weekend recap: saying goodbye to 2012

1.  As promised, the wife and I finally finished The Walking Dead.  What a hell of a thing that was.  There’s a part of me that wants to nitpick a little bit, that sometimes a character will suddenly change their entire outlook in a matter of seconds, as if there was a transitional scene that was cut, or as if a different writer took over the scene without looking at the previous pages; or that, all things considered, the “game” part of it could’ve used a little work; or that, at least on the 360, there are a lot of weird graphical hiccups and frame-rate stutters that are somewhat jarring.  But all that aside, it tells one hell of a story, and we were fully invested from the very beginning.  And that ending!  Oh God.  Gred, my SFTC podcast co-host, said it’s his favorite ending since Red Dead Redemption, and I’m inclined to agree with him.

2.  I am also replaying Mass Effect 3, now that I’ve got the DLC installed and a renegade mindset.  Finished the Omega DLC last night, actually, and being a renegade was kinda awesome – Aria T’Loak very much appreciated it.  But, man… it’s hard to be a renegade all the time.  Granted, the choices I’ve had to make aren’t anywhere near as devastating and as ethically dubious as the ones in Walking Dead, but sometimes it’s just rough.  I have to remind myself that I already went through the game as a paragon, and part of the reason why I’m doing this again is to see all the stuff I didn’t see last time.  Still, though… it’s tough.  I’m very much enjoying the game, though, even if all the stuff on the Citadel bores me to death.  

3.  If any game developers are out there reading this, please make a true GTA in space for the next-gen consoles.  That is the game I want to play.  I’d do it myself except I can’t code, draw, or design.   (One of my new year’s resolutions that I’m coming up with right at this very moment is to teach myself Unity, but who knows if that will stick once the baby arrives.)

4.  The Steam Sale continues to torment me.  I’ve managed to be pretty good, for the most part, although I did pick up three things last night:  Little InfernoRochard, and Closure.  I haven’t yet tried the latter two, but Little Inferno is an interesting little puzzler that is threatening to get subversive.  And a few days ago I picked up Retro City Rampage and Mark of the Ninja, which looks absolutely gorgeous on my PC monitor.  I’ve been slowly going through it again; it’s even better than I remember it being.

5.  I was going to do a big “Predictions for 2013” post, but I’m not really feeling it.  Honestly, there’s not a hell of a lot to say about 2013 – there’s not very much coming out that’s all that exciting besides 2 or 3 big titles, and in any event, once the baby comes in April I’m sure that my gaming time will decrease dramatically.  Basically, I’m just hoping my 360 survives long enough to get me through GTA5, and then I’ll take it week-to-week until the new consoles come out.  I’m still toying with the idea of getting a 3DS; I’m also toying with the idea of upgrading my iPhone 4 to a 5, but also perhaps waiting until they announce the 6 (or the 5* or whatever).

In non-game news, I might do a Books post here later today (or later this week, depending on time).  I’m currently reading Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, which came highly recommended from a million different people.  I’m normally not very big on fantasy novels, but this one’s particularly good, and I might be checking out his earlier stuff – I’m not sure I’m prepared to dive into the Wheel of Time series, though.

I will not be doing a Music post, though.  I haven’t done a music post in a few years, actually, and this year I felt particularly out of touch with the music scene.  That being said, I have been keeping a Spotify playlist of my favorite 2012 songs, and while it’s not as thorough as I’d prefer it to be, it’s still pretty good:

Mass Effect 3: the ending, and what comes next

[I’m doing my damnedest to keep MASS EFFECT 3 SPOILERS to a minimum, but you know how these things go.]

I finished Mass Effect 3 very late last night.  It wasn’t my intention, necessarily, but I’d finished every other side quest I could find and there wasn’t an easy place to stop.

I’d been trying to live in a spoiler-free world regarding the game for the last 6 months or so, but I also spend a lot of time on the internet, and so it was impossible to ignore the controversy brewing about the game’s endings.  I didn’t know why they were upset, or how many of them were out there, or if it was even something to take all that seriously, being that there’s a riot goin’ on over the internet at pretty much any given time.

And anyway, I wanted to see the ending for myself.  (My “galactic readiness” was somewhere in the low-to-mid 60%, but my strength was in the mid 4000s, high enough to get the best endings.)

As it happens, I saw my chosen ending at around 2:00 in the morning, after a 6 hour marathon, and as such I’m probably not in the best shape to discuss why it’s a terrible ending or why Bioware needs to change it.  I’m not entirely sure they do need to change it, anyway.  I made my choice after what felt like 30 minutes of hemming and hawing, and when I finish this post I’m probably going to head back to my apartment and fire up my last save just to see the option I almost picked instead.

It was a tough choice, there’s no doubt about it.  It was absolutely the toughest choice I’d made in the entire series, especially since none of the three options were terribly appealing, and also since I was exhausted and forgot what the choices actually were for a little bit there.  But it would’ve been silly to hope for a “happy” ending – in a series where millions and millions of people/creatures died over the course of a years-long galactic war, having an Ewok dance party would’ve been stupid.

In any event, it wasn’t a cop-out, which (to me) is what’s most impressive.  Even in spite of the fact that it’s a literal deus ex machina.  I did what I did and the war ended, and it hurt a little bit, as it should’ve.


I’ve read in a few places that even though the trilogy is over, Bioware isn’t done with the Mass Effect franchise, which is good.  I don’t want to leave this world they’ve created.  They’ve created one of the most compelling sci-fi universes in any medium, and there’s a lot more to be seen and done.  But there are some game things that need to be addressed.

For one thing, is there any game franchise that would benefit more from L.A. Noire‘s amazing facial tech than Mass Effect?  As it stands right now, all of the otherwise excellent dialogue sequences are hampered by robotic facial expressions and the occasional strange, unconnected wandering around by a speaking character.  (This happens a lot in The Old Republic, come to think of it.  In fact, some of the wandering-around animations might be identical.)  Better facial tech would go a long way towards making these characters feel even more real than the script allows them to be.

I might also add that a lot of the optional crew conversations in ME3 – the ones where you finish your mission and then wander around the Normandy – were almost exclusively of the pep-talk variety.  Everybody’s feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders, sure, but I felt like I was having the same conversation with 12 different people.

The quest system was more than a little messed up – at least as far as the optional side stuff went.  For one thing, picking up side missions by overhearing conversations in the Citadel just felt lazy.  Secondly, the quest system never updated itself, so it was hard to know what you’d actually found and what was ready to turn in.  At one point, I’d kept a notebook on my coffee table so that I could keep track of what I was doing.  This seems insane, given that the game has a built-in quest log already.

One of the things I liked in ME2 was that not every side mission involved combat – sometimes it was just exploring an environment.  As far as I could tell, there was only one (1) mission like that in ME3, and it was a neat change of pace (even if it felt like a puzzle idea that only got half-baked), and I wished there was more.


My big dream for the next console generation is for a mega-hybrid RPG combining the sci-fi world and strong character development of Mass Effect, the wide-open expanse and the sense of discovery of Skyrim, and the true open-world freedom of GTA.  You put that together with a truly kick-ass graphics engine (idTech5? UnrealEngine 4?) and maybe a multiplayer component worth a damn and  you’ve got yourself a monumental work of art.  Make it so.

decisions, decisions

I’ve been wanting to talk about Mass Effect 3 all week.  I’ve had 1000 different things to say, at varying times, covering wide swaths of opinion and analysis and bitching and fanboy swooning.  I’ve also had a hellaciously busy schedule, and what free time I’ve had has been spent playing instead of blogging, hence the recent radio silence.  Apologies, etc.

ME3 is a hard game to talk about without spoiling; certainly my podcast co-host gets almost violent if I even hint at a spoiler without inserting proper precautions, so just know that there may be spoilers to come.  In fact, I suppose I might as well just tell you where I am, so that (a) you can judge for yourself if I’m ahead of you or not, and (b) you can see why I’m treading water a little bit.

I think I’ve been playing for around 16-18 hours, but from the little I’ve heard about the game’s structure, I’m probably only at the end of what would be considered Act 1.  (I’d also say that a good 5-7 hours of my playtime has been me just wandering around the Normandy, which is as close to a virtual “home” as there’s ever been in a videogame.)

(MILD SPOILERS AHEAD)  My current mission, the one I’ve been trying to avoid confronting, involves me going to the Krogan homeworld to wipe out the genophage once and for all.  I’ve been dawdling because the mission involves me making perhaps the most difficult choice I’ve had to make in the entire franchise.  If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ll know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t, well, it’s a doozy.  All the different races hate each other (and with good reason), and in the midst of my trying to form a very fragile alliance/treaty, I’ve basically been asked to perform the ultimate backstab, a backstab that I could conceivably get away with without it getting back to me.  My reward is the enduring friendship and scientific/military support of this particular race (and, obviously, the loss of the race I’d be backstabbing); and vice versa.  Being that the ultimate enemy here is the Reapers, I feel obligated to set myself in the best possible position to take them on, and so this opportunity to get the Salarians on my side feels rather crucial, even though it goes against my deepest beliefs as an ethical, rational human being.  I have to believe that the game is set up so that you can “win” regardless of which option you choose, but FUCK.   (END SPOILERS)

The game’s got problems, too.  I don’t want to parrot this week’s Giant Bombcast too much, but they bring up a number of valid points:  a lot of the side mission stuff is poorly conceived (i.e.,  picking up missions simply by overhearing conversations), and poorly executed (the mission log does a terrible job of letting you know if you’ve picked up a missing item, or who you need to give it to, so you often spend a lot of time just wandering around the Citadel hoping that some idle NPC will have an action reticle on them), and the planet scanning stuff (always a problematic feature in this franchise) is now so stripped down that it seems unnecessary, basically.  (Bioware’s strengths have never been with the side stuff, and TOR is no exception, either, but ME3’s side stuff is particularly weak.)   I’ve also run into a number of weird bugs, sometimes where my AI companions refuse to move, and other times where enemy turrets become impossible to destroy – I’ve had to restart a few missions more than once, which is frustrating.

I haven’t touched the multiplayer.  I want to, both because it sounds kinda interesting and because I’m wanting to increase my Galactic Readiness Rating at all costs (including playing the iOS Datapad thing, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the crafting stuff in Old Republic, actually).  But my focus is primarily on the single player – as I imagine it would be with most hard-core ME players, who’ve been in it for the long haul.

Despite its problems, I love this world.  I love the fiction.  I love the characters.  I love my Shepard, and I love that it’s been my Shepard for the last 5 years.   I’m glad to be playing it; but I wouldn’t have minded if they gave it a little more time to cook.  There are elements of this game that feel rushed (as noted above); there’s also certainly the obvious mass marketing ploy to get this game into the hands of new players, which I understand from a business perspective but which still stings a bit, as a hardcore player who’s been here since the beginning.

More on this to come, as well as a bunch of words and thoughts about Journey, which really does deserve its own post.  The short version – it’s amazing.

%d bloggers like this: