Posts Tagged ‘game’

Finally got around to making a time lapse video of the Miss Fortune painting that I entered for a League of Legends art contest.

It’s 5am right now and I’m having trouble sleeping, so I thought I should write a blog-blog to update all who care about the exciting new events that have been happening in my life. This is a Prince and the Pauper tale, featuring art, video games and, of course, nerds.

The Beginning…

Where to begin.. I guess we’ll start with last year. June 2009, my contract as an illustrator with Griptonite Games had ended, leaving me… once again, unemployed. I didn’t think much of it, despite the panic on the news about the economy going down. I figured… with already 3-4 years of game industry experience and it taking an average of 1-2 months to get another job each time this happens I shouldn’t be so worried. Well, worrying eventually came when the months started rolling by and rapidly. I was exhausting all my resources to find another job, but with no luck. I started trying to teach myself other programs, hoping that I could just apply to other different position. I dabbled in web/html, Flash, Illustrator, ect; but couldn’t really grasp any of the knowledge as well as I could if I were in a classroom setting. So, I decided looking into going back to school.

I graduated from AIS in 2006 with a BFA in media arts. I looked back to AIS as another resource, thinking I could get another BFA in graphic design in only half the time since my credits could transfer. Well, guess what. Even at half the time, half the classes at half the cost, counselors told me it would come to a total at $30,000+ for a year and a half! WHAT?! I’M UNEMPLOYED! Do I LOOK like I have that kind of money on me?! Onward goes my search for better prospects…

7 months of being unemployed, a friend of mine, “Chu”, who works at Arenanet, sent me a link about an Arenanet workshop that was being held at Bellevue College. Arenanet’s top concept guys would be demonstrating their badassery in front of an audience. Well, little did dearest Chu know was that the workshop was to promote a new school called FuturePoly.

FuturePoly was developed by a small crack team of artists/friends who are highly reputable in the gaming industry. The prices of the classes were literally a fraction of a fraction of what I was previously looking into. So, this got me thinking… if I go into graphic design, which had WAY more job openings than my current industry, I would have to start all over from the beginning. All the years I spent gaining experience and learning the pipeline and loving the people in the game industry would pretty much mean nothing, and I would have to start from ground zero all over again. That, and I already knew that I loved the gaming industry and the people that worked in it. Graphic Design is a whole nother beast that could potentially be great, but could also be a huge mistake, let alone costing way more money to do so.  So, I decided to risk it. I don’t know if the industry wanted me anymore, but enrolling into FuturePoly was me busting out the big guns and trying to hang onto this career as hard as possible.

Meeting the guys…

Before officially enrolling into the classes, the guys at FuturePoly invited me out to a lunch meet up. There I had lunch with one fellow potential student and 3 of the top guys from Arenanet; Jason Stokes, Horia Dociu and Kekai Kotaki. The guys told us the run down of their plans for the school and that we would be part of the first set of students (18 per class) if we enrolled. Jason asked me what my history was leading up to enrolling. I told them about how I’ve been a contractor in illustration and never felt comfortable with 3D, just figuring it wasn’t made for me. I went off about how the 2D jobs I used to apply to and get hired for were dwindling and that I needed more skills to keep me in the industry. He told me that I was a right fit for the classes and that they were there to train those who, not only wanted to learn, but needed to learn, and that he would teach industry standards and workflow. The biggest ear-catcher was him telling me that he wasn’t going to be like my previous school, where they teach you everything about the program all at once. He was going to keep it simple and teach only what he does at work and not go into all the do-dads thats 3DsMax has to offer when you might use a specific kind of tool feature only once or even never in your entire career. That really hooked me. Horia sat across from me; I knew this guy through reputation… knew he was the cinematic lead for Arenanet and couldn’t really understand why, a guy so busy as he was, going to take more time out of his schedule to teach classes that most likely wasn’t going to have these guys “rolling in the dough.” I asked Horia why they were doing all this. He lit up and went off into this passionate rant about art schools being all business and less art; allowing students to graduate with less than mediocre and unguided portfolios. He seemed pretty pissed that there were so many schools out there that would charge ridiculous amounts of money for these end results. Woah? Are you SERIOUS? Teachers that are passionate about having their students succeed? What rabbit hole did I fall into? Reverting back to my question he said that they didn’t want that to happen anymore. That they would use their industry experience to guide student portfolios and to help them find ways to work efficiently; and to be as prepared as possible when starting their first day of work. I liked Horia.

Jason and Horia asked me what I was expecting from them and what I wanted to get out of FuturePoly. Everything they said struck a chord with me… painfully and personally.  Hopefully, I acted cool about it, but deep down I felt a bit emotional, because everything they said was exactly what I wanted and the more I thought about it, the more I felt like this terrible 8 months of being unemployed and feeling worthless would finally end. I didn’t really know what to say; I may have stuttered a bit and just shrugged, because they said it all, even more than I could’ve thought up. What can I say? I signed the enrollement papers immediately. It was either this was going to be somewhat of a disappointment, or it was going to be life changing; which are odds I’m fine with. Either way though… that was one hell of a sales pitch.

The classes…

I enrolled in their professional program. Joining me was a few other friends, Jacob, Lyndon and Peter. The first 3 months, I took 3D with Jason Stokes. Woah. Ok. Seriously. I always felt like a complete retard when it came to 3D, which is why I had given up on it and just focused on 2D. Well, how embarrassing is this? Jason taught the class 2-AIS-quarters worth of material in 2 weeks. Not only that, I retained the memory of it. It’s not just 3 hours of lecturing, then “ok, now here’s your homework, and go home and do it” like how I remembered in college. He showed you the run down…then made you do it along with him a second time… then redo it with out him a third time… then you applied it to a personal project. Crazy reinforcement. I never felt so comfortable with 3D before. T’was awesome. And a side note, Jason was and IS always there to help out. I wasn’t even in his class anymore and I would shoot him an e-mail with questions and he would be on top of things to help me out. Even if he didn’t know the answer he would find it for me. Jason’s awesome.

Halfway through, I enrolled into their Zbrush class, taught by Joe Pikop. Joe is HILARIOUS! Always up beat and got me cracking up all the time. Not only that, he had me cruising in Zbrush in no time. Once I tried to teach myself Zbrush and gave up because the navigation was so awkward. After the first class I was already sculpting faces. After the second, a skull! His teaching style is a little bit different from Jason’s, as Joe breaks up his time, having lecturing be the smallest part of the class, and the vast majority of it working one on one with people and mainly answering questions to specific problems. All I can say is… Hooray! I know zbrush now! *hugz* (side note: do not be alarmed with if he sudden starts dancing for no reason. I think, in theory, this is to raise morale.)

The last 3 months was in Horia’s 2D class. Horia’s class, again, is set up closely like Jason and Joe’s classes; only a good chunk of it is industry philosophy. It’s the “what you need to know when you get the fuck out there” lectures. This info is invaluable. Something that I felt my previous school lacked or was misinformed about, because when I was a student and then graduated and moved onto the industry, it was nothing of what I was told of. Everything Horia talked about in the industry was spot on in reference to my own personal experience of 4-5 years; and it was, to say the least… very nitty gritty, AS IT SHOULD BE. A lot of the art schools spoon-feed you dreams, like your life is set on the Disney Channel. He didn’t bullshit around, and I think some may have taken it as crass, being that their art still never changed or progressed, despite countless critiques, but from all that I’ve experienced, it is incredibly VITAL to be told EXACTLY what is up and to take it as so. And you must ask yourself if the person relaying this information to you has the CURRENT credentials to walk the walk, let alone talk the talk.

Nearing the end of Horia’s class and the ending of the program as well, I was a bit stressed out. Ok. I was REALLY STRESSED OUT. A FULL year of being unemployed and already on the unemployment benefit emergency extensions, Griptonite had called me back to do a 2 month contract to do some quick UI work for a game I had previously worked on, as well as, some of their other projects. I was scrambling to do as much work as I could to impress Griptonite in hopes they would hire me on, so I wouldn’t have to be unemployed again, as well as, doing as much as I could for Horia’s class so he wouldn’t think I was a lazy ass, AS WELL as, working my ass off on my 3D portfolio in preparation of my Griptonite contract ending and them not not hiring me. I was crazy-stressed out, but tried to laugh it off anyway. I was extremely worried about what would happen if I didn’t get hired at Grip, because there was a most likely chance I couldn’t start my unemployment benefits back up again, because I was on the emergency extension, that and the claiming year was going to end in a month anyway. Oh, and surprise, my apartment lease would end that month as well, so pretty much if I didn’t find a job in September I would have to consider looking for work out of state. TOTALLY DID NOT WANT THAT. So, I was.. for the lack of a better term… le fucked. These thoughts were haunting and Horia was doing his rounds talking to everyone in the class to see how they’re doing and what they wanted to achieve with their portfolio. He started talking to me and asked me what I wanted to  achieve and I just told him… “to not be of temporary value. To be worth hiring for good.” 5 years going from studio to studio… I have never been hired as a full time employee. I have only been a contract artist. Talking about it with him, I think I may have started to choke up. Didn’t want to seem emotional or girly. Tried to shrug it off. Told him I was taking too much of his time and he should move on to the other students, but he didn’t let up. After class he talked with me for a couple hours. He told me what I needed to do and how I could accomplish it and he said that him and Jason would be there whenever I needed help. He told me I should start a 3D specific portfolio and told me what I should put on it and what I should work on to add to it. That night, despite having worked a full day that day and had gone straight to class, along with having work the next morning, I didn’t go to sleep until I made my new portfolio. I guess, after that talk it was “Go-time.” The end result… my 3D portfolio.

Finished with FuturePoly I was still at Griptonite, working on my last days there and busting ass to get noticed in hopes to get hired fully. Friends at Griptonite supported me and rooted for me. They tried to help me as much as possible, which I am most appreciative for. Things were looking grim, and though I had asked a head of time what would amount to the end of my contract, there were too many variables for me to get an answer until the morning of my “last day.” The last day of my contract I was told it would be extended for another 2 weeks, and after that they didn’t know. That week I had received an e-mail from Arenanet, extending an offer to do an art test for their internship positions. Without a clear answer from Grip, and the chance to work on a game that reputable, I immediately accepted the challenge. Course, 1 week deadline and I have a 40 hour job, this was going to be quite the test. Other friends of mine were also offered the art test, specifically Jacob and Lyndon. Jacob and I decided to do “study groups” where he brought his laptop over at my place and we worked through out the whole night on our tests, helping each other out if we were stuck on anything, which he would then crash the night, and then rinse and repeat, we did it all over again the next day. Work was brutal running on 4 hours of sleep each night. Some nights I just didn’t sleep and would sleep in my car in Griptonite’s parking lot during my lunch hour. There was a point though, where there was a malfunction in my rendering of one of the textures. I emailed Jason at FuturePoly and he called me up first chance he got, offering to help me that day. Drove to the school where he met up with me and figured out what the problem was in half an hour. LIFE SAVER! After a week or so, Jacob and I turned our tests in. A few days later , my contract at Grip had ended and I was not extended nor hired on. So, I crossed my fingers for Arenanet.


SURPRISE! Got it. In fact, the offer was also made to Jacob and Lyndon! Hooray! GO TEAM! For scheduling purposes, they switched me to contract, which is alright by me! My first day at Arenanet was Monday. Wow. This is the business. So much art everywhere and so much talent filling up the rooms that it’s sickening! I already could tell I was going to learn so much just by being in the same room with these guys and gals. I’m part of their environment team and I sit in front of Jason, where he takes the opportunity to make fun of me, and Horia pops in from time to time smiling and telling me “don’t fuck up!” I have several friends on the character team and it’s good to finally be working with them under the same roof. I’m ecstatic and happy that my sleepless work-filled nights didn’t go to waste. Again, I am a contractor and I don’t know where it will lead me or whether or not I’ll have a permanent place here or anywhere, for that matter; but I know that I got here by not stopping and not moping, and not only not giving up, but giving it my all. I think, what people don’t realize is that if you always give it your all, you have infinite amounts to give. You can’t run out of yourself if you are the fuel that drives you, right? It’s only the intensity that varies.

The first few days…

Been working at Arenanet for the last few days and I feel like my mind is going to explode. So much to learn, so much art and talent, such a huge place; it’s hard to figure out where to start. I feel the pressure and the excitement constantly. Everyone’s been so nice and helpful there. It’s very welcoming. I just hope I can stand my ground and take on whatever needs to be done. Right now my biggest struggle is learning the tools. I’ve been learning 3D Studio Max for the last 8 months and for the most part, they work in Maya. I got a 2 hour crash course about where things are in the software, but still am having trouble remember all the material that was went over. They told me I could still use Max if I wanted to, but I figure… if they’re willing to give me the opportunity to learn Maya, and I have such a large resource of talented Maya artists around me to help, I might as well take it. Though it’s been a struggle the last few days with the learning curve, it’s still been fun. I do feel like each hour is getting easier, and that hotkeys and tool locations are starting to build up in my muscle memory, which is great! The only thing that bothers me is knowing full well that it would’ve taken me a fraction of a fraction of a fraction to model in Max what I had made in Maya. I know that no one expects me to be a Maya genius after my first week or two, but after the 4th hour of working on something and the back of your head telling you.. “You could’ve been done with this by now if it was Max” tends to be a little discouraging. So I say.. “SHUT UP, VOICES IN MY HEAD!!!” … jk.

So in the end I’ve realized that there is no end. Only constant beginnings of what lies ahead for me. Big thanks to Chu, Jason, Horia, and friends at Griptonite for always helping me and supporting me. And a congrats to Jacob, Lyndon and the other few who were able to get the internship. Much love and much art.

Pri, out. 😉

(side note: I have no hard feelings towards the faculty at AIS. I only feel that many had lectured outdated information and views about the industry; which resulted in me being unprepared and having to fend for myself when leaving the nest, as well as the curriculam being so broad that it made it difficult for me, personally, to hold onto so much information and material that was went over. There are a few teachers at AIS that I still hold in high regard, but many of my favorites have long since left the school. I wish them the best of luck.)

Some friends got me into this little contest that was held by the guys that made League of Legends. The contest was to make an entry that was pirate themed in celebration for their new character “Miss Fortune.” Originally, a friend of mine wanted to do a collab proj; I would make the concept and he would model it in 3D, then I would be the one to texture it. Well, unfortunately his computer kicked the bucket and I decided just to paint on top of my original concept and enter it anyway. Because I am a master at procrastination I didn’t start painting it till this afternoon, even though the deadline was at midnight tonight. So, with that said the paint job was a little rushed but I still like how it looks. Might need some polishing up later or something.

Was brought to my attention that the composition isn’t as dynamic as it could be.. so expect major changes in the future…

Workin in progress. Digital painting of Left 4 Dead. If you’ve played L4D as much as I have… you’ve eventually crossed this epic moment of intensity where the helicopter lands on the landing pad on the No Mercy – Roof top Level; and when playing versus… there’s always some a$$hole smoker who grabs you out of the helicopter.. or when you’re trying to make a run FOR the helicopter. Course.. this is incrediblely awesome if you are, in fact, the smoker who grabbed someone from the other team off of the helicopter. That’s when you commence to teabag them in victor…. until you get auto-shot in the face.

K, so this is me, being a nerd and writing up another video game review. If you haven’t read these before, that’s cuz I’ve posted on myspace… remember myspace? That other website that you kept checking at work when your boss wasn’t looking… yeaaa you do! Well anyway, I’m just very very compelled to write a review for Mass Effect 2. FYI, there might be spoilers, because once I start going, I keep going. But I’ll certainly do my best to at least label the spoilers for you to skip with a ***blah blah blah***.

So, here we go…

Mass Effect 2, the latest installment for a game trilogy developed by Bioware. Mass Effect 1 was somewhat revolutionary for a game, in the sense that it was a nice mix of RPG and shooter style game play, along with a very compelling story that is altered with a “choose your own adventure” twist. These undertones are continued into the sequel with a few improvements, hiccups and debatable cuts and add ons.

Gameplay: Probably the most debatable category I’m going to mention, because unfortunately it is very difficult to tailor a game to all types of gamers, but here’s my two cents…
Pros: They’ve improved the overall feel of the shooter side of the game. Firing a weapon feels a lot better. Grabbing cover is more comfortable than the first game. You have 3 powers quick-mapped to your buttons as oppose to just the one in the previous game. The new powers that different classes possess are pretty freakin awesome. There’s even some flexibility and gaining new powers and weapons that your class technically “shouldn’t” have… course, that comes at a price, and is limited. You can “sort of” climb to higher levels, instead of being stuck on the same ground level. They’ve removed the grenades, which is always sad, but at least it’s substituted with heavy artillery, such as missle launchers. Sprinting is a bit more useful and necessary than ME1. There are more reasons for encouraging a player to switch their weapon to whatever is more appropriate to the situation. They’ve added customizable armor and clothing. You have the ability to upgrade weapons, armor and even the Normandy itself. Commanding your squad is much much easier than before. You can send squad member to different flanks, something that was available on the PC version of ME1, but not the xbox 360. The AI is a bit better in combat as well… though still dumbasses that liked to stand in your way all the time when you’re in casual exploration areas, like the Citadel or other cities. They’ve added a quick map and an objective navigation guide to help you when you’re lost. They’ve made hacking computers and surveying planets a bit more entertaining, but that comes at a price when you read the con-side to things.

-Though they’ve improved the shooter-style part of the game, they’ve taken out several elements that made it an RPG… to the point that it’s heartbreaking! First thing I thought when pausing the game, “Where the fuck is my equipment menu?!?!?” They’ve replaced weapon customization with “UPGRADES,” and you can only make these upgrade changes when your in your ship. If you want more bang in your shotgun, you gotta find the research to do it and pay the resources for it, but you can’t change it after wards, although most of these upgrades are applied to all of your squad. The type of ammo you have for your gun is determined by the class your character is. Also, I did mention customizable armor, which is kind of cool and not cool at the same time. You only get new armor pieces, not full suits. So, you have to mix and match, upgrade and buy pieces to make your armor to where you want it, no biggy, but it’s just way more pricier. Also, you can’t give your squad members new armor. I guess the biggest thing is there’s NO STAT NUMBERS anywhere! Jeebus! When you look at the statements on a gun you just got, they tell you all this crap that you don’t really need to know, which makes it kind of difficult for you to choose whether or not you want it. And it’s important to know if you want a certain gun on a mission or not, because there’s a good chance you won’t be able to change it once you start your mission. All I want to know is, how much ammo does it hold, how much damage it does when shooting, what’s it’s range and accuracy. I just want numbers! Don’t tell me that “once upon a time, green aliens on mars built this gun that is now used a lot by brown aliens because they like the ‘pew pew pew’ noise it made.” Seriously, who cares? Maybe some crazy sci-fi nerds, but I’m here to play a game/watch a movie. Oh, and a last note about customization, skills and abilities and cut down to a very short list for both you and your squad members. Say good bye to skill points, and say hello to squad points. Now you’ll have to learn how to save up your points to purchase certain skills you want, and you don’t a variety to choose from like the previous game. That was my favorite part! Lame-o’s.
-I mentioned that you switch weapons a lot more, as oppose to favoring just one gun, but a big reason for that tends to be due to the fact that your RUN OUT OF AMMO! Yes, that’s right, you have ammo now, and need to constantly be looking for it. Personally, I don’t like having to frantically look around for ammo, but, I could see the extra challenge being appealing to some, and encouraging the player the try other weapons or powers to take down an enemy.
-I mentioned the surveying of planets. Well, in ME1, all you had to do is hit a button and the scanning is done for you, and you find elements automatically. In ME1 it was kind of pointless to find elements because they had no use besides perhaps earning you a little bit of money and if you find enough, gaining an achievement. Now, they have a planet scanning system. Not the funest thing in the world, but the elements you find matter and you get to purchase your upgrades with the goods you find. Now, I’m all for replacing the “planet surveying” with the new “planet scanning” system, HOWEVER, it seems they replaced, if not all then most, of planet exploration all together. They’ve made the universe a lot bigger, lot more systems and a lot more planets… BUT what’s the point if all you can’t land on any of them and drive around (with the Mako) checking out the terrain and inhabitants. I’m guessing they took that out because of players complaining about it. Bad choice though, cuz they replaced it with something more mundane and tedious.. the planet scanner!. If the planet scanner is to replace the survey system, then yay! If they expect it to replace exploration of planets in general, BOO!!! If there are more planets to explore beyond the ones that have missions attached to them, I haven’t found any, and I finished the game.
-Powers. The new powers are pretty freakin cool, but they removed a lot of the old ones that I’ve grown attached too and miss dearly. I kind of feel that a lot of the biotics lost their power and are more reliant on their weapon wielding abilities. If you’ve played ME1, you know Liara was freakin crazy… spinning 8 guys into the air and all.
-UI (User Interface) or HUD (Heads Up Display) has it’s issues. They’ve cleaned up the screen, leaving almost no UI to be seen, which can be nice, but can also be annoying. Your shields and health are organic and ever changing. They’ve ditched the omni-gel/med-pack healing system that was in ME1, and just have a constant regeneration healing system, something that’s seen often shooters. With this new system, it’s difficult to tell how much damage you’re taking on until you’re already at a critical stage. Which the screen then turns read with some crappy tree-roots or veins spiderwebbing the screen, making your chances of surviving even less likely cuz you can’t see where you’re going or what’s shooting at you. I personally prefer the old method of omni-gel/med-pack healing, along with the original life bar and shields bar. It also was easier to read when it came to my other squad members. In ME2, I couldn’t tell my other squad members were hurt until they were already dead. That almost never happened when for me in ME1, because I was constantly aware of my squad member status. Also, they have a map and navigation system which is pretty nifty, though with the nice level design done, it’s not really necessary. Things I’m missing though is the old enemy radar scanner that let you knew how many enemies and where their locations were on a radar screen. Knowing things were clear when there were no more red dots.

Some mixed feelings about the graphics, but though it might sound like I’m nit-picking, that’s because I am! Ha! If something looks great in general, of course you’re gonna have to nit pick! Anywho, one thing I’ve noticed is they finally got that evil bug fixed! Well, for the most part anyway. In ME1 there was this terrible bug that had textures (mainly normal maps) popping into any new scene a couple seconds too late. It didn’t ruin ME1, but it was incredibly annoying. Well, they’ve fixed it, though later on in the final stages of the game I’ve noticed a few texture pops here and there, but only briefly and no where near as distracting as it was before. Pretty much, something that might as well go unnoticed. Looks like lighting and rendering has a more finished look than ME1 did, though I’ve noticed… it seems that the characters have higher amounts of polys than the first game, but lower resolution diffuse maps (colored textures). I’m seeing a lot more jaggies and pixilation in upclose textures than I remember in the first one, but I can only speculate that maybe they dropped the resolutions in textures to perhaps fix the texture popping issue, as stated earlier? Perhaps, but who really knows, besides Bioware. On another note, if the first game had a theme color, it would be a Cyan/bluish color.. with ME2, they’ve really embraced the orange. Everything seems to be washed with an undertone of orange, and all of UI/HUD and loading images are predominantly orange. I don’t have a problem with it, just thought I should mention it. It gives the game a warmer and darker tone to it. And by dark, I mean it just seems more “serious” than futuristic feeling that electric blue had. Meh, whatever, at least it’s not like “300”.. haha, “Madness? THIS… IS…SHEPARDDD!!!!” I also noticed they’ve added a lot more particles into the atmosphere. Fog, smoke and even floating dust specks. The new worlds you go to, even just standing in the Normandy looking out to space, is just amazing to the point that it’s distracting! I can’t NOT stop and look around and the detail that they put into the environments. Even just looking up into the sky, seeing a couple of moons about to pass a blue sun is just awesome and somewhat jaw-dropping. Overall, I like the new look.

For the most part, everything seems bigger and better (cept the Citadel). Even the Normandy is a lot larger, though kind of annoying, in the sense that it’s so big, and you have to frequently talk to your crew members that are scattered on the different floors.. that’s a lot of elevator rides you have to go through. Oh and by the way, you silly silly elevator haters, you! Bioware got a lot of crap from gamers complaining about the long elevator trips your character would take. Well, now they took those out, but you have to watch a stupid loading sequence of the elevator going up and down every single time. I feel it disrupts game flow and is less entertaining than having your character(s) in the elevator. Back to my mentioning of the Citadel, ok, well I’ll give them credit that they at least mentioned that it was still being rebuilt from the attack from Sovereign in the first game, but my goodness. Sometimes I feel the Normandy is bigger than the Citadel. That and there’s not much to do there. I quickly bought out all of the stores the first time I visited. The club has nothing of interest there, unless you want to see raving asari, and they don’t have glow sticks! What a crime! The Citadel’s only saving grace is ***you can buy a space hamster! Yep that’s right, a space hamster. Though, he doesn’t really do much once you own him, but the little squeak he makes puts a smile on my face each time. Whatever, make fun of my if you want, but it’s a freakin SPACE HAMSTER!!! Aka SPACE AWESOMSTER!!!*** Oh, I do have a little bit of a beef though with combat levels… a lot of the times, because they’ve tuned your character to look for cover constantly, that it sometimes bites you in the ass. Like if you’re in the critical zone of getting killed and you trying to back away from your enemies, but you die anyway, because you’ve got hung up on all the geometry that’s around Shepard that’s meant to be used as cover, that or, you grab cover, but Shepard locks onto the wrong side of the block you’re trying to hide behind, and you get killed. For the most part, that’s 90% of the reasons why I died. *sigh* Oh well, I’m not a programmer, so besides just being careful when you play, I don’t see much that they can do about that.

Lots of new characters! Characters Galore! Some more interesting than others, though I end up still loving my original friends (from ME1) the most. The voice actors are amazing, and many recognizable voices, for instance Martin Sheen. You have many characters to choose from in your squad, although choosing them is not as simples as it use to be. They’re defined by the skills/powers they possess, the weapons they can handle and their level of loyalty towards you. Gaining loyalty in a character means extra side missions, with bonuses from that character once they are “loyal” to you.*** A lot more romance options than the first game, even with some characters from the first game! You might want to converse with the Dr. Mordin about cross-species intercourse, as well. His advice is simply golden comedy. On another case, there’s one character though that stands out like a sore thumb. A merc named Zaeed. There’s no point of him being there. He doesn’t have much of a back story and meeting him was no effort like all the other characters. He’s pointless, and annoying. You don’t even really get to talk to him like all the other characters from your crew. But he’ll go on long-ass rants about his belongings. “oh, that’s my favorite gun, isn’t she a beaut! Blah blah blah blah.”***
The NPCs (Non-Playable Character) in this game are HILARIOUS. I recommend just walking around and standing next to some characters and eavesdrop on their conversation. For the most part, I find myself cracking up. So, walk around, explore, and keep an open ear for some entertainment!

Story: Mass Effect comes back with revenge and a darker persona. The over all theme to both story and graphics is much darker than its predecessor. Every character has a skeleton in their closet. There’s also a lot more blood, actually thinking about it… I don’t even remember there being any blood in the first game. The first game you’re mainly killing off machines (Geth). The second game there’s a lot of organic aliens and humans getting shot, shredded, bludgeoned, impaled ect. Writers are no longer restricting themselves and are letting loose on the dialogue. Character speech is more aggressive, and I’m not just talking about throwing in a few curse words here and there. The characters have an attitude, coldness and crass tone with and a strong desire to kick some ass… which they end up doing. Even all your beloved characters from the first game have a harsher outlook on life after the first game.
It’s amazing, seriously, utterly, amazing how seamless they’ve matched up the decisions you’ve made in ME1 work with ME2. Even decisions you’ve made somewhat subconsciously that you probably don’t even remember, get thrown in the churner of ME2 and ends up being a bigger impact on your mission than you could’ve ever predicted. You end up meeting A LOT of characters in ME2 that you previously interacted with in ME1, and depending on how you treated that character, they’ll be holding on to those fond memories, or bitter grudges in ME2. Now, it makes me wonder if I’ve made the right decisions in ME2 and what repercussions they’ll have ME3. Speaking of decision making, they aren’t all as clear cut as it use to be. Decisions are no longer black in white. ***In ME1, for the most part, the choices you made could easily predict the outcome, for example the choice of Ashley and Kaiden. Choosing who to rescue made an obvious outcome of the death of one of your crew. In ME2, however, it’s not as clear cut. Any one from your team can die, even yourself. It’s the string of little tiny decisions you make then will end up biting you in the end. Course, when I lost a crew member it was pretty upsetting for me, because it was completely out of my control and took me by surprise. But, as I said earlier, the writers are no longer restricting themselves. Their cutting themselves loose and taking no prisoners. Anything goes at this point. For that, though I’ll miss my dear squad member, it definitely adds drama, depth and reality to the story and the intensity of the battle. He/She will be missed.***
The big picture, ME2’s main story isn’t as compelling as ME1, but looking at it as a full trilogy, it still works, and is still great. Comparing the story from ME1 and ME2, ME1 keeps you tied in with every new and unfolding secrete and clue, trying to find your enemy. There were twists and every time you put down the game it was like a cliff-hanger. ME2 has some of those elements, but not as much and not as well developed. HOWEVER, Looking at ME1 and ME2 together, as whole… ME2 is only a setup for ME3. The calm before the storm, perhaps? I guess, looking back at 7th grade English class, you had the beginning, middle and end of the story. The beginning was the set up: introducing the main protagonists and antagonists, along with the basis of the plot; some exciting stuff. The middle: the journey, the action, the plot thickening, meeting new characters and new enemies that may or may not join the hero at the final countdown. The End: The “climax” of the story. The final battle, all questions answered, for M. Knight Shyamalan, this is where he throws in the twist. The conclusion, and closure. Pretty much what I’m expecting for ME3. Anyway, sorry about my tangent. As I was saying, ME2 is that “middle” part of the story. Lots more action, the new characters, a mini twist to the truth about your enemies and the preparation for the ultimate, final battle. Missions are kind of “bleh” because they feel more like “side projects” rather than growth for your main mission. Though they’re necessary, they don’t grow organically with the main story/mission at hand.
Though Bioware claims that this game is a stand-alone, and playing ME1 is not necessary… true, but for me, the story suffers, because it is that middle part with no real established beginning or ending. ME2 is an alright game, but playing ME1 makes it a great game. Playing ME2 without the first game feels like watching the second season to LOST without the first season. I DEFINITELY recommend playing ME1 BEFORE ME2. Why? Because your attachments to the characters (even your own character) and mission in the second game is much stronger when these relationships are built in the first. You get more excited when you see a character you recognize from the first game, as oppose to having to re-learn who they are if you haven’t played ME1. The missions that unfold in the second game that are based from the decisions made in the first, are now meaningless if you haven’t played ME1. Pretty much, you are detached from this already established world, and everything that resurfaces from the first game in the second has no weight to it. Please… play the first game before you pick ME2 up. And please… play ME2 before they release ME3.

Conclusion: I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. They took some things out that were in the first game with good intentions due to player feedback. However, some of the things they’ve replaced or substituted for the so called “issues” tend to be worse, or rather than improve the issues, they just completely removed them, making you miss the “good old days.” My biggest beef, the removal of so many elements that gave the game its RPG title, due to so much focus on the Shooter side. The things that were already great in the first game are bigger, better and flat out spectacular in ME2. Graphics improved, combat improved (though a bit disorienting at first), and 98% of the nasty bugs seen in ME1 are fixed. Over all, Mass Effect 2 is a pretty good game, but it mainly plays out as an awesome addition to the first game. Mass Effect 2 = alright… The Mass Effect series = epic. When Mass Effect 3 comes out, my xbox is going to burst into flames of awesome.

Have a good one,


Ps- sorry for any misspellings or word typos… this review is too long and I’m too lazy to proof-read. Heh. 😛