I’ve been playing quite a bit of Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode, and I have a few tips to share. All just based on my observations.
Credits Uber Alles
You can gain XP just by participating in multiplayer, but you can only advance so far. Level 20 isn’t an instant-win. Credits are your real measure of progression, so make sure your multiplayer efforts are designed to maximize your credits.
Focus on surviving Bronze challenges. If you can do that, see if you can survive through wave 6 of Silver. Once you start beating Silver, see if you can survive through wave 6 of Gold. But if you can’t survive that long, don’t feel bad about retreating to a lower difficulty. You’re just being smart and maximizing your effort-to-reward ratio.
Open Recruit Packs
Recruit Packs only come with low-quality items, but they come with a LOT of them. A Spectre Pack might grant you 10 consumable items and a level 3 boost. For the price, you can buy twelve Recruit Packs, which will give you 24 consumable items and 12 level 1 boosts.
The boosts aren’t as powerful, but the important thing is that you have a LOT of them. Enough to equip a boost in every match, and to equip the boosts you WANT, not just the ones you happen to have on hand.
Equip your equipment
In particular, ammo powers are great. I had a lot of fun with level 1 Disruptor ammo, which caused any Cerberus agent I tagged with my sniper rifle to go into electrified convulsions (and be easy prey to a follow-up shot).
Read your ‘Training’ power
Every race has a slightly different ‘Alliance Training’ power. Turians get weapon stability naturally, and others get more or less weapon damage and power damage. Make sure your race and class match your play style.
It’s okay not to shoot
In a recent match, my three teammates were repelling an attack, unleashing a hailstorm of bullets down a hallway. Rather than join in, I chose to turn around and watch our flank. It meant that for 30 seconds or so, I was just looking at walls, not shooting or using powers. And that’s okay. I trusted my teammates to handle the main fight.
You need a trick for more damage
On Silver and Gold, shooting your enemies in the torso just isn’t going to cut it. You need a trick to boost your damage. Maybe you focus on setting up or executing biotic combos or tech combos. Maybe you take a Revenant and maximize your close-range shredding, or learn to use a sniper rifle effectively so you can reliably hit the head. Even better, you might coordinate with a partner, such as an Asari locking a target with Stasis so a Krogan can line up a heavy melee hit.
Vanguards and Krogan become a liability, but you can work it out
Melee-focused classes love being in the thick of enemies, furiously lashing out with attacks. Unfortunately, this means that their shield can vanish in an instant, and once they fall, they’re in the middle of a horde of enemies. On Silver and above, this happens unacceptably quickly.
Learn your limits. If your team is effectively sniping targets from a window, you do not need to Biotic Charge down there and mix it up. If you’re dealing with a cluster of enemies, target your charge at weak targets and enemies on the edge of the cluster. It doesn’t help to bravely charge and kill a Geth Hunter if you place yourself right between two Geth Pyros.
A Krogan can be patient, softening approaching targets with their shotgun before finishing them off with a headbutt. Krogan are great at covering hallways, where enemies are funneled in a narrow line. In order to do this, they need to resist their urge to charge forward after a kill, but instead retreat back into position, ready to attack the next target that comes forward.
Also, don’t get locked in a single strategy. So many Vanguards just Charge>Nova>Charge>Nova. Learn to quickly assess the battlefield in that moment after a hit. If you don’t see a target in range, why Nova? If you’re in the thick of things, is there a way you can Charge away to safety?
I’m loving ME3 multiplayer because it rewards intelligence. Spend more time thinking and less time hammering buttons, and you’re on the road to success!
I played through Journey this week, and then watched my wife play through it. It’s an amazing experience, and definitely one worth exploring.
The whole thing is a bait-and-switch, really. The gameplay – the journey – isn’t the point at all. The whole game is a construction designed to create a shared experience between two complete strangers. (And if you don’t play it online, you’re really missing the point.)
The journey of Journey is beautiful, but not particularly revolutionary: there are highs and lows, a tense climax, and a joyous conclusion. But what I’ll remember are the companions I met along the way, and the fact that we experienced these things together. We explored and experienced, uncovered mysteries together, sang joyously to each other as things went well, and chirped curiously as we uncovered strange new areas of our journey.
I don’t mean to discount the game design, though; it works by keeping the difficulty even and the progress steady. It’s hard to get more than a few seconds behind your partner, so it encourages you to stop and wait for them to catch up. And seeing that moment of loyalty – seeing someone standing and waiting for you, wanting to be with you before they continue – is very powerful.
My wife had a particularly good companion. I remember one moment, where an accident sent her flying far away, injured. Her companion was nowhere to be found, and for a moment I thought the two games had disconnected. But then we saw the little burst of light that indicated her companion was calling out to her, and spotted the little red shape in the distance. They rushed over to each other, and huddled together for warmth, making little calls to each other.
It really became emotional when she declared that she was ‘Bird’ and her companion was ‘Bell’. Giving the characters names made it more personal, as we excitedly commented on the game in progress – “Hi Bell!” “Is that Bell? It is!”
All this comes from a game with very limited ways to interact with your partner. There’s no text, no emoticons. There’s one button which lets you call out. Any communication you do is based on context – how close you are to your friend, how loudly and frequently you call out to them. That limitation is important; it just wouldn’t be the same if you were voice-chatting back and forth to solve the puzzles.
In conclusion, it’s definitely worth the $15. There have been some complaints about the length of the game – only about 2 hours – but any more length would just feel like filler. It really does make the best argument for holding games on the same level, artistically, as film: you pay your $15, sit down for two hours, and go through a carefully crafted series of emotions and experiences. Is Journey any less of a worthwhile use of your time, just because it asks you to hold a controller and explore its story at your own pace? Of course not.
I randomly got to thinking about a moment in Uncharted 3 today. It really exemplifies the whole Uncharted design philosophy.
There’s a moment in the game where Drake is surprised, unarmed and unprepared, by a squad of goons. As he hides behind cover, bullets impacting the dirt beside him, he declares “I’ve gotta get a gun!” A few seconds later, one of the goons rushes out of his cover and charges Drake’s position. It gives you the perfect opportunity to use a melee attack, grab him, and take his gun.
The event is: Drake has an opportunity, takes out an enemy, and rearms himself. This could have easily been a cutscene (press Square to punch!) or a heavily scripted event (like a guard standing, oblivious, with his back to the hallway). Instead, the event is presented in the normal language of the game, with the player in full control of his actions. The guard rushing forward seems natural (you’ve been rushed in cover before) and it’s up to the player to put the pieces together and realize that they have an opportunity to do a melee attack.
Keep the player in control as much as possible. When there’s something cool to be done, let them do it, not just watch a movie of it. Everyone enjoys a cool moment, but it’s even cooler when you let them be the ones to create that moment.
Tried another game yesterday: Battle Fantasia.
I thought it was a Final Fantasy Tactics-style RPG, but it’s actually a fighting game! My surprise. I always find these little fighting games interesting…it’s like, you’re not going to be a tournament game, you’re not going to be the next Street Fighter, so what are you bringing to the table?
Well, in this case, the answer was Urs…and his chainsaw.
I think the thing that makes it fun is how little attention is called to it. Urs isn’t a psycho, and nobody seems to think his weapon of choice is unusual. It just happens to be a gigantic chainsaw. You know, pretty standard for fantasy literature.
So if you ever wanted to see a teenager chainsaw a rabbit, but in a cute way, I’ve got the game for you.
More demos today!
I played through a trial of the first hour of Darksiders, and I love the feel of the game. Everything is so big and meaty, every interaction feels so solid. It’s not as fast as Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but I felt like I had interesting decisions to make during combat, and that’s very important. I even got a little interested in the plotline – I want to know who’s responsible for this apocalypse!
I’m not sure if I want to pick up the game and play through it; the demo didn’t really excite me, and I’ve heard that the full game is very Zelda-like: explore, backtrack, find an item, use it to advance, explore some more. I’m having more fun with the game right now as a directed, linear slash-fest.
Elemental Monster: Online Card Game
Elemental Monster kept my interest for a while, with a card mechanic that’s well-designed for console play (only 6 cards in a deck, with 3 active at a time) and some interesting decisions to make along the way.
Because Elemental Monster is a free-to-play game, I found that my fun was sapped somewhat as I kept wondering when they were going to tighten the screws. That’s how these games work; give you a lot of leeway at the beginning, let you advance quickly, then apply an increasing amount of friction and un-fun until you pay to get back to the fun. So that makes me hesitant to get into the game, because I don’t want to run into the paywall later.
I did notice that the online lobbies were totally empty. More about that later.
Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars
The long title of this game accurately describes the main control elements of the game – going supersonic, being acrobatic, and using rocket boost – but completely skips over the fact that it’s soccer. I only did some single-player content, but I found it to be really fun.
It’s a good example of how emergent gameplay can be created if you loosen the reins a bit and let the physics engine and the player’s creativity take the helm. There’s no gameplay ‘move’ for driving up a wall, jumping off, rocketing across the arena, and sticking to the other wall, but if you think it’s advantageous, you can do it. This game totally wouldn’t work if it had humanoid characters, and tried to have an animation for everything. But toy cars can flip, roll, crash, and bounce, and look great doing it, and with no more animation than spinning their wheels.
Like Elemental Monster, I found the online lobbies totally empty. I think there’s a fundamental problem in how online play works, especially with downloadable games that may not have as big an audience as larger titles. The chance that I’ll come home and say “I feel like playing Crash Commando with people online today” is pretty slim.
What’s more realistic to me is that I might say “I feel like playing an online game today.” Then I would load up some kind of centralized online matchmaking application, look over my list of games I own and the gameplay modes I’m willing to play, and start matchmaking. After a minute or so, I’d get a list of games, and be prompted to choose one and jump directly into that game. With that system, I’d be happy to leave something like Elemental Monster checked off, and then maybe a month down the road I’d notice that a few other people are looking to play Elemental Monster, and we can all jump right into a game together.
DC Universe Online
My experience was the same as the last half-dozen times: start up the game, it says it has 10 gigs of data left to download, let it sit for an hour or so, turn off the console. Maybe someday I’ll get to play.
I think developers need to have some kind of single-player content that the player can access pre-patch, pre-update, no online connection, etc. Just something so I can understand the viewpoint, the basic gameplay, and the genre of the game, and be able to make a judgment about whether I’m willing to wait for the game to download, or whether I just have a fundamental dislike for something about the game.
I spent a few hours this weekend clearing out my queue of demos, game trials, and free games I’ve received through Playstation Plus. Here’s a few sentences on each.
The last version of Choplifter I played extensively was on the Game Gear. This one was all right, but spent a little too long teaching each gameplay element. You fly, you land, you shoot – Choplifter isn’t supposed to need a lengthy learning curve.
Also, it’s probably just my nostalgia, but I felt like the Game Gear controls for turning around (tapping left or right) felt better than the modern controls (L1 and R1). Just more instinctual somehow.
This is really an odd game. No, I take that back, it’s a pretty standard game with an odd premise. It definitely feels like you need to be familiar with the source material, because otherwise it comes off like someone watched A Nightmare Before Christmas and thought “Weird stuff = interesting characters.”
Probably the most interesting thing is how polished the game is. It has fluid animations, a varied combat system, upgrades, and branching paths…but it all just feels overproduced, especially considering that the gameplay is pretty close to the PS Minis version of Scarygirl. And now I look at the Scarygirl webpage, and there’s another, Flash-based Scarygirl game, same general controls, same story. Does the creator just have an obsession or something?
I wasn’t expecting this PS Minis game to be Choplifter, but it totally is. And it’s pretty good! Each level is a mix of action and puzzle, as you prioritize which stickmen to rescue first while also nimbly avoiding fire and making sure you take out bombers and blimps before they kill your men. I had fun!
It’s Advance Wars, and I’m okay with that. It does have one cool feature, where the water on the game map will freeze at midnight, opening up the battlefield. It’s an interesting way to create chokepoints for interesting long-range gameplay, then release those chokepoints to reward high-speed skirmishers.
My complaint would be that the units don’t read well – looking at the sprites on the map, I don’t have an immediate sense of which ones are short-range, which are long, how to use them, etc.
Burgertime World Tour
I didn’t really get it. The game seems to assume familiarity with Burgertime, because it launches you right into the first level with no explanation of the controls or what your overall objective is. It seemed vaguely interesting.
The first thing I did in Rage was get lost trying to find my first objective. Not a good way to start the demo. Why is the mayor’s office on a narrow ledge, where you have to go around to the backside of a building then backtrack? Also, the only sign indicating the mayor’s office is on said backside of said building. I ended up getting involved in some kind of road race with terrible controls.
I finally got to the gunplay, and it’s…okay? Some people attacked me, I shot them. Guns are fairly generic, but I did thoroughly enjoy the bladed boomerang ‘wingsticks.’ Still, this one was very easy to turn off.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
I can see the appeal of the Paradigm system; rather than executing individual actions, you’re establishing strategies and switching between them. That being said, combat took too long and was pretty boring, especially against low-threat enemies where my combat strategy was just mashing ‘X’ for the whole fight.
Also, the shop interface is terrible. It’s surprising – the game offers some shortcuts to auto-equip your characters with their best equipment, but when buying items, it’s a chore. (Any game that doesn’t let you sell an equipped item, or at least switch it for the item you just bought, gets marked down for me.)
Lots of flash, not much content.
I get Sony’s e-magazine each month with my Playstation Plus subscription. I like watching it’s features, but I find it hard to imagine anyone actually paying for this. I mean, it’s essentially a bunch of trailers and ads. I feel like they should be paying me.
I wasn’t expecting the gameplay on this one to be closer to Panzer Dragoon than anything else. I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the scenes are semi-interactive cutscenes, but at least they’re semi-interactive and feel exciting.
The downfall of this game may be the characters; even though I generally liked Asura, I didn’t develop any real attachment to his struggle, or any animosity for his enemies, during the course of the demo. Since this game is almost a movie, it’s going to live or die based on whether I want to see this movie through to the end.
The Darkness II
The Darkness II felt surprisingly good. A lot of press has been devoted to its ‘Quad-Wield’ mechanic, and it works. It really just amounts to a ‘quick grab’ and ‘quick melee’ button, but it’s very responsive and satisfying. I found myself intelligently adapting my tactics to the situation, using my guns at long range as I closed in, grabbing objects with one demon arm and moving into positions where I could slice enemies with the other.
I’d say that the biggest downside of the game is its violence and gore. Video games don’t bother me, but this one is gory enough that I don’t think I’d want to play it while anyone else is around. By the tenth head-pop or chest-burst, I just sort of felt embarrassed to continue playing.
Generic squad shooter, go! A bunch of military grunts shoot everything that moves until it doesn’t move anymore. Unsatisfying gunplay, awkward controls, and unclear objectives get this one a ‘pass’ from me.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth
This game has been sitting in my Steam list for a while, and it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise! It’s a sort of tower offense game hidden behind a very polished modern military appearance. Behind all the explosions, airdrops, and shouting back and forth, it’s really just a game about leading a column of troops past some enemy towers and reaching an objective. I’m looking forward to playing it more, and I think it’s worth the $10 that Steam is asking.
After being annoyed by the ‘Shaky Arrow Glitch’ on Rock Band 3, I did some experimentation. It turns out that it’s not a software problem; my Rock Band 2 microphone is just crappin’ out. Fortunately, I have an alternate solution, using the Rocksmith guitar cable to take the output from my studio recorder and send it to the PS3. (I’ll look into getting an XLR-to-USB cable sometime, but right now I don’t really need it, so no rush.)
So if you’ve been playing Rock Band at my house and you thought your vocal performance was kinda crap, don’t worry, it wasn’t (necessarily) you.
So, from my Rock Band equipment, I don’t use the stock drums anymore, the stock mic has issues, one of my guitars seems to lose notes, and the other is totally erratic with Overdrive. I guess the manufacturing wasn’t perfect.
I should keep my eyes out for a higher-quality Rock Band guitar. I have the Pro Guitar, but I still need a good guitar for the standard modes.