. Multiplayer only games are Mechwarrior Online, ME3 Multiplayer, Star Conflict, oh, and Warframe (which I have very little opinion on right now since I’ve barely played it and I’m just not willing to spend time there yet).

If anyone has a recommendation for a fun free-to-play MMO that I could step into and check out, I’d appreciate it.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. Instead of a quote, here’s a helpful article for Star Trek Online players who might be new or at least not entirely aware of all the things you can do in the game.

Adjustment Period Nearly Over

I feel like I’m in the groove of balancing schoolwork and gaming right now. Further, I’ve pretty much got a good grasp on some of the idiosyncrasies of Windows 8. I need to figure out what to do about my formerly weekly vlogs. I lost steam when school started and now I’m not sure what to do.

I’m very close to the end of Mass Effect 3 right now. I keep getting distracted by other games though. A little Mechwarrior Online here, some Diablo III there, a touch of Batman: Arkham Asylum…

Last night I was up late playing Minesweeper of all things. They added this neat adventure mode where you’re a guy digging through some catacombs or whatever and you collect gold and so forth. It’s really neat and I’m impressed by it.

A note: I’m constantly befuddled by people’s perception of gamers like myself. For example, a friend recently was astounded to discover that at my age I’m still playing computer games. Why would it be strange? I still play with LEGO occasionally, why not games? I dunno, that’s just a recent thing (read: today). It’s almost like I’m expected to be glued to the TV or something for my leisure time. Please, I have to be DOING something, not just being passive. Admittedly, I do watch a lot of videos on YouTube, but a fair number are ones that inspire me to go do other stuff or encourage me to think.

Just something that came up today.

At any rate, I feel very comfortable with my mechanical Terra now. Not only does she help with my homework, but she works flawlessly to keep me entertained. Almost like the real one did.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Welcome to the madhouse, Batman! I set a trap and you sprang it gloriously! Now let’s get this party started.” – The Joker, Batman: Arkham Asylum

A Little Gaming Here, A Little Gaming There

I’ve finished Mass Effect 2 and I’m making steady progress through Mass Effect 3, but that’s not all I’ve played lately. I’ve also played some Splinter Cell: Conviction, ME3 Multiplayer, Mechwarrior Online, DC Universe Online, and Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol.

Once I’ve finished this playthrough of ME3, I’m expecting to cut loose on a few games, namely I’d like to get back into regularly playing Star Trek Online instead of occasionally looking at it wistfully while I do my schoolwork. Further, I’d like to settle into a bit of Neverwinter, some more Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I think I’d like to play some more Diablo III before the expansion comes out.

Oh, I’m very very excited about the upcoming expansion for XCOM Enemy Unknown. Entitled “Enemy Within“, it’s going to include new enemies, new options for soldiers, and I’m hoping some more council missions. I mentioned it in a P.S. a couple of weeks ago, but as it gets closer to release, I get more excited about it!

I’d also like to share my excitement about the new Tex Murphy game coming soon thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The game will be called “Tesla Effect” and takes place after the last game, Overseer. Check it out. I grew up with Under A Killing Moon and came to love its dry humor and film noir style approach.

Anyway, I’ve got things to do, so until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “All I’ve ever needed was a soft felt fedora, a well-tailored overcoat and a comfy pair of sneakers. Some people know what they like and they stay with it.” – Tex Murphy, Under A Killing Moon.

Quiet Fronts – Gaming Updates

Well, the lack of obvious updates. Let me explain a bit…

Mass Effect 3 is done. There aren’t going to be any more updates to multiplayer and there aren’t going to be any more DLC packs.

Star Trek Online has constant, almost quarterly, updates but in between there’s massive bug fixes and the wait for more content feels pretty long. That said, Legacy of Romulus was HUGE so I totally get waiting a while for the next pile of stuff.

Neverwinter transitions from Open Beta to “live” on the 20th of June. We’re expecting the first module but they’ve been pretty tight-lipped about a lot of the contents. I’m hoping for the Ranger class, but honestly, at this point I’ll take any class.

Diablo III doesn’t seem to be getting an expansion any time soon, which I think it sorely needs. I think Blizzard focused mostly on porting it to console and that’s a great idea, just it feels like things are a bit lacking in the mean time.

XCOM Enemy Unknown is supposedly getting a DLC sometime in the future, but I have no idea when that would happen.

So, it’s all quiet on the western front… as far as I know.

Anyway, I’ve had a busy day recording more XCOM and messing around in other games. I’m going to get back to that.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “They never taught us anything really useful, like how to light a cigarette in the wind, or make a fire out of wet wood, or bayonet a man in the belly.” – Soldier in the film “All Quiet on the Western Front”

Gaming Diet

My gaming diet has been pretty sparse lately.

I’ve been really enjoying Civilization IV and just starting a custom game and playing as a random civilization. It’s quite a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. Typically I get bored around the time where I have to win though. The build up, the expansion, the struggling to make a civilization that can stand the test of time is where all the fun is for me. Sealing the deal, winning, is just unnecessary at that point.

The other day a buddy and I got in some Diablo 3 and that was a pleasant change of pace. I do enjoy playing my Wizard, but he’s a mite fragile. I kind of have to be in the mood to kite enemies around to play him.

I’ve also been playing the occasional couple of rounds of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. I’m almost through with the Sentinel and I’m considering which Infiltrator I’d like to play.

I’m holding off on playing any Star Wars: The Old Republic until Rise of the Hutt Cartel drops (and even then I might hold off because it’s going to be CROWDED). SWTOR isn’t a game I just pick up and play because it’s a serious time investment… also my computer has the occasional issue with running it.

I’m also holding off on playing any Star Trek Online until the new expansion lets us play as Romulans in May. I’m very much looking forward to that. It’ll be crowded too, but STO is a game I’ve whupped pretty well and it’s easier for me to just pick it up than SWTOR.

Yesterday I knocked out Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge for my next Let’s Play. I’ll start posting them this Wednesday. I was surprised at how quick the game was considering how I hadn’t played it in a number of years and I couldn’t remember most of it.

Anyway, not much going on here, so, until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I’m a mighty pirate!” – Guybrush Threepwood

Sentinel Selection – Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

I’m currently in the prolonged process of getting all six of the categories of kits in Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer up to level 20 before promoting them and starting all over again. It’s a personal goal kind of thing. Last night I finished up with Engineer (I love my Quarian Engineer!) and now I have a tough decision to make on which Sentinel I play. Here, check out my view of things:

MassEffect3 2013-04-01 10-45-38-78

MassEffect3 2013-04-01 10-46-00-04

The darkened ones are the locked classes I haven’t received yet through the random packs you can purchase. The “new” ones are characters I haven’t ever used in the past. The “level up” or blank characters are the ones I’ve played before.

This decision is hard because I haven’t proven myself especially good at playing a Sentinel. I’m hit or miss with the Adept, Infiltrator, and Vanguard and I’m half-way decent with the Soldier and Engineer.

I’m thinking I’ll try out the N7 Paladin (the guy with the orange shield) for a bit and then maybe (if that doesn’t work) fiddle around with the Volus (the short guy next to the shield guy) or the Human Male (guy on the far left of the row). It really depends on how I feel about their power loadout. The Volus is cool because it comes with a shield boost ability that restores shields to himself and others around him. Also, the Volus has a combat drone that flies around and zaps things, as well as a decoy ability where he can throw a copy of himself down and it can draw aggro from the enemy. Down side is he’s short and can’t take cover, but his melee is a personal cloak… so…

Wait, why am I choosing the Paladin again?

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Let’s get paid!” – any Volus in ME3 Multiplayer upon starting the extraction wave.

Whacking Things With A Stick – Satisfaction In Gameplay

There are days where I just want to hit stuff with a stick. Seeing as that’s not entirely socially acceptable, I poke through my catalog of games to find the experience that fulfills that desire best. Sometimes I come up with a winner, sometimes I don’t. Here’s a short list of games that I find give me that great “hitting someone” satisfaction in order of most to least satisfaction.

Mass Effect 3 multiplayer – Seeing as I’ve finished the single player game, the multiplayer component provides replayability and a pile of stuff that I still need to improve upon. Oh, and my favorite weapon, the M-37 Falcon, is a micro-grenade launcher. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Lord of the Rings Online – My captain has a variety of abilities that just FEEL good. He screams and does damage, he swings his halberd and you hear the slicing, cracking, crunching of contact. Yeah, it gets tedious, but by then, my thirst for whacking things with a stick has been sated for at least a couple of hours.

Diablo III – On my Wizard, it’s just satisfying to voip people. Yes, that’s the sound things make when you just erase them from existence. That said, it’s more satisfying to do this during the earlier difficulties as Inferno has a habit of pissing me off repeatedly in a 30-minute period.

Awesomenauts – It’s starting to get up there, but there’s something eminently satisfying about playing Leon and popping out of stealth to land a killing blow on some unsuspecting ‘naut. I mostly enjoy playing Raelynn though. Sniping has never been this fun for me. It’s a bit of work and sometimes I cry out in frustration.

XCOM Enemy Unknown – The satisfaction of crushing an alien squad is quite palpable. Delicious even. That said, XCOM games are pretty cerebral and I always feel a little removed from the “satisfaction zone”, so these games (new and old) are fun, but less viscerally satisfying. Strategy games on the whole share that same removal sense, so that’s nothing new.

Star Trek Online – I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days, but I just have no drive to play this right now. I don’t know if it’s the high end grinding that’s in the game or anything, but I just haven’t been in the mood to command the Iowa lately. Thus, the satisfaction of playing has dropped. There is something to be said for lots of torpedoes, but that’s a bit of a gimmicky approach and isn’t practical in the long run (says the guy who has a character with a Caitian carrier that has nothing but torpedoes up front and turrets in the back; verdict: hilariously fun, but gimmicky as all hell).

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Right now it’s not super satisfying to play, but I’m building up a good craving and waiting until it turns into an out-and-out need to play the game. I’m thinking I’ll play a Knight soon because I love hitting things with Lightsabers, but also because the day I got the game I made a Knight and turned to my Mom and went, “Mom, I’m a Jedi Knight!” So, yeah. It’s not satisfying NOW, but it will be.

This list is forever in flux and I’ve left a few games off to help keep it short. Games will go up and down the list as my whims dictate. This is just a snapshot of my current thoughts.

Right now though, it’s the deciding which stick to whack on what target that’s the tough part.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Enough is as good as a feast.” – Joshua Sylvester

A Seeming Lull in Game Development

Is it just me or does it seem like we don’t have much to look forward to in the near future regarding AAA game titles?

It’s certainly understandable… this year saw the wrapping up of the  Mass Effect trilogy AND Assassin’s Creed “trilogy” with their penultimate installments. Further, Star Wars: The Old Republic has just finished its first year (bumps and all), XCOM Enemy Unknown finally launched and became PC Game of the Year, and the next “super game” isn’t going to drop until 2014 at the earliest (Star Citizen).

I know we’re to look out for more in the Mass Effect franchise (a fourth installment has been announced) and I’m thinking it’s a safe bet that Assassin’s Creed isn’t entirely done yet. For me though, the near future is kind of empty on the game release front.

I’m looking forward to more SWTOR updates and I’ve already pre-ordered the expansion that’s set to drop in Spring 2013 dealing with the Hutt Cartel and adding 5 more levels to the cap and more storyline for every class. Star Trek Online has a story heavy Season 8 coming up with apparently 9 new ships ready to go by February (some are fleet variants though, so that number is probably 5 actual NEW ships).

I haven’t heard anything about the next DLC for Mass Effect 3 or XCOM Enemy Unknown, but I know they’re on the way. Further, I haven’t heard much about the game Neverwinter, I just know I’ve got beta access eventually thanks to my lifetime STO account.

It feels… quiet on the gaming front. Too quiet. I suppose every company is taking a bit of a break after they finally dropped their big titles and everything’s running kind of smoothly. Maybe.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The future will soon be a thing of the past.” – George Carlin

Gaming Cravings

I’ve had this hankering to play certain games but I hold off for some reason or other.

I want to play XCOM again, but I’m waiting for the new DLC which will only be playable through a new game (feels a little short sighted, but okay). So I’m holding off on starting a new game until Slingshot comes out, but they haven’t announced a release date and it’s been a month since they announced the DLC at all. No details or communication from the studio does not make me a happy camper and makes me think they aren’t paying attention to the fans. I don’t like thinking that way.

Also, whenever I sit down to play Star Wars: The Old Republic, I feel compelled to play my Bounty Hunter, Saya’fida. She’s the one I’m recording the story missions with for my Let’s Play series on YouTube. Lately I’ve only wanted to play her and when I do, I have to make sure things are set up so that I can record just in case. I have things set up in my room so I can do it in a quiet environment, but sometimes I just don’t feel like playing in my room. It’s a gamble, recording in the living room, but it’s brighter, I can keep an eye on the dogs, and it’s more comfortable. Sometimes I just stare at the SWTOR icon longingly, wanting to play, but holding off because I feel compelled to record. It’s not a bad thing though as it motivates me to push through the game faster than I usually would. I’m LOVING the Bounty Hunter storyline and the videos I’m posting are more for me than anything else because I’m really enjoying watching my own Let’s Play videos.

I caved to a craving the other day though. I started a game from scratch in Mass Effect 3. I typically don’t like that as the “default” story makes some decisions I’m not okay with… typically optional stuff. In this, they let the crew of the Normandy die, the Citadel Council died, I never did any of the DLCs like Lair of the Shadow Broker or Arrival, and so on. There’s a lot of people that just aren’t there that I’m used to seeing and it was a little difficult to push on. I’m doing this playthrough just for fun though. I wanted to play some missions and shoot some bad guys and it’s rather difficult to do so by yourself in multiplayer (I can, but it takes as much luck as skill and so forth).

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the new Omega DLC coming out for ME3 tomorrow. I really do like Aria T’Loak.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.” – Ambrose Bierce

Looking Forward-ish

In recent months I’ve typically had a game release to look forward to. A year ago I was looking forward to Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3, and XCOM Enemy Unknown. Now, all those games have been released and I’m looking around and wondering what to look forward to next.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 13th), Star Trek Online’s Season 7 comes out with a new sector block, a new mechanic (the reputation system), and a new holding for fleets.

In a couple of days (Thursday, November 15th), Star Wars: The Old Republic goes Free-to-Play. Included in this transition is the release of the Cartel Store and I’m going to get a pretty big pile of Cartel Coins.

On November 27th, there’s a new single-player DLC for Mass Effect 3 that handles the Cerberus takeover of Omega from Aria T’Loak. I’m guessing I’m going to help her get it back… which I have absolutely no problems with.

In the near future, XCOM is going to get a DLC called Slingshot which includes a short series of scripted missions and allows for earlier gain of the Blaster Launcher (an upgrade to the Heavy’s rocket launcher). They’ve also announced a second DLC along the same lines but no details have come forth.

Also, there’s the incredible Star Citizen game by legendary Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts that I’m looking forward to see through its development cycle. I would’ve contributed to its fundraising if I could have. Honestly, I would’ve thrown $10,000 at it if I had that kind of disposable funds. I’m probably going to have to get a new computer for this one, so I’m happy to wait for it.

So, there ARE things to look forward to on the gaming front, but nothing very long term. I’m pretty happy with the games I have now. I’m logging into STO pretty regularly for Duty Officer stuff, I play Mass Effect 3 to get some headway on the challenges (I finished Assault Rifle Mastery last night and I’m pretty thrilled with that), I’m doing a Story-Only Let’s Play video series on SWTOR as a Bounty Hunter, and I’m holding off on starting a new XCOM game until Slingshot comes out.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” – Act IV, scene 1, line 123 of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”

Challenging Myself – Mass Effect 3

The past few days I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. More specifically, I’ve been focusing on the challenge system they released with their last multiplayer DLC. This has encouraged me to push myself outside of my comfort zone a little bit and try a few things I normally wouldn’t.

The other day I did something I never thought I’d do: I soloed a bronze map. I wanted to finish the weekend challenge of getting 75,000 points of Biotic Charge and it was taking forever when playing with a pick-up group. I started my own map, randomly chosen, fighting against the Cerberus faction. I surprised myself with every round that I survived, especially the final extraction where things looked very grim indeed.

How did I succeed? I think it was a combination of luck, constant movement, and not being afraid to run away. Oh, also, I didn’t dither around when it came to using my missiles. I never got taken down once. It got hairy sometimes, but overall it was a pretty spectacular experience. I’m tempted to do it again with a more robust class than the Asari Vanguard, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on challenges with a friend of mine. I’m personally shooting to finish out the Assault Rifle Mastery category and I’ve already finished three of them: the M-37 Falcon, the Geth Pulse Rifle, and the Particle Rifle. All favorites when wielded by the N7 Destroyer soldier (which is my favorite class to date).

Right now I’m bouncing around build ideas for the N7 Fury, which I’ve never played, so we’ll see how that goes. Personally I prefer ranged combat, but the Fury specializes in close quarters. I also need to figure out how to play the N7 Paladin. I’m desperate to find a Sentinel class that I actually like, but so far I’m coming up short. I did one map as the Paladin and I wasn’t impressed, but I’m willing to try again (more specifically, 9 times at least to finish out a challenge).

Thus far, my favorites in each class are:

Asari Adept

N7 Destroyer Soldier

Female Quarian Engineer

Placeholder Sentinel (yeah)

N7 Shadow Infiltrator

Asari Vanguard

Fun times, right? The challenge system is encouraging me to try out the other classes though, so we’ll see if I find some new favorites in the near future or if I burn myself out playing too much.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “De gustibus non est disputandum – In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.

Gaming Catchup

With Hurricane Sandy in the neighborhood, I thought I’d just talk about some of the things I’ve been doing in the games on my desktop. It’s an elite crowd: Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Star Trek Online, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3, and XCOM Enemy Unknown. There’s Civilization IV, Champions Online, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but I haven’t touched those in a while.

The other day I beat XCOM Enemy Unknown and since then I’ve been yearning to play more. I haven’t because I’m waiting for the new downloadable content that is supposed to be coming sometime soon. I’m slightly aggravated because they haven’t said specifically WHEN they’re releasing it but also because you can’t take advantage of the new DLC without starting a new game. Kind of sucks, right? Oh well. It’s just, I know what mistakes I made during the game and I’d like to remedy that.

I haven’t really touched Diablo 3 since 1.05 dropped. I have updated it, but I’ve been called by other games more.

I also haven’t really touched Lord of the Rings Online since XCOM came out. That one’s obvious though.

Last night I participated in the weekend event for Mass Effect 3. They’ve shifted from the big community wide events to more individual-scale events. This past weekend’s event rewarded me with a chance of getting a different N7 weapon in all future commendation packs. I didn’t feel this was a bad thing and it was easy enough to achieve, so no problem there. I spent several maps gleefully shooting things with my N7 Valiant sniper rifle and, I’d like to think, a little better with it. I’m still a pretty horrid shot, but I’m getting pretty good at killing enemies with shots to the lower extremities.  With the introduction of the challenge system, I’m interested in playing more.

Star Trek Online has been my go-to game of recent months. With the new Season 7 just around the corner, I’m excited. The new reputation system will remove the silly random loot drop system for the end-game equipment. Also, there will be an embassy holding added to the holdings system for our fleet. Speaking of our holdings: I’m about ready to say “screw it” regarding the special projects. They cost 200k dilithium and they don’t contributed enough now. I’m tired of grinding day after day to make nearly no progress on our starbase, so I’m thinking I’ll start pushing for people to contribute to the standard projects and to hell with the fish tank.

I’ve been playing a consular in Star Wars: The Old Republic lately and I really enjoy it. I’m getting ready to do a story-only let’s play video series of one of the classes. Someone requested that I play the bounty hunter and, as it’s the only request thus far, I’m bouncing around ideas of what to do. I already know I’m going Mercenary for my advanced class, but do I play a female? Do I play a Chiss or a cyborg? Do I go light side? Dark side? Something in between? Yesterday I was messing around and I made a female Chiss bounty hunter and I think I might do that.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately in my games. I’m looking forward to Season 7 for STO, 1.5 for SWTOR, and the Slingshot DLC for XCOM. Also, they’re currently developing new DLC for Mass Effect 3 that’s scheduled to come out in late November (27th I think) and I’m always interested in that.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Multitasking? I can’t do two things at once. I can’t even do one thing at once.” – Helena Bonham Carter

Exciting Developments

This week is pretty exciting for me and gaming.

First of all, XCOM Enemy Unknown is coming out tomorrow, October 9th. I’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time now. Amazon says my copy will be here between the 15th and 17th, but they’re usually good about getting things to people quickly, regardless of the shipping style. Yeah, I got a physical copy, but mostly because of all the cool extras like the art book.

Also, Mass Effect 3 is releasing its latest multiplayer DLC that’s introducing a lot of cool new stuff to the game. We can expect a variety of hazards on our existing maps and the Collectors from Mass Effect 2 are returning as another enemy. More classes and weapons round out what some are saying is the last multiplayer DLC we’re going to see for ME3 while they focus on single-player DLC.

Wednesday, October 10th, Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts is going to make an announcement regarding a game he’s making that will herald his return to the industry after 10 years. I’m extremely excited and I’m hoping for a Freelancer/Privateer style game from him but I’ll be happy for whatever he does reveal. I do know that my poor four year old laptop will NOT be able to run what he wants to make, since the main reason he’s returned to the industry is because of the available technology to create the experience he wants to share. I’m still excited though.

This week is just full of exciting developments!

Anyway, I’ve got a wide array of gaming to do. On my plate is Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Lord of the Rings Online, Civilization V, Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Final Fantasy XII. I should get some of that in before my copy of XCOM shows up.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Some feelings are to mortals given, With less of earth in them than heaven.” – Walter Scott

Silvery-goodness: Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

My friends have become well versed in recent weeks as to my aversion to harder maps in Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer component. I had the rough equivalent of a heart attack on a silver map once and since then I haven’t been inclined to play them at all… until this past weekend.

One of my friends insisted on “doing our part” for the weekend event Operation Olympus. There was a certain number of bronze, silver, and gold maps that needed completion for the community goal (well, finishing wave 10 at least) and we’d already made a pretty significant contribution on the bronze end of things (at least 10 maps). So, I was told, “We’re doing a silver, but you can pick the map.” I picked Firebase White and then I agonized over which character to play. I settled on the N7 Destroyer with the Falcon assault rifle and the Piranha shotgun.

I had an amazingly good time on that map. It was rough at points (I died once), but I took advantage of the scenery and my devastator mode to unleash fury on the Cerberus troops that attacked us. Oh, the most notable thing? I didn’t have a heart attack. I handled myself well and I’m genuinely pleased about that.

We then did a second silver map. Firebase Dagger fighting Reapers. I got insta-killed by a banshee during wave 7 or so and was pretty pissed at myself and the banshee for it. I kind of sulked because I really wanted to contribute. I made it up though and (I think) I wound up in third place out of my friends. Again, I feel like I did really well and I think that the N7 Destroyer is the class for me on Silver maps.

Oddly, now that I have a taste for them, I want to play more. I mean, you get twice the money doing a silver map that you gain for doing a bronze map. I like being able to afford a Spectre pack after two maps instead of four. Also, I really like the N7 Destroyer. Any excuse to play it is fine by me.

Hm, I’ll have to get the group together sometime soon then.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot

Thank you Bioware

I’m quite sure there’s plenty of positive feedback towards Bioware, but as I haven’t seen much myself, I figured I’d do my best to raise the level of discourse around the nets and say something regarding Mass Effect and how awesome it is, regardless of any perceived issues or faults.

Thank you Bioware.

You have built an incredible experience that has earned a place of honor in my life. Let me explain a bit here. There’s plenty of quality science fiction/space fantasy out there and I’ve been captivated by my fair share of it. I am a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Wing Commander, Babylon 5, Firefly, and more. I have found Mass Effect to be entertaining, exciting, and enlightening. I have truly enjoyed the whole trilogy of games: every moment of horror, terror, excitement, urgency, tragedy, humor, victory, and loss. You have created an incredible story that I have enjoyed reliving and recounting time and again over the years.

I might be a strange sort of bird though. I loved the original Star Wars trilogy. Then the Special Edition was released and I loved that. Then the prequels and I loved them. I believe that the current vision that George Lucas has for the Star Wars saga is fantastic and I’m saddened by the verbal abuse he’s received at the hands of people who have no idea how to express themselves in a thoughtful and polite manner. Likewise for the ending of Mass Effect 3, I am fully in your corner. I have my questions about the ending that I noted in a prior post, but honestly, I’m okay with whatever you decided was a great ending. Regardless of how tomorrow’s extended cut DLC for ME3’s ending is received by some, I will enjoy it. It could be a wall of text answering questions and I’d probably be happy. The main reason for this? You’ve decided to give me a few more moments in a world I’ve come to care about, even if it is just cinematics or a wall of text.

You created a story that I care about deeply. You developed a trilogy with characters and events that I want to visit and experience time and again. You created something incredible and I don’t think you’ve received enough praise for that. Sure, you got paid and, probably in the end for some, it was about the money. Maybe my buying your games and DLCs was enough for you, but something tells me that money and sales numbers and press isn’t enough in the way of proper feedback.

So I write this: Thank you Bioware. However tomorrow’s DLC is received, thank you. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

I have to go get my game ready for the new DLC, so, until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. Yes, I did compare Mass Effect to Star Wars. As far as I’m concerned, it’s definitely up there with the great science fiction/space fantasy greats.

P.P.S. “Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.” – Mordin Solus

Looking Forward to the Up and Coming

For as long as I’ve been paying attention to the gaming industry, I’ve always tried to find something to get excited about… something to genuinely look forward to. I’ve got a couple of things I’d like to share that I’m excited about.

1) XCOM Enemy Unknown – If you’ve ever poked through my previous posts, you’ve probably heard me talk about X-COM UFO Defense and Enemy Unknown is a reimagination of the original (although, the European version of the original was actually called X-COM Enemy Unknown). I’m exceptionally excited about this game. I’ve always been a proponent of taking older games and updating them to more modern mechanics, graphics, and sounds. X-COM is an old game that I still pick up every now and again to play and it was my introduction to tactical level combat. I love it greatly and I’m truly excited about this new take on my old favorite. I have a hunch I’ll still go back to play the original from time to time, but the new one definitely caters to my sense of what I love in games by taking a couple of pages from Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition to help combat move smoothly (at least, that’s the way it seems to me).

2) Star Wars: The Old Republic – I think I’m always going to be excited about the updates for this game. Now that I have a legacy, I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what extra little bits they’re going to be adding to it come 1.3 and so on. Further, I absolutely love the Smuggler storyline and I’m truly immersed in my character. I can’t wait to see what comes next for Captain Vyris Tykin, Republic Privateer!

3) Star Trek Online – Season 6 is just around the corner and they’re announcing that it’s all about Fleet Advancement and getting your own Fleet Starbase. I’m sure there’s going to be some other adjustments and so forth, but also lined up for the future is much much more cool stuff that just makes a Star Trek fan excited to be alive. I’m really glad I have a lifetime account.

4) Mass Effect 3 DLC – I always look forward to anything Bioware releases for Mass Effect. They have a grand grasp of what’s good for the franchise and they’re always making great decisions. The upcoming extension for the ending of the game is intended to give closure to those of us who really needed more than the original ending gave. Further, their continued events for multiplayer keep me coming back. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Thus far, that’s all I’m really looking forward to in gaming… well… there IS one other thing that I’m kind of looking forward to…

5) Diablo III – I spent many a year playing the prior installments and I’m fascinated by it. I want to see how, with the Worldstone destroyed in the previous game, the people of Sanctuary can keep the war between Heaven and Hell from utterly obliterating the world. Also, I kind of owe it to myself to finish things out. I know that after this game Diablo is going to become an MMO (that’s just how the Bioware properties seem to go… three initial games and than an MMO… and it makes sense to me), so I’m going to revel in the single-player-ness as long as I can. The last game gave me nearly 10 years of gaming (I forced myself to stop playing and replaying the game because it would get quite old), let’s see what this new one can do for me.

So, that’s what I’ve got lined up for me… three updates/patches/whatever and two actual games. Here’s hoping 2013 can hold up to the awesomeness that is 2012.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “It’s been a dream of ours to recreate X-COM with our unique creative vision. We’re huge fans of the original game and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-envision a game that is as beloved as X-COM,” said Steve Martin, president of Firaxis Games. “We were careful to keep XCOM: Enemy Unknown true to the elements that made X-COM such a revered game while delivering an entirely new story and gameplay experience for both die-hard X-COM fans and newcomers to the franchise.” – Game Informer

Options in Games – Dealing with Discrimination

Now for your regularly scheduled post. Today’s writing is inspired by the news that Electronic Arts is being targeted for their optional same-sex relationships in their games (namely, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect 3). People like Stephen Fry are helping to direct people to support EA and encourage them to not bow to the likes of the hateful, fearful people who can only be classified as anti-preferences-different-from-theirs in this situation.

I’ve been to college. I have a degree. I’ve been overseas to study abroad. I’ve read a lot of books (mostly science fiction and fantasy, but still). I’ve played a lot of games. I’ve met a lot of people and creatures, both fictional and real, human and otherwise. Nowhere in any of my experiences, fictional or factual, have I found that discrimination against people based on their personal preferences is actually helpful or friendly or society and world building. Sure, I’ll discriminate against certain foods I don’t like (allergies suck) or I won’t buy from one company due to past experiences with their products, but these things don’t apply to people in the same way.

Let me try to put this another way…

When you sit down to enjoy a game or television show or movie or book or movement of music or piece of art… do you particularly care about the preferences of the person or persons who contributed to the creation of that thing you’re about to enjoy? I know I don’t and I have a feeling that most people don’t. How about that meal you’re about to go out and enjoy? Will you still eat it if you know the person who made that pizza (or whatever) has preferences counter to your own? Of course you will, you’re still hungry. How does knowing that an artist has homosexual preferences keep you from enjoying his or her art? It’s irrelevant information to the object at hand and the painting is still beautiful, the music still stirring, the book still compelling, the movie still entertaining, the game still fun.

Now, let’s take this a step further… games are one of the only artistic mediums where you can choose your experience as it happens. You can’t choose to just skip portions of a book or movie because they’re linear mediums: taken in order and from beginning to end. Music and art are entirely subjective, so they don’t enter into this (basically, you see what you want to see in music and art, so in a sense, if you’re seeing homosexuality in some of those things, you’re probably seeing more of yourself in them than you know… just saying it’s possible). Games on the other hand can be non-linear. You can miss things, skip others, react differently in the game than your friends and have wholly different experiences now. In Mass Effect, you could choose to have a relationship (as a male) with Liara, Ashley, or no one or (as a female) with Liara, Kaiden, or no one (admittedly, Liara is a special case as she’s not HUMAN so she doesn’t really count). In Mass Effect 2, they added a lot more potential relationships, but it wasn’t until Mass Effect 3 that they allowed for truly homosexual same species relationships (for the males, there’s Cortez and Kaiden and for the females, Traynor and Ashley). I recall from my experiences, I sat down with Kaiden at a table on the Presidium Commons to have a heart to heart and patch stuff up from the previous game and I was surprised that I even had the option to pursue a relationship with him. It wasn’t my thing, so I CHOSE to pass on it. He’s my friend and my brother, but more importantly, I didn’t get forced into doing something I didn’t want to do. You know, just like in real life.

I understand being afraid of things that are different. I’m terrified of spiders and Reapers, Borg, Zombies, and anything else I can’t potentially negotiate with… however, that’s no reason to be selfish about it. Just because I can’t stand spiders doesn’t mean other people can’t have them as pets. Hey, if they stay out of my way, I’m cool with them more or less (but God help them if they get within sight of me AND I’m at home… they aren’t paying rent and they’re creepy as hell!).

So, to those of you who are angry at a game developer for providing options I say, play around it. There’s a workaround in the game, so create a workaround in your life. Besides, what are you really truly afraid of? Scared you’ll see something you like in the infinite possibilities out there? I didn’t like a lot of things until I tried them… guacamole for one (seriously, it’s tasty). The old adage “don’t knock it until you try it” applies here, but also Wheaton’s Law: don’t be a dick. Seriously, get over it. People are different from you and if you want those people to treat you nicely and with deference to your perspectives and opinions you’re going to have to bite the bullet and treat THEM nicely and with deference to THEIR perspectives and opinions.

Speaking of Wheaton, let me put forth this: in Star Trek, we don’t see these issues so much. In Star Trek there’s this utopian society on Earth. We got rid of poverty and starvation, disease is being fought off and we’re winning against it. There’s no economy because we got rid of currency and now everyone can just focus on being themselves and working together for the betterment of their community, their city, county, state, country, world, and the United Federation of Planets. In Star Trek, socialism is a reality but it’s not that evil phrase that people bandy about today. There may be episodes here and there that have discrimination in it, but on Earth, in Starfleet, you can do what you want, be who you want, and still be a respected and valued member of society. That’s all that anyone wants… to be respected and valued. Think towards the future and respect and value your fellows regardless of their perspectives and they will respect and value you regardless of yours and when we achieve that, we will have reached the heights of humanity.

A final thought here and then I’ll put this to bed… art as a whole encourages us to think, to bear witness to our environment… it makes us smile, cry, laugh, yell, scream, and all the other things. It helps us remember that one professor from a time long ago or is emblematic of something less tangible. Art is powerful and it speaks to the humanity inside all of us. The art in question today, Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, aren’t just games, they’re social conventions that have brought millions together with shared and diverse experiences. The joy and glory is in the choices we’re allowed to make in these games. I’m certain many people have similar experiences, but no two people will have exactly the same one. It comes down to the person sitting at the keys or controller… the game is the same, but the decisions you make, the battles you fight, they are yours. If you choose to be in a homosexual relationship, you get to reap the rewards of your decision to do so. You are not penalized for being you. There are a thousand ways to climb the mountain and there may be a thousand more we haven’t found. Take pride in being special, but be humble enough to take pride in other people’s special qualities as well.

Until next time, be good to each other. We’re all we have.

– Elorfin

P.S. “Every day, here and at home, we are warned about the enemy. But who is the enemy? Is it the alien? Well, we are all alien to one another. Is it the one who believes differently than we do? No, oh no, my friends. The enemy is fear. The enemy is ignorance. The enemy is the one who tells you that you must hate that which is different. Because, in the end, that hate will turn on you. And that same hate will destroy you.” – Reverend Dexter, Babylon 5 “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place”

P.P.S. “The Universe speaks in many languages but only one voice. A language which is not Narn or Human or Centauri or Gaim or Minbari. It speaks in the language of hope. It speaks in the language of trust. It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion. It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul; but always it is the same voice; it is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us, and the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born; it is the small still voice that says: “We are one.” No matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the world, no matter the star. We are one. No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear. We are one. Here, gathered together in common cause we agree to recognize this singular truth and this singular rule: that we must be kind to one another. Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us, and each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light the way to a better future. We are one.” – G’Kar’s Declaration of Principles for the Interstellar Alliance, Babylon 5 “A Paragon of Animals”

P.P.P.S. “Now, if this bothers you, I suggest you stay in your quarters, stick your fingers in your ears, and hum real loud until it’s over! Unless you’d like to try something as breathtakingly rational as trying to open up a dialog?” – John Sheridan, Babylon 5 “The Coming of Shadows”

On Pick Up Groups – Multiplayer Bane or Boon?

This past weekend I participated in the latest event for Mass Effect 3’s Multiplayer component as well as continuing my participation in Star Trek Online roleplaying. There’s a common thread in both games amongst my friends and the people I’ve been associating with: no one has faith in a pick up group or PUG.

Now, I’m not saying this isn’t justified. Random groupings are a mixed bag and there’s a good chance of failure or success every time you set out on a mission, regardless of how coordinated you are with your companions of the moment. Let’s talk about ME3 for a bit first.

My friends and I have been playing a lot of the multiplayer component of ME3 lately. It’s incredibly fun but can be exceptionally frustrating if things go awry. For example, I was practically screaming at my computer last night when I couldn’t get my vanguard to perform a Biotic Charge when I needed her to. The ability was cooled down, I was targeting an enemy properly, there wasn’t anything in the way and I was hitting the right key, it just turned out that when my friend hosted, the game had a bit of ability lag and in twitch based combat, that’s unacceptable. So, yeah, I got pretty upset. After that fiasco I moved onto a random quick match and had a much more enjoyable experience even though we proceeded to very nearly lose at the last moment. Further, I hate fighting the Reapers. I can do it, I just don’t like it and I hate the Benning map the most because the cover sucks (but I’ve learned how to deal with it and it’s way less of a problem for me than it used to be).

With regards to PUGs in ME3, I’ve been in groups that have consistently trashed the enemy and made it all the way through to a successful finish. I even wound up in a group where none of us were KO’d the entire time and there were only three of us. However, I’ve been in groups that couldn’t survive past wave 3. After a certain point, it doesn’t matter how good I am at anything in the game, it has to do with how badly I got screwed by someone getting KO’d in a bad place and how many people trying to get to them managed to get KO’d too (myself included). Sometimes the enemy is just overwhelming and that’s understandable, just frustrating. My successes are better than my failures though and I’m getting more enjoyment than I expected from multiplayer. I’m a huge fan of the Adept and the Vanguard, two classes I’ve never really played in single player. I’m tempted to do a full run of Mass Effect with an Adept thanks to multiplayer.

On to Star Trek Online! I was hanging out in the Star Trek Online Roleplay chat (as I usually do). Conversations there are interesting, thought provoking, and rarely annoy me. There is a common complaint and “lesson learned” statement that’s often trumpeted there: you get what you deserve by playing in a PUG. Someone was complaining how their group wasn’t doing well in a Special Task Force and someone else said, “That’s what you get for not playing with friends.” There’s a certain truth to that. If you play with your friends, you’re instantly more forgiving of their shortcomings, they’re more willing to sacrifice for you and back you up, and overall the experience, even if you fail, is much more enjoyable because you did it with friends. I don’t disagree with the notion that you’d probably be better off doing the high end STO content with a group of people you know and associate with and actually like, but there is some benefit to PUGs. For one, you could get new friends. For another, you could learn something new. Yeah, you can still get the crap kicked out of you, but there’s nothing really bad about losing in STO unless you do it on the higher difficulties and there’s nothing really bad about losing in ME3 Multiplayer (you still get credit for everything you did… although, to get credits you do need to survive a few waves).

In the end, participant beware! Pick up groups are full of strange people who have questionable skill levels and you will never know what you wind up with until you’re in the thick of it (whatever IT is). Although, there is something to be said for Mass Effect 3’s Multiplayer: you can pick a random map, a random enemy, and you can wind up with a random group with random quality. This is present in a lot of games, but I’ve never been hit in the face as hard with genuine chance as I have with Mass Effect 3. Pick up groups are truly a mixed bag. Good luck in getting one with something good in it and even if you don’t find one like that, you might still learn something or get a friend out of the deal.

Until next time, play nice!

– Elorfin

P.S. “It is good to be often reminded of the inconsistency of human nature, and to learn to look without wonder or disgust on the weaknesses which are found in the strongest minds.” – Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay

Thoughts on the Ending – Mass Effect 3

Fair warning, this post will contain significant spoilers.

Recently, there’s been a lot of fuss over the ending to Mass Effect 3. After having an opportunity to digest it, I was originally kind of okay with it, even though it kind of left me feeling a bit adrift emotionally. Then I saw a video that made me think. It was regarding something called the Indoctrination Theory and it inspired me to consider other things… from how Shepard was fighting indoctrination to asking how he became indoctrinated to pondering what happened or what would happen if the existing ending was the real ending like I had originally assumed. I’m going to discuss a few of these thoughts now, so please bear with me.

1) The child in the beginning wasn’t really there. During my first playthrough, I saw a young boy playing with a toy in a courtyard. I was like, “okay, symbolic of having no cares in the world.” Later though, I encountered him cowering in a ventilation shaft. I offered to help him and his response of “You can’t help me” made me say out loud, “How do you know that?” In retrospect, I remember the cutscene at the ending of the introduction where the child is near the evacuation shuttles as a Reaper arrives. No one interacts with the child, no one drapes a blanket over his shoulders or ushers him to safety or even helps him aboard the shuttle. That lack of assistance for a child is extremely unlike any human behavior I know. It is in our nature to assist our young, regardless of how deadly the situation is and even if it would do no good.

2) The mass effect relays were destroyed in the end. We are shown the destruction of a relay in the ending of the Mass Effect 2 Arrival DLC when an asteroid hits it. It wipes out the whole system it’s in, including hundreds of thousands of batarians. One of the hardest things to be a part of, in my opinion. If all the mass relays explode in a similar fashion, then doesn’t all life in all the systems with relays die? What happens to the galactic civilization we enjoyed? There aren’t any ships that seem to navigate from cluster to cluster (or nebula) without a mass relay and therefore a large number of non-self sufficient colonies are going to die from the lack of support. Also, the economy is destroyed. Further, even if this particular energy blast (red, green, or blue) made it so that they don’t explode and wipe everyone out, the economy and galactic civilization as we knew it is absolutely over. Without the mass relays, the ending is bittersweet at best.

3) If Shepard is fighting indoctrination, and the child at the beginning is part of it, when did Shepard start becoming indoctrinated? I have a few arguments for different parts in the series. Most recently, it could be that with the sheer number of Reapers, Shepard was initially indoctrinated during the invasion of Earth. We’re told, and we’ve experienced, that indoctrination is more easily affected with close proximity, so that rules that out. In the Arrival DLC at the end of Mass Effect 2, Shepard is knocked out and kept in relative close proximity to a Reaper artifact that has indoctrinated an entire base of Alliance personnel. This is very likely to be the part where Shepard was affected the most and probably had the most significant effect on him during ME3. There is also the time aboard the derelict Reaper in ME2. Your exposure, however brief, could have moved things along a little. You could go back farther and argue that the Prothean Beacon in the very beginning of Mass Effect was possibly corrupted by Saren or by the Protheans who were indoctrinated and that you’ve been getting more and more indoctrinated throughout the whole series. Just a thought on those last two as I’m not sure they’re really the point where indoctrination occurred.

4) Anderson and The Illusive Man at the end are symbolic. I get that they could possibly be both sides of your psyche or something in this fight between the indoctrinated belief that you can possibly control the Reapers somehow and the strongly held, most logical belief, that the Reapers must be destroyed if we are all to be saved. The Illusive Man is definitely in charge at the end there as Shepard is broken and his will is getting kicked around like some kind of rag doll. Even I was thinking, “Damn Shepard, do you need a nap or something? How are you still going?” A good point is made though: how are you beat to hell and barely standing but Anderson is in nearly mint condition? I understand luck, but damn man… you’re LUCKY.

5) The Catalyst gives really crappy options. Initially, I just went with it, but when I had to finally make a decision between Control, Synthesis, or Destruction, I had a real hard time choosing. It had been proven to me by The Illusive Man that the Reapers couldn’t really be controlled, but I didn’t want to destroy EDI and the Geth. So I went with Synthesis and found myself regretting my choice ever since I was given the chance to think about it. Also, I felt it was really crappy that every decision essentially had the same repercussions: I died, something happens to the Reapers, the Normandy crashes, and galactic civilization as we know it comes to a screeching halt. That annoying little boy really pissed me off with his absolutely crappy solutions. Come on, you created the Reapers? Who created you? More importantly, if you’re so powerful, how come you don’t know that I was able to broker peace between us and the AI species of our time? Hell, they’re fighting the Reapers right outside our little conversation! Further, how in the hell would the Destroy option kill me because I’m “part synthetic”? Earlier in the game I was TOLD TO MY FACE BY EDI that I wasn’t synthetic enough to qualify as artificial life or something like that. As an aside, I’m kind of ticked that no one seems to have picked up on that conversation with EDI in Mass Effect 3.

6) The ending is an internal struggle against indoctrination. If that’s the case, well, I can see all the symbolism that has trained us to think a particular way during the series being used against us. The Control method is colored blue, and even though The Illusive Man (a man we have struggled against in some form for three whole games) is the one we’re shown attempting it, we still associate this unconsciously as the Paragon decision. The Destroy method is colored red, and even though Anderson (a man we trust and support wholeheartedly) is the one we’re shown attempting it, we still associate this unconsciously as the Renegade decision. In the whole series Paragon is blue and Renegade is red. If you look at it another way, view the final decision room from a top down perspective. You see three choices much like when you’re in conversations with people. The top right is Control and is colored blue. The middle right is Synthesis and is colored green. The bottom right is Destroy and is colored red. You, well, you start in the middle like the cursor normally does. It’s a dialogue choice and it’s designed this way purely to mess with you as the player.

7) This wasn’t the actual ending to the game and there’s still more fighting to be done. If this is the case, I’m all for it. Let me stand back up in the rubble. Let me grab my M-96 Mattock and start shooting again. Let me save Earth. Let me take it back. I’m still here and I’m not done yet. There is a strong question of the ethics in charging money for a DLC that continues the ending of the game or even just changes it. This is beyond the whole “people don’t like your ending” argument, this is a “you released an unfinished product and now in order to finish it properly, you want to charge people for it” kind of issue. I don’t mind paying for DLCs and I find that the extra couple of hours of gameplay that they usually offer encourages me to enjoy the game all over again (especially if the DLCs are semi-frequent and really awesome). I mind buying a broken or unfinished product and I particularly mind the idea of paying to fix said broken or unfinished product. DLCs are optional content that add to the context of the game, but they are first and foremost OPTIONAL and therefore are not REQUIRED to enjoy the experience set before you. Changing the ending or finishing the game can be argued to be both optional and required, so I’m going to leave that up to the internet forums that like to argue about these things to no eventual resolution.

Let’s wrap this up. I’m currently going through my second playthrough. I’m taking my time, I’m finding all the little bits and pieces here and there. Further, I’m keeping a much more open mind to the possibilities that there were messages in the prior games that could help inform me in ME3. In Mass Effect, the final fight against Saren proves that Synthesis with the Reapers isn’t a good idea and I definitely forgot this when I got to ME3. In ME2, the constant back and forth with The Illusive Man starts the argument that we really shouldn’t even try to Control the Reapers as it’ll just end badly. In Mass Effect 3, it becomes more obvious that the only way to win this is to destroy them. I’m going to do that. Also, multiplayer is quite fun.

I hope this article has helped somehow. I hope it makes you think about your preconceived notions about the series, that it makes you look deeper into your favorite stories, that you never stop questioning the world around you especially when you’re surrounded by a fabricated world of wonder created by others and for the sole purpose of entertainment. Take the Socratic method into your heart and wander the world, wherever it may be and however real it is or isn’t. I was swept up in the moment and I learned that I need to pay more attention than ever.

Thank you Bioware. You made an incredible game that you’re not entirely done with. I think you did this intentionally. Well, whatever happens, Mass Effect is one of my favorite series of all time and when all the DLCs have been released and you put this series to bed, I will dust off the original and I will go from beginning to end. I will remind myself of the journey and the friends and the choices I made and I will be grateful for the opportunity to do so. As with the Redwall series, whenever Brian Jacques came out with a new one, I would read all of them again. As I did this more or less with Mass Effect, your games have become akin to grand books. You have truly created something marvelous that transcends mediums. I give you my heartfelt congratulations and say that I look forward to what comes next.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. In the whole of the series, I played a self-sacrificing Shepard. Anything I could do to help those in or under my command, I did it. Yes, I got played by some mean-spirited souls and got screwed occasionally, but I helped more than I harmed. I made some incredible friends through the people who joined my cause and I cite them as the source of the majority of my enjoyment from the series. Kaidan, Ashley, Garrus, Wrex, Tali, Liara, Jacob, Miranda, Zaeed, Mordin, Grunt, Jack, Kasumi, Thane, Samara, Legion, James, Javik, and EDI are all people of whom I can speak fondly. So too do I speak fondly of Joker, Anderson, Adams, Chakwas, the dynamic duo of Ken and Gabby, Chambers, Cortez, Traynor, and Allers. However fictional they may be, I have this to say of them: “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anaïs Nin. When it comes to my friends, I take this to heart: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus, John 15:13.

Pre-loaded: Mass Effect 3

Thanks to being allowed to pre-load the game, Mass Effect 3 has been taunting me from my desktop since Friday afternoon.

It’s currently less than 15 hours to go until it’s available to start playing and I’m exceptionally excited about this.

Yesterday I watched a video on PATV (Penny Arcade TV) where the folks in the video were talking about the differences between Western RPGs and Japanese RPGs (or JRPGs) and that got me to thinking as to what drew me into Mass Effect in the first place and what’s keeping me here. When I play a Final Fantasy game, I always get to that point right before the end of the game where it’s the last chance you have to wander around and level all the way up if you feel like it and do all the optional stuff left in the game. That’s usually the point where I put the controller down and don’t pick it up again for a year or more. With Mass Effect, I get all the way to the end game and I make that final push after ensuring that I’m ready to go. It’s not about if my characters are ready to go as in the Final Fantasy games, it’s about if I’m ready to go.

Mass Effect holds my attention, it demands I push forward, it encourages me to step up and make that difference in the world that Bioware built. It’s a modern-day Knight Rider… Michael Knight on his Normandy, Shepard in his KITT. One man CAN make a difference Shepard.

Well, that’s a dawning realization if ever I saw one. You see, I grew up watching Knight Rider and now… deep down it its essence of essences, I’m playing it. So, in less than 15 hours from this writing, I will wait anxiously for my copy of Mass Effect 3 to decrypt itself… and I will be ready to make a difference in the universe one more time.

John Shepard the Infiltrator (my ME1 imported character who has a relationship with Liara) will be my first import from ME2. My second import is Cassandra Shepard the Soldier (who has a relationship with Garrus and who I took advantage of the Genesis DLC with and thus never played through ME1). I’m tempted to finish the third game where I have a relationship with Tali… all I have left is the Overlord DLC, the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, and the Arrival DLC.

I can’t wait. I’ve got to step up and protect Earth from the Reapers. No, wait, I can’t protect it… but I can take it back… and I will. I can promise you that.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Just once I’d like to ask someone for help and hear them say, “Sure. Let’s go. Right now. No strings attached.”” – Commander Shepard

P.P.S. “I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.” – Commander Shepard

P.P.P.S. One of my favorite incidental exchanges in the whole game:

[While going up or down stairs in the Citadel]
Garrus: You ever miss those talks we had on the elevators? [Referring to the first Mass Effect game]
Tali: [perturbed] No.
Garrus: [slyly] Come on, remember how we’d all ask you about life on the flotilla? It was an opportunity to share!
Tali: This conversation is over.
Garrus: Tell me again about your immune system!
Tali: I have a shotgun.
Garrus: Mm…Maybe we’ll talk later.