Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mass Effect Retrospective 11: Does the first game still stack up?

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to the Assassin's Den!

So I've been going through the trilogy again recently, and I realized that the first game came out on my birthday in 2007.  So that means that, this November, it turns 9 years old.  That means a lot of you guys who read this were still playing with action figures, toy vehicles and dolls when this game came out.  This makes me think about two things; how old I'm getting, and how the series has changed since 2007.

So, for this post, I'm going to compare Mass Effect 1 to three other Bioware games; Jade Empire, an action-RPG that came out two years earlier, and the third game in the franchise, which perfected the system that Mass Effect 1 introduced and Mass Effect 2 refined, with a little bit of the things I don't like about Dragon Age: Inquisition's mechanics.

Now, Mass Effect has been billed as an action-RPG, and this means it follows certain aspects of both genres.  Combat is fast paced and real time, and special abilities are used via a quickbar or power wheel, instead of combos that you normally see in an action game.  Now, Bioware was building off concepts they introduced in Jade Empire, their first action-RPG, two years earlier.  Granted, I can safely assume that ME1 had been in production while Jade Empire was being finished, but still, they saw what worked in JE and implemented it in ME.

Now, what Jade Empire introduced was a "style system" where you chose between unarmed, weapon, magic, support and transformation styles, and used those in combat in different ways.  However, unlike ME1, Jade Empire's system allowed you to be competitive in combat without putting any points into the styles.  You could go into the final boss fight with the Legendary Strike unarmed style at its most basic form and not have any problem, depending on the difficulty.  ME1? Not so much.  Between recoil and abilities being locked out if you don't have enough points in other abilities, ME1 is more difficult than it has to be at low levels, even on the easiest setting.  That's not to say that it's hard at all, but it's more difficult to hit things than it is in the games to come.

Another thing that was done better in the in the next two games is squad control.  Now, I don't have the PC version, but on the console ones, both squadmates are controlled with one button on the controller.  This makes it difficult to send your tank character into battle to soak up fire while you line up your shots, especially when you consider that your enemies run and gun in the first game.  And, as we can tell from the next two games in the series, this was not the intention of the developers.  They wanted you to fight from cover and maneuver the battlefield tactically, but the ME1 engine was not built for that.  This got better with the next games, but this was a huge misstep in this first one.  Especially when you consider that, in previous Bioware games, and the Dragon Age series to come, you could switch between your character and your companion, but, like Jade Empire, the side characters are not as important as the playable character.

Now, in order to get the good abilities, this game, and Dragon Age Inquisition 7 years later, required quite a bit of grinding in order to get the good stuff for your character.  The game gets really fun about 30 levels in, which gives you a good range of low recoil weapons, better armors with good shields, and a wide assortment of powers, and a specialization at level 20.  But you've got to hit planet after planet of side quest in order to get that xp.  Don't get me wrong, side quests are a part of RPGs, but ME1 did them badly.  They require you to drive through huge areas in the damn Mako, which never controlled as Bioware intended.  And Bioware brought back a mechanic that wasn't that good in Inquisition, and gave you a vehicle again to traverse it, this time, a mount.  And it worked about as well as ME1's system.

Don't get me wrong; it's still a very good game. Great story with no missteps there.  Very few glitches, none game breaking outside when the Mako flips over.  But it's not as good mechanically as the next games in the series.  And I can't blame them for using bits of a system that worked so well in Jade Empire. But what worked in a martial arts action-RPG didn't work as well in a military shooter action-RPG. 

With all that said though, even though it is very flawed compared to what we have now, I still advise you play it.  It sets up story points in the next two, and you can't complete a quest in the third one without a certain side quest this one in a satisfying manner.  But I find that this game takes longer for me to complete get the side quests out of the way in order get to the stuff I like, which was my main complaint for Dragon Age Inquistion, as well.

That said, even without the nostalgia right there, ME1 is an enjoyable ride.  It does a lot well, and it even gives you a New Game +, which helps out in a second time through.  So, if you want to get into Mass Effect, play this game first.  Not only does it set up the universe, but it makes you appreciate the refinements made in the second and third game.  I'd even recommenced Jade Empire, due to how well it controls.

For now, check out my SWTOR referral code, and stay beautiful freaks!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

SWTOR Referral Link

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to the Assassin's Den!

I've got a bit of a story today.  Recently, I had to cancel my old credit card, and there were a number of websites that I had to change cards out when I got my new card yesterday.  However, there was a slight problem with my SWTOR account; my subscription was set to lapse before I got my card yesterday.  So, I called SWTOR CS, and they suggested that I get a SWTOR time card.  I said, "Okay, I'll go get one". 

That became a problem itself; nobody sells them anymore.  I went to Walmart, Best Buy and 2 Gamestops, and none of them sell time cards.  So, I started freaking out a bit, not wanting my subscription to lapse before I got my new card.

And then I remembered a comic based on SWTOR, Imperial Entanglements.  The author started posting her referral code, and I managed to use that, and gain 7 days on the end of my subscription, which gave me the time I needed to wait until my card got here. And with 2 days left, I had time to activate my new card and put my new information in before my subscription lapsed.

Which is why, from this point on, I'm posting my SWTOR Referral code on my blog.  Anyone who comes to visit my blog from this point on can use my referral code to get 7 days of subscription for free, and get access to set of items that allows you to unify the color of your clothes, hide your head slots, and the ability to display your titles after your subscription lapses.  And when it does, you drop down to preferred status, not free status.


So use the code, gain the benefits, and stay beautiful freaks!