November 10, 2011
Coming hot off the heels of our completion of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure, my girlfriend and I have begun another GameCube game that features Game Boy Advance connectivity: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Along with Four Swords Adventure, it’s the only other game that I can think of that featured connectivity prominently and was halfway well regarded.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was developed by The Game Designers Studio (a Square Enix subsidiary) and published by Nintendo in the USA on February 9, 2004. Apparently The Game Designers Studio was set up to work around the exclusivity deal Square Enix had with Sony at the time. Square Enix’s history is very interesting, but not worth going into for this article. What is relevant is the knowledge that the release of this game and a few others around the same time represented a reunion between Square Enix and Nintendo.
So anyways… my girlfriend and I created our characters from a modest selection of classes and options and we were off. The world of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is covered in a poisonous miasma but crystals provide shelter from this miasma therefore they’re essential to surviving. Large crystals protect small villages but they lose their power over time, forcing the residents to set out in caravans each year to search for myrrh. Myrrh replenishes the protective powers of the crystals and it can be found from myrrh trees which unfortunately are located in the deepest parts of monster-filled dungeons.
When we’d enter a dungeon, we’d immediately have to set up our command list. Attack and defend were always included, but we could select from our list of items and spells what else to include, and because we were playing on Game Boy Advances, we did this on them. All we had to do to execute a command was press the A button on the GBA. We could switch our commands by pressing the L and R buttons, which were highlighted on the TV screen near our character’s information.
We’d hack and slash our way through dungeons defeating the enemies we’d encounter. Every enemy dropped an item and we found out these were essential. Food restored our health while stones allowed us to perform magic and occasionally we’d come across a stat boosting item. We found healing stones very helpful, such as stone of cure and stone of life.
The dungeons took about twenty minutes to clear, including the bosses. The bosses were many times our character’s sizes and they were very detailed, they were also tough! They had a large amount of health and dealt a lot of damage in single blows which were sometimes hard to avoid; those healing stones came into play during boss battles. During these battles we’d delegate tasks such as healing and attacking but our communication could’ve been better. Regardless, we came out on top every time.
The one aspect of the game I remember receiving the most flak for was the chalice. Because the world is covered in a poisonous miasma, we had to carry around something to protect us at all times and the chalice that collected the myrrh we sought served this purpose. The only downside of this protection was that one of us had to carry it. So every time we ran into an enemy, the person carrying the chalice would drop it, help out fighting, and then pick it back up and we’d be on our way. I could think of other ways to remain protected instead of limiting one player, but that’s what The Game Designers Studio chose to do. This isn’t the case in single player games however as there’s a Moogle companion who carries it for you. My main grievance is it wasn’t fun being the person carrying the chalice, it’s not fun being limited.
Besides the chalice limiting one player, my only other gripe with the game at the moment is the inability of the game to pause when one of us would switch to our GBA screen. Since our GBA contained our menus, changing our command list had to be done through it. This wasn’t a problem with the exception of boss battles, but I guess the workaround is to be totally prepared beforehand.
My girlfriend and I played for two hours and by the end of our session we had finished the first year. The hack and slash combat was easy to grasp although getting a three-hit combo (the max) was kind of tough to manage. Besides serving as a controller, the GBA basically hosts each player’s menus and at times, shows the brilliance of allowing each player to manage their stuff without hindering everyone else. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles still looks really good all these years later and I like the art style; I suppose it’s a reimagining of classic 2D RPGs with modern technology. One of my favorite things about the game so far has been the soundtrack. The composer utilized medieval and Renaissance instruments and it sounds unlike anything I can think of. Truth be told, it made me think of Ireland and The Hobbit. It’s a simple hack and slash game but thanks to the cooperative play and link connectivity, it’s piqued my interest and we’re going to continue playing it.
September 28, 2011
It’s not every day I have a half-off coupon to my favorite video game store. So when I received one I used it wisely and picked up a relatively expensive Super Nintendo RPG. I decided on Soul Blazer, a game I had no previous knowledge of. More specifically, it was an action-RPG developed by Quintet and published by Enix for the SNES in 1992. I thought it had a simple plot and simple gameplay, but it was exciting to return life back to the world of the Freil Empire.
Primarily a tale of greed, Soul Blazer at first has a shallow plot, but it gets interesting. The king of the Freil Empire has captured a famous inventor and forced him to create a machine that allows the king to communicate with a seriously bad dude, Deathtoll. Deathtoll wants souls and the king wants money so they strike a deal, souls for money. Here’s where the player character comes in.
The player character, the soul blazer is sent down from the heavens by The Master to remedy the situation in the Freil Empire. As the soul blazer I was capable of defeating the numerous monsters throughout the dungeons of the empire as well as communicating with the souls I released.
There were seven stages in all and I thought the way they were structured was interesting. Each stage was basically a village with access to a dungeon or two. The first stage was a mining town with a mine serving as the dungeon. The second stage was a settlement in the woods of woodland creatures, and so on; the stages were diverse and they contained all sorts of different creatures.
Like the villages, the dungeons were set in interesting locales; one on a model town and another in a fantastically rendered version of space were my favorites. The dungeons were very straightforward and not very difficult. I followed the path and killed monsters as they spawned from portals. Once the portals were depleted, they changed into a switch that would release a creature back in the village.
There wasn’t any puzzle solving in the dungeons, I just followed the path and killed any monster I came upon. The villages on the other hand did require a bit of thinking. After freeing creatures and restoring the stages to their original glory, I could chat with the creatures and sometimes get some info on a stronger sword, better armor, the location of magic, or a necessary item.
For the most part, Soul Blazer wasn’t very challenging. The monsters were really dumb, basically walking into my sword and the dungeons were quickly completed, about an hour for each. The bosses on the other hand were challenging, but not excessively difficult. The only puzzle solving that was tricky came at the very end when I had to retread a few of the earlier dungeons defeating previously indestructible enemies. But my favorite part of the game would have to be the soundtrack. I thought it was phenomenal and hummed along with practically every track. Soul Blazer was a good game and in the end, well worth using a half-off coupon.
August 23, 2011
Developed by Game Arts and published by Enix, Grandia Xtreme was the third game in the series to be released in the United States. It came out in 2002 for the PlayStation 2 and is notable for being a departure from Grandia and Grandia II. Instead of playing like a traditional Japanese role-playing game where players follow a town-dungeon-town format, Grandia Xtreme focuses on dungeon crawling. The dungeons are plentiful and they are challenging. But Grandia Xtreme has an identity crisis. Game Arts tried to get the best of both genres and came up short.
I assumed the role of Evann, a young Ranger who has distaste for the military, especially for one of its commanding officers, Colonel Kroitz. However, they come seeking his skills. After refusing to assist the army, they kidnap him. Once he wakes up he is briefed by the military and eventually agrees to lend them a hand, begrudgingly.
There have been a number of environmental disorders and the military thinks it might have something to do with ancient ruins located nearby, go figure. So Evann, along with a ragtag group of fellow warriors quell the disorders by removing ancient slabs from the heart of these ruins. After the disorders have been taken care of, Kroitz takes these slabs and opens a fifth ruin and it’s apparent he’s up to no good. While this was immediately clear from the first time he spoke, it took the gang forever to figure out he simply wanted to harness Quanlee, the ultimate power.
Remember how I said Grandia Xtreme differs from Grandia and Grandia II? Well, the biggest difference between these three is their format. Grandia and Grandia II stuck with a familiar town-dungeon-town format, and generally speaking the dungeons in these two games weren’t that tough.
Grandia Xtreme instead has a primary town (Locca) that the group works from, although there was a second town to be fair (Escarre). Instead of adventuring around and exploring new areas, I simply warped to the dungeon I needed to go to; and these were tough! In general they were much larger and held tougher enemies than the previous games. Same goes for the boss battles; these guys were tough, requiring level grinding at the end.
The best thing about the Grandia games has always been the combat, and Grandia Xtreme excels here. The battle system is pretty much directly lifted from Grandia II. Throw in the ability to fight more enemies at once and speed it up a little, and it’s the best of the three. Magic and skills function the same way, although mana eggs have slightly changed. This time around, eggs can be combined to form new eggs, and there are a lot of combinations to figure out.
Okay, so besides the format, there are other qualities of Grandia Xtreme that made me say it has an identity crisis. First off, six of the seven companions that join Evann, join him at the same time; and there is really little exposition for them. Throughout the game, I learned a little more about them individually, but they were really flat characters. In comparison, Grandia and Grandia II featured many characters that grew throughout their adventures. The second major aspect that draws my criticism is the item format. I would’ve preferred randomly dropped loot from enemies instead of acquiring gear as I would in a traditional RPG: buying better gear when it’s available from the store.
I don’t usually do this but there were a lot of minor gripes I had with Grandia Xtreme that I’m going to have a complaint dump. There’s not a lot of voice acting in the game, and what’s present is either overacted or just spoken awkwardly. There wasn’t much depth the characters or overarching storyline. Not including an item that could warp me back to town stunk, as did the infrequent save opportunities. The camera moved slowly in dungeons and I would’ve preferred having the camera controls mapped to the right analog stick rather than L1 and R1. Characters crossed paths too often in battle, canceling their turns. On the bright side, load times were practically nonexistent; much better.
I really want to say I enjoyed Grandia Xtreme. Leveling up characters and equipping them with new gear, just to watch their stats incrementally improve is somehow exciting to me and Grandia Xtreme was very pleasing. The dungeons were challenging and fulfilling, and the battle system is top notch. But, I’m glad to be done with the game, and can’t recommend it over Grandia or Grandia II.
July 1, 2011
Project Overlord is basically the second major piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect 2. The first being Kasumi – Stolen Memory, which I played earlier in the year, but forgot to post until yesterday.
In Project Overlord, Shepard and his squad are (like always) getting to the bottom of what happened on some random planet. The namesake of the DLC was a project attempting to control the robot geth. The researchers on the planet of Aite tried to do so by integrating a human with a virtual intelligence. They were successful, but now (like always) the VI has gone haywire.
Project Overlord was interesting because it attempted at setting a moody atmosphere for the on-foot portions. I thought BioWare was fairly successful in this regard. The VI appears constantly throughout the corridors I traversed, often times appearing to lead me in specific directions. The VI’s face would appear on windows screaming unintelligible things at me. And as I got closer to the VI, I unraveled more of how the project actually happened.
Project Overlord was a great addition to Mass Effect 2. It brought in some spooky atmosphere that no other mission set can lay claim to in the game. The latter part of the DLC had me venture through a visually pleasing on-foot portion, again, unlike any other mission in the game. Project Overlord brought many of the gameplay systems of Mass Effect 2 into an interesting couple of hours, and at seven bucks, it’s not that bad of a deal.
June 30, 2011
Kasumi Goto is an interesting character. She’s a thief, not the most famous, but the best, as she says it, and like the rest of Shepard’s squad in Mass Effect 2, she is interesting and a little different from everyone else. As Kasumi’s Stolen Memory unfolds I learned about her past and why we needed each other’s help; Shepard could obviously use all the help he can get and she needed use of his talents.
Kasumi’s Stolen Memory is basically her loyalty mission. It’s a fun mission and for the most part different from what I’d experienced in Mass Effect 2. Gunplay didn’t play a large part until the latter half, at which point it became a rather tedious shootout. The beginning had me undercover at a party and looking for clues to help her break into the vault of a dubious man, who had something very dear to her. Of course, they get discovered and it’s a series of shootouts to freedom. The ending was a little difficult, but it was a welcome change, up until then, it was monotonous filling guards with lead, or whatever Mass Effect guns use for ammo, until they keeled over.
Besides Kasumi, there is a small amount of loot and a new submachine gun. Kasumi was talkative back on the Normandy, but as was the case with Zaeed, she lacks a conversation wheel so she just spouts info when prompted. She has a unique ability that is both effective and fun to use, but I can’t see her being more useful than anyone of the current squad.
Kasumi’s Stolen Memory was a short play through, but an interesting one, and I not only got a new character from it, but a decent amount of loot. I think seven dollars was a little too much to charge, but I still enjoyed what I played.
April 6, 2011
I’ve completed another Final Fantasy, this time a more modern one, Final Fantasy XII. While I am knowledgeable about the series, I haven’t played a ton of them, but this is easily my favorite. I spent a month and a half playing through Final Fantasy XII in bits and pieces when I had the time and I’ve thought a lot about the game in the weeks since I beat it, what I’ve written are the my biggest takeaways from the game. I’ll talk about the world at large in Final Fantasy XII, Ivalice, the characters that form the party, the story very briefly, and the battle system. In general I feel Final Fantasy XII is a staple in the collection of anyone who enjoys role-playing games, and worth a look even for those don’t.
Final Fantasy XII takes place in Ivalice, a familiar environment for the series, home to the Final Fantasy Tactics games, as well as Vagrant Story. Ivalice spans many geographical regions, including many deserts, but it’s also home to snow covered mountains, tropical beaches, thick rainforests and more. Passing through these regions, I enjoyed not only the battles that took place in them, but marveling at the amount of work that went into making each location as detailed as they turned out.
Smack dab in the center of Ivalice is Dalmasca, home to Rabanastre, the city where much of the game takes place. Rabanastre is large, the largest city I’ve ever seen in a role-playing game, or any video game for that matter. Walking through its many areas, I viewed the beautiful architecture that it was composed of, reminiscent of a Europe of ages past. But Rabanastre isn’t the only large city in the game, there are others, but there is diversity in Final Fantasy XII; more common are the small gatherings of people, forming makeshift hubs, or villages in the heart of the wilderness, composed of foreign races.
After reading that the developers had visited Turkey and took an interest in European, Middle Eastern, and Asian cultures for the game, it’s easy to see that the influence has found a place in the game, specifically, much of Ivalice is set in a warmer climate, with Rabanastre being surrounded by deserts on all sides.
The vocabulary the characters often spoke with prompted me to look at some words’ meaning more than once and I’m not digging the game for it; I enjoyed hearing seemingly archaic words, broadening my own vocabulary; it’s something that helped reel me into the setting. Even though the game has an antique vibe, technology is everywhere. One of the first cut scenes in the game shows a battle raging with foot soldiers on the ground dressed in armor and swinging swords at each other; one side attempting to defend a castle-like structure with the other side attempting to capture it, meanwhile an aerial dogfight is going on between futuristic flying crafts, zipping about. This blend of swords and soldiers and futuristic sci-fi was an interesting juxtaposition of aesthetics.
Ivalice is a world built on the foundations of magicite; a magical crystal substance that holds power, power that inevitably will end up in the wrong hands. Long ago the Dynast-King Raithwall united all of Ivalice under his rule, with the help of magicite, bestowed to him by the mysterious Occuria, undying, god-like beings. The time of the Dynast-King Raithwall was thousands of years ago and current day Ivalice is on the brink of war.
The battle I mentioned earlier was between the Dalmascans, protecting Nabradia, the border between them and their attackers from the east, the Archadians. Archadia is a large kingdom, perhaps the most powerful at this time in Ivalice and they want Dalmasca. Why? Perhaps they want Dalmasca to allow them easy passage to a third kingdom, Rozarria in the far west. During the final moments of this battle, the king of Dalmasca has agreed to sign a treaty with Archadia, but he is assassinated directly after.
A couple of years after this, we are introduced to Vaan and Penelo, two orphans living in Rabanastre who both lost their parents in the war, as well as Vaan’s brother, who fought at Nabradia. Vaan has much disdain for the empire, after all the war took his whole family. Vaan doesn’t have much direction in life, he spends his days running errands for a shopkeeper along with other orphans of the war, but much of his time is spent stealing from others. His only real goal is to become a sky pirate and be able to live freely, going wherever he wants. Penelo seems to be the angel on Vaan’s shoulders, leading him out of trouble and attempting to prevent him from getting into any more. While Vaan has his goal of becoming a sky pirate, all it seems Penelo wants is to remain at Vaan’s side, and not lose anyone else.
Rabanastre is soon paid a visit by a member of the Archadian royal family, and the newest overseer of Rabanastre, Vayne Solidor, the son of the Archadian king. He is a charismatic person; as he begins speaking to the crowd of Rabanastrans, it’s apparent they don’t want what he’s selling, but Vayne is able to whip the crowd into frenzy and get behind his rule, at least somewhat, with a charming presence and an intelligent tone; he seems peculiar though. Vayne is tall, with long black hair, and a smile that seems… off, he just looks like an antagonist. After Vayne’s speech, Vaan decides to break into the royal tomb and steal something back from the empire and it’s during this escapade that he meets Balthier and Fran.
Balthier has a cool personality about him, he always appears to be in control of the situation; basically he’s the dashing pirate. His partner Fran is a viera, a woman with rabbit like features, including long ears and hair that practically flows to the ground. Like Balthier she also has a cool personality, never coming off as nervous. She definitely shows her smarts throughout the game, offering practical advice and necessary knowledge of magicite. As the game progresses Balthier comes to view himself as the leading man, and why not, being a sky pirate he has the airship that eventually transports the party, he shows an altruistic side later on and all in all, he’s just a fun character. And from the events that unfold, his past is brought to light and wow!
As they make their way out of the royal tomb, they soon stumble into a rebel group, headed by an unassuming beauty, who is later found out to be the princess of Dalmasca, Ashe. She is a strong-willed fighter who wants nothing more but to restore Dalmasca to the kingdom it was before Archadia took over. As the story progresses she has to find the strength within herself to do what she must; even though she is strong-willed, she has doubts about what she has to do, and whether she can pull off what must be done. At times she seems distant from the rest of the party members, almost focusing solely on what lies ahead for her, but with what lies ahead for her, who wouldn’t be focusing on that, after all, Ivalice’s future is practically on her shoulders.
Last, but not least, there is Basch, a former leader in the Dalmascan army, but now an outcast, as he has been charged with assassinating the king. The party finds him in prison, and while they know what he has done, they know they need him. But Basch does not have the demeanor or the attitude of a royal assassin; it becomes instantly apparent that this cannot be the man who murdered a king. He is a soldier through and through, showing respect for the rest of the party, and pledging allegiance to Ashe in particular.
There was a lot going on in the narrative of Final Fantasy XII, at times I felt overwhelmed, but I managed to sift through the dense amount of information and enjoyed the payoff. In the last ten or so hours of the game, all these story threads were coming to a close, and I didn’t want to stop playing; I was the most hooked to the game at the very end. I clocked in under 80 hours when I finally beat the game, and I still had plenty to do. I aim to replay Final Fantasy XII at some point, and I left plenty of side quests for that play through but I did an ample amount regardless. Final Fantasy XII is simply a massive game, with a massive amount of content.
I guess the only thing I haven’t talked about is the actual gameplay and the systems Final Fantasy XII employs. With each Final Fantasy, Square Enix implements a new battle system, or tweaks aspects of a previous one and Final Fantasy XII is no different.
Many role-playing games have plenty of areas to explore, and they’re usually broken up into towns, a world map that the party traverses, and dungeons. Typical of many RPGs, especially those from Japan are random battles. For instance, as I’m moving my party around the world map or a dungeon I see no enemies, but I’m randomly attacked and whisked off into a battle scene in which I choose the actions I want to take, and once I’ve won, I’m back to the world map or dungeon. Instead of random battles, when I wouldn’t know when I’d be attacked, Final Fantasy XII shows enemies while I’m traversing dangerous areas. This isn’t the biggest change however.
Just as random battles are common in role-playing games from Japan, so are turn-based battles, battles where everyone is allotted a turn, including the enemies. In games like this I would pick an action, my character would do that, and then the enemy would do the same. Instead of being whisked off to a battle scene in Final Fantasy XII, the party members begin attacking enemies whenever they’re in range, never being taken into a separate scene. Direct control was never taken away from me, I could move about and select the actions I wanted and when the battle was done, the party relinquished their weaponry and I continued exploring the area. This “Active Dimension Battle” system as Square Enix calls it requires real-time selection of actions, and as such, I didn’t wait for the enemy to have his turn and then take mine. I’d select an action for a party member to take, and then a bar would fill up and they would do that action, there are still elements of taking turns, but never losing direct control of my team went a long way in making me not feel limited.
Rather than entering in actions for each party member, I could assign “gambits” to them. Gambits tell the AI to “do this, if that.” There are hundreds of separate gambits and when paired up, they’ll tell an AI-controlled party member to do something. For instance, I could have Vaan use a potion on a party member when their health falls below a certain percentage, or attack only flying enemies. Each character can have twelve gambits assigned to them maximum, and they’ll follow them according to their priority. I felt as though I could pair gambits up for any occasion, even though I used fairly simple combinations, I knew I could get very creative with them. For the first twenty or so hours I assigned gambits to the two AI-controlled members of my party and chose every action for my main character, but I eventually had everyone using gambits. Instead of being a player on the field, I was more of a referee, changing actions when I thought something would work better or just healing somebody because I hadn’t told an AI member to watch out for a certain adverse affect.
With Final Fantasy XII, Square Enix developed Ivalice into one of the biggest and most detailed game worlds I’ve played through; introduced me to well-developed characters who did not seem like the played out caricatures I’m used to in role-playing games; showcased an interesting story, one that harkened back to the roots of Final Fantasy, with crystal-powered life, all the while, weaving an interesting mature tale of corruption and complex relationships. Lastly, I experienced gameplay systems that brought new elements to a genre I spend so much time with. For these things, and many smaller elements, Final Fantasy XII will be a game I gauge all others by.
March 8, 2011
I jumped into Mass Effect 2 right after completing Mass Effect and its DLC packs. I was late to the party on Mass Effect, but I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless. Mass Effect 2 provides many changes to the formula set up in Mass Effect and many of these changes were to aspects that I enjoyed in Mass Effect. Mass Effect 2 has forsaken much of the role-playing aspects from Mass Effect, for example loot. I enjoy the constant quest for better gear in games, so the removal of this, and other concepts turned me off initially, but in the end, provided for a more efficient adventure. Overall, BioWare has shifted some focus away from the RPG aspects of Mass Effect and made Mass Effect 2 a much better action game and a better game in general.
When I traveled between planets in Mass Effect, I either knew exactly where I wanted to go or I was just exploring. If I was completing a mission I’d make sure I knew the star cluster, the star system and finally which planet, sometimes I’d even keep a pen and paper handy to keep track of everywhere I needed to go. Mass Effect 2 has simplified this process; whenever you enter the galaxy map, icons related to your missions point out where you go until you’re finally at your destination and the actual travel in the galaxy map is handled slightly differently as well, which I prefer over Mass Effect’s.
When completing missions in Mass Effect, I’d land on the planet I needed to be on and first off, check the map, locating the closest object and going for it, whether it is a mineral, some loot, or where I needed to be for the mission. When I’d get planet side in Mass Effect I’d feel compelled to explore it, before tackling the mission. In Mass Effect 2, they’ve taken this sort of exploration out; instead when you land on a planet, you go straight into the mission or colony if it’s a location akin to the Citadel. This creates a more straight forward approach to the missions, and the game in general; it felt significantly more closed off. Personally I enjoyed exploring planets and scavenging for loot in Mass Effect, but I also appreciate the structure that Mass Effect 2 presents, I was able to get exactly where I needed to be without hassle.
Tied into the scaling back of exploration is the removal of loot. Instead of stumbling upon hundreds of weapons and various equipment that are unique primarily because of their stats, Mass Effect 2 has simplified all this by allowing access only to a handful of different weapons. New to Mass Effect 2 is the upgrade system. On the Normandy is a research station where you spend minerals to produce upgrades, either found while on missions or bought from stores. In Mass Effect, minerals were found by mining them planet side, now that landing on planets is removed, minerals are received from scanning planets in the galaxy map, which turned out to be a fun, fairly mindless, way to spend some time.
Mass Effect 2 is much more competent as an action game than Mass Effect was. First off, Mass Effect 2 does a better job of integrating biotic and tech abilities into the combat. In Mass Effect, I don’t remember using my allies’ abilities as much as I do in Mass Effect 2. Whenever I’m in a firefight, I use my squad’s abilities as often as possible. Of interest is the ability to combine effects to create more powerful reactions, in some ways shaping who I decided to take along with me on missions. Instead of having infinite ammo and overheating, weapons must now be reloaded; which didn’t really change the way I played; I never had a problem running out of ammo as enemies dropped it quite frequently and I had plenty of weapons or abilities if needed. As was the case in Mass Effect, the squad Shepard leads in Mass Effect 2 is diverse, both personality-wise and ability-wise, only more so this time around. Every character seems more developed, and more differentiated then the cast of Mass Effect.
While I don’t want to spoil much as it has a phenomenal story, I will say that Mass Effect 2 opens with a bang, surprising myself and everyone else as I recall when it originally came out. The opening paves the way for the story in Mass Effect 2 to come from a different angle then in Mass Effect. The overall objective of the game seems like a suicide mission, but the way I handled it, everything turned out satisfactorily. In Mass Effect, there was an enemy to target and something to qualify as an end, taking out the rogue Spectre, Saren Arterius. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t have that sort of singular enemy threat, leading to a feeling of lack of accomplishment upon reflection. I definitely completed what I set out to do at the onset of Mass Effect 2, but it feels like an insurmountable task, still, to defeat the Reaper threat in Mass Effect 3, which makes me want Mass Effect 3 even more to see how this series is resolved. Regardless Mass Effect 2 was an exceptional adventure and I discuss it often with others who have played through it, it’s a fun game to talk about.
Mass Effect 2 got of rid many of the things I enjoyed about Mass Effect, but I still came away liking Mass Effect 2 more. The game is still an RPG, and it’s still a third-person shooter, BioWare has emphasized the action more in Mass Effect 2 and as a result, it’s a much better action game. While I loved the exploration and the RPG aspects of Mass Effect, I think the simplification of these mechanics made Mass Effect 2 an improved game over its predecessor. I could write another thousand words about Mass Effect 2 but at this point it’s clear: Mass Effect was terrific, and one of my favorite video games, Mass Effect 2 is even better, and I can’t wait to play Mass Effect 3.
February 10, 2011
Pinnacle Station was the second and last piece of downloadable content released for Mass Effect. The other piece of DLC, Bring Down the Sky, plays out like any other mission that Shepard gets. What I mean is that you travel to a location, figure out what’s really going on and decide how to handle the situation. Pinnacle Station on the other hand has no decisions to be made and is primarily action for the entire mission.
Pinnacle Station itself is a spacecraft that houses a robust training simulator. In it, you play through twelve scenarios, divvied up between four types: timed, where you kill every enemy as quickly possible, hunt, where every kill adds time to the clock, capture, where you capture points on a map as quickly as possible, and survival, where you must survive as long as possible. Each scenario has a leaderboard and you need to place first on each. I played through them all about the same; I ran as much as I could and never stopped using the assault rifle, and only one scenario gave me problems playing this way.
Completing everything associated with Pinnacle Station took me a little under two hours. While Pinnacle Station took me longer to complete than Bring Down the Sky, its focus was more narrow, and grew tiring. I think including your friend’s scores to the leaderboards would’ve added something of value to the package, unlike the in-game rewards you receive. There are three achievements totaling 150 Gamerscore so that’s nice, but if you don’t care about achievements and are more interested in the conversation and storytelling aspect of Mass Effect, save yourself five dollars and skip Pinnacle Station.
January 31, 2011
Bring Down the Sky was the first piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect. It opens up a new mission tasking Commander Shepard to prevent a group of Batarian terrorists from crashing an asteroid into a planet. It is a mineral rich asteroid and due to this, a human mining colony has been set up. While taking care of the main task at hand, preventing the terrorists from crashing the asteroid into the planet, I received a few small assignments as well.
For costing a dollar, I’m pleased with the amount of content I got from Bring Down the Sky. It took me a little over an hour to complete all of the assignments related to it and it contained many of the elements that make Mass Effect, Mass Effect. Bring Down the Sky is mostly action-orientated with a few enemy camps; exploration is required for the small assignments, and it all ends with a major decision. I definitely recommend Bring Down the Sky for anyone looking for more out of Mass Effect.