Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Tag: Mass Effect

First Impressions

Yesterday, I joined a number of gamers taking advantage of Origin Access to play 10 hours of Mass Effect Andromeda – PC before the game’s official release. No, I didn’t play all 10 hours. For one, I couldn’t download the preview until 1630 hrs. Then I had to take care of a couple of things, be somewhat social with family and, as I said, I had a migraine. So, I played approximately two hours and that is enough to confirm that I am looking forward to playing some more.

I am playing the game on PC. Specifically on a ROG laptop. My video card won’t let me run the game at max specs but, damn, I don’t need to. The game is beautiful and I saw no stuttered or any other video issues.

To save a few minutes, I accepted the default build for Sarah Ryder. When I start a new game and am not on a countdown clock, I will play with the character creation possibilities. I did choose Sarah for two reasons. One, I played mainly as FemShep in the original ME trilogy. For another, the clips I’ve seen of the game leave me thinking Scott Ryder is pretty much a whiner. There is something about his voice I don’t like. So, for this limited play, I went with the character I felt would annoy me the less.

I’ll admit, the opening sequence is longer than I expected. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But when you are watching the clock counting down, every minute of actual game play counts. Once you get through the opening sequence, you learn a little about your character and the mission. I’m going to try to go through the rest without any spoilers. So, no real discussion of plot until the game is out and I’ve managed to play more of it.

The controls are familiar. There are two main changes from the previous games. The first is your scanner. It allows you to scan tech, flora and fauna and the information you gain as a result can have an impact on the game later on. The second change is you have a jetpack. That’s pretty cool and it gives combat a whole new dimension.

There are some easter eggs you come on pretty early into the game as well. When you get to the Nexus, you can find a model of the Normandy SR2. There are also recordings from Liara. No, she isn’t a character in this game — at least not so far and not from what I understand based on interviews I’ve read with Bioware designers and execs.

There are other changes as well and I am reserving judgment on them until I’ve played some more. You aren’t tied to a class like you were in the other games. In other words, you aren’t a Sentinel or Soldier or Engineer, etc. You also can use any weapon, or so I understand. That means the decisions you can add powers/abilities to meet the sort of combat you want. The Paragon/Renegade system is also gone. That means you choose your conversation options more on how you think your character would react to the situation instead of almost automatically choosing the answer that best fits the “nature” you chose for your character.

What is going to be interesting as I progress through the game is seeing how the game developers address the events in the original trilogy. After all, more than 600 years have passed since the end of the trilogy. There is no canon ending, or so I understand. (And I still have issues with the ending of ME3). Still, there are issues that could be mentioned/addressed no matter what your particular ending was.

All in all, I am enjoying the game and am considering doing what I rarely do — pre-ordering the game. More than that, I am considering buying the deluxe edition of it. Not because I care about the multiplayer packs or extra outfits but because I like the score for the game so far and would wind up paying the price difference to buy the soundtrack. No decision yet but that’s the way I’m leaning.

Fair warning, if you are a multiplayer fan, ME:A does have multiplayer and it is getting pretty good reviews so far. However, there are micro-transactions included in it. That’s something I don’t like.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the game so far and will keep playing until my 10 hours are done. The release date is March 20th in the US.

In the meantime, if you need something to read,  Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is now available for download. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered it. Thanks to those of you who are buying it now. I have one more favor to ask. Please leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long. Reviews are one way you can do “word of mouth” to help spread the news about the book.

 

Oooh, shiny

This time every year, gamers turn their attention to E3 to see if there will be new console or handheld gaming system announced and to see what new games are going to be teased. This year is no exception. Even though E3 hasn’t officially started, there have already been some exciting news coming out of the different venues.

Let’s start with EA’s press conference yesterday. I know, I know. EA is an abomination with Origin, etc. It also has some of my most anticipated games. So I guess it is a case of better the devil you know. . . .

Battlefield 1 has been much hyped and anticipated. It is a first-person shooter set during World War I. Due to be released this Fall, EA has been hyping this game for some time now. Looking at the gameplay trailer shown yesterday, it is easy to see why.

Titanfall 2 is another one I’m looking forward to. One of the biggest complaints about the original Titanfall was the lack of a single-player campaign. Titanfall 2 will correct that oversight and if the campaign lives up to the gameplay trailer EA released yesterday, it is going to be a lot of fun.

Finally, the game I am both looking forward to and dreading is Mass Effect Andromeda. I’m looking forward to it because I loved the Mass Effect trilogy, even with the botched ending of Mass Effect 3. I’m dreading it because I’ve been disappointed too many times by games, movies and books that don’t live up to the previous work in a series. I’m not actually worried by the fact EA/Bioware has delayed the release to the first quarter of next year (the last I looked). I would rather them do that than to push out a game that is too buggy to play or, worse, is nothing but a poor shadow of the previous games.

I will admit, I had hoped for some gameplay footage but that will have to wait. Instead, EA released this clip.

But EA wasn’t the only developer to release some exciting news. Bethesda, developer of one of my other favorite games, Dishonored, had some news of its own to release yesterday. First up was word that they would be releasing Quake Champions.

Next up is for those of us who have been drooling over the new Doom but who have yet to drop the $60 or so to buy it. Bethesda and Id are going back to the roots of Doom and offering shareware — oops, a demo — of Doom. For a limited time, you can download and play for free the first level on the campaign. Even better news, you can do it on your PS4, XBox One or your PC.

And then there was word on what is probably my most anticipated game so far: Dishonored 2. Coming out in November, if I remember correctly, it picks up with the characters from Dishonored some 15 years or so after the end of the first game. As with Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, you can play as either Korvo, the playable character from Dishonored, or as Emily. Both have their own set of abilities and the video shown yesterday is enough to have me planning on getting the game just as soon as I can.

Ubisoft has its press conference later today. It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

Gaming, inspiration and an update

I know. I know. The title of the post seems to be a little bit all over the place but there is a connection. In this instance, it is what I’ve been doing to get into the mood to tackle the final draft of Victory from Ashes.

I don’t know about other writers, but after I finish a project, I’m wrung. Mentally and physically, I feel like I’ve been on a marathon to end all marathons and I need time to recharge and make the mental shift for the next project. That has been doubly hard this time because I am not writing the book I thought I would be. After finishing Honor from Ashes, I planned to finish writing Dagger of Elanna, second in the Sword of the Gods series. Then came the debacle with the wrong file being attached to the title on Amazon and the week plus it took for Amazon to correct the situation. I won’t go back into that whole fiasco other to say that I knew I needed to do something to thank those who pre-ordered the book and stuck through the problems until the correct file could be downloaded.

I finally decided I would write at least one short story in the Honor and Duty universe and release it here for free for a limited time before taking it to Amazon. So the question became what story should I write and what character(s) should I focus on? That question has been answered and not one but three short stories have been drafted.

TAKING FLIGHTThe first, Taking Flight, should be ready to go up on this blog by the end of next week. It’s been drafted and the cover has been created. I will leave it up on the blog for a week before removing it and putting it up for sale on Amazon.

Taking Flight tells the tale of Ashlyn Shaw’s first assignment after receiving her commission. It isn’t all easy going nor is it exactly what she expected. While there will be explosions and gunfire — what space opera or mil-sf doesn’t have them? — there will also be some insight into her family background that hasn’t made it into the books. This is also a much younger Ashlyn, one who hasn’t learned some of the very hard lessons the older version has been forced to learn.

The next two stories, Battle Bound and Battle Wounds, will follow in one to two week intervals. As with Taking Flight, they will be offered for free here for a week or so before I take them down before putting them up on Amazon. Battle Bound takes place approximately 4 – 5 years before the series opens and involves Ash’s first command as a Devil Dog. Battle Wounds will give a look at the events that led up to Ash’s court martial.

So what does this have to do with gaming and inspiration? That is simple, at least this time. To get my mind away from fantasy-mode, necessary for Dagger of Elanna but not for the short stories or Victory from Ashes, I did what I normally do. I read. I reread Heinlein and Weber, Nuttal and more. But it was to no avail. My brain simply wasn’t making the transition back to the SF side. Music and movies didn’t do it either. That left one thing — gaming.

So I loaded up Mass Effect Trilogy — again. Despite the botched ending of ME3, this is still one of my favorite game series. It is highly replayable because of the different choices you can make during the games and the different classes you can play as. Because I haven’t played the games in some time, the game isn’t automatic. I have to think about what is coming next and plan my strategies and, in doing so, the switch in my head was turned on and the SF writing side came back to life.

Sometimes it takes doing something different from writing to get that switch to turn on. No, I’m not writing ME fan fiction for the next book or the short stories. There are no Krogan or Assari or any of the other characters anywhere in my work. It was the mindset, something about figuring out where to position my character and the NPCs in a firefight, as well as whether to let someone live or die, that seemed to do it.

So now the writing is coming fast and furious. The very rough draft of Victory from Ashes will soon become a workable draft that can be sent off to the alpha reader. The one good thing this inability for a couple of weeks to work in the SF world did was it gave me the chance to finish the very rough draft of Dagger of Elanna. That means I should only need two months or so to get it ready for publication after Victory comes out. If all goes as plans, that means I will be back on my publishing schedule by October.

Fingers crossed.

But to do so, I need to get off the internet and get to work. Until tomorrow!

I can hardly wait

For years, Bioware has been one of my favorite game developers when it comes to RPGs. There are a number of reasons why but it all really comes down to one main thing — the story. The first Bioware game I remember playing is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. That was quickly followed by Jade Empire. Later came the Mass Effect trilogy and the three Dragon Age games. I have played these games across platforms and, for a few, have them for both console and PC.

I’m not one of those who demands that the main playable character be female just because I am. Nor do I worry about what their race or sexual orientation might be. What I worry about are gameplay mechanics and story. Both are integral for my enjoyment of a game but, in an RPG, story takes on even more importance than it does in any other sort of video game.

It’s been a year or more since I’ve put any real game time into playing the Mass Effect games. Instead, I’d been immersed in games like the three Borderlands games, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Tomb Raider and more. I’d revisited games like the Ratchet and Clank games on PS3 (and PS2). Let’s not forget Jax and Daxter as well. All are fun and all for different reasons.

E3 2015 has been going on this week. For those not familiar with it, E3 is sort of like Disneyland for gamers. It is when the major studios and developers announce their upcoming games. Sometimes we get to see in-game play. Other times, we get in-game cinematics. Among the most dramatic announcements this year was the upcoming Fallout 4 and the upcoming release of Final Fantasy VII for Xbox One. For me, one of the highlights was seeing the video from Mass Effect: Andromeda, the long awaited next game in the Mass Effect galaxy.

Bioware hasn’t said much about ME: Andromeda yet. It has said this:

[T]his game is very much a new adventure, taking place far away from and long after the events of the original trilogy. You will play a human, male or female, though that’s actually not the character you saw in the trailer (more on that later). You’ll be exploring an all-new galaxy, Andromeda, and piloting the new and improved Mako you saw. And through it all, you will have a new team of adventurers to work with, learn from, fight alongside of, and fall in love with.

That last sentence is the essence of much of the philosophy surrounding Bioware games. They want a game the gamer can become fully immersed in. There is more to the game than running escort missions or hunter-gather missions. You can develop relationships with the non-playable characters. You can romance them, if you want. If Bioware follows past history, and I know of no reason why it won’t, those romances can be hetero or gay. It doesn’t matter. You choose the path you take, and that includes celibacy.

For now, ME: Andromeda is scheduled to drop during the holiday season of 2016. That is a long time away. Next year’s E3 will give us more, hopefully some gameplay footage as well as an actual release date. Until then, I will play the original Mass Effect trilogy again, maybe more than once since it has been awhile since I last played it. For now, here is the trailer for the upcoming game.

 

 

Revisiting an Old Friend

I love video games. I’ve never made a secret of that. They are what I do in the evening when watching TV with my mother. (Frankly, it is the only way to keep my sanity when she wants to watch her reality TV.) I sit on the sofa with my laptop and am able to do something I enjoy while keeping her company. That’s very important now that she is getting older. Anyway, I digress.

Because of various reasons, I wound up doing a clean install of my gaming laptop a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I backed up my saved game files. But, as I reinstalled some of my favorite games, it gave me the chance to consider whether I wanted to throw those save files onto the HD or start anew. With a couple of games, like Dragon Age: Inquisition where I am still working for 100% completion, and Borderlands 2, I opted not to do so. I still have the files backed up but, if I wanted to play the games again, why not start off clean?

And that brings me around to the reason for this post. Earlier this week, I started replaying the Mass Effect games, starting with the original. Yes, I’ve already played them all several times. Yes, I know the so-called problems with the ending of ME3. I don’t care. Bioware did something very right with this series, something that lets me return to it from time to time and still enjoy playing it.

It cared enough to give us a story we can lose ourselves in. That is why so many people screamed and yelled and pitched a fit over the way ME3 ended. We had lived and breathed as Commander Shepherd, metaphorically speaking, for so long, we couldn’t accept the way the trilogy ended. Even when Bioware issued the “fix”, it wasn’t enough. It was better but, damn it, we wanted Shepherd to live and be reunited with her crew and her love.

Yes, her. That is something else Bioware did right, as it often does. It allowed you to spec out Shepherd to be male or female, gay or straight, good or bad. It let you become invested in a character you would spend hours and hours with over the course of the three games and the various DLCs. I played the games as male and as female. I’ve played as gay, straight and who-gives-a-damn. I’ve played it as good and bad.

So I’ve returned to the Mass Effect universe. This time, I’m playing as a female Shepherd. It’s still too early into ME to decide if I’m going to be good or bad, much less to decide who I’m going to romance — if I romance anyone. And you know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying myself and that’s all that matters.

I’ll admit, sitting down with ME1 is a little frustrating. The graphics aren’t as sharp as newer games and the gameplay is a bit dodgy at times. But it doesn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game. That’s especially true because I hadn’t played the original Mass Effect in something close to three years. That means I don’t remember where everything is and there are times things happen that surprise me. So my decisions won’t be the same as the last time I played it.

I’ll admit something else as well. ME1 is probably my least favorite of the series. But that’s okay, I still enjoyed it. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be replaying it now. In my opinion, the game suffers from the same issues many first entries in a series — book or film or game — often do. It has to build the history and foundation for the series. Bioware does a pretty good job with that part of it. With newer game engines for ME2 and ME3, the gameplay became more fun.

Of the games, ME2 is my favorite. More on that when I start replaying it. Until then, there are Reapers to defeat and plots to uncover. Who knows, there might even be a romance or two to enjoy along the way.

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