Tag Archives: Mass Effect

My Games of the Year – 2017

And so 2017 starts to disappear into the past like a ship sailing off towards the horizon. It has been, I think it’s fair to say, an amazing year to be a fan of video games, with arguably some of the greatest titles ever made gracing us over the last twelve months. Filled as I am with a sense of recent nostalgia, I have decided to provide a list of my top five favourite games of the last year. These are all titles that I have played and been released since the start of 2017 though please bear in mind that whilst in most cases I own all of the big games of this year, the number that I’ve actually played is much lower due to life and so forth.

So, without further rambling, and in customary reverse order…

5: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8
Proof that once, just once, I was good enough at Mario Kart 8 to beat real-life Internet people.

Okay, I realise this is a little bit of a cheat because this is really just a repackaged version of the Wii U game that came out a few years ago, but still, very few titles bring the sheer sense of enjoyment with that Mario Kart evokes. MK8 is, in many ways, emblematic of the modern Nintendo of the last few years, showing that they’ve finally embraced the more hardcore fans who, let’s face it, are about the only ones who bought the Wii U (I’m including myself here), whilst also continuing to make everything utterly accessible. Mario Kart has always been great, and MK8 is the best of them so far. The Deluxe version improves on the original by adding some much-needed proper battle modes, and allowing for two power-ups to be held at once, which adds an extra level of strategy to the game. Plus, the fact that it’s on the Switch means that you can take it wherever you like, which, you know, is a good thing.

4: Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect: Andromeda
In space, no one can see you park badly.

I really never understood the hate this got from some people. Sure, at launch some of the character faces were in equal parts ridiculous and terrifying, and, yes, there were an awful lot of Dragon Age Inquisition-esque quests that involved me just flying around to various places checking off lists of items, but ME:A was great. I’ve loved the combat in the ME games since the second instalment, and this is the best it has ever been. The story, though is does take a little while to get started, is deep and involving. So much so, in fact, that it seems such a shame that in all likelihood we’ll never get to see a straight sequel (in game form, at least), and that we will never get to return to the Andromeda galaxy and uncover more of it.

3: Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn
Look at those trees! They look just like trees!

I wasn’t expecting this to be any good. I’ve played a couple of the Killzone games that Guerrilla Games were previously known for and, whilst they were technically impressive, they left a lot to be desired i

n terms of fun. As such, whilst I knew Horizon would be pretty, I wasn’t convinced it would actually be any good. How wrong I was.

A distillation of concepts and mechanics from other titles, refined, honed and coupled with a marvellously-well-realised setting featuring a fantastic lead character, Horizon is a masterpiece. Combat is deep, exploration is fun, and the storyline compelling. It is, in short, very difficult to find anything to dislike about this. In any other year, this would probably have come top of the list, but, well…

2: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Zelda: Breath of the Wild
View from Death Mountain.


What is there to say about Breath of the Wild that hasn’t already been said? I’m not quite convinced that it is the best game of all time, as some have claimed, but it’s pretty damned close. A reinvention of the Zelda formula, taking it more towards the Western RPG form, Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in how to design an open-world title. Not having a great deal of patience, I wasn’t sure how I’d react to a world without markers and points of interest, but I had not reckoned on BotW‘s ability to draw you in, to make it seem as if there is something around every corner just waiting to be discovered. Sure, if you distil it down to its constituent components it seems remarkably light-weight, but the way it has been combined makes it marvellous.

I’m about 60 hours into the game and I’ve still to uncover a good quarter of the map, or complete the main quest-line. The fact that, at this point, I don’t want it to end speaks volumes. What a game.

1: Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey
It’s Mario as a pirate. What other reason do you need to play this game?

I don’t think I’ve been as excited about the release of a game as I was for Super Mario Odyssey in years. It did not disappoint. Pretty much every mainline Mario game (yes, even Sunshine) is a masterpiece, but Odyssey manages to out-do most of them. This really is something that you need to play to understand just what makes it so good. From the controls, with Mario more fun to just move around the screen than I remember in any game, to the settings, to the wry humour, this is just astonishingly good.

I’ll admit that Breath of the Wild is ostensibly the better game, but Odyssey is more fun. It takes everything that was great about the previous 3D Mario games, removes some of the lesser parts, and then adds more greatness to it. One of those rare titles that makes you feel privileged to play it.

And so, there you go: my favourite games of the last twelve months. Many thanks for taking the time to read this, and my best wishes to you for a very happy new year. See you at some point in 2018!

On… Mass Effect Andromeda

Let’s get this out of the way from the start: the facial animations haven’t bothered me in the slightest. Okay, okay, character models seemed more detailed in the likes of The Witcher 3 but, a ‘dead eyes’ problem aside, Mass Effect Andromeda is perfectly serviceable in this regard. It could be better, yes, but it’s nowhere near as bad as some people might make you think.

So, anyway, with that out of the way, let’s talk Andromeda. As a huge fan of the previous games in the series I was awaiting this with breath so baited I could have used it to catch perch. Am I disappointed, like many people seem to be? No. Yes. No. Maybe. Look, it’s complicated. Maybe the best way to look at Andromeda is to consider not what it is, but what it isn’t.

Just give me a car and a a desert, and I’ll give you a lot of ‘wheeeee’s and some tyre-tracks.

Andromeda isn’t Mass Effect 4. Well, I mean, it is, obviously, but it also isn’t. The fictional universe is very much Mass Effect but the story doesn’t follow on from the ending of ME3. Rather, this follows a separate story of a group of humans, turians, salarians, asari and krogan who have decided that the Milky Way is a bit too cramped for them, and thus decided to bugger off to the nearby-in-galactic-terms-but-not-exactly-next-door Andromeda galaxy. After six hundred years of cryogenic sleep, the hardy (and some not-so-hardy) pioneers awake to find that their long-range scans seem to have been about as accurate as a ten-day weather forecast, and crash headlong into a weird wibbly-wobbly space thingy that someone had inconveniently parked in their way.

This is much more a game about exploration and discovery, and as a result perhaps lacks the focus of the original trilogy with it’s more obvious threat and narrative drive. This, I think, is likely to turn a few people off but, for more, I found it a refreshing change of pace from the original titles.

Andromeda also isn’t an open-world game. This is no Skyrim or The Witcher 3 with vast open areas to explore and do as you wish. The game very much takes its cues from Bioware’s last major release, Dragon Age Inquisition, with its multitude of large-ish open areas with multiple quests. Some of the quests are interesting and provide a decent back-story, but, it must be said, a few too many of them revert to the MMORPG form of ‘go here, press a button, go there, press the button again, repeat eight times until the quest progress bar is full’. Compared to the likes of The Witcher 3 or even, to a lesser extent, Fallout 4 the side-quests can be pretty weak.

The game suffers a little bit from a lack of places to explore. Whether it’s just because I haven’t reached the appropriate point in the game yet (though given that I’m 20-odd hours into it that seems unlikely), but whilst there is a big number of worlds that can be visited in the not-quite-as-good-as-the-Normandy-but-still-pretty-cool-Tempest, the majority of these cannot be explored on foot. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem were it not for the fact that the whole emphasis of the game is on exploration and finding a new home, yet you find yourself restricted by a set of rules hidden behind the scenes. Why is it I can land on this frozen planet but not this other one? The answer, probably, is just because a map exists for one and not the other. I realise it would have been incredibly difficult to implement, but just from the perspective of the game as a whole, procedural-generation of planets allowing them to be explorable, even if there wasn’t a whole lot that could be done there, would have improved the game massively.

See that mountain in the distance? You can’t go there.

Finally, Andromeda also isn’t a fully-tested game. Even in the patch version 1.05 that landed (at time of writing) yesterday, there are still issues. Most annoying for me, playing on PS4 Pro, are the occasionally-strobing menu backgrounds and the almost-five-minute waiting times when loading a save that took place whilst in the Nomad all-terrain-vehicle. I’ve not yet encountered anything that fundamentally breaks the game, nor had any crashes, but I can’t help feeling that another two weeks in the oven would have benefited the title.

Still, even after all that, Mass Effect Andromeda is a very good game. The combat is the best it’s ever been, even if the more ‘open’ nature of the game means that there are fewer set-piece combat moments where everything has been tuned to work together. Ryder is a likeable protagonist, with a more fleshed-out background than Shepard had in the original trilogy. I’ve not played enough of the game yet to fully comment on the storyline, but of what I have played I’ve found it decent enough and, as mentioned earlier, a good thematic change from the previous games.

TL;DR: If you liked Mass Effects 1-3 you will like this. You might not love it, and it certainly isn’t as good as it’s predecessors, but I’m enjoying it immensely.