Mass Effect Andromeda: Two Weeks After Release

Andromeda has received pretty low reviews for a AAA title, getting a total 71% Metacritic score which includes a really low, 6/10 rating from GameSpot.

Many are furious of the game, and it has gotten plenty of hate from fans.

Is Andromeda the worst game ever? No.

Are the facial animations messy, the dialogue stilted, the writing shaky, and the characters dull? Yes, but not as bad as some are saying.

Every game that has a lot of anticipation around it is going to end up getting a lot of hate, especially if the game is disappointing.

Honestly, Andromeda is extremely disappointing as a Mass Effect fan.  Mass Effect fans expect the greatest writing, most interesting characters, and the absolute best stories to exist in the gaming world. These are high expectations to live up to, but they are expectations that have been set by the quality of the Mass Effect trilogy.

So, when a game has such high expectations, it is really easy to come up short.

The game may not be that good, but I have enjoyed playing it. The exploration and combat are really fun, and although the story is not on par with previous Mass Effect games, I have gotten invested into the fate of the Andromeda Initiative and the characters.

There is some gold there, if you care to look.

mass_effect_andromeda.jpg

The Ryder family is interesting, and something we never got from Sheppard in Mass Effect.  The atmosphere of exploring and finding new worlds is also different than the trilogy, and it is a nice, fresh new twist.

Another important thing to note is that as a fan of the Mass Effect games Andromeda is disappointing, but as a fan of Mass Effect lore the game is quite fun to explore.

The visuals all feel Mass Effect, and everything besides character faces look beautiful on the Frostbite engine.

mass_effect_andromeda.jpg

I think that the key here is that this is still a fun game that can be really enjoyed.  It is definitely not game of the year material, but if you like big open worlds, action RPGs, or Mass Effect, this is a good game.

I do not regret purchasing Mass Effect Andromeda, and neither should you.

Thank you for reading, and God bless!

Console Wars: Good or Bad?

Photo Credit: TechRadar

It has been several years now since the releases of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 back at the end of 2013. Back then, console wars about which system was better and what should be bought was huge, but even now, the war continues. For those interested, IGN keeps and regularly updates a detailed chart comparing the two consoles as well as the WII U (I don’t know if they are going to update it to include the Switch or not).

Fans of both consoles bicker with each other about which is better. But why? Why does it matter which system is better if we all just play on our own console of choice? The battle is worse for Xbox and PlayStation fans, but this goes for PC and Nintendo users too. Why do we care about what other people think about our console of choice?

Really, most of it comes from marketing. Gaming companies want these wars to rage because it draws more attention to their product. Xbox wants their fans to be loyal, just as PlayStation fans do, because when they are passionately loyal, they continue to buy their products and maybe even persuade their friends to buy them as well.

The wars also stem from the fact that the gaming community is passionate about what they love. Game consoles are different from other technology, because gamers are different than other technology enthusiasts. There’s more passion there, because games make us feel powerful emotions and they mean something to us as gamers.

So, are the console wars good or bad?

343c2a214ab4d8e526a3b2b45664aa2a

For me, there is a good side and a bad side.

The bad side is when it comes to the fans. We’ve all seen forum posts and YouTube comments of toxic fans that spout their hate-filled rants against consoles that they don’t like. They are mean, illogical, and only ever generate more anger and hate. This is prominate in the Xbox vs. PlayStation world, as well as those “PC master race” people who call gamers on console “peasants.” Thankfully, it always seems that Nintendo fans are much more civil.

The reason this is so dumb is that each console has its pros and cons and it has been this way since the beginning. The hate is also silly when you think about how gaming should be about games, not hardware. I chose to buy an Xbox One back in 2013 because I love Halo, and I wanted to be able to play the next Halo game. I also love Uncharted, but I knew that I would spend more hours on a Halo game than I would on any future Uncharted game. Certain consoles may have more games on certain years, but whichever has the games that interest you should be the console you choose.

Some people also care about performance and hardware, and that is fine. If you have the money, build a nice PC. If you are on a budget, or you prefer console gaming, Playstation has the best hardware right now.

These are choices that individuals make because of their preference. To start fights and arguments over such decisions is pointless, and, from a Christian perspective, not Christ-like at all (Jesus only ever started arguments over things that mattered). If I had the money, I would have an Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo, so I could play Halo, Uncharted. and Smash Bros Does that mean I hope that one day there will be only one console that has all the games? Actually, no, and that brings me to the good side of the console wars.

Competition. Competition is always good between companies. In a free market, competition insures that companies will always do their best to create the most awesome products that they can. It is a beautiful thing, really. If we only had one console, chances are, it would be pretty crappy, cost more, and not have any interesting first-party games. So, console wars are good, because monopolies are bad.

The PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One console wars continue. PlayStation has sold almost double the consoles that Xbox has according to most estimates, but Xbox is still doing well. Nintendo, who has lagged severely behind with the Wii U, may be making a comeback with the Switch, but only time will tell. Hopefully, we continue to have strong competition and a healthy gaming market, because all we really want are good games, and quality consoles to play them on.

Thank you for reading, and God bless!

New Character Introduced to Overwatch

Overwatch is a truly great competitive multiplayer game that has much to entice gamers into playing. One of the greatest features of Overwatch is the free DLC. The third free character has just been added to Overwatch, and she seems pretty cool.

The video above from GameSpot’s Youtube channel is the released origin story of the Orisa. Apparently, the new character used to be just another model of a generic battle robot, very much like Bastion. However, this robot was rebuilt and reprogrammed by a little girl named Efi to be a new hero.

Orisa is a new tank with supportive and defensive abilities. Right now, she has 400 health, which is less than all the other tanks. There is a strong possibility that she will be modded before the next competitive season at least once, since she has been withheld from the current season, but here is a list of her abilities and how they work as of now.

Fusion Driver

Orisa’s main weapon holds 150 shots, deals 12 damage per shot, and shoots at a rate of 12 shots per second. It seems to be a great tool for spraying the enemy and spreading out damage among their ranks in order to support your teammates.  It is not accurate or powerful enough to be great at eliminating single targets, but it is still a powerful gun for a more support-oriented hero.

Protective Barrier

This is the real meat of this character. It has a barrier, much like Rienhardt’s shield, but stationary. The shield has 900 health points to Rienhardt’s 2000, but Orisa has the ability to shoot while using it. It is on a 8-second cool down that starts after placement, not after the barrier is destroyed, so it is fairly easy to move. After playing as Orisa, I like the barrier much better than Winston’s, because it does not time out. I am not sure I like it better than Rienhardt’s though, even though it is nice to be able to shoot while using the barrier.

Halt!

This ability functions like a Zarya ult in that it sucks enemies into it, but it is smaller, and it does not hold them.  It can be nice to slow enemies down or draw them from cover.

Fortify

Fortify makes Orisa take less damage for 4 seconds and also be immovable. This second part is more interesting because it basically makes her invulnerable to effects that would move or stun her, like Rienhardt’s charge, Lucio and Pharah’s boop, or Road Hog’s hook.

Supercharger

Her ult is not the most exciting, but it can be very effective if used right. Orisa’s ultimate has her place a destructable object that projects damage boost beams (like Mercy’s) to all allies around it.  It can be very effective if the team is bunched together, as they will all gain a 50% increase to damage, and it is best if used behind Orisa’s barrier, because enemy’s can destroy it like Symmetra’s teleporter and shield generator.

All in all, the new tank seems to be a promising addition to the Overwatch team.  I personally plan on using her in payload defense games, but I am sure there will be many interesting strategies in how to use her.

Shadow of War Gameplay Trailer Looks Almost Too Good to be True

Middle Earth: Shadow of War from Warner Bros released a brand new gameplay trailer, and everything looks incredible, to say the least. Watch below, and keep in mind that this is alpha gameplay, and the gameplay shown is on “god mode” (infinite health, infinite arrows, infinite combat finishers), so do not be worried if the game looks too easy.

The biggest star of this trailer was the Nemesis System, just as it was the star in the previous game. Many thought that it would be impossible to improve so much on the previous Nemesis System, but this trailer promises that the game will do just that.

Improvements to the Nemesis System shown revolve around allies mostly.  In the first game players have limited relationships with the orcs that they dominate, but this trailer promises that the game will allow players to give them more jobs, use them in attacking strongholds, and develop more complicated relationships with them.  They appear to also be able to betray you, as well as step in to save your life when being attacked by an enemy captain.

Shadow of War.png

Many other interesting new elements are shown off in the trailer. The open world seems to be much bigger, judging by the map, and there seems to be many other areas in Mordor that are now open to explore, including Cirith Ungol and Minas Morgal from the movies (although, I already talked about how Minas Morgal will probably appear first as Minas Ithil in my analysis of the cinematic trailer).

Another improvement is the RPG elements. Equipping new armor is shown, as well as XP leveling up. There was some leveling in the first game, but it was limited. Let’s hope that more RPG elements don’t ruin the great hack-and-slash gameplay, but I doubt that they will.

Shadow of War.png

Of course, the entire trailer shows off taking a fortress, and this appears to be an event that will happen several times throughout the game as the player takes over the many fortresses within Mordor.  There are armies to lead and defenses to overcome. The trailer also mentions that fortresses need to be defended as well. How much control we have over our attacking armies and our fortresses’ defenses remains to be seen.

And I can’t write this without mentioning the drake.

You can ride flying fire drakes now!

Shadow of War.png

Do I sense potential aerial combat with the Nazgul on fell beasts that we saw in the cinematic trailer?

All things considered, it is important to note that this is alpha footage, and this means two things: first, the graphics and animations will likely improve, and secondly, the gameplay elements will probably change.

Hopefully we don’t lose too much of what we see in this trailer in the final game.

The trailer also announces different versions of the game that can be pre-ordered with a pre-order bonus of a sword and some special orc captains.  The Standard Edition is the pre-order of the basic game. The Silver Edition comes with the game plus two future expansions to the Nemesis System.  The Gold Edition comes with the game and the complete season pass, the two future Nemesis System expansions and two story DLCs.  There is also a Mithril Edition that includes everything in the Gold, but also a statue, a collector’s steelcase for the game, and other collectibles.

The game releases on August 22 of this year, so we have five months to wait and see if the game can live up to the promises made by its trailer. If it turns out to be as good as its trailer, I think we have a potential game of the year on our hands!

Thank you for reading, and God bless!

Do Violent Video Games Lead to Real-World Violence?

Photo credit: New York Times

I often think it’s funny that people still believe that violent video games lead to real-world violence. Back in 2014, researchers Patrick M. Markey, Charlotte N. Markey, and Juliana E. French conducted a study comparing rises in video game sales with real-world violent crime. They published their results in an article, “Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence: Rhetoric Versus Data” in Psychology of Popular Media Culture. The results of the study are telling.

The charts show that rises in video game sales corresponds to a decrease in homicides. This could be because of many factors, and one of the likely factors is that the same demographic that plays the most video games (young men) also commits the most murders.

Whatever the correlation, the data shows that video games are not linked to violence.

You can access the full article here.

This should set Christian minds at ease. Violent video games are not from the devil, as some may believe, and they do not necessarily cause sin. They are just another form of media to consume responsibly.

Thank you for reading and God bless.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War is Announced

Monday Warner Brothers announced the sequel to the critically acclaimed Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor with an epic cinematic trailer that you can view below.

The trailer shows Talion and Celebrimbor, the protagonists of the first game, forge a new ring of power inside Mount Doom. How this will effect gameplay, we have yet to find out, but seeing how the rings of power are such an important part of the world of Middle Earth as written by J.R.R. Tolkien, this is a major bit of news about the new game.

Also shown in this trailer are more human characters defending a city, which appears to be Minas Ithil, known by fans of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy as Minas Morgul home of the Witch King. Die hard fans will know that the city was named Minas Morgul after (spoiler alert) it was taken by The Witch King, a Nazgul and servant of Sauron, from the people of Gondor, and seeing as we see the city under attack from Nazgul, it is a safe bet to say that we will get to see this happen in Shadow of War.

Another interesting reveal for Tolkien fans is the Balrog (fiery horned demon-like creature) seen with the forces of Mordor in the trailer. Fans of The Lord of the Rings will recognize this as the same type of creature that Gandalf fights with. Even though Balrogs have never been shown to serve Sauron, in Tolkien lore Sauron and the Balrogs were both servants of Morgoth so it makes sense that they would work together again.

As a long-time Middle Earth fan, the prospect of possibly fighting both Nazgul and a giant Balrog in Shadow of War is both terrifying and exciting. Seeing Minas Ithil/Morgal in its glory is also thrilling. We will see exactly what the developers have planned for these characters and places as well as what having our own ring of power means in the future.

We do not have that long to wait for some of our questions to hopefully be answered, for as the reveal trailer says, we will be getting a gameplay reveal trailer on March 8.

Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle Earth has many diehard fans, myself included, and Shadow of Mordor did not only make good use of that IP, it was also an extremely fun and innovative game. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was a critically acclaimed game, winning the Game Developers Choice Awards game of the year. One of the things that stood out about the game was it’s innovative Nemesis System that allowed for unique and interesting orc captains to be randomly generated in the game. The orc captains would also build enmity with the player character and remember the player’s actions.

It is unclear as of yet if there will be any more innovations, but if the great mix of combat and stealth in the first game, along with the Nemesis System, make their way back into Shadow of War, it’s safe to say that it will be another fun game.

Thankfully, it looks like gamers will not have long to wait to step back into the hostile battlefield of Mordor, as Middle Earth: Shadow of War is given an August 22 2017 by the trailer.

5 Hardest Things About Being a Christian Gamer

In no particular order…

1. Explaining to Christian Friends

Some of us have grown up with very fundamentalist Christian backgrounds. Some of our friends have very, very conservative ideas about video games. That’s okay. I mean, I am pretty conservative myself, but I like video games and see them as harmless. Not every brother in Christ will share that opinion though. The trick is to still treat them like a brother in Christ and not hold them in contempt. They have their beliefs, and we should respect that. It just is annoying if they ever argue that the games that you are playing are sinful, and it is even tougher if you are young enough to still be living with parents, and they are the ones who are against games.

2. Learning to Balance Time

Games are fun, but Christianity has a lot to with balance. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Video games help us relax, and they help us experience other’s creativity. They are fun, and there is nothing wrong with fun. Sometimes, though, gaming can get in the way of responsibilities and even get in the way of our relationship with God. As a Christian gamer, it can be a struggle to keep that balance.

3. Dealing with other Gamers

Most of the time, the gaming culture is a welcoming and fun-centered community, but no matter where you go, there can be hate. Whether online, in videos, or meeting other gamers in person, non-Christian gamers can be insulting to the concerns of the Christian faith and not understand the issues we may have. There is a large liberal atheist community in gaming, and they can routinely insult Christians and out beliefs as a form of humor. We can also get unfairly lumped in with politicians who try to enforce gaming bans in the name of religion. Overall, gamers are friendly, but dealing with people always brings the risk of disagreement.

4. Managing the Conscience

One thing non-Christians can not understand is the demands of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians do not really understand or follow their own conscience. The thing is, a certain game could be completely fine for one Christian without bothering them at all, while the Holy Spirit can convict another Christian strongly against playing that same game. The Holy Spirit can convict you against the content of a certain game because it will lead you to sin, and it can be tough to figure out exactly what the Holy Spirit is convicting you of.

5. Going to Church After Staying up Late

This is a less serious one, but a genuine struggle. We’ve all been there. Up late saturday night, enjoying our weekend and playing through level after level. Tomorrow is not a work or school day, so it can be hard to remember that there’s church in the morning. Maybe we are playing online with friends who plan on sleeping through the rest of the day, but we have something to do in the morning. We need to fellowship with other believers, we need to put money in the offering plate to support missions, and we need encouragement and conviction from our pastor. Those things are hard after a long night of gaming, though.