I'm not alone in this. The maturation of the gaming industry led to many great systems with many great games to play. This is a good thing.
The bad thing is it's easy to fall behind. It starts out slow. You back burner Uncharted 3 to finish off Skyrim once and for all. But then, while you're still playing Skyrim, you pick up The Walking Dead for cheap through Steam, and people LOVED that game, so you have to play that, right? Before you know it, your backlog went from 1 or 2 games to 10-15.
That's where I am, and that's where I HAVE been for some time. It's not helping that I'm finally picking up some new systems that I never had before. I got an Xbox just this Christmas and immediately picked up 10 games or so to play for that. I just picked up a 3DS this weekend, and I've never even owned a regular DS. Yup, that's a lot of good games I never got to try.
But then I go and make it worse. I picked up the entire Mass Effect Trilogy on the Xbox (well, each game individually - it was cheaper) with the intention of playing it front to back in quick succession. I remember listening to the glowing reviews of ME2 on the Bombcast, and at the time I had no Xbox or any prospects of getting one. I've been looking forward to playing this series for some time.
Well, I'm now in my fifth play through of Mass Effect 1. I'm roughly one and a half play throughs from the S Rank in it, currently playing as a FemShep Infiltrator on Insanity. (From level 1, working on the Sniper Rifle medal and a few Engi medals.)
After my first play through, I intended to move on to ME2. But then I wanted to open up a few more of the achievements that gave you bonuses in ME2, namely the level 60 character one. I ended my first play through at level 50, how hard could it be to get 10 more levels? At the end of that play through, I was level 59, and before I knew it, I was on play through #3. By the time I finished that, I was 75% of the way to the S Rank. May as well get it done, right?
So here I am. Bioshock Infinite is now unlocked and ready to play. ME2 and ME3 are still staring me in the face. Fire Emblem Awakening should be arriving at my house today, and I'm about a quarter of the way through Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon. But that's not all. I also have Uncharted 3, Arkham City, Crackdown, Halo 4, Gears of War, XCom, Sleeping Dogs...
Hello, my name is Ryan, and I'm a Backlogaholic.
Oh, and I still haven't finished the main quest in Skyrim, 130 hours in.
How bad is your backlog? What do you do to try to keep it under control?
It's an age old question for me. Do I want the thing just to want it, or will I actually USE it once I have it?
I recall how badly I wanted the PSP, and though I owned one for 2+ years, I only ever played Final Fantasy Tactics on it extensively. It became a dust collector, and I traded it in at a Gamestop for practically nothing.
I camped out at a local Target for a Wii when it was first released. I think in the years I've owned it I've probably gotten 24 hours of total use. Another dust magnet.
Now, my current craving is the 3DS. There will be a fabulous deal this weekend where I can get the regular 3DS for $130 or the 3DSXL for $160. I've never owned ANY version of the DS, so my possibilities for games to play are virtually endless.
But will I actually play the damn thing? Do I really have interest in it, beyond trying Ocarina of Time for a bit before growing bored? Hell, I have a dozen good Xbox games to play (I just got one this past Christmas) and my Steam list is sad in how packed it is with good games I've yet to touch. And I haven't even looked at my PS3, though games like Uncharted 3 and Arkham City are waiting for me.
Maybe I have enough. Then again, I have a hard time passing up a good deal, and this is certainly that. What say you Giant Bomb, 3DS or no 3DS? If I DO pick one up, what's one game I can't miss?
This will be brief. I'm really just hoping to open up a discussion on this topic, as it strikes me as a too common occurrence.
We're all well aware of the upcoming release of Bioshock Infinite, and right now there are many different pre-order "deals" out there to be had. Like many gamers, I'm always keeping my ears open for a good deal. I'm a big follower of Slickdeals for this very purpose. It was there that I heard of their offer on BI, which includes a $15 credit towards other 2k games immediately when you pre-order, and an additional $15 credit towards other 2k games once the game is released. I jumped on this one, because I had been eyeing the 2k Mega pack already, which I ended up getting for under $4 after the credit and a promo code.
So what's my beef? My beef is with the MANY folks who went through the process, received and used that $15 credit, and then CANCELLED the pre-order. They never had any intention of following up with it, they just wanted to take Amazon for a ride to the tune of $15. Sure, it's not a lot of money (and Amazon does basically print money), but that doesn't make it OK, at least in my book.. And perhaps the bigger problem is that many of these people that took advantage of Amazon in this way see NOTHING wrong with what they did. "There's nothing that says you can't cancel." "What's the big deal?"
This kind of thing happens way too often on the internet. Would these people do the same thing if they had to actually walk into some local small business and work that owner over for trying to offer some value? I do also realize that we're talking about huge, faceless corporations, so there aren't necessarily direct correlation to hurting PEOPLE with the behavior, but is there no integrity anymore? No honesty for honesty's sake? Do I sound too much like a crochety old man? :)
I'm normally a bit of a wimp when it comes to difficulty. I generally just roll with the default setting, sometimes dipping into the "easy" or "casual" territory depending on my enjoyment of the game and whether or not I'm getting my ass handed to me on normal.
So yesterday I ordered the Bioshock Ultimate Raptor Edition on Amazon. (God I love that first game. I'm itching for another play through, and since I'm a new Xbox 360 owner, it's the perfect game to work on my gamer score too!) I've played the first Bioshock at least 5 times. I've played it twice on the PC (one playthrough each for saving all the kids and one for harvesting them all) and 3 times total on the PS3. (Platinum, baby.)
That got me thinking about my playthrough at the highest difficulty with vita chambers off. Damn that was tough. Big Daddies on the highest difficulty don't fuck around, AND they don't go down. It took me some time to get through that, and I realize what got me through wasn't "skill" or "being better" so much as just being patient. Play the game slow, play it methodical. Clear rooms thoroughly, don't take any chances. Make sure to investigate every crevice and pick up every shotgun shell.
That reminded me of my crushing playthrough on Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. It was the same deal. Horribly, horribly difficult. Practically broken difficult. But I got through sections like the plane in the tree level by being slow, methodical and patient. This same philosophy applied to Uncharted 2. Far Cry. Hell, it even applies to Xcom. How easy is it to clear each "level" in that game if you just don't let any of your squad members get too far ahead and isolated? Hmm.
So is that all you need to do in FPS games? Take it slow? Strategy, RPG, whatever. Is the answer always just take it slow? And if that is the case, am I okay with that? What are some other strategies to deal with ultra difficulty settings?
Yeah, I said it. I've played a lot of "horror" themed games that were supposed to be scary. Sure, a few made me feel a little tense, and I thought it was as cool as anyone when that first zombie turned its head in Resident Evil, but none of them actually made me afraid. Not like "oh shit that thing is coming for me" afraid. Only one game ever legitimately did that, System Shock 2. And holy shit and bananas, it's finally available out there in digital form from our friends at GOG.com.
Granted I haven't played this game in probably 10 years at least. Heck, I haven't REALLY played it since about 2000, shortly after its release. I actually tried once about 5 years back, as I still had my old copy, but couldn't get the dang thing to work right. So I gave up.
Now I'm sure that there will be quite a few people that are completely turned off by the dated visuals and/or dated gameplay. Remember that the FPS wasn't really a "thing" when this came out. Control schemes, feel, and all that were still up in the air, not cemented like they are now. Things are going to feel clunky, it's not going to be anywhere near as polished as Bioshock (its spiritual successor,) and it altogether will feel like a 14-year-old game.
But don't be an asshole. It is old, old but very well-regarded. And trust me when I say we weren't idiots back then, we could spot good games. And this one was great. I think once you know about "the many" you'll agree. Now shell out the 10 bucks and play.
**Some ME1 SPOILERS to follow - though the game is older than several of my kids, I still thought I should warn you.**
Well, that's a wrap. Mass Effect is in the bag. I drove the Mako into the ground, quite literally. I shot Saren in the face (well, SOMEBODY did). A massive space battle was had, and I finally got to tangle with a Reaper, in more ways than one. Overall, I had a great experience with the game. (I'm currently debating playing through one more time before I head to Mass Effect 2, which should tell you a lot.) And I'm especially happy that I managed to deftly avoid plot spoilers, despite the game's age. Maybe I missed just the right episodes of the Bombcast, I don't know.
I have to tell you, a lot about the Ilos mission was underwhelming. I thought we had to fight our way into heavily-contested enemy space. When we got there? Not so much. Sure, we were all on the bridge ACTING frantic, but in reality it seemed pretty easy to dump us down there. The whole Joker "I can do it" thing also didn't have the gravity they had hoped, this he was about to take some Death Star shot sans the targeting computer.
Thankfully, we found that nice AI to explain us much of the story of the Protheans, how they died and what they could have done differently. I really liked the explanation of how the Reapers pulled off the coup time after time. I suppose they never allowed a civilization to get advanced ENOUGH to really study the Citadel. I do find it weird that every civ was apparently just ok with this race of aliens (the keepers) who wouldn't talk to them and just ran this mysterious space station. I suppose you don't look a gift space station in the mouth, eh? Did they never try to study them at all? Nobody really says anything about the keepers other than "just leave them alone." They gave the keepers carte blanche to have an ulterior motive or purpose.
One other thing that really bugs me that I mentioned before. Saren's Reaper ship. So one of your double O, untouchable agents shows up with some weird alien ship, the likes of which nobody has ever seen, and you just let him have it and tool around the galaxy in it? Nobody said anything? No, "I know you're a reaper and all, but we're gonna have to look at that ship." Saren is like an undercover cop that suddenly started showing up high to work every day, and nobody wondered if he was getting into the evidence locker.
Still, plot holes aside the story was a lot of fun. One of my only personal story regrets is deciding to Save the Council. They treated me like dirt the whole game, but I didn't want the renegade points in case it threw off any achievements. (And in my heart, I knew it was the right thing to do.) It's good to know the Alliance can kill a single reaper ship with their entire fleet. Come to think of it, that might be a problem.
Here is where I admit a mistake of my own. I played the game on "casual" difficulty. My intention was to just get through ME1 so I could see if ME2 is as great as people say. I had also heard a bit that maybe the combat wasn't worth playing at a high difficulty. I have to say, though, casual was TOO easy at the end. I did get to level 50 in the course of the final sequence, as I had spent a lot of time exploring every planet I could. I also had 9999999 credits.
Now for an irritating aside. I didn't like being railroaded in the story without warning. I didn't realize that doing the last of the "big three" story missions was going to lock me out of completing so much. I've mentioned before that I'm a completionist, and ME1 kinda screwed me there. And the way it was done, I thought things would go back to "normal" for me and the Citadel at some point and I could get that stuff done. So I didn't go back to an earlier save to finish off the 4 or 5 Citadel-centric missions I was still working on. I love how in games like Fallout: New Vegas they give you ample warning. "You're about to enter the Endgame here, clean up any messes before you head out!" So even though I visited every system, I had a few unfinished quests at the end, and the Completionist and it's related achievements were out of my grasp. Grrrr.
So back to my over-poweredness by the end. I went through the later sequences of the game like butter. I didn't even have to pay attention to anything, just find the red dots, run up and blast em with my shotgun. Rinse and repeat. No cover, no grenades, no powers outside the occasional barrier. I'm not complaining though, I should have known that Casual + Competionist = Cake Endgame.
So there you have it. Mass Effect 2 is ready and waiting for me, with Mass Effect 3 sitting right behind it on the shelf. So the question is, do I play ME1 one more time before moving on? I missed an awful lot of achievements, which I hate to do, and it would be nice to go all Renegade for a 2nd playthrough. If I really like a game, and I really liked ME1, I will often go for the S Rank. How hard is the S Rank in ME1? It looks to require at least 2 more playthroughs, maybe more. I don't know if I like it that much, though with my knowledge of the story I think I could probably get through it pretty quickly each time.
I played XCom most of the day yesterday, having been about 7 hours in at that point. I had gone through the long tutorial-ish part, and was well into the main game, at least 2 months in.
And I was seriously screwing things up on the Macro side. People have been praising XCom for it's elegant combination of the micro (combat) and the macro (running the base.) Yes, there is a balance between the two, but they actually do a poor job of teaching you how to run the base - even though they have this long, "training wheels" beginning to the game. They problem is that there are many elements to account for, and if you screw up on ONE element early, it can kill you.
And it was killing me. Shortly after I started playing yesterday 3 countries pulled out of Xcom, my finances were crippled, and I had no idea what to do. Why is that? The game didn't tell me how important Satellites were early. They were just one of many aspects floating around, but after my version of XCom started crumbling, I did a little research and learned just how important they were in the early game.
So, in summary, I wish I knew how important satellites were before I started playing XCom.
I realize this probably happens to a lot of us, so what's your "wish you knew?"
At the end of Part 1, the training wheels had just come off for Commander Shepard. The Citadel and most of its side quests were in the bag, Shepard just got promoted, and they gave him a ship. Somebody else's ship, but they gave him a ship. So now on to Part 2, when the real meat of the game began. Or so I thought.
As I said previously, Mass Effect is all new to me. I've successfully avoided details about the series, other than a few stray bits here and there, though thankfully nothing plot spoilery. One thing I HAD heard about, and had heard bad things about, is the Surveying. Well, now I got to see this game system for myself, and I can see where the irritation comes in.
Why the hell is something you're supposed to do so much so poorly implemented? So you go to the Galaxy map, you select a system to go to, then select an individual solar system to look at. Now, you can't survey or see any details from THIS level, you have to go down one more level to each individual planetary body or ship or whatever. Only then can you see if you CAN survey or land or whatever. Listen, I think it's great that you paid someone money to write all these descriptions for the different planetary bodies, and I've read a few and they can be interesting. But if there's nothing for me to interact with, I don't give a damn. Why can't I just survey from the solar system level, and if I'm the type of guy that wants to know EVERY LITTLE DETAIL then I can zoom in and read that stuff. And why is "X" my back button while "B" dumps me completely out? I'm a little used to "B" for back, and I can't tell you how many times I dumped myself out of the map completely when I just wanted to go back to the next level.
The worst part of all this? I could skip most of it if I wanted to. But...I can't. I have a deeply ingrained need to methodically explore every little bit of the star system. I wouldn't want to miss anything. Like, you know, one more nitrogen deposit.
Now let's talk landing. The first time I rode in the Mako, I thought perhaps it was one of those flash-in-the-pan distractions in an individual level. You know, like driving sequences sometimes were in the old days, you'd have ONE level where you drove a vehicle, just to break up the monotony of hoofing it level after level. So thinking it was a one-off thing, I was ok with it.
Then I saw the truth of the constant use of the Mako. This thing is bad, bad bad. The thing handles like shit, for starters. You bounce all over the place, and you have no idea what you can actually drive up and what you can't. And the way it controls with the dual sticks is horrible. When I'm on some barren little world, I just want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible so I can move on. Don't we have some kind of helicopter or jet technology I could use instead of this shitty glorified SUV? And then, if that isn't enough, you have to FIGHT in this thing. It's really frigging hard to target anything effectively unless you stop moving and "absorb" the enemy fire while trying to land your own shots.
Another complaint about exploring the worlds is that there's an awful lot of repetition. You find the same crashed satellites, the same abandoned bunkers, the same labs with the same layouts throughout the galaxy. It does get a bit tiring when landing on alien worlds becomes kind of boring and repetitive. I'm not expecting a thousand unique little snowflake destinations, but alien worlds should not be so lacking in flair. (Though kudos to some of the stuff they do with the SKY, from stars to planets to meteor showers.)
The places you find, though. These little labs and stations always feel creepy to me. I was just outside and saw what they are living in. It's gotta be boring working in one of those 5-6 room facilities in the middle of a barren wasteland of a world. No wonder the people that DID work at these places are usually either dead or insane. All the sane people seem to be stationed in the lush worlds in the galaxy. So think twice about taking a job on Antibaar, for instance.
A little about the combat and characters, before I move on to the story elements. I have an awful lot of money at this point, and I'm not sure if that is common or not. I've seldom needed to SPEND my money on anything, as I tend to find better equipment just by exploring. Of course the fact that I'm a completionist probably helps my money and equipment situation. I got the "rich" achievement fairly early on, and I was up over 4 million recently before I bought some top-line Spectre weapons in The Citadel. It's always nice to have more money than you can spend, but I wonder if I'm missing some money sink opportunities.
I haven't mentioned this before, but that power menu sucks. At first, I had my squadmates set to only use abilities when I expressly told them to. Then, I set them to use defensive abilities later on, and now I just have them set on free-for-all. In combat all I'm really doing is running up to guys and blasting em with my shotgun. I use barrier occasionally, and if there's a big group I use that shotgun AOE shot thingy. I don't mind using the left bumper to assign weapon usage. I rarely have to do that anyway. But trying to use that power menu is a joke. I'm assuming power usage gets improved in later games, because it blows here.
I realize I'm sounding a little gripey. Sure, I have a bunch of little complaints, and this game isn't perfect, but it's not stopping me from really enjoying it. There are really three reasons I'm really enjoying it, despite its flaws.
First, the story is great. I love learning more about the Reapers, and the cycle of destruction they are behind. My guess at this point is they are leaving a LOT of mysteries for future games, and I can't wait to hear about them. Like what the hell are those things "maintaining" The Citadel. How many times have the Reapers exterminated all the advanced races in the Galaxy? Did nobody ever think Saren's ship was a little TOO odd? Like maybe it needed to be studied? Why is the council so stupid, time after time? I'm in one of those pleasant story areas where I honestly don't know how Shepard COULD stop those guys. Since there is a ME2 and ME3, I'm assuming he does. But all in all, the story is well-paced and exciting. I'm in for the whole series at this point.
Another important element related to the story is the characters. They really did a great job here with backstory and depth for your crew. Everyone has some part to play, and they all have their unique perspectives on what's going on around them. What's interesting is that the character with the least interesting backstory is probably Shepard himself. But this is probably deliberate, allowing the player to shape Shepard how they see fit.
The second reason I'm enjoying it so much is the impact of Choice. Now I haven't seen how the choices I've made to this point will affect the story in ME2 and beyond, but it's really fantastic that my choices WILL affect the story going forward. The way the choices are presented to you allows for a lot of gray area. The Rachni Queen, for instance. There is ample evidence that the Rachni were very very bad in the past. But what you learn from the Queen herself muddies the water a bit. Do the Rachni deserve another chance? It's convenient that the BIG choices are pretty obvious, and they give you a clear distinction that you will be making. Who do you choose to keep romancing? Who do you choose to leave behind?
The last reason. Now this may sound a little weird given my introductory laundry list of complaints about the game systems, but I'm also loving Mass Effect specifically because of those systems. The Mako handles like a '79 Impala, the Galaxy Map is irritating to wade through, the planets you land on have repetitive features, and so forth. Sure, they all have their faults, but they WENT for it with Mass Effect. You need planetary exploration, you need some way to fly around the galaxy and find stuff, you need some way to control a squad and not just one guy in a real-time setting. If you're going to have a big game like this, you have to fill it out and take some chances.
So there you have it, Part 2. As of this writing, I've finished the three major plot worlds, returned to the Citadel and had to escape, and now I'm on my way to Ilos. I can't be sure, but it seems like I'm close to the end. In Part 3, I'll talk about more irritating systems (probably), give my thoughts on the conclusion of Mass Effect 1, and debate whether or not to do it all again before I move on to ME2. You know, that whole completionist thing. :)
Reviews are so 2010. So instead of adding to the massive list of user reviews for Mass Effect 1, I figure I'll do some random writing about my experiences with the game when the mood strikes me. I've never played the series at all until now, and my only solid knowledge about the series going in is that it's in space, and the main character's name is Shepard. My current plan is to play all 3 games in succession. I don't know how many parts there will be (though I'm guessing 3 per game) and I don't know if I'll even finish. But when it gets down to it, I want to talk to SOMEONE about my ME1 experiences, and neither my wife nor my boss are interested. Here goes.
Irritating Point #1 - ME1 pulled a dastardly move on me at the beginning. You see, I didn't want to fiddle with a "custom" character. I don't care what my guy looks like, nor do I care if I have a different name that nobody ever says anyway. So I wanted to just play as John Shepard, as designed, and leave it at that. So why the hell isn't it clear that to CHOOSE A CLASS I have to go the custom route? For me, custom is eyebrow width, lip redness, and hair color. Along with the opportunity to name my guy "Douchebag Rob" if I so choose. Class in an RPG however, is NOT my idea of custom. So I quickly clicked through, and figured at some point in game they give me a chance to choose my class.
Wrong. So 2 hours in or so, I started over. I muffed up some point expenditures anyway, and once I got to see some of the game I had a better idea of what I'd want to do. Luckily I'm old and slow at these games, so 2 hours ain't a whole hell of a lot.
For my 2nd start to the game, I went with Vanguard. If I can pick shit up with magic in a game, I want to do that. And if I can pick shit up with magic and STILL be good at shooting things in the face, I do that too. So Vanguard it was.
I know this game, at least the first, isn't really about the combat, so let's get that out of the way. It's alright. It's one of those weird situations where it controls as if I'm playing a shooter, but I'm not sure if it's actually just a bunch of dice rolls. That feels weird to me, just like it did in Fallout 3. Can't devs just decide games are either shooters or they aren't? Don't make me think the game is skill-based if it isn't, and vice-versa. Also, I like cover mechanics in shooters, but in ME1 the cover mechanics are "imprecise" to be nice about it. It also doesn't help that my squad mates tend to get in my way and steal the corner covers I'm trying to use to survive. But hey, you get to shoot stuff, and there's loot, so that's good.
Irritating Point #2 - the hacking minigame. Listen, I'm approaching 40, and my reflexes aren't what they once were. I'm not going to do well at a "simon" minigame to hack stuff. Give me some kind of puzzle, please! I find myself saving before each locked container, otherwise I'd be constantly out of that magic gel. That somehow opens locked containers. Is it like the vegetable oil and stuck ring trick or what? Is this magic gel actually WD-40?
But hey, this isn't about the action-y parts. This is about the story.
And I gotta tell ya, this story is delivering. If you want to Space Opera me, you best come with the ancient civilizations. What's that you say? Mysterious, supposedly defunct Ancient Aliens? I'm in. There are just enough recognizable actors to make me happy, and I'm also pleased I don't know who the hell is voicing Shepard. He should be an unknown. The pacing, at least up to the point where I am, when I just got my own ship, is solid. You are allowed to waste a lot of time getting to that point. And waste I did, wandering around Citadel like the completionist tool that I am, picking up and completing side quests like crazy.
Irritating Point #3 - What's up with the elevators? Is this some loading necessity? (In which case I'm ok with it.) Or is this just about "flavor?" (In which case I'M NOT!) I found it mildly cute the first time. "Oh look, I actually have to RIDE in the elevator - like all the way!" But by midway through that first ride, I was way over it. Is there some skippable-ness to the elevator rides that I'm missing? I'm using the rapid transit whenever I can, but for true exploration sometimes you gotta ride those stupid things.
But I digress. The story is awesome. I know that's a lame descriptor, but that's all I can come up with right now. It's intriguing when it needs to be, and it does a great job at inspiration. There are at least 3 different times thus far where the combination of story, music, and presentation all came together perfectly to make me go "wow, this game is good." I hope there are many more instances of that as I progress. I guess we'll see in Doom's Diary: Mass Effect 1 Part 2, whenever that may be.
Because I must be missing something about this game. I picked it up after hearing so many rave reviews about "innovation" and an experience like almost no other. I bought it, booted it up. Cute. Kinda cool the way you turn the world to keep progressing. Some of the turning puzzles are nifty.
So 15 cubes or so in, I MUST be missing something. It's cute, it's nifty, but top 5 game of 2012? Really?
Yeah, I've heard. There's extra "hidden" stuff that isn't clear. Stuff you have to figure out, stuff that isn't spelled out the way EVERYTHING is spelled out in games now.
The thing is, I haven't seen ANY of that. I'm very deliberately not looking stuff up about the game, not watching video, or doing any digging to see what I am missing. I thought just having the knowledge ahead of time that there IS something would make it so I could spot it. But I've got nothing.
So is it really a top 5 game? Or was that really, REALLY dependent on "being there" when Fez came out and was cool, and had some mythically awesome community of people working stuff out together?
I guess maybe I just missed the boat. Because on its own merits, at least what I've seen, it isn't much more than "nifty."