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Mass Effect 2 – Amazing Character Development, Combat and Final Leads to This Being One of the Best RPGs I’ve played

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    “Mass Effect 2” is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. This is a game that manages to capture the best of story, combat and character to the point that I stayed in this world as long as I could before doing the final/suicide mission with my squad, which was hands down one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. There is a lot to cover in this game that I’ll get into deeper in the review.

    This was when EA bought Bioware so even though Bioware made the game it was EA who published it.

   Here is my review of the first game in case you need a catch up on the story or need a comparison to how much this game improved.:

 https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/mass-effect-an-amazing-space-opera-with-some-narrative-and-cinematic-choppiness/

SPOILERS if you haven’t played the first game.

     The story involves the Normandy being attacked by the mysterious species known as the Collectors, leading to the death of Shepard. 2 years later you wake up, having been resurrected by the Illusive Man and Cerberus. From here you must recruit your team to take on the Collectors and end their threat to the Galaxy.

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The Pros:

The Universe – The Universe is really one of the best parts of this series and Bioware is a gaming company with fantastic world builders. The amount of aliens introduced grows as we have Vorcha, Batarians and Collectors and a ton of organizations that you work for or against, as well as the old ones too. There are some pretty amazing locations too! From Omega, Illium, The Collector Base and countless other planets you discover.

The Action – The game is finally a good shooter! In the original game the shooting was kind of janky but it flows here and there are stakes, even on casual you might die a few times if you are new FPSs. It was this action gameplay and the world and story that helped keep in and to explore every star system.

The Stakes – The stakes are higher in this game, the Collectors have already killed you once and you are working for an organization that is all about human supremacy and experiments on their own people. You are in a rock and a hard place and it makes the choices you make with characters so much higher, especially since the Reaper threat is hanging in the background.

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The Characters – The characters have always been the strongest part of Bioware games and in this game we get new characters and get to know past characters from the first game more. I did all the options I could when it came to exploring characters and I loved my squad’s loyalty missions.

Captain Bailey – Bailey is voiced by Michael Hogan (Colonel Tigh from “BSG”) and he is great. He is a rough beat cop who grows over the course of the series as Shepard helps him see the depth of certain situations. He is a great character and I’m glad he survives this game.

The Illusive Man – The Illusive Man is obviously evil, he brings you back to life but there is never any question that his intentions are to use you as a weapon for power. You see some of the things he’s done over the course of the series and he has the gall to ask you to save the Collector Base. Telling him to screw himself was really rewarding.

Aria – Aria is the Asari leader of Omega, a gang planet where she is the one pulling all the strings. She is a really cool leader, she even owns a Krogan Warlord she has called Patriarch mockingly. As Shepard you hurt and help her operations about equally given the Mercs are people who use Omega but they are also targeting Patriarch and her other assets…so she pretty much gives you free reign. She is one of the few characters unafraid when she meets you.

The Flotilla Admirals – The Flotilla Admirals are a fascinating group. There is the family friend, a soldier who served with Tali’s dad, an Admiral who wants to control the Geth and one who wants to make peace. There are reasons for each on why they think the way they do and in the end Tali was just a political pawn so calling them out on their crap frees Tali from being exiled.

Kelly Chambers – Kelly is the ship psychologist who lets you know what characters are interested in you and why and explores your relationships. She was the one I told that I didn’t have feelings for Ashley and found out that Tali liked me.

Wrex – Wrex is amazing! Since I saved him last game he is now working on uniting all the Krogan clans. He is such a fun character, he is a bit overwhelmed by his new leadership responsibilities but he helps you with Grunt’s coming of age and it is fun to talk to him about his life and the past memories.

Joker – Joker manages to survive the Collector’s destruction of the first Normandy. He is the first person you meet on the new Cerberus Normandy and his relationship with the Ship’s AI EDI is the main drama on the ship. He also is the first to let you know whenever two of your shipmates are at odds for you to resolve it. He is the heart of the ship with EDI and they rescue it before the Suicide Mission.

EDI – EDI is an AI who is pretty fantastic. She jokes and is good at giving you assessments of different situations and is always a help. She is an AI that makes choices and has drive and I’m curious to see how she develops in “Mass Effect 3.”

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Your Squad – The Squad, minus Zaeed is one of the best parts of this game. I loved their loyalty missions, and each of the characters is complex and compelling in their different ways. You are the crew of “Firefly” or “Farscape” aka a bunch of misfits who are great at your certain tasks.

Garrus – Garrus goes Batman in this game and has become a vigilante targeting the leaders of all the Merc Groups. He is going under the name of Archangel and it is up to you to rescue him. His loyalty mission involves him hunting down the member of his team who betrayed him and you can let him make the kill or forgive his former friend. It is powerful and Garrus is really the best friend of Shepard.

Miranda – Miranda is the one who brings you back to life. She is cruel to a lot of the crew, especially Jack but I initially pursued her for saving my life. That changed when she was cruel to Jack and I chose Jack over her to remain friends with both (Tali was my romance option) since I didn’t have any patience for Miranda’s crap towards others. You get why she is cruel though as she has an abusive controlling father and your loyalty mission with her is rescuing her sister.

Jacob – Jacob is the human soldier cut from the same vein as Kaidan, as in he is super serious and he only chills with you after the loyalty mission and even than doesn’t talk much. I liked the guy when he wasn’t being a racist though. The moment he talked down to Tali I was done with him as his Cerberus was showing. He gets better (they all do) but it gave me Ashley vibes and I hated her Speciesism.

Jack – Jack is the PTSD super biotic created by Cerberus. She is an awesome character who you help get revenge on Cerberus by destroying the station. She also meets another person there too who was just as scarred as she was. She was my backup Biotic and her flavor text is a lot of fun. She really does not care.

Grunt – Grunt is a test tube Krogan made to be a Super Krogan by the Warlord you are attempting to recruit. He is unstable but a lot of fun as you help him find balance and go through his coming of age as you can make history with him, making a killing that only Wrex had made prior.

Thane – Thane is Drell assassin who you help by rescuing his son. Captain Bailey even helps you out too and makes an easy way for Thane’s son to have a new start. It is from Thane you also learn the one time he didn’t kill was when his wife tried to save his quarry. It is powerful and seeing him recount memories as exact is powerful, as his philosophy of mind and body being separate entities.

Kasumi – Kasumi is DLC and her DLC is awesome! You go undercover to steal the Grey Box from a rich crook. Over the course of the DLC you help her hack and get revenge and after I said she could keep the Box if that is what she wanted. I really liked Kasumi, there was a reason she was my backup tech. after Tali.

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Legion – Legion is a fascinating character. It is Geth as in their are multiple programs that make him up. His arc is saving the Geth from the Reapers as he uploads a virus to combat Reaper control and integrates the other Geth into him. His sole goal is the survival of the Geth but he can see beyond that as he and Tali do become friends. He is a great character and I really enjoyed his loyalty mission.

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Mordin – Mordin is a Salarian Mad Scientist and is one of my favorite characters. He helped improve the Genophage and his arc is dealing with his past actions and his opinion changing about the Krogan. I really enjoyed this character, especially learning how he was a singer and the scene he gives you were he sings Gilbert and Sullivan. He was my early main squad until I did Tali’s mission.

Samara – Samara was my go to Biotic. Her story is powerful and sad as she is an Asari Judicator seeking out her daughter who kills with sex. You make the choice to choose her or her daughter for your team and I obviously chose her. I’m Paragon and Samara is Paragon incarnate. She is old and you learn a lot from her over the course of the game. I missed having Liara on the main team but Samara was so cool I wasn’t too sad.

Tali – Tali was my love interest this game and now I just want to survive through 3 with her and end things with Ashley from 1. She meets you early on when you are with Cerberus and sees right through Cerberus. It was great planning to fight Cerberus with her and helping her when she is put on trial as a Pawn for the Admirals plans against the Geth. Her story is tragic as we learn her father was doing experiments on the Geth that lead to his team getting killed. I chose to not reveal what we found so she wouldn’t be exiled and after the romance took off. Tali is my favorite character in the game at this point. I really want to end “Mass Effect 3” with her and survive the game.

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The Major DLC – The Major DLC as in Kasumi, Lair of the Shadow Broker and Overlord were a lot of fun and really enriched the game…I just wish they’d come with the game already given Liara’s role is too important to be DLC.

Overlord – Overlord involves you rescuing a Savant who has been turned into a rogue AI by Cerberus. It is a sad mission and listening to Tali and Samara’s dialogue made it all the more powerful. We all felt for the guy and it was great rescuing him from his brother and getting him help.

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Lair of the Shadow Broker – This was my favorite mission in the game besides the Suicide Mission. The Lair of the Shadow Broker involves you teaming up with Liara and following a bread crumb trail back to the Shadow Broker’s lair where a final showdown goes down and you take out the current Shadow Broker, leading to Liara’s ascension as the current Shadow Broker. After you can invite Liara to the ship and have wine with her. It was such a fun mission with high rewards, easily one of the best parts of the game.

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Loyalty Missions – Loyalty missions are part of what made this game great. You not only have someone on your squad automatically…you have to earn their loyalty and your choices during the game change that status. The missions themselves are usually a lot of fun with Tali, Legion, Grunt, Mordin and Kasumi being my most favorite loyalty missions.

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The Collectors – The Collectors are the main threat and are established as dangerous early on (they do kill you). Over the course of the missions you learn they are being controlled by the Reaper Harbringer and that they were once Protheans. Each level where you face them is a challenge as they have some pretty powerful weapons and enemies which makes defeating them at the end, all the more rewarding.

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Tali Romance / Romance – Initially I pursued Miranda for saving my life but changed my mind after she was being cruel to Jack and ended it. After Kelly Chambers told me Tali liked me and I pursued her. It was great helping her and Legion come together and she is such a cool character. I loved her relationship with her people and her father and the whole romance scene is beautiful. She takes some things to strengthen her immune system since when Quarrians have sex they are at risk due to their suits keeping all germs and things away, since in space they had to keep everything sterile. After the game I just want to survive Mass Effect 3 with her and end the Ashley Romance that apparently I made happen in 1, that I thought I’d ended at the end of that game.

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The Suicide Mission – The Suicide Mission is powerful and hard. The first time I played it I lost Legion so went back to last save and chose the right people in order for everyone to survive. The stakes are high and I ended it with my main squad of Tali and Samara. Fighting the Human Reaper was so much fun as well as the Collector Harbringer possessed who kept giving us trouble. This mission was easily one of the best experiences I’ve had in gaming.

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My Main Squad – My main squad was Tali as my tech. and Samara as my Biotic. I took these two on the most missions throughout the game. I always play Soldier and it was great having a squad similar to the Tali and Liara main group I used in the first game. My backup tech was Kasumi and after her Mordin and back up Biotic was Jack.

Okay: Zaeed – Zaeed is a rough around the edges creator of the Blue Suns mercenary organization. His loyalty mission is taking out the other leader of the Blue Suns and rescuing the people he endangers. I really didn’t like this guy. He contributes nothing to the crew besides being an extra body for the Suicide Mission.

Too Many Mercs – There are the Blue Suns, Eclipse, Blood Pack, etc. Mercenaries are mostly what you fight and I think that was a missed opportunity. There should be more than mercs controlling the underbelly of the Galaxy.

Overpriced DLC – Zaeed, Kasumi, the Hammerhead, Lair of the Shadow Broker and Overlord. First the 2 new characters should have come free as should have Lair of the Shadow Broker. I enjoyed the DLC but it was expensive. Bioware Credits are a stupid idea that forces you to spend more money than the DLC is actually worth. I still enjoyed the DLC but screw EA and Bioware for not releasing most of it with the game.

The Path I Chose – I chose the path of Paragon, Tali as my romance option and to destroy the Collector Base. On every loyalty mission I did the Paragon options and I chose Samara over Morinth. I really hope these choices matter in “Mass Effect 3.” I don’t want any of my squad to die.

    This is a game I’d highly recommend, and you don’t have to play the first game to do it (though it is more rewarding if you do). This is a Universe on par with “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” in regards to lore and characters I care about. I know I’m probably in for at least some disappoint with “Mass Effect 3” but the first 2 games has made the risk worth it. I care about the world and the characters and want the best outcome for all of them. God, I really have become a Paragon.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10 Would be perfect if not for too many Mercs that you fight, overpriced DLC and Zaeed being a waste of a character.

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Diablo III – A Solid Return to the Franchise With Addicting Gameplay and Some Story Issues

Diablo III

    My general rule for games and shows is that I have to finish watching them or playing them before I do a review. This is a big reason why I don’t tend to as many game reviews. I’m a completionist on games that have an actual ending. Luckily “Diablo III” does and with it the chance to review the 3 aspects of a game that I will be judging upon. Story, gameplay and the overall experience of the game as a whole.

    I have been a big fan of the Diablo Franchise since the first game, which was one of the first games I ever beat. I still remember saving the game right before I faced Diablo and returning to my save to kill him multiple times with my warrior who I had got his mana high enough to lay down a bunch of fire walls that destroyed the minions surrounding Diablo and brought down his health. Besides Starcraft and Warcraft II, Diablo was my introduction to the great worlds that Blizzard has created, and I look forward to going back and reviewing more of those classic games as well as the expansion to this game, “Reaper of Souls.” Suffice to say I am a huge fan of these Universes (Though I think Warcraft went downhill after “The Frozen Throne”) and can’t wait to return and review the games.

   The story of Diablo III takes place after the destruction of the Soulstone at the end of “Diablo II: Lord of Destruction” and the world has gone quite as evil starts to rise again as the mysterious Black Soulstone arrives on the scene and a mysterious figure falls from the sky leading the Hero go and investigate the incident in New Tristam and meeting up with Leah and her Uncle Deckard Cain who have been investigating the surrounding events.

The Gameplay: Pros – Exploration – The exploration aspect is one of the great things about all of the games of the Diablo Franchise. The maps are expansive but not boring since there is always a dungeon to raid or an event to take place in that keeps you on your toes and gives you a chance to try out new tactics or see another part of the world.

Rewards – The reward system is fantastic. From getting different flags with symbols, winning achievements and of course gear for your character so you can tackle the next area or a more difficult area. The rewards reward you for challenging yourself and pushing your limits.

Combat – I play Witch Doctor as my main and I much prefer his mixture of spell and pet based combat. The Demon Hunter is my secondary in Diablo III pre- “Reaper of Souls” and I found her combat style still fun, but a bit too slow for me. The Witch Doctor rewards quickness and taking on as many enemies as possible which I enjoy.

Skills – The game has both active and passive skills. I have a pet based Witch Doctor so the skills I chose were to strengthen pet life or give me more pets be it stronger gargantuans, more fetishes or more zombie dogs. Besides that I play him somewhat like a mage and enjoy using fire based abilities. Each character has a diverse range of skills and options too and it is much clearer on what they and how they can work together than in “Diablo II.”

Okay – Most Boss Battles – Most boss battles were easy but the ones that provided a challenge were a lot of fun. The Butcher and King Leoric when I first started took a lot to take down and the Belial fight was fun too even though he couldn’t touch me. Some of the minor bosses in the High Heavens were fun too. Overall the bosses could have been more challenging and been given more area attacks or abilities that would not down half you health automatically. That would have helped with their threat and made the game more fun.

Difficulty – The difficulty was normal in my first playthrough which was too easy for me. I beat the game really fast. After I increased it by two I had a bit more of a challenge, Act Bosses weren’t any harder though, only mini-bosses and Elites. That is why I’m putting difficulty at okay. Difficulty should be across the board…Act Bosses should be more difficult than mini-bosses and Elites.

The Story: Pros – The World – The world is fantastic and in this we get to explore Sanctuary, Hell and the High Heavens…which is a first since in the past games the only places you could explore were Hell and all over Sanctuary.

New Tristam – New Tristam is a great gothic area that I greatly enjoyed as we got see King Leoric return and learn his tragic backstory (he is another pro, I liked the whole drama surrounding his corruption and how his son was the hero from the first Diablo who became Diablo). The zombies and cultists give it an amazing gothic feel and there is so much history. The fact that this is the only Act with Deckard Cain helps too.

Caldeum – Caldeum is a lot of fun as you get to help refugees and deal with the Cultist and Belial threat. The world has a lot of history to it and here is where you start to learn about the Nephalem and meet the awesome mad character Zolton Kulle (another amazing character who is pretty much immortal and created the Black Soulstone) and visiting his prison to get him back his body is a lot of fun.

Bastion’s Keep – Like in “Lord of Destruction,” this area is one giant siege that you have to fight back before facing the one responsible in their lair. You see the destruction of war in this and a lot of characters you aren’t able to save as demons swoop out of the air to carry warriors away. You feel Azmodan bringing his full force in this one and it makes for a fun act.

The High Heavens – The High Heavens is where you learn most angels hate you and it is only when you save some of them that they come around and see you are helping free the world from Diablo. Diablo almost wins in this and it is great seeing what a corrupted Heaven would look like.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of the Diablo Franchise, especially the villains as often they are given tragic or distinct motivations that make them a lot of fun to face.

King Leoric – The King is back and in this we learn he started going mad after a failed war against Westmarch and how is corrupt adviser (Who you fight after Leoric in the first game) is a big reason why he’s losing it. I felt bad for him and as you go to face him you see everything he’s lost as all the dead shells who you fight were once humans and men who served under him before he lost everything to Diablo.

Zolton Kulle – This guy is fun and hilarious. He’s sarcastic, he mocks those who trapped him and he keeps his deal up until the end. I wish he was a follower since his witty remarks are a nice break from the genuine feelings from your followers or Leah.

Maghda – Maghda has a great design and has butterflies wings from creatures carrying her. She is a threat throughout Act 1 and 2 and a constant presence. She also kills Deckard Cain cementing her as a more relevant bad than a lot of others you face. Her fight was hard too when I raised the difficulty by 2 as she had adds over the entire map and they were changing into stronger figures so it was a race to kill her in time. I wish the Act end bosses had been that challenging.

Adria – Adria is Leah’s mother and a witch who hooked up with the Dark Wanderer (Diablo) from the last game. Her story ends abruptly when she turns Leah into Diablo using the Black Soulstone and we never get her full motivation. I liked her journal though as it showed that there was persecution she faced to a degree and her being outside of town showed her to be an outcast.

Belial – Belial corrupts New Tristam and Caldeum. My issue with his story is that Maghda is his only real minion outside of those she raises and his reveal of being the child Emperor wasn’t that smart of a plan for the Lord of Lies. Belial’s Act should have been an investigation with more NPC interaction and with the option of Belial outricking you. I think that would have made for a better first fight as he could have defeated you if you didn’t find out who he was in time or if you accused the wrong person. After all of that there could be the minion and true form fight. I still liked design and location and the fact that he had a follower who you faced all through Act 1. It made him more of a threat.

Azmodan – Azmodan is the strategist of Hell and manged to overthrow the Prime Evils when he and Belial took over. He does a great job causing destruction but should have shown up in Caldeum. He isn’t even on the stage until after Belial is defeated and since he’s defeated in one act we never get to see his full threat. His design and minions are great though and it is a long Act to finally take him down.

Diablo – Diablo is back as the Prime Evil and holds all 7 Evils within him. It is cool that he becomes this, though I wish it had been shown better in appearance and in the final fight. Diablo is a character with plans within plans and that is why the games are named after him I think. He always finds a way to live, which makes him a good antagonist.

Imperius – Imperius is the leader of Heaven and hates humanity and those who defend humanity because of the demon blood that exists in all humans. He doesn’t change either and it is only when Diablo incapacitates him that you are able to save Heaven. I like his stubborness though as Diablo II only had angels helping unless they’d been turned into a demon.

Deckard Cain – Cain has a small role in this and helps you fight Leoric before he is killed off by Maghda. It was great seeing him again but I get why he had to die as it pushes Leah to desperation leaving her open for her mother to corrupt and maker her Diablo’s vessel.

Tyrael – Tyrael is the Angel of Justice from the last game who destroyed the Worldstone to save Sanctuary. He ends up leaving the Council of Angels when they choose to sit back and his arc is reclaiming his place in Heaven as a defender of humanity as he becomes mortal and the first Act is him figuring out who he is and working to stop the Evils.

The Player Character – The player character is fantastic. I loved the Witch Doctor lore and how he is character who calls upon the dead in the unformed lands for his power. He is a smart character with good intentions who is a bit of a paladin in mentality but quick to anger (this applies to all the player characters I think) which sets up them becoming the new Dark Wanderer and vessel of Diablo or a Prime Evil if Blizzard chooses to take that route.

Okay – Leah – Leah is an idea, not a bad idea though I hate the “Anti-Christ” meme of her being the child of Diablo so Diablo can possess her. That I found uncreative and Leah doesn’t help. She’s well meaning but beyond caring for her uncle and figuring out her powers she doesn’t feel fully fleshed out, so I’m putting her at okay.

Followers – The followers each have unique stories but I felt that they should have had more outside of their quests. I like when they interact with one another but they should have been given more quests outside of the one you get for loyalty. I also would have liked more followers as each of them could have been a much greater exploration of the regions of the world in each Act.

Cons – The Villain Taunts – The villain taunts are annoying and especially after killing a lot of minions and mini-bosses rang false. There was no danger of them winning and in the case of Azmodan I was literally attacking him in his home. Belial at least had the excuse of not having home field advantage (Same with Diablo in the High Heavens and he seemed about to win at least). I would have liked to see more lasting damage to the world if they were doing taunts like if every time they taunt the room you are in a no-name npc dies from the voice. That way it would show just how powerful these villains still are.

  This was a gamer that I kept coming back too and have already beaten twice with my Witch Doctor. There is so much replay value in this game and that was even before I bought “Reaper of Souls” which only increased the overall replay value. Each of the heroes has a different play style and within that play style so much you can accomplish with gear and different builds. The story is also interesting enough that I like seeing villains and characters again. The weakest parts are Leah, Adria and Diablo. Adria’s backstory and her going to Diablo should have been fleshed out this game as well as where Diablo was the whole time and how she was able to bring him out and make him the Prime Evil. Besides these issues though, the story knows exactly what it is and even though I would have preferred the bosses be a lot more difficult in my playthroughs (even as I increased the difficulty, only certain bosses ever gave me much of a challenge as my Witch Doctor). It is still a game for any lover of gothic, blizzard or RPG games.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great and one of my favorite games.