14 March 2012

Prelimary thoughts on ME3

I haven't finished the game yet. Presumably the endings annoyed people, so perhaps I too will share in that frustration (based on what I know of it, I can think of several problems with it logically at the very least). Or perhaps not. I usually don't care that much about the endings of games.

Some spoilers below, though when playing the game, one is obvious enough that it occurs to a Krogan to do. Meaning: it ought to have occurred to anyone.

This is where I am, so your mileage may vary. Killed the reaper on Rannoch (which was more of a repetitive puzzle than a shooter). About to try multiplayer, but haven't yet. I'm playing on hardcore, not insanity, at least as a first run-through. The second reaper has been, so far, the hardest part and even that became very easy once I figured out what I was doing, if tedious. (The first on Tuchanka was more straightforward).

1) Seems more or less like ME2 as far as game play but with a few less characters to entangle yourself with. Which is fine. Other than the final mission in ME2, most of those guys were useless. Thane/Garrus/Miranda/Grunt... and everybody else? not so much except for initial and loyalty missions. Legion and Goto were fun, but that's about it. I completely ignored Zaeed and Jacob and Jack. Samara and Mordin were just there to perform one or two essential tasks to the plot but not as combat allies (Mordin was at least thought-provoking to talk to). And Tali was pretty mission specific (not fighting Geth, not important).

2) I do like the cameos by the old crew from 2 (especially Legion or Thane's so far), but it's mostly a ME1 crew. Which is fine I suppose. I might have more use for Kaiden/Ashley if I didn't have a Sentinel character, but it seems best to ship them off as a new Spectre and be used as a "war asset" rather than be bothered with an extraneous crew member that you don't bother taking on missions. The Prothean Javik is more fun to have around. Vega is a tank in the Grunt sense, so useful. But not nearly as interesting as Grunt or Wrex was. And thus boring and I usually ignored him. The main premise of the RPG element of a space epic like this is to see the use, and occasionally the interaction, of the different characters. So aliens and the integration of their distinct cultures are more interesting than that of humans. It is doubtful this wouldn't be true in real life too, as I'm far more intrigued by humanity's vast set of distinctiveness. Essentially a team of Garrus and either Javik or Liara is sufficient for my purposes on most missions (Tali/EDI are mostly useless, but have situational advantages, like EDI's decoy or Tali's drones).

3) There's a huge amount of cutscenes. Long ones that is (ME2 had plenty of shorter ones). With fewer of the interrupts that appeared in 2. Hard to say what this was for but it gives too much of a cinematic feel with not enough of the snazzy CGI and snappy writing of an actual movie. Some of them are plot impressive, but not much else really. The thresher maw killing a reaper was fun, I admit that much. The reapers themselves are quite impressive too (if essentially rip-offs of the War of the Worlds tripods made many times bigger). This to me seems like the one legit complaint people have had, but ME2 had a lot of cutscenes too. Perhaps they were just better.

4) The interaction of the first two games is nice on how it impacts things (especially with the Geth-Quarian issue). Though, so far things one thinks to have been a decent move, turn out... not so well all the time. The genophage played out well and in a satisfying way, as did Wrex, and saving the council has a war asset advantage (fleets can be repaired, but that big-ass ship from ME1 cannot be). But the Geth and Rachni solutions, less so (the Geth one required a lot of work to sort out, and I'm not sure what the percentages in the Rachni were). I now expect the collector base decision from ME2 to be annoying too.

5)  Multiplayer. Much appreciated as an option. Haven't tried it yet, but soon. Not sure how the graphics will interact (if I have to tone it down or not) and I'd assume I have to get used to playing ME as a shooter with special attacks and tactics instead of as a tactical combat game with squadmates and special attacks.

6) Game is still buggy. I've had my level reset to 1 a couple of times and had to restart missions or reload old saves a lot. Also crashed a couple times and I got some flaky gameplay when there are many enemies to fight at once (most notably on the Geth ship). ME2 was very much more polished in this respect. Very.

7) No mining. And no standing around elevators disguised as loading screens. And no easy but tedious puzzles on doors and so on. I suppose that last one means that the game has broader appeal to morons who cannot play a simple memory game. But it also means I just have to wait at a disguised loading screen once in a while, whilst a door is opened for me, instead of solving the puzzle myself. As a result, the space exploring feature now is fun. Though I'd like to find a trick to quick launch at a relay when reaper fleets are chasing me. Clicking doesn't always work out so well for me.

8) I like the combat system now. Being able to roll and dive from place to place, and grenades and swarms of enemies means you need to do so, helps. Statically sitting behind cover, recharging powers and occasionally sniping at a hulking enemy is less satisfying in a tactical sense than running and gunning more on the fly. The greater interaction of biotics is also good. Possibly I only partially understood this before, but warp+throw+the warp detonating is fairly sweet. Liara's singularity and Javik's dark channel are also huge against large groups (less useful against powerful opponents, especially with armor or barriers involved). Those two in combo basically pick apart Cerberus assault teams and Husks.

Generally speaking, combat is much improved over ME1. In fact, I found ME1 almost unplayable from the stupid elevators to the heat system versus reloading guns, even as it was a very rich environment for a quasi-sandbox type game in space. ME2 was more intuitive as a combat RPG and that system seems to have been mostly preserved in ME3, along with the not-quite linear method of advancement through the game. Still seems mostly fun.

So far as I can tell, most of the furor surrounding this game at the non-critic level has come from the day-one DLC. First: that DLC adds Javik to the entire game, and adds one mission with some payoff in war assets. So it's sort of fun and has very minor use to the game (entertainment value mostly). I did it right away. Previous ME DLC's have usually been somewhat lame. Adding Goto was nice, but it happened months after I'd already beaten the game two or three times so that didn't add much for me. Adding Liara's quest with the Shadow Broker was much better, similar to Witch Hunt in Dragon Age. Overlord was too vehicle oriented for me to care, and I didn't even bother with Arrival. This one doesn't have a difficult mission associated with it, but it is still fun to have. Having said that: Blizzard didn't just release a DLC/expansion. They're releasing Starcraft 2 as 3 separate full priced games. Paying an extra 10 bucks may seem like a rip-off, but it's pretty cheap in the long-run compared to that, and you're allowed to ignore it as non-essential (whereas Starcraft more or less requires each game to complete the entire game). It enriches rather than requires. In other words, I don't understand the fury. It signifies nothing to me. Maybe the fury is that people don't like paying for things but if that were the case, one would avoid the concept of buying a 50-60 dollar game. Perhaps the problem is the day-one aspect, but it's de rigour in gaming to have a day one patch anymore. As a result I don't get it.
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