Now Playing

I’m deep into Persona 5 right now and there’s no end in sight. People have been touting 100+ hrs and I’m only around the 35 hr mark.

So far it’s great, but I definitely think the anticipation and high praise made me expect a lot. The game’s a little more confining than I expected, forcing me to do or not do things at certain times. Which can be frustrating because there’s a ton to do in the game and I want to do it all.

I’m also wondering if the game will change things up later on. Even though I’m not halfway, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the mechanics and the gameplay loop. It hasn’t felt tiresome yet, but I’m afraid that I’ll get worn out by the same process throughout the whole game.

Other than that, I’ll still jump into Mass Effect Andromeda multiplayer from time to time. It doesn’t have its hooks in me quite the same way that Mass Effect 3 multiplayer did, which I can’t figure out why since it’s basically the same format.

My hunch is that there are just too many other games I want to get to. This has been an incredible year for games and we’re only now reaching the halfway mark.

The second half of the year doesn’t seem has loaded with games I’m anticipating. That’s even before Red Dead Redemption 2 got delayed until next year, which surprised absolutely no one.

I still have yet to play Horizon Zero Dawn and Legend of Zelda. I’m hoping that by the time I am ready to get to them, they’ll be on sale or at least in stock (looking longingly at the Switch).

For now, I’ll keep an eye out for more indie gems like Little Nightmares and What Remains of Edith Finch. And I’m still itching to do a second run-through of Dishonored 2.

I assumed I’d do another play of Andromeda simply because it’s Mass Effect, but the further away I get from the game, the less interested I am in revisiting it.

But good news is that a sequel to Life is Strange was announced! I have no idea what that game might look like, but I’m still excited.

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Let’s Play: Mass Effect Andromeda

Mass Effect Andromeda might be my most anticipated game in the past few years. I was a devout fan of the original trilogy, having completed runthroughs across all three games multiple times.

However, in the age of internet outrage, I forced myself to stay in the dark about anything concerning this latest installment and try my best to keep my expectations low. That allowed me to have a pretty blank slate going in to Andromeda.

I didn’t like abandoning the Milky Way for a whole other galaxy, 600 years into the future. That just minimized the effects of the events in the trilogy.

But, I suspect there was really no other way to move the story past what had happened. Bioware was looking for a clean start and this was their way to do it.

That meant losing a lot of familiar characters and environments. Luckily, we kept a lot of other elements, including species, aesthetics, abilities and weapons.

It was a joy to see turians, asari, and krogan again. Equipping the valiant sniper rifle was like finding an old, comfortable sweater.

In that sense, Andromeda was able to attain that elusive goal of “feeling” like a Mass Effect game. To me, at least. Plenty of people seemed unhappy and unsatisfied. (That goes back to my comment about hedging my expectations.)

Gameplay-wise, the balance of RPG and FPS seemed good. The side quests were much more robust (perhaps with a bit too much planet hopping back and forth).

The main story was a bit lackluster, but still managed a few nice twists. The main antagonist wasn’t as iconic or fearsome as the Reapers. In fact, the nice easter egg of audio logs about the Reapers actually reminded me how intense and dire that situation was, and unfortunately dulled the current story I was playing.

Mass Effect though was always more about the characters and your relationships with them. This is probably where Bioware managed to shine the brightest. It was a tall order to ask players to love the new teammates and Ryder as much as Shepard or Liara or Tali. Outside of the supremely annoying Liam, I think they succeeded. Even characters I was skeptical about, like Peebee or Cora, eventually won over my affection.

As for the Let’s Play, it was a challenge to play such a long, sprawling game with the pressure of keeping it engaging and entertaining. It was easily twice as long as any other game I recorded. I’m still glad I did, and hope it comes across well.

Not sure where Mass Effect goes from here (Bioware resists hinting at a new trilogy), but I’m still along for the ride!

Learn to Play: Mass Effect Andromeda Multiplayer, Asari Adept

I’ve finally done it. I’ve made an edited video post for video games. As many Let’s Plays as I’ve done, it’s always been pure recordings with no edits (other than cutting out times when a game has crashed).

I’ve been playing a ton of Mass Effect Andromeda single player, and honestly really enjoying it. The game’s been getting mixed reviews and the typical internet outrage, but knowing that every ME game has had its flaws, I’m getting pretty much what I’d expected (if not what I’d hoped).

But like Mass Effect 3, this latest game’s multiplayer is great and so fun. I logged countless hours in ME3’s multiplayer and a lot of that translated over to this new incarnation. Thus, I have a lot of working knowledge and expertise and felt compelled to share some of that with others.

It was a lot of work putting this together so I now have a new-found respect for those professional YouTubers who pump out videos everyday. A lot of time and effort goes in behind the scenes. I had to create a ton of footage so that I had enough to pull together for this one 24 minute video.

Hope people find it helpful!

Why I Play Video Games

There’s a recent article on Vulture examining why some (particularly grown-up adults) choose to spend so much of their free moments playing video games.

As much a past-time as reading, watching tv, or sports, playing video games has always had a negative stigma. That it wasn’t as worthy of our time and effort as the other recreational activities. I assume because it’s thought to be more for kids. Although I can’t fathom then why so many have no issue obsessing over sports… and not even playing but watching sports.

The article tries to justify gaming through several angles… some people make money broadcasting on YouTube! Or it’s a way to experience a world that has rules and goals unlike real life!

But the author (while a self-described gamer) doesn’t seem to fully buy into any rationale. Even stating that writing for a video game is an inferior artform to literary writing.

Of that, I totally disagree. Just because examples of stellar video game writing are far more scarce than books or poetry or whatnot, doesn’t mean it’s not capable of achieving the same heights.

Take The Last of Us. I can’t recall too many novels that caused me to swim in such a deep well of emotions by the end. I put down my controller at the end credits and felt a mixture of awe and devastation for characters that I had come to connect with more than most fictional characters

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We also tend to forget that video games are a relatively new medium compared to other forms of artistic expression. Music and writing are about as old as human existence. Television has even been around for almost a century.

Video games, starting off severely limited by technology, have only really recently begun to venture into the waters of art and storytelling. More complex stories, professional voice (and mo-cap) actors, and music conductors, are all becoming as vital to video game production as the level designers and programmers.

Back to my own gaming journey, I spent a hefty amount of my childhood playing NES and SNES games, only to fall off around college, thinking that yes, indeed video games are just for kids.

I missed entire generations of consoles such as the N64, Gamecube, Playstation 1, and Playstation 2.

I finally found my way back after being intrigued by the concept of the Mass Effect trilogy. That there’s a series of games that allows you to craft your main character, to make decisions that have actual effects in not just the game you’re playing but subsequent games too. That video games were now much more epic and cinematic than when I was running around on 8-bit and 16-bit levels.

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Even now, I have friends and girlfriends who look at me a bit sideways when I reveal that I spend a significant amount of my time gaming. It’s still viewed as a waste of time. Especially at an age and time where so many other things should take priority.

My simplest explanation basically breaks down to how video games are much less passive than watching tv or movies. And video games are as immersive as books, but have visual stimulation as well.

Being able to control a character, guiding them through a story or a puzzle or a battle, allows me to have agency and investment.

I won’t deny the sense of satisfaction when beating a tough boss enemy or solving a puzzle obstacle or the pleasure of killing an obnoxious online player. But that’s not what keeps drawing me into gaming. There has to be a story. There has to be character. There has to be emotion.

Recently on the way in to work, Life is Strange‘s main theme came up in my phone’s shuffle mode and I had a flood of feelings hit me. I felt a sense of missing Max and Chloe and their heart-warming, heart-breaking journey.

This is a grown-ass man going to an office, fighting back emotions for a video game about two teenaged girls.

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Now, I know that people play video games for different reasons. I’m all about the story. But I recently found out that my cousin only likes to play online shooters and skips any cinematic just to get to the action. I found that mindset completely baffling. But to each his own.

Personally, I don’t play games for profit, popularity, or even as an escape from my real life.

I just like that as a form of entertainment. Like going to see a film or listening to music. Video games have just as much value to me as any of those.

Hopefully soon, there will be less stigma whenever I admit to someone that I like to game. I’ve definitely had the urge to sit people down in front of a game to show them that things have progressed very far from Super Mario Bros.

Here are some of my go-to games to express the potential of the medium:

The Last of Us
No brainer. The prologue might play a little too long for some people’s patience but it’s a hell of a display of the power of interactive story-telling.

Journey
A very different type of experience. Most people are caught off guard by how restrained it is. Usually, games come off as loud amusement parks. This game is more like a monastery.

Limbo
This one tends to be a bit easier transition for people since most are at least familiar with side-scrollers. But the art direction and the stellar adherence to minimalism is always impressive.

Life is Strange
As mentioned above, this game really gets its hooks in you emotionally. It’s a bit of a tough sell though since it takes a good amount of time before the appeal kicks in.

The Walking Dead
I’ve come to love/hate Telltale games but this is a good one to introduce to people due to the popularity of the show. Plus it does a good job of retaining the show’s brutal no-win scenarios but puts decisions in the player’s hands.

Until Dawn
A great one to pull out for a group gathering around Halloween. The impressive visuals and the Scream-like setup is another good example to people of how games can be just as engrossing as a movie.

What I’d Want in a Remastered Mass Effect Trilogy

There’s more and more chatter about EA finally relenting and considering a remastered Mass Effect trilogy for current gen consoles!

A lot of gamers complain that there are too many remasters and not enough originals, which yeah I can agree with, but Mass Effect is one that I’d gladly and without hesitation grab on day one.

Of course, we have no idea what a remaster would actually entail at this point, but why don’t we do some wild speculation! Now, I’m not proposing radical changes to the story, like “FIX THE ENDING!! IT SUXXX!!!!” I have my issues with the conclusion but I don’t believe Bioware is ever going to change anything so a remaster would almost exclusively be cosmetic.

Here are the things that I’d want in my Mass Effect Trilogy Remastered…

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HD graphics and textures.

This seems the most obvious and achievable. I’ve read that Bioware had all the elements at higher quality resolutions but had to downgrade to fit the last gen console requirements. Obviously that’s not a problem anymore and you wouldn’t expect a remaster without a nice new coat of paint anyway.

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All DLC content

Another easy one knock off. Most remastered game do this already so it’d be out of the norm if Bioware didn’t bundle all the extras here. Some of the content was hit or miss, but DLC such as “Lair of the Shadow Broker” and “Citadel” are some of the best moments in the entire trilogy. I’d be pretty peeved if I didn’t get to play those again in a remaster.

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Adapting ME3‘s shooting mechanics and inventory system into the whole trilogy

This might be a lot of work to achieve. Mass Effect 1 barely qualifies as a shooter and could desperately use better gameplay. But it might open up a hornet’s nest such as having to reconsider all the battle encounter stages (to include cover areas) and major changes to enemy AI. Mass Effect 2 was a huge step in the right direction and probably wouldn’t need more than a few tweaks.

That said, I believe the Uncharted Trilogy lifted Uncharted 3‘s shooting mechanics and made them universal to the rest of the games. So it’s not unheard of to do.

The inventory system is Mass Effect 1 is also a mess. It’s probably the biggest thing that keeps me from booting up my Xbox 360 and playing it again. Something would HAVE to be done about it. Seriously. I have nightmares about it.

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Better Shepard customization

One of the things that makes me most jealous about PC gaming is the modding. The custom characters that PC gamers are able to create are gorgeous, making the ones that console gamers have to settle for look ugly and downright weird looking.

If amateur modders can make better facial features and create a wider variety of hair options, why can’t the developers? Modders proved it can be done, relatively easily. Some people simply lifted Ashley’s long hair and placed it onto FemShep with no problem. Call me superficial but I want a better looking Shepard!

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Those are my requests. Again, not looking to “fix” plot issues or make big (if any) changes to any story elements. But these things seem like reasonable, doable features that would make me salivate over jumping back into that world.

Let me know what features you’d like to see!

Most Anticipated Upcoming Games

Final Fantasy XV (Sept 30, 2016)

I was a die-hard fan back in the days of IV, VI and VII but have fallen off the wagon since. I bought XIII but was less than impressed.

I haven’t kept up with every detail about this game so will probably wait for the reviews to come in before committing to this one. But I’m hoping SquareEnix can recapture the magic.

 

Persona 5 (Feb 14, 2017)

I actually haven’t played any previous Persona game (and am still debating over whether or not to buy a Vita just to play P4) but everything I’ve seen of Persona 5 looks like it will be amazing.

The anime aspect, the Tokyo setting, and the bold design style are piquing my interest big time.

I got to play Catherine on last-gen and thought it was a great mix of puzzle platformer and character-heavy story.

 

Mass Effect Andromeda (March 2017)

Easily my most anticipated game.

The Mass Effect trilogy was the highlight of my Xbox 360 gaming experience. I played the crap out of those games multiple times.

The games had major flaws and plotholes, but the Star Wars-esque setting and the interesting characters are what kept me coming back for more.

I’m hoping for more of the same in Andromeda.

 

Other games that I’ll probably end up checking out:

The Last Guardian, just to see what the hype is all about
Watchdogs 2, initially excited about the first one but reality of it kept me from even playing it
Rise of the Tomb Raider, my enthusiasm dulled after having waited so long for it to show up on the PS4

What do you guys think?

Also, I want to do a Let’s Play soon but most of these games on my list are RPGs which aren’t exactly conducive to focused recorded gameplay. I’m thinking I’ll try recording a couple of episodes of Persona 5 and see how it goes. But I’m open to anyone’s opinions.