Mass Effect

I remember not being very taken by Mass Effect's main theme, the first time I heard it. Next to what I'd read about the game, a tale of alien liaisons and sizzling gun battles amid the stars, the title music seemed dreary, the wrong kind of spaced-out. A decade later, I listen to it while crossing a certain footbridge in London, on my way to the abandoned mall food court where I'm writing this. Somebody has scrawled "change" plus a few choice sentiments about austerity policies on the wall at one end. The council has repainted that bridge a few times in the years I've lived nearby - right now it's an incongruous green and purple pattern, like a coral reef hammered flat - and every time, that unknown soul has returned to scribble the message anew. A gesture of defiance, or ironic futility? I couldn't tell you, but as the languid drone of Vigil's Theme fills my skull, I read the words again, ponder their relevance to Mass Effect's storyline and find myself ludicrously close to tears.

Every great musical composition is a survivor, struggling against the tides of history. Before written language became ubiquitous, oral artforms such as ballads, folk songs and sung epics were important ways of passing on knowledge from generation to generation - arguably, modern music continues to serve this function alongside other kinds of media, preserving scenes and sensations if not the detail of chronologies. Lyrical structures like rhyme and alliteration have their roots in a wish to codify laws, divine precepts or the genealogies of families in a digestible, memorable form.

As vehicles for knowledge, oral traditions have major downsides. The untimely death of a bard may wipe away decades of learning, and compositions mutate as they are sung or recited, misheard and adapted, losing and acquiring associations in hindsight. A famous example is the English folksong "Ring o Rosie", often taken to be a gruesome taxonomy of Black Plague symptoms, which may actually refer to a game played by 19th century children to sidestep a prohibition on dancing. But these artforms are also enduring in a way other types of preservation are not. The elusive nature of musical memory, stored in several parts of the brain as muscular performance, sensory stimulus, spoken word and malleable abstraction, allows it to weather upheavals both within the life of the individual listener and the life of a community.

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Mass Effect - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Fraser Brown)

punch

To celebrate Mass Effect s 10th anniversary (crikey!), animator Jonathan Cooper, currently at Naughty Dog, has shared 10 animation-related facts about the game on Twitter. There are a lot of interesting titbits, like the mo-cap being filmed on the same sound stage as Gone With The Wind, or Cooper being inspired by Ricky Gervais Extras when it came to picking the close-up camera style for conversations, but nothing beats the story behind Anderson punching Udina in the face. Udina was a worm, so it s a popular scene, but probably not with the actor playing Udina. He actually got clocked on the jaw. It happens to the best of us.

Mass Effect

Xbox Game Pass gets Gears of War 4 in December, Microsoft has confirmed.

It's a high-profile addition to Microsoft's Netflix-style game subscription service, which lets you download and play games for a monthly fee.

The Coalition's third-person shooter was one of Microsoft's big Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games in the run-up to Christmas 2016, so it's nice to see it added to the Game Pass. The addition means all the Gears of War games are included in an Xbox Game Pass membership.

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Mass Effect

Remember 2005 British TV comedy series Extras, written by The Office duo Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant? The one where Gervais played an actor stuck making a living as an extra, and where a string of guest stars like Ben Stiller, Patrick Stewart and Samuel L. Jackson appeared? The late, great David Bowie even popped up in Series 2. Good, wasn't it?

Anyway, it turns out the show's awkward, close conversations were the unlikely inspiration for a very well known series of video games: BioWare's Mass Effect.

Mass Effect animator Jonathan Cooper shared the detail on Twitter in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the US release of Mass Effect 1.

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Mass Effect

As the series hits its ten year anniversary, a look back at Bioware’s amazing first chapter.

Look, for a moment, try to forget That Ending. Yes, it was disappointing, but if there’s a scene that truly marked the end of BioWare’s original space trilogy in suitably tear-jerk fashion, it’s the one that capped off its final DLC, Citadel. One last night of partying before the end. A moment of reflection before diving into oblivion. Commander Shepard, flanked by a team of misfits forged by fire into a family, stands for a moment by their ship to consider the future. “We’ve had a good ride,” the closest says.

“The best…” replies Shepard, taking one last chance to appreciate it.

There's a lot to appreciate.

Out of this world

Mass Effect remains arguably BioWare’s tightest and most successful series, and one that’s as much a departure from the company’s comfort zone as it was a natural continuation of its direction back in the mid-2000s. Knights of the Old Republic in 2003 was an attempt to make RPG combat especially look cinematic and exciting despite being overtly based on D&D rules and not afraid to drop terms like THAC0 in polite company, while Jade Empire attempted to both look like a Wuxia movie and combine arcade action with RPG stats and storytelling. Dragon Age: Origins would re-target the fans won over by Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights—at least for one game, before looking to a wider audience. Mass Effect meanwhile would start out by looking to the future and an AAA audience up for an epic adventure, but that didn’t want want to roll dice or juggle a million stats just to kick a little alien ass. It was still an RPG at heart, but a considerably faster paced one than most of the audience was used to.

The premise is a simple one. Humanity is very much the newcomer in the intergalactic community, and not particularly trusted—not least because our first contact with the avian Turian race led to what became known as the “First Contact War’. Ouch. Luckily, since then things have improved, and we’re bopping around the galaxy to explore and colonise with the help of a network of ancient relays and their hub, the Citadel. Now, we’re ready to make our next big step towards legitimacy with the appointment of our hero Commander Shepard as the first human Spectre—a space-cop with pretty much unlimited authority and autonomy, if not apparently a regular pay cheque. Good timing too, as a Lovecraftian threat from the darkest parts of space—the Reapers—is about to threaten the entire galaxy… and nobody believes they even exist.

Mass Effect wasn't the first game to let you take a character from start to finish, but it was one of the higher profile ones. 

Action stations

The first game was a big hit, but a distinctly flawed diamond. Many of its quirks would later become in-jokes, like the endless elevator rides used to poorly hide new areas loading in, or the fun-vacuum Mako rover that made exploring new planets about as much fun as getting a root canal on a Wurlitzer.

By far the biggest weakness though was combat. Much like KOTOR before it, it was caught between its RPG core and Hollywood longings, only this time with the RPG side buckling under the pressure. The result was a game where combat was something of a chore—not much fun, mechanically fiddly, and with enemies slightly dumber than toast. Later games would fix this by doubling-down, simplifying even further, and effectively becoming an all-out third-person shooter broken up with extended conversations and social zones. It made for some awkward lore moments, like guns that canonically had effectively unlimited ammo now conveniently needing pick-ups, but no matter.

Luckily, underneath all of this, the world that BioWare created immediately established itself as a place worth dealing with all this and more to experience. On a broad level, It’s every great SF trope mixed together, from the sexy all-female asari race to the central plot about wise precursors and enemies from beyond the stars. We’ve seen more of this before, in some form at least, with Mass Effect’s universe owing a particular debt to Babylon 5 in terms of both setting and aesthetic, and Alistair Reynolds’ Revelation sites for big plot.

The tactical combat attempted to combine everything from standard RPGs and make it exciting. In practice it just made the action clunky. 

Zoom in, though, and BioWare’s universe is stuffed with originality, with humour, with sharp writing, great characters, and relationships that aren’t just beautifully written, but take full advantage of the trilogy format to grow. Your initial team-mates, Kaidan and Ashley, aren’t perpetually locked in your shadow, and have their own military careers going on. By the time Shepard and his/her Turian BFF Garrus take time out to go target shooting in Mass Effect 3, you’ve been part of that relationship and emotionally invested in what happens next in their romance or friends for the best part of 60 hours and several years of actual game. Likewise, you’ve seen Tali’Zorah go from scared child on the run to military badass and potential saviour, Liara T’Soni from simple archeologist into the all-powerful Shadow Broker, Miranda from a cold human supremacist with a vacuum packed bottom into a defrosted ice-princess with a vacuum packed bottom, and Jacob Taylor… well, Jacob is there too. 

While not all of these plots start in the first game, it’s hard to look back on the first Mass Effect without factoring in what everything became. Rather than piling on new lore with each new instalment, BioWare instead chose to dig a bit deeper. You hear about the quarian fleet in the first game, for instance, but it’s not until the second that you get to pay it a visit. Likewise, the alien homeworlds are saved for the third game where their destruction can feel meaningful, for the same reason that the Star Trek reboot opted to blow up Vulcan rather than some random little world in the beta quadrant.

That’s not including some of the bigger decisions that don’t simply affect the fate of the galaxy, but some of your best friends. Where does loyalty to them end and the needs of the wider universe begin? Can you risk starting a galactic war in the name of ending one? Who do you pick when both sides have equal value to their claim, but a classic Star Trek diplomatic situation is off the table? At least in your current run through things.

Big decisions

While big decisions are part and parcel of many an RPG, few have done a better job of creating thought-provoking ones where there may be no ‘right’ answer, or a past decision may have shifted things dramatically between games. The two biggest in the original Mass Effect are whether or not to release an alien threat called the Rachni, which seems reasonable enough, and which of your starting crew members will die on the planet Vermire. There’s no getting around making that choice, and whichever you pick to make the sacrifice is gone for the rest of the series, along with hope of slipping in a quick romance.

While covering it properly means skipping ahead a little, the biggest example set up in the first game is the krogan genophage. Krogan are a species of incredibly fast, territorial, aggressive breeders that once threatened the galaxy simply by existing. To deal with this, another race created the genophage as a viral way to curtail their overexpansion—specifically by rendering most of them sterile. Unfortunately, that just means they're now dying off, and unsurprisingly pissed with the rest of the galaxy.

Much of Mass Effect was an evolution of KOTOR/Jade Empire three party members, basic tactics, fixed classes. 

In Mass Effect 3, you have the chance to fix things… but will that just doom the galaxy down the line? Making things more interesting is that at this point in the series they can have one of two leaders, former party member and rough diamond with hidden depths Urdnot Wrex, or if he’s dead, his more aggressive cousin Wreav. Neither is exactly a dove, but Wreav is unquestionably the more hawkish and vengeful of the pair, and longs to harness krogan resentment to launch a war against their oppressors. The catch is that long before any of this, still in the first game, Wrex discovers that the villain, Saren, may have an outright cure and he’s willing to kill Shepard over it. How many other games introduce plot choices and dilemmas that take five years to finish finally playing out?

While inevitably the nature of the story means you don’t necessarily face the true consequences, the games do a fantastic job of both setting up the stakes for these beyond the pragmatic ‘get 25 War Assets’ change by showing every side of it in characters that you’ve hopefully come to respect and like. Whether galactic scale or personal, every quest matters deeply to someone, and usually characters you’ve known and hung out with for at least a couple of games by the point that their big quest starts. Everyone comes to the mission with baggage, and how you deal with it can be as important as any action bit.

My favourite Shepard

At the heart of the group though is always Commander Shepard, arguably one of BioWare’s greatest inventions since MDK 2 brought us atomic toast. Rarely has a character felt so much like a collaboration between player and developer, with Shepard coming across as a character with weight and presence in the universe as a hero, as a Spectre, and as a beacon of hope, while still leaving key decisions like origin, morality and romance and opinions to be driven by player choice. The female variant in particular immediately won hearts thanks to Jennifer Hale’s fantastic voice acting and instant control of any military situation, kept relatable and grounded with a dry sense of humour and human failings like romantic inexperience and exquisitely terrible dancing.

Her popularity really caught BioWare by surprise, especially as statistically most players went with the male Shepard. Despite BioWare’s history of being one of the better/more forward-thinking companies when it comes to sexual politics, Mass Effect 2 in particular is full of unfortunate animations that make it obvious that all the motion capture was done for a male character, from the way that Shepard sits while wearing a dress to the position and coding of characters snuggling in the romances. Likewise, when it came to the lack of homosexual relationships, BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka defended their absence by saying that Shepard was ‘a defined character with certain approaches and world views’, forgetting that in addition to the chance to sleep with several asari, the—ahem—booby prize for not getting into a real relationship is to have Shepard’s assistant Kelly do more than feed her fish. It took until Mass Effect 3 for the female Shepard to even get a custom face rather than just an editor default, which looked terrible next to the ‘standard’ Shepard, and to unlock the ability to play for both teams.

Worth about a thousand Reddit comments, at least. 

While in retrospect this might seem ‘typical BioWare’ it’s worth remembering that Mass Effect had its share of controversy back in the day. These were ridiculous at the time, never mind now, but back in 2008 pundits were coming up with lines like—this is 100% real—“And because of the digital chip age in which we live—"Mass Effect" can be customized to sodomize whatever, whoever, however, the game player wishes.” 

The fact that the most you got to see was one short sex scene featuring a little side-boob or a blue bottom moving up and down for a couple of seconds was immaterial, mostly because the critics subsequently admitted to not having actually seen the game before railing about it. Fox News guest Cooper Lawrence was unamused when gamers took to Amazon to give her latest book the same treatment, commenting "In hindsight, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to play this game before appearing." What an intriguing idea!

You know you’re onto a loser when even anti-gaming activist Jack Thompson rolls his eyes and calls it a contrived conspiracy. However, as it would continue to do with Dragon Age 2 and 3, BioWare pushed back rather than folding under the pressure, greatly helping to normalise adult content in games intended for adults, paving the way for more ambitious mature content in games like The Witcher 2/3 (both of which were a far cry from the original game and its tacky sex cards) and Dragon Age Inquisition. Still, even Mass Effect 3 had characters chastely taking showers in their underwear. Just in case.

All around the universe

Awkward bathing aside, the Mass Effect series is arguably most notable for BioWare’s willingness to go outside its comfort zone and explore new ideas. The first game, for instance, is functionally the same design as its previous RPGs—four worlds, each with a lost Thing on it. Mass Effect 2 goes more non-linear with most of the game being about assembling a team in bite-sized, punchy missions designed to showcase each in turn and then earn their loyalty. Mass Effect 3 wraps the individual missions up into a meta game called ‘Galaxy At War’, trying to make it feel like a concerted campaign against an unstoppable enemy that demands the feuding races finally start to work together towards an escalating common goal. After all, in the first game, it only takes one Reaper by the name of Sovereign to almost bring the galaxy to its knees. In the third, you’re surrounded by them and their Inception Horns Of Doom, without ever crossing the Voyager Borg threshold where they cease being scary. 

Indeed, the more you play, the more it becomes clear that their true power is their ability to cloud and control minds—Indoctrination—versus firepower. There’s even a fan theory that Shepard ultimately loses the battle—that what we see as an intentionally bland series of final battles and a Final Choice that boils down to little more than picking between red, green and blue tinted finales, is actually just their mind breaking under the psychological pressure. It’s not completely impossible (though the more accepted reason for the bad ending is that it was rewritten at the last minute) but it is the kind of stretch that normally requires a Stretch Armstrong doll and a few minutes in the oven.

The Geth are a great example of Mass Effect peeling back its layers. Initially a brainless enemy, dealing with them eventually becomes a big moral issue. 

Crappy as those five minutes in some sixty hours are though, obsessing over them does Mass Effect a huge disservice. The rest of that time is pretty much non-stop action, ideas, refinements and cinematics that continually reinvents itself and tries to push the state of the art.

Did all these ideas work? No. Galaxy at War in particular was much criticised prior to release for seemingly demanding solo players jump into multiplayer to get high enough scores for a good ending (not true). Most of the DLC was distinctly disposable, with the exception of Lair of Shadow Broker and Citadel, and perhaps Leviathan. The less said about the assassin Kai Leng, the better, though we hope he finds his way back to his home anime dimension as soon as possible. Etc. etc.

But to think back on Mass Effect shouldn’t be to focus on its flaws, but rather the warmth of its characters, the excitement of its set-pieces, the scale of its universe, and the sheer passion with which BioWare brought it to our screens and kept the momentum going for years. It’s a truly magnificent trilogy, a highpoint for interactive SF, and even though it started on slightly wobbly foundations, there's no arguing that it's not a hell of a ride.

Mass Effect

Yesterday was November 7—N7 Day, in the parlance of Mass Effect fans, an occasion to celebrate all things about BioWare's hit sci-fi series. To mark the special day, BioWare released a "Ten Years of Mass Effect" video looking back on the history of the series and the things that made it special—and, despite the failure of Mass Effect: Andromeda to meet expectations, expressing hope for the future. 

The video features a number of BioWare mainstays, including the Shepard and Ryder voice actors, reminiscing on the making of the series, and the impact it's had on them personally and professionally. There are the requisite bits of trivia, like how the Vorcha voices were made and why the "SSV" designation for the Normandy was rejected. But while much of it feels like a eulogy, it's a line at the end that fans will want to hold onto.

"The future of Mass Effect, I think, is really bright. People just want to know more about this place, these characters," the narrator says. And then someone else takes over: "I think people keep coming back because it feels like home."   

It's an interesting way to wrap up, because it's an implicit rejection of the entire premise of Mass Effect: Andromeda, which was all about finding a new home. That attitude is evident throughout the video, in fact, in the way it very clearly focuses on the original trilogy despite coming in the same year as Andromeda's release. But the promise of a bright future, vague though it is, is encouraging. Andromeda may have flopped, but Mass Effect? Yeah, that's good stuff. 

Mass Effect

BioWare has celebrated a decade of Mass Effect by releasing a new video featuring developers involved in the much-loved, now much-missed space franchise.

Today is 7th November, known to Mass Effect fans as N7 Day - BioWare's annual celebration of the series. This year is also the 10th anniversary of the original Mass Effect's launch back in 2007.

It is a muted acknowledgement of the series' milestone. The future of Mass Effect is uncertain, at best. While some in the video below speak of the franchise in the past tense, others still say it has a "bright future". Time will tell.

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Mass Effect

Welcome back to the PC Gamer Q&A! Every week we ask our panel of PC Gamer writers a question about games. This week: which game character do you hate? Okay, 'hate' is a strong word, but we all get annoyed by characters in games, for a variety of reasons—bad dialogue, voice acting, or whatever else. Here we've simply spotlighted the characters (and one car) that we can't stand. We'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments, too.

Wes Fenlon: Basically every character in Final Fantasy 8

I feel slightly guilty for writing this, because I know our editor Sam Roberts likes this game (even I won't defend a man with a ponytail wearing a cowboy hat, though, Wes—Sam), but I can't stand pretty much anyone who opens their mouth in Final Fantasy 8. It's been so long since I played it, I'm struggling to articulate the depth of my loathing. But it definitely started with Squall, the poster boy for aloof, emo JRPG protagonists. Aka bad protagonists. At least Cloud had the decency to have a total mental breakdown, turn out to be a total fraud, and find time to say totally out of character dialogue like "Let's mosey." (Thanks, bad translation).

But Squall? He was a boring stick in the mud from the first cutscene, and maybe he had some character growth by the end of the game but I was too busy rolling my eyes and going "UGH" to notice. Then the whole amnesia thing—the worst plot twist of all time outside a Shyamalan movie—made me write off most of the rest of the gang. I do still have a soft spot for Laguna, who was basically Squall's missing personality, and I always kinda liked Zell, who I believe is the character most Final Fantasy 8 fans actually hate, themselves. Looking back, my reason for liking him seems pretty clear—he annoyed the shit out of everybody else, and that made him the true hero.

Philippa Warr: Warren from Life is Strange

The thing about Warren was that his character seemed tangled up in something the developers were leaning towards. I remember a feeling that no matter how many times I, as Max, tried to just be Warren's friend and keep my boundaries set to "we are just friends and that is all we will ever be" the game would then show cutscenes with him sitting close and hugging Max and so on. The sense of a character you get with a game like Life is Strange is built out of how those cutscenes and the actual interactive sections play out and so, for the way I was playing Max, that led to this idea of Warren as a guy who doesn't really understand boundaries and isn't taking hints. 

I think there are elements of that in the game deliberately—Warren clearly likes Max as more than a friend and there are resultant awkward encounters and cringeworthy texts and so on—but I'm not sure whether Dontnod actually wanted people to see him as a creep. I see him as a creep. I hated being around him in the game and the more the game didn't give me the freedom to be really clear about where he stood the more claustrophobic and upsetting I found him. Maybe that's the point? It's certainly a horribly faithful part of the teen experience. Anyway. Warren is the WORST.

Jody Macgregor: Ego from The 7th Guest

Henry Stauf is the villain of The 7th Guest. He's the guy who murders someone for 20 bucks, makes toys that kill children, fills his mansion with malicious puzzles. But I don't hate Henry Stauf. I hate the protagonist of The 7th Guest, the disembodied amnesiac spirit trapped in his mansion named Ego, because he will not shut up.

Sometimes while you're solving Stauf's puzzles the old man taunts you with his spooky-dooky voice, all "I wonder if he will get the point of this!" as you solve another dumb puzzle. But it's Ego's narration, which is supposed to be helpful, that's far more galling. "Which way should I go now?" he says, as you move another queen across a chessboard. "That tune seems familiar!" he says as you try to recollect an 18-note sequence on the piano. "Is there a pattern to this?" And every time he talks, the cursor vanishes and you have to wait for him to finish. I've never finished The 7th Guest, always leaving Ego trapped in Stauf's mansion forever, and I'm glad. I hope he rots.

Andy Kelly: Tali from Mass Effect

Look, I know Tali has a devoted fanbase. When she died in his playthrough, former PC Gamer writer Rich McCormick replayed 15 hours to save her. But man, whenever she's on the screen my eyes glaze over. The quarians are an interesting race with a cool backstory, but I wish they had a better representative in my party. I find Tali's overly earnest manner exceptionally dull. And her awkwardness, while probably written to be cute and endearing, just annoys me. In a game stuffed with interesting characters, she's by far the most boring, and I spend as little time with her as possible when I play through the Mass Effect trilogy.

Joe Donnelly: J'Zargo from Skyrim

J'Zargo was the first Khajiit NPC I met in Skyrim. He came with cool fire scrolls and reminded me a little of Tygra from the Thundercats. I was totally into it. Stat-wise he was a beast, and was one of the game's few NPCs without a level cap. Destruction and Restoration spells were his forte which made him best suited to close-quarters combat support. Moreover, after hitting level 50 he maxed out his One-handed and Heavy Armour skills—both of which made him an absolute tank. 

But, my god, he was such a pain in the arse. As if constantly referring to himself in the third person wasn't infuriating enough, he was full of irritating self-aggrandising quips—to the point where I preferred fighting flocks of Legendary Dragons on my own, if it meant getting shot of him.

"Oh, but you are wrong. The only reason you could disagree is because you are losing so badly you cannot see it." This was the straw the broke the camel's back. I led J'Zargo deep into a cave full of Draugr and stood back. He died in battle. I resurrected him as a faceless zombie cat. He sauntered off a cliff. I didn't mourn him. Good riddance, J'Zargo.

Samuel Roberts: The DeLorean from Rocket League

I almost picked Winston from Overwatch for this. Not because I have any particular problem with the character's personality or anything, but more the 'wacky' thinking behind the design, that's about as generically 'hero shooter' as it gets. Every game in this genre has at least one novelty character like this—Paladins has a walking tree and Battleborn has (had) a large, armed mushroom, for example. What if a gorilla did science? Woah! What will they think of next? 

I like most of the other character designs in Overwatch, but man, it's not too hard to come up with an idea for an animal or plant-related one, or indeed anything that can talk that doesn't in real life. What if a talking mongoose was a political strategist and a support hero? What if a Dutch fox was a taxidermist and was deeply ironic about his profession, but also had a grenade launcher? Hot damn, we've got us a hero shooter! Let's get this baby into Early Access. Pre-order the founder's package now to get the David Schwimmer announcer pack. 

I guess Winston is just Beast from the X-Men, really. Anyway, I'm over it.

Instead, I'll pick this DLC car. Back in 2015 when I was deep into Rocket League, I remember being irritated by the seemingly tens of thousands of people who'd bought the DeLorean in Rocket League around the time of the merchandising tat nightmare known as Back to the Future Day. As well as marking a new low for the kind of event you could stick the word 'day' onto in order to sell toys to adults, this car started popping up all over the game, and its '88MPH' acceleration noise seemed to be the only thing I could hear in matches for months afterwards.

I know it's just people trying to have fun in a game they enjoy, by marrying car football with one of the best movies of the '80s. Who could resent that, really? Well, me, apparently. 

Phil Savage: You, when you pick sniper

To my mind, snipers are the most irritating class in any multiplayer shooter—and I main Scout in TF2, so I know a lot about what's irritating. Yes, there's some skill in knowing a map's sightlines, and not standing in areas where a sniper might pick me off. But being instantly killed from halfway across the map is, for me, the least interesting interaction I can have in a shooter. In a team-focused, objective-based FPS, snipers seem only to reduce the possibility space in which I can be doing cool things. And for what, so you can squat in a bush, clicking on heads?

As for snipers who aren't killing me—the ones on my team—you're not much better. The requirements of sniping are often antithetical to the objective at hand, and, even in deathmatch, snipers are rarely mobile enough to top the leaderboards. Sniper is a bad class for bad people, and my feelings on this matter have nothing to do with my inability to accurately aim a crosshair. Sniping is for jerks, no exceptions. Except Battlefield: Bad Company 2, where they were actually pretty good.

Tim Clark: Anduin Wrynn in Hearthstone

 "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" complained King Henry II, shortly before some knight bros took this as an invitation to go ham on Thomas Beckett, the then Archbishop of Canterbury. And grim though the Wikipedia entry marked 'assassination' might be, let me also assure you that that fate would be far too good for Anduin Wrynn, Hearthstone's priest hero. Anyone who mains Priest in Hearthstone, unless they use the Tyrande Whisperwind portrait or run a dragon deck, is a despicable degenerate. Combo and control Priest is for the kind of fedora-wearing player for whom it isn’t enough just to win, they have to do it using your cards, over the course of what feels like an ice age. Don’t even get me started on the emotes. One more “Wow!” and I’m sending in the knights. 

Mass Effect - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Fraser Brown)

elcor

Mass Effect Andromeda was so tremendously dull — just read John s Andromeda review — that it appears to have killed off a whole franchise (or at least put it in a coma). While I absolutely don t think it earned a sequel, it is a shame that there are so many story threads left hanging. Like what the hell happened to all the other aliens from the Milky Way? Well, we may not be finding out in a game, but Mass Effect: Annihilation, a spin-off novel, will fill in some gaps when it appears in June next year.

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Mass Effect

Two big bits of news were announced on the BioWare Blog today: First, that general manager Aaryn Flynn is leaving the company after 17 years. And second, that Casey Hudson, who left in 2014, is "coming home" to assume the role. 

It sounds like Hudson's return was in the cards prior to Flynn's final decision to leave, and actually helped him settle on it. "I have been contemplating changes in my own life for some time, but when I heard that Casey had confirmed he was up for the task, I realized the opportunities before us," Flynn wrote in a blog post announcing his departure. "I will be working with him over the next couple of weeks to help catch him up and do my part to set him up for success to be the best GM he can be."

"Let me thank our players for everything they’ve given us over these many  years, and to say from the bottom of my heart how important you are to  me and the rest of BioWare. I have gone to work every day knowing that I  am fortunate to have all of the opportunities I have had at BioWare  because of you," he concluded. "Doing whatever I could to help our developers create  some of the best games in the industry for you all has been the most humbling experience of my life."

 

As for Hudson, he said in his own message that his years away from BioWare has been "transformative for me, from having time to reflect on what I most want to do, to working with new technologies at platform scale." 

"I’d also like to wish my good friend Aaryn Flynn the very best in the future. Aaryn and I have worked together from the earliest days of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, to setting the foundation for Anthem. We’ve been through a lot together, and we’re all going to miss his presence at the studio." 

Hudson's BioWare credits include Baldur's Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights, and KOTOR, but Mass Effect was his Big One: He served as project director on the entire original trilogy. Flynn's record goes back just as far as is possibly even more extensive; he took over as BioWare GM in 2009, right around the release of Dragon Age: Origins. 

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