Bioshock: Infinite

There are some games that you play through, think “oh that was fun” and then promptly forget about- and then there are some games you play through and become so immersed in the story and gameplay that, even after you finish, you can’t stop thinking about it. Bioshock: Infinite, I am happy to say, is one of the latter.

For those who are unfamiliar, Bioshock is a series of first-person shooter games set in creepy, dystopian worlds. The first two games, for example, is set in an underwater city called Rapture in the 1960s. The latest game in the series, Bioshock: Infinite, takes a slightly different turn, being set in 1912 in the floating city of Columbia, which had seceded from the United States about a decade before. The setting is a little more steampunk-y and less scary than the first two, but don’t let that fool you- the game still has its freaky moments.

You play as Booker DeWitt- which is the most 1912 name ever, by the way- a former detective who is sent to rescue a girl named Elizabeth in order to pay off his debts. He manages to find his way to Columbia purely by accident (although, conveniently, that’s where he’s meant to go), and straight away things are a little off. The city is run by a cult leader named Father Comstock, who believes he is a prophet. His brainwashed populace see no other way than to follow his lead.

One thing I love about this game is that it doesn’t shy away from tough issues. Ideas such as religious extremism and race relations are recurring themes, as well as the concept of moral ambiguity- one of my favourite things in every type of media. Not everything is cut and dry, and sometimes good people do shitty things. In this particular case, while the main character is the “good guy”, he is at heart kind of a terrible person. The game doesn’t try to convince you otherwise.

I’d love to talk about the ending, but I don’t want to give anything away. I just want to point out that it is a magnificent ending. It’s rough, raw, and at times a little confusing, but that fits in with the rest of the rough, raw, confusing game. So instead of spoiling it for you, I want to talk a little bit about Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is the heart and soul of Bioshock: Infinite. While at first she starts out as a naive Disney Princess-esque archetype, she actually has one of the best character arcs I’ve ever seen for a video game character. While some parts of her personality are massively unrealistic (she’s lived in a tower on her own all her life but she somehow has no problem navigating social situations? Really?), the way she grows and changes throughout the game is done very realistically. For example, when she first sees Booker kill someone, she understandably freaks out and runs away screaming. A surprisingly normal reaction from a video game character, where most other characters probably would have just shrugged and said, “Whatever, happens all the time.” It’s rare to have a character react to violence as if it’s not normal, because most video games are set in violent worlds.

Throughout the game, we see Elizabeth’s demeanour change. At first she’s cheerful, happy to be out of the tower she’s been trapped in, but slowly she starts to look haunted as the horrors that happen throughout the game start to catch up with her. Eventually she changes so much she’s barely recognizable from the character we first met, but it happens so naturally that you can’t question it. She’s more human that most video game characters I’ve ever seen.

Despite its short run time (it’s only about 10 hours long), Bioshock: Infinite is one of the most immersive, engaging games I’ve played in recent years. I would definitely recommend it even if you (like me) are not usually a fan of first-person shooters, as the combat mechanics make it so much more than your usual “aim and fire” shooter. The use of different Vigors in combat make things much more interesting, although I’ll admit I just used Possession on everything and turned my enemies against each other. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth a play, especially to see that ending.

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Mass Effect: Andromeda is actually pretty good, guys

Mass Effect: Andromeda, the latest in Bioware’s groundbreaking sci-fi series, has copped a lot of flack over its various bugs and graphical hiccups. Despite only coming out earlier this year, it suffered a troubled five-year development, after which the studio in charge shut down and Bioware decided to abandon its new project- meaning no downloadable content will be available for single players. Which is a shame, because it’s actually a really good game, and didn’t deserve the amount of criticism it got.

The main idea behind Andromeda was that Bioware wanted to expand on the world-exploration concept introduced in the first Mass Effect: you travel to new planets, help make them habitable, and then move on. The emphasis was very much on discovery. To an extent, this worked; however, what most players loved about the original Mass Effect trilogy was the story and the choices made within. You could be good and virtuous, or you could be good but also be a massive dickhole while you were at it. The moral ambiguity was what made Mass Effect such fun to play.

Andromeda still has personality-related choices, but with less depth. Instead of the original Paragon/Renegade metres in the trilogy, which were influenced by both dialogue and actions, in Andromeda your character’s personality is shaped by dialogue alone, and has almost no bearing on the story. You have four choices: Logical, Emotional, Casual and Professional. Not all dialogue options are available at one time, which is great as it stops your character from being too one-dimensional.

Speaking of which, I really liked the characters in this game. There were a few that annoyed me *cough*Liam*cough* but they were a great mix of personalities and their personal back stories made them seem like real human beings, rather than just one characteristic becoming their entire personality (I’m not saying that’s a problem with Mass Effect, but it’s a pretty common issue in video games in general).

What I especially loved were the loyalty missions. This concept was first introduced in Mass Effect 2, where, to gain the loyalty of your squadmates (which affected the outcome of the ending), you had to do a personal mission with them. Andromeda took this one step further. Whereas in Mass Effect 2 you just had to do one mission and BAM! BFFs 4 lyf, in Andromeda each character required a different amount of effort depending on their personalities. For example, I had to do quite a few missions to gain Peebee’s loyalty, but only one to gain Vetra’s. It made it seem much more realistic than in the previous games- as in real life, some people take longer to warm up to others.

I can’t say much about the romances in the game, as I’ve only completed one playthrough, but the game did introduce a new way of romancing other characters- it starts off as a fling, and it can either stay that way, or eventually move in to an exclusive relationship. In previous games, you often ended up “locked in” to one romance and couldn’t even so much as flirt with other characters after that. This time, each character has different preferences- some, like Cora and Jaal, want commitment, whereas others like Peebee and Liam can be either flings or exclusive. As always, there are gay and bisexual romance options, because Bioware is awesome that way.

Liam and Jaal didn’t get along with my Logical/Professional Sara Ryder, and Peebee and Vetra felt more like buds than potential girlfriends, so my Ryder ended up romancing Reyes Vidal, a Spanish Han Solo (or, for you Dragon Age fans, “Space Zevran”) with questionable morals and a lot of charm. It was a cute, light sort of romance that I felt was really well done, considering it was only expanded from “fling” status in some last-minute patches after the game’s release.

Gameplay-wise, Andromeda didn’t differ that much from the Mass Effects we know and love, which is great because it worked fine the way it was. The new jump-jet feature was a lot of fun, though. I loved being able to jump across long distances or over foe’s heads during combat. They also added a “scanner”, which could be annoying at times, but did add to the gameplay in certain parts (although it was mostly just “get out your scanner and scan this thing so we can move on to the next scene!”).

One thing that has to be said about this game: it’s huge. Much like Dragon Age: Inquisition, you can potentially get so caught up in a rabbit hole of side missions that you can actually forget what the main storyline is! Completionists beware: you can accrue Skyrim-like hours playing this game and still get nowhere.

The environmental graphics are gorgeous and breathtaking, but unfortunately the facial graphics don’t match up. Apparently Bioware had problems with the original software they were using and had to switch to a new one not long before the game’s release, resulting in a lack of facial expressions, random eye movements, and some weird graphical tics. That didn’t bother me too much, though, but perhaps it’s because I play a lot of older games so graphics aren’t a huge factor for me. They’re not up to the standard of the day, sure, but they’re really not that bad.

Andromeda is actually a really fun game. I think the reason it got so much hate is because it didn’t match up to people’s rigid expectations of excellence from a Bioware game. I had a lot of fun playing it, and I think it’s far enough removed from the original trilogy to be played as a standalone game. In that respect, it’s excellent, with fun gameplay, good storyline, plenty of content and lots of witty dialogue to enjoy. If you spend too much time comparing it with the original trilogy then it’s natural that you might find things like the facial graphics and glitches to be irritating- but no game is perfect, and that includes the original Mass Effect trilogy. In the end, it’s a great game, and it makes me sad that Bioware gave up on it so easily.

Sudeki- Why Do I Like This Game?

Sudeki is an… interesting game. My brother got it for his Xbox back in about 2004/2005, and since then I’ve played it- a lot. So many times, in fact, that I know every single bit of dialogue (not even an exaggeration), and every item you need for every quest. Even back then, I knew it wasn’t a great game, but I couldn’t stop playing it.

Ye old Xbox has long since died. So when I saw Sudeki for cheap on Steam, I knew I had to get it, for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else. At this stage I hadn’t played the game for about eight or nine years.

It was almost exactly as I’d remembered- except the PC version is unbelievably shit. Most of the time, when games are ported to different systems, the gameplay mechanics are slightly changed to fit in with the system’s capability. Not so with Sudeki– the X and A buttons used for combat is changed to right-click and left-click on the mouse, which can be slightly clunky for doing combos with your melee characters, and the menu buttons are assigned to seemingly random letters on the keyboard. And the graphics, while never mindblowing in the first place, look absolutely terrible on my computer.

Lazy port aside, I really enjoyed playing Sudeki again.

Sudeki is set in the city of Ilumina, which is in the land of Haskilia, which is the land of Sudeki, which is in the land of Omnia. Bear with me. Haskilia is under attack by soldiers from a land called Akloria, which we find out later is actually an alternate universe. Bear with me.

The story starts off simply- Tal, a young knight, is tasked with a cross-country trip to save the scantily-clad Princess of Ilumina, named Ailish. Oh male gaze, how I missed you while I was playing Dragon Age: Inquisition (seriously, the women in Sudeki legitimately wear next to nothing. Bear with me).

On a side note, Ailish is a sorceress/mage/magic user, and she is awesome in combat. This is one of the few games where I prefer ranged combat to melee.

Once you’ve saved Princess Ailish, you head back to Ilumina, and once you’re there you’re treated to the game’s weirdest dialogue exchange, in which Tal tells Ailish that she “wasn’t right to come along” and that they’d both get back home before they got in trouble. Huh? What? But… that whole first quest was about you saving Ailish, Tal. How was she “not right to come along”? How could you possibly get in trouble for doing what you were ordered to do and bringing the Princess home safe? I just… what? I’ve never understood this exchange.

I think they may have originally had a different storyline sorted for this part of the game, so they animated and recorded this first before signing off on the final storyline- even the graphics are a little bit worse than usual. Then they were like “fuck it, leave it in, no one will notice!” Well, noticed, Climax Studios*. I noticed.

After this, you are sent on your main quest- to find crystals for a crystal-powered machine that supposedly creates a giant shield, or something; it’s unclear. Either way, the crystals are meant to protect Ilumina and you are meant to find them. Accompanying you are two other party members: Elco, the chief science officer who is in charge of creating and running the crystal machine; and Buki, an anthropomorphic cat-woman who kinda just got caught up in this mess and is now along for the ride.

Buki is your “strong woman” archetype who takes shit from no one and is generally badass, though she gets the worst weapons and most revealing outfits. I never liked having her as my “main” character for that reason- you can literally see her ass. I know this game is marketed to teenage boys, but still- I think the reasoning for putting Buki in the game (personality-wise, at least) went a bit like this: “See, we have a strong female character now! That makes it OK that we can literally see every female NPC’s nipples through their shirts right? Right??” Sigh.

Elco, on the other hand, is an excellent character. He starts off being the typical “straight man” of the group, trying to keep everyone on task, but he becomes so much more than that. He’s flawed, he’s complex, and his voice actor takes the game’s ridiculous dialogue and manages to make it somehow less cringe-worthy. Did I mention the dialogue in this game is bad? It’s really bad.

Anyway, Elco is great and has the best weapons. Paired with his special ability that increases attack damage, he is basically unstoppable.

Eventually, you succeed in finding all the crystals needed for the machine, but along the way you manage to get into the weirdest situations. While collecting the crystal at anthropomorphic animal/racist tribe land, Shadani-Mo, you’re sucked into a portal that takes you to the Realm of Shadows, which is the game’s version of the Underworld. After managing to escape from there, you go to collect another crystal just to get sucked into another portal- bear with me- this time to *gasp* Akloria.

The characters meet their alternate selves, who all have different accents for some reason- Kazel (alternate Tal), Alexine (alternate Ailish), Nico (alternate Buki), and Cafu (alternate Elco). Then we’re treated to another weird exchange, in which Kazel calls Haskilians “Hakarians”. Please clean up your continuity errors before releasing your games, Climax.

Anyway, time for a special twist! Turns out you Haskilians have been the bad guys the whole time. Queen Lusica of Haskilia doesn’t intend on using the crystals to protect the land, but instead wants to use them to make herself immortal. Apparently Mr. Science didn’t see that one coming. You sure that never came up as a possibility in your research, Elco? In using the crystals, Haskilia has managed to suck all the light out of Akloria, causing people to go crazy and somehow teleport into Haskilia without explanation in order to attack them. Bear with me.

In a surprise double-twist, Lusica is being influenced by a mysterious man from Akloria, Lord Talos, who intends on killing her and making himself immortal in the process. And that’s exactly what he does. Hint: he’s the final boss.

I thought the twist(s) was surprisingly well done, given that the rest of the story is pretty simple. I think that’s one of the things I like about this game- it’s simple, it’s fun, and it doesn’t get hung up on trying to explain absolutely everything (although, as you’ve read, it’s caused some serious plot holes).

The gameplay is a lot of fun and, although clunky and cringey at times, some of the dialogue is genuinely funny. So while it may not be a groundbreaking, amazing game, I still really, really enjoy it. For me, it’s the game I play when I want a break from more intense games. I’d recommend it for anyone wanting a few hours of fun gameplay without having too much investment.

 

*Why am I not surprised the studio is named “Climax”? Sigh.