Archive for Mass Effect

The End Is Nigh! (at least for 2012)

Posted in Diary, Guild Wars 2, lotro, Mass Effect with tags , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by Corleth

So, as 2012 moves into its final hours, I thought I’d cast my casual gamer’s eye over what I’ve played during the year.

At the start of the year, I was spending most of my gaming time in Star Wars: The Old Republic. My bounty hunter was brought to level 25 during January but the monthly subscription was not something I was willing to pay on an ongoing basis, so by end of the month, I was looking for pastures new.

SWTOR - Bounty Hunter

SWTOR – Bounty Hunter

During February and March, I went back to LoTRO, bringing two alts though the Rise of Isenguard content, and engaging in the new Draigoch raid with my kin, together with some of the 3-man instances as well as ‘The Foundry’ 6-man. About the time that the Great River (Update 6) was released in early March, however, I began to suffer a serious bout of LoTRO burn out. Three toons brought through to level 75 turned out to be more than enough and The Great River offered only limited interest, together with a further reputation grind with little tangible reward. My attention wandered…

So it was that on the advice of a friend, I stumbled across the Mass Effect series. My first long period away from MMOs since the latter half of 2007 ensued. I played my way through Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3, twice over; once with a male Commander Shepard and once with a female. I can’t recommend the ME series highly enough, and I’ll have a huge soft spot for these games for many years to come. The ending to ME3 was the only sour spot…one that was sweetened only slightly by the free DLC that Bioware brought out during the summer. The ME series tells a super story, and it’s a story where the ending is, well, not what I’d have liked, even with the amended ending that comes with the DLC.

Mass Effect 3 - The Finale

Mass Effect 3 – The Finale

After Mass Effect came a gaming-lull which I filled with a semi-enthusiastic return to LoTRO, this time as a free-to-play player as opposed to a VIP (subscription player).

The LoTRO event of the year, the launch of Update 8, The Riders of Rohan (ROR) expansion never really titillated me, but I eventually took the plunge and pre-ordered the ‘basic edition’ two days before its release in mid-October. Surprisingly, at least to me, I have in the main enjoyed what RoR has had to offer and am still playing LoTRO a few days a week on the back of its content and updates. Mounted combat, open tapping and auto-looting have all been greatly appreciated. That said Turbine, or ‘Turbgind’ as I now call them, are still insisting on bringing out highly-grindy content, as evidenced by the unnecessarily long ‘rebuild Hytbolt’ requirements (40-odd days?? Why??!), together with the grind required to pick up the very handsome war steed cosmetic set within this year’s Yule festival. Others concur, I think!

LOTRO - Mounted Combat

LOTRO – Mounted Combat

For many, the visibility of the LoTRO store is now destroying their ‘immersion’ and in this vein Jacquotte recently wrote a post that indicated why she wouldn’t be blogging about LoTRO for the foreseeable future. For my part, game world immersion is not a priority and I have no issue with LoTRO’s multiplicity of store links – I just ignore them. As I see it, world immersion is obviously important if you’re actually looking to not just associate with your toons, but also to role-play them. I’m not interested in role-playing and whilst association with my characters has to be achieved to hold my attention, I don’t need to believe in their virtual worlds while playing. My kids build Lego models and play with them on their bedroom floor. I build MMO characters in game-worlds more graphically spectacular than any bedroom floor, so my imagination has less work to do than that of my kids’…but what my imagination does manage is generally enough to keep me absorbed, unless I’m asked to do the same tasks over and over and over and over and…you get the idea?

So, enough of LoTRO. At this point it’s worth mentioning that I did consider a return to SWTOR’s now free-to-play environment, but numerous reports of the overly restrictive nature of the SWTOR free-to-play model have simply put me off even being bothered re-installing the game. Unless things change dramatically there, I won’t be going back, not even to take a small peek.

Guild Wars 2 has made up the majority of my gaming diet for the last few months of the year. I bought this title on the back of some excellent feedback from fellow kin-mates, and have totally fallen for ArenaNet’s gem. I’ve now brought an elementalist to the level 80 cap, and remain only a run though the final dungeon of Arah away from completing her personal story. Unlike Syp, I’ve no real interest in going for 100% world completion on a single character, but I do share the same contentment with the current end-game exotic gear such that I see no reason to chase ‘ascended’ or ‘legendary’ versions. This means I’m now enjoying the delights of my new level 10 necromancer as I move to my first GW2 alt.

GW2 - Elementalist

GW2 – Elementalist

As an aside, whist I dabbled in the GW2 Wintersday events, and have my very own ‘Plush Griffon’ mini-pet, similar to LoTRO’s Yule festival offering, I think it’s too grindy. Most of the rewards are therefore off my radar.

My only surprise with regard to GW2 is how many of those that initially extolled the virtues of this game, have since disappeared – moving back to LoTRO, or on to pastures new. Admittedly I was a latecomer to the game but I feel that my engagement with this fine, fine MMO will last a good deal longer than a few more months. 2013 will tell a lot anyway.

A quick mention to some titles in which I’ve invested at least a little of my time, but not mentioned above:

  • I really enjoyed Orcs Must Die which I picked up for almost nothing on Steam. A bargain and one that my 9 year old son still appreciates too!
  • My dislike for Portal and Portal 2 is still strong. Despite several attempts to ‘get into’ these games, recommended to me, they just keep leaving me cold.
  • Left For Dead 2, for me, doesn’t have the grip of LFD1. A fun game in its own right, I just prefer the original.
  • My latest ‘a bit on the side’ game is The Walking Dead, which is something a little bit different…if my current love affair with GW2 begins to wane, I’ve no doubt I’ll enjoy digging further into its story.

So, what do I see in my gaming crystal ball for the forthcoming year?

  • Well, more GW2, that’s for sure.
  • LoTRO on a casual basis.
  • Finishing up ‘The Walking Dead’.
  • Possibly dipping my toe into ‘The Secret World’.

Beyond that…anything else will be a nice surprise! I wish everyone a healthy and happy 2013.

Happy 100 To Me!

Posted in Diary, lotro, Mass Effect with tags , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by Corleth

As this is my one-hundredth post, it thought I’d review my game time over the last five or six years.

In the autumn of 2007 a couple of friends at work were telling me that I should try ‘Lord of The Rings Online’. It was great, they said. It was an MMO! I had no idea what an MMO was, and even when told, was distinctly unimpressed. Why would I want to share my game world with other people? Surely they’d just get in my way and annoy me? For several months I ignored their advice and continued my stand-alone gaming.

Taking a step back, at that time I was playing the likes of:

  • Command & Conquer
  • Civilisation 4
  • Baldurs Gate 2
  • Ice Wind Dale 2
  • Panzers: Phase 1 (my PC at the time struggled with this, graphically!)
  • Medieval: Total War

As this list suggests, I wasn’t exactly playing the super-modern games of the time, but they entertained me. In the end however, I relented. I borrowed a copy of LoTRO on CD from one of my pals, and installed it. The CD also came with an unused 14 day trial code, which I duly applied to my newly created Codemasters account. I was off and running.

The rest is history. I played virtually nothing else except LoTRO for the next three years, playing an hour or two a day, most days. An addiction? Almost certainly.

LoTRO - Atmospheric and Fun

LoTRO – Atmospheric and Fun

It wasn’t until the autumn of 2010 that I began to feel an itch to possibly, just possibly, look at something new. At the time, I couldn’t see past the MMO genre, so I first tried ‘Dungeons and Dragons Online’ (DDO) which was one of the free-to-play pioneers. I lasted less than two hours with DDO, finding it every inch the inferior sibling to LoTRO – at least in my opinion.

The next game to come along was a BIG thing – Rift. Most of my kin mates in LoTRO abandoned Middle Earth for several months to play Rift and I followed, albeit briefly. I spent my fifty odd Euro on the Steam store and gave it a whirl. It never caught my imagination though, and I lasted no more than a week or so. Back to LoTRO I went.

Then there was a lull until the end of 2011 when ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ blasted its way into the MMO world.

SWTOR - My level 25 Bounty Hunter

SWTOR – My level 25 Bounty Hunter

SWTOR’s gravity beam nearly pulled me in, but not quite. I stuck with it all over the Christmas period in 2011 and, by the time I lost interest in January of this year, had a level 25 Bounty Hunter to my name, as well as several lower level toons. I have several issues with SWTOR however:

  1. First is its two-sidedness. All my kinnies ended up playing on the side of the Republic. I wanted nothing but to be an Imperial. So we never met, and without your kin mates, the joy of an MMO is severely diluted. I could have joined another guild, but hey, it takes a good few months to settle into a new place, get to know new people, and I would have left SWTOR, anyway, before I’d come close to settling.
  2. Secondly, SWTOR is very quest-hub orientated. Quest chains are everywhere, as they are in LoTRO, and by the start of this year I was beginning to realise that this modus operandi was wearing a little thin for me.
  3. The final factor in my leaving SWTOR was the monthly subscription. I was already paying one sub for LoTRO, which I wasn’t willing to drop, and I couldn’t justify a second. So something had to give. It was SWTOR.

By February this year therefore, I was back in LoTRO, but getting increasingly bored with the end-game-grind and alt levelling. Then I had an epiphany. What about non-MMO games?! I started looking around, downloading demos, and looking at what others were playing on Steam. The first to be purchased were some first person shooters – ‘Left For Dead’ and ‘Orcs Must Die’ were both played through; both are excellent games but with limited re-playability.

The biggest time sink and the most fun, proved to be the Mass Effect series, the first of which dates back to 2008. I tried the demo for ME2 and was hooked, so bought all three and played through them twice, first as a fem Shepp and them as a male Shepp. What a brilliant trilogy!

Mass Effect 3 - The Finale

Mass Effect 3 – The Finale

By the time my Mass Effect journey was at an end, nearly four months had passed, and I had a small LoTRO itch again. That was back at the end of July this year so we’re almost up-to-date.

I’m now at the stage that I’ve decided to give up my VIP status in LoTRO. I’m done with being a daily player and alt-a-holic. I’m going free-to-play, to play occasionally, when I feel like it – or when my kids need me (see my last post!). There’s too much else out there and my love affair with LoTRO is over. She is still my friend however, so I’ll be buying ‘Riders of Rohan’ and will play though it with, I hope, relish…..but probably on only one toon.

So what’s new? Well, SWTOR is going free-to-play, so I may revisit that. However, in the here and now, Guild Wars 2 is the new man on the block. And guess what?! No quest chaining and no monthly sub. I’ll be writing more in due course…

Guild Wars 2 - New Man On The Block...

Guild Wars 2 – New Man On The Block…

End of the line (again) – An extended cut

Posted in Mass Effect with tags , , , , on July 1, 2012 by Corleth

The human psyche being what it is, ‘closure’ is very important to almost all of us. To look at an extreme, this is evidenced by the lengths that society as a whole will go to in order to give ‘closure’ to individuals who have lost a loved one. A recent example from this part of the world being when a fishing vessel went down outside a well-known Co Cork harbour and all but one of the crew were ‘missing’, drowned. Even after several weeks of fruitless searching, the coast guard, the Irish navy and, and volunteers, were still turning out to dive and search for bodies – knowing that the families of the missing, not to mention the local community, needed the ‘closure’ provided by the bodies being found. As I say, this is an extreme case, but less dramatic cases affect most of us from time to time.

It strikes me that the worst aspect of the Mass Effect 3 original ending, is the lack of ‘closure’. We are left with no confirmation as to what exactly happened to Shepard, et al. In my opinion, this is what really irks the majority of players. If everyone dies, fine. Show us a cut scene of the bodies. A gravestone. Something. The garbled and nonsensical ending, just offers nothing but loose ends, and down-right confusion. The rumour mill that is the internet, doesn’t help, because ‘closure’ could only be given by Bioware. So, prior to last week’s ‘Extended cut’ DLC release, we were left in limbo.

Regardless of whether Bioware created the said state of limbo by design, or by accident, it still stank. Yes, it’s only a computer game, but it still cost each-and-every player a substantial amount of money, and while many hours of enjoyment were had before hitting the eventual horror of an end-game, it didn’t make up for being left well and truly hanging. In fact, if the overall emotional and intellectual involvement that ME3 created had been less, I almost certainly wouldn’t be blogging about it. As it is, the strength of the characters, the story, and the game play just made the whole lack of closure all the worse.

So, having just played through the new ‘Extended Cut’ ending, I have to say, thanks a million Bioware. About fucking time. I even shed a small tear 😉

P.s. I still miss my Sheppard. I’m a hardcore member of the Fem Shep movement, by the way. She ROCKS!

Mass Effect 3 Finale

Posted in Mass Effect with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by Corleth

Sometimes an event or an experience in life makes you sit-up and think very hard, to metaphorically ‘rub your eyes’. For me, these moments can occasionally be triggered by a particularly good book or maybe an epic film – probably only a handful of each throughout my life, to date, mind you. I’ve now added a computer game to the list too. Or, to be more precise, a trilogy of computer games.

In the early hours of this morning, I finally completed Mass Effect 3 (ME3). Having played ME1 & ME2 back-to-back, before then moving on to ME3, the total amount of time I’ve invested in order to reach the conclusion of the trilogy, is around 120 hours. However, the nature of the ending has left me with a profound sense of disappointment.

Mass Effect 3 - Beginning of the end

Mass Effect 3 - Beginning of the end

Without giving too much away, there are three end-game scenarios. In order to ensure that I hadn’t made some horrible mistake, last night I desperately played though the final sequence three times, in the hope of finding an ending that gave closure; no joy – all three are (more-or-less) identical. Identically awful, unsatisfying, and lacking not only closure, but continuity and logic to-boot. In short, a total, deflating, let down.

The Mass Effect series, from the word go, relies on the ripple effect – your in-game choices have in-game consequences. Except that is, for the very last hurrah where all the choices that you’ve made throughout the three episodes, are just swept away, ignored, made worthless. What we then get are the identical endings that, well, just leave me feeling empty, gutted.

Mass Effect 3 - Bloodied and Burned

Mass Effect 3 - Bloodied and Burned

It’s a tribute to the extremely high overall quality of the three games, that by the end of ME3, I was highly attached to my character, not to mention the NPCs that made it to the journey’s end too. ‘Emotionally engaged’, you’d call it. I was mentally prepared for a variety of endings, all probably downbeat, but with the hope of something upbeat. What I got was, to all intents and purposes, a single ending that really had nothing to do with the choices that I had made during the hours of my life which I poured into the trilogy.

Before I reached the conclusion, I had it in my head that I was going to play though the series again in order to select alternate options; to see how different the game-play could actually be, a second time around. Now, I don’t think I can face that. Now I know the ending, the one-and-only ending, I just can’t go there again. In summary, I’m feeling sad, and that’s not how I want to feel when I reach the end of a piece of entertainment, albeit an extremely intelligent and thought-provoking example of the genre.

Mass Effect 3 - The Crusible

Mass Effect 3 - The crucible

On that note…the cut scene that follows the credits, is indeed, a real thought provoker (voiced by Buzz Aldrin, interestingly). Our reality is that we live on a small planet, in a vast galaxy, which is part of an unimaginably large universe. Further, the tiny fraction of time that our civilisation has been around for, is not even a blink of an eye in terms of the history of that universe. The ‘Mass Effect’ series is based on fictional events that occur every 50,000 years. And we can only dream what our planet might be like in even 10,000 years. Does that make you feel a little insignificant? It does me. But I’d be feeling a darn sight more cheery if Bioware had come up with a decent finale to their otherwise fine series.

Mass Effect 3 - Bye Bye Big Ben

Mass Effect 3 - Bye Bye Big Ben

So now what? Well, maybe, just maybe, Bioware has me fooled. Rumours abound that the conclusion was in fact some sort of dream sequence. There’s substance to give these idea merit too. So, can we expect an epilogue of some sort? Possibly, but I ain’t holding my breath. So, for now, I’m off to find a new game – but I’ll really miss my Shepard. 😥

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