Late Effect 3

And so after seven years I have finally managed to finish Mass Effect 3 and conclude the original Mass Effect trilogy. As anyone reading this site will have quickly come to realise I can often be pedestrian progressing through my games but to say I have made very slow progress on this game is an understatement. A journey that has lasted multiple Xboxes and twelves years since I first played the original 2007 release.

I don’t want to write a review of Mass Effect 3 simply because it has taken me so long that the time passed has likely affected my view of the game. In short though it was a solid entry although it felt like it never quite fully built upon the phenomenal sequel, or indeed had the impact of the original. The overall story made sense with Commander Shepard trying to save the galaxy and various story arches being finalised. The DLC added to my playthrough duration but I felt there was a lot of filler in the game. Obviously the ending caused much debate and criticism at the time and whilst I had the benefit of playing the Extended Cut version, I can still appreciate where some of the complaints originated from. The conclusion seemed to skip over a lot of the detail the trilogy has spent so long trying to set out.

However the Mass Effect trilogy is a series I greatly enjoyed though. Arguably dumbed down from earlier Bioware classics and more casual friendly, it was still a solid third person shooter with some RPG mechanics. Often these RPG elements weren’t that satisfying. For example no matter how much I upgraded certain skill trees there are never any wow moments unlocking new more powerful skills. And hours and hours of sometimes tedious and inane conversations that weren’t always successful at expanding the lore or background of the characters. Also I noted that the Citadel DLC has some difficulty spikes (particularly the final fight which was stupidly cheap).

In my view Mass Effect’s greatest strength has been telling one of the most epic stories in gaming that I can remember. From the second half of the first game onwards the series really had a rich story, characters and lore. This epic space opera compelled me to play through to the end. It is the story and some of the stunning set pieces that helped make Mass Effect 2 a standout game. Arguably a defining game from the seventh generation of video game consoles.

All of that said it has been difficult progressing in this game because it is showing its age a bit. Mechanically the combat improved with the second game and notably the game’s performance on Xbox 360 improved massively from the second game onwards (although backwards compatibility on Xbox One largely remedies that situation now). I wrote recently about how some games age badly and there is no doubt in my mind that the original Mass Effect games are showing some of those signs. They feel clunky at times. Particularly in comparison to more modern third person shooters. It feels like the entire trilogy is ripe for a modern remaster with all the DLC included. And I know I am not the first person to have written that. I firmly believe these are still well worth a playthrough, although with lots of DLC that really adds to the experience it means ideally owning those too. I imagine the PC versions do improve the experience as well.

One feature I believe Bioware and Electronic Arts deserve praise for was the ability to use the save file of you character from the original game all the way through the second and third games (provided you remained on the same platform). It means that the outcome of certain decisions had consequence even if my memory was hazy from making those decisions years ago. It gave the games a connection that makes them much more of a complete journey. Without that feature I wonder if the games would feel as impactful. It is something that even now developers should think about when releasing sequels. So many developers simply don’t bother to connect their games. So bravo to Bioware and EA for that.

Anyway now is time to move on and play some more recent games. Somewhere along the way I need to give Mass Effect: Andromeda a look, even if I’m well aware it wasn’t anywhere as well received. I also hope that that isn’t the last we will see of the Mass Effect games. As the first trilogy proved, it is simply too rich a universe not to be continued in someway.

My thoughts on MMOs in 2019

This summer is going to see some excitement around MMOs. In June we will see the new chapter; Elsweyr for The Elder Scrolls Online. Shortly followed by the Final Fantasy XIV expansion; Shadowbringers in early July. On top of that World of Warcraft: Classic will finally arrive in the summer and rumours of a possible new World of Warcraft expansion being announced at Blizzcon 2019 are beginning to circulate. And finally even Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting a new expansion; Onslaught in September 2019. So there is a fair amount of new content coming for some of the more established MMOs.

With this in mind I thought I would write a very quick summary of my thoughts on how I feel about some of the most popular MMO games, given that MMOs and similar Live Services games have often dominated my playtime in recent years. This is concentrating on existing games rather than brand new MMOs that are yet to be released.

Currently playing: The Elder Scrolls Online

I’ve written about this before and I don’t need to say too much other than this is my current MMO/Live Service game of choice. I’ve already pre-ordered the latest expansion; Elsweyr. The only issue is that I don’t feel the hurry to jump into this new chapter content straight away having played a fair amount of the game in the last few months.

Given up on (for now): World of Warcraft

I made the mistake of picking up Blizzard’s 6-month subscription offer back in October and I haven’t played the game a great deal. In truth I’ve barely spent much time with Battle for Azeroth’s new content. My 2018 return to the game saw me playing more Legion content and catching up on old zones by levelling new characters. I’m struggling to find enthusiasm to play World of Warcraft anymore at the moment. So for now a good break from the game is probably the wisest choice.

In addition World of Warcraft: Classic doesn’t hold much attraction for me. I only started playing the game during The Burning Crusade expansion and even though I enjoyed the demo of Classic last year I don’t think I have the appetite for the original game. This is going to get a lot of attention though and for those players interested, whether they are reliving old memories or not, this should provide a fascinating experience. As a streamer recently said this is probably more akin to a seasonal event but will likely generate some interesting stories.

Not played in a while: Guild Wars 2

I’ve written about the original Guild Wars recently saying how I never spent enough time with that game. And unfortunately the same is true of Guild Wars 2. At the moment I’m enjoying The Elder Scrolls Online too much to go back to this. It’s a shame because I do have content I would like to experience like the Personal Story and Living World, but for now it isn’t happening.

Would love to try: Final Fantasy XIV

This seems to be the de facto recommendation for players looking for the best MMO in 2019. And for good reason. Square Enix’s MMO seems to have gone from strength to strength since the 2013 relaunch A Realm Reborn. However whilst I would be keen to give it a go, as ever with any Live Service like this, I’m trying to hold off because of the time and cost commitment. In addition it also sounds a bit like World of Warcraft in that for solo players there is a lack of endgame content (i.e. not even using LFG). And that is a slight concern for me if I got into this game.

Previously played: Star Wars: The Old Republic

I played Star Wars: The Old Republic for a few months when in came out in late 2011. And from the sounds of it a lot has changed in the last 8 years. Indeed this always played a bit like an offline RPG and there might be more content for solo players now. However whilst that appeals somewhat this might remain a once visited memory for me. It is good to see a new expansion arriving in September though.

The ‘not quite MMOs‘, but in the same category

Might be done with: Warframe

This is probably sacrilegious to write in 2019. Digital Extremes looter extraordinaire is the darling of most on the internet right now. And again for good reason. However I feel removed from this game, currently struggling to get back into it. The never ending and constant release of new items to collect along with more group oriented modes recently introduced has cooled me on this game. So why might I be done with it? Well it’s more about catching-up and having already amassed nearly 400 hours in a 18-24 months span I did get a little bit exhausted with Warframe.

Need to play: Path of Exile

Similar to the previous game, I feel a bit burnt out on isometric ARPG games in general which has impacted how many I’ve played recently (i.e. not many). Also the short seasons in Path of Exile mean I feel I need to jump in with a view to commiting for a month or two. And there are simply too many other games requesting my time at the moment. In no way a criticism of this game. At some point I will give it a proper go.

2019 is all about…

The Elder Scrolls Online will probably be the MMO/Live Service game I play most in 2019. With a new Chapter coming and a game I still find incredibly engaging it is hard to imagine playing something else instead of this. As noted there are a few games that are tempting or I would like to play again but when it comes to MMOs I feel less is more, and actually concentrating on one game is the best decision.

I haven’t really kept an eye on upcoming future MMOs and therefore there is a chance something emerges that takes my interest but is probably unlikely.