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

Earth DLC Key Art

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.

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 Multiplayer Demo

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This past Friday, the Mass Effect 3 demo’s multiplayer mode opened up to everyone. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I do. Mass Effect has never had any sort of multiplayer before and I didn’t think it would be very good. The key thing to keep in mind is that Mass Effect 3‘s multiplayer is co-op, not competitive. The same night that I started playing ME3 multiplayer, I also played some competitive Halo: Reach as well. While Reach looks and handles great, getting your ass handed to you by a 13-year old kid with a gamer tag like, “Whompcha(1)” is…disheartening. However, teaming up with three other people and maybe getting your ass handed to you by the CPU is slightly less embarrassing.

The MP plays pretty much like the SP. You pick a class and race, and depending on the combination, you get three possible abilities. I started off with a Vanguard and my only choice was a human female (for that class). It gave me Shockwave, Nova, and Biotic Charge. The Asari Vanguard will give you the Charge, but your other two powers would be Lift Grenades and Stasis. Great thing is, you can maintain all combinations of classes and races. You can switch out your character at the start of every mission. So, depending on what kind of characters your party members bring to the mission, you could choose a character that compliments their abilities (if you have a worthy character available.) Also, I could see bringing a low-level character along with three high-level characters and getting serious amounts of experiments really fast.

If you haven’t played any of the MP demo, I suggest you do so. It’s a lot of fun, and even though I know the levels I build and items I earn in the demo won’t carry over to the retail game, I still keep wanting to jump back into the demo. And if nothing else, it’s a great chance to try out all the different classes before you decide which class to take into your first solo playthrough.

Mass Effect: Deception

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A lot of Mass Effect fans have been angered by the latest Mass Effect novel, Deception. While the quality of the story has been called into question, most of the furor is due to the myriad of inconsistencies with existing Mass Effect lore. Fans have collected them into a single document. After the outrage that erupted, Bioware finally commented on the situation. Bioware’s said that future editions of the book will contain fixes, but that’s still pretty crappy. All the people who bought paper books would have to buy new copies and even owners of iBooks or Kindle versions, while possible to get updated versions, will probably have to buy a newer edition (because most publishers are greedy bastards).

Now, having ceded that Deception is full of errors, the story isn’t awful. And keep in mind that the previous Mass Effect novels, while consistent with franchise lore weren’t literary masterpieces either. I can’t join in with everyone in their book burning, but I do wish William Dietz had paid more attention to the accuracy of his writing, and I wish the stewards of the Mass Effect franchise had paid more attention to what they put their name on. In the end, it’s a little the author’s fault, but I feel most of the blame belongs to the people at Bioware for allowing the book to be published with all its errors.

Snatchcast 057: I Wish Voyager Never Existed

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Listen to Snatchcast 057

Whatcha Been Play?

  • Gears of War 3
  • Ico
  • Shadow of the Colossus
  • Burnout Paradise
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
  • Mighty Switch Force
  • Club Nintendo Points (not a game)
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Doctor Who Podcast

The Arrow of Time

Mass Effect Series

Spoiler Alert

If you haven’t finished the Mass Effect games and don’t want the story ruined, you probably don’t want to listen to this part of the show.

Mass Effect Novels

Mass Effect

The first Mass Effect had some frustrating side missions and the Mako was a horrible experience for the most part. The story was great though and the characters that were born in Mass Effect are the series most memorable so far.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 is a fantastic game. It’s more playable than Mass Effect but it lacks the depth of character creation of the first game and the story isn’t anywhere near as engrossing as that of the first game.

Mass Effect 3

Everyone’s going to have wildly different stories in Mass Effect 3. There are tons of decisions from Mass Effect that affected decisions in Mass Effect 2 and this is going to be all over the place in Mass Effect 3. It will be interesting to see what happens in the end for all our friends’ games.

The multiplayer, because it isn’t required to fully experience the single player story, is a welcomed addition. The fiction of the Mass Effect universe makes it clear that Shepard isn’t the only person in the galaxy getting in trouble, so the multiplayer is a chance to be someone other than Shepard for once!

Music

Of Stars and Dreams

This piece is a tune that was originally recorded for the first Mass Effect but wasn’t used in the game. It was released separately in 2011 by Mass Effect composer, Sam Hulick.

Mass Effect Theme

Just a little bit of the main Mass Effect theme to set the mood.

The End (Reprise)

You Can Can’t Go Home Again (to Mass Effect)

I just finished a “perfect” run-through of Mass Effect 2, and I got a wild hair up my ass to go back and do a super quick, critical path run though of Mass Effect and make some choices I didn’t make before to see how they play out. I guess it didn’t hit me quite the same way the first time I played Mass Effect (even though I played Mass Effect 2 before it then as well), but Mass Effect looks and feels awfully dated.

Visuals

  • The textures don’t hold up well when compared to those in Mass Effect 2. The non-human characters look good, but the skin tones of Shepard and Ashley look awful. The layout of off-world buildings were always generic, but even places like the Citadel and Noveria are looking way too generic to me now too. There’s a motif that you can see in front of the hotel on Noveria and in the Council chamber on the Citadel. When you’re on the side and look down to the floor below, it looks almost identical. The walkways and lighting fixtures are eerily similar.
  • There’s also a lot of slow down when you’re running around, especially in hub worlds like the Citadel and Noveria. It doesn’t impact your enjoyment of the game, but it shows how polished Mass Effect 2 is in comparison.
  • The Normandy feels small and empty in the first game when you compare it to the second’s SR-2.

Gameplay

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  • Unless you have much more upgraded weapons, you’ll wind up pumping bullets into enemies and thus overheating your gun. I almost prefer the heat clips from Mass Effect 2 in that regard.
  • The decryption mini game in Mass Effect is very primitive and not at all forgiving compared to the hacking in Mass Effect 2. There are also way more decryption instances in Mass Effect and while you wind up with lots of credits and gear, you probably wind up spending more than an hour of your total game time doing decryption if you do them all.
  • I never realized how much I would miss the on-the-fly power usage from Mass Effect 2 until I remembered that it wasn’t in Mass Effect. The power wheel isn’t always super precise and the combat doesn’t keep the same quick pace that it does in the second game.

The Thing Is…

…it’s not like Mass Effect is unplayable. It’s not. It’s just that going back to it…nay, any previous game in a series is often a shock in terms of visuals and antiquated control schemes.

A Tale of Two Shepards

There are two Commander Shepards for me. It’s not just that I rolled two different characters, but I played Mass Effect 2 before I played Mass Effect and the Genesis interactive comic didn’t work as well as maybe the creators hoped it would. My first Shepard that I used in my PS3 playthrough of Mass Effect 2 killed the Rachni queen, he let Wrex live, he loved Liara, and he saved Ashely instead of Kaidan. When I eventually played Mass Effect for real on the 360 after already completing Mass Effect 2 on the PS3, I wound up making three of those four same choices. (I let the Rachni queen live on Noveria.) But it took playing through the real game to understand why those were the best decisions for me.

PS3 Playthrough

When I first played through Mass Effect 2 on PS3, I tried to make decisions that I think I would make in real life. In my dealings with scumbags on Omega, I was typically pretty Renegade in my choices. When dealing with not-so-scummy individuals on the Citadel and on Illium, I often made Paragon choices. (Except for kicking the guy out the window. That’s just fun.) My Shepard wound up being a middling mix of Paragon and Renegade, which probably shows that in most situations, I would try to do the right thing in real life, but when dealing with less than admirable people, I’d be harsh. For a video game though, this leads to less than great character building. I wound up losing the loyalty of Jack because I didn’t have either enough Paragon or Renegade points.

Mass Effect

I got really into the fiction of Mass Effect and had to play the first game. (I also read the novels.) I didn’t even own an Xbox 360, so I bought one essentially to play Mass Effect. It was totally worth it. It was so weird going back in time to the first game and playing with different character building mechanics and seeing things happen I’d already heard about. Unfortunately, all the big story points were ruined for me. I still had a great time playing though. In almost every way, the story of Mass Effect is better than that of Mass Effect 2. Saren was the face of evil in Mass Effect. Mass Effect 2 had no face. The Collectors, while formidable adversaries, were characterless and uninteresting. The story of who they used to be is far more interesting. In fact, I probably spent 20 minutes on Ilos listening to the history of the fall of the Protheans.

The Citadel of Mass Effect is a much larger and more vibrant place than the Citadel of Mass Effect 2. Sure, it was torn to bits at the end of the first game, but it was the key place in the Mass Effect universe and it’s sad that it wasn’t as well-developed in the second game.

Choices in Mass Effect

Noveria

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Unlike in Mass Effect 2′s Genesis interactive comic, I saved the Rachni queen on Noveria. I was playing a mostly Renegade Shepard, but when it came down to it, and I thought about it for a good five minutes or so, I couldn’t bring myself to wipe out the Rachni race. The queen seemed genuinely peaceful and even encouraged me to wipe out her uncontrollable children. That alone showed that she wasn’t interested in harming others. Also, I fully believe that the Rachni will wind up being an ally against the Reapers in some way in Mass Effect 3.

Vimire

Wrex

Wrex Character Box

I had Wrex live on the PS3. I didn’t get why he should live until playing Mass Effect. Wrex is my favorite party member. He’s powerful and his dialogue was always great. Putting him and Garrus together in the elevators on the Citadel was a treat especially. Thankfully, I had enough Renegade point to end the confrontation with Wrex on the beach without Wrex having to die. It would’ve been truly sad to lose Wrex.

Ashley/Kaidan

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I let Ashely live on the PS3. I didn’t have any particular reason to let her live. I went into my playthrough on 360 thinking that I’d let her die. I was sticking with that right up until the moment came to choose who would live or die and damn it if I didn’t save her again. It wasn’t because I wanted to romance her. I didn’t. But in my head, it made sense to let her superior officer take responsibility and let him bite the bullet. It seemed like the military thing-to-do.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2′s choices are so interwoven into the game play that sometimes you’re left with only one real option. In the service of having the best gameplay experience possible, you have to keep everyone alive. In order to best to this, you have to make everyone loyal. So, you have to either swing really hard to Paragon or Renegade to build up points (possibly making decisions you normally wouldn’t to keep your conversation options open) or go along with party members’ actions even when you don’t want to to keep them happy. I want to see everyone again in Mass Effect 3 so I’ve gotta keep them all happy. That, to me, is the big flaw of Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect had the confrontation with Wrex on the beach and the Ashley/Kaidan decision, but Mass Effect 2 has many more situations like that, although not as serious in comparison.

Mass Effect 3

I’ve got a complete save from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. Everyone’s alive and all the side missions have been completed; hopefully giving me the opportunity to see everything that Mass Effect 3 has to offer. I’m climbing the walls in anticipation of Mass Effect 3 and January 31st (the release date for Mass Effect: Deception, the fourth novel) can’t come fast enough. Finally, it looks like there’ll be some crossover between the books and games when Kai, a Cerberus operative makes an appearance in Mass Effect 3.