Sep 302014
 

For the most part, Destiny‘s story is very bad. The game’s setting, a soft echo of Warhammer 40K where most of the absurd/fun bits have been excised and “Chaos” has been replaced with “Darkness”, is a major disappointment, but one that at this late date can’t really undergo significant change. What can, to some extent, be fixed, are the narratives that live in that world. Although it only has one real plot, Destiny has three different strands of story going on, none of which work especially well. Still, the game’s design makes some of them work better than others and [Read more...]

Apr 112012
 

So, PAX East has come and gone. I got to meet up with a lot of great folks, like my GameCritics compatriots Chi and Richard, Nels, Matthew, and the phenomenal Mattie, and to reconnect with folks I already knew like Chris, Serah, Eric, Dan, and (all too briefly) Alex and Grant. Also all the people I left out. Unfortunately the wifi at BCEC doesn’t work as well when there are a bajillion gamers rocking the joint as it did back when the biophysicists visited, so I was functionally cut off from Twitter. If, as a result, I wasn’t able to [Read more...]

Apr 042012
 
To clear the crowded sky

The ecological succession that creates a deciduous forest starts with the greed of pines. Fast-growing conifers colonize a suitable area and take it over, suppressing ground-cover growth with their light-blocking needles. As the pine growth becomes more dense, this advantage backfires. The lower branches of the old trees die, and infant pines starve in the darkness beneath that crowded sky. This is a fitting allegory for the universe of Mass Effect, where humanity emerges into a galaxy run by entrenched powers uninterested in assisting them. Early on, Mass Effect establishes that the Citadel Council forced humanity to establish colonies in [Read more...]

Mar 272012
 
The evitable conflict

The convoluted logic of the Mass Effect trilogy’s controversial ending hinges on the idea that sufficiently advanced species will inevitably create artificially intelligent life that will rebel and, if left unchecked, exterminate all organic life in the galaxy. To combat this threat, the Reapers harvest advanced civilizations, giving primitive ones the chance to flourish without being snuffed out in their infancy. This account of the Reapers’ solution blindsided many players because it placed one of Mass Effect’s weakest themes at the core of its most important conflict. The Mass Effect games never coherently convey the impression that synthetic intelligences pose [Read more...]