Escape Pod of Love

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for some conversations with Suvi and for Jaal’s companion story

Butch:

MAN what a busy assed week it’s been. Just got back from taking kids to before school sports, the bus, preschool, and the store.

Doesn’t life know I want to PLAY GAMES?

I played a little? I think? It seems, like, a century ago. Kids were nuts, I was busy as all hell, kids were nuts. Did I mention kids were nuts? They were nuts.

I tried to start PB’s mission, and found the scavenger, and I went to talk to her and she was being all feely and I worried it would turn into hot Asari sex and there were people there so I quit out.

So I’m gonna go do that conversation so I can play later.

I’m tired.

Feminina:

I had computer problems this morning so I’m only just getting into my email.

Computers: It’s all fun and games until suddenly your files have vanished and it takes IT 3 hours to recover them. At least they WERE recoverable.

I can say that Peebee’s mission promises a bit of excitement. People to chase, robots to track down. There’s another decision moment there that we can talk about.

Butch:

I wish I could play.

I DID do the conversation with PB, there was no Asari sex. Then I did the Jaal meet the family thing, which was nice. I liked that. Calm. But no sex.

Sigh.

Feminina:

Jaal’s finale was nice. I do wonder, as with Cora’s big scene, what this would have been like if you’d been Jaal’s lover. Would people have been more all bustling around checking you out and welcoming you to the family and stuff?

It was still good. Calm. And nice that Jaal still has this connection, and a nice depiction, really, of a functional family (albeit not, to most of us, a conventional one). Things may suck in a lot of ways, but this group of parents and siblings still hang together and support one another. Making it especially nice that we didn’t have to kill Jaal’s briefly-Roekaar siblings.

Butch:

Yeah, I thought that, too. It had so many trappings of “Meeting the family” that I didn’t want to do it for fear this was a “romance or break heart” kind of deal. Indeed, when I was back there in his room I thought “Uh oh…here it comes…”

But no. All fine.

I even hugged his mom.

Feminina:

Oh, see, by the time I did this scene, I was already committed to Peebee, and so, with the magical perceptiveness of BioWare characters, everyone else had completely stopped flirting with me and I didn’t expect anything.

Actually I guess this would not be so much magical perceptiveness as ‘living on a tiny ship where you literally cannot help knowing who’s spending the night in the Pathfinder’s quarters because you probably bumped into her going there while you were coming out of the bathroom.’ Like a dorm. So, in fact, this was a touch of realism.

I like to imagine that Jaal really did only ever think of me as a dear, dear friend (he’s just super expressive about it!), and so we are able to continue being dear, dear friends without it having anything to do with my relationship with Peebee.

Butch:

Oh, I expected something. The quest, I think, was called “Meet the family.” Damn. And mama there was as gushing as a Jewish mother whose kid finally brings home a human.

There is that about the touch of realism, though. Maybe that’s why they don’t seem to know I’m banging PB. She doesn’t sleep in the crew quarters, so there’s no “Hey….um…is she staying up late again?” Anyone else, their absence would be rather apparent.

But anyway, we got the same scene, and you were committed to PB and I wasn’t committed to anyone (Suvi and I are still in the flirty stages). So maybe it’s a “you’re either together or you aren’t” deal.

Feminina:

Still, Suvi and Kallo are both RIGHT THERE when you go into Peebee’s escape pod. They have to suspect something. “We seem to hear a lot of chaste moaning coming out of that pod when they go in there for work meetings…”

Nah, I’m kidding, I’m sure it’s soundproof. And you have work meetings with all the crewmembers all the time about their various concerns, so it could be anything.

Get your minds out of the gutter, people! Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s justified speculation.

Butch:

Oh, shit, I forgot about that. Damn. Probably shouldn’t have gotten a friend with benefits right by the woman I’m falling for. Bad planning.

Ryder’s a terrible person.

I could say the moaning is…POC creaking! That’s it. We’re just…oiling POC.

If you know what I mean.

Feminina:

Oh, I know what you mean. The whole crew knows what you mean. Good thing Suvi is either incredibly innocent or incredibly forgiving.

Butch:

I’m going with innocent. Poor thing.

You missed this, as you aren’t as charming as I am, but the second flirty scene, Suvi shares some Milky Way tea with you. Tea. Not whiskey, not beers, tea. She drinks tea.

So cute.

And why I think going for her is in character. She IS naive and hopeful. She STILL looks on the universe as beautiful, a place where anything is possible, and that’s how I’m playing Ryder.

I also think this is why she’s the only romancable character (I’m assuming that Reyes was just there to bang, so, too, the reporter) who doesn’t have a loyalty mission. She’s not someone who has to shoot a bunch of things up (or have you shoot a bunch of things up) to love you. She loves you not because you both went through something awful together, but because you both share boundless optimism. If she DID have some mission where you had to shoot a bunch of stuff, that wouldn’t work for her character or yours.

Feminina:

On the contrary, I’m SO charming that even though I wasn’t flirting with her anymore by then, she still shared her tea with me.

But I like your analysis of why her lack of a special mission works for her character. She doesn’t need you to do anything to be ‘loyal,’ she’s just sincerely dedicated to the mission, the hope you represent, the optimism…yeah, that’s nice. You’re right, she’s very sweet.

Butch:

Wait, you got tea? Did you get the trigger pull to kiss her?

Oh, who am I kidding? You wouldn’t have noticed if you did.

Feminina:

Dude. DUDE.

There are many things I do not notice. I would have noticed a kiss option. And no, I did not have one.

Remember, you didn’t get a kiss option with Reyes, and I didn’t cast aspersions on your ability to notice it!

Probably it was based on how much we’d each flirted with them previously.

Butch:

Fair point, fair point. I forgot to whom I was speaking. I apologize.

And true, I did not get to smooch Reyes. Maybe the game knows I am a tender soul and you are but a rogue.

Though this wasn’t an option. It was one of those QTEs. ! KISS

! KISS is a pretty good

T SHIRT!!!!!!

Feminina:

Oh, true, I do have a poor track record on the QTEs in this game…it’s not because I fail to notice those, though, I just fail to hit them in time. There’s a difference.

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This Post Reports No Conflicts of Interest (But Call Us!)

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the Reyes/Kadara/Charlatan quest and the ‘first baby’ quest in Mass Effect: Andomeda

Butch:

Oh Reyes you charlatan, you!

That was one of the twists that you think “Ok, I’m really stupid for not seeing that coming.” I should have seen that coming. I really should have. More on that in a bit.

So choice wise, saved Sloane, didn’t shoot Reyes, so he’s out there somewhere, after giving me a jaunty wave, and I’m “allied” with Sloane, I guess. Whatever gets me an outpost. Which I have. Whoo hoo!

So I was thinking “Why didn’t I see that coming? That was so obvious! Am I stupid? Am I getting stupid?” and I realized: It was because of the flirting. I can’t think of ANY game that lets you flirt with a character who has his/her own agenda for flirting with you. You don’t get PLAYED in games! If the NPC is flirting back, if you have a heart option, if you can pull the trigger to KISS (yes, I did, not ashamed) then that NPC is a GOOD guy, or at least an open book. Once you’re flirting in a game, there’s just NO CHANCE that the NPC is doing anything OTHER than flirting back because you’re awesome. They don’t flirt to trick you. But Reyes did.

And the GAME did! Because there were, maybe, 394832755 heart dialog choices. SO MANY! More with him than I’ve had with Suvi! The game was lulling us into that false sense of security! On purpose, I think!

I think reason number 5927538203 I like Morrigan so much is that, before this, she came the closest to a love/sex interest that had her own agenda for being with you. You played that as a woman, so you didn’t get the same impact of her asking you to be the father of evil demon baby, but that was a pretty punchy moment if you were a male character, especially if you romanced her. There was a lot of ambiguity as to whether her come ons (if you didn’t romance her) or her professions of love (if you did) were genuine or if she was doing all of it just to get you to father demon baby. So that came close, but it stayed ambiguous. She COULD have loved you, it could have been genuine….Reyes? Nope. You got PLAYED.

And that was cool.

Feminina:

I know! I should have seen that coming! As soon as I saw him there I was like “oh, of course, you!”–but I didn’t suspect. I think you’re right, he distracted us with the flirting. We’re not used to people flirting with us for other reasons besides us being awesome (or us being their boss and them possibly being afraid they’ll get fired…ahem, workplace flirtations). Well played, game.

And see, at that point I was angry at being played, so I DID shoot him, but it didn’t kill him, he got up and escaped anyway. Later I got an email saying “I thought you’d be upset, but shooting me in the back? That’s cold. Still, I’ll always remember that fun night at the party,” or something. (I also kissed him. And since it faded to black, who knows how far that went?)

So he’s still out there and apparently doesn’t hold it against me, although he probably wouldn’t hesitate to shoot ME in the back if it served his purposes. But then, being the charlatan, that was probably always true. And I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sloane, but I couldn’t just stand there and let her get ambushed, so that was when I sided with her too. She wasn’t all bad…sort of. (And I liked her second in command, that turian, and was upset when he was beaten to within an inch of his life, so I wasn’t the biggest fan of the charlatan and the Collective either. One of those ‘there’s no really good option here’ choices.) I told her “no more heads on spikes!” and she grudgingly agreed, so, you know, maybe with my influence Kadara will become halfway decent.

It’s what I do. Try to make things marginally less terrible.

Butch:

An Outlook issue unfortunately ate Butch’s brilliant response, but it included the following points:

  • never got another chance to romance Reyes, just the smooch to ‘create a diversion’
  • also liked the turian and that was bad they beat him up, although we kill hundreds of dudes a day so what does that say about us?
  • did the ‘first baby’ story; sent them all to Eos; felt they didn’t do as much with that story as they could have

Feminina:

You never got another chance? What else did you do at that party? I did the ‘diversion smooch,’ but then later that evening we were sitting and talking and looking at the stars or whatever, and there was a kiss option that led to a fadeout. I wonder how you missed that. Maybe he just didn’t like you as much as he liked me. It’s probably my adorable pixie cut.

As for him beating up dudes and us killing dudes…well…see…the thing about that is…hey, look over there! A plot point!

It’s true, the baby story wasn’t as involved as it could have been. Although really I don’t know exactly how many ways they could have taken it. I mean, I totally get that we shouldn’t be having babies yet, we’re not ready, etc., and if there was a choice where you could allow or forbid the woman to become pregnant, that would be one thing, but she just HAD the baby. It’s not as if they’re going to give us a choice to either let her keep it, or toss it out the airlock as a drain on resources.

I suppose we COULD have forced her to put it in a stasis pod…that would actually have been kind of an interesting moral dilemma. Taking a newborn away from its parents is obviously terrible, but is letting it out there to be raised in an incredibly dangerous environment better? And yet, hasn’t every baby ever born been raised in an environment that was, to one degree or another, dangerous?

Hm. Well, they didn’t make us decide that. Anyway, I also sent them all to Eos.

Butch:

That would have been an interesting choice! But no, never saw more conversation options with Reyes at the party.

If you’re at 100% on a planet, you’re done, right? Cuz I’m at 100% on everywhere but Voeld, where I’m at 84%.

Getting there……..

Feminina:

Oh, you poor, innocent thing…OF COURSE you can keep getting quests for planets even after they’re at 100% viability! Why would “100%” signal some kind of closing point? That’s just silly!

I think getting planets to 100% may have something to do with how many settlers are available in the end to help you with end things, because this is BioWare, but people can still give you missions on those planets, because this game is endless. You can probably ignore many of them, though.

It sounds like you’re pretty well on course to ignore a lot of extraneous stuff and charge towards the end, so go you!

That’s so weird about Reyes at the party…I wonder what I did differently that I got the heart option? I had been flirting with him pretty hardcore from the beginning…maybe you missed one flirt option somewhere, and that made him think you didn’t REALLY like him? These suave dudes are very sensitive, you know.

Butch:

Oh not in regards to quests. I’ve been ignoring so many. No, I mean that’s all the monoliths, right? Vaults? Running from smoke monsters?

Feminina:

Oh, that, yes. 100% is all the “making this place habitable” remnant magic stuff. After that it’s just running around looking for great-grandad’s handaxe.

Man, I miss that thing. Sniffle.

Butch:

And hitting rocks. FOR SCIENCE!

OK, good. We’re almost done with monoliths.

I can start to see what probably isn’t the end.

Feminina:

Damn it I miss those rocks! And scanning bodies! I never did scan all the bodies.

Thanks for opening up old wounds, man.

There were no hexagons! I would have obsessively tracked down every single one of those body-scanning (sounds like I was looking for a job with TSA) etc. tasks if there’d been hexagons, but if you don’t give me a quest marker, I’m out. There are limits even for me.

Butch:

Dude, the bodies DO have hexagons. Indeed, the only way I remember which forward station is the one by the slums is that it has two hexagons right by it representing unscanned bodies.

(Sorry. Probably shouldn’t have told you that.)

Or that I’m making the first pie of the season and the house smells great.

Homeownership tip: Nothing goes with the percolating of radiators quite like the smell of pie.

You’re gonna love it.

Feminina:

Oh no, not those bodies. I did scan those. I mean the bodies on Eos, long ago. Remember, when you’re supposed to scan all the bodies from the original colony that was wiped out by kett, to identify them for the survivors or whatever?

No guidance. No closure.

It IS going to be the weekend. Maybe I’ll make my own damn pie!

But probably not.

Butch:

Oh man! I forgot about those! That was, like, 200 playing hours ago!

Maybe you can’t finish it. Maybe the people who made the game were like “After all that, let’s make them finish with a task they got in the first half hour of the game!”

I may have pie, but I’m also increasing my gas bill. Cuz, you know, when you own you pay for your heat and…..

Oops. Heh. I mean, you’re gonna love it.

Feminina:

Enh, we pay for our heat now. Quite a bit, since the apartment is full of windows, which is great for natural lighting and breeze in the summer, but not so great for drafts in the winter.

We don’t pay for water…but how much can we really drink? Right?

Butch:

Water is a nice, cheap bill. It is. 

Well, it’s cheap until your kid gets to that age where he’s taking four hour showers. Or so.

We just had our most expensive water bill since last year, when we were watering our lawn during a drought.

Junior’s gotta speed up.

Feminina:

Can you get a programmable thermostat for your water heater, so it will turn off after, say, two and a half hours? Cold water is cheaper! Enjoy that refreshing and character-building icy shower!

Butch:

Dunno. We don’t have a water heater. We have one of those all in one super efficient furnaces.

Feminina:

Ah, that’s tough…you don’t want to have to chill the entire house to make him get out of the shower. Ah well.

Butch:

Great furnace though.

See? You’ll know about furnace quality soon!

You’re gonna love it.

Don’t worry, everyone. We have enough to play that this won’t turn into a furnace blog.

But in the meantime, I heartily recommend a Buderus.

(PFTL is not sponsored by Buderus Boilers, Inc.)

(But we can be bought.)

Feminina:

“All the video game and furnace discussions you could ever want!”

Butch:

Dude, someone wants to pay us, I’ll talk about any damn thing.

Well, as long as we still have time to talk about games. And nudity!

Phew. It’s been a while since a nudity derailment.

Feminina:

“This FURNACE will keep your house so cozy, you can play VIDEO GAMES in the NUDE all winter long!”

We’ll be hitting the keywords like nobody’s business.

Hosta Jokes You Will Never Know

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Buttons_64Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers, because those jokes are lost forever

Buttons:

I finally finished ME:A! Omg that thing was big. This one took a while to draw me in… Yes, I enjoyed the character chatter while in the Nomad, but it didn’t grab me until late game. Also the gameplay didn’t grab me until a few things happened: I filled all my passive powers and started paying attention to and using my active abilities, I discovered the… I don’t know what to call it – jetpack boost? When you’re jumping and you can hit the jetpack button – whatever that is.

Last, I really wasn’t enjoying the Nomad until I got to H-047c and then Elaaden. It took me a LONG time to figure out the ‘change the chassis height’ (or whatever it was) that allowed me to climb steep slopes with ease. These gameplay features combined with the late-game dialogue finally sold me and I really started to enjoy myself. Still unhappy with comparing weapons/armor and upgrading them; wasn’t a fan of how that was implemented. Also, I stopped checking merchants about 1/16th of the way in since it seemed like one, they never had anything better than what I already did, and two, my crafting abilities seemed to always stay ahead of whatever they were selling. Considering I had no incentive to update/upgrade my weapons more than a handful of times money was largely useless to me. Maybe a different difficulty level would have made a difference.

I should maybe eventually graduate to talking not only about the parts that caused me friction that I’m critical of, and maybe start writing more about the parts I liked. Hmm.

I played some of the Star Wars Battlefront II beta on XboxOne this weekend; not much at all but wow – they are really trying to make up for the lack of content in the first one. Good work to them!

Butch:

I’m STILL not finished with MEA and I never will be because I don’t believe either one of you about it actually having an ending. I’m still at “Journey to Meridian,” but I’ve done all the loyalty quests but PB’s, and I have all the outposts. I completely agree with your thoughts, especially the merchants. Pointless. And the gear. I made two cool guns and that’s it. Done. Which also makes mining worthless (Shut UP about that, SAM) as well as money.

Man, not doing the whole all terrain thing? Must have taken you ages to get anywhere. I can see that being annoying. Shit, I get annoyed when it’s a long drive.

But I’m keeping at the game! I am! But it is infinite. I will never play anything else ever again ever.

General complaint: Femmy is leaving all my best jokes about her buying a house off the blog. She’s gonna love it.

Feminina:

I know, all the hosta jokes got lost…I left out the first set of house discussions because the post that day was already too long, and then the second set didn’t make any sense because the first wasn’t there, and then before you know it we’re 20 strings deep in hosta callbacks and I can never post them because they’ll be meaningless without the previous messages and I am never going to get around to pasting all the previous 20 strings in…it got away from me.

There were some good hosta jokes, though. And spruce! I was determined to turn the tiny lawn into a mini spruce forest for a while. Alternatively, we could always just pave it over and paint it green, which was my earliest attempt at conquering the issue of yardwork.

NPC Life

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the Kadara outpost story and the salerian spy quest in Mass Effect: Andromeda

Butch:

Ok, stuff got done. Reyes WAS in the bar! I guess you always can locate suave vaguely Latin dudes.

Did his thing with the lady smuggler (when WILL these folks stop saying “Kill them!” Haven’t they figured that means they’ll die in 10 seconds?).

Did the end of the Salarian traitor bit (had the guy arrested. I mean, dude…) and Kallo approved, so I’m guessing you let him go cuz Kallo got pissed at you. What did you learn? (I liked that quest, as the choice was neat, as was the whole imposter thing, but, gotta say, I wish some of these “investigate” quests would let you actually SOLVE things, or, at least, make your best judgment on the facts. This one still ended with you knowing who did what. The whole “First Murderer” thing did, too. It TOLD you that the dude shot first but missed. So you had these moral decisions, ok, fine, but it took away the whole investigatory detective aspect that WAS the quest until then. Which is a shame.)

Now I’m about to go to a party with Reyes. Whoo hoo! I hope it’s the “fancy dress ball” bit. I’ve been flirting with him, too, because, well, suave vaguely Latin guy. Gotta stay in character.

I wonder how this part would’ve gone down with a male Ryder. Even if we weren’t flirting, this sure looks like I’m either a) his date or b) pretending to be. Would it have been a gay fancy dress ball bit? Cuz that would’ve been kinda great. But I’m not AT the party, so don’t spoil.

Oh, and I killed an architect! The one on Eladden. I’m so proud. And so annoyed. Those things just read as developers saying

“Ok! The outposts are up, the world is all set and that’s that!”
“Dude, that can’t be that.”
“Why not?”
“There wasn’t a boss fight. Nothing can end without a boss fight.”
“Why not?”
“Because games, man. There has to be a boss fight.”
“But there’s no REASON to have a boss at this point!”
“Who cares man? Games. Gotta have a boss.”
“Sigh. Ok. Fine. I’ll put in something so you can have your boss fight.”

There was no other point to that. None. No loot, no story, the outpost was just all “Oh, hey, thanks.” I have a feeling those scientists will say the same. What’s. The. Point.

Ah, right. Games, man.

Feminina:

Suave dudes hang out in bars waiting to give out quests. It’s how life works.

Mr. O’ said he DIDN’T flirt with Reyes, but that makes it sound as if he COULD have…so, gay fancy dress ball could totally have been on the table. And would have been pretty awesome.

You are correct: I let the salerian spy/traitor go, and Kallo was very cutting about it. I was all “but he might have information that could help us!–why should the people on the ark have suffered for nothing?” and he said something like “of course, you have a vague promise from a known liar, so good call on letting him escape justice.”

Ouch, Kallo.

I later got an email from the spy saying something like “I’m forwarding helpful data to the Nexus command,” but I never heard anything more about it. There was no moment in the final battle where someone said “it sure is good we got that information from the spy, otherwise a companion would have died here!” or anything. So probably it doesn’t really make any practical difference, other than making Kallo mad. Sorry, Kallo.

Nice work with the architect! Although, as you say, it really has nothing to do with anything in the story. The Elaaden one wasn’t so bad…the Voeld one was the worst. Don’t go back to that one anytime soon. I mean, really, you know those missing scientists are dead. Is going back to fight that thing going to bring them back? No.

Butch:

I used to hang out giving out quests. Occasionally, when Mrs. McP is busy, I try to get out, give a side quest or two, but now all I can come up with is “Could you be the one that picks Junior up at school today? I kinda need to make dinner,” which doesn’t have the same panache.

Man, wouldn’t the gay fancy dress ball have been awesome. One of these days, a game is going to be cool enough that the requisite quest giving tavern is a gay bar. I mean, shit, they already have the purple lights. And the male dancers in that one bar. (Which was a nice touch).

Kallo certainly approved of my decision, as did Liam and Vetra. We shall see how it plays out.

I’ve already doomed everyone by turning down Invictor, not saving the Krogan and rescuing the AI. Who I did talk to, some. It’s…not very helpful yet. And SAM tells me it’s still very unstable. I’m….second guessing myself.

But nope, fighting the architect won’t bring the scientists back. And, as you know, I don’t like boss fights. I grudgingly do them when I HAVE to do them to do things like, you know, finish the game. But random assed boss fights for the sake of boss fighting? No thanks.

Feminina:

“I thought you’d want me to fight goblins and retrieve your grand-grandfather’s spear!”

“Uh, no, can’t say I’ve missed that thing…can you get the kids from school, though? Maybe make them a snack? That would actually be useful.”

You can definitely just ignore the architects. I don’t think they had any in-game impact on anything. I mean, you get a remnant…data core?…or something? But I don’t know what, if anything, that’s good for.

Skip ’em all, you’ll never miss it. You’re doomed already because you saved the fish and turned down Invictor and abandoned the scouts, etc.

Butch:

Exactly! The spear was just taking up space in the storage room.

“Like, if you really have to fetch something, I think we’re out of waffles…maybe grab some at Whole Foods? They don’t have the corn syrup……look, what if I told you they were my great grandfather’s waffles and they were lost in the Expensive Cave of Organic Things? That cool?”

I really think I am already doomed. Totally forgot I was playing a bioware game. Ah, well. Can’t win ’em all. At least Petra still seems into me. I’ll work that in Horizon 2.

Feminina:

“Few wallets have ever returned unscathed from the Expensive Cave of Organic Things! Are you bold enough to venture there? Oh, and grab a bottle or seven of wine on the way, thanks.”

Butch:

See, the wine’s a problem, though, as that sort of thing usually falls not in the “great-grandfather’s thing” quest but the “dead friend” quest. “My friend was taking something somewhere and died and avenge him/finish his important work.” So this would be more natural sounding like “My friend was supposed to bring the wine, but he died, so could you be a dear and bring it yourself?”

And we don’t have that many friends outside of, well, each other, and if either one of us died, who’d we share the wine with?

(See, you’re thinking “‘more for me,’ but do I tell him I’m thinking ‘More for me?'”)

Feminina:

Naw, just say it’s a collecting mission! “I need one of each of these seven types of wine in order to properly…uh…taste these types of wine. Could you track all those down? Go to seven different stores if that’ll make it feel more legit, it’s all the same to me.”

It’s all about the framing. And no need to admit it’s also about “more for me.” We don’t want to spoil the hero’s image of the thing.

Butch:

That works. But what if they don’t do the collectibles ? We’d have to give them a small worthless trophy to make sure they did it.

Feminina:

I’m sure we have something lying around.

“Here, I wrote “BOOZEHOUND” in bright orange crayon on the back of an old kindergarten worksheet. Well done! Now beat it, I need to test this wine. For…general wininess.”

Butch:

That’ll do.

That and maybe a plastic minion toy we got in a Happy Meal. Can’t fail.

Man, we derailed quickly today.

Feminina:

We did. And it’s not because we didn’t have anything to talk about! You did lots of stuff!

I guess we’re just punchy from lack of seven bottles of wine.

Butch:

I did do stuff!

But this week has already been busy as all hell. The kids are just in the thick of doing things. So I run around all day. Because if I don’t, when will I play games? And drink? And the IMPORTANT things?????

Today, soon, they’re not even coming in the house. Bus, straight to car for haircuts. If I don’t get them haircuts today, it ain’t happening cuz Nugget has play practice tomorrow and Saturday is the oversized garbage day (you’re gonna love it) and taking Junior to the tailor and then the Harvest Fun Fest at school.

See what you have to look forward to?

You’re gonna love it.

Feminina:

I can’t wait. Gee, I hope we can move soon so we can experience the joy and wonder of oversize garbage day. I will hurry to continue putting things in boxes in gleeful anticipation of this devoutly-wished consummation.

Butch:

I kinda like oversized garbage day. You get to throw things.

Feminina:

Can you set them on fire, though?

Butch:

Well, of course. Why do you think I bought a house?

You’re gonna love it.

Feminina:

All right, sold. You had me at pyromania.

“You are in a bar…”

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Jaal’s personal mission, the salerian spy quest, and family resemblences in Mass Effect: Andromeda

Butch:

Ok, now I’m playing too much and it’s all blurring! But ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

So started the Journey to Meridian. Met Scott, who looks exactly like your Scott. Well, they did ok with Alec (if you count giving him creepyassed green eyes ok on the resemblance thing), so one out of two ain’t bad. Not sure why I give a shit about Scott yet. Yes, brother, great, etc, but he isn’t adding much to the narrative here.

Got that quest to the part where I have to research “Ghost Storm,” which proves that the folks thinking up military code names haven’t gotten any better in 700 years.

Then off to Havarl to meet a Salarian spy and to do Jaal’s mission. Did Jaal’s mission, which I liked. I did not kill the leader, and let him take his shot. I got two things to say on this:

1) I really liked that, after setting up Jaal as the black sheep, and, let’s face it, dweeb of the family, they gave him a chance to rise and be the hero of the family. Watching him earn their respect, after craving ours for so long, was pretty neat. Well done quest. I’ll probably have more about themes when I meet his mothers, but hey man, I wasn’t up for meeting mom yet. I mean, there’s the fling with PB, the whole Suvi thing….awkward….

2) So…at the crucial moment of the quest, the whole “do you kill him or let him potentially kill Jaal,” I metagamed, which made it far less punchy. I thought “There is just no fucking WAY that Jaal dies this early. He’s too important to the story, this is a bioware game, I do not need to save him because he isn’t really in danger.” Once you feel that, the urgency of the situation vanishes. I could feel myself saying “Go ahead, shoot, whatever, it’s a bioware game,” and I was right. And I can’t decide if that’s the game’s fault or not. On one hand, the game can’t help that I’ve been playing bioware games for years. On the other hand, setting up a narrative where you just KNOW a character AIN’T DYING does take the punch out of scenes like this, and knowing he just AIN’T DYING right then was, partially, because of the arc of the story. Whatchu think?

So did that, then trucked out to Voeld to get evidence on the Salarian doctor dude, did that, and now I’m on my way back to the nexus to give the evidence, talk the reporter out of prison, and hang out with the pathfinders.

Not a bad night.

Feminina:

I read in some review that the writer thought they intentionally didn’t make a big deal with the family resemblance because hey, adoption exists! Which…yeah…OK. I’m all for recognizing the many options for family formation. Adoption exists! Adopted kids are their parents’ kids! And yeah, maybe it’s better they didn’t make a big deal about it, just let you turn out to be adopted…if you happen to make a character that looks dramatically different from the parents…but maybe that’s also kind of a lazy way out? I dunno.

I mean, the word adoption certainly doesn’t come up in the game itself, which is fine because even if you’re adopted you may be completely secure in your identity as a member of that family and no one ever needs to talk about it (what with the other pressing issues of surviving in an alien galaxy and all). But still…I mean, if it’s ONLY potentially a thing that you think about if you happen to make a nonwhite character in a white family (my mother in the memory scenes was a LITTLE darker than dad and Scott, but certainly not as dark as my character), then is it a nice subtle nod to the reality of adoption, or is it just a convenient way to avoid making different character models for family members? If they really wanted to subtly nod to the reality of adoption, they could have made Dad and Scott look completely different, like dad is black and Scott (or Sarah, if the player plays Scott) looks Korean or something, and said nothing about it. Because hey, it’s a family, doesn’t matter who donated genetic material to whom, etc. Make a multicolor family from the beginning, instead of having it all depend on whether or not the player builds a white character. So I appreciate the idea, but I think that writer was maybe giving the game more credit than it deserves on this.

Not that I care particularly. I just figured I was adopted, or an interesting throwback to mom’s ancestors in Delhi, or something. Or maybe dad can’t father children and Scott and I are the products of two different sperm donors. Who knows?

Ah, Jaal’s mission. I was glad we didn’t have to kill his siblings. I also let the leader shoot at him, because Jaal asked me not to interfere and I was like “I need to trust my team, he said not to act, so I won’t.”

My experience of the moment may have been a bit different than yours because by that point I’d done almost everything I could do before proceeding towards the end and so instead of “he wouldn’t die YET,” I was thinking “the game is practically over, maybe he WILL die. But I have to trust him anyway!”

I will note, though, that neither of us thought it was terribly implausible that Drack could have been mad enough to leave the team after we didn’t save his scouts, so why would it seem so implausible that Jaal would also be able to leave the team (albeit more permanently) at a similar point in his arc in the game? You need to think these things through, dude: you’re not metagaming with enough detail!

Butch:

While you are quite right about my metagaming skills lacking in that we didn’t think Drack could leave, your three very well written paragraphs regarding character models are wrong. Why? Because they’re twins! I got all Pathfinder on Scott and he was all “Hey, I’m only younger than you by one minute.”

Like, if you’re going to put that line in there, make them look the same!

But I digress.

Played a little more, and got all caught up in the quest where the pregnant woman has gone missing, which was JUST getting interesting when I hit a roadblock because I don’t have an outpost on Kadara (Because I can’t find your latin lover! It says “Work with Reyes” and I would LOVE to, if I could find him).

Now…that’s shitty game/quest design. You should NOT have a mandate in the middle of a quest that’s just getting good that requires you to go do a couple hours (or more) of game on some other story line. I cannot think of a way this game could have wrecked the momentum of a good quest that I was enjoying more than they did here. I have to go to a different planet and work with Reyes? And probably do the PB thing and the Salarian thing cuz they’re there too? BEFORE I get back to this? WHAT?

Very annoying. Very, very annoying.

Where the hell is Reyes, anyway?

Feminina:

Oh, I know they’re twins, but they could in theory be adopted ‘twins,’ born within minutes of each other by coincidence. I mean, if you were in the mood to adopt a baby, and then got news that there were two available who were born in the same hour, wouldn’t you want them both because hey, it’s destiny?

Or they could be Ellen’s genetic children but not Alec’s, and the result of two different sperm donors whose donations got mixed up (accidentally or on purpose, who knows, not for me to judge), so they’re twins with different fathers.

My speculation is still valid!

You have no quest marker for Reyes? I think I was supposed to go meet him somewhere, and that was how things progressed. Go back to the bar on Kadara and see if he shows up.

Butch:

Go meet him somewhere. Try the bar.

That’s your default for everything.

But it’s often correct.

Feminina:

It’s the classic adventure/role playing game setup! Go to the bar!

Butch:

So true!

“I need a job/quest/purpose in life. Where’s the bar?”

Wouldn’t it be great if real life was like that?

Feminina:

Wait, it isn’t? Then how come all these guys keep buying me a pint and asking me to find their great-grandfather’s missing handaxe?

If their ancestral farms weren’t actually attacked by goblins, they really need to work on their pickup lines.

Butch:

Hang on. I need some time to figure out how to match that joke.

Feminina:

Take your time. I’ll be here all day.

Butch:

Too much pressure! Isn’t the stress of having to catch up on games enough? Have you no mercy?

Feminina:

Very little. But I am distracted by the need to put things into boxes (“what can I put into boxes tonight?” I think to myself at random moments), so we can let it slide this time.

Butch:

You’re probably so used to PLAYING AS CHLOE by now……

Feminina:

Maybe a little. But I am also putting things into boxes! I am!

Butch:

Shit. Try not to forget it all by the time I get around to it.

Feminina:

I just need a little something to take the edge off, man! I can’t take it, struggling through the days with no game! It was wearing me down! And I’m waiting for you on the Horizon Zero Dawn DLC, like a good friend, because you were going to do that next!

I was starting to hallucinate load screens. My fingers developed uncontrollable twitches from holding imaginary controllers. It was awful.

But I am still putting things into boxes.

Butch:

Well, at the very least, are you a) not done and b) enjoying it?

Feminina:

I’ve only played about an hour. I’ve already missed half the treasures. It’s fun so far, though! Good climbing and jumping and murdering dudes.

Butch:

And……Chloe.

Don’t rush.

Companions and What They Like

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the “this is the nice moment with X companion” scenes with Vetra, Liam and Cora

Butch:

Ok! Played a ton! Did the nice “Climb and have a view with Vetra” bit (didn’t use jump jets), which was kinda nice. Got Kadara to “work with Reyes” being the only thing I needed, and, for the life of me, cannot find Reyes, so fuck it.

Oh, and PB got her bot stolen because of course quests never end.

Had nice moments with Cora (garden) and Liam (soccer). Talked to dudes on Aya about not trusting the kett. Checked in with the ambassador and convinced dudes to move to the nexus. Had a GREAT scene with Drack about his love for Kesh and how they need each other (one of the best studies in parenthood I’ve seen in a while, gamewise. Usually dads are there to get killed). Killed about 12 billion Roekkar for Jaal (Not sure how this one will end in any kind of choice. So far it sure as hell seems like a “shoot dudes before they shoot you” deal). Oh, yeah, exiled Spender. And now I’m outside Tann’s office ready to Journey to Meridian!

Whee!

Ok, I’m gonna read too much into some shit. It’s how we do.

So we’ve talked a lot about this game and the contrast of hope being good and hope being a waste of time. But I saw in what I now know are the “little scenes after loyalty” quests another wrinkle: Not caring about optimism or pessimism and living in the now.

Drack and Liam aren’t thinking about whether things are going to be bad or good or whatever in their bar fights and soccer games. They just know the booze is strong and the soccer is fun and people need to enjoy the now. Whether hope is good or not doesn’t matter, because hope is about tomorrow. Live for today. What comes tomorrow will come tomorrow. That’s not a take on hope we’ve discussed much. How does that fit? Looking forward isn’t smart?

And I don’t know what to make of the gender split. Drack and Liam are men, and they’re the ones living for now. Cora and Vetra’s scenes were both very much looking forward: A garden she may never see, a gaze into the sunset (sunrise?) talking about how great it’s all GOING to be. Is that a coincidence?

Maybe not, as Drack admits in his fatherly scene, that the thing that keeps him going, literally, is Kesh, and how she embodies his hope for the future. As a stay at home dad this pains me, but his MATERNAL (ugh) instincts. (I’d say parental, but the game is making it all gendery).

That’ll do for now. I want to go to Meridian.

Feminina:

Yeah, the post-loyalty moments with the crew were nice. As you point out, there’s an interesting gender split in terms of their focus, but finish with Jaal and Peebee and see how that goes.

As for living in the now versus planning for the future, I’d say if anything it’s trying to say that a balance is important: not that looking ahead isn’t smart (you can’t find a path if you don’t know where you want to go), but that it’s also important to appreciate where you are.

Standard words of wisdom, really. Balance! Don’t overdo anything! Plan ahead but also stop and smell the roses!

I think we have also talked some about that aspect of hope, in the sense that we discussed how sometimes hoping for something in the future diminishes your life in the present, if that future is all you can think about…so we’re on it.

I didn’t cheat and use jets in the climb with Vetra either. Collapsing at the top and gasping “see, I told you I’d beat you!” was more amusing anyway. (I didn’t cheat at cards with Gil either. Or in the shooting contest with Garrus, way back in ME3. I guess I don’t hold with cheating among friends.)

Butch:

Yeah, I tried to get there with Jaal. Ergo the whole “shooting 12 billion Roekkar” thing. And getting to “On hold” all those times. And I COULD have done PB more, but I will be God damned before I end ANOTHER playing session on Kadara. She can wait.

Stop and smell the roses — HA! See, irony, because the flower that Cora HOPES to have SOMEDAY is….roses. For real.

It’s also interesting that Drack and Liam are both folks who have a lot invested in the past. Drack sees himself almost as a living representative of the Krogan past. Liam got all moony over knowing his car is drifting this way. Vetra and Cora are far less into their own histories.

And, well, when I get closer to Suvi, we’ll talk then.

Cheating…Awww… Good to know, ol’ friend.

But hey, yeah, that is interesting that they gave you two chances to cheat against your friends. I wonder what would have changed.

 

Feminina:

There are many, many Roekaar to shoot. Luckily, Jaal seems fine with it. Did you get to the part where his siblings are involved? Complicates matters.

Um…if you didn’t get to that part, then I meant ‘siblings’ in the purely generic sense of ‘other angara, with whom he feels the kinship of shared species in the face of an alien-infested universe.’

Whew, dodged a spoiler on that one.

I did like Cora’s plans for the rose garden. I bet that moment was super romantic if you were involved with her…you probably held hands as you threw the sparkly dust together, and kissed while it swirled around your heads, or something. But it was still nice that she thinks of Ryder as a good enough friend that she wanted to share that moment.

And based on these nice, friendly moments, I’m kind of glad you don’t have the paladin/renegade system anymore, where you could wind up being a huge jerk to everyone. It would have been so implausible to have all your companions offering these sincere moments of friendship to the huge jerk that Shepard COULD be (not that we played him/her that way), so they’d either have to have this huge potential disconnect, or else do different ‘capstone moments’ for the companions depending on whether or not you were more paladin or renegade. Which is more writing and coding to do. Simpler to just make your character development choices more about taking it seriously versus joking a bit, where either one can still be essentially a person who gets along well enough with other people that they’ll invite you to the founding of their gardens.

Butch:

That bit with Jaal is where I just got to. He told me, and said “We need to go soon,” thus guaranteeing I’ll get to it in about 2148739 hours of play time.

Oh no doubt Cora’s scene could have been romantic. I’m rather surprised that these scenes triggered before romantic relations have been set in stone. What if I DO hook up with Vetra later? I could have gotten a nicer scene!

By the way, Ryder’s quip “Doesn’t everyone want a spiky girlfriend?” was pretty great.

The whole paragon/renegade thing always felt forced. Ditto the similar system in DA2. And it wouldn’t have worked as well in a game where there isn’t much “good/evil” or even “nice/jerk” so much as “naive/hopeful vs. practical/stern.” There’s no real value judgment to those choices, I think.

Feminina:

That’s also an interesting point about Drack and Liam and the idea that the focus of their big wrapup scenes is “live in the now”…they both kind of live in the past, as well as the now. Which we also talked about some, the kind of relationship you maintain with the past when you’re actively setting out on a journey that you know will put you 600 years away from your own history and the history of everything you’ve ever known. How important is it to hold onto memories of the past, what do we gain from remembering, and what do we gain from putting it all behind us and starting fresh?

Butch:

It’s funny, because, in real life, I’m not particularly sentimental. I don’t save things (much), I don’t hoard pictures, I look to the future. And yet, I’m playing Ryder as very much into the past. I even saved the weird Angaran fish who could have saved lives! That’s not like me in real life, and whenever I play a character differently than I would think, I wonder why.

Feminina:

You don’t hoard photos? How are you going to know what your kids looked like on Saturday the 4th of May at 2pm when they were playing in that one park?! THAT MOMENT WILL NEVER RETURN.

Maybe you just subconsciously figure you’d be more likely to hoard memories of the past if you knew that they and everything about them was gone. Like, if you were 600 years away and everyone you knew was long dead, and all you had was a flashdrive full of photos, you think you’d hang onto that even though in real life on this planet you don’t care that much.

Although it would be just as plausible to imagine that if you’re 600 years away and everyone is long dead, you’d say “might as well toss this tiny paperweight!” and move on. Hard to say how one would react in that situation.

Butch:

Very true. Hard to know.

We did hang up these pictures of the kids that we had professionally done. We hung them this weekend. We took them last November. That’s how sentimental we are.

We’ll let Vetra bring the ugly lamp.

Feminina:

Oh, well, at least you had some pictures professionally done in the first place. That’s more dedicated than I’ve ever been.

O’Jr. gets all contrary about photos–he won’t even cooperate for school (preschool) pictures, so I’m not going to waste my energy making appointments for a professional photographer somewhere else. We can barely get him to sit down with us in front of the camera on a timer, without making a hideous face, so we can get a pseudo-formal family portrait for the grandparents at Christmas. He gets self conscious, or cracks under the pressure, or something. Who knows why kids do what they do. But the more we WANT a nice picture, the more dead set he’s going to be against sitting still for 30 seconds. Siiiiiiiigh. Kids.

As you’d expect, the only parental relationships we really see in this game are ones where the ‘child’ figure (whether actually a grandchild, like Kesh, or a younger sibling, like Syd) came to Andromeda with the ‘parent’ figure. It would be a very interesting character exploration if someone had sailed off and left their children behind. We expect to leave parents behind, in one way or another, so that doesn’t strike any particular notes, but leaving your kids has this whole different feel to it.

That wouldn’t necessarily have to be true, especially with some of these long-lived species where you might have grown up kids and grandkids and great-grandkids that maybe you just don’t hang out with much and they don’t depend on you so why would you stay just because they exist? But unless I’m forgetting something, I don’t remember anyone talking about having kids in the Milky Way.

There is the guy who says “we’ve all got terrible losses in our pasts” or whatever, which implies maybe that someone could have had kids and lost them and come to Andromeda for a fresh start or something, but that’s pretty oblique.

As usual with games, there just aren’t a lot of kids. Although there is occasional talk about how we need to have some!

And, yeah, Vetra can keep the lamp.

Butch:

Professional photos was Mrs. McP’s idea, dude.

We used the same photographer who did our wedding (weird) who was so good at capturing moments. The camera loves Nugget! So much!

Never again, though. Very not cheap.

Hmm. True. We DO have Vetra leaving parents (sorta) behind, but only after they abandoned her. Maybe they thought that would be SO unsympathetic that we’d just hate those characters.

It would have been a GREAT twist if one of the Asari or Krogan met someone they knew who didn’t come to Andromeda. I guess that’s not physically possible (even with game physics), but that would have been quite a scene.

Occasional AWKWARD talk about having kids. “Boosting the batter?” Uh…game….stop.

The lamp is probably a leg in heels and fishnets.

Feminina:

Yeah, I just mentally covered my ears and refused to hear the ‘boosting the batter’ stuff. I mean, listen, if you want to actually have a serious conversation about how best to approach the continuation of the species in an alien galaxy, we can do that, but not this random euphemistic nonsense.

Brilliant Business Idea Now Available*

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*This business could be yours! Contact us for licensing information! (It would involve providing us with extensive brandy samples. Must provide own still.) ORDER NOW for surefire riches!

Butch:

I got nothing and I’m stuck at an orchard doing nothing cuz meatball has a field trip and it’s too far away for me to go home. Sigh. But remembered that there were themes we were supposed to talk about…the asari ark?

Feminina:

Is it the kind of orchard that sells hard cider? If not, yeah, you’re kind of screwed.

That’s right, it WAS the asari ark!–but also…did you do that quest where the Nexus ambassador has you talking to several angarans to see if they want to live on the Nexus? It was that too.

If you haven’t done that, spoiler: telling the truth may not be the best policy, although…who knows what “best” means?

Butch:

I haven’t been back to the nexus in ages. Why would I go there when there’s rocks to hit on an acid spring ridden, outlaw peppered cannibal planet? What am I, vital to the success of galactic civilization?

Dunno about the hard cider. I should check out the shop.

[later]

This place DOES have hard cider! Expensive, though. And they won’t let me drink it here.

Feminina:

If you can’t drink it there, it hardly helps with the boredom. Surely they can see that.

Well, scout around for info we could use while marketing our pear brandy. We can steal their label ideas or whatever.

I mean, ‘pay artistic homage to’ their label ideas. Obviously.

As for the game, you don’t talk to them ON the Nexus, it’s an Aya mission. You just talk to them ABOUT the Nexus.

Next time you’re on Aya. Maybe while you also talk to people about first contact with the kett.

It’ll be great.

Butch:

Rustic colors. Picture of a pear.

And if we let bored parents drink it on the premises, we’re golden.

Feminina:

Then that’s what we’ll do!

I’m sure if we make them sign a waiver, we can’t be held responsible for all the drunk driving accidents.

Or, OK, we’ll just make them leave us their keys, and let them sleep it off in the shed. And if they aren’t sober within a certain amount of time, we sell their car.

It’s in the waiver! Contracts, man.

Butch:

Contracts. Double edged swords, those.

Back home. He fell asleep in the car. Very exciting day.

Have kids, they said. Nothing but magic, they said.

Oh, and he brought home a big bag of apples. What’s wrong with that? you ask. We went apple picking last weekend.

Get fermenting! Get canning! The pears can wait!

Re: game…Aya is next!

Unless it isn’t.

How am I so tired when I sat all day?

Feminina:

You didn’t have the quick energy of a nice hard cider to propel you along!

Also, APPLE BRANDY! Get on Amazon and order a still! (They sell literally everything, right?)

Speaking of marketing and labels, I was thinking about what we should call our brandy line, and you know how weird, quirky names are really in for wines?

Well, applying this trend to artisanal small-batch rustic pear (or apple) brandy, I see one obvious choice: Burlap Lingerie.

This sounds quirky and artsy, and also ties our brandy line directly to our burlap lingerie line, greatly increasing the chances of cross-marketing.

Get Mrs. McP on that business plan.

Butch:

Dude……

DUDE!

We don’t need Mrs. McP! They should give us (well, you) an MBA JUST for that!

We’ve gotten to the point where off days aren’t just for derailment…they’re for BRILLIANCE!

Brilliant derailment.

Because, in all seriousness, I know many people who would buy something called “Burlap Lingerie” just because it was called “Burlap Lingerie” and could get them drunk. I may well be blogging with one.

Feminina:

I…yes, I actually probably would buy that myself just for the name. I won’t lie.

We’re going to get the fantasy game players, the artsy drinkers, the itchy lingerie fetishists, and the people who just like funny names. WE CANNOT fail.

Seriously, order the still now.

Butch:

I just might. Because that sure is a huge market.

I can’t tell if that amuses me or depresses me.

Feminina:

I think the term you’re looking for is “inspires.”

 

Another Day, Another Blighted Wasteland

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Mass Effect: Andromeda — spoilers for some stuff on Kadara, like that quest where you’re trying to find that person who was wrongly exiled. Also some spoilers for a plot point in The Last of Us.

Butch:

Well, did a ton, but, in typical MEA fashion, I don’t think I have much to say.

Grabbed PB’s thing from Havarl, which, of course, sent me to Kandara. Ok, fine. I have work to do on Kadara anyway. Still haven’t even gotten the outpost up. I’ll go there, do just enough for the outpost.

I go there, I get into a bar fight with Drack (which was pretty great, was nice to just sit back and watch Ryder kick ass instead of having to do it), told him I wouldn’t tell Kesh, we’re cool.

Then….stuff happens.

First hexagon: Confront so and so. That’s the objective. Confront so and so. Totally forgot who so and so was or why I was confronting so and so. But I did it! And got….something.

Second Hexagon: Find evidence of water tampering. “Oh yeah….I kinda remember that….I should be mad, right?” But I did it! And got….something. (It was that turian running that hotel place. Which WOULD have been cool, as we went there and thought it was a friendly respite in the desert, and we should have put two and two together when we found the dead angarans. Which we MIGHT have done if the game didn’t have so much padding that we forgot all of it. Another instance of the game getting in its own way.)

Third Hexagon: Rescuing someone from something. Random cannibals. Why were they cannibals? Were they nuts? Was this gratuitous? Was this some commentary on how exiling folks and making them outcasts over and over drives them to desperation? Who knows? Why? Because I forget why I was rescuing this person. Another instance of the game getting in its own way. Maybe this would have been a cool quest? Who knows? But rescue I did and got…something.

This got me to 39%. Need 40. So I said “Ok, fuck it, I’ll turn on their damn vault.”

So I turned on their damn vault. This took longer than it should have, because that vault was a damn maze. But at least I got some box when I got lost, which I’m sure is important to someone, and if I give it to him I’ll get…something.

This got me to 72% viability! Perfect! I’ll just set up this outpost and quit….wait….where’s the triangle? Why isn’t it working? WHERE’S THE OUTPOST! ****checks journal**** Wait, what? There are complications? I have to do the REYES shit before I can even GET the outpost that will have 18 new quests that I won’t do?

So I quit in a rage.

This game cannot get out of its own way. Those quests (probably) had themes. Those quest (probably) had characters and story arcs and good stuff. I would have (probably) had bloggage for days on those quests had the game gotten out of its own way. But I don’t, because they were all jumbled together with a ton of other hexagons and I don’t have any idea what stories or characters or themes were in there.

This game just has too damn much. And, what’s even more annoying, it isn’t good stuff jumbled up with old flags. It’s good stuff jumbled up with old flags AND OTHER GOOD STUFF. The good stuff jumbles ITSELF up. There should be SO MUCH GOOD here. And there isn’t cuz there’s too much good.

Feminina:

Yeah, that sounds about right.

I liked Drack’s bar fight, although I once again fumbled the QTE (for some reason, I just can’t get those things in this game!) so I got punched and knocked out. When I came to Drack was kind of shaking his head and saying “wow, kid, that sucked” or something, but it was all in good humor, and I also promised not to tell Kesh.

I also don’t know why that group of whatever was kidnapping people to eat them…I guess…food is super scarce? The outcast life is so tough they have no other options? It’s really that terrible out there? I don’t know, it seemed sort of gruesomely out of nowhere, and I felt a bit useless.

“Well, thank heavens I rescued YOU, anyway. Now feel free to go back to your crappy but slightly less horrible home and try to live with the trauma of seeing dozens of other people slaughtered and eaten in front of you…I’ll just carry on myself…”

I suppose we’re addressing the root causes of the horror by making the planet more livable so that in future people won’t HAVE to turn to cannibalism, but it was kind of like “well…that happened…”

And yes, you have to deal with Reyes before you get the outpost. I also went away for quite a while before I came back to do that. I don’t know why, I was flirting with him and everything, but I just couldn’t deal with any more Kadara at that point.

Butch:

Oh no! It turned into a nutsy kung fu romp that Jackie Chan would have envied. It was awesome. So awesome.

As for the cannibalism and “well, that happened”–that’s been the whole game. Hasn’t it? How many damn vaults have I activated? It was out of nowhere, and, even though this game is darker than the others, it’s not THAT dark. When The Last of Us went there, it made sense. This? Less so. Especially not in such a throwaway quest.

Man….. I sorta want to tell Kadara to keep its fucking outpost. Keep it. Just keep it. But I’ll regret that, I bet.

Feminina:

There’s a little bit of story with Reyes, and another ‘choice’ moment so…you know, do it and we can talk later. The fate of Kadara rests in your hands, Pathfinder.

Games seem to use the “descent into cannibalism!!!!” story a lot as kind of a cheap way to generate horror, and I agree it felt particularly odd here. Just, out of nowhere, a random sidequest, “OMG cannibalism!!!!” and moving on…

As you say, in TLOU it was more thought out and better done, so it made more sense. I seem to recall there was a whole explanation for how they started eating dead bodies out of desperation and progressed to hunting strangers for meat, etc. Because they had to feed the children! You could almost relate, and you could buy the whole thing in a fungapocalyptic wasteland where you can’t grow anything because violent raiders are always crashing your settlements.

This…this was just weird. But whatever, game. Maybe this was just a group of particularly desperate outlaws who progressed rapidly past the “stealing peoples’ food” to the “just eat the people themselves” phase (even though most humans in most societies are not all that eager to eat other humans, and PRESUMABLY the Initiative would have performed some psychological testing to try to weed out those with weak commitments to the idea of human life in general as worth preserving, but then, we can see how successful that was purely by the large numbers of people who abandoned the Nexus and started killing each other at the first opportunity, so…again I say, whatever).

Also, I am very sad that I missed a kung fu romp. Siiiigh. I really don’t know why I had such a hard time with the quick-decision moments in this game.

Butch:

Dude, it was awesome. It really was.

And that cannibal bit didn’t even generate horror. It was pointless. I didn’t even scan first, so when Ryder was all “I know” to “They were going to eat me,” it wasn’t scary, it was huh? The bodies just looked like every other body in the game.

Odd. And misplaced.

Feminina:

I think maybe it was meant to cast a specific light on Sloane Kelly’s regime, like, “this is the kind of horror people face with her in charge”?

Because there’s this whole conflict on Kadara between her group and the mysterious Collective, and you obviously have to throw your weight behind one or the other of them at some point, and I’ll be honest, it was really kind of difficult for me to keep that whole struggle straight or to figure out why I should favor either one of the groups. Maybe that bit was intended to be a data point on one of the two sides?

It didn’t really work, if so, but that’s the only thing I can think of…innocent person wrongly cast out by Sloane’s forces, nearly eaten by horrible cannibal group. Although it was also the guy in Sloane’s forces who confessed to the error and sent you after the innocent person in the first place, so it’s all very grey even at that.

Butch:

I should probably do Sloane’s shit. I haven’t touched that since the set up. More good stuff that got buried.

This game had too much good to be this annoying.

Feminina:

I wonder if we would like it better if we weren’t so determined (in your case a wavering determination) to check out everything on the map? Maybe it’s really designed to reward a less committed approach?

“There’s something for everyone and we totally expect that most people won’t do most of it, so we want you to be able to ignore half the quests and still get a rich, full experience of Andromeda!”…?

Because I agree, it really did seem to drown in its own options sometimes. Which is not a unique problem, we talk about our distracting and endless to-do lists in every open world game, but maybe that’s a sign that open worlds are not the ideal game format for obsessive players? Or are we simply approaching these games with the wrong expectations?

What if there were an option where you could simply turn off certain types of quests? Like, “I don’t want to see or receive any ‘task-level’ missions,” and then you wouldn’t see hexagons for them, wouldn’t hear their dialogue, nothing. They wouldn’t even exist for us. That would immediately cut down on the volume of stuff to do, while leaving main story missions (and presumably most themes) available.

Would we use that option? Or would we feel obligated to know what was out there, even if we sort of hated the fact that we would spend 50 hours on essentially meaningless tasks as a result?

Butch:

I dunno, what’s the point of expecting people not to do stuff? That seems quite an investment in a whole lot of content that no one expects anyone to see. Why make a game where you don’t want people to go places?

Just make a more linear game. You know, like the first MEs. No one complained about those.

Or Uncharted. Or, to some extent, Tomb Raider. No one really minds linear games. They get good reviews, people buy them. If it ain’t broke…

Maybe we try to do too much. And maybe we’re off because, as stated, this is an open world sequel to a bunch of rather linear games. Had UC4 been open world, say, we’d have probably balked at it, even if it was a good open world game.

But, that said, they kept the tidbit from olden games where quests really mattered to the end. Take The Witcher 3. Sure, there were quests all over the place, but only the decisions in the big ones really mattered at the end. This one? You can tell from it recording shit in the codex that all these little ones matter. And we still have memories of companions dying because we didn’t go gather shit to upgrade the Normandy. And there’s no way to KNOW if the side quests matter (I really hope the tasks don’t), so we don’t know what is safely skippable if we want a “good” ending.

But switching off certain types of quests is a great idea! Maybe “Turn off the stuff that isn’t vital to the game/theme?” I’d be into that. Except, for some games, AC4 comes to mind, that would leave one empty assed map.

Feminina:

I guess they would figure that even if almost no one gets everything awesome you’ve done, everyone gets some of it? And different people get different parts of it, so you’re ensuring that there’s huge amounts of content that will satisfy the most demanding (in terms of “I want more to do!”) player?

I really don’t know how much, if anything, any of the tasks had to do with the ending. I was definitely anxiously aware, as you say, of the history of ME games and losing companions in the final battle, but I didn’t see anything in the endgame that seemed to reference any of the tasks. (“If only we’d hit more rocks for science, Suvi might still be alive!”…is not a thing I heard.)

There have to be SOME things that don’t have any effect on survival at the end!

Butch:

The tasks can’t matter. They just can’t. If they do, well, sorry Suvi, thanks for the memories….oh hey Chloe! How YOU doin’?

Feminina:

I don’t see how they can matter. Everyone in the world would be losing companions right and left, because surely only about 30 people completed all those tasks.

Butch:

Maybe that’s why it’s on hiatus.

“Well, we had this great sequel planned, but it turns out everyone died. Oops.”

It would be kinda funny if, after all that, the game was all “Sure, everyone was loyal, you had every bomb and plenty of fuel, but DAMN, turns out those rocks were vitally important.”

Funny in a rage inducing way.

Feminina:

Yes. Very funny. “We hope you had fun ignoring all those boring tasks, because that’s all the satisfaction you’re going to get from this after EVERYONE DIES.”

That honestly WOULD be funny, but only long after the fact, when the rage had faded.

Butch:

Nope. Even after the rage subsided I’d be enraged.

Feminina:

All right…it would be funny if it happened to someone else, though, right? Ideally someone we hate. That would be hilarious.

Schadenfreude 4evah!

Butch:

Go ahead. Say it.

Feminina:

Burlap lingerie slogan!!!!

Damn it, I choked.

Very Funny, Villain-Dude

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the “maybe we’ll help you” kett-related mission in Mass Effect: Andromeda

Butch:

Gonna call the game out:

So finished chasing down relays. Didn’t take the dude’s deal (more on that in a second) and when he said “I hope you enjoyed chasing my relays. That will be all the satisfaction you will get out of this” I almost threw my controller at the set. Fuck you, game. That was just mean.

But here’s my real beef: We’ve talked a lot about the problem of games doing scenes where the hero is not there. We have issues with them, and last night is why.

The reason I turned the dude down was that I thought that the archon was a disorganized mess, and I’d rather have a disorganized mess who’s alienating (HA!) his team than this Invictor dude who seemed both evil and organized.

But here’s the thing: the reason I knew the archon was a bit of a mess was from the scenes that RYDER WASN’T IN. I made my decision, at least in part, based on information Ryder didn’t have and didn’t know. I knew it, but she didn’t. As far as Ryder knows, at this point, the archon is just fine, is in complete control, and all is well. The only thing she has to go on is Invictor’s word. I had more, and it figured in my choice.

And that’s not cool. But I don’t know how to get around it. Bothers me, though.

I almost forgave it, though, just for the line, after Invictor is being all nasty, where Ryder goes, in a deep voice “I am PATHFINDER blah blah blah.” I could have hugged the game for that.

I then spent too much time finding the thing on Eos for PB, only to be told I now have to go to Havarl to get something else for PB. Thank God the NOMAD can drive off cliffs, cuz if I had to go around everything to get there and waste time I would’ve been REALLY pissed.

Game never ends. You’re probably finished with Chloe, too.

Feminina:

I have not even started AS CHLOE. Maybe tonight.

Ha. The line about having fun chasing relays was kind of a low blow.

And I don’t know, you KIND of know the archon isn’t in perfect control of everything…we’ve found a few datapads or recordings or whatever in kett facilities, talking about how he’s ignoring messages from home, how he’s overreaching because of his personal obsession with Meridian, whatever. You’re right, a fair bit of that was scenes Ryder wasn’t there for, but Ryder has encountered some evidence.

I didn’t take the dude’s deal either, but in my case it was because I had just talked to all the first contact survivors the Moshae told me to talk to, and an important message I got from them (no real spoilers) is “don’t trust the kett, they’ll lie and try to manipulate you” so I thought “a bunch of people with experience told me not to trust kett, therefore I better not trust this guy.”

So…I mean, I get what you’re saying, it definitely isn’t honest in a story to let a character make decisions based on information she doesn’t actually have, and I remain no fan of the whole idea of giving the player information the character can’t have, but one could argue there are other legitimate reasons to make that decision and maybe you the player had one reason but Ryder the character had another, so decision-making, specifically, is not as big a concern of mine as is general point-of-view inconsistency.

I agree, though, that having this well-organized, determined guy take over for an overreaching archon who may be losing control of things isn’t a good deal for us.

Hmm, how tempting, “I’m still totally going to try to wipe you all out via exaltation, but I WILL help you with this one issue.” Respect for the honesty though, I appreciate that he didn’t come in all “we’re definitely your friends, the archon is the only one who wants to exalt everyone, we just want to live in peace!” because that would have made my decision a lot harder (could I turn down a plea for peace and harmony? even if it’s almost certainly a lie?).

Butch:

Very low. “Hope you enjoyed the complete waste of time!”

So apropos of a lot of this game, sadly.

And there was some evidence, but you’re being forgiving. The real “Archon getting yelled at” scene was the one on the Salarian ark, which we did not attend.

Bugged me. And is a problem that will continue to crop up in games.

And this keeps coming up in games, doesn’t it? It may be the biggest hurdle to game narrative right now.

I might do the one with the Moshae’s people next. Mop up PB’s thing on Havarl, then Aya, which I have been blowing off for weeks.

That kett dude was very honest, that he was. Very much so. But remember, they don’t think exaltation is bad. He even referred to “when we are family.” FAMILY! So these guys don’t see this honesty as a threat. They think they’re doing us a favor, much like the European imperialists thought when they came here (or anywhere). If anything, Invictor seems to think he’s even NICER than the archon. After all, siding with him will get everything done, everyone exalted, faster, which he thinks is something we should WANT.

Which, you know, is an interesting flip on the whole imperialism thing.

Feminina:

The kett conviction that everyone is going to love exaltation as soon as they have it forced on them IS handy in that it encourages them to be very open about their intentions. It also seems to be true, as far as it goes, although as I’ve complained before, we have no real sense of how genuine and conscious the exalted kett’s enthusiasm is.

Is that an “I personally am sincerely happy in my new role as Kevin, and all is right with the universe” or is it “there is no I there is only Kevin Kevin does as Kevin is told and is happy to do it”?

Of course, one could ask the same thing about pretty much any Kevin. Who ARE these guys? What makes them so enthusiastic about trying to kill the unkillable hero? We may never know.

Still, we could ask similar questions more meaningfully of the non-Kevin kett who aren’t, you know, the big leaders in charge of stuff (since being a big leader in charge of stuff may favorably dispose one towards the system that put one in that position). Are they actually, consciously happy to be kett (or at least, as happy as the humans we meet are to be human, the krogan to be krogan, etc.)? Or are they just wiped of any feeling that’s not happiness at being kett? There’s a difference, and I’d be interested to explore that, as well as to explore the questions of how happy humans are to be human, and why, and whether that’s something worth fighting for.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the idea of the kett. Maybe they’ll do more with it in future games.

Butch:

Well, a complication of the kett conviction is that we’ve never really heard a Kevin say it. The folks who seem very rah rah kett are all pretty senior kett. Archon, Invictor, the Cardinal, etc. The chosen haven’t expressed an opinion. The only time I’ve heard one talk was that wounded one the Angaran was torturing, and it was unclear if he was just grunting monosylabically because he was grievously injured or because that’s how chosen talk.

So there may be a division of enthusiasm.

But there is a mystery to Kevin, in terms of motivation. It’s as old as games. What did the ghosts have against pac man? What did those angry mushroom things have against Mario? What ARE those mushroom things, anyway?

I digress.

Again, we come back to Imperialism. Were the grunt soldiers that came with the Spanish anything more than just grunts being told what to do? Or were they true believers? Were the captains consciously happy to be imperial murderers, or were they so brainwashed by church and king that it never occurred to them to be anything else?

Sigh, you had to mention future games. Bioware has said that Mass Effect is “on hiatus” and will only make more Mass Effect if they can make it “fresh and relevant.” That sounds ominous. But the thing sold, so there’s hope.

Feminina:

“Fresh and relevant.” Well…I guess they’ll let us know, then.

I hope they’re working on something else awesome. Ideally something full of masked balls, heists, flirting, and group hugs.

Butch:

Well, this Anthem doesn’t look like it. Looks like Destiny with Mechs. TitanDestinyFall. Boo.

But usually they do an ME, then a DA. We’re due for a DA. I’ll play a DA happily.

Feminina:

Well, you’ll play a DA. But happily? If it’s full of shards and collectible bottles and angsty dudes with flag quests? Ha.

I’m with you, though. Bring on more DA! Anytime. Except, maybe not RIGHT now because we’re kind of busy.

Butch:

Yeah. When we have an opening. HA!

Feminina:

As soon as I’ve moved and finished the stuff on my immediate to-play list and cleared out the backlog on my PS+ account, I’m ready!

Butch:

It’s gonna be awesome.

Who are we kidding, it’ll go to the head of the line, easy.

Unless there’s something else.

Feminina:

Between that and Horizon Zero Naptime, it would be a tough call.

Butch:

And yet, I always have this ambient worry of having nothing to play at some point. Or, I shouldn’t say that. I have this ambient worry of getting to a point where what I have to play is stuff in my backlog that I meant to get to, but I’m not 100% thrilled about, and getting sucked into three months of playing a game that I don’t want to play, because you so know I’d finish whatever anyway. I want a steady supply of games I’m pumped about.

Feminina:

What are we excited about after PLAYING AS CHLOE? I can’t remember anymore. Eight months of MEA has erased my memories of everything else.

Butch:

I’m excited for anything with Chloe. Plus Horizon expansions. And, don’t forget, the first episode of the new Life is Strange is out……

Feminina:

Yeah, that should keep us busy for a while. Plus I never did finish Day of the Tentacle…hahahahahahahahaha. I mean the Witness. I might actually go back to that, someday, if I ever have the time.

Butch:

HAHAHAHA!

Too bad you didn’t do that one, though. It was good.

Feminina:

Yeah, it’s a real shame. If only I’d been able to sprint, I bet I would have loved it. But you filled me–and, more importantly, the blog–in on the important parts. I’m good.

Butch:

And you did Dear Esther. We’re even.

Feminina:

It’s true, I did. We ARE even!

Butch:

And for a while you had Life is Strange on me, but I caught you.

Wait, how the hell did I catch you? I NEVER catch you!

Feminina:

Well, I did a couple of random things you didn’t do, like Portal 2 (OK, that was catching you from LONG ago) and that one about the…neon light speedy person…and Remember Me…and some Witcher 3 DLC…

Butch:

Oh right….I didn’t really catch you.

But I avoided big robots! And cloud sex. One is better to avoid than the other.

Feminina:

Indeed.

I never caught you on Fallout 3, if that helps. At this point, I think it’s safe to say I never will.

Butch:

True.

But this must end! We need to stay on the same page! Which is why you should go pack. Your PS4. For a while.

Feminina:

If only I had it together enough to pack anything at all.

Anyway, we can’t pack the PS4 early, because we rely on it to stream O’Jr.’s daily Voltron fix, without which he would surely perish. It’s not just MY machine, you know.

Butch:

GET IT TOGETHER FEMMY!!!

And then teach me how.

Feminina:

If I ever figure it out, I will share. It’s what good blogmates do.