Andromeda Part 1: So What Happened?

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 16, 2018

Filed under: Mass Effect 82 comments

I’m sure most of you remember the novel-sized retrospective I did on the original Mass Effect trilogy that ran from July 2015 to June 2016. At the end of the series we were still looking forward to Mass Effect Andromeda and wondering how that would turn out. Since then the game has been released, received mixed reviews, became an industry-wide joke due to bugs and glitches, was patched up by the developers, and then faded from public memory. It began as a hot mess and ended as a disappointing footnote in the history of BioWare. Now I’m finally getting around to playing it, over two years after my original Mass Effect series ended.

Frustratingly, this game is neither as good nor as terrible as I’d hoped. This is not a return to the energetic worldbuilding of Mass Effect 1, but neither is it an affront to reason like the final act of Mass Effect 3At least, not the main story.. There are a few good ideas here, mixed in with the bog-standard gameplay, open-world busywork, and cringy dialog.

While Mass Effect 3 was at times frustrating and irritating, Andromeda‘s great sin is that it’s merely disappointing. There’s not much to get worked up about here. Mass Effect 3 had the problem where its story unraveled right at the moment where it should have started wrapping up, and it was the conclusion to a story we’d been following for three games over the course of five years. This game tells a stand-alone story. The stakes were lower this time around, and so were our expectations.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Andromeda Part 1: So What Happened?”



Diecast #228: Nimbatus, Digital Comics, Minecraft

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 15, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 48 comments

I normally keep my microphone on a swivel arm so it can hover near my mouth. The swivel arm fell apart last week and I’m not sure it can be saved, which is why I sound like I’m recording in an echo chamber now. I’m trying to work out some sort of arrangement where I can put the microphone closer to my mouth without needing to build a ridiculous tower out of books.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Diecast #228: Nimbatus, Digital Comics, Minecraft”



Netflix’s Maniac

By Shamus Posted Sunday Oct 14, 2018

Filed under: Television 33 comments

Today’s late post was caused by Maniac, the Netflix original series that released this month. Last night I planned to write a post to fill this space, but instead I binged my way through 9 of the 10 episodes of Maniac. I only stopped because it was nearly dawn, I was up about 6 hours past my bedtime, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I polished off the last episode as soon as I got up.

This is a surprise, because…

  1. I’ve never been a fan of Jonah Hill. He’s been typecast as a crass selfish jackass, and after watching a few of his movies I started to cringe every time I saw him.
  2. I’m usually very picky about my genre blends, and I would never expect bleak cyberpunk to mix well with dark comedy and lighthearted feel-good affirmation. That sounds like pickles and ice cream to me.
  3. Over the last few years I’ve given up on Netflix series. Netflix has a terrible habit of taking a two-hour idea and turning it into a ten-hour miniseries, and I usually find the result intolerable.
  4. I’m usually really annoyed by “malfunctioning AI” stories. I hate it when writers have people build a computer that accidentally acts like a human with stereotypical human desires like romantic love or daddy issues, as if a computer bug could cause something as complex as a human psyche.

And yet somehow the whole thing worked for me. Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Netflix’s Maniac”



The Witcher 3: The White Frost

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Oct 13, 2018

Filed under: Video Games 44 comments

*This post arrived a bit late, sorry about that. I’m traveling and had some hotel wifi issues*

And so we come to the end of the main questline. It’s a big, cinematic set piece, with a pair of bosses who are pretty good by this game’s standards, and ends with a scene that caps off the theme of Ciri having her own story independent of Geralt’s. For all that, I’ve never managed much emotional investment in it. Both in my first time through the game, and in subsequent ones, by the time I get this far in my primary emotional state seems to be impatience.

This may say more about me than it does the game, because it’s not an uncommon thing for me. Generally, by the time a playthrough hits the 50-60 hour mark in one of these long RPGs I’m starting to get antsy, and my reaction to seeing the finish line is to rush towards it rather than enjoy the journey.

Ciri, by this point in the game, is basically one-shotting all enemies. My attempts to get a good screenshot were foiled by motion blur somehow getting turned back on.
Ciri, by this point in the game, is basically one-shotting all enemies. My attempts to get a good screenshot were foiled by motion blur somehow getting turned back on.

It might also say something about RPGs in general. If there’s a tick that I don’t like about AAA RPG writing, it’s the insistence on the big, epic, world-saving conclusion. So often the final act divorces itself from the tone that gave the rest of the game its charm. This is compounded by the palpable sense that the writers and developers are getting as impatient as I am, though maybe that’s just a projection on my part. In either case, here are a list of issues I have with the final set piece, in no particular order:

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “The Witcher 3: The White Frost”



Grand Theft Auto V: Torture Time With Uncle Trevor

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 11, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 112 comments

For reasons I’ve explained before, I have a firm “no politics” rule here on the site. There are lots of places to have the standard Red v. Blue debates, and most of them are sewers. The last thing I’d want is to play referee in that never-ending screaming match. Having said that, I’m going to break my own rules and make a political statement:

I think government-sanctioned torture is a bad idea and – inasmuch as I have any say in the matter – I’m firmly against it.

I apologize for the breach of etiquette. I’m not announcing my beliefs to pick a fight or in the hopes that I can sway you to my thinking. In fact, I don’t really have a stake in what you think and I’m certainly not interested in trying to change your mind. If you disagree, that’s fine. We’re still friends as far as I’m concerned.

The only reason I bring this up is because I want to make it clear that I am ideologically in agreement with the author of this scene. My objections to this mission aren’t because I don’t like having “someone else’s opinion” shoved down my throat. My grievances here aren’t based on party politics or tribal thinking. My problem here is that the GTA V argument against torture is so childish and inept that it made me want to disagree.

Of all the things in Grand Theft Auto V that don’t work, the torture scene is the not-workingest. It takes a rare skill to be simultaneously sanctimonious and incoherent. This scene is fractally wrong. As you zoom in on a mistake you’ll see it’s made up of smaller mistakes that are just as misguided as the whole. The last time I was presented with something this dense with problems was the hotel scene in Hitman: Absolution. It’s actually hard to analyze this in an orderly way because the problems are so thick and interconnected. But I’ll do my best.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Grand Theft Auto V: Torture Time With Uncle Trevor”