Review: Mass Effect 3: Leviathan DLC

62012-Leviathan Launch 03-thumb-480x270-62011.jpg

The new “Leviathan” DLC pack for “Mass Effect 3″ falls so far below this reviewer’s expectations that everyone at BioWare and EA Games who had a role in developing or marketing this add-on needs to pull out a dictionary and look up the word “promise.”

Webster’s New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition) defines a promise as “1. An oral or written agreement to do or not to something; vow. 2. Indication, as of a successful prospect or future; basis for expectation 3. Something promised.”

In a sentence: “The Leviathan DLC for Mass Effect 3 does not deliver what its advertising promised.”

Continue reading

Review: Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut (Spoiler free)

59242-MassEffect3-thumb-480x270-59241.jpg

Angry and even not-so-angry gaming enthusiasts can now download new ending sequences for “Mass Effect 3,” a very good game marred by a conclusion that, to many, put the “anti” in “anti-climactic.”

EA Games and BioWare released “Mass Effect 3″ in March, but the role-playing game’s real ending did not come out until Tuesday when the producers released an “Extended Cut” to appease fans who hated the science fiction trilogy’s original conclusion.

Continue reading

Free multiplayer expansion announced for Mass Effect 3, or is “The Truth” true?

In what could be either a desperate attempt to win back Mass Effect fans’ love or a Machiavellian scheme to discourage used games’ sales, EA Games announced today the “Mass Effect 3: Resurgence” expansion will be available for free download on April 10.

The news follows Thursday’s announcement of an “Extended Cut” download to be released this summer for Mass Effect 3. That content, also to be released free of charge, would expand upon the game’s ending. Many fans hated Mass Effect 3′s ending because they felt it did not adequately fulfilled producer’s claims that players choices could result in dramatically different conclusions.

The past couple days’ news seems close to confirming “The Truth” rumor I first saw on Game Front last
month. The rumor held that players would be able to continue their Mass
Effect 3 games after the on-disc ending, and also had it that players
could look forward to extended multiplayer content.

As of Friday, there is no confirmation that the Extended Cut will include playable content, and it may just be new cinematic scenes. Nonetheless, the rumored multiplayer classes are the very ones that EA confirmed today.

From Friday’s announcement:

  • Two New Action-Packed Maps:  Take the battle to Firebase Condor, a warzone outpost located on one of Palaven’s moons and Firebase Hydra,
    an old abandoned quarian colony which has since been converted into a
    critical power facility. Each map represents a crucial asset in the
    overall fight against the Reapers.

 

    • Six Powerful New Unlockable Characters: Assume the role of new characters for each class, including the Asari Justicar Adept, Krogan Battlemaster Vanguard and characters from new playable races with the Batarian Soldier, Batarian Sentinel, Geth Engineer and Geth Infiltrator.

 

  • Lethal New Weapons: Obliterate wave after wave of enemies by unlocking the Striker Assault Rifle, Kishock Harpoon Gun and Geth Plasma SMG.

As an aside, the idea of playing as a Batarian is pretty cool. The four-eyed aliens were generally portrayed as unsympathetic characters in previous Mass Effect games, and one of my small disappointments with Mass Effect 3 was that the storyline did not do more to show the galactic conflict from their perspective.

So what’s going on with all this free content? Are EA and Mass Effect 3′s developers at BioWare begging their fans to love them again? Maybe, but my hunch is that EA and BioWare planned this release pattern all along to discourage gamers from selling their games to GameStop or other retailers after finishing the single-player campaign.

The plan, as it seems to me, is to convince players to hold on to their copies for Mass Effect 3 for a few more months than they may have planned. My guess is that BioWare and EA deliberately crafted an open-ended climax in hopes that players would enthusiastically wait for additional content, but were instead blindsided by the past weeks’ fan backlash.

The makers’ willingness to release free content makes me suspect this content was paid for within Mass Effect 3′s main budget, and was not separately accounted for as a downloadable expansion that EA planned to release as a means to achieve additional revenue. Whether my assumption is correct, and whether this move assuages fans’ anger, have yet to be seen.

59541-image005-thumb-480x323-59540.jpg

Mass Effect 3′s ending, the “Indoctrination Theory” and something I call the “Franchise Imperative”

Anyone reading a gaming blog has probably noticed that a lot of Mass Effect fans are dissatisfied with Mass Effect 3′s ending.

I don’t know exactly what the developers had in mind in crafting the game’s finale, but I am 100 percent positive the ending is not meant to be taken literally. SPOILERS after the jump.

Continue reading

Review: Mass Effect 3

59242-MassEffect3-thumb-480x270-59241.jpg

In almost any other circumstances, it would be easy to proclaim Mass Effect 3 to be a triumph. But these are not ordinary circumstances for the science fiction saga.

Mass Effect 3 is a tremendously entertaining game that provides moments of exhilaration, humor, horror and even heartbreak as players experience the story of a desperate war being fought across the Milky Way.

Indeed, Mass Effect 3 could have earned a place as one of the best games of all time, but these are unusual times for Mass Effect fans. Although the game has much to praise, some questionable business practices on the part of the developers at BioWare and publishers at EA Games may result in the game being remembered more for the sudden fan backlash that has overshadowed news of its release.

At this point, it’s impossible to review Mass Effect 3 in a vacuum and ignore the anger the game’s conclusion has aroused among many of it’s fans. I don’t want to spoil the ending in this space, and I think much of the anger is overblown, but the reaction is understandable given that fans expected Mass Effect 3 to provide a conclusion to one ambitious stories to be told in the history of video games.

Instead, BioWare provided an open-ended climax that has many fans expressing worry on Internet forums that the developers and publishers plan to charge players extra to download a “real” ending. Other fans are even petitioning the game’s makers to rewrite Mass Effect 3′s climax.

The reaction to the game’s conclusion follows the discontent that greeted news that players who did not buy the game’s more expensive Collector’s Edition would have to pay an extra $10 to download “From Ashes,” content that previously was said to be only available to those who bought the Collector’s Edition.

Players and publishers have yet to reach a consensus on where to draw a line between deciding how much content should be included in games’ retail editions and what can be withheld as downloadable content, and the circumstances of Mass Effect 3′s release have highlighted how strongly many players object to publisher’s embrace of DLC.

Those issues, important to the future of gaming as a business, should not obscure the strong evidence in support of Mass Effect 3 being a very good game. As in the franchise’s previous chapters, Mass Effect 3 boasts well-developed human and alien characters and players assuming the role of protagonist Commander Shepard will have to make occasionally painful decisions that determine the fates of beloved characters and entire planets, including earth.

Continue reading

Mass Effect 3 gives “Femshep” her own trailer, stuff blows up

This is a couple days old, but I didn’t get a chance to post BioWare’s new Mass Effect 3 trailer until now.

This is the first trailer from the Mass Effect trilogy to feature a female Commander Shepherd, commonly known “Femshep” among many of the same fans who call the male version of the game’s protagonist “Broshep.” Anyone who has played Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2 know that the game allows players to build a custom male or female character. Anyone who has not played a Mass Effect game should check them out, since the franchise is this writer’s favorite series to debut during the current console generation.

“Femshep” is voiced by Jennifer Hale, who is widely regarded as one of the premier voice actresses in video games. Watch her and her allies blow stuff up in space in the new trailer:

Mass Effect 3 will have multiplayer

Mass Effect 3 will indeed have multiplayer, a major change for BioWare’s space epic that will no doubt spawn countless Internet arguments over whether multiplayer makes sense for the popular series or whether the developers still make the kind of RPGs that made them famous.

I, for one, don’t care whether a game meets genre expectations as much as whether its fun. I can understand why the serious RPG fans among Mass Effect’s players did not care for the (choose your own bias) simplifications/streamlining/dumbing down that BioWare employed in making the game’s sequel, but I personally enjoyed both games and didn’t miss the lack of extensive inventory management while playing the sequel.

That said, the addition of multiplayer, called Galaxy of War, strikes me as a strange choice for ME3. As anyone who has played the games knows, Mass Effect puts players in the role of one Commander Shephard who fights to save the galaxy as he or she sees fit. The games’ appeal stems significantly from its dramatization of space exploration and the moral choices that players must make as they go about their mission.

The kind of multiplayer gameplay that BioWare and game publishers Electronic Arts confirmed today takes some of the focus off Shepard. As announced, multiplayer mode will let players join four-person teams to achieve a military objective that will be relevant to the players’ single-player mission. Shephard is still the star, but Mass Effect 3 will let players join something like a galactic special operations squad if they want to try another type of gameplay.

I can see a number of pros and cons here. On the pro side, I’m happy to see a developer attempt a variation on multiplayer different from the deathmatch modes we’ve seen so many times before in Goldeneye, Medal of Honor, Counterstrike, Halo, Call of Duty, Resistance, etc …

I also like that the idea that multiplayer will let players try different character types, e,g, solider, sentinel, adept, without having to start a new playthrough,

Now for the cons. Adding an entire new mode to what players expect to be the final chapter of an epic trilogy doesn’t make much sense to me. I doubt EA is going to induce new legions of fans to buy the game just because it has multiplayer. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone say they would buy Mass Effect if it had multiplayer.

I’m also not crazy about multiplayer affecting the single-player campaign. Although the idea of soldiers fighting across the galaxy makes sense, those soldiers are not the focus of the story. The multiplayer press release says Galaxy at War is an alternative method of achieving single-player campaign objectives, but the idea of breaking from the game’s narrative to take on the role of a minor character seems like it might be kind of a chore.

If it was up to me, I would have produced Mass Effect 3 as a single-player game and developed the multiplayer as a separate budget title or DLC for fans who want more Mass Effect after completing the trilogy. But then again, I don’t run BioWare nor EA.

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled to come out in March.

GamesCom Trailer: Mass Effect 3

Here’s BioWare’s new trailer for Mass Effect 3, a game which is sure to disappoint series fans because the game’s protagonis, space marine Commander Shepard, shoots his enemies instead of defeating them with mathematical calculations.

I kid, but if you want to debate whether the Mass Effect franchise is a true RPG series because developers are switching to player-controlled instead of stat-based combat, look elsewhere.

I’d rather debate whether a game is entertaining or not than insist that developers adhere to rigid genre conventions. FWIW, I like most of the changes made between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 except for the “heat clips,” since it seemed weird that Shepard and crew no longer had virtually unlimited ammo.

Also, I’d like to see a non-annoying human female among the crew, but I guess BioWare developers just like forcing players choose between “romance” with an ill-tempered human and a sane alien.

Mass Effect 3 delayed to 2012

Bioware and EA Games will delay releasing Mass Effect 3 until 2012.

After setting out on an Internet search after seeing news of the delay on Twitter, this writer traced the news to Mass Effect 2′s Facebook page.

I’ve seen a lot of web comments from players who seem to be OK with delay, especially considering the widespread opinions that Dragon Age II – another Bioware/EA Games release – seemed rushed and oversimplified.

Tech-Out reviewer Todd Kistler liked much of the Dragon Age II’s storytelling aspects, but also found the game to over-simplified when compared to its predecessor.

In other EA News, the Redwood City-based publisher announced its fiscal results today. The firm reported a $312-million loss for the year ending March 31. That figure signified an improvement over the previous year’s loss of $677 million.