Links for Friday, February 22, 2013

Mass Effect 3 Citadel & Reckoning DLC Announced

Mass Effect 3: Citadel – Single Player DLC

When a sinister conspiracy targets Commander Shepard, you and your team must uncover the truth, through battles and intrigue that range from the glamour of the Citadel’s Wards to the top-secret Council Archives. Uncover the truth and fight alongside your squad – as well as the cast from the original Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, including Urdnot Wrex!

When the adventure is over, reconnect with your favorite characters from the Mass Effect Trilogy, try your luck at the Citadel’s Silver Coast Casino, blow off steam in the Armax Combat Arena, or explore and furnish Shepard’s own living quarters on the Citadel. With unique content and cinematics featuring your friends and romance interests in the Mass Effect trilogy, Mass Effect 3: Citadel offers one final chance to see the characters you have known for years and rekindle romances.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel will release worldwide on March 5th on Xbox 360, PC and PS3 (on March 6th on PS3 in Europe). Price: $14.99, 1200MS points and 1200 BW points.

Mass Effect 3: Reckoning – Multiplayer DLC

Prepare for the Reckoning! Newfound allies join the multiplayer war for survival in Mass Effect 3: Reckoning. The Geth Juggernaut, Cabal Vanguard, Talon Mercenary, Alliance Infiltration Unit, and more take up arms to stop the Reaper threat. Smash your enemies with the Biotic Hammer as you lay waste to the battlefield as the Krogan Warlord.

Wield 7 new weapons for multiplayer, including the Geth Spitfire Assault Rifle, Venom Shotgun, Lancer Assault Rifle, and amplify your arsenal with new equipment and weapon mods featuring the Geth Scanner and Assault Rifle Omni-blade.

Mass Effect 3: Reckoning launches at no additional cost worldwide on February 26th on Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3 (February 27th on PlayStation 3 in Europe).

My Lost Year of Gaming

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As far as gaming goes, 2012 was kind of a lost year. That’s not to say that I didn’t do a lot of gaming in 2012, but I didn’t play a lot of games. You can look at what games I finished each year here. As you can see, the first game I finished that year was Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. It was a relatively quick game. Maybe only 12 hours or so. I played through it on winter break. Then I tore through Gears of War 3 with my pal Joseph. Right after that, we tore through Halo: CE Anniversary in a week. And then Mass Effect 3 came…

That is where the lost year begins. I played the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer beta that shipped with the single player demo and for the couple days between when the beta ended and my retail copy of the game arrived from the US, I was in withdrawal. I was hooked. Of course, I played through the single player campaign, and kind of forgot about the multiplayer while I was busy saving the galaxy from rogue Geth, the Illusive Man and the Reapers. After I was disappointed by the ending…I mean finished the game, I got back into the multiplayer and then proceeded to play nothing else until September. Seriously. Not one other disc was in my Xbox 360 for six months. That was it. And I wasn’t not playing games. I put a couple hundred hours into it. I ground away at silver and then gold matches so that I could buy the Premium Spectre Packs and try to unlock all the newly available DLC characters (of which there were many) and all the Ultra Rare weapons. Aside from being really familiar and obsessed with the Mass Effect universe, I genuinely enjoyed the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3 more than any multiplayer game ever. Burnout Paradise is a close second, but Mass Effect 3 was it for me. I’m terrible at shooting in games, but Mass Effect 3’s shooting isn’t super twitchy and if you play with a biotic kit, you can rely on powers (which usually wind around corners to get enemies) so you don’t have to be super precise. Unsurprisingly, there are still players who play way more than me and who are way better at the game than I am. Check out Stardusk on YouTube if you wanna see a good example.

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I eventually started burning out in September. I wanted to work my way through the Halo series, so I bought all the other games after Halo: CE while I was in the US in August. Luckily, Halo 2 is the one Xbox game that’ll play on a foreign Xbox 360. I enjoyed it, but it was a little boring playing without a co-op partner. November came and I played through Assassin’s Creed 3 and after that disappointment, went right back to Mass Effect 3. Finally, on winter break, I got a recommendation to play through The Walking Dead and loved it. While I was on my games other than Mass Effect 3 kick, I bought Journey on PS3 and subsequently finished it two hours later. While I was shocked at its short length, it was two of the most beautiful and serene hours I’ve ever spent in a game. That Game Company never ceases to amaze me with the games they come up with. (I was a big fan of Flower too.)

So it’s 2013 now and I’m thinking it’s time to play some new games. I’m still playing Mass Effect 3 and probably will continue to for quite a while, but if you take a look at my games list, you can see I’ve got a list a mile of long of games I could and should be playing.

Mass Effect 3: Asari Huntress Infiltrator

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The Asari Huntress Infiltrator is a weird kit. She’s an Asari, so she’s a Biotic and she’s an Infiltrator so she’s got a Tactical Cloak and Infiltrators are typically tech-focused kits. This is the first Infiltrator that has biotics. Luckily, the Huntresses’ Tactical Cloak is slightly rejiggered to give her a power damage bonus on the 6th evolution if you don’t take the bonus power evolution. It’s a 20% power damage bonus and that sounds great, but I’ll argue that you should just take the standard bonus power evolution instead.

Why? Well, the Huntresses’ other two abilities are Dark Channel and Warp. Both of these powers have armor and barrier damage bonuses and I’m assuming they stack. So, you lay Dark Channel down on an armored enemy and then you hit them with Warp. You’re laying down two powers that will weaken armor and have evolutions to do extra damage against armor. They also add to the damage over time. Dark Channel continues to do damage for 30 seconds and Warp’s Expose evolution will grant damage bonuses for a few seconds more and Warp has an evolution that grants a bonus 50% on Biotic Explosions.

Essentially, if you choose the bonus power evolution on the cloak, you can have a Biotic Explosion every three seconds or so. And even after the Biotic Explosion, Dark Channel continues to eat at barriers and armor and Warp’s armor bonuses continue for damage from all sources.

And because you have a cloak and can escape most dangerous situations, you can run a low health and shields build and get the most out of your powers.

I’m running this 6-6-6-5-3 build.

Mass Effect 3: Omega

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You can’t believe everything you read on the boards. If you did, you’d think Mass Effect 3’s latest single-player DLC, Omega is a giant turd. The truth is, it isn’t. It’s actually pretty great. It felt much more like a real Mass Effect story than Leviathan. It’s pretty big, it looks great and it adds two characters you’ve never had in your party before.

Mission

The goal of Omega is to take back Omega from Cerberus and get it back under Aria’s control. If you read the Mass Effect 3 comic that came out pre-release, you’ll be familiar with the story. Cerberus moved in and took over Omega, and that’s why Aria’s busy lounging on the couch in Purgatory on the Citadel in Mass Effect 3.

Squad

Unfortunately, you can’t bring your regular squad along like you could in Leviathan. There’s a story reason in that Aria doesn’t trust some of them and the story involves Aria and a female Turian, Nyreen Kandros, joining you, so the game wants you focusing on them and utilizing them as much as possible. Also, I think Bioware didn’t want to call every voice actor back in to do voiceovers for all the possible different lines they’d have. It was disappointing at first, but once you’re into the story, you get why it is the way it is, and it’s totally fine.

Aria

Aria’s powers include Reave, Carnage, Lash and a new power called Flare. Flare is described as:

Focus and expend all biotic energy to unleash a huge flare that throws enemies within its range, causing massive damage.

It’s pretty nifty and can be unlocked as a bonus power for Shepard after completing Omega.

Nyreen

Nyreen has a mix of tech and biotic abilities, so we could think of her as a Sentinel. Her abilities include Overload, Incinerate, Lift Grenades, and Biotic Protector. Biotic Protector is described as:

Deploy a shield that protects against all damage at the expense of moving, shooting, or using powers while it is enabled.

So, essentially it’s a massive “save your ass” shield that you can’t attack from, although, there’s a weapon or power buff that you can get after the shield expires from the level six evolution. I didn’t employ it all that much though. Nyreen isn’t in your party that much and I mostly had her spamming Overload on shields and barriers.

Story

Omega doesn’t impact the overall story of Mass Effect 3 the way Leviathan might. In Leviathan, you’re recruiting a massive ally that could swing the tide of the war in your favor (SPOILERS: IT CAN’T REALLY), but after completing Omega, you just get some ships and eezo from Aria. Whoopdee do.

General Oleg Petrovsky

The main villain, General Oleg Petrovsky, seems like an interesting character. He isn’t indoctrinated, he seems to respect Shepard as a soldier and claims he’s doing this for humanity, and doesn’t see himself as part of the Reaper war. What occupying Omega might accomplish he never really says, but it would’ve been interesting to allow Shepard to side with him, but Shepard wasn’t given the choice to side with Cerberus ever during Mass Effect 3, unlike Mass Effect 2, so there’s no reason to give the player the choice to side with them now.

Nyreen’s Fate

Spoilers Ahead!

Nyreen ultimately perishes towards the end of Omega. She sacrifices herself to save some civilians, which has been her motivation throughout Omega, but it seems so pointless, considering she only takes out three Adjutants and I’ve been manhandling them for the duration of the DLC all by myself. If she had waited ten seconds, Aria and Shepard would have showed up and destroyed the three measly enemies and Nyreen could’ve lived. The crap part of the whole ordeal is that there’s no way to save Nyreen. (Mordin!) The rest of your squadmates, aside from Mordin can be saved. If you had everyone’s loyalty in Mass Effect 2, they can all make it to the end of the game. Sadly, there’s no action or choice you can take in Omega that can save her.

The Future of Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

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Horde Mode’s Lasting Appeal

The biggest handicap for Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer has always been its singular mode of play. It’s Horde Mode, all day and all night long. Bioware said all along that Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer would be co-op only. There wouldn’t be any PVP. I was and continue to be okay with this. The question is, where do you go with this style of gameplay? What kind of co-op can you do that isn’t story-based that isn’t horde mode?

Objectives

So far, the most Bioware has done to change the gameplay is to add different objectives. The game originally started with device deactivations, squad hacking and taking out four high priority targets. (Although, I’m not sure that individual Cannibals can be high priority targets!)Through DLC, Bioware has added drone escorts and object retrieval objectives. While it’s nice they’re adding objective types, it’s only two types in six months and it doesn’t add that much to the game.

What’s left for DLC?

If Bioware doesn’t fundamentally change the structure of the game, what else can be done to extend the lifespan of Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer? We’re left with more of the same DLC they’ve given us so far.

Characters

For the most part, the character additions from DLC have been great. They have also negated the usefulness of most of the existing classes. It’s rare to see anyone using the basic classes anymore aside from the rare Asari Adept (the vanilla version) or Turian soldier. Most of what you’ll see being used are DLC characters (Geth, Krogan Vanguards, Asari Justicar Adepts, the occasional Batarian soldier, and then all the newest N7 characters. The N7 characters, in particular, maybe because they’re the newest or maybe because they really are powerful and interesting are most of what you see now. The only real misses with the DLC characters were the male Quarians, Vorcha and Ex-Cerberus characters. Not because they were bad, but because each type had essentially two of the same character with only one ability being different.

Maps

Starting with just six maps, Mass Effect 3 has received at least two new maps every month since launch. A few of them, like Goddess and Hydra have become favorites of mine. The maps have been welcome additions, except for Condor. (I, along with my friends, hate Condor. I’m sure that if Mass Effect 3 multiplayer is to continue, there will be more maps. After Earth though, I’m not sure where the fiction will allow for more maps. I feel like with doing the Earth maps, Bioware may have hit the wall with what they can do.

Factions

That is, unless, they do new factions. While we’ve gotten new classes, maps and weapons, we’re still just fighting Reapers, Cerberus and Geth. Oft-talked about are Collectors or maybe some of the merc groups from Mass Effect 2. It would be breaking fiction, however, since why would you be fighting The Collectors, who have been defeated or the merc groups who pose no threat now that the Reapers have attacked. It would be fun to fight other factions, but would it makes sense? Does “sense” even make sense?

The Store

The store is the shining turd of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. It never makes you happy, maybe only slightly relieved. Unlocks are random and there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll even unlock the new characters or weapons from the DLC. I’d be slightly more okay with the store if you got all new DLC weapons and characters when you download the DLC and then the weapon upgrades were randomly unlocked. I’d be even more okay with the store if you could choose what you spent your credits on. You’ll never be able to do that so as long as credits are available for purchase. Because the DLC is free (I think it has to stay free to maintain the finicky user base of cheapskates and 13 year olds who play) you’ll always be stuck with random unlocks.

In summation…

I love Mass Effect, probably unhealthfully, and I’ve spent hundreds of hours over the last half year playing Mass Effect 3 exclusively. Seriously. Aside from a couple hours of Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS, Mass Effect 3 has been the only game I’ve fired up since March. And I play a lot of it. I would’ve been paying a monthly charge for it if I had to. At this point, I don’t play games, I play Mass Effect 3. I worry about how much longer it’s got left though. I really want it to continue on. I love the universe and I have a blast playing it.

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut

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The New & Improved Starchild

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut added (or better put, subtracted) a lot from the Starchild. The Starchild wasn’t defined very well in the original Mass Effect 3 endings and now it’s established that he is an AI constructed by the creators of the Reapers to manage the chaos. In a great twist, it’s now revealed that he reaped his very own creators in order to maintain order. I wasn’t surprised that the Starchild didn’t actually reveal any information about his creatores. In fact, Shepard explicitly asks about them, but the Starchild tells Shepard that it would take too long to explain it and “we don’t have much time.”

Destroy

The Destroy ending was always the ending that we all wanted. The Reapers are taken care of and most of the galaxy is fine. The Geth (who we come to possibly like during the course of our playthrough) are also wiped out unfortunately. I think the Destroy ending makes the most sense for Shepard. Destroying the Reapers has been the goal of the series and this is the only way to be sure that they will never hurt anyone again. The Geth, even if you happen to like them, are not valuable enough to saved at the cost of the rest of the galaxy. Shepard is told that he won’t survive this ending, but we have all seen the “breath”. Bioware even confirmed the other day on their forums that in the Destroy ending, Shepard is in fact alive.

One of the goals for the Extended Cut, as part of addressing player feedback, was to provide more time with the love interest, and more opportunity for players to say goodbye to them and provide additional moments of connection between them. We did this in several ways: Shepard can now actually say goodbye to the love interest when they are split up at the conduit run.

When Shepard sees flashbacks of important characters during the final decision, the flashbacks are now variable based on your playthrough – so your love interest can appear as one of the flashbacks, providing another moment of reflection between Shepard and that character.

A memorial scene was added, partly to show a close bond between Shepard and the love interest. The scene is variable, and if Shepard has a love interest in a given playthrough, it will be that character who places Shepard’s name on the memorial wall.

Control

Control might actually be the best ending of all of them. Sure, Shepard gives himself over and essentially becomes the new Starchild (and a Reaper too, possibly) but everyone lives. The Geth don’t get destroyed. Shepard’s friends live good lives. And the now-Shepard-controlled Reapers help clean the galaxy up! Shepard being a Reaper is creepy, I know, but if he’s not killing anyone, what’s there to complain about? All well that ends well, right?

Synthesis

Oh Synthesis. You don’t make any sense. So, Shepard uses the Crucible to rewrite the building blocks of life, gives everyone green eyes, and now we live in peace with the Reapers. Makes no God-damned sense and yet it feels like this is the ending that Bioware wants us to like. I think this was Mac Walters and Casey Hudson’s vision they keep talking about. It’s a shitty vision that has no real sacrifice for anyone. In Destroy, the Geth are sacrifice (although you’d never know because Bioware never actually shows anything happen to the Geth) and in Control Shepard has to live on forever as Reaper Babysitter in order to keep the peace. In Synthesis, everything’s hunky dory and we wipe out as much diversity as possible. Sounds like trouble to me.

Refusal

Then there’s Refusal. Refusal seems to be Bioware’s direct response to the fans’ critiques of the endings. Essentially saying, “If you don’t play along with how we see everything working out, the entire galaxy has to die. At least for this cycle.”

In this ending, Shepard keeps the moral highground and doesn’t give into the Starchild. Because of this, the cycle continues and everyone is wiped out. Of course, it takes 100 years or so for this to happen, but it would’ve been nice if Bioware had actually shown Shepard’s crewmates fighting on and eventually perishing (or dying of old age, if they’re lucky).

We’re shown Liara’s time capsule which apparently helps the next cycle figure out a way to defeat the Reapers in the next cycle. Maybe the next cycle’s Shepard just chooses Destroy that time around. The new Stargazer confirms that without what the previous cycle had done, they wouldn’t have survived.

My only real problem with Refusal is that even though the galaxy is destroyed, we aren’t shown any of it. In the other touched up endings, we get to see the effects of our decisions, but in Refusal, we’re again shown almost nothing.

Mass Effect 3: Rebellion Pack

Vorcha

I knew the Vorcha would come. It’s not like I had any hush hush intel, but I knew the Vorcha wouldn’t leave us flapping in the wind, at the mercy of the Reapers. I knew our Vorcha saviors would come.

The great Vorcha tactician Schrelvar, you probably haven’t heard of him, once said that, “You suffer, hard we come.” While some have taken this to mean that the Vorcha are scavengers and pick the bones of those already defeated, in some circles, there are still true believers in the benevolence of the Vorcha.

Now that the Rebellion is upon us (May 29th, 2012), the Vorcha will finally be able to show us all what they’re capable of.

Vanguard Insanity in Mass Effect 3

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They don’t call it “Insanity” for no reason. I was called crazy for doing it. Playing Mass Effect 3 on Insanity for my first play through, that is. It really wasn’t that bad. The thing about Insanity in Mass Effect 3 is that you just get a lot more enemies and their take a lot more damage before they go down. Some might say that I compounded my difficulties by going with Vanguard for my Shepard’s class, because the Vanguard has no long game. Vanguard is fast and up close. The only ranged biotic power that the Vanguard class has is Shockwave and Shockwave’s range is limited and it doesn’t track to enemies the way Warp or Throw does. It does however have the advantage of being able to pass through cover. You can position yourself behind a wall and send Shockwave through the wall and still be able to inflict damage on an Atlas. While the Shockwave is recharging, you can pop out from behind cover, fire off a couple shotgun blasts and then hide again and fire another Shockwave.

The Vanguard’s ability to zip across the field and hit a far off enemy is the game’s most bad ass ability for sure. Combine the Biotic Charge with Nova and you can easily take down a small group of Cannibals or even Marauders with ease. Phantoms, the second most vicious enemy in Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer (only behind Banshees) are nothing against Vanguards. A Vanguard with a level 6 Nova that has a 100% boost to barrier, armor and shield damage can charge a Phantom, Nova away its barrier and then either charge the Phantom or shotgun blast it almost instantly.

The bane of the Vanguard’s existence, especially on Insanity, is the Cerberus turret. The Biotic Charge has the added benefit of staggering enemies, but you can’t stagger a turret. Because of this, Cerberus Engineers should be your first target, after shield pylons, of course. If you don’t take them out, you’re asking for trouble. Because of this, areas with lots of Cerberus enemies in areas where you can be swarmed from multiple directions are extremely dangerous. The atrium at Grissom Academy is the most frustrating area in the game by far. It’s an almost endless stream of enemies, there are lots of turrets and Cerberus keeps pressing in on you from all sides. The requirement for getting the doors to open up so that you can proceed past the atrium is unclear and I was just thankful that I made it past it.

Banshees are also a big pain in the ass. Their ability to instantly kill you is a huge problem. If you get too close to a Banshee, it can 86 you, and Vanguard have to get close to do most of their damage. My tactic was to charge into the Banshee, use Nova while jumping away from the Banshee, fire a couple rounds with the shotgun and then charge into the Banshee again (because you probably got your barrier damaged while shooting at the Banshee). Horizon’s got a Banshee-heavy area towards the end that can be a problem.

Happy charging!

Mass Effect 3′s Ending

Attention! Major Mass Effect 3 spoilers ahead!


There’s been a lot said about Mass Effect 3 and its ending(s) over the last few weeks. I heard rumblings about the discontent with it while I was still playing the single-player campaign and I went into the ending expecting to be a little disappointed. In my gameplay diary, I pointed out how frustrated I was with the shoehorning-in of Kai Leng as a big baddie after having been only in the novels up till this point, and that his execution was a little hollow. You feel good about killing him not because he was a worthy adversary but because he was a cheap enemy and you’re just glad to be rid of him.

The assault on Earth (at least on Insanity) is a mess of endless enemies. I was also seriously miffed that Morinth (who I let live in Mass Effect 2) shows up as a banshee and it would seem as though there’s no way to save her from this fate. Then, during your final push, the game has a silly missile fuck up so that you have to guard a second missile battery against another seemingly endless wave of enemies.

Then there’s the beam. While the beam gave us Marauder Shields (all hail him!), any time a game starts with the “slow motion walking” I want to strangle it. (MGS4!!!) I’m fully on board with the Indoctrination Theory that’s been floating around out there. The trees from Shepard’s dream are mysteriously on the battlefield and Shepard has the headaches once he’s up on the Citadel. His pistol has an endless supply of ammunition and the only reason for this would be the “destroy” ending. I hope that the Indoctrination of Shepard was the goal of this “ending” and that the original goal of Mass Effect 3 was to have the “destroy” option wake Shepard back up so that he could fight through the Indoctrination and ultimately defeat the Reapers and save the day.

My hope and my fear is that Bioware was going to pull off this Indoctrination trick and it would’ve really been the best ending of any game up to now. However…do to either pressure from EA or a self-imposed deadline, they didn’t get the real ending they wanted done out. It’s a real shame if this is the case. I’m afraid/hopeful that they’re going to put out the true ending as DLC. If it’s paid DLC it’s just going to piss people off even more because they’re having to pay for the real ending or they’ll put it out as free DLC which won’t piss anyone off except that the initial experience of playing Mass Effect 3 will have been forever ruined.