Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

I’m not going to pretend that I understand the setting of the Mass Effect games all that well, but even though I’ve only played bits of the first, you can’t work in this job for long without learning all about the adventures of FemShep. That’s how I know that Andromeda [official site] is about a new crew searching a new galaxy for a new home, because somebody left the taps running on Earth during the events of the original trilogy, and now the whole place smells of mildew.

A new, hefty trailer shows some adventuring, some chatting, some fighting and some gorgeous hub world wandering. Mass Effect may not be my thing, but good grief, this looks very much like it might be my main squeeze of Spring 2017.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

I write this with the hesitation of someone who worries it might provoke someone else into starting an online petition. “Boycott Mass Effect Andromeda [official site] unless it has that one alien that looks like a space-cow made of jelly in it!” But, I am curious as to just how much of the existent Mass Effect universe the game they don’t want to put a 4 after will cherry pick to remain.

Some familiar knobbly faces will return, others will not – not yet, anyway. … [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

As Andy reported last month, videogame voice actors and motion capture artists recently went on strike following a contractual disagreement between major publishers and the performers' union SAG-AFTRA. David Hayter and Jennifer Hale who you may recognise as Metal Gear Solid's original Solid Snake and FemShep from the Mass Effect series, among other roles have now spoken out about some of the hardships which in part led to the strike action.

In conversation with CBC News, both Hale and Hayter recount unfortunate tales of actors damaging their vocal chords, which offer insights into why videogame voice actors are on strike. Hayter even suggests he was physically sick over a microphone due to consecutive "vomiting" recordings for one of his parts.

"It's the equivalent of a four-hour one-person show," says Hale. "So that's very demanding, especially when a lot of it is battle-oriented, and IT'S ALL SCREAMING AND YOU GO LIKE THIS! I've got a friend right now who's undergoing [vocal] surgery and will not be able to work for months."

According to CBC, Hayter describes the worst sessions as those crammed into "one horrific day". While he's used to "facing the pain" for such endurance sessions, he admits some occasions are more testing than others. "One time, I actually threw up on the mic because I had to make a bunch of vomiting sounds in a row," he says.

Voice actor Elias Toufexis provides the voice of Deus Ex's Adam Jensen and points out "if the character's throwing something, you have to make a sound for throwing something a short distance, a long distance and a really long distance." As a result of these focused solo sessions "your voice is dead," he adds.

Thanks, VG24/7.

PC Gamer

Which Mass Effect is best? This month we re embarking on our own suicide mission by giving our verdicts on some of PC gaming s most beloved series.I thought this would be easy. I know my personal ranking for the Mass Effect games. Ask and I ll shout them out without hesitation, like a sleeper agent responding to a deeply embedded activation phrase. The problem is, everyone knows their personal ranking for the Mass Effect series and carries them as if the arrangement of three numbers were the only universal truth they have.But it s easy to understand why we vary so wildly the Mass Effect games are each an act in a larger narrative, a space opera spanning nearly a hundred hours of love, death, and ancient alien doomsaying spun out in branching paths specific to the person that played them. Some players spent hours getting to know Wrex, others killed him immediately. Some thought Mordin a murderous, pompous dingbat while others gave him a chance for redemption. Some players punched every character they could, others kissed every character they could. It s a BioWare game.The UI, inventory management, and combat systems were all streamlined and improved upon with each successive game, so our ranking focuses heavily on storytelling and character. Granted, they re all great examples of both, so it s a bit like comparing apples and oranges, but we think they re just different enough to make enough distinctions between each in order to determine the One True Order for the Mass Effect series.Now, in ascending order of goodness....

Mass Effect

Laying down a space baseDeveloped: BioWare Published: Electronic Arts2007The original Mass Effect is still a great game, but in the rearview, its flaws are clear as day. The combat is clunky, its pacing isn t consistent, and planetary exploration is an empty vessel except for the occasional Thresher Maw. But each flaw represented early ideas that Mass Effect 2 and 3 crystallized in the long run.

Time hasn t been kind to the combat. The vestiges of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic are still visible in the busy combat interface, and it s obvious that those two ideologies third-person shooting and actionbar RPG efficiency failed to find a sweet spot until Mass Effect 2, and weren t refined until Mass Effect 3. In the original game, you can aim directly at an enemy and miss because math. Tell the teachers of the world, scream it from the mountaintops. Math is bad.While you re at it, scream about the Mako. There are some people that choose to die on the Mako s hill, which is a shame, because while it may align with one of the series greatest strengths in exploration, it doesn t ever approach its full potential. At best, the Mako is a dopey physics turret on wheels that gets you to and fro. Otherwise, planetary exploration is limited to bouncing around empty terrain until a space worm eats you, or worse, you get stuck in the nonsensical mountain topography. I m not sorry: The Mako Is Bad 2016 .Grievances aside, Mass Effect s greatest achievement is in how it introduces an entire galaxy and history with the most restrained and self-contained story of the bunch, featuring the series' most sympathetic villain by miles, Saren. He comes off as a stern, militaristic jerk, but discovering his true motives turn him from Videogame Bad Guy into a sympathetic, tragic character. He wants to form an alliance with the Reapers to prevent them from harvesting the whole of organic life. He wants to save the damn universe. Well shoot, that sounds nice.Navigating Saren s sabotage alongside the frustrating bureaucracy of the Citadel Council while grappling with privilege of becoming a Spectre basically an intergalactic super cop sets up some grounded (for sci-fi) moral and political dilemmas. Do you abuse your newfound power to sidestep and possibly supplant the Council? Or do you work with them despite their distrust of humanity?No matter, the Reapers make their presence known and you re forced to make some difficult decisions. And despite their apocalyptic prophesying, I remember the first time I completed Mass Effect, when the idea that I d be playing two more games over the next five or so years with my Shepard dawned on me. Even though I didn t like the combat or clumsy Mako rides much back then, I still felt a profound sense of excitement knowing my specific journey was far from over and that it would probably only get better from here. Mass Effect is an imperfect game, but laid a perfect foundation for a quickly ballooning universe that I ve yet to tire of nearly 10 years later.

Mass Effect 3

A nice try at goodbyeDeveloped: BioWare Published: EA2012

It s easy to forget that Mass Effect 3 wrapped up a dozen character arcs with a tight series of tremendous finales and elegant third person combat scenarios. Instead it gets an inordinate amount of flak for its final few minutes. I get it. Introducing a moral fulcrum in the form of a dead kid we know next to nothing about and using his ghost to determine the fate of the galaxy in three assorted flavors (red, blue, or green) made the series conclusion feel more hamfisted than it had to. I made my robots and people into cyber plants with a green light or something it was silly.

The ending and themes have their problems, sure, but fixating on them distracts from the otherwise excellent third act, especially in terms of what made Mass Effect 2 so great: character. For the dozens of pins Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 set up, Mass Effect 3 knocks a ton of them down, giving the majority of its characters and conflicts lovely goodbyes. In one of many, Mordin dies in poignant self-sacrifice as he comes to terms with the mistakes he made in engineering the genophage, and opts to disperse the cure before an explosion consumes him whole. Unless you shoot him to stop it, that is or if a certain Krogan is clan leader, Mordin will disappear and fake his death. He may not even be in your game at all if he died in Mass Effect 2. The tall stack of variables Mass Effect 3 juggles and follows through on are staggering for how cohesive it feels, largely because the Reaper narrative needs a neat bow, and fast.

Definitely fear the Reaper.

In Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, the Reapers were still coming, but they felt like a distant threat, an excuse to assemble a hodge podge team of sci-fi weirdos, and the best time to get to know someone is under the certainty of doom. But in Mass Effect 3, the Reapers are here, and by god, they re levelling cities. The narrative manages to sandwich a galactic conflict with a satisfying series of character arcs in a batch of reunions that avoid playing like a sitcom reunion episode. Everyone is under a lot of pressure saving organic life, and all so nearly every mission carries the same urgency as the climax of Mass Effect 2. This comes at the expense of gathering an entirely new team and getting to know them (a BioWare staple) but if viewed as a direct extension of Mass Effect 2 rather than a game meant to stand on its own, it becomes much easier to appreciate Mass Effect 3 and the characters you ve come to know over the course of the series.

It s not a great final impression, but more than any disappointment, I remember the faces I punched and kissed along the way.

Some are still with you, some have moved on. Tali, my BFF, returned to the Quarian fleet in a leadership role to take back their home planet from the Geth. I felt proud, watching her take charge. Wrex is a clan leader back on Tuchanka, leading the crusade for a cure to the genophage, a virus designed to make krogan females infertile. If Mordin manages to cure it, Wrex names his firstborn after him you beautiful space lizard man, you. Each crewmember, new and old, still have individual stories, but because there s no sidestepping the Reapers this time around, they all tie into the greater conflict, making Mass Effect 3 feel more urgent and swift than its predecessors.And it s because of this that many players found the ending so abrupt and insubstantial. Rather than getting a hyper specific ending that reflected the branching decisions of their Shepard s life, the overall course of the series was much more parabolic, widening in Mass Effect 2, but ultimately sprinting to the same hokey decision point in Mass Effect 3. It s not a great final impression, but more than any disappointment, I remember the faces I punched and kissed along the way.

Mass Effect 2

Mass AffectDeveloped: BioWare Published: EA2010

Mass Effect 2 represents a significant shift for the series and BioWare s design sensibilities as whole, placing its greatest efforts into developing deep, interesting characters sometimes at the expense of urgency, but ultimately in service of creating a much more personal experience.It s not the most refined game in the series, but Mass Effect 2 is fortunate enough to exist in a suspended state of expectation between what the first game set up and what the third was meant to fulfill. It doesn t need to reintroduce the galaxy or tie up any loose ends, and because of that, it can play a little looser with its structure. The Collectors and Reaper threats are always lurking in the background, but never really thrust the larger narrative forward until the very end, which lends more time to Shepard and their crew to hang out and scour the galaxy for volunteers at their leisure. Despite the whole apocalypse scenario, there s plenty of time to tend to each primary crew member s particular problems via their loyalty questline. It s a little too convenient, but worth the suspension of disbelief, because BioWare killed it with these characters.Everyone has their favorite. I m partial to Jack, a notorious criminal formerly locked away in a Cerberus test facility and mercilessly poked and prodded for the sake of science. She didn t have a pleasant childhood, to say the least. I earned her loyalty by addressing her trauma in the most direct way we could: by planting a bomb in the test facility she was raised in. We fell in love despite our equally hard exteriors and learned to cry again (in private). My Shepard was an orphan, raised on the streets of some dirty megacity on Earth. Jack and I, we got each other, you know?

Hug it out, Jack.

This is just one of 12 crew members, each with their own recruitment and loyalty missions, and distinct, flawed personalities. It s through these relationships that Mass Effect 2 does its most potent world-building not grand open world exploration levels and blockbuster spectacle, but through how a character speaks, what they re wearing, what they perceive as kindness, if they can perceive kindness, their treatment of one another, and so on. For example, it becomes clear pretty quickly that the Krogan are a proud, aggressive species, but understanding why and how is an exercise in empathy, which is key in nearly every companion questline. Turns out, Krogan can be pretty chill (which Mordin learned tragically late).This isn t to say it s just an expensive visual novel. Mass Effect 2 also revamped the combat into a fluid tactical third person shooter with expressive RPG trappings and a heavier focus on real time interactions. It wasn t truly refined until Mass Effect 3, but it streamlined the management of squad members and their individual abilities without stripping away complexity. You can play it like a third person shooter without ever pausing, or you can freeze time as you like, moving members and deploying abilities like a sci-fi middle manager due for a promotion.All this, driven by a sense of impending doom through the slow unravelling of the mystery surrounding the Collectors, and one of the best hooks in RPG history: prepping for a suicide mission. The high stakes aren t trivialized either you re heading into the Collector base, a pulsing hive of powerful ancient technology controlled by the Reapers where it s possible for you and everyone you bring along to die. And if they don t survive, it s probably your fault. I lost Thane and still feel pangs of guilt when I remember. A fictional character with green skin and bug eyes! Guilt!Mass Effect 2 is the best in the series because it dedicates so much time to building such meaningful relationships, and then puts them at great risk. Sure, it s a shiny, action-packed space romp, but above all else, Mass Effect 2 is an exciting, moving collection of sci-fi vignettes about love and loss.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Mass Effect: Andromeda [official site] is boldly going where no Mass Effect has gone before, taking BioWare’s sci-fi RPG series to a new galaxy, in the far future of the original trilogy’s far future setting. Because of the N7 designation held by Mass Effect protagonists, November 7th is to Mass Effect what May 4th is to Star Wars, and today brought a new cinematic trailer showing some giant monstrosities, a bland default player character who you’ll probably want to edit immediately, and some ominous voiceovers. Take a look.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brendan Caldwell)

Space: one of the frontiers. These are the trailers of the videogame Mass Effect Andromeda [official site]. It s mission: to explore strange new worlds, discover new lifeforms, and then have sex with them. As November 7 comes closer, a day which Bioware has stolen for itself during which they will likely reveal something important about the upcoming guns n conversation game, the developers have decided to tease some plot in a brief moon-based video. Not much> plot, but a little. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brendan Caldwell)

BioWare are holding an open competition to find a voice actor for Mass Effect Andromeda [official site], releasing tidbits of story as they do it. They re asking interested folks to read two audition scripts and send in either video or audio recordings of their best takes. The video below explains the competition exclusively via the medium of jokes, so this blog post about it may also be helpful. Before you enter – remember that Mass Effect games are known for their literate conversations and complex characters. Are you ready for your first scene? Okay, you are playing the role of Tough Mercenary.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

It s hard to picture space without getting a bit romantic and philosophical. Looking up at the stars is arguably humanity s oldest form of entertainment. Space reminds us who we are, who we were, and who we re trying to be. Space gives us distance and perspective from our pale blue dot, and it invites us to our most dangerous challenges.

A lot of our favorite games are set in space, and it s no coincidence that many of those games are absurdly gorgeous. We want to look at beautiful space pictures all the time, so we rounded up the best shots on the web and brought them all to one place.

Some of these pictures have run on PC Gamer before, usually captured by screenshot maestro Andy Kelly in pixel-boosted 4K glory. We found others by crawling through subreddits and Steam community groups in search of awe-inspiring starships and nebulas. All of them are worthy of adorning your desktop.

Want 'em all? We've packaged the whole lot of hi-res images as a zip file.

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PC Gamer

You will recall a couple of weeks ago that Electronic Arts VP Patrick Soderlund said the publisher is absolutely actively looking at remastering the Mass Effect trilogy for current-day platforms. That represented a dramatic change in direction from the previous year, when he told Game Informer that EA's focus is on making new games, not re-releasing old ones.

But now it looks like he may have spoken too soon. EA's chief competition officer Peter Moore didn't deny the possibility outright when he was asked about it in an interview with IGN, but he made his position very clear.

It's just not what we do. We've got incredibly talented devs and studios around the world who are focused on delivering new IPs, new experiences, more and more live services, he said. Could we make an easy buck on remastering Mass Effect? Yes. Have a thousand people asked me that? Yes they have. Do we have... No. I mean, we just feel like we want to go forward. There's a little thing called Mass Effect Andromeda that we're totally focused on at BioWare, and it's going to be magnificent. Anything that distracts from that... Do we have teams lying around that are doing nothing right now, that can go and? No, we don't. We want to focus on the future.

Moore acknowledged that there's a demand for a remake, but said that's true of many of EA's properties. There is a lot of people who want Skate 4. There's a lot of people that want Fight Night to come back. We're a 34-year-old company that has thousands of pieces of IP around the world," he continued. "Road Rash! And if you allow yourself to take the easy road, to go do something here and again, not to diss remastering great franchises but there are so many opportunities for us, and there's an opportunity cost for this, to have people do something else other than what their objectives are to go forward.

Moore and Soderlund clearly aren't on the same page here, which does us no good in trying to predict whether or not this is actually going to happen. Based on my understanding of corporate structures, Moore is higher up the ladder than Soderlund, but even so I think will eventually do it that's just too much money to leave on the table, especially given the new Mass Effect audience that Andromeda is bound to drive. Peter will probably pass on the tattoo this time around, though.

The relevant bit starts at the 1:16 mark. Thanks, Shacknews.

PC Gamer

Last year, Electronic Arts VP Patrick Soderlund told Game Informer that the company was focused on developing new properties, not remastering old ones like, say, Mass Effect. But times have changed, and in a new interview from Gamescom, Soderlund strongly hinted that a Mass Effect redo is likely to happen.

What's changed is that there is proof in the market that people want it, maybe more than there was when we spoke, he said, when asked about the possibility of a Mass Effect trilogy redo. There were some that did it before, but I think there is even more clear evidence that this is something that people really want. The honest answer is that we are absolutely actively looking at it. I can't announce anything today, but you can expect us most likely to follow our fellow partners in Activision and other companies that have done this successfully.

Activision, you'll recall, announced earlier this year that a remastered version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will be released in November alongside (but, sadly, not separate from) COD: Infinite Warfare. That news, I think, caused at least as much of a stir as the reveal of the brand-new game.

EA has to be careful about which brands it chooses to remake, and ensure that they're redone properly, so players feel that it's the same game but it feels so much better in this new shape and form, Soderlund said. There have been titles that have come out that have done it really well, and there have been others that maybe haven't done it so well. We just want to make sure that we stay in the 'done it really well' camp."

As hard as it is to believe, the original Mass Effect is pushing ten years old, which makes it a prime candidate for a fresh coat of paint and especially so with Mass Effect: Andromeda waiting in the wings. But there are plenty of other EA properties that could do with the same sort of treatment, like Black and White or Battlefield 2142; hell, I'd pay good money for a Command & Conquer: Renegade remake. I'm not going to hold my breath, though.

Speaking of Mass Effect, the "franchise" (although it's really just the first two parts, because of that whole thing with Origin) is on sale on Steam for 85 percent off until August 19.

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