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Malik (3/12/12)

A short weekend...way too short of a weekend. I cannot be the only person who lives in the majority of the US who feels that the few may have a better idea for the majority. I'm just saying that daylight savings time seems like an idea that has run its course and should end. Why should the bulk of the US go through two weeks of lowered productivity when the working class goes through a forced jet-lag phase twice a year?

Anyway, I have played a bit of Mass Effect 3 now. By a bit, I mean maybe three hours. I had little free this this weekend and the bulk of it just couldn't fit into games when I'm trying to pretend to be a constructive individual. However, of the time I spent with ME3, it has been illuminating.

It took too long to realize it, but now I see why my character had mutated into a slow and worthless user of biotic attacks. While ME3 is good about teaching the basics (like in the opening stage when you are forced to run out of ammo and told to use the B button to perform a melee attack), it failed on one change from previous Mass Effect games in which it really could have used an explanation. In ME3, you can use any weapon class with the hero. Previously, it was class based. In ME2, you didn't even get stats to explain why one type of a weapon was better than another...just a vague description. This time you have a stat sheet that includes the weight of a weapon. Now, if only the game would have explained what weapon weight meant to your game, it would have been helpful.

When you choose you load of weapons, you have a meter that is easy to ignore explaining how the speed of your biotics are influenced by your equipment weight. You also (assuming the correct class is used) have the same explanation hidden in the description of your tech/biotic armor ability. Well, since ME3 didn't point that out, I did not look and understand why I couldn't use the throw ability (a quick one to recharge) more than twice a battle (and battles are typically not that quick). It took me playing until I got to the citadel (a good few hours in to the game) before I had the chance to learn this on my own.

Having learned this new weight system, I am now not hating the game. As a player who supplements biotics with weapon use, and not the other way around, this is a game breaking change if one does not understand. I really think this should have been explained to some level since it is a major change on the game system over the previous two entries.

Tonight I aim to play some more. I am now starting to enjoy the game, instead of wondering why biotics were completely useless.


Malik (3/16/12)

Watching sports news this week has been pretty damned painful. The Sounders were destroyed in the second leg of their aggregate goal CONCACAF Champions League game against Santos. So, now the Sounders are out of the CCL...but they face Santo's next opponent on Saturday in the opening week of MLS play when Toronto comes to Seattle.

It gets worse when it looks like the NFL is moving at a quick pace all over the country, except in Seattle. So far, as I type this, Seattle has lost some good free agents (like TE John Carlson going to the Vikings), resigned only a few of the ones we need to keep (so far David Hawthorne looks like a goner...the leading tackler on the 'Hawks for the last three seasons), and have not made any additions to a roster that does have some obvious holes. I mean especially after cutting Robert Gallery from the O-line, Seattle needs at least that whole filled and a new QB. Supposedly Flynn is in town today, and maybe Seattle can pick him up and try him out at QB next season. Of course, I'm still a fan of the idea of drafting a new QB, or giving formerly third-string Portis a chance to show his value.

I will not even get started on my thoughts about the NCAA tournament since UW has gone in the NIT and WSU is...well, I often times forget that the NIT is not the worst case scenario, while keeping the season alive.

I've been playing a fair amount of Mass Effect 3 this week. While I can say it is a good game, I can also say it is nowhere near the quality of ME2 (which I'd call one of the best Bioware titles I've played). This is not just time causing me to forget problems in ME2 and not clearly seeing the technological advances in ME3. No, I finished ME2 only about six months back and the game is still fresh in my mind.

My top complaints are pretty obvious with ME3. First off, the world is pretty empty for having so much eye candy. I mean the Citadel has probably about 100 characters standing around on it...or more. However, only a small amount, maybe 5%, have any dialogue. Then a smaller amount of those, maybe a total of 2.5%, have anything to add to your quest or to the experience of the game. Should a game with so many NPCs really be so devoid of NPC interaction? It definitely is a step back from how ME2 was (and ME2 felt empty of interaction until playing ME3).

Mild spoilers in this paragraph. The next problem I'm having is the fact that the game brings back so many characters from ME1 and ME2, but so few are actually used. Did you have a love interest in ME2 that you wanted to see return to your crew in ME3? Well, you have, from how it looks, about a 50/50 chance of that person coming back and not just making a brief cameo appearance. I mean the bulk of my characters I can select from seem to be based around the simple question of "who came back for ME2 from the first game?" There's your bulk of returning characters. So, I am currently stuck with having a lot of people who I simply outgrew (I say that since ME1 was a game I loathed and ME2 was great...I want more reminders of ME2, not of ME1). Plus, ME2 had some of the best characters I've seen in a Bioware game (Jack being an ass, Jacob having the role of the guy who has just seen too much, and Mordin...Mordin, the best Western RPG character ever). So, instead I'm hanging out with Liara (I really don't give a crap about her), Garrus (I do like how he evolved in personality from ME1 to ME2 and how that continues in ME3), Tali (like her character, hate her combat abilities), Ashley (hate her, and I really don't think a mission to bring the people of the galaxy together should include a racist elitist like her), and one or two new members.

My final real complaint is that the game has shown me how much I liked the scanning of planets in ME2. Did I like the ME2 scanning system? Hell no. However, while it wasted time, it wasn't a inconsequential game loading screen like ME3. I mean in ME3, you scan with unlimited probes (of sort), and then just pick up the items found in a solar system...but then you may signal the reapers to come in and you just have two choices. One, you can try to get the items you've missed and face a reloading screen when the reapers touch you for more than one second (the game autosaves when you enter a system, so it's not a real loss...just a waste of time on a loading screen). Two, you play a lame version of Pac-Man as you run through the system, try to avoid the reapers (not hard to avoid, unless you're trying to pick up something found on the scanners), and then exiting the system (with no penalty) and returning for another pass (with no penalty). It becomes just a mindless task without any risk or sense of fun. However, if you decide to skip scanning things, then most side quests (fetch quests) cannot be done...

Ok, one final, final complaint. Most side quests, which are mainly fetch quests, are obtained in a manner I'd call creepy. As Shepherd walks through a safe area (Citadel, for example), two NCPs may be talking (or one may be on the phone). This is one of those ~2.5% I mentioned earlier. Well, one happens to say something like, "I need some power converters to make this work." Shepherd then gets a quest log update and goes about finishing this quest by scanning planets. What's creepy, you ask? Imagine you're on the phone (like some of these quest givers) and you say that you wish you had the pin your father wore in the last great war...but it was lost on a distant planet. Now imagine while on the phone, some random dude just goes, "Here's your father's pin" and walks away. It's one thing for Shepherd to be helpful and offer to solve problems. It's another antisocial and creepy just take on people's problems and solve their troubles and then show up with the solution while never speaking to the person.

I mean Shepherd could have gone out and found the item needed, but since he never said "I'll help you", the quest giver just sent out his/her grown child to find the needed item. This poor space child is now looking for an item that is no longer available (Shepherd has it) and then dies in a reaper attack on that distant planet. I mean that's a bit extreme, but also Shepherd going about solving problems without even introducing himself is a bit extreme...or lazy...or creepy...or it's just Bioware being lazy.


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