I hope you are paying attention.
You do, if only for tracks like this:
(One of the few pieces of music from a game that has actually moved me to tears and still triggers an emotional response when I hear it.)
Another great set of work by Sam Hulick. I’ve enjoyed his work on the Mass Effect series and though I hope he gets the chance to do more there, am looking forward to what he does next.
Neat-o mini-film on YouTube chaining a lot of ways to get one-shotted in video games right now:
Ben Kuchera interviewing the “doctors” at Bioware for the PA Report:
“I just finished an end to end playthrough, for me the ending was the most satisfying of any game I’ve ever played… the decisions you make in this game are epic,” Dr. Muzyka promised. “The team has been planning for this for years, since the beginning of the Mass Effect franchise. Largely the same team, most of the same leads have worked on this for years and years. They’ve thought about [the ending] for years and years. It’s not something they’ve had to solve in a week or a month even, but over the course of five or ten years.”
The time investment in playing the game series hasn’t been as long for me as some as I did not run through the first game until around the launch of the second (after a couple of false starts), but I understand this feeling from the other side. I have been waiting a long time for this story to conclude and I’m happy to read that many of the people making it have been on the same team for even longer.
I asked about the popular fan rumor of a Mass Effect MMO. “Now that we’ve learned MMOs are really easy to make, and simple to run after the fact, we’re on it!”
“When you deliver a game, and you deliver it for a player, you have to capture what they think is the possibility space. You need to let them do everything they think they should do, and you can’t block them from doing anything they think they should be able to do. You have to nail all the features and content that should be in that possibility space.“ He paused for a moment.
“Mass Effect is a big possibility space.”
As interesting as a Mass Effect-based MMO might be, I’m not so sure I want to see it happen. It’s a fascinating universe that I would very much like to continue playing in, but a huge part of the appeal of the series has been the huge amount of player agency afforded by the narrative. Granted, it’s still within the rails of a branching story, but actions that you take as Shepard create pretty big swings in the events that play out, moreso as you get closer to the conclusion.
Part of the structure of an MMO is necessarily that player actions can’t create large changes in the universe (unless you do some sharding of the experiences maybe). Without that kind of agency I’m not sure such a game would really be a Mass Effect.
That’s right; I backlogged a game! In between Gears 3 and MW3 and everything.
This is going to be brief, as there’s not a lot to be said that hasn’t been already. The tl;dr version is that if you find a cheap copy of this and you like Mass Effect 2-style RPG action titles but aren’t picky about a riveting story, you should give this some time.
Things I liked:
- Neat ideas like putting conversation options on a timer to force you to choose
- Consistent attitude-based conversation options were easy to understand
- Conversation and mission choices actually had a noticeable effect on the game later
- Espionage is a great idea for an RPG setting
- First story twist was delivered early enough that I didn’t see it coming
Things I didn’t so much like:
- Bad script, disjointed story, good voice talent, but bad voice direction = meh overall story impact
- Every character is a striking archetype; there are few surprises
- The main character is barely likable
- Final story twists come all at once and make the endgame a total disaster
- Suffers from typical Obsidian half-doneness
Things I hated:
- Game design lets you make decisions that you might not want without any kind of warning because of bad level design
- I don’t think I ever saw a character smile, except maybe that one time
- Combat is uninspiring (even broken a lot of the time) and pistol proficiency is an “I win” button for boss fights
- It’s an RPG with boss fights
Alpha Protocol is an espionage-based RPG, which was enough to get my attention when it was in development (I think this is a logical RPG setting). However, it hit some pretty rough reviews when it was released, so I tabled the idea and certainly wasn’t going to drop $60 on it. I had the opportunity to snag a copy for about $12, and I’m pretty happy I did.
The game does a very few things right but mostly throws out a few promising ideas that don’t seem to have been given enough time to bake. At first I found the game to be really exciting and novel, but as it wore on I realized that it was falling back on old ideas and in the end wasn’t particularly engaging. The characters were memorable enough and the stable of voice actors was pretty great—it’s too bad that the words they said weren’t as memorable, nor was the voice direction solid. A lot of the story came across as flat.
The largest sin that it committed in my eyes was that it tried to take the story threads and characters from the first three missions and then weave them together in the final mission as some kind of cohesive story. It didn’t work and just served to cheapen the impact of the choices that were made earlier. It felt like the writers ran out of ideas and had to stretch beyond their abilities.
That said, I did manage to enjoy it pretty well in spots and put in a couple of pretty long play sessions with it, so something was going right. At less than $20, it’s a decent buy if you like action RPGs. Just don’t expect anything revolutionary. I think it would have been a decent franchise to revisit in a sequel with some additional polish, but as it didn’t sell very well that’s not likely to happen.
It gets a “hm, this was interesting yet flawed” from me. Honorable mention goes to Nolan North’s turn as Steven Heck, which was one of the better parts of the game.
Go Make Me a Sandwich:
Even now that the afterglow of having finished my first ME2 playthrough has faded (at least as much as it’s ever going to), the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC remains one of my favorite parts of the game. Liara is an awesome, competent, not-sexualized female character who has her own agenda – which is exactly what I have been asking for by writing this blog. I can’t emphasize how important the not-sexualized aspect of that is, either.
So what happened? Were your male fans upset that Liara wasn’t sexy enough? Because I just don’t understand this blatant pandering. Even after you said that FemShep would only be on the collector’s edition cover of ME3, I was still encouraged and elated that you were making such a step at all. You’ve been talking with your fans this time around – letting us choose the FemShep we wanted on the cover, promising a FemShep trailer… It made me think that you were maybe, finally turning over a new leaf.
Agreed 100%. After Bioware somehow managed to transform the “oh, I’m so naïve and lacking confidence and need a big strong Shepard Skywalker to rescue me” Liara from ME1 into a strong, moderately complex and mysterious badass, making this figure is a mistake.