Monthly Archives: December 2016

First Impression: Until Dawn

I think we can all agree that people’s choice in movies says a lot about their psyches.  Perhaps someone unhappy with their love life frequents sappy romantic-comedies to swoon and dream that their lives might one day turn out like those from the movie.  Or perhaps someone with low self-esteem loves to watch uplifting underdog movies because they feel they can relate to the hero and hope they too might get their chance to shine.  Because of this, it probably says something very unfortunate about those of us who enjoy watching slasher flicks.

As much as I love horror movies in general, the slasher flick serves a special role.  They’re cathartic.  We watch them as a way of venting our repressed frustrations toward those around us.  We enjoy seeing the characters tormented and killed.  Their story structures are pretty much the same: a group of people do something or go somewhere that no rational, intelligent person would willing choose, do stupid things & die, but not after being tormented for various amounts of their on-screen time.  Typically this group is composed of the most obnoxious stereotypes.  The macho jerk, the harlot, the nice guy, the partyer, the comedian… & usually one person (typically female) that the audience is supposed to actually care about & want to see survive.  Sometimes she’ll even hook up with the only surviving guy, who were crushing on each other but never got around to saying it, but bond over some trauma.  But there’s a reason for this formula; it’s so we don’t have to feel bad when the people die.  It’s the same reason you see so many Nazi’s in games.  They’re just ubiquitously evil so no one has to feel bad when they kill them.  We enjoy seeing annoying characters get what we feel they deserve — makes me wonder if people who really act like that ever feel self-conscious when watching slasher flicks.

But that’s what horror is.  Horror stories have always served as a warning.  Don’t go to dangerous, creepy places.  Don’t do stupid things like making out in the middle of the woods at night.  Don’t be a jerk or be mean to people.

I bring this analysis up not because it’s a new commentary, but because everything I heard about Until Dawn said it was the slasher flick in game form.  Only this time I get to decide who lives & dies.  I decide how obnoxious the characters get to be.

Here’s a little stream-of-conscious writing about my thoughts will playing through the game for a few chapters:

– Who do I want to die first?  The blonde chick or Mike?

– What is up with these creepy stalker camera angles?

– The facial animations are impressive, but they emote too much.  No real person’s mouth moves that much.  And why is everyone’s teeth so big & white?  It’s like tic-tacs.

– Why is there no invert controls option?  Don’t tell me it’s in this stupid update that’s still downloading.

– I don’t appreciate the doctor calling me a liar because I say one thing during his “exam” & then supposedly do something different in-game.  If I’m always playing based on my own genuine responses, then they’re coherent.

– I’m getting major Cabin in the Woods vibes.  Not that that’s bad.  I liked that movie.

– This is why you don’t date within your sphere of friends.  And if you do, you certainly don’t keep them in your group of friends after you break up.  And you most certainly don’t start dating another person within this same group of friends.  In fact, these people shouldn’t be dating period.  They’re clearly too stupid to handle relationships.

– Why am I staring at Mike’s face?  Oh!  That’s why!

– Doc, we really need to talk about your decorating sensibilities.  First the creepy painting on the wall.  Now there’re boards on the windows & a giant tarantula giving me the evil eye in this jar conveniently next to me.

I actually completed the entirety of Until Dawn in one massive, day-long session… & then promptly went to ice my hand.  For anyone curious, I saved all but one person my first time around.  But I want to wait until I’ve played through at least some of the game a second time to get a feel for how much different choices actually affect the story progression before giving a final review.  And I’ve got an interesting experiment planned where I’m going to have a non-gamer tell me what decisions to make.  So expect both of these posts sometime soon.

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– GamerDame

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More Musings & Speculation on Andromeda

I paid absolutely zero mind to The Game Awards last night, save for being excited about the inevitable slew of trailers & gameplay teaser videos that would follow shortly thereafter.  They did not disappoint, with tantalizing new information on titles like Prey & Death Stranding.  But most importantly, at least to me, was a bit more to the trickle of information on BioWare’s upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda.  We got a double-dose, with BioWare releasing both their gameplay premiere trailer as well as the next orientation video for their Andromeda Initiative.

The new Ark orientation video offers further insight into the proposed structure of society for the Initiative once the Ark & Nexus reach their destination in the Helios Cluster.  The main hub of society from the Milky Way is actually a smaller version of the Citadel, where the other Nexus will converge together.  According to the AI Avina, once citizens are awakened from their century-long cryosleep, they will eventually be assigned a new world to help colonize.  However, it will be up to the Pathfinders to make first contact with these various potentially habitable planets.

It’s the gameplay premiere that most interests me, however, as it highlights both the similarities & differences between this game with its predecessors.

I don’t want to go frame-by-frame with the trailer, but I did want to discuss some of my observations & potentially concerns about the game.

  • The galaxy map screen in identical to those from the previous Mass Effect games, but what caught my attention is the “Activate Scanner” command in the bottom.  This suggests resource gathering similar to that of ME2 & ME3.  Also, I’m curious how the game will handle or justify travel between systems.  Thus far there’s been no mention of mass relays in this galaxy, which was the means by which inter-systems instantaneous travel was possible.  As these were created by the Reapers, it would make no sense canonically for them to be present, especially given that it’s taking the Initiative such a long time to reach their destination.  Does this mean travel will be perhaps more manual this time around?
  • We get to see a bit more of our crewmates.  There’s a lot of speculation about what species will round out your party members.  So far BioWare has revealed PeeBee, an asari, a female human biotic, Cora, a male ex-cop, Liam, & a Krogan, Drack.  The new trailer reveals a female Turian joining Ryder’s shore party, who based on her visor I’m guessing is some sort of tech.  Many people are speculating that the final spot will be filled by one of the new races, & assuming we’ll have six squadmates to match the first & third game.  However, it’s entirely possible there will be more squadmates, given that ME2 had ten, not counting downloadable ones.  We also hear from a male named Sam, whose voice sounds a bit like an AI to me.  Perhaps this is the new EDI?
  • One questionable thing I noticed in the trailer, & something that has me a little concerned, is that in the section of gameplay showing Ryder interacting with a small outpost, it’s mostly the races we’re already familiar with.  I did notice some aliens I didn’t recognize, but I found it odd that humans & the other familiar races had already made themselves at home.  If the Initiative just reached this galaxy, how could they have already taken over?
    • In the scene, Drack mentions that these people at the port were exiled from the Ark.  I can see three hypotheses for this.  One is that more time has passed than we initially suspect.  In the previous trailer, I speculated that an accident occurs upon reaching Andromeda, resulting in the Ryder we control being separated from the rest of the Initiative.  With the lack of mass relays & other resources, it’s entirely possible a fair bit of time has passed between the start of the game & the scene in question.  Another hypothesis is that the people exiled joined up with a civilization already present.  And a third is that who’s to say there weren’t other groups of people traveling to Andromeda.  Sort of like Cerberus, a secret program.  Of course, it’s also entirely possible, humanity being what it is, they simply barged in & took over.
  • A related point not directly brought up in the trailer but something I’ve been pondering is the question of how the familiar races will deal with the local races.  We are the aliens this time.  The invaders.  Perhaps that will be a big crux of the game; Does the player try to form alliances with the new races or take a dominant stance?
  • The dialogue system appears to be similar to that in Dragon Age: Inquisition, with a dialogue wheel showing the tone of the responses.  Although it didn’t explicitly show it in the trailer, it’s likely some type of Paragon/Renegade system exists.  The trailer shows a timed action very reminiscent of a Renegade Interrupt.
  • Andromeda seems to be going back to its exploration roots, which the series lost over the course of the trilogy.  Expect a lot of scanning, collecting & crafting.  This might irk some gamers, but given the game’s emphasis on you being out on the frontier by yourself, with the safety net of civilized society, it at least makes sense.
  • It seems likely the classes will be the same as before, though slightly tweaked.  The trailer demonstrates Ryder in a Vanguard loadout, based on the Biotic Charge power.  We also see other classes toward the end, including one with the ability to shoot fire out of Ryder’s hand.  There will still be cover-based combat, but the jetpack can allow for more aggressive, run-&-gun style action for those that prefer it.  I’m a little disappointed that ammo is still a thing.  In ME1, the guns had unlimited ammo, they would just overheat if you fired them too much.  It’s a downgrade to go back to limited ammo, even with the excuse that all guns use the same ammo.  I’ve always felt that was a concession to trick people into thinking Mass Effect was a shooter to give it a broader appeal.

Still no official release date other than “Spring 2017”, but the pre-orders are already out.  Expect more information as it comes out.

– GamerDame

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