Mass Effect 2 – OST: Some Impressions (mini-review)

Disclaimer: the following review is solely based on my own experience with this soundtrack. You do not have to agree with me, and you are entitled to a different opinion.

So I downloaded the full soundtrack of Mass Effect 2 (all 27 tracks) and I must say that I have some mixed feelings about it. It is apparent that the whole 'emotionally engaging' stuff that BioWare has been going on about has had a profound influence on this soundtrack. There are very few atmospheric tracks and the majority of the soundtrack consists of percussion heavy or otherwise uptempo and dramatic tracks that sound like you are constantly in battle or that things are perpetually on edge.

There are some familiar sounds here and there--for example during 'Normandy reborn'. 'New Worlds' tries to capture the atmosphere of its predecessor 'Uncharted Worlds' by using its leitmotif and elaborating on it. While this is mostly a successful attempt, the added complexity to this track make it less suitable to prolonged exposure (for example, when you're looking at the galaxy map for extended periods of time). The new love theme 'reflections'--or what I assume to be the love theme because it uses a similar sounding theme and is equally very short--deserves some mention here as well. While only one minute and nineteen seconds long, it is really atmospheric and the reverberating percussions recall the mood of Mass Effect 1's 'Love Theme' and is easily one of my most favorite tracks on this soundtrack.

Instead of tracks that reference specific worlds there are a lot of character specific themes this time around. My guess would be that those tracks are used on the planet or location where you are to recruit this specific character, so in a way they could still be world specific tracks. The character themes themselves are all very elaborate and progress through different phases. For example, Tali's theme starts out as a really moody and slow moving piece with some ethnic sounds in there but then transits into something that sounds like an uptempo combat track with lots of electro influences only to finish with some epic sounding strings.

I liked all individual tracks on this soundtrack. They are all very well crafted and often have some interesting progression that really convey some sort of movement in the game--perhaps a transition to a different scene or maybe things get really tense because you are under siege. It is also nice to hear some old themes reworked into new arrangements; it makes it feel like this is truly an extension of the Mass Effect universe.

And yet, I think this soundtrack stands in the shadow of its predecessor. The first soundtrack was a lot more synth-heavy while this soundtrack opts to incorporate some more orchestral work--it does retain a lot of synth, though, so don't worry. While this certainly makes it sound more grand and epic, it takes away some of the uniqueness that the first soundtrack had. Whereas Mass Effect 1's score sounded more like late 70s and 80s sci-fi, this is certainly more reminiscent of what we remember from 90s science fiction classics like Star Trek TNG and Babylon 5.

While, like I wrote above, the individual tracks unto themselves are all fine pieces of work, as a full soundtrack it comes across as really unbalanced. About 80 or 90 percent of the tracks try to capture this really epic, combat-heavy feel and there is little room for some more slow moving, melodic, or otherwise atmospheric tracks--something that the first Mass Effect soundtrack succeeded in very much. This makes listening to this soundtrack in its entirety very exhausting because it tries to be tense and epic most of the time. While in the end it is not as balanced and enjoyable as a stand-alone soundtrack when compared to its predecessor, I am convinced that it will mesh really well with the game itself. This is mostly due to the fact that every individual track is more capable of standing by itself due to the more elaborate composition and arrangement (oh, and the tracks are mostly a lot longer this time around).

As a score for a game it is very well done, as a stand-alone soundtrack I'll pick the first soundtrack over this any time. Are you ready for your more emotionally engaging, dark and epic middle part of what is to be a soundtrack trilogy?

Note worthy tracks: 'The End Run', 'Horizon', 'Tali', 'Reflections', 'The Collector Base'    


Let me see your Epic Mickey

Yeah, that joke will only play in certain parts of the world. 
Anyway, perhaps you've already seen it on Destructoid but some information has been revealed about the upcoming Wii exclusive "Epic Mickey". Game Informer put up a substantial article and an interview that deals with some of the specifics of the game. More interesting, however, is the visual material included in the article. More concept art is revealed and also some character models are shown; take the time to check the three videos that show Mickey in motion. 
Was this what you expected? Remember that concept art that first revealed this title? Remember when you went on to read that it would be for Nintendo's Wii? Remember how we then became divided; there were those that defended it and those that hated it (but the divide was actually more about the Wii's graphical capabilities than about the game itself). I do. I also remember writing that I was sceptical. Sure enought, the concept art has awesome potential and it certainly looked like they weren't messing around when they decided to call it Epic Mickey. But I had to voice my concern with how all this would be realized on the Wii's hardware. 
Now the obvious route for me is, of course, to write something like "I told you so" or some other dismissive comment. Instead, I will say that I'm actually kind of impressed. It certainly is not what I expected and seems a far cry from the epicness of what was revealed a couple of weeks ago. Still, reading Game Informer's article and looking at the new concept art, it seems that the developers are--at the very least--on track to deliver a quality Disney game. Don't get me wrong, I'm disappointed to see nothing--or very little--of the epic promise I've seen earlier. Putting that disappointment aside, it becomes clear that the guys working on this are truly trying to capture the glory seen in Mickey's past. Then again, there is this one screenshot in there of what appears to be an actual level and it kind of comes across as something straight out of a CDi-game. Yeah, remember that thing? 
Giving it more thought, this game seems very reminiscent of Mickey Mania  for the SNES. That was a great game that certainly lived up to Mickey's greatness in concept while also delivering a very solid side scrolling platformer. If the developers succeed in living up to this heritage, delivering it to this age of computer games, I will be very impressed. That said, maybe what I want more than anything is to just play Mickey Mania again.

So adds are here...

Yeah, I haven't blogged anything in almost a year and I'm thinking of picking it up again (I used to write often on the "old site"). Anyway, I just now noticed (but maybe I'm just slow) that Giant Bomb is finally sporting some stylish adds on the front page--adds are all the rage, am I right? Yeah... I guess it was inevitable from day one. Still, I have some mixed feelings about it. Sure enough, I want our Giant Bombers to do well when it comes to the financial side of this thing. That said, I have really enjoyed an add-free Giant Bomb this past year. It just seems so... peaceful. Especially when I occasionally venture onto one of the other sites that cover "the industry", I'm always struck by how cluttered those sites appear--this is not in the least due to all the adds, of course. In contrast, returning to Giant Bomb can best be described as a quiet experience; it is part of the appeal of the site for me. But yeah, I guess I'll just have to adjust to this new situation. Like I said, I really want the guys to succeed with this project. If putting up with some adds is what it takes, then that's something I will be glad to get used to. What about you guys?

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Did you guys have a lot of your submission approved? I know I have. But of course, if you submit a lot of stuff, chances increase on having something rejected. Up untill today there was one submission of mine that was rejected. However, when I woke up today I had an e-mail stating that another of my submissions was rejected. Not a big deal, of course, but I do want to write up a few sentences on this subject to show some of the rough spots of Giant Bomb.

So my first rejected submission was a picture with a watermark on it. While that was totally my own fault, I noticed the mistake only a couple of minutes after I submitted the picture. At the same time--this was on launch day--the guys over at Giant Bomb were swamped with all our submissions. My watermarked picture was queued up, I knew it was a mistake, but there was nothing I could do about it because there is no way to edit your pending submissions. So for the next twenty hours, my submission just sat there. Laughing in my face, knowing how I would get a big fat red stamp that says "Rejected"! And sure enough, once the Giant Bombers got to my submission, it was rejected.

My second rejected submission is one I submitted last wednesday; three and a half days ago. It contained some minor edits to the Devil May Cry 4 page. At that time there were a lot of things that needed improvement on that page. But since our guys were avalanched under this constant stream of submissions, like I said, my submission was left pending for three and a half days. In the mean time someone else submitted changes to that page which were approved before mine. So now an edit was made to the Devil May Cry 4 page that made mine obsolete. At least, that is what I THINK. Of course, it could very well be the case that the other edit was submitted just a little while before mine and got approved making mine redundant. I don't know.

So what is up? First of all, Giant Bomb really needs to implement a way for users to make edits to their submissions queue. That way, anyone who notices a mistake in one of their submissions can opt to correct that mistake. Or, if that would be too much of a hassle for Giant Bomb, users should at the very least have the option to delete something from their queue entirely. Second, it is unclear whether edits to specific pages are handled in chronological order. If not, this should defnitely be corrected for it is the only fair way to handle submissions, I think. Of course, if edits are already handled that way, this whole deal is a problem of transparancy. In that case, it would be nice if there somehow was an option to see which edits are already proposed for a certain page. Such a system would enable users to make an informed decision on whether or not they want to submit an edit and avoid making redundant submissions.

What do you guys think?

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[News] Level 70 will be easier to achieve in WoW

So, in keeping with the World of Warcraft news, Blizzard's head of the design team for World of Warcraft--Jeff Kaplan--has confirmed that getting to level 70 will be easier once the Wrath of the Lich King expansion is released. Apparently some users on Blizard's World of Warcraft forums noticed that achieving level 70 has become easier in the beta for the upcoming expansion. Kaplan posted a response on the forum stating that they are "planning on speeding up leveling in the 60-70 range".
Apart from introducing a new charachter class, users will be able to grow their characters to level 80 when the Wrath of the Lich King is released.

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[News] World of Achievements

Yeah I know, it's not an original blog title. I'm a bit out of ideas at the moment, cut me some slack, alright? :)
Anyway, apparently Blizzard has announced that there will be achievements for their money printing World of Warcraft.
Are you excited?! I know I'm not because I've never touched that game in my life, and I never will. I have seen what that game can do to people--or what people do to themselves because of that game. It isn't pretty.

Anyway, I guess it was kind of inevitable for Blizzard to take this route. They have to come up with ideas to make people come back to that game time after time, am I right?

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I guess it's not so bad...

While I was in shock when I just woke up and found Giant Bomb's forums in utter disarray, things have somewhat settle down since then. I guess trolling is a hard thing to keep up over extended periods of time. While there is still some mess to be found, I guess that comes with the territory. I've spend the day just hanging around, doing some edits and talking with some people on the forum. I like it here.

Like one of the users here said: given the fact that there is no moderation we're an orderly bunch. Or something like that.

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What a mess!

So I just woke up and checked out the bomb. All the sweet dreams in the world could not have prepared me for what I just saw. I mean, have you seen the forums? They are in complete and utter disarray. Yesterday, on the first day, the forums were inhabited with nice people and it had a really good vibe going. There was some mention concerning the fact that there was a lack of moderators to keep the forums in check, but most of us agreed things were fine. However, today it turns out to be an entirely different story. The forums are swamped with people spamming all over the place and people using all caps all the time. A lot of people have taken up the fact that there is hardly any moderation as an invitation to just provoke... er, I don't know, something I guess. And of course there is the obligatory posts of people who want to be moderators, brilliant. Or sad... I guess.

I don't know, the site seems awesome, but this is making me sad. On the other hand, most of my submissions to the site have been approved! Yeah!

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Good stuff!

So yesterday we were teased by the screencap from dr. strangelove--one of the greatest movies of all time, if you ask me. It got me all excited for what was to come, and sure enough when I woke up and checked the site... it was there! I've been hanging around the site and trying some stuff and posted some comments, and it all feels really solid. I guess, the hard work has really paid off. Sure enough there are still some rough spots here and there, but I'm convinced everyone is doing their best to fix everything as soon as possible.

What strikes me as the most interesting feature is the fact that users can add a lot of content. While it is kind of similar to wiki in concept, I guess I really like the fact that the Giant Bombers have some sort of quality check in place. It is not clear to me exactly how that will work, but I guess there will be a dude that will take a quick look at what was proposed and he (or she?) approves or disapproves the proposal. Anyway, this model seems to make for a ton of stuff to keep users busy. Add to that a steady stream of quality content by the editorial staff and we have a recipe for success; it's great!

Still, I'm kind of worried about how this site will be able to bring in some sort of revenue. I mean, they must somehow turn a profit, right? I don't know. Perhaps I should just learn to stop worrying and love the Bomb!


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