Category: Mass Effect 2

Dragon Age Origins Morrigan

Recently a rather interesting conversation broke out at Polish the Console about video games and relationships. While Kat has a less than secret crush on BioWare (and by crush I mean stalking)  I have found myself with a wanting for something more. Maybe it was playing a video game with the adult themes of Catherine that got me thinking about this but isn’t it time our relationships in video games grew up?

When I say “the adult themes” I don’t mean the sexual nature of the relationship. What I mean is the importance placed on the relationship and the value that it possesses and the effects that these relationships have on the outcome of the game. As a video gamer I want my game to have real consequences to my actions. In BioWare video games the only real consequence to a relationship is “I don’t get to see the sex scene with that other character” and anymore let’s be honest what are we really missing?

mass effect 2 mirands

Behold! The awesome rewards of a relationship...

Now to preface this let me just say that this does not have anything to do with writing or emotional attachments to NPCs. One thing I will never criticize or bemoan in any way is the writers ability to genuinely make me care about my party members. Who among us hasn’t agonized over one stupid little decision in a game that, in reality, had no real bearing on the outcome of the game? What I mean is that in games like Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect the relationships you enter into make little real and meaningful difference to the outcome of the game. You can still have a 98% identical experience in the game without a relationship; all you miss out on is a little smooching and a few dialogue options that will still give you the same ending anyways. While you may personally feel more passionately towards the outcome based on your emotional connection with the characters, you could still arrive at that outcome without being in that relationship.  In Dragon Age: Origins being in a relationship with Morrigan or Alistair does not mean you will live or die. It does not mean anything other than a small chunk of text at the end of the game.

In my life I am a 31 year old married man. I have a wife, two dogs, house, and no picket fence. I genuinely enjoy my life. However I look at my companions: my college friends, work friends, people I meet. I see my wife and my dogs and the life I have chosen. If this were Mass Effect 2 I could very easily flirt with my companions who were willing and suffer no real ill effects. If this were Dragon Age II then I could literally flirt with everyone I shared more than a passing conversation with regardless of sexual orientation and it would be okay.

In my real life I can almost certainly promise you that if I were to flirt with the girl at the local GameStop my wife would not be at all happy with me. In fact I would think that what would ensue would be a 4 hour impassioned apology from me and a well deserved lifetime of distrust from her.

But there’s more than just my ability (okay let’s be honest I have no ability I got lucky) to flirt with people. I have chosen a companion that I will put before all others. In my relationship I have said “I choose your missions before anyone else’s.” I looked my wife dead in the eyes and said “I voluntarily choose to miss out on a cornucopia of potential companion missions with friends and acquaintances to forge life with you and do your missions.” She then gave me a sword. Dead serious. She had a custom forged katana made for me. I’m that lucky. She also had my wedding ring made from sword. Again I’m very serious. She knows me.

Miranda Mass Effect 2

She's not even shooting something because for me.

In Mass Effect 2 when you choose to be with Miranda Lawson all you miss out on is a sexy video with another crew member and bit of “I want to be with you” dialogue. You still get to do all of their deep companion missions. You still get to fully complete the game. Hell Miranda doesn’t even give you anything that helps you. Come to think of it when you gain her allegiance SHE’S the one that gets something. They all do. Why didn’t we get a fancy new suit? We’re the ones risking out asses to help your families. Where’s my fancy pants?

But more than this nobody seems to care that you’re potentially in a relationship. In Dragon Age: Origins when Morrigan gives you a ring or Alistair and you become Ferelden Royalty what really changes? Do you miss out on any part of the game because you’re in a relationship?

This is what I mean by adult themes. It is the decisions that have significant weight in the world. It is saying “Yes I want this. This is my decision and there is no going back, there is no middle ground, and I have to stick through this.” In Catherine it was the seemingly inane questions that created a very black or white picture of the world. Ultimately you decided between Catherine or Katherine. That was your decision, it sucked, it was difficult, and it was one of the most gratifying and real experiences that I have had in gaming all year, because of the consequences.

This is what other games need to bring in. Make a relationship mean that in return you get some real and deep companion mission. Make a relationship mean that you are not, in fact, running around with everyone doing whatever you want. You have consequences for your decisions that will carry through the entire game based on who you choose to be in a relationship with.

The additional benefit to this is a terrific increase in replayability. In all likelihood I’m probably never going to replay Dragon Age II. With two play throughs I was able to do almost everything I wanted to. There is no more story to surprise me or grab my attention. However uncovering more about Isabela or Merrill would absolutely bring me back for another go-round if the stipulation was that I had to be in a relationship with them.

While this would certainly rub a lot of gamers the wrong way it’s something that would both intrigue and beguile provided it’s done correctly. Video gamers are growing up. Isn’t it time our in game relationships do the same?

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Rating: 4.4/5 (9 votes cast)

BioWare.  I love you, I really do, and everyone knows it.  But something has been bothering me lately, particularly with the arrival of the all new (but less awesome) Dragon Age game.  And this thing REALLY bothers me.  Because I like to get down and dirty when I game.  I want my character in an RPG to get in some hot romance.  Honestly, BioWare, I feel like you’re slipping a bit in the romance department.  Particularly in the scenes.

Female Shepards really make Kaidan nervous. And... I guess male Shepards, too.

First, let’s take the original game that got TONS of flack for being ‘too sexual’ (but all of us who actually played it loved the romance).  The original Mass Effect game had sexual tension, kissing, side boob, and a beautiful booty.  The scene that got incredibly harsh criticism was if you choose to have your female Shepard pursue a romance with Liara, the blue skinned alien.  But it was a gorgeous realization of teammates coming together as more than friends.  My female Shepard had a strong relationship with Kaidan.  So strong, that she skipped any romancing in ME2.

Then came Dragon Age: Origins, a game that had not only hot tenting scenes, but also two characters who would swing either way.  If you played as a male, and wanted to romance the sultry male elf, Zevran, you could.  If you played as a female, and wanted to get it on with the red headed female bard, Leliana, you could.  My female hero of Fereldan Avaline pursued a relationship with Alistair, which culminated in a beautiful romance scene.  After the scene, the option to have them kiss or hop in the tent again continued to be available.  It goes without saying that every time my party returned to camp, I would have Avaline and Alistair tenting.

In the sequel to the original Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 widened the number of romanceable options for the player.  In fact, Shepard could get it on with various races.  However, in Mass Effect 2, there was no complete nudity.  While Miranda unzips her suit to reveal bra and panties and Jacob strips off his shirt, there’s no sideboob and bum reveal.  And, unlike Dragon Age: Origins, there aren’t any sex motions.  What’s even worse, if you decide to remain faithful to your flame from ME1, you get a rather cold reception on Horizon, and all you’ll wind up doing when you could be getting it on with someone else is staring at a picture of them.  Pretty lame.

Anders Has Glowing Eyes!

Who can resist those glowing eyes? Oh... maybe the people who don't want to date a terrorist.

And in Dragon Age 2, the latest game out by BioWare, some romance scenes don’t have characters in their skivvies at all, and it fades to black WAAAAAY too early.  In fact, I don’t believe there’s an actual tenting scenes in any of the romances.  There might be some kissing, some frantic throwing-against-the-wall, and hand-holding-leading-to-the-bed, but that pales in comparison to the actual sex scenes in Dragon Age: Origins.  It was a huge disappointment to those of us excited to see the new scenes.  These new scenes actually left me in a “That’s IT?!!” state.

As you can see, BioWare has continued to tame down the love scenes in their games.  This makes me incredibly wary of the upcoming Mass Effect 3, and another sequel in the Dragon Age series.  In Mass Effect 3, especially, I’m hoping this trend BioWare has gone on won’t continue.  Because I’d really like to see an explosive reuniting scene with my Shepard and her former flame Kaidan.

BioWare, you may consider this my urgent plea that the toning down of romances and love scenes doesn’t continue for the upcoming games you have in store.  Seriously.  Please.

-Kat

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Rating: 5.0/5 (9 votes cast)
not a typical video game rucksack

You can seriously carry a couch in this thing

Many video games have inventories. Lets face it, any game that requires you to pick stuff up, carry stuff around, or use something typically has some form of inventory management. Whether its keeping tabs on how much ammo you have or making sure you still have room in your expansive (albeit invisible) rucksack that holds 150 fire arms, 12 outfits, 3 items of food  or potions, and a fork, lute, cup, or cat (yeah Anders I’m looking at you) you have to remain aware of something you are lugging around. Some video games do it so well its almost unnoticeable while others wind up taking up more time than the actual gameplay.

Diablo falls into this category because it was simply clean and fantastic. You had a system that was based around a grid. Each item took up a specific amount of squares on this grid. You have certain items that are stackable and items that aren’t. Either you could carry it or you couldn’t. You can quickly see what will and what will not work. There is typically very little question about if you can or even want to carry that shiny new sword or not. This allows you to spend little time mucking about asking if it’s worth it or not.

Mass Effect 2 is another example of an inventory control system I enjoyed. While it’s not perfect its pretty solid. It’s a simple “only important shit” system. You have things that kill, things that heal, and things that keep you safe. If you don’t have to decide on it then you don’t have to look at it. It gets stored in your data pad and you bring it up when you find the person that is ultimately looking for it.

Mass Effect - Mako

Put the bike down, we are not putting it in the trunk. Or the sofa.

When it comes to the equipment itself you typically know what weapons and armor you like before going into a mission. If not you deal with it prior to the mission. During the game if you find some fancy new boom-stick while you’re exploring a new world new you get to try it out. If you don’t like it you can swap it out after the mission or at a weapons locker that is typically found near the point of discovery.

What makes these so fantastic to me is that they are  quick, easy, painless, and it gets you back to the action. It’s almost easy to forget that they are even there. They fit into the game and flow naturally. I’m admittedly an A.D.D. gamer. I need to keep moving, keep doing something new, because that’s what keeps things going. I may stop and take a look at what I have and size it up with what I’m using from time to time but its the GAME that makes it fun, not the stuff I get in it.

What made Mass Effect 2 so good was the improvement from the original Mass Effect. Weapons, armor, and upgrades were found with such a high frequency that I wound up spending more time seeing what I just picked up instead of simply using it. After a while I had to force myself to adopt the mindset of “screw it I will look at it after a few missions. After a while it became “screw it, I’m just going to sell it.”

Mass Effect - Hand Cannon

I swear to the goddess that if you drop anything for me to pick up I will unity your ass kill you all over again

Then there is Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. Again I spent so much time worrying about inventory that it wound up taking away from the video game itself. Whether it was scrolling through all of the items themselves or checking them to see if I should be using them, I would up spending more time staring at the screen of a Pip-Boy than down the barrel of my tri-beam laser rifle. That’s not an attack on Fallout. It was a fantastic game with a great set of stories that could absolutely hook you. Hell even the long stretches of just walking around were fun. But do I really need to decide if I should carry 210 forks or my weapons? That’s a no contest. I’ll just throw forks at things and move on with my day.

Now the real question gets asked: What makes for a good inventory management system?  The biggest flaw in Fallout isn’t how its displayed (however the long scrolling lists could stand a revamp) its the sheer volume of items. This is part of Fallout’s charm however. Being able to take just about anything you find and do whatever you bloody well want with it is half the fun for some people. Hell, for some its the entire experience. But the ridiculous volume was the ultimate killer. This is ultimately the same complaint for Mass Effect. There was just so much information and no easy easy way to trudge through it or quick compare with what you’re using.

Quick comparisons between what you’re using and what you’re looking at can always be a big benefit. Dragon Age: Origins took this concept quite literally and would display a side by side comparison of equipment. While it made things go more smoothly there was always a lot of information to go through. What we need is quick and simply inventory management that can keep you in the action. Quick displays of is it better or is it worse than what you’re currently using can help you make that tough decision: throw the new sword away, or save it for later.

Sound off: what’s your favorite / least favorite inventory management system in a video game?

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

If you are a hardcore (or even slightly more than casual) gamer then odds are you fall into one of two categories. Either you are the gamer who has played the critically acclaimed Mass Effect 2 or you are the gamer who has said “I would totally play this video game if it came out for the PS3.” Myself, I fall into the first category. I enjoyed Mass Effect and totally loved Mass Effect 2. When news broke that BioWare was going to be releasing Mass Effect 2 for the Playstation 3 I got very excited. I aslo found this very confusing since I had already beaten it. Twice. I was actually playing Mass Effect through again so that I could replay Mass Effect 2 with a whole new history of my character.

Miranda Lawson - Mass Effect 2

This helps bring you back to life. No joke.

For those who may not be familiar with the story let me give you the breakdown. You assume the roll of Commander Shepard a Council Spectre on a mission to clean up after the events of Mass Effect. You die a rather horrific death at the hands of a mysterious enemy only to be brought back to life by an controversial organization by the name of Cerberus. Your development is overseen by the fine backside of Miranda Lawson. After fighting your way out of the facility that help to recreate your glorious visage you meet the man who gave you new life. Martin Sheen.

He informs you that there has been a string of strange disappearances of human colonies at the fringe of the galaxy and you have been brought back to investigate. Throughout the game you assemble your team, shoot some stuff, blow some stuff up, have some conversations, and ultimately do what you can to help save the galaxy from a threat that will very well destroy everything to achieve it’s goal. That is because it’s goal is to pretty much destroy everything. So you can see the importance of helping out.

Mass Effect 2 – Controls

If you have played Mass Effect 2 then the controls are going to be pretty much exactly the way you remember them to be. If you haven’t then let me lay it out there: they are pretty damn tight. You will find yourself having a fairly good idea of what you are doing before you even start the game.

Where the game does a very good job is when it comes down to how you interact with your squad during times of combat. Bringing up a wheel that allows you to have your squad execute specific functions is fairly straightforward but what impresses is the lack of mistakes that are typically made. You almost have to try to make a mistake when telling your squad member to use a specific power on a specific enemy.

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Mass Effect 2’s controls get a 4 out of 5

Mass Effect 2 – Gameplay

The gameplay in Mass Effect 2 is smooth, clean, and very very open. When I say its open I mean you can go off and explore the galaxy, you can stick to what you know, or you can just follow the basic story. You decide what you do, where you go, who you help, or how you help them. The only thing the game makes you do is recruit your crew and fight some bosses. How you do that is left entirely up to you.  If your crew likes you and even if they make it through the end is left up to you.

And this is where the Gameplay either shines of fails. Lets face it, there just some people out there who flat out HATE open world games. If you are one of those people then this is not going to be a game that you enjoy. However this not open in the way that games like Fallout 3 and New Vegas are open. You can’t float around the Galaxy taking dinner plates and coffee mugs to store in a warehouse of a town you just brutally slaughtered so that you can set it up to be the most morbid and disturbing tea party of corpses ever imagined.

You have a mission to accomplish. Once you start your missions you don’t have much margin for error. I imagine you rarely do when everyone is shooting at you like they do in Mass Effect 2. But you are open to go about completing them however you bloody well like. You are open to go around the galaxy helping humanity and other civilizations or you are free to ignore the pleas of your crew and fellow galactic denizens.

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Mass Effect 2’s gameplay gets a 4 out of 5

Mass Effect 2 – Graphics

miranda mass effect 2

Yeah, she really does know how good she is.

When BioWare said that Mass Effect 2 would be build on the Mass Effect 3 engine I got all excited. I imagined that loading it up would open a hole to the heavens and a glorious warm light would bathe my system in a calming warmth and a choir of angels would sing as the game played. Yeah I was wrong.

The graphics on the Playstation 3 version of Mass Effect 2 are just as they were on the XBox 360 version. I don’t care what any side by side comparison online says. Unless you’re an overly nitpicky douche you’re not going to notice any difference other than things are a tad brighter on the Playstation 3.

The thing is that the graphics are still fantastic. The game still looks amazing. The worlds are still gorgeous and fascinating. The ship is still beautiful. Miranda still looks like a biologically enhanced smokin hottie who is better than you in every way, shape, and form.

Somehow my Comander Shepard is still ugly as sin.

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Mass Effect 2’s graphics get a 4 out of 5

Mass Effect 2 – Story

When it was announced that Mass Effect 2 would come out and not Mass Effect the big question became “How will they be able to create the story from Mass Effect so that people playing would have some idea as to what the hell is going on?” To sum things up BioWare issued out a digital comic that summed up the back story quite well that  allowed you to make the key decisions that were made in the first game to carry over into the new one.

The slight downside is that you don’t get the FULL back story. Ultimately this can leave anyone who never played the first Mass Effect to scratch their heads a bit, but its not going to be a total deal breaker.

Mass Effect 2 PS3 Kasumi

Someone is about to have a bad day

But you don’t just get a digital comic. You get the Mass Effect 2 DLC missions. So you get the bonus goods for the price of the main game. So you may miss a little here and there but gain a big win in the long run.

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Mass Effect 2’s story gets a 4 out of 5

Mass Effect 2 – Overall

Across the board 4’s can only give us one final tally. Mass Effect 2 is still gorgeous, still fun, still interesting, and the PS3 release gives us the DLC to also play. Overall Mass Effect 2 is getting a 4 out of 5.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)

With the upcoming January release of Mass Effect 2 for Playstation 3, I decided to take a look at the series and raise some important questions.

Okay, maybe just one.

And maybe not so important, but more…personal.

Can Joker have sex?

Joker, of course, is the guy who sits up front in the Normandy (aka the Cockpit) and flies the ship.  He also has this disease where his bones are incredibly brittle*, and will easily break with any small force.  So, given those circumstances, it sounds to me like he would be unable to…copulate.

Mass Effect's Joker

Who's got two thumbs that may break if he jerks the Normandy's controls too quick? THIS GUY.

Granted, we can’t forget the famous *SPOILER* scene in Mass Effect 2 where you control Joker and must escape the Collectors while reactivating EDI‘s access to the ship. *END SPOILER*  Given that scene, it almost seems as though he’d be able to handle sex, which made me doubt the validity of my own argument.  But then, as Wadoobie and I discussed this scenario, we came to the realization that it must have been that Joker was high on adrenaline, which can cause the unlikeliest of candidates to do amazing things.  Such as an old woman lifting a car to save her grandson.  That sorta thing.

So… does that mean Joker could… handle a lady?  It seems to me that if the going got rough, well, that Joker’s bones would be crushed.

It’s also interesting to think that if Joker ISN’T able to have sex, that he has psychological damage from being unable to participate in one of human’s most basic functions.  It’s why he insists on sitting in a cockpit all day.  Okay, that was lame, I admit.  But honestly, it seems like flying the fastest, most technologically advanced ship in the galaxy could be a way to exert his masculinity.  It’s why he’s adamant that HE flies the ship.

Mass Effect's Joker

"Hi, I'm Joker. I'm going to interrupt you every time you're getting some action. Probably because I'm mad that I can't get any."

*In terms of WHICH of Joker’s bones are brittle, it seems that we have a slight plot inaccuracy across Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2.  You see, in the first Mass Effect, Joker explains that only the LOWER HALF of his body is brittle, as detailed in this video.

Mass Effect: Joker Explains his Disease

And in Mass Effect 2, it is insinuated that ALL of Joker’s bones are brittle.  After the *SPOILER SCENE*, the discussion in the video below takes place between the members of the crew.  Joker makes a reference to ‘breaking his arm’ at an enemy.  Please note that this video also contains spoilers if you haven’t yet played Mass Effect 2!

Mass Effect 2: Joker Talks about Breaking his Arm

Additionally, on BioWare’s site for Mass Effect 2, it is mentioned that ‘the recoil from a rifle can cause fractures’ in Joker.  (link to the page is here: BioWare’s Character Page for Joker)

BioWare!  What happened?

But don’t worry.  [Insert line of adoring love for BioWare repeated in almost all of Kat’s posts].

-Kat

Sadly, I couldn’t call sex ‘tenting’ this time.  It doesn’t really fit in the Mass Effect universe.  That’s all Dragon Age.  If you’ve got a snarky analogy, I’m very open to hearing it.

*ahem* Docking??

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