Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Thoughts - Mass Set Up Effect

psforum.se

So I just finished Mass Effect for the first time and I thought it was... pretty meh to be honest with you. I heard the second one is far better, and admittedly the last couple of hours were a lot better than the first 90%, but I was still a bit disappointed considering I had heard so many good things about it. Oh, and there will be some spoilers here in case you haven't played it yourself yet.

This happens every now and then. Something gets praised to the sky and back and I just don't understand why. It's not just a matter of something being good, but just not for me (like the Godfather movies) but sometimes I am starting to wonder if I've just played/watched/read the same thing as everyone else?

Without starting any major arguments, here are a couple of examples of so called awesome experiences that just were lost on me;

  • The Avengers - What a boring movie.
  • Steins;Gate - What is interesting about this anime?
  • SW:The Force Awakens - Not bad, but I have so many issues with this movie.
  • Half-Life - Not enough action and wonky platforming forced into an fps.
Also meh - myanimelist.net



And then we have games like Mass Effect, where I'm not entirely sure if I'm just missing the point or if it is actually not that good, people just thought it was at the time for different reasons. The same way some shit movies win Best Movie Oscar, games can be praised when they're first released, only for people to realize that they somehow duped themselves into liking it. Some things just don't age that well, or only perform in the specific context of when they were released.

So what is my problem with Mass Effect? For one thing, it failed to make me care about anyone. The squad members are not so bad (except for the human ones which are gratingly boring). Some feel sorely cliché, like Joker, written straight out of a text-book "pilot-guy" model and most others fail to convey any kind of feeling, like Captain Anderson. Saren had potential to be interesting, but doesn't get enough screen time or character build up. When I was supposed to choose who was going to die out of Ashley and Kaidan it was basically just a coin toss to me. These kind of choices normally come really difficult for me, I almost struggle with choosing which Lemming should die for the greater good, but I did not manage to feel a drop of emotion pretty much throughout the game. I was also disappointed at the voice work, having heard that Jennifer Hale (who does FemShep) was supposed to be so good. I didn't feel like she was noteworthy at all (which could just as well be bad writing).

I chose Kaidan - masseffect.wikia.com


Interestingly enough, eventhough the people in the universe didn't interest me, the universe itself did. Especially towards the end, when you walk around the Prothean areas, and get to hear a bit more about the story (which I assume will expand even more in coming games), I was feeling like I was finally really getting into it. Before then however, it felt like the story was just one anonymous planet-area after another fighting the Geth.

Combat was one thing I really enjoyed about Mass Effect, which only led to the issue that there wasn't enough of it. I thought difficulty was fairly well balanced and I definitely couldn't just spray and pray my way through things. I had, unknowingly, chosen the Soldier class and decided to go with Tali and Liara to compensate for my lack of powers. They did so splendidly, tossing enemies through the air while I was shooting them down Duck Hunt style, and those moments were the definite highlight of the game.

I didn't feel like the story managed to pick up much momentum until the last couple of hours, as mentioned. This might've been in part due to me checking out the side-quests, most of which were alright entertainment-wise but badly implemented. It just felt so wrong to head off on some quest to find this and that guy for whatever reason, when the fate of the Universe was in my hands and humanity (and most other species) on the brink of destruction. I couldn't help but thinking "I don't have time for this crap!" whenever someone asked me to do something that wasn't directly linked to the main quest. I only did them because I knew the game allowed me to do so, the story didn't and it never felt right.

Mo mining, mo problems - dealspwn.com


Because of this every side quest felt unhinged and unimportant in comparison to what was at stake in the main story. For every one I completed I just ended up thinking "What's the point anyway, we'll all die soon". This way it didn't feel like the side quests tied into the universe in a good way, but more like they were thrown in to give you something to do. And no wonder, since the main story is actually fairly short, or so it felt. Maybe if you take your time to do everything before you finish the story, it would feel more coherent - I will never know as I accidentally continued the story instead of going on a side quest, so there were many I never finished. I will forever wonder what that fan guy was up to...

I never managed to figure out what the mining on planets was good for either, but hopefully that will play a more important or completely different role in subsequent games because it felt pointless in this one.

All in all I can say it seems Mass Effect suffers from a fate common of the first part of a trilogy - the set-up effect (Force Awakens has the same problem imo). The game has got this entire Universe and massive story to set up, it doesn't gain any momentum until the end of it, where it is time for part 2 to pick up the stick leaving the first part feeling a bit bland. It makes perfect sense for Mass Effect 2 to be the best part, because story wise this is where the most action will take place (part 3 suffering from the wrap-up effect instead). I haven't played the other parts yet so we'll see if I still feel this assessment is correct at the end of it.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

High Expectations - Games I Am Looking Forward To 2016

'Tis the habit of video game magazines to dedicate the first issue of the year to games we should all be looking forward to. And I thought to myself, hey I can do that just as good as anyone, I'm a pro at looking forward to things. There are actually a couple of games I am thrilled about but the last time I played something on day 1 release was Pokémon X&Y, so just because I am hoping some of these entries will turn out as cool as they sound, I probably won't get around to playing them until next-next year, at best. Be that as it may, here are the games I will be keeping an extra close watch on;

Tacoma
From the developers of Gone Home, Fullbright delivers Tacoma which could be said to be Gone Home in space - sort of. I actually quite liked Gone Home and eventhough I didn't think it was worth the money (20 euro for 2 hours of gameplay, those 2 hours would have to be life-alteringly good. And it's not that good) I still think it's one of the better interactive stories I've played (way better than To the Moon for example). Add to that my affinity for all things space and you've got a recipe for something I am bound to find tasty. Wait, are we talking about food or games, I am getting confused.

You can tell they have people that worked on Bioshock 2 - gamespot.com


Pokémon Go
Anything with the word "Pokémon" in it will have my interest, but not always manage to make me develop a crush (I am looking at you Pokémon Snap). Pokémon Go however mixes my intense love of Pokémon with my albeit lukewarm fondness of the concept of Ingress. I have been Ingressing, you could sort of say I am still Ingressing seeing as I still have the app installed and do it every once in a month when I happen to remember. My problem with Ingress was that the portals didn't particularly engage me. But if you could just call them, say, Pokémon instead - color me engaged. Yes, I am not ashamed to say I am that simple.

As far as I've understood it, Pokémon Go is really basically Ingress but in Pokémon terms and eventhough I will probably get bored of that too eventually, I am still really looking forward to trying it out. Too bad for the bf who has a Windows phone though.

Doom
I can't even motivate in a logical way why this would interest me to any special degree, considering the first Doom scared the begees out of me and I kind of stuck with Quake 2 after that. Then I kind of dropped shooters like this all together and I can't say I've picked it up since. But reading about Doom really got me into the whole thing again. I mean, shooter are fun after all, and what better than the one that made it into a phenomenon?

FFVII Remake
This is one of the games I want to play at release, but since I don't own a ps4 and probably won't get one for this game alone, I'll just sit on my hands and wait for the PC release. There's going to be a PC release right? Admittedly, playing any FF game on the PC feels a bit blasphemous, but I justify it by telling myself that the line between consoles (except anything Nintendo) and computers has been sufficiently blurred for those concerns not to matter.

FFVII was the first game I played that had a deep, engaging story and more than three hours of gameplay (pretty sure Yoshi's Story doesn't fit the description). As such it showed me a whole new world of video gaming, one where I think I thought to myself for the first time "you know what, this isn't just a game!". No time before had I fallen in love with the story, characters and music as much as with FFVII, and I have been longing for a remake since the concept of remakes. I could barely believe it when I first read about it and I cross all my fingers and toes it will end up being one of the good ones, rather than one of the disappointing ones. But if it turns out it's horrible, I can always drown my sorrows in the old FFVII.

Torment: Tides of Numenera
I was late to the party with Planescape: Torment, finishing it for the first (and so far only) time some two years ago. I loved it. I can't even imagine what someone who loved it when it was released must be feeling upon hearing that it was going to be made. Considering it was funded on Kickstarter within hours, they probably shit a brick. Now, this isn't a remake and frankly I don't think Planescape: Torment needs one. Instead it is a continuation of sorts so it can turn out to be awesome or not so awesome. But I guess that goes for any sort of game nowadays.

Every guy seemed to have that hair in late 90's - unigamesity.com


No Mans Sky
This game is so ambitious you could almost say it's impossible for it not to disappoint. And my expectations of this game are suitably ambivalent. On the one hand I do love the concept and potential of this game. Again with the space and exploration, two things that in combination are probably my favorite thing ever in terms of entertainment. On the other hand, how do you keep it fun? When there is so much to explore, most of it is bound to be (or at least to quickly become) repetitive and dull? I thought so of Skyrim, a game infinitely smaller than No Mans Sky (as I understood it, NMS aims to be endlessly big). It will probably, hopefully, be one of those "it's what you make it" kind of games and with the right tools it could be amazing.

Yo-kai Watch
A Pokémon game that isn't Pokémon? Need I say more, really? It's huge in Japan (but then again, so are a whole lot of things I am not very interested in) and apparently we're only just getting in on the whole phenomenon that is Yo-kai Watch. I don't really know that much about it, except I think you kind of battle with ghosts (hence Yo-kai) and you know, it's sort of like Pokémon. I don't need to know more. I want it.

Copyright infringement from Pokémon next - gamepedia.com


So that's it for the games I am looking forward to this year, there are probably more I couldn't think of when writing this but I guess you could argue that in that case they weren't very interesting. What games have you going antsy this year?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Thoughts - Sweet, Sweet Worms

Back when they still looked cool, and not just like big-headed chicken fodder

You know what game is awesome? Worms. None of the weird 3D and golf-iterations that came eventually, but the very first one released in 1995. I'm not saying this as someone who just discovered it, but rather someone who rediscovered it. I remember sitting in front of some friends computer, hours on end, playing round after round - in that sense it has a lot incommon with HoMM3, albeit not quite as good.

It was just the other day, I can't even remember what made me think of it really, when I suddenly thought of Worms and how much fun that game is - at least if you have someone to play against. I immediately decided I needed to buy it and play some and found it on Steam for 6 euro and thought they were having a laugh. I bought a Steam code on Ebay for a pound instead and installed it at once. It might be nostalgia, but the first Worms game is definitely the best one if you ask me. It's just something about those simple graphics that the other games never could reproduce. And I think the simplicity of Worms is really what makes it so good. It has that also in common with HoMM3 in that it is stupidly simple to learn the basics but to pull of them neat rope tricks and legendary cluster-mess ups you need to practice, practice, practice. A friend of mine was a pure ninja with the rope, there was rarely a place on the map he could not go and he just laughed at the teleport (admittedly with this friend I played a later version of Worms). I never got that skilled at moving around or do well-aimed punts with the grenades but put my eggs in the "luck favors the bold"- basket, a tactic that worked surprisingly well in Worms.

Guess they were worms because the graphics didn't allow much else - scientificgamer.com


The real beauty of Worms was that eventhough being skilled at it gave you an upper hand, it was amazingly designed in leveling the playing field (at least between me and my friends). Randomized maps made sure everyone were equal in terms of knowledge of the playing field. Randomized placement on said map made sure everyone could be the lucky or unlucky one of the round. Furthermore, few other games I have played have managed to put the noob and the veteran if not at equal skill-terms, then at least on equal fun-terms. Because you had a team of worms, losing one wasn't a disaster. It often happened that the person who lost almost his entire team in the beginning made a come-back and ended up winning. If you were a handful of people this often happened because you'd direct your fire elsewhere once you deemed someone not to be much of a threat anymore, allowing them to reap the benefits of everyone else taking eachother out. Seeming inconspicuous and harmless was a real and extremely useful tactic in Worms.



For a 10-year old me one of the best things about Worms was the possibility to name the team and its member after whatever I liked, and after the fun of curse word names had run out I'd normally end up with a team of worms that I felt a personal connection to. It made it even more fun when one of my worms managed to pull off some neat trick and I could laugh (and secretly sob) at the horrible demise of the same. Because demise there would be - the amount of hilarious, over-the-top, you-couldn't-even-make-this-shit-up deaths that I've experienced in Worms is just another thing that makes the game such an awesome party-game. When your opponent manages to kill your worm it will almost always be in a fun way, fun enough for you not to be angry about it and just long for your turn and sweet revenge (I'LL GET YOU!). Bazooka shot to the face, roll on to one, two, three mines and plop into the water. Or the amount of times someone went to punch another worm, missed and shot straight into their own death (usually water, those poor worms really can't swim).

The only real drawback to Worms is that you really do need other people to play with, the AI quickly gets boring simply because you don't have anyone to share your laughs with (in this sense HoMM3 wins out since it is also fun in single player). But in terms of core concept, execution and gameplay, Worms is one of the best party games there is.