Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Following Premiere (Spoiler Alert)

I finally got around to watching the pilot for The Following, and because I'm a Kevin Bacon fan I'm going to give this show two more episodes to hook me. Few pilots are anything more than character introduction; they are filled with familiar stories and plot, which either develop into something original or stay the same and fail. If The Following stays its current course, I will cease watching.

The Edgar Allen Poe connection didn't grab me. I understand the serial killer, Joe Carroll, has an obsession with Poe, specifically, Poe's idea of beauty through death, and he wants to create a living book, but writing, "Nevermore," on the wall of a crime scene isn't macabre or mysterious. It wasn't shocking. It was trite and not what I would expect from a genius. "The Raven" is something I read in the ninth grade and not one of Poe's deepest works, definitely not a reference I would expect a college professor to obsess over.

From the onset of the episode, I was reminded of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon and the similarities persisted throughout, especially pertaining to Bacon's character, Ryan Hardy, and FBI profiler Will Graham. Here's a few things they have in common: stabbed by a brilliant serial killer that helps them with the case and whose capture makes them famous/revered by other agents, retired from the FBI after the case, and haunted by the case. I think they both might be alcoholics as well. Basically, all Ryan Hardy needs to be Will Graham is a family and an eidetic memory--the estranged lover, Carroll's ex-wife, and what is obviously Hardy's son, might constitute a family.

The surrounding force of inept FBI agents did not interest me in the slightest, and I'm hoping the supporting characters get fleshed out. Previews for next week showed a Cult Specialist that appeared to be on the same level of brilliance as Hardy, maybe even combative. Other than Sherlock Holmes (I still hate Elementary), I don't buy that a single profiler is so above and beyond other agents--the local police I could understand but the rest of the FBI as well? Mike Weston, played by Shawn Ashmore, was obsessed with Hardy's profile and capture of Joe Carroll, had read Hardy's book, yet needed to be corrected on the facts and profile as if he had never heard of the case.

As a horror fan, the blood and gore, including a tortured dog, did not shock me; it actually made sense that a wannabe serial killer would practice on animals, but I have a problem when dead bodies are dragged through a house with an army of cops surrounding it and no one hears. As a horror fan, I also saw the nanny's betrayal coming and saw through the neighbors' disguise as soon as they were introduced.

Then this genius serial killer, who somehow brainwashed other people with visits while he was in jail, allowed himself to be captured rather than staying out in the world and recruiting more followers. Using big words didn't convince me Carroll was smart either. Actions speak louder, and none of what he did was the level of sophistication of Hannibal Lecter or the Zodiac Killer. He escaped prison to finish his work and demonstrate his intelligence from behind bars as a master of puppets? Why? Isn't he scheduled for execution?

While more killers are sure to arise, it should be pretty easy for Hardy to reference Carroll's visitor log and website to find the rest. The FBI knows how he started his cult, so it's also not likely that Carroll will gain access to the Internet or have visitation rights. This is a major plot hole--how will he recruit more killers? Are the writers going to have him escape captivity again, knowing they've already played the inside man card three times in the first episode? Why are all the killers together? Why aren't they in separate states, killing at random, and keeping the FBI looking every which way?

In two more episodes, can the writers give me something new and leave behind the cliches prevalent in the pilot?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Torchlight II vs. Diablo 3

In the market for a new ARPG, I tried out the demo of Torchlight II (TL2) and purchased it the same day. While playing, I couldn't help thinking of my time spent on Diablo 3 (D3) and how the two games compare. Each has faults, as well as areas where they excel. This is my breakdown:

Stats/Skills - D3 sports a forgiving stat/skill system, designed to have a character choosing and reallocating skills on the fly while stats are assigned automatically. Those skills are dependent, in theory, on the situation (more often than not in D3 I found myself locked into my skills and rarely changed them, especially my follower), yet TL2's system is one where players not only choose where to place their stats (str, dex, focus, vit) each level but their skills as well. The skills, after 3 picks, can no longer be changed, and the stats are permanent once you close the screen. Lucky for me, I have enough experience with video games, specifically ARPGs, MMOs, and RPGs, that the stat allocation was not much of a problem, and I have not had to start my character over due to a mistake--I imagine this could be the case for a beginner. If I had to choose which I preferred, it'd be TL2; I feel there's more of debate on what stats/skills I use and why.

Gear - The loot system in TL2 is far more gratifying than D3 and at times, before I had decided on my Outlander's talents and stat allocation, overwhelming. There are rare sets and unique sets, a myriad of enchants, gems, and different appearances. The customization is endless, including spell scrolls that drop off mobs, chests, and breakable objects. For my Outlander, I specialized in a lot of passive abilities and poison glaives, causing me to search for gear with bonuses to dexterity, crit, and poison damage, yet I could have easily decided to amp my focus stat, rely on spells. Then again, I could have also picked fire damage spells over poison. Therein lies the fun, making your character unique and tailored to your own tastes--first by stats/skills, then by finding the right gear.

Along with equipping your character with additional spells from scrolls, like the nifty summon dead I found on my Outlander, I can also equip spells, tags, and collars on my pet; this makes the pet just as customizable, and I've read there is a mod that allows the renaming and changing of the pet throughout the course of the game, in case you don't like the hawk after all and would rather have a badger or an owl.

Because of the magnificent drop system, the few bits of crafting in TL2 is obsolete. I rarely find myself in the hubs, especially since I can send my pet off to sell and buy items from merchants. Fishing is a decent feature but nothing mind-blowing; most of what comes out of a fishing spot is an item to temporarily boost your pet and change its appearance (Update: I received a unique pet collar from fishing so there are some goodies to be found).

Combat - TL2 and D3 have similar systems for combat. While I find D3 to be sleeker and more fluid, TL2's boss fights are a blast. I spent most of my time in D3 on a Demon Hunter, a glass cannon where one mistep meant death; though the Outlander of TL2 plays like a Demon Hunter and has some spells that are practically identical, I have not found one-shot mechanics. Instead, in TL2, I kite the boss around avoiding damage, keeping out of melee, while mowing down constant waves of minions. When I overcome the odds, the board is filled with gold and loot with an additional boss chest squirreled away...for more loot.

I should note: the mechanics for combat in D3 have greatly improved since launch via monster power, class adjustments, paragon system, and a boss engine, and I suspect both of these games will continue to improve.

Maps - There are truly randomized maps in TL2 that can play like a maze as opposed to D3's system, which after four play-throughs on a single character (I did all characters to max level except my wizard) didn't feel random at all. While both D3 and TL2 have easter eggs, TL2 has secret rooms and phasebeasts that offer levels with small puzzles. Because of the bonus rooms, something I stumbled upon by accident, I began searching every inch of the maps. During my time on D3, I went from searching maps to sprinting through them as my list of events slowly lessened and my achievements grew; it was a habit TL2 broke, and I think the randomness will lend itself to a more enjoyable replay value, whether as another class or in a new game+.

Graphics - I wouldn't say either TL2 or D3 has better graphics than the other, because they incorporate different art styles. TL2 is a little more cartoony, less gloom, blood, and gore, but I don't mind. I think the art is splendid and different, the environments and characters wonderful, and at the same time, I can play D3 and enjoy the guts splattered on the wall while spiders hatch from corpses.

Sound - Though I like the music for TL2 over D3's, I must admit I miss my character yelling during combat. When a creature dies, I find myself wishing I knew how to create a mod that would have my Outlander yell, "Die, you filth!" Unfortunately, I'm not that computer savvy, so for now, D3 wins the overall ambience and sound effects during battle, as well as voiceovers (maybe not the templar), yet not the soundtrack.

Story - As I've found with most ARPGs, the stories are basic. Both TL2 and D3 are the type of game designed for combat and loot, not exploring the depth and pysche of the characters; though D3 attempted to transcend the formula through interaction with NPCs and mesmerizing CGI, it ultimately failed--the story was cliche, oftentimes stale. And so is TL2's. That doesn't make the games any less fun.

In the end, I find both games enjoyable with room for improvement through patches. D3 is not the game it was at launch, and that's a good thing, but its stale loot system burned me out, and I have found a new home in TL2. Whether I'll be here for months or years once the shine of a new game wears off is up in the air, especially with Marvel Heroes looming and Path of Exile, which I'm bound to try, already available for open beta. Plus, I still log onto D3 time to time and wouldn't be opposed to purchasing an expansion down the road. Even if I did crawl back to D3, I know for a fact I'd pop back on TL2 when Blizzard's servers are down, for TL2 has an offline mode. Having these choices, makes me a happy gamer.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fringe Ends (Spoiler Alert)

Bittersweet, the five year run of the science fiction show Fringe came to an end last night. While it's tough to say goodbye to characters and stories we have enjoyed for years, knowing we're left to our nostalgia through reruns, I thought the finale was handled with the utmost care. I don't have a single complaint.

There were touching scenes between father and son, wife and husband, colleagues, friends, and between Walter, Astrid, and Gene, the cow. Along with Walter's comment to Astrid, "It's a pretty name...Astrid," an episode after he referred to her as, "Ashtray," I enjoyed the conversation between Broyles and Windmark, somewhat similar to the interrogation scene in the Matrix.

I also think one of my favorite parts of the final season and the finale was the Fringe Team's use of weapons they gathered from past cases. During the assault on Observer headquarters, I liked seeing the Observer battling imaginary butterflies in the hallway and thinking, "Those are from the first season," as a weird way of tying everything together. Another fun thing was seeing the, "Resist," posters plastered on the wall during the final fight, as if Olivia and Peter's daughter, Henrietta, was there in spirit.

There were no plot holes that come to mind, other than the usual questions that too often rise when it comes to time travel and multiple universes in fiction. We had wondered why Michael, the Observer child, got off the train and allowed himself to be captured, and without the writers having to explain it to us, we saw our answer: if Olivia did not have to shift to the other universe to save Michael, she would not have had the Cortexiphan remaining in her system to kill Windmark, the antagonist throughout the season--his death was symbolic. Instead of a corpse, we saw blood splatter against glass, and he vanished. His disappearance symbolized the change to the timeline that was about to happen.

I have to admit, I was tense during the scene with Olivia, Peter, and Henrietta in the park; half-expecting some sort of defeatist ending where nothing they did or sacrificed changed the outcome. Any moment, I expected an Observer to walk out of the woods. It was a relief to have a happy end for such wonderful characters; well, for most of them.

September died and was erased from time along with the other Observers, and Walter's trip to the future with Michael meant he was also erased to avoid a paradox. Peter's expression after opening the letter sent from Walter, who would have seemed to disappear, left me wondering if the drawing somehow jogged Peter's memory of the alternate timeline, the future that could have been, if it would lead him to Walter's tape, or if Peter would simply come to believe that his father was somewhere in the world--I'd like to think Peter knows and understands the sacrifice Walter made.

As a fan, I'm glad to have experienced Fringe beginning to end. Walter Bishop will forever be one of my favorite characters ever put on TV (Thank you, John Noble), without question, and Fringe will always have a special place as one of the best science fiction shows ever created--it went out on a high note.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Top 10 Fantasy Movies

When it comes to the fantasy genre, quality movies are few and far between, but I've been able to scrounge my brain for the ones I hold dear. Again, I'm going to exclude superheroes, as well as try to stick to the traditional sword and sorcery aspects. For the sake of not filling my list with each movie involving Middle Earth, I will also combine franchises into a single pick. Here's my list:

10. Harry Potter - While many would probably argue Harry and Hogwart's crew should be higher on my list, I have always felt there were disappointments throughout the duration of this franchise. Particularly, I have a soft spot for Kreecher and felt he never received enough time in the fifth film--it's a biased grudge, I admit, as are my feelings for Order of the Phoenix in general. They just didn't capture the book as well as the other movies. Overall, the acting, scenery, and special effects were brilliant, and I'm not one to shy away from watching them again when they're on TV.

9. Your Highness - The spoofing in Your Highness involved a lot of the picks on my fantasy list, including the honorable mentions. James Franco's character, Fabious, who only wanted his brother to be gay with him and father, had a robotic bird akin to the owl in Clash of Titans, and Thadeous' (Danny McBride) attempt to emulate his brother with his companion, a lizard named Steven, was the moment I knew I'd love this film. I found myself replaying the scene as they departed for their adventure in the carriage several times and have since memorized McBride's monologue. The humor, filled with cursing and sometimes over-the-top raunch, is either a hit or a huge miss for viewers.

8. The Neverending Story - A staple of my childhood, I imagined what it'd be like to fly through the sky on Falcor's back, and I couldn't help envying Atreyu while he ventured through Fantasia.  One day, I will get around to reading the book, for I've learned the movie only covered half of the story. I plan to have that done before the reboot.

7. Labyrinth - I don't normally enjoy musicals, but even in college, I played songs from Labyrinth while I studied; listening to them sparked my interest in Bowie. Though every puppet Henson used was unique and fun, the Fire Gang, those goblins with the detachable limbs, remain my favorite, and when I watch this movie as an adult, I feel Labyrinth is a delightful mix of Muppets, M.C. Escher, and The Wizard of Oz.

6. Legend - There's something about Tim Curry's voice and lines while dressed as Darkness that makes my inner child giddy. In high school, I showed his opening monologue as an example of villains for speech class, not caring I was docked points for the scene being, "too dark." Aside from the wonderful make-up used in this film, Ridley Scott's lighting is something I rarely, if ever, even contemplate when watching a movie, and it interests me to see the beautiful, dream-like imagery and compare it to current CGI.

5. Big Trouble in Little China - Campy and fun, John Carpenter's urban fantasy has stood the test of time, and I can't think of a modern equivalent that even loosely resembles this film. Kurt Russell as Jack Burton performs one of the most memorable roles in his long, illustrious career, and James Hong makes an excellent, often humorous, villain. Scene after scene is quotable, and anyone that has played Mortal Kombat will see where the inspiration for Raiden derived as soon as Lightning, one of the Three Storms, makes his appearance.

4. Dragonslayer - For 1981, Vermithrax Perjorative is stunning; even by today's standards, it's arguably the best dragon ever put on the big screen, and this Disney film that failed at the box office, happens to be dark and gritty and a standard for any director or writer that thinks they're going to make a film about slaying a dragon. In envisioning Smaug, I hope Peter Jackson took note--I know Game of Thrones did, because Viserys name-dropped my delight.

3. Willow - Fantasy movies get tough reviews, and this is one of them, often condemned as a ripoff of Lord of the Rings, yet Ron Howard's direction and Lucas' story captivated me back then (I brought it to school in the second grade to be watched by the class) and still does today. For its time, the war at the end was epic, complete with a two-headed dragon. Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) is another anti-hero I rave about, and I've gone as far as naming one of my World of Warcraft Gnomes Peck, the derogatory name Willow is called.

2. Conan the Barbarian - James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, calm, manipulative, and unemotional, is not the typical saturday morning cartoon villain expected in a fantasy movie. While a purist groans about Conan, I have always found the action sequences spectacular, and the slow pace, lack of dialogue, somehow added to the cold, ruthless world of the barbarian. There are a lot of lines I'm fond of and scenes that drew me deeper into fantasy, like the transformation of Doom from man to snake. The soundtrack is one of my all-time favorites, and when I want to write action, I blast "Battle of the Mounds."

1. Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit - I doubt there's ever going to be a movie or franchise that knocks Peter Jackson's take on Middle Earth out of my number one spot. From special effects to music to the acting, these films capture the majesty of Tolkien's world to an extent I never dreamed possible. They're an amazing display of high fantasy on the big screen, filled with emotion and stories that put other works in its genre to shame. They make me feel like a kid again; that in itself is a type of magic even Gandalf couldn't conjure.

Honorable Mentions
Pirates of the Caribbean, The Princess Bride, Clash of the Titans (original), Jason and the Argonauts (original), Highlander, Pan's Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Krull, Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, Reign of Fire,  Mirrormask, Trollhunter, Army of Darkness

Feel free to agree or disagree, suggest a movie I might have missed.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Looking Forward to A Good Day to Die Hard

Now that it's confirmed A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth installment of the franchise, is rated R I can breath a sigh of relief and look forward to seeing this in the theater. After the debacle that was Live Free or Die Hard, I thought the days of John McClane busting heads and swearing up a storm were over. That's not to say R rating means a good movie, but it means a lot to a franchise with the most infamous line being, "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker."
When McClane's daughter, Lucy, was brought in as a character, I figured they'd have to do at least one more movie introducing his son, Jack. The siblings were talked about in the originals but never shown, unless you include a quick glimpse of a photograph that Hans Gruber looks at in Holly's office, and I'm hoping A Good Day will pull off some original father and son moments. Though I'm not familiar with Jai Courtney's work, he does resemble Bruce Willis enough to pass as a son--it's a start.
Plus, this latest movie is going to take place in Moscow. It will be the first Die Hard not in America, which might help revitalize a formula that had become stale. In the trailer, I caught hints at a few things that make me worried: the seductive, murderous female, which is a villain type persistent since Die Hard with a Vengeance, combat with a helicopter (it gives me flashbacks to McClane taking one out with a car), and one-liners such as, "Me and my boy here are gonna put a whooping on you." I'm hoping that line is an edited version for the trailer...
I'd like this action franchise, one of the best, to go out on a high note, and this could be McClane's last appearance on the big screen; here's hoping it meets the standards of the original trilogy.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Top 10 Science Fiction Movies

As I crawled into bed late last night, I saw Dune was on HBO. It got me thinking about my personal top 10 Science Fiction movies of all-time. While it's subject to change and I'm going to exclude anything related to superheroes, here is my current list:

10. Dune - I used to hate when I was a kid, and my dad would watch this movie. Until college, I couldn't sit through it, yet slowly, I gained an appreciation for the actors and cinemotography: the Baron is creepy, I love the imagery when Alia celebrates killing him, and for 1984, the effects with the worms aren't bad. While I usually can't stand voiceovers, this movie is packed with them, delivering the characters' thoughts rather than telling the story, and they tend to offer some of the most memorable lines.

9. Donnie Darko - Thought-provoking and dark, this a movie that's as much about how people's choices effect the world around them as it is about traveling through time. The soundtrack really added to this film, and when I saw this in college, one of the girls in the room left because of the bunny suit. Though the scenes with Drew Barrymore make my skin crawl--her scream at the end is terrible--there are enough good performances and classic lines to make this one of my favorites.

8. Twelve Monkeys - As a fan of Terry Gilliam, especially Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I don't think I'll ever tire of watching this movie about time travel and a global-killing plague. Brad Pitt, in the role that changed my opinion of him, is brilliant. I even gained more respect for Bruce Willis, when I learned he took a huge pay cut (for an A-list actor), which he didn't receive until after Twelve Monkeys was released because he was so interested in doing the project. A wise decision, if I say so myself. This is an underrated classic.

7. A Clockwork Orange - Set in a dystopian future, the story of Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his droogs is arguably one of the most disturbing adaptations ever to bless the big screen. This is one of the films I felt Kubrick was born to make, as I doubt there is anyone that could have captured the terror of the Ludovico Technique, a form of aversion therapy, so perfectly, and that includes Kubrick's use of music. Can anyone see this and not think differently when they hear "Singing in the Rain?"

6. Dark City - People usually love or hate this movie, and from what I've experienced, the haters tend to be those that saw the Matrix prior to Dark City. Having seen both in the theater, I was more impressed with Dark City and its noir mash-up of history--the Strangers intrigued me right away. I liked the way they dressed, how they talked, their powers, and their scientific mischief, and, other than Sutherland's annoying stutter, I enjoyed the performances as well. As a fan of Fringe, I've often wondered if the Observers were inspired by the Strangers.

5. The Fifth Element - While the plot isn't complicated, the special effects are fun to watch, and there's a lot of humor, all of which is set in a comic book-style universe. Time and again, I enjoy watching Milla Jovovich take out a room full of armed Mangalores to the tune of a techno-opera, Gary Oldman's role as Zorg, and Bruce Willis' delivery of, "I am a meat popsicle."

4. Alien - I could probably write an essay on what I like about this film. There's a slow build-up to its compelling story that modern movies, especially horror movies, seem to have forgotten, and when the xenomorph first burst from Kane's chest, I leaped from the couch with a scream. Setting, soundtrack, and a perfect cast only added to the splendid "haunted house" in space.

3. Blade Runner - Loosely based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," this, in my opinion, is Ridley Scott's crowning achievement. Harrison Ford as Deckard, the scenery, the dialogue, and the complexity of its themes captivate me every time the Final Cut goes into my Xbox. It has influenced the genre in countless ways, and the day I borrowed it from my brother, over a decade ago, my view of Science Fiction expanded profoundly.

2. Jurassic Park - Like most boys, I was obsessed with dinosaurs growing up, and this story tapped into a long-running fantasy. I was twelve when I saw this in the theater, and I can still remember grinning ear to ear; I had even read the book prior to its release, after a teacher saw me drawing a T. Rex and made a recommendation. Spielberg always had a knack for building tension in scenes, and Jurassic Park is filled with some of his best work. Laughs, fear, rich characters, wonderful effects and scenery, this movie had it all. Oh, and there isn't a bad performance in it either. Twenty years later, I get as much enjoyment out of seeing Jurassic Park as I did the first time.

1. Star Wars - For nostalgic reasons alone, this ranks at the top. No film or franchise has so drastically captivated me as much as Star Wars, from childhood to present day. Han Solo, back when he fired first and never let Greedo get off a shot, introduced me to the anti-hero, a witty, charming one at that, and I'll take the anti-hero over a goody two-shoes any day, especially when I write my own fiction. By the time I was old enough to Trick or Treat, I was dressed as Yoda, my brother as Darth Vader, and my sister as Leia--on the road to the geek I am today.

Honorable Mentions

Akira, Stargate, Brazil, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Slither, The Terminator (1 & 2), Phantoms, Serenity, Flatliners, Predator, Fire in the Sky, Planet of the Apes, The Fly, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Equilibrium, The Matrix, Back to the Future, Mad Max, Total Recall (original), Moon, Critters, Screamers, Robocop

Feel free to agree or disagree.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

World War Z Trailer Impressions

So here's the latest trailer to World War Z, and in reading the book, I wonder if this movie will at all resemble it. While I usually forgive directors taking liberties with the source material I will be hesitant when I eventually go see this.
Part of the reason I'm on the fence about this film is that, as par for Hollywood, the film looks to take place entirely in the USA. I have to wonder if it's going to focus on certain chapters, specific stories, or if the only thing the movie World War Z will have in common with the book is the title...and zombies.
I do like the idea of fast zombies, which made their debut in 28 Days Later (the "zombies" weren't really the living dead in that movie), and can overlook the change, because they're a lot scarier, and the CGI appears to be pretty good from what I can tell. What I dislike, if it's the case and the trailer isn't misleading, is the film glossing over the Great Panic and the slow build-up into the war; from a glance, it appears we're going to get about ten to fifteen minutes of normal life/character introductions--then zombies. The scene in the car worries me, because Brad Pitt and his family act like they're going on vacation, not evacuating the city or even aware of the outbreak--it also reminds me of the brilliant opening scene to the Dawn of the Dead remake, which means it'd be a copy.
I could be wrong in all of my assumptions, but I'm going on what the trailer gives me. By the first chapter of World War Z I realized it'd be difficult, maybe impossible, to take those interviews and stories and translate them into a movie, but there's no reason to alter the major, poignant themes and events for the sake of action. For instance, the Battle of Yonkers better be in this movie and result in defeat. If not, I know I'll hate it.
I'll find out in June.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Hate for Mass Effect 3

There were so many complaints from the gaming community after the release of Mass Effect 3 that I was hesitant to purchase it. After finding it for twenty bucks, I decided to give it a chance; most critics, at least from what I read, seemed to praise the title.

Was it just the ending gamers hated? In doing research, I found that to be the case, and I saw the point: here we were, three games deep with dozens of characters we had grown to love and countless decisions that effected the story, yet they did not effect the total outcome. The ending, all three of the major choices, were similar and what we did with our characters along the way had no impact. The entire franchise was modeled to be about player choice, yet in the end, there was no real choice. It was off-putting.

There was also no closure to the relationships and characters from what I experienced, other than seeing who didn't die. I say that from someone who doesn't buy DLC most of the time--I don't even know what's in them, because I find bonus content is price gouging. We're expected to spend twenty dollars on a mission or gear set or new class, which usually adds an hour or two to the game, if that. Nothing substantial. One of the few exceptions was Shivering Isles for Oblivion, which was a complete expansion. So, I do not have any of the Mass Effect 3 DLC, and there might be answers within them for the questions that remain.

Up until the end of Mass Effect 3, I rather enjoyed the game. It had the same feel and immersion as the previous titles with interesting stories, choices, and side missions. There was lots of armor, items, guns, mods, and abilities. The graphics were better; the music was outstanding, and combat had definitely improved since the original, though I have to say I enjoyed Mass Effect 2's scanning and probing and resource gathering with my ship a lot more than Mass Effect 3. Running out of galaxies from Reapers was fun the first time yet became cumbersome.

I did find a few annoying bugs still persistent in the game a year after its release, particularly a quest I could not complete in the Citadel from using an imported character. The NPC I needed did not appear in front of the embassy office like he was supposed to, so the completionist within me was frustrated.

It was also bothersome to have to constantly switch the discs in and out of my Xbox when I started a new side mission. Every hour, it was, "Insert disc 2," or, "Insert disc 1," back and forth, back and forth. Not game-breaking but definitely a pet peeve that made me grumble.

Another complaint that I have is no playable Krogan. This was my favorite race in 1 and 2, but characters like Wrex and Grunt do not join the team. Instead, they're demoted to cameos, as are all the rest of the playable characters from Mass Effect 2. It was almost like rubbing it in my face seeing Grunt for one mission, especially with his extraordinary cutscene...

If a player can step away from the outcome of the franchise and just look at everything else Mass Effect 3 had to offer, I believe they'd say it was a fun experience, one worth experiencing again. However one tries, ignoring the end of something we've sunk hours and years into is difficult; given the amount of times we spent chatting with characters, making choices, being bad ass/neutral/friendly, we expected something more epic and less like the Matrix Reloaded, and I completely understand the outrage.

If I had spent sixty dollars for the game instead of twenty, going into it unaware of the bad ending and expecting the choices of the two previous titles to fully alter the outcome (this is what Bioware essentially promised), I would have spammed the web with my hatred of EA/Bioware as well. Thinking on it this moment, I expected to be playing this franchise for years. I expected to start from the original and work my way back to Mass Effect 3 for a true perfect ending...

Sadly, that will not be the case. If anything, I might replay Mass Effect 2, which is my favorite in the franchise.