Monday, September 23, 2013

Mass Effect Retrospective 5: Final novel worth reading

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! Welcome back to the Assassin's Den!

Today, I tackle Mass Effect: Retribution. This is the final novel written by Drew Karpyshyn, and the final contribution he made to the Mass Effect Franchise, because shortly after this was written, he moved to the Dallas Bioware office to work on SWTOR.

This book takes place between the ending of the Arrival DLC(or the ending of ME2 if you either didn't play it after the credits rolled, or didn't play it all. Either way, Shepard is still in Alliance lock-up.), and the beginning of ME3.  This book once again stars Kahlee Sanders, but Admiral David Anderson(Yes, Admiral. This follows Bioware's internal canon regarding the choice for human Councilor, but still allows for player choice regarding saving/sacrificing the council.) returns as the second main character.  The Illusive Man is also a main character, and this book also introduces Kai Leng, a former N7 marine who is a psychopathic racist; he hates all aliens in every way, and will happily kill every one he meets if he can get away from it.  He's also the Illusive Man's right hand, to be deployed whenever he needs something done.  Nick Donahue is also brought back, now 15, and no longer a bully; he looks out for the younger students and wants to help any way he can. (Though his contribution to the story is important, however minimal it is.)

Paul Grayson returns as well, and is the point which all the events of the novel revolve.  The Illusive Man has Kai Leng capture Grayson for experimentation.  Grayson is implanted with Reaper tech, so the Illusive Man can learn to control the Reapers.  Problem is that the Reapers cannot be controlled; they control you.  And Grayson learns this the hard way as soon as the Reapers begin restructuring his body for their purposes.

Kahlee's part in the novel is tied into Grayson's romantic feelings for her; he contacts her about his daughter Gillian, as well to talk, every so often, and the Illusive Man and the Reapers manage to use that against him.  Grayson sends Kahlee data just before he is captured, and she contacts Admiral Anderson for help, which begins their adventure to rescue him.

All stories converge when the Reapers bring Grayson to the Grissom Academy for information on the Alliance, among other things.  I won't spoil the ending, but the story gets intense as all involved try to stop Grayson, for their own reasons.

As for the in-between comics, you've got Inquisition, which shows how Bailey gets to his position in ME3, Conviction, which introduces to James Vega, a companion in ME3, and Invasion, which shows how Aria T'Loak loses Omega to Cerberus.  As with the others, I have no read these, and have no opinion on them.

Oh, and the Homeworlds series tells you more about certain characters. Vega's story is about how Vega became a soldier, Tali's story tells you the events from when she got the Saren's betrayal geth data to the moment she shows up in ME1, Garrus' story is about his backstory both before he meets Shepard and after the events of ME1 to the point when he sees Shepard in his recruitment mission in ME2.  Liara's story takes place after she becomes the Shadow Broker, and is about her preparing to fight the Reapers and the Cerberus assault on her base.  Evolution starts during the First Contact War, and is about how the Illusive Man becomes the Illusive Man.  And finally, He Who Laughs Best is about Joker's attempt to become the Normandy's pilot.  As with the others, I have not read them, and have no opinion on them.

Next up, I tackle the final game in the series, as well as the DLC. Until then, Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mass Effect Retrospective 4: Second Game

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! Welcome back to the Assassin's Den!

Before I tackle the second game, I need to mention Mass Effect: Redemption. It takes place between when the Normandy SR-1 is destroyed and when Shepard wakes on the table in the Cerberus lab.  It tells the story of how Liara got Shepard's body from the Shadow Broker and into Cerberus hands.  It was a four issue mini-series released by Dark Horse, and started in January 6, 2010.  On June 9, 2010, Dark Horse released a trade paperback that collects all four issues and a "special behind-the-scenes section with sketches and more" in one 96 page volume.  That is all I can say about it, however, as I do not own it, nor have I read it.

Mass Effect 2 opens 6 months after Shepard saved the Citadel from Sovereign.  It opens with a short scene with the Illusive Man and squadmate Miranda Lawson discussing the ending of Mass Effect 1 before cutting to the Normandy, which is attacked by the Collector ship.  Now, the conversation is determinded whether or not you imported a character into this game or not.  If you did not, you get the "internal canon" opening; Shepard chose not to save the Council, and Udina is elected human Councilor.  If you DID import your game, your decisions are reflected in this opening.

I briefly mentioned the Illusive Bastard...I mean Illusive Man, in the novel, but he's a huge part of this game's story.  His goal is simple;  that of making humanity ascendant above all other any cost, with him at the top.  That includes manipulating both other species and experimentation on humans to "bring out their potential."  He is a racist, a coward, a master manipulator and an all around example of what happens when people go too far.  He epitomizes everything that is bad about the human race, seeing everyone and every as a tool to be used to achieve his goals.  The worst thing is that he doesn't see what he is doing as wrong, and that he's the hero of his story, which makes him a very well written and motivated villain.  I hate him, but I love hating him.

Anyway, the game picks up two years after the Normandy was destroyed, with Shepard waking up on a slab in a Cerberus facility, after being rebuilt.  And this is where you see that the game engine is completely different.  Gone is the different weights of armor, replaced with moddable armor (and non-moddable armor, which are DLC and Collector edition only).  Weapons no longer shake and lose accuracy as you fire them, nor do they overheat; instead, they are always accurate so long as you aim well, and the overheating is replaced with a limited ammunition system called "thermal clips".  In-universe, it's explained that they are detachable heat sinks, but for game mechanics, it's ammunition.  But ammo can be found all over the battlefield, so that doesn't matter.

And since guns no longer require training to fire accurately, the entire class system was changed.  The Soldier is still your weapons specialist, is still trained in the pistol, shotgun and sniper rifle, and is the only one who can use the assault rifle. (However, the Soldier is the only class that can't use the Submachine gun, which I will get into detail later.)  But the soldier now uses ammo powers; disruptor ammo, which is useful against machines and shields, incendiary ammo, which is useful against armor, and cryo ammo, which freezes your foes once barriers/shields and armor is dropped.  You also get concussive shot, which is useful as a knockdown and shatter.  But the Soldier's bread and butter is the Adrenaline Rush, which slows down the battlefield for everyone but you; this allows you to move around and fire against helpless foes.

The Infiltrator is still the master of the sniper rifle, but gets a Tactical Cloak, to disappear from your foes, allowing you to move around the battlefield and place yourself in the best position possible.   The Infiltrator has access to Incinerate, which burns off ammo, AI Hacking, which is useful against mechs and geth, and both disruptor and cryo ammo.  To offset the lack of ability to use the assault rifle, the Infiltrator, as well as all the other classes, gain the submachine gun.  The SMG doesn't hit as hard as the assault rifle, but the Kasumi DLC gives you an SMG that makes the lack of damage output negligible. 

The Vanguard is still a master of close range, but you are a LOT better at it this time around.  Utilizing incendiary and cryo ammo for your shotgun and SMG, the Vanguard can use the Biotic Rush to zoom around the battlefield and slam into your foes, giving you time to dish out a powerful shotgun blast right in the chest.  Shockwave, a new biotic ability, allows the vanguard to toss foes on the ground away, and pull is simply a modified lift that goes up and toward you.

The Sentinel is still the biotic/tech class, and like the Adept and Engineer, are restricted to the SMG. (All classes can use the pistol, so no need to mention it every time.) But this time, the Sentinel is distinct with the Tech Armor.  Tech Armor makes you a tank (in the RPG sense), and you can still debuff your enemies.  The Sentinel can use throw, which functions as before, and Warp, which is now used to drop barriers of your biotic foes.  Sentinels use Overload, which drop enemy shields, and cryo blast, which function cryo ammo, but as a single, more potent, projectile.

The Adept is still your crowd control, using the same abilities in past games.  Singularity still pulls your foes into a single point, and shockwave, pull, warp and throw function as stated previously.

The Engineer has had some of the most changes of all the classes. The abilities Overload, Incinerate, AI Hacking and Cryo Blast have already been explained, but the Engineer has a new ability; Combat Drone.  This gives you an extra companion on the battlefield, doing damage to your foes as well as draws aggro.

Now, the guns in this game are fewer in amount, but you can now upgrade the damage output that they do.  In fact, upgrades are what this game focuses on; once you recruit a certain companion, you get a station to use the resources you gather to purchase upgrades to yourself, companions and the weapons they all use.  This is both a good and bad thing.  Good thing, in that you no longer need to worry about equipping better guns for yourself of companions; this does it for you.  Bad, because you need to spend a LOT of time scanning planets for resources.  And you won't know which planets are rich in what resource unless you either have an FAQ or have completed the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC.

Also, at the point where you go to the Collector Ship mid-game, you gain access to the ability to add another gun to your arsenal, or upgrade the guns you have.  If you already have an assault rifle, shotgun or sniper rifle at this point, you can upgrade to the Claymore shotgun (the one that Grunt can give himself as an upgrade), the Widow Sniper Rifle (Legion's upgrade), or the Revenant Assault Rifle (which only NPCs have.) Otherwise, you get to pick up that weapon for use for the rest of the game.  My advice for this though, is to go for either the sniper rifle talent or the shotgun talent, as the assault rifle is pointless if you have the Kassa Locust from the Kasumi DLC.

Now, because of the change in game engine, importing your character isn't what you'd think; you still retain all the decisions you made in ME1, but because of change in how combat works, you are forced to start from scratch.  However, how high you got in ME1 determines how many levels you start with in ME2.  If you import a character up to 49, you start at level 2, get 20,000 credits, and 2,500 of each scannable resource.  50 to 59 gets you to level 3, and you get 30,000 credits, and 5,000 of each resource. And level 60 gets you to level 5, 50,000 credits, and 10,000 of each resource.  Also, completing ME2 once gets you 200,000 credits and 50,000 of each resource on top of your import bonus.

Returning characters are Udina, who is the Human Councilor in the default opening, and the assistant to Anderson if you made him Councilor in ME1. Anderson returns as either the human Councillor, or an Admiral who is the assistant to Udina. Kaidan or Ashley return for a cameo on Horizon, depending on who survived Virmire. Wrex also returns for a cameo on Tuchanka if he survived Virmire.  Joker and Doctor Chakwas return on the Normandy, and Garrus and Tali return as recruitable companions; Garrus in Act 1, and Tali in Act 2.  Garrus left his job at C-Sec, and went to Omega to be a vigilante, while Tali completed her pilgrimage and is finishing a special project for her father when you are able to recruit her. Garrus is a ranged DPS who can drop shields, and Tali is an engineer with a shotgun.  As for new companions, you get Miranda Lawson, the woman in charge of the project to bring Shepard back from the dead, who functions as a biotic DPS with the overload ability.  You have Jacob Taylor, a former Alliance soldier who joined Cerberus because he believed the Alliance wasn't doing enough. He functions as a biotic crowd control.  You get Doctor Mordin Solus, a salarian biologist who functions as tech based debuffer.  Thane Krios is a drell assassin with a biotic barrier dropper and long range DPS.  Grunt is a krogan weapons specialist who works best at close range. Jack is a powerful human biotic who is used for crowd control. Samara is an asari justicar who single foe biotic DPS.  Morinth, whom you can switch out for Samara later in the story, does the same as Samara. (You get to choose at a certain point in Samara's story, which I will get into later.)  And the final companion you get, Legion, is a geth who wants to stop the Reapers.  He functions as a DPS focused hacker.  You also get two DLC characters; Zaeed Massani, who is a weapons focused mercenary who, like Shepard, has a reputation for doing the impossible.  And finally, you get Kasumi Goto, the best thief in the galaxy, who is a master hacker and infiltrator. She is also the only one other than the Infiltrator who can use a cloak.

Each companion has a loyalty mission that you must complete to unlock their character specific ability, which is how this game handles the bonus abilities; you unlock it for them once, you unlock it for you for all time.  The loyalty missions are there to increase the survivability of that companion during the suicide mission.  However, certain characters' missions can be completed in a way that won't let their loyalty; Tali and Zaeed, for example.  Choose the wrong option or don't have enough alignment points to convince the parties involved in the quest, you don't gain loyalty.  And two pairs of characters have crisis points where you can lose the loyalty of one if you don't have enough alignment points to convince both parties to cool off; Miranda and Jack, and Tali and Legion.

The story is simple; due to the events of ME1, the Reapers have taken an interest in the human race, and is sending their slave race, the Collectors, to begin harvesting us.  You get many twists and turns through out the story until you finally launch the suicide mission to bring down their base.  And the suicide mission is where things come to head.  People can start dieing at this point.  If you didn't upgrade the Normandy's weapons, shields and armor, companions start dieing; one per lacking upgrade.  If you didn't gain loyalty, or you lost loyalty, people start dieing.  And if you chose the wrong specialist for certain jobs in the suicide mission, people start dieing.  It is possible to get every one one your squad mates killed if you didn't get the ship upgrades or do the loyalty missions, and chose the wrong people for certain points.

As for the DLC, some are more fun than others.  Firewalker is boring, but it opens new sectors and gives you planets to scan that gives you lots of resources.  Project Overlord has an interesting storyline, and uses the tank you got in Firewalker. If you don't download Firewalker though, you get the tank regardless.  Zaeed's DLC gives you Zaeed, a shotgun and a mission.  Same with Kasumi, but you get the best SMG in the game. Lair of the Shadow Broker gets you a mission surrounding Liara and her hunt for the Shadow Broker because of the events of the comic I mentioned earlier.  This DLC nets you a location to get an easy few thousand credits as well as a way to get the locations of planets rich in certain resources.  It also gives you an opportunity to continue the Liara romance.

And then finally comes Arrival.  This is a bridge between ME2 and ME3, and is best played after you destroy the Collector base.  Admiral Hackett (who makes his first physical appearance in this DLC) alerts you to a friend of his in a batarian prison, and asks you to break her out.  This leads you to an artifact that shows that the Reapers will reach the galaxy in 2 days, and the only way to stop it drive an asteroid into the Mass Relay they will be using to get to us.  But through this, Shepard essentially commits a war crime; destroying the Relay destroys the system it is in, and wipes out all life there.  And the residents of that system? Batarians, who hate the human race for reasons included in the first book, game and this game.  Shepard is told that they are going to be the scapegoat on this, which sets the stage for the opening of ME3.

There is also the Genesis DLC, which is a short animated comic that allows you to select MOST of the important choices from ME1 if you don't own the game, or choose not to import your character from 1 into 2.  It's most important if you had the PS3 version before the trilogy version was released.

I enjoyed this game, though because of DLC, you end up buying the game twice with how much of it there is (at least if you bought it new).  But I liken it to expansions for PC games back in the day.  You can pick this up for about 15 bucks for a physical copy of ME2 on Xbox 360 and PS3, and for 30 for PC download. 

Tune in next time for a synopsis of the in between comics, as well as a full review of the third novel, Retribution.

Happy Gaming! :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mass Effect Retrospective 3: Second Novel

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! Welcome back to the Assassin's Den!

Tonight, we tackle the second of the trilogy of novels, Ascension. (Yes, I know there's a fourth one, Deception, but I, like a lot of fans, don't consider it canon until it has gone through extensive rewrites. There is a LOT of mistakes, both big and small, that were made in this book.  See this for how many mistakes about the universe were made in this book, and you'll see why. Why Deception isn't canon yet. )

Anyway, Ascension takes place shortly after the events of the first game, mentioning (in passing) the actions of Commander Shepard and humanity's new place on the Citadel Council, though the human Councilor has not been named as of yet (keeping the choice open for the player).  Kahlee Sanders returns in this novel, a civilian now who works with the biotic children in the Grissom Academy; she's one of the experts on the new L4 implants, which has a VI in them to help them study implants with the goal to (from the way I understand) give human biotics the power of the L2, but without the detrimental effects to health.

We are also introduced to some new characters; Nick Donahue, a 12 year old boy who is one of the better biotics in the Ascension Program, and is a bit of a bully because of it. We have Gillian Grayson, another 12 year old biotic, who also happens to be autistic.  We also have Paul Grayson, a Cerberus agent and former assassin, who is Gillian's adopted father (unknown to Gillian, of course) and is aiding Cerberus "unlock biotic potential in humans" via his daughter.  He is also a Red Sand addict, to help repress his memories and take away the pain of having his daughter so far away.  We also have Hendal Mirta, an L2 biotic who is the security chief of the station.  He's very close to Gillian, and views her as a surrogate daughter.

And finally, we are introduced to the Illusive Man.  He plays a HUGE part in the next two games, as well as the next novel.  The head of Cerberus, he is working "to secure human dominance in the galaxy", though from what we learn over the course of the next two games and the next novel, he really only desires his own dominance over the galaxy.  I'll get more into the Illusive Man in my review of the next game, since though he's important, he's a minor character in this novel.

The crux of this novel is Gillian.  Cerberus is using her to "unlock true biotic potential in humans" through drugs designed to boost her power and endurance with her biotics.  Cerberus achieves a breakthrough, but this breakthrough comes at the cost of Gillian's health; the latest drug does something to her, and causes her to snap, and later, have a seizure.  In order to "help" his daughter, Paul takes Gillian, Kahlee and Hendal to Omega (yes, that Omega) to deliver her to Cerberus.  Unfortunately for them all, Paul's Cerberus contact on Omega had thrown his lot in with the Collectors (Yes, those Collectors), and Kahlee, Gillian and Hendal escape to the quarian flotilla.  Specifically, the Idenna (yes, that Idenna. See a pattern?), that Cerberus invade to help Paul "rescue" his daughter.  But after seeing how his daughter acts without all the Cerberus drugs in her system, he realizes that what Cerberus is doing is wrong, and lets his daughter and Hendal stay with the quarians and returns to Alliance space.  Kahlee returns to her job at Grissom Academy, and Grayson escapes Alliance custody and, after cleaning himself up, calls the Illusive Man and tells him to go fuck himself.

As you can see, this book ties heavily into the next game. Through it, we are introduced to Shepard's "ally" the Illusive Man, shown Omega, are introduced to the Talons (a gang we don't see until the ME3 Omega DLC), and see the events that Tali mentions when you talk to her when she comes aboard the Normandy.  We are also introduced the the Collectors, the antagonists of ME2. 

Ascension is a good read, and you can pick it up for your Kindle for six bucks, or three for a paperback.

Now, there are a couple of comics that take place between ME1 and ME2; Redemption is a four issue mini-series that tells how Liara got Shepard's body to Cerberus. Incursion was offered via IGN, and is no longer available through their website.  It's not important, but it introduces Aria T'Loak, and shows the Collectors physical appearance for the first time, as well as a hint into their plans.

I'll be tackling ME2 as well as the DLC for it, so look for it soon. For now, Happy Reading!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mass Effect Retrospective 2: First game

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! Welcome back to the Assassin's Den!

Today, we continue with my retrospective on the Mass Effect series with the first game in the series.  Originally released on  November 20, 2007 on the Xbox 360 in North America, two days later in Europe and Australia and summer 2008 for PC, for a time, this was the only game in the series without the dreaded EA logo.  Instead, it was released by Microsoft Game Studio.  The last Bioware game without the EA logo, for a time.  It was later released as part of the Mass Effect Trilogy, a boxed set containing all three Mass Effect games. The Trilogy was released on November 6, 2012 for Xbox 360 and PC. A PlayStation 3 version of the Trilogy, which brings Mass Effect to that console for the first time, was released on December 4, 2012 worldwide and December 7, 2012 in Europe.  All version include the dreaded EA logo in the startup.

Anyway, you play as Commander Shepard, a human Systems Alliance Marine who becomes the first human Spectre and is tasked to hunt down Saren Arterius, who has been indoctrinated by the Reapers and is now working for their return.  And Saren isn't the only one to return from the novel; Captain David Anderson is also in the game.  He's Shepard's mentor and staunchest ally, who believes in Shepard no matter what, and is willing to do anything to aid Shepard's mission.

This game introduces others who become important to the franchise. There's Donnel Udina, the human ambassador, who fights for humanity in the political arena.  He's a foil to Shepard, always frustrated with the consequences of Shepard's actions in Shepard's mission.

You also get your squadmates; Garrus Vakarian, a cop on the Citadel who gets frustrated with all the bureaucracy on the Citadel, and wants to feel like he's doing some good.  There's Urdnot Wrex, a krogan mercenary who has a ton of stories, and is the most friendly krogan you could ever meet.  He's also a bit of a romantic, and wants to bring his people back to who they were during the stories of the rachni wars.  Then you've got Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, a quarian mechanic/hacker who is on her rite of passage to adulthood.  You've got Liara T'Soni, an archaeologist and Prothean expert who is a powerful biotic.  And then you've got the human characters, Ashley Williams, a human soldier who lost her unit on Eden Prime, and Kaidan Alenko, an L2 biotic with engineer training.  You learn a LOT about these people over the course of the game and through conversation with them on the ship.

And then you have Commander Shepard, a man or woman whom you play as.  Shepard has six classes they can play as, with three origins and three military highlights to choose.  The Spacer origin has Shepard born to military parents, and having grown up on military installations around the galaxy. Shepard enlisted in the military at 18, following the family tradition.  The Colonist has Shepard born to on the planet Mindoir, which was attacked by batarian slavers when Shepard was 16. Shepard's parents were killed, and Shepard enlisted in the military at 18, to either get away from Mindoir or make sure no one else has to deal with what Shepard dealt with.  Earthborn Shepard was an orphan, and ran with gangs in their younger years. At 18, Shepard joined the military for a chance at a better life.

Military highlights include the War Hero, who fended off a batarian slaver attack on Elysium, Sole Survivor, who was the only one who survived an attack from a Thresher Maw out of 50 marines, and Ruthless, who wiped out a batarian slaver camp on Torfan, and lost 3/4 of their unit to do so.

The classes are Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Sentinel, Vanguard and Infiltrator.  And these are not as distinct as they become in the subsequent games.  Out of the box, the Soldier is your gun expert.  The Soldier is the only class that gets the Assault Rifle, and is the only one who can put points into all four guns.  The Soldier is the only who can wear medium armor from the start, and can train to wear heavy armor.  The Soldier is the best at killing a single enemy at a time, but has no debuffs or crowd control.

The Engineer is your debuff class.  The Engineer can bring down enemy shields, shut down their guns, shut down their biotics, and performs as a medic for the party.  However, the Engineer is restricted to the lightest armor, and out of the box, is restricted to the pistol. 

The Adept is your crowd control master.  With the ability to manipulate dark energy to telekineticly throw your enemies around, lift them into the air, poison them, stun them, and create singularities, which lift your enemies up and and pulls them toward the point of gravity. The Adept can also create a barrier against damage around themself.  But, like the Engineer, it is restricted to light armor, and out of the box, the pistol as well.

Then you have the "dual classes". The Sentinel is a combination Adept/Engineer, and like them both, is restricted to light armor and, out of the box, the pistol.  But the Sentinel has the medic ability of the Engineer, as well as the ability to debuff your foes guns and shields. The Sentinel also has the damage barrier, throw and lift of the Adept.  That said, the Sentinel is my least favorite class.

The Vanguard is basically the Adept, without stun and singularity, and replaced with the ability to train to wear medium armor, and use a shotgun with accuracy.  And the Infiltrator is an Engineer without the medic abilities, which are replaced with trainable medium armor and the ability to use the sniper rifle.

And with certain achievements available, the classes become even less distinct, with the ability to train any class with any unlocked ability.  Like giving a Soldier a damage barrier, or the Engineer the assault rifle.  See the achievements below for details.

Now, this game is the shortest data wise, but longest content wise.  It is the only one to be on one disc, but the with the massive amount of side quests.  A LOT of side quests.  I'm serious, you've got maybe 40 levels worth of story, but 60 possible levels you can achieve.  Of course, you can't get all 60 levels in a single playthrough; that's what the new game plus is for.  No, you can hit 55-56 on a single playthrough, depending on the DLC you have.  And this game is DLC light; Bring down the Sky, which is essentially restored cut content worked into a story of its own, and Pinnacle Station, a combat simulator.  That's it.  I personally don't like Pinnacle Station, so I deleted it after I played it with all 6 classes.

As for the story, your job is to chase down Saren, and try to stop him from bringing back the Reapers.  You learn more about the geth, the Reapers and indoctrination, which is how the Reapers control organic beings. I won't get into details, for two reasons; 1) this game is six years old at this point, and you can find the entire game posted on youtube and 2) if I've sparked interest in a game you don't own, I don't want to spoil the little bits.

The only thing I will spoil is this; there's a quest in Mass Effect 3 that require you to do three things in this game.  The first is you have to complete the quest for Gavin Hossle on Feros. The second is pick up the Elcoss Combine license, which you'd be doing anyway. The third is complete UNC:Asari Writings, a long and involved space quest that you have to scan planets and land on others to scan probes.  I'm including this tip because Asari Writings is a pain, and I've included the link which shows where they are to make it easier.  I'll explain why you want to do these things in Mass Effect 3's review.

All in all, ME1 is fun, if slow at sometimes. You can pick up the Xbox 360 version for 6 bucks on Amazon, the Trilogy version for 30 on PS3 and 360, 10 for a physical copy on PC and 20 for a digital download. All but the physical copies of the 360 version include Bring Down the Sky DLC for free.  So check it out on the cheap, and tune in for my review of the second novel, Mass Effect: Ascension.

Happy Gaming!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mass Effect Retrospective: From start to finish

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! Welcome back to the Assassin's Den!

Recently, I've gotten my hands on the last two DLC for Mass Effect 3, and because of this, I've really gotten in to Mass Effect again.  I've once again started the series from the start, from the first novel to all three games and the DLC (Except for Pinnacle Station in ME1, but I'll get into why later.) , up to the point where I get to ME3 and the Citadel DLC.

Right now though, I'm starting with the first novel, Mass Effect: Revelation, written by Drew Karpyshyn.  Published on May 1, 2007, it was released 7 month s and 19 days before the first game in the series was released in North America.  It gives background information on three characters who become extremely important characters in the games.  Taking place in 2165, it takes place 18 years before the events of the first game, (though the timeline gets generalized in the game as "around 20 years") we are introduced to three characters that become important to the background of the game series, as well as the social, political, economic and technological that we need to understand what is going on.  We meet Saren Arterius, the antagonist of the first game, on one of his first missions as a Spectre (as well as an explanation of what a Spectre is), an investigation into an arms deal, which blossoms into so much more.  We meet David Anderson, future Captain and Admiral of the Alliance, on a mission that players of the first game will feel very familiar; a distress call that blossoms into so much more.  And we meet Kahlee Sanders, then Lieutenant, who is a scientist for the Alliance and is studying Artificial Intelligence, gets swept into events that are beyond her control, all because she disappeared from the base the day before that was attacked that Lt Anderson's ship was investigating.

All three characters weave together throughout the novel, and all three stories come to a head at the end of the novel.  Players of the game will recognize what is happening at the end; this is the mission that shows why Anderson and Saren don't like each other. 

Now, this is a very good read, but that's not unexpected from a novel written by Drew Karpyshyn.  But it does have inconsistencies with later material.  But I'll give this novel some slack, since the game was finalizing when this novel was released; some of the visual descriptions don't match what is shown later (batarians come to mind), as does some of the technology, but I'm going to give the novel that was written before the finer details on the game were finalized some leeway.  And for all we know, it was written and finalized LONG before some of the game's details written, so I'm going to give this novel some slack.

This novel isn't necessary for your enjoyment of the games, but if you like the games, and want to see what happened between Anderson and Saren, and what lead Saren to the Reapers in the first place, check this out.  You can get a physical copy for three bucks on amazon (plus delivery charges),  six if you want it on kindle.

I'm going to re-tackle Mass Effect 1 again, but I'll try to do it as less of a fanboy than I was years ago.  I mean, now, I know where the series is headed, and the politics within the company.  I'm no longer excited about what is going to come, because all three games and all the DLC for them have been released.

I'm not going to review the comics either, because I don't own them.  I'll mention them when they are relevant to what's coming, but I can't review what I don't own.

Anyway, look forward to my re-review of Mass Effect 1, and happy reading!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9-11: 12 years later

I know this is really late to do this (after 9:30 pm where I live), but it's taken me this long come up with something.

Now, I wasn't technically affected by the events 12 years ago.  I wasn't in the towers or at the Pentagon, and I didn't have anyone I care about die.  But I was in the very beginning of my military career.  I was fresh out of basic training and was about to start training in the job I would perform for the next four years of my career.  When the towers were struck, I was in the middle of some bullshit military computer based training that were about some customs and courtesies that I don't even remember this long after.

I grew up that day.  I was 18, months after graduation, and two months away from my 19th birthday.  I was about to start my job training when the attacks happened, so all I was trained to do was hold a gun.  So for the next two weeks, I was posted at a door and told to guard it until my classes started.  Never saw combat during that time, but I spent so many hours during the next two weeks standing with a gun in my hands, watching a door and wondering what the hell was going on.  I didn't get a chance to find out what had happened until the weekend, when I got a chance to breathe and actually see the news.

There was a phrase going around for a few months after; Never Forget.  And for a while, that was true.  People came together, helped each other out, and worked to be better than those who tried to destroy our way of life.  And when the first anniversary of the event came around, I was glad to see that my nearest and dearest were still doing what they could to make the world a better place.

But after that? "Never Forget" became a lie.  People fell into old habits.  They fell into the same fighting, arguing, bickering and outright violence that they had been doing before. The same political bullshit had started again, worse than before.  They've forgotten, which means terrorists won; we're still the same selfish, greedy pricks that they want to destroy.  Their buddies still have an object to hate.  We are still the monsters that they hate.

I do these blogs and remind people I see because I haven't forgotten.  I CAN'T forget, because that day changed me.  The person I was died that day, and he's never coming back.

I don't have a steady job, so when I was done "hitting the beat", I watched stuff I could find about what happened 12 years ago, and playing military shooters.  My way of honoring those who lost someone or something that day, and those who can still serve our military with pride.

Never Forget.