Category: News

Mass Effect 3: 3 Guys, a Girl, and a Galaxy at War*

No High Scores

Yesterday brought confirmation that Mass Effect 3 has multiplayer. I think it’s safe to say I see eye-to-eye with the grumpy sods good folks among you who commented on that post. Last night, Christ Priestly (Bioware Community Coordinator) took to the Bioware forums to fill in some of the blanks in the multiplayer picture. (Any takers on how many press people are annoyed Bioware put this content out there while they wait for press embargos to expire?) Ultimately, there’s two reveals so far:

4-Player Co-op: Create a new character (choose you class and race) to form a “Special Forces squad” to take on special multiplayer missions. These missions impact the single-player campaign, although Bioware insists in multiple spots in this post that these missions are not necessary to get the best possible ending in Mass Effect 3. What they’re not saying is whether or not it will be significantly harder to get the best possible ending (they’re calling it “ultimate victory”) without doing these missions. For the record, I am glad they’ve one in the direction of separate co-op missions rather than another generic Call of Duty-style model.

Galaxy at War: I’m not entirely clear on what this is, but there’s potential for it to be a nifty feature. Basically, there’s a Galactic Readiness level that is a reflection of how well Shepherd is able to collect assets: “People, weapons, resources, armies, fleets.” Now, to me, that sounds like it should be a whole game feature and not something specifically tied to multiplayer or other outside stuff, but the wording strongly infers this is for projects external to the main game: “…a new way for players to manage and experience the galactic war from multiple fronts, including a new 4-player co-op mode.” (Emphasis mine, of course.) Later the post says, “Other platforms will be announced in the coming months.” I suspect the single player has these same criteria, but it’s just the outside stuff getting the marketing bullet. Doesn’t take being a genius (clearly, if I can make the leap) to think this is just a way to get people participating in ME-related side projects. What’s that, you didn’t play Dragon Age Facebook Edition? Well maybe you will if doing so makes it easier to set up the main game’s finale! Watcha gonna do? The Galaxy is in your hands, Dude! (It’s criminal there’s no embed code for the linked clip. Such a bummer.)

*Points for you if you remember the 90s sitcom the post title references

Things That Are Stupid: Multiplayer Confirmed for Mass Effect 3

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I’ve already discussed my complete and utter disdain for the sheer volume of rumors propagating around the web for the past year regarding multiplayer possibly, maybe coming to Mass Effect. We think. Now, though, OXM has confirmation (and a pretty magazine cover) that in the next Mass Effect iteration, in some form or fashion, you’ll be shooting aliens with your buddies online. That sound you’re hearing is me banging my head on my desk over and over and over again until it suddenly gets dark. I don’t even know why I care at this point. I’ll buy the game. I’ll play the game. Chances are I’ll really, really enjoy the game. So why does the fact they’re devoting development time to multiplayer, something a lot of people are likely to enjoy (even if I’m not one of them), irritate the hell out of me so?

…Hey, you! You kids! Get off my f’n lawn!!! (Also: Discuss in the comments and tell me why I’m lame.)

The Witcher 2 2.0 Update and Another Reason to Like CD Projekt

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Yes, yes, you’ve already seen two tons of Witcher 2 2.0 updates across the web… two, two, two. There’s a new Arena mode that features some progressive gladitorial combat that will surely appeal to people who are not me. There’s an enhanced difficulty Dark Mode that adds some new weapons and attire and, presumably, does something else ala the Fallout: New Vegas Hardcore mode, but it’s not clear entirely just what that is. There’s a new Tutorial mode that sounds like it’ll do a lot to help out new players. Oh and there’s a boatload of combat tweaks that genuinely sound like they’ll make combat a smoother, more enjoyable experience. (These are the fixes I’m most curious to see.)

But again, you’ve already seen that at Big Game Site 421. What you may not have seen is this Rock, Paper, Shotgun interview with CDP development director Adam Badowski. If you want to know why this company should be seen as one of the “good guys” in this business (as opposed to, say, the people producing “tittilating” Need for Speed trailers) you should absolutely check it out. Here’s the usual snippet regarding their evolving approach to working with publishers:

On another note, we’re still learning one very important thing: Producing better games is not just about knowing what constitutes a better game. It’s also about creating a business set up which makes that possible, a set up in which, for example, quarterly or annual financial results are not a key factor in determining a release date. None of that is easy, because under current standard set ups, developers have little to say. Publishers remain masters of the situation, and their decisions are quite often driven by corporate priorities that may actually be harmful to the development process. That’s why we would rather rely on our own financial resources, and why our model for cooperating with publishers has been slowly evolving from a publishing to a distribution arrangement under which we retain sole responsibility for key decisions. I’m pretty sure this will help us make even better games in the future and avoid being sued for decisions that favor our customers (two of the three charges made by our publisher relate to this: removal of DRM and of obligatory IP geolocation on

There’s plenty more where that came from.

After the break you’ll find the full 2.0 patch log…

Dissecting Deus Ex: Going Out with a Whimper

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Alright, so after a thousand words or two about Deux Ex’s final act, I’ve barely even mentioned Hugh Darrow or The Decision you have to make in the final moments. That’s where we’re picking up with this installment, because the ending in this game didn’t have to be a letdown of epic proportions. It is, though. Very much so.

I’ll again point out for the record that even though I’m about to do my level best to eviscerate the ending, this is still nothing short of a B+ level game. I like it. It’s ever so close to greatness and I absolutely want Eidos Montreal to do another one. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t spend the time on it. Yadda, yadda. Also, as with the first installment, this post is absolutely spoilerific, so if you haven’t finished and don’t want to know how it all ends, go no further. For the rest of you, let’s go wreck this game…

Dissecting Deus Ex: Missing the Human in Human Revolution

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I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution Sunday night, which makes me the last “critic” on the planet to have done so and the rep on the game is pretty spot on: It’s an, at times, amazing piece of work that loses momentum through a bog standard final third of the game that then runs right off the rails with an outright miserable ending. By the time all is said and done I didn’t really know what was happening anymore, nor did I care to find out, and when the ultimate choice is laid before me I couldn’t have cared less what choice I made.

This is the point where I point out that, if I don’t like a game, I’m not going to write this much about it. I like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. A lot. I also think it’s a game that merits discussion; one loaded with dissenting opinions. So let’s get it rolling here by talking about the boss battles and how the ending lets down the promise of some of the principle characters. I’ve got another post drafted on the actual ending itself, but this is long enough that I don’t want to jam it in here. I’ll get that up int he next couple days.

Important: I’m not going out of my way to avoid spoilers in this one, so if you read past the break, keep that in mind…

IndieCade ’11

If you listened to our E3 episodes of Jumping the Shark, you’ve heard of IndieCade, an organization/festival that brings independent game developers together to share their ideas and show off their work to gamer and publisher alike. Going to their “booth” at E3 was one of the better experiences I had at the show, if for no other reason than the indie devs showing their stuff are, to a person, eager to talk about their work. There’s no, “We’re not talking about that,” from these people. You don’t feel like a nuisance for asking questions. There’s only, “This is what I’m trying to do and why I think it’s great.” It’s refreshing. Plus, there’s some genuinely interesting work these folks bring to the table.

Anyway, the actual IndieCade festival (think Sundance for video games) is coming up in October (6th – 9th) in Culver City, CA and their PR rep sends word with details on the speakers and events that will be part of the festivities. The short version is below with the full PR after the break. If you’re in the area you should definitely check it out.

This year’s conference keynote will feature the lead designer of the award-winning blockbuster Uncharted series, Richard Lemarchand. Other key speakers will include Jonathan Blow, mastermind behind the runaway indie hit Braid; Steve Swink, co-creator of Shadow Physics; and Canabalt luminary Adam Saltsman.

Another unique feature of the conference is the IndieXchange, which brings together indie developers with publishers.

Registration for the conference and festival is open through Brown Paper Tickets.

Ultima IV – VI Arrive on Good Old Games

Despite several of you pinging me about Good Old Games’s release of the first Ultima trilogy last week, I skipped out on posting here because we all had to know the big news was still to come. And, as we all knew it would be, it’s here. Three of the best games to come out of that five year span from ’85 to ’90 -that saw games move from simple 4 and 16-color keyboard-driven affairs to awe-inspiring VGA graphics, mouse controls, and a splash of generally good music (I so loved the Ultima VI soundtrack)- are finally available to the masses and playable, according to GoG, on Windows 7 both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. That’s right, Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny, and Ultima VI: The False Prophet are back.

So, on this memorable occasion, I bring you the Brakke Breakdown (not a dance), on these three marvelous games; what made them great and what you should know if you decide to make the plunge…

Dragon Age 3 Tidbits

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With PAX in the rearview, it looks like the slow trickle of Dragon Age 3 tidbits has officially begun. This post up at Neogaf describes some of the details the franchise’s Creative Director, Mike Laidlaw, revealed at PAX and this write up at Joystiq extends on that a bit. Here’s the gist:

– Companion armor: They’re really trying to thread the needle here between DA1 and DA2 mechanics. The game should (Laidlaw makes no promises) let you equip characters as you see fit (yay!), but what you dress them with will not affect their appearance. (You will have some control over appearance, but what you put in for armor in the inventory slot won’t affect it.) I think this is a very fair compromise. It adds back in some gameplay choices and preserves Bioware’s ability to provide more detailed NPCs models (without doing an implausible amount of work).

– More emphasis on tactical battles and preparation. Please, please, please follow through here.

– Bigger map than DA1. This matters less to me. I’m not worried about epic scope versus smaller scope. Either can work. It just depends on the execution and the needs of the story.

– No surprise based on the ending of DA2, but the world at war will be the overriding theme in DA3. Your job will be, “saving the world from itself.”

– You will not reprise your Warden Commander role (good; I’m happy with my part in his story being complete). Not clear if you’ll be the Champion of Kirkwall again or a new character. Sounds like the latter, which I’m fine with. Putting you into new shoes with each game lets the world continue w/o having to address character progression game over game.

– No decision on character creation yet (set background versus choosing from a variety of backgrounds). My heart wants the latter, but if the story suits the former better that’s okay.

– They want to “try” to resolve the Morrigan having a god baby issue. Look, I was fine with that not coming in DA2, but you have to deal with that. It was a crucial moment in DA1 with huge implications for the future. You can’t just pretend you never offered it. (And I’m fine with just retconning the history to say Morrigan found a way and if the Greywarden died it was just the result of injuries and not the whole Old God soul release.)

– Choices and their consequences will be a “major focal point” going forward (there was an acknowledgment this was a weak point of DA2). Again, definitely want to see follow-through here.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Impressions

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Last night, I put about 2-3 hours into Deus Ex: Human Revolution. As first impressions go, it would have been hard for this game to make a better one and it’s certainly not hard to believe the high review scores this is getting are on the money (currently an 89 at Metacritic). On the PC the controls are tight, the visuals largely fantastic, and the feel of the game is very, very Deus Ex. Here’s some notes I’ve scribbled down as I’ve gone about playing through the initial pair of tutorial missions (the initial pre-augmentation set up and the “Typhoon” mission that follows)…

Dragon Age 3 to Go Hybrid

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At Gamescom last week PC Gamer got some time to talk to Bioware’s CEO, Dr. Ray Muzyka about the divisive reception of Dragon Age 2 and how that’s shaping development for Dragon Age 3. If you’ve been on the blog for a bit, you know I vastly preferred the original, but hey, different strokes and all that. Regardless, you can hardly say I was the only one who thought the franchise took a half step back. Bioware’s solution, that they hope will appease fans of both, is to take what they think was best in each game and bring them together for Dragon Age 3. Says Muzyka:

“What we need to do as developers is take that feedback from both sets of fans to heart and see about marrying that in future games in the Dragon Age franchise. I think that the team has actually got a great plan. I think the team is going to have some things that are going to surprise both sets of fans, both core fans and new fans with a marriage of these… the best from both games, Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2. And we look forward more to talking about that in the future.”

Hey just put ’em together and it’ll be the perfect melding. Woo! Sounds easier said than done to me. In fact, it sounds like something you’d say when you desperately want to appeal to both sets of fans without pissing the other off. Still, say what you will about Bioware, they’re pros and they know what they’re doing, so I’ll keep the faith. There’s some other good quotes at PC Gamer so check out the full article.