Tales from the Mass Effect Universe: Entry 3

WARNING! I will be talking candidly about the three Mass Effect games in this series. If you want to avoid spoilers, do not read any further!

Entry 3: The truncated report on Mass Effect 2

MassEffect2_coverAs this series has been on hold of late, I’ll begin with a brief recap. Having played all three Mass Effect games multiple times, and completing them virtually every way possible, I began a new journey and took the only un-travelled path left to me; full on female Renegade. I resolved to be as bad as possible, and get as many people killed as possible. How much difference would it make? That’s where this series comes in, as I attempt to keep track of my latest journey through three huge games.

Having begun my Fem Shep Renegade in style with Mass effect 1, I was looking forward to getting stuck into the second game, so I began it with enthusiasm. You probably know how the game begins; Shepard dies, Cerberus rebuilds her, and then sends her off to investigate some settlement or other. At this point, being a Renegade is fairly simple. Take the red conversation options, and kick ass. So far so good. The trouble is, after the opening is done, the game changes and makes things little more cloudy.

Mass Effect 2 introduces a loyalty mechanic which ties in to the final suicide mission, and influences survival rates. I’ve already stated my aim is to get as many team mates killed as possible, so this would mean avoiding the loyalty missions. The trouble is, loyalty missions are a fairly large chunk of the game, and I wanted to import a max level character with a full renegade bar in to Mass Effect 3, so where was I going to get that experience from?

ME2-Grunt_in_his_tank

But I don’t wanna get up and go to school

I played through the game normally, recruiting team mates, fighting the collectors, and hovering up all the side quests I could lay my hands on. Things were going OK, but not for long. You see, I hit the very wall that delayed this whole series. Everyone was recruited (Grunt was still frozen, but he was aboard the Normandy), I was close to wrapping up the story, but I was nowhere near having a max level character with a full renegade bar. I needed to do more missions.

Having already cleared up all the available DLC, the only thing left open two me was to do some loyalty missions. If I’m honest, it wasn’t a total disaster. After doing some research, I’d discovered that if I wanted Shepard to survive the final mission, I’d have to have some loyal team mates after all, so I picked the missions most likely to fill up my Renegade bar. Zaeed’s loyalty quest immediately sprung to mind – lots of innocent refinery workers to let die there – but the others were tougher to choose. Samara’s quest was the only other obvious Renegade choice. Naturally I chose to betray her, and take Morinth, although I forgot to try to romance her.

Garrus_Vakarian

Kiss your ass goodbye, Sidonis

With an internet-sourced flow chart of all the possible choices in my hands, I entered the Omega relay. First to die was Kasumi. For some bizarre reason, she was hanging around the engine bay, and died in an explosion. That’ll teach her for being in a part of the ship she’d never previously been in! Next was Thane, thrown up against the wall in his quarters after the Normandy takes a hit. Who knew shelving could be so deadly. Two team mates down, the ship crashes on the side of the Collector base.

Please don't send me down the vent shaft...

Please don’t send me down the vent shaft…

Next up to meet their space-maker is Tali, as we enter the base. With legion in the hands of Cerberus, and her loyalty mission uncompleted, she was sent to her doom down the vent pipe. Hacking the door goes wrong, and before it closes, she’s blown away by a Collector. My Fem Shep sheds no tear. I proceed through the rest of the mission trying to get both Jacob and bitch-face Miranda killed, but both of them stubbornly cling on to life. With just the boss fight to go, I have one last chance to kill one of them, but who? Jacob or Miranda?

Obviously it would be Miranda. So after killing the Human Reaper, and saving the Collector base for the Illusive Man to gain some last-minute Renegade points, we begin our escape. The cut scene begins, we’re running away, but oh no! An explosion occurs! Shepard gets up, and Zaeed pulls himself to his feet, but Miranda… she’s gone! After celebrating her death, I leap into the Normandy and head for home, safe in the knowledge that Illusive Man won’t use the base for nefarious means…

Can't believe you got me killed AND gave the base to the Illusive Man.

Can’t believe you got me killed AND gave the base to the Illusive Man.

Tales from the Mass Effect universe: Entry 2

WARNING! I will be talking candidly about the three Mass Effect games in this series. If you want to avoid spoilers, do not read any further!

Entry 2: Noveria, Virmire, and wrapping up Mass Effect 1

GiannaParasini4After wiping out the colony of Zhu’s Hope, it was on to Noveria to see what havoc I could wreak there. If you’re familiar with the game, there’s not many full on Renegade opportunities to be had, but I could continue my trend of being as rude and obnoxious to as many people as possible. First to experience my  no-nonsense approach was Kaira Stirling, every time I go through this part, I wish that I could just shoot them dead right then. I know you get to kill her later, in Synthetic Insights, but still. I ran through all the usual small missions in Port Hanshan, smuggled for Opold, spied for the Asari women in the bar etc, and took particular joy in turning Gianna Parasini down. She annoys me every time to, with her high-handed attitude. I’m looking forward to finding out whether she turns up in Illium, if she does, she wont be buying me a beer. After wrapping this section up, I moved on to the Peak 15 section of Noveria, and plodded my way through it for what must be by now the thousandth time. During conversations I took every Renegade option possible, but the only reall bump was choosing to eliminate the Rachi queen. With my Renegade score looking quite healthy, and the warm internal feeling of insect genocide glowing inside me, I departed Noveria, quietly pleased with my death-toll.

Virmire_28Virmire, lovely Virmire, let the bloodbath begin! If you’ve been reading this series, you’ll know my aim is to go full Renegade over the course of all three games. Given that, I’m sure your mind has already raced forward to that moment, and is already recoiling in horror because of what I’m about to do. So, if you’re a Wrex fan (and let’s face it, who isn’t), look away now. Yes, I killed Wrex. Brutally. In other play throughs, I’ve always saved him, because y’know, he’s Wrex, but I have seen him die once before. If the conversation goes badly, and if you tell Ashley to be ready, she shoots him for you, and all your left with is berating her for killing a team member. But that’s not what happened here. I chose the option to shoot him, smashed him to the ground with my shotgun, then unloaded into to his prone body! (forgive me, Wrex!). I don’t think I’ve ever chosen that option before, or if I did, it was when I first played the game, because surprisingly I found it quite shocking. In general, I’ve enjoyed this Renegade play through, but not that bit. Shooting Wrex left me with scars that’ll never heal… After that, the assault on Saren’s lab was fairly routine; I killed the assistant, chatted to Sovereign, and left Kaiden to die. Regular kind of day.

Council_Hologram-Ambassador_Meeting_2That left me with Ilos, the citadel assault, and the Bring down the Sky DLC. BDTS whilst being a fairly enjoyable bit of DLC, doesn’t seem to have any impact upon the later story ( apart from a small cameo in ME3, if you let Balak survive), so I took the Renegade option, left everyone dead, and moved on. Ilos is straightforward; kill Geth, open the door, drive the Mako to the conduit. I’ve done it so many times now, I could probably do it blindfolded. It was the Citadel assault then, that provided the last little boost to fill up my Renegade bar. Of course, that meant the arrogant, pompous council had to die. Mwuhahahaha! That look on the face of the Destiny Acencion commanders face, when she realises the Alliance isn’t going to help, is priceless. With the unhelpful council members little more than space dust, the final cut-scene takes a decidedly fascist turn. Udina rants on about how Humanity will become the dominant species, how they’ll make the rest fall in line, etc. I hate Udina, so even though I’d pursued the Renegade path, I still couldn’t bring myself to choose him as council member. I was sick of politicians by that point, so I left them, not caring who was chosen.

Mass-Effect-1-boxartWrapping up Mass Effect 1, a few things had become apparent  First, all my Renegade killing was probably just removing all the colour from the next two games. Helena Blake for example, she doesn’t play any real part in Mass Effect 2, but meeting her again does provide a nice little callback to the first game. I was obviously removing a lot of that kind of stuff. Second, the combat does suck. Just a little bit. I’ve moaned a fair bit (in the past) about the introduction of thermal clip “ammo” for later games, but I’ll live with it in return for the much tighter combat mechanics and solid frame-rate  It’s strange going back to a game you love and noticing the technical flaws for the first time. I guess its just a symptom of ever improving games. Mass Effect is showing it’s age now, good job the story is as good as ever. Lastly, I miss the proper RPG aspects in the later games. I want to pour over armour and weapon stats every time I pick a new piece up. Removing all that felt wrong at the time, and it still feels wrong now.

Next instalment I move on to Mass Effect 2, where the Renegade path will be less straight forward. Till then, keep it Renegade, Soldiers!

Tales from the Mass Effect universe: Entry 1

WARNING! I will be talking candidly about the three Mass Effect games in this series. If you want to avoid spoilers, do not read any further!

Entry 1: Introduction and the story so far…

Mass-Effect-1-boxartI’ve played all three Mass Effect games multiple times, and in multiple ways. There are one or two things I haven’t ever done, like romance Jack, or get people killed in the suicide mission, or cheated on my love interest, but by and large I’ve explored most options. There are two paths I’ve never fully explored however, and those are to play the games in full Renegade mode, and to play a female Shepard from start to finish. What does Fem Shep look like in the third game? What happens if I never unfreeze Grunt? Are there any consequences for cheating on my love interest from ME1 in ME2/3? Obviously, as a Mass Effect nerd, I needed to answer these questions. Thus began my latest journey through Bioware’s three epic space adventure games. I would play a female Shepard, I would be as nasty as possible, and I would get as many allies killed as possible. This should be fun…

The story so far.

SeranKillsNihlusI began Mass Effect by re-using a level 59 Fem Shep Soldier. Given the choice, I would have preferred playing an Adept, but a second 60 to import to ME2 would be nice to have, and the bonuses for doing so are quite nice. One complete play-though should be enough to get that last level, so I dived in with the Soldier. I played through the opening mission on Eden Prime being as snotty as possible to everyone you can talk to. I punched out the hysterical scientist locked away in the container building thing, but much to my disappointment, I couldn’t shoot the guy smuggling weapons at the docks. Building that Renegade bar up could take longer than I thought. After Eden Prime, I hit the citadel. As I had one level left to get, my plan at this point was to do every quest I could lay my hands on. Through past experience, I knew that getting from 59 to 60 was a long slog, so I wanted every little bit of XP I could find.

ClerkBoskerI hoovered up every quest, and took the Renegade option where possible. I slept with the consort (not that it bumps up the Renegade score, but hey…), I called the Hanar preacher some nasty names whilst mocking the C-Sec officer trying to deal with him (or her, do Hanar have different sexes?), and I got rough with Bosker in Embassy bar. All of it started to build the Renegade bar quite nicely. Eventually I was nearing the point of departure from the citadel, and I made my first discoveries whilst on this play-through: It’s impossible to prevent Garrus, Wrex, and Tali joining your mission. I vaguely had some recollection of trying and failing before, but it was so long ago I’d forgotten. Thinking about it, it makes perfect sense when you consider that you’ll be losing either Kaiden or Ashley on Virmire. What I didn’t try is completing the game without collecting Liara. Whether the game would allow you to proceed to Ilos without her, I don’t know. Regardless, she’s my goto love interest, and I couldn’t save the galaxy without her. How meeting her on Illium would play out if you never met her in 1 does intrigue me though.

Feros_ArceliaSilvaMartinezI continued to plough though the side quests that I knew had play-off’s in ME2 until I dinged 60. As it turns out, my last play-though with the character had gotten me a fair way to the final level, so as I hit Feros, I had the choice to either continue knocking off side quests, or just speed through the main story. At this point, I’m not sure what I’ll do. There are some interesting side quests around Cerberus left to do, and while they don’t add anything significant to ME2, they do add a little flavour when you meet whoever survived Virmire, so I’ll probably do them. But I’m jumping ahead now, so I’ll finish catching you up by rounding off the Feros mission. As I said, this is a Renegade play-through, so when the choice came whether to equip gas grenades or not, I chose not! Every colonist died, even that snotty cow Arcelia Silva Martinez, I enjoyed killing her. Shiala (the Asari cloned by the Thorian) died too, she took a bullet to the back of the head, execution style. By the time the Normandy was dusting off, there were very little survivors, and my renegade bar was over half full. A job well done.

In my next entry I’ll be continuing my adventures in Mass Effect. Noveria and whole host of side quests still await, so there’s still plenty to do. Until then, keep it Renegade, soldiers!

The Game Jar Files: Mass Effect 3 Earth DLC

Originally published on The Game Jar 30/07/2012

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Wait what? My epic space RPG has multi player? It sure does, and to my mind it’s the most surprising part of the package purely because it’s pretty awesome. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that the multi player side of the game has received no less than three bits of free DLC so far, the third being Earth, which released this week. Before I delve into the details, I’ll run through a brief overview for anyone who’s not played the multi player. The super short  TL;DR explanation would be something like “it’s a 12 wave Horde mode with occasional objectives thrown in”, but that wouldn’t really do it justice. Yes, it’s another survival type co-op mode that pits you and up to three of you best Reaper stomping buddies up against waves of increasingly difficult enemies, but the RPG character elements throw something fresh into the mix. Weapon load out, choice of race, and allocation of skill points all add an extra layer of tactics, and team play is nigh on compulsory. Add in familiar backdrops from the Mass Effect universe and you have well-rounded, highly enjoyable co-op experience.

New characters, new weapons, new difficulty. In addition to adding the new and totally masochistic Platinum difficulty, the Earth DLC adds six new characters, three new maps, and three new weapons. Potentially there’s a huge amount of theory crafting to be dug into here, but then this article would end up being three times the length, and it’s far more enjoyable to just go play the damn game.

Characters: Each class gets one new elite Human N7 Operative. Broadly speaking, and without getting bogged down by describing each ability in detail, they play pretty much as you would expect them to, the Engineer is still an Engineer for example. Two things did catch my eye though, the N7 Soldier is an absolute tank, Krogan levels of Shields and Health in fact, and the Sentinel has a rather nifty omnitool based shield strapped to his arm. The full list is as follows; The Biotic based Adept Class has added an N7 Fury with the ThrowAnnihilation Field, and Dark Channel abilities. The Soldier class has added the highly armoured N7 Destroyer. Multi Frag Grenade, Missile Launcher, and Devastator Mode are the included abilities. Engineer adds the N7 Demolisher with Homing Grenade, Arc Grenade, and the rather handy Supply Pylon. The tech/biotic Sentinel goes with the N7 Paladin. Snap Freeze, Incinerate, and Energy drain are present here. Perhaps my favourite class, the cloaky sniper Infiltrator adds the sleek sounding N7 Shadow. Tactical cloak, Shadow Strike, and the intriguing sounding Electric Slash are her tools. From most favourite to least favourite, the kill stealing Vanguard class goes with the aptly named N7 Slayer. The Phased Disruptor, Sonic Charge, and Bionic Slash abilities are sure to ensure that this new Vanguard is as OP as the other variants.

Weapons: Added to the already sizeable arsenal are the Piranha Assault Shotgun, the  Acolyte Pistol, and Typhoon Assault Rifle. I’ve not tried the shotgun or the rifle yet, but I have had a go with the Acolyte. I found it tricky to use, it needs charging by holding the trigger down and the bullets (grenades?) it fires have a tendency to bounce off of whatever they hit if you don’t get a direct strike. No doubt better players than me will put it to good use, but I won’t be swapping it for my Geth Rifle any time soon.

Firebase Rio First impressions are Hydro Electric. Rio is a long thin map with multiple levels, think Cod 4’s Wetworks or Gears of War’s Canals but with a Mass Effect look and you’re just about there. To the one side of the map we have a far off city lit up at dusk, and to the other we have what looks to be a dam. A central command building divides the map into two, and blocks sight lines from one end to the other. At one end is a power station looking area, with lots of vertical pylons making combat close quarters with lots of corners to hide around. Defending this area during objectives is tricky. The other end is more open and allows more ranged combat. To the side of this end is a platform in which all the games I’ve played so far seems to be the permanent extraction point. So far the best tactics seem to be to bunker in the centre of the map, down spread across the width, so as to be able to fire upon whichever end the enemies have spawned.

Firebase London. Instantly recognisable to anyone who’s played the final mission in the main story. Set during the night amongst the ruined buildings of London, this map is dark and moody. Arranged in a Plus (or positive) layout with rubble and vehicle wreckage everywhere, it plays just like Gears of War’s Raven Down. Enemies spawn from any of the ends, and anyone loitering in the middle of the map will soon find themselves under fire from all directions. The most defensive point is an elevated walkway across one end, which gives a good view of the centre and parts of the sides. You’re never total secure up their however, as there’s easy access via a flight of stairs at either end. Personally I’m not a massive fan of these night-time maps as I find the enemies and ammo dumps a little hard to spot, but they do have some real atmosphere. Overall a solid map that plays quite differently to Rio. 

Firebase Vancouver. This one is probably my favourite, being the only daylight map. Set on a damaged high-rise office block, it takes the shape of a square, with each quarter having a different feel. Deployment and extraction occurs on an outdoor and exposed Helipad in the bottom left corner of the map. Moving up from there we have a shady, utilitarian looking area with plenty of ducting and air conditioning units for cover. Up a flight of stairs to the left and we’re on a balcony overlooking the previous area, and in front us is the close quarters office block. Exiting the offices by moving down brings us to the last corner of the map, and back on to the roof area. Here there’s one lonely portacabin and a bit of ducting, not much cover if you get caught. With lines of sight between quarters nicely obscured, this map encourages you to stay on the move constantly, shotgun wielding Vanguards should particularly enjoy this one.

What can I say in conclusion apart from its free stuff so go download it. Criticisms? First, you don’t get to play with the new characters right away you have to unlock them. Second, the Rio and Vancouver maps are a little too generic Mass Effect universe in their looks for my liking, there’s nothing about them that really shouts “this is Earth”. Other than that, it’s a hearty thumbs up from me. Keep ’em coming, Bioware.

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