2017.03.31

Cuyamaca panorama sunset

Two work trips this month. Luckily, there's Fire Emblem Fates, Liar's Dice, and some awesomely-named beers.

Cuyamaca

Cuyamaca view weimaraner bandana rock

For Jes's bday we did an AirBnB out near Barona. The views were pretty epic and the property had dogs, goats, horses, and a pig.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Long travel weeks have meant r&r in the man cave. Luckily, ME:A came out this month. Some thoughts...

Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot ark

The premise is simple: the friendly races of the Milky Way decide to send a bunch of cryo pods to the next galaxy. I presume this is meant to happen mid-ME where the galaxy is facing a grave threat. It's a bit of an escape from the fact that the ME3 ending basically wrote the series into a corner, but at least it's not a prequel.

Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot Eos settlement

So a main part of the role that is thrust upon the protagonist is to scout possible colonization targets and thereby ensure the future of the travelers. Seems a bit Fallout 4-ish, but without the Minecraft aspect. Thus far in my playthrough it doesn't seem like maintaining colony supply and safety is a thing - although there are references to evil alien attacks and planet habitability.

Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot Archon

Did I say evil alien species? Of course there is one. And here's the thing, there appear to be a total of two inhabitants of this corner of Andromeda, one evil alien species and one cagey-but-sympathetic species. Both fairly human-ish, both with space travel. Okay, chatting with sentient slime molds doesn't sound like a fun game, but the place seems a bit scant, particularly [minor spoiler incoming] when one of the two species survives by forced gene integration of different species.


Bioware did strive to make the environments look weird and alien, which shouldn't really be a thing since all of that stuff could be in any galaxy. But there are the obligatory floating rocks, glowing tentacles, and giant mushroom ferns.


But really Andromeda is just like us, they even have an ancient civilization that left behind awesome technology that no one understands. Well no one except our brave travelers' brain-integrated AI. At this point we've hit sci-fi game bingo several times over.

Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot driving snow bubble

Back to the task at hand, the game plays like ME 1-3. You fly amongst planets with an occasional stop-in at the Citadel - er - Nexus. Planets will have some combination of friendly towns and combat areas you get to drive or hoof through. The planet maps are about five minutes travel time in diameter and sprinkled with fairly repetitive combat/scan/collect events.

Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot pod

You open safety/resupply/fast travel points to places you explore. Here I should mention the mapping is pretty good but for a few confusing exit markers. Most importantly, after cumulative hours of waiting for the map in The Witcher to load, it's nice to have instant navigation.


Combat is pretty much the same as ME3; over-the-shoulder cover combat with a ton of abilities. The main thing they introduced in this one is combo effects for sequential powers (shock + burn, etc.). It's not as slick as the GoW franchise, but it's good enough to not be shallow or frustrating.


Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot level up biotics loadout

Ah yes, the skills. There are quite a few, they each have trees you probably want to max out before investing in another. They have combination effects. It basically just takes ME3 to the next level.


Of course there's no skills mechanic without crafting. You can buy equipment straight up, or spend collected r&d points to research, develop, and add special modifiers to your stuff. It's nice that you can basically get buy without using this feature, but then have a pile of points to use when you get around to it. It seems, though, there's no point to crafting anything below max level (VI).

Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot N7 loadout

Of course crafting means you have to equip stuff. This is pretty straightforward, put on your best armor (no wear and tear!), select some gats, consumable ammo if you run into any minibosses, and choose your squadmates.


The grind. Collecting resources has been an interesting saga in the ME series. This time around you drive to a mining area and then crawl around until your survey readings spike. Ho-hum.

You can also, while in the Tempest (spaceship), wait for your copilot to say there's an abnormality, then hit the scan key, then mouse around til it turns green, then send a probe. I'm not done. Then travel to the location (a ten second cutscene every time). Then hit 'x' to collect minerals, if present. Yeah.

Finally, a major mechanic in this game is kind of like the Witcher sense mechanic where a particular mode lets you see the unseen. It basically opens to the door to a million tedious fetch quests.


The visuals really run the gamut. There are lovely space and planet scenes, but also some horribly simple textures and low res models. Being a heavily character/dialogue-driven game, they really have to nail it with the facial close-ups and motion capture...


... it's pretty good by and large, though the funny face glitches that have the internet abuzz can still be found.

Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot Tempest vehicles Eos

ME:A has some flaws, it has some quirks, and it's largely a derivative, safe bet type of game. But it's still the most vibrant, lifelike non-MMO game and, well, who wants elves and magic when you have a chrome atv with dubs?
Witcher

The Witcher 3 screenshot bear school gear

In preparing for the ME:A release, I put in some time with the Witcher. I was pleasantly surprised to see the finding Ciri/Kaer Morhen bit was not the finale, but I wonder where it's going from here.



I hadn't really noticed the motion capture work on their cutscenes. It's a bit Hollywood, but still fun.
Warframe

Warframe Vauban Brobaun boozer55 screenshot

My Vauban Prime warframe is going strong, with Ash Prime in the pipe and some Riven mods coming up with each new battle rank.

L4D2

Left 4 Dead 2 mall

The work crew has played a bit more Left 4 Dead 2, including one great pvp session. It's just a great game.


Left 4 Dead 2 mug Layoffs Anyone