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Monthly Archives: August 2012

The stakes have never been higher for Commander Shepard and the Galaxy in Mass Effect 2 as you lead a desperate mission against impossible odds to stop the enigmatic Collectors from abducting human colonies, and find their connection to the Reaper threat. Along the way you make new allies and friends, and continue to build your resources for that final confrontation.

And in that vein Bioware drastically improved upon nearly all of the basic game play mechanics and the model from ME 1 and brought it to the new systems. And since this is the first edition of the game to be released on another console than Xbox has an extra added bonus to the rest of us.

Thus formed my own attraction and love of the ME series, ME 2 in particular, and provided one of the greatest and most polished game play experiences of any game that I have ever played.

Character: 9.8/10

ME 2 introduced me to the Mass Effect trilogy and thus introduced me to many of its characters for the first time. This was my first experience with Garrus Vakarian, Tali Zorah, Ashley Williams, Liara T’soni and others. It also introduced us to many series first including the Illusive Man, Miranda Lawson, Thane Krios, and the Quarian Marine Kal’Reager.

They characters were well voice acted and thanks to many of the mechanics of the game you related to them, you got to know them as you were dealing with specific problems that they faced in their everyday lives to help them deal with the mission at hand. Plus you heard from other characters in the previous ME game and got to catch up with them both as full squad mates and as cameo appearances.

Special kudos go the voice acting of Jennifer Hale, Martin Sheen, and Brandon Keener who really brought their characters alive and provided some of the most intimate and epic voice acting that I have heard from anything. Martin Sheen just worked as the Illusive Man and Jennifer Hale brought Female Commander Shepard alive in a way that no one else could, hence getting me to love the character. Also Seth Green and Tricia Helfer provided great comedy with the characters of EDI and Joker. And well too many great characters to count the more I think about it, it would be easier to list the characters that I did not relate to and even than they are some of the best done characters that I have had the pleasure of interacting with.

There was nothing ‘wrong’ with the characters per se…just that they seemed static. They never left their assigned places on the Normandy (with the exception of Samara) never truly interacted with each other outside of the missions (save for EDI and Joker) And the squad banter was at times uninspired.

Basically it was just Shepard interacting with these characters, which worked, but then it didn’t allow for character development among themselves.

Story: 9.0/10

ME 2 had a great story in a lot of ways, the abduction of human colonies is a classic, getting to the bottom of the mystery of the Collectors, discovering that they were secretly the Protheans from the long-lost eons, and the further answers about the Reapers and just why the Collectors were collecting.

But the only problem was that the vast majority of the game did not focus on this.

Sure it was all building up to the one solid moment of the Suicide Mission as you gathered resources and pieces to the puzzle to survive or not depending on your actions throughout the game. But it wasn’t really a story. Most of the events in ME 2 were unrelated to the central goal of stopping the Collectors. Sure it helped keep your team clear but we did truly not deal with the Collectors except for a couple of missions.

ME 2 was a character piece and it worked well.

Aside from that the story did provide plenty of set up for the next game in the series from everything to the Arrival DLC, to Lair of the Shadow Broker, to discovering that someone was attempting to cure the genophage, all of these would pay huge dividends and come up in big ways in ME 3. And the new characters that you were running into also helped. This is the kind of ‘arc building’ that I really appreciate.

Gameplay: 9.4/10

ME 2 made huge improvements in most of the areas from ME 1. Especially most of the areas that I complained about, there were little to no vehicle parts to speak of, and the few of them that were there were DLC and side quests, the inventory system was non existent…which was an improvement even though it did also take away from the RPG feel so it was also a negative. But other than that the exploring and side missions were well done to a point, the combat flowed more easily and made more sense, though they did add those dang thermal clips and universal power cool down.

Other then that there was not too much to complain about. The power additions were better and the cover system worked to perfection.

The only thing that really bothered me was the Side missions and occasional imbalance of difficulty. The game went from almost easy peasy against the ‘grunts’ to being atrociously hard on a lot of the bosses. Also the number of powers for your squad was a bit…dull. But the side missions over all were pointless distractions from the main mission and now that I have done them all in various play throughs I do not see myself going back to do them again.

Final Verdict: 9.4/ 10.

ME 2 since it was my first experience of the franchise from a game play perspective I did not know what to expect. On the one hand the game series sounded clich├ęd when I had first heard about it all those years ago in Game Informer but my friends seemed to enjoy it. I didn’t have an Xbox and I normally do not go out of my way to play these types of games on my computer who either could not run it or the controls proved to be overly difficult. So I was not too eager to go out and get a game on that system that I was not sure of its mettle.

Which ultimately proved to be one of the greatest game play experiences that I have had. Sure it was buggy, sure it glitched, sure there were parts of it that were like poking me in the eye with a blazing hot poker, and part of it was not very RPGy. Though ultimately this was also my first major RPG experience that clicked with me.

But the greater package was superb, as it was for ME 3. The music was awesome, the characters were the greatest collection of characters of any video game, and the balance between action and story worked. May’ve not been the best game play experience that I ever have had, but it ranks up there, and its a game I am proud to own and proud to keep coming back to.

And hooked me on this phenomenal universe.

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So the big news in the past political week was that Mitt Romney chose his Vice Presidential pic in one representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. What are we to make of this decision? As with most political related issues not sure if I know the answer but I do have an idea about how we can find out. And, more importantly, to have an honest dialogue so we can determine if he is the good, the bad, or the ugly of the political cycle.

Representative Ryan, like many politicians, often is in conflict between his rhetoric and his vote record. But since it is his actions and not his words that will break our bones, the same with any politician or anyone in real life, I figure that is where our focus should lie.

I should state for the record that I really do think that Paul Ryan is a good choice. He may not be the best. He may not be the caped crusader or the Libertarian hero come to save us all, but I believe he can move us, if only by an inch, in the right direction. He is not Chris Christie or Tim Pawlenty. I would have preferred that Romney go with Rand Paul or some other candidate along those lines, to try to more forcibly bring the Libertarian and the ‘moderate’ wings of the party into some sort of alliance. It would have shown that Romney would be at least willing to listen to someone who is truly committed to shrinking our Government in a dramatic and Libertarian fashion. And, as an added bonus, it would’ve sent the more radically minded supporters of Ron Paul into absolute fits that would probably make me chuckle for weeks.

But Paul Ryan seems to be a tale of two politicians. He is supported by the Tea Party, *link*, much despised by the Democrats (Link), and says he is for several things fiscally I agree with like shrinking the budget and in general giving more freedom to American Citizens. Like for voting for the privatization of Social Security amongst other issues. (link) (Also I will be referring to that link several times throughout this blog).

All of this is godo. The rhetoric he espouses is often right on the mark, some of the bills he has voted for and supported I commend him for, and many of the activists and organizations that I like and subscribe to also believe in him. He seems to be a fiscal shark that wants to get America on the right track and help make us freer and more secure.

But then there is the ugly part of him, and his voting record.

He voted for Medicare Part D, he voted for the bailouts and the TARP packages.

He voted for two packages that I did not like, CISPA, and the NDAA (link), (link). Two bills that I consider to be dangerous to our liberties, and is a dangerous encroachment on our rights. Though he apparently believes that won’t happen so maybe he is right?

The point of the matter is that this is not a candidate I do not think everyone will be happy with. He is, after all, Mitt Romney’s VP pick, and Mitt Romney I believe wants to grow the Government in certain areas that could be a danger to the Republic. So his VP pick will be along similar ideological lines. They are both ‘good’ candidates that even if they get the Government the least bit off our backs or move us one cent into the green, or at the least stop the spiral of debt we are on ow, then this will be a victory.

But it would be remiss if we weren’t aware and did not have a conversation about both of these mens flaws and their ‘ugliness’.

That way we can move forward without them if we need to, and fix the country ourselves.

I have been debating on how to do this blog for a while now, I have been playing through ME 2 and ME 1 and ME 3. I have been mulling over this and even attempted to do this once. This is not a political blog, it is solely for my own entertainment, because I think ME is important, and I think a lot of people miss the point on the game series and the last game. So while this is only for entertainment I can and will use ME to illustrate points in the future.

Now originally I wanted to do some complicated formula of what each game did well, poorly, the best in the series, general thoughts, and than general thoughts in the series, that blog was over 900 words and I had only gotten through ME 2. But then I got to thinking about something that I have realized before, what are the three most important elements o a Video game? The Characters, the Story, and the gameplay/ mechanics. And then I will still be giving general thoughts about the series.

So without further adieu.

Mass Effect 1:

Story: 10/10

The original Mass Effect had a pretty interesting and amazing story that benefited from the fact that you were moving out to explore a new universe and a new world. While it was simple and straight forward (in many respects) it had to be since it was the first installment of the series and had to introduce everything from character and setting to plot and the main antagonists. But it did have many a twists and turns that would set up the drama and action for the entire rest of the series. Finding out about the Reapers, their original harvest, the fate of the Protheans, the secrets of the Citadel, and moral issues that came from the discovery of these elements of the universe. It was a pure exploration story.

Character: 8.5/10

Mass Effect had some great character moments and some great characters but they all seemed a bit flat and not as fleshed out as in the later installments. There weren’t enough chances to talk to the crew and they basically just sat there and did nothing. Also the voice acting by a lot of the players made them unconvincing, but again they fixed that in the later installments.

This was with the exception of Shepard him/ herself, Ashley Williams, Wrex, and to a certain extent Garrus.

Fem Shep while it was not Jennifer Hale’s best performance of the series it was still quite strong and made the character believable, and recognizable for those of us starting the series from the midle.

Wrex was a great character, well voice acted, and provided important insight to one of the key characters in the series and one of the key conflicts: The Krogan and the genophage. I found it hard not to relate to the guy and not to listen to his stories and not to chuckle at his antics. My Shepard did not always *approve* of his actions but he/ she was able to give him enough leeway to get the job done.

And Ashley Williams, was one of the best characters ever created. Why? Like or hate her she was a fully formed character in the first game with fully developed issues and beliefs. She was religious, and according to some she may have been a racist (they are wrong but whatever). But that is part of the point. If you like her then she is likely not a racist just someone who has a strong sense of self and with the proper military regard to security. If you don’t like her then she is likely a racist. But how brilliant is it of Bioware to actually put a main line protagonist on your squad that would even approach that issue? I think it is.

Gameplay/ Mechanics: 7/10

The story was great, the characters were passable, but most of the gameplay made it nearly unplayable. The Mako and its lackluster controls and handling nearly made me want to quit, the Omni gel and mini games were atrocious, the side missions were passable but considering you had to use the Mako to access ninety percent of them (so it seemed) made them hardly worth it, and the inventory was a drain on my IQ points.

The only saving grace was the combat mechanics. I didn’t realize it because I started with ME 2 but I really did like the overheat system instead of the thermal clips, powers having their own cool downs made sense, and the fact that some powers overrode shields was great. But in the end it was still buggy as hell given that many of the enemies would just spontaneously charge your position. I know they have shields/ barriers but really? Three special forces soldiers many of them armed with Shotguns, Assault Rifles, and or powers can’t put down a charging Krogan?

But one thing of note was how the game allowed you to make more proper RPG descisions. You could actually say ‘no’ to a task if it made your Shepard and their morality uncomfortable.

Other then that the game did have its bugs, I had to restart it twice due to technical issues, (which coincidentally is the same amount of time that I spent on technical issues for ME 3), and I was not that impressed with the graphics. Though people who pay more attention to such aspects say they are pretty good so take that with a slight grain of salt.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Mass Effect was a good solid game, and considering the improvements that the next two installments made in the over all structure of the games, thus ME is my favorite series, on or off the Citadel. The music was good, the plot was excellent and it was just a kick arse game with a non controversial ending.

But I want to play as my Shepard. I want to see her in action. I do not want to drive in a poorly designed MBT throughout most of the game looking for clues. Sure it makes some modicum of sense from a story perspective but the open world feel and the amount of time in the Mako made me have almost no connection to the characters. Most of the stuff I can forgive as being silly game play mechanics with the Omni gel and the inventory problems. But the Mako was way too far.

And I also appreciate the idea behind open world exploration, and loved it in Skyrim, but that idea ruined the parts of the ME franchise I loved. The characters. Instead of making an open world where you got to explore in a box they could have devoted more resources to fleshing out all the characters. Not just Shep or Wrex or Ashley….

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/chick-fil-a-day-dont-boycott-infiltrate/2012/08/01/gJQArrGOPX_blog.html

On Thursday just after the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day I heard about this story on the Rush Limbaugh show, and it instantly got me thinking, about this whole issue in general. First of all this is absurd, it is patently absurd, the whole notion. I suppose I can wish them the best of luck in their efforts if they chose to go through with this but I imagine that many gays already have jobs and careers and lives that they want to live, and running a Chick-Fil-A is not among their list of things to do.

But there is something else here, that is probably behind the absurd, but brings out the absurd. And that is with these hiring process. Specifically, what do gays hope to gain through the hiring process in this case? Are they trying to force a show down with Chick-Fil-A over discrimination and hiring?

Now I want to be very clear I have not heard of a specific case of Chick-Fil-A discriminating against gays in hiring and serving practices, they say they do not do it, in the link above even the author quotes them as saying as much. And as far as I can determine they mention nothing about being anti-gay in any of their hiring literature (best I could find.

But what if gay activists actually start to do this? What if they start to go to these restaurants and attempt to go through the hiring process with this strategy in mind? What do they hope to gain? What do they hope to lose? Do they expect to get hired?

After all what hiring manager in their right mind would take someone of this mindset? Someone that was trying to work for your company just so they could pursue a political agenda?

None that I know of, none that I could think of in my brief research into what hiring managers are looking for in their perspective employees. I wouldn’t do it. Would you? If you were running a company and someone was trying to work for you simply for a political agenda would you hire them?

And Chick-Fil-A makes a big deal about being a family run and operated business. And they apparently have a belief in the biblical definition of marriage, which some believe to be anti-gay…and some believe that means they are talking about one man and one woman. This is all probably true…

So, how does that fit for gays? Not saying they discriminate, not saying they will refuse gays within the company or not hire them or not promote them, and they probably can even be managers, but gay couples, children or no, do not match the definition of ‘family’ that we are likely dealing with. So again it would be almost impossible to be hired and rise to a position to make this happen within the company.

And what would gays do during the hiring process? If the manager asks, so why do you want to work for my company? Would they lie? Would they tell the truth? How do they expect to get hired just as a social experiment?

And finally, what if they do get hired? What if they even become managers and owners and supervisors? What if they start hosting these gay weddings and gay parties? And taking their gay families to eat at these places and they manage to turn them into gay hang outs?

And what if, keeping this article in mind, someone higher up the chain hears about it?

What if a general manager at a store? A branch manager at some corporate headquarters? What will happen?

Will these employees get fired for exercising a political agenda? One that is contrary to the mission statement of the company? Against their values?

And what if this does happen? What if people try this tactic out and get turned away from rightfully indignant hiring managers?

I do not want to cast aspirations on the author, and I won’t. But I fear this will turn into nothing but another show down of Big Government + Special Interest Group of the Day vs. a legitimate business. That people will use this as an excuse to continue to regulate companies and say that you cannot discriminate, that’s right, we the Government decides who works for your company and who does not. Because we have to stop the vile practices of Chick-Fil-A. We have to prevent them from continuing their vile homophobia and bigotry, we have to step in their for justice!

I have pointed it out before and will do so again: The First amendment protects Free Speech, but also the ability of people of like minds to gather with other people of like minds. And the Government has no place in regulating that contract between two people.

But that is the fear, that this may not start out as this, but it will turn into gays being turned away because the only reason why they want to work at a company is for political reasons. With that not being a good enough reason for most people to hire someone.

I suppose the only thing that I can do here is ask the liberal audience who might read this, or anyone else who might support this plan, would you want to hire someone just for making a political point?

This is asking for nothing but trouble.

Hello everyone. Went through my old blogs and realized that the last time that I had blogged was June 27th *wince* Ouch. Well I am back and I am going to be trying to blog more in the future but with the next semester of school rapidly approaching not sure how much free time I am going to have between this and my projects, nevertheless I am committed to continuing to blog and bringing you my high quality opinion when I get time between my school, writing, and my job.

Nevertheless there is a lot to talk about.

As I write this, yesterday was Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, and I went to go eat at the fine restraint for the first time…probably this year. The lines were packed nearly out the door and we had to wait at least an hour for our meal to arrive. But I have to admit I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I do support everyone’s right to free speech, but I was concerned about what everyone else was doing there. What were their motivations I wondered? Do they want to ban Gay Marriage or are they here simply to support the right of an American business and its owner to state their opinion?

As many people know through this blog I am reasonably in the middle on this issue. I respect gay ‘rights’ but I also respect the rights of Christians to state their opinion and to support their traditional views on marriage. No one should use the power of force to silence or force themselves on another group which was not what the owner of Chick-Fil-A was doing…all he was doing was supporting traditional marriage in his view…but more on that in a bit.

But I realized that all I was there for was to stand together and support someone else in their right to speak. Me and hundreds, thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people gathered in order to support a company in their right to have an opinion. And in the end that is all that is important. People coming together as one group to give their hard-earned money, to wait hours, just to show solidarity with an American Company.

Nothing else could be more fantastic.

This event brought together Christians, Jews, and even gays. Yes a gay called into the Sean Hannity show yesterday and gave his support and approval of Chick-Fil-A saying that they were always nice and courteous and that he was going to participate in the day. A paraphrase anyways he might eaten or was going to go eat…but that is not what is important.

What is important was that no matter individual beliefs and motivations, no matter the orientation of some people or their personal preferences, people came together
in common cause to support differing opinions and the rights to free speech and self conscience. That no matter what we are Americans and we may not always disagree with each other, but Gosh darn it I will defend your rights to disagree.

Because tomorrow we could be divided again, tomorrow we could be on opposite sides of some issue or something, tomorrow we could be disagreeing on some fundamental principle or natural order.

Because in a crowd of over 600,000 people (at least) (link) as some have reported who knows the full range of beliefs, ideologies, opinions, religions, and tastes that could be represented in that group. From the good, to the bad, to the grotesque.

But whatever that opinion they have a right to it every bit as much as the owners of Chick-Fil-A.

And thank God for Chick-Fil-A, thank God that they made a stand and did nothing wrong other than stating their belief and preference on what the family unit should be. Not coming out against homosexuals, or gays, not even saying its wrong, just giving a preference and being for something. (link) Thank God for Chick-Fil-A for allowing us to have this debate, to continue a national dialogue and conversation on all sorts of rights. Thank God for weeding out the true bigots and the people intolerant of others and their opinions. Thank God for giving us this opportunity.

Because the lesson here is that when you are for something that does not mean you are against something else. Sure they probably do not believe in gay marriage, but all they did was stand for what their interpretation is. And just because I link hands with Christians or anyone else does not mean we agree on every issue. In fact its safe to say we don’t.

It does not mean we are a member of the Westboro Baptists or Bush’s b**** or that we are going to lead this country down a path that Pope Urban the Second chose. All this means is that we are standing together. With human dignity, human rights, and the mass of humanity, making that connection, uniting, even if for just one day, one hour, one minute, or one second.

And we should thank God for that.