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Editting Thread 1 - New Reviews

Discussion in 'The cRPG Player's Handbook' started by felipepepe, May 27, 2014.

  1. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    It doesn't matter if a boss is alone or has some helpers.
    We all agree that in major fights in IWD you need some tactics - the author of the review said
    I can't remember that. Mindless spamming in IWD only leads to one thing: Party death and reload.

    My guess: He played the game on the easiest difficulty setting.

    PS:
    The final battle in IWD 1 is actually one of the most epic end game battles ever.

    Good insight in IWD 2:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zng4VfRZTNA
     
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  2. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    K', I don't like the content police thing, but if almost all here agree that he is wrong, this must be investigated. I'll point out the fact to him and see what he says.

    Anything on the other reviews?
     
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  3. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

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    No - nothing on the other reviews from my side.

    Review of the Icewind Dale review:
    • Baldurs Gate 2 has nothing to to with Black Isle as a developer ->
      the games Fallout 2 and Planescape Torment were developed by them before IWD
    • Party creation was a great plus for Icewind Dale
    • Mindless spamming doesn't work in major fights, tactical fighting was necessary
    • Main critique IWD - Heart of Winter addon back then: Short campaign
     
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  4. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

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    Really? I admit I've never finished it, but I recall an interview with Feargus (or Josh?) who said that it was very long.
     
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  5. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

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    You are right - I meant the short length of the addon "Heart of Winter" not IWD 2 -> fixed
    Thank you for the correction!
     
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  6. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    IWD author replied:

    His opinion, I'm not gonna change it.
     
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  7. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

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    The final boss in IWD 1: I needed several tries to beat him; the final battle was over 40 minutes long; I barely survived with only 1 character.
    One of my best end game combat experiences ever. Great final boss battle design. No approval from the content verifying department this time :)

    [​IMG]

    but it is his review - so he should tell his opinion and explain it.
     
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  8. Jagged Appliance Arbiter

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    Fair enough, that's his opinion.
    Show Spoiler
    It's a pity his opinion is wrong though. ;)
     
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  9. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

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    Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
    I will take a final look at the EotB review next week, otherwise I think it's good to go.

    I've made some good stride on the Grimrock review as well, that might be ready for proofreading by the end of next week.
     
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  10. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

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    K', while we wait for changes on the IWD review, I'll move the others to proof-reading and send a new batch here.
     
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  11. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

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    Hillsfar, by Buster Snowbunny
    Show Spoiler

    Hillsfar, released in 1989, tells a quiet tale of a of heroes in-between adventures. Part of SSI’s AD&D series and taking place between Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds, Hillsfar is a very elaborate side-quest and, like all side-quests, there is enjoyment and rewards to be had for those daring enough to seek them. Instead of importing your characters from Pool of Radiance straight into Curse of the Azure Bonds, you can import them into Hillsfar, then transfer them back out. Characters cannot level up in Hillsfar, but the experience they earn will transfer with them.

    The game plays much differently than its gold-box brethren. Your party camps outside the city of Hillsfar, where the mage Maalthiir has taken power, outlawed magic and oppressed the populace. You take individual characters inside the city to quest alone (although you can choose to hire skilled individuals to assist you for the right price). Based on their class, they find quests by visiting their respective guilds. Quests range from finding lost items to investigating a kidnapping, and may require you to fight for information in the arena or check out the latest gossip in the taverns. Three quests, with increasing rewards, are available for each class.

    Most of the action takes place in the form of arcade segments. Traveling to outlying areas requires riding a horse across dirt roads while avoiding obstacles. Investigating locations (or breaking into them) takes place in a top-down perspective as you explore mazes for treasure and clues, avoiding the town guards and magical traps. There is an archery range where you may compete for prizes and an arena where you may fight for the same (sometimes your life). All combat takes place in the arena, and since magic is outlawed, magic users will not be permitted to cast spells during the game. The mini games are the same despite your class, though class will affect certain aspects of them. For instance, chests that you find will often be locked, and you can either force them open, risking dangerous traps, or if you are a thief you may engage in a lock-picking mini game that requires good eyes and fast fingers.

    Although as a standalone title the game can be tedious considering the lack of an overarching quest, as a companion-piece to Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds and a chance to build your characters beyond the usual methods of experience farming, Hillsfar is an entertaining diversion and a fun place to explore. CA

    Alpha Protocol, by J_C
    Show Spoiler

    I think I should clarify right at the beginning, that in my opinion, Obsidian Entertainment’s Alpha Protocol is one of the most under-appreciated action-role-playing games of all time. Sure, the game has numerous faults, so it is not entirely Game of the Year material, but it also has several important elements, in which it surpasses the competition. As one can see in the title, Alpha Protocol invites you into the world of espionage, where you encounter secret organizations, rogue agents, gadgets right out from a James Bond movie, and of course a secret agent, who will save the day. The hero I’m talking about is Michael Thorton, who was just recruited into Alpha Protocol, a super secret organization in the United States.

    After a brief introduction, you will start your career with an easy tutorial, which is followed by your first assignment. This includes finding an international terrorist, and dealing with him. Of course, this is just the beginning, and soon you will figure out, that your employer is not what it looks like. After a few missions, you will run for your life, with half of the American government breathing down on your neck, not mentioning the Russian mafia, and some bad guys from China. If you like the political thrillers of Tom Clancy, or the hit TV show 24, you will feel right at home in the world of Alpha Protocol, and you won’t be disappointed by the events depicted in the game.

    Obviously a good story cannot exist without well written characters, and Obsidian pulls this off quite well. Our hero, Michael Thorton is not a pre-defined character, which means that it is up to you what kind of person he is. Your most important tool for this is the dialogue wheel, which at first sight is very similar to other dialogue wheels used in many other role-playing games. There is a big difference however, which makes this system kind of revolutionary. When you choose an answer, you don’t choose what you want to say, but in what manner you want to reply. This way, Thorton can be aggressive, professional, or suave, which corresponds to the 3 agent archetypes, Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne and James Bond. There is also a time limit when choosing your option, which gives the dialogues a nice, natural flow. The most important thing however, is that the NPC interactions have consequences on the long run. Your constant aggressiveness might make a character hostile towards you, which can have serious ramifications on the story. Your decisions, your replies, the intel gathered on NPCs all have effects (some bigger, some smaller), which in itself warrants several playthroughs.

    If we already talking about non-player characters, let’s see how did Obsidian fare in that area? There are several unique NPCs in the game, although because the story grounded in reality, they are not as farfetched, as in let’s say Planescape: Torment. I have to point out Steven Heck, who must be applauded as one of the most memorable characters in video gaming. Every minute the player spends with this psychopath rogue agent is comedic gold. Just don’t be surprised if the guy ties up the hostages, pours some bleach on them and finally sets them on fire.

    Unfortunately, this being an Obsidian game, not everything is nice and good, thanks to the problems found in the game mechanics. By default, the game is a third person shooter, mixed up with a fairly hectic cover mechanics. Being a role-playing game, it has a nice (although shallow) character progression system, which lets the player upgrade Michael Thorton’s attributes (weapons, martial arts, technical affinity etc), which can result in getting several interesting abilities. The problem is that some of these abilities are useless, and some of them are quite overpowered. The stealth (invisibility) and the Chain Shot combo is a very good example for the latter, since you can easily finish off anybody with it, even the bosses. The game has some shortcoming on the technical department as well. The controls were clearly tailored with controllers in mind, which makes the camera movement with a mouse pretty frustrating sometimes, and it also has some texture streaming, and AI problems.

    Let’s not forget about the minigames, especially because people are quite divided whether or not they are designed well. I personally feel that they are among the best of their kind, because they require actual concentration, hand-eye coordination, and they are not focused on quick time events or trivial puzzles. For example, during hacking, you have to find lines of codes in a running matrix, or to pick a lock, you have to manually move the pins of the lock. It is true that because of the jerky mouse controls, they can become very difficult, but if you get used to how they work, they are manageable. And even if they turn out impossible, you can bypass them with a few EMP grenades.

    With all that said, who can I recommend the game for? One thing is clear, if you value good stories, characters in videogames, and you love conspiracies, give Alpha Protocol a shot, you might find a rough diamond under the technical difficulties.

    Barkley, Shut Up and Jam! - Gaiden, by Dominus
    Show Spoiler

    B-Ball. B-Ball never changes. The year is 2053 - Basketball is dead. Ravaged by the mighty power of the Chaos Dunk, the lives of countless innocents were inadvertently taken by Charles Barkley. Basketball became forbidden in the Cyberpocalypse, putting the sport into disarray. In the same year, the storm of dunking had come again. A mysterious player had reduced manhattan(and millions of lives)to cinders. And from the ashes of slamming devastation, a veteran of basketball would struggle to arise. Life in the Cyberpocalypse is about to change. Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is difficult to describe. It’s an oddity that seems to that seems to dance the line between serious and ridiculous. It’s the best around, simultaneously jumping into satirical territory with a familiar & entertaining combat system. But what is this curiosity, now etched into the annals of RPG history?

    Shut Up And Jam: Gaiden is a comedic RPG, and yet the world and its characters take themselves very seriously. Inspired heavily by Chrono Trigger & Earthbound, the gameplay and mechanics should fit like a glove for those who grew up with them. Shut Up And Jam Gaiden is a dungeon crawler at heart, but what makes it special is what they build off of that formula. Globetrotting around Neo New York and its surrounding areas is a journey into the bizarre, with quests and characters that can go in outlandish directions. You’ll write poetry, discover long forgotten history of the spherical rubber wonder, and realize the full potential of the chicken dew. If a talking gas pump lectures you on the sublime nature of Chrono Cross, things have clearly taken a turn for the strange. The writing and dialogue is a strange amalgamation of Basketball references, allusions to JRPGS, and just about everything else in between. Suffice it to say, the amount of creativity jammed into this slam-athon is one of the games' major highlights. Even if the storyline isn’t exactly Shakespeare with basketballs, it provides a successful vehicle for humor - and it’s a ride I’d never want to miss.

    The combat will feel very familiar to fans of Final Fantasy and Super Mario RPG. With up to 4 party members, you can choose between your normal attacks, items, and special abilities. The combat also embraces the absurdity of the setting. Clashing against Basketball spiders, Zombie Referees, and Robotic Killer Gatorades is a slice of what Tales of Games has come up with. The special moves of your characters can vary wildly between one another in terms of gameplay, and it makes each scuffle feel unique instead of just another grind. Only in Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden could you breakdance with Uzis while curing a bad case of diabetes.

    Graphically speaking, it’s about on par with the 16-bit SNES games and GBA titles of its time. I’d personally say it’s less about the engine, and more how they use it. The laugh-out-loud designs of some of these enemies, bosses, characters, and locales are almost worth the trip itself. And the music. Cooked up by composer Chef Boyardee, it’s an original soundtrack that appropriately takes a serious Cyberpocalyptic atmosphere and ocassionally heads into silly territory. The highlight for me was a nod to the most ridiculous boss battle song ever created, Eternity from Blue Dragon. If anything, the song is a fair representation of the game itself. Over-The-Top, Nonsensical, and yet you find yourself further drawn towards it - like a moth to a net. Any gamer with a sense of humor, or someone looking for RPG nostalgia could find nirvana here. Barkley, Shut Up And Jam: Gaiden - Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa is a treasure trove for RPG fans both old and new, serving as a reminder that some of the best things in life are free.

    Mass Effect 2, by Dominus:
    Show Spoiler

    Refined. Dark. Action-Packed. Emotional. Mass Effect 2 is this and much more, for those willing to brave what lies unknown in the veiled depths of space. The original was hard to top in 2007, and I remember my voyage though it very well. The Sci-Fi worlds were strange and mysterious, and the writing was right on par with BioWare’s library of titles. Gameplay that was practically untouched with Third-Person Shooters of the time(Pause-And-Play Tactics, Conversation Mechanics) made it a breath of fresh air for those who enjoyed action RPGs with a touch of strategy. It was that delicious combination of innovative combat, cinematic storytelling, and the well-made universe itself that grabbed me. By the end of the game, I asked myself one simple question: “How will they top this?” In 2010, I got my answer.

    After successfully stomping out one of the biggest threats in the milky way, your role as Commander Shepard is put in an atypical position where who you‘re fighting for may not be so cut-and-dry. Your goal, above all else, is to find the best of the best among the galaxy. Recruiting them to your side, you’ll need to survive a journey nothing short of a suicide mission. BioWare is well-known for their character-driven writing, and that combined with the roster in Mass Effect 2 makes the group of squadmates easily the best from the trilogy. Previously unseen races make unexpected debuts, personalities vary drastically from each other(and collide, on occasion), with a volume of characters spanning far beyond the original.

    The combat was the biggest leap the developers had made with Mass Effect 2. Similar to the original, Shepard used a combination of cover, shooting skill, and cool down-based powers to succeed against the enemy. Undaunted, BioWare had taken a great deal from the original and tossed it straight out of the airlock. Gunplay had greater balance, the leveling system was skimmed down from its somewhat overwhelming version via the original, and the shooting accuracy was no longer bogged down by your firing rate. Your leveled abilities could evolve into unique permutations that fit your playstyle. While some may boo-hoo the lack of storyline(which I admittedly did too), I’d say it was more of a change in focus than a glaring flaw. While the original had a greater emphasis on traditional story arcs combined with side quests, Mass Effect 2 decided to divide them up with a wide variety of character-driven stories. Some of these were coupled into the storyline, and some were focused purely on the squadmate; often a search deeply tied into their past. And it was glorious.

    The atmosphere of Mass Effect 2 is a quite a bit darker than its predecessor. A spot like Omega is nothing short of pandemonium; a veritable grab bag of debauchery, treacherous fiends, and organized Guns-For-Hire, looking for an excuse to gain some easy money. The barren wastelands of Tuchanka were a fitting example of the history of the species that roams it, serving as a reminder of the past and something for your character to reflect on for the future. This atmosphere is helped in due part to the graphical upgrades of the game. Biotic powers explode on the screen like the force on steroids. Larger Set pieces add an extra layer of “wow” moments to the already lush and varied worlds. That combined with some of the new species makes for plenty of incentive to check the nooks and crannies of Mass Effect 2.

    Choice & Consequences are often a popular element of RPGs. How does Mass Effect 2 handle this? While the wheel of choosing dialogue options remains the same at its core, the newly-added interrupt system delivers a clever set of options taking place in real-time. Cinematics were no longer a passive event, which could in turn make the difference between the life and death of another. In an uncommon turn of events, the choices you’d made in the original could have significant effects to those in the sequel. While not as voluminous as ME3’s list, it repopularized the idea of having your story be affected from the very beginning to the very end, and not just from game to game. Their style of Choice & Consequences hit a peak during the later part of the game, where loyalty to your comrades and knowing your team was more important than ever.

    Wildly different from its ancestor, Mass Effect 2 is a greatly refined formula of Action-Based Role-Playing Game that bursts through guns blazing in entertainment value, while building a level of squad mate interaction that feels far deeper than people were expecting. Balanced, Emotional, and all-around satisfying, it’s easily one of my top RPGs of all time. Mass Effect 2 is a shining example of how to make a stellar sequel, and has earned its place in gaming history for good reason.
     
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  12. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

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    Alpha Brotocol looks acceptabru content wise, but is in srs need of editing (leaving dat for proofreading thread)
     
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  13. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

    J_C
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    Just shoot at me bras, this is my first serious article in english since highschool, so I know it must be full of grammar and other mistakes. :)
     
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  14. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

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    I agree content wise with Alpha-Protocol (balanced review J_C - very good!)

    I don't remember much of Hillsfar and I never played Barkley, Shut Up and Jam! - Gaiden so I cannot say much about these reviews.

    The Mass Effect 2 review is not very balanced IMHO. It praises even things that many would only describe as "dumbing down CRPGs".
    Example:
    My version would be:
    Character development was unfortunately further simplified compared to ME 1 and shooting is way too easy. So the game is neither a true CRPG (in which character stats and skills really matter) nor a challenging action shooter (in which the player's twitch skills really matter). It plays more like an adventure game with stats and some action for casual players.

    Don't get me wrong - this game is fun after a hard day's work as a casual game, but please don't sell it to me as best CRPG after the year 2000.
     
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  15. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    Okay, IWD guy replied and improved a lot his review:

    Here's his new review:

    Show Spoiler
    Icewind Dale, one of many Infinite Engine games released by Black Isle, is similar to the studio’s other cRPGs and different at the same time.

    Similar because of the recurring qualities shared by the developer’s titles. There’s solid writing, their chief staple established in Planescape: Torment; overall area design is laudable, with some locations verging on excellent. Take the ancient elven tower of Severed Hand as an example - it features well-planned levels, breathtaking backgrounds, compelling characters and equally compelling quests. Finally, there’s the truly unforgettable, heart-gripping soundtrack composed by Jeremy Soule.

    What’s different, though, is that IWD’s sole focus is on combat and it doesn’t try to fool anyone that it’s something else. It shows right at the start, as players create a full party, rather than rely on NPCs they meet. Battles pose enough of a challenge even on normal difficulty, with some of the encounters requiring thorough preparations in terms of spells, potions and tactics. Boss fights are similarly demanding, although their design feels too straightforward.

    Unfortunately, Heart of Winter, IWD’s main expansion, falls short of the original. Level design seems lackluster, with dungeons being extremely repetitive (the last location is just abysmal in this regard). Writing is still strong, though and that’s the main reason to actually give it a go. Then there’s Trials of the Luremaster, a small expansion with a single dungeon and very difficult combat.

    A huge upside of the old Infinity Engine games is that they’re not growing old, not like the other titles at least. Sure, stiff animations will make new players cringe once in a while, but then the beautiful backgrounds quickly make them forget that; sure, dialogue systems are a bit clunky, but stellar writing more than makes up for it. Icewind Dale fits this picture. Less story-focused than its famous siblings, but featuring more combat and a terrific soundtrack, it’s a true gem and a must-play for cRPG fans. JW

    I believe the content police is ok with this? ;)

    On Mass Effect 2 I talked with HiddenX and I won't change a thing. Saying that ME2 is better because it streamlined the RPG elements and was more of a shooter is as fair as saying that Deathlord is awesome because it's extremely challenging; it's the author's opinion and any decent RPG player should be able to read that and see if he would enjoy popamole shooting or insane difficulties. It's not my place to say one is good and the other bad.

    If you guys are ok with this, I shall proceed for the next batch.
     
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  16. Ninjerk Arcane

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    Is it widely acknowledged by an overwhelming majority of RPG fans who played Mass Effect 2 that the changes were for the better? You need to be really careful about what kind of bias you let creep in. I personally would love to rewrite history without Fallout 3 as made by Bethesda, but the game was wildly successful from a commercial standpoint as well as garnering widespread critical acclaim (before video game journalism was talked about as being as corrupt as it is now).
     
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  17. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    I don't get this reasoning... since when should a reviewer care about what the majority thinks about? I asked people to write about their favorite games, telling why they think they are good, not for the consensus of mankind on it.

    Again, the overwhelming majority of people on earth probably hate how hard, challenging, frustrating and almost impossible Deathlord is. Should I forbid Bee from saying that she considers it a great game?
     
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  18. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

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    A reviewer should always try to be balanced - a very good example is this review of Mass effect 2 from computergames:
    Praising the good things and mentioning the shortcomings, too.

    Show Spoiler

    Mass Effect 2 is a good game… but not quite. Good because, strictly from an entertainment standpoint, it can be recommended without hesitation, not quite because some of the good things from its predecessor were left out, while others were overly “streamlined”.

    Some players will see only the flaws and the “shortcuts” taken by the developers, while others, who don’t give a damn about these details, will say that the former are just looking for something to bitch about. Two sides, with completely different philosophies, and me stuck in the middle on punching bag duty if I don’t back one of them. And like that wasn’t enough, everybody’s pretty much right. So let’s take a closer look, shall we?

    To those of you who don’t know what Mass Effect is all about, I suggest a quick refresher course. If you’re too lazy (yes, don’t look at the screen like that, I’m talking to you), the really short version is this: we’re in the near future, humanity is now part of the intergalactic community, you become its Champion and stop some diabolical plans, vowing in the end to prepare for the impending Apocalypse.

    But the relatively optimistic note on which the first Mass Effect ends is completely shattered by the beginning of the second, when the SSV Normandy SR-1 – the ship that was your base of operations and high-horse for saving the galaxy – is attacked and destroyed by a mysterious enemy, the fate of commander Shepard being left “hanging”. Fortunately for you, the secret pro-human organization known as Cerberus extends a helping hand, offering you all the resources available to its leader, the Illusive Man (who makes his first appearance in Mass Effect: Ascension).

    Although in the previous game you fought his agents up one star system and down the other, the Illusive Man is forced to ask for your help because entire human colonies have started to go missing on the edges of explored space, the identity of the attackers being unknown (at first). And since you don’t find this kind of opponent on every street corner, the Illusive Man hands you the keys to the SSV Normandy SR-2, a substantially upgraded version of the ship you lost.

    Compared to its predecessor, the SR-2 is slightly bigger in order to accommodate (among other things) the new research laboratory, the revised armory, as well as the Enhanced Defense Intelligence. As a bonus, you also get two allies – Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor, which will be the first members of a team you’ll have to put together for what looks like a suicide mission.

    However, your newfound friendship with Cerberus won’t be taken too kindly by the other alien species or your former allies, and although some will understand your situation, they won’t be able to join you (not all of them anyway). Bummer if you're sentimental, but since this time you’ll have to go straight to Hell itself, you’ll need the best and the toughest specialists that the galaxy has to offer. Soldiers, scientists, biotics, assassins, engineers or mercenaries, the dossiers available will be more exotic this time around. Moreover, almost everyone will have some sort of beef with the law, so you’ll have to travel to places with a more than unfriendly “fauna” in order to recruit them.

    The headline is undoubtedly held by Omega, the Citadel’s dark counterpart, where mercenary gangs fight for control over their territories, merchants blackmail one another for a few extra credits, humans are public enemy number one, and the life expectancy is shorter than a Super Bowl commercial. Kinda like the Wild West, if you will. You won’t run short on threats to your life either while on Omega, but thankfully, you won’t be limited by Citadel regulations to exercise your own brand of justice.

    Recruiting these specialists is just the first step to success, because you’ll have to earn their loyalty if you want everyone to make it out alive (yes, you can die as well if you’re not adequately prepared). Each ally will have a specific mission, that once completed will ensure his or her loyalty, but on two occasions you’ll run into more serious conflicts, during which you’ll have to take sides if you don’t have the Renegade or Paragon points to choose the “neutral” approach.

    However, completing the specific mission doesn’t mean that said ally will remain loyal until the end, because each one has certain problems, convictions or traumas and if you’re rubbing them the wrong way when talking to them, you’ll eventually get the cold shoulder treatment. On the flipside, companions can offer ideas for ship improvements, which range from better shields and more powerful guns to improved armor and more efficient engines. Some will just make your life easier on the galactic map, while others will determine the fate of your allies during the final mission.

    Barring the ship improvements, you will also have research projects to improve various aspects of your equipment, either for yourself or the entire team. These can be bought or discovered throughout the missions and to research them you’ll need the help or Mordin Solus and resources which you’ll obtain by scanning the planets from the solar systems you explore or “borrowing” them from various containers.

    Some players will be thrilled to hear that the Make is gone, along with the boring planetary exploration bits from the first ME, but now you’ll need some patience to hunt mineral deposits from orbit. Which, ironically enough, can prove just as tedious, if not even more.

    Who are you?

    Before the launch, the producers made a big deal out of the fact that your decisions from Mass Effect will have consequences in the sequel, some more obvious than others. And even if a newcomer can understand the story without going through the first title (as the more important bits are recapped), my recommendation is to use a character with which you’ve already saved the galaxy, as the experience will be much more personal.

    This is facilitated by the various minor characters you meet again here and there and the Inbox you can access while aboard the Normandy, where among Nigerian scams and spam you’ll also receive various messages from people you helped or interacted with in the first Mass Effect.

    Relatively minor details, but which contribute to the overall atmosphere and the feeling that this is your story, even though some players will probably find this just a cheap trick. Moreover, if you import an already existing character you’ll receive bonuses for resources, money, Paragon / Renegade points and experience. The good news is that even if you go down this road, you can still change the class or appearance of your commander, with the options still being Adept, Engineer, Infiltrator, Sentinel, Soldier and Vanguard. I for instance used this opportunity to go down the Sentinel path, even though in the first game I saved the galaxy as a Vanguard.

    In the “apparently unimportant details” department I can also include the fact that you can now decorate your Captain’s Quarters with various scale models of ships from the Mass Effect universe, buy a space hamster, some fish for the aquarium maybe, you can change the music being played, and the work desk will have a photo of your loved one from the first game (that is, If you had one). Photo which disappears if you choose to get involved with a member of your current crew, seeing as now you have more options available.

    The road to Hell is paved with good intentions

    Once I got into the thick of things I started to miss those elements I mentioned at the beginning of the article, which in my opinion the producers chose to abandon a bit too easily. For instance, I didn’t understand why ammo types are now considered skills. Which apparently only certain members of my team can use. As a Sentinel, it appears that I’m unworthy to fire incendiary or shredder ammo, even though in the first Mass Effect I riddled my enemies with them.

    In order to use them, I have to take Grunt (Wrex’s replacement) and Thane (a monk-assassin kinda dude) with me during the missions. Oh, and in Thane’s case, he has to be loyal (the loyalty of each ally unlocks a special ability + a new costume). Seriously, what the hell?

    I wasn’t bummed that much by the lack of an inventory, since there were a lot of situations in Mass Effect when I would curse through my teeth because I had to destroy various items in order to get new ones (but only because I’m an obsessive packrat when it comes to loot). And it’s common sense to not be able to walk around with 10 armors, 5 shotguns and 7 side arms. Or to put it another way, it’s bearable.

    But a right hook was delivered when I saw that the armor and weapon mods were gone, and I can’t really transcribe what I thought in that moment regarding this decision. PEGI and all. Add to this the fact that the number of weapons and armors was significantly reduced and you get a very “streamlined” experience. I for one enjoyed hunting in the first Mass Effect the latest Hahne-Kedar armor models, the Kassa Fabrication assault rifles or the side arms manufactured by Rosenkov Materials.

    Now I had to settle with a lot less, and this left a bitter taste in my mouth, even though we now have the cryo gun, rocket and grenade launcher, the “nuke” gun (Fallout 3 much?) or the heavy pistols (all 2 of them). What I wouldn’t give to be able to modify the rocket launcher with some toxic projectiles.

    Continuing down the “Gimme a smoke bro’, that shit’s gooood!” aisle, we now have to worry about ammunition. Even though in the first game we didn’t have this problem, since the only limiting factor was the heat generated by the weapons (and this is where the mods came in; you could have a gun with sustained, moderate damage and lower heat output, or a handheld cannon that could be used as an oven after the 3rd shot).

    I really don’t see the logic behind this, especially since the old system worked very well and basically had the same role as the “new” one. Only it didn’t make you hunt for metallic cylinders during or at the end of each fight.

    The cover mechanic continued its journey towards Gears of War country and now you can vault over obstacles like Marcus Fenix and company. The only problem is that the increased focus on cover took its toll on the level design, with many “ambushes” and fights being given away before the script even triggered. You really don’t have to be a genius to realize that a fight is about to ensue when you enter a room and see boxes or stone slabs arranged like in the 100m obstacle course.

    On the other hand, I did appreciate that tougher enemies now have three layers of protection – shields / biotic barrier, armor (which they didn’t have in Mass Effect) and health, with the twist that some biotic powers don’t work if said enemy has shields or armor. So you’ll have to be patient and peel them like an onion before you can deliver the final blow. The work can be made easier by abilities such as Overload, but ultimately, brute force works as well… if you have enough ammo. And as a side note, the Normal difficulty level is pretty easy, so I recommend that veterans play at least on, err, Veteran or Hardcore mode in order to find a challenge.

    Since we’re here, the sudden disappearance of the Mako led to the creation of more varied and unique environments for the side missions, but the exploration bit during them is still very limited. You start in point A, have to reach to point B via the only route available, by killing those unfortunate enough to stand in your way and occasionally can hack data pads or safes for that extra bit of cash. I only encountered two secondary missions where you had to use your gray matter as well, but the challenges themselves were trivial.

    What do you want?


    A notable change is the fact that the Charm and Intimidate abilities are no more, so now you only have your Paragon (good guy) and Renegade (bad Machiavellian guy) to work with in order to unlock the extra options during the conversations. The bars for each “morality side” are still separate and your actions will continue to dictate what type of commander you are, but the producer’s managed to screw this part a bit too, by changing the appearance of the character depending on the choices made.

    If you’re Paragon you’ll have a face as smooth as a baby's bottom, while a Renegade will look like a Sith Lord Terminator. I admit it’s cool to have glowing red eyes when you threaten someone, but when you’re trying to express your undying love, it’s a straight up headshot and it reeks too much of Star Wars. Fortunately, you can surgically heal your scars, at which point your mug won’t change anymore if you kill a baby seal to get the job done.

    Skimming over the little “you look like what you choose to do” bit, the Paragon or Renegade options will come in handy, whether it’s about getting better prices from the vendors or a loyalty mission, but treading the line between them doesn’t really pay off. So my advice is to choose from the get go what type of guy or gal you’re going to be and stick to it no matter what. Because otherwise you’ll miss all the good stuff.

    Moreover, you can also use the so-called “interrupts”, special actions which you can only perform in certain moments of a cut scene or conversation (if you’re paying attention). They won’t always be available, but can change the direction of a scene in interesting ways (head butting a Krogan? Pure win).

    Why are you here?

    If until now I complained about what’s not ok with the game, in the character department an obvious step forward was made compared to the first Mass Effect. Your comrades have more interesting personalities (which are better fleshed out at that), you get to learn surprising things about them if you take the time to talk to all of them and I’m sure that at least some of you will replay the last mission (or even an older save) to protect his or her favorite. And yes, you can save all of them.

    The quality of the loyalty missions varies from “Meh” to “Pretty good”, but just like the main story, their attractiveness comes mainly from the voice acting and overall presentation. The way the scenes are “cut”, the camera angles, the way it moves about during the cinematic sequences, these all indicate that the BioWare designers have a far greater handle on the interactive movie concept that they introduced with the first Mass Effect, which is a big bonus for the atmoshphere.

    Regarding the voices, the significant investment made to get Martin Sheen, Carrie-Anne Moss, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Adam Baldwin, Yvonne Strahovski, Michael Dorn, Tricia Helfer and Michael Hogan alongside Seth Green and Keith David paid off. In spades. Everyone fitted perfectly in their role (Martin Sheen is the Illusive Man), but the grand prize has to go to Liz Sroka, because Tali'Zorah vas Normandy is simply adorable, especially if you choose to pursue a romantic relationship.

    But good voices and fancy camera work don’t mean jack if the musical score doesn’t back you up. Fortunately, Jack Wall and his team of composers has again delivered the goods and scored a soundtrack that I believe is better than the first, and Reflections, Illusive Man, Suicide Mission or End Run are tracks that I can recommend to anyone without a shadow of a doubt.

    The character models have seen significant improvements as well, which can be easily observed during the conversation close-ups, and the same goes for the facial animations, although I did witness one or two slip-ups, but I’m not sure if they were due to the way I modeled my character, or the Unreal Engine 3 itself. From a technical standpoint there’s not much to complain about, since the game ran flawlessly, the levels look good, the loading times where shortened and I didn’t encounter any bugs.

    Where are you going?


    “So how does Mass Effect 2 stack up compared to the first one?” Well, it certainly has a lot more soul. More interesting characters. It shows the “other side” of the Mass Effect universe and neatly sets the stage for the final showdown that will take place in the last title of the trilogy. If you put it under a microscope, its shortcomings will become even more apparent and the game is now a shooter more than an RPG, but it really depends how much you’re willing to forgive for a story that’s very well presented.

    I for one don’t regret the time spent in its company, but I expect Mass Effect 3 to dump the “streamlining” (can it even get worse than it is?), combine the best aspects of its predecessors and end the trilogy with a bang. Anything less will be unacceptable.


    Plus:
    • The soundtrack and voice acting
    • Better fleshed out characters
    • Cinematic presentation
    • Much more personal experience
    Minus:
    • Too much "streamlining"
    • More shooter than RPG




    PS:
    The new IWD review is much better.
     
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  19. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    Funny, no one gets angry about the Barkley review not mentioning any shortcoming... :roll:
     
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  20. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    I don't know this game... :)


    No you shouldn't forbid Bee to say that Deathlord is a great game, but it would be very nice of her if she would mention that the game could be a bit challenging for CRPG newbies.
     
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  21. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    Isn't that basic text interpretation? "This is one of the hardest and most hardcore games ever" doesn't already implies that it isn't a newbie RPG?

    When Dominus says that he liked how BioWare streamlined ME2's combat, I think it's offensive to the readers IQ to add "but if you don't like streamlined combat, you might not like the fact that BioWare streamlined the combat".
     
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  22. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    I can interpret Dominus' review very well, because I played Mass Effect 2. I'm not so sure I would interpret his view correctly if I had never played Mass Effect 2.
    His review would sound much more trustworthy if he wouldn't have rosy-tinted some things. Maybe you should send him this review to rethink about his own one and put things into perspective.
    In a book about CRPGs it should be mentioned that Mass Effect 2 has only a reduced set of CRPG elements.
     
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  23. MicoSelva Prestigious Gentleman Don't call Abigail Patron

    MicoSelva
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    Codex 2012 Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Divinity: Original Sin 2 Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Well, I agree with that.
     
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  24. muds_animal_friend Arcane Patron

    muds_animal_friend
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    Tone, relevance, and factual accuracy would be my primary concerns when editing. I may be wrong, but I thought the reviews in this book were to focus on why an author enjoyed a particular game rather than represent an objective critical analysis of the game. Felipepepe stated in the FAQ:

    "I want readers to ... have fun reading interesting articles ... to be persuaded AND motivated into trying new games ... I want the book to pass on the sense of passion and involvement the genre has."

    On that basis, shouldn't the editorial jackboot be enforcing an imbalance towards a positive tone?
     
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  25. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    I think I have made my arguments clear enough already. This review is positive and balanced. I prefer this kind of reviews over fan-boy-reviews.
    Mass Effect 2 is a good game, but in terms of relevance for the CRPG genre it is simply a dead end, a blind alley. Most of the time it feels like an interactive movie with some yes/no choices and less roleplaying and some action shooting elements thrown in.
    The critique on the IWD review finally made that one better. I think some critique on ME 2 review would make it better, too. I don't want to enforce anything; but the more plausible, reliable and trustworthy reviews are in felipepepe 's book the more readable and successful the book will be.

    PS:
    Think of me as an advocate for the CRPG genre. I will point out things in reviews that are missing or unbalanced in my opinion. In the end it's always Felipe who has the last word - his name is on the cover not mine :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
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