As a writer, I find being the dungeon master of our local RPG sessions to be a challenging and rewarding experience. In a lot of ways, it’s like writing a novel.
Yeah, like writing. Heh. Like writing on the fly with a captive audience. Like writing where any lovingly-crafted character may be put to death by the “readers”. Like writing where no matter how many signs I put down saying GO RIGHT, the “readers” are still going to go left because, you know, there might be something cool over there.
It’s a lot of fun, and it keeps me on my toes. Every session the players do something I never expected, and so I have to think fast to make it entertaining. Otherwise people aren’t having fun and won’t come back. Also, let’s face it, the best part about being the DM is getting to mess with people, their expectations, and even their sympathies.
Player sympathy is a tricky proposition. How do I get the players to care about an NPC? After all, the same guy who portrays the NPC (namely me) also handles every nightmarish terror trying to shoot, maim, incinerate, or digest the party. Not the best grounds for a trusting relationship.
But I found a fast and easy workaround. So easy, I almost consider it cheating. Almost.
Allow me a moment to set the stage.
We play using a house-modified Pathfinder ruleset. The setting is science fiction spanning the whole solar system, but nothing too crazy. No shields or warp drive or artificial gravity. The party had just escaped captivity while on the Moon and were making their way north across a lunar city.
That’s when they met Pochi. He’s a talking dog.
Yep, I did it. I used a talking animal. I even gave him a Scooby Doo voice. Partly because everyone thought it was funny, and partly because it’s an easy voice for me to perform when sick.
Now, this wasn’t some cuddly, white-haired Maltese with big eyes and a cute, button nose.
No, this was a man-sized dog in power armor with a gun on his back and chainsaw teeth. Something more like this.
Yeah. Not exactly a dog you want jumping into your lap. The first time the party saw him, he ripped an enemy combatant’s throat out.
But they loved him all the same. At one point, Pochi helped the party fight off a group of four very nasty commandos and almost got himself killed. One of the commandos threw his smoldering, horribly-burned carcass off the roof. It landed in front of the party.
Oh, you should have seen their faces when I described the scene! Nobody messes with the dog! The party went after the commandos with reckless abandon and tore them a new one. It was awesome! The battle had emotional punch for them. They CARED. Afterward they discovered Pochi wasn’t quite dead and used most of their healing items to revive him.
Pochi is fine, by the way, just in case you were wondering.
Now, let’s compare this moment to one with a human NPC. In an earlier session, one of the players met a relative on the field of battle. A cousin by the name of Viter to be precise. I set it up so the players could, fairly easily, gain his trust and use his help during the coming battles. I had Viter join in near the end of a fight and help out, reinforcing the fact he was a potential ally. I even took one of the players aside and filled him in on the necessary backstory, stressing that he was on good terms with this NPC.
So what’s the first thing the players try to do? They try to STAB HIM IN THE BACK! I’m not kidding! They didn’t trust this heavily armed dude in front of them, and they wanted him out of the equation.
Let’s recap that, shall we?
Human NPC, just helped fight off an enemy, related to one of the players, ALMOST GETS A KNIFE IN THE BACK!
Talking dog NPC, just ripped a guy’s throat out, not related to anyone (obviously), gets saved by the party.
Huh. Well, whatever works. As long as we’re all having fun, right? And in this case, we are definitely having fun.
Click here to enjoy some of our misadventures.
Requested by Frank. Thank you for your support!
Infantry may not be the stars of Warmachine, but that doesn’t make them any less important. From screening high priority targets to overwhelming a foe with sheer numbers, infantry plays a critical role, especially in the armies of Cryx. Today, I’m taking a look at the Mechanithralls.
IN SHORT: Cheap, plentiful, hard-hitting, and a little cross-eyed, the humble Mechanithrall is a mainstay of Cryx infantry.
STRENGTHS: Mechanithralls are dirt cheap. At 3 points for 6 or 5 points for 10, they can outnumber almost anything of equivalent cost. They also hit surprisingly hard. Each Mechanithrall is capable of 2 P+S 11 attacks or performing a single combo strike at P+S 15. That’s pretty amazing, and makes them very flexible.
Like all undead units, they don’t care about causalities. Command checks? Pffft! Those are for the living! Mechanithralls will march blindly into whatever gun-line or meat grinder you send them into.
And while an individual Mechanithrall goes down easily, they have weight in numbers that adds its own degree of resilience. Sure, something like a full unit of 5 Menoth Exemplar Bastions are tough to put down, but for the same cost Cryx can have 16 Mechanithralls!
WEAKNESSES: Mechanithralls die easily. Shoot them, they die. Hack at them, they die. Sneeze on them, they die. Just get used to it. Mechanithralls have low ARM and okay DEF. It’s nothing spectacular.
Mechanithralls also have a low MAT score of 5. Fortunately, this isn’t nearly as bad as most people think. Let’s compare a unit of 10 Mechanithralls to a unit of 6 Bane Thralls (same point cost). Sure, the Bane Thralls have a higher MAT, but the Mechanithralls will have 20 attacks to their 6! Under most conditions, the Mechanithralls will kill more enemy infantry due to their higher number of attacks.
With that said, Mechanithralls do have a low MAT, and do enjoy some debuff love to operate at peak efficiency.
SYNERGIES: Mechanithralls work superbly well with a Necrosurgeon and some Stitch Thralls on the field. For an additional 2 points, the Necrosurgeon can collect the corpses of fallen Mechanithralls or living models (your or the enemy’s) and bring back 3 Mechanithralls … per TURN! Wow! Just remember, this only works if a unit of Mechanithralls is still on the table. If you’re opponent wipes them all out, then that’s it! No new Mechanithralls for you!
Mechanithralls also benefit greatly from DEF debuffs. Fortunately, this is Cryx. We’re spoiled for awesome debuffs in this zombie’s army! Just be aware of warcasters that cannot debuff DEF or buff the Mechanithralls’ MAT. I’m not saying don’t take them, just to be aware of the limitations. It can be a little tricky getting the most out of your Mechanithralls if they keep whiffing against high DEF infantry.
Mechanithralls also like a good ARM debuff. Again, we’re in Cryx. This is not a problem! The high number of attacks Mechanithralls put out helps maximize the use of debuffs. Remember, if you reduce an opponent’s ARM by 2 and hit him with one big attack, that’s 2 extra points of damage. Hit him with 10 smaller attacks, and you’ve done 20 extra points of damage. Ouch!
Finally, take Mechanithralls when fielding Lich Lord Terminus. Mechanithralls go with him like peanut butter and chocolate thanks to his Shadow of Death rule. Mechanithralls with Tough? Yes, please!
JUST FOR FUN: Got a unit of Mechanithralls taking ranged hits? Got a Necrosurgeon flush with corpse tokens? Not quite, but almost in charge range this turn? Try this trick out. Activate the Necrosurgeon first, move her ahead of the Mechanithralls, towards your intended target, and deploy the 3 new Mechanithralls HERE. Remember the Mechanithralls must be within 3” of the Necrosurgeon and inside the unit’s command range. Now activate the Mechanithralls.
Congratulations! You’ve just taken some of your casualties, reanimated them, and deployed them closer to their target. You are now in charge range. Now go smash something!
SUMMARY: Mechanithralls are an excellent addition to almost any Cryx force. Their raw stats may not be spectacular, but don’t let that fool you. With plentiful attacks and the right support, they can drown your enemies in a wave of bodies and devastate their most powerful models. Bring on the undead!
Check out the complete list of Warmachine and Hordes articles here.
Warcasters are the stars of Warmachine, and Cryx has no shortage of powerful and fun-to-play warcasters. So let’s start with Deneghra, the warwitch in the Cryx Battlegroup box set and the most likely caster a new player will use.
IN SHORT: Warwitch Deneghra is the best debuff caster in the whole game of Warmachine. Watch out, though! This Goth chick may be nimble, but she isn’t well armored.
STRENGTHS: Deneghra has no less than 4 ways to reduce enemy stats, 2 spells (Crippling Grasp and Parasite), her feat (The Withering), and her melee attack. In conjunction with other debuffs (such as Bane Thrall Dark Shrouds) her debuffing can reach ridiculous levels. Let’s step through them.
Crippling Grasp is an absolute terror of a spell, reducing SPD, STR, DEF, and ARMof a single model or even whole units. It also prevents running, charging, special attacks, and power attacks. Yikes! Use an arc node to plant this on a big threat, and watch it crawl towards you a few inches at a time for the rest of the game.
The Parasite spell strips 3 ARM from an enemy model or unit and adds 1 ARM to Deneghra. Both are nice. Use this spell to increase your army’s damage output on any target you choose.
Deneghra’s feat, The Withering, is one of my favorites in the game. Every enemy in Deneghra’s control area suffers a supped up version of Crippling Grasp! It can also be stacked with Crippling Grasp for even greater effect! This can be deployed offensively, to add massive damage to your attacks, or defensively, to stop an enemy’s advance and toughen up your own forces. It’s just sick! And versatile!
Deneghra’s spear Sliver inflicts Shadow Bind, reducing an enemy’s DEF by 3 and basically locking them in place. Letting the enemy get that close to Deneghra is not a good thing, but sometimes it can’t be helped. Her low MAT score can make hitting difficult, making her spells much more reliable ways to debilitate her enemies.
On top of all that, Deneghra ignores free strikes (thanks to Parry) and is protected by Stealth. Her other spells can allow friendly units to walk through walls (Ghost Walk), take over enemy models (Influence), knock them on their asses (Scourge), and melt their faces off (Venom).
Sounds unbeatable, right?
WEAKNESSES: Deneghra is not a tough combatant. Her DEF is good, but her ARM is very low. Stealth can help protect her at range, but always watch out for blasts, sprays, and enemy models that can neutralize Stealth.
Deneghra also relies heavily on her spell list, particularly Crippling Grasp and Parasite. While both are great, they first have to hit the target, and that will often mean boosting. Even then, sometimes you will just roll bad and miss. Plan accordingly.
Also, Deneghra’s debuffs do not hinder shooting very much. Her feat does reduce the RAT scores of enemy models, but that’s it. Gun lines are going to be a problem because they still hit just as hard, if a little cross-eyed. Plan your approaches accordingly. Smart use of terrain and her Ghost Walk spell can go a long way.
No, seriously. Everything in the Cryx book can be used with her. She can make any model hit harder and more readily, so feel free to experiment. That’s what makes her such a fantastic starting caster. However, I will offer the following advice.
Arc nodes are a must. They extend Deneghra’s threat range with her spells and keep her safe. Take two. Try to keep at least one safe for the late game.
Speaking of spells, the more Deneghra can fire off, the better. That means fewer jacks and more models that enhance Focus efficiency. Models like Warwitch Sirens and a Skarlock Thrall are excellent additions, as are focus efficient jacks like the Seether.
Finally, a little bit of math. If you reduce an opponent’s ARM by 2 and hit him with one big attack, that’s 2 points of extra damage. Hit him with 10 smaller attacks, and you’ve done 20 extra points of damage. The moral of the story?
Take plenty of infantry, and feel free to choose your favorite flavor. It’s supposed to be a game, after all, right?
JUST FOR FUN: Target a Khador heavy warjack. Let’s say, a Juggernaut (ARM 20). Debuff it with The Withering, Crippling Grasp, Gorman Di Wulfe’s Rust attack, and a Bane Thrall’s Dark Shroud. Now hit it with the Ripjaw’s Armor Piercing attack. What’s the target’s effective ARM value? It’s a measly 1!
SUMMARY: Warwitch Deneghra is a fantastic caster. She’s easy to learn and fun to play. Her greatest strength is her wide range of synergies, which allow for a wide variety of effective play lists.
I hope you enjoyed the article. Stay tuned for more Cryx tactics!
Check out the complete list of Warmachine and Hordes articles here.
So you’ve decided, it’s time to start collecting a Cryx army. But where to begin?
Have no fear! I’m here to help.
NOTICE! These guides are intended for beginner to intermediate players.
STEP ONE! Buy the Cryx Battlegroup. This gives you Warwitch Deneghra, 2 Deathrippers, 1 Defiler, and 1 Slayer. All are excellent models. I’ll go through each briefly.
WARWITCH DENEGHRA: Privateer Press chose her for the Battlegroup for a reason. She is a caster that will work well in very diverse army lists, giving you a solid foundation to expand your collection. Basically, it doesn’t matter which models you take with her. She will make them better. Deneghra isn’t just the best debuff caster in Cryx, she’s the best debuff caster IN THE WHOLE GAME!
2 DEATHRIPPERS: Cheap, 4 point arc nodes. Do not underestimate the humble Deathripper. As with any arc node, these will help keep your caster safe, but the Deathrippers also have some impressive bite. With ridiculous speed and good hitting power, charging a Deathripper or two into combat at the right moment can definitely turn the tide in your favor.
DEFILER: A somewhat pricey arc node with a nice gun. While not a faction specialty, this will help you get use to the shooting rule. Find a clump of infantry, hit them with a debuff spell, and spray away. Watch the enemy wilt under a torrent of acid. Nice!
SLAYER: A cheap, heavy warjack (or helljack, if you prefer our faction term). This guy is a straight forward beat stick. The Slayer can dish out a ton of pain. Just don’t expect him to take many hits. Learn him, use him, love him. If in doubt, put the Slayer in your list. It’s always nice to have a cheap heavy warjack ready to pound face.
With the initial purchase of the Battlegroup of out the way, I recommend a few small games to get the feel for Warmachine’s rules and the flow of the game. The Battlegroup gives you a nice cross section of the Cryx style, including debuffing, melee, ubiquitous arc nodes, and a taste of decent shooting.
From here, it’s time to get a UNIT, a SOLO, and a warcaster ATTACHMENT. I recommend a minimum unit of 6 Bane Thralls, a Warwitch Siren, and a Skarlock Thrall. Let’s take them one at a time.
6 BANE THRALLS: Well-priced death machines. Bane Thralls are absolute terrors to face. They have Stealth, which makes it harder for enemies to shoot them down. They’re Weapon Masters, which gives them an additional die when rolling for damage. And they have Dark Shroud! What is Dark Shroud, you ask? Any enemy model in a Bane Thrall’s melee range has its armor reduced by 2! They’re walking debuffs! How awesome is that? Used smartly, Bane Thralls can make anything else in the Cryx arsenal hit harder. For this reason alone, they are my favorite unit.
WARWITCH SIREN: A versatile, 2-point solo, the Warwitch is a fine addition to any Cryx army. Where the Bane Thralls are all about raw power, the Warwitch gives you access to a host of powerful abilities. This gal can give a Cryx warjack some extra juice, stop an enemy warjack dead in its tracks, melt the faces off an entire formation of enemy infantry, and take over a living enemy model. Not bad for 2 points! The Warwitch finds a place in the majority of lists I play.
SKARLOCK THRALL: And last, but certainly not least, the Skarlock gives Cryx warcasters basically a free spell a turn. A free friggin’ spell (up to 3 Focus in cost)! Warmachine is a game of resource management, namely the Focus your caster generates, and the Skarlock brings some excellent efficiency to the table. I use the Skarlock in almost every Cryx list I play.
Here’s a sample 15-point list, which is the point level I recommend when starting out a new faction or learning the game from scratch.
Warwitch Deneghra (+5 warjack points)
Slayer Helljack – 6
Defiler Bonejack – 5
(6) Bane Thralls – 5
Warwitch Siren – 2
Skarlock Thrall – 2
With these models, you will have a healthy cross-section of the abilities Cryx brings to the table. Is this the be-all end-all of 15-point army lists? No, but it’s not meant to be. What this list does is give you is a taste of the Cryx play style and of Warmachine as a whole. It has a powerful caster, a heavy jack, a light jack, a unit of infantry, a solo, and a warcaster attachment. And it is wholly made from models that are cheap to obtain (i.e. the Battlegroup) or are models I use again, and again, and again.
I hope you found this article helpful. Please look forward to more Cryx Tactics!
Check out the complete list of Warmachine and Hordes articles here.
So are you thinking about jumping into the rough and tumble game of Warmachine? Have the undead legions of Cryx caught your eye? Do you like the idea of zombie pirates, Goth chicks, and necro-mechanical horrors all in the same army? Not sure where to start?
Maybe you already play Warmachine or Hordes and you’re sick of Cryx crippling your army and raising your casualties to fight against you? Want to taste what it’s like on the other side of the table? Turnabout is fair play, right?
Well, search no further! I’m here to help.
NOTICE! These guides are intended for beginner to intermediate players.
So what can you expect when playing Cryx?
SPEED: Cryx is a fast faction. A Cryx player can often choose when and where the engagement takes place. The ability to strike first and strike hardest should never be underestimated, and in this regard Cryx is only surpassed by one faction, the Legion of Everblight.
DEBUFF MAGIC: Cryx is second to none in the ability to cripple an opponent with magic. Cryx warcasters can strip armor, cripple defenses, sap strength, reduce aim, slow movement, shut down special abilities, deny free attacks, and even pass right through the enemy as if they weren’t there.
MELEE: Cryx is all about getting in close and personal. While the faction does have some decent shooting, the real business end of our game is done man-to-zombie.
ARC NODES: Cryx has access to a diverse selection of cheap arc nodes, the best in the game! This allows our warcasters to project their range of influence far beyond other armies, crippling foes that thought they were out of range while keeping our warcasters safe from harm.
RECYCLING: Cryx is the best faction for taking enemy casualties (already a bad thing) and making it even worse. Everything from creating new soldiers to unleashing additional spells is powered by the faction’s insatiable hunger for soul and corpse tokens dropped by living models. For Cryx, the battle field is also a buffet.
So what are the DOWNSIDES to playing Cryx?
DURABILITY: Cryx models tend to have decent defense and poor armor. In a fair fight, Cryx loses. But that’s why you don’t fight fair. Fortunately, many units have unconventional abilities that make them tougher than their plain stats would have you believe. It may be easy to put a Cryx model down. Getting it to stay down? Well, that’s a different story.
SHOOTING: If a classic gun-line is what you like to play, give Cryx a pass. Cryx has access to some decent guns, but that’s not where the faction shines.
WARJACKS: Don’t get me wrong. Cryx has excellent warjacks, and you will be using them. But as a faction, Cryx focuses more on infantry swarms than on lots of big, mean robots.
CHEAP: Expect to buy more models than other players when fielding a Cryx army. The difference isn’t too huge, but a Cryx army will probably cost a little more money than the offerings of other factions.
Still with me? Still ready to give Cryx a try? All right, then!
Check out the complete list of Warmachine and Hordes articles here.
IN SHORT: Experience one last hurrah with the characters of Mass Effect 3 as you explore new areas within the Citadel and take down a surprising new foe.
WHAT IT IS: A massive amount of new character-based content! Every surviving character in my save file was represented with new scenes and dialogue, some with multiple scenes that clearly have branching content based on past decisions. The player can even throw a party at the end and chose which characters can participate. Oh, and Wrex can be a part of the team! At least for a short time.
WHAT IT IS NOT: Combat heavy. While there are a few hours of new combat to fight through, as well as a very well done boss battle, combat is not the focus of this DLC. The DLC is also not small. On Xbox Live, this is a 4 gigabyte download! Wow!
WHAT I THOUGHT: I’m a big fan of the Mass Effect series. Now, don’t get me wrong. The games are not without their faults, the series not without its missteps. But taken as a whole, it has been one hell of a ride. Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC feels like a love letter from Bioware to the fans, directed at those who wanted more of their favorite characters.
The overall tone of the DLC is light and fun, with various characters competing with each other during combat and enjoying the party afterwards. It contrasts nicely with the grim feel of the main Mass Effect 3 experience. Wrex, in particular, revels in the chance to join a good scrap. The new enemies are similar to fighting Cerberus, but have enough variety in their abilities to keep things interesting. One mission bears some resemblance to Kasumi’s heist DLC from Mass Effect 2, but it’s different enough that it still felt fresh to me.
The focus, however, is definitely on Mass Effect 3’s large cast of characters. With the sheer number of permutations to work through (who lived, who died, what events ended which way), I can only imagine what a nightmare the party scene was to script and program. It’s definitely something I want to replay, just to see what changes a different Shepard character can bring.
I suspect a portion of the new content is going to be hit or miss for some players, depending on how much they like a given character. Fortunately, the scenes are entirely optional, and the player even has control over who is invited to the big party in Shepard’s new apartment. There’s plenty of new story, but it’s not forced on the player if they don’t want it.
On a technical side, I did notice a little weirdness. The sound went a bit funny on me a few times, particularly when a lot of enemies were on screen and biotic explosions were going off. This is something I also heard in the Omega DLC, but not the main game. A few areas had some minor slowdown, but nothing that really detracted from the experience. Overall, the presentation was solid.
So, was it worth $15?
The Mass Effect experience is enlivened by its rich cast of characters, and this DLC gave me exactly what I wanted, more of those great characters. The combat was fun, if brief, but the party afterwards was where it’s at. To me, this is the true ending of Mass Effect series, and it is one I thoroughly enjoyed.
VERDICT: Strongly Recommended.
This article contains PLOT SPOILERS for Final Fantasy XIII.
You have been warned!
Final Fantasy XIII is something of a mixed bag. On one hand, it has a fast-paced and innovative combat system that keeps me coming back for more. Coupled with its tough difficulty curve, the game provides a generous challenge to even veteran players. And have I mentioned it is a drop-dead gorgeous game?
Oh, yes it is.
On the other hand, there’s the plot and the characters and, well, just about everything else. Now, for as much as I may complain about this game, I’ve played through it repeatedly, so it’s not all bad, not by any stretch of the imagination. But, the weak characterizations, cringe-inducing dialogue, and general limpness of the plot drag it down from what could have been a truly stellar entry into this august series.
And honestly, it didn’t have to be this way. The background Square Enix weaves is full of rich opportunities for epic conflicts and powerful storytelling. The tale of Cocoon and Pulse is interesting and engaging as the layers of lies are slowly lifted, one by one. But at no point does the writing really capitalize on this.
Allow me to illustrate with an example.
Throughout the story, the player keeps hearing about the terrors that reside on the world Pulse, which Cocoon hovers over. It’s a Bad, Bad Place that you don’t want to go to and its armies may invade at any moment. It’s the Cocoon equivalent of the boogey man.
And it’s ALL A LIE!
When the player finally reaches Pulse, he or she finds majestic plains teeming with overgrown life, the very opposite of Cocoon’s overt mechanization. It’s a serene place in some ways, but it’s also unnerving. All along, I expected to find cities and armies or at least something in the way of civilization on Pulse, but in the end, there’s NOTHING!
The world of Pulse is totally, utterly devoid of human life.
It is a chilling moment, given even more punch by the fact two ladies from Pulse are traveling with the player’s merry band, Fang and Vanille. The entire world they once called home is gone. The terrifying boogey man of Cocoon is nothing but empty plains and desolate ruins.
“So, uhh, ladies? Got anything to say about this?”
Fang and Vanille have no reaction.
No, serious. They don’t react at all. The game even takes the player straight through their hometown! It’s a decrepit rust bucket filled with crystalline zombies that might have been people Fang and Vanille knew!
And they have nothing to say about this?
Wow. Simply wow.
This is what I mean by missed opportunities. For once in the 60 hour slog that is this game, I was starting to feel connected. But instead of seizing on this emotion, the game subjected me to more angst from Hope.
But, for all my complaining about Final Fantasy XIII, its plot could have been much worse.
It could have been as bad as XIII-2.
This article contains PLOT SPOILERS for Fallout 3 and its expansion Broken Steel.
You have been warned!
The world of Fallout 3 is huge, rich, and entertaining. It’s not a game that guides the player through one action set piece after another. In a sense, the player makes his or her own set pieces with a diverse set of options on how they wish to tackle the challenges and in what order.
Also, have I mentioned it’s got a pretty good plot too? Elements like the evil machinations of the Enclave, the desperate struggle against the supermutant hordes, the tale of a son/daughter and his/her dad’s dream, and the valiant efforts of the Brotherhood of Steel come together to form a coherent and entertaining story …
Which ends with your DEATH!
Until you buy Fallout 3: Broken Steel, that is. Then it’s like “Chill dude. You just passed out. We’ve got more content right here. Have you seen the new Tesla Cannon?”
Now don’t get me wrong. I love Fallout 3 (currently #4 on my top ten games of all time list), and I love the expansions. Well, except for Mothership Zeta. That one is kind of meh for me. But Broken Steel has a special place on the list because it is a true expansion of the main story. It lets us pick up where we left off and continue the epic battle between the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave.
Except, well, the Enclave from Broken Steel just isn’t the same. Let me explain.
In the main game, the player first learns about the Enclave through the radio broadcasts of President John Henry Eden, a fantastic character voiced by Malcolm McDowell. Fans of the first games already knew about the Enclave. However, I played Fallout 3 first and found out the truth the hard way when Enclave troops gunned down my fictional dad.
Darth Vader NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
From there, the Enclave soldiers become the primary antagonists in the game, popping up all over the place and engaging the player on sight. These guys are nasty customers, sporting some of the best armor and weapons in the game. More importantly, the colorful personality of President Eden gives these otherwise nameless, faceless lackeys some much needed character.
President Eden presence cannot be understated. He (or, rather, it) helps make the Enclave soldiers much more interesting and entertaining villains. It makes them an army with a leader, a plan, and the guns to see that plan through. It makes them menacing in a way that random supermutant 136 just can’t be. And it makes the gameplay that much more rewarding when the player beats them back and wins the day.
So, Fallout 3 has President Eden. Broken Steel has … err, no one?
No, seriously. There is no villain in Broken Steel. The Enclave just reverts to this leaderless, amorphous blob that acts as the player’s private bullet sponge. The supermutants have more personality at this point. It’s a little sad, really. After a great villain like Eden exits the stage, we don’t even get a warm body to take his place.
Or a warm circuit board, in this case? Warm transistor? Whatever.
In a way, this might have been the right choice. After all, President Eden is a tough act to follow. But I wish Bethesda had tried, all the same. The expansion missions just didn’t have the same impact for me. Imagine Broken Steel, but with a new and vibrant Enclave personality broadcasting his or her message over the airwaves. Not a bad change, huh?
Oh well. It just wasn’t meant to be.
Still Broken Steel is an awesome expansion, and well worth the time and money for any fan of Fallout 3. But dude, poor Liberty Prime. We’ll miss you, buddy!
The following article contains PLOT SPOILERS for the Halo series.
You have been warned!
Halo was the reason I bought an Xbox, and I played that game to death. It was the first time I really enjoyed a shooter on a console. Every aspect of the game felt polished to me, from the sleek combination of guns, melee, and grenades to the recharging shields and diverse enemies. Halo is a game I have fond memories of, and I am clearly not alone.
There are only two games I have purchased at midnight on release day: Halo 2 and Halo 3, and these are the games I wish to talk about today. Or, more specifically, their villains. The plots of the Halo games are a fascinating story of unstoppable parasitic organisms, genocidal alien races, and galaxy-spanning super weapons. That’s an awesome tapestry to place some amazing villains in, right? Right?
Take the Prophet of Truth as an example. This guy is Evil with a capital E. We know this because when his buddy, the Prophet of Mercy, is attacked by the Flood, Truth just LEAVES HIM TO DIE! I mean, Tartarus is right there ready to save Mercy, but Truth is like “Nah, leave him. It’s cool.” That kind of Evil deserves the capital letter.
On top of this, he tries to kill off half his military (the Elites) with the other half (the Brutes), when both are fanatically loyal. That’s some serious backstabbing! Not only does he leave his partner to die, but he screws over an entire race of loyal subjects while trying to commit genocide on all humanity.
Dude! That is some hardcore Evil right there. He must have a really good reason for doing this, right? Right?
After Halo 2, I analyzed the plot, trying to figure out where the next chapter would take us. Several facts refused to fit together, centering around Truth’s motivations.
Why try to wipe out humanity?
Why start a civil war inside the Covenant?
Why let Mercy die?
As much as I tried, I couldn’t get all three to mesh seamlessly. My chaotic brain started chugging out plot lines, each more ridiculous than the last. A lot of what Truth did seemed so counterproductive (i.e. wiping out humanity versus weakening his own military). Maybe the Prophets were just using the rest of the Covenant as part of some as-yet-unrevealed plan? Whatever it was, I was certain it’d be awesome.
When Halo 3 released, I was pumped. Ready to “Finish the Fight” as it were.
And … Truth turned out to be a religious nutjob with no depth.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Halo 3, not as much as the original, but it was still a fun game (except for that darn Cortana level, grrrr). I just had really wanted an awesome villain.
For all the buildup that Truth has (remember his speech about humans cowering in the dirt), he goes out like a wet noodle. Maybe it was my own fault for getting my hopes up, but I really wanted the villains in Halo to shine the same way the back story did. The galaxy-spanning world Bungie created is fertile soil for amazing adventures, as the Halo series has demonstrated with aplomb over the years.
It’s just a shame the villains weren’t up to the same standard of excellence.
Okay, Didact. You’re up next. You’ve done well so far. Let’s see what you’ve got in Halo 5.
This article contains PLOT SPOILERS for the first Bioshock game.
You have been warned!
Bioshock is one of my top ten favorite game of all time (it’s #6). It’s fast, fun, atmospheric, and very well designed. As with any game, some elements click better than others (that darn research camera, grrr). But I’m not here to talk about game play elements. I’m here to talk about the plot. Or rather, the plot hole that has bugged me since I first played the game.
So, would you kindly sit back and enjoy the rest of this article.
Ah, if only it were that easy.
The command phrase “would you kindly” used in Bioshock is a brilliant piece of storytelling. It catches the player off guard, but fits in so well with all his or her past experiences. I didn’t notice how often Atlas used the phrase until the words were pasted right in front of me in bold red. The revelation that comes from the confrontation with Andrew Ryan is one of those gems of video game cinema.
Well, except for that whole episode with Atlas’s family.
So let’s think about this. The Atlas/Fontaine character has full control over the player with the “would you kindly” command phrase. As Andrew Ryan demonstrates, this phrase provides remarkable command power to the point where he marches the player around his office like a trained animal.
Remember the mission to save Patrick and Moira? The player tries to reach their bathysphere only to have it explode at the last second, presumably with Atlas’ wife and child onboard.
So, why did Atlas/Fontaine cook up an elaborate plan for his fake family to be killed by Ryan’s minions? Observant players will note he got the idea from a Sander Cohen production at Fleet Hall. Later in the game, Atlas/Fontaine says he fabricated the sob story to make the player sympathetic.
But why was that needed at all? Sympathy or no, Atlas/Fontaine held the player’s puppet strings. He could have said “Hey dude? Would you kindly find Andrew Ryan and kill him?” as soon as the player reaches Rapture. Why kill his fake family in front of the player?
The reason this is present in an otherwise remarkable game is probably one of the follow.
A) The developers knew about the plot hole and deliberately left it in. After all, having the family die helps connect the player to the story and gives Atlas’ later betrayal more punch. It makes cinematic sense, just not logical sense.
B) The developers caught the plot hole too late in the development cycle. Cutting it would have meant scrapping assets and levels near completion, wasting precious time and money.
C) The developers missed the plot hole completely. Well, no one’s perfect.
Regardless, Bioshock is a stellar game. It’s one of those games I can crank up to max difficulty and still have a blast playing. Setting splicers on fire, watching them run to water, then shocking them to death never gets old. And besides, anyone who played the fantastic System Shock 2 knew a twist was coming. I suspected Atlas was rotten from the start.
The Polito-form is dead, insect!
Now please excuse me while I wait by the mail slot for Bioshock Infinite.
This article is about Mass Effect 3’s ending and contains SPOILERS. This article will also have SPOILERS for the endings of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.
You have been warned!
So, yeah, ME3’s ending. Not exactly what we expected, right? I remember playing through the game for the first time (without the Extended Cut DLC), and getting to the Catalyst and the Three Big Buttons. I picked Synthesis and watched the green space magic unfold. My initial reaction was one of disappointment. It was a mediocre ending, mostly because of how vague it was. I wasn’t satisfied, but I wasn’t all that upset either. I’d enjoyed the game as a whole. The ending just felt incomplete to me.
Afterwards, I went online to read about it, and that’s when I encountered the full force Nerd Rage Storm tearing apart the ending. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. I was outright shocked by the sheer quantity of negativity aimed at Bioware over this ending.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a good ending. At least, not in my opinion. As I said, I found it vague and unsatisfying. But it was kind-of sort-of the ending I was expecting. After all, we’d already had two games that ended with a similar Big Decision.
Give me a moment to explain what I mean.
One of the biggest points of contention was the Three Big Buttons the Catalyst presents Shepard. But this never really bothered me. Structurally, the Three Big Buttons are similar to the Save/Abandon the Council or the Destroy/Capture the Collector Base decisions at the end of the earlier games.
Let’s take a moment and review them.
Near the end of Mass Effect, the player must decide whether to save the Destiny Ascension or go for the throat and attack Sovereign directly. The choices throughout the game have no bearing on this moment. It is always there, always the same. Neither option has a huge impact on the story. Sovereign is dead either way.
Near the end of Mass Effect 2, the player either captures or destroys the Collector Base. The choices throughout the game have no bearing on this moment. It is always there, always the same. Neither option has a huge impact on the story. Cerberus gets their hands on the human-reaper regardless.
At the end of Mass Effect 3, the player must pick Red, Blue, or Green. The choices throughout the game … well, you know. Basically, we get a different colored cut scene out of the deal.
I could go on with other aspects, but I just don’t see the need. I guess I’m saying the ending to Mass Effect 3 wasn’t that big of a deal for me. The game had so many awesome moments in it, like the genophage conflict and the war between the Quarians and the Geth, that my overall feelings about the game remain positive to this day.
After all, as soon as I finished my first game and the credits stopped, I loaded a different character and started a new game. Right then, right there.
How many fans of the series did exactly the same thing?
I’ve been talking to Robert Chew, a.k.a CrazyAsian1, about the cover art for my sci-fi novel, The Dragons of Jupiter. Here’s an example of his amazing artwork. Is this cool or what?
Check out more of Robert Chew’s art at http://crazyasian1.deviantart.com/.
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