My friends and I discover ourselves completely surrounded by a hoard of zombies that outnumber us at least 10-1. We find ourselves shacked up in a small building, our tank and thief are desperately searching for something to help us out of the predicament, scouring the corners of this drab and dreary abandoned shop with torches in hand. Our archer is hellbent on firing at the zombies that are slowly stacking up outside, arguing with our Barbarian who wants to jump out and take them all on in glorious combat with his legendary axe. Meanwhile, our assassin is thinking of the flashiest and most extreme way to deal with the situation, utilizing all their special abilities. Then there's me, the mage, betting on rolling some sixes to fry the whole hoard. Eventually the zombies force their way into the small building and after some clutch blocks and strategy...we die. Sounds like I'm describing some sort of video game right here at the LAN right? Or maybe an intense D&D campaign? Nope. This is Zombicide: Black Plague, an excellent tabletop game from Guerrilla Games, and probably the most tense and teamwork oriented tabletop that I've ever played.

Zombicide: Black Plague
Developed and Published by CoolMiniOrNot & Guillotine Games
Funded via Kickstarter
Raised $4,079,204 from over 20,000 backers in 30 days. 

First and foremost, the name "Zombicide" is definitely not a new name in the board game scene. CMON and Guillotine Games teamed up in the past to release the original  Zombicide board game and expansions, which were set in modern times. Think AMC's "The Walking Dead" or the popular video game "Left 4 Dead." This time around with Black Plague, players find themselves in a medieval fantasy world, similar to "Lord of the Rings" or "Game of Thrones". It's important to note that Zombicide: Black Plague is not a brand new game, it was actually released in 2015 via a Kickstarter campaign. However, with the upcoming renovations here at LAN Mob, we're looking to get some board game nights rolling and Zombicide Black Plague is my best pick for a tense and strategical cooperative tabletop experience. So let's take a look!

Black Plague is considered a "campaign" game, which means there are a set number of missions that are all chronicled in the rulebook included in the hefty game box. Each of these missions have a map blueprint that players follow to create the mission at hand. These maps are created by fitting the tiles referenced in the blueprint together as shown, and adding various tokens and pieces (such as doors, objectives and vaults). Each mission has a unique objective, sometimes things are as simple as reaching a certain point on the map but more often than not the objectives are a bit more challenging. Each of these missions manage to feel completely unique and separate, and thanks to the way the game is played, you can even replay these missions with no problem at all. If you're pretty creative you can also utilize the tiles to create your own missions! These tiles look great, and the pieces on the map portray information to the players perfectly. While the tile laying board system isn't a new game mechanic, it works flawlessly in Black Plague. Once the map is all set and ready to go - it's on to possibly my favorite part of Zombicide: Black Plague; building a party.

Just like in any RPG, whether it be analog or digital, balancing a party to tackle the missions at hand is one of those most tactical decisions. This is a good time to mention Zombicide can be played cooperatively with 2-6 players, but naturally you can play with even more. One play session of ours had 9 party members! However, most missions suggest running with 6 party members, so if you're playing with a handful of friends or even if you're running solo, it's best to take control of multiple characters to make the experience the fullest. The base game comes with six incredibly well designed characters, but that just scratches the surface. Over the last two years, Guillotine Games and CMON have released an insane amount of additional content - including a whole mess of new characters. Our playgroup has around 30 characters to choose from, and despite having a few favorites each, we spend a good amount of time picking and choosing who to play before each mission. Each character is represented by a beautifully crafted miniature and character card. These character cards represent what abilities the characters gain at certain experience levels, starting with their blue ability and going up from there. These character cards get placed in a plastic dashboard which keeps track of life, currently equipped equipment, backpack space and have a handy experience track. I cannot stress enough how beneficial these streamlined dashboards are to the overall experience of Black Plague. It's so simple to just look around the table at everyone's dashboards and character cards and understand where your party is at, and what the best moves would be. Keeping track of your party's characters isn't the only streamlined system present in Zombicide: Black Plague.

Look at how neat everything is!

The models are fantastic! Just begging to be painted...

There are a plethora of these dungeon crawling RPG style tabletop games, but Zombicide definitely stands out in a few ways. Firstly, Zombicide: Black Plague is packing an incredibly unique theme. There are a ton of fantasy RPGs, and there's quite a few zombie tabletops as well, but who would have guessed that these themes working in tandem would create such an interesting setting and still manage to be so tense. Chipping away at zombies with medieval weapons like swords, axes, bows and daggers as well as magical spells like lightning bolts and fireballs, manages to be a lot more imaginative and fun then using guns, like in the original Zombicide. I suppose that's more of an opinion though. The second notable distinction is Zombicide's ability to be played without a game master. In a lot of dungeon crawling/RPG tabletops an additional human player is required to take control of the gamestate that the heroes will be facing. I cannot stress how much of a difference this can make for certain playgroups, mine included. CMON and Guillotine Games accomplish this in a really stylistic and thematic way, by giving the zombies an automatic system of moving and attacking. To put it simply, zombies will act completely on their own, utilizing a system of prioritizing line of sight and following sound. These Zombies spawn in the map in varying places based on the mission, but the game takes care of the spawning phase by utilizing a deck of cards. Each Zombie has it's own special traits; walkers, fatties and runners all have different traits like more health or more actions. The base game of Black Plague also has two very special zombie types - The Abomination and Necromancers, which add to the chaos.

The color of the flame decides the Zombie spawn. Whatever the highest level among your party may be, dictates the color. For example, if your entire party is blue except for your mage who is in yellow, all zombie spawns are the row of the yellow flame.

Once again, the miniatures are incredibly well designed and so easy to paint.

There's so much praise I can genuinely give Black Plague. Ask some regulars around LAN Mob and I'm sure they can regurgitate some of it, because I couldn't shut up about it! I love how tense and frustrating the game can be, but how worth it is once you finally complete a tough mission. I love how clear and concise the rules are thanks to the well written rulebook. My playgroup had some minor issues when we started to learn the game, but they were quickly taken care of over time without taking away from the early experiences. The base game comes with an incredible amount of content, which as I mentioned, was only added to over time. It's pretty hard to get bored of Zombicide thanks to the huge variety in missions available via expansions and even fan made ones online. Some members of my own playgroup have an atrocious attention span and even they tend to be pretty happy to sit down for a mission or two. You can even run the same missions multiple times and it will be a completely different experience every single time. However, if somebody forced me to focus all of my praise in one place, it would have to be the miniatures. In fact; if the miniatures weren't so incredibly detailed and awesome (I honestly don't have a better word to use) I may have never picked up Black Plague, it's basically what originally sold the game to me! To anyone pretty familiar with the board game market, when you see "Cool Mini Or Not" or "CMON" on the box, you already know the miniatures are going to be amazing, but there's something very special about Black Plague. Don't get me wrong, the miniatures for other CMON games are incredible. Games like Blood Rage, Arcadia Quest, and a recently Kickstarted title, Rising Sun, all bring top-tier sculpts to your table. Black Plague set a standard for me, and their choices for design just hit a note. It honestly feels like a sin that I haven't gotten around to painting them yet.

Zombicide: Wulfsburg was a major expansion to the original Black Plague. Wulfsburg added 4 new survivors, a mess of new enemy types - "Wolfz" and a special wolf boss; The Wolf-bomination. All of this on top of some new tile types, additional dashboards and some new equipment!

Each of these "Special Guest" Boxes include Survivors/Necromancers for Zombicide: Black Plague that have been designed by famous artists. I was ecstatic to find a Naiade box, the artist of one of my favorite board games, Tokaido.

The base game of Zombicide: Black Plague sells for the suggested retail price of $99.99. To anybody not used to table tops or have never invested in a heavier game like this, let me tell you, the price tag is well worth it. This box is filled to the brim with quality content and has plenty of replay value. However, I must admit, Zombicide Black Plague might not be the game for everyone. Some missions can take upwards of two hours, only to end in a brutal loss. Some players may find that aspect game breakingly frustrating. I've even had somebody in my playgroup burn out on Zombicide pretty hard, saying the game was a bit too stressful for his liking. The other common complaint, among different groups I've played with, is the game takes too long. Once again, this isn't really an issue with Zombicide, simply players with shorter attention spans. Zombicide's length is definitely nothing compared to games like Twilight Imperium 3 or 7 Ages, but make sure your playgroup understands what they are getting into.

Twilight Imperium 3 games can last upwards of 5 hours, depending on how many players. Yikes.

Zombicide: Black Plague has quickly become my favorite cooperative board game of all time. For a while, I was counting down the days until I could play it again. The perfect blend of fantasy RPG elements, tense combat and master-crafted miniatures make for an awesome experience every time. Like I mentioned above, just make sure your playgroup understands what they're getting into. Zombicide: Black Plague will be one of our MANY board games featured at tabletop night, coming soon with LAN Mob's remodel. We look forward to tackling the zombie hoard with guys around the shop!

Check out CMON and Guillotine Games' websites for more details on Zombicide: Black Plague, or check out their plethora of other titles!

Lastly, just yesterday, CMON and Guillotine Games released a Kickstarter for the next installment of Zombicide: Black Plague. Zombicide: Green Horde will be adding all sorts of new content and can either be played completely separate from all previous Black Plague content. However, Green Horde is also fully compatible with any previous content! I'm so stoked! Check out the Kickstarter below!


Took a screenshot of my offline Win Rates just under a week of play. Maybe 40 or so matches are from single fights vs AI or versus with friends. It "inspired" me to put myself on a Multiverse ban for until I beat Story Mode and try out other single-player options. I spent a few days on Story Mode and began fiddling with my gear options while setting up my A.I. Loadouts in preparations of troublesome Multiverse towers.

Story Mode
Alright, I'll try to keep this short, sweet and spoiler-free. WARNING: DO NOT "SELECT CHAPTER" UNTIL YOU BEAT STORY MODE. Found out the hard way  .For example, if you're on chapter 7 and decide you want to replay chapter 3, you'll have replay chapters 4,5 & 6 to get back to chapter 7. That aside, I enjoyed my playthrough of Story Mode. The fights didn't feel as silly and there weren't any of the "minigames" like in MK9 or Injustice 1 you had to play through before you started fighting. Instead of everyone taking a super drug making them strong enough to hit Superman and being hit by Superman without splattering, they try to exploit Hero/Villian weaknesses to make the fights "plausible". It's a silly point but I enjoyed that attention to detail. Loot wise, you unlock Brainaic for completing Story Mode and earn level 20 epic gear and a shader for completion of a character's chapter. Some chapters will branch out, giving you a choice of two characters to play as. I played through the branches consistently as one character so I cannot say with certainty if playing their final fight of that chapter awards loot or if completing all branches of that character in a chapter rewards loot. Your gear and levels are disabled in Story Mode but you do earn profile and character XP when you win fights. I think my DC bias is affecting my judgment but I enjoyed the Story Mode. It had something for people who wanted to know the story and also gives rewards for RPG side of the game.

Gear + Stats
I had reservations about the gear system but it's grown on me. You have four gear slots that affect your four main stats: Strength, Ability, Defense and Health. This may vary slightly from character to character here are what each stat affects:Strength affects all basic attack and combo damage , Ability affects your special moves, super move and trait damage, Defense helps reduce the damage you take and Health is your character's health pool. There are three tiers of rarity, common/white, rare/blue and epic/gold/orange. There also exists set epic gear that have a slightly different tint from standard epic gear. Gear can come with modifiers that range from gaining additional XP to increased damage to certain types of characters like Heroes/Villians/Kryptonians/non-super powered foes.

You have the ability to re-roll or regenerate gear at the cost of 1 Regen Token. These can be gained from completing multiverse ladders, opened from loot boxes and even dropped at the end of matches due to a gear's modifier. Regenerated gear will come with rerolled stats& modifiers while its level will scale upwards to your character's current level. The picture below is me trying to me slick and rerolling this set piece for my Deadshot who is a few levels lower in the hopes of it scaling down. When you regenerate gear, you have the option of keeping the original gear or the newly regenerated gear. Your Regen Token is spent regardless of your choice.

Despite leaving it all to chance, you have slight control over how you want your gear to come out. I can see myself spending 20-30 regen tokens trying to get the right stat distribution on my favorite pieces of gear. I love how it makes low level gear,especially epics, always relevant with the regenerated gear scaling to your character's level. And as long as I have enough regen tokens, I can keep trying to get the "perfect" stat distributions and modifiers for whatever build I'm going for on a character.

A.I. Loadouts + A.I. Battle Simulator
A.I. Battles are like all the fun of using amiibos in Super Smash Bros. 4 but without the costs and more control over how my character fights. Each character has two loadouts that are A.I. controlled while giving you control over what gear they have equipped and their fight behavior. You have 60 points,which is enough to max out two attributes. You have six attributes to choose from: Grappling, Rushdown, Combos, Counters, Zoning and Runaway.  The below is a picture of my Batman A.I. loadout with points spread throughout Rushdown,Combos and Counters. How I set my Batman to fight is he'll stick close to his opponents and combo them when able but prioritizes interrupting their attacks.

You can use these A.I. loadouts to complete Single-Player Multiverse challenges or to set up teams to fight or defend against in the Multiplayer Mode A.I. Battle Simulator. It's the closet thing I'll get to multiplayer until I pick up PS+ for myself. The mode has you make a defense team of three A.I. controlled characters. After you assign defenders, you can challenge other player's defense squads and assign attackers. You earn up to 5 loot boxes a day for attacking and 5 for defending. Winning an A.I. fight gets you a Gold Loot Box while losing gets you a Bronze Loot Box.

That about covers my experience with Injustice 2. A.I. Battle Simulator has become a daily thing for me. Win or lose, I enjoy watching my A.I. team fight. It helps me pick up new characters to learn after watching them in action. It becomes a learning experience with characters a I know because the AI will make combos in ways I didn't of before. Though, I'm sure the same can be accomplished if I bothered to look up combo videos online. Speaking of knowing characters better, a character trailer dropped for DLC character Red Hood! He looks really fun to play. I was worried he was going to be too zone heavy because of explosives and guns but it looks like Red Hood is more of a brawler. Trailer says he and the rest of Fighter Pack 1 release in June. Looking forward to Starfire's character trailer.Not so much Sub Zero's...

Originally released 15 years ago on the Sega Dreamcast, Rez has made it's way to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR. Though it has been out for quite sometime; I've decided to give my PSVR a "date night" of sorts since I haven't even touched it since Resident Evil 7 was released (which I still haven't finished.)

Let me start off by saying oh my god is this game amazing. Rez is a rail/rhythm shooter that oozes massive amounts of style. I never played the original but I knew of it. From playing this remake it's clear that this was meant to be for VR since it's conception. Now if you don't have the VR don't let it discourage you from getting this. It's available to play without it! In VR mode, Rez uses head tracking to aim and it feels miles better than using the controller to control the aiming. Even while your speeding your way through each level, I didn't feel motion sick at all. The whole experience was extremely comfortable; everything felt right. For some people though I could see it being a bit too much. There are some points in the game where it feels like a sensory overload and you're about to collapse. There were a few point where I exclaimed "Holy S***!" and almost paused the game.

There are several game modes; first is the classic arcade mode. While quite short with only five stages it still provides a challenge. Arcade mode has ten levels in each stage with the last level leaving the boss to take care of. Throughout those levels you must make your avatar stronger and gain overdrive points to destroy the boss. As each level progresses, each thing you do adds a different layer to the music. The last mode is a new one called Area X. Area X is the only new piece of content in Rez Infinite and it's fantastic. An off rails mode with each experience giving you a different soundtrack. You can destroy certain enemies and leave others alone and it presents you with a different beat than before. You can move yourself closer or farther away from your enemies. Fly around structures and just float in the darkness. It can provide you a different experience each time which only elevates when you put the VR into the mix.  

The music is incredible. The way the gameplay flirts with the song playing in the background is fantastic. With each power-up, kill, and level completion; the song gets better and better. It's truly incredible and it makes the experience so much more worth it.

In short, Rez Infinite is fantastic. Even after completing a majority of the stages I find myself replaying through them. It's an amazing experience and I truly recommend everybody to try it out with or without VR.     
Too many choices can get complicated

From the start at LAN Mob we've tried to accommodate all gamers, including console gamers, PC gamers and the new breed VR gamers. This has meant investment in a lot of different types of hardware and tough decisions on which games to provide. It's one of the harder parts of running LAN Mob to predict what games will be popular and get play, something we often get wrong by either underspending or overspending in different areas.

Having options is always nice, but sometimes too many options can cause issues. It can be confusing for our customers why we'll carry Injustice 2 and Street Fighter V only on certain PS4s, and the latest CoD DLC only on XBones.  We're also stretching our video game budget thin trying to support all three major platforms, which means we have to pass on some games we really like. Simplifying the variety of systems would allow us to better focus on what matters most: good, quality games.

So we're entering a year-long process of transforming our shop to offer more focused, simplified options. We would love to make this change overnight, but the industry remains in constant flux. The Nintendo Switch and PS4 Pro were both released in the last six months, and Xbox Scorpio and augmented reality headset are arriving later this fall, as well as the emergence of VR in the gaming space.  So we're feeling our way through all the changes but have a rough idea of where we're heading.  Here is our hardware breakdown starting with in order of ascending popularity:

Nintendo Wii-U

Outside of a lot of Super Smash Bros 4 play the Wiis haven't seen much use. We currently carry 3 and they mostly collect dust, but sometimes find a niche with younger gamers.  Game support is mostly ending with the Switch now out, but due to the popularity of Smash we'll be keeping three of these around the shop at various locations and one at the retro gaming area, but this is not a system we plan to purchase any more games for!

Nintendo Switch

It's a neat little system, but game releases have been lagging. Zelda: Breath of the Wild is generally considered to be the front runner game of the year at this point, and 1-2 Switch has led to a lot of fun interactions at the shop.  We only carry one Switch and don't really plan to add more at this time, although the ARMS release could change things.  This awesome little machine will likely be making its way to the retro area as a family-oriented console, and we'll continue with very limited game support - we picked up Mario Kart just last weekend!

XBox One

We've had some success with our six Xbox Ones, but it's also our most heavily invested amongst the consoles in terms of games. For example we purchased six copies of the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare / Modern Warfare Remastered digital download which included a year's worth of DLC, while investing 0 in our PS4 CoD offering.  Consumers and publishers have followed a different road, and it's grown difficult from a business perspective for us to continue to support the Xbox platform. The Scorpio release may change things but as it stands right now we're giving serious consideration to ending our Xbox support in shop and converting over to a PS4 exclusive store.

Playstation 4

Playstation is winning the battle when it comes to high-end gaming. Playstation boasts a much larger install base, many more exclusive titles/early release DLC, and has become the platform of choice for most eSports events from Call of Duty to Street Fighter. The PS Pro was the first to introduce 4K Gaming at the console level, and the PSVR also the first to bring VR gaming to consoles. We'll be watching E3 anxiously for announcements from all console players but as it stands right now, we're prepared to make the leap to having PS4 as our primary supported gaming console. This will allow us to focus our gaming budget on providing more good quality games to our customers, and support larger eSports events from local tournaments to future WAN events. Look to our PS4s to begin to take more of a center-stage at our shop, and the introduction of 4K setups sometime in the near future.

Virtual Reality

We carry both the HTC Vive and PSVR, and have invested heavily in our game library for the former. This Vive hasn't been accessible due to a higher price and the wall separating our VR side from store side, but this wall is opening up soon and prices will be coming down. It really is a neat piece of hardware that's been underutilized and we're looking forward to the remodel bringing this back to the forefront. The PSVR is also an option, although we've found the headset tracking is not as great as what the Vive can offer, and full room VR is just not an option with the PSVR. We're still investing in the occasional PSVR title to try to grow the library of offerings but plan to make the HTC Vive our premier VR headset.

Gaming Personal Computer (PC)

Our PCs have been hot commodities and we continue to invest money into new games such as PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BattleGrounds and ShellShock Live!, with upgraded/improved cafe software and a new coins system for rewarding customer play. We've frequently sold out of PCs on busy nights and will look to scale up and add more PCs and games in the coming months. As gaming goes around our shop PCs are reigning king of the center.

The Future

Again everything is subject to change as we don't know what we don't know regarding the big three gaming platforms, but pulling everything together our future store looks to be PC-heavy, with the center of the shop focused on Playstation 4 consoles, a decent VR selection and a retro area with a variety of systems to try, including the more recent Xbox One, Nintendo Wii-U, and Nintendo Switch.

We appreciate everyone being patient while we move through this transitory time and better situate our business to serve gamers demands!

Picked up Injustice 2 and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia this week!! I'm filling the void in my life left by Persona 5 with Injustice 2 until something else catches my fancy. In fairness, Fire Emblem Echoes(FEE) came out towards the end of the week and I snagged my copy of Injustice 2 late Monday night. Next week I was going to pick up Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 but I think I'll pass on that for now. I can get the "expansion" cheaper because I already own Rev 1, so there's no worry of if I'll find a physical copy of the game a few months down the line. The week after that is Tekken 7's release and I already secured my copy. Having a good time with Injustice 2 so far, we'll see if I can put it down for Tekken 7 by then. While I'm working on a write-up for Persona 5, this post will be about my time with Injustice 2.

Injustice 2:
Alrighty, I've been looking forward to the sequel of Injustice: Gods Among Us once I caught wind of it. It's a nice mashup various DC Heroes and Villains on the Mortal Kombat fight engine. I haven't had the chance to read the comics growing up but I did watch the animated series of Batman, Superman and the Justice League. Needless to say but I was excited when Injustice 1 comes out.  A few mechanical changes I've looked into with the sequel is the addition of more meter burn options for various situations.You can use portions of your super meter defensively, to "air escape" or to "roll escape". The former costs two of your four super meter bars and allows you to escape juggles and combo attempts. The latter dashes you forward, making you immune to projectiles at the cost of one bar of the super meter. The downside to each is that the attacker could delay their combo or make a feint in order to bait an escape. With the roll escape, you're still susceptible to regular attacks during the dodge and projectiles at the start of the roll. Another defensive change was allowing some environmental interactions to be blocked Not all of the environmental interactions can be blocked, usually the ones with a long windup animation. For offensive environmental interactions, you can spend one meter bar to give yourself super armor while interacting with the environment. All of these feel like great changes to me. It never feels good to be juggled for too long,lose chunks of health to environmental interactions or to lose to someone spamming projectiles. Well, these things can still happen but the person on the defensive has more options. I can't decide whether I love or hate the addition of gear and how it gives stats to your fighters but I do love how they change the appearance of that character. You get gear through loot boxes, earned from doing stuff in game. I haven't played all the modes to say what rewards what. I do know you get loot boxes from a single-player mode call ed the Multiverse, which is what I've spent nearly all of my playtime doing.

As much as I like the new mechanics, that's not what has its hooks in me. There's a single player mode called The Multiverse, which from what I understand is similar to MKX's Living Towers. If I were to put it in my own words, you have limited-time "planets"/towers with ladder/gauntlet fights of various lengths with various modifiers. These ladders vary in difficulty and length and some require you to be a certain character,level or both to start. The ladders also have an arcade scoring system, granting you points based on your performance. At certain score thresholds, you can earn 1 bronze box, 1 silver box and 1 gold box depending on your performance in that ladder. Each planet/tower also has challenges to complete that offer additional loot. For example, the challenges I've seen have been to clear certain ladders with a certain character or to reach a certain score. What this means for me is I have a ton of single player stuff to do. Once you hit profile level 5, you can join a guild and play through the Guild Multiverse, a tougher version of the Multiverse that people from your guild complete to earn rewards. I'm still learning characters and I don't have "good" gear on my characters, so that might explain why I'm having such a hard time with the Guild Multiverse. Or I'm just bad.

All my play time thus far as been in the Multiverse. I'll have to tackle the story mode when I get a block of free time but for now, I'm content with exploring the Multiverse. I'm not sure how I feel overall about Injustice 2 but I'm having fun. I've actually wanted to learn half of the roster instead of picking two or three characters and "maining" them. Still, we'll see how I feel in the coming weeks. I might feel like this because I have a new game that I'm immediately enjoying. Also, I can "take a break" from my queue with Fire Emblem Echoes being the only story heavy game I'm buying for at least a month. Man, this has been a good release year for video games.

After a few weeks after release I finally have some time to put into Little Nightmares, a Horror Puzzle-Platformer developed by Tarsier Studios (LittleBigPlanet 3, Tearaway Unfolded) and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It was released for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. 
Note: There are some spoilers. 

You're thrown into the game with no introduction. You wake up on a suitcase in a dark room and you know for sure that you have to get out. As you venture out you can't help but feel something is there. The eerie atmosphere leaves you on the edge of your seat wondering if this is when something comes after you. Little Nightmares itself is incredibly vague which leaves you to search for answers. Where are you? How did you get here? What is the purpose of this place? Most importantly; Who are you? These questions are what will drive you to finish the game, which isn't too long. Unfortunately, you never really find these things out. You do find out that your name is Six and you're aboard the Maw, an underwater ship. As you progress you encounter some macabre sights. Such as the hanged corpse of a man and numerous caged children. You never really feel safe. Venturing through different sections of the Maw, like the children's quarters, a kitchen, etc. The game itself isn't as much scary as it is tense. When involved in a chase you barely make it out which got me to tense up almost every time. You don't seem to get punished much in this game as you'd imagine. Every puzzle is pretty simplistic but should you make a mistake whether it be doing a puzzle, a chase, or anything for that matter; you'll usually get it the second or third try. You're able to push and pull things to navigate in the Maw. Like using chairs to open doors, using a rope to jump to the next platform, or throw one of those toy monkeys with the cymbals at a button which opens a elevator. The gameplay flows very well and it never feels off beat.  

Throughout all of the danger, there is a sliver of hope that never escapes. Even after Six is captured by the Janitor, one of the inhabitants of the Maw who is blind with long, lanky arms. You escape from the cage he put you in and he is in patrol of the surrounding areas. Using his strong sense of smell and hearing. To escape from him you must sneak by him, solving puzzles. Avoiding the wooden floors in fear of alerting him with the creaks of your footsteps. Other enemies you encounter are the Chef twins. Giant grotesque monsters that are cooking tons of food. Much like the Janitor, you must sneak past the twins unless you want to be part of the meal. The plus side is their arms aren't like Janitor's so its easier to run away and hide from them. These parts are the best and some of the most thrilling parts in a game for me in awhile. Comparing Six to them you're like an ant and it feels like you won't ever escape. Whenever you get through a chase sequence you'll sigh with relief. Outside of these interactions though you spend your time finding keys and navigating to the next section ahead. 

You get to a point in the game where you get outside and you see obese people coming into the Maw. As you get closer to the end you have to escape from a bunch of these gluttonous people as they try to eat you. The next area is like a Captain's quarters. The Woman you see a few times throughout the game is there brushing her hair and humming looking in the mirror. Even though all of the mirrors are broken and she's wearing a geisha mask. As you navigate past her you find the only non-broken mirror locked away in a room. You take it and you knock her down with it, as it seems that looking at herself is her only weakness. Once Six approaches her; her hunger grows again. Six devours the woman and takes her power for herself. Once Six leaves the room and walks through the dining hall, she kills all of the people in her path. She emerges from the Maw and in the distance, you hear the siren of an approaching boat. 

Little Nightmares is an exhilarating title. Even though it should take at most 3 hours to beat; it comes out as one of my favorite games so far this year. A main issue I have is it never truly gives you answers. I want to know more about Six, The Woman, The Maw, everything. The ending was quite sudden and didn't make 100% sense. I'm quite invested in this world now and how everything came to be. Apparently they are making a prequel comic so I'm very excited to get some answers (I better get some answers). Tarsier did a fantastic job at making a game that enthralls you in the adventure and I'm looking forward to their next release.  
Whenever I describe LAN Mob to a family member or non-gaming friend (and even gamers sometimes!) I can't help but use the word "culture". To put it as simply as I can, LAN Mob is a place where "gamers" feel right at home. I'm also proud to say we are an excellent place to visit if you wouldn't even consider yourself a "gamer" since you can come hang out, try some games out and make some friends! I could talk about the strengths of not only LAN Mob's community but the general gaming community/culture for hours on end, but for this post I'd like to write about what a local parent thinks about this community and culture.

We get all sorts of different kinds of people here at LAN Mob. We get the occasional players who stop in for some casual games like Mario Kart and Minecraft and we get the regular competitive grinders looking to rank up in games like League of Legends and Overwatch. We have a plethora of regulars ranging from barely old enough to speak to grandparents coming in with their grandchildren, and this kind of diversity really sums up LAN Mob's culture in my eyes, but more on that later. Recently there has been a local parent stopping by the shop with not only his own children, but a bunch of the kids in his neighborhood. One of the benefits of having a small shop is it doesn't take much to converse with customers/parents and before I knew it I was in a full-blown and meaningful conversation with this parent relating to the benefits of the gaming culture.

This parent stated he honestly isn't TOO much of a gamer, but played a whole lot of Golden Eye back in the day. He was happy to see "something for the kids" so close to home, which is something we've heard a lot of. After some discussion it was apparent that this parent takes the growth of not only his own children, but the neighborhood kids, very seriously. He mentioned the important lessons that can be learned from various sports, fishing and eventually we made it to gaming. We touched on the obvious benefits like reaction time, stress relief, and valuable lessons like dealing with loss and approaching victory with humility. However, this parent examined things even further and mentioned the importance of being a member of a community/culture. He went on to say how deeply valuable he believes it is to bridge the generational gap and connect with the youth and video games helps him accomplish that. I helped one of the kids learn some basic stuff in Street Fighter V via playing some matches with him, and this parent made a note of it, stating how awesome it is to be able to connect like that. He proceeded to praise our ability to answer a multitude of questions spanning a multitude of games, calling me a "master of my craft" and that all this knowledge was extremely valuable. Let me tell you, that was a refreshing change of pace and a morale boost and a half.

It's easy to chalk this experience up as simply interacting with a nice person, but what made it so note worthy was how genuine this guy was. Once he gathered up his crew he shook my hand and said he'll be back soon (he's been in a few times!) and said it was a pleasure. He also said, "I believe in video games." as a main reason to continue coming back. I cannot stress how much motivation I can pull from this sentence that a dude said on a rainy Sunday afternoon. People "believing" in video games means the LAN Mob grind, even at the most difficult times, is 100% worth it. You certainly can't pay the bills on belief alone but having people believe in this culture is definitely a start.     

Persona update: I strongly believe I'm approaching the end game. I'm hoping to max out two more social links before I'm thrusted into the end-game. Unless I'm thinking of another series, I'm pretty sure you get locked out "free time" once you get close enough to the end of the game. I suppose it'll be a moot point if all my progress carries over in new game+. My plan is to hold off on any NG+ runs/ trophy runs once I beat the game. Rather, it's for the sake of my infinitely growing gaming queue, which will be the topic of this post! Four games that I've had my eye on will be released over a three week period. Three of which are fighting games, one of those three being an expansion to a game I already own. I don't play any of these fighters competitively/serious because 1) I'm bad and 2)I view myself more as a fighting game enthusiast.Funny enough, each of these fighters play differently than one another so I won't have too much of an issue swapping between one another.

Injustice 2
 First one up is Injustice 2. This addition to my queue is very spur of the moment. I haven't researched what changes/additions have been made to the sequel of Injustice: Gods Among Us. I'm throwing caution to the wind here and hoping Injustice 2 is a good game. My friends and I enjoyed playing Injustice 1 among ourselves and I'm hoping the same holds true for the sequel. I'm not as skilled in the Mortal Kombat series as I am in other series but I find it quite fun to play (blatantly unfair A.I be damned!)

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

The only non-fighting game I'm looking forward to these next few weeks, Fire Emblem Echoes! Truthfully, Conquest left a bad taste in my mouth. I like to think I bought it for the social sim aspects instead of the gameplay. I HATED EVERYTHING ABOUT FE:FATES Can't say for certain what it was but Fire Emblem Fates didn't click with me. I'm hoping that won't be the case for Fire Emblem Echoes. From what I understand, F.E.E. is a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden. I don't know much about that game but I believe there is some type of dungeon crawling aspect. I'm looking forward to listening to  how "With Mila's Divine Protection" sounds like in a proper Fire Emblem game, as I know the track from Super Smash Bros. I'm also looking forward to the goodies I get with the Limited Edition of Fire Emblem Echoes. While I'm sad, the U.S. version of the Limited Edition does not come with amiibos of the lead characters, I look forward to the art book and selection of the soundtrack.

Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2

There's no way I'm typing out Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2 every single time so I'll refer to it as Rev 2 or GGXR2. Rev 2. Rev 2 is the third game of the Guilty Gear series that uses Unreal Engine 3/4 which transformed the series from a 2-D fighter to a "2.5-D" fighter. According to the official website, the character roster increased to 25 total fighters with the addition of series veteran "Baikan" and newcomer "Answer". I haven't looked into it but the expansions usually come with huge rebalancing of characters like adding moves along with number tweaks to various fighters. I don't have much to say except I'm looking forward to the changes coming along Rev 2. You have the option to buy the full version of Rev 2 or buy the expansion at a reduced price if you already own Rev 1. I love this option as I've picked up Rev 1 a few months back and had flashbacks of Street Fighter 4 and the PS2 era of Guilty Gear of the updates being standalone versions of the game. I do hope that with the expansion, the three paid DLC characters from Rev 1 will be included free. I just want to play Dizzy...

Tekken 7
Out of all the games mentioned, I think I am most excited for Tekken 7's release. If we're not counting the free to play Tekken Revolution, it's been nearly 6 years since the last Tekken title was released on consoles. I make the distinction "on consoles" because Tekken 7 has been out on Japanese arcades for the past two years. The way it usually works is games like Tekken and Guilty Gear are released on Japanese arcades and are updated with balance tweaks and sometimes new characters. After some time the games make their way to consoles (and PCs) with some,if not all of the arcade updates. Trivial aside, I crave a new Tekken game. It alongside Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were the fighters I grew up playing. Although I skipped out on Mortal Kombat X and Street Fighter 5, I've done my best to play the latest Tekken game. I was a bit worried about the state of Tekken 7 after news of the development of Tekken x Street Fighter, a crossover of both franchises on the Tekken engine,was put on hold. Speaking of crossovers, Akuma is featured as a guest character in Tekken 7. I look forward to seeing how he works in the Tekken realm and getting a chance to play around as him.

Realistically speaking, the only game that would impact my gaming queue is Fire Emblem Echoes. The rest I consider pick up and play games, though I can see myself buried in Injustice 2's story mode and Tekken 7's possible story mode(not sure if it even has one). With the influx of fighting games I expect to play more RPGs due to the sore thumbs I'll get from punishing the d-pad of my controller with command inputs. I think Injustice 2 and Tekken 7 are tied in what game I'm most excited for. Though, I can see myself getting frustrated from one game and hopping to the other, such as failing an intricate juggle in Tekken 7 or becoming too frustrated with the cheating AI of Mortal Kombat fame. It'll be a great couple of weeks for fighters, that's for certain.

Back at it again with the nostalgia. Another PlayStation 1 game from my childhood, Loaded. It was developed by Gremlin Entertainment and Published by Interplay (Fallout, Earthworm Jim, Clayfighter) and released for the PlayStation 1 December, 12, 1995 and on the Sega Saturn the following year. If you couldn't tell from the "BODY BAG NOT INCLUDED" on the cover art, you're in for a treat. Loaded is a top-down shoot 'em up game, and its full of violence. There were plenty games like this in the 90's. From games such as Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, Doom, and Splatterhouse and nearly everyone was trying to capitalize on the controversy that came with it. Remember, no press is bad press AM I RIGHT?.

 The story takes place in the distant future, long after F.T.L. flight has been discovered. F.U.B. (Fat Ugly Boy) was a catering officer that was quite uncultured and eventually lost his mind. He was given a discharge and was told to never show his face again. To get revenge, he became a feared space pirate. He took on a new identity and has joined the intergalactic prison system working his way up by killing all of his superiors. He has since became the warden of Raulf, pinning all of his crimes as a space pirate on other people, specifically those who are psychotic anyways so nobody bats an eye. You get to play as these psychos that have had been framed for the murders. I had to read all this in the manual which has become a thing of the past. 

You're given the selection of 6 different psychotic characters, each with their own stats, weaponry, and abilities. Which gives it the replayability factor. For each character you'll need to approach every situation differently to cater to their differences to the prior character you used.  My psycho of choice is always Cap 'n Hands. You begin the first level without being given any type of guidance other than "Escape the area." So you naturally explore the area and decimate all other inmates/workers that stand in your path. You collect different key cards to advance to the next part of the facility and you eventually end up completing the level. 

The gameplay holds up rather well and it runs quite smooth. However, it is very simplistic. You have your fire, special, and HUD control. Its complete and total chaos and its awesome! Loaded's strongest attribute is its difficulty. The game shifts from 0-100 rather quickly. If you don't time everything correctly and make it rain bullets you risk yourself losing your ammo and a life. When things get doubtful you can use your special move and it kills everything around you. The action rarely stops throughout the 15 levels and it can make a game a real treat if you're in the right mood for it. The biggest downside is the level designs. While they're not terrible, its just that they're....meh. The goals are the same in a few levels as you progress by finding card keys and killing anything that gets in your way usually leaving every room a bloody mess rinse and repeat. It just feels like nothing new is brought to the game until you get to level 4. I hated the ending. It was really short and left with so sense of satisfaction. *SPOILER ALERT IF YOU EVER DECIDE TO PLAY THIS 21 OLD GAME* After you kill F.U.B. a really short FMV plays. F.U.B. drops to the ground spewing out blood, his face melts and reveals a robotic mask which flies away saying "You'll never take me alive!" For the amount of time I put into it plus getting a corrupted save file leaving me to go through the game again I was a little disappointed with the ending. It was a terrible cliffhanger. 

The music enhances the game due to how well it fits it. With an industrial-esque tone it definitely gets you in the mood to mow down the massive amount of enemies you'll be encountering. With 21 tracks by Neil Biggin, 2 tracks by Patrick Phelan, and 2 tracks by Pop Will Eat Itself. It's nothing incredible but it's still pretty good.  A cool fact about Loaded is you're able to put the game into a CD player and you can listen to the whole soundtrack for the game! Including a few tracks they never used in-game. Not every game did this and as far as I know there are quite a few.

Playing single player gets boring rather quickly, making the game okay in small doses. I blame it mostly on the fact the game feels very repetitive at certain points. If you have a friend that is interested to play the game with you it makes the experience miles better. I wouldn't recommend playing it otherwise. There are a few games in this genre that were released during the time of its release and even before that could be considered better. Like the Strike series or arcade classics like Smash T.V. None of them are as crazy and as chaotic as Loaded though. They took that formula and pushed it as far as they could. 

In this case my nostalgia seems to get the better of this title. I tried to convince myself I was just being negative at the time but I quickly started losing interest at around the fourth level. It just got tiring of doing the same thing with nothing new being present. It could be that I'm not as fond of these types of games that I used to be. If I play with someone I'd have a much better time. I'd recommend it if you have a friend or family member that's interested in playing this type of game.
After 5 years of waiting, Mass Effect: Andromeda has finally arrived. As a huge BioWare fan, and a Mass Effect enthusiast in general, I still could not help but be a little apprehensive. Leaving behind the familiar characters and planets, returning to the more open world format of Mass Effect 1 and bringing back a player-controlled vehicle were all bold choices. Add in a development phase that was filled with employees leaving or getting shuffled around, the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle and the convoluted and overwrought trudge that was Dragon Age: Inquisition, and I was personally a bit worried about how Andromeda was going to turn out.

The plot of ME:A is that in 2185, around the same time as the beginning of Mass Effect 2, the privately-funded, multi-species civilian organization known as the Andromeda Initiative kicks off their 600 year journey to the Heleus cluster of the Andromeda Galaxy. Consisting of 4 Arks containing 20,000 members of the 4 major Milky Way races (asari, turians, salarians and humans) and the Nexus, a massive space station set to be the new center of civilization and containing a mix of the four Council races and some krogan thrown in for security, their goal is to find a new home for Milky Way races. Largely consisting of scientists, the plan is to explore the cluster, which has been found to contain a number of habitable planets, and create settlements, gather resources and study the cluster. Leading each race, except for the krogan, is a Pathfinder, typically an elite soldier, who is the spearhead for exploration, survival and diplomacy.

After their 600 year journey, the settlers aboard the human ark are awoken from cryo-stasis to find that things have not exactly gone to plan. The Hyperion is lost and adrift amidst an unknown destructive interstellar phenomenon that becomes known as the Scourge and cannot reach the Nexus or the other 3 Arks. Habitat 7, what was to become humanity’s new homeworld, has been decimated by the Scourge and rendered uninhabitable. A plan to make a quick recon of Habitat 7 results in contact with a hostile new alien species known as the kett, the discovery of a race of small artificial constructs called the Remnant that maintain large ancient structures with the ability to terraform, and the death of the human Pathfinder, Alec Ryder. This results in you taking the role of the Pathfinder. After making contact with the Nexus you learn that things have not fared any better there, with the Nexus being heavily damaged by the Scourge as well, and most of the Initiative leadership being killed, as well as numerous other worlds being rendered not viable, and attacks from the kett. There was also several floundered attempts at establishing outposts and a rebellion by disillusioned Initiative members that ended with them being exiled after the rebellion was put down by the krogans, and then the krogans left after getting shorted by the new Initiative leader. It all adds up to a monumental task for the human Pathfinder, the only known Pathfinder at this time, because the Nexus cannot contact the other three Arks either. Your goal is to find the other Arks, restore viability to the surveyed worlds, establish outposts on viable worlds and find a way to deal with the kett.

The new protagonist, whichever one of the Ryder twins that you pick, had big boots to fill when following in the footsteps of Commander Shepard. And, in my opinion, they succeeded in not just matching Shepard as a likable character but exceeded them. I chose to play as Sara Ryder for my first playthrough, so from here on out I will refer to Ryder as such. Sara was only in the military for a short time before joining the Initiative, resulting in her being less professional and buttoned-down than Shepard. She is a bit more open with her emotions, as well as tending to be sarcastic and humorous and sometimes profane. It makes her much more unpredictable and a lot of fun, as you are never quite sure what she is going to do. Still, she takes her role seriously and tries to fulfill the role she was unexpectedly thrust into by the death of her father, Alec Ryder, himself a former N7 and a brilliant AI scientist.

Alec Ryder
A Pathfinder needs a team to help them in their role, and BioWare also knocked it out of the park with the writing in this department as well. Right from the beginning, you have Cora Harper by your side. A wildly powerful human biotic who trained with asari huntresses, she has a warm friendly attitude, although she is very professional and by the books. Despite originally being Alec Ryder’s second-in-command and slated to be his successor, Alec instead makes his child the new Pathfinder instead. Although understandably upset about it at first, Cora never holds it against Sara and serves her in every capacity she is able to. Also serving alongside Ryder is Liam Kosta, a former police officer and first responder; he is enthusiastic and energetic and believes in both Ryder and the Initiative as a whole. His energy often gets him in trouble and causes friction with other teammates, but his intentions are usually well-placed. As you explore a number of other personalities join the team. Bringing the muscle is Nakmor Drack, a grizzled 1400 year old krogan who came to the Heleus cluster after having seen all that the Milky Way had to offer. Having seen what his people had gone through back in the Milky Way, he is vested in seeing their resurgence in Andromed. He is an interesting mix of bitter disillusioned cynic and reassuring grandfather to the team and gets on well with most all of the team, offering them advice. Then there is Pellessaria B’Sayle, more commonly known as Peebee, a brilliant asari academic and who is wildly independent and unpredictable. She joined the Initiative because she was bored with the Milky Way and wanted to tread where no one else has. She quickly establishes herself as the authority on Remnant technology, making her a useful member of the Pathfinder team, even if her irreverent attitude and impulsive nature cause problems. The turian teammate Vetra Nyx is a confident, capable smuggler, gunner and requisitions specialist. She’s smart, cunning and humorous and knows her way around the less savory settlements of the Heleus cluster, making her invaluable when operating in areas where Ryder’s Pathfinder status holds less sway. She’s also deeply caring, having brought her younger sister with her and being her guardian, as well as looking out for the people caught in the Exile/Nexus politics. And finally, there is Jaal Ama Darav, a member of the native angaran race and a member of the angaran Resistance that has been waging war against the kett for decades. While the angaran are leery of any aliens due to their experience with the kett, Jaal choses to believe in Ryder and joins their ship to serve as liaison and learn more of the Initiative species. A capable fighter, he, like all angaran, is also an open and honest person, while also being immensely curious. Him and Ryder quickly become friends and he trusts her with helping his people fight back against the kett. There is also the support aspect of Ryder’s team, who are equally interesting. They include salarian pilot Kallo Jath, the human science officer Suvi Anwar, human engineer Gil Brody, and asari medical officer Lexi T’Perro.  And finally there is SAM, a powerful AI designed by your father, who helps manage the entire Initiative, as well as assisting Ryder via an implant.

The biggest opposition to the Initiative is the leader of the kett faction in the Heleus cluster, simply known as the Archon. Despite an imposing physical appearance and a menacing voice, the Archon is a very lackluster and poorly-written character. Whereas previous Mass Effect antagonists have been nuanced characters who are not out-and-out villains, the Archon is very straightforward evil. He wants to conquer the entire cluster and believes that Remnant technology is the key. He captures and tortures other species frequently and throws insults about Ryder’s insignificance around frequently. It’s exactly as tiresome as it sounds. Compared to Saren Arterius from Mass Effect 1, who believed his actions were saving organics from the Reapers, or The Illusive Man from ME2 and ME3, who had good intentions but extreme methods, the Archon appears very one-dimensional and lacking in depth. He also rarely appears during the games approximate 80 hours of play, and usually just to hurl insults and threats at Ryder. Sadly, what could have been an interesting character was tragically wasted.

The Archon
In addition to new characters and setting, BioWare also shook up the combat system. Previous entries were much more focused on the cover mechanic, resulting in your character just taking potshots from behind a crate. The addition of a jetpack and a boost dash converted combat into a much more mobile, fluid experience, resulting in Ryder and friends zipping around the battlefield while lobbing abilities left and right. This also ties into the new Favorites system. In previous entries, you had to lock into a single class at the beginning of the game and were stuck with that class and set of abilities throughout. Now, thanks to your Pathfinder implant and SAM’s control, you have full access to all the abilities to level up and can change class (now called Profiles) pretty much on the fly, with each profile lending passive bonuses to such things as specific weapon damage, melee damage or combat, tech or biotic damage and cooldown. By combining 3 abilities and a Profile you can create up to 4 favorites and set them up to maximize a certain fighting style or be able to set off combos. It’s a good system, but it doesn’t quite work as shown. When your father is demonstrating the system in the first mission, he is swapping profiles rapidly and firing abilities off left and right. But when Sara gets the same capability uploaded into her implant, the ability to swap Favorites is buried in menus, requiring you to pause and navigate a few layers and select a Favorite and then wait as all of the abilities go on cooldown. Another strange decision was to take away any sort of control over your teammates and when they use their abilities. This means that to pull of combos, you either have to hope that they just hit the exact same enemy that your are targeting with the ability that will detonate a combo, use your ability after theirs to detonate the combo or just use your own abilities to prime and detonate combos.

If the combat and characters is where ME:A excels, it's the story where it falls apart. First off, it suffers from very poor pacing. After the heart-pounding first mission it slows things down to establish the background of what has happened, which is understandable. But then it instead makes you slog through exploring 3 separate planets, one of which is an barren irradiated desert and another a barren frozen tundra, doing a repetitive slog of finding 3 Remnant monoliths and activating the Remnant vault to fix the environment. Things pick up significantly during a daring raid on a kett facility, but then it falls back into exploring 2 more planets although one of the planets, Kadara, at least is more interesting than the others, due to the fact that it has mountains and lakes and great vistas and a sub-plot of two different factions of Initiative exiles struggling to control the settlement. It starts to come together at the end as the tension ratchets up and you do a number of story missions in a row, with minimal exploring, but by then the game is practically over. All the exploring wouldn't be so bad if the worlds weren't so barren and lifeless. After all, there are 2 desert planets, 1 arctic planet and an asteroid surface that is essentially a gray desert. That tends to get a little monotonous, as does the fact that they never really change. Despite the Remnant terraforming vaults doing stuff like raising the temperature on Voeld, or clearing the radiation from the air on Eos, or making the water less toxic on Kadara, you never see any actual change on the worlds. The scenery and geography never differs, you don't see more people out exploring or more and more settlements popping up. The only reason you know the worlds have changed is because you don't have to listen to SAM repeatedly alerting you to every environmental hazard any more.

The boring, unchanging environments would maybe be forgivable if it wasn't for that fact that they are also lacking any really meaningful content. There are a few sidequests, called Tasks, here and there that pose some moral dilemmas and raise some interesting questions, but the majority do not. They all turn into “go here and talk to this person, travel here, talk to this person, hold Y to scan, go back to original personal and talk to them”. They are just filler to pad the length of the game and justify it being an open world/sandbox game. They don't even give any good loot for rewards, just experience and planet viability points, the latter of which become irrelevant after you get a planet to 100% viability anyways. The main story missions and companion missions go back to the old ME2/ME3 formula of crafted mission-specific areas with big set-piece moments and beautiful cutscenes and well-written dialogue and important decisions to make. And this is where the game excels. It feels like the old games, it feels right and it makes you wonder why they got away from that format. If you want the best ME:A experience, just play the main story missions and companion quests and skip all of the Tasks that you can. Seriously. I'm not kidding.

Interestingly, you can tell that this game likely was originally not meant to be an open world format, but a more linear format, as you can get “out of sequence” for events. For example, while driving around on Eos, Ryder would occasionally remark that we had just gone by the Remnant monolith that Peebee had mentioned, despite the fact that I had yet to meet Peebee and had not heard the term Remnant yet either. Or I received messages aboard the Tempest regarding Jaal, despite not having met Jaal, or his entire species, yet. A number of other things in the game also hint at either a rushed or troubled development, or major last minute changes. For example, the mission where Ryder finds the derelict turian Ark starts off like it might be a major encounter, but instead just turns into a brief walk through the damaged ship without any combat. Similarly, Ryder and friends make a big deal of the Remnant star ship crashed on Elaaden, but you only take a brief stroll through it on a mission, and then it is never utilized again. Or the fact that the game suffers from a number of technical glitches, even more than typical for a BioWare game. Some of them were often humorous, like the time that I walked into the Tempest's galley and for some reason there was 2 Dracks standing there. Others were more irritating, like when running around settlements and outpost, the framerates would frequently drop or stutter. And others still were absolutely infuriating, like when Tasks would not complete out, or cutscenes that wouldn't trigger thereby preventing further progress, or numerous hard freezes that required hard resetting the console.

So, after a long wait, we experience the stumbling first steps in a new direction. Am I talking about the plot of ME:A, or the game itself? I’ll let you decide. While the characters, voice acting, graphics and combat are some of the best ever in a Bioware game, the story line is weak and poorly paced and the game suffers from the new open world format. While I was playing the game, I did enjoy it, but afterwards the more that I thought on it, the more issues I found. All in all, it adds up to a lot of missed potential and possibly the weakest entry into the Mass Effect series. Hopefully, BioWare will take some lessons away from ME:A for the DLC and future entries.
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