Tag Archives: Mass Effect

Listmas 2013: Snowy Environments in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

It doesn’t snow in California. I’ve come to accept that, and having lived in places where it does snow, I comfort myself with the firsthand knowledge that as pretty as it is, snow can be a hassle too. But around this time of year, I find myself gravitating towards video games, books, and movies that feature cold winter weather. For some reason, the snowy settings help set the mood for the holidays. That’s why my computer backdrop for the season is this:

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It’s Skyrim. And that just happens to be my first choice for my favorite sci-fi and fantasy worlds that make awesome wintry vacation spots, even if it’s just in my imagination.

1. Skyrim

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It might be a dangerous place if you’re on the wrong side of the civil war or facing an unexpected dragon attack, but Skyrim is the most beautiful video game landscape I’ve ever seen and would make an amazing vacation spot. Though parts of it are sunny — a ‘crisp autumn day’ type of sunny, that is — much of it is covered in snow. In fact, Windhelm can look downright bleak with its gray walls and murky skies, but it has an intense atmosphere that draws you in. Personally, I love climbing snow-topped mountains and looking for ruins partially buried under the snow when I play Skyrim. And when I came across a little village along the way, the chilly atmosphere only makes ducking indoors feel cozier.

2. Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia)

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The world of Narnia felt so magical when I was a kid, and I still love it. This place is one where animals can talk and magic abounds. There are witches and centaurs and unicorns, and the change of seasons feels important. For instance, there was a time when the White Witch covered Narnia in ice and snow for 100 years, which caused all kinds of hardships for the people. But winter is exactly the time I would want to step through my wardrobe into Narnia, just to experience that thrilling chill of discovery in an atmosphere that so suits it.

3. Pandora (Borderlands)

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Pandora is another video game setting that oozes charisma. It’s not always the prettiest of places, but its dingy settlements, psychos, and monsters have a visual appeal that’s part art style, part amazing atmosphere. When I play a Borderlands game, I completely lose myself on the planet of Pandora, and my favorite areas are always the snowy ones. Seeing massive glaciers and tramping through snow with crackling ice nearby is the perfect way to start off a playthrough of Borderlands 2.

4. Hogsmeade (Harry Potter)

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Who wouldn’t want to get away from school and drink butterbeer in Hogsmeade? That’s what Harry Potter and his friends do when they get to spend a weekend day in this little all-wizard village of snow-covered cottages and shops. Hogwarts students bundle up in their coats and scarves to make the wintry trek to the village — and then they escape inside where it’s warm. Plus, enchanted candles nestle in the trees during the holiday season to make the place festive. It might be wizards-only, but this town would make a cozy winter getaway for anyone’s imagination.

5. Noveria (Mass Effect)

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Noveria is cold — so cold that people stay inside pretty much all the time. When you first visit the planet in the first Mass Effect game, there are severe storm warnings, but of course you brave the weather to complete your mission before it’s too late. While I enjoyed exploring the industrial-looking facilities built on Noveria to shield the people there from the elements, getting into the snow outside and seeing the glaciers up close was even better… even if it did involve driving the Mako.

— Ashley

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Need to buy some geeky things for your geeky friends?

Christmas

Christmas is almost here and I haven’t bought a single gift for anyone yet. So if you’re like me and you’re starting to scramble to buy some awesome gifts online (while hoping that they arrive in time for Christmas), here are some pretty sweet ideas!

Pac Man Soap

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For $7.99 you can get some awesome Pac Man and Enemies soap to display in your home. While I would use these as simple decoration (I couldn’t bring myself to actually use them), each character has a different flavor!

  • Pac Man – Juicy Pineapple
  • Pinky- Bazooka Bubblegum
  • Clyde- Creamscicle Ice Cream
  • Blinky- Strawberries & Cream
  • Inky- Cotton Candy
  • Cobra Commander- Fruit Loops Cereal

Link: Pac Man & Enemies Soap

Price: $7.99

 

Legend of Zelda Wayfarer Sunglasses

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Some girls enjoy buying a bunch of shoes. I, however, enjoy buying a bunch of sunglasses. As a huge Zelda fan, it’s a must for me to have a pair of these. Unfortunately, these aren’t guaranteed to make it by Christmas, but they may be worth buying anyway. Each pair of sunglasses are hand painted so no two items are identical. And if you’re tired of collecting sunglasses, they can also come with clear lens instead.

Link: LoZ Wayfarer Glasses

Price: $52.11

 

Mass Effect Inspired Nerf Gun

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I love Mass Effect and I love Nerf guns… so why not combine the two? This Mass Effect inspired Nerf gun is handpainted, clear coated, and fully functional. While it would be perfect for someone who enjoys collecting Mass Effect stuff, it would also be a good addition to some Mass Effect themed cosplay.

Link: Mass Effect Nerf Gun

Price: $29.99

 

Fairy in a Bottle Necklace

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You never know when you may need that extra life. Now, you can keep your very own Zelda inspired fairy in a bottle necklace! Each bottle contains a small, blue fairy with transparent wings. The cork is sealed in place and the fairy is suspended on a piece of clear wire so you don’t have to worry about it falling apart.

Link: Fairy in a Bottle Necklace

Price: $15.00

Video Game Buttons – Set of 7

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Buttons are cool. Video game buttons are cooler. Each order contains the set of buttons you see above, each one about the size of a US quarter. You also have the option to turn your set into magnets instead!

Link: Video Game Buttons

Price: $3.00

 

10 Things I’d Love to See in a More Open-World “Mass Effect” Game

It’s kind of old news now, but did you guys see the design document for the next Mass Effect game?

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That is one massive bible, and I am so excited to see where BioWare takes the next Mass Effect game now that Commander Shepard’s trilogy has come to a conclusion.

BioWare has always been known for story-driven games with strong character development, but I’m placing a bet that Mass Effect 4 (for lack of a better title) will be open-world. That seems to be the future for gaming: more exploration, more customization, more player choice. And since it’s sharing core systems with the upcoming “multi-region” Dragon Age: Inquisition, it makes sense that Mass Effect 4 will also have open world elements. It might not be entirely open-world, but I like the idea of expansive maps and lots of non-story content à la Knights of the Old Republic.

Already we know of some changes Mass Effect will undergo, besides just moving on to a new story. After fans flooded Mass Effect executive producer Casey Hudson with ideas for the next game, he tweeted to acknowledge one trendy topic: playable alien races. And that leads me to the first thing I’d like to see in the next Mass Effect game, particularly if it’s going to be a more open-world game with some sandbox style gameplay:

1. Origin Stories

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The origin stories in Dragon Age: Origins are some of my favorite things in any video game ever. They are little adventures (1 or 2 hours long) that kick off your character’s journey in the video game, with six different origin stories available depending on which character class and race you chose. My first was the human noble origin story. They all lead to the same place: Your character meets Grey Warden Duncan and is asked to join the Grey Wardens to face the upcoming Blight. But having that personal story at the beginning made the rest of the game feel so much more grounded and relevant to your character.

I would love to see that in the next Mass Effect game. It would be an exciting way to kick off the new feature of playable races, and it would help players get a sense of alien cultures. For instance, if I end up playing as a turian, I might spend an hour or two on the turian homeworld of Palaven, getting to know the culture and getting a feel for what my turian character values. It would also be cool to peek into a day in the life of an asari or see what a krogan childhood is like through origin stories.

2. Collectibles

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Let’s be honest: Lots of loot is never a bad thing in video games. And collectibles are a big part of open-world games, because they encourage exploration, interaction with NPCs, checking out shops, and undertaking quests in hopes of looting dead bodies for goods. And you know what you can do with all those collectibles and loot? Put them in:

3. A House

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Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto, Elder Scrolls — they all have houses you can go back to if you want to save your game or rest from your adventures. Personally, I dig the Elder Scrolls style best, because you can actually decorate your houses with your loot. Sometimes, I would go on a Skyrim quest specifically because I wanted the reward at the end of it to hang above my in-game bed, and having houses made me want to keep things instead of selling them or replacing them all the time. When I out-leveled a piece of equipment,  I would throw it on a mannequin or sword rack to remember my adventures. (You heard about what happened to my Skyrim puppy, right…?)

In the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, Shepard gets an apartment from Anderson. The decorating options are pretty disappointing, but the fact that a (slightly) personalized pad has already been introduced in a Mass Effect game is a good sign!

4. Customizable Ships

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You know what could be even cooler than a house? A customizable ship. If the game has my character commanding a ship like the Normandy, it would be a dream come true to be able to select which type of ship I want, paint it, and decorate the inside of it. I would also like to be able to hire my staff, but that’s another thing altogether.

In Mass Effect 2 and 3, players were able to personalize their quarters — however slightly — with model ships and small pets like the fish that never seemed to stay alive. A personalized ship in Mass Effect 4 could easily be my character’s permanent home, and it would work well if the story has players jumping around space like the trilogy did. Plus, it’s a subtle way to keep the spirit of the original Mass Effect trilogy alive… because that Normandy was everything.

5. Pets

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Everybody loves pets, right? A lot of games I’ve played have included pets, such as the horses you ride in Red Dead Redemption and Skyrim and the dogs of Dragon Age: Origins and Fable II and III. Being able to adopt a pet and keep it at your character’s house or ship would be a fun, personal touch to the next Mass Effect game, and the designers can come up with all kinds of exotic alien creatures for players to adopt. Maybe they can be mabari warhound-ish so I can take my pet into battles with me. Or there could be more of those dog-mechs.

I’ll take any kind of pet except a fish.

6. Games

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I’m not talking about the Mass Effect 2 mini-games that have players hacking doors and stuff. Those can be tedious. What I’m talking about are card games like Pazaak or Triple Triad. It’s fun to immerse yourself in the fictional world by playing fictional games that are popular in the fictional cultures you’re exploring. Plus, card games can mean collecting cards — the best kind of collectible! In Mass Effect 4, I’d love to run my character around challenging NPCs to card games, collecting cards everywhere I go, and even earning achieements based on the size or style of my card collection or how much I’ve been playing the card games. And if I can gamble for loot like you do in The Witcher 2, so much the better! (See “Collectibles” above. This is a vicious cycle of loot here, guys.)

7. Sports

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Speaking of games within games, I want to know what sports people play in the Mass Effect universe. Characters in Mass Effect 4 could attend sporting events and bet on the results — a simple, realistic diversion that lets players make (or lose) some extra money while learning more about the fictional world. We had that in the run-down Tuchanka of Mass Effect 2, where players could bet on varren fights. But something like Star Wars‘ pod races could be even more exciting… or heavy mech arena battles. Remember the swoop races of Knights of the Old Republic? Maybe our Mass Effect 4 characters could participate in the sports once in a while to earn some extra credits and earn reputations as athletes or racers.

8. Factions to Join

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You know all those factions you could join in Skyrim? Mass Effect could absolutely do that, and it would be a fascinating way to explore the vast wold and various cultures that make the Mass Effect universe so detailed and realistic. I might not personally want to join the Blue Suns, but something like that would be awesome. Being able to work your way up in a faction to become one of its more important members would feel rewarding, and some factions could be unique to wahtever race you choose to play as or the planet you call home. (That would also mean more replay value!)

The trick is to make each faction’s quest line mean something to the player character — so I’d like to see more consequences for actions that what we see in Skyrim. For instance, if you join one faction, you can’t join its rival faction too. Except as a spy. That would be cool.

9. Character Missions

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Mass Effect 2 was all about the character missions, and I loved them. An interesting way to create more content for an open-world, sandbox style game would be to include quest lines that follow squad members and other important NPCs. Finishing a quest line might be necessary to fulfill a romance with an NPC, for instance — and it would be an awesome way to get to know the character better. I would love to see new missions for characters unlock throughout the game, so you can keep learning more about them as you go. Maybe gaining the trust of certain characters would even unlock more areas to explore, such as little colonies or home worlds typically off-limits to outsiders. There could also be one-off missions when a squad member asks you to join him in a battle on his home planet (rather like Garrus’s recruitment mission in Mass Effect 3), an assassination (for a character like Thane), or even a research project (for a character like Mordin or Tali).

10. Jobs

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When I play an open-world game, I tend to specialize in something almost as if it’s my in-game career. Some people got really into blacksmithing in Skyrim; I got really into alchemy. Other people are miners and go look for new mines all over the map. In the next Mass Effect game, I would love to try odd jobes on different planets. The game could even introduce certain jobs you could do over and over again to become an expert, such as researching biotics, building weather domes on remote worlds, constructing colonies, or mining for element zero. It wouldn’t be as tedious as just scanning planets in Mass Effect 2 (worst mini-game ever) if you can actually plant your character’s feet on the ground and feel a part of the world as you perform these duties. The jobs could also have collectibles and achievements attached to them to make them more enticing, and I sort of love the idea of setting up a shop somewhere to sell the weapons or medicines my character makes…

— Ashley

Full Force: Relationships in Video Games

Full Force is GFN’s weekly look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists examine the newly announced Nintendo 2DS.

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Romance is becoming a more prevalent option in modern video games, especially as storytelling evolves in series like Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, etc. Do you think the introduction of relationships into video games is a benefit to the industry? Why or why not?

Chris: I think it’s a positive overall, because anything that helps people become more immersed in the experience is a good thing. Being able to marry someone and have my own house in Skyrim added to this feeling that I was capable of doing anything I wanted to within that world. Conversely, watching my romantic interest in Mass Effect 1 melt to death made me feel more invested in saving the rest of my crew.

Cary: As someone who likes doing mundane things in games, I’m all for the addition of “real life” qualities to them, including romance options. They absolutely help me become more invested in not only my character but others as well. With the current trend of (mostly indie) games moving away from video games as “games” and towards video games as interactive and social experiences, romantic relationships in games will probably become more prevalent. Sure, we’ll all want to keep stomping on koopas and throwing hadokens at each other every now and then, but having games that include the chance to form deeper connections between characters is necessary to growth and evolution of the industry as a whole.

simpleek: I naturally love good stories and characters, so when I saw that Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins is not only a really involved story that you can shape however you want to, but you can also romance a number of the characters in the game too? I was sold. I became obsessed with the game because a lot of the characters were really well-written and I had such a strong emotional response to every single one of them as I kept playing. The romance system in Dragon Age: Origins isn’t perfect, especially since you can win almost any character’s heart over by just giving them the right gift or picking the right lines they want to hear, but overall, it gives video games a personal touch for each player. It’s a benefit to include these relationships because it adds another layer to the story and you get to learn more about these characters if you choose to romance them. Games like this one might appeal to those who are interested in compelling stories and characters. It’s like reading a really great book, but the only difference here is you can actually participate in the story and interact with the characters. It’s the ultimate role-play experience.

Crystal: This is one of my favorite topics simply for the fact that I love how BioWare integrated romance options inside of Mass Effect and Dragon Age. They became my favorite games because of the romance system and the relationships you could build or destroy. I like it when I’m able to invest myself inside of a complex character, so being able to mold something deeper and more intimate is always something I enjoy. Adding multiple romance options also heightens the replay value.

Ashley: As others have said, being able to pursue a romantic relationship in a video game as your character adds another layer to the story and deeper character development — so I love in-game romances! The cool thing about having control over it is that you can create a character who is a romantic or a character who pushes people away, and then you can kind of destroy the relationship for the sake of your character’s personal journey. So yeah, I get really into it. =)

LadyCroft3: I think it’s important in context. I don’t really want to make these choices in every game I play, but in games like Mass Effect or Skyrim I think it can only benefit the player. Romance and intimacy are ways in which we bond with others on a closer level in reality, it’s that line between friend and more than friend that we cross. Having this in video games that call for it is not only fun, it helps the player further establish a bond with a character they care for in the game.

Jason: I think anything you can add to the industry is a benefit. I mean sure, not every game gets relationships right; but those games only help make the ones that do get it right even better. Now I’m sure there is an argument floating around on the internet somewhere saying that “reducing relationships to a simple game robs them of their complexity” or some such nonsense. Like somehow games are going to ruin real life relationships in ways that romance novels and movies haven’t over the last century or so. I think every medium of entertainment deserves to touch on every aspect of human life; and that goes double for our social and romantic relationships.

Shaun: So, apparently I’m going to be the odd man out here, but while I agree that romance in games in good (because every sort of storytelling medium in games is good), I prefer something that is totally scripted that I can explore, rather than being given the decisions and dialogue tree to build this. I become as immersed in Mass Effect as anyone, but for some reason, the romances fell flat for me – I just wasn’t sold on the progression, and the build up felt really “gamey” to me (which is also a little weird because I felt like the “bromance” in my case with Garrus was as real as the streets). With that said, I’m still glad it’s something that’s being explored in the genre, because it’s only going to get better with time.

If you had the chance to romance any one character from the wide world of video games, who would it be and why?

Cary: Without a doubt, Lowell from The Last Story. Sure, I love me a good Bioware romance any day, but Lowell was more than just an interesting guy with a nice voice — he was downright captivating and sexy. Don’t think such a thing is possible in a JRPG? Well, The Last Story isn’t just any ol’ JRPG. Its writers wonderful wove together an adult story about friendship with romance at its fringes. Sure, it also involved terrible monsters, fate and fantasy, and all that, but all of it revolved around the bonds formed between the core group of characters, one of which was Lowell. He had quite the wacky and witty way with words, and he was a joy to be around. Plus, he was as great with magic as he was with a sword. Win-win if you ask me!

simpleek: This is a tough choice and I’m always fangirling between Kaidan and Alistair, both from two different Bioware games. Big shock, right? I think between these two, my choice would be Kaidan from the Mass Effect series. I know a ton of people, especially guys, tend to hate on the Bioware men, but I think Kaidan has a lot of depth and complexity as a character. Aside from being gorgeous, he has a sweetness and sensitivity which is, thankfully, different from the usual military men type of characters who are portrayed as being solely tough and macho. It’s as if being a soldier means you can’t have any deep emotions. And just because Kaidan is the sensitive guy type, it doesn’t mean he can’t hold his own in a battlefield. I always take Kaidan with me on missions because his powers come in handy in a fight, at least if I’m not playing a Shepard that is already a biotic. I also think the writers wrote Kaidan in such a way to make the player feel as if a guy like him could actually exist in reality. He has the whole package for me as a romance: sexy, sweet, and strong. As much as I love Alistair, he’s more of your fantasy romance type that wouldn’t exist in real life, as much as you want him to.

Chris: I’ll go with a pick from when I was younger: Celes Chere from Final Fantasy VI. To me, Celes is the most compelling character in a cast that isn’t exactly lacking for interesting stories. Her time on the island with Cid is either a little heartbreaking or a lot heartbreaking, depending on the speed of the fish that you catch. Thanks to some genetic enhancement, she’s more than capable on the battlefield. She’s certainly not tough on the eyes. Best of all, she’s a general, not some opera floozy.

Ashley: Definitely Garrus Vakarian from Mass Effect. I always thought he had it all — a great sarcastic sense of humor, a badass side, an awkward side, loyalty. He’s one of the most well-rounded characters ever. And it’s totally okay that he’s an alien.

LadyCroft3: I’m going to have to go with Ashley on this one and say Garrus Vakarian. The last time I played through the entire series (a few months back) I tried to analyze why I like him so much/ Sure, he’s sweet. Sure, I have a thing for aliens with sexy voices and a bad-boy attitude – but what is it really? I learned that he and I happen to share a lot of the same ideals and morals. I mean, I’m not flying around fighting Reapers or anything and he isn’t sitting around in his PJ’s playing video games all day, but we both have similar qualities. We both love justice, we both like distance weapons, we are both trustworthy friends, we both love Shepard (wait, what?), and we both are realists. I may be looking to far into this though. *Zoidbergs out of room*

Jason: God, is it terrible that I too want to list off a Bioware character? I mean, there are certainly a lot of other great ladies out there… bah, screw it. I pick Jack from Mass Effect. As far as I’m concerned, she’s got it all. She’s a BA, she doesn’t take sh!t from anyone, and deep down she’s a big old softy. I mean, I won’t lie; she’s got a rock’n body and I’ve always had a thing for ‘crazy’ chicks. But it goes deeper than that. Jack has overcome a lot in her life and still manages to make the best of it. I admire that kind of adversity. Likewise she’s got a soft spot for kids, and passing on what she’s learned to the next generation. As someone who’s spent a large part of his “professional” carrier working with kids/children, that’s a trait that really gets me right in the feels. Of course I have yet to actually FINISH a romance playthrough with Jack, (cause ya know: Femshep 4 life) so Jack would probably just tell me to **** off and then toss me out an open airlock… and I’d probably enjoy it.

Shaun: God…so hard. Annnnnd that was a very poor choice of words. My gut would initially go to someone like Jill Valentine, because she’s awesome – brave, beautiful, resourceful, adaptive, calm under pressure…but she’s seen some s*** and that might be hard to deal with…but if I could help her through it that would be so romantic…

Then I go to Cortana, who is witty, wicked smart, and more genuine than most of the female characters in gaming (who also happen to be, you know, alive). But the fact that she is a computer might be a deal breaker.

So then I go to Tifa Lockhart, but not for the reasons you’d think – I actually prefer the Advent Children version, with the reduction and more emphasis on her pretty face than her sex appeal. She’s stood by her comatose bf through thick and thin, she’s great with kids, super sweet, and also a grade A badass. But she’s SO stuck on Cloud I don’t think I have a chance really…and that blonde spiky hair…

So my answer is Jill.

What is one game or series that you wish would include some kind of relationship element? Or, conversely, what game or series do you think has butchered relationships and you wish they would stop?

Cary: Is it wrong of me to wish that something this side of temptation, or hell, just steady feminine friendship had been set into John Marston’s story in Red Dead Redemption? One of the first people he met in the game in the game was a rancher named Bonnie, and I really enjoyed bonding with her. Not that I expected anything to happen between them, what with all of John’s professions about his wife, but their friendship just fizzled out. (Not that there really were any chances to form extended relationships with any of the characters in that game.) Did I want John to end up in bed with a prostitute? Not at all. But it wouldn’t have been out of line to add a strong, tempting female character to his world. The era of the game was as much about the push and pull between the sexes as it was about the government’s desires concerning the West.

simpleek: I haven’t finished the game yet, but I kind of wish Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had a relationship system. As much as I like having my character fight through bad guys and create her own destiny, it’d be nice if she had someone to come home to after a long day of slaying creatures and saving the world.

Chris: I kind of wonder what would happen if games from our past had been made today. For example, what if you had the opportunity to make your silent protagonist choose between the love triangle of Marle (canon), Lucca (best friend syndrome) or Ayla (rule of life, no change rule) — or any of the cast? Would it add to the game, or detract from it? On the other hand, the Mass Effect series has done relationships extremely well, but I wonder how much would be missed if that element didn’t exist at all. It’d be a less complete experience, for sure.

LadyCroft3: There are plenty of games that have relationships that I hate or don’t have relationships where I want them, but when reading this question the first thing that popped into my mind was Metro: Last Light. There is a really awkward relationship that seems to have just been thrown in for nudity’s sake and to be honest it kind of ruined the game for me. Luckily it was towards the end so I got to enjoy the great gameplay and intriguing story for a good while before being disgusted. Without getting to deep into it, I can really just say that is was one of those “WTF WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS IT MAKES TO SENSE” kind of moments and I wish it was just never added into the game since it demeaned the female and had no real benefit to the male (other than pure, carnal sex I suppose).

Jason: OK so, I love me some Skyrim. It’s really the only Elder Scrolls I stuck with playing. And I love my waifu Aela, she’s the best werewolf woman a man/woman could ask for! But if there is one game that REALLY needs to start upping their game when it comes to relationships it’s the Elder Scrolls. I mean, they have almost literally turned “significant other” into a type of resource. You put on a necklace, they say they like you, you get married. DONE. Want to start a family? Well, better adopt than. Wanna spend time with your wife? Well I hope you like generic conversation wheels where she makes you food you don’t need or buys junk off you. And don’t even get me started on the “Lover’s Comfort” buff you get from sleeping in the same bed as them. Relationships in Skyrim are seriously the most 1 dimensional things ever.

Shaun: KINGDOM. HEARTS.

Okay, look. I know it’s a game that also has to appeal to kids. And I’m not saying I want a sex scene between Sora and Riku. I meant to write Kairi, but you know what, that fits too.

But seriously – all we’ve gotten to this point is that every character is just really great friends. NO! Young peeps are allowed to be in love, even if it’s puppy love. And let’s remember, these characters have saved the world like two dozen times already. Is it too much to ask for them to start exploring a little more complex feelings than “basic friendship?”

BioWare Romances: My Personal Top 5

Anyone who follows my blog Robo♥beat probably knows by now that I’m a huge BioWare fangirl. I love the stories, characters, settings, combat… and the romances. I can understand people skipping the romances as a waste of time, but the way I see it, the romances add emotional depth to the already gripping stories, create more motivation for the protagonists, and provide new and interesting ways to get to know the NPCs. They’re entirely optional, but I always pursue romances in BioWare games. They’re part of the fun.

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There are many intriguing relationships you can pursue in BioWare games, and I’d round out a top 10 list with Liara T’Soni (Mass Effect), Isabela (Dragon Age 2), Kaidan Alenko (Mass Effect), Jack (Mass Effect), and Fenris (Dragon Age 2) being in the running. But if I have to pare down my list to just my very favorites, these are my top five BioWare romances.

5. Zevran (Dragon Age: Origins)

ZevranThe elf Zevran is extremely charming from the start, which is exactly why I didn’t like or trust him when I first played Dragon Age: Origins. He’s an Antivan Crow — an assassin — and the first time he sees your Warden, he’s supposed to kill you. When that doesn’t go as planned, he negotiates his way into your party, woos you with tales of Antiva, and eventually flirts you into his tent for a massage… and stuff. It’s easy to brush off his romance as a fling if you’re into someone else in the game, which is what I did at first.

But recently I replayed DA:O and decided to romance him for a change of pace. And I’m so happy I did, because winning him over for the long-run is a rewarding challenge if your character really falls for him. What I like most about him is that he can be romantic and chivalrous, but he also respects your character as a warrior and is never overly sentimental. Even when he commits, he doesn’t lose that side of himself that’s a little irreverent.

4. Tali (Mass Effect)

tali4It’s hard to think of anyone who can match Tali’s unique cocktail of intelligence, sweetness, and the occasional bit of “babbling like an idiot,” as she says about herself. She lets down her guard to become one of Shepard’s closest friends, and occasionally she gets drunk… very carefully. It’s hard not to love Tali, but I never had much use for her in my squad during early playthroughs of Mass Effect.

That’s why I had to dedicate a playthrough to having her around and trying out her romance with a male Shepard. Romance her, and she opens up with some of the most stirring dialogue in the Mass Effect games… seriously. If she’s going to jump your Shepard, she has to not only let down her guard but also take off her mask… but a smart girl with an accent who’s willing to take antibiotics to be with Shepard? She’s worth the wait.

3. Aric Jorgan (Star Wars: The Old Republic)

aricThis is a very personal choice, I know… but I just love Aric Jorgan. And let’s be honest: he’s not hot for his looks; he’s a pretty tough-looking Cathar with bright green eyes. But he’s a slow, hard woo, which makes him perfect for any woman who likes rough-around-the-edges. Sure, he digs through your character’s private records to find out if you’re up to the challenge of leading Havoc Squad. But he’s a soldier first and foremost — so of course winning him over will take time. You just have to be patient and put up with his gruffness for a while.

First, you’ll notice that flirting with anyone else drives this guy up the wall. Later, after teaming up on missions, you realize you’ve earned his respect — and he’s into more than just “barking orders and sniping Imperials.” But don’t expect romancing him to completely whisk the soldier out of him; one of his most romantic lines involves him offering you the “position” of being his wife. Really, this guy can only take so much heartfelt sentiment in one day, and that’s kind of cool.

2. Alistair (Dragon Age: Origins)

AlistairOh, Alistair. This was my first BioWare romance in my first BioWare game, and there’s a reason he holds such a special place in the hearts of so many Dragon Age: Origins players. He’s a Templar — actually, it turns out, a bastard prince — and just when you think he’s suave, he fumbles into awkwardness as your Grey Warden attempts to hit on him. Although he often hides behind sarcasm when you ask him personal questions, he eventually opens up to the Warden and appreciates others with a sense of humor, too.

But maybe the coolest thing about Alistair is that there’s not a huge need to chase after him; he’s an old-fashioned romantic at heart, giving you a rose and eventually confessing his feelings for your Warden after the two of you have built up an emotional connection. It’s old-fashioned romance that you don’t see a lot of these days. And if you play your cards right, he can even end up king to your queen… or mistress. Which is still romantic, trust me.

1. Garrus (Mass Effect)

Sometimes this is my computer backdrop, okay?

When I first started playing the Mass Effect series, I romanced Kaidan Alenko (also a great romance) because Garrus was not a boyfriend option in the first game — but try as I might to remain loyal to Kaidan in ME2, all I could think was how much I really, really liked Garrus. He is Commander Shepard’s most loyal friend, with a great combination of sarcasm, badassery, and always the most heartfelt intentions. When I got to Mass Effect 3, Kaidan was there and all… but all I could think was where the hell is my turian and when can I recruit him?!

So I stopped playing ME3, restarted ME2, and romanced Garrus so I could carry on with him as my Shepard’s true love in my canon playthrough of the series. If you romance him, you get to see his awkward side (mainly in ME2) as well as how suave he can be (mainly in ME3), which is why I consider him one of the most well-rounded and interesting video game characters ever. Being able to get to know him over the course of three games builds up quite an attachment, too. Now it’s hard for me to romance anyone but him when I play Mass Effect, because he’s really the whole package. Except for being fictional and stuff. =)

— Ashley

Mass Effect/Dragon Age Concept Art: Character Representation

MassEffect

I posted an article on PhoenixDown that showcased some of the first concept art that contained cut ideas from the Mass Effect series and Dragon Age 2. The “what-ifs” went insane. Particularly while I looked at the visual ideas of how Tali should look beneath her mask as well as the first unsuccessful communication between writers and artists about Merrill’s appearance. It really made me wonder just how different these beloved games could have been, but it also made me think of some deeper questions. What do we find aesthetically pleasing in characters? I first asked myself this after seeing Tali’s concept images. How would we have reacted if one of those had been used, especially if Tali had actually been unmasked in the 3rd game? Would her voice match our assumptions? Would our feelings change toward her if she didn’t carry the “pleasing” qualities that normally make alien characters like the asari beautiful?

I can’t honestly answer that question. And that makes me question my own preferences toward what I find “pretty” or “beautiful” in characters. Is it possible that I wouldn’t find Tali pretty enough if she had been fitted with this image? Would my Shepard still love her if they had previously initiated a romantic relationship? Or is it simply impossible to develop an actual answer toward a picture that only shows a glimpse of “what if”?

tali_unmasked

But I guess the opposite could be the same. What if Tali was actually a bombshell?! How would her voice and personality accompany this sudden realization? Would I be able to actually accept the connection between them? Or what if Tali was just something… unexpected? Not necessarily frightening or unpleasing, but something you just couldn’t possibly imagine while listening to her prattle along about engineering beneath her mask? It’s difficult to answer because I adore Tali’s character. I love the challenges she faces beneath her protective gear, knowing that just one foreign particle outside of her suit could potentially kill her. I love the tension her predicament creates when she realizes that she truly wants to be with Shepard romantically (if that’s the route you took in the game).

tali_portrait02

 

 

It’s so strange knowing that these tiny details in the span of such massive games could have potentially changed the way we looked at our favorite characters. When I first saw Merrill’s images, I was shocked… and a little bit terrified. Matt Rhodes, the BioWare artist that posted the early concept art on his blog, wrote about the challenges and communication that occurs between writers and artists.

“Designing Merrill was a great exercise in Writing and Concept Art learning to speak one another’s language. In her early descriptions I picked up heavily on her willful dabbling with blood magic. On paper she was scary, so early drawings reflected that. After the writers understandably freaked a little, it was explained how those more deadly aspects of her curiosity would unfold and we reined her in a great deal.”

Merrill could have been one freaky blood mage… definitely not someone Isabela would call a kitten, and certainly not a character I could babble about. Merrill is supposed to be cute! Her danger is supposed to stem from her inexperience and endless curiosity, as well as the desperation to reinvigorate something as mysterious and dangerous as the Eluvian. She is meant to be the character you say “yes” to when you should definitely say “no,” and that’s what makes her character so riveting to me.

Merrill_03

 

Game Sammich Episode 27 – Two snaps and a re-wind

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Watch us record episode 27 of Game Sammich LIVE at 6:30pm PST below. If you’d like to chat live with us while we record, head over here, or connect directly via irc to irc.mibbit.net, in the #GameSammich channel.

Bert moved, he’s currently waiting to unlock the internet achievement at the new place.  Dan Gardner will be guesting again in his place.  Kevin has Kid aggro tonight, Brad is playing with his “Ouya” furiously, and Errn downloaded the next level of lighting for her gaming area.

So….Chromecast hit the shelves and sold out in a couple days.  Good luck with those back-orders people because they already axed the Netflix deal that came with it.  Guess they didn’t expect the expected?  Microsoft finally hops on the Indi-self-publishing wagon for the Xbone.  World of Warcraft sub tanking finally hits a plateau (who cares), and Nvidia needs to get their poop in a group because their latest drivers are making people rage.

GAEMZ:

  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Payday 2
  • Tomb Raider
  • Defiance
  • Starcraft 2
  • LoL
  • Mass Effect 3

We’ll be giving away a Beta invite for Payday 2 during the live cast if you’re in chat.  This will be a good one for you oldie moldie movie buffs.

Come CHAAAAAAT live for a better erkspurrriense.

A slew of Square Enix titles are on a 75% off sale at Green Man Gaming till the 29th! There’s a new code too that might do something as well: GMG20-NYMS7-460MO