Mass Effect: Andromeda – 20 hours in

I haven’t checked the clock on my Mass Effect: Andromeda save yet but my best guess is that it has about 25 or so hours logged on it. I’d say I’ve probably actually put about 20 hours into the game (15 single player and 5 multiplayer) with the remaining five hours coming from me pausing the game and tending to my four month old daughter. So at this point I’ve got enough time in the game to give some impressions. For reference I have gotten Eos to 80% viability, Voeld is at 20% viability, I have finished the first mission on Havarl, rescued the Moshae and getting ready to head to Kadara for the first time. Spoilers below.

  • Combat is a lot of fun. I don’t switch between profiles much, but I have found one that works well for me. I load out Biotic Charge, Annihilation, and Throw. Typically I charge to get close, trigger Annihilation to prime, then Throw to detonate a Biotic explosion. Then use my assault rifle to clean up. I will probably mix in Shockwave in place of Throw as a detonator to see how that works. Overall a ton of fun, especially with Biotic
  • The game has jank. I’ve had the game freeze on me once when landing on Aya. I spoke to Jaal in the crew quarters and then we were transported back to the Tech Lab to have our conversation even though the map of the Tempest still showed Jaal in the crew quarters. I also had a scene trigger with Liam and Jaal where both were topless and there were two Jaal’s in the scene walking through each other
  • I love all the side material so far. This has been a criticism from a lot of people because much of the side material ends up being about going somewhere, scanning an object or delivering materials for limited payoff. The criticism is totally fair, as much of the side content doesn’t seem particularly deep. But it works does me and draws me in deeper to the main story arc about being pioneers in a new galaxy trying to survive. Simple tasks like scanning plants, minerals, and wildlife to gain information on them would be necessary. There’s also been a lot of quests for me that ended with simply fighting off kett at one of their outposts to make a planet safer. While simple, these work for me because part of settling unknown world’s would involve doing just this if there was a hostile race trying to break up our colonization efforts
  • I am lukewarm on the story. I’ve spent the last several hours gaining the trust of the Angara by rescuing the Moshae in order to get into their vault so that we can continue terraforming Andromeda and make it habitable. I am having a hard time feeling invested in the Angaran battle with the kett. It’s too black and white with the kett as the big bad evil and thr Angaran as the noble warriors defending their homeland. I am much more interested on what happened with the migration of the Milky Way races. 
  • Similarly I think the introduction of the Angara was poorly handled. These people were destroyed by the kett yet embrace the Milky Way races almost without second thought. I actually think the introduction to the kett was well done on Habitat 7. There was a protocol to follow for those in the Initiative but the hostile race of aliens spoke in a language we couldn’t translate and as a result our first contact turned to violence. First contact with the Angara had no tension associated with it, despite their history with the kett. The Tempest basically lands on their planet without pushback and Ryder is taken by escort to the Angaran leaders. At a minimum the Angara should have been more forceful and made this out to be an incredibly big deal. Instead it just seems very ho-hum. I actually think that the best way to introduce the Angara would have been to have Ryder and his squad come and cross them while exploring Aya and be taken prisoner, resulting in a rescue attempt by the rest of your crew, or something to that effect. Just something to build tension, conflict, or uncertainty during first contact.
  • The lack of music is taking me out of the game. This may be my biggest complaint about the game. Walking around the Nexus in silence is just soulless. The original trilogy had fantastic music that really added to the aura of each location. Listening to the music playing Aria’s club on Omega is one of those moments in the trilogy that just drew me in and made it near impossible to set the controller down. I haven’t had thst moment yet with Andromeda.
  • The dialogue system is confusing me. After talking to my crew dialogue options are grayed out and I’m not sure if and when new options come available. Are they triggered after missions or should I go back to grayed out options to get something new? That said, I really do like the new dialogue options that have moved away from Paragon and Renegade. I think integrating a morality system to the new dialogue tree would be just about perfect.
  • The crafting system is overwhelming. I don’t love it or hate it, it’s just overwhelming.
  • I really do like the crew. I just don’t feel like I know them that well yet. There is a ton of potential with this group and I want to see what unfolds.
  • All the pieces are in place for a fantastic story with regards to colonization of the new galaxy. I just can’t tell yet if the game is moving away from that aspect of the game to focus on the kett and Angara. 
  • Multiplayer is fun. But I feel like a lot of the enemies are bullet sponges. All in all I fully expect to dump a ton of time into multiplayer before all is said and done. It’s been same formula as the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer.

    All in all I am still enjoying the game alot, but it has some pretty big warts. Most of it just seems like a lack of polish and/or attention to detail in ways that help and add life to the game. Exploring planets and focusing on colonization is a ton of fun. But as I noted above I am not feeling terribly invested in the story. I checked a walkthrough on IGN to get a sense of where I was at in terms of story progression and it appeared I was approaching the halfway point with Priority Ops missions. I may have interpreted it wrong, but that surprised me. I feel like the game is just starting to get going. 

    I’ll wrap up my final thoughts once I finish the game. But right now I’d say it’s tending towards a 7.5 out of 10. A good game with some design and narrative flaws.

    Weekly Update: Week Ending 4/3/2017

    A little bit late with a post this week. It’s been a little bit chaotic, but I wanted to give a quick update on the past week.

    There were no new purchases, and after the week prior that’s probably a good thing. So let’s dive right into what I played. As always, spoilers for any game that I write about.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda: I spent most of my time this past week with Andromeda. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading about the negative feedback to this game. I will have much more to say about it in the next couple of weeks as I am taking this week off to play through a large chunk of the game. So far I have played through Eos, which is widely regarded as one of the worst parts of the game. Well, I enjoyed Eos. It’s not perfect, and I understand why people don’t like it. But I enjoyed it. One of the things the original Mass Effect nailed was that feeling of exploring uncharted space and the isolation that is associated with exploring a planet that has not been settled. I felt a lot of that with my time on Eos. There is a lot of scanning minerals, plants, wildlife, etc. and I absolutely understand why that would get old and why some gamers would be turned off by it. But I love it. I play video games for escapism, and in a game like Andromeda, the scanning fits into the overall narrative and works for me. It encourages me to explore and really helps sell me on the idea that we are explorers in a new galaxy trying to find our way.

    Outside of wandering around Eos, the core of the main quest on Eos was interesting – you find Remnant technology, activate three monoliths which open a vault, and then further exploration into the vault allows you to interface with this technology to terrafrom the planet and make it habitable. I enjoyed it on Eos, but my fear is that the rest of the game will follow the same paint by numbers format on all planets. I can’t confirm this, but based on what I’ve ready that’s what I’m expecting. I’ll hold final judgement for when I finish the game, but if that is how it unfolds I will be disappointed. There are a million different ways that you can make settling planets and setting up outposts and settlements challenging – there can be raiders or mercenaries, space pirates, natural disasters that you couldn’t account for, and countless other ideas. It’s lazy writing to just rely on that same formula. But we’ll see. Exploring the vault was fun, and in general, Eos helped paint the picture of the Remnant as a mysterious race.

    All in all, I am still enjoying Andromeda but can see flaws in the game. I will be very interested to see how it plays out, especially with how I feel about the game so far versus the negativity in the media and gaming community.

    Final Fantasy IX: Not a ton of progress on FFIX this past week. I played through the sequence in Alexandria where Zidane, Steiner, Vivi, Freya, and Beatrix all help rescue Garnet from Queen Brahne. I felt this was a very powerful section in the game. When everyone finds Garnet, it is made very clear that her safety is at risk. Beatrix runs into the team and at first fights them as its her duty to defend Alexandria and the throne. After defeating Steiner, Zidane, Freya, and Vivi she is talked down by Zidane who reminds her of her duty to defend the Princess. As I had mentioned last week when I spoke about where I was in the game, Beatrix was starting to question Queen Brahne and her intentions. It’s at this point in the game she realizes that the true threat to Alexandria is the Queen, and that in order to save it she must fight for the Princess. Freya, who has every right to hate Beatrix since she destroyed her race’s primary cities, stands by Beatrix’s side because she recognizes the greater threat that Brahne poses. A few minutes later while trying to escape with Zidane, Vivi, and Dagger, Steiner has a moment of clarity where he realizes that he needs to stand up and fight with Beatrix and Freya to help save Alexandria.

    All in all, it’s a really touching segment of the game that adds a lot to these characters and the struggle they face. Queen Brahne is dangerous, and people are no longer blindly following her. Her General has stood up to her. The Captain of the Knights of Pluto is fighting her. Her own daughter has turned on her. Powerful stuff.

    Kingdom Rush: I am back to working through the Iron Challenges. I am stuck on the last Iron Challenge of the initial campaign. After I finish that up I hope to dive into some of the levels that open up after you finish the original twelve levels in the campaign.

    So that’s all this week. A relatively quiet week. I would expect next week to look similar, although I do want to try and use my time off to finish up The Swapper since that’s a short game. Until next week….

    What’s on your gaming bucket list – Part 1

    As my backlog continues to grow I’ve often thought about what are the games I truly want to play before I die. The games that I’ll look back and say “man, I really wish I had made time to play that!” So I’ve come up with 10 games that I look at and say, I need to play this.

    So before I dive in, a couple notes. I’m going to break this up into probably 3 posts. I tend to be verbose and don’t want to drone on too much about specific games and why I want to play them. In addition to that I am only picking one game per series meaning I won’t include both Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy XV on my list. I also am not going to include replays of games I have already played. These will all be games I have never played. Lastly, while not specific to this list, I just want to add that I have problems playing games out of order, meaning that I’m not going to jump to Dead Space 2 and skip Dead Space 1. I may look at Dead Space 2 and say “That’s the game I want/need to play”, but I won’t play it until I finish the first Dead Space. So without further ado here are the first few games on my gaming bucket list:

    Silent-Hill-2_title_548x95

    Silent Hill 2

    Outside of the Resident Evil games I have never really spent a lot of time exploring the Survival Horror genre even though it’s always interested me. I briefly tried to play the original Silent Hill back in the early 2000’s when I was in college but was discouraged by the way it controlled. In fairness I only played about 30 minutes, so I clearly didn’t give it a fair shake. At the time I was obsessed with JRPG’s, so if you weren’t a JRPG you had to be a truly exceptional game and grab me early on if you wanted me to pay attention to you. Outside of the Metal Gear Solid series there weren’t many games that accomplished this for me back then.

    Fast forward to today and I find myself looking back at some of these genre’s that I ignored when I was younger and finding bonafide classics I’ve never touched. Silent Hill 2 falls squarely into that bucket. It’s fans, and most of the industry, consider Silent Hill 2 the pinnacle of the Survival Horror genre. I picked it up with some extra cash after Christmas last year so this is definitely one of those games I need to play sooner than later.

    ws_Red_Dead_Redemption_1920x1200

    Red Dead Redemption

    I have mixed feelings about Rockstar games. I’ve never been a big believer that their open worlds are all that great. I also never got the appeal of Grand Theft Auto. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the GTA games. Vice City is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the series (in fairness I haven’t played V) and one of the best games on the PS2. So I don’t typically jump to pick up their newest offerings as I usually end up disappointed by what they have to offer.

    But Red Dead Redemption feels different. Maybe it’s the setting, as I have a little bit of a soft spot for Western’s in games since you don’t see the that often. Maybe it’s because I know far more about the game than I wish I did seeing as I’ve never played it, but whenever I read about this game, or see footage it just strikes me as one of those games that is an incredible journey that ends with a gut punch and leaves you saying “man, I’m glad I played this game.” Like Slient Hill 2, I picked up a copy of this after Christmas this past year.

    Persona4-Cover

    Persona 4

    It may seem odd to see Persona 4 on my list seeing as I just put up a post about my love/hate relationship with Persona 3. So if one were to ask why Persona 4 is on my gaming bucket list, that would be a reasonable question. I guess it comes down to the fact that even if I have mixed feelings about Persona 3, I still really love what the game is trying to do in the JRPG genre. In a genre that likes to stick with the same tropes, settings, and end results, Persona 3 has been a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. And it’s not like I don’t enjoy the game. I just think it has some flaws.

    I also have a hard time ignoring the fact that Persona 4 is highly regarded as one of the best JRPGs of all time. It’s really hard for me to look at Persona 4 as a game that I should just write off of have no interest in just because Persona 3 was a game I had mixed feelings about. One of the biggest draws about Persona 4 for me is the fact that much of the praise it receives is about its cast. And one of the things I’ve come to learn about myself is that good characters can make or break a game fo rme. To me, having a strong cast in a game is more important than having a terribly deep plot. Having a strong cast with memorable, unique, and developed characters can make up for some of the plot short comings that we often see in video games. Either way, as a longtime JRPG enthusiast, Persona 4 is a game that I really want to play before all is said and done. It will probably be a while before I play it though since I don’t think this is a game that will be best experienced by short play times that are broken up. I’m willing to wait, but definitely need to play this one.

    Disgaea_Hour_of_Darkness

    Disgaea

    When I say Disgaea, I mean any game in the series really. I have always been fascinated with this series. I bought the original Disagea at launch back in 2002 or 2003 (I can’t remember when it launched) and then sold it, and picked it back up again when I realized how dumb it was to sell my old games. And now I own digital copies of Disgaea 1 and 2, and picked up the Disgaea Triple Play after the holidays last year. But I have never played any of these games for an extended period of time. I played the original Disgaea for a few hours back when it first came out but never got past the first few fights.

    The appeal to me in these games has really been the insane level building (you can build your characters up to level 9999) and some of the weird concepts like the Item World, where you were allowed to go inside items and complete stages and level up your item. There was also a mechanic where you could fight senators of the underworld to pass laws which could help improve battle mechanics in your favor. I wanted to dive into this content from the begining of the game, and it just isn’t feasible. So I never stuck around long enough to really play through the game and reach a reasonable point where the end game became available. One of these days I will truly dive into one of these games and drop the 200 plus hours needed to really unlock some of this end game content.

     

    So that’s round one for me on my gaming bucket list. There’s no particular order to this, except for the top game on my gaming bucket list, but I’m saving that one for last!

    Weekly update: Week ending 3/27/2017

    While last week was fairly light on purchases and play time, I did my best to make up for that this week. Most of that play time went to Mass Effect: Andromeda, but I did manage to get a little time in on mobile. I also couldn’t resist this weeks PSN sales Let’s start with purchases.

    PS3

    Sony often gets me with their Flash Sales and weekly deals. I just can’t resist a good deal on a game I want to pick up at some point, especially games that are at the $5 (or less) price point. This week Sony ran a weekly sale titled “Playstation Essentials” to go along with a Flash Sale over the weekend. I ended up with six total purchases, four of which were on PS3.

    God of War: Ascension: I picked up The God of War collection on a Black Friday sale about two years ago and needed this title to fill out my God of War library. This series is the perfect example of why I started this blog. I’ve never played a game in this series through to the end but desperately want to. At a sale price of $2.49 I just couldn’t resist picking this one up.

    The Walking Dead: Michonne: I loved seasons 1 and 2 of Telltale’s Walking Dead and have wanted to see this side story for some time. When it launched I didn’t have time for it so decided to wait until a sale when the whole series was out. At $4.99, this seems like the right time to pick it up.

    Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time: I played a little of the original Sly Cooper back when it was originally released on the PS2. At the time, I was in college and was starting to lose interest in games so never finished it. I’ve come to appreciate PS2 era platformers like this series, Jak and Daxter, and Rachet and Clank. Even though it’s the fourth game in the series, at $4.99 it was hard to pass up.

    Red Faction: Armageddon: I only bought this game because it was $2.99 with a science fiction setting filled with mindless action. 

    PS4

    Until Dawn: I’ve been interested in this game since release. I am a big fan of the Heavy Rain/Beyond Two Souls style of game, and this is supposed to be one of the best, if not the best, in the genre. I actually may try and get my wife to play this game with me. She isn’t a gamer, but she likes horror movies so I figure this may be the type of game to pique her interest in gaming at least a little bit. 

    The Evil Within: I was able to pick this up with all the DLC for $9. Word of mouth on this game over at neogaf is positive so for that price with all DLC I figured why not. It’s a genre I enjoy and the price was right.

    Xbox One

    Only one big purchase on Xbox which I’ve already talked about – Mass Effect: Andromeda. I will have more thoughts on this as I progress through the game and already talked about my initial impressions in an earlier post. Simply put, this is my favorite series in gaming so there was no way I’d miss out on this game at launch, even with the problems it has had with performance and lukewarm reviews. 

    Now for what I’ve been playing.

    Virtually all my time has been committed to Mass Effect: Andromeda. I’m now about five hours in and loving it. I arrived on Eos and just finished my first encounter with the Remnant and was intoduced to Peebee. I’ve enjoyed the game so far. It feels like the proper way to reboot the series while keeping the lore and the world intact. I know most people say the game gets better after Eos, but I am already pleased with the game. I’ll continue to add deeper thoughts and opinions as I progress through the game.

    The only other game I spent any time with this week was Final Fantasy IX on mobile. I had some technical issues with my tablet over the weekend so lost about 30 minutes of progress and had to play through the same sequence twice. I played through the sequence where Zidane, Vivi, Freya, and Quina defend Cleyra from the attacking forces of Alexandria. At the end of that attack Beatrix steals a jewel that allows the user to summon Eidolons and returns to the Queen’s ship. You then transport to Queen Brahne’s airship and discover she has plans to kill Dagger and watch her summon the Eidolon Odin who goes on to destroy Cleyra. After this, Beatrix starts to question her role as Alexandria’s General.

    Adding this layer to Beatrix is a nice touch that I think is underappreciated. By now the player has interacted with her enough to know she is on the opposite side of the fight and a superior warrior to almost everyone we have encountered to date. In all of our interactions with her have she has been doing Brahne’s dirty work and keeping our heroes at bay whenever we come across as a threat to Brahne. To be blunt, her character has bordering on being nothing more than a one dimensional lackey who only does what she does because she’s supposed to be the bad guy and is therefore evil. But here we see that she has questions about Brahne’s actions, cares about the princess, and even seems torn between her duty as a soldier and what is ethically right. It’s an unexpected piece of storytelling that adds another layer to this game that I missed the first time around.

    So that’s what I have been up to the past week. This week will likely be more Mass Effect. I’d like to get back to The Swapper and try to finish that since it is a shorter game. Persona 3 is pretty much on indefinite hiatus for me while I work through the bulk of Mass Effect. I’m off the following week so I hope to have lots of updates and progress then.

    Welcome to the Andromeda Initiative

    Tuesday night after work I rushed to my daughter’s daycare and then home to check the mailbox and see if I had a package from Amazon waiting for me. It was like I was six years old all over again. You remember, right? When you’d rush home from school to frantically check the mailbox and see if whatever gadget you had sent away for after collecting enough cereal box tops had arrived? Well, I was in luck. Waiting in our mailbox, just as I had hoped for, was a package from Amazon that I knew contained the latest entry in BioWare’s science fiction space opera – Mass Effect: Andromeda.
    As much as I wanted to drop everything and play the rest of the night, I did my best to keep expectations tempered because I knew the responsibilities of adulthood called first. My wife was still at work, our kitchen was a mess, and we were still going to need to figure out what to eat for dinner. I knew my wife would be okay with me slipping away for a few hours to dive into the game, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t give her a reason to second guess that decision. So I spent the next 45 minutes juggling a fussy baby, cleaning the kitchen, and prepping dinner while Andromeda installed on my Xbox in the basement. My wife got home around the same dinner that was ready, and I anxiously shoveled food into my mouth, trying not to come across as overly eager to escape my adult life by hiding in the basement to explore a new galaxy and see what new alien species I could discover. After dinner my wife told me she was going to need to take a shower after she fed the baby so she would need me to watch my daughter. This meant that my adventure into Andromeda would be delayed or interrupted. So instead, I volunteered to feed the baby while she showered which meant the rest of my night would be freed up after that.
    So finally, at around 8pm, I was able to boot up Mass Effect: Andromeda for the first time. After a day of waiting I was able to spend about two hours with the game before bed. I would have stayed up later, but I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Getting up at 5:30am really puts a damper on one’s ability to stay up much past 10pm during the week. But in those two hours I was able to get a feel for different components of the game. So here’s a quick recap of how my first night with Andromeda went.
    The first thing I touched was multiplayer
    As much as I love the single player campaigns in each Mass Effect game, Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer stole the show in such a way that I knew I had to make the multiplayer in Andromeda a part of my experience with the game. That’s why I bought the game on Xbox over PS4. I pay for an Xbox Live subscription and couldn’t justify signing up for PSN just to play multiplayer on one game.
    I didn’t actually get into a match on Tuesday night, but I did get a chance to check out how it was structured. Character progression looks about the same, and character classes look similar to what we are accustomed to from ME3’s multiplayer. The interface has changed, but the core of what was there from a character standpoint remained. The loot boxes looked pretty much unchanged as well.
    There was a tutorial that I was just about to dive into, but ultimately decided against it because I knew I had limited time with the game and wanted to get a taste of the campaign as well. So I let multiplayer as it was and plan to dive in much more over the weekend.
    Character creation is unimpressive
    I’ll be blunt. The character creator in Mass Effect: Andromeda is the worst character creator I have ever seen. I spent 20 or 30 minutes trying to craft a decent face on both male and female Ryder only to walk away with a slightly modified version from one of the defaults. And in my opinion, the defaults aren’t even that good. I will probably carve out some time to just work on character creation, but my first impressions were not very positive.
    It feels like Mass Effect
    After feeling out the multiplayer and character creation options, I finally dove into the single player. I was cautious. Reviews have been mxied and so much has been made about the technical issues and animation jank that I didn’t want to get my hopes up. After all, I love this series. It literally brought me back into gaming and helped me realize how much gaming means to me.
    So far the single player campaign has not disappointed me
    It feels like Mass Effect. It’s admittedly a small sample size, but so far so good. It’s a little bit odd not seeing Commander Shepard and his crew. I miss Garrus, Ashley, and Tali. It’s almost like moving to another town when you’re 15 and starting at a new high school. You see people you think you might relate to, that remind you of the cliques at your old school, but you just aren’t sure yet.
    After the opening segment aboard the Hyperion Ark, our shuttle crashed on an unknown planet’s surface and Liam and I spent the rest of my first play session trying to reunite with the rest of our team only to run into a hostile alien race that we watched gun down one of our crewmates in cold blood. We were able to reunite with Cora and Ryder’s father at which point my eyelids were just to heavy to continue so I called it a night.
    Although limited, I really enjoyed what I played of Andromeda. I absolutely love the sense of exploration the game conveys and the new squad has connected with me more than I thought they would. So far, so good.
    Combat has potential
    I only went through two or three combat sequences, but really enjoyed what I experienced. Combat in this game has been advertised as being very different from previous games in the original trilogy. Combat is much faster paced and it seems as if hunkering down behind a specific piece of cover and biding your time, the strategy that worked so well in Mass Effect 2 and 3, won’t hold up in Andromeda. Enemies consistently flanked us and flushed us out of cover and snuck up behind me on a regular basis. I am still figuring it out, but combat seems fast paced, fun, and a step up from previous titles.
    Graphically the game is off
    The environments in this game are beautiful, let me get that out of the way. But the characters in this game look like something straight out of an Xbox 360 or PS3 game. I’m typically not one to pay too much attention to graphics in a game, but the character models in this game are hard to ignore. I kept thinking about how detailed the characters in Batman: Arkham Knight look compared to Batman: Arkham City. Arkham Knight is a very clear graphical upgrade from Arkham City. I’m not sure I can say that about Andromeda compared to Mass Effect 3 when it comes to these characters models.
    Overall my first impressions are positive. There are some rough edges and signs this game was clearly rushed out the door before it was completely ready, which is a shame, and a trend in modern game development I am not a fan of. But so far I haven’t experienced anything that has hampered my experience with the game. I won’t get to dive in much more until the weekend, but will try and sneak in extra time before that if I can. Andromeda is scratching that Mass Effect itch and I am looking forward to diving in deeper.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda launches today

    While I am late to the party on most games, the Mass Effect series is the one exception I will always make and pick up a new title at launch. There is something about these games that draws me in like nothing else can. Mass Effect is such a well crafted universe that I will jump at any chance I can to dive back in, and today is that day for the newest entry in the series, Mass Effect: Andromeda.

    I have to admit I had the launch date for this game wrong. I thought it was scheduled to launch next week on March 28th. Initially I had planned to take a week off work but didn’t want to take off the actual launch week because I’d lose three days of my play time (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) since games release on Tuesday. Because of that original plan, I think I got the dates crossed in my head and associated the launch of Andromeda with 3/28. Things have changed in my personal life (having a baby tends to do that) so it will be at least a couple weeks before I can take some time off work and really dive in. Either way, my pre-order shipped and I plan to play some tonight before bed.

    It goes without saying that I’m excited for this game. Reviews have been middle of the road (it sits at 75 on metacritic as I write this), and complaints have been fairly consistent in all reviews about technical issues. Weird animation, framerate drops, things like that. It’s been all over the Internet leading up to launch. You’d think Bioware and EA would want these things worked out before releasing the game but another delay may not have made sense for them financially. Who knows. The good news about the technical issues is that they can, and likely will, be patched and eventually be a non-issue. The other complaints are all over the place. Some say the questing is shallow and uninspiring. Others praise it for having depth. Some reviews are critical of the characters and dialogue saying they are inferior to the prior trilogy and written by children for children. Others say this is a great cast for a reboot. Commentary on the story is generally positive, although the message has been pretty consistent that it isn’t until the second act that you get pulled in. There has also been consistent criticism that Andromeda doesn’t introduce many new alien races. This would be a big disappointment for me as one of the things that drew me into the original Mass Effect was just how real the universe felt, and it’s many races were a big part of that.

    Outside of the main campaign I am excited about the multiplayer and haven’t seen much about it in the reviews that I read. Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer was better than it had any right to be. I initially was angered by its inclusion since in my mind Mass Effect was a single player experience and even the idea of multiplayer would detract from the overall experience. I had no intention of playing it, but it was so fun and addictive that I ended up playing over 425 hours of it. It was that good. I won’t be able to dive into Andromeda’s in the same way with a 4 month old baby, but you can bet I will still spend my fair share of time with it.

    All in all I can’t wait to get home from work tonight and see what the next chapter of Mass Effect has in store. Opinions on this game are going to be divided, but if it is 70% of what the rest of the series has been I’ll be happy. 

    To all my turian, krogan, salarian, asari, drell, volus, hanar, elcor, batarian, and spacefaring human friends out there, I’ll be right there with you tonight when I board the Ark. Welcome to Andromeda.

    Weekly update: Week ending 3/20/2017

    No purchases this week, although I really thought about Axiom Verge for $10 on Xbox One. I decided to hold off because I probably won’t play it anytime soon and it will be on sale again at some point in the not to distant future (maybe even cheaper).

    I didn’t get a ton of playing time this week either but did manage to make some progress in a few games:

    MLB The Show ’16

    I picked up The Show over thee weekend to try and get a couple of games in. I have a Road To the Show character I created that is intended to emulate myself. I am 19 years old and in my second year in baseball. My first year was amazing as I started in Double A ball and ended the season on the Major League roster of my hometown Cleveland Indians. I pitched only 38 innings of Double A ball striking out 58 which got me promoted to Triple A. In Triple A I worked closer to 80 innings and averaged a strikeout per inning and had an ERA around 3.00. It was enough to get me called up to the majors for the stretch run where I pitched about 60 innings averaging a strikeout per inning with a near 3.30 ERA. Talk about one heck of a first year in baseball.

    Going into year 2 I was slotted into the number 5 spot in the rotation with the Indians and posted a 5.79 ERA through the first month of the year. May was a strong month where I pitched so well my ERA dropped to 3.30 by early June. Then I just was inconsistent and ended up getting demoted to Triple A in July where I am now. Control issued are killing mr esrly in games where my pitch count is consistently close to 40nafter two innings. That is followed up by 2 or 3 good innings and then as I tire a bad inning or two. Getting more consistency early on and keeping my pitch count down during those first two innings are where my focus is now. Being more consistent with early count fastball location is what I are moving banking on to help me get back to a big step. I became to reliant on my slider are change up early in counts and it just wasn’t working.

    My first Triple A start was rough (4 1/3 innings, 3 runs), and my second start was mediocre but at least saw me get to the 6th inning. That brings me to this past weekend. Two starts, 14 1/3 innings, 3 runs (works out to a 1.92 ERA), 16 strikeouts. That includes 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball. So some progress. I am hopeful I can turn this season around and find my way back to the big leagues. After these last two starts I have something to build on.

    Persona 3: FES

    Very little progress here honestly. I probably played 20 minutes and was able to get through 4 floors in the 5th block of Tartarus. Picked up the Pugilist Fist for Akihiko and that’s about this. As much as I want to get through this game it’s about to take a backseat to Mass Effect Andromeda.

    Final Fantasy IX

    I played about two and a half hours of this over the weekend. I wrapped up Dagger and Steiner’s stay in Treno and we took Gargan Roo back to Alexandria with Marcus, only to be captured by Zorn and Thorn. Then I climbed Cleyra’s trunk with Zidane, Vivi, Quina, and Freya to meet up with the remaining survivors of Burmecia and watch them unite with thr Cleyrans to perform their ceremonial dance to strengthen the protective sandstorm around Cleyra, only to see the sandstorm dissipate instead which raised questions about what was really going on.

    It doesn’t seem like a lot of progress, and really it isn’t, but I just can’t express how much enjoyment I get from  being in the world that Final Fantasy IX has crafted. I spent a lot of time just wandering around Treno and Cleyra taking in the scenes and art work and enjoying the world that Square crafted for this game. Each location has its own unique quirks, art style, and personality. I would love to see a game like this crafted with a modern game engine. It’s just breathtaking as a 17 year old game that at one time was a AAA console release that in 2017 I am able to play on my phone. I am really glad I decided to give this game another go and look forward to just enjoying it in small doses as a mobile game.

    Kingdom Rush

    Thid past week was a focus on Heroic and Iron challenges from the 12 main campaign levels. I have the Iron challenge on the 12th level remaining and then will spend some time working through campaign levels that open up after the original 12. Honestly, I am a touch burned out on Kingdom Rush and may take a small break to collect my bearings on this one before diving deeper. On the surface this game is simple, but there really is a lot of depth here. I just need a break to catch my breath.
    So that’s the past week. Pretty low key. I picked up The Swapper for about five minutes, completed one puzzle and then had to stop because my daughter decided she didn’t want to hang out in the basement and watch her dad play PS4. Next week expect a heavy dose of Mass Effect Andromeda. I know reviews are mixed, but I love that world and will have my impressions. I can’t wait to dive back in.