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by Ethos

Mass Effect 2: The First 6 Days

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

A little ironic that on a theme week when I play the titular game for way more hours than I usually would, I write the least about it.

Well I suppose that laziness begets laziness, and when I have a week off, I tend to do less than when I have to work. But oh well, I did play a fuckload of Mass Effect 2, so let me talk about that.

Mass Effect 2 just continues to do what it does best. It’s absolutely staggering how many conversation options there are and how consistently good the voice acting is. Conversations are still cinematic, choices are still surprising and occasionally very difficult, and the story is still character driven and intriguing. But because this isn’t a review, I’m going to go over what I think has been improved and what I’m sorry to see gone.

This chick might not be wearing much, but she's such a badass

This chick might not be wearing much, but she's a sexy badass

The Good
Yes, everybody, the side quests are no longer the same two buildings barely re-skinned. Each sidequest has a unique and sometimes even captivating backstory and they all take place in varied locations. There are no longer menus to absolutely struggle against. There is a streamlined upgrade system and weapons and armor are far simpler to navigate through. Now that there are more weapons, there is also ammo. There’s a bit of a stretch of an explanation as to why it is that way now, but I think it’s a preferred mechanic to the old overheating method. Bioware engineered a believable and exciting way to bring Shepard into a new adventure without the exact same dynamics as last time. You’re not working for the council, even if you decided to spare them, and you have a largely new team. And although it’s easy to miss some of the classic characters, the new members are all excellent and often deeper and more interesting than the original cast.

Exploring is far more rewarding and far less convoluted than before as well. Each system will give you a percentage so you don’t have to unnecessarily backtrack to countless systems to find everything. There’s also a mining system that plays directly into the upgrade system, so it’s actually meaningful to explore and search for resources. There are more changes in that area as well, but they’re minor so I won’t go into detail, but they’re all improvements in my eyes. Finally, it’s cool to see choices make a difference from the first game and see how other decisions will affect the 3rd title. Bioware is delivering on its promise of making a unique experience for every individual. There are also some plot points that have genuinely surprised me in the best way possible. The sequel also marks the introduction of a few mini games and a few really cool arena battles.

WAY more interesting than Kaiden.

WAY more interesting than Kaiden.

The Not So Good
While the streamlined upgrade and ability system is largely a great thing, it can also feel a bit watered down when compared to the original. I liked micromanaging all my powers as an adept and now I’m basically just playing Gears of War in battle while tossing in the occasional mass effect power. It might just be me, but I feel like I have fewer options when leveling up as well. Also, that tank thing is gone. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I thought it was great. It was a good way of breaking up the gameplay, and I loved taking down Geth Colossus with the little thing. The side-quest planets might be far more interesting, but I would still have liked to see a little bit of that buggy exploration make a return.

But, easily most disappointing of all is the complete nerfing of the Citadel. I adored the Citadel in the first game. I would go back all the time and search every corner. It just seemed so alive, and there was always something new. Sidequests would pop out of nowhere, and I even liked the ragged-on elevator conversations. I prefer them to a loading screen, anyway, as the secondary character banter was far more interesting than the space-age holograph images spinning around during the loading screens. Anyway, the Citadel is now just three small floors and a few shops. No C-Sec offices to explore, no presidium to admire, I haven’t even come across any Hanar that I’m able to have a conversation with yet. I’m extremely disappointed unless it drastically opens up in a part of the game that I haven’t seen that, but that looks to be highly doubtful.

Conclusion
Despite my gripes, I am entirely hooked. Uncharted 2 was an unrivaled cinematic experience. But like I’ve mentioned before, while its linear nature is necessary for the series to work, it is inherently limited. Mass Effect 2 takes cinematic prowess, great characters and voice acting, and rips the lid off. And with the graphical issues (largely) fixed, there is not a game this generation I have enjoyed more thoroughly. I’m not really a fan of the darker middle chapters to a trilogy, but Mass Effect 2 is bringing me on a hell of a ride to the inevitable conclusion. This is the reason to own a 360.

My Life, People…

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

My, what a Mass Effect 2 Week it has been!

Sigh. Pardon the dark sarcasm. This week began with promise and then it just had to go and get weird.

I’m actually referring more to my personal week than the week here at Riddlethos, but the above sentence applies to both. My week went something like this:

1. Mass Effect 2 claimed my soul. For two days after its release, I did nothing but play the game – and man is it good. So good that I never got around to writing about it – as you can see.

2. I Worked All Day Thursday. It’s true. Riddlethos doesn’t pay me. A small, independently owned restaurant in South Nashville pays me. Like any job, it has its ups and downs. Last Thursday was definitely a down.

3. Middle Tennessee is Hit with a Freak Snowstorm. Nope, not making it up. Out of the blue, we were smacked with five to six inches of snow. And guess who drove to work in it on Friday night? (Well, I technically carpooled with some friends.) A 56-mile roundtrip in a snowstorm is not my idea of fun. Or safe. And we didn’t get any business last night anyway.

4. I’m Snowed In. Well, kinda. The roads are shit and my restaurant was nice enough to close for the evening. I’ve spent most of today shooting the shit with a certain Mike Babasick, who was unlucky enough to get stuck at my apartment with me for most of the day.

5. Now I’m Alone. Mike is gone, and nobody is here to accompany me on this snowy evening. Therefore, I believe now is an excellent time to re-acquaint myself with Mass Effect 2. And who knows, maybe I’ll get around to writing something about it. I certainly don’t have much better to do at the moment.

IMPORTANT UPDATE

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Mass Effect 2 still kicks ass.

More to come.

Scatter Storming. Issue #017 “Mass Effected”

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

ss017Yes, I really look like that right now and for the past 30 hours or so. It’s because of Mass Effect 2, and since that’s all I have to talk about, let’s get to it.

Time Travel -
It’s like it’s a year ago. It’s like nothing has changed. I loaded up the game and played it absolutely nonstop until it was 8 in the morning. It’s just like I’m playing the first one again, I’m completely drawn into the entire world. And unlike my recent gameplay habits, Mass Effect has a way of making me do almost everything. I do side missions, I talk to everybody a billion times, I scan planets, I even listen to hours of codec entries. I just can’t stop. There’s always something I want to do, and everything interests me so much that I don’t mind taking my time with the main mission. Hence why I looked at the time and it was not even 10pm and I thought to myself, “I have plenty of time to catch the re-airing of the new Scrubs at 11pm and go to the convenience store before it closes at midnight. I also have an hour of slack on the Scrubs episode because my tv’s on pause and has an hour’s worth of local memory. Just one mission will do WAIT HOW DID TWO HOURS PASS I BARELY BLINKED?!?!”. Then it was 8am and I finally went to bed.

The Empire Strikes Back -
Although The Empire Strikes back tends to be a fan favourite, it’s my least favourite of the original trilogy, so I was tentative about Mass Effect 2. And although it is darker and a little more rogue, I’m enjoying it greatly. It’s keeping enough of the same elements to be familiar and not lose its charm, but the tone is different enough for it really to feel like a new adventure. But speaking of…

What about the conclusion? -
What will they do with the third game? This game comes up with an extravagant but ultimately believable way of pushing the setting forward two years and resetting Shepard’s crew. I just don’t understand how Bioware could pull that off for the expected third installment. But maybe when I beat the game, the ending will give me a clue.

I WANT TO PLAY! –
Yeah, I’m going to go the route of Riddles and cut this short to play more. But expect more Mass Effect 2 love from us, and at this rate, we both may even complete the game before the week is up. Riddles is especially likely since he’s not smelling the roses in the same way I am.

That’s it! I have more to say about the game, obviously, I didn’t even touch the battle system, but I’ll leave that to some more formal impressions. For now, suck it!

Welcome to Mass Effect 2 Week

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Mass Effect 2Y’know, I honestly wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Mass Effect. I enjoyed it, yes; enough to finish the game, at least. But I just didn’t fall in love with it like most of the world did.

I think my problem was misguided expectations. Reviews for the original Mass Effect made it sound like the game  was some of kind of masterpiece in videogame literature. So, fool that I was, I went into the game with that expectation.

Suffice to say, the game didn’t quite live up. This is largely due to the fact that the plot flatlines about a third of the way through the game, and doesn’t pick back up until the very end. The way you interacted with the story – via the dialog wheel – was pretty novel and intuitive. But the storyline itself? Nah. Enjoyable overall, but bland for most of the game.

So, seeing that I wasn’t amazed with Mass Effect, it’s funny that I’m so excited for the impending sequel.

Here’s why: the original Mass Effect wasn’t about telling an epic, involved Space Opera. (See Xenosaga to fit that bill). The original Mass Effect exists to establish the rich universe and mythology that BioWare has created for the series. There’s a lot – and I do mean a lot – to the Mass Effect universe.

And now that we’ve become familiar with it, Mass Effect 2 is here to kick things off for real. The stage is already set, we already have a general feel for the world and how things work – I could go on. The point is that the introductions are over and done with, and it’s time for shit to start happening.

Oh, and the changes they’ve made to the combat system should be nice as well.

This is all pure speculation, of course. However, the truth or falsity of it should soon be revealed; I’ll be picking the game up in eight hours or so.

‘Till then, readers!

Oh, Snap: Not One, but TWO Mass Effect 2 Reviews Descend

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Mass Effect 2…and one of them is from IGN. That’s a bit out of left field. From what I understand, a review embargo is in effect until the day of release. I could have been wrong, I suppose… or, perhaps IGN gave it a high enough score to warrant permission to break the embargo. 9.6 is quite the honor. But then again, NowGamer gave it the even more prestigious 9.8.

So, according to these reviews at least, ‘twould seem that Mass Effect 2 claws on the doorstep of perfection. But why listen to me? Go read ‘em for yourself:

NowGamer’s Review

IGN’s Written Review

IGN’s Video Review (via YouTube)

Hey! Look! Listen!

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

HLLfinal

This is already a strange day.

Why? Well, for starters, I woke up at about 8:30 a.m. this morning. And… well, that’s about it. But frankly, that’s all it takes to make my day weird. For me, early morning is between 11 and noon. Sleeping in is waking up 2-3 p.m.

And  yet, here I am at 10:24 a.m, typing up the Friday edition of Hey! Look! Listen! Who am I? None other than your host, Oliver “Riddles” Motok. Love me or hate me… you have to live with me.

Well, no, you don’t actually. Charlie does. Since he’s my roomate and whatnot.

But that has nothing to do with anything, so I suppose we should move on to the actual topics of interest.

Final Fantasy XIII Collector’s Edition Revealed for PAL Regions

I suppose this was to be expected. Like every other even-somewhat-high-profile-release these days, Final Fantasy XIII will be given the Collector’s treatment for both PS3 and 360 upon its release on March 9. The set will include:

-A soundtrack CD with tracks “especially chosen for the Limited Collector’s Edition by composer Masashi Hamauzu.” (In other words, you’ll have to look elsewhere for the complete OST).

-The World a Final Fantasy XIII, which is a hardcover art book featuring… artwork from the game.

-Three “highly collectable” art prints of the Eidolons, Final Fantasy XIII’s summon creatures.

-A ‘Brand of the l’Cie’ decal.

FF13_SPECIAL_PACK_UK

Doesn’t sound like anything that breaks the mold. Regardless, it’ll probably be a nice set for Final Fantasy fans such as myself. This is only confirmed for Europe and other PAL regions at the moment, but I’m *fairly* confident we’ll see the same set – or something similar – here in the states.

I like this guy already.
I like this guy already.

First Online Mass Effect 2 Review to be Published Tonight

While I doubt it’ll make a whole lot of cosmic difference, the gaming world will be able to scrutinize a written review of Mass Effect 2 before its release this Tuesday. UK site NowGamer intends to post their review of the game tonight at 1 a.m GMT. They’re so excited that they posted an article announcing the good news.

Well hey, if Riddlethos was posting an exclusive advance review of one of 2010’s biggest games, I’d be excited too. (NowGamer via VG247)

Mass Effect 2’s Cerberus Pipeline for Free DLC Only

Remember last Tuesday when I talked about the Cerberus Pipeline, an in-game download service for Mass Effect 2? Apparently it won’t be the only way to acquire DLC. In fact, you can only get free stuff through Cerberus. If you want any of the game’s “premium” DLC you’ll have to navigate the Xbox Live Marketplace as per usual.

“It’s not going to be all free DLC for Mass Effect 2 — far from that,”  BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk told Joystiq. ” There’ll be paid DLC packs, and there’ll be stuff available through Cerberus as well.”

If BioWare took the time to design and implement a convenient in-game DLC hub, why wouldn’t they allow you purchase, y’know… everything through it, whether it was free or not? That’s the first thing that comes to my mind. In the end, though, I suppose it’s a fairly inconsequential thing. (Joystiq via VG247)

Spoil the First Eight Minutes of Mass Effect 2

And speaking of Mass Effect 2, here’s the first eight minutes, courtesy of… some German site translated by Google.

Note: If you can not be spoilers, and the first minutes of the game, people wanting to enjoy in front of the TV, the best clicks away again!”

Hee hee. Those silly Google-translated Germans. For the record, I did not watch this. I’m not shit scared of early exposure to games like certain Ethos’ are, but this is a little too spoilerific even for me.

bayonetta-witchBayonetta Will Probably Spawn Sequels and Spinoffs

Bayonetta is the most well-received new action franchise to come along in a good while, so of course the internet is already hot and heavy with sequel talk. The game’s director, Hideki Kamiya recently spoke to Game Informer about the possibilities of future Bayonetta titles, and here’s what he had to say:

“We obviously have love for the work we have created, so I don’t see anything wrong with Bayonetta 2. Personally, I’d like to approach the world of Bayonetta from a different angle, in the form of a spin-off.”

Bayonetta’s plotline is best described as a clusterfuck, but regardless, there’s more than enough backstory and mythology behind it to easily spawn spinoffs and sequels galore. The most obvious possibility would be a game starring Bayonetta’s red-clad rival, Jeanne, but that’s just one of a myriad of options.

Who wants to visit the Demon World this time around? Anyone?

Oh, and Sega: whatever you end up doing, can you make sure the PS3 version doesn’t suck ass next time around? (Game Informer via Kotaku)

ac2screen2Assassin’s Creed II DLC Dated, Priced

Who’s ready to play some more Assassin’s Creed II, eh? I know I am, and on January 28 I’ll be able to do just that. The first DLC pack is called Battle of Forli, and it tells the story of the Orsi brothers and their attempt to take control of the city of Forli. (That’s an actual historical event, by the by.) The DLC will include six new memories in total, and it’ll cost you 320 MS points. ($3.99).

Bonfire of the Vanities will release in February, and will feature ten new memories. For those interested, check out this video on Joystiq, which has Assassin’s Creed II Patrice Desilets talking all about the two DLC packs. If you’re like me, it will fill you with both joy and rage – joy because it looks like these DLC packs will be quite robust indeed, and rage because I still don’t understand why this stuff wasn’t part of the game in the first place.(VG247)

Wordpress says I’m closing on on 1000 words, so I suppose I’ll call it quits here. Look for the third part of my JRPG relapse in a few hours; Persona 3, here I come…


Scatter Storming. Issue #016 “Let’s Qubit!”

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

ss016Way back when I wrote for Lusipurr.com, I “went” to E3. Somehow, miraculously, I was also in Toronto working on a gameshow for the Discovery Channel. It was called Qubit. The cover is a still taken of me when I was standing in for the host while the control room was figuring some shot out. Anyway, that show was sort of the start of my new position in my current job. And since that’s been my life this past month, I decided to make it the cover. How is it working out? Me and my attempts to make the covers for this feature relevant, I mean. Am I selling it? Anyway, let’s talk about me and my gaming brain.

Serendipity -
Mass Effect 2 Week is next week, meaning the game comes out then. Also, I have a week off of work. This pleases me. My new job doesn’t allow me to go in with no sleep so much anymore, and when I got my hands on the first Mass Effect, I played it until 6am on a regular basis. Now I can do that without worry. Excitement.

Final Fantasy V -
Originally I was going to play FFVI, but another issue with my brother (how many times has he screwed me over on Riddlethos?), and it turns out my FFVI case actually holds a disc of The Office. Great show, not helpful for gaming. But if you read this site a lot, you already knew that. I also decided to play FFV for my first JRPG Relapse title because I’d rather have a more concentrated play session with FFVI as I want to give it a fair shot. JRPG Relapse week is to compare the (potential) evolution of the genre, and I think FFV is a better choice for a snapshot.

Aaaand, Darksiders again -
While I’m excited for this week, I definitely miss Darksiders. I should beat it just before Mass Effect 2 comes out.

That’s it! I gotta play FFV before bedtime, which is soon. G’night, mother fuckers!

Hey! Look! Listen!

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

HLLfinal

Just to echo the sentiments of my current Facebook status, there really aren’t enough hours in a day.  So very much to do, and so little time to do it all. But, if I accomplish nothing else today, at least I can take pleasure in this Tuesday edition of Hey! Look! Listen!

Welcome to Hey! Look! Listen! everyone! I’m your host Oliver Motok, and I think I’m developing carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand. Makes typing this a bit painful, but I’m doing my best to ignore it. After all, the show must go on… am I right?

That’s enough directionless musing from me. Let’s move on to the meat of things.

vgmusicBoston Music College Training Videogame Composers

Berklee Music College in Boston is offering five different classes this semester that will teach students the many nuances of composing music specifically for videogames. By my knowledge, this is the first time an accredited university has offered something like this. From a Boston Globe report:

Berklee is offering five classes this semester in video game audio or game scoring. Sweet says his typical student is not only knowledgeable about state-of-the-art video games like Modern Warfare and BioShock but also has classroom experience in disciplines like sound production, voice acting, music technology, and film scoring.

Versatility and familiarity are important. In writing for games, composers must anticipate and create cues for the various layers and levels a player passes through. Story lines and scenes change rapidly and unpredictably. As technology improves and memory space expands, moreover, these games have grown more sophisticated, visually and sonically. Players’ expectations rise accordingly, creating a demand for such elements as a full orchestral score.

Interesting. I have absolutely no musical talent or inclinations, so I can’t offer any meaningful commentary – but, if nothing else, this is an intriguing concept. Is it useful or necessary? That I don’t know. Perhaps some of our more musically-inclined readers can comment below. (Kotaku).

Mass Effect 2BioWare Announces “Cerberus Pipeline” Service for Mass Effect 2

In a recent press release, BioWare announced that in order to access DLC for Mass Effect 2, players will use an in-game portal known as the Cerberus Pipeline. This portal is activated by a single-use code that comes packed with the game. Players who purchase the game used will be offered to purchase a new single-use code in-game.

The Cerberus Pipeline will give players access to “bonus content as well as daily messages and news on upcoming releases for Mass Effect 2 for no extra charge.” The first DLC pack will be released concurrently with the game (January 26) and will be given to players free of charge. Included in this pack is “a mission that introduces Zaeed, a rugged and deadly gun-for-hire who is recruited to join Commander Shepard’s mission to save mankind.” In short, you get a new mission and a new party member.

Well, that’s just neato! Mass Effect 2 hits stores in exactly one week. We plan on devoting an entire theme week to it here at Riddlethos, so stay tuned.

GoW3God of War III is Not the End

This hardly comes as a surprise, but I suppose it’s worth reporting.  Sony Santa Monica has stated that God of War III might be the end of the trilogy, but it’s not the end of the franchise. “This is not the end of God of War,” said John Hight, Sony Santa Monica’s director of product development ”This is definitely the end of the trilogy, but we’re going to continue to do God of War games.”

“We’re going to be very careful about what we do; we’re the keepers of the franchise and we don’t want to see it ruined or polluted.”

Well good, because neither do we. God of War III will hit Japan on March 25. A North American release is expected soon afterwards. (GamerVision via VG247).

Jordan ThomasGood Read: Kotaku Talks to BioShock 2’s Creative Director

The original BioShock remains my favorite game of this console generation, and it’s because I adore it so much that I’ve been skeptical about the relevance or necessity of a BioShock 2.

But I have to admit, in spite of my endless bitterness and negativity, I’ve been slowly warming up to BioShock 2 for a variety of reasons. This interview with Jordan Thomas, the game’s creative director, is one of those reasons. It honestly sounds like the guy is in this project for all the right reasons – and, as a fan, I can’t really ask for much more.

Hit the link below to read the full article; I’ll just spoil the ending for you here: “We genuinely believe Bioshock is more about asking questions than sending a message,” Thomas says. “We want to know your answers.” (Kotaku).

evil_bobbyBecause it Made Me Laugh: Bobby Kotick Admits that Activision’s Spider-Man Games Have “Sucked”

Bobby Kotick may be a greedy fat asshead, but at least he’s an honest greedy fat asshead. In the most recent Game Informer, this is what he had to say about his company’s Spider-Man games:

“Our Spider-Man games have sucked for the last five years. They are bad games. They were poorly rated because they were bad games.

“We went away from what is Spider-Man. It’s about web-slinging. If you don’t do web-slinging, what is the fantasy of Spider-Man?”

So. Does this mean we can now look forward to Spider-Man games that, y’know… don’t suck? Or does Mr. Kotick just have a penchant for stating the obvious? (Destructoid via Game Informer).

And that’s a wrap for today, folks. There is much else that requires my attention. Look for my first post concerning JRPG Relapse Week soon, in which I’ll announce what four games I’ll be playing.

‘Till then!

Hey! Look! Listen!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

HLLwinterOoooh! Wintery!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Winter Wonderland edition of Hey! Look! Listen! What’s so special about this Winter Wonderland edition? Nothing at all, other than the special revamped banner seen above. That image was yet another rejected possibility for the background to the Winter Week banner.

I like snow scenes, okay? Makes me wonder why the hell I’m living in Tennessee.  Who am I? I’m your host, Oliver “Riddles” Motok, and I’m well on my way to having not one, but two stunningly unproductive days in a row. How does that happen? Ah well, the completion of this column will count for something.  Hopefully.

Arkham Asylum 2 Announced

Wow, talk about unexpected. Anybody else catch the VGAs this past weekend? I watched bits and pieces on the crappy TV at work with no volume, and found them largely uninteresting, aside from this little gem of a teaser:

Well. My hopes for 2010 just got that much higher. No, the game hasn’t been confirmed for release next year, but I’m going to place my bets that will see it sometime next holiday season.

New Prince of Persia Details Emerge

As promised, a trailer for Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands premiered at the aforementioned VGAs. I’ve included it below for your viewing pleasure, but frankly it’s not much to gawk at.

No gameplay, no hints towards the storyline, just some average-looking cinematics coupled with a dramatic voiceover. Oh, and Ubisoft clearly needs to decide if they want their prince to look like Jake Gylenhaal, or the Prince we know and love from the original trilogy. Right now he appears to be in an odd sort of limbo.

However, while the trailer did nothing to ease my fears that The Forgotten Sands will be an ill-conceived cash-in on the upcoming movie, this interview with Michael McIntyre, the game’s level director, offered some hope.

The Forgotten Sands takes place shortly after 2003’s classic Sands of Time, and before the controversial sequel, Warrior Within. The Prince leaves Azad to visit his brother’s kingdom, only to find it under attack. And… that’s about all we know about the story so far. “The Forgotten Sands is another chapter in the SOT series, and is not tied to the movie in any way,” McIntyre said. Thank god for that, at least.

Oh, and the Prince will somehow have power over “nature itself” in Forgotten Sands. No other details were offered, but McIntyre says it will be “worth the wait.” Will it? Will it really? I’m glad to hear that it’s not a direct movie tie-in, but the proximity of the release dates is still cause for concern.

As Mass Effect 2 Draws Closer…

Check out the latest and greatest cinematic teaser for Mass Effect 2:

Excited yet?

Well, I didn’t plan on it, but it seems we’ve had another video edition, of sorts. My apologies to all of you using dial-up; but seriously, get with the times.

Farewell and goodnight for now!