Friday, March 30, 2012

March Disappointments: Specifically, Mass Effect Disappointments

First and foremost, I'd like to issue an apology to the blogging community. The Mass Effect 3 ending was so devastatingly bad that I sorta shut down and tried to forget it ever happened. As a result, I only have a measly three entries for the month of March. I intend to double that over the course of the next two days. I blame seeing actual friends and grad school for this decline in posting. In fairness, I did just grapple with an Excel spreadsheet which had approximately 5.2 million cells of data and had to answer approximately 300 questions about that.

Also, I finished the Hunger Games trilogy and introduced my parents to the amazingness of Game of Thrones, both of which I really want to go into in more detail. Basically, what I'm trying to say is I've generated enough ideas for the English Muffin Power Hour to last until June, excluding any new developments.

However, March 2011 has been my most popular month ever and I feel like I've betrayed my new readers. My older readers know to expect long droughts of content, but I don't believe this should be acceptable. Going forward, I will continue to blog regularly. After all, a 17 day hiatus is downright tame compared to what I normally subject you to.

I've been discussing with myself the best way to discuss just every way the last 15 minutes of Mass Effect 3 has been a terrible disappointment. I was tempted to discuss my beliefs about the ending (I completely subscribe to the Indoctrination Theory, by the way), but honestly, this video said everything I wanted to point out and then some. Obviously, if you're name is Pimpmaster Doug or if you're one of the dozen or so other Mass Effect fans who haven't finished ME3 because of their infant sons or attendance in Medical School, don't watch this video.

I would like to add that the Catalyst also frames your choices in the way that would make destroying the Reapers seem least appealing, which would make sense if the Catalyst was just a Reaper illusion. If you do the right thing and destroy the galactic menace which is older than time itself, you'll also destroy your friendsL the recently sentient Geth (who are now totally cool with the Quarians) and EDI (who is on your squad now). It's a classic manipulation technique known as "framing the question". Your choices aren't presented as "Try the crazy man's idea, fuse with the enemy, or destroy them outright". It's "Show how strong willed you are by controlling the Reapers, forge a new path in history by synthesizing organic and synthetic life, or be a total jerkwad and destroy all synthetic life." The person posing the question really doesn't want you to pick the last option. Because that's the only way the Reapers all die.

But I'm going off on a rant. I feel the best way to proceed about Mass Effect 3 is to discuss the things it did really well and the things it really screwed up (obviously, the ending, but there are other things). So tonight, I will return with the Top Five Things about Mass Effect 3.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mass Effect Madness Abates

So I've greatly enjoyed my week long sojourn into the world of Mass Effect 3. Most importantly, I managed to keep up some semblance of a social life and really enjoy Spring Break. My greatest triumph was getting my parents hopelessly addicted to Game of Thrones, because it is awesome. But I'll talk about that more in detail next time.

In a nutshell, I loved every minute of Mass Effect 3, except the last 15. Everyone who has completed Mass Effect 3 knows exactly why this is and it's not because that means there's no more Mass Effect. All in all, I'd give it a 9.7/10. The weapons, armor and resource gathering (the actual game) is by far the best in the series. It fixed things I didn't even know was wrong with the series. I didn't think I would ever prefer carrying less guns to a fight, but Mass Effect 3 made it happen. By rewarding the player with faster power recharge time for carrying less guns (and much, much stronger powers), it encourages you to find the balance that works best for you. I'm quite attached to my M-11 Wraith Shotgun with high caliber barrel and targeting VI to optimize the spread of the buckshot, with optional tungsten bayonet. Her name is Claudia and she is the greatest shotgun man has ever made.

Claudia, before getting dressed up for the night
Also, it's provided me with a lot of material to write about and you can be sure that March will be just as busy as February was.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Top Five Minor Characters in Mass Effect

So I'm less than 180 minutes away from the release of Mass Effect 3! It's been an incredible fortnight, but I didn't cover nearly as much as I wanted to. But before I am utterly consumed by the fight against the Reapers (Harbinger can suck it!), I'd like to talk about the little people. After all, the minor characters are often our favorite (isn't that right, Boba Fett?). And these aren't just minor characters, these are the minorest of minor characters! To qualify for this list, the character can't be a major fight, appear in more than one mission, or have any real consequence whatsoever.

You take the three on the right. I'll take the innumerable armada in the background. LET'S DO THIS!
5. Mr. Thax (Mass Effect 2)

We don't every meet Mr. Thax, so that's why he's fifth on the list. However, we do know that he's a krogan and has his employees (also Krogan) speaking in a very dignified fashion. The fact that I was the first person in internet history to write "Lord Wrexington of Urdnotshire" should indicate that I hold proper Krogan near and dear to my heart.

4. Richard L. Jenkins

The L stands for Luther. What else would it be?
 Sure, Richard L. Jenkins may have had five lines of dialogue before being unceremoniously gunned down by Geth Drones five minutes into Mass Effect. But in those five minutes, he managed to look damn good in a beret. Not many men can say that. And he wasn't around nearly enough to be annoying. So that makes him a better teammate than Kaidan and Jack already. Jenkins, you may be completely useless in a firefight and not understand the most basic concepts of infantry tactics, but you never once wiped your brow to try and impress me. I salute you.

3. Li the Turian Mechanic

"Hey did you catch the game last night? No, too busy saving the galaxy? Bummer. It was great."
 Li, who has a much more complicated and hard to pronounce Turian name (and he goes by Li in the game, so it's not racism), is a mechanic on the frozen planet of Noveria (because you gotta have an ice world). What stands out about Li is that he is, remarkably, the closest thing to a normal person in either game. He knows about current events, but is mostly just interested in keeping his comfortable mechanic job.  Sure, he can talk about the crazy things that must be going on in Peak 15 or the scandals surrounding Administrator Anoleis, but he'd rather talk about cars. Plus, he's one of the few people who is unconditionally nice to Shepard. In a galaxy of extremes, Li is a bastion of mediocrity and he revels in it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reaping Day & Reaper Day

Ranking all 16 Squad Members from Mass Effect really took a lot out of me(the whole shooting match was 9,000 words long and covered 25 pages in MS Word!), but it's rapidly becoming one of the most popular pages on the EMPH. So after a brief recess (read: desperately finishing Mass Effect 2), I've picked up the blogging torch and have decided to keep the Mass Effect fortnight rolling... by taking things casual and talking a bit about what I've been up to this week.

What I've Been Reading (well, technically Listening To if you want to be pedantic)

There's Hunger! There are Games! It lives up to what the title promises.
 As a grad student/tutor, I have a spend a lot of time each week commuting to class, with about a 15 minute ride to the parking lot and a 15 minute hike from the parking lot to the actual classroom. And since I'm a grad student in Economics, that means I find all of today's music strange and terrifying.  I decided to switch things up by trying audiobooks courtesy of Linebaugh's eBook system (which has a small library, a long wait list, and a frustrating interface) and Amazon's (which has a free 30 day trial and two free audiobooks, and if you try to quit it, they'll offer your three months at $8 a month). Astute readers may figure out that I already listened to the abridged version of World War Z back in January. Last week, I got another credit and decided to see what all the fuss about the Hunger Games is about.

Now, I have a lot I want to talk about today and don't want to end up with another 4,000 word update, so I'll save a more detailed review for later. In short, I really liked The Hunger Games. I thought the main character was interesting, I thought the names were brilliant (so brilliant that it will require an entire separate article to discuss), and that the pacing was very strong. Furthermore, I understand precisely how the author is manipulating me with each new development, but it's done well and it never distracts you from what's going on. I still had an emotional reaction (read: I actually felt the emotion she was going for) when the sweet innocent character might as well have been wearing a t-shirt that says "I will die a slow and painful death". Also, I found out that there's a federal law which stipulates that any book with a female protagonist must have two and precisely two love interests for her to pick between. But those are just nitpicks. I honestly liked The Hunger Games better than Harry Potter, because Suzanne Collins doesn't make up the ending as she goes along ("Magic cannot be used to bring back the dead, Harry. Except Buckbeak. We'll totally use the Time Twister to save Buckbeak." ~Albus Dumbledore)

What I'm Watching

Contrary to The Hunger Games, we're 7 seasons into this and we've yet to meet your mother. Still good.
 If you aren't watching How I Met Your Mother, you must either be in a place without enough electricity to power a television or a grad student who has work and class every week night. If you're the latter, watch the episodes online! If you're the latter, how are you reading this anyways?! HIMYM is tied with 30 Rock for my favorite comedy on TV right now. But unlike most comedy shows, HIMYM never designates one character to be the butt of every joke (like J.D. in Scrubs). There's not one character who's always right (like Elliot in the later seasons of Scrubs) and there's not one character who always ends up on top (like the Janitor in Scrubs). Basically, I'm saying this show is much better than Scrubs. The characters are outlandish enough to be entertaining but grounded enough that you can still relate to them. The most exaggerated character, Neil Patrick Harris's Barney Stinson, has significant abandonment issues and is struggling to be a better person in recent seasons (which also make for some of the most powerful episodes). But most of the time he is trying to sleep with as many women as possible and concocting elaborate schemes to do so. That said, Barney is totally going after a woman who is all wrong for him. DON'T DO IT BARNEY! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME THROUGH THE BLOGOSPHERE! ROBIN IS THE WOMAN FOR YOU!!!!

Man, that's probably the closest I'll ever experience being on Team "Love Interest's Name".

What I'm Playing

Yeah, bet you never would have guessed that.
So I could talk about Mass Effect 2, but I'm worried we'll have Mass Effect overdose. I've already had one dream this week where I was navigating a starship away from the Reaper Invasion. In a nutshell, I got my final "canon" import ready for Mass Effect 3. I've completed all the quests, saved all the people I wanted to save, blown up all the robot space stations I wanted to blow up, gathered all the guns I want to shoot, and introduced this strange emotion we call "love" to all the attractive alien women I wanted to (Captain Kirk style, awwwwww yeah). Bring it on, Mass Effect 3!