Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Old Game Review:Mass Effect repost and current thoughts

This was originally posted to my livejournal on August 27, 2009. I will post my new thoughts at the end.

As many people know, I love games by Bioware. That Canadian RPG house is one of the few game companies that consistently makes good games. Every game of theirs I've played, I've enjoyed immensely. Baldur's Gate 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and now, Mass Effect. (Never played Neverwinter Nights or the first Baldur's Gate, but that's because I don't own them.)

And that's what today's review is of; Mass Effect. A scifi adventure that takes place in the 22nd century, Mass Effect is a story about a galaxy on the brink of an apocalypse that nobody is willing to admit to. Only Lt. Commander Shepard, a member of the human Systems Alliance, and her crew know the truth, and are trying to stop it.

Now, I say her, despite the fact that you can choose the gender of your Shepard, because I prefer the voice actor for the female Shepard. Jennifer Hale gives Shepard more emotion, more character than Mark Meer.

First off, I want to talk about the voice talent. With the exception of Mark Meer, the voice cast is awesome. First off, anyone who's played past Bioware games will recognize 3 voice actors; Cam Clarke, Jennifer Hale, and Raphael Sbarge. Hell, two of them are KOTOR alumni; Hale and Sbarge. However, there are a few awesome voice actors as well. Seth Green for example. He does some great work as Joker. There's also two voice actors I remember from when I was a kid; Keith David and Marina Sirtis. These two voice two of the main characters from the 1994 Disney series, Gargoyles.

Character creation is pretty detailed, allowing for some very unique avatars. Of course, that meant I've spent several hours creating characters, playing through to the citadel, seeing my character in that light, and then abandoning. Of course, after realizing that I could take OFF the helmet, that meant I only had to wade through a half an hour of gameplay. I've actually taken to looking online for good looking faces so I don't have to deal with creating, playing and then abandoning a character before I've gotten them just right.

The characters are pretty well done, but then again, Bioware's pretty good at that. While most don't have a detailed backstory, they are fleshed out enough to make them individuals. Not perfect, but ages beyond what most game companies do.

Next, the character classes. They have there specialist classes; soldier, engineer and adept(which is a biotic, which is essentially a mage character), and the "hybrid classes", of vanguard, sentinel, and infiltrator. My personal preference is for the soldier, vanguard and adept classes, mostly because I like tanking, high damage and crowd control. My least favorite class is engineer, but I don't have any real reason for not liking it. I just don't.

I like the combat, for the most part. I believe this is the first Bioware RPG that goes completely with ranged combat, and it works very well with the context of the game. Controlling Shepard is easy an fluid. Changing out weapons was easy, as was using the combat abilities. And the biotics were fun to play with.

Speaking of weapons, I really like three of them; the pistol, shotgun and assault rifle. They do a good amount of damage, and, with the frictionless material upgrades, they don't overheat. And they're pretty good at close to mid range combat.

That said, there are some flaws; first off, squad control. Controlling their abilities in combat was easy, but the inability send one off to a specific place, was just horrible. And, more than once, my squadmates got in the way. For example, today alone, Ash got in my life of fire 3 times, and Tali at least twice. Not to mention the times I've tried to slide over from where I took cover so I could get a better shot, only to find Kaidan blocking me from doing just that.

Next is some of the issues I have with combat. Trying to get cover is annoying. More than once I tried to get cover, and all Shepard did was hold her rifle up, signifying that something was blocking it. Other times, I retreated to bet better cover, only to have Shepard press up against a wall and get shot repeatedly. I'm just glad that ME2 is going to rectify this, because the cover mechanism doesn't work properly. When it works, it's great. When it doesn't, it gets you killed.

Third is how annoying it was to level up. I don't know about anyone else, but going to those uncharted worlds to grind out levels is NOT fun. It takes too long to get the levels I want. And the only reason I bother with grinding levels is because the higher levels abilities are more fun. And, the better quality the weapon, the slower the overheat rate.

And then there's the weapon I don't like; the sniper rifle. I don't like how inaccurate it is without a shitload of points in the skill. Even the Master Spectre versions of the gun suck ass.

And finally, the supposed "twist." Sovereign being a Reaper was not a surprise. There were plenty of hints dropped throughout the game, and that revelation moment where Sovereign reveals itself to Shepard, I'm like "how can you not see this?". I mean, the entire game is talking about sapient AI, so of course Saren's ship was a Reaper.

Finally, I can't talk about Mass Effect without talking about the "sex scene" controversy, which was, of course, complete bullshit. For fuck's sake, they don't show anything raunchier than what is played on daytime soaps. In fact, daytime soaps are far more explicit and raunchy than what is in Mass Effect. There's only two sex scenes available; the one with the asari consort, where you DON'T SEE ANYTHING, and the other is the natural progression of a relationship. Both are noninteractive, neither shows anything explicit, and BOTH ARE OPTIONAL! Anybody who made a big deal out of that never played the game, and there's proof of it.

Okay, as for my current take having played all three games; this game is the beginning of the trilogy. A LOT of universe set up, a LOT of character introduction, a LOT of exposition. Through the "we have to stop Saren" story, you learn who the Reapers are, what they are planning, and what Shepard's mission will be for the next two games. You also gain information on indoctrination, THE most important thing that the Reapers are capable of; yeah, they are big fucking starships that take the entire citadel fleet to destroy ONE, but indoctrination shows what the Reapers did to Saren, and later, Shepard. Yes, I believe in the indoctrination theory. It's the only way the ME3 ending makes sense, and you get hints to that STARTING IN THIS GAME.

So yeah, I still love Mass Effect. I love it enough to plan out a trilogy of stories based on that. The only real gripe that I have is how Bioware fucks up the military structure. But, I doubt Bioware has anyone who has ever been in the military, or a military advisor, so its fine. I actually started my ME story with that in mind, with the "Shepard lost her biotics" story hook after.

I'm gonna post my first impression of ME2 from my old livejournal, and then complete the review from there. Then, on to ME3.

EDIT: Yes, I'm aware that later this day, the Extended cut DLC was released, and the indoctrination theory has been debunked. But, if you play all three games back to back, you do see hints of why it was plausible until the DLC was released.  So, rather than the intent of going through the rest of my reviews pointing out moments that gave credibility to the indoctrination theory, I'm just gonna do the merits and flaws of the games.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tips for dealing with telemarketers

Okay, since I have the misfortune of working in the telemarketing industry, I have a few tips for when dealing with people who do what I do.

  1. Please don't yell at me.  I don't want to call you anymore than you want to be called by me.  In fact, I don't want to call you at all; because I get yelled at several times a day.  I know I'm calling you at home; I'm sorry.  But I'm just trying to make a living, so please show a little politeness while I am trying to make a living.
  2. If I ask for confirmation of your identity, please say yes or no, that is or is not you.  If you don't, you're getting called back the next day.  And the next day. And the next day, and so on, if you keep doing it.
  3. If you hang up on me when I'm introducing myself or the organization I represent, you're getting called back.  I don't have a choice, I have to.  I don't want to call you back, but I have to.
  4. If I've called the wrong number, please, just tell me so.  You don't need to yell at me; I have no control over where I'm calling.  I'm calling from an autodialer, and I have no control over who I am calling.
  5. If I call at a bad time, I'm sorry.  I have no control over when I'm calling; if the autodialer called you, I have to talk to you.
  6. I'm calling from an autodialer; I have no control over who or when I'm calling.  Please, be pleasant.  I am trying to make a living, same as you.
Now, how to get rid of us.

  1. If I have reached the person I am looking for, just listen to my pitch.  Let me do my job, and just say no.  I will let you go.  Just be nice, let me talk, and we can both get on with your day.
  2. If you don't want to be called again, say "please, take me off your list". It's that simple to make sure we don't call again.
  3. If you no longer make any financial decisions, let me know that after I introduce myself.  That gets things done quickly.
  4. If you are a caretaker, tell me that you are the caretaker of the person I am looking for.  This ends the call right there.
  5. If you or the person on record is in an nursing or assisted living home, tell me.  That ends the call right there.

That's it.  Be pleasant, be civil, and it will make all our lives a LOT better.  Thank you, and have a nice day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

First repost of an old entry.

Here's one of my old entries from my Livejournal about my plans for my KOTOR Version 2 story. This was originally December 23, 2008 there, and I think it's important to remind both myself and my readers of my plans for my magnum opus.  And since it was written two days before Christmas, I ended it with "Merry Christmas".  I'm posting it in a different font, background and color so you know that it's an old entry, and I will do that for was time sensitive. Here it is.

This is as much for me as it is for the fans of the fanfiction stories I've written.

KOTOR Version 2 is a four part story; Sith Triumvirate, KOTOR Version 2, Exile's tale, and Endgame. 

Sith Triumvirate is about 3 of Revan's Jedi Generals that Revan turns into his top agents.  So far, I've done chapters about their origins, the subjugation of Korriban, the infiltration of the Jedi Temple to gather information about the active Knights and masters(which will lead Revan to the decision to have Bastila replace Malak as his apprentice.), the agents meeting Revan's "shadow master"; the one who taught Revan the way of the Sith, and how Malak lost his lower jaw.  The only other things I have planned are the "Sith assassin" training(Think Atton's methods for killing Jedi.), and the building and activation of HK-47.  Unlike the other stories in my plans, I am open to suggestions for ideas, because that's all I've got.  The only guideline is that the ideas have to involve the Sith triumvirate.  Revan can be in the story, but with a minor role only.  It all takes place during the Jedi Civil War.  I will, however, give the main characters make a cameo in KOTOR Version 2.

KOTOR Version 2 is essentially the game, with a twist.  First, it's being told to Tionne Solusar(Though she's not technically Solusar yet, as she has yet to marry Kam Solusar in 22 ABY, when she finds the holocron), and Revan is amnesic, not mind-wiped.  Revan remembers everything up to leaving Taris during the Mandalorian Wars.  The last thing he remembers before waking up on Dantooine was leaving the planet after having a meeting on who would go on to be his Jedi Generals.  He regains his memories during the course of the story, whenever he finds a Star Map.  And when he is reunited with Malak, he regains the rest of his memories.  This royally fucks with the revelation scene, but I worked that out when I thought up this idea.  The only reason the crew goes to the last planet is because Revan doesn't remember the exact location of the Star Forge. That's not part of the amnesia; Revan simply forgot the hyperspace coordinates, in the same way you or I would forget where we placed our car keys.

Anyway, KOTOR Version 2 continues with the plot of the game, plus a couple chapters on the aftermath.  One takes them to Zeltros for relaxation at a hotspring, the next are Revan planning for what needs to happen next, and getting his friends ready.

Exile's tale is just that; the story of my Exile, Vhae Pano.  Vhae's a male Exile, but I'm bringing along both Brianna and Mical, and I'm having Atris as the main antagonist.  It require a little fudging with things, but that's what makes a fanfic fun.  This is still in the planning stage, since I'm writing Sith truimvirate and KOTOR Version 2, so this will be a while.

And finally, Endgame ties them all together.  It starts with Tionne bringing Revan's holocron to Luke Skywalker, and Luke starts watching it after Tionne tells Luke of the story so far.  The holocron begins again with one year has passed since KOTOR 2, and Vhae has found Revan and Bastila(yes, and Bastila.  You'll see why when I get to that point in KOTOR Version 2), and Revan begins the final stage of his plan; take down the Sith who taught him.  To do that, Revan needs the strength of his companions, and their forces.  Revan gathers his Jedi companions, which include Dustil Onasi, Jolee, Juhani and Yuthura ban, as well as Vhae's "Lost Jedi".  He also gets Carth and the Republic Navy, Canderous(Mandalore) and his Mandalorians, a Wookiee task force, HK-47 and a couple HK-51s(if I can figure out a fessible explanation how), and Mission and a small band of smugglers.  The Sith truimvirate will also appear, on Revan's side.  I've also got an idea about a Force sensitive version of Rogue Squadron, led by a twi'lek who failed his Jedi training and joined the Republic Navy instead of going to teh Jedi Service Corps.  All this buildup leads to a final battle over Drommund Kaas, where Revan battles his former Sith master for the fate of the galaxy.

So that's it; the entire plot of my KOTOR Version 2 saga.  You'll need to read all four to understand somethings that happen in all four.  Reading Sith Triumvirate will help you understand why Revan does some of the things he does in KOTOR Version 2.   Hell, I reference Vhae Pano's actions during the Mandalorian Wars during Sith Triumvirate.  If you read KOTOR Version 2, you'll know how and why Mandalore got his helmet from Revan.  And Endgame will be continuity heavy, since it ties all 3 previous stories together.

So, good reading, and Merry Christmas.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

First! (Good lord, that was stupid. :) )

Here's my new website for all my rants, reviews and updates on my creative work.  I will be posting the stuff I had on my livejournal over the next few weeks as I have time, and I will add news stuff to it afterward.  Until then, wait for me to get things ready.