Mass Effect : Andro-meh-duh

 

We Thought We Found Hope 

When Bioware introduced the original Mass Effect 10 years ago, the video game world instantly fell in love with the choice based narrative and amazing cinematic spectacle. Awesome Gamers everywhere were eager to take control of their own custom Commander Shepard and go soaring across the galaxy, saving the universe and getting it on with aliens! The game’s sequels, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, would only serve to improve upon the weakness of the game – namely the combat – and fortify it’s strengths – doubling down on the consequences of choice through the Paragon and Renegade story arcs. Bioware was praised for it’s brilliance, and the fan base grew loyal and strong. So, when  Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced at E3 2015, the crowd went wild! As time went by, more of the story was unveiled, along with screen shots and videos to whet the public’s appetite for space exploration and other worldly flirtations.

The timeline for Andromeda places it somewhere between Mass Effect 2 and 3, so instead of playing as Shepard, who is somewhere on the other side of the galaxy making all the tough choices, you play as one of the Ryder twins, Sara or Scott, as they discover what it means to be a Pathfinder, all while searching for a new planet for humanity to inhabit, fighting off a new alien species, and navigating tough intergalactic relationships. If it seems like a tall order, that’s because it is. Bioware isn’t a stranger to tall orders though, as this is the company that gave us Dragon Age, Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, and Baldur’s Gate, after all. So needless to say, fan’s weren’t worried, and the expectations were peaking. Unfortunately, it was due to those very same high expectations that fans felt they were let down so bad.

But There Was No Life Out There…

Let’s get something out of the way first, and come to a common understanding: the facial features need a lot of work. I know this. You know this. Thanks to the internet, everybody knows this. And thanks to the internet, we found out before the game was even released. So that’s a “check engine” light going off on the dashboard before the car even approaches the starting line. Red flag. Whatever, I already pre-ordered it, and I’ve played games with worse. Besides, you can always put a helmet over fugly. I brushed off the bad face memes and just went to watch more special ability videos on Youtube. Even though the faces looked ugly, these special powers look Nasty with a capital “N”, so I’m still in.

some examples of the female faces from the custom character selection

When release day came, ugly or not, I was ready to strap on some N7 armor and save the galaxy. I went with the pre-loaded Sara Ryder, opting to save my custom create-a-character for the “New Game Plus” feature on my second run through, with fingers crossed that Bioware would have patched up the faces by then. I wasn’t too worried about it, I was more hyped up for the combat anyway. Unfortunately, combat would have to wait, as the game forces me to wade through roughly 30 minutes of dialogue and interaction before I ever even get to pull a trigger. I honestly wouldn’t have minded so much, because there really is an interesting story buried in Mass Effect: Andromeda – awaking from a coma after traveling light years in space to find a new home, watching your father perish right before your eyes as he sacrifices his life for yours, adopting the mantle of Pathfinder and shouldering the hopes of humanity, and discovering the dark secrets of a new alien race: the Kett – there’s some real good stuff here. However, the problem is, it’s just not put together well.

A major part of story telling is HOW you tell the story. Whether or not you’re able to convey and connect with your intended audience. After a while, I was able to look past the sub par faces, but I still wasn’t able to fully connect with the game due to another fly in the ointment: the voice acting. It’s not that the game was voiced terribly, it’s just that coupled with the already bad facial animations, it created this huge emotional disconnect in the game for me. The lip movements wouldn’t sync up with the audio; the facial expressions didn’t convey the same tone or emotion as the actor’s voice, there was even a moment when the audio cut out altogether for a cut scene. It’s little things like that, these bugs and glitches, that kept pulling me out of what should have been a fully immersive space opera. It’s hard to care and to get lost in a game when it keeps stuttering and bugging out. At one point in my play through the game bugged out so badly that I lost all visibility on the planet I was on. I thought it was a loading issue, so I left the planet and came back, but there was still nothing to see. I ended up turning off the game and just walking away. When I came back to try again later things were working fine, but it’s things like that that take away enjoyment from the game.

The Search Continues…

Yes, there are things to enjoy in this game: the combat, for one. When I finally got away from dialogue wheels and cutscenes, the combat that I experienced was fantastic! The graphics, for another. Despite some poor choices in facial animations and character modeling, the environments and space itself look magnificent. The star systems are beautiful and vast, and the sense of awe is ever present in the design. It’s just unfortunate that the game lacked the cohesive polish that it needed to deliver a perfect package, worthy of being a contender for game of the year. There is so much to do here in Andromeda – a universe to discover, relationships to foster, drama to unfold – that it all just collapses under it’s own weight. If this had only been a new IP, like “Ryders In The Sky” or “Twin Galaxies”, and not Mass Effect, than it wouldn’t have been so bad. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The Mass Effect name carries with it a legacy of great storytelling and meaningful character arcs that really draw you in, however, Andromeda completely dropped the ball on this one.

Imagine it like this: You have a special Love in your life, and for this Love of yours you’ve planned what is promised to be, not just an evening of dinner and roses, but an experience you’ll both remember for a lifetime! You’ve been building the anticipation, sending picture clues of what the night has in store. A bottle of champagne. Rose petals on the table. A picture of the plate settings, the fancy china and the polished silverware. Is that a salad fork? Damn right it is, we’re getting fancy tonight! But as soon as you’re sitting across the table from the Love of your life, and you start to pour the wine in her glass, you realize that this magical moment has now become a Mylanta moment. “Buuuurp!” Not exactly the sweet nothings you were hoping of whispering, but oh well. You both laugh, because Love is like that sometimes, and you carry on with the evening. But it’s not just a one off incident. “Baby, do you know amazing you look right now – BURP!” “Ever since I met you, my whole life has been – BURP!” “Nuh-uh, You’re the best. No I’m not, You -BURP!” You try to get down on one knee to propose -PFFFT! More laughter is elicited, for sure, and the love you share is still there, undoubtedly, but the evening, for all intents and purposes, is a wash. Fun was still had, to be sure, because that’s what Love does, finds that fun in all the flaws. However, it wasn’t what it was supposed to be. It wasn’t what was promised or expected. It just wasn’t magical, just meh.

And that’s what Mass Effect: Andromeda is, a game filled with promise and expectation. A night alone with our Love that we had been promised, with our exceptions already high from the memories of what came before, to have them lifted only higher still with hype of what was to come. But what we got wasn’t a polished, pure, perfect expression of love – we got a bloated, gassy, glitchy expression of love. Fans of the game series, and those who truly Love Mass Effect are able to see beyond the flaws and just appreciate the game for what it is, because underneath the rough edges there still is a really good game here. I know I’m still playing the game, despite the glitches I’ve faced. But that’s just it though: because of those glitches, the game is just good. It’s not magical. It’s just meh.

Bioware has listened to the feedback however, and announced that they would address all the major issues, even listing out what would be tackled first on their patch notes. Whether it is enough to revive interest in Andromeda and save the game from going the way of No Man’s Sky is still too soon to tell. But Bioware, and Mass Effect fans everywhere, haven’t given up hope.

i wrote a Haiku for Mass Effect:Andromeda

First Impressions – FOR HONOR and For Glory!

Welcome to “First Impressions”, a new series on AGB where I take you through the first 30 minutes of the some of the latest and greatest of the gaming world’s offerings. You have my promise that I will be going through the game, whatever game it may be, for the first time live on video.  No betas. No demos. No second chances. Just First Impressions.

For the series opener, I’ll be giving you my first impressions on Ubisoft’s ambitious historical fighter, FOR HONOR.

 Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword…

Wheat blows gently in the wind as the light of the sun shines upon a warm and welcoming world.  But that welcome is lost, as the land shakes and the earth ruptures, and that which was once welcome is welcome no more. From below the ground, a cataclysmic disaster rips asunder any sign of man’s presence on the world. A voice is heard, telling the tale of woe and war. The voice belongs to knight clad in black armor. Apollyon, the bringing of war.

And that’s only the opening cinematic! WOO! Rivaling that of most animated movies, FOR HONOR’s opening cinematic is epic and breath taking and left me eager to start the game. As first impressions go, that surely was an impressive outing. I was blown away by the visuals, there’s no doubt about that.

I didn’t know much about this game before I bought it, however the one thing I did know was that I had to choose a faction: Viking, Knight or Samurai. I decided to align myself with the Samurai faction, although Knight and Viking didn’t make the choice easy. From there, I was allowed to customize my character emblem, and then thrown into a quick tutorial. Right away my mind was blown. I was a Samurai. The detail that was put in the armor and movement was incredible. The surrounding castle ruins, the fire dancing in the lanterns, the medieval banners blowing in the breeze, all crafted with love. I was most certainly impressed.

The words New Mission Objective flash across the top of the screen as a side bar appears and begins to instruct me on the ways of the sword. Holding L2 locks on to enemy, while the right analog stick controls sword placement and stances. At first I practice against straw training dummies, switching between targets and alternating stances. Then an AI bot knight appears from the castle to help practice blocking and striking. The sounds of swords clashing is just spectacular, and seeing the sparks fly when steel strikes steel is a treat within itself. After a few more strikes, I knew I was sold. I was in, hook, line, and sinker. And I still hadn’t even completed the training.

First impressions? FOR HONOR is simply impressive. The sound is fantastic, the graphics are eye-popping, the story is interesting, and the game play is engaging. In the video I only played for 30 minutes, and when I switched to Twitch, I played for another hour or so, and I wasn’t not disappointed at all in any way. When beginning the story mode I was forced to go through training once again, but if that bit of drudgery was a necessary evil to continue on with the carnage and chaos of war, then I accept it gladly. I honestly didn’t mind, because as I said, this game is impressive.

As of this writing, I still haven’t completed Story Mode, so a full review is still a work in progress. If you’ve played the game, or just watched me play the game in the video, then please write in the comments and let me know what your first impressions are of FOR HONOR. Also, if there are any games you would like me to check out, then write that in the comments, too! For now, the next scheduled First Impressions will be at the end of the month when HORIZON ZERO DAWN is released! Until then, gamers, stay Awesome!

Meet the Newest World Warrior: KOLIN

Introducing KOLIN, the new challenger!

Happy Friday, Awesome Gamers, it’s raining in Southern California right now but Capcom just let the sun shine in by releasing a video on youtube that sheds more light on the latest Season 2 character: Kolin.

The video details some info on Kolin, not only her fighting style and powers, but also a bit of her past and her association with Gill (the two-tone terror from previous games and former leader of the Illuminati before losing to Urien), who gave her ice powers. Here’s the full video so you can see for yourself!

I’m personally excited for Kolin, and I’m very curious to see how many top tier players will choose her during EVO2017. Then again, with more characters yet to be unveiled, which world warriors will appear in the winning bracket is still a mystery!

All Gamer Bulletin : LoZ gets DLC, Johto in GO!, and McFarlane does Destiny!

zelda gets a season pasS!

How’s it going, Awesome Gamers, and welcome to All Gamer Bulletin. Our first topic is a big one, as Eiji Aonuma, the producer for Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild” released a video on youtube earlier this week in which he announces that, for the first time in a main line Zelda game, there will be paid DLC. In the video, Eiji discuss how the production team went to “great lengths to make Hyrule a massive place.” Massive enough, it seems, that a single base sticker price can’t contain it all. Here’s the video, so you can hear it straight from the horses mouth. 

The Season Pass will cost $20 and will include two DLC packs, both slated for release later this year. The first pack, which is estimated to be released around the summer time and will include “a Cave of Trials challenge, a new hard mode and a mysterious new feature for the in-game map”, according to Forbes.com.

Since this is the first time that a main line Legend of Zelda game features paid DLC, a few fans don’t really know who to feel about it. I don’t know about you, but after seeing that amazing trailer that was released for Breath of the Wild at the beginning of the year, Nintendo can take my money!

pokemon go gets more pokemon!

Big news for all you Pokemon GO trainers out there, Niantic announced today that 80 new pokemon have been added to the game, as well as a slue of new features! Expect to see many inhabitants of the Johto region, who were first seen in Pokemon Gold and Silver so start popping up on your radars, as well as a few new evolutions for some familiar pokemon already in your pokedex. According to the official statement release from pokemon.com, you can also expect to see new berries to feed to pokemon, new apparel for your player avatar, and brand new pokemon reactions during encounters!  This is big news for a lot of trainers, and seeing as how a full list of which 80 were actually included hasn’t been verified yet, the hope for a legendary mythical pokemon still burns in our hearts. Articuno, you WILL be mine someday!!

mcfarlane toys releases destiny figures!!

I love Todd McFarlane, and I love Destiny. That being said, I don’t have much to say about this next bit of news, just because I believe a picture says a thousand words. The figures are 10 inches, $20, and on sale in July. If you would like to read more about it, here’s an article from gamespot. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to stare at this picture some more and patiently wait until Mr. McFarlane lets me pay him for what I never knew I always wanted. <3

ALL GAMER BULLETIN: Server Browsers, New Challengers, and Love on the GO!

SERVER BROWSERS AND CAPTURE THE FLAG!

Attention Awesome Gamers!  All Gamer Bulletin in full effect, bringing you some of the latest and greatest in gaming news. Our first bit of hullabaloo is courtesy of the folks at Blizzard who revealed in a video earlier this week that they will be implementing custom servers for Overwatch. That means that finding specific game modes and maps will be a lot easier, all while still gaining that sweet sweet XP! My favorite announcement from the video will be the introduction of a brand new game mode: Capture The Flag! The long awaited game mode is finally here, large part due to the success of the Capture The Rooster game mode from the Year of the Rooster Event. For the full details, here’s the video!

HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!

Capcom had some big news today as they released a reveal trailer for their brand new  Street Fighter 5 character, Kolin. Kolin marks the second of six brand new characters, as yet to be revealed. The first was, of course, the lion maned raging demon himself, Akuma. However, in my opinion, with Kolin’s golden lochs, she has the better hair. 😛 She also has a diverse move set, with lots of close up rush down moves, and some good avoid and counters, and did I mention ice powers? Yup, it looks like Capcom created their own killer Princess Elsa, and she’s kicking butt to an awesome song by Lupe Fiasco featuring Salim called “It’s Not Design”. Kolin will be available at the end of the month, and seeing as I haven’t decided on who I am going to main at EVO, she is definitely worth looking into. Check out the full reveal video yourself. 😉

VALENTINES ON THE GO “I CHOOSE YOU <3”

Pokemon GO and the folks at Niantic truly feel the love from all their dedicated Pokemon GO’ers, so to show their appreciation there is a special event happening right now to celebrate Valentines Day! That’s right, it’s happening NOW, and is scheduled to last until the 15th. You might have already received the special notification on your phone letting you know that during the Valentines Event you will be able to “earn more Candy, encounter an increased number of adorable pink Pokemon, and paint your town pink with Lure Modules that last six hours!” WHOA. I mean, don’t get me wrong, more pink Pokemon is cool,  Six hours for a lure module is just incredible! If you find the right spot, you can pretty much have an all day picnic. Or an all night bonfire! Thank you, Niantic! From the bottom of our Poke-loving hearts, thank you. <3

Anyway, that’s all for now. thank you for joining me on this first edition of All Gamer Bulletin. If you liked any of what you just read, or if this is the first time you’re hearing about it, please like, share and subscribe. Thanks again, and I’ll be sure to bring you more interesting news as soon as I hear about it! Take Care, God bless, and Game on!