The will likely be spoilers, but should I talk about something super new I'll warn ya. But consider this a pre-emptive warning! You're WARNED!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

These are the voyages...

Recently I had to say goodbye to an old friend: my trusty Mac Mini I got circa 2005. Though she'd never been top of the line (I bought her refurbished), she'd always done what I needed her to do when I needed her to do it. A couple of months ago I started to notice signs that she was wearing down: websites took longer and longer to load (watching video became a particularly painful experience). Programs would take 30 seconds to shutdown- that is, when I didn't have to force quit them because they wouldn't shut down at all. Other times, applications I need to use everyday wouldn't open. I found myself getting slowly shut out of the internet because my girl's outdated processor meant I couldn't upgrade any of my browsers. Though she'd served me faithfully for years, I knew it was time. Today she sits on a shelf in my closet while I have a new friend- a brand new Mac Mini that's...well, I won't bore you (LIKE I HAVEN'T ALREADY) with all the details that make it so super terrific. The point is, I can finally game on my computer.

Well, I'll be able to run just about anything once I get Windows installed; for now, I'm still relegated to the anemic world of Apple gaming.

I tell you all this because it's the reason I came across FTL: Faster Than Light the other day. Had I access to all the games of the world on my computer, I would have skipped by FTL without a backwards glance. The graphics are pleasing, yes, but rudimentary. A strategy game? A simulator? Managing resources? Not my cuppa. But! Hey, it's under $10 and it'll run on Mac? Why, I'd better take a closer look...

As I'd never heard of this game, I looked up a few reviews and noticed that they all had something in common: rather than the standard rundown of graphics, gameplay, plot and the like, each writer told the tale of the crew of his or her ship and, more to the point, how they all died. Every story is different because while elements are similar or the same, the path your ship takes in FTL is largely randomized and no two runs will be identical.

The story is bare bones: you're the captain of a ship holding on to some sensitive information for the Federation. You've got to make your way across 8 sectors of the galaxy to deliver that info while avoiding pirates, slavers, solar flares, ion storms, hostile aliens and more...all while the Rebel fleet is hot on your heels trying to kill you dead. And believe me- kill you dead they will. Or someone else will. You will die very, very frequently, and in the roguelike FTL, it's permadeath. There is no saving, there is no going back, and FTL is difficult and unforgiving...and holy crap, is it fun.

As you can see in the top-down view, most rooms on your ship contain a system: shields, engines, weapons, oxygen, and so on. Each is upgradable (points are purchased with "scrap", FTL's currency), and each system needs power to run. Enemy ships will frequently target one or more of these areas, and as captain, it's up to you to quickly solve the ever-mounting problems before your hull is destroyed (and you and your crew along with it).

In one of my first games, I came across a Rebel ship that had been retrofitted for transport and I had the option to let them go on their merry way or to demand they hand over all their goods. I fancied myself as some sort of scoundrel-type of captain, so I chose the latter...and the Rebels did not simply roll over and give in to my obscene demands. We both powered up our weapons and while my lasers were trying to pew pew through their layers of shields, they launched a missile that promptly took out my cameras and sensors- nearly every room was now blacked our and I couldn't see what was happening in my own ship.

I launched a missile of my own and took down their shields. As I waited for my laser to recharge, I sent a crewman to fix the surveillance equipment. The enemy countered with a missile to my engine room, which destroyed that and with it, any chance that I may simply power up my FTL and jump away from this skirmish.

Finally, I'd chipped away at their weapons enough to disable them; at least I'd have some time to breathe without them firing on me. Of course, as I'd delegated my crew to repair duty, so would the Rebels; their weapons would be back online before long.

I sent another crewman to fix the engines and then the surveillance system came back online: that's when I saw that the missile that had taken out the cameras had also blasted a hole in my fuselage. In all of my scrambling since that first direct hit, I hadn't noticed the oxygen meter steadily counting down...and now, O2 levels were at about 42%. My crewman began frantically trying to repair the damage, but he simply wasn't fast enough. My entire crew asphyxiated, and I have to say...if I were those Rebels, I would have boarded and taken all of my goods just to rub it in my dead face.

Mind you, I was woefully unprepared for that battle. It was early on in my playthrough and I was lacking sufficient weapons, shield strength, everything. As another playthrough taught me, though, you can never be too prepared.

The Cocoa II (yes, you can name your ships and crewmembers) was a force to be reckoned with: I had offensive and defensive drones, an automated robot dude who could board enemy ships and wreak havok, and a full crew of varying alien species. My shields were substantial. I'd freed some slaves, helped out some stranded ships, bought long-range scanners...this run, I thought, would be the one to deliver that oh-so sensitive information.

Then I landed at a beacon planted too close to a sun. And there was an angry enemy ship there, too, who didn't care that a solar flare was imminent. They fired up their weapons.

Before I could react, a laser cut across my hull and took out my engines. Their drone knocked my shields down to half-strength. A missile took out my weapons. My offensive drone was firing a steady volley of lasers at my enemy, but they were strong and their shields weren't budging.

Then came that solar flare, and suddenly the room housing my oxygen regulators was on fire. I opened some blast doors and an airlock in an attempt to snuff out the fire before this crew was asphyxiated.

And then a signal sounded: the enemy had boarded my ship, and they were quickly pummeling my weaker crewmen to death.

More enemy fire. Another solar flare. Within 30 seconds, the Cocoa II had gone from being my pride and joy to being completely obliterated, turned into so much cosmic dust and completely forgotten in the ongoing Federation-Rebel war.

But the Cocoa III! She'll be the one to bring me home to glory. I tells ya, death has never been so addictive.

Friday, September 21, 2012

And what are YOU playing?

The Gameological Society asked me recently about what games I'm playing and if you want to read my answers, well guess what?? YOU CAN.

I would only add that I picked up FTL: Faster Than Light last night and was immediately hooked like it was my first sweet sweet whiff of meth!

Okay, so I don't go around whiffing meth. Hugs not drugs! I also recently started watching Breaking Bad and I'm totally hooked on that, too.

Anyway, I'll talk more in-depthly about FTL very soon. For now let it suffice to say: it's just plain awesome. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dragon's WHAT, now?

As you may or may not know (or CARE, to be sure), I am a ginormous fan of western RPGs. Oh yeah, the soap-opera-ness, the world-roamin', the build-your-own-protagonistin' like Dragon Age and Oblivion please me the mostest. I thought I'd have naught of this ilk to play until the Skyrim expansion Dawnguard hits later this month, but then lo! I started reading reviews of a game called Dragon's Dogma and it soon became apparent that YES. This game and I were meant to be.

You're going about your business in your wee fishing village one fine day when the bright blue sky darkens as the wings of a mighty dragon blot out the sun! As it turns out, this dragon is a total jerk- when you make a meager attempt at defending yourself, he plucks out your heart, swallows it whole, and takes off for parts unknown.

Despite no longer having a heart beating in your chest, you soon awaken for you are...The Arisen! And it's time to leave your wee fishing village to find that dragon and reclaim what's yours.

You know how it goes: assemble a crew, embark on quests as you build up enough power to face the big boss, talk to denizens of cities near and far...sounds like a pretty generic fantasy RPG, right? Well, it is and it isn't. Certainly there are familiar elements at play and sure, Gransys is definitely a Tolkien-lite kinda world. In their first attempt at a western RPG, however, Japanese developer Capcom changes up the formula in some truly refreshing ways.

The biggest of these ways is evident in the merrie bande of fighters you lead- rather than recruiting a gang of companions from all around the game map (à la Dragon Age) or asking/hiring a follower to accompany you for a while (à la Skyrim), the Arisen is, by rights, given control over the Pawn Guild. Pawns are soulless fighters who hail from the Rift, and they'll fight at your side throughout the game.

Early on, you create a Primary Pawn- modifying appearance, behavior, gender, class, etc- who tags along for the entire adventure. You can choose two more pre-crafted Secondary Pawns as well. Your Primary levels up with you, and you can outfit him or her as you acquire new gear; Secondary Pawns stay as-is, so you'll need to visit the Rift to swap 'em out as you outgrow them or you want to change the class makeup of your party.

Cool, right? Even cooler: if you're playing online, your Primary can be chosen as a Secondary to other online Dragon's Dogma players, and likewise you can choose your Secondaries from Pawns other players have created. He or she will return with gifts given by other players as well as quest knowledge.

Capcom has also changed up the rules about class and leveling up: sure, your character levels through experience gained, but you don't need to worry about stats...which I found to be a pleasant change from the norm, actually. Strength and the such can be modified through the use of gear, but when you hit a new level you simply...gain more health, power, stamina, etc. Though you choose a "vocation" at the outset- fighter, mage, or strider (rogue), of course- you can switch at any time if you're feeling bored. As each vocation progresses, you can choose more advanced forms or hybrids. I started as a strider and eventually became an assassin, a fighter/strider mix. Next time I'll go for a strider/mage mix, because wielding a magic bow sounds mighty appealing.

The one downside to the Pawns? They never, ever shut up. Ever. EVARRRR. As you travel, they talk incessantly- whether it's offering quest advice or simply blurting out things like "What a large tree!", there are three people behind you yapping all the time. It would be annoying if it weren't so hilarious...or maybe vice versa.

You'll be hearing them a lot because the world of Gransys is largely tread on foot- fast travel is a privilege, not a right, and it's earned far into the game. Even then, it's only achieved via special crystals that are incredibly rare- you plant them wherever you like and reach them via other special crystals. This really allows you to experience the world, but it can also be a bit tedious- sometimes you simply don't want to walk from one end of the map to the other, you know? But, leaving areas for good (or never exploring much) means you'll miss out on plenty of quests.

I missed out on some quests simply because of my biggest peeve with Dragon's Dogma: the save system. You can save anytime you like, but the game also auto-saves...and you only have one save file. There's no going back! I discovered this when walking through an innocuous door triggered the final quest and an auto-save- sure, I promptly turned myself around, but several other quests were immediately canceled because they could no longer be completed after that point. It makes my gamer OCD/completionist brain hurt.

Fighting is a blast in Dragon's Dogma. Yeah, there are RPG staples like spiders, rats, and goblins, sure...but Gransys is also populated by enormous creatures straight out of mythology: cyclopes, harpies, chimeras, griffins, and more all roam the land freely. For most of them, there's a Shadow of the Colossus-style angle that can be exploited- grab on to a writhing head of a hydra or climb up the back of a golem and hack away. It's fun, it's difficult (oh, I died so many times in this game, and some battles last upwards of 10-15 minutes), and it never gets old.

You'll find, too, that the world changes vastly from day to night, and Gransys under darkness is no joke. The monsters are tougher, and the only light comes courtesy of the small lantern tied at your waist. Is that shape ahead a rock, or a cyclops waiting in ambush? To what manner of beast do those glowing red eyes in the distance belong? And let me tell you, I thought I'd tired of zombies, but Dragon's Dogma features the absolute creepiest undead I've seen since...well, since Capcom's seminal Resident Evil series.

Though I truly loved the game- it's a really good time- it's not without some...quirks that detract from the play. I mean, no one seems to notice (or care) that the mighty Arisen is a total mute. This is not a voiceless protagonist where you get to choose a line of dialogue from time to time that might give your character some sense of...well, character. All you get to do is pick a yes or a no, an accept or a do not accept from time to time. The cutscenes are well-rendered and the Arisen has some emotive facial expressions, but no more than that. It's just kind of...weird. Particularly when people fall in love with you.

That's right, it's a western RPG so there must be some form of romance, right? It's there in Dragon's Dogma, but it's convoluted and broken beyond all reason. Doing quests make people fall in love with while you give a shopkeeper a fancy idol in exchange for better gear, look out! He or she (gender don't matter none in DD) may prove to be your love interest. Yup, it's out of your control for the most part, and who you'll end up with is largely a mystery until it happens. After completing her quest, one broad decided she was in love with me and moved into my house- into my house!- without my permission. I had my eye on someone else, however, so I was left with no choice but to throw this poor lovestruck girl off of a cliff. I'd say don't judge me, but perhaps the game itself judged me: my "beloved", after all, changed from one ending to the next. Yes, Dragon's Dogma has more endings than Return of the King, though I'm not complaining about that. It was odd, though, to walk off into the sunset not with the person I'd already walked off into a sunset with, but with...a total surprise.

Despite its flaws, Dragon's Dogma fell right into place alongside other western RPGs I love. I hope there's meaty DLC in the works, or a sequel...and I certainly hope Capcom doesn't give up on this strange new world.

And ooh, I hope that "What a large tree!" becomes the new "arrow in the knee".

And here's a trailer that shows a bit o' gameplay:

Sunday, March 11, 2012



So I knew I would clear a block of time when Mass Effect 3 arrived, like I did for ME2, so I could just play until completion. There has been completion.

And over the last 12 hours, as I've been thinking about it- this ending that will set, at least, The Internet on fire- I've literally gone from



thinking it's absolutely the most ingenious ending to a video game ever.

This requires faith in what's to come, but even thinking about it...I am completely blown away. And I'm blown away by the process it took for me to completely flip my opinion- that the game provides an answer that is not clear cut and/or easy. I'm stunned.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong and that's that. We shall see.

Now hurry up and finish, everyone, so we can discuss!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

the saddest tale ever told

Let me just begin by saying: I am not playing Mass Effect 3 right now. "BUT," you say. "It has been available all day! What's going on? This is disconcerting."

Indeed it is, my friends. Indeed it is.

The short of it: has screwed the pooch on this one so badly that...that...I JUST DON'T KNOW. Sit back and let me tell you the saddest and most boring tale ever told: that of a huge Mass Effect nerd who is not currently playing Mass Effect 3 (me).

No really, it's boring- you've been warned.

Way back in June- June! JUNE! JUUUUUUUUNNNNNE!- I spotted the ME3 Collector's Edition on Amazon and immediately pre-ordered. Into my cart it went! Completed the sale I did! Waiting I began! Heck, the game may have still had a tentative 2011 release date at the time, but I did not care. BioWare stated that the CE would be limited in quantity, but I did not care. My order was placed as early as could be. When the time came, Amazon would charge my card and send my game. Hooray!

Release day eventually began to draw near, and I thought "Hmm. I will check and see if Amazon is offering release-day shipping/arrival for pre-orders. That was what I chose when I pre-ordered Skyrim and verily, I would like to receive Mass Effect 3 on March 6." So I checked, and there was no option. Okay, I could wait a couple of days I GUESS.

Yesterday- the day before the US launch!- I checked my order. Still open, with an estimated delivery date of March 17th. Whaaaaa? That seemed...excessive. I clicked on the actual product, and found this message on the screen:
Due to high demand (and possibly the imminent Reaper invasion), we have unfortunately run out of our pre-order allocation for Mass Effect 3 - Collector's Edition. We are looking to secure additional allocation from the publisher and will update this page if that occurs. Please note -- if you have already pre-ordered this edition -- do not cancel as you may not be able to re-order.
I figured YEAH, but I pre-ordered in JUNE, mofos, so mine should be, like, the first one out the door.

This morning, I woke up with an email giving me a code for my Amazon pre-order bonus DLC- some assault rifle or something. Yay! The game must be in transit! I checked Amazon. Order is still open, delivery estimated- March 17. I checked my bank account- the amount is "pending", but has essentially been taken out of my account.

I call around town, figuring I'll buy one, then when the Amazon one arrives I'll return it. No dice- it's sold out everywhere.

I poke around yon Internette, seeing if anyone else had any issues. I found a forum where someone mentioned Amazon being sold out, and another person responded with a "nuh uh, click this"- and it was a link to the same product on a different Amazon page. Add to cart! Just like any other new product that is in stock.

So, I immediately bought it and opted for 1-day shipping...though I still didn't cancel the other order, figuring better safe than sorry. Another pending debit on my bank account appeared...and the item is now "expected in stock" on the 8th, and I should have it on the 9th. The original item page is still up, and the corresponding order is still listed for delivery on the 17th.

I just went to check Amazon again on a lark (about three hours after I placed my second order), and I guess it's officially "sold out", now. The Collector's Edition is listed as being available only from other sellers, and it's already $130.

Will I get a Collector's Edition in the mail on Friday, or not? Will I get another copy a week later? Or will I get a cancellation from Amazon with a ""Sorry, sold out"? I have no clue and it's fairly infuriating. Not only know...I really want to be playing the game right now, but because fuck you, Amazon.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

30-Day Mass Effect Challenge: Day 10

Favorite weapon(s)

I always do Kasumi's loyalty quest so I can pick up the Locust submachine gun as early as possible. My Shepard is a vanguard, and the SMG is about as heavy as she can roll, and Locust is the best, plain and simple.

Later on Shepard gets advanced weapon training, and I always choose sniper rifles because sniping is just so much damn fun.

As for heavy weapons, the Cain is amazing- launch a nuclear warhead!- but I tend to have the Arc Projector with me at all times. It's a chain lightning gun, and it's great for taking down heavy mechs.

30-Day Mass Effect Challenge: Day 9

Best piece of DLC

Without a doubt, the best DLC is the alternate costume pack #2!

No wait, what I meant to say is Lair of the Shadow Broker.

There's actually a lot of terrific DLC for Mass Effect 2- Arrival and Overlord are pretty bitchin', but come on. Nothing holds a candle to Shadow Broker!

I think of it a bit like Shepard's loyalty mission, particularly if you're in a romance with Liara- helping her out and taking down the GD Shadow Broker helps clear Shep's head for the suicide mission.

The gameplay is varied, the locations even moreso. There's humor, drama, romance, and a never-before-seen alien species. There are a couple of boss battles, including one against fellow SPECTRE and all-around BAMF Tela Vasir, who cuts Shepard down to size in more ways than one.

Then there's Liara herself, who has gone through a great deal of change in the two years since the events in Mass Effect. She's become her own person- one whose plans may not always align with Shepard's any longer. Focused on revenge to the point of obsession, Liara has hardened and become a total badass in her own right. And I love- love- that the major plotline of the mission is a "damsel in distress" scenario, and for once it's a woman doing the rescuing of a man- and that it's not her boyfriend she's out to save. It may seem like a small thing, but BioWare has flipped gender (and genre) conventions on their head.

On top of all the great story and combat, Lair of the Shadow Broker sprinkles delightful goodies all over the player once you've taken over the Broker's base, in the form of moolah, resources, crew member dossiers that provide huge amounts of insight into everyone on your squad, and surveillance videos from around the galaxy, which are often good for a laugh.

Lair of the Shadow Broker isn't just my favorite piece of DLC, it's one of my favorite missions in all of Mass Effect.

Friday, March 2, 2012

30-Day Mass Effect Challenge: Day 8

Anything you wish they had kept from Mass Effect in Mass Effect 2?

Mako, baby, I miss you.

I loved tooling around in that frequently-frustrating thing! Ah, the exploration. Coming across all the little unexpected goodies- an abandoned dig site here, a giant skull from an unknown creature there- busting around in the Mako is part of what gives Mass Effect that true sci-fi feel. I don't know why they ditched it completely in ME2. The shuttle was handy, but it was all get in - do the mission - get out. Maybe because matters were a little more urgent and pressing in the sequel? That does not bode well for a Mako-endowed ME3, where shit is really going down RIGHT NOW. Bah!

But then they gave us that P.O.S Hammerhead and UGH- is it made out of papier-maiché? Like, three hits from a turret and it's on fire.

Another thing from Mass Effect they should have kept in the sequel: removable helmets. I miss out on some sweet bonuses (and aesthetics) because I never wear any armor with a helmet or face mask...because they never come off. It seems like a small thing to complain about, but I want to see Shepard's face in dialogue scenes. And it's flat-out ridiculous when Shepard does something like drink right through the visor.

Other than that, yeah, I miss having so many RPG elements with regard to each character. Talk about streamlining! And level caps are always a drag.

But what's past is past! Onto the future: the new launch trailer is here! I see Jack! I hear Liara! Tali seems sad! I have feelings! I don't want everyone to die!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

30-Day Mass Effect Challenge: Day 7

Favorite alien species

Duh, asari.

I like the calm world-view their 1000+ year lifespan affords them. I love their military prowess. I love that their monogendered, pansexualness means that they can mate with any gender from any species- not because oh, it's so sessy, but because oh, it's so insidious. In the Mass Effect universe, asari appeal to every species through some sort it shapeshifting ability? Mind control? I don't know if that's been specified, but the point is, asari appear essentially humanoid to humans, salarian to salarians, and so on. And if they do mate with someone from another species, the babies are still asari. That is some sly take-over-the-universe shit!

Oh, and I love elcor, too. I am just saying.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

30-Day Mass Effect Challenge: Day 6

Favorite sidequest

No doubt, Mass Effect blows ME2 out of the galaxy when it comes to sidequests. Not only is it simply a matter of quantity (there are about twice as many sidequests in the first game), but for the most part they're a bit...mmm, beefier, I guess. Don't get me wrong, Mass Effect 2 has some great ones- the first time I wandered around the wreckage of the Estevanico, worried it was going to teeter off the cliff, I frequently held my breath. And checking out the Normandy crash site? Pretty haunting. But too often the ME2 sidequests were just go here, set a timer, run! , and as a result they felt a bit like padding...not that I don't do them all during every run.

The events in Mass Effect were far more engaging, I thought. Wiping out pockets of geth infiltrators, helping to defend an outpost from rachni invaders, negotiating with a cult leader, investigate the nefarious dealings of Cerberus...all more substantial than simply, I don't know, turning on a shield generator. But more importantly, nearly every ME sidequest had dialogue, which infinitely helps to make them engaging. In the sequel, Shepard and her pals were nearly silent through every sidequest. It's jarring. And it stinks!

My favorite from either game? I Remember Me, which is available to a Shepard with a colonist background. Shepard is charged with talking down a recently-rescued slave from committing suicide. It's heavy stuff, very well-written and completely heartbreaking.

huggin' it out with Talitha

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

30-Day Mass Effect Challenge: Day 5

Favorite loyalty mission

But they're all so good!

Okay, I'm not wild about Grunt's, but even that is saved by having an awesome reunion with Wrex. But really, though each loyalty mission is different in terms of the gameplay style, the amount of combat, and how much Shepard actually has to do, they're all quite emotionally engaging. Shep has to make some tough decisions- or encourage others to do so- as her companions sort out shit from their pasts in order to better focus on the present.

I love Samara's, wherein you accompany her to Omega so she can find and kill her daughter Morinth. Shepard working his/her way through the nightclub to draw Morinth's attention is hilarious, from punching out a lecherous turian to this:

(seriously, "I do wanna think that!" makes me laugh out loud every damn time I hear it)

Then, if you successfully arouse Morinth's interest, there's the BAMF showdown between her and her Justicar mother, which culminates in Shepard choosing which one will die.

Great stuff! But my favorite? My favorite, I think, is Tali's.

Visit the quarian flotilla, get all And Justice for All as you defend your bestie against bogus treason charges, and kill a shit ton of geth...yes please. There's tough combat. It greatly develops Tali's character and her relationship with Shepard. You help steer the course of the frickin' galaxy as you advise the quarians as they consider all-out war with the geth. And you get to hear voice work by Claudia Black in the role of Admiral Xen. Ain't nothin' not to love here!

You know, I just thought- why don't the quarians have clear face masks? Would it make a difference to them? At least they could see each other, geez. I know it's a conceit for the game to make 'em more mysterious and all, but in their universe, what the heck?

Also, for some reason, I thought maybe quarians do this so they can make out with each other (or Shepard) easier:

Also, I'm very very tired.

Monday, February 27, 2012

30-Day Mass Effect Challenge: Day 4

Favorite storyline mission

Easy peasy: Virmire (Mass Effect)

What begins as a lovely Mako ride on the beach in search of an infiltration team with whom the Council lost contact turns into a real kick in the quad real quick...and at least one of your teammates will die. I mean permanently die, not comic book come back to life in twenty issues die!

Battle your way through countless up with the salarian infiltration team who informs you that Saren's base is here on Virmire. And he's building a krogan army thanks to a possible cure for the genophage. Uh oh.

Wrex gets up in your grill about that genophage cure, rightfully concerned about the future of his people. Everyone points guns at everyone. Is disaster averted, or does Wrex bite it right there on the sand?

Your team splits up- based on your decision, either Ashley or Kaidan will head off with the salarians to create a distraction. The other will stay behind and arm a nuke that you're going to use to blow up Saren's base.

Choose two more team members and lead tham into the base and find evidence of Sovereign's hinky mind-control powers with oodles of indoctrinated salarians milling about within and without prison cells. Decide their fate! Set them free, or leave them to die in the blast. Meet up with one of Saren's scientists and decide her fate- tell her to split, or kill her.

Inside the base, fight your way through more salarians, krogan, husks, and geth. Then when you come across another prothean communication beacon...effing Sovereign shows up and makes with the smack talk.

Shit goes down outside- geth are swarming around the nuke! Run back and help! But now the geth are swarming around the distraction team! You can only save Ashley or Kaidan. One of your crew must be left behind to die in the nuclear blast.

Then Saren decides to finally show up, riding around on his space scooter and throwing explosives at you.

Fisticuffs ensue! Shepard gets in a nice haymaker before it's time for the nuke to detonate. Haul your saved teammate onto the Normandy and get the eff outta there. BOOM. Have some cries.

Yes indeed, Virmire is one of the most epic storyline missions in the series. It has everything! Ah the action! Oh, the pathos! Ooh, the music!

I love the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2 almost as much, but Virmire is just the most.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

30-Day Mass Effect Challenge: Day 3

Favorite companion(s) in Mass Effect 2

This choice is much harder because there are so many more companions this time and I like a good number of them. I might have to choose...more than one. That's life on the edge, friends. Anyway, here are the contenders for my heart!

Kasumi Goto

If you're all "Kasumi WHOto?", then dig it: she's a companion available with the DLC "Stolen Memory". The DLC itself is fun- a heist caper providing a nice change of pace from the usual. A master thief, Kasumi's got a pretty useful skill set and a great sense of humor. I bring her along on other missions once in a while, but on board the Normandy she's a little lackluster due to her DLC status. "Conversations" with her are strictly one-sided, though she proves to be insightful regarding all your crewmates.

Zaeed Massani

Zaeed is the other DLC companion, and interacting with him on the Normandy is the same deal it is when you talk to Kasumi- one-sided. He's a badass merc jerk, but I like him okay. I don't usually bring him on missions, though, even if his combat skills are useful. I just don't think about him, I guess.

Jacob Taylor

Oh, Jacob, you are so boring! Boring boring boring! And not particularly useful in a fight! And when I try to talk to you, you usually get snippy with me! I hate that it's always you meeting and greeting the new recruits and offering up your unbidden opinion on everything! Therefore, after Freedom's Progress, you stay on the Normandy. Then I trot you out for your loyalty mission, then I stuff you back in your room for the rest of the game. Jacob must have fans, right? I've never heard tell of one. Still, Jacob's not my least favorite ME2 companion. That honor goes to...

Urdnot Grunt

This guy. People love Grunt, I know. Maybe simply because he's krogan? I don't know. I don't get it. All he talks about is fighting, but not in an interesting way, like, say, Wrex telling old tales. Grunt is just "I want to kill something! Grr!" and that's it. He really bugs me, so again- on the Normandy you stay, except during your super-dull loyalty mission (come on- yes, there are some cool krogan to talk to and the such, but the mission itself is lamesauce). Grunt, I know your biggest crime is not being Wrex, but still. You suck.

Jack / Subject Zero

Hoo boy, people hate Jack! From her homicidal tendencies to her belt-as-shirt to her whole look and personality and everything, most folks loathe poor old Subject Zero. Me, I think she's effing hilarious. She's a must-have in my party from the moment I recruit her- not only because of her kick-ass biotics, but because of her banter, which frequently makes me laugh out loud.

Garrus Vakarian

Garrus gets a major personality upgrade in Mass Effect 2! It seems that taking a missile to the face gave him a sense of humor in addition to a tapestry of scars. I like him so much more here than in the original game, and yet...and yet...I still rarely have him tag along on adventures. There are just too many companions I like more than him. Sorry, Garrus- but don't worry. You are number one in pretty much everyone else's book.

Thane Krios

Mehhhhh. That's kind of the only reaction Thane elicits from me: mehhhhh. He's alright. I suspect he's wonderful if you have him for a FemShep romance option- he's all smoooooth or something. But otherwise, I dunno. He stays on the ship.


Samara, what is with your outfit? With the high heels and so much BOOBS everywhere? I mean, dress however you want, but geez. See, there's Morinth, your Ardat-Yakshi daughter, who literally uses sex to kill. She's seducing her way through the galaxy wearing...a commando uniform that pretty much covers every inch of her body except her head. Then there's you, a warrior monk of unbelievable power, fighting your way through the galaxy in the name of justice. You're not interested in sex at all (YES I ASKED)- only righteousness and battle- and yet you wear...high heels and a shirt open practically to your waist. What gives?

But! All that aside, I loves me some Samara. I wish she were available in the first round of recruiting, because there is not enough time in the game after you get her to experience all of her awesomeness. She is a beast in battle (particularly if you unlock 'reave'), and I really love the bond that develops between her and Shepard. I find her life to be quite fascinating, and I really wish she was slated to be a full companion in ME3.

Mordin Solus

Oh muh gah, Mordin. He is the best companion I never take anywhere! I just love him, though I always leave him in the lab. Of course there's the Gilbert & Sullivan moment, but it's the Shepard don't hit on me conversation that really kills me. LOVE.

Miranda Lawson

Here's another character people seem to really hate. It's understandable- she's a Grade-A Bitch for a good chunk of time after you meet her, and yeah, nearly every conversation with her throughout the game revolves around her griping about being "perfect".

But! I don't see "Wah, I'm perfect" as one of those complaints some girls make- you know, when they sigh "Oh, I'm so fat" or something when they are not at all fat whatsoever, simply because they want your response of "Oh, you are not at all fat whatsoever". The thing is, your personal aesthetic preferences aside, Miranda is perfect. As she says, "it's just a fact"- she was made that way. She was made! She wasn't born, she was crafted from a pile of genetic goo (scientific term) by her power monger father. Miranda's "whining", as some see it, is all about her trying to figure out her purpose and her place in the world. It's a sort of universal thing- why am I here? I like the fact that she struggles with those kind of questions, and I really like that her relationship with Shepard evolves into one based on loyalty, friendship, and trust.

And I like that she basically tells The Illusive Man to eff off.

And, her "perfection" extends to combat- she has the most broadly-useful skill set out of any companion. Some are superior at fighting organics, some at fighting synthetics, while Miranda is great against everybody. She's indispensable as far as I'm concerned! Would love to have her in ME3.


That Legion, he's pretty dope with his teaching me all about the geth and his Shepard-worship. That Legion, he's recruited so damn late in the game that he never gets to go anywhere with me except for the geth base during his loyalty mission.

Tali'Zorah vas Neema

If I loved Tali in Mass Effect (I DID), then I lurve luff loave her in Mass Effect 2. She's all grown up and a highly respected member of the quarian fleet, leading teams into dangerous territory and getting shit done. Unfortunately, I don't find her quite as helpful on the battlefield as I did in Mass Effect, which is understandable. The types of enemies faced is drastically different in the second game. I still bring her along as often as I can, though, because Tali is my homegirl.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, it doesn't make much sense that you can't romance Tali as FemShep given Tali's behavior during the game. She's flirty and nervous quite frequently, especially when talking about linking envirosuits and how intimate it all is and all that. After her loyalty quest (if, you know, you earn her loyalty but WHY WOULDN'T YOU IT'S TALI YOU MONSTER), her dossier (at the Shadow Broker's pad) updates to show she's been installing nerve stim packages to her suit and researching human body language and mating and courtship rituals. What the heck? She's clearly crushing on FemShep, BioWare- just let them make out!

Again, it's probably pretty obvious who my favorites are. That's right- favorites. I honestly can't choose just one. So...

Samara, Miranda, and Tali

Okay, if you put a gun to my head and you were all "ONLY ONE!", I would choose Tali. But then I'd ask why you thought it was so important you had to bring a gun into it.