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Tag Archives: Mass Effect 3

OK, so it happens. Here you are, on Tuchanka, being all bad ass and having the best possible match of your entire life, rocking it as a Turian Ghost, spamming and shooting all the things with your trustee Harrier…and just generally kicking a lot of butt. When your Dad calls, he needs to do something on the TV. You panic, wondering what to do, you can’t pause the game! So you either keep fighting, or find a quaint corner of the battlefield and hole up for a little while.

If you have any experience with multi-player games then this, (or some variation there of) has probably happened to you. You are playing along, minding your own business, when someone interrupts your playing time with some emergency…and there is no pause button!

Well, I may have just the solution for you!

During E3, I actually watched some of the press coverage for E3, I was able to wath some of the Forza press conference. Aside from the usual demonstration of graphics, tracks, game play features, and the description of the multi-player component came one interesting tid bit of information.

Using the Cloud and their Cloud servers the presenter for Forza claims they can develop and even use their Cloud Based servers to store your online information. Then they use that information to build a profile of you, your driving habits, how fast you go, etc. Then this profile, when you are offline, can race for you and build in-game credits and rewards and race against other people’s avatars and real life drivers.

Now I am not a fan of racing games, or at least haven’t been in a long time, nor am I really a fan of this whole Cloud thing. Not yet, not with what is going on with the NSA and hacking and all sorts of other things.

But I am excited about this. Because it has the potential of solving the defining issue of our times, as far as video gaming is concerned. Because if the gaming industry is so bound and determined to go in more of a multi-player direction, and they seem to be with the advancement of several MMOs coming out for even next generation consoles, then this is the problem. Simply, how do you pause something, and abandon your team mates, when you have an emergency or something very simple like someone wants to check the sports scores…or something.

Well my proposal is similar to the Forza one.

When you hit the pause button on your game, or just leave the match for something a AI takes over your character. Taking your class, your level, your weapons, and your abilities into account. Taking your fighting style and your combat record and accomplishments and fighting for you, till the end of the horde mission or the quest or the dungeon or whenever.

Then I believe you should be able to set your profile in order to have the AI fight in a certain way. Say ‘Conservative’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘balanced’…all depends on how much you trust your AI avatar to get the mission done.

And if you fear Big Brother and Big Brother Corporate invading your privacy with this technology, you should be able to turn it off, and then you can just create your profile based on what weapons and technology and powers you use. Of how this online avatar will fight.

They wouldn’t fight for you when you are off-line, I believe, but you will not really abandon your team, and you will get whatever bonuses you would have gotten had you stayed with the team, or at least whatever the AI can gather. And then you disappear to lala land ready for you whenever you can jump on and play again.

So what do you think? Good idea, bad idea, practical or unpractical? Will people abuse this? If you believe in this then spread it around, or share with me companies who are already doing this so I can give them a proper nod of respect.

Alright, I decided…like I decided months ago…that the second post that I would make to celebrate the one year anniversary of Mass Effect 3 would be another opinion piece about that pesky ending. Getting tired yet?

Now this blog, as my opinion, acknowledges that even though the ending is vastly improved under the Extended Cut, and even though I like it…there is still a lot of problems with it. Now this blog will address the first set of problems, I plan on doing the second part later as more of a general blog. If you the readership remind me of this I shall do it.

So, the ending to Mass Effect 3 is drastically improved, but it still does not feel right, and pails into comparison to another ending…to another Video Game…that was so far in the past to almost be unremembered…namely Mass Effect 2.

Now Mass Effect 2s ending, the Suicide Mission, and the ‘End Run’ towards the end of the game, was near perfection, marred only by what some consider to be a sub standard boss fight. But the rest of it? Was good.

So why is this? And why did the Mass Effect 3 ending fall on its face in comparison?

Well in the main way it had to do with presentation, and how they handled the story.

Mass Effect 2 the entire story was devoted to the gathering of a special team, gathering their loyalty, gaining resources, and solving mysteries all in preparation for one suicidal attack through the Omega 4 Relay.

Throughout it you got to personally know the characters and personally lead gain their loyalty by completing tasks for them. But throughout the end depending on the choices you make, anyone is at risk.

The last mission was a reveal of this entire thing. Your entire efforts, stopping the Collectors, your decisions and efforts on who you made loyal and didn’t make loyal throughout the game. The upgrades you made to your ship. Whatever you did you choices mattered. And yeah, they mattered in the end of Mass Effect 3 with the inclusion of the Extended Cut, but you had a personal stake in the mission. Your choices didn’t affect the entire game, the entire universe, just the mission and the men and women you were fighting with. Which made it purely personal.

Plus the musical score really kicked ass but that is beside the point. 😛

But the events of the story flowed naturally from one to another where it all just sort of fit from one to another. The surprise at the end was logical to what you knew about the threat you were facing. And while you faced a decision, it wasn’t universally shattering. And it was exactly what you set out to do from the start.

And about ME 3? Well Mass Effect 3 had many of these elements, the entire story was devoted to dealing with the Reaper threat in one way shape or form, your actions in the game did affect what you could do in the ending.

But it didn’t have that emotional personal connection. It was not truly representative of spending an entire game where everything you did went into that one final moment. Instead you got an info dump and you had to face one last grand decision that didn’t really effect your team, but faceless millions of beings.

This all has to do with presentation. In the Suicide Mission you felt your efforts pay off, you saw your efforts pay off, your team lived and died on you, the musical score and the action kept it going to where you got the sense that this was the end of the line, everything that you did to this point mattered.

Which as another aside I think is why Mass Effect 2 is such a good game. A lot of the game to that point was pretty plain at times, but to watch your efforts pay off, was just amazing, whereas ME 3 had the opposite effect.

And ME 3 you didn’t see your war assets, you didn’t see your efforts pay off. You never really saw your war assets fighting, never saw any different, never actually saw how your decisions mattered. Just they did in a metaphysical sense in how effective the Crucible was.

So in other words, ME 2 was an emotional build up with a climax for that build up, ME 3 for whatever reason failed to deliver. A noble effort, but it was just not as polished.

This ‘honor’ goes to the ending of Mass Effect 3. Something that taught me a lot about a wide variety of subjects and most of them I hope to address in this or later blogs on this subject, cause believe me, I am not done.

Now this is still an issue worth blogging about for two reasons. First of all it has taught me a lot. About fandom, writing, and the human condition. In point of fact it has changed what I was going to do with the ending of my own series of books I hope to write and publish one day. And two, despite it being months later, despite ME 3 almost being a year old, it is still talked about. I still talk about it. Game magazines and media still talk about it and fandom continues to talk about it in one way or another. And while the issue has mostly quieted down there still seems to be a lot of hurt feelings from this.

This blog will be an attempt to address two things, the ending itself and the various things that went into it, and what I have learned about it.

First right off the bat there is a new theory going around the interwebs, a theory about ‘why the end is really a lot more ‘artistic’ then we gave it credit for’ theory.

The current theory basically says that the ending was meant to be kinda a grand statement on the utility of life and how your choices not mattering was actually the point. That no matter what you do, you can’t escape fate or, in this case specifically, the mechanical twistings of the cycle.

Now I myself wondered this within weeks of my finishing the ending. Because the world of Mass Effect is based, in large part, on the work of HP Lovecraft. Without going into too much detail Lovecraft postulated that the universe largely does not care about humanity and what we do, and can wipe us out at any second.

This rings true because of the Reapers, the Cycle, and forces beyond our understanding.

Yet I reject this theory and find it unlikely because even in the original ending the protagonist/ player was faced with threechoices. And contrary to popular opinion they had widely different outcomes and ramifications and actually were choices.

But if the above theory was true the player would not get a choice at all. He/She would gather the forces of the Galaxy, do everything right, and then lose the war. He/ She may then play the game again, do a bunch of different things…and lose the war.

There would have been no Crucible, (if there was it would be destroyed,) and no ending choice. Probably no Catalyst either.

Just it, the last scene would be a Reaper beam slicing the Normandy to ribbons…then you would be faced with that picture of the Galaxy Map before you were going to go assault Cronus station.

Now when people talk about the ending, even today, a large number of them bring up the same complaints:

The Mass Relays were destroyed and thus destroying all life.

Well yes, while it was shown in the Arrival that the destruction of a Mass Relay would lead to a Super Nova that would wipe out entire star systems, hence at the original ending, when the relays went exploding, naturally all of life around the Galaxy (or the vast majority of it since some races were not in the same system as a Relay) would be exterminated.

Now we can assume two things with this, either the original writers intentionally set out to exterminate the universe and make you a big monster, or they simply forgot. There responses would indicate they forgot…or they were a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

After all, who would wipe out the universe as the ultimate solution to a Galactic problem? Are we to assume that is what they set out to do? Pardon me for being skeptical but I do not think they would do this, I do not think anyone would do this. And without actual evidence to the contrary, IE cut scenes showing entire worlds burning, I chose to believe that the destruction, or the eventual damaging of the relays in the extended cut, did not destroy the Galaxy.

We just did not have enough evidence from the Original Endings to make a reasonable claim, which is one of the problems with the ending, but you cannot draw a bad conclusion on not enough data, that is still a bad conclusion.

Your choices weren’t reflected in the ending.

True, but they weren’t supposed to, you just spent the last 40 hours or so wrapping up plot lines full of decision makings.

Your ending choice was an arbitrary A, B, C, where the only difference was the color!

No, even before the Extended Cut it was clear that this was not the case. The three endings had very different outcomes and conclusions, they just looked the same. But anyone can tell you that two events that look the same do not have to be the same and human perception is often flawed…

The ending violated the themes of the series.

I think in all the ways that the ending did fail, this is still the most apt in some ways. Having everything boiled down to three choices? Right.

And then they were Control, Synthesis, and Destruction.

While all three options were presented throughout the series Shepard never, ever, had the opportunity to say ‘you know Saren…your idea sounds cool…I like it…but you go too far!’ Nowhere throughout the series, not one instance.

All it was defeat the Reapers.

Which meant that the ending came out of nowhere when it was presented to us. We were supposed to choose, two options, that we had been in fact opposition to for three whole games? All in the name of defeating Synthetics and Organics? Which was also out of nowhere?

So then what have we learned from this?

That people can doggedly stick to their perceptions in the face of millions of pieces of anecdotal and actual evidence. No matter what comes along to counteract their perceptions, they say, the ending sucks because the universe explodes!

No sorry it doesn’t.

There are millions of legitimate complaints to make about the ending…but really?

Anyways.

Do not introduce and dump a bunch of new stuff onto your audience at the end. Like the ending did with a new character, the Catalyst, who simultaneously dumped on everything from the Reaper origins to just the origins of life.

So for future reference…don’t do!…and neither will I.

And you can’t rush art.

Because even with the ending, if they had just one more day, a week, maybe a couple of months could have been improved drastically.

They themselves have proven it with the release of the Extended Cut which drastically improved on the content of the ending as it stood and added a lot more context to what was going on and showing your decisions mattering.

Because ultimately, and maybe this is the point, despite the ending, all the tragedies and the feelings of inadequacy, for me the ultimate tragedy, and the ultimate lesson is how much it could have been improved. Even using the premise of the original ending or starting over there were vast improvements to be made. Even the Extended Cut isn’t perfect, better yes, perfect, no.

But whether it was simple scalpels, or a bludgeon to rewrite the whole thing, it could have been done.

So take what you will from it, but it is important for writers to always check, challenge, and question…if what they are doing is right for their stories.

Well good day. 2013 is here, and 2012 left a lasting mark on not only my life, but the lives of everyone in this country and probably the world. From the Mayan doomsday prophecy not working out, hence shocking us all, to Barrack Obama being reelected to Supreme Court rulings and wide new releases in the world of entertainment.

Now I have been busy lately, not blogging, and in more of an entertaining mood so I am going to do something a little different. A light-hearted blog to reflect on the old and listen to the new, well mostly light-hearted, as I comment on the news from the last day.

Best Movie Release of 2012:

2012 was actually a year where I made it out to the movies, a lot, for me, anyways. Hence I saw a lot of the releases this year and any movie that interested me, that was a good year for movie, an it is tough to choose.

But nevertheless I have to give the nod to Skyfall.

Skyfall was almost the perfect movie and it was, as I noted in my blog on the subject, deep, deeper for a Bond movie. It had a message and a theme.

And it wasn’t slow, it didn’t have any silliness, and didn’t have any scenes that really dragged on any appreciable time. It just did its thing in a very no-nonsense manner, and pulled off several Bond motifs to perfection. All the while continuing the reboot of the series.

The Avengers, Act of Valor, and the Hobbit all have things to offer, but Skyfall had the most complete package. Great villain, good plot, great characters, and some really cool action. All it was really missing was a good romance.

Best Game of the Year:

Mass Effect 3.

While I confess that my video gaming immersion has been a bit lacking this year, and really all years, Mass effect three stands tall by far and away over any of its competition. Sure it had its flaws, and numerous among them beyond the ending. Speaking of the ending though it does still drag the experience down a bit, even with the extended cut.

But the action, the RPG elements, the characterization, and the epic conclusion to one of the most entertaining series in any medium was well worth the effort and the wait.

It was worth it seeing Shepard solve the problems that they were presented with over three games and five years of dramatic experience. And whether Commander Shepard wa male or female, the story, the character, and the interaction came to one of the most enduring conclusion ever.

Best Television Series:

Doctor Who.

The show that needs no real introduction, smart, witty, and epic telling the adventure of a very old being and his adventures in time and space. Superbly written, fantastic characters, and terrific acting.

Best Political Moment of the Year:

The failed recall of Governor Scott Walker/ Michigan passes Right to Work legislation.

These were the moments that really gave people hope, that the Union power in this country could be broken and reduced in some significant way.

And while someone pointed out that perhaps the current string of right to work legislation could infringe on the ability of businesses to work with unions and sign contracts with them.

And while this is a valid point we need to break their strangle hold before we can have that conversation. We need to reduce their political power a control and importance, then we can determine what rights they might have.

Worse Political Moment of the Year:

The Supreme Court Upholds Obama Care.

While the relection of Barrack Obama was hugely important to the country it would have meant little in the long run without the Supreme Court upholding the passage of the Obama Care mandates…because they were suddenly a tax. Thus affirming the Constitution to not be a bill or document that helps affirm freedom and liberty, but a bill that grants the Federal Government unlimited power over our medical decisions. Taking away the right of the very thing that the bill means to add, the right to Health Care.

And it does so in one of the oddest ways possible, all tax bills must originate in the House, the health care bill originated in the Senate….so that by itself should have made it unconstitutional. Nevertheless this is the beginning, and not the end of the struggle of liberty.

The biggest tragedy of 2012:

The Sandy hook Elementary Massacre.

Not only was this a tragedy of blood, where almost 30 people were slaughtered, women and children alike, but it was a tragedy of another sort.

Whether it is the murder of people in an elementary school in Main stream America, or the senseless slaughter of people enjoying a movie, or a political statement, all of these tragedies are compounded by the fact that the fascists and dictators in this country leap on the opportunity to take away the ability for the American people to defend themselves from the same criminals that cause such events.

The conversation, we are led to believe, is between whether or not we need more control over guns, or more Government Workers, armed to protect our children in schools. Neither is the answer, an only promotes the idea that it is up to the Government to protect us and our charges.

Ignoring all the facts and all the common sense that Gun Control does not work, if it did then these tragedies would not have happened in the first place in the very places where guns are banned.

So 2012 was a wild and zany year, and while 2013 should give us plenty to talk about, it also does not look quite right and should be a nice breather, at least until 2013, keep fighting the good fight my friends.

Sorry for the delay on not posting for a while and I promise to get back to more political and religious and social commentary soon, but I thought for my first blog back I would post a review for the popular game Mass Efect 3. Obviously massive spoilers will abound.

Now I know usually this is a political, religious, or social blog but I thought it wouldn’t be too much of a deviation for me to do this. Especially since I already do a lot of pop culture points and to keep up with the entertainment going ons and usually making a political point about it.

But…without further adu…

The entirety of the Mass Effect franchises is one of the greatest stories ever told. Its writing, action, and level of player involvement is deeper than any game that I have ever personally played. As you take on the role of Commander Shepard in a desperate bid to save the Galaxy from sentient star ships that are millions of years old. Along the way you recruit allies, settle disputes, and save people from day-to-day terrors, discovering the secrets of the universe and the Reapers themselves.

By the time Mass Effect 3 rolled around the reapers had arrived and you were now forced to wage all out Galactic War.

Gameplay 9.6/10: Mass Effect 3 is one of the smoothest game play experiences I have had. Miles above ME 2 where Shepard now has full control of her (or his) body. Able to perform combat roles, go into cover, climb up ladders and have full access to the battlefield like never before. The other systems, system scanning, and the collection of war assets is vastly superior. The Secondary missions now have their own stories and story importance where you can do them to add depth to your experience like running into old crew members.

The only disadvantages to the game are the quest system, and the dialogue. These are slight and minor but they are still annoyances. The quest system is not as complete as it was in ME 2, having no minor subobjectives or real hints on where you can go forcing you to go through the many levels or systems of a place, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. And you don’t get as much control over the dialogue wheel as before, there are now just two choices (Paragon or Renegade) instead of three with one potential investigatory option or Paragon and Renegade convince.

Custimizablility/ Player involvement: 9.6/ 10: Mass Effect as a game and as a series allows for deep layers of personal involvement as you forge a characters race, gender, creed and *gasp the orientation. Shepard can be whatever you want her (or him) to be. And your actions and choices have legitimate effects on the universe. Who to save, who to kill, who to let go. Sadly I don’t think ME 3 went as deep into this area as it could have gone where your decisions didn’t have that big a difference depending on what you did in previous games.

Story: 10/10. ME 3 is one of the finest stories of any medium. Right up there with the very best that can be put out by a Babylon 5 or a Doctor Who. And while the story may not have been as customizable as a lot of people would like (me included) the story itself has almost no problems as you go on a single epic to try to save the galaxy. And be the hero forging your own path in the process.

Music: 8.8/10: While not as good as previous installments and not having the epic tracks like a Normandy Reborn, Suicide Mission, Endrun, or the purely cool tracks like Virmire Ride, it still stands its own.

With tracks like Mars, Reaper Chase, Leaving Earth, An End Once and for All, Sur’Kesh, I’m proud of You the music is a true mix of bad ass with other poignant songs like I was Lost Without You. Reaper Chase even sounds like something a John Williams would do.

Emotional Impact: 9.8/10: ME 3 is one of the most emotionally engrossing stories of all times, unrivaled in the video games that I’ve personally played. Except for perhaps Ace Combat 5. The deeply personal story and the deeply personal gameplay as your Shepard, your creation, and your actions begin to matter throughout the entire Galaxy as you begin to struggle. This character in some senses becomes you, a creative extension of yourself because you are making the choices that this character does. On how to save, who to save, if you can save, forging a deeply personal journey. One that I realize I did not always use to its fullest making ample lessons of mistakes to forge the ‘perfect’ path without actually doing much role playing. But nevertheless it was still one of the best and most awesome experiences ever.

Bugs: 8/10: I am not really that big into bugs and I don’t notice these things, and with ME this is no exception. But I did fall through the map once and it still had a lot of problems with loading.

The End: 4/10: Usually I wouldn’t mention the end and leave it for story or some other section but the ending was so noticeably separate from the quality and commitment to excellence of the other 100+ hours of gameplay. It made no logical sense, only gave your character three choices that didn’t work for the plot (Control, Destroy, and Synthesis) and was full of plot holes and frankly breaking of Character as your crew and squad after three games of intense devotion and love abandon you in your greatest time of need.

However it is not irredeemable. It does have its moments. And is pretty solid in some respects, the music of the end just blow one out of the water as it’s a perfect complement to the sad and bitter circumstances surrounding the events on screen. But apparently we might get a better one.

Final Verdict: 9.3/10. ME 3 remains despite its very real problems one of the most enjoyable game experiences in my life. Worthy of a Conflict game or an Ace Combat 5. And despite its ending that lost it major points I highly recommend it and think of it as the best of the entire series.

Special Note on the Ending: I think it can be changed. I really do. It can be fixed and quite easy. With the choices presented by the Catalyst one can still fix it by giving Shepard more options in line with the plot. Like add to it bringing up the fact that you just helped the Quarians or the Geth, or allowing it for Shepard to explore these options.

Special Note on the Advertisements: I know that ads and commercials often do not reflect the product that we are given but in this case I feel that this is…special. The entire or the vast majority of the media leading up the launch of ME 3 in March was this idea of TAKE EARTH BACK. As Shepard triumphantly went to Earth and kicked some ass. I know we don’t always get that but that set the tone for the entire game in my mind, the triumphant hero coming home at the head of a multi species fleet to kick the Reapers the hell out of our Galaxy once and for all. Sadly this didn’t happen.

Sure there might not have been much of an Earth left. But the point is that even if there was something to save, or someone, we should’ve had the option of doing so. And making them safe, definitively.