Monday, June 18, 2012

Dead Space and Mass Effect

Yes, I am extremely embarrassed. I don't know how it happened, but I fell of the bandwagon somewhere along when it comes to video games, and so now I'm about 5 years behind. (xkcd comic = me). Right now people are talking about wait, they've moved on to Diablo 3.....

Dead Space

In any case, I finally got through Dead Space and Mass Effect in the last week or so. I had gotten up to about 50% of the way through Dead Space when I got stuck at the part with the invincible zombie and the locked door. (Don't ever buy the saw. The saw is the bane of my existence.) I actually played the entire thing through on easy instead of normal just because I really wanted to beat it and had already played through half of it on Normal. (Side note: very interesting, it was a lot less scary on Easy. It was still creepy and scary as hell, but not pee-my-pants scary, because I wasn't as afraid of dying. It was still extremely enjoyable to play, it was just an interesting experiment: for a horror game, you genuinely have to be afraid of dying the entire time for it to be scary.)

I drooled for about 2 weeks after I first got Dead Space, and I still think it is amazing. One of the things I love most about it is that it very rarely goes for the "cheap scares"; they could always just have something pop up behind you, but they very rarely do. (I think I could count the number of times in the entire game on one hand.) Instead they go for much creepier tactics. You see something moving through the grates overhead; you just barely see a deformed leg round the corner as a door opens; a shadow is cast from behind you as you head into a doorway. (The latter was probably one of my favorite spine-chillers of the game.)

In terms of combat, it starts out very  intimidating (which is a good thing!). As you gradually get familiar with the different types of creatures, you get less and less frightened by them. But the game does a really good job of gradually introducing new baddies at just the right rate to keep you thinking "Oh *&@!, what now?" The plot is .....adequate. It's basically "Fix this. Ok now fix that. Ok now fix this." The backstory, on the other hand, is phenomenal. The makers really did a good job of creating this solid story of how you got to where you are, and it's slowly dispensed throughout the game, little by little, enough to keep you intrigued up till the very end. The final boss is......adequate. After all, this game isn't about the combat; it's about the terror. It's genuinely hard to have a hard boss be terrifying because the player knows what's up. The plot has built up to this point and this is the final battle. In any case, it wasn't exceedingly challenging (although I was on easy), but it did leave me feeling satisfied (unlike, gee, I dunno, Mirror's Edge?).

There are just so few things that I can pick to criticize in this game. (coughSAWcough) The pacing was good, the graphics were generally good (especially when they needed to be, i.e., baddies), the combat was fun but very's just a winner all around. I can't wait until it's been long enough that I can play this game again and piss my pants repeatedly for enjoyment.

Mass Effect

After Dead Space, I moved on to Mass Effect. The first one. I had tried playing it one other time before, skimmed past all the tutorials (even the part that told you how to get to the tutorials), and quit about 5 minutes in because I had no clue what I was doing. This time, I took my time and was engrossed about 10 minutes in. The thing I love most about Mass Effect is how cinematic it is. The beginning cutscene is a perfect example: epic music playing in the background as the camera follows Shephard up the ship. You can just tell that the makers really thought this game through. Every cutscene and piece of dialog is expertly crafted.

As for the gameplay, it's extremely enjoyable, though it takes some getting used to; I think it took about a quarter of the game until I stopped throwing a grenade when thinking I had to reload. Infinite ammo is just kind of weird in today's gaming, from what I've seen. It's not that it makes it any less challenging, just different. I went with the default "John Shephard" because the game froze after I spent about 10 minutes designing my character (doesn't that always happen?), so I really didn't get a chance to use much of the biotech stuff. Which addresses something else....this game is huge. The normal gameplay takes a good amount of time, but the sidequests are where it's at. I really enjoyed exploring this world that was so amazingly created. The developers went out of there way to create so many things that aren't vital to the plot, which makes it feel like a real, thriving universe.

There are very, very few things I can find fault with in this game, other than the fact that it doesn't flipping tell you anything, which is annoying. It's not that it's complicated, it's that they just don't tell you. There's really no in-game explanation of how to play. What the hell is "omni-gel"? What is "Renegade" vs "Paragon"?

Other than that, there's really nothing to complain about. The dialog was weird at first, but I grey to like it, though at times it seemed tedious. The vehicle was a bitch to drive, but I never actually veered off any cliffs, so that's good. The AI seems kind of dull at times; I would take cover and then turn around to see my two teammates, just standing in the open.

The thing that I realized about Mass Effect is that I think I'm going to enjoy it just as much the second time through. The first time, I did quite a bit of the side quests, but I generally stuck to the main story. I didn't really peruse many stores or explore many planets because I honestly wanted to finish it before I became any uncooler for playing it so late for the first time. But I still enjoyed the heck out of it, and I know that the next time I play it and take things a little slower, I will enjoy the heck out of it as well.

So yeah, two amazing games that came out about 5 years ago by now. If you've been a loser like me and haven't played them until now, go buy them; I'll bet you can snag them both off Steam for $5 each during a Summer Sale.

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