Gaming Round-Up: Bioware and Blizzard

I’ve found myself in another period of jumping between a bunch of games in rapid succession lately. Without intending it, I’ve ended up on a bit of a Bioware kick, though Blizzard has also put in an appearance.

A Season of Skulls event in Anthem.

I’ve chosen to participate in IntPiPoMo again this year, so I’ll be including extra screenshots of every game. Click to enlarge!

Mass Effect: Andromeda

I’ve been meaning to do it forever, but I finally did a third playthrough of Mass Effect: Andromeda. As I’ve said before, the new game plus in this game is truly second to none. After two playthroughs, I had all the skill points and gear I could possibly need. I didn’t need to waste any time mining, gathering, or even looting bodies. It makes for a much tighter, more story-driven experience.

I skipped even more side content this time — especially on Kadara — making for a nice breezy playthrough.

This time I did something I haven’t done in Mass Effect before: I played as a soldier, using mainly combat abilities. It’s definitely not as fun as biotics, but it’s not without its charm. Overdrive plus a rapid-firing assault rifle gets pretty hilarious.

I also romanced Jaal this time. It took a while to get to the good stuff, but I can see why his romance is so well-regarded. Dude’s so passionate he makes even me feel a bit weak in the knees.

Sara Ryder and Jaal in Mass Effect: Andromeda

SWTOR: Onslaught

I had pretty low expectations for this expansion, but even so it’s a disappointment.

First of all, calling it an “expansion” is pushing credibility to a breaking point. It has barely any more content than their recent content patches. I think the whole thing took me maybe five hours.

That might be forgivable if they hit the ball out of the park on the quality of the content, but they didn’t, at all. The entire story is crushingly dull. It feels like they rehashed some rejected side quests from the base game. It’s a very small, ultimately irrelevant story. It’s downright insulting to go from being a galactic super power to doing fetch quests for some nameless back alley gangster.

The faction conflict worked in the original class stories because it was just a backdrop for more personal stories. My agent had personal reasons for fighting back against Hunter and his ilk. There’s none of that in Onslaught; you have no reason to care about anyone or anything in this story. It’s just shooting faceless NPCs of the enemy faction.

At the very end, there are some teases of a new direction for the story, and it sounds very interesting, but it begs the question of why we didn’t just skip to the good stuff. Why waste time with the tedious chores that make up Onslaught?

The planet Onderon in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

The one thing I can praise about Onslaught is that it doesn’t feel like a total reboot of the story after the Fallen Empire/Eternal Throne arc. I was worried it would be. But the Odessen Alliance is still a player in the story, and there’s lots of cameos by familiar cast members. Even Koth put in an appearance.

I would have liked more content with Lana — weren’t we supposed to be getting married? — but at least she’s not gone entirely. That gives me some hope for the future.

But man, even for the low price of a month of subscription, I feel ripped off by Onslaught. What a waste of time.

Anthem

I’ve also ducked back into Anthem for a brief visit. I was drawn by the new Mass Effect-themed Javelin skins. I’d yet to find a look for my interceptor that I really liked, and Quarians are my favourite ME aliens, so buying the Quarian skin was a bit of a no-brainer.

I love it. Even if I hadn’t been a Mass Effect fan, I might still have gotten the skin because it just looks so damn good and is so different from anything we have in the game right now.

Anthem has done a really good job at adding interesting cosmetics, and the fashion endgame is getting pretty serious. And I, for one, welcome our new fashionista overlords.

The Quarian Interceptor skin in Anthem.

I also checked out the new freeplay events added for the “Season of Skulls.” They’re pretty fun. The one with the torches in the darkness especially stands out as being very atmospheric and rather different from any of Anthem’s previous content.

Anthem unquestionably has a problem with anemic content right now, but I must say the quality of what content does get added never disappoints.

StarCraft II

I’m at the point now where I think I’m willing to drop my boycott against Blizzard, though I definitely plan to be more skeptical of what they do in future. Brack’s apology at BlizzCon doesn’t count for much, but the tolerance they showed to protesters at the convention does speak to a willingness to walk the walk on free speech. It’s the bare minimum necessary to maintain the illusion of decency, but the bare minimum is by definition good enough.

I still the company’s changed, and I’m trying to lose my blind fanboyism for them, but I’m willing to give them another chance at this point.

For now all that’s manifested as is finally buying Stetmann in SC2’s co-op, though even then I paid using some of my remaining WoW Token balance.

Playing as Egon Stetmann in StarCraft II co-op.

He’s an interesting commander, but I don’t think he’ll ever be my favourite. I like the concept of the Stetallite mechanic, wherein he blankets the map with satellites that project various buff fields, but the way it’s implemented feels like a bit of a chore. You spend every free moment dropping more Stetallites, and it gets exhausting after a while.

Zerglings with Immortal shields get pretty hilarious, though. I’ve had surprising success just massing swarms of Lings and swamping the map with them. Back them up with Hydralisks for anti-air; their missile attack is godly.

Gaming Round-Up: The Lightning Round

Been having trouble settling on a “main” game lately. I’ve run out of stuff to do in Anthem, and The Division 2 is more something I just pop into from time to time (plus I’m a little burnt out on shooters right now).

A cutscene in DemoniconInstead, I’ve decided to try out a long list of games, rapid-fire style. Most of these were via Origin Access, which I subscribed to for a month just for the sake of testing out games, but a few were from my Steam backlog or other sources.

Demonicon

I really liked the world-building for this. It seemed like a very unique setting. However, everything about the game is just super janky, from the outdated graphics to the inexplicably wonky controls to the weirdly incest-focused storyline.

Fractured (alpha)

I got a key for this via my gig at Massively Overpowered. Honestly, I don’t why they dropped the NDA. Fractured is in such an early state it barely qualifies as a tech demo. You can run around, do some basic crafting, and kill wolves, and that’s it. At least the music was nice?

I’m not saying Fractured is a bad game. I’m saying it’s not a game at all yet.

Pillars of Eternity

I’ve been wondering for a while if my newfound love of table-top gaming would improve my view of CRPGs, which seek to replicate that experience in a video game environment.

My character in Pillars of EternityNo, it has not.

Mechanics that make sense in tabletop just don’t work as well in a video game, and Pillars of Eternity is especially egregious example of why I don’t like CRPGs. Combat pretty much plays itself, and victory or defeat is determined on the character sheet, not the battlefield. What’s the point of playing a video game with so little interactivity?

Some of the class concepts are pretty cool, but it isn’t enough to overcome how dull the actual gameplay is.

Also, wow, is the UI for Pillars of Eternity ever bad. Why are all my active abilities teensy weensy icons I can only access by hovering over a tiny widget in the corner of the screen?

Tyranny

Another CRPG, I found the gameplay of Tyranny far more palatable than PoE (though that’s a low bar). I actually got to press buttons sometimes, so there’s that. I also think the premise — being the servant of an evil dark lord — is interesting, but it doesn’t seem to do it justice.

I was hoping for something like the experience of playing a Light Side Imperial in SWTOR — struggling to balance your personal conscience with your loyalty to corrupt superiors. Instead, Tyranny seems content to pigeon-hole you into the roll of the villain no matter what. It’s not even a case of choosing the lesser evil; you’re just the bad guy.

Combat in the CRPG TyrannyI don’t think You Kick Puppies: The Game is a very compelling premise.

Beyond that, I also found myself exhausted by the information overload this game throws at you. The game mechanics are overwhelmingly complex, and every NPC has absolute reams of dialogue. I’d say it’s like reading a novel rather than playing a game, but novels have editors.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

This one was pretty fun. Force-lifting people off of ledges was good fun, and I felt like the force of destruction a Sith ought to be. I did find some of the controls a bit odd, and the way the camera changes for boss fights is jarring.

Ultimately, I lost interest because there didn’t seem to be much of a story.

Torment: Tides of Numenera

I probably wouldn’t have tried this if I’d known the combat was turn-based. Again, it makes sense in tabletop, but not for a video where I’m trying to be immersed in the moment.

Also, like Tyranny, the amount of reading was ludicrous.

Combat in Torment: Tides of NumeneraDarksiders

Like Force Unleashed, this was fun, if a bit mindless. I enjoyed hacking and slashing my way through demons for a while, but the story didn’t grab me much, and when I got stuck on a platforming section, I became frustrated and walked away.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

I know this is considered one of the all-time greats, but to be honest I only lasted about twenty minutes. The graphics have not aged well, and the combat turned me off right away. Then I bugged out(?) and couldn’t move, and I lost my will to keep trying.

Grim Dawn

Seems like a solid game. Very similar to Titan Quest, but not quite as tedious. As in Titan Quest, you can combine classes, which allows for some interesting combos. I went with shaman and occultist, focusing on nature magic and pets. I also liked how, well, grim the setting is. Very ambient.

On the downside, the voice acting is abominable, I felt very starved for skill points, and I strongly dislike games that require you to unlock higher difficulties. Normal is too easy.

My shaman in Grim DawnI’m definitely tempted to buy Grim Dawn and play more at some point, but I will have to think about it.

Dungeons III

Now this game I liked. So much so, in fact, that it deserves its own post…

New articles

Finally, before I go, I’d like to drop a link to my latest article at MMO Bro, where I explore group roles outside the traditional trinity.

And don’t forget to follow my Not So Massively column at Massively Overpowered! I have some more detailed reviews of new games I’ve tried recently over there.