Sunday, May 06, 2012

Mass Effect 3 (XBOX 360)

- Finished ME3 with 74% readiness with about 4 hrs of multiplayer.
- about 5300 effective war assets.
- Mined all resources (less than 1hr of grinding to finish up scanning the rest of the planets near the end)
- final save: 46h 15m
- Level 55 soldier, paragon.
- Normal difficulty level
- Got the ummm "perfect" ending.  Went back and played the other 2 endings just to check them out.

- I pretty much played most of ME2  back to back with ME3.  I had started ME2 back when it was first released and quit after about 7 hrs.  I guess I was a bit burnt out on bioware games having just finished Dragon Age on the pc so I gave it a long break.  I then went back and started playing ME2 again about a month ago, finished it, and went straight into ME3.
- Finished reading all the comics and about half way through the second novel so yeah I'm pretty invested in this universe.
- I have both iOS apps.  Infiltrator is ok though has some control issues.  It's not Dead Space quality.  The free data pad app is pretty neat with a galaxy map mini game that contributes to you war assets.  I like reading all the emails you get too which are different than the ones in game.  Also, you get access to the entire Codex with the voice overs.  It's really nice to browse the codex on the iPad.
- I actually went back and played the ME1 DLC: Bring Down the Sky because I had skipped it when it first came out.  It was a pretty bland mission with more mako driving (uggg!!!).  The graphics were pretty dated looking.  Combat has come a LONG way since me1.  Don't bother with this dlc.  It's really not worth it.
- Hit the import bug where it wouldn't import the face of my me2 character.  I went through a lot of trouble getting my xbox save onto my pc and then running it through a variety of programs and online utilities to get my character code and slider values except for makeup.  Even after all that my Shepard still doesn't look right.  To have that serious of a bug slip through QA and then still exist for months after release is totally inexcusable.  You invest 100 hrs into the character, and I better damn well be able to play MY shepard in me3.  Again, it's more signs of a rushed product that could have been better.

Mass Effect 2

I still think I inadvertently created Kelli Giddish

- I got the perfect ending and saved everybody.
- 52h.08m, level 30 soldier, paragon
- I completed all the DLC with overlord and shadow broker being my favorite.  From a game play perspective arrival was kind of meh but it's good to play as a bridge between me2 and me3.
- I felt me2 did a lot of things right.  It had a very large and interesting cast of characters.  Most grew on me by the end.  All their loyalty missions were quit interesting too.  The combat was much improved over me1.  I felt character progression though was a bit over simplified as far as gear upgrades.  
- Scanning planets for resources was just boring busy work after about 15 min of doing it.  Good thing I have younger children which I got them to mine enough resources to get all my upgrades. 
- I liked how crew loyalty and ship upgrades impacted the ending.
- Journal was well done always pointing you to where you need to go next and tracking every step of your missions as you completed them.  You always knew what state a mission was in.

- Lets start with the good.  The Combat is even better IMO especially if you have played gears of war.  The cover system gets a bit sticky though with one button doing too many things.  The combat rolls aren't bad.  Game looks as great as ever.  Load times aren't bad except for the odd 2 people guarding the load screen between the war room and the galaxy map.
- Quick save is awesome!!!!
- I like the class flexibility how any class can use any weapon.  The weight vs power recharge speed tradeoff is well implemented.
- The weapon upgrade slots are a nice customization and then having 5 levels of upgrades for all weapons and mods gives you even more progression.
- There are some HUGE incredibly well done emotional beats and payoffs throughout the game: Genophage, Geth/Quarian, and tons of wrap up if you saved everybody from ME2.  
- Music has always been fantastic in this series and even better in me3.
- I romanced Liara through all 3 games.  Though I did get the shower scene with Traynor before restoring to an earlier save.  The Tali / Garrus romance was cute too.
- Multiplayer horde mode is a lot of fun.  I like the unlock progression.  You either love or hate the random slot machine style of unlocks though.  In some ways I think it brings some excitement when you buy a pack with in game credits.  At least that is better than some of the crap you have to do to unlock the pro versions of perks in MW3.  On the other hand it would be nice to know you will unlock this race or weapon at a specific overall XP threshold.  Either way, it's different and works pretty well for the most part.  I liked how you got to preview the multiplayer maps if you did the side quests in the single player.  It seems like they could have easily added bots but didn't.
- Jessica Chobot: This game was NOT kind to her.  Her face seemed extra wide, and her poor voice acting really stands out compared to the rest of the excellent cast.
- What happened with the Journal?  It's pretty much crap in me3.  I'm not sure why they broke a working system.  You basically have no idea what step you are on in the mission, where to go, or anything.  It's pretty much useless requiring a lot of looking up in a wiki.
- The new resource mining is improved overall from me2 IMO though it is a bit silly getting chased by those reaper ships.  It's easy enough to escape and come back in until you get 100% resources gathered.  At least you don't have to worry about buying probes or manually scanning every inch of every planet.  It's a lot less busy work.
- Unfortunately, the two trips to the Citadel you have to make to gather up all these lame busy work side quests kind of suck.  It's worse due to the Journal system so you have no idea if you even picked up whatever random widget that person on the citadel wanted.  At least you are visiting all new sections of the citadel.
- The day 1 DLC: From Ashes is a greedy blatant money grab IMO and reeks with EA douchebaggery.  It's quite integral to the story.  It gives you so much needed background information not just in the flash backs with the Prothean but in all the crew interaction especially with Liara.  Liara's realization and misconceptions of what the Protheans are are really well done.

Endings and resolutions
- In general I feel corners were definitely cut on this game.  What should have been their biggest and best mass effect game to wrap up this trilogy instead we get a good game that feels a bit rushed (budget? EA influences?) and not quite reaching it's full potential.  This game should have been treated like the half life series: take as long it takes to make the best possible game.
- After finishing the game I went back and watched all the endings and a lot of the different resolutions through the game because I really don't plan to play this game again.  I was really surprised by some of the outcomes that can happen like saving Mording, Tali committing suicide, Miranda dying, etc.  I was really impressed by some of the different paths you can take which makes the ending look that much worse.
- Tali:  The romance path really should have had a cutscene that showed her face as a payoff instead of a short glimpse of a cheesy photoshopped stock photo.
- Saying goodbye to everybody before the last mission was a great touch.
- All the resolutions you get with pretty much everybody you saved from ME2 was well done.

- In this case I feel artistic integrity is just another word for developer arrogance.  That sums up what I feel about what happened with the ending.  I'm not sure if the rumors are true but it really does feels like Casey Hudson and Mac Walters locked themselves in a room and wrote the ending without any peer review from the rest of the writing team.  I think they were too close to the material and couldn't see it from the outside (how the players would perceive it) and so a very poor ending was released.  I felt the writing and narrative choices were very consistent and made logical sense up until the ending.
- My biggest issue with the 3 choices are none of them matched in tone, belief system, or moral compass that I've been playing my shepard.  There was no way to object to the ultimatum the stupid star child presents.  I spent the entire game proving that organics and synthetics CAN coexist peacefully and can even mutually benefit from one another (geth/Quarian, EDI/Joker).
Destruction: This is what I ended up choosing but I completely reject that I have no choice but to destroy all synthetic life including the Geth and EDI.
Synthesis:  I've been fighting to preserve life, all kinds of life (synthetic and organic), and not force everybody in the entire galaxy to some mutant hybrid.  We fought against this very thing in ME1 against sovereign and saren (indoctrinated).
Control: I've been fighting TIM this entire time against the entire idea of controlling the reapers, how dangerous that path is, and that very notion is from somebody who is clearly indoctrinated.
- The star child's reasoning is that every 50,000 years the reapers have to come and destroy all ADVANCE life else the synthetic vs organic wars will destroy all life as we know it (including primitive organic life).  So the reapers exist to reset everything and let things evolve from the surviving primitive life again over the next 50K years.  I just proved that this cycle is different.  That there is a chance that synthetics and organics can coexist.  Yet, I never get a chance to argue that point.  Star child even admits I'm the first to ever get this far.  That this cycle is indeed different.  Instead, I'm presented with 3 choices that I do not agree with.
- The rest of the issues just makes things even worse with weird logic gaps: how does your ground party end up on the Normandy, why is the Normandy fleeing?
- The last FMV only differs by the 3 color choices and maybe 3 secs of actual cut scene that is different (and even then only very minor differences).  Dude spend some time and money and render different end cut scenes!  This game deserves it!
- There is no explanation why the mass effect relays have to be destroyed.
- fleets might not actually be stranded in sol if you believe this post?
- None of your war assets really mattered that much, and getting over 5000 effective war assets amounts to a confusing single breath from shepard (again spend the time and money here and add some optional cut scenes at least, branch it more, depending on level of war assets to make it feel more meaningful).
- It's these reasons why I'm pissed about the ending.  No where do I mention I want a happy ending or shepard even has to live.  I reject that all the general public wants is a happy award ceremony type of ending.  Take a look at another popular work of fiction: Game of Thrones.  Ned Stark gets his head cut off but you don't see the kind of outrage that you see with the me3 ending.  It's because that result fit the rest of the narrative;  it had an internal logic; the characters had motivation that made sense (a crazy Joffrey world logic but still consistent for his character).  No BS star child came down out of nowhere and lopped off poor Ned's head.  It was definitely not a happy conclusion to season one (and if you've read the books you know lots of bad things happen to the best, most noble, and likable characters).  But I think most people were OK with it.
- I do like the indoctrination theory.

Recommended.  ME3 compared to ME2 is like 2 steps forward but 1 step back.  There was so much potential to have ME3 be the best in the series but this game felt rushed and unpolished.  With 150 hrs invested into mass effect I expected a better ending.  The payoff just wasn't there.  An extra 3 months or so and this game could have been great.  It's too bad they cut corners all over the place.  But I have to admit what is there is very good (except the last 15 min) and still very much worth experiencing.  Maybe the free extended ending DLC will help some but I doubt it's going to make me completely happy for the reasons I stated above.

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