One of the fun perks of doing a blog for yourself is that you are free to decide the direction and tone to take. Experiments! It’s what makes life worth living — and mad scientists. As of late, I’ve become more uninterested in meta discussions of the MMO genre. Not that they’re useless or dull, but I’ve been feeling like I’ve had enough talking about the field as a whole and what game will do will or whatever, and just want to talk about playing the games themselves. I don’t think I’ve done enough of that lately on Bio Break, and perhaps that should be the core of the blog.
So today I want to start a semi-regular, perhaps daily series called Play Diary. In it, I’ll run down what I did yesterday in game, tossing out observations and epic stories and tales of me dying to a bird. Nothing more epic than a level 50 bird pecking out your brain. Let’s get to it, then!
Mass Effect 3
Yesterday was supremely busy, and when a little slice of free time came up in the evening, I had to give it over to the launch day hoohah of Mass Effect 3. I’m not the most rabid Mass Effect fan in the world, certainly not like some I know, but I do think it’s the best original IP BioWare’s come up with, and I’m definitely interested in seeing how the trilogy ends.
I purchased it through Amazon and had it preloaded on my computer, which was a nice, convenient option. No DLC for me — I’m not even slightly feeling the tug on this one — so I jumped right into it.
ME3 loads up fast, faster than ME2, and definitely is more graphically enhanced than its predecessors. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing yet, because some of the characters — human females, in particular — just don’t look right. Their eyes and mouths seem unnatural to me, far much more than their male counterparts. The look of the world also feels different than ME2, which will take a little getting used to. Not radically different, but enough that it feels like a new skin suit.
Anyway, I got in about an hour and a half, enough to go through the tutorial area and the Mars section. I appreciate that ME3 starts out with a bang, because it felt like the previous two games were all about buildup and unseen threats that didn’t do much to motivate me. I created a FemShep with white hair/white eyes and reveled in the return of Jennifer Hale’s no-nonsense voice. Even if that dang mouth looks like it operates different than the rest of the body.
There’s a really neat moment during at the start of the game that does an effective job of making you care about what’s happening to Earth (it’s no huge spoiler here to say that Earth is under siege), and while it was pretty apparent what was going to happen, BioWare handled it with a nice subtle touch that put me in the right frame of mind. This is war, there are going to be losses, and nobody’s innocent.
The combat is what it is. I’m not a big fan of the more recent clicky-clicky CRPG combat mechanics, and while some probably love Mass Effect’s pseudo-FPS approach, it doesn’t do much for me. I rolled an Engineer so I could toss out drones and light people on fire, so that’s more or less how I spent my time. I did like that some of the enemies carried shields that made it tough to take them down unless you flanked them — positioning is a nice strategic layer that I appreciate in combat.
I’ve avoided spoilers for ME3 thus far, so I really have no idea what characters from the past game I’ll be running into or what areas I’ll be exploring. Right now I’m on the Citadel and noticing that BioWare’s dumbed down the map to the point where not even a baby could get lost. Guess the days of mapping out dungeons on graph paper are long gone, eh?
Simpsons: Tapped Out
EA’s totally screwed up this Farmville-ish Simpsons title, and yet I keep coming back to it. I said on twitter that it’s both a crappy game and a great game, but I’m not sure how the scales will tip on it.
Basically, it’s a tongue-in-cheek homage/clone of other time-management sims in which you have to rebuild Springfield after Homer accidentally nukes it. Build houses, have characters go on activities, visit other towns for rewards, and so on. The gameplay isn’t super-exciting, but there is a smidge of strategy present, and it does give gratification to see something grow.
What makes it great is that the look of the town and the humor is pretty darn spot-on for the series. There are little animations for the characters and buildings, funny quotes, and job descriptions that are more amusing than “plant tomatoes.” Speaking of planting, one of the things you can plant on Cletus’ farm is Triffods, which have a reward of “end humanity.” I’ve been too scared to try it.
As amusing as it all is, EA is making it extremely hard to enjoy. For one thing, it requires a constant login to Origin, which is spotty as anything, and for another, EA grossly underestimated the popularity of the game and experienced such swamping of its servers that it had to pull the title from the app store while it fixed the back-end. Also, the microtransactions are just ludicrous and not tempting in the least — they want you to spend up to $10-$15 just to buy a single house in the game (fortunately, many structures are available for in-game currency). Forget that, EA. Learn to price better.