Thursday, 30 December 2010

Video Game Review - Mass Effect

Sorry for the lack of posting - but hey, it is the holidays right? I had thought of some kind of festive post, but I hope my hasty attempt at a seasonal header is good enough for now!! Merry Christmas to you all.

Yet another old game being reviewed here, but I do need to get through them so I can 'review' up-to-date games in good conscience. I'm beginning to realise that I might be a little...erm...odd! oh well.

Anyway, I would like to do a few Mass Effect based posts, detailing the species, characters and key events of the game series in anticipation of Mass Effect 3. Every person's playthrough is slightly different due to the vast array of choices at your disposal and one thing I like to do with my friends is discuss how decisions we made in the game with the people we met will affect the game long term.

But I can't very well do that without at least having talked about the game really can I?

Rough Plot

If you haven't played, this part will contain SPOILERS

Get this straight - Mass Effect is a HUGE game with a whole galaxy to explore and there are big choices to make as well, decisions you make and how you act can determine whether a character lives or dies, whether a group become allies or enemies and so much more. As well as the main campaign missions there are hundreds of side missions and explorations to complete, which add to the full experience.

So to give you anything near the full plot would be ridiculous, given the amount of story and also the variable paths it can take. So I'll give you a rough breakdown of the game and go into detail later on in the year. We're into the 22nd century, humanity has expanded and colonised and a discovery in the stars led them to a Mass Relay (above) powerful devices that can rapidly propel a ship across the stars. This lead them to an uneasy confrontation and eventual acceptance with the alien races around.

Enter John Shepard (you can change his appearance, even his gender, but I decided to go with the game default, seen here). He is a special forces soldier and is being considered for the rank of Spectre, and elite unit of lawmakers that can operate above the law and answer only to the Council that governs the galaxy. John would be the first human spectre, but his attempt is sabotaged by Saren, a Spectre of the Turian race, who leads an attack of Geth (rogue AIs) forces on a human colony.

After proving Saren's guilt, Shepard is inducted into the Spectres and assigned with stopping him. Travelling across the galaxy, Shepard tracks down Saren by following Geth activity through the galaxy. He also stops pirates, brokers peace, defeats a rare alien force and encounters a poweful human group called Cerberus. He recruits a powerful crew of aliens and humans aboard his ship and gradually finds out Saren's plan...

They travel to a Prothean world. The Protheans are an extinct race, credited with building the Mass Relays and also the Citadel, from where the Galaxy is governed. The Protheans were wiped out by a race of machines known as Reapers who have long since disappeared. But as Shepard goes deeper he discovers the Reapers are behind Saren's plan and that Sovereign, his massive flagship, is in fact a single reaper entity and the Citadel is their creation designed to bring all the Reapers back to purge life in the galaxy as they have done many times before.

Shepard manages to get to the Citadel in time and stop Saren, which weakens Sovereign. The Human fleet attacks, driving back the Geth and destroying the Reaper. Shepard and humanity's actions earn them the right to sit on the Council, but the Reapers ares till out there...


There's a whole variety of gamplay in Mass Effect. It's a third-person shooter so you run around with over the shoulder perspective, but get into cover and you can look down the barrel of your fun like a first-person if you need to. Guns have infinite ammo in Mass Effect (an this actually makes sense in-game!) but they overheat quickly so you have to time your shots well.
You also have a whole range of abilities to call on in battle, from tech abilities like hacking AIs to work for you, to Biotic abilities that can remotely lift or hurl objects or enemies from afar (I'll go into biotics again when there's more time!).
You can also just explore, there are plenty of planets you can land on and drive your Mako vehicle around, and chances are you might uncover some Prothean ruins, a slaver camp or even and underground Cerberus base. As you enter systems you will be called on to accomplish quests for humanity, these are optional, but who's going to say no to more fun?!!
You also complete mini-games such as hacking to break into systems and steal cash or obtain valuable items. There are crashed probes and other artifacts that yield rewards if you can crack them open.
Another key element is conversation, many of the people you meet will talk to you and what you say may have a big impact on them, maybe even crossing over into the next game. You can use these options to find out more, and generally choose between a good 'Paragon' or negative 'Renegade' option. The more you progress either way the more likely you'll be able to charm or intimidate your way out of a situation and the darker or lighter your character and their actions will be.

Sci-Fi stuff

This game is pure Sci-Fi so there's way more than i have room to discuss and I've already told you plenty in the reviews. Expect more posts coming soon on Mass Effect Sci-Fi.

Worth Playing?

Do I need to say it?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Stuff: Star Wars The Old Republic - Blood of the Empire

This comic series is set in the time of the new video game The Old Republic due out next year. This series is set before the games, during the open conflict between the Republic and the Sith, before that is eventually resolved in the uneasy truce set out in the previous comic. This also deals with the machinations of the Sith as they all scheme and plot their way to greatness.

The story is set as a powerful Sith apprentice is sent to hunt the Emperor's own apprentice, who has gone rogue and is giving information to the Jedi. As he travels he is confronted with visions of the future and of the Emperor's plans as he battles the rogue apprentice and makes way for his own ambitions.

New Jedi

Jerbhen Hulis
Species: Miraluka
Sex: Male
Position: Jedi Master

Jerbhen Hulis was a Jedi Master working with the Republic military during the war. He was well traveled, knowing exotic combat forms and his apprentice was fluent in the Abyssin language. A senior member, giving orders to the starship commanders he decided to act on the intelligence given to them by the rogue Sith Exal Kressh. However, he took his padawan to investigate the Sith by following her tracker. He caught up to the Sith, knowing it was too late to keep the secret out, persuaded him to help survivors of an accident caused by the Sith then let him go, only to lost his padawan and lose the battle anyway.

and that's it for the Jedi, but there's plenty of...

New Sith

Teneb Kel
Species: Human
Sex: Male
Position: Sith Apprentice

Teneb Kel was the Sith apprentice of Lord Calypho, he was an eager and powerful apprentice, who knew a lot about Sith Lore and combat. He finished his trials, but on completing them found his master was under arrest by the Sith. Shortly afterward he led a successful assault on Begeren along with his Abyssin servant. After proving his loyalty he was tasked with tracking down the Emperor's Apprentice, who had betrayed the Empire. He found her, but lost the battle, in seeking meditation he found her plans and also the Emperor's, guided by a mysterious figure called Darth Thanaton who guided him and warned him that he might become just a slave of the council. He tracked down Exal Kressh and killed her then used his knowledge to elevate himself to a Dark Lord, naming himself Darth Thanaton.

Species: Human
Sex: Male
Position: Sith Master

Calypho was a wise master of the dark side, who taught that visions became clearer as the seer was close to death. He trained Teneb Kel as his apprentice, but sought power that he had not earned. The council ordered his apprentice to kill him and he was defeated, though the council kept him that they might use him - keeping him close to death to gain prophecies from him.

Exal Kressh
Species: Sith-Human hybrid
Sex: Female
Position: Emperor's Apprentice

Exal Kressh was the Emperor's apprentice, a sought after position only dreamed of by most Sith. Despite this position of trust, she betrayed the Emperor, giving the Republic vital information to launch an attack on Sith Space. While loyal she rooted out powerful secrets and sorceries for the Emperor only for him to use them to dominate his mind, and in future, dominate the minds of thousands of his 'Children'. Angered at being treated this way she fled until hunted down and killed by Teneb Kel.

Darth Marr
Species: Unknown
Sex: Male
Position: Sith Council Member

Darth Marr was a leading member of the Sith Council. He chose Teneb Kel to be the emperor's weapon, sent against his apprentice. He had direct access the the Emperor, and lead Teneb Kel directly to him through the temple on Dromuund Kaas.

The Emperor
Species: Unknown
Sex: Male
Position: Sith Emperor

The Emperor is the mysterious figure behind the Sith, followed by many, but seen by only a select few - this comic book marks his first visual appearance. While other Sith have claimed the title Sith Lord he and his 'true Sith' stayed in seclusion, growing in power, only a few individuals, such as Revan, discovered his true identity. He is a contrast to his followers, dressed in white and radiating calm, but his plans are as malevolent and powerful as the Sith he embodies. He launched the attack that no one saw coming and quickly brought the Republic to it's knees. He now rules via his Dark Council of the most powerful Sith, but even they don't know his true goals, such as his plan to imbue children with his essence, creating a generation that are slaves to his will. Teneb Kel used his knowledge of this, knowledge the council didn't have to elevate himself - though ultimately what the Emperor plans is known only to him. He is a master strategist, and incredibly powerful, having lived at least 1000 years by his own strength.

other Sith are seen and not named, or name and not seen so I'll leave that!!


Thranta - class Corvette

A Republic ship, similar in style to the Hammerhead ships from KotoR. The Jedi who recieved Exal Kressh's data were aboard one of these ships as they set their plan in motion.

Sith Battle- Cruiser

A main battle cruiser used by the Sith, a number of these were stationed near Korriban and wer attacked by a Republic fleet.

Republic Capital Ship

An intriguing and original design for the Republic's main battle cruiser, refreshing after seeing so many 'Hammerhead' type vessels. These ships were in the fleet that attacked Korriban.

And of course there's a...


I've tried to make it as comprehensible as possible, but it's a bit tricky when a lot of the planets are close together!!

And that's it, there's meant to be another ToR series out soon, but it hasn't been properly announced yet - plus there's also the video game - can't wait to see what the Emperor's really planning.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

London's Burning!!!

OK so it's the Video Game Awards once again, and as well as winners there are always a few sneaky peaks at what's to come. Last year the bombshells of Arkham City and The Force Unleashed II were dropped on us as well as the first full trailer for Halo: Reach. Well this year's no exception...

London is well and truly under attack in this new trailer for what's quite possibly going to be the best game of all time - do you know what it is yet?

Also, special forces are being deployed against a powerful target but who is it?

Lastly a man is trying's Prototype 2!!

Well that's it...well those are the ones I'm interested in anyway!! Not quite as many surprises as last year - but Mass Effect 3 is shocker to outweigh all shockers!!

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Wall - November '10

OK so I've been doing this 'Blogga's Wall' thing for a while now, but i thought it might be good to write a bit about it, and add some more variety to the blog postings on here.

Blogga's Wall is a way for me to quickly share with you what I'm up to without having to necessarily post about it. Some things are of course out of date - as I catch up with a months or years-old graphic novel or movie for instance and others are things i mean to post about later - such as video games, so the wall is a simple means of communication. But I realised it also might be good to share a bit more about the things I've seen so I'm going to do a monthly round up of what I've put on the wall and just briefly chat about them.

1. The Event

I've been enjoying this new show - even though I still have no idea what it's about!! The time-jumping narrative is straining of the mind and I have a niggling suspicion that maybe it isn't going anywhere after all, but there are enough freaky events, such as time aged children, teleportation and powerful agencies at work to keep me glued for now.

'The Event' happened in 1944 where a group of Aliens, who resemble humans, but have significantly different DNA and age extremely slowly crash. A number are kept hidden by the U.S. Government, others are free hidden and trying to find a way home. A family is torn apart as these groups go against each other, as well as a mysterious organisation with extreme power and unknown goals.

2. Star Wars: Blood Ties #3

Blood Ties is a new limited run series from Dark Horse, following the lives of Boba and Jango Fett. The story is two-fold, of Jango hunting a target for Count Dooku and training his son and the repurcussions of his early life on Boba. Being the cloned son of a man with a million clones makes family relations extremely complicated! The fourth issue is out so I'll probably do a 'Stuff' post on these before long.

3. Assassin's Creed: The Fall #1

The first of this new original comic series from Wildstorm and Ubisoft, this a brand new Assassin in a brand new era. I've already posted about this HERE so that's all I'll say for this one.

4. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

The sequel to the acclaimed first game has had mixed reviews but I've enjoyed it so far - especially taking down the enormous Gorog seen in the early trailer. To be honest I'm a sucker for anything Star Wars so as long as there's Stormtroopers and lightsabers I'm happy. Once I've finished the Halo: Reach diary I'll be transferring my diary skills to this game so plenty to hear from me soon.

5. Gigantic

I'd had my eyes on this comic book for quite a while. I'm a fan of Rick Remender, with The End League being one of my fave comic series'. I also like completely independent stuff, I always get put off bit Marvel and DC titles because there's always a few thousand issues of contradictory backstory to each book you read. I like Dark Horse because they publish these stories which are one-off with their own world and all the info contained in the pages you hold in your hands.

Gigantic is the story of a giant robot man with a twist. See, Planet Earth is a TV show, yeah, the whole stinkin' planet is just a set for the biggest reality TV channel in the Universe. Gigantic is a boy who was abducted and transformed into a cyborg being with the ability to expand and become...gigantic. He returns to Earth and battles the TV Corporations that employed him...and who have decide to cancel the show!!

Well that's it - I'll post again in around a month

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

SF at the Movies - December '10

Shockingly on time - let's have a look at what Sci-Fi goodness is available in the cinema this month shall we?

Released 3/12/10

Megamind is a new CG comedy that looks...dare I say it...good? Starring Will Ferrel as an evil looking superhero sent from a dying planet to Earth along with another super-cool baby. The two rivals battle for the people of the city until a new villain comes along, leaving only the blue skinned genius to save the day.

Released 3/12/10

A thrilling sci-fi story set in the near future. A NASA probe collects samples of alien life and brings them back to Earth. However it crashes in Mexico and soon mysterious alien creatures begin to appear, forcing the US to quarantine half of Mexico. The story is of a journalist who agrees to escort a stranded tourist through the infected zone to the safety of the border - but travelling though somewhere called the 'Infected Zone' can't be easy!

TRON: Legacy
Released 17/12/10

Sequel to the memorable original TRON with it's visionary idea of life withing a computer program. I still haven't seen the original and I'm eagerly ready to see it before I watch this sequel which seems to have had a graphics update since the original came out. Still, it'll be nice to have a bit of cyberpunk before the year is out.

And that's your lot, though a bit more on our plate than last month - happy watching!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Blogga's Halo Reach Diary - 7/12/10

I'm pressing on with this postage, even though my tiny attention span has now been fully filled with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. The idea behind this was to do a 'Stuff' type post scattered live over the course of my play - 'course that failed as I ended up bombing through the campaign once I'd stopped being distracted by Weekly Challenges - so anyway, I'm determined to catalogue all the new stuff, to save on a pointless post following this several months down the line.


Grenadier seemed fitting, both as a tribute to Jorge but fitting also to the mission as we were about to retake Sword Base armed with as many explosives as we could carry. I picked up as many armour pieces with a [G] in them and went to war.

New Stuff

Auntie Dot

Dot is a 'Dumb' AI assigned to Noble Team. Unlike Cortana she cannot have independent thought and improvise strategies on the fly, but she can process vast amounts of info at the same time and make accurate guesses and inform strategies. Unlike other AIs she doesn't have a human avatar, rather this series of interlaced Diamonds which can create different patterns depending on expression (similar to ODSTs Smiley-faced Superintendent, which I'll get round to reviewing!!). Dot assisted Noble all through the Reach campaign.

Dr. Catherine Halsey

If you're a Halo fan then this lady's nothing new to you, but then neither is anything in this post so I may as well carry on writing! Dr Halsey has featured heavily in wider Halo lore as creator of the Spartan-II program and their famous armour. She has even made a few visual appearances in Halo Legends, but this was her first appearance in game and it really was great to see her in action. Her data on the Forerunners, compiled by her highly experimental AI unlock the ability find and destory Halo and end the war at the hands of John-117. It was also very cool to read her Diary and have her perspective on the project and even confirm a few rumours, such as her being Miranda Keyes' mother.


These nifty turrets defended the Forerunner base. They pop out of a shielded casing and automatically target and eliminate enemies in proximity. After taking damage they retreat to recharge and require manual reactivation. It is Noble Six's job to keep these turrets firing, in a mode similar to multiplayer's 'defend the generator' mode.
(I don't seem to be able to find a picture at the moment, so I'll try and get one in Theater mode in the game and upload it soon)

Data Storage Unit

This unit contains the UNSCs most important weapon - Cortana. I've been replaying Halo 1 and it's clear how essential she is, without her knowledge and abilities Halo would have fired and all life in the galaxy would be dead. Cortana was able to split her programming in two, with one half working on studying Forerunner technology with the other stationed on the Pillar of Autumn. Noble Six takes the package and prepares to deliver it to Captain Keyes.

Type-38 'Tyrant' Anti-Aircraft Cannon

These bad boys crop up in the campaign quite often too, usually as priority targets. These powerful cannons are capable of keeping even UNSC frigates at bay and it is your job as a Spartan, to take them down. Usual method is to beat your way past all the infantry guaring it, lob a grenade into the middle and then run away to watch the pretty lights as it blows up Scarab-style!!

ok, that's probably enough, but I'll quickly cover an armour ability too if I may.

Drop Shield

Very similar to the Bubble Shield of Halo 3. This piece of equipment is a prototype carried by UNSC forces. Unlike the Bubble Shield this version does take damage and will eventually deactivate after enough of a pounding. The Drop Shield does buy you time to hela yourself without having to find a medpack, which is it's key advantage over Armour Lock. I use it most for my favourite game of 'keep the NPCs alive' - which adds to the tension of the game I think.


That was a lot of new stuff so I'll keep this one brief (I've covered most of it already). Noble Team is assigned to Sword Base to destroy it in case any vital intel falls into Covenant hands. However once they get there they get mysterious directions from an unknown source. Once in the base they find an underground transport that takes them to Halsey's lab. They defend it until all the key data can be downloaded into Cortana before taking her from Halsey ready to get her offworld. Jun takes Dr Halsey to CASTLE base and that's the last we see of him, so who knows maybe he got clear of Reach in time? Seeing as he's alive I haven't decided whether to get his voice for Firefight!!

More soon - and they'll probably get longer!!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Doctor Who - New series, new species part 32

Well this concludes the new species look of the new Sarah Jane Adventures series. And I'm afraid I have to start with an apology - I missed a species out - terrible I know, anyway I'll rectify that right now with a species missed from 'Death of the Doctor'.


Another of Who's famous 'make a species a different colour, give them a different defining characteristic and a very similar name and see if we can get away with it' species. Normally I'd be incensed by this cheap paint job, but apparently it seems I didn't even notice. The Groske character was quite amusing to be fair and to see them working for UNIT as part of a deal gave their backstory a bit of flavour.

Close relations of the Graske species, the Groske were noticeably different in their blue skin. While just as guarded as their species cousins they were more open and positive, with one group agreeing to co-operate with humans after being stranded on Earth, aiding them in building technology. Like the Graske they had time travelling capabilities and could even smell artron energy.

The Dark Horde

Nice and ambiguous this one, easy to create a threat with some masked men with an obviously evil name. However, even fore a cameo appearance, the detail in their armour and weapons gave these minor threat aliens enough personality to make them interesting and possibly worth a return visit.

The Dark Horde were a race of beings known to have conquered whole swaths of the galaxy. They were extremely logical in their attack plans, sending scout parties to size up their enemies and retreating from any planets deemed to have forces of greater or equal strength to their battle force.


Hmm, this lady is clearly an impostor of some sort, don't let her join you Sarah Jane, she's clearly going to trick you and be some sort of alien - guess what - SHE'S AN ALIEN!! What person wouldn't have seen that coming, it would have to be...oh...I don't know...a child?!! Hmm...ok, maybe for the target audience it isn't bad! The acting was quite cool and the CGI stomach was fun, though i think there are a few too many creatures that feed on emotions this series.

The Qetesh are a mysterious race for a number of reasons. The first being that they feed on excitement and exhilaration in people's lives. The second being that they can split their being, feeding a stationary stomach through a mobile body, which can resemble a human. One such being was exiled from their race, was able to survive a long time without air or other nourishment and decided to attack Earth through Sarah Jane Smith. Her gang counter-attacked simulating a global meteor strike with technology the Qetesh possessed, this 'over-excitement' overfed the Qetesh, destroying it's stomach and the body was returned to prison.

Well that's it for this series - there may be a few things from the webcomics at the SJA site so if I can dig something good up I'll post it up with the Christmas post - which isn't too far away now!!!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

More Assassin's Creed

Well it's all about the Creed at the moment with the new game out. I'm really enjoying the new game, it's expanded on the best bits of ACII and added in a few good bits from the first game such as vigilantes and being able to automatically move in crowds - essentially 'it's the same, but better'.

With the release of the game there is inevitably going to be a load of tie-in content, but Assassin's doesn't fail to deliver on quality and we get a lot more than a few viral videos. So here's a taste of what Assassin's Creed goodness is available to go with the new game.

1. Assassin's Creed: The Fall

A tie-in comic like few others. This isn't a prequel to Brotherhood, in fact no prequel is necessary as the game quite literally takes off where the second ends. Neither is it a 'deleted scene' filling in a gap of how the characters got from A to B. This is a brand new story featuring the Assassin's and Templars.
Nikolai Orelov is an Assassin operating in Russia in 1888. Haunted by memories of a failure to save another Assassin he is driven to complete his duty. He is assigned by 'The Mentor' to assassinate Alexander III Czar of Russia aboard his personal train. Nikolai boards the train and bests the guards, but finds a bigger task at hand and a mysterious artefact.
In modern times, his descendant Daniel Cross is a drug-addict suffering from strange hallucinations of the past. Threatened by his psychologist (and possibly Abstergo) he wanders into a bar suffering strange visions until he is intercepted by a group of people calling themselves Assassins...

That's just the first issue folks - I'm eagerly awaiting to see more of what happens to both these Assassins in the next two installments.

2. Assassin's Creed: Project Legacy

Assassin's Creed is a Facebook game only...well...good! To be fair i haven't gone in for Farmville or Mafia Wars and who knows they may work as well, but they don't give me an insight into the world of Templars and Assassins. You relive memories of certain characters, including Mario Auditore on the behalf of Abstergo. You obtain certain resources, gather enough Action Points and then you can execute events. The game is even better as you can link it to Brotherhood. When you get new Assassin recruits you can level them up on Facebook and see the results in-game!! It's great to have something meaningful to while away my precious hours with online!!

3. Assassin's Creed: Ascendance

Of the three titles I'm showcasing here, Ascendance is the 'prequel' title, more directly linked to the new game. After tracking down a target Ezio meets up with a contact of his and learns about his Rival, Cesare Borgia and his ruthless rise to power. Beautifully made using artists and the game's engine for backdrops this great piece is available to download on Xbox Live or Playstation Network.

Well that's it, but don't expect that to be the end for the Assassin's universe - I think this party is really just getting started.

Friday, 3 December 2010

SF Masterworks#7- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

It's been a while since I did one of these, and it may be a while after this as I think I've exhausted my reading of classic Sci-Fi worthy of being on this list. I'm looking to pick up my reading pace and get some more of this great list read...but I've said that before. Anyway, you know how I am at reviews so I'm borrowing one from the great folks at SFSite

A review by Alma A. Hromic

If the world of written science fiction were ever to be translated into the language of visual art, Philip K. Dick would probably be Salvador Dali. His vision does not depend on Picassoesque transformations of the familiar into the grotesque so much as a jumbling of the familiar into sometimes deeply disturbing new combinations, whose disturbing aspect is not attenuated but rather accentuated by their very familiarity. This is the kind of landscape where heads sprout like mushrooms from blank desert sands or weird alien faces stare at each other nose-to-nose with an ethereal ballet dancer formed by the gaps between them. Nothing is what it seems. Nothing is real. Everything is real.

It's a little like being force-fed some of the hallucinatory drugs of "Palmer Eldritch" yourself, before you launch into the novel.

You'll probably know it, or of it -- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is a classic, after all. It starts out on the straight and narrow, and then all of a sudden the path does a Dali and you're doing a balancing act on a unicycle on a rope suspended between worlds, trying to juggle knife-sharp objects like Addiction and Responsibility and Immortality and God. Sometimes it all overwhelms me and I'm left sitting there gasping for air trying to figure out where I am -- and if the person sitting across from me on the couch in my living room is suddenly going to stare at me through stigmata eyes. Sometimes I figure it out. Sometimes, like Dick's character Anne Hawthorne, I simply wind up "...terribly, terribly confused... and everything upsets me."

But then, that's Dick.

And somehow I always wind up struggling through the morass, emerging from it on the other side with some key insight held in my mouth like the salmon of wisdom, wondering how that one mind held it all in.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch isn't an easy read. But then, Philip K Dick never is. Whether any given reader finds in this book the salvation that Dick was talking about or merely comes out of it with glazed eyes and his or her head doing 64 revolutions a second is entirely up to the reader.

Copyright © 2003 Alma A. Hromic