Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

Mass Effect’s “new” multiplayer component was launched prior to Mass Effect 3’s release.  It has been out for sometime now and has had several updates to include new maps and weapons since it was launched as a demo with two maps.  Overall MEM (Mass Effect Multiplayer) is fun and I’m sure any Mass Effect fan likes it.  I also think it appeals to other gamers.  Perhaps players of Modern Warfare, Battlefield etc. might give it a try for a break from their usual gaming routine.

In a MEM game you play with three other peeps to form a four-man Alliance team.  You get sent to some off-world sierra hotel to complete various missions.   During the game you fight 10 waves of enemies completing various missions and then are extracted.

Characters are capped at level 20 and you get to distribute a generous amount of points into the various class’s biotic powers.  New updates have added new races and classes you can play such as the Geth.  I must admit that I find the Krogan Vanguard disturbing!  Lol  The enemies are either Cerberus troops, mutated Reapers or Geth.  Watch out respectively for the Phantom, Banshee and Prime opponents as they are the hardest to kill.

There are three difficulty levels, bronze, silver and gold.  You can really tell the difference between the levels as the aggressiveness and survivability of the enemies significantly increases as you go up in difficulty.  On gold level, the hardest, it is very difficult to survive to extraction.

The variety of missions is one feature that makes MEM fun.  The base mission is to kill the incoming wave of enemy.   Always fun just shooting anything that comes your way. The other missions entail killing four “high-value” enemy targets, uploading data from a computer terminal, fixing/reactivating four terminals/satellite up-links and finally the extraction itself.

The high-value target mission is fun.  You have a set amount of time to kill 4 enemy targets.  Each time you kill a target you get a little more time.  Don’t be surprised to find other enemies protecting the high-value target adding some difficulty.

The uploading data is essentially a hold your ground mission.  You go to a terminal and must hold your position for several minutes while uploading data to a computer terminal as enemies constantly attack you.  Remember the more of your team members in the designated area the quicker the download.

The fixing or reactivating mission sends you to four different devices on the map in succession to activate.  You have a set amount of time to activate all four devices.  Usually this involves fighting your way to the device and a little hold your ground.  When you get to the device it takes about 15 seconds to activate it.  If there aren’t any enemies around you can do this by yourself.  If not you’ll need a team member to keep them busy for the 15 seconds.

The extraction mission, which I guess you could say is the 11th wave, is another hold your ground mission.  You move to the extraction point and hold that area for two minutes until a shuttle arrives at the LZ to extract you.

My only real criticism of MEM is the awards system where you buy various packs of gear, increasing in price, Starter, Recruit, Veteran, and Sprectre to get better gear, ammo and power upgrades.  The problem is that the equipment in any pack on any given purchase varies so you never know what you are getting.  Sometimes an item you shelled out big bucks to buy in real money (Microsoft Points) or in game earned credits in a Sprectre pack might be found in the significantly less expensive Recruit pack. Say for example you have an Avenger II assault rifle and want the Avenger III.  You have absolutely no logical path to purchasing it.  You just have to hope that it randomly show’s up in some pack you buy.  Buying a Spectre pack or higher has no bearing on if the item you want will be in it.  For example I’ve wanted the Vanguard additional camouflage patterns for my character’s appearance for weeks.  No such luck.

Also the MEM contribution to your Mass Effect 3 single player game makes no sense.  As you play MEM you see some message that says something like “+ 1% to galactic readiness.”  This number goes up and down.  Log off and come back and you start over again.  How this gets added to your readiness in the single player game isn’t in the least bit obvious.  Not that you really need a couple percentage increase in readiness when you get to the end of Mass Effect 3.  So why even bother with this?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Quarians or the Geth? Part 2

Spoilers Follow

Who will you choose?
In the end there can only be one.  Either the Quarians or the Geth.  So who will you destroy and who will you save?  Both have huge fleets and technical expertise to help you construct the Crucible.   

You choice either kills Tali and the Quarians or Legion and the Geth.  So EA/Bioware does allow to you choose the fate of an entire race.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter who you chose.  Whichever you choose will commit their fleet to your war effort and use their engineering skills to assist with the construction of the Crucible.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Quarians or the Geth? Part 1

The Heretic Geth dreadnaught explodes just as Shepard escapes.
Spoilers Follow

One of the few things you’ll get resolution on in Mass Effect 3 is the fate of the Quarians or the Geth.  Commander Shepard gets to make some choices that either saves or destroys one or the other.

Trying to reclaim Rannoch, their homeworld, the Quarian fleet is engaged in battle with a Geth fleet that includes a Geth dreadnaught they are trying to destroy.  Turns out that the Geth virus in Mass Effect 2 didn’t save the Heretic Geth and bring them back to the Geth collective.  The heretic Geth are now fighting for the “old machines” and are opposed by the Geth who are losing their fight against them.

Shepard uses the Normandy’s stealth systems to fly through the fight and dock with the dreadnaught.  Their mission is to disable its systems so the Quarians can destroy it.  Overall this is fun mission.  After boarding the dreadnaught you fight your way through the ship to turn off its turrets and other capabilities.  Of note is that each time the big guns fire a surge of energy goes through the passage you are in.  If this hits you it wipes out your shields making you easy prey for the Heretics defending the passage.  So remember to take cover when you see the power surge coming.

Legion captured and connected to the dreadnaught network.
Towards the end you discover that the Heretic Geth have imprisoned Legion and are using him and the Geth collective as a large server to operate the dreadnaught, communicate and other miscellaneous tasks.

You free Legion and he explains the Geth/Heretic Geth situation to you.  Legion then helps you to disable the dreadnaught and escape.  Seems that the Quarian Admiral leading the attack choses to attack the dreadnaught rather than waiting for you to escape.  You need lay smack down on him for that!

This sets the stage for another encounter on the Quarian home world of Rannoch where Shepard ultimately decides the fate of the two races and Tali and Legion.  Like The Highlander "there can only be one."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Ending – Oh My

Spoilers Follow

Big machine guns are always fun to shoot.
If you are a Mass Effect fan or a gamer you’ve probably read about the ending of Mass Effect 3 if you haven’t gotten there yourself.  I finished Mass Effect 3 the other night so I can weigh in on the issue.

Well, where is that anti-Mass Effect 3 facebook page so I can like it!  Wow, what a terrible ending to the game, trilogy and characters I came to like over three games spanning five years.   EA/Bioware can try to hide behind their “creative” genius but it won’t help.  The ending of Mass Effect 3 doesn’t suck because it is sad.  I’ve seen lots of movies and read many books with sad endings.  A sad ending is ok.  Mass Effect 3’s ending is terrible because it SUCKS, period. 

First, most of your choices from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 don’t really matter.  For example I chose to make Anderson the human representative to the Council but Udina is the human Councilor not Anderson.  The ending stinks because you get no resolution about anything.  When the game is over you don’t know what happened to the galaxy, the Alliance, humanity or your squad members over the games.  You can infer a couple things but there is no definitive resolution on anything other than the characters who died before the ending scene.  In my game Liara and Garrus were my squaddies for the final battle.  Presumably they where killed trying to get to the light beam that transports you up to the Citadel.  But they both stepped off the crash-landed Normandy at the end.  So I guess Joker swept down with the Normandy and picked them up while Shepard was crawling to the transporter? 

Quarian and Geth fleets fight it out.
Another thing that really irked me was how Mass Effect 2 characters were completely dissed.  Kasumi was dissed the most of all and she was one of my favorites.  Anyhow EA/Bioware's claim that they were limiting the squad so that you could get more involved with the ones they forced on you was lame.  First off, I didn’t want to meet new characters in the third game.  I wanted to spend the third and final game getting to better know more about the characters I already knew.  Miranda, who was huge in Mass Effect 2 gets maybe 5 minutes of cut scenes.  (No, I haven’t actually timed it.) How can you take such an integral character and completely cut her out, more so if you had made her a romantic interest?  Some Mass Effect 2 characters fared better than others but mainly they all just made appearances in cut scenes.  Some got more time than others and some were killed and you had no input.  I guess those that died were the lucky ones!

Vega; I never took him on mission after Mars when others where available.  Edi and Javik were both nice gimmicks but that’s it.  Javik especially, as the last living Prothean, could have been given a huge role in the game finishing the Crucible for example.  Although Ashley was always a favorite they essentially gave you three soldiers (Ashley, Vega and Javik) for the squad although they had different biotic powers.  I will admit I thought Javik had a couple funny lines though.

Just to rub a little salt in the wound EA/Bioware is coming out with a new Mass Effect 3 ending in the form of DLC - downloadable content.  I.E. if you want the new ending you are going to have pay them more money for what should have been included in the game.  Many people think that EA/Bioware already had this content on hand and planed to make you pay for it from the get go. Perhaps this is the ending that was previously leaked during the Beta testing?  Did EA/Bioware feel they had to come up with a new lame ending because the original was leaked?

So what to do?  If you are a Mass Effect fan you have to play Mass Effect 3 regardless of the lame ending.  On the positive side the graphics are awesome.  The game play is excellent the new melee attacks are a welcome addition.  The exception being the combat roll which usually turned out to be a pain for me.  Many times I would get caught rolling between objects and couldn’t get out.  I never did get Kinect so I can't comment on how that works.  Perhaps somehow who played Mass Effect 3 with Kinect can leave a comment about how they liked it.  Personally I like pulling up either the weapon or biotic wheel.  It stops the action so you can take a break and survey the battlefield to get some situational awareness. The new weapons and biotic powers are fun also.  Killing Udina feels real good too!  Lol  There are some great new enemies also such as Kai Leng and the Reaper made Banshee.  There are some excellent fights but I’ve felt that way about all three games.

Here is a interesting piece by Doyce about Mass Effect 3's ending that shows how Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy would have ended if it followed the terrible story telling that EA/Bioware used on Mass Effect 3.  It's worth reading.

Mass Effect 3 to me was really a story more than a video game.  What made Mass Effect great were the characters, plot, voice acting, cut scenes, graphics, weapons, enemies and more importantly that through the video game interface I felt that I was part of the story.  Essentially I was the lead actor in this epic science fiction movie/story.  EA/Bioware dropped the ball on story telling in Mass Effect 3.  Whether it was just a grab for money or some artificial date that they felt the game had to be out by we'll never know.  And most likely EA really could care less if you and I are upset.  They got your money which was their Cerberus-like plan all along. (Update: EA/Bioware has said the new ending DLC will be free.)

I didn't capture much video of last 8 hours or so of the game as I was trying to just finish it to see the ending.  I'm going to go back to a save and replay it again and capture some video for future posts.