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Stolen Pixels #57: Life is Short, Terrain Hard

By Shamus
on Tuesday Jan 20, 2009
Filed under:


The scourging of Mass Effect continues apace. If I were to catalog all of my irritations with the game, this would be a thirty-part series. Of course, that’s pretty much true of every game. I like to think of my ability to find fault in the hard work of others as some sort of gift.

Open thread today. As always, I hope people will take the leap and join The Escapist community and comment on my comic over there, but I’d rather have an open comment thread here than miss out on what you have to say entirely. If you have a comment on this or a previous comic but don’t want to endure the rites of registration, then now is your chance.

Comments (25)

  1. Factoid says:

    The thing that always struck me as strange about Joker is why they would have ever let him in the military in the first place. Generally speaking militaries aren’t that interested in enlisting people with handicaps.

    And I know he’s a “great pilot” and all…but how screwed is the Normandy going to be when they get hit by enemy fire and joker gets thrown out of his chair and breaks both legs?

    He’s an interesting character, though, and it’s sci-fi so you can’t really worry too much about plausibility.

  2. Joe says:

    Somehow your reviews so often remind me of a 5th wave comic about doing tech support for Pete Townshend. “You’ve seen how he treats his guitar? He likes his guitar.

    These reviews are how you treat the games you actually kinda like.

  3. Eric says:

    I Boo you, BOOOOOO! We need more Travis Taylor!!!

  4. Jeff says:

    The only really good terrain they have is the non-randomly generated ones, like with the DLC and story worlds.

    The rest are really, really, really annoying.

    Although with regards to this comic, the Moon is actually one of the better ones, as it’s not random, they appear to follow the craters and such, which makes it less of a pain.

    Notice that Earth isn’t quite Earth, though?

  5. K says:

    I played through about a dozen or so quests which were not related to the main plot (or one of the very few which were not randomly generated, a.k.a. the Moon). Then I stopped since they were usually like this:

    – Go to foreign star system (loading)
    – Go to planet (loading)
    – Land in crapland
    – Drive/Float around for a long time through incredibly boring and pointless terrain. Why not give me a plane? That tank certainly weighs less than a pound.
    – Shoot three bad guys and/or play a lockpick minigame (those were ok on PC at least)
    – Get loot which you don’t need and can’t pick up due to crappy inventory
    – Leave planet

    BOOOOOOOOORING! I am supposed to spend 30 hours like this?

  6. mark says:

    factiod: maybe he has a seatbelt for that kinda thing? They’re bound to have seatbelts in space, right? xD

  7. Eric says:

    P.S. That’s an awful pun in the title. I’ll rip you a new one later.

  8. krellen says:

    Joker could never be a fighter pilot, but if your capital ship crashes, you’re already dead. So I think his brittle legs are a moot point.

    The first one with Ashley was brilliant, Shamus.

    And the elevators never seemed that long to me. I wonder if getting the super-expensive “Elite” 360 made a difference.

  9. Colonel Slate says:

    I like Joker, though his legs are a moot point, because if the Normandy takes a hit, well, that’s about all there is to say about that.

    In other news, the military is an EOE so, you have to prove yourself, and not have some type of problem that could easily get you or more importantly the men with you killed.

  10. Heh, if you actually look at the cockpit of the Normandy, the walls and even the ceiling are studded with buttons, indicator lights, etc. How is Joker supposed to reach any of those things in an emergency?

    And if he doesn’t need them to pilot the ship, why are they there?

    Most video games are filled with these types of inconsistencies because the people who do the graphics and the story forget that in real life form follows function–they give something a particular form because it looks cool and forget all about the function that form implies. Mass Effect was a particularly egregious example of this flaw, that’s all.

  11. Anaphyis says:

    More interesting to me is the fact Joker doing pretty much anything on that ship. Flying, com … What about the navigator, who is effectively your second in command? Never saw him do anything besides being a strawman xenophobe.

    As for the planet sidequests – hate them. Last time I played I skipped many of them, this time I’m going after the Completionist achievement (btw, thanks Shamus for inspiring me to take that game out again) – and while I managed that, it wasn’t fun. It was a god damn chore. The Mako steers like a three legged mule with mad cow and you have to climb mountains with it to reach the resources. Which is a pain on most of them and jawclenching frustration on some. Then you enter some cookie cutout complex, shoot and loot everything, get a text box at best as reward for your troubles and repeat the process on the next planet.

    That’s why I hate semi-sandbox RPGs. Substituting plot with a big number of soulless uninspiring locations populated by some random mobs, some NPC corpses (because otherwise you would have to write dialog) and some stashes of loot is not my idea of a good game. Unfortunately, this seems to become en vogue.

    Bah. The skies are stunning though.

  12. Anaphyis says:

    Ah, I stand corrected. When landing on Ilos it turns out the navigator is determining the landing zone. Which means he also did so on the planetary missions, which would make him the true culprit of the comic :)

  13. Rival Wombat says:

    Given the energy levels of mass drivers in the game universe, crew survivability in the event of a direct hit seems to be a moot point. Hell, your command station/star map doesn’t even have a -chair-.

    I think any hit able to overwhelm the shields, armor and the ship’s own ability to neutralize the inertial effects of violent maneuvering on the crew is going to instantly and messily kill everyone.

  14. If you read the Codex in any depth, you’ll notice that there’s an entry on crew safety that details what they’re supposed to do in case of a hull breach.

    Considering how much effort they put into making a scientific-sounding rationale for everything, it’s amazing how many glaring flaws the game still has.

  15. Nymbo says:

    Long time reader, first time poster. I agree with most of your nitpicks, but one plot element has been bugging me. The game states that the only way to travel from star system to star system is by mass relay. So why don’t they just block Saren and all the other baddies from using the relays? Their manned, by the look of them, so their must be some sort of “traffic control”.

    P.S., if this is answered by the game at some point, don’t tell me if its during or after Virmire, as I’m currently on my first playthrough.

  16. Yar Kramer says:

    Jennifer Snow: they put all their effort into the “sounding scientifically plausible” bits when they could have spent it making it a better game.

  17. Jeff says:

    Check the codex, they’re not manned. Humanity activated and triggered a few before the aliens got all ups on their faces about dangerously opening random relays.

  18. Gary says:

    Shamus, I was just wondering why you announce every Stolen Pixels on your blog. I mean no offense, but it seems to me that if people wanted to read it, then they would already have it bookmarked.

  19. Shamus says:

    Gary: Some people have explicitly said they look for the link so they can jump into the escapist without hitting the front page. I expect they’re Luddites like me who haven’t started using RSS.

    Also, I have a lot of new traffic. Those people probably aren’t even aware of my webcomic until I link it.

  20. Ferrous Buller says:

    In ME’s defense, if you could get Joker to land you anywhere you wanted, rather than having to trek all over alien landscapes in your moon buggy, the game would end up with about 5 hours of gameplay and 10 hours of dialog.

    . . .

    In hindsight, I’m not sure why I thought that worked in ME’s favor.

  21. Mario says:

    I love the comic, but lately you haven’t been putting the name of the game you are lampooning anywhere in the comic or caption-thing (except for the tags, but they’re kind of small). I think you should. You usually make fun of the game first here, so your regular readers will already know what you are talking about, but comic-only readers might get confused.

  22. Jeff says:

    As an aside, I do like the announcement here, I don’t have the other other bookmarked, nor do I regularly visit that site.

  23. Dix says:

    Um, can’t find a better place to stow this, but Jeff Jensen has an article in this week’s Entertainment Weekly that seems awwwwfully familiar, Shamus. I don’t think there are direct quotes or lifts, but you might yet want to peek.


  24. David B says:

    His name is “Joker” and you have to ask why he’s setting you down in the most inconvenient places possible?

    I think he’s a WoW quest-giver in another life too.

  25. Rob S says:

    Greetings from the future!
    Considering that you’re just now completing a 50-part series on the Mass Effect games, I love how prescient your second sentence is.
    I’ve been going through a lot of the archives lately (seriously, this site can be almost as dangerous as TV Tropes), and this it’s a little spooky how often you make a comment about the way things are changing that turns out to be almost completely accurate later on. Particularly where DRM is concerned.

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