Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mass Effect (PC)

After about 3 hours of Mass Effect on the PC, here's my first impressions:

Pretty good; not as good as KOTOR. I like the dialog choices, although the radial menu system seems much more fitted for consoles. I would have liked the ability to click on my choices with a cursor instead of having to move the mouse in the direction I think it should go. Also, it could just be my framerate, but the aiming feels laggy and inaccurate. I know it's a console port but Bioware is generally good at those, I expected more from them.

The graphics surprised me, and not in a great way. By default, there's this film grain effect that is really annoying. I turned it off after a few minutes. Not sure why they included that but it just makes everything look fuzzy. In addition, it has some really overdone motion blur that gets obscures your vision and doesn't add much to the immersion. I turned that off too. Finally, there's a persistant pixelation effect with shadows and many textures. This effect seems to be much less so on objects directly in front of you, which leads me to believe it might be an intentional "out of focus" effect, but it looks just awful and jaggy compared to the great effect in Assassin's Creed (I'll write about that game later). And this always makes shadows on character faces look glitchy and weird. This could also just be an issue with my own graphics card, since I've heard some cards can make graphics look pixelated, but even so, it's a dumb glitch that Bioware should really have fixed.

The gameplay is pretty good, surprisingly. I was disappointed to hear the game wasn't an RPG like KOTOR, but the third-person-shooter style gameplay actually works pretty well. The cover system is decent, although breaking out of cover feels sluggish, and the squad commands and powers are ok. It feels more gritty and realistic than the KOTOR fights where two guys stand in front of eachother, taking turns firing their blasters.

One bit of the gameplay that I'm not sure on yet is the Mako driving. The Mako is a sort of land buggy used for exploring new planets. You basically drive around alien landscapes, sometimes shooting stuff. The game's tutorial says you can just press E to get out of the Mako and fight on foot, which I would vastly prefer to do, but it's never worked for me so far. And the Mako itself, which uses decent vehicle physics, is also extremely glitchy. In my last game, the Mako got stuck in a platform and I was FORCED to reload my last checkpoint. The "return to ship" button did not work. And I still couldn't actually get out of the Mako for some unknown reason. So now I'm scared to go back to the Mako without saving right before each landing.

The storyline seems to be EXACTLY like KOTOR, just without any licensed Star Wars aspects. There's a renegade "spectre" (they're like Jedi/Sith combined), and he's commanding an army of what are basically borg ripoffs. He's searching for something called a "Conduit" which will bring back the "reapers" which were thought to be extinct for thousands of years. The reapers will help him wipe out the humans and probably take over the universe, or something. Apparently, his only actual motivation is that he hates humans and wants to kill them. Does this ring any bells? Malak, leading an army of Sith, searches after an ancient technology that will allow him to take over the galaxy with a newly mass produced army. Come on, Bioware, come up with something new for once!

Overall, Mass Effect doesn't feel like as polished an experience as KOTOR was. The combat amounts to third-person-shooter combat, which means that your success is less dependent on what items you have equipped or your characters stats, and more to how good you are at cover and aiming. KOTOR had a ton of depth in areas an RPG ought to, namely items and character stats. Mass Effect certainly has fun gameplay, but it feels more shallow in execution. The lack of any Melee combat (besides simple knockdowns when enemies get close) is probably the culprit, but who knows. Anyway, I'll keep playing with some cautious optimism that it will get better. So far, it's a good game, but nowhere near deserving of the high praise I've seen it receive from the mainstream gaming press.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Giant Robots!

This, of course, is based on the popular (and awesome) Dinosaur Comics. Check it out, seriously!

Here's some pictures of some awesome giant robots from Mech Warrior and Supreme Commander:

Mad Cat from the MechWarrior series of games

And here are the ACUs from Supreme Commander

I think I've said all I can here.