In regards to Mass Effect 3 - entry 2 (SPOILERS, duh)

I've finished a second playthrough of Mass Effect 3. That should show that I have gotten over the ending enough that I could play it again, and (thank goodness) this time I wasn't completely crushed by the ending. Maybe because I made sure to get the "BEST" ending (Shepard may have lived?!) and my romance from ME1 (Ashley) took me back even after I boned genetically-perfect Miranda in ME2 (too bad Miranda died this time). Anyway, I have 2 problems that I'd like to address, and one of them requires some input from the community.

Minor point to start - the soundtrack is AWESOME. Like, wow. Really epic music, very well done. Period.

After completing a second playthrough, and reading explanations from various sources (Rock Paper Shotgun has a few excellent articles that their various authors have penned regarding the endings, I highly recommend them) I have slowly come around to an understanding of the endings. I'm not a fan of deep convoluted endings to begin with anyway (Matrix, 2001, etc), so throwing an all-knowing Star Child into the mix at the end was a big bummer anyway. However, I accept that BioWare told a story, and while the finale was a letdown, the buildup to the final battle was nothing short of breathtaking. Even on the second playthrough, and even after seeing several different outcomes on YouTube, I was still drawn in on a couple outcomes (Mordin and Thane still tug on my tear ducts; Miranda and Legion were bittersweet as well), and Liara's good-bye was touching, even though I wasn't her love interest (this time). My point is, the journey was just wonderful, but I feel the destination didn't live up to expectations, and that did sour the entire experience a bit.

Be that as it may... filing a complaint with the FTC is WAAAAAAY beyond extreme. In a way, EA and BioWare should use that as a selling point. I want it known that, while I'm disappointed in the ending, and would've liked something different, I'm not insisting on a change. While the Child's Play charity drive is a great way to display your displeasure, I believe that BioWare told a story, and that story had a conclusion. I also want to give a thumbs up to Penny Arcade's comic regarding the brouhaha.

My second problem is one that I'd really like feedback on. I cannot deny that the Mass Effect trilogy was a wonderful use of my time. I am so drawn into the world that I would love to introduce my wife to the series. She plays some games, but she has a fairly short window of introduction. My problem is Mass Effect 1 - I didn't think it was that good, at least gameplay-wise (especially compared to ME2). No matter what EA/BioWare says, I don't think it's fair to introduce someone to the ME universe with ME2, let alone ME3. And while I feel that ME3 was the best GAME of the series, I cannot ignore the story arc that spans the trilogy.

But that's my opinion. Can anyone help me with this choice? Should I force her through ME1, or just try to start her with ME2 and say "good luck"?


In regards to Mass Effect 3 - entry 1 (SPOILERS)

I finished Mass Effect 3 a few days ago, and it's taken me this long to make my thoughts coherent enough to put to paper. It's taken me some time, but I've finally completed the 5 stages of grieving - not really over the conclusion of this story, but the ending.

I'd like to start that 99% of the game is a BLAST! I really enjoyed ME2, and the combat in ME3 is similar but improved. I liked that, as a soldier, you can carry any and as many types of weapons as you wish, but with the power cooldown bonus there's encouragement to reduce your inventory. While it may seem weird that your previous friends and squadmates just happen to be where you have to go, I really liked how the story flowed. The story covered a lot of people, and I think BioWare did an excellent job with bringing together all the species' treads. There were even moments when I teared up. I had really high expectations going into this game, and for 99.9% of the time ME3 met or exceeded my expectations. Considering what the ending turned into, my expectations may have been unfair to the game. Also, I'm glad I was able to bang a different chick in each game - awesome.

Before I drop into the ending, I'd like to take a second and go over a couple things - ground rules, if you will.

1) I do NOT believe that BioWare sold out to EA or some other ridiculous shit.

2) I am NOT insisting on a new ending as DLC - it's BioWare's creation, they can do what they want to it. I can also have the opinion that that ending was not anywhere near what I was expecting.

3) I am NOT upset about the fact that Shepard dies (usually) - I was expecting that, no matter the choices I had made or how good/evil I was, Shepard was probably gonna die. I could live with that.

Now for the ending. I arrived at the end of the journey late on Wednesday night (yeah, I kinda poop-socked it - but that goes to show how the rest of the game was! I was sucked in all the way through the game!), and perhaps exhaustion or alcohol was twisting my opinions and feelings, but I think I felt... unfulfilled. I know when I went to bed that night I really didn't sleep well, and the ending bothered me for most of the next day. It took a while, but I think I've finally figured out what my problem is. It's the fact that, no matter what you do, one of the central tenants of the ME universe (the mass relays) WILL BE GONE. Usually, at the end of a story arc (trilogy, series, whatever) there is a definite endpoint for a character (death, defeat, victory, etc) but the setting remains the same - at least similar enough to create new story threads within the same universe. However, with this conclusion, BioWare has made it so that, WHEN (not if) a new game is made, they could reuse some of the characters but the setting will be so different that it could be unrecognizable.

Then again, even as I typed this out, my feelings continued to evolve - I think the ending is just taking a little time to sink in. Or I'm becoming indoctrinated.


In regards to Duke Nukem Forever

Gearbox had the easiest job in the world.  
When they bought the rights to DNF from 3DRealms and said they'd put it out within a year, everyone knew what they were doing: bug-test what 3DRealms had put together, and release it.  No new content unless it was absolutely necessary.   Just get what was done out the door to close the book and the longest-running joke in video game history. 
If the game ended up being good, Gearbox can take all the credit.  If it's bad, blame it on 3DR.  Gearbox WILL come out with a new Duke game in a few years, and they will be judged on that game's quality.  But Duke Nukem Forever will not be seen as Gearbox's game, and it's not their fault that it sucks. 


Recent Game Purchases

I've made 3 recent game purchases, all on PC.  Unlike most of my purchases in the past couple years, 2 of these were very recent releases, and the other one I had sworn off purchasing at it's ridiculously high price.  The games, in order of purchase, were:

-Homefront (Steam, $50)
-Crysis 2 (Steam, $60)
-CoD: Black Ops (D2D, $35)

Of these 3, Homefront was by far the worst choice.  It's tougher to think of good things about the game than all the issues I have with it.  I don't want to get too into it here - that's what a review is for, and most of my issues have been brought up elsewhere - but I would rather have spent that $50 on getting my teeth pulled.  I KNEW I shouldn't have gotten it, but it's story & possibilities seduced me. 

Crysis 2 was a much better decision.  A much more fun game, and one of the best shooters I've played in a while.  My two big complaints of buying it now are the fact that it doesn't have achievements on PC (come on, Crytek; you modified your engine for consoles and can't squeeze Steam achievements on there?  Steamworks is FREE!) and the fact that it's $60, even on PC.  I am a strong proponent of keeping new PC games at $50, and feel very guilty at caving on any game.  The reason I gave myself, in this case, is the fact that Crysis 2 was leaked about a month before release, so by buying it at the higher price I'm supporting the developer.  A sad excuse, I know. 

The final game was one I told myself I didn't need, didn't want, and certainly wouldn't buy for more than $30.  However, Direct2Drive had an insane deal on it a few weeks ago.  I know, $45 was only 25% off, but any discount on a CoD game within 9 months of release is insane.  On top of that, D2D had a coupon code available, knocking another 20% off the price.  That made the final price a shade over $35!  I had to jump on it.  And it was definitely worth it.  Maybe it was the fact that it was a semi-original story, or the fact I was playing it on PC (as opposed to MW2 on 360), but I was much more entertained and had more fun with Black Ops than with any CoD game since CoD4. 

In all, I think this binge was a screw-up.  I still have a lot of games in my library I haven't touched (Alpha Protocol, just started Dead Rising 2) and I could've gotten several games over the next year instead of these 3 for ~$150.  Lesson re-learned: wait for reviews.  No need to be first on the block, especially when I don't play much multiplayer. 


Dark Void can suck it

I picked up Dark Void last weekend, when it was on special from Games for Windows - LIVE.  I haven't bought everything they've had on special, but I've gotten a few things from them before (Arkham Asylum, Viva Pinata) and been satisfied.   The GFW-Live client itself... that's another story. 
In Dark Void, I've played up to the point in the second level/chapter when you (SPOILER ALERT) pick up your first gun.  Right after the short in-game cutscene, the game crashes to the desktop, every time, without fail.  I've turned down the detail, turned off Vsync, turned on Vsync, reinstalled the game, installed the latest graphics drivers...  I have never been so stymied by a game due to technical issues.   I've found very little with Google searches - probably due to the low number of people buying & playing this game.  If anybody has any other suggestions, I'm all ears. 
Not sure if this is a GFW-Live issue, a developer issue, or just my PC - although I have run games that are much more demanding.  From what I've read at other places online, this game has numerous bugs that need to be fixed, but I doubt Capcom or Airtight will fix them at this point.