About Tyler F.M. Edwards

Freelance writer, fantasy novelist, and nerd of the highest order.

Mass Effect: A Journey in Pictures

I recently finished another complete play-through of the entire Mass Effect trilogy, and I wanted to do a post on it. But giving my thoughts on the trilogy as a whole seemed rather redundant, since I’ve already done that. I considered doing a bio on my version of Shepard including all the major choices I made and my rational behind them and her character, but that seemed like it’d be rather dull.

So I decided I’d take advantage of my compulsive screenshoting and show off some of my favourite images from this most recent play through, along with a little commentary. Click the images to see them full-size.

Mass Effect:

My Shepard in Mass EffectIn all but one of my playthroughs of the trilogy, I’ve modeled my Shepard after Nova Terra from the StarCraft universe. This is because the plot for the original Mass Effect is suspiciously similar to that of StarCraft: Ghost, and because Nova is awesome.

My Shepard and her beloved sniper rifle in the original Mass EffectThis applies to both her physical appearance — blonde ponytail, green eyes, white and blue armour where possible — and her playstyle. I’m always an adept with sniper rifle training, emulating Nova’s psionic powers and skills as a sniper. Plus those are the two methods of fighting I most enjoy.

Killing Wrex in the original Mass EffectI don’t really have a problem with Wrex — though I’m also not especially fond of him — but I’ve decided that I prefer to kill him because it makes the genophage story in ME3 a lot more interesting. A harder decision makes for a better experience.

Driving the tank in the original Mass EffectI never understood the hate for the vehicle segments in ME1. The controls are a little wonky, and they were a bit over-used, but they provided a good change of pace from the sequences on foot, and I think the later games were the lesser for their exclusion.

The first meeting with Sovereign in the original Mass EffectI really think the Reapers are one of the scariest monsters science fiction has yet produced, and Sovereign’s speech when you first encounter it is just chilling. “You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.”

Mass Effect 2:

Kasumi Goto in Mass Effect 2During this playthrough, I decided to pick up all the remaining DLCs that I didn’t already have. That meant that this was my first time meeting Kasumi, and it turns out I quite like her. She reminds me of someone. It’s a shame she couldn’t have a bigger role.

My Shepard making a speech in Mass Effect 2My Shepard talking with Thane Krios in Mass Effect 2Although her appearance and combat style is based on Nova, I tend to RP my Shepard as a female Jean-Luc Picard. She’s a stern but regal figure, noble if not always warm. I wound up with max paragon scores in the first two games this time around.

My Shepard getting to know Samara in Mass Effect 2Tell her that I miss our little talks…

The horrific fate of David Archer in Mass Effect 2: OverlordThis was also my first time playing through Overlord. The ending had a good punch, but overall I didn’t enjoy it that much.

Flying the M-44 Hammerhead in Mass Effect 2: OverlordUnlike in ME1, I find ME2’s few vehicle sequences terribly aggravating. That damn hover tank is made of glass, and for some reason they never let you save in the middle of a sequence. It’s incredibly aggravating.

An armed standoff in Mass Effect 2I feel like this shot was designed specifically for screenshot fans like me.

Traveling through the Omega 4 Relay in Mass Effect 2The Reapers advance on the Milky Way at the end of Mass Effect 2ME2 is my least favourite part of the trilogy by a significant margin. It has some great characters, but most of the game amounts to little more than mountains of repetitive busywork. That said, the ending is really spectacular. Just a shame the rest of the game isn’t like that.

My Shepard confronts Harbinger in Mass Effect 2: ArrivalI’m not normally one to complain about DLC, but I really think Arrival should have been included in the base game. Maybe because it has more relevance to the rest of the trilogy’s storyline than the rest of ME2 combined…

Also, one of my few disappointments with ME3 is that it did not feature Harbinger more prominently. Really felt like they were building it into the “Big Bad” of the series.

Mass Effect 3:

The Reapers descend on Vancouver in Mass Effect 3The Turian homeworld burns at the touch of the Reapers in Mass Effect 3In stark contrast to ME2’s rambling, ME3 hits the ground running and never lets you come up for air, which I love. Also props for giving Canada some time in the spotlight, even if it involves being curbstomped by the Reapers.

My Shepard in Mass Effect 3My squad looking badass on Rannoch in Mass Effect 3I’m pretty sure my Shepard sleeps in her uniform.

My favourite sniper rifle in Mass Effect 3I love this gun.

The Geth and the Quarians battle for Rannoch in Mass Effect 3Keelah se'lai, Tali'ZorahI’m not really that big on the various aliens in Mass Effect. They all seem more like bland archetypes than people. That said, I really like the Quarians, and the Rannoch plot was one of the highlights for ME3 for me. A great note of positivity to counterbalance the unrelenting bleakness of the rest of the game.

All the feelsI like this shot. I must admit my fondness for Traynor is probably a fair bit beyond what is healthy for a video game character.

An adjutant monster in Mass Effect 3's Omega DLCThis was my first time playing through the Omega DLC. It was fun and pretty meaty for a DLC, and I love the new flare power, but if Aria T’Loak’s personality was a sound, it’d be fingernails on a chalkboard, and overall the story wasn’t that interesting.

The fall of the Protheans in Mass Effect 3A Reaper in Mass Effect 3Again, Reapers are bloody terrifying.

A clone of Shepard in Mass Effect 3: CitadelThis was also my first time playing Citadel. I thought the clone story was, well, pretty bad, honestly. All the forced humour seemed jarringly out of place with the tone of the rest of the game. Also, why can’t I get armour that cool?

A drunken Javik in Mass Effect 3: Citadel Catching up with Samara in Mass Effect 3: CitadelWaching a bad movie with Tali in Mass Effect 3: CitadelThat said, the later half with the party and catching up with all the characters was great. Very unique experience for a video game.

A group photo at the end of the party in Mass Effect 3: CitadelMy favourite part of this shot is how Shepard and Traynor are paying more attention to each other than the party around them. I wonder if it’s because of the romance, or if it’s just a happy coincidence? I notice that EDI and Joker also seem to be fixated on each other, but Tali and Garrus aren’t.

The Reapers take Thessia in Mass Effect 3This time around, I was struck by what a brilliant piece of storytelling the fall of Thessia is. I don’t even like Asari, and that sequence still ripped my heart out and stomped on it. I really wish more games had the courage to hand such brutal setbacks to the protagonist.

The fleets of the galaxy pour through the Sol relay in Mass Effect 3A space battle in Mass Effect 3A space battle in Mass Effect 3The space battles in ME3 are fantastic.

A good bunchI miss them already.

* * *

Well, that turned out pretty wordy after all. I wonder if anyone’s gonna have the patience to wade through all this?

Retro Review: Once Upon a Time, Season Two: Episodes 7-12

You know the drill. Continuing the binge-watch. Here be spoilers.

The logo for Once Upon a Time“Child of the Moon”:

Well, this answers one of the big questions I had going into season two: Will Red start transforming again now that the curse is broken?

Yes. Yes, she will.

It’s not a welcome revelation for Red herself, though. She’s terrified she’s going to lose control and hurt someone.

Meanwhile, King George is determined to continue his quest for vengeance against Prince Charming in Storybrook, and when a local man is gruesomely killed, he’s quick to exploit the suspicion against Red as a tool to discredit Charming.

In the past and in another world, Red encounters a clan of werewolves led by her long-lost mother, who teach her how to understand and control the wolf within her.

I really like Red. She’s one of the show’s more interesting characters, torn between her beast nature and her humanity, and the actress puts on a great performance in this episode.

Granny is a badassUnfortunately, I also found both stories very predictable. It was blindingly obvious that King George was going to try to frame Red even before the body showed up, and Red finding a home among fellow lycanthropes was clearly too good to be true.

On the plus side, the twist at the very end was definitely not something I saw coming. The connection between Aurora and Henry raises all kinds of interesting possibilities.

Also, Granny is awesome.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

“Into the Deep”:

A connection between worlds has been found in Henry and Aurora’s dreams, and Emma’s party hopes to use to gain the information needed to defeat Cora from Rumpelstiltskin.

Cora isn’t going to make that easy, though. She attacks the party and abducts Aurora. Meanwhile, Henry’s continued efforts to make contact put his life in danger. Groups in both worlds are forced to take increasingly desperate efforts to maintain contact.

Mulan in Once Upon a TimeIf memory serves, this is the first episode of the series without any flashbacks, and while I tend to enjoy the flashbacks, it is a nice change of pace. It makes for a very tight and exciting episode. It’s got the feeling of building tension that you usually only see near the very end of a season, but we’re still not even halfway through. Very good.

“Into the Deep” also makes good use of the cast, with strong performances once again from Snow, Regina, and Henry.

Really my only complaint is that it once again shows both Emma and Charming to be complete and utter schmucks.

Overall rating: 8/10

“Queen of Hearts”:

All jail and no magic makes Rumpelstiltskin a dull mage…

With Aurora’s unwilling aid, Cora is able to defeat Emma and Snow’s company, paving the way for her to go to Storybrook. Knowing a portal will open soon, Regina and Rumpel plan to destroy it to prevent Cora’s arrival, even if it risks killing Emma and Snow. And the flashbacks illuminate the origins of Cora and Hook’s partnership.

Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin brings magic to Storybrook in Once Upon a Time's first season finaleThere’s enough sword fights, magic, and excitement to make this a solid episode, though it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations set by “Into the Deep,” and a few things bug me about it.

I’m a bit sad Mulan and Aurora didn’t come through to Storybrook. They might show up again, but this undoubtedly means they’ll be on the backburner for the time being. I’d be perfectly happy to never see Aurora again, but Mulan was pretty cool. I want to see her get more time in the spotlight.

I’m also not sure how I feel about Emma gaining the power to shoot out Harry Potter love rays. On the one hand, it makes sense to give her some continued relevance as a saviour, since that’s her whole reason for existing. On the other hand, Emma is really boring, and I don’t want her becoming any more ubiquitous than she already is. And I don’t know, but random love lasers just feels a little tacky.

Overall rating: 7.3/10

“The Cricket Game”:

Regina continues to be one of the most interesting parts of this series. After the enormous amount of effort and skill they poured into making her utterly unlikable, making the viewer feel sympathy for her should be all but impossible, but here they are pulling it off.

Lana Parilla as Regina Mills in Once Upon a TimeWhen one of Storybrook’s residents turns up dead, all the evidence points to Regina… maybe a little too obviously. But of course, no one is willing to believe she’s not guilty, and after all she’s done, it’s hard to blame them.

Only Emma thinks something might be up, and she actually tries to prove Regina’s innocence, but the evidence seems absolute.

Along the way, we once again see that Emma does, in fact, have magic, which I’m still not thrilled about. More magic is always good, but it would have been more interesting if it had happened to anyone else.

On the whole, this episode split evenly between Emma and Regina, and therefore split between awesomeness and mediocrity. Thankfully, Regina is just a bit more interesting than Emma is tedious.

Also, I am once again struck by how much Emma and Regina are a potential goldmine for slash fic writers. They’re even sort of raising a kid together. It writes itself!

Look, kids: a ship is bornFor that matter, Aurora and Mulan could also prove to be quite the shipper goldmine.

Really this entire show just seems like a playground for femslash writers.

Overall rating: 7.4/10

“The Outsider”:

This episode could pretty much be summed up as “forty minutes of Belle being awesome.”

In Storybrook, Hook enacts his plan of revenge against Rumpelstiltskin, hoping to use Belle to get to him. But Belle’s tougher than she looks, and Hook may have bought more than he bargained for.

In the Enchanted Forest’s past, Belle is seized by an urge for adventure and heads off to help defeat a legendary monster. Along the way, she joins forces with Mulan, but Belle’s books prove a mightier weapon than Mulan’s sword.

Belle and Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a TimeI have trouble thinking of much to say about this episode beyond the fact that Belle is awesome. It’s always gratifying when a character who doesn’t seem especially tough or heroic proves themselves the equal of the greats.

That ending, though… My poor aching feels.

I really hope Hook dies a gruesome, painful death at some point. Hopefully sooner rather than later. What a horrid, disgusting excuse for a person. I mean, Regina and Rumpel have done some awful stuff, and Cora is just pure evil, but Hook is vile. Can they lock him in a room with Red during the next full moon? Or maybe let Grumpy use him as a pick sharpener?

Overall rating: 7.8/10

“In the Name of the Brother”:

When we saw no more mention of Wale’s true identity as Dr. Frankenstein, I assumed the writers realized it was a bad idea and decided to drop that story.

So much for that.

Following the car accident that laid up Hook, the driver — a stranger to Storybrook — is at death’s door. There’s some debate over weather they should let him die to save Storybrook’s secrecy, but of course Charming and Snow won’t have it, so it falls to Wale/Frankenstein to save him.

Doctor Victor Frankenstein, AKA Doctor Wale, in Once Upon a TimeBut our dear Victor is in a bad way, and before he can save anyone, someone needs to save him.

Meanwhile, Cora attempts to restore ties with Regina and Rumpel, with a disturbing level of success.

All my previous complaints about the inclusion of Frankenstein still stand. It still feels out of place, and it’s still ignoring the whole point of the story of Frankenstein. Regina falling for Cora’s manipulations was also terribly disappointing, I’m sad about how things have turned out for Belle and Rumpel, and I’m not terribly enthused about them adding the need to keep Storybrook secret to all the other problems.

Oh, and Hook is still drawing breath, albeit with difficulty.

This was not only a boring episode, but one which gives me significant doubts about the quality of the series for at least the near future.

Overall rating: 4.9/10 Probably the worst episode of the series to date, and a great disappointment considering the mostly high quality of the second season so far.

* * *

I just Googled “Once Upon a Time Emma and Regina.” Yeah, wow.