The Mass Effect 2 Post

July 19th, 2011 input via mattcolville


I know a lot of people who tried out ME1 and gave up. I was one of them. I got stuck on what seemed an insoluble mission in which I was continually dumped out of a cutscene and instantly killed before I even had a chance to switch weapons. This was a frustrating experience. A shelf-moment. The moment where you eject the disc, put it back in it’s case, and put it on the shelf and forget about it. I ditched the game and didn’t come back to it for two years.

That’s too bad, because ME1 was a good game, flaws and all. And ME2 is one of the best I’ve ever played, in spite of many flaws.

There are serious problems with ME1. The run-and-gun isn’t very good, there’s some driving and exploring which is as painful as any vehicle experience I’ve ever had in any game, and you can easily fuck yourself if you don’t realize that some missions are just too tough and you need to retreat and level up some more and come back.

They expect you to make decisions about weapons and gear with no context for these decisions. You get a Mark III rifle. Is that good? Is there a Mark IV? A Mark X? UNKNOWN. There’s no way to determine where you’ve been before, which makes exploring a colossal pain in the ass without writing it all down.

So if you absolutely couldn’t bear to go back and finish it, I understand. But gosh you should give it a try. Because ME1, if you haven’t played ME2, is a great game. The dialog is typically overwritten, but not constantly overwritten and some of it is pretty good. It also holds up, visually. It looks pretty good. Good enough, certainly. (more…)

Digging Through the Cultural Wreckage

July 16th, 2011 input via mattcolville

If there is any insight in this post, it necessarily follows hard on the heels of the brilliant Todd Alcott and his original observation found in his analysis of the Venture Bros.

Everything that happened in “the past” in The Venture Bros always seems important and vital, and everything going on “now” seems really chintzy and desperate in comparison.  The characters on the show are all living in what feels like the wreckage of a generational plane crash, their lives have no meaning and so they’re constantly trying to create meaning out of the twisted shards of the past, these really poorly-conceived adolescent fantasies of power and control.

Starting in 1982, we had this great, persistent theme in SF cinema. The question of identity. Plato, trying to make a point about something else, asks us to consider how we would react if we found out the world we know is an illusion. Phillip K. Dick took the issue one step farther. “Forget the world,” he said, “how do you know who you are?” It’s the ultimate existentialist question. One implied in Blade Runner, made explicit in Total Recall, Minority Report, most recently in Moon.

Now it seems to me like we have a new theme arising, at least in part by accident, and that is: the past is more interesting than the present. And, by association, the future. We see this in video games all the time now, but I don’t think we’re doing it on purpose. I think it’s a theme arising out of the way stories are designed. (more…)