Mass Effect 3 EP39: MOAR DAKKA!

By Shamus
on Nov 21, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

196 comments


Link (YouTube)

This problem has sort of crept up on developers. In the 1990’s, shooters didn’t have much in the way of story. Basically, “Bad guys over there, go shoot them until the world is saved.” At the time everyone complained that this was kind of hollow.

There weren’t plot points, character development, or worldbuilding. There was shooting, and – later on – shooting bigger guys with bigger guns. You know. MOAR DAKKA, basically.

So then developers began injecting stories into games. Once every hour or so the characters would stop what they were doing to give some context to what was going on.

Then the stories grew. We had multi-threaded plots, character arcs, plot twists, lore, and rising action. Sure, lots of it was pretty sophomoric, but… baby steps, right? As games became more about story, the story and gameplay became more at odds. The gameplay has to stop for the cutscenes and the story has to stop once the gameplay starts. It’s like pausing a movie, playing an hour of a game, then pausing the game and watching another five minutes of movie. We’re watching a badly paced movie, and to get to the next scene we have to play a bland game.

I don’t see this as a Mass Effect problem, or a BioWare problem. This is a problem for anyone making story-driven action games. This problem culminates at the end, where the developer has to decide if they want to give you a big long combat finale at the expense of the story’s pacing, or if they want to go into full-on movie mode and make you stop playing your game.

I tried to think of games that did this finale really well. I came up with two. Now it’s your turn. You think up two games that successfully unified the story and gameplay crescendos at the end. I’ll wait…

Okay, so here are the games I thought of:

Deus Ex and Half-Life 2.

I didn’t realize until now just how similar these are. Both games have an unreachable antagonist in a machine, and your job is to kill them. They talk to you during the sequence, while you are silent,. They do this without cutscenes, letting you keep playing while the story moves forward through shouted dialog. You’re mostly fighting mooks and environmental hazards, not HUGE ROBAWTZ or DEMONS. The combat area is built around the antagonist, keeping them at the center of the conflict.

I’m not suggesting this is the ONLY way to design a shooter finale, but I did find it interesting that the first two games that sprang to mind had so much in common.

What two games did you think of?

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Footnotes:



A Hundred!2020202016I bet you won't even read all 196 comments before leaving your own.

From the Archives:

  1. Zeriphor says:

    It makes sense for Anderson to be using one of the old infinite ammo weapons. They probably have no supply lines on Earth and can’t get any more heat sinks when they run out.

  2. LunaticFringe says:

    You’ve kind of stumped me Shamus. I don’t know, John Romero in Doom 2 maybe? I kid.

    Shameless self promotion time: So a couple of the commentators here were complaining about how Sovereign is the first Reaper we see, while Harbinger is the king of Reapers, a hilarious contradiction. Well that actually reminded me of why Sovereign was named Sovereign in the first place, so I made a video about it.

    I’m welcome to any criticism but please be gentle, this is my first time trying to edit video clips in anything except a let’s play (so I’m pretty terrible at it). Also I mispronounce about a dozen words cause I was foolishly reading my script without my contacts in.

    • anaphysik says:

      Generally I’d be scared to watch any videos on youtube by someone styling themselves the “LunaticFringe” (a view which you having to add a number after that only reinforces) unless I was doing research on moonbase conspiracy theories for the minor conspiracy-theorist-based belief system I’ve got in my (frontier-futuristic pokémon) tabletop campaign setting…. (what was that about shameless plugs? XD)

      But maybe I’ll give you a chance.

      • Shamus says:

        It’s good. Very sane. Kind of highbrow, even.

        LunaticFringe:

        Good work. My only criticism is that I got a bit restless after staring at the still images for too long. (Iassume the tiny-video is something you’d fix if you knew how.) Just generic Mass Effect 1 footage would have been good. Just give the viewer a steady stream of visuals.

        Of course, you don’t HAVE to. It’s not like the lack of visuals undercuts the points you’re making or anything. But if you’re asking yourself, “how can I get more people to watch and come back?” then that’s my advice.

        Either way, nice work.

        • LunaticFringe says:

          That’s a completely fair point, I wanted more video but I kept having to deal with the shrunk screen problem. Production values are definitely my #1 area where I need improvement, and I appreciate the feedback.

          • anaphysik says:

            I’m not done watching it yet, but so far it sounds like it’s mostly a read-out thesis piece? If so, I might say that it could probably be better as just that – text, like a blog-post-type-thing. If it’s designed to play to the strengths of a textual medium, then simply vocalizing it can diminish it’s impact. (Silly simple example: e.g. that ‘but- well, let’s not talk about that’ almost *never* comes off well when spoken off a reading, but does work well in text.)

            • LunaticFringe says:

              Fair enough. I’m trying to balance my arguments with less technical remarks (such as the one you mention) and yeah, I can see the unnaturalness of it as well.

          • TheJeremy says:

            I don’t mind the still images, really. If the video has no more relevance other than being gameplay from the same game, it doesn’t matter to me; I’ll just do something else while I listen.

            Most people watching this kind of analysis are going to have either played the game, or seen gameplay of it before.

            Listening to podcasts while playing some relatively mindless or relaxing game without much important audio is a great way to spend an hour or two, and I usually enjoy it when I can find content that doesn’t require watching the video to understand the discussion.

        • TJtheman5 says:

          I agree with Shamus. A great thing to listen to, but not much to look at. I really enjoyed the actual points in it though. Good show, sir.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        Hey, cut me some slack :P I only used the name cause I read it from a Theodore Roosevelt speech and thought it sounded cool (in high school…).

    • Asimech says:

      To me your explanation of your belief for why Sovereign was called that sounds plausible*. Bioware has based characters and stories to similar historical texts before, and it’s not an incredible jump of skill to do what you’re suggesting Bioware did when compared to their past show of capability.

      I’d be very much surprised if they pulled something similar off today, but that’s another thing entirely.

      * Convoluted sentence is convoluted. The only way to make it clearer would be “I agree with your hypothesis”, but I’m not certain if that’s actually better or worse.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        Well I think the way Bioware’s begun to treat the Qunari in the Dragon Age series is a perfect example of what you’re saying. The Qunari in Origins seemed to be heavily influenced by the society described by Plato in The Republic. Then Dragon Age 2 comes around and David Hayder describes the Qunari as the ‘militant Islamic Borg’. Yeah Hayder, way to be clever and deep…

        • Cupcaeks says:

          I believe you’re referring to David “More Qualified Than You” Gaider. I’m pretty sure David Hayder is the voice of Solid Snake.

          Oh, Gaider… I actually liked what he did in Baldur’s Gate 2, but in light of his more recent works, I have to wonder how much of that is me looking through rose-tinted goggles.

        • Artur CalDazar says:

          He called them that as a joke, back before DA2.

          • LunaticFringe says:

            I don’t think it was a joke, considering he later had to clarify his position because some people thought his use of ‘Islam’ was offensive. In this clarification he doesn’t state that it was a joke, rather he contextualized it in regards to the rest of Thedas’ culture.

            And I’ll be fair to Gaider and say yes, the Qunari are basically the Ottoman Empire of the Dragon Age universe, so he wasn’t necessarily ‘wrong’. I just feel that he thinks he’s cleverer then he actually is.

            • Artur CalDazar says:

              “And I’ll be fair to Gaider and say yes, the Qunari are basically the Ottoman Empire of the Dragon Age universe, so he wasn’t necessarily ‘wrong’.”

              Then what exactly is the problem? It’s clearly not a serious name for them but even so you agree its fitting.

              “I just feel that he thinks he’s cleverer then he actually is.”
              Maybe he does, but your example did nothing to say this.

              • LunaticFringe says:

                Because throwing around terms like ‘militant Islamic Borg’ to describe something like this makes no sense. If he had said it was based on the Ottoman Empire, this would be fine. But no, instead he had to throw out contemporary, controversial terms like ‘militant Islam’ to describe something that is nothing like that. What does militant Islam have to do with the Qunari? Nothing. The Borg? The Qunari are nothing like the Borg, they’re just a heavily structured society. I mean, the Soviet Union was a heavily structured society based around a philosophy, does that make them the ‘militant Islamic Borg?’ If this had been a single incident I’d be kinder, but this is the guy who came up with the ‘Tranquil Solution’ quest in DA2, an INCREDIBLY tasteless reference to the Holocaust. Just throwing random, semi-relevant terms together and then claiming that they have significance is the sign of an author trying to be deep and failing.

                This is to say nothing of his responses to when people criticize him, which range from just blocking them on the Bioware forums to basically saying that anyone who criticizes his work is being childish and petty.

                • Artur CalDazar says:

                  “Because throwing around terms like ‘militant Islamic Borg’ to describe something like this makes no sense. ”
                  Unless you accept that it was just a casual, not in any way serious, comment. So as long as that comment is exactly what it looks like there’s no problem.

                  You’re really reading a meaning into something that just isn’t there.

                  “The Qunari are nothing like the Borg”
                  Both seek to have all other groups assimilated into their own, and primarily use force to reach that end. You really are taking this way too seriously and straight up inventing issues here, taken one small comment to mean all these things with zero basis for doing so.

                  How do you know who wrote Dissent? Being an Anders based quest one would assume it would be written by the person who was behind that character. So source on that?

                  Also as for that image I’m going to need to to link me to the actual webpage for anything quoted, because I’ve seen enough fakes to not trust something that has the incorrect avatar. I dislike seeing something void of context anyway, even if you have no problem stripping something of it’s context to fit your use, it is important.

                  EDIT: Wait a moment. “Gayder”? Really?

                  • Asimech says:

                    “…even if you have no problem stripping something of it’s context to fit your use…”

                    I take it you didn’t stop to re-read that before posting?

                    • Artur CalDazar says:

                      I still don’t see my mistake.

                      Did I phrase that poorly?

                    • Asimech says:

                      The sentence implies that LunaticFringe has on purpose omitted context for the purposes of supporting his own opinion. It has an accusing tone, since people usually just state “I dislike seeing something without context” omitting parts like “even if you”. Which often has a disapproving tone regardless of intent.

                      I emphasise that what I’m talking about is how the sentence comes off, not about any intentions. I can see how it wouldn’t sound accusing, but I hoped it would be noticed on a re-read since I wasn’t up to explaining it at the time.

                    • Artur CalDazar says:

                      Oh, I wasn’t trying to say that he was being dishonest.
                      My bad.

                  • LunaticFringe says:

                    You have a problem with Gayder? You should accept that it was just a casual, not in any way serious, comment. So as long as that comment is exactly what it looks like there’s no problem. (Sarcasm aside I personally have no defense for the term ‘gayder’ but the forum thread that Gaider wrote that post on has disappeared, so I work with what I’ve got. However, simply googling ‘David Gaider 5 stages of grief’ shows the discussion surrounding the quote).

                    If you’re going to throw in modern, contemporary terms to describe something that is nothing like that then expect to be criticized. It is not ‘casual’ if he was questioned on it and then defended his position rather then just saying it was a joke. I’m reading nothing into it, it was a careless statement that he should’ve corrected but he stood by it. The point of the quote was to highlight how the intellectualism of Bioware is slipping. The original Qunari were written by Mary Kirby (who honestly should probably be lead writer on DA3 cause she’s the only one who has constantly wrote decently) who pretty much confirmed the Platonic influence while working on Origins. So we have writers discussing Platonic influences while Origins is being made, while when DA2 is being made the lead writer makes an asinine comparison to contemporary politics and science fiction. This shows a shift in company culture.

                    And really? The lead writer on the game and the original writer of both Anders and Justice (also the guy who pushed to have Anders in the game in the first place) had NO SAY in the fact that in their companion quest they reference the Holocaust? I can’t find direct sourcing on who wrote what quest lines in DA2, but regardless, he’s lead writer. His job is partially editing, i.e. removing tasteless crap like that. This is to say nothing of other completely tasteless references in DA2, such as the World Trade Center symbolism when the Chantry is destroyed. Hack, thy name is Gaider.

                    Like I said before, I’d be kinder to the guy if he didn’t act like anyone who criticized him just ‘doesn’t get it’. Rather then take responsibility for any of the problems with DA2 Gaider has again and again blamed fan expectations.

                  • Cupcaeks says:

                    Here you go, the original post in all its contextual glory:

                    http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/9/index/2597588/7

                    As a former regular at the Bioware forums, I can tell you that this is hardly an isolated incident. The man does not take criticism very well, at least not from what I’ve seen in his posts. Yes, its natural for an author to be defensive of his works, but he comes off as very arrogant in my eyes.

    • That was fascinating! I love stuff like this. I always say you have to look at elements like these in order to get the full value out of a story. There’s always more beneath the hood of a “simple villain”. What does it mean to be that character, for example?

      Well done!

    • Grudgeal says:

      Yay, literary analysis, my favourite.

      …Wow, hearing that makes me somehow even *sadder* about what happened to the series in ME2 and ME3. And I didn’t even think that possible.

    • Cannibalguppy says:

      thank you for the exelent video :) i really really enjoyed the intelegent way you put things :) inspires me alot to be honest. please keep doing it. im subscribing to you asap btw ^^

    • Dragomok says:

      EDIT: This should be a reply to Asimech’s comment, but is still tangential to the topic.

      I’ve always thought that Sovereign’s name came from the fact that it was “governing” (i.e. overseeing) the Galaxy during the absence of the rest of the Reapers, so it was in some way “independent” from them.

      Harbinger, on the other hand, is the one leading the Collectors and taunting Shepard, so it is “announcing” Reapers’ return, as well as is the one who unintentionally reveals their goals to the audience.

      I have to admit, though, that the idea their names should be switched makes the whole thing a little bit more intuitive.

    • Gravebound says:

      When quoting Hobbes, you: mispronounced “consequently”; left the ‘r’ off the words “nor navigation”; mispronounced “commodious”; miss-emphasized “signification”; mispronounced “prodigality”; mispronounced “magnanimity”; really misspelled “rationalization”; mispronounced “inconstancy”.

      Other than that and the distracting inhalations in the beginning, very interesting video.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        All the spelling errors aren’t actually errors, that’s taken verbatim from Leviathan (English still wasn’t completely codified, I’m sourcing from the original rather then the modern abridged version, cause frankly the modern version sucks). You’re totally right about my personal errors though, I was stupidly trying to read 17th century English without my contacts in.

  3. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    Jedi Outcast, which did it by breaking up the conversations with Desann into small parts and having the duels in between (and I think a case could be made for Dark Forces, and Dark Forces II -which did it more or less the same way).

    The Original Mass Effect also did it well -again, by interspersing cut scenes and gameplay.

    I’m actually unconvinced on Deus Ex, but that may be because I usually did everything -thus getting three distinct ending arguments before finally pushing the button.

  4. PhantomRenegade says:

    I’m sure i’ll get lynched for this but i actually hated the Dragon Age combat.

    It probably has a lot to do with expectations because i went in expecting a action game and ended up having to pause the combat every five seconds to give orders.

    Another thing that happened to me in dragon age and a lot of other games is me liking to play the sniper/archer or glass cannon classes which makes me have to rely on my companions to tank and actually do helpfull things for me and that just never happens.

    Of course i could just be really bad, which i wouldn’t put past me.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I too, wish they had just made the game a hack-and-slash where you learned different skills as you advanced. Then again, I’m a heathen who likes Dynasty Warriors, so what do I know?

      • lurkey says:

        You might try Dragon Age 2 then. See, Bioware heard complaints of some people complaining combat was too slow, and – being Bioware – fixed that in DA2 by making everyone leap and prance like hyperactive baboons on speed, flailing humongous swords as if they were flyswatters.

    • Khizan says:

      If you want a simple Hack-and-Slash character in DA:O, you want to look at the Dual Wield Warrior. I found it(on Hard) to be even easier than my Mage playthrough(on Normal) due to the sheer amount of damage that the DWW can dish out in a very short time. And since you’re a warrior in heavy armor, you can also tank fairly effectively.

    • StashAugustine says:

      I liked the theory of DA:O’s combat, but it was way too long and the difficulty was really inconsistent.

      • TheJeremy says:

        I played Dragon Age II for about 5 minutes on my RPG-enthusiast friend’s computer. I couldn’t get into it at all, never having played the original. Is DA:O still worth playing?

        • drkeiscool says:

          DA:O is far superior to DAII, in my opinion. I won’t gush about it right now, though.

          I hated the combat though, so I always just turned on God Mode. :P

        • StashAugustine says:

          Haven’t played much of DA2 (due to wildly varying opinions of quality). DAO has a fairly generic story with only a few good twists, but the character writing is pretty good and it’s very, very good about letting you play a character’s personality however you want. The combat is interesting and has some really good parts, but it’s rather unbalanced and the difficulty is all over the place. Overall, it’s about on par with Mass Effect 1- the only reason I prefer ME is the characters are a little better and I’m automatically biased against fantasy.

        • People have called the story standard, which is fair I suppose. Good writing, good characters (some really great!), a few great twists here and there, and so forth. Oh, and the individual origin stories for all the different characters you can make (varying with gender even) are perhaps one of the best parts of the game. Slow combat is slow. I would like it more if there wasn’t so much of it and it’s pacing problem. Difficulty is a mess. Just play on easy; it will be less painful and move more quickly.

          I’m going to be honest here. I liked DAO. I think I liked the first Mass Effect a little better, but I liked DAO. DAII even had its moments. But if you couldn’t get into that, you may not get into the first one.

    • Phantos says:

      I think I didn’t like the Dragon Age combat because it was clearly a PC game ported to consoles, of which I am native.

      Oddly enough, I enjoyed the combat in the second Dragon Age, which everyone else hated. Maybe because it was clearly a console game ported to the PC.

      I imagine I would have the reverse complaints if I were more accustomed to a keyboard and mouse, but them’s the breaks.

  5. JPH says:

    Mark of the Ninja. (As if I could have said anything else, right?)

    The second-to-last level is the last level of actual challenge, and it serves as a good final test of all the gameplay elements you’ve learned thus far. At first you have no lethal weapons or traps and you have to carefully sneak past all enemies and obstacles; then once you get your weapon, you have to make your way through the sprawling level to get to your final destination. There are varied and interesting challenges to face, and it culminates in an intense timed survival room.

    The “final level” involves no actual “gameplay;” it’s just you walking through a passageway. But it’s very brief, and while avoiding spoilers, the lack of violence or challenge is integral to the story.

    And it ends with a very interesting “moral choice” with lots of room for interpretation, and it’s a choice that you actually make inside the game engine, rather in a dialogue option. Makes it feel more interactive, you know?

    Halo: Reach. Yes, I know that the story on the whole is lackluster at best and bleh at worst, but hear me out.

    The final level involves you being left behind to activate a thing (I don’t remember what) so that the ship can escape Reach. Once you do it, you’re left alone, and monsters start showing up en masse. What you do at that point is completely up to you – you can try to fight them off as long as you can, knowing that in the end you’re doomed no matter what, or you can just give up, drop your gun and let them kill you.

    It was a really clever example of interactive storytelling, where the gameplay dynamics were used to reinforce the narrative.

  6. newdarkcloud says:

    We have to be ending this in the next episode or two. Thank god.

  7. anaphysik says:

    Bastion *immediately* comes to my mind.

    I think one major solution to the gameplay-story problem is to do what you guys called ‘environmental storytelling’ in the HL2 SW season, but on a larger scale. Change it such that the dynamic is ‘moving through an engaging *world*.’ Make things less about some plot-whatever and more about seeing and understanding the world you’ve been placed in. When the focus is on the world, even the simplest of plots can suffice and be non-‘intrusive’.

    (And yes, I think Bastion did a good job doing just that.)

    • I agree with this.

      I also want to say Spec Ops: The Line,buuuut I’m not sure if it qualifies under Shamus’s specifications. :(

    • Wedge says:

      Seconded, on all counts.
      Bastion was fucking amazing.

    • Nick says:

      Ditto. And my second game was Dishonoured, probably because I’d been playing it recently but I think there’s an argument for it – the ending way you get up to save Emily, either to the poisoning scene or to stop the insane Admiral depending on your chaos rating, plays out according to player choice and gives a nice dramatic moment to use our skills to finally reach our biological daughter (which is totally who Emily is, btw. She addresses you as father in a note and the Empresses secret room in the tower pretty much confirms it)

      • anaphysik says:

        I had a feeling people would mention Dishonored in response to this. I haven’t played it, but from others praisings and complaints, it sounds like the main problem is in plot, whereas the setting is good. Which does sound like it supports my point :)

        • Indy says:

          Dishonoured supports your points very well. I love that last mission both in low and high chaos. I didn’t notice any real problems in the plot and being able to piece everything together from the environment (and text pick-ups and audio logs) felt natural, not forced. And the heart is the greatest video game mechanic of 2012.

          • Phantom Hoover says:

            The plot’s not *bad*, it’s just… disconnected. The setting’s huge and fascinating and novel, but the main plot itself doesn’t tie into it much; it’s mostly a fairly standard story of betrayal and revenge. You get the feeling you’re focusing on a sideshow when the main attraction is elsewhere.

          • Nick says:

            Though there is a -hilariously- out of place audio recording right after you first escape – it’s basically two of the conspirators that betrayed you talking about how they betrayed you and are setting you up to take the fall.

            Which just makes me ask why:
            a) why the hell would they record incriminating evidence against themselves and just leave it lying around?
            b) why don’t I TAKE THE VERY PORTABLE CARD THIS IS RECORDED ON WITH ME AND CLEAR MY NAME ARGLBLARGL

            I mean, from a gaming perspective it was a nice audio log that gave good background details and context, it just makes no sense for it be there…

    • Falcon says:

      If Shamus had ‘like’ buttons I would have mashed it mercilessly.

      Bastion is a phenomenal example of a game that takes gameplay and story (and sound) and wraps them up into a cohesive whole. The ending bit where you carry Zulf, and your erstwhile enemies shoot at you briefly, before realizing what you are doing and stop is done completely in game terms. Your controls are no different, you retain control, and the story is reenforced by your actions, and those of your enemies. I recommend this game strongly.

      The other, hmmm. I would probably go with a Portal. The second one especially tells a story equally through direct methods, and environmental ones. That said this is kinda Valve’s thing, so it isn’t really a surprise.

      • anaphysik says:

        “The ending bit where you carry Zulf, and your erstwhile enemies shoot at you briefly, before realizing what you are doing and stop is done completely in game terms.”

        Especially the bit where one Ura strikes down another that decides to keep shooting at you. You can’t target or harm friendlies, so that Ura just turned non-friendly to its kin.

      • Phantos says:

        Bastion is a phenomenal example of a game that takes gameplay and story (and sound) and wraps them up into a cohesive whole

        To date, Bastion is the only indie game I’ve hated so much that I’ve deleted it from my Xbox hard drive. They don’t take up a lot of space either, it’s just the principle of it. I will never understand the adoration that game receives.

        I can only postulate that I received a defective copy or something.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Im intrigued.Why did you hate it so much?

          • anaphysik says:

            I read his post as a laundry list of ‘I have terrible taste in narrative and style and blah blah blah’ plus some legitimate complaints about having to use a new weapon for the rest of the mission even if you hate it and some slightly-obfuscated visual elements (health bars are there, in a circle around the enemy, but they are pretty faint; friendly enemies have lovey-dovey hearts flying away from above their heads; missing these elements probably came from the soon-to-be-mentioned ‘weirdness’ but I’ll admit that even in proper play they’re not as clear as they ought be), and some… ‘weirdness’ about game resolutions being fucked. Perhaps was a problem with the XBOX release, I don’t know, because I played it on PC and it ran fucking beautifully and extremely fucking clearly (and mind you, graphics-card-less-laptop here). So I’d say either a shitty XBOX release or a shitty TV he was hyping too much – or maybe a corrupted download, though that seems pretty anomalous; plus if things seemed way off like that I’d probably, you know, redownload and try again. Or just piss off after a few minutes and never get any farther than the starting level. Neither of which were done….

            But really, how can you take anyone seriously who mocks the narrator and calls Bastion’s music “just a bunch of noises”? No fuck it’s just a bunch of noises. Just a bunch of noises which make FUCKING GOOD MUSIC WHEN PUT TOGETHER.

            • Deadpool says:

              My girlfriend got it on a shitty TV and she had a hard time figuring it out either. Since she got the new TV though…

              Still, the sound complaints are odd.

            • Thomas says:

              I enjoyed the start of the post
              ‘So I got Bastion instead, since everyone’s yapping about that like it’s Braid 2.’

              Because I decided to finish Braid because everyone talked about it as though it were as good as Bastion and then really disliked it. It seemed to be one really really good level with no surrounding context that you have to slog through hours of narrativeless gameplay to get too =D

              I guess it goes to show people have different opinions on things :)

    • Paul Spooner says:

      While Bastion is a good game, I think the discussion is intended to be limited to “shooter” type games. Even Portal is “more of a puzzle game than a shooter really” on that account. There are lots of non-FPS that excel when integrating game-play and story.

      • anaphysik says:

        As a linear action beat-em-up with isometric shooter elements, Bastion felt relevant enough to the style of the inherent mechanics Shamus was talking about, if not the mechanics themselves.

    • Jjkaybomb says:

      I was about to answer Bastion, but somebody else beat me to the punch! ^^
      Bastion had an awesome finale, I agree.

    • Doctor Broccoli says:

      I also came to the comments section to suggest Bastion.

      I’d also like to add that Bastion’s ending sequence wasn’t actually ‘real’ combat. Sure, it looked like combat, felt like combat and quacked like combat, but really it was more of a player-controlled cutscene. See, the game actually made the HUD (including your health bar) disappear and then used this opportunity to make you immortal. This great because it allowed the game to give you a sequence where you couldn’t suffer from an immersion-shattering, anti-climactic defeat that still felt intense (even though there was no real challenge involved.)

      • Fleaman says:

        OH YEAH BASTION SPOILERS GUYS

        But yeah, games have always had this problem with what to do with death. We want to have a way to prove that you’ve failed at the gameplay, or else succeeding at it is hollow; therefore we have allowed you to die. But death breaks the flow, which while adequately disincentive for shitty playing is anathema to telling the story.

        In Bastion, the narration’s main purpose is developing the setting by constantly injecting character and life into every detail. Every level, weapon upgrade, potion, and god is given the briefest description by the narrator, whose gruff and succinct style implies that you’ve really just scratched the surface of these things. And this is so that when you reach the end and discover that this colorful world ended under some very ugly circumstances, and you’re asked to decide whether it should come back or not, it’s not an easy choice.

        So while Bastion plays like it’s an old-school action game, it’s also bringing together a lot of sophisticated storytelling, warranting more than just a boss fight to wrap things up. So it does something interesting. The battle with the Battering Ram weapon is the climax to the gameplay, but partway through it you get the choice to rescue or leave Zulf. If you pick him up, you put down the Ram, and as Doctor Broccoli points out the gameplay effectively ends; it turns into the story’s climax. The game prevents you from dying here, because it would damage your immersion in the story. If you don’t care about the story, you can leave Zulf to keep the powerful Ram. So the gameplay climax continues.

        Aside: Actually the game doesn’t let you die here either after you’ve killed the first few dudes… which I didn’t know because I saved Zulf and never got around to looking up the other endings until now. So that kind of undercuts the flow of my argument, but let’s just say that it’s because you’re already over the peak of intensity by that point, so dying there would just be frustrating, like beating Sigma’s first 67 forms only to get killed by his 69th after using all your E-tanks, and I said some pretty smart stuff up there already and don’t want to erase it, that’s why.

        EDIT: Strike tags are not cool with paragraph breaks at all.

  8. Amnestic says:

    Chris: “It feels like ‘It’s the end of the game! You need an epic boss fight which is really hard’.”

    *eyes up Mass Effect 2*

    Least that game had a boss. This one had infinite respawning waves of Banshees+Marauders along with 5-6 Brutes.

    DA:O’s climax really was hindered by the combat engine. If it’d been smoother and faster and slicker then mowing through hordes of low-level Darkspawn interspersed with a few generals might’ve built momentum up to the Archdemon rather than hindered it. I’d say Bioware slipped up by trying to add in a combat sequence that their game design simply wasn’t built for. Did enjoy the Archdemon boss though.

    • LunaticFringe says:

      But remember, Casey Hudson was worried that a boss fight would be too ‘video gamey’ (I’m serious, that’s an actual quote). A boss fight would’ve gotten in the way of their Artistic Integrity.

      Although…they are playing the original ending, where you have infinite pistol ammo and you can shoot the Starchild as much as you want. And Josh is playing. Oh god.

  9. The Rocketeer says:

    I think Metal Gear Solid did a pretty great job, not just at the end, but throughout the game. I guess the codec conversations count as ‘stop playing and listen,’ but in MGS the codec calls were still pretty short, and didn’t really amount to bringing gameplay to a halt.

    Even if Gray Fox’s death soliloquy becomes REALLY aggravating to sit through after the first time.

  10. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I think the missiles here are pretty defensible. Modern Patriot Launchers are in clusters of 4, SAMs are often in clusters of 3-12. Scud launchers are single shot. The SS-4 from the Cuban Missile Crisis was a one-shot.

    As for guidance -the missiles require their internal equipment to be working to fly in a straight line, else even small movements along the body of the missile -changes in mass from the burning of fuel, for example -can cause the missile to go off course. Missile Guidance is hard.

    Despite this, I agree with the larger criticism that this ending isn’t that great. Something which involved more of your squad, and involved more missiles flying through the air -hey, even a minigame where you fired missiles to try and hit that spot -would have been better.

    If we’re willing to kill off squad members, I think a repeat of the Suicide Mission and Virmire Approach would be good too. Send Shepard through a back way to get close to the conduit, and have the rest of the squad providing a diversion around front (hey! A vehicle section could be cool!) and Shepard has to do things to keep the squad alive, and if things go sideways, people die and you hear them on the radio, or maybe have a chance to see their death scenes.

    • Tse says:

      But the missile will still hit the reaper if it veers off by as much as 10% (1 meter per 10 traveled). It’s that huge and that close!

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Missiles aren’t bullets. They are an unbalanced projectile with a constantly changing center-of-mass being acted upon by numerous outside forces while strapped to a controlled explosion. If something goes wrong with the guidance, they don’t go “10% off course” but otherwise fly normally. They can do anything from “miraculously stay on course” to “spin like a cat with its tail on fire.” If the reaper is really mucking up the guidance system, then the missile could go anywhere.

        • Loonyyy says:

          Pretty much this. The problem is, these things have a Force (The rocket) acting on them, which provides the acceleration. Any change off the centreline of the centre of gravity will cause the force to rotate the rocket, which then will rotate it further, while it moves forward. So the thing ends up flying curves. It’s like a paper aeroplane. If you put aelerons on the wings, and you flip the ones on one side up, the thing will veer off to one side in a curve.

          Any change in wind? Off course. Change in mass? Needs constant calibration. That’s why these things have onboard computers.

    • Nick says:

      Or maybe, given that this is the fate of Earth and all, we could have taken everyone along for the ride?

      I mean, we managed to get around the two-person-only thing in ME2 so why not again?

  11. Steve C says:

    First two games I thought of were The Two Towers and Starcontrol 2. Two Towers in particular had the best transitions ever. I distinctly remember putting down the controller during the intro cutscene and not realize the cutscene had ended and I now had full control until I had already been badly hurt. However the sequels to both games were made by other companies and it really showed in a bad way.

  12. False Prophet says:

    Re: Chris’ early comment–I think ME2 tried to be a game about bringing together a ragtag band of misfits into a team, but it was really about getting a ragtag band of misfits to respect Shepard enough to die for her, and tolerate each other–at Shepard’s demand–long enough to get the job done. There was very little indication that your squadmates–even the ones who knew each other from ME1–interacted with each other when not in Shepard’s presence. Dragon Age 2 seems to be the only BioWare game that had party members hanging out with each other when the Player Character wasn’t there.

    • Mike S. says:

      While we don’t see it much in the SW videos due to the lack of walking around the ship, this happens all through ME3. Shepard is constantly walking into characters hanging out together, chatting with one another over the intercom, or arguing about some point or other (with Shepard able to put her two cents in), twitting each other in the middle of some of the missions. Of the three Mass Effect games, it was by far the one that gave the impression that the crew had relationships with one another, rather than just with Shepard.

      (Though ME2 had some stabs at it– e.g., Garrus and Tali’s banter on the Citadel, the Virmire survivor acknowledging Garrus on Horizon, etc.)

  13. False Prophet says:

    Also, I now want to retitle ME3 to “Mass Effect: The Guns of Navarone”. Two-thirds of main storyline missions seem to involve blowing up anti-ship cannons.

    And the Alliance is reduced to using Scud missiles?

  14. silver Harloe says:

    So when I got to the fold, I tried to think of two games before clicking the link and I couldn’t really. I mean – there’s Torment, but that’s so obvious it’s hardly worth mentioning.

    But I did think of my favorite FPS games: Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Portal, Half-Life 2, and Thief 2.

    I dismissed them as not meeting your criteria because while they have theoretically have a story in the sense of some approximation of a plot, they have approximately zero character development.

    • Cupcaeks says:

      I think Thief 2 fits the gameplay/story finale criteria pretty well. It’s been a while so I might not be remembering right, but I think the the showdown with Karras at Soulforge involved him spewing his doctrine while you ran around and sabatoged his efforts, with Garrett occasionally remarking on his words. I could be totally wrong though, it has been a few years.

      That game, and Metro 2033 were the two I thought of, in terms of merging story and gameplay in the finale (See AJax’s post below for details on Metro 2033’s ending).

  15. Wedge says:

    It’s not just the end–Deus Ex and Half Life 2 both actually did a good job of telling the story *through* gameplay rather than bringing the gameplay to a grinding halt in order to tell story (and vice-versa). They managed to keep that up through pretty much the entirety of both of those games.

    Another good example, I think, is Metroid Prime. Since literally all of the story is told through the environment, putting the story together is part of the gameplay. When you get to the end, the final area has very little story–there’s nothing really left to tell. You just get a final level that’s not too long and not too short, and a good final boss.

    • Yeti says:

      I loooooooved metroid prime…and then the last boss fight felt really men to me. This was probably because I had never played a metroid game before, so all the gameplay mechanics and their uses in boss fights felt really unique. The last boss was shoot it with correct element at correct time and felt out of place in a game that was otherwise really diferant than other shooters in mind. What really impressed me was how fun backtracking, something that normally sucks was.

      While its ending didn’t blend gameplay and story (it was bboss then resolving cutscene) Majora’s Mask blended gameplay and story telling throughout the game. The three day cycle and masks allowed for a whole range of interactions, and seeing a range of scenarios playing out depending on your sympathy or apathy really brought a life to Clocktown that amazes me to this day.

      The ending was your typical boss then resolving cutscene, but it did this very well. Actually, it’s a good contrast to ME3. MM tells you what became of the people you chose, resolves the conflict between link and the antagonist, and leaves the mystery of the salesman and majoras mask alone.

      ME3 explains the Reapers and didn’t tell us about the universe or its characters. It spoiler its greatest mystery and didn’t give narrative resolution. I know that ot was meant to be bittersweet, but it wasn’t sweet at all. MMs ending was mostly heartwarming focusing on friendship, charity and forgiveness, but added a small dose of sorrow and mystery.

      Anyway MM, HL2, and Metroid are examples of games with a lot of story telling but little plot. I think that they realized the game is the player’s story first.

      • tzeneth says:

        A bit off topic but I always loved Majora’s Mask. I felt like it was a less popular game than it should be. The three day cycle was done perfectly to the point where I’ve looked for other games that have done something similar and failed to find any with that groundhog day loop (Will not be mean with tvtropes link).

        The ending tied everything together after either a really hard fight or really easy one (thank you fierce deity mask). Showed you the consequences of the people you helped and allowed everything to be happily resolved including the marriage which involved completing one of MM’s most notorious quests.

  16. StashAugustine says:

    As already mentioned, Spec Ops and Bastion. FEAR also had an ending that was progressively the hardest part, then the scariest part, then the story conclusion. (Although, Shamus also mentioned this, so I’m not exactly original here.)

    • Loonyyy says:

      That’s a good point.

      FEAR manages by using voice overs and overseen scenes to give the story. It rarely goes to full cutscene for things, which, like Half Life 2, is to it’s benefit.

  17. Asimech says:

    I’ve played very, very few games to finish, and I can’t even remember all of them for some reason, so I don’t think I’m the right person to try and answer this. But, assuming there was no text malarkey after the last/first map, Braid mixed the cutscene and gameplay in a way I found interesting and actually functional (even if it did look a bit weird in my play-through).

    Umm… Stacking? (I can’t actually remember properly how it ended.)

    I’m fine with both ‘final fight’ and cutscene endings in general, but the devs need to match them up properly. If the planned cutscene doesn’t fit with a Grand Fight of Ultimate Destiny, then don’t put in a Grand Fight of Ultimate Destiny.

    But I am one of those deviants that doesn’t mind anticlimactic end battles if they feel at all justified. And since you’re usually fighting against a leader with a one man army, it usually does feel justified.

  18. Felblood says:

    I only came up with one.

    The original X-COM.

    The final raid of Cydonia is intense.

    The knowledge that you can sacrifice the entire team if that’s what it takes to destroy the objective is not only a powerful reinforcer of the game’s themes and mood, but a mechanic you can use to your advantage to compensate for the hordes of fast deadly new bio-forms the aliens reserve to defend this sacred and critical objective.

    If I have to do two, I’ll crib from Extra Credits and point to their Mechanics As Metaphor episode about Journey.

  19. TJtheman5 says:

    Shamus, what about Portal? Would that game count for your criteria?

    • McNutcase says:

      Portal was my first thought as well. The finale is literally all the skills you’ve been learning throughout the game, while the story reaches a conclusion.

      Although the subtitle glitches are a point off, at least. Stage directions shouldn’t be in the subtitles!

    • Shamus says:

      I was limiting my discussion to just shooters, since that seems to be where the worst of the story / gameplay conflict happens. And I don’t really think of Portal as a “shooter”, which is why I didn’t use it as an example.

      But yeah, the two are pretty seamless. You fight GlaDOS in her core, using all of the gameplay you’ve learned along the way. Portal 2 also.

      • Mike S. says:

        Though one problem with Portal is that you’re kind of distracted from GLaDOS’s final bits of exposition by the whole trying-not-to-die thing. (Or at least I was. Better players than me may not have had that problem, but may instead have cut her off before she finished talking.)

        And if you do die, the endless repetition of her lines plays hell with the pacing. That’s one argument for keeping the important dialog outside the gameplay– even Shakespeare isn’t going to be a lot of fun to hear the seventeenth time because you keep having to reload.

        • Shamus says:

          That’s fair. I think the time pressure is what frustrated me in that section. Listening too much to dialog (from GlaDOS or any of the spheres) would burn too much time and leave you in an un-winnable state.

          They fixed this in Portal 2 with timed stages. The first stage is (like) 5 minutes, and then the timer is reset for the next section. Burning lots of time in part 1 doesn’t mean you have to be heroic in part 2 in order to win. Then again, the last timer was two minutes, which wasn’t nearly enough time for me to FIND the thing I was supposed to be getting, much less solve the puzzle.

          Still, good ending.

      • SougoXIII says:

        Shamus, I think that JRPG take the ‘worst story/gameplay conflict’ crown here. I mean they have to jump to a different field entire once the battle start.

      • Orophor says:

        Sticking just to shooters, I can think of at least four that I felt had great narrative and great game-play which combined well all the way to the end of the game: Marathon, Jedi Academy, Resistance: Fall of Man, and Uncharted. I felt each had a solid story, with a satisfying conclusion and great game-play.

      • TJtheman5 says:

        I thought it could possibly count, because it is similar to shooters in some ways. Not much, but it was the first thing I thought of.

  20. MichaelR says:

    Portal 1 and Portal 2 were my ideas. In both cases, the story was told through audio and environmental cues, that happened alongside the game play. The climax was simply more of the same, with the bosses monologue-ing at you while you solve the problem.

    Whether Portal counts as a story driven action game, instead of being a platform game or a logic puzzle is an open question.

  21. Ateius says:

    ME1 did a great job of interspersing cutscenes, dialogue and gameplay (including important choices! And a chance to flex your paragon/renegade muscle to skip a WHOLE BOSS FIGHT!) and still ranks up there with my personal favourite game endings of all time.

    As for the second … Alpha Protocol. Same reasons as ME1: Cutscenes, dialogue and gameplay all nicely interspersed, you can make important choices right up to the very end, and all your decisions throughout the game either play out or bite you in the ass during the sequence.

    • Indy says:

      Having said all that, ME1 ended in a long combat scene (Ilos+Citadel), then gave you a conversation (Saren) then made you fight an end boss. Whenever a cutscene started, the end-boss reset his health. That’s a big story-gameplay segregation.

      • Ateius says:

        Even Ilos and Citadel were broken up by pauses in the action and the occasional opportunity for conversation; it wasn’t pretty much non-stop combat for the length being shown here. Also, Saren (or rather, Sovereign; I’ve never fought Saren, always talked him down) doesn’t reset his health when the cutscene happens halfway through his fight, it stays at 50%. Always has for me, anyway.

        Also, Shamus, thanks for giving a warning pop-up for forgetting to check the box instead of instantly trashing the comment. I always forget the first time.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      While Alpha Protocol’s gameplay gets a lot of (rightful) slamming, I actually think that the final encounters are paced really well. There’s none of those endless slogs through limitless mooks like you get in so many Bioware endgame scenes; all of the enemy encounters are nicely sectioned off and manageable. You fight a few guys, then you talk to someone, then you fight a few more guys, then you talk to someone else and so on. And once you get out on to the surface, all of the combat is sectioned off into three distinct set pieces, the fight with Darcy, the fight with the Helicopter, and the fight with Westridge/Leland. Whether these encounters are any good or not is very much up for debate, but I like the idea that some thought went into the pacing of this sequence, rather than the developers just throwing up their hands and flinging all the enemies at you.

      • anaphysik says:

        Well, I actually thought the helicopter seemed fairly unfair. But after it mega-killed me, it glitched out and vanished after I reloaded. So hey :D Good glitch!

        • Gruhunchously says:

          The helicopter is pretty ridiculous, but if you start running like all hell as soon as it fires it’s missiles, you have a pretty good chance of avoiding them. They’re pretty slow. Also, you’re completely safe if you make it to the bunker closest to it, so you can use that to your advantage and pop in and out to get your shots in.

        • lurkey says:

          “fairly unfair”, eh? :P

          Both Darcy and helicopter fights are unfair – in a sense they’re really easy when you find the blind spot, but until you do, it’s pure ragequit material. Well, at least the final fight is easy and your choices still keep coming into account, so yeah. Definitely serious thought went into pacing.

  22. Bryan says:

    …Yes, Josh, you *can* charge that Harvester. Not that you’d want … oh.

    …Oh.

    Well. Never mind that then. Not that I shouldn’t have seen this coming. :-P

  23. krellen says:

    Re: Chris, at around 11:30 – “If your gameplay and story are at odds with one another ..”

    Then you made a bad game, and probably should get out of the game-making business.

    If there is any one single thing that is objectively wrong in game design, it is this – the “gameplay/story segregation” problem. That is WRONG. It is the antithesis of game design; if your gameplay does not service your story, either you are telling the wrong story or your gameplay sucks.

    The main interaction players have with your game is the gameplay; if you cannot convey the central message of your story through that gameplay, you are working in the wrong medium.

    • LazerBlade says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking. It’s both a blessing and curse to pioneers of the medium that so little has been done to use this medium to express a story or idea. On one hand, designers get to try new things and be the first to come up with them, but on the other, they don’t have a very vast library of examples or conventions to draw inspiration or ideas from.

      And, you know, a LOT of big game devs seem to basically be trying to make movies.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Totally agree. Games are about the experience of player interaction first and foremost.

        But, in defense of all those game designers, a lot of “gamers” just want to watch movies while feeling like they deserve some of the credit for the awesome that’s taking place on screen. Any “game” that boils down to a player-ego-stroking power fantasy interactive movie re-play is sad, shallow, and pedestrian, but it also stands to make lots of money because that’s all a lot of people want. This means that there will be game designers seeking to serve that market segment, and they aren’t going away.

        This comes back to a much older debate about “vice industries”. The prostitution, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drug industries have all come under popular dis-favor at some point. Yet, they have all survived (and indeed thrive) due to an ongoing demand. I’m not saying any of these things (or “movie” video games for that matter) are comperable in any way, except that none of them are going away becuase there’s a lot of people who will pay good money for them.

        So, does it mean that the suppliers of these industries, the factory workers, or prostitutes, or “movie” game designers are bad people? Are they wasting their lives? That’s a hard call. I wouldn’t want those jobs, but you’ve got to make money somehow.

        • Thomas says:

          ‘Totally agree. Games are about the experience of player interaction first and foremost.’

          I’d like to disagree. Games are a large medium that I’d like to define most inclusively as anything that incorporates player input right into the experience. And then from that it’s up to us to find the areas of player interactivity we find the most interesting rather than signalling one area as being ‘better’ than the others. We can define games more puristly, but then all that#s going to happen is we going to have to come up with a different word for all the media that I like that isn’t a film and isn’t a book and isn’t a song and isn’t a painting and by the purist definition isn’t a game.

          Look as Spec:Ops and Bioshock who made they’re thesis on lack of player interaction. Look at my favourite games. Uncharted 1/2, MGS4, FFX, To The Moon, One Chance, Quintessence, Heavy Rain, In The Company of Myself. None of them specialise in the player interaction elements of our spectrum (I did omit Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Age of Empires 2, KotoR2, Planescape and DX:HR but I hope you can take the point). Look at Dear Esther

          The only thing bad is doing it lazily and uncreatively. We should always push boundaries in all directions, and you can enjoy the boundaries of player interaction and I can enjoy the boundaries of player uninteraction (seriously, this is a a thing I want to see explored =D). The game which people complain are like films, are still something completely different from films and a totally false comparison. There is no circumstance where I would sit down and watch a 10 hour sprite based film. Yet I just sat down and played a 10 hours sprite based game with minimal player interaction and I loved the heck out of it. Somehow ‘game’ changes the rules of the game completely. And whilst Hideo Kojima would be burned on a stake if he tried to enter Hollywood, there is a space for him here

          EDIT: In some ways I was responding less to your comment (because player uninteraction is also foremost an aspect of player interaction) and more the paragraph underneath it. In defence of myself, the Tomb Raider and Last of Us trailers show I’m far more into disempoyerment fantasies. In fact player interaction = power fantasy because it involves placing you in the centre, whereas uninteraction involves distancing you from the protagonists and action. Compare Half Life 2 and FFX and the power fantasy is mostly on the former side

          • newdarkcloud says:

            I feel that played dis-empowerment is equally as much dependent on interactivity, if not moreso. Sometimes being put in a character’s shoes to feel his/her crippling helplessness can be the best way to make a point.

            Going to Spec Ops, the lack of choice is bolstered by the fact that you are interacting with this world as Walker. Bioshock as well. These games work due to fundamental assumption that an interactive medium let’s you make meaningful choices. In these cases, the lack of choice is part of the underlying message, yet they are both still interactive. Interactivity and choice is not the same thing and distinguishing the two is important.

            • Thomas says:

              To be fair I haven’t played either of those games yet so it’s not the interactivity that resonated with me. I also haven’t actually committed myself to being a disempowerment fantasist but I enjoyed the story suggestions of both trailers and haven’t found a better reason why I enjoy the story ideas of vunerable heroes and unpleasant worlds (I also like the Hunger Games) I’ll take the rest as valid though, but I still stand in disagreement with the post I responded too, just now with much less weight behind it.

              The empowerment fantasy thing I still think is totally an aspect of interactivity and as Chris Avellone has made clear (and our Chris) it’s games like Fallout and Half Life 2 and KotoR2 that are trying to sustatin power fantasy. And Deus Ex is so power fantasy it hurts. Clearly JRPGs are a lot less power fantasy focused than CRPGs (they are the hero vs your are the hero)

              So I feel that the criticism of less interactive games and the criticism of power fantasy and comparing it to vice is invalid and contains a lot of games that I hope Paul is a fan of. And people’s reactions to Spec Ops is a good example of why we’re going to have to think about it a lot before necessarily taking the step of removing power fantasy from interactive games. Whereas stuff like To The Moon and Dear Esther, with almost no player interaction can easily tell stories about flawed unattractive protagonists.

              I guess I was wrong in that all games come down to player interaction, but that doesn’t necessarily follow that More = Better. Mincecraft is not by definition better than Half Life 2. Instead Different= Different. And we can enjoy all aspects.

              I presume that the post was mainly talking about CoD but I hope I’ve done enough to detach the moral flaws of CoD from that of lack of interactivity. The moral flaws of CoD is that they’re creating enjoyment with no sentiment to the impact that this enjoyment takes and is something that can be employed to books and films and is disassociated from cutscene games and interactivity. Example. That horrible knife throat slitting would have been less horrible if they hadn’t made the player press the button that did it. We could think the protagonist is a horrible person (like CoD 4 did) but the added interactivity makes the sin far worse.

              It’s essentially lumping two almost unrelated criticisms of CoD together and I don’t think it can be generalised into general disparagement of movie based games

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The irony is that old games,the ones that gave you practically no text in front of their action,were way better in telling their stories through their gameplay.

  24. The Hokey Pokey says:

    Planescape: Torment and Silent Hill 2 were the two games that immediately came to mind. The easiest way to combine the action and story climax is to make the final boss deeply significant to the protagonist. When the protagonist finally fights the villain directly, the action itself has narrative weight.

    • Thomas says:

      Planescape is a really good example at providing an exciting gameplay climax for whatever gameplay you decided was most important. There’s exploration gameplay (blade), talking gameplax, one-on-fight, party based fight. The entire nature of the fight (and even the narrative and theme of the game) changed depending on how you directed it.

  25. AJax says:

    I don’t know why but I really liked how Metro 2033‘s ending sequence consisted of a maze puzzle and platforming sections. Platforming sections in a survival horror FPS… yeah. You can also make decisions in said puzzle sequence that affects the ending if I remember correctly.

    • LunaticFringe says:

      Metro 2033’s ending is actually the result of your actions throughout the game, to get the good ending you have to do a lot of randomly specific stuff. Of course, this being a depressing Eastern European game, the bad ending is the one that makes much more sense overall (and it’s actually the canon ending they’re using for Metro: Last Light).

      But yeah, I can’t believe I forgot how good Metro 2033’s ending is, I loved the contrast of how the majority of the game took place underground (and largely kept the Dark Ones in the background as dreams/hallucinations) and the ending was set on a really tall radio tower so you could see the entire ruins of Moscow and the Dark Ones’ city.

  26. Spammy says:

    Y’know, I’ve been playing a lot of MechWarrior Online recently, and I have to say… that Reaper is so freaking exposed, and it only has one gun, is it really that hard to take it down? Oh right, space-magic surrounds it.

    Anyway, games that don’t drop the story/gameplay ball. While not an FPS, I think the movie ending of Saint’s Row 3 qualifies, playing up the climax escalation for laughs and the conflict as a movie production when in reality all the parties have made up with each other and is getting along. Never went for the other ending, liked Viola too much to kill her off.

    How about the end of the Alan Wake special episodes? I mean yeah, it’s more of that wonderful combat system, but at least for the final encounter you’re actually doing something that seems meaningful. The episodes pick up right after the end of the game, and are about Alan running through a twisted, gnarled version of the locales he went through in the game as a metaphor for him trying to win over the part of his mind that wants to stay in the Dark World. The final final boss encounter sees you going against familiar faces to get out, most notably Barry, who is talking and mocking you all the time. Those special episodes were just about as weird and meaningful as the whole game should’ve been.

    Red Steel 2 did a pretty good job with it’s final push, having some important characters die off to give you motivation and sending you through the Big Bad’s last lines of defenses before you finally met face to face as you’d expect from a Western/Samurai movie. Except for the part where the final battle is incredibly easy if you’ve gotten certain upgrades.

  27. Cupcaeks says:

    That reaper was clearly using an aimbot, and in ME3’s two-color world, it’s totally paying the price.

  28. Cody211282 says:

    On the subject you guys brought up of the gameplay after the goodbyes feeling out of place and all together to video gamey. The only reason this game doesn’t have a end boss, or anything to do with Harbinger for that matter, is because Casey Hudson thought it would be to “Video Gamey” and ruin the story. So we got this part instead.

  29. ehlijen says:

    I was about to say Freespace 2, but I’m not sure it counts as a shooter in this sense (it’s a space shooter, not an FPS).

    I still think it managed to cram an impressive amount of, if not story, then at least immersion into that final mission. It did change the game rules a bit at that point though; the objective tracker very obviously stopped caring whether the player was saving civilians or twiddling his thumbs at the jump node…

    • Phantom Hoover says:

      That just enhanced the feeling of desperation: you’re not expected to rescue anyone, because the odds are stacked that heavily against you. It also doesn’t have a giant ‘boss fight’, since nothing larger than a cruiser appears in the final mission and most of the gameplay is keeping bombers away from transports. That works to the same end as the mission objectives: there’s no hope in fighting the Shivans’ main fleet, all you can do is try to run and fight off stragglers.

      • ehlijen says:

        I’m not saying it didn’t work. I still think it’s about the best fitting final mission I’ve seen in a game ever.

        Just pointing out that it is no longer quite the same gameplay you’ve been doing before (but if the immersion’s working, you don’t notice, at least on the first time through).

  30. X2Eliah says:

    A game with a good final mission?
    GTA: San Andreas, and Vice City, imo. Both of those are culminations in both story and gameplay, with the gameplay of driving fast&crazy & shooting stuff actually working in favour of the story that’s being told.
    I thought about including gta3 as well, but.. well, idk, it just feels like that they didn’t have the mission design down just right back in that game, and the final mission is a lot more of “just shoot in this setpiece location” which hasn’t been that heavily established as a central place of the narrative.

  31. Even says:

    It may be my nostalgiagoggles blinding me, but Vietcong and the expansion Fist Alpha both managed to pull it off. To a degree anyway. Defending your homebase in the original game from a VC/NVA assault with time passing as the attack goes on through the night, culminating in old Soviet tanks rolling in by the morning and you’re out of anti-armor ordnance.. Your forces all but surrounded, holding off the last line of defence, they send you to sneak up and blow up a tank with C4 so the remaining forces can escape through the opening. I recall it being one of the hardest missions (apart from one insanely scripted POW rescue mission) The whole gameplot basically being the war story of a Special Forces sergeant, the gameplay and story are pretty much intertwined as they are for most of the time. The main character also keeps a diary which you get to read between missions if you so desire. It lets you keep up with what’s been going on between the time lapses plus helping you to immerse somewhat.

    In Fist Alpha, you take part in an overcomplicated stealth assault on an NVA camp, which I recall taking a long damn time trying to do it all stealthy like. Game mechanics being not all that fair towards stealthing, it was somewhat aggravating, but I still felt satisfied by the end.

  32. Nytzschy says:

    Fun fact: the “V” in the V-2 rocket stood (more or less) for “vengeance weapon.” The V didn’t have anything to do with the type of weapon it was. Where the V-2 was a ballistic missile, the V-1 was a winged, jet-powered flying bomb, and the V-3—which was never even used—was a ridonkulous piece of super-artillery meant to shell London from Germany.

    I don’t really have a point to saying this, but I do think it’s remarkable that Hitler’s late-war sideshow megalomania weapons made more sense than the war plan of the Reapers for this whole game.

  33. Jarppi says:

    I would say that Metro 2033 has propably the best end sequence of all time. Yeah, even above Half Life 2, which had some of pacing problems at the end. Another one that comes into my mind is Portal, but that doesn’t count for reasons listed above. So I guess I have to name Half Life 2 as the other shooter with good ending.

    “As games became more about story, the story and gameplay became more at odds. The gameplay has to stop for the cutscenes and the story has to stop once the gameplay starts. ”

    Speaking about Metro 2033. I don’t know if you (Shamus) or any of the Spoiler Warning crew have played it, but Metro 2033 is a great example how you can mix the gameplay and story. Yes, there are some cutscenes but they aren’t the only storytelling aspect in the game. (No spoilers ahead.) Endgame is a good example. You know you are close to ending, you have had some though fighting before it yet it still had an ace in the pocket to use. In that game the line between storytelling and gameplay was drawn on water. You could say it is unfair to praise the story and storytelling of a game based on book, but what the heck. It just works.

    • LunaticFringe says:

      To be fair to the guys who made Metro 2033, the book has a lot of scenes that would be really hard to pull off in a video game (such as the ‘always dark tunnel’ that people sometimes never come out of, or the whole ‘stare at the Kremlin on the surface and you’ll go insane’ moment). Also they were making a survival FPS about a book where the protagonist fires his gun like three times in total throughout the whole thing. So they had to kind of develop the game on its own merits and story structure, rather then the book’s (the book’s also WAY more depressing). However, some of the stuff they do take from the books, such as the Librarians, is excellently done. Other stuff, not so much (the blob in the military base, that thing is annoying in-game but bloody terrifying in the book).

      We’ll see how good the developers are when they have their own canon to work from, Metro: Last Light isn’t going to follow the storyline of the other Metro books. As long as we get moments like this I’ll be happy.

      • Deadfast says:

        Other stuff, not so much (the blob in the military base, that thing is annoying in-game but bloody terrifying in the book).

        AAAARGGHHHH!!! Words cannot express how much I hated that part of the game. Forget the blob, those freaking explosive goo balls were so impossibly terrible! The worst part was that even if you managed to avoid dying to them bloody things they’d just go for your teammate and kill him instead. Ugh!

        • LunaticFringe says:

          Oh yeah, and it’s a shame because the buildup to it is actually fantastic: the design of the complex, the back-and-forth between your companions, the creaky, old Soviet equipment, and the little touches (like in the control room, you can find a boot filled with dirt with a single plant in it). The ghost tunnel is the highlight of the game for me, the lowest part of the military base is definitely the worst.

          • Anorak says:

            In the novel this was directly underneath the Kremlin, which someone already pointed out made people go insane.
            But it was worse than that. The Kremlin itself is still intact, despite the ruin of the city around it. The doors stand open. The moment a ranger looks at the stars on top of the Kremlin, they go into a kind of trance and are compelled to go inside.

            When the party is under the Kremlin, it’s this giant blob monster thing that induces euphoria(?), and makes it a good idea to kill themselves.


            A kid that is with them, that they went through some lengths to rescue, kills himself here. Russian Literature, ladies and gentlemen.

            Metro 2033: a collections of ghost stories that actually manage to make my skin crawl.

            • LunaticFringe says:

              Bourbon’s death in the book is also completely terrifying. I mean, the speaking in tongues is creepy, but there’s just something really disturbing about the fact that his pupils shrink in the dark instead of widening. Yeah the game is definitely lighter in tone then the book. The book is the ultimate in post-apocalyptic pessimism, showing the slow end of humanity as we fight over scraps and petty ideology. Incredibly powerful stuff, I just wish the English translation work was a bit better haha.

              • Anorak says:

                “I’ve died. There is no more of me.

                Yeah….almost worth learning Russian so that I can read it properly. Actually, there’s a tonne of Russian literature that doesn’t translate well, like Пикник на обочине, which was the eventual inspiration for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
                Also, We, which I’ve been told doesn’t translate well, but still a good parallel to Brave New World

        • Pete says:

          Now imagine doing that section using only the electric rifle and 13 ball bearings, a futuristic assault rifle with one clip worth of military grade ammo, and a knife.

          …took a while. Plus side, I made sure to stock up on approximately all the shotgun shells ever on my second playthrough.

      • Anorak says:

        The book was bloody brilliant, but I agree – it would not have adapted to a shooter very well. While Artyom in the book barely ever fires his weapon except for that time he killed a Nazi there are references to mutants by other characters, like at one station there are these “newcomers” which seem to be mutated humans, trying to get in.

        And the Dark Ones of course.

        It would have been nice to have a game that toned the combat down a bit, but it still nailed the moments where you were in the dark, deep underground, with things that you can barely comprehend (like the ghosts).

        However, having read the book I noticed that a lot of the incidental conversations going on between NPCs at the various stations are actually taken straight from the book.

        Not the conversation, but the content – events of the book (like the tunnel that it’s only safe to travel in pairs), are told as ghost stories around fires. Metro 2033 is one of the most atmospherically perfect games I have ever played, even if it didn’t manage to capture the despair from the book as completely as I would have liked.

        SEENGING PAIPSE

        • LunaticFringe says:

          I was really happy that my favourite story from the book ended up in the game, it’s told by this former radio operator who was working when the bombs hit. He’s basically the only one who knows anything about the broader implications of the nuclear war, and he kept in contact with a group on the surface for several years until they suddenly disappeared. It’s also implied that he knows that none of the other Metros in other Russian cities opened up fast enough, so the Moscow Metro is now the last bastion of humanity.

          Also relevant, the latest live action trailer for Metro: Last Light.

        • Jarppi says:

          This is exactly what Chris was talking about in Errant signal some time ago. You can’t just “turn a book to a video game”. You need to understand strenghts and weaknesses of the media you are working with. Guys at the 4A Games understood what they were doing so we got a good game. Not a perfect one (those f*cking amoeba things…), but still way above average.

          Btw. I have also read the book. I don’t know about English translation but Finnish translation worked out well.

  34. Jakey says:

    Was Chris’s “We’ll talk about this later…” with regards to Spec Ops foreshadowing the next season of Spoiler Warning? Cause frankly, that’d be utterly amazing.

  35. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Whats worse is that this isnt an epic boss fight,its just waves of mooks.And thats a video game convention that Im really getting tired of.Waves of mooks are not fun,they arent hard,they are just tedious.

    Again,I have to praise me2 here.Yes,there were a bunch of mooks in the end.But you werent really just mowing through them.You had tactical decisions,you had different mini bosses,you had fights with your team against the timer,then regular ones,then fights with just one teammate protecting the other one.It was an actually well thought out end battle.

  36. Daemian Lucifer says:

    There is a fun image about old days of d&d,when the system wasnt as evolved,and when gms werent as experienced,about adventurers plinking at the dragons big toe until the dragon dies.This is the first time I saw this literally shown on screen.And it is hilarious.

  37. BlackBloc says:

    Pretty sure I’d have to say the first Halo. There might have been cutscenes but if there were, they were short and unintrusive to the point that I don’t remember there being any. The story was told by the environment and by communications from Cortana and others while you were able to continue controlling Master Chief.

    • Vagrant says:

      I second this. The first Halo seemed to promise a golden age for shooters. how did we end up with this brown mess?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      So why not say first half life then?Absolutely no uninteractive cutscenes.There were quite a few of interactive ones(like a headcrab zombie bursting through the doors,or that alien ship bombing the military).And you could skip all of them simply by looking away.Then there were people talking to you about all sort of stuff,or just talking with each other.

      People keep praising hl2 as being such a ground breaking game,but to me the first one will always be the better one of the two.

  38. Dave B says:

    How about Battlefield: Bad Company 2? The game as a whole has serious problems with gameplay/story segregation, but I think the ending works fairly well. The last mission is short (at least the way I remember it) and throughout it the story is being wrapped up. The combat and narrative are still separated, but neither goes on too long (in my opinion).

  39. rayen says:

    Sly cooper and Kingdom hearts 2. of course i really enjoyed the gameplay in both and may not have noticed the bad pacing. It never felt like my actione were being negated by cutscenes and the cutscenes moved to gameplay pretty seamlessly without screwing you over(ie boss is attacking you forcing you to restore health right from the word go).

    However i think i misunderstood the question because neither of these are shooters. If it’s just shooters then i got nothing. Half life 2 i guess i haven’t played many other shooters.

  40. some random dood says:

    Neverwinter Nights 2!!! (OK, not strictly a shooter, but still…) You had the parts where your alignment changed the options available to you for the ending. It made the interactions you had with your team-mates throughout the game impacting on the characters at the end as to whether they fought on your side or against you. So I’d say it had some interesting ways it dealt with the ending. (That’s also the place to consider the end – making the choice and seeing who approves or not. Anything that may or may not happen after that is an internet rumour that I prefer to not believe in!)

  41. Thomas says:

    Okay this one takes some imagination. Lets imagine Hideo Kojima was sane. Then lets imagine that Metal Gear Solid 4 ended with the Liquid Ocelot Boss Fight (then again would Liquid Ocelot exist if he was sane?). Then that fight is the perfect mix of gameplay and story. I guess it#s not a shooter though and totally changing your gameplay for one fight is something only HK would consider doing

    • Amnestic says:

      “totally changing your gameplay for one fight is something only HK would consider doing”

      See also: Piloting Metal Gear REX vs. Liquid Ocelot’s RAY.

      It’s actually a pretty good idea. Some control systems just aren’t built for certain boss fights. Kojima could’ve made it all a cutscene (or worse, attempted to shoehorn it into the normal gameplay) but instead changed how it played for a brief period to not only offer a better gameplay experience but also to give you some real feedback on Snake’s condition. It was a great moment of ‘Do, don’t show’.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Wasnt there a boss in one of the metal gears that required you to switch the controller ports?Now that is thinking outside the box.

      • Amnestic says:

        Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid 1, aye. He also scanned your memory card for such lines as “[i]So, I see you like to play Castlevania![/i]”. The Gamecube remake had Super Mario Sunshine. Seeing a gimp masked floating psychic say that out loud? Pretty damn hilarious.

  42. BloodSquirrel says:

    I think the problem here is that- while the emotional note is about the last battle alongside your companions- the actual gameplay is pretty much you running around alone shooting things.

    In ME II it actually worked- You were actually using your full squad for different things, so the gameplay reinforced what the story was trying to do.

    I thought that the Gears of War climaxes worked despite being very combat-heavy. It wasn’t because the gameplay part was different, it was because they weren’t trying to force an incompatible emotional tone over them.

    In Halo 4, I noticed how jarring it was that the story was telling me “Hurry up! The bad guy is going to win any second now!” and then bogging me down in lengthy firefight after lengthy firefight. Halo 3, which had almost the same thing when you were going after the prophet of truth, worked just fine, because they didn’t try so hard to force the pacing.

    Moral of the story: Get the pacing and tone right and you can have an hour-long battle that actually helps the story rather than sabotages it.

  43. Mathias says:

    Since this seems to be Dragon Age week:

    God, the swordfighting in Dragon Age Origins (and DA2, to a lesser extent) sucked. That didn’t look like they were fighting with swords, that looks like they were swinging wiffle bats they were too weak to properly swing around, like kids in a playground.

    Historical medieval broadswords, of the kinds that are in use on Dragon Age (at least the ones that look like remotely practical swords) would commonly weigh somewhere between 1.2 and 1.75 kilograms (anywhere between 2.4 and 3.5 pounds if you’re the Imperial type,) and sure, that’s still heavy, but it allowed for fast swordfighting.

    Even greatswords of the kind they use in Dragon Age, gargantuan as they are, wouldn’t weigh more than about 3-4 kilograms (6-8 pounds,) since they still needed to be light enough to swing properly. This myth that medieval weapons were heavy really gets on my nerves, and I was so sad to see when Dragon Age got a lot of the medieval politics right and then failed to deliver the most important thing in a game with lots of combat – a combat that actually looks even reasonably medieval for a fantasy setting.

  44. TMTVL says:

    “Everyone would tell Josh to use charge and nova all the time”
    Nova, isn’t that the thing that drains his shields, nearly getting him killed at least two times in this episode alone?

    As a response to your question, the only FPS I ever played which had something of an interesting story were F.E.A.R and Deus Ex. Fallout:NV was boring and I haven’t played any other FPS games where you had any dialogue options. And if your protagonist doesn’t speak, you’ve got a boring, same-y FPS.

    • “over the shoulder” is not a FPS, those are TPS.
      Half Life games are probably the ultimate FPS as the camera is always first person, other games ted to use third person for cutscenes.

      Also, a game that can toggle between FPS and TPS is not a FPS unless the FPS camera view is the default one. (semantics, but still—)

  45. I’m getting dizzy watching Josh play. (partly due to the character class)

    From now on I’ll just call Josh…. BAM BAM!

  46. Winter says:

    Quake (as in Quake 1) actually did that too, if you think about it. The enemy you have to kill is invulnerable to all weapons. The arena has a lot of environmental hazards and is packed with the strongest/most dangerous enemies. Basically you have to fight your way through them, then figure out the puzzle/gimmick to win–in a game that’s almost entirely about shooting, the end boss is actually a puzzle boss!

    (Actually in Quake, both the “bosses” were puzzle bosses.)

  47. Jarenth says:

    For me, this is all the closure I need. Josh fights a Harvester, in melee, and wins. Fade to white.

    The ending to Shadow of the Colossus felt, for me, like a logical continuation and conclusion of everything I’d been doing up until that point. The actual final boss is the biggest, most involved monster you’ve seen so far, and the stuff after that…

    A bit less well-known, but the indie puzzle game Vessel had a large puzzle in your home base / level selection hub that kept getting expanded over time. The end of the game is solving this complex puzzle, using every element you’ve been taught so far, and I thought it was really satisfying.

  48. silentlambda says:

    Interesting that Josh criticizes the aim of the Reaper death ray during this sequence, as I distinctly recall it sweeping across HALF OF THE LEVEL if you happen to be playing on Insanity. It will likely kill you more than a few times, but interestingly enough, it instantly vaporizes any enemies (i.e. multiple banshees) you manage to bait into its line of fire. Gives the sequence a new dynamic and introduces a new threat.

    Although I should probably check this praise by saying that I gave up that playthrough after the fortieth Shepard- disintegration.

  49. Khazidhea says:

    The game I thought of was Prince of Persia (2008), but have to admit that with my poor memory I’m only left with a vague impression of the ending, so I could well be misremembering it, and just forgetting/overlooking any of its negatives. I’m sure I’ll be corrected if wrong.

  50. Robyrt says:

    There are lots of action-adventure games that meld story and gameplay well in the climax. Demon’s Souls has an increasing focus on discovering the secrets of the world as you progress, so the final boss is more of an interactive story vehicle with a health bar. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time has a silly boss battle, but the final platforming segment brilliantly raises the stakes in both gameplay (you are stripped of the rewind ability, returning tension to all those crazy jumps) and story (you are chasing the Princess, trying to catch her before she uses up all your rewind charges). God of War 1 was a real kick in the gut too: after a very quotidian boss fight, you are dropped into Kratos’ own mind to fight his guilt, then face off against your double with a shared health bar.

  51. ccesarano says:

    I cannot think of two at the top of my head at the moment (unless we wanna bring up the original Halo, but that ending was more effective when you played it enough your chances of screwing up were fewer (and it still had some issues, re: rocket launcher into exhaust ports)).

    But Transformers: Fall of Cybertron had a perfect ending sequence for what it was. Throughout the entire game you played one character for an entire level, and it had quite a varied cast of characters. But in the final sequence they had you play short five to fifteen minute segments of a variety of different characters, not only fitting the theme of Transformers (ensemble cast of different bots on both sides), but allowed a sort of “greatest hits” in terms of gameplay design. It all amounted to being able to choose whether you would play as Optimus or Megatron in a melee fight and then went to town on the other guy.

    I mean, the Transformers story is hardly the most complex thing. It’s Transformers, and High Moon made sure to keep the cartoony nature alive instead of making it srs bizniss. But that final level felt like it was all coming to an actual climax thematically. It wasn’t just trying to be a harder level than all the previous, or a longer version of all the previous, but a really fun moment that felt chaotic, had all the characters involved in one big struggle and gave the player a chance to fill a variety of roles. It was exactly what it needed to be, and when I finished it I was left with a smile on my face.

    I would also like to note that, while it seems trite by now that every Mega Man game ends with having to refight every boss, I imagine it serves a thematic device that may be a common trope in Japan as a metaphor to how much a character has grown and a reflection on the journey leading up to it. In Mega Man X especially you play short segments reminiscent of previous levels before fighting that boss, which is sort of a “look how far you’ve come” thing going.

    • ccesarano says:

      Also, having watched, I actually liked some of this last fight. I really like a game that makes me feel as if I’m at a major disadvantage. There was a moment in Resistance 3 that was like this, and I absolutely loved it. Of course, helps that I didn’t die, which would have been very easy.

      So when they dropped all the Brutes down on you in ME3, and I have a tendency to just play a plain old Soldier, I was fully into the moment. But there’s still a lot of in-between there that doesn’t work as well. It doesn’t feel like you’re charging into the brink until that final moment, and then once you fire that missile they stop it with story AGAIN and have everyone charge forward. So while I was fully invested into the ending (I’m one of the few that like ME3’s ending), it could have been done better.

  52. decius says:

    Spec Ops: The Line.
    There was a lot of cutscene at the end, but I’m specifically referring to the Epilogue level, where you can go home if you want to.

    Portal
    ‘Nuff said.

  53. Sneeks says:

    Woah woah woah, did Shepherd just call that Marine a “soldier” at 17:36? I’m surprised her radio wasn’t filled with boos and angry corrections for the rest of the episode.

  54. John The Savage says:

    Red Dead Redemption. I honestly don’t understand why you don’t hear people talk about this game alongside the greatest story-driven games ever. Did not enough people finish it? Do they think its just GTA with horses? I don’t know, but the gameplay and story merge in a way that delivers an incredible work of art, and one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever experienced.

    It really worries me when even Chris will mention it and GTA in the same breath, talking about how the sandbox mechanics detract from the overall narrative of both, when in fact it is necessary in RDR to give the player some amount of agency in the story’s pacing, and allowing them to grow more and more attached to John. Even John’s combat taunts are engineered toward an emotional payoff at the end. Am I the only one who sees this game for the masterpiece that it is?

  55. Scow2 says:

    I’m going to defend this ending… This sequence you’re complaining about feels like the “Final Push”/”Last Hurrah” against the reapers, a final Blaze of Glory after you’ve squared yourself away with your companions and everyone else. I feel a lot of people would have felt let down if, after the build-up to the final battle, it’s handled entirely in cutscene.

    However, it should have emphasized this as THE climax of the game, where everything’s coming to a head as you’re fighting your way to the Macguffin. Desperate-but-triumphant radio chatter probably would have helped.

    Mass Effect 1 did a MUCH better job in the final push, though, because of how dramatically your abilities increased over the course of the game(Even though it didn’t look like such in the level-up screen), so the final rush lets you cut loose with your full power along the linear course (Allowing the feel of constant progression), so combat wasn’t as stale by the time your got to the end.In Mass Effect 3, you’re hardly less fragile at the end of the game than you are in the beginning, your guns still handle as they always have, and your biotic powers are the same ones and same potency they’ve been all game. In Mass Effect 1, it takes a while to unlock your powers, and when you do get them initially, they’re underwhelming, so you don’t use them as much. You start off clinging to cover and using your guns, and maybe the occasional power. But by the end, your combat ability has notably improved to the point that it meshes with the generic heroic narrative

    The Ending-o-Tron’s the resolution and denoument, not the “Big Decision”. It’s the “You’ve won. Now, all you have to do is accept it.”

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