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Found 64 results

  1. EA has once again opened up the Vaults of EA and Origin Access, subscription services that gives members access to "free" games from the publisher's portfolio, among other perks. Headlining the pack of newcomers is Mass Effect Andromeda, which launched earlier this year to a polarizing reception. Members will also be able to play EA's biggest holiday titles ahead of launch, including Star Wars Battlefront II. Beginning this month until December, the following titles will be added to the Vault. Mass Effect Andromeda Dead Space 3 The Sims 4 (Play First Trial) Star Wars Battlefront II (Play First Trial) Need For Speed Payback (Play First Trial) If you're an EA Access member, what do you think of the new additions? For non-members, is this line-up enough to convince you to give the service a shot.
  2. EA has once again opened up the Vaults of EA and Origin Access, subscription services that gives members access to "free" games from the publisher's portfolio, among other perks. Headlining the pack of newcomers is Mass Effect Andromeda, which launched earlier this year to a polarizing reception. Members will also be able to play EA's biggest holiday titles ahead of launch, including Star Wars Battlefront II. Beginning this month until December, the following titles will be added to the Vault. Mass Effect Andromeda Dead Space 3 The Sims 4 (Play First Trial) Star Wars Battlefront II (Play First Trial) Need For Speed Payback (Play First Trial) If you're an EA Access member, what do you think of the new additions? For non-members, is this line-up enough to convince you to give the service a shot. View full article
  3. BioWare has created some of the most beloved moments in gaming history. The Mass Effect series stands as one of the greatest gaming trilogies of all time. However, many people point toward the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 as something that undid all of the goodwill the series had fostered up until that point. For all of their talent, BioWare also created one of the single most divisive and negatively received moments in gaming history. In Part One of our Mass Effect 3 discussion, we talked about the larger game leading up to the final minutes that threw the Mass Effect fan base into chaos. Part Two covers the ending and touches on some aspects of the DLC. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Myst III: Exile 'American Wheels of Wonder' by Mazedude (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01749) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  4. BioWare has created some of the most beloved moments in gaming history. The Mass Effect series stands as one of the greatest gaming trilogies of all time. However, many people point toward the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 as something that undid all of the goodwill the series had fostered up until that point. For all of their talent, BioWare also created one of the single most divisive and negatively received moments in gaming history. In Part One of our Mass Effect 3 discussion, we talked about the larger game leading up to the final minutes that threw the Mass Effect fan base into chaos. Part Two covers the ending and touches on some aspects of the DLC. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Myst III: Exile 'American Wheels of Wonder' by Mazedude (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01749) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  5. BioWare announced a partnership with the Edmonton Corn Maze yesterday to create a labyrinth themed around the game developer and its upcoming action-RPG Anthem. The maze features the BioWare logo and a figure from the game plowed into a 17-acre field, and it is currently open to the public. The RPG developer had a bit of fun with the announcement. Anthem's director, Jon Warner, put out a statement that reads, "It’s a world where you can become lost with your friends, sort of like getting lost in this maze. I mean, what better way to celebrate the growth of our new game than through corn, which also grows? [...] This has been an a-MAZE-ing opportunity for us." The company also released a trailer for the maize -erm- maze that's pretty spectacular. The Edmonton Corn Maze is open from July 24-October 24. Fans of BioWare and/or corn mazes can visit when the maze is open Tuesday-Friday from 10am-8pm and on Sundays from 1pm-5pm. View full article
  6. BioWare Creates Anthem-Themed Corn Maze

    BioWare announced a partnership with the Edmonton Corn Maze yesterday to create a labyrinth themed around the game developer and its upcoming action-RPG Anthem. The maze features the BioWare logo and a figure from the game plowed into a 17-acre field, and it is currently open to the public. The RPG developer had a bit of fun with the announcement. Anthem's director, Jon Warner, put out a statement that reads, "It’s a world where you can become lost with your friends, sort of like getting lost in this maze. I mean, what better way to celebrate the growth of our new game than through corn, which also grows? [...] This has been an a-MAZE-ing opportunity for us." The company also released a trailer for the maize -erm- maze that's pretty spectacular. The Edmonton Corn Maze is open from July 24-October 24. Fans of BioWare and/or corn mazes can visit when the maze is open Tuesday-Friday from 10am-8pm and on Sundays from 1pm-5pm.
  7. This week our topic was a bit tricky - Mass Effect 3 released to critical praise in 2012 but also made a name for itself by being at the epicenter of one of the biggest fan backlashes in gaming history. In order to properly talk about the conclusion of the Mass Effect trilogy, we made the decision to split the podcast into two parts. In part one, we discuss everything but the DLCs and the ending. Next week we will return with another full episode dedicated to discussing the ending of Mass Effect 3 and the apocalyptic public response that it received. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Mass Effect 'Nova Siberia' by Big Giant Circles (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02036) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  8. This week our topic was a bit tricky - Mass Effect 3 released to critical praise in 2012 but also made a name for itself by being at the epicenter of one of the biggest fan backlashes in gaming history. In order to properly talk about the conclusion of the Mass Effect trilogy, we made the decision to split the podcast into two parts. In part one, we discuss everything but the DLCs and the ending. Next week we will return with another full episode dedicated to discussing the ending of Mass Effect 3 and the apocalyptic public response that it received. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Mass Effect 'Nova Siberia' by Big Giant Circles (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02036) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  9. Ok, so we don't have any major information or any sort of timeframe, but we do have quotes. "It's no secret that we're doing something with Dragon Age," said Mike Laidlaw aka the Senior Creative Director for Dragon Age during a podcast called The 1099. He continued on to say, "I can't talk about what, but we're certainly involved in something." Laidlaw was a guest on the podcast and the topics were creating "massive open worlds," his career and, of course, Dragon Age. "As I've jokingly said, I am the creative director for the Dragon Age franchise and they haven't fired me yet," said Laidlaw hinting at the viability of the next Dragon Age game. The last game in the Dragon Age franchise was Inquisition which released in November 2014. Its release received positive critical reception and apparently sold very well. When do you think we'll get a new Dragon Age game? Do you think Bioware is focusing on the series?
  10. Ok, so we don't have any major information or any sort of timeframe, but we do have quotes. "It's no secret that we're doing something with Dragon Age," said Mike Laidlaw aka the Senior Creative Director for Dragon Age during a podcast called The 1099. He continued on to say, "I can't talk about what, but we're certainly involved in something." Laidlaw was a guest on the podcast and the topics were creating "massive open worlds," his career and, of course, Dragon Age. "As I've jokingly said, I am the creative director for the Dragon Age franchise and they haven't fired me yet," said Laidlaw hinting at the viability of the next Dragon Age game. The last game in the Dragon Age franchise was Inquisition which released in November 2014. Its release received positive critical reception and apparently sold very well. When do you think we'll get a new Dragon Age game? Do you think Bioware is focusing on the series? View full article
  11. Bioware joined Microsoft at their E3 presentation for the first extensive showing of their new franchise "Anthem." Players operate as "freelancers" in a science fiction universe, living within the walls of Fort Tarsis. Freelancers are the only people brave and capable enough of leaving the fortress, donning robotic power suits with their own unique loadouts and capabilities. The demo began with a character begging the player to rescue a group of non-freelancers who took a job offer outside the walls. After donning the ranger power armor (a mid-range class with all-around effectiveness), the player is joined by a friend with a "colossus" class suit with heavy attack power. It's unclear if Anthem is completely open world, but once outside of Fort Tarsis, the player seems to be able to move about in any direction through a lush jungle filled with wildlife both large and small. After fleeing a high level creature, the two players split up to take on a small group of scavenger enemies. The player character jets down beneath the surface of a river to breach and surprise the enemy at close range. Anthem will definitely be attempting its own system of rewarding players with loot. After ambushing a large group of enemies and taking them out with a volley of heat-seeking mortar and missile fire, the player picks up a legendary volt rife called "Jarra's Wrath." It's certainly as nonsensical in naming its items as Destiny. Anthem also features weather events that ostensibly change how you tackle objectives, including Shaper Storms. Before the demo concludes, the player character is able to invite at least two more friends to their squad for backup, before flying into a mysterious orb shrouded by the storm. Destiny 2 will have at least a little while to bulk up its defense, though, since Anthem is currently scheduled for a Fall 2018 release. What did you folks think of the demo? Does Anthem's seemingly robust gameplay tickle that shooter itch more than Destiny for you? What do you make of the jungle environment, and do you think Bioware will bring more RPG elements into the mix? Let us know in the comments.
  12. Bioware joined Microsoft at their E3 presentation for the first extensive showing of their new franchise "Anthem." Players operate as "freelancers" in a science fiction universe, living within the walls of Fort Tarsis. Freelancers are the only people brave and capable enough of leaving the fortress, donning robotic power suits with their own unique loadouts and capabilities. The demo began with a character begging the player to rescue a group of non-freelancers who took a job offer outside the walls. After donning the ranger power armor (a mid-range class with all-around effectiveness), the player is joined by a friend with a "colossus" class suit with heavy attack power. It's unclear if Anthem is completely open world, but once outside of Fort Tarsis, the player seems to be able to move about in any direction through a lush jungle filled with wildlife both large and small. After fleeing a high level creature, the two players split up to take on a small group of scavenger enemies. The player character jets down beneath the surface of a river to breach and surprise the enemy at close range. Anthem will definitely be attempting its own system of rewarding players with loot. After ambushing a large group of enemies and taking them out with a volley of heat-seeking mortar and missile fire, the player picks up a legendary volt rife called "Jarra's Wrath." It's certainly as nonsensical in naming its items as Destiny. Anthem also features weather events that ostensibly change how you tackle objectives, including Shaper Storms. Before the demo concludes, the player character is able to invite at least two more friends to their squad for backup, before flying into a mysterious orb shrouded by the storm. Destiny 2 will have at least a little while to bulk up its defense, though, since Anthem is currently scheduled for a Fall 2018 release. What did you folks think of the demo? Does Anthem's seemingly robust gameplay tickle that shooter itch more than Destiny for you? What do you make of the jungle environment, and do you think Bioware will bring more RPG elements into the mix? Let us know in the comments. View full article
  13. BioWare, for the time being, is setting aside Dragon Age and Mass Effect in favor of a new franchise titled Anthem. BioWare debuted a new teaser trailer ahead of the full trailer scheduled to be unveiled during Microsoft’s E3 press event. The trailer features a mysterious planet full of lush jungles, terrifying beasts, and a suit of powered armor that looks like it could be the Doom marine’s cousin. Check out the trailer below for a full look at Anthem, and make sure to check back after Microsoft’s press conference for the full trailer.
  14. BioWare, for the time being, is setting aside Dragon Age and Mass Effect in favor of a new franchise titled Anthem. BioWare debuted a new teaser trailer ahead of the full trailer scheduled to be unveiled during Microsoft’s E3 press event. The trailer features a mysterious planet full of lush jungles, terrifying beasts, and a suit of powered armor that looks like it could be the Doom marine’s cousin. Check out the trailer below for a full look at Anthem, and make sure to check back after Microsoft’s press conference for the full trailer. View full article
  15. Mass Effect has been a series dear to my heart since I played the first entry almost a decade ago. That original trilogy captivated a generation of players with a science-fiction universe into which BioWare wove a spellbinding tale of heroism that sought to answer some of the very fundamental questions of human existence. The trilogy ended on a note that left an entire Milky Way galaxy irrevocably changed – the kind of ending upon with it is difficult, if not impossible, to continue. To that circumvent that finality, Mass Effect: Andromeda sends players on a mission to colonize a completely different galaxy. Having left years before the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, several arks house the primary sentient species that inhabited the Milky Way. Those familiar races, the humans, asari, turians, salarians, and krogan, spent six hundred years in stasis pods to reach the Andromeda galaxy. This journey promised a fresh start for those who embarked upon it. The Initiative, the organization behind the resettlement, launched the Nexus, a gigantic space station that would serve as a new galactic hub, around the same time as the ark ships. Several “golden worlds” had been identified, prime targets for habitation for the various settling species. Everything was planned to the letter. Except very few things ever go according to plan. Really, that above sentence could apply broadly to Mass Effect: Andromeda, not just the story. No doubt most people reading this review will be familiar with the facial animation issues in Andromeda. While those animation woes are by no means small, the extreme focus on them has eclipsed a lot of the discussion regarding the more interesting problems that plague Mass Effect: Andromeda. When I think back on my time with BioWare’s latest attempt as a space epic, I remember all the time I spent on sprawling planets that initially held a certain thrill of discovery. I was an explorer! These were planets in a new and unknown galaxy! Who knows what kinds of crazy lifeforms or interesting encounters might be around any given turn of the terrain? Heck, BioWare even resurrected a planet roving vehicle and improved its handling to hark back to the original Mass Effect and its Mako tank. As I delved deeper and deeper into Andromeda, the game begin to feel routine. Why? Part of what contributed to the mundane atmosphere that pervades Mass Effect: Andromeda can be traced to the waste of its own fundamental premise. Players were on an adventure to an entirely unknown galaxy, a situation prime for introducing truly alien encounters. Instead of expanding the Mass Effect universe in interesting ways, players simply find more of the same stuff. BioWare took a creative approach to write themselves out of the corner they had created with Mass Effect 3, but chose to ignore many of the interesting elements that their solution would entail in order to bring everything back to some arbitrary status quo. Instead of encountering novel beings that would arise from a galaxy free from the cycle of destruction within the Milky Way, the two new sentient races encountered in Andromeda are humanoid with immediately relatable wants and desires. The main quirk of the angaran? They are more communal and open with their emotions. The main quirk of the kett? They have a rigid theocratic hierarchy based around genetics. We’re in a new galaxy in a rich sci-fi universe where the creatures we encounter could be anything: sentient energy crystals, renegade swarms of nanites that have achieved a hivemind, mouse-sized silicon creatures whose ways are completely incomprehensible. Literally anything could exist in a galaxy so far removed from any kind of interaction with the galaxy BioWare crafted in the first three games. Those interesting possibilities are shoved aside in favor of more familiar and “relatable” allies and villains. In fact, this desire to return to the pre-Mass Effect 3 status quo in a new galaxy even extends to some of the most thought provoking questions of encountering alien species. The most important part of first contact involves figuring out how to communicate. Entire films have been based around that premise *cough* Arrival *cough*. Even Star Trek: The Next Generation took an hour for Picard to figure out how a new alien species communicated. You could take it for granted in the trilogy that humans had figured out communications with the aliens of Citadel space decades previously, so it wasn’t an issue. Mass Effect: Andromeda spends not even five minutes on that subject with either of its new additions to their galactic cast of character species. Not only that, but the entire sense of scale, the stakes, and the urgency at play is skewed. If things go wrong with the ark ships, the entire initiative could fail. Even ground-level, no-name NPCs don’t seem too concerned, despite their desperate circumstances that present a threat to their survival. In one side mission, Ryder encounters two human pot heads living in the middle of nowhere on a planet where the water is so toxic it is literally on fire. The duo should be in the perfect position to know how monumentally screwed the Initiative’s future is, but they simply don’t care – an attitude reflected in how most NPCs react to deadly danger in Andromeda. Here’s an example: One of the primary locations in Mass Effect: Andromeda is an ice planet called Voeld. It’s one of the worlds controlled by the angara, but the player is told that it has become the front line in the war against the kett. When players land and begin exploring Voeld, the planet presents absolutely no evidence of any kind of protracted war. There are some scattered bases, some ships overhead on occasion, but nothing resembling an ongoing war. Heck, there aren’t even any craters to be seen. We know from Mass Effect 3 what a war in Mass Effect’s universe looks like. Palavin was a colossal battleground between the Reapers and the turians. Soldiers were breathless, tired from combat and wiped out emotionally. They did everything and anything they could to hold the line against an overwhelming adversary. Voeld has none of that. They even have entire towns – one of which has a hotel. They have scientists traipsing around researching animals beneath the ice or old ruins. The kett, supposedly an existential threat to the angaran people, seem at worst a nuisance. Very few characters act appropriately to the situations in which they find themselves. Most almost always go for a glib one-liner on par with Batman Forever’s Mr. Freeze, “Ice to meet you.” Arrived at what should be the sparkling hub of your new civilization only to find that it seems partially derelict? Time for a quip! Wandering in the belly of a completely unknown alien civilization’s living ruin? Time to just randomly activate things because you think you know what they do! Side note: Just once I want to see Ryder or their allies activate one of these alien devices only to find out it starts a giant alien weapon made to warp the planet into a star or some nonsense. They literally have no idea what these devices do, just their best guess and a human created AI that also is just making educated guesses. Then we get to the actual exploration, supposedly the core of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Very little exploration goes on. There are several huge maps covered with constantly respawning camps of enemies that stand between players and objective markers. The missions encountered in the wild rarely become anything more complicated than a fetch quest to get a thing from some bad guys. Sometimes pleasant surprises lurk at the end of seemingly boring quests, like gigantic robot boss battles, but often these grunt work tasks reward the player with habitability points. These points act as a kind of gating mechanism for upgrades, similar to the points used on the world map in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Outside of that, they don’t feel that impactful or important. Even raising planet habitability to 100% feels pointless. The settlements remain the same, some marginal rewards increase, but other than that there never felt like a compelling reason for anyone to bother unless they are a completionist. I’d like to contrast this approach with the original Mass Effect. While the first Mass Effect game certainly had problems, there was genuinely a sense of adventure. Every planet scanned might lead to something unique, like an ancient alien ruin or a collective of terrorists or rogue scientists whose experiment has gone awry. These sequences also had large, open maps that were filled with a lot of nothing and filler enemies, but enough was done to the planets to make them feel distinct and many of the encounters, though reusing assets, were written well enough to be interesting and involved player choice. None of that random exploration is present in Andromeda. I scanned every planet and found not a single unique situation or hidden adventure, only resources for crafting. That crafting system that BioWare touted in the lead up to Andromeda’s release? Unfortunately, it rarely feels impactful. I used weapons I picked up and they worked fine. I crafted weapons a handful of times and they also worked fine in slightly different ways. Most of the time the only things I was excited to craft for Ryder were improvements to the roving tank to improve its speed or boosters. For the most part, Andromeda’s supporting cast manage to provide endearing personalities. Drack as a krogan grandpa and Vetra’s lady-turian smuggler were fun additions to the crew, but on there aren’t any Garrus Vakarians or Tali’Zorah vas Normandys to really latch onto as standout characters. That’s something BioWare could build toward over time with sequels, but I didn’t feel any particularly strong connections with most of the characters in this first outing. The disconnect between the player and various characters in Andromeda largely boils down to the amount of inconsequential fluff that pads out Andromeda. There’s so much busywork with so little pay-off that players lose track of what makes the cast fun or special. There was a 15+ hour long period in my playtime where I was just bored with what I was doing. Oh no, a scientist put her thesis on a hard drive that was stolen by bandits. Time to drive to the middle of nowhere to kill them and get it back (and the solution is almost always kill some ambiguous “them”). Missions like this exist in abundance throughout Andromeda – little to no interesting character interactions, just straightforward affairs that have players going around the same big environments. When the worlds open up, players naturally invest themselves in the various activities thinking that there might be an interesting moment or pay off to any of it… but there isn’t. Instead, players start to forget what they’re even supposed to be doing or care about. The narrative loses its propulsion. Trudging through the motions of establishing colonies and checking off the soon routine alien ruins spread across planets while dealing with disgruntled colonists- it all becomes work. All of this should be fun – we’re using cutting-edge technology to forge a new home on planets full of alien technology and life forms we have never seen before. The first beat of life after the exciting introductory sequence occurred over a dozen hours later when I was able to take on companion missions. It felt like things were happening! I got to see characters interacting with each other! Some well-written scenarios that made me laugh or excited! Liam’s side mission in particular felt like such a welcome breath of fresh air it almost seemed like it was from a different game. When Andromeda leans into those more linear segments and allows its characters to be themselves with Ryder or other companions, it really shines. Remember the action button prompts that would frequently pop up in Mass Effect 2 and 3? The ones that allowed extreme actions to be taken during dialogue sequences? Those are so rare that I could count with one hand the number I saw in a full playthrough. It got to the point that I just pressed it excitedly when it popped up without really knowing what was going to happen and at least on one occasion that resulted in a character’s death. While ditching the Paragon and Renegade system of years past seemed like a necessary update, it also eliminated the short hand players could use to predict what kind of an outcome pressing the action prompt might have in Andromeda. Combat stands out as the most solid aspect of Mass Effect: Andromeda. This is the smoothest and most action-filled BioWare game to date and it just feels good to take down enemies. On top of that, the new jump and boost mechanics give combat a whole new degree of mobility that it never had before. It feels free and fluid, providing players with more options in a fight than ever before. The responsive gunplay and interesting abilities really come to the forefront, making it easy to sink a lot of time into the less interesting parts of the game just to discover the perfect combination of abilities. The smooth combat translates into an enjoyable multiplayer experience who enjoy the gameplay on its own. Players accomplish a variety of objectives around various maps before escaping in shuttle craft. Succeeding in these missions allows players to level their multiplayer character and unlock new weapons and abilities for that character. Some rewards also carry over into the single-player campaign. It's a solid experience, but I'm not entirely sure how much longevity it has for players who have had their fill of fighting from the core game. Unfortunately, the combat stumbles when it comes to progression in Mass Effect: Andromeda's campaign. Players begin by choosing specialties, but can decide to respec their ability points at any time from their ship or simply use points from new levels to unlock abilities outside of their beginning specialties. Only a handful of those abilities are gated to certain levels, meaning that most abilities are available from the start. This all sounds great, but the problem comes in when players discover their preferred play style and abilities. When that happens, the motivation to experiment comes to an end. Upgrading those abilities simply makes them more effective, but doesn’t change the player’s approach to gameplay. This leads to gameplay becoming stale toward the end of a prolonged playthrough, which is hardly ideal. All of this doesn’t even touch on the various glitches that can plague Mass Effect: Andromeda. These manifest in a number of ways. Sometimes the game randomly crashes. Other times NPCs duplicate themselves. This can happen during conversations and can be really jarring. Sometimes NPCs get stuck in world objects. Notably, a random NPC on the Nexus space station would stand still on a stage staring straight ahead. She unnervingly persisted throughout my entire playthrough. Enemies in the respawning zones around the various worlds sometimes just float in the air. Sometimes characters simply disappear from cutscenes or fuse with other characters to create horrifying chimeras. Note: A recent patch weeks after release managed to fix the bizarrely dead and distracting eyes that often appeared to be locked into a look of fear or surprise. That patch doesn’t fix some of the other issues most of the faces in Andromeda seem to have with emoting, though. Some characters have certain resting faces that make them look like they are perpetually smiling, regardless of the situation. This issue is particularly noticeable with certain versions of female Ryder or her ally Cora. Also, and this is really not important, but female angaran character models look like they weren’t finished. Compare them to male angaran faces and they seem to lack a lot of detail or defining features. Conclusion: Mass Effect: Andromeda has the potential to be built into something great, but that potential is buried under a pile of issues that range from structural to technical. These problems range in scale from insignificant to huge. That this game launched without a fix for something as basic as the patch that fixed how eyes looked is incredible. Combat manages to top that of its predecessors, but becomes mired when it comes to progression. The visual presentation of the various planets at times reaches awe-inspiring heights, but gets brought low by the facial animations and persistent glitches. The potential of a new galaxy stretches out for players to explore and define, but that promise gets squandered in a number of disappointing ways. All of that being said, Mass Effect: Andromeda succeeds in laying a foundation on which sequels could successfully build. This outing might not live up to the series’ roots, but the possibility remains open for the entries that are sure to come. Mass Effect: Andromeda is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC View full article
  16. Review: Mass Effect - Andromeda

    Mass Effect has been a series dear to my heart since I played the first entry almost a decade ago. That original trilogy captivated a generation of players with a science-fiction universe into which BioWare wove a spellbinding tale of heroism that sought to answer some of the very fundamental questions of human existence. The trilogy ended on a note that left an entire Milky Way galaxy irrevocably changed – the kind of ending upon with it is difficult, if not impossible, to continue. To that circumvent that finality, Mass Effect: Andromeda sends players on a mission to colonize a completely different galaxy. Having left years before the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, several arks house the primary sentient species that inhabited the Milky Way. Those familiar races, the humans, asari, turians, salarians, and krogan, spent six hundred years in stasis pods to reach the Andromeda galaxy. This journey promised a fresh start for those who embarked upon it. The Initiative, the organization behind the resettlement, launched the Nexus, a gigantic space station that would serve as a new galactic hub, around the same time as the ark ships. Several “golden worlds” had been identified, prime targets for habitation for the various settling species. Everything was planned to the letter. Except very few things ever go according to plan. Really, that above sentence could apply broadly to Mass Effect: Andromeda, not just the story. No doubt most people reading this review will be familiar with the facial animation issues in Andromeda. While those animation woes are by no means small, the extreme focus on them has eclipsed a lot of the discussion regarding the more interesting problems that plague Mass Effect: Andromeda. When I think back on my time with BioWare’s latest attempt as a space epic, I remember all the time I spent on sprawling planets that initially held a certain thrill of discovery. I was an explorer! These were planets in a new and unknown galaxy! Who knows what kinds of crazy lifeforms or interesting encounters might be around any given turn of the terrain? Heck, BioWare even resurrected a planet roving vehicle and improved its handling to hark back to the original Mass Effect and its Mako tank. As I delved deeper and deeper into Andromeda, the game begin to feel routine. Why? Part of what contributed to the mundane atmosphere that pervades Mass Effect: Andromeda can be traced to the waste of its own fundamental premise. Players were on an adventure to an entirely unknown galaxy, a situation prime for introducing truly alien encounters. Instead of expanding the Mass Effect universe in interesting ways, players simply find more of the same stuff. BioWare took a creative approach to write themselves out of the corner they had created with Mass Effect 3, but chose to ignore many of the interesting elements that their solution would entail in order to bring everything back to some arbitrary status quo. Instead of encountering novel beings that would arise from a galaxy free from the cycle of destruction within the Milky Way, the two new sentient races encountered in Andromeda are humanoid with immediately relatable wants and desires. The main quirk of the angaran? They are more communal and open with their emotions. The main quirk of the kett? They have a rigid theocratic hierarchy based around genetics. We’re in a new galaxy in a rich sci-fi universe where the creatures we encounter could be anything: sentient energy crystals, renegade swarms of nanites that have achieved a hivemind, mouse-sized silicon creatures whose ways are completely incomprehensible. Literally anything could exist in a galaxy so far removed from any kind of interaction with the galaxy BioWare crafted in the first three games. Those interesting possibilities are shoved aside in favor of more familiar and “relatable” allies and villains. In fact, this desire to return to the pre-Mass Effect 3 status quo in a new galaxy even extends to some of the most thought provoking questions of encountering alien species. The most important part of first contact involves figuring out how to communicate. Entire films have been based around that premise *cough* Arrival *cough*. Even Star Trek: The Next Generation took an hour for Picard to figure out how a new alien species communicated. You could take it for granted in the trilogy that humans had figured out communications with the aliens of Citadel space decades previously, so it wasn’t an issue. Mass Effect: Andromeda spends not even five minutes on that subject with either of its new additions to their galactic cast of character species. Not only that, but the entire sense of scale, the stakes, and the urgency at play is skewed. If things go wrong with the ark ships, the entire initiative could fail. Even ground-level, no-name NPCs don’t seem too concerned, despite their desperate circumstances that present a threat to their survival. In one side mission, Ryder encounters two human pot heads living in the middle of nowhere on a planet where the water is so toxic it is literally on fire. The duo should be in the perfect position to know how monumentally screwed the Initiative’s future is, but they simply don’t care – an attitude reflected in how most NPCs react to deadly danger in Andromeda. Here’s an example: One of the primary locations in Mass Effect: Andromeda is an ice planet called Voeld. It’s one of the worlds controlled by the angara, but the player is told that it has become the front line in the war against the kett. When players land and begin exploring Voeld, the planet presents absolutely no evidence of any kind of protracted war. There are some scattered bases, some ships overhead on occasion, but nothing resembling an ongoing war. Heck, there aren’t even any craters to be seen. We know from Mass Effect 3 what a war in Mass Effect’s universe looks like. Palavin was a colossal battleground between the Reapers and the turians. Soldiers were breathless, tired from combat and wiped out emotionally. They did everything and anything they could to hold the line against an overwhelming adversary. Voeld has none of that. They even have entire towns – one of which has a hotel. They have scientists traipsing around researching animals beneath the ice or old ruins. The kett, supposedly an existential threat to the angaran people, seem at worst a nuisance. Very few characters act appropriately to the situations in which they find themselves. Most almost always go for a glib one-liner on par with Batman Forever’s Mr. Freeze, “Ice to meet you.” Arrived at what should be the sparkling hub of your new civilization only to find that it seems partially derelict? Time for a quip! Wandering in the belly of a completely unknown alien civilization’s living ruin? Time to just randomly activate things because you think you know what they do! Side note: Just once I want to see Ryder or their allies activate one of these alien devices only to find out it starts a giant alien weapon made to warp the planet into a star or some nonsense. They literally have no idea what these devices do, just their best guess and a human created AI that also is just making educated guesses. Then we get to the actual exploration, supposedly the core of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Very little exploration goes on. There are several huge maps covered with constantly respawning camps of enemies that stand between players and objective markers. The missions encountered in the wild rarely become anything more complicated than a fetch quest to get a thing from some bad guys. Sometimes pleasant surprises lurk at the end of seemingly boring quests, like gigantic robot boss battles, but often these grunt work tasks reward the player with habitability points. These points act as a kind of gating mechanism for upgrades, similar to the points used on the world map in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Outside of that, they don’t feel that impactful or important. Even raising planet habitability to 100% feels pointless. The settlements remain the same, some marginal rewards increase, but other than that there never felt like a compelling reason for anyone to bother unless they are a completionist. I’d like to contrast this approach with the original Mass Effect. While the first Mass Effect game certainly had problems, there was genuinely a sense of adventure. Every planet scanned might lead to something unique, like an ancient alien ruin or a collective of terrorists or rogue scientists whose experiment has gone awry. These sequences also had large, open maps that were filled with a lot of nothing and filler enemies, but enough was done to the planets to make them feel distinct and many of the encounters, though reusing assets, were written well enough to be interesting and involved player choice. None of that random exploration is present in Andromeda. I scanned every planet and found not a single unique situation or hidden adventure, only resources for crafting. That crafting system that BioWare touted in the lead up to Andromeda’s release? Unfortunately, it rarely feels impactful. I used weapons I picked up and they worked fine. I crafted weapons a handful of times and they also worked fine in slightly different ways. Most of the time the only things I was excited to craft for Ryder were improvements to the roving tank to improve its speed or boosters. For the most part, Andromeda’s supporting cast manage to provide endearing personalities. Drack as a krogan grandpa and Vetra’s lady-turian smuggler were fun additions to the crew, but on there aren’t any Garrus Vakarians or Tali’Zorah vas Normandys to really latch onto as standout characters. That’s something BioWare could build toward over time with sequels, but I didn’t feel any particularly strong connections with most of the characters in this first outing. The disconnect between the player and various characters in Andromeda largely boils down to the amount of inconsequential fluff that pads out Andromeda. There’s so much busywork with so little pay-off that players lose track of what makes the cast fun or special. There was a 15+ hour long period in my playtime where I was just bored with what I was doing. Oh no, a scientist put her thesis on a hard drive that was stolen by bandits. Time to drive to the middle of nowhere to kill them and get it back (and the solution is almost always kill some ambiguous “them”). Missions like this exist in abundance throughout Andromeda – little to no interesting character interactions, just straightforward affairs that have players going around the same big environments. When the worlds open up, players naturally invest themselves in the various activities thinking that there might be an interesting moment or pay off to any of it… but there isn’t. Instead, players start to forget what they’re even supposed to be doing or care about. The narrative loses its propulsion. Trudging through the motions of establishing colonies and checking off the soon routine alien ruins spread across planets while dealing with disgruntled colonists- it all becomes work. All of this should be fun – we’re using cutting-edge technology to forge a new home on planets full of alien technology and life forms we have never seen before. The first beat of life after the exciting introductory sequence occurred over a dozen hours later when I was able to take on companion missions. It felt like things were happening! I got to see characters interacting with each other! Some well-written scenarios that made me laugh or excited! Liam’s side mission in particular felt like such a welcome breath of fresh air it almost seemed like it was from a different game. When Andromeda leans into those more linear segments and allows its characters to be themselves with Ryder or other companions, it really shines. Remember the action button prompts that would frequently pop up in Mass Effect 2 and 3? The ones that allowed extreme actions to be taken during dialogue sequences? Those are so rare that I could count with one hand the number I saw in a full playthrough. It got to the point that I just pressed it excitedly when it popped up without really knowing what was going to happen and at least on one occasion that resulted in a character’s death. While ditching the Paragon and Renegade system of years past seemed like a necessary update, it also eliminated the short hand players could use to predict what kind of an outcome pressing the action prompt might have in Andromeda. Combat stands out as the most solid aspect of Mass Effect: Andromeda. This is the smoothest and most action-filled BioWare game to date and it just feels good to take down enemies. On top of that, the new jump and boost mechanics give combat a whole new degree of mobility that it never had before. It feels free and fluid, providing players with more options in a fight than ever before. The responsive gunplay and interesting abilities really come to the forefront, making it easy to sink a lot of time into the less interesting parts of the game just to discover the perfect combination of abilities. The smooth combat translates into an enjoyable multiplayer experience who enjoy the gameplay on its own. Players accomplish a variety of objectives around various maps before escaping in shuttle craft. Succeeding in these missions allows players to level their multiplayer character and unlock new weapons and abilities for that character. Some rewards also carry over into the single-player campaign. It's a solid experience, but I'm not entirely sure how much longevity it has for players who have had their fill of fighting from the core game. Unfortunately, the combat stumbles when it comes to progression in Mass Effect: Andromeda's campaign. Players begin by choosing specialties, but can decide to respec their ability points at any time from their ship or simply use points from new levels to unlock abilities outside of their beginning specialties. Only a handful of those abilities are gated to certain levels, meaning that most abilities are available from the start. This all sounds great, but the problem comes in when players discover their preferred play style and abilities. When that happens, the motivation to experiment comes to an end. Upgrading those abilities simply makes them more effective, but doesn’t change the player’s approach to gameplay. This leads to gameplay becoming stale toward the end of a prolonged playthrough, which is hardly ideal. All of this doesn’t even touch on the various glitches that can plague Mass Effect: Andromeda. These manifest in a number of ways. Sometimes the game randomly crashes. Other times NPCs duplicate themselves. This can happen during conversations and can be really jarring. Sometimes NPCs get stuck in world objects. Notably, a random NPC on the Nexus space station would stand still on a stage staring straight ahead. She unnervingly persisted throughout my entire playthrough. Enemies in the respawning zones around the various worlds sometimes just float in the air. Sometimes characters simply disappear from cutscenes or fuse with other characters to create horrifying chimeras. Note: A recent patch weeks after release managed to fix the bizarrely dead and distracting eyes that often appeared to be locked into a look of fear or surprise. That patch doesn’t fix some of the other issues most of the faces in Andromeda seem to have with emoting, though. Some characters have certain resting faces that make them look like they are perpetually smiling, regardless of the situation. This issue is particularly noticeable with certain versions of female Ryder or her ally Cora. Also, and this is really not important, but female angaran character models look like they weren’t finished. Compare them to male angaran faces and they seem to lack a lot of detail or defining features. Conclusion: Mass Effect: Andromeda has the potential to be built into something great, but that potential is buried under a pile of issues that range from structural to technical. These problems range in scale from insignificant to huge. That this game launched without a fix for something as basic as the patch that fixed how eyes looked is incredible. Combat manages to top that of its predecessors, but becomes mired when it comes to progression. The visual presentation of the various planets at times reaches awe-inspiring heights, but gets brought low by the facial animations and persistent glitches. The potential of a new galaxy stretches out for players to explore and define, but that promise gets squandered in a number of disappointing ways. All of that being said, Mass Effect: Andromeda succeeds in laying a foundation on which sequels could successfully build. This outing might not live up to the series’ roots, but the possibility remains open for the entries that are sure to come. Mass Effect: Andromeda is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
  17. You might have noticed headlines today blaring about how BioWare was going to reboot their beloved Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic franchise. Going from some of the articles, you'd think that this new version was going to be completely redone in the Frostbite Engine and also spontaneously manifest unending supplies of pizza. Sadly, that rumor never had much substance to it. The rumor originated from some words uttered by Liam Robertson, who runs Unseen64. On the show, Roberston discussed revelations from his connections at BioWare Austin, saying: I’ve learned now that [BioWare Austin is] pretty much now exclusively working on Star Wars games and they’re going to be doing that for the indefinite future. What they’re currently working on right now—and I have this on good authority—is a sort of remake/revival of Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t know when this is set to come out, but it has been in development for a little while now. According to Kotaku, that information just isn't accurate, or at least it is only partially correct. BioWare's Austin studio actually did prototype a revamped Knights of the Old Republic; the only problem is that the project never went any further than that. It's not in development and hasn't been greenlit by the higher ups at BioWare. Revamped KotOR isn't happening. Liam Roberston released a statement earlier today on the issue: Going to hold my hands up here - I think I just misheard some of the Austin stuff when I was talking on Skype, so I may have misspoke there. There’s also the element that I had no notes in front of me and just sort of rambled on from memory. I did not expect these few select statements to blow up (oops). I’m used to having the opportunity to just release follow-up notices on the Patreon with any updates and corrections. My bad there. Let me clarify that I don’t think KOTOR’s a current project. From the same people I learned about Dylan from, I did hear that they prototyped a KOTOR revival at Austin a while back. I believe it may have evolved into something else since then or fizzled out since then. I’m still confident Austin is doing something Star Wars related though and I’m confident in that. I actually did know that they were contributing towards Dylan since I originally found out about it when I was researching Austin’s Shadow Realms, so if I said exclusively, then that was admittedly a mistake. However, what is happening at BioWare Austin is work on a new IP for the studio. It's rumored to be a game along similar to Bungie's Destiny series. The code-name for the project has been confirmed to be Dylan, something Liam Robertson's sources also corroborated. Dylan went into development shortly after the cancellation of BioWare's last attempt at a new IP, Shadow Realms. Whatever it turns out to be, Dylan should be shown at E3 later this year. View full article
  18. You might have noticed headlines today blaring about how BioWare was going to reboot their beloved Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic franchise. Going from some of the articles, you'd think that this new version was going to be completely redone in the Frostbite Engine and also spontaneously manifest unending supplies of pizza. Sadly, that rumor never had much substance to it. The rumor originated from some words uttered by Liam Robertson, who runs Unseen64. On the show, Roberston discussed revelations from his connections at BioWare Austin, saying: I’ve learned now that [BioWare Austin is] pretty much now exclusively working on Star Wars games and they’re going to be doing that for the indefinite future. What they’re currently working on right now—and I have this on good authority—is a sort of remake/revival of Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t know when this is set to come out, but it has been in development for a little while now. According to Kotaku, that information just isn't accurate, or at least it is only partially correct. BioWare's Austin studio actually did prototype a revamped Knights of the Old Republic; the only problem is that the project never went any further than that. It's not in development and hasn't been greenlit by the higher ups at BioWare. Revamped KotOR isn't happening. Liam Roberston released a statement earlier today on the issue: Going to hold my hands up here - I think I just misheard some of the Austin stuff when I was talking on Skype, so I may have misspoke there. There’s also the element that I had no notes in front of me and just sort of rambled on from memory. I did not expect these few select statements to blow up (oops). I’m used to having the opportunity to just release follow-up notices on the Patreon with any updates and corrections. My bad there. Let me clarify that I don’t think KOTOR’s a current project. From the same people I learned about Dylan from, I did hear that they prototyped a KOTOR revival at Austin a while back. I believe it may have evolved into something else since then or fizzled out since then. I’m still confident Austin is doing something Star Wars related though and I’m confident in that. I actually did know that they were contributing towards Dylan since I originally found out about it when I was researching Austin’s Shadow Realms, so if I said exclusively, then that was admittedly a mistake. However, what is happening at BioWare Austin is work on a new IP for the studio. It's rumored to be a game along similar to Bungie's Destiny series. The code-name for the project has been confirmed to be Dylan, something Liam Robertson's sources also corroborated. Dylan went into development shortly after the cancellation of BioWare's last attempt at a new IP, Shadow Realms. Whatever it turns out to be, Dylan should be shown at E3 later this year.
  19. Review: Dragon Age: Inquisition

    I’ll be more upfront than usual; Dragon Age: Inquisition is a fantastic game. The staggeringly large scope, excellent score, eye-popping visuals, and engaging gameplay, BioWare executed everything almost flawlessly. I’d recommend it to almost anyone, even people who aren’t typically drawn toward RPGs. Inquisition has issues, certainly, but none that would prevent me from endorsing it. If you are just looking for my recommendation, there you have it. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in a deeper dive into Inquisition, taking a look at the seemingly minor issues that keep Inquisition from rising into the stuff of video game legend, read on. I think it fitting to begin a discussion of Inquisition by addressing the glitches that plagued my opening hour of gameplay. I spent around three hours attempting to satisfactorily begin the game. Character creation proved to be particularly difficult. No joke, all of the facial hair floated a good six inches off of my protagonist’s face, dissuading me from touching any of the glorious beards on display. Perhaps more importantly, the lighting in character creation looks nothing close to the lighting elsewhere in the game. Meaning that my first character, who I intended to look Middle Eastern, ended up looking like he had a fake spray tan that would never, ever come off. Though I initially thought I’d try to live with the abysmal results, I quickly ditched him because Dragon Age decided that he was going to be regarded as a lady by all other characters in the game, a rather significant glitch for which there was no fix. My second time through the creation process went much better, though depending on camera angles and lighting my protagonist could either look really awesome or like the world’s biggest simpleton. I thought I was in the clear. However, Dragon Age kept switching him from a mage to a rogue midway through the tutorial. It took over a dozen reloads before I was able to successfully make it through the introduction and progress into the game proper. With those initial glitchy hurdles cleared, my experience was nearly error free, excepting the occasional giant falling out of the sky. I only encountered one major glitch after the opening ordeal. About halfway through Inquisition, the game introduces a new character who can be customized. If players choose to customize that particular character, there seems to be a 50% chance that their main protagonist’s voice could change to the default option if they had opted for the non-default voice during character creation. This happened to me with no way to reverse it. There are few things as grating as spending 40 hours with a character sounding one way only for them to suddenly begin sounding completely, irritatingly different. Glitches aside, people interested in the PC version should know that Inquisition’s mouse and keyboard controls handle terribly. I could only handle about two or three minutes of gameplay before I decided to plug in a wired 360 controller, which proved to be a far superior experience. A tactical RPG originally made for the PC, Dragon Age: Origins required strategic thinking and micromanaging that lent itself very well to a mouse and keyboard. To a lesser extent, that was also true of Dragon Age 2. However, I found Dragon Age: Inquisition to be more of an action game with RPG elements, which lends itself better to a controller than a keyboard. A tactical camera and customizable companion tactics allow players to fine tune strategies, but I literally never used either of those functions, never even touched them. Granted, I played through on Normal difficulty, so perhaps higher difficulty levels require a more tactical approach to combat. The fact remains that I approached combat almost like I would a button masher and had a great time. The change isn’t a bad thing for the Dragon Age franchise, but prospective players should be aware that Inquisition’s gameplay differs significantly from that of its ancestors. The strength of BioWare’s writing team remains unchanged. To summarize the initial plot: The Chantry, the leading religious power in Thedas, convenes a special council to begin peace talks between rebellious mages and their former Templar handlers, an attempt to halt a disastrous war. Something goes horribly wrong and the entire council is obliterated in a magical cataclysm that creates The Breach, a massive portal to the Fade, a realm of spirits and demons. In all the commotion, a single individual emerges from The Breach, the bearer of a strange magical mark on their right hand. As that person, players make choices that shape the world of Thedas for better or worse. It is a great set up raising numerous questions for players to explore. What is the role of faith in times of peril? Is the protagonist divine? Can the current events all be rationally explained? Is there a god looking out for the people of Thedas? Unfortunately, none of these questions are really explored to much meaningful depth. It was a bit of a disappointment, especially given where the series might be going in the future. If anything makes up for my minor grumbles with how adequately Inquisition explores its own themes it is how well BioWare succeeds in characterization. Far and away, I found the dialogue to be the strongest part of Inquisition. BioWare really isn’t afraid to explore waters that most other video games still aren’t ready to touch quite yet. One of the most compelling companion characters, Dorian, is a mage that prefers the company of other men. He’s not treated as a stereotype or a token character. He’s a fully formed individual, which is rare to see in most Western games. A more succinct way of putting it is that Dorian’s sexual orientation isn’t something that defines him as a character, rather he’s written as a person who happens to be gay. He’s also bold, brimming with clever quips, and can occasionally put aside his façade of bravado to try and be a good friend. BioWare isn’t content to rest on its laurels after crafting a character that most studios wouldn’t have bother with either. Krem, the second in command of the Bull’s Chargers mercenary company, breaks new ground as the first transgender character in the Western AAA game space. Despite not being one of the core companion characters, Krem stands out in the land of big budget games as a minority character written in a humane way. Much like Dorian, Krem’s gender identity isn’t the thing that defines him, he’s a person before anything else. I only mentioned two out of a cast of dozens. Who could forget Cassandra, the hard case Seeker with a hidden love for trashy romance novels? Or Sera, the kooky-yet-practical city elf that seems more than a little unhinged? Or what about… I could keep listing names for paragraphs, but I think you’ve probably understood my meaning. Lesser writers would stop short. Cassandra would just be a stuffy warrior, Sera would just be crazy, Dorian would just be another gay stereotype. Heck, Krem would be a one line anomaly in a typical game. But BioWare adds just enough to make each one seem fleshed out and real. Each have their own motivations, goals, and desires. They have needs and wants that are directly communicated to the player and others that are only hinted at and suggest greater depth. Despite the fantasy setting and the supernatural threats that close in on every side, Dragon Age: Inquisition manages to paint more realistic people than many games that strive to be more grounded in reality. As I played Inquisition, I slowly began to feel an absence. I tried to shake it off, but it continued to grow as I progressed. Then, somewhere in the midst of court intrigue, large scale warfare, and demons raining from the sky, it suddenly stuck me how disconnected I felt from it all. It wasn’t that the characters are written badly, several of them are easily the most brilliantly written video game characters I’ve had the pleasure to come across. It also wasn’t that Dragon Age: Inquisition is boring; there are plenty of things to do and the game aims to be visually stunning at all times. It didn’t even seem like the problem was on a narrative level, an issue usually found in even the biggest AAA games. I really struggled to pin down exactly why Inquisition felt so impersonal, and it wasn’t until after the credits rolled and I had an opportunity to reflect on the game and BioWare’s previous accomplishments that the answer hit me. One of the most positively received video games to come out of BioWare is Mass Effect 2. The wild, incredible narrative ride ratchets up over time to climax in a suicide mission made all the more satisfying by the time devoted to interacting with and learning about the team that risk their lives alongside the player. In other words, Mass Effect 2’s effectiveness stems from how the narrative and game design choices all revolve around each other, intertwined and inseparable. Practically every mission either links with a certain character, advancing the player’s relationship with them, or propels the plot forward. Almost no missions in Mass Effect 2 consist of dead air (except, of course, the planet scanning), every moment crackles with purpose to one end or another. To invest players and keep up the narrative momentum, BioWare kept every mission carefully directed and allowed for little in the way of exploration. BioWare seems to have taken a different approach that centers on the vastness of the areas they’ve created. It is easy to see why; clearly a lot of time went into the awe-inspiring environments. However, the mission structures applied to these huge spaces feel very similar to what you’d find in an MMO. For many people that might not be a problem, but it leads to a relatively inert game both in terms of player engagement and game narrative. That’s why I had trouble pinpointing the problem at first; the disconnect isn’t on a traditional narrative level. Instead it is the result of a uniquely game-related design choice. Unlike Mass Effect 2, many of the missions, even some that involve companions, require backtracking through previously explored areas to kill bad guys/collect items/destroy things A, B, and C. They aren’t engaging tasks. You’ve probably done them thousands of times in other games. None of those things are as memorable or meaningful as the time Garrus tried to assassinate his ex-squad member, Sidonis, and was either talked into or out of it through conversation. I spent almost 100 hours in Thedas, and there were still areas I hadn’t fully explored. I completed the game at level 24, even though the game recommends the final mission for character levels 15-19. The world BioWare created was so big that the side stuff overtakes the main narrative, despite it being the least interesting part of the experience. It seems telling to me that “Leave the Hinterlands” has become a piece of advice repeated again and again. Players are getting wrapped up in checking all the boxes, going into every nook and cranny, and engaging less with the characters and narrative. That’s a shame, because the main quest missions are easily the most interesting parts of Dragon Age: Inquisition. I just wish that there were more of them and less uninspired open world quest design. Herb gathering exemplifies the issue perfectly. The game begins and it is exciting to stumble across herbs and harvest them, so you tap buttons to go through the gathering animations again and again. They’re all over the place. Then you discover that it takes herbs to replenish your supply of health potions. Gathering herbs stops being a cool diversion and becomes a necessity. Later you learn that it takes herbs to upgrade your potions, too. At this point, you will be willing to commit murder to not gather any more herbs. What started as a fun diversion becomes a mind-numbingly boring task. Sure, you can send soldiers to do it, but they’ll only bring six or seven plants back at a time, but you could collect double that in the time it takes them to bring more back. Even by the end of the game, I was scrabbling for more herbs, more crafting materials. It took me out of the world and diverted my attention from narratively important tasks. With the writing talent at their disposal, BioWare’s decision to focus away from the dialogues is perplexing. I don’t mean that Inquisition lacks in the dialogue department at all, but rather there was a slight design choice that clearly emphasizes the open world gameplay over the conversations. One of the things that I loved about both the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series was that practically all conversations with significant NPCs that had more than one sentence to say were done from multiple fixed camera angles that created more engaging visuals than the player controlled camera was capable of providing. It made conversations feel more immediate and exciting. While that is certainly still present in Dragon Age: Inquisition, more often than not players will be kept in the broad player controlled camera during conversations. The design choice encourages players to leave the conversation with the NPC whenever they’d like. On paper, that seems like something a lot of players would want, but in practice I think it creates a lot of distance between the player and the sidequests or extra dialogue players might want to have with their companions. I understand that it is a large game and players have a lot to do, but are we really too busy to want personal conversations with important characters? I don’t think so, and I can’t help but feel we lost something rather important. Ultimately, the estrangement from Dragon Age: Inquisition hurt my perception of its narrative. Perhaps I spent too much time pursuing side content and not enough on finishing the core missions, but by the end of the game everything felt stacked in my protagonist’s favor and the climactic finale seemed like little more than a formality. This could be an indication that the narrative itself is a bit flawed on how it approaches the overarching conflict in Dragon Age: Inquisition, but that’s probably a spoiler-filled topic for another day. Conclusion: Despite the glitches, the feeling of disconnection, and the wall of text that might indicate otherwise, I very much enjoyed my time in Thedas. The criticisms I had were small, but they’ll be the reason Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t remembered quite as fondly as Origins or the Mass Effect series. Dragon Age: Inquisition left me wanting more, curious as to where the franchise might be headed next. Color me doubly curious since many loose ends from both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 are resolved by the time the credits roll in Inquisition. I opened this review with a recommendation and I’m ending it with another. Do yourself a favor and play Dragon Age: Inquisition. Any missteps it makes pale in comparison to the enjoyable experience it can offer. Dragon Age: Inquisition was reviewed PC and is now available for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360
  20. It is easy to forget that BioWare took a bold risk when they launched their untested, original IP as an Xbox 360 exclusive back in 2007. The RPG genre had never truly veered into uncharted territory with a mainstream release as with a third-person shooter hybrid. On top of that, it was set in an unknown universe that the marketing team could easily have over-inflated to generate hype only to fall victim to the backlash (remember the cautionary tale of Advent Rising?). However, what made Mass Effect special was that it actually managed to live up to the hype. It worked. It had choices that engaged players. It was full of unique and interesting piece of universe-building and memorable characters. It delivered the sci-fi adventure some people had been waiting their entire lives to see in a video game for the first time. Almost a decade later with a new entry in the franchise releasing this week, does the original Mass Effect stand as not merely a good game, but one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Mass Effect 'Uncharted Depths' by Hy Bound (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02157) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, follow the show on Twitter and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  21. It is easy to forget that BioWare took a bold risk when they launched their untested, original IP as an Xbox 360 exclusive back in 2007. The RPG genre had never truly veered into uncharted territory with a mainstream release as with a third-person shooter hybrid. On top of that, it was set in an unknown universe that the marketing team could easily have over-inflated to generate hype only to fall victim to the backlash (remember the cautionary tale of Advent Rising?). However, what made Mass Effect special was that it actually managed to live up to the hype. It worked. It had choices that engaged players. It was full of unique and interesting piece of universe-building and memorable characters. It delivered the sci-fi adventure some people had been waiting their entire lives to see in a video game for the first time. Almost a decade later with a new entry in the franchise releasing this week, does the original Mass Effect stand as not merely a good game, but one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Mass Effect 'Uncharted Depths' by Hy Bound (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02157) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, follow the show on Twitter and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  22. Mass Effect: Andromeda releases later this month bringing players into BioWare's sci-fi universe once again. The spacefaring adventure might hit stores on March 21, but those who subscribe to EA's Access service will have 10 hours of pre-release gameplay time beginning on March 16. A similar perk is available for PC users through Origin Access. Unfortunately for PlayStation 4 owners, EA Access is exclusive to the Xbox One and no options are available to PS4 players to get in on the early slice of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Interestingly enough, that 10 hours of gameplay won't be completely unfettered. Players will be limited to a handful of story missions on a single planet before additional progress becomes locked. At that point, players can either explore or restart Andromeda. Mass Effect producer Fernando Melo expanded a bit on the limitations of the EA Access game time on Twitter. For more Mass Effect: Andromeda goodness, check out the trailer for BioWare's new space epic. View full article
  23. Mass Effect: Andromeda releases later this month bringing players into BioWare's sci-fi universe once again. The spacefaring adventure might hit stores on March 21, but those who subscribe to EA's Access service will have 10 hours of pre-release gameplay time beginning on March 16. A similar perk is available for PC users through Origin Access. Unfortunately for PlayStation 4 owners, EA Access is exclusive to the Xbox One and no options are available to PS4 players to get in on the early slice of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Interestingly enough, that 10 hours of gameplay won't be completely unfettered. Players will be limited to a handful of story missions on a single planet before additional progress becomes locked. At that point, players can either explore or restart Andromeda. Mass Effect producer Fernando Melo expanded a bit on the limitations of the EA Access game time on Twitter. For more Mass Effect: Andromeda goodness, check out the trailer for BioWare's new space epic.
  24. BioWare's next installment in the Mass Effect universe looms on the video game release horizon only a scant few weeks away. While we've certainly seen a decent chunk of gameplay and cinematics, much of game still seems to be shrouded in mystery. Today, BioWare pulled back a bit more of the curtain on Mass Effect: Andromeda. As explorers sent to an entirely unexplored new galaxy, players need to establish and secure a new world 2.5 million light years away from Earth. If that weren't already a daunting task, the alien races that inhabit that new galaxy are unpredictable - some might greet explorers with curiosity and open arms, but others are out for blood. Players will need to explore, craft, and fight to carve a new home out of a dangerous new frontier. View full article
  25. BioWare's next installment in the Mass Effect universe looms on the video game release horizon only a scant few weeks away. While we've certainly seen a decent chunk of gameplay and cinematics, much of game still seems to be shrouded in mystery. Today, BioWare pulled back a bit more of the curtain on Mass Effect: Andromeda. As explorers sent to an entirely unexplored new galaxy, players need to establish and secure a new world 2.5 million light years away from Earth. If that weren't already a daunting task, the alien races that inhabit that new galaxy are unpredictable - some might greet explorers with curiosity and open arms, but others are out for blood. Players will need to explore, craft, and fight to carve a new home out of a dangerous new frontier.