Tag Archives: Mass Effect

“Story Mode,” Action Games, And Interactive Fiction

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So Horizon Zero Dawn is the latest big budget game to include a “story mode” or what people are calling super-easy modes now. While some may argue against modes that significantly de-emphasize or nullify combat, they’re really part of a larger trend along with “walking simulators” and new adventure games. Continue reading

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Mass Effect Andromeda’s Marketing So Far Just Isn’t For Me.

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The new footage of Mass Effect: Andromeda from Nvidia’s CES 2017 keynote looks okay I guess. For Mass Effect fans who are less interested in shooting aliens than in other popular aspects of the franchise, EA’s marketing for the game so far has been odd. The game comes out on March 21st and the level of hype in the air feels decidedly light for such a big release. Continue reading

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HD Remasters Are Counter To EA’s Business Model

Since at least last year I’ve suspected someone at EA just doesn’t believe in doing HD remasters. Now we have confirmation of this from COO Peter Moore himself.

To me, Moore’s comments sound like they came right off the top of his head and ignore all the nuances of why developers and publishers do remasters as well as why people buy them. Thinking about it though, it makes perfect sense that EA doesn’t do remasters at all. Continue reading

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The Witcher 3 And Why Most Action RPGs Have Bad Combat

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I’ve been wanting to talk about action RPG combat for a little while now since all the criticism about The Witcher 3’s combat came up after people got it in their hands. This also comes relatively soon after many hours of engaging in Skyrim’s infamous combat system. We also have people’s concerns brewing over Bethesda’s plans for Fallout 4’s combat. Continue reading

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BioWare Is Kind Of An Anomaly On Consoles

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Playing the Dragon Age Inquisition trial EA put on Origin and discussing how it handles its combat system made me realize something about what BioWare is trying to do. You ever think about how many other western developers released party-based RPGs on consoles? Continue reading

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Hypothetical HD Remasters: EA Edition

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While I was thinking about the other big Japanese publishers in this discussion I suddenly realized how seldom Electronic Arts has done HD remasters. It’s released basically two: Medal of Honor Frontline HD, and the PS3 version of Dead Space Extraction. There are at least several more that either I or enough other people would probably find worth buying.

Maybe EA just doesn’t believe in the idea of HD remasters. I’m kind of surprised a company like EA isn’t at least trying to pump them out to bilk more cash from consumers. Let’s say they actually did try to do this though. There’s certainly no shortage of games and franchises they could re-release, improved by modern hardware. Continue reading

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Dreams For Mass Effect’s Future, Part One

Ever since Mass Effect 3 ended people have speculated on the future of that franchise, and I’ve had my own list of wishes and questions about where it could go. I’m not gonna go over questions like “sequel or prequel?” here. I’m just gonna focus on one of my main disappointments with the initial trilogy that I don’t expect to be rectified in the future.

And that disappointment is how we never got a true sequel to the first Mass Effect. Not in the mechanical gameplay sense anyway.

The original Mass Effect is the perfect example of deeply flawed execution of a game design template that had a lot of potential. That potential of a modern space RPG wasn’t really explored in the second and third games, where BioWare tried to make shooters to court a more mainstream audience.

The Mako was difficult to control (at least on Xbox 360), the inventory system was horrendous, planetary surface exploration was dull, as were many extra locations, and the combat looked like Gears of War but was still stuck with RPG roots. The thing is, I still enjoy the first game’s gameplay the most because the complete package still created enough of that space RPG, even if it was a flawed one. I really like the idea of what it tried to do, and I expected the sequels to deliver on that.

And some people complained when Mass Effect 2 simply got rid of a lot of the trouble areas of the first game instead of improving on them. Why couldn’t BioWware just make a better inventory system (even a rip-off of Dragon Age’s inventory would’ve been a huge improvement) instead of scrapping it? Planet scanning is even duller than driving across a square mile of flat land, and the surfaces you did explore were pretty much just linear paths. In Mass Effect 3 they were literally the multiplayer maps.

And that planetary exploration is actually what I miss the most from the first game. I like to think of the random planets, bases, and ships you explore in the first Mass Effect as basically the random caves and dungeons of an RPG, just in a space setting. All BioWare had to do for the sequels was make a better Mako and maybe try to give the locations a bit more polish.

If BioWare is even thinking about planetary exploration for future games, maybe today’s tools are better than what they had in 2007. If they can pull off a good open world for Dragon Age Inquisition, why not Mass Effect? What if procedural generation tools are better today than they were seven years ago?

But of course we know better. We know BioWare is going for action game fans now. The action game focus is ever-present even in the Inquisition videos they use to try to placate RPG fans. Maybe they’ll take the same approach to Mass Effect — actually try to offer a deep RPG and a twitch action game at the same time, but trying and succeeding are two different things.

The upcoming space game I’m most interested in is No Man’s Sky. Can a four-man team really give us a true galaxy to explore? If they can, what could a team of hundreds with a massive budget accomplish?

BULLETS:

  • The current Humble Bundle is for several Image Comics digital trade books, all DRM-free. I’ve been checking them out and they’re really good so far. East of West is predictably a western, but is extremely fantastical in the comic book way with heavy sci-fi and occult-ish themes. Fatale looks like it could be a pretty good noir/horror thing. What I like about it is that even though it has obvious horror and occult themes, they aren’t all that overt. Chew might be my favorite that I’ve read so far — funny with an interesting detective story. It’s set in a world of chicken prohibition and a militarized FDA. Really appreciate Image for dropping all its DRM. Meant I could just drop the comics into my preferred iPad app for a road trip without having to worry about synching.
  • That “Project Beast” thing has me on the edge of deciding to buy a PS4.
  •  How well does TowerFall play on an arcade stick?
  • Gunhound on Steam is out of left field. I’d been eyeing the PSP version on PSN for a while.
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N7 Day: Conflicts And Missed Opportunities

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Not that EA’s gonna do anything about N7 day (I don’t think so anyway), but I guess it’s as good a time as any for me to voice my love/disappointment relationship with the Mass Effect franchise. More specifically, I’m stating my love/disappointment relationship with the second and third game.

I like Mass Effect a lot. I’d say it’s one of my top franchises this console generation just in terms of how much the games kept me engaged. The first Mass Effect is definitely one of the games that kept pullin’ me back the most over the course of this console generation. I think I have more time logged on that game than any other on Steam (something like 140 hours) despite how flawed it is. At the same time, I still can’t figure out if I like Mass Effect 2 more, it being my 2010 game of the year.

Like some other people, my main disappointment is that we never got, gameplay-wise, and actual sequel to the first Mass Effect. Going back to play it, it’s the only game in the series that fully feels like an RPG, even if most of those RPG mechanics by themselves are flimsily pulled off.

I can understand people’s complaints with the unruly Mako, the random planets and other locations to discover all being copy-pasted, and the horrible inventory system. For some reason though, I still immensely enjoyed the experience all those things combined to form. It all came together to give me the feeling I was actually exploring the galaxy, something that really no other RPG I’ve played has done, at least no modern one. A lot of the exploration was even pretty much as good as what you usually get with western RPGs. The various caves and derelict space ships were really just random dungeons in a sci-fi setting. Most importantly, Mass Effect’s sequels should have been refinements on those mechanics. That’s part of why people make sequels.

They could’ve made the Mako control much better than it did in the first game. Instead of Mass Effect 2’s linear shooting gallery locations BioWare could have made denser areas to explore with a new-and-improved Mako (like that game’s Overlord DLC quest) with more unique “dungeons.” Most easily, they could’ve fixed the damn inventory system instead of chucking it altogether.

That’s what really let me know BioWare pretty much gave up on making an RPG with the second and third games. Both of them are basically third person shooters with WRPG storytelling. The thing is, Mass Effect 2 does a really excellent job at that WRPG storytelling if you ask me.

I can’t figure out which among the first two games I like more because the second game made the world feel a lot more interesting and had more engaging characters, even if the main quest was bland (and tiny). I feel like Mass Effect 2 has the most well-written side quests in the series (including the loyalty missions). It was my favorite game that year mostly because I wanted to keep revisiting those stories and characters, despite the fact that it was also a poorly-done action game made by an RPG house that didn’t really know how to make action games.

Strangely enough, I actually think BioWare finally nailed the action game part with Mass Effect 3. That game, with its flimsy quest system and rushed exploration, really did go full action shooter. I honestly think Mass Effect 3 is a pretty good third person shooter with well-designed enemy AI and combat arenas, but that’s kind of all it is. Even the multiplayer maps are recycled from the side quests (or maybe the other way around), but I hear great things about that multiplayer and intend to try it out some day.

But despite the second and third Mass Effect games still being great in their own right, I still get mad when I think of what could have been. Mass Effect could’ve developed into something really special when it comes to RPGs. Instead BioWare figured their fans didn’t want full-blown RPGs anymore. That seems to be the whole trend behind the company these days and I fear the same thing happening to Dragon Age.

Dragon Age: Origins was a pretty good throwback to the days of the Infinity Engine. Dragon Age II tried to be a hack n’ slash with RPG elements, and it looks like Dragon Age: Inquisition is trying to balance the two, but I’m not convinced BioWare can yet.

Okay, the company has gone at length about how the tactical RPG combat system is still in there, but it was there in Dragon Age II as well, just unnecessary. A lot of the Inquisition footage I’ve seen suggests BioWare is still trying to make a hack n’ slash. The problem is, no one has really figured out how to make a game that’s a great hack n’ slash and a great party-based RPG at the same time. A ton of Japanese RPG studios have tried throughout the years. Maybe Namco’s Tales games are the best attempts at the party-based action RPG.

Who knows, maybe if BioWare nails it with Inquisition (it’s got a lot of people optimistic) it can channel some of that knowledge back into Mass Effect. At the very least I wanna see what that franchise looks like on the Frostbite 3 engine.

BULLETS:

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BioWare and the Frostbite 3 Engine at E3

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For a few specific reasons, EA is one of the companies I’m actually more interested to see show their stuff at E3 this year. Most notably I’m interested in their next generation game engine and what BioWare might do with it. I haven’t really seen a massive amount of chatter going on about it.

When EA and DICE unveiled the Frostbite 3 engine along with Battlefield 4, they went on about how the new tech is gonna allow for “more human storytelling” in games, even going so far as to paint the 17-minute gameplay demo as some heart-wrenching story. Pretty much everyone wrote that off, knowing that for BF4 this pretty much just means prettier explosions and maybe larger and more destructible environments. Does anyone really care that BF4 is gonna try to have a story?

If there’s one company within EA that can actually use prettier graphics to enhance their storytelling, it’s probably BioWare, who are already confirmed to be using Frostbite 3 for Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Say what you want about their recent games, but BioWare is one of the few developers in this industry still able to write stories with characters I actually care about. The main reason I even play Mass Effect and Dragon Age to be honest is to interact with each game’s characters.

Think about it: in what other games from EA do you spend more time looking at a character’s face as they move their mouth? Any improved visuals tied to characters and facial animation will definitely see the most benefit in BioWare’s games. On current generation hardware games like L.A. Noire are already trying to combine core gameplay mechanics with narrative by requiring players to read characters’ increasingly realistic faces. Who better to take advantage of this than BioWare? We pretty much already know Dragon Age III is going to be at E3 next week.

Yeah yeah Dragon Age II wasn’t as good as Dragon Age: Origins, but I think at the very least the next game will be better than that. DAII turned out the way it did mainly because of its rushed development cycle. The game only came out 16 months after Origins. Assuming DAIII comes out next year, it’ll have been three years since DAII’s release. I think they’ve learned not to rush the game out this time around.

Whether it’ll actually be as good as Origins was in terms of gameplay is another discussion. I’m really just anticipating what BioWare’s storytelling is gonna look like through the lens of DICE’s new engine.

It’s also looking like we’re gonna see quite the gang of dark fantasy RPGs at E3 going into next year as well. On top of DAIII, The Witcher 3 is going to be shown behind closed doors, and Dark Souls II is already advertising around the convention center (all three games running on new engines too).

BULLETS:

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