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Tag Archives: Bioware

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Mass Effect 3 is my favourite game of all time. I think about this far more than is perhaps normal, or indeed healthy, but with Mass Effect Andromeda in the news I can’t help it. Sadly it seems that this love isn’t shared by the majority of Mass Effect fans. Indeed, the third game is often seen as the weakest, in no small part to it’s controversial ending (more on that later).

I decided to play through the Mass Effect trilogy again earlier this year for the first time since 2012. Mass Effect 3 was my favourite at the time, but I wondered if perhaps I just got caught up in the excitement of the new. Playing through first two games again I was constantly looking forward to the third, but I couldn’t shift the feeling that perhaps I’d made a terrible mistake. Everybody and their Mum said Mass Effect 2 was the best, hands down. Playing through it I could certainly see their point. The story and gameplay were all top notch and a vast improvement over it’s predecessor. Yet something was off. I didn’t like the new crew. Sure, Mordin was great and Garrus and Tali were there from the first game, but the rest? Weaker versions of better characters. When I got to the third game that just confirmed it, it was like getting the band back together.

What set Mass Effect apart from any other series was interacting with your crew. I don’t just mean romancing them and getting up to some hanky-panky in your quarters either. Learning their life story and forming bonds was perhaps more important than whatever Reaper threat was going on in the main plot. Hell, in Mass Effect 3 those weaker characters from 2, though not part of your crew, now have stories that are interesting and humanising. Rescuing Jack and her students, dealing with Miranda’s asshole Dad, Legion’s sacrifice for the greater good, Grunt proving himself as both a leader and a Krogan. These are all missions that needed to take place in the context of Mass Effect 3, when straits are at their direst. When you throw in the Citadel DLC, which is one of the finest bits of DLC to ever be released, you’ve got a game chock full of great character moments.

Most of the criticism is reserved for the ending. I can see why, especially in the vanilla version the game released with. There’s very little resolution to your journey, the galaxy you’ve fought so hard to save seems fucked regardless of whatever choice you make and your crew just seems to abandon you. When I played through it I was pissed off as well. It felt like a betrayal of what the series was based on. Luckily most, if not all, of my criticisms were rectified when Bioware released the Extended Cut DLC. It’s a complaint that no longer holds any weight for me. Sadly no DLC patched out those damned dream sequences. It may be my favourite game, but it’s not flawless.

I see Mass Effect 3 as being a bit like Lost. Both are held up as cautionary tales of how not to do an ending, but that’s missing the point. The destination wasn’t half as important as the journey.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that going into the third instalment of a trilogy without engaging with the previous two parts is a bad idea. Yet here I am, playing both The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Dragon Age Inquisition after only brief encounters with their predecessors.

I’d managed to complete Dragon Age Origins and did about a quarter of The Witcher, whilst I skipped both franchises second games completely. I can’t say either experience left me inclined to trying their sequels. However, with the slow start to this console cycle and their rave reviews, I decided to give them a chance. Understandably this has left me playing catch up with the lore. What’s surprised me most is that in spite of having played less of The Witcher series, it’s the one in which I’ve had the most success in getting to grips with.

Normally, the move to appeal to more of a mass market would be seen as jumping the shark, a phrase which itself did a Fonz about 10 years ago. CD Project Red have managed to avoid that pitfall. It still feels like Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones, but in a version in which you could skip the rubbish bits like The Two Towers or Game of Thrones season two and not feel utterly lost. I don’t feel as though I’ve missed out. The world is still vibrant, but in an approachable way. A way in which I’m not overloaded with information and left to fend for myself. In contrast, Dragon Age Inquisition is like trying to eat a pack of Ryvita. It’s dry and fairly bland, in need of something to liven it up and give it some flavour. Had I enjoyed Origins and played Dragon Age 2, perhaps that would have come from there.

This isn’t to say Inquisition is a bad game. It’s achingly pretty and the interaction with your team mates is as good as you’d expect from a Bioware game. Where it really shines is in the metagame. Making the Inquisition a force to be reckoned with is reminiscent of building your forces in Mass Effect 3. It feels like you can affect the world in a very real way, more so than Geralt can on his own in Wild Hunt.

But where The Witcher 3 succeeds is it not only draws you in, it also feels like much more of a next-gen game. Sure, Inquisition looks pretty, but like Origins it can still feel like something Bioware did on their day off. The combat is laborious, the quests uninspired, mediocre characters and an unremarkable plot. These aren’t points which I feel apply to The Witcher 3. Take, for instance, The Bloody Baron. By all accounts an utter bastard, yet by the end of his quest chain I was pitying him more than any other character in a video game in years.

My hope is that Dragon Age will realise its potential the more I play it. It certainly has the capacity to be brilliant. Just building up the inquisition and consolidating your power is enough of a hook to ensure I continue. Yet so far, it’s The Witcher that’s the apple of my eye.

I finally finished Mass Effect 3 at around three o’clock this morning and I’ve never felt this conflicted over a game before. On one hand, you have this utterly amazing game 99% of the time that’s a vast improvement over the previous two instalments. Unfortunately, it’s that 1% right at the very end that puts a massive damper on what could easily have been one of the best games ever made.

Before getting to the ending, I think it’s important to go into more depth on just how excellent the game is besides. So much is improved upon and refined. The way in which you explore the galaxy and collect resources (in this case War Assets, salvage and fuel) is easily the best of the trilogy. Gone is the repetitive Mako missions and tedious planet scanning. Instead, you scan the system and outrun Reapers who detect and chase after you. Perhaps the best thing about the War Assets is that they give even the most mundane side-quests a sense of weight and importance that they didn’t have before. It actually feels like you’re making a difference.

The weapon customisation makes a welcome return as well. Though not as extensive as in Mass Effect 1, it’s a system that works better. You get upgrades but you aren’t left with the older versions of those upgrades, it replaces them. You also have a weight limit, restricting the weapons you can take with you on missions, meaning you have to think about your equipment, rather than just give yourself the most powerful weapons.

I’m also rather fond of the soundtrack for the game. As disappointing as the departure of Jack Wall is and the fact that Clint Mansell is only responsible for two tracks, Sam Hulick. Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan do a great job on the rest of the score, though I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t have been nice to see what Mansell could have done if given a free-reign.

As for the gameplay, that’s been upgraded nicely. I was worried when playing the demo that it had become clunkier, but I found myself pleasantly surprised at how fluid it felt in the final product. It’s not changed all that much from Mass Effect 2, but I didn’t think it really needed to; they’ve just improved on a winning formula.

The highlight of the game for me is the character moments. There are lots of them littered throughout the game and the emotions they generate can leave you crying or laughing. The new characters are also done very well. James Vega, contrary to my earlier expectations, is actually a decent character. Secondary characters like Cortez, your shuttle pilot, and Samantha Traynor, the replacement for Kelly Chambers, are great additions with a good deal of depth to them. Plus, they finally have crew interaction on the Normandy, either by commlink or by visiting them in their quarters. It adds an extra dimension to life aboard the Normandy where people aren’t separate but do in fact talk to each other, in some cases even forming relationships together.

Really, this game would be damned near perfect if not for the ending. Now, I’m not going to be like some people and say that it ruined the game for me. I cannot stress enough how fantastic the game is prior to the last fifteen minutes. It just makes no sense and there’s a real lack of closure, a quite literal deus ex machina plot device and plot holes you could fly the Citadel through. It’s incredibly lazy writing on Bioware’s behalf and I can’t believe that it was okayed by management. It’s not even that it’s a sad or tragic ending. I could deal with that. Instead, you’re left remarkably unfulfilled and with a very bitter taste in your mouth.

What is so disappointing is that it’s such a lost opportunity. If the ending had been done that bit better then Bioware could pat themselves on the back for creating probably the best video game trilogy ever made. Now, with the fan backlash generated by the ending, they’re left in a difficult place. Do they release some DLC to alter the ending to provide something more palatable for fans à la Fallout 3? Personally, I think that’s what they were planning from the beginning. The ending is left highly ambiguous and gives ample scope to be able to retcon. Of course this will generate backlash from those who liked the ending as well as from those who hated it, seeing it as profiteering from fan anger as I’d be amazed if it was free.

Ultimately, Mass Effect 3 goes from the sublime to the ridiculous at a rapid pace of knots. Does it deserve the merciless bashing it’s getting across the internet and the precipitously small user scores on the likes of Metacritic? No. Is it as good as it could be? Definitely not.