Category Archives: zoso

Random Roundup

It’s been another quiet month of gaming, being away for a few weekends putting a bit of a crimp on free time. A bit of progress in Elder Scrolls Online quest lines, a few War Thunder flights; Destiny 2 got its new Warmind expansion, so I headed back in there for the enjoyable, though (as pretty much everyone has observed) rather short, story missions. The basic combat remains eminently satisfying and a month or two off is sufficient to freshen up the somewhat repetitive nature of late-game number-nudging, and as an added bonus Stephen Fry makes an appearance in voice form. Not many lines, but always a treat; a Fry-voiced Ghost would be an excellent addition in best Jeeves traditions: “Perhaps sir would care to try a Void weapon against this particular target?”

Being away from the PC Marvel Puzzle Quest has been soaking up a fair amount of time on the mobile. The random nature of match-3 games can make things a bit frustrating when cascades of matches fall for the opposition (pure luck, of course), but satisfying when you get them (thanks entirely to play skill, it goes without saying). When energy and/or patience runs out I switch to Wordscapes after Melmoth tipped me off, a crossword-ish anagram type of thing that gives the old grey cells a bit of a workout.

Away from games I’ve done a bit of a technology refresh with a new phone (the Honor 9 Lite was quite a bargain) and television (a 4K Sony running Android for a bit of smart-ness). Running an HDMI cable from the PC to the telly gives a cracking picture, and a very compact wireless keyboard with touchpad works pretty well to control things from the sofa, though it’s not ideal for fine work – trying it with War Thunder resulted in some involuntary looping-the-loop and a distinct lack of defying the ground.

Further still from games, the city of Wells is a lovely place for a weekend with a rather impressive cathedral and Hot Fuzz locations to spot. Better still when there’s a comedy festival on, we caught shows from James Acaster, Rhod Gilbert and Hal Cruttenden between enjoying stone carvings of grape-scrumpers being beaten. We’ve also, over the past while-and-a-bit, started doing a few Escape Rooms which have proven to be most enjoyable, including all three of the rooms at TimeQuest with Melmoth & family. They are, as the name suggests, time-travel themed rooms, really well decked out with period (or mythic) props and puzzles, highly recommended if you’re ever in the Kent area and fancy being locked in the past for an hour.

Gaming Roundup

I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls Online for a couple of months now, wandering around, saving villages, delving into dungeons, bopping the odd monster or two on the head, carefully hand-stitching hundreds of pairs of identical shoes then carefully taking apart hundreds of pairs of identical shoes for the raw materials. In common with the single player games of the series I’ve rather lost track of the main story. I think it started with being dead, or in prison, or both; Dumbledore and Basil Fawlty got involved somewhere along the line, maybe it was a boarding school rather than a prison. Or a hotel in Torquay. After escaping I started helping out Queen Kate Beckinsale (in the real world, not the underworld, or indeed the Underworld (2003 film)) and her right-hand he-man-cat-type-Razum-dar, and also popped back now and again to give Michael Gambon a hand whenever he left an Obi-Wan style holographic voicemail. Confused? You won’t be, after I abandon this random mish-mash of cultural references!

When TESO launched, as I understand it, zones had specific level ranges, so levelling followed a more straightforward path. Since the “One Tamriel” update quests and mobs scale according to your level, so the world is your proverbial mollusc of choice. This has worked exceedingly well for our little Sunday morning group. There’s been no need to try and keep character levels in step, everyone can play as much or as little as they like, and it’s very straightforward to teleport to another member of the group, share quests, and pile in to a public dungeon or world boss. A minor drawback of the system is that it can result in overchoice and I find it difficult of an evening to decide whether to pursue a quest line (and if so which one), or do some crafting, or potter around exploring the world. The quest journal is limited to 25 spots and more than half of mine is filled with Stuff I Really Must Get Around To Finishing Off Sometime, more of a To Do list than source of epic adventure. I don’t really want to drop any in case I have trouble picking them up again; I can’t remember where I last saw Razum-dar to continue that line, and holo-Michael Gambon has gone very quiet, I must head back and see if there’s more of that story to finish off… just as soon as I’ve levelled my blacksmithing skill a bit more, and stolen some more stuff for the Thieves Guild, and….

Away from TESO things are pretty quiet on the gaming front. War Thunder ticks along, the old reliable. Just Cause 3 offers quick hits of grappling-jetpack-wingsuit mayhem. I haven’t fired up Destiny 2 in while, leaving it in the “probably ought to have another look sometime” pile with The Division. Sea of Thieves looked promising, and is almost certainly a lot of fun with a like-minded crew, but from a quick jaunt around the ocean in the open beta it didn’t seem to have much for a solo player and not a great deal of depth, not really enough to justify the hefty full price tag at release. Far Cry 3 was diverting enough a while back but I haven’t got around to Far Cry 4 yet let alone the fifth, good candidates for a deep discount in a sale or Humble Bundle.

On the mobile side of things I do like a bit of a match-3 game, back to Bejeweled on Palm OS, and Candy Crush Saga had kept me going for a few hundred levels but bogged down when power-ups became all but mandatory. Looking for a replacement in the App Store/Google Play was a whole new level of overchoice with seemingly endless streams of clones of anything vaguely popular; I grabbed Marvel Puzzle Quest in the end, having vague memories of the original Puzzle Quest on PC. With all the standard free-to-play elements (multiple currencies, crates of loot, yada yada) it hooked me for a few days of “look what shiny thing you unlocked!” dopamine hits and is now settling down into a levelling grind. I played Doctor Who Legacy for a fair while before it got slightly stale, a similar tile matching game with teams of characters; developers Tiny Rebel Games have a successor on the way, Doctor Who Infinity, so if MPQ bogs down too much that might well be another option.

Overall, then, I’m drifting through the gaming doldrums as Melmoth so accurately described them, not for the first time and doubtless not the last. I’m sure something will come along to fill the sails again, hopefully before delirium kicks in. [Before? You’re already hallucinating a non-existent editor. Ed.]

What a shocking bad hat!

Rummaging around the seldom-less-than-fascinating AskHistorians subreddit the other day turned up a question about the line “Who are you?” in Alice in Wonderland, the answer leading to Charles Mackay’s 19th century Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds that documents it as “… a phrase repeated with delight, and received with laughter, by men with hard hands and dirty faces, by saucy butcher lads and errand-boys, by loose women, by hackney coachmen, cabriolet-drivers, and idle fellows who loiter at the comers of streets. Not one utters this phrase without producing a laugh from all within hearing. It seems applicable to every circumstance, and is the universal answer to every question ; in short, it is the favourite slang phrase of the day, a phrase that, while its brief season of popularity lasts, throws a dash of fun and frolicsomeness over the existence of squalid poverty and ill-requited labour”.

Mackay details a number of other phrases that swept through London, all the rage one moment then rapidly replaced. I rather like “Quoz!”, it has the sound of sci-fi swearing along the lines of “frak” and “smeg”. “Walker!” was common enough to be exclaimed to Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol but seems a bit mundane compared to “Does your mother know you’re out?”, “There he goes with his eye out!”, or the short-lived “Has your mother sold her mangle?” (one for Arthur Atkinson there).

My favourite, though, which I think deserves a revival is “What a shocking bad hat!” Attributed by Mackay, possibly apocryphally, to a hatter seeking election who tried to sway voters with the line “What a shocking bad hat you have got; call at my warehouse, and you shall have a new one!” The hatter was hoist by his own millinery-petard when crowds drowned out his attempted speeches with “What a shocking bad hat!”, and the phrase rapidly spread so that “thousands of idle but sharp eyes were on the watch for the passenger whose hat shewed any signs, however slight, of ancient service. Immediately the cry arose, and, like the war-whoop of the Indians, was repeated by a hundred discordant throats.”

With hats no longer de rigueur in public there are fewer chances to employ it, but of course there is one area where headgear is still all but required: the MMO. I urge all readers (both of you), as you explore the land, slay fell creatures, and make bars go up a bit, to gaze intently upon all and sundry, player and non-player alike, and if you detect a displeasing helm to exclaim at once “Lawk what a shocking bad hat!

Team Fortress 2, of course, would be another game with ample cause to cry “what a shocking bad hat!”, but surely War Thunder would present minimal opportunity? Unless zoomed in upon a pilot, who admittedly may have a shocking bad flying helmet, or perhaps the crew of an open-topped armoured vehicle, you’re not going to see much; after all you cannot put a hat on a ta…

What a shocking bad hat!

What a shocking bad hat!

… nk. Until, that is, developers Gaijin added tank-hats as one of this year’s April Fools.

Good day, sir!

Good day, sir!

This does present a cautionary tale, though. One should beware the reaction of a sharp-tempered hat-wearer equipped with a 75mm cannon as this Panzer IV rapscallion found to his cost…

PANZERKAMPFWAGEN IV: Sir, you have a shocking bad hat!

PANZERKAMPFWAGEN IV: Sir, you have a shocking bad hat!

M4 SHERMAN: And you, sir, have a shocking bad case of being exploded to death! But in the morning, I shall be sober. And may have removed my hat.

Gaming Roundup

Things have been fairly quiet on the gaming front recently. War Thunder continues to soldier along with impressive longevity, over five years now; the only game I can recall playing regularly for anything like as long is City of Heroes back in the day. I don’t play a massive amount of War Thunder, maybe four or five matches a week, it’s ideal for dropping in for a quick round or two when there isn’t time for much more. I’m mostly working on the new(ish) Italian and French air trees and happiest pottering around tiers III and IV, where you don’t feel too guilty about facing brand new players but upgrading and unlocking progress isn’t as glacial as the late game. Beta testing of naval combat continues, and makes for an interesting change of pace as the balance between torpedo boats, destroyers and aircraft is tweaked. The Winter Olympics in February also saw the return of a couple of special events, Biathlon being a particularly enjoyable combination of racing and shooting with the added complications of a hostile team. Is it really four years since they first appeared? Blimey and indeed Charlie etc. Update 1.77 has just gone into testing, much attention being on the new Tier VI ground forces as the tanks get ever more modern, but aircraft are much more my bag (baby) so I haven’t been working up much frothing excitement on that front.

Destiny 2 is still ticking along as well, though the longevity issues are pretty apparent. I’m scarcely the hardest of core but still managed to get a character of each class up to power level 335 a while back, and with each also kitted out with a suitably snazzy set of armour or two from events there’s not a whole lot of gear-based incentive to keep grinding. Repeated runs of Flashpoints and public events get a little stale, so it’s mostly the PvP of the Crucible that I keep going back for. I feared my poor aged reflexes might not be up to a PvP shooter but I seem to do well enough, seldom topping the leader board but even more seldomly at the bottom, thankfully. Special events like the Iron Banner and Crimson Days seem to funnel enough people into the Crucible that either there’s reasonable matchmaking or enough equally poor players by luck in most matches to balance things out, at least towards the start of events; Crimson Days was a bit painful when I popped in on the last day to tick off an achievement with one final character and bumped into a succession of cookie-cutter power-spamming guild teams, but that’s been the exception rather than the rule so far. Bungie have put out a roadmap with their future plans, some of which look fun enough (6v6 Crucible matches), but nothing that particularly grabs me as a “must play loads more!” sort of addition.

My new Chillblast PC is running quite splendidly; the one game that my old rig struggled with was Just Cause 3, so I fired that up to see how it ran (nicely), and have been rampaging around its islands in a grappling-type frenzy. It’s another one that works well for a quick drop-in session to free a town, take part in a race or two, or just beat whatever random statistic pops up in the top right of the screen (the high score table based on Steam friends being a cunning way of inspiring competitiveness; “sorry, I know I’m supposed to be on my way to help a bunch of rebel fighters but I’m just going to take some time out to see how high I can climb with a parachute and a grappling hook…”) Should it start to pale then The Division had a big update fairly recently that I ought to try and have a look at, and Elite: Dangerous is sitting waiting to be installed after a Steam sale; too many games, too little time, as per usual!

On the MMO front our little Sunday group have drifted away from Guild Wars 2, being stuck in a bit of a Fractal-limbo where pushing forward is quite a slog and replaying current tiers a bit tiresome. Casting around the almost endless list of other options The Elder Scrolls Online jumped out, a game I’d briefly tried a couple of times (but not to the point of hitting double-digit levels), so we’ve been pottering around in there for a few weeks. A recent(ish) “One Tamriel” update changed much content to be scaled for any level, as I understand it, removing a lot of restrictions on grouping and such, enabling us to progress at our own pace during the week but still team up without anyone being over/underpowered. The more structured story side of the game hasn’t really grabbed me any more than last time, but like a single player Elder Scrolls game there’s no shortage of other things to do in the world. This week I have been mostly engaging in larceny for the Thieves Guild, next week I might look in to the Mages Guild, or do a bit of crafting, or hunt down some vampires; it’s a bit like Mr Benn, really, only with more hats.

New Year, New PC

From hazy memory and patchy records I believe our family first got a PC in 1988, an Amstrad PC1512, so I thought I’d celebrate the 30th anniversary by buying a new computer as is time-honoured tradition and in no way a post factum and incredibly flimsy excuse to upgrade. Adapting the xkcd 2011 Guide to Making People Feel Old[1], the IBM System/360 came out closer to the Amstrad than this new PC; if you have no idea what a System/360 might be ask a grandparent and/or Wikipedia, whichever is less likely to shake a stick at you and reminisce at length about punched cards and paper tape.

I’m pretty sure this is my tenth system in total; for a while new PC purchases were a more-or-less biennial affair, from that first Amstrad sporting an 8086 processor screaming along at 8Mhz in 1988 through a 386SX (16Mhz) in 1991, 486DLC (33Mhz) in 1993, Pentium P133 in 1996, Pentium II 350 in 1999, Athlon 1400 in 2001, Athlon 2800 in 2003 and an Athlon 64 in 2005. The first few stick in the mind, also covering the shift from Mono CGA in 4 shades of grey, an occasional “beep” from a PC speaker, and 5.25″ disks to the glorious technicolour of VGA, symphonic Soundblasting, and vast hard drives holding upwards of 100Mb of data. After that it’s a bit hazy, a bland batch of beige boxes from whoever looked cheapest in the back of Computer Shopper, up to the Athlon 64. I built that one myself, with a bit of help from Melmoth (i.e. he built it and I fetched the occasional screwdriver, a couple of daiquiris and a mojito) and it was going strong when this blog started in 2006, taking things through to 2009 and my previous system, a Core i7 that’s done sterling service for the last eight years.

You could always upgrade bits and pieces – I remember inserting 128Kb memory chips into the PC1512 to bring it up to a staggering 640KB of RAM, and a 32MB hard card (combined hard disk and controller) was bliss after frequent swapping of 360KB floppies. The 486 entered the amazing world of “multimedia” when fitted with a CD-ROM drive and Soundblaster card, and somewhere in the early 2000s LCD screens became affordable so you could contemplate a monitor larger than 15″ without needing a six foot deep desk with structural reinforcement. The CPU was always a major bottleneck, though, needing an update every few years if you wanted to keep up with the latest games, and new generations of processors typically needed a new motherboard and assorted gubbins (to use the technical term). With the dedicated 3D graphics card becoming commonplace from the late 90s and eventually taking over as the key component for games performance it’s been easy to just pop in a new card when things started slowing down, so though there have only been a couple of whole new rigs since 2005 I’ve still been updating graphics cards every couple of years, making the extended lifespan of the Core i7 slightly less impressive. Still, eight years is a great run, and it could still cope quite happily with games like Destiny 2, albeit at lower graphics settings. It wasn’t that an upgrade was absolutely vital, but it felt like the time was about right (as much as the time is ever right to buy new technology) and I didn’t have any other ideas for a slightly belated birthday present.

It was most instructive building the Athlon 64 with Melmoth, and I’ve upgraded or replaced enough power supplies, graphics cards and hard drives over the years, but time and convenience are more of a priority these days (along with a nice comfy pair of slippers and a short nap in the afternoon) so it’s easier to buy a pre-assembled system. The previous one was a 3XS from Scan, and I certainly can’t fault it, but browsing around I opted for a Chillblast system this time. They offer a range of silent PCs, quiet performance being one of my priorities, and were very helpful via e-mail and on the phone to precisely tailor everything. It’s a Core i5, but several generations on from the i7 (this one is a “Coffee Lake”, apparently, presumably a code name rather than an innovative caffeinated liquid cooling system) with a GTX 1070 and a tiny M.2 SSD (physically tiny; a rough calculation suggests it can store more than ONE! MEEEEEELEON! 5.25″ floppy disks), and is really rather lovely. Early days yet, I’ve only got as far as installing a few things, but it doesn’t bat an eyelid running them with all the graphics options turned up to 11. Fingers crossed it’ll still be going strong in eight years!

[1] Did you realise the 2011 Guide to Making People Feel Old came out closer to the start of xkcd than the present day?

No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.

I wrapped up the story part of Path of Fire the other day. It was pretty standard stuff, really; get killed, return from the dead, slay a god, pick up some random items and hand them to an NPC ten or even twenty paces away, that sort of thing. As I’ve posted about a couple of times before the story of Guild Wars 2 really hasn’t engaged me. I should probably just skip it; I’m not sure there’s any gated content that depends on having completed the story, and the rest of GW2 continues to offer plentiful activities. Pottering around exploring maps (greatly helped by the new mounts), fractals, adventures, crafting, the Mad King’s Halloween event and what-not. I’d taken part in a fair bit of Structured PvP (5 vs 5 matches) last time I was playing heavily but I think I’d risen to my level of incompetence and reached the stage where I was more of a hindrance to my team, so I’ve been doing a bit of the more open World vs World mode recently, tagging along with sufficiently large blobs. It’s frustrating sometimes, spending a while running across a map only to bump into a larger enemy blob and get squished, but being part of a large scale coordinated team attack is most impressive, especially when friendly Mesmers open up a teleportation portal for surprise flanking manoeuvres. I don’t do an awful lot apart from follow everyone else and drop AoEs on the designated location, but I feel like I’m involved at least, even if only as a very minor cog.

In the story, on the other hand, though I’m theoretically the largest dragon-slaying cog around I don’t feel involved, I’m a title, a cipher with a generic personality regardless of race, class and shoulderpad size. A bunch of NPCs dump some exposition, you fight some stuff, repeat. For me the story of an MMO world is best handled with a light touch, a bit of a push to move players from zone to zone with some interesting lore in the background for those that want to delve into it, less of the lectures. I’ve just started Destiny 2 and that seems to be handling it fairly well so far, even though I never played the original so don’t have any background there. It’s not staggeringly original; Big Nasty Aliens Invade, get the band back together, we’ll see where it goes, but it supports the core running-around-shooting-things requirements well enough. “You” are strangely mute while your robot chum does all the talking, reminding me a little of The Secret World, a game that had almost the opposite problem of Guild Wars 2: an interesting story and world but the levelling grind and rest of the game weren’t strong enough to support it (I should probably have a look at the relaunched Legends version).

It’s a tricky thing, combining an engaging and personal story with a more free-form game, becoming trickier as online multiplayer becomes ubiquitous and open-world map-mopping seems to be a bit of a default template. Paul “Mr Biffo” Rose wrote a strong defence of games as a storytelling medium in light of EA “refocusing” a forthcoming Star Wars game, and while I enjoy a multiplayer shooter or MMO as much as the next man (probably a fair bit more than the next man, unless the next man is a County-standard MMO-enjoyer in which case not quite as much as the next man but more than a composite average man, or indeed woman, assembled from a sufficient sample size) I do like to break things up with more story-driven titles, and recent games like Mass Efffect: Andromeda have been a bit disappointing on that front. Perhaps monetisation strategies are having a negative effect, it’s quite the hot topic (particularly loot boxes) as the wider industry grapples with issues that had previously been largely confined to the free-to-play ghetto. We’ve been talking about these things for years, and obviously games companies have to be held accountable, but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that players have embraced the idea so enthusiastically that, from a business perspective, it looks mad not to crowbar them in. Rob Fahey on gamesindustry.biz is confident that the games will be there as long as the audience demands them, hopefully the industry can find a happy medium that keeps some variety in AAA titles.

One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody’s listening

Path of Fire, the new Guild Wars 2 expansion, is enjoyable enough so far, but it hasn’t really got its hooks into me. Mounts are fun, a new way of getting around; each class has a new elite spec, but unlocking it involves grinding a goodly number of Hero Points so it’ll take me a while longer at my current, rather slow, rate of exploration. Most immediately there’s more story, but as outlined previously that’s not really a plus point. I hardly paid attention to the story of the first expansion, or any of the Living World since; something something dragon something another dragon something something god of war something dragon (possibly the second dragon or maybe a new one) seems to be about the gist of it. I almost came a cropper during one conversation as the game asked me to make a decision about which faction a Mayor (or General) (or costermonger, I dunno, I wasn’t listening when he introduced himself) should support. At that point my character should really have said: “Look, I’m going to be completely honest here: I have no idea who you are. I have no idea why I’m here. I don’t even know where ‘here’ is, there was probably a briefing or a letter or something but I don’t really care. I expect you think I’m fully au fait with the current situation as the previous stage of the quest involved running around the map and talking to a load of people, but I’ll let you into a little secret: they’re all so dreadfully tedious I started playing Candy Crush as soon as any of them started expositing. I should probably go back to that office (or warehouse) (or ice rink, I dunno, I wasn’t listening) and apologise for not immediately leaping to the defence of whoever it was I was talking to when they were ambushed, but I was doing rather well on level 764 at the time. Now, if you’d be so good as to assume I’ve selected whatever option offers the best rewards, why don’t you pop a green asterisk on the map, I’ll run along there and attack anything with a red name or click on anything clickable, I’m not fussy, then I get stacks of XP and loot and stuff and everyone’s happy, OK?”

Inexplicably that wasn’t an option, though, so I just clicked the middle one, trusting that the fundamental nature of the game meant it would make approximately bog-all difference in the grand scheme of things, and toddled off towards the nearest green asterisk to click on a thing…

Warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed

War. War never changes. Apart from when it does, like the time Ian Pointed-Stick invented the pointed stick, that was a shock for the non-pointed stick folks. The War folks are pretty bad about patch notes and version numbers, though, and seldom put out a press release when a new update to War is released unlike Gaijin, developers of World War II(ish) combat game War Thunder. The last few updates to War Thunder have been ticking along, generally adding some new planes and tanks, always nice but not particularly noteworthy. The addition of Japanese tanks at the end of last year to join their Soviet, German, US and British counterparts rounded out air and ground forces for all the countries in the game, the latest update expands the array of nations for the first time in (mumble) years as could be surmised from its name: Regia Aeronautica. Yes, it’s all about a fearless aeronaut called Reg. Or possibly the Italian Air Force.

Italian aircraft aren’t completely new to the game, there were a handful in the German tree, but Update 1.69 sees them take to the skies under their own flag with a fully fleshed-out tree of fighters and bombers from the biplane CR.32 up to the jet-powered G.91. The tree will be gradually made available a few aircraft at a time, or the full thing can be researched by players who buy an Italian premium aircraft pack or complete a series of tasks. It’s early days yet but there’s a nice range of aircraft available, and the mid-war “Serie 5” fighters in particular seem to be performing well. It’s always fun to go back to the slightly more relaxed early tiers, and the new Italian tree gives a great reason to do so.

Crunchy Mass Corn Effect

I finished off Mass Effect: Andromeda the other day, and it’s… fine. I put around 100 hours into it, both single and multiplayer, so it’s not a bad game (or I’m a terrible masochist), but it’s not amazing. Using a new Crunchy Maize Corn Stick Based Review System, I’d liken it to a giant bag of Salt & Vinegar Chipsticks: you open the bag, thinking you’ll have a few Chipsticks then seal it back up again, and they’re pretty nice, so you have a few more, and you don’t really notice that you’re about two thirds of the way through the bag, and then there’s no point leaving a few so you keep going, and without really intending to you’ve finished the bag and your fingers are clad in a crunchy maize gauntlet and you need to drink a couple of pints of water to clear the salt & vinegar coating from your tongue. Compelling enough to keep you going, but you don’t sit back at the end and think “well that was a great dining experience, I’ll do that again tomorrow”.

In general it’s very Mass Effect-y. Talk to a bunch of people, shoot a bunch of aliens, talk to a bunch of people, shoot a bunch of aliens, flirt with squadmates, shoot a bunch of aliens, y’know, Mass Effect-y. It’s more explicitly Open World than the previous games with planets to roam full of assorted odds and sods; the majority of missions are fairly bland busywork of the “go to X waypoints” variety, a bit of a single-player MMO, especially when coupled with resource gathering for crafting, but the driving and combat work well enough for it to be generally enjoyable rather than too much of a chore. I liked the flexible skill system that allowed you to combine combat, tech and biotic powers, though I did get into a bit of a rut of sticking with the same powers once I found a combination that worked.

The overarching story was all right but I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d seen most of it before one way or another, and the central strand was a bit weak (the usual game problem of balancing an imperative to follow a main story with almost unlimited opportunities to arse around picking up drink ingredients for a nightclub). I didn’t find any squadmates intensely irritating, but none of them especially clicked either. I inadvertently ended up locked into a romance after always picking flirtatious options when talking to anyone (and in the game, ah); I thought there was a warning if you were going to commit yourself to one person (like in real life when a message flashes across the screen), maybe I missed it. In the final mission of the game (extremely minor spoiler warning) you get help from people you helped out along the way, but a combination of my increasingly failing memory and fairly inconsequential side quests meant I couldn’t even remember who some of them were. “Ryder, you saved my life, I can never repay you but I’m here to help you out!” “Oh that’s awfully nice, thanks. Um. Who are you, again? Are you sure we’ve met?”

Overall, then, not a disaster of intergalactic proportions, but not an all-time classic. If you were peckish and poking around the kitchen cupboard then a giant bag of Salt & Vinegar Chipsticks would do in a pinch, but you wouldn’t order them in a restaurant. Unless it was some hipster Crunchy Maize Corn Stick restaurant.

Noel’s Andromeda Party or No Party

So we were chatting away about the recent Mass Effect: Andromeda patch with improvements to the character creator, and wondering what future updates might hold…

> MELMOTH: Patch Notes: Deleted all Ryder face and beard options and replaced them with 'a version of Noel Edmonds that our artist modelled one Friday afternoon while drunk'.

> ZOSO: New game pitch: ME:A featuring Noel Edmonds as Ryder with squadmates Mr Blobby and The Banker


The planet Eos. NOEL “PATHFINDER” EDMONDS disembarks from the Nomad accompanied by the pink and yellow horror that is MISTER BLOBBY.

EDMONDS: Looks like a Kett encampment ahead, Blobby, better be careful. Here’s the plan: we sneak up, hidden by those rocks there, then I’ll use my Biotic shield to cover…

BLOBBY: Blobby? Blobby blobby blobby! BLOBBBBEEEEEE!

BLOBBY charges forward wildly firing a submachine gun, falls over, narrowly misses EDMONDS with a burst of fire, gets back up; EDMONDS cautiously moves forward in cover trying to suppress the Kett with assault rifle fire; BLOBBY trips again, lands on EDMONDS.

EDMONDS: Blobby! For heaven’s sake…

Kett troopers look on, somewhat bemused. A telephone rings loudly and everybody pauses.

EDMONDS: Ah! About time The Banker turned up.

EDMONDS answers a telephone inexplicably sitting on a rock formation.

EDMONDS: Yes? I see. Really? Right then.

EDMONDS puts the telephone down. Tense music plays.

EDMONDS: Well, Kett Anointed, The Banker admires your bravado but says it will be your undoing in the end. He’s going to make an extremely generous offer that he knows you’ll turn down: 500 credits, an Uncommon item, and some inorganic lubricant.

KETT ANOINTED turns to his comrades.

KETT DESTINED: I’ve got a really good feeling about your container, I reckon there’s definitely an Ultra Rare in there, don’t take the deal.

KETT CHOSEN: The Banker’s just playing mind games with you, think about how those credits could change your life.

KETT ANOINTED: Well… it’s a good offer, Noel, but at the end of the day I’m an AI mob scripted to blindly attack you, so I’m going to have to say ‘no deal’ and shoot you with a plasma rifle.

While the Kett have been talking, BLOBBY has climbed up to a nearby platform. He takes aim with a Black Widow sniper rifle.

BLOBBY: Blobby!

BLOBBY fires, completely missing the Kett; the recoil knocks him backwards in a somersault off the platform, landing on EDMONDS again.


Some people just have to take things too far, though…

> MELMOTH: Mr Blobby romance options...


Pathfinders Quarters on the Tempest. EDMONDS and BLOBBY have returned to the ship.

EDMONDS: Well, Blobby, as Kett Anointed didn’t take the deal I still have that inorganic lubricant. Better hope you don’t ‘trip’ and fall on top of me again…

BLOBBY: Blobby blobby blobby blobby blobby blobby *squelch* blobby blobby blobby!

Fade to black. Fade to black! For the love of all that is holy fade to black!