Sunshine Blogger Award (& Site Update)

Something I really like about WordPress is the community of people it brings together – it’s so easy to follow others and see what other people have to say about topics you’re interested in, which is pretty important when it comes to gaming, which is such a wide topic.

An example of this community in action is the Sunshine Blogger Award, where blogs nominate each other to promote good content elsewhere. I was recently nominated by AmbiGaming, which was a nice surprise as I haven’t won any of these before and it definitely brought a bit of sunshine into my life, so thank you AmbiGaming.

Before I get to the details of the award, I just also want to take a paragraph here to thank my readers also. I’ve had this blog for almost four years now, but I basically ignored it for two years and now I’m trying to get back into blogging. It means a lot to see people reading my thoughts, and I’d like to continue the level of content I’ve been putting out recently. Posts like the Diversity post I did a while back aren’t something I generally do, but I really liked writing that post and I’d like to do similar posts in the future. I was looking through some of my old news posts and I miss doing those weekly updates, even though I don’t think I have the time for it any more. I’ll find something to get my groove back though – I really missed blogging and it’s good to be back.

And now, the Rules of the Award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions given to you
  3. Nominate at least (fill in number here) bloggers!
  4. Write questions for your nominees to answer

Question 1: Surprise! You’re in an RPG. What is your character build?

Usually when I play RPGs where I can create my character’s build, I like attack-focused characters and put a lot of points into health so I can go around destroying things. If I woke up in an RPG, I would definitely not be able to do the “warrior” class and I think I would actually be better suited to a magic class (with a ranged attack weapon like a bow if necessary). The main reason I don’t like playing those characters in games is because I find the mechanics a little clunky and the need to replenish “mana” cumbersome, but if it was me, I’d definitely be up for a little spell-casting. I’d probably then put points into health, and maybe a stealth option if there was one (I don’t play many RPGs so most of what I know is choosing classes).

Question 2: What video game soundtrack rocks your world?

Tough question, but one I’ll enjoy answering. Generally, I find most video game soundtracks pretty unremarkable, they’re alright during gameplay but I can’t hum them back to myself after I turn the machine off. With that being said, I find Nintendo manages to consistently put out amazing soundtracks. My runner-up would have to be the Pokémart theme, just for it’s jazz goodness:

My winner though is the orchestra version of Professor Layton’s theme from Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:

Everything about this piece just comes together: the perfect mix of class and swagger for the professor. I love it, the entire game just had a really good soundtrack.

Bonus: The Super Mario Bros. theme has a special place in my heart, and this arrangement of a compilation of tunes by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra is just beautiful:

Their version of the underwater waltz at 3:10 is well worth listening too, it wouldn’t sound out of place in a classical ballet.

Question 3: If you had to summarize your blog with one snappy quote, what would it be?

It’s tough answering this when I already have a tagline, but I’ll attempt to do it anyway (that’s not my answer by the way).

“Bringing people together through their love of games since 2013”.

When I started this site, my goal was just to create someplace where everyone was welcome to discuss anything about games and gaming general. I still have that goal in mind, all these years later.

Question 4: If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be? Bonus: Why?

Here in Australia we have Jacaranda trees, which are super pretty in bloom:

jacaranda-mimosifolia-2

They also tend to bloom right around exam season in November, so if you wait until the Jacarandas start blooming it’s probably too late for you.

That’s part of my reason why I’d be one: they’re nice trees with and I have a bit of an emotional connection with them since I associate them with most of the knowledge I’ve learnt thus far in my life.

Question 5: If you had one day during which everything you did would be successful, what would you do?

The problem with this question is that it doesn’t define “successful”. For example, I could say publish a book, but that might mean the book publication itself was successful (i.e. it uploaded to Amazon) but the book itself could flop completely. Or if you say the cynical answer and rob a bank, you could rob the bank successfully and then be caught by the police the day after.

With that in mind I think the best thing to do would just be to have a massive party. If it’s successful, all my friends living in other cities could fly over, the party would go off without a hitch, and everyone would have a good time.

Nominations

That concludes my answers to the great questions, and now I’d like to nominate some other people for this award (in no particular order):

  • MoffBadgerPlays: A pretty new blogger, but she’s putting out some great gaming-related content. I remember my early days of blogging, unsure of whether anyone really liked the content I was putting out, so I hope this nomination encourages her to continue, because her content is already strong and it’ll be sure to get stronger.
  • Ever Gamer Review: A blog which has enjoyable content about games. All of the content just feels real, and the posts are a good mix of funny and helpful.
  • I Play All The Games: This is a blog I really like – someone’s attempting to play through every single game ever made. They’re up to the “C’s” of the Atari 2600, and it’s really interesting to see what some of these old games were like. I hope that one day in the future, when he reaches the NES stage, we’ll be able to compare notes with my NES collection.

And of course, the questions:

  1. If you could go back in time to any situation for 24 hours (just watching, no interrupting), what would you go see?
  2. What advancement in technology are you most (or least) looking forward to in the near future?
  3. If you could merge any two consoles together to create a Frankenstein’s Console, which consoles would you merge?
  4. What’s your favourite mobile (iOS/Android) game?
  5. If you could be any type of breakfast cereal, what sort of cereal would you be and why?

Once again, a big thank you to AmbiGaming for the nomination.

Mass Effect Review

Why play games that release in 2017 when you can play games that released in 2007 instead?

Game: Mass Effect

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PC

Price: $15

I know Mass Effect: Andromeda just released, but I don’t have anything powerful enough to play it, and I thought I should actually play the originals before I get to Andromeda.

Mass Effect is a science-fiction spectacle; an action-RPG filled with ambition. The basic plot context is that in the future, humanity discovers a “mass relay”, which enables faster-than-light travel to other planets, and discover an entire alien coalition, which they then join. The plot of this game revolves around you, as the human Commander Shepard tracking down the rogue agent Saren, who attacked a human colony to gain information about the civilisation that came before ours. Mass Effect is very plot-driven and I don’t want to spoil too much, but the story is just pure great sci-fi, plain and simple.

World-building is a large part of any science-fiction story, and Bioware has not skimped out on that aspect. Examining technology, hacking random computer terminals scattered around planets, and collecting artefacts will unlock entries in the “codex”, the game’s encyclopaedia to the Mass Effect universe. If you love all that background information, there’s a lot here to keep you happy.

Another big part of this game is the narrative system. Now, you are in complete control of Commander Shepard’s story. You not only get to customise the look of your character, like other RPGs (I made my Shepard a little silly-looking with a ridiculous moustache, but there are definitely more nightmarish Shepards out there) but also their actions. This game gives you a variety of dialogue choices, and choosing some options will increase your “goodness” (which the game calls Paragon), and some options will increase your “rogueness” (which the game calls Renegade). You also get a variety of other decisions to make, like saving characters or choosing whether to hack someone’s computer for a shady client. It reminds me a bit of Telltale’s games, but this was before Telltale’s big break, and so this style of storytelling deserves a lot of credit. These decisions will also (apparently) carry over into the sequel, and I have to say, I’m excited to take my Shepard through these games.

Gameplay 2

An example of the dialogue wheel in Mass Effect

The gameplay is mainly combat-focused, but sadly this is where the game falls down a little – the gameplay is just a little too repetitive. I played this game twice (more on that later), once on easy and once on medium, and the game was pretty simple both times. The game introduces you to the cover system in the first level, but I found I never really needed to use cover – I just preferred to run and gun. I was playing as a soldier though, which meant I got access to all the guns in the game, but no tech or biotic (magic). You choose your class at the beginning of the game, and there’s definitely a lot of replay value just for the style of gameplay you choose. If I was playing as a different class, like tech, which only gets a pistol and sniper rifle, I might have used cover more.

There’s about 5 main missions to do in this game, and of these 3 can be done in any order, but there’s definitely some benefit to doing some before others (gaining new squad members, for example). This game isn’t open-world like other RPGs we’ve come to know and love, so even though you can tackle the main quest in any order, the levels themselves are mostly linear (there was one mission that was less linear, in that I did it differently on my two playthroughs, but the outcome will always be the same). My one complaint is that I didn’t quite realise the game was going to end with the final mission (I thought the game still had a while to go) and once the game’s over, you can’t go do any of the side missions (disappointing, as the game keeps this sense of urgency throughout and yet the urgency is all fake and you do have time to go off and do side missions). This meant I felt I hadn’t really experienced all the game had to offer after my one bare-bones playthrough, so I did it all again, and did the side missions. There’s one sizeable piece of DLC included in the PS3 version, which was a nice addition, even if it didn’t add much. I did some exploration and side missions in my second playthrough, but after a while they become so similar and their flaws become so apparent – there’s only so many pirate bases with reused assets I can take before I get bored. While there are some interesting missions here, most of the side missions fall flat, which was disappointing for such a large universe.

Gameplay 1

A look at the gameplay

The music in this game was quite good, I don’t usually notice music in games but this music was executed perfectly, it’s all your classic 80s synths and it suits the tone so well. The music becomes a lot more dramatic during the climaxes of missions as well, and it really helps the tone of the game.

The game has some general issues which I think are just a product of the time it was released – texture popping (where textures don’t load fully before a scene begins and then “pop” in later) occurs rather frequently, and during one scene my character just disappeared completely, so Shepard briefly spoke as a levitating pistol, which was quite amusing but also distracting as this was a major climax in the game. One time an entire scene was skipped after a mission. There’s also some design issues – it can be tough to figure out where to go – and a lot of the maps are reused, especially on non-essential planets. These aren’t major issues, but it does take away from the game a bit when each planet you visit just feels like a reskinned version of the last one.

Above all though, Mass Effect is solid. It made me care enough to play it twice, which is something I can’t say a lot about most games, just to experience it properly the second time. I had a really hard time trying to decide what score to give it – it falls just short of excellence, but it’s certainly great. I’m giving a 4/5 objectively, due to it’s design issues, and a 4.5/5 subjectively, because I did really enjoy it.

Positives
+ Great sci-fi storytelling
+ Great customization options
+ Good variety of gameplay options

8.5/10

Negatives
– Gameplay repetitive after a while
– Maps reused for side missions
– Fake urgency detracts from ability to do side missions
– Miscellaneous design and graphical issues

It’s the Grind – Infinity Blade Review

Infinity Blade has been out a while, and when it became free, I downloaded it, but I’ve never really played it until now.

The game revolves around dodging attacks, then attacking the enemy when you get a chance with a lot of swipes on the screen. Then you die. Then you start over again, and try a different route. You get to “The God King”, die, and start the castle all over again. You try a different route again this time, die and restart the castle. You go the way you went last time. You reach “The God King”, die, and start the castle over again. Rinse and repeat 4 more times. Try to beat “The God King” now that you’re a higher level, die, not because you’re bad at the game, but because the dodging controls are just awful.

Because they are. Even when I was touching one of the on-screen buttons, the game would not pick it up. This led to quite a few unnecessary hits by my enemies, of which there are a few, and quite a few of them have elemental powers, e.g. electricity. A lot of the enemies have the same attacking powers, so you have to memorise the dodging patters, when the buttons work. You gain experience points after each battle, which goes towards your items and level. When an item gains the maximum amount of XP, it is said to be “mastered”, and you will not gain any more XP from it, meaning that no XP goes towards your level either, so you need to buy more items to gain XP. Of course, to bypass the grind, you could buy coins with real-life money and purchase big items and get through the game quicker.

However, the game is very repetitive because of this, and there is little to no storyline.

Pros
– Good Ideas
– Well executed

Cons
– Slightly outdated graphics
– Buttons occassionally didn’t register my presses
– Grind is slightly boring
– Price ($6.49) is far too high