Mass Effect 2: Micro Storytelling

Mass Effect 3 was already released in some regions. So it seems like I’m fashionably late writing about Mass Effect 2 at this point. But there is one last thing I really wanted to talk about before moving on. This time, I’m not going to go into the details of it’s interface design. Instead, I’m going to look at the details of it’s storytelling.

ME2 Connecting

Bromance interrupted. So close yet so distant. Like gameplay and story.

It all comes back to this weird feeling of emptiness I was left with after finishing Mass Effect 2 for the first time. Somehow, the it felt like eating a few boxes of rice crackers. I was utterly stuffed on the one hand, but on the other hand, it didn’t seem to have much substance. Somehow, all the things I went trough rarely connected with me. Even during the game I found myself being slightly bored even though I was going through awesome environments fighting viscous enemies with laser guns and rockets. So let’s take a closer look and find out what the problem is.

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Mass Effect 2: Massive Interface Fail Revelations

I wrote my Mass Effect Massive Interface Fail trilogy in 2009. To my surprise, it has become one of the most popular posts on this blog. I was shocked seeing some people even use it as a teaching resource for UI/UX design in games. The recent mention by Kirk Hamilton on the Kotaku blog brought the posts back into spotlight and demonstrated that even after over 2 years, the topic is still relevant.

ME2 Collector General

“ASSUMING DIRECT CONTR… wait a minute! This feels different! Bob, have you been messing with the interface? It totally feels like a shooter now. I can’t roleplay a believeable character this way… OH SNAP, I GIVE UP!!”

So with Mass Effect 3 being almost upon us, I decided to finally take a look the interface of Mass Effect 2 in hope to bring closure to the drama caused by the initial article. If you are looking for another crushing takedown, you might be a little disappointed. After my first paytroughs of Mass Effect 2, I felt like a lot of my former complaints were take taken care of. Yet, there was a strange emptiness about the game. So let’s jump in and systematically compare the problems I had in Mass Effect 1 with how Mass Effect 2 turned out.

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Batman Arkham Asylum: Combat Breaking Points

There are very good reasons why Batman: Arkham Asylum is so critically acclaimed. It is a very good Metroid Prime clone, heavily modified to faithfully convey the characters and the world of the Batman universe. It is a good example on how to make license games.

Bane Breaking Controller

Dramatization of actual gameplay experience.

Yet, Arkham Asylum has some very clear flaws. The reason why they have been overlooked may be because they only become apparent once you put some stress on the game’s systems. This rarely happens during the single player campaign. Unfortunately, it is the very idea behind the combat challenges. I have prepared an entire series of YouTube videos this time, so let us take a look at this dark side of the Dark Knight and consider how Akham Asylum could have avoided those problems.

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Crisis Core: Digital Mind Wave

I played Crisis Core some time ago and wanted to comment on its Digital Mind Wave “Mechanic”.

DMW Aeris

Aeris is actually spinning in her grave.

It is a somewhat puzzling game feature and they way I thought about it changed a lot during my playtrough. First I was confused. Confusion then quickly turned into disaffection throughout most of the game. But in the very last minutes, the DMW suddenly gained a whole new meaning which made me question my take on it.

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Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition: Trial Fail

So I got SSFIV:AE and I’m breaking in my Saturn USB pad by playing the Trial mode.

The Trial mode consists of a series of stages. In each of those, the player has to execute one or multiple moves. It starts with the simple execution of a special move and quickly moves on to combos of increasing difficulty. While it sounds like a reasonable learning curve, the concrete implementation doesn’t turn out to be as helpful as it can be.

But let’s start with the minor issues.

For all you busy people: I’ve outlined an alternative concept for game-assisted training at the end.
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Beyond Good & Evil: Collectibles Review

It’s been quite a while since my last review. I have been planning to do this particular one for quite some time. I would like to discuss a game that has inspired me to think more carefully about collectibles in the first place: Beyond Good & Evil.

BG&E Cute Kid Photo

Useless collectibles. I mean all they do is to empower characters in non-violent ways, reward curiosity and celebrate socio-biological diversity. Pshaw.

The reason why I find this game so remarkable is because the way collectibles are implemented in this game is exceptionally well thought-out. Let me explain what I mean.

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Comet Crash: TD meets Casual RTS

Nearly 4 years ago i wrote about the great flash based Desktop Tower Defense game.

Over one year i have been playing another great Tower Defense game, this time on PS3: Comet Crash.

But something else first: Nearly one year i had to see the prove for TTP (time to penis) here on Game Design Reviews. So now i think its time for a new review ;) (Of course i can never reach the workload kryst invests into his last page-spanning reviews, but i hope i can at least present a good and sometimes overlooked game here).

As you might have seen on someof my previous reviews, I’m a big strategy / tactics fan.

This is a nice introductory gameplay video (not done by me).

So in this review i will try to give an overview over the things i liked about the reatltime strategy (RTS) and tower defense (TD) genre mash-up: Comet Crash. I will also try to list what i think makes them good from an objective Game Design Review point of view. (Warning: i will write quite subjective while trying to stay objective!)

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Little Big Planet: Browsing Content

Some time ago I wrote about Red Faction: Guerrilla and how it’s competitive gameplay shaped the feel of it’s on-line community. Today I would like to talk about pretty much the opposite. A game that focuses on creativity, cooperation and sharing – Little Big Planet.

LBP Dick

Turns out the reason why you never got around to create anything of value in LBP is not because you are lazy moron… well, not necessarily at least.

As with Red Faction, I decided to spend some time on-line with this game. I expected an experience quite contrary to Red Faction. In many ways I did. I many ways I didn’t. As it turns out, cooperative gameplay and user-generated content alone does not a healthy community make. It seems like a common mistake. A mistake that even yours truly once did.

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Podcast Episode 5: 2009 Retrospective Time Capsule

Game Design Reviews Podcast is back after a long break. We start with a look back at the last year. We have recorded this podcast in January but only now came around to publish it.

Great Scott!

Great Scott!

Download Episode 5 (58MB, 123 Minutes long)
RSS Feed for the Podcast
iTunes link

This time we discuss the games we have played in 2009 and look forward to 2010, which back then was still future but which is now the present. Isn’t this just crazy?!

  • 00:01:50 Yu-Chung on Resident Evil 4
  • 00:14:53 Yu-Chung on Prototype
  • 00:22:22 Yu-Chung on The New Super Mario Brothers Wii
  • 00:37:32 Fabricio on Street Fighter IV
  • 00:59:06 Fabricio & Krystian on Fallout 3
  • 01:21:41 Krystian on Need for Speed: Shift
  • 01:35:06 Krystian on Red Faction: Guerrilla
  • 01:42:43 Krystian on Downloadable Content
  • 01:46:38 Yu-Chung on On-Live
  • 01:49:57 Recap
  • 01:58:58 The Game That Noby Played: The Tone Rebellion

Music as always by Dualton / Patrick Keuthen

Feel free to leave a comment. We are very eager to hear your opinion.

Need For Speed Shift: Product Identity

Continuing the theme of games I’ve played a long time ago but only now came around to write about – let’s talk Need For Speed: Shift for a second. Like for so many people, Shift came out of nowhere for me and won my heart by injecting fresh ideas into the dry genre of simulation racers. Of course new ideas means also new mistakes but that’s precisely the kind of game I love to write about here on Game Design Reviews.

NFS:Shift Collision

NFS: Shift overtakes as its two over-powered opponents battle it out. See what I did there?

The beauty of Shift is not only that it is an excellent product for the kind of climate it has come out it. Because it dares to make mistakes, it also created a start-off point to further evolve this particular franchise and possibly the entire genre. Gentlemen, start your engines:

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Game Design Reviews is a Blog used by a group of game designers from Germany to publish and discuss their thoughts on various games. The blog consists entirely of reviews of games. Each review focuses on the important game design ideas and concepts of that particular game. We also run a second, more informal Blog called Game Design Scrapbook.


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