Monday, March 29, 2010

Oh Yeah, I Played Mass Effect 2 Back In January

In January, I took a week off of work to play Mass Effect 2. So when my co-workers were, in the weeks leading up to my vacation, asking me where I was going, I replied "All over the galaxy", and from most of them I got a weird look.
The other gamers there knew exactly what I meant.

The game itself was not only a great sci-fi game, it's just great sci-fi. The rugged space hero Shepherd once again assembles a crew to take on some great menace. Most of the game is his not only acquiring this crew, but winning their loyalty as well. There are other side missions, but not that many. Most of the planets are empty save for mineral resources, but checking out every one of them is a must in order to squeeze as much fun out of Mass Effect 2 as possible.

The creators of Mass Effect have said that it's a trilogy, which is usually a bad idea for game companies to do (did anyone ever see the last three Alternate Reality games?). However, the first chapter, the iPhone game, and Mass Effect 2 are so intertwined that for the first time in game history, it really feels like a larger tapestry is being painted here.

There are so many big and small things from the first game that carry over into the second that one can imagine the designers having a huge wall of post-it notes with strings connecting them to keep it all straight. Some minor characters return in small cameos that have a brief impact, and some of the major characters return with a huge emotional impact, giving the involved player a sense of regret that can only be experienced with the passage of time and the reality of old friends moving on.

The gameplay is less RPGish and more shooter-ish, and that's fine, because they've really refined all of those aspects and made them more fun than frustating. The cover mechanics are solid this time and the allies seem smarter. There are more variey to the ememies and the environments, and the graphics are breathtaking.

And the story is an epic of the grandest proportions, leaving the player ravenously hungry for the next installment. There's not much praise that I can heap on Mass Effect 2 that wasn't already said two months ago, but I will add that design-wise, it's another huge step forward in terms of episodic storytelling in videogames, and it's the kind of game I dreamed about playing back in the old days.

And Now, An Endorsement

Weary from work and my awesome life as a husband to a wife who's ten years younger than I (careful what you wish for guys), I often arrive at Monday morning - my almost regular weekly videogame zone-out time - exhausted and struggling to stay awake even when I'm playing a game with lots of noise and explosions and pretty colors.

I gave up soda a few years ago, having consumed more Pepsi and Coke in my life than the entire nation of Liechtenstein has in its whole history, and I've never liked coffee. Red Bull and all those other energy drinks that the kids love also didn't do it for me, mostly because they tasted awful and left my stomach churning like the rough seas of the J'fer Sok (that's a reference to any Ultima Online fans out there).

So at the gas station I discovered this wondrous elixir:

It's just the thing for long gaming sessions, filling the user with mental energy more than physical jitters. I've even used it for an occasional late-night gaming session. But it must be consumed in moderation. No more than once a day, preferably only once or twice a week. The flavors that I've tried are not too bad - orange, grape, and berry - but there can be something of an aftertaste.

5 Hour Energy has become a regular part of my gaming sessions, when I'm struggling to stay awake. I wholeheartedly endorse this product for anyone who wants to maximize their free time after a long week of toil.

OK, I'm Lazy Then

As a middle-aged gamer, my life is not as it once was. When I was a young man, there was work and gaming, and it seemed like I had plenty of time to stop and reflect on the hobby. In addition, there were fewer great games being released, but today it's impossible to keep up with just the really great games, much less the not-so-great-but-still-pretty-damn-good games that fly at us with alarming speed.

Seriously, they could stop releasing videogames for two years, and I'd probably still not be caught up with everything I want to play for the three console systems and three handhelds I use. Such is life, though, and for the last two months, I've been unable to muster up the basic discipline to stop playing and start writing. You see now why I'm not employed somewhere writing about videogames.

So, sorry to my two or three readers out there who probably stopped dropping by after about two weeks of seeing my little rant about Lords of Ultima as the lead story. We now rejoin my pointless and ordinary videogame weblog already in progress...