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Posts tagged “BioWare

Quick Review: Dragon Age Inquisition

Any long time reader of the blog here will know that I am a huge fan of Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise. Yes, despite the faults with both Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3, I am still a fan. Why? Bioware can weave a story like no other. Though, they ought to be careful, lots of indie companies and writers are coming out of left field with amazing stories and even more engrossing games. Consider the recent positive release of “The Evil Within” as just one example of amazing storytelling from the fantasy given folks over at Bethesda. Bethesda, personally, is not a game producer in which horror springs to me. Fantasy, yes. Terror induced nightmares, no.  But they did it, and its all for the better because hopefully it’ll keep other game developers on their toes producing even better stories and games. However, we’re here to talk about Dragon Age Inquisition. So lets chat.

The Ugly:

I was really excited about the release of Inquisition. Again, I love the series. I love creating my own custom hero and going forth on quests and dungeon raiding, and all that nerdy mess. As a writer, my medium is horror. I live and breath horror. So, fantasy games like Dragon Age allow me to step back and breath from fresh air before lunching back into the pit. So hopefully my now, you can imagine my excite with the release of a new installment. And there I was, Friday night, all to myself. Wife was out with friends. Kid was spending the night with grandma and grandpa. I was all alone!!! I insert the disk. Feet dancing away in delightful anticipation. And what do I get? I big oh 10-15 min. loading time. Apparently, without warning (thanks Bioware) the game will take up 7G’s of storage space. This wasn’t a problem for me, though not everyone has that much memory. So this is my first taste, after all the waiting, I have to wait some more. No big deal. Be patient, right? Okay…moving on.

To help clarify, I do not own an Xbox One. I’ve got the older sister, the Xbox 360. The Xbox One will be in the foreseeable future, but not yet. Not until I’m pretty much forced into forking over the hefty funds to purchase one. But with games, like Inquisition being offered on the 360, I feel like the change is not yet necessary. Or is it?

Dragon Age Inquisition is offered on a wide range of platforms, including my own 360 version. But maybe it shouldn’t have been. Let me explain. Once the loading time finally finished and I got to the game itself it became very apparent this was not the game I was sold. For the last Dragon Age that will be offered on the 360, no doubt, I expected something — more. The graphics will elementary. Plastic even. The custom options for your custom hero are languished, at best. When I heard you could add scars for your character, I got all nibbly bibbly! But when I went to look for it during my character creation slot, the scars were no where to be found… even worse, the beard option and hair options are equally despicable. You almost have to make your character as bland as toasted oats in order not to look unbearably manikin.

Look. I don’t want to sound like a sour apple. I have no idea if this game looks better on the next gen console than it does on the 360. But there are a lot of faults with this game. Mostly with the way it looks. The game play graphics, the sound effects, everything…its all weird, and, well, lazy looking. I feel, with the product that is in front of me, like Bioware rushed it out the door to meet the Holiday season, forgetting to do some coding with the 360 version. Hopefully, some of these issues can be resolved with some simple updates. I just pray they take the time to do them.

The Fetching:

Okay. With everything I don’t like with this game, there’s a lot of it that I do like. The story, though choppy at first, is solid. I felt thrown into the mix without a narration. Okay Bioware, this is basic storytelling. You need a narration. Once I got my feet on the ground, the story started making more sense. And I am currently enjoying the game a lot more. The combat system is fun, much like the second game. The areas are massive. And the side quests are plentiful. Almost to the point where you’ll spend hours in just one area. The new details are also fun. Like with the War Room. I feel like I am actually playing the part of Inquisitor. Plenty of looting, despite the super small text font. There are plenty of new twists to the game to keep your interest. I am just into the very beginning of the game still, as I spent most of my weekend hanging out in Hinterlands. I eventually had to walk away in order to experience more of what the game has to offer. I did get to watch a giant and a dragon duke it out on the coast and then was able to take down the giant. Just watch out for the flying boulders. The impact will kill your character. The options for strategy look impressive, though the party characters all ready come equipped with general combat common sense, which is good. Plus there is an added feature, the “run away!” approach. I had to use this Monty Python strategy a few times against annoying fade creatures.

The All-Inclusive:

I’d give this new installment 3 out of 5 stars. I was/am disappointed on how rushed the game looks. Again, my review here is for the 360. i pray the One version is cleaner. But the more I play Inquisition the more I like it. And no doubt my rating will go up to 4 out of 5 stars if only Bioware actually puts out a patch and update all the messy glitches. If you have not yet purchased the game, you may want to wait and see if Bioware actually does put out a patch. Or, if are a hardcore Dragon Age fan and do not want to wait and can put up with mediocre graphics, then by all means. As I said, the game is growing on me, though it shouldn’t have to and if this was any other game from any other production company, I may have returned to sender! In summary, the graphics need major improvements, as well as the glitches; while, the story and combat systems are impressive.

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The Fate of Mass Effect

Mass Effect 3

If you tuned into the last Bioware induced post a few months back, during the late summer months, Machine Mean discussed, to some extent, rumors and overall fate of the continuation of the Mass Effect universe. We discussed the terrible three choice ending of M3, as well as possible future directions. The web is still abuzz with fan fiction rumor, but the continuation as been, more or less, confirmed. Bioware producer Michael Gamble, in answering a fan question regarding any new DLC for M3, responded with “nope. Citadel was the last DLC, we have a full, brand new game to make!” With that being said, i’m sure every subject of the nerd kingdom had already assumed as much, but then again…with as much hate over the ending to M3, many of us nerds were left with nagging uncertainty. At this moment, I think its rather safe to exhale. There will be a new Mass Effect…perhaps as soon as 2015 (best guess). 

Whatever direction the new game will take is still highly conjecture. No one knows for sure. I’ll be praying that its not a prequel as I want the very memory of M3 behind me. It happened. It was horrible. Lets move on. From some of the stuff leaked during PAX, in a closed meeting with a few hardcore fans, Bioware reps asked a few interesting questions that could lead to some insights in the direction M4 (or whatever its eventually called, but for now, for clarity, lets just call it M4). Here are a few of the questions:

1. What does N7 mean to you? (Most interesting question. Sounds something similar to what was discussed on Machine Mean back in August)

2. When asked if the group preferred a prequel, sequel, or something new entirely, the group responded overwhelmingly that they preferred a sequel. (Which sounds good to me because, though some prequels are necessary, it would feel like a waste of time and effort with Mass Effect.)

3. Two new species was revealed; however, the group was asked if they had to choose two from the already existing pool to leave out of the game, which ones would they choose. (The revelation of two brand new species sounds amazing; the two the group by % choose to leave out of the new game were the Krogan and Quarian species’. I can get behind leaving the Quarian’s out, to be perhaps included later on in a DLC, but how could they vote off the Krogan’s? They are the most badass species in the entire Mass Effect universe!!!)

The rest of the presentation basically was to talk about having a more detailed armor customization and crafting better looking species for in-game play. There was also some talk about bringing back the feel of M1, which is also something we talked about here back in August. Don’t get me wrong, M2 was an amazing game and highly replayable, but the feel and mood and tone of M1 was what really set the series apart from other RPG’s. If you want to check out my source for all this new info, watch the video by RocketChainsawAU  below:

 

mass effect2For now, it looks like we’re going to get something similar to what we here at Machine Mean speculated back in August; except for having a story crafted around the Specters, we’ll get an N7 based story. The only nagging issue with an N7 story is that it limits the chances of having an multispecies character option to nill. Best to my knowledge, N7 is a human special ops team. Will the N7 story still be awesome? Maybe, but less than if they allowed character creation to branch off a little more, giving the player to choose a foundation other than human. Just like the Specters though, N7 is an area that hasn’t been fully explored before. So even though we know what it is and have heard about in our past adventures with Shepard, it will be entirely new.

Until then, we’ll have to keep our ears to the ground and hope more credible information will be leaked.

 

 


Dragon Age Inquisition: interviews and teasers

Okay, its been a few weeks since we last talked about Bioware’s upcoming addition to the Dragon Age universe: Inquisition. From just the small amount of clips and pictures and interviews, this new installment definitely looks like something worth getting excited about. During PAX Prime 2013, back in late August through early September, Adam Sessler interviewed Dragon Age: Inquisition’s executive producer, Mark Darrah, for a detailed look at the upcoming game. I’m sure by now you’ve already seen and watched and enjoyed a ton of video coverage; however, we’re talking about Inquisition, at this point, there is no such thing as “just another promotional video.” So, sit back and enjoy this detailed interview.

 

There you have it folks. Fall 2014 is still a far way off, but no doubt there will be more teasers to follow in the coming year. Hopefully, we’ll get a deeper look at character customization and this new addition with the “Keeps,” and followers, both old and new.


Will there be a new Mass Effect?

Its been well over a year now and many of us (nerds) have already been asking for sometime now: “Where oh where has my Mass Effect gone?” The buzz on the web has both confirmed and non-confirmed the fate of the Mass Effect franchise. From what i’ve gathered, it doesn’t seem as if BioWare (at this point and time) has any plans on continuing the series. One rumor floating around is that they are actually planning on crafting an entirely new space odyssey. Why? Because the ending of Mass Effect 3 was so confusing and drastic they had to add a free DLC to help explain what happened. Plus, the two out of the three “choose you’re own adventure” ending didn’t help matters…leaving the future of the organic races in the Mass Effect universe questionable. Obviously, plenty O’ gamer became ticked that the series they had been following from the beginning and all the choices they labored over actually didn’t matter in the end. But does this really mean BioWare couldn’t continue the series? Absolutely not and i’ll tell you why.

For one, just because M3 gave the player the option of three different endings doesn’t mean a new Mass Effect game couldn’t pre-select one ending as the foundation to base a continuation from. Basically, in my proposal for a new Mass Effect game, i’m cutting out the two dumbest endings: synthesis and control. Personally, after everything Shepard and his (or her) team had gone through, and the juxtaposed relationship between the Reapers and everyone else (minus the Geth), the only rational ending would be Destruction. Why? I’m glad you asked! The Reapers were (supposedly) immortal amoral beings whose sole purpose was to protect the galaxy by keeping organic life in a drastic cycle of checks and balances…IE exterminating all organic life once they reached a certain point of evolution. The Reapers wanted to keep organic life from destroying the galaxy, which they saw as an inevitable probability, unless advanced organic life could be kept in check through extermination. This is the nuts and bolts of the story, as i’ve understood it.

So, again, why choose the Destruction ending as the foundation? The problem with amoral beings is that they cannot take change into account. Shepard faced similar arguments with the Reaper known as Sovereign, who explained to Shepard during their conversation that the Reapers “impose order on the chaos of organic evolution. You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.” According to the in-game history, the Reapers had already gone through several cycles of extermination. We don’t know how many. But we do know the Prothean’s were the last dominate organic life before what now exists (humanity, Asari, Turians, Krogans, Salarians, Quarians, and many more).  Without getting into a huge long drawn out discussion, let me be frank and just say that the biggest difference between the Prothean’s and the modern races was that the Prothean’s were not a peaceful race. They controlled power through a tyrannical government and were reportedly very oppressive to the other races during their time. So much so, we never even hear about the other guys. What little information exists in the game regarding the old races are simply about the Prothean’s with little mention of anyone else. The modern races, represented in the Council and through Shepard’s efforts, while not perfect, made the effort to work together, even more so in the third installment. The Reapers ignored the diplomatic change in civilization.

Convincing an amoral being that you’re not going to ruin the galaxy for everyone else is nearly impossible. In their eyes, organic life is organic life, and must be kept in check. This is why the Reapers should have been Destroyed. My proposal is built from the following ending captured beautifully in Admiral Hackett’s narrative:

A solid Mass Effect game could definitely spring board based on the above ending. The new game should start in the near future, say ten years or so from the events that took place during M3. Why ten years? I think ten years gives a good enough time to allow the worlds damaged during the Reaper invasion to rebuild. Cities could be rebuilt in that time frame, memorials, museums, and military strength as well. The Mass Relays could also be repaired and a new Citadel Council could be established with added races that helped during the war. I would include a Krogan and Quarian representative on the council for obvious reasons. Would the Quarians be “unmasked” now that they have a home world and could stop being vagabond germaphobes? I’ll leave this bit open for debate. It would be interesting to see how the Quarians assimilated into a more broad society.The Krogans would also make for an interesting addition among the civilized galactic community, and they have most definitely earned their place on the council. The Geth should still be on the fringe. Some things cannot be healed with time and the Geth are unpredictable. I would imagine folks surviving the war with the Reapers would have some hostilities toward sentient beings.

More details could be added regarding the other races not included on the Council and some detail needs to be relieved regarding the destiny of past characters. These folks do not need to make a cameo, but the importance of their role in shaping the future cannot be ignored. I think a memorial for Shepard, Anderson, and the Normandy should be a visitable location on Earth in any future Mass Effect game. The one aspect of the previous games they must continue on into any future game is the music, especially from the first game. If your not sure what i’m talking about, check it out below:

My proposal  for the hero is to have a full fledged Spectre story! As “Spectres are not trained, but chosen. Individuals forged in the fire of service and battle—those whose actions elevate them above the rank and file,” the Reaper Invasion would have forged many new recruits across several worlds. The best part in doing a spectre story is being able to craft a hero based off a multinational foundation: the spectre’s work for the council and using the back story similar to the one above, you could create a character from the six council represented races. Could you imagine having a playable Krogan character?!? Mind = blown!

This would also be similar to the way BioWare has established some of their other games in the past. This story would be set up similar to Dragon Age: Origins. Each race would have their own origin story which would then funnel into the main spectre story. You could go as detailed as you wanted. Similar to DA, each race would be better suited for different specializations, such as: a Krogan would not be adept, but would be a dangerous solider. Salarians or Quarians would make great engineers, Asari lethal adept or infiltrators, and humans could play toward a more versatile character.

I’m not sure where the story would lead, but considering the vacuum the Reapers left in their wake, there could be plenty of options to choose from. One could be about Cerberus in the aftermath of the Illusive Man’s death. A company that big and shady wouldn’t go quietly into the night. The Batarian’s could also be a good major story, especially considering they no longer have a home world and are struggling to find their place in the galaxy. The Reapers left plenty of scars to base future story’s on and whatever direction BioWare decides to take with it, they will need to be more down to earth than with the original trilogy. The worlds end doesn’t necessarily need to be a factor in every story told and after the events of M3, i’d prefer something a little more mundane. We just saved the entire galaxy; lets work on maintaining the promise of galactic unity.

Whatever happens, we know that Shepard’s story has ended, but the entire Mass Effect lexicon shouldn’t have to end as well. BioWare scribes have spent some considerable amount of time crafting Mass Effect’s rich universe and there are still many things left unexplored. And to be honest, another reason why i’d hate to see this series end is that Mass Effect is as close to a Star Wars console game we’re going to get. The “force lift” and “push” make the adept character the most enjoyable playable class in Mass Effect, hands down!!! For now, the best we (nerds) have to look forward to is the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Inquisition. After that….just maybe we’ll get our next Mass Effect game. Fantasy is great and it has its place in time, but Mass Effect was a truly unique space odyssey.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition

Say what you will; BioWare makes one hell of a American RPG!! As far back as Knights of the Old Republic, in our sweet land of liberty, RPG’s had already begun leaving behind the classic Japanese styled turned based game for something entirely new. There was a time and place when Japanese RPG’s ruled the roost, we all loved and still cherish Final Fantasy 7, but those days are long gone. What makes American styled RPG’s so special is that the game becomes something completely our own, we craft our own heroes, make our own moral choices, and shape the world as we see fit; some more than others. This was the biggest upset for Mass Effect 3; BioWare took away our control we had in the previous two games and forced a controlled story down our throats. Countless nerds who had been creating something unique since Mass Effect first hit shelves back in 2008, reacted to the so-called three “choice” ending of M3 with obviously outrage.

Understandingly, we’re all feeling  jaded and apprehensive with BioWare. Will they make the same mistakes with Inquisition? Considering the pitfalls with Dragon Age 2, its fare to say we are indeed nervous. Now, Dragon Age 2 wasn’t entirely awful, the combat system for one and story, for me at least, were both spot on (though the story wasn’t as deep as Origins, it was still excellent). But because Dragon Age: Origins was so amazing, so awesome, and so deeply detailed, BioWare had some big expectations to satisfy. What I didn’t like about Dragon Age 2 was the limitations in character stories. The choices you made did effect the overall outcome, but even those were limited, especially considering the total of six (seven if you count in the Awakening DLC) origin stories in the first game. In Dragon Age 2, you were either a mage or not a mage, and this simple choice set the foundation for the story you were about to play.

Notwithstanding all the past issues with BioWare, i’m actually excited and looking forward to the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Ever since Origins, there has been this underlying issue between the mages and the Chantry regarding freedom, control, and the use of magic and forbidden magic (aka blood magic). By the end of Dragon Age 2, the issue between the two groups had caught fire and spread into an all out war. According to the official Dragon Age website the new story will be driven by a cataclysmic event that happens during the turmoil. The void, separating the fade from reality, has been ripped open by a group calling themselves the Agents of Chaos, and it will be the heroes mission to hunt them down and restore order…or not restore order. If you are new to the Dragon Age universe, the following videos will show you some of the background that has developed throughout the story thus far. Now, because Dragon Age has a huge universe, i’ll only be showing you the mage version of the story with the most obvious choices nerds have made while playing.

The above clip gives you a little preview of the opening mage story and a peek into the main problem regarding mages and the Chantry: control. Through conversations with other characters throughout the story, you’ll discovery some of the history of the game and why the Chantry imposes on the magi. Because of a few bad apples in the past, they fear anyone with the ability to control magic. And as Master Yoda had taught so many years ago, fear can lead to a lot of nasty things. Understandably, the magi ar’nt so keen on being controlled, and a lot have already begun to break ties with the Chantry, becoming, as the games calls them, apostates (illegal users of magic).

This clip shows you the ending for Dragon Age 2, if you decided to side with the mages. The problems between the Chantry and the mages developed deeper in Dragon Age 2 than it did in Origins. There were a lot more choices to be made, both positive and negative. Brother turning against brother, sister against sister, lines drawn in the sand, and finally when the unthinkable happens, when Anders sets the blaze and the Knight Commander looses control, with not just her city but herself as well. The final cut gives us a little preview of the beginning revolution, the mages have risen up! Personally, since day one, I’ve sided with the mages and made their story, my story. Probably because the mages have the most tragic and most human backgrounds. Past histories shaping future events is a very real and common way to give a tale depth and substance.

Dragon Age: Inquisition has plenty of background to make a fine story indeed. Hopefully, the developers have heard the cries of wounded nerds and have taken them into account. Looking at their website, BioWare is making a lot of promises with this new addition, such as: an open multi-regional world, coordinated group dynamics during combat, being able to physically transform certain aspects of our in-game environments (bases and what not),  deep and complicated characters, an extensive customizable hero (from boot color to race and everything in-between), and having overall control of our destiny through choice throughout the story. Here is a video showing us what we all have to look forward to:

Release date for Dragon Age: Inquisition has been set for sometime during the fall of 2014 on the PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One and PC. Many of us have already begun throwing our money at the screen. Despite past mistakes, it looks like we’re ready to forgive BioWare in anticipation of Inquisition. And our curiosity with the outcome with Morrigan grows stronger each day. What happened with her love child? How will she effect the games story? Are you friend or foe? Personally, i’m more than a little optimistic for how well Inquisition will turn out, especially considering that it looks like BioWare are taking more cues from Origins than the second game. Only time will tell and so now all we have to do is play the waiting game…….

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