Late ME2 Halfway Impressions

Let me preface all of this by saying this is only about 20 hours into the game for me. I've just finished recruiting Samara and I believe I'm done with all the recruitment in the main game. I know this blog post is eons late, but I had some thoughts on the game rolling around in my mind about the game and what better time to plop them down.
 
First off, the mission pacing is really great, none of them feel too long or too short and Bioware really struck a good balance most of the time. Only two complaints. One, when you're beginning a mission, the game has a tendency to just throw you into them with little warning. Sure, there usually is a bail out dialogue option, but my dumbass is too blind to see it before I'm forced into a mission. The missions aren't terrible at all, so this isn't a real huge knock against the game, but I'd like a little more warning. Second, the structure of the missions is entirely too linear, and I know a lot of people that agree with me on this point. The game encourages slight exploring, rewarding you with upgrades or extra ammunition for heavy weapons, but  I don't feel overly enthusiastic about exploring. With my OCD nature, I still am exploring every nook and cranny, but I wish they game would let me go out onto the vistas that it teases me with.
 
Combat is also feeling a bit repetitive, although it still is quite fun. The rock-paper-scissors mechanic with the defenses versus abilities stuff is actually really neat and brings some nice strategy to the game. However, I do find myself leaning toward Miranda and Grunt 99% of the time, occasionally throwing Garrus in the mix. I know at any point I could use another team mate, but I can tell on the harder difficulties, there will be certain persons you just have to keep with you. This is still my first playthrough, and I'm going through as a Sentinel right now, which might explain my leaning on Miranda for her Overload, myself for Warp and Grunt for his Incindeary Ammo to the whole party and his individual fire ability.. I can make it through the combat to get to more of the story, but I still feel like Bioware could have added a few more abilities to the fray to make combat a little more worthwhile.
 
The last aspect of the game that has really been catching my eye is the way the story is delivered. The character facial models are great, especially during dialogue trees; there have only been a few instances where you could tell a characters face was severely distorted. Like I said earlier, the missions are coming fast enough and are short enough that each sit down I'm drawn in for at least three hours, not because of one missions, but because I really want to see what happens next. Planet-scanning is monotonous and kind of just thrown in to extend the game's playtime, but that can be overlooked.
 
I just took a ten minute break to right this and I'm about to dive right in. I'm about to begin my crew's loyalty missions and possibly romance Miranda or Tali. I've already started working on Kelly ;). Hopefully I'll post my final impressions after I finish my first playthrough, and maybe again after I go through a second time, but that's it for now. Happy gaming!
~Panda

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Dragon Age 2. I already love you

It's only been a few hours since they uncorked the web page of Dragon Age 2. The first one literally stole hours of my life away from me, especially with their crazy achievements (still working on this game, the various play through ones are kind of mind-numbing). The first one provided an RPG experience that I could get into. I'm not much into the reading department, especially on quests. However, a few of them I just had to sit down and absorb, and I swear I've read every piece of Codex in that game. Dragon Age: Origins was also the only game that I have ever bought every single piece of DLC, just wanting more of the game. I do, however, and forgive me, I'm a little behind, need to get Awakening. I hear it's excellent. I should probably experience it first-hand, preferably before the new game comes out.
 
Back to the DA2. Not a whole lot of information is out yet but there is a little propaganda out there on the splash page. My favorite section has to be this part.
 

Go deeper into the world of Dragon Age with an entirely new cinematic experience that grabs hold of you from the beginning and never lets go. 


 
That is a key feature, y'all. The grabbing of the player and never letting go. I don't know about you guys, but Dragon Age can touch me anywhere it wants to and I am a-okay with that. Also, the teaser site reveals the date of the debut trailer (08/17/10, expect a blog post by me whenever this comes out with my impressions) and also allows you to pre-order the game. I've already gone and done that, so no worries. The last thing unveiled is two pieces of concept art. Hopefully this is updated quite frequently, but let me tell you, the art style is looking a little different in this one. I don't know how I feel about that quite yet; Nevertheless, my new desktop is the second piece of art.
 
I haven't been this excited for a game in a long while. Bring the noise, DA2, bring it hard and fast.

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The New Champion of Casual Puzzles?

Recently I picked up the new Picross 3D titled that was released. I wasn't expecting much, maybe some new mechanics that would keep me busy while on the job, but dang, what a good game. It has the sort problem solving I love and the puzzles are short enough that they create a want to go on, see what's next. Some of the puzzles end up being just plain strange objects (to Americans) but completing on just feels oh so good. I'll post a review later, just to get my thoughts down. It's awesome, a must buy for some casual puzzles or something to keep you coming back for more.

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The Quest System. Win and Fail

It's been a while now since the quest system came out, and I've been waiting to write this blog post. This is just my opinion on the system and you can take my two cents or leave them. Before I get too far in, I will say that I think this is a great system that enhances the site. It provides an intriguing offering to attract members to an already awesome website. Quests are almost entirely unique to Giant Bomb, if you add the game database on top of that it's clear why Giant Bomb is one of the best video game websites. Other websites have achievements, but the way quests are implemented on GB is very unique. I love leveling up and showing off, two things that the quest system caters to. So in that aspect, quests have provided Giant Bomb a way of standing out from competitors.
 
Another neat aspect is the sense of camaraderie that is shared by members when they embark on scavenger hunt quests. The numerous forum threads of spoiler-free hints just proves what a great community this website has. It's very hard to just give hints and not answers but so far the users have done a great job. I personally have done almost all of the scavenger quests and though, when the quests were still bugged a little, it was frustrating, the sense of accomplishment at the end far surpassed the frustrations. 
 
While it brings the community together, a few quests tend to do less for the betterment of the site. A lot of quests require individuals to produce content and, while this isn't a bad thing at all, since GB is based around community generated content, it does encourage spamming. I myself, when trying for the Snowballin' quest, was tempted to just spam new threads, but I've been trying to resist. I try to create content that will at least generate decent discussion or has a purpose. Quests have also created more ways for people to spam the wiki, though GB's moderation is great so these are less noticable. 
 
One quest that could be done without, however, is the AV Club Secret Quest. All it does is encourage the first ten posts on a video to be, and I quote, "First!" "First! EDIT: DAMN IT ALL TROLLS" "FUCK YOU ALL." I've participated in this too, as it is just so frustrating. There are a couple thousand members and only a few videos that can reasonably be produced. This is just a straight pain, and if you have it I hope you achieved it with dignity.
 
One last thing that is worrying is the dirth of new quest sets. Every day I log on and am ever-so-hopeful that I will be greeted with a new set to complete. However, there hasn't been many new ones in a very long time. This does give new users a chance to catch up, but just asking for a new scavenger quest isn't that bad. Now most of the sets are just a means to show members, new and old, all of the aspects of this rather large website. I admit I didn't know I could add New Releases until I read the quest set devoted to them.  Since there are only so many things to do on the site, however, new sets have to almost be exclusively scavenger based. This requires clever clue writing and a logical theme, and while these are great, I don't want just all scavenger quests. The 1984 quest set is a unique idea, dealing with moderator-user interactions, and it's a good set by itself, but there just aren't enough aspects like this on the site to do. Let's just hope the GB team has more clever ideas up their sleeves.
 
Overall, I love the quest system. Pushing my XP bar just by doing various things around the site is quite enjoyable and keeps me coming back for more. I hope they find more ways to fully utilize the system. They've done a great job up to now, it will just be keeping the system up-to-date and adding new sets that will be the biggest job the team has to do. If they can keep them coming, I am one satisfied Giant Bomber.

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Two Handheld Monster RPGs - What happened to me?!

It feels like i've been staring at my tiny DS Lite's screens for 40+ hours these past few weeks. I guess it feels that way because it has been! Two great releases this month have kept my time and attention when I should have been doing something, well let's just say more productive. The first I got my hands-on (albeit from GameFly) is the remake of Gold, Pokemon HeartGold version. This is like reliving my past; I can remember getting addicted to every new version when I was 8 or so. It's still has the addicting, collect-them-all allure, but the changes add a lot of justification to this game. I'll probably end up writing a review later this week, if not later today. 
The second game I actually bought was Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. Long names aside, this is an awesome game! i don't like comparing it to Pokemon by any stretch, but the similarities are definitely there. The premise: collect demons (with the possibility of fusing them to make them stronger) to do battle. That's pokemon-esque but it goes much further, with more than 8 dungeons to explore and the capturing process of demons. Instead of throwing a ball you negotiate with them. Having a silver tongue is definitely a plus. I'm about 11 hours into this one, compared to the 35 I'm in HeartGold, but I'll have a review of this one soon. 
So there you go. My eyes are already going slanted but both of these games are incredible. One's nostalgic, and one is my first foray into a new universe. I can't way for sequels in each series and I think it's definitely time I got back to playing. 
Happy Gaming! 
~El33tPanda~

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New Game Get! (Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days)

My mailbox always provides me with joy whenever I see that Orange and White package from Gamefly, but today I was especially excited.  First off, I've loved the Kingdom Hearts series ever since it first came out, way back when.  It's a phenomenal series and I don't think it's gotten it's fair share of games.  Today I got the new DS game, and I can't wait to dive into it for some old fashioned Kingdom Hearts goodness.  Storytelling and gameplay are both the really big aspects I love.  I'll have a review up when I get finished, or mostly done.  :)

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New Game Get! (Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story)

I haven't posted in forever on Giant Bomb.  I guess I just was burnt out of gaming so much, so I just took a couple months hiatus.  But now I'm back and I'm ready to start playing some games!  In order to get back in, since I've missed so many great games, I decided to go with a handheld game.  I've played all of the Mario and Luigi games, and have absolutely loved them.  The writing, the art style, the timed combat, all of it was exceptional.  I'm not too into extensive RPGs, but the light RPG elements in this franchise is just perfect for me.  All this being said, I decided to get the newest installment, Bowser's Inside Story.
 
I haven't gotten too far, I think I'm about 30 mins in, but I can already tell I'll enjoy it.  The writing is just as clever as ever, the combat still feels fresh, and the characters are whacky.  I'll post more initial impressions the further I get in and have a review up within the next few weeks.

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Screwing Around in Game Universes

If you have ever played a completely RPG or MMO, you know what I mean.  Sometimes you can just sit there and spend hours upon hours just doing things that the developers didn't intend to be fun or exciting for that matter.  Want to kick a few chickens, then sit there and kick them.  Need a 27 hour nap?  Lay down and take it.  Feelin' the carnage?  Turn safety off and go to town.  It's all so simple, and I love games that give you the tools to do all of these things, but still have a story.  A stroke of genius.

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Just got Fable II

Believe it or not, I'm is beginning to rent for his Xbox 360!  Yesterday, Fable II came in the mail with much triumph, and after playing it for most of the night, I really dig it.  There are so many different things you can do, and I can already sense I want to play through it again for the multiple enemies and achievements.  Most of the night was spent doing random things, like slaughtering a village or bedding multiple wives.  Anyways, I'll get my review up in a few weeks time.

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