Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Has Hell Frozen Over?

Been a while since I wrote anything now, but hell I’ve been too busy playing games to write about them and I don’t get paid for this so fuck it. ‘What have I been playing?’ you might ask, well inquisitive types out there let me provide you with an answer. Mass Effect 3 and before that SW:TOR but mainly Mass Effect 3. I decided not to review this particular title for the simple reason that anything I wrote would be fanboyish gibbering with the occasional minor niggle to be objective or whatever. In any case I don’t see much dethroning it from game of the year for me. I was shocked and stunned by one particular aspect of Mass Effect 3, one thing I would never in a million years have dreamed up, one small aspect of a huge game that has changed my views on Bioware as a company. Bioware, those crazy sons of bitches, have made me like multi-player (thought I was going with the ending there didn’t you, well we’ll have none of that nay-saying here thank you very much).

As a general rule I am a solitary gamer. Partly this comes from the sorts of games I enjoy the most being single player experiences and the other reasons are to do with my disdain for the large part of the population of this planet. Sure I play with friends occasionally and that is how Mass Effect 3 lured me in. I started off just having a few rounds with people I know and it was fun, more fun than a simple horde mode as any right to be I might add. However it wasn’t even simply enjoying myself that has led me to put as much time into the multiplayer on this game as I have, no that lies firmly at the feet of the unlock system. Rather than a conventional system that unlocks extras as you play and level up etc, etc Mass Effect 3 rewards you with credits for finishing special tasks on waves 3, 6 and 10 of a game. The tasks themselves are either kill 4 marked enemies, activate 4 devices around the map or hold a certain position until a download completes and each one is progressively harder but should you finish the one on Wave 10 you get the big bucks. These credits are used to buy the unlocks, so far so standard but there is a catch. Credits buy Packs which include entirely random unlocks from simple one use equipment to guns and new characters. The unlockables are split into categories of rarity and the more expensive the Pack the higher the chance of getting a Rare or Ultra Rare item. What they’ve done is put the trading card mentality into a video game entirely unrelated to trading cards.

The thrill of opening one of these boxes and not knowing what you’re going to get is much greater than it should be. Perhaps it’s a generational thing, or even just a nostalgic throwback to ‘Pokémon’ or ‘Magic The Gathering’ I collected when I was younger but the mystery of the unknown coupled with the genuine excitement of unlocking something you want is very real. Obviously it can go the other way too, it is frustrating buying a ton off Packs and getting nothing you want, need or will ever use but you just dive back in and in a few rounds try again. The hunt for the rare and shiny things lurking in these packs has led me to do something I would never have considered in the past, I have played with random people from the internet. *big dramatic fanfare*

My experiences so far? Mixed is as good a word as any, I’ve had the odd group of people who knew what they were doing and together we have done quite well but more often than not at least one person just runs off on their own and dies repeatedly (usually a first time Vanguard) and probably moans when I stop bothering to pick them back up, I don’t know because I don’t communicate with these people but I assume. So well done Bioware and the team behind Mass Effect and its multiplayer. You have created an incredible trilogy of games and added in a feature that got one of the biggest advocates against multiplayer to venture out and do some. Yes it’s much better with people you know and I don’t see my playing with randoms becoming a regular thing but I have had a go and didn’t hate it. Back to a more regular schedule now, until another game comes along and devours all my free time. I’m looking at YOU Diablo III!

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