Video Games

Mass Effect: Andromeda day 3

I played several more hours of multiplayer last night and things were a bit better. I got a good group of randoms and we rolled for seven or eight matches, full extractions most of the time. I played all Human Engineer and got up to level 14. My M8 Avenger is up rank 9, so it’s shooting something at least slightly stronger than airsoft pellets. Between my level and gun, it finally feels like I’m able to do a little work, and it’s a good feeling.

My experience with the Human Engineer has been pretty positive so far. They’re a very solid all-around character, able to deal with both shields and armor as well as prime and detonate their own cryo combos. I’m assuming that combos work similar to how they did in ME3, where the damage is proportional to the ranks of the two powers used. Given that, my priority has been getting Overload and Cryo Beam to rank 6, which they are now at.

Ah, the sweet sound of exploding ice cubes…

Video Games

Mass Effect: Andromeda first impressions

This is taken from a conversation I had with a friend. I didn’t write it as a post, but it sums things up fairly well.

I really haven’t been reading any reviews. I know there’s a lot of chatter about the animations, and yeah, the lip sync is off, but so what? It’s not a huge deal to me. I was surprised though at just how shitty the close-up facial graphics are. The console and frostbite should be capable of better. Again, not a huge deal for me. I only played a short amount of the story and it was…okay. We’ll see where they take it. I like Scott, and his voice actor is fine, if a bit generic sounding. The writing so far has been pretty cheesy (in a bad way). I have a feeling that the writing and story will mostly suck, but hopefully the exploration is fun.

I played several games of multiplayer and it was good, but a bit disappointing. It’s hard for me to be objective because I’m comparing it to ME3 as it existed after five DLC releases. It generally played fine. Load times are much improved from ME3. Partying up unfortunately is just as wonky. One friend experienced a hard freeze and another got kicked from a game. Personally, I didn’t have any issues.

With low level characters and gear, Bronze is fucking tough—surprisingly so. I didn’t particularly like the maps, but I might just need to learn them. I really like that each power is on its own timer. The thing I found most disappointing was the sameyness and lack of creativity among the enemy factions. They are not even remotely as compelling as Reapers/Collectors/Geth/Cerberus. We shall see. Nothing I encountered last night suggests I won’t put many more hours into multiplayer, but I certainly wasn’t blown away with awesome.

Video Games

Mass Effect Multiplayer Character Build Shorthand

Back when I was hammering Mass effect 3 multiplayer, I came up with a shorthand for noting character builds. From what I’ve seen of Andromeda, it looks like I’ll be able to keep using the same nomenclature. It worked really well for me, so thought I’d share.

Note that this is just for skill point distribution—weapons, consumables, equipment, etc.—are not part of the equation. Each character has five skills, each of which can have up to six ranks. So I simply use a number to represent how many ranks they have in a skill, and I list the numbers left to right corresponding to top to bottom on the in-game power list.

So if I have 6 ranks in my first power, 3 in my second, 6, 6, and finally 5 ranks in my fifth power, I would write out 6 3 6 6 5. Obvious, I know. The trick is that if a power has four or more ranks, you must also describe whether those ranks were spent on the top row of the tree, or the bottom. This I do with a letter.

Any time that all selections are across the top row, I call it A. If all selections are across the bottom row, I call it B. Pretty straightforward, right? Now, if there is a combination of top and bottom row selections, I use a letter that is visually reminiscent of the pattern. I try to show that with the black line in the images below. Hopefully the correlation between letter and pattern is fairly obvious. Tilt your head 90° to the right if you can’t see it (except for V and N).

All 4 and 5 rank patterns can be described multiple ways. For example, if you have five ranks in a skill and select the top row for both rank 4 and 5, you could describe it as 5A or 5F. In these cases, use whichever description has highest priority: A/B are the highest, followed by L/J/F/T, and V/N are the lowest. It sounds way more complicated than it actually is.

MEMP-A

MEMP-B

MEMP-L

MEMP-J

MEMP-F

MEMP-T

MEMP-V

MEMP-N

If you’ve made it this far down, I commend you! Perhaps you’re wondering, “but why?” Well let me show you. The image below is one sheet of paper on which I neatly recorded my favorite build for each and every character in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. All lovingly crafted through trial and error. That sheet of paper lived by my side, and maybe one day, you’ll have one just like it by yours.

ME3Builds.PNG

Video Games

[HZD] So, funny story…

I’ve been playing Horizon Zero Dawn on the max difficulty setting. As you’d expect, it was super tough at first, becoming more manageable over time. Lately I’ve been finding it relatively easy. I chalked it up to being over-leveled. Then a couple nights ago, I went into the settings to fiddle with the audio balance and noticed the difficulty had been changed to ‘Easy’.

Needless to say, the game is profoundly not easy.

I just thank all the gods that there are no difficulty related trophies. Phew.

Video Games

Horizon Zero Dawn and cultural thievery

I’ve started to see some criticisms of Horizon Zero Dawn cropping up for: Native American cultural appropriation. *sigh*

One of the effects of an extreme apocalypse is the obliteration of technology. Most apocalyptic scenarios involve the extinction of a large percentage of the population along with the destruction of cities, infrastructure, and technology centers. What you end up with is scattered survivors without the critical mass of knowledge necessary to repair and rebuild.

Let’s say there was a nuclear war. All major cities and surrounding areas destroyed. To escape radiation poisoning, everyone must flee to remote locations. People will first go to smaller cities and loot what they can. Society descends into chaos. People who were once neighbors killing each other over cans of soup.

There is no more industrial scale farming nor refining of fuel. Working vast fields with heavy machinery and shipping food around the country is no longer possible. Once peoples’ looted supplies have been depleted, they will need to fend for themselves, and many won’t be up to the task. Famine, malnutrition, and disease will further devastate the population.

Perhaps there would be a nuclear winter. Global climate change that makes survival even more difficult. In the end, it all amounts to scattered people surviving off the land. Over time, small communities would form, but they would be under constant threat. For it is often easier to steal than produce.

What we have here is not Horizon Zero Dawn appropriating Native American culture, but accurately depicting a post-apocalyptic scenario. People would gather in tribes, they would have primitive technology, and life would be savage. Without the means to make cloth, they would use fur and hide. They would adorn themselves with whatever colorful objects were at hand, like blue machine tubing. They would invent lore to explain the unexplained. Buildings would be made of wood and stone; and they would be open, with many people sharing the same space, because that is the most efficient way to build. In short, they would do the things that all primitive humans have done throughout history.

There are no tepees, or hatchets, or horses, or feather headdresses, or war hoops, or long straight dark hair, or reddish skin. Many of the things that are specifically (and stereotypically) associated with Native Americans. The Nora are depicted with dreadlocks and a melting pot of racial features. They have a war-chief but are ruled by the matriarchs. They do not revere animal spirits, or incorporate animal imagery in the things they build. They hunt with bow, arrow, and spear (among other weapons), but so has most every other primitive human society. Does it resemble Native American culture in many ways? Sure it does. There are also a lot of elements of other cultures: African, Celtic, Norse, and Aztec to name a few.

So where does the comparison to Native Americans come from? Well, a lot of focus seems to be on the use of the term Braves. And yes, it is historically used to describe Native American warriors. But why is this offensive? It’s not derogatory in nature and isn’t being used in a derogatory way.

Apparently, using the term to describe primitive tribal warriors in a video game somehow suggests that Native Americans are primitive savages? Or disrespects their heritage? That’s ridiculous. The term originated in a time when Native Americans were primitive and some were savage. To pretend like that was never the case and getting upset over references to that time period is in itself cultural dishonesty. I should also note that being primitive, by modern standards, is not in and of itself a negative thing.

Ultimately, this has nothing to do with Horizon Zero Dawn and everything to do with the excessive political correctness infecting our society right now. It’s obvious that Guerrilla Games tried to be as sensitive and respectful as they could possibly be. The grand irony of course, is that trying to isolate and protect cultural elements from being borrowed serves only to prolong racial division.

I think trying to expunge all references to Native American culture is the wrong way to respect it. By incorporating elements of all ancestries into mainstream society, we keep them alive and relevant. It’s a jumping off point to have conversations with our children about the past. If a bunch of people play Horizon Zero Dawn and get interested in learning more about Native American culture because of it, how is that a bad thing?