Monthly Archives: April 2017

this is a different kind of movie. if you’re looking for action you won’t find it. if you’re looking for plot, you’ll only sort of find it. neither of those things are very important to what the movie is trying to do anyway, which is present conflicting ideas.

i won’t pretend this is a great movie by any means because it isn’t. emma watson’s character’s motivations, desires, and thinking are basically always unknowable. john boyega’s character is completely wasted in the final cut, and i honestly wonder if entire scenes featuring him are missing. it’s even reasonably removed from the realities of some of its situations–sure, state governments are just clamoring for compulsory voter registration and ballot access, and sure, livestream comments are super chill and free of both trolls and creepy men demanding boobs or winking that she doesn’t need to get in bed alone. the movie would have you imply using your real identity means you won’t do those things. bitch, men do that face to face in public.

i found quite a few things in here enjoyable, though. most of the performances are pretty good. mae hitting up the river to go kayaking is always a metaphorical trip into her own mind, even when it’s a literal trip that results in plot movement. before she gets tipped out of the kayak everything is foggy because she’s feeling confused after her conversation with mercer (who sucks, by the way, he’s meant to be a symbol of disconnect from the wired society but he just comes off as a rube and a philistine). she has a cry over her dad’s condition out on the river, but never, ever, in view of anyone else. the growing distance between mae and karen gillan’s character after she starts wearing the camera was smart and important too. some of the latter’s behavior is eventually explained away as stimulant abuse, but really, if your best friend is now broadcasting 100% of the time, sure, they consented to that, but you didn’t. their attempt to connect to everyone could, and here does, prevent an actual connection with anyone.

there’s a weird conflict with her actually. she brings mae in to the circle. she’s in the inner lolpun circle at the company. she’s around the world trying to slip through regulations and lobby governments. why is she so disgusted with mae? when she calls mae a “natural” during the onstage interview, why is that with a sneer? it’s fine if you want this character to become disillusioned. you just have to actually show her becoming disillusioned, when what was actually shown was her literally being on speed so she could work for the company more but also randomly turn on her friend and call an idea that would make the company billions of dollars–if it worked out, which, this being the voting idea, it would not, but in this universe apparently it already has–openly calling that bullshit. she’s right, this is a step toward the circle trying to become the government whether knowingly or not, and patton oswalt basically says as much. it’s just odd, and without much precedent, that she has this opinion. maybe this is like the ty storyline too. maybe important stuff was cut. maybe i should read the book.

and it was JARRING to see patton oswalt play a COO in this movie. i saw him last night as TV’s son of TV’s frank. he does fine, he isn’t given much to do and he does it fine, but it was just jarring.

ultimately what was interesting to me is the movie has a lot of ideas to offer and a lot of things to say, but does not make a final word. it clearly shows that the kind of scenario presented by the circle can lead to dangerous levels of public harassment for no reason. but it also presents that exact same thing as a good thing, when an escaped convicted killer is caught. “here’s how that idea works. here’s why it does not.” that this product was named SoulSearch is clever. you have to decide for yourself whether the kind of collective consciousness that allows anyone to be found quickly is actually a good idea. there’s many people in this world who believe being able to track a criminal instantly is a great idea, and the film does nothing to combat any of those premises. it simply says, here’s column A, and here’s column B. the only final word it does make is ultimately kind of a tired one, and one that anyone of any persuasion can find a way to relate to: when someone wants all your information but doesn’t reveal their own, do not trust them.

if the question is, is more googlefacebook good or bad? the circle replies, “here’s how the services at stake are both good and bad, but you should DEFINITELY be wary of mark zuckerberg and sundar puchai.”

mae goes from naive to ready to bring down the CEO in an instant. a plan to do so is concocted completely off-screen in an entire act featuring john boyega that is missing from the movie. then, i guess it’s implied that emma watson is now CEO of the circle through the Highlander Rule, and is still down with mass surveillance at all times? i don’t know, the ending is oblique and not very satisfying, even if tom hanks’s reaction to being exposed is hilarious.

at the end of the day, the circle is an interesting alternate universe, and apart from the unrealistic internet comments and bizarrely pro-democracy state governments, its problems do not lie on screen. its problems are in what’s left out, and that leads me to wish this wasn’t a movie, but rather a 4-season show on like AMC, or netflix, or hulu. (not amazon. fuck you amazon. you have no business in this market.) the whole first episode would be introducing mae and mercer and mae’s family and annie and end with the interview scene. the whole second episode would worldbuilding the circle and establishing characters there, and end with that mysterious missed connection with ty. this is already the length of the whole movie. mercer might not even die until the end of the second season. the run-up to exposing tom hanks whose character’s name i forgot could be the ENTIRE FINAL SEASON. THAT HAPPENS OFF SCREEN IN THIS MOVIE. usually modern movies are way too long but this one needed more, a lot more, and it’s interesting and Not Bad but ultimately unsatisfying, like a dry sandwich, but you were out of bread so you used a hamburger bun.

that’s a fitting ending, i feel.



let’s get this out of the way immediately. mass effect: andromeda is a buggy mess rife with plot holes, thin dialogue, boring characters, unfulfilling romances, and bullet spongy enemies, especially when your gear is bad at the beginning. some of the more interesting aspects of the story/lore are either never answered or hidden behind miserable world quests. of which there are millions, and the game doesn’t even try to pretend like they’re fun. they outright call the things “tasks.” you will wait ten minutes for an autosave to reload, you will crash during the loading animation on the nexus, and you will die in level-4 electric hazards you had no way to see coming. you will spend a preposterous amount of “research points” on weapon upgrades only to be stunned at how little difference there is between various levels of a gun. you will have scores of skill points waiting to be applied and no use for them whatsoever. you will marvel at the rigid facial animation and wonder what, exactly, that emotion is. you will place a waypoint on the map and the game will move it several kilometers for no reason. you will click on the map icon 40 times before it agrees you want to fast travel.

and yet…

i definitely enjoyed playing this game. i enjoyed discovering the galaxy and the things, places, and people in it. i really enjoyed tracking down other survivors of the trip to andromeda and helping return them home. (every race has its own Pathfinder but it feels like Ryder is the only one for the whole initiative.) i do have to give me:a a reluctant recommendation, at least on PC; it seems console players ran into way worse glitches, especially graphically. if you want to wait for a sale or for some more patches to repair bugs, that’s definitely wise, but i’m not sure you want to skip it outright.

everything that follows will be just a scattered list of thoughts, because i have no coherent one, it’s all a mess in my head. they will be spoilers of varying degree, including extreme, late-game spoilers, so only read on with caution or having also played. a lot of them will be gripes. share yours and we can commiserate.

i don’t get the circumstances around you becoming pathfinder in the first place. alec places his hat on you on habitat 7 when yours busts. why can’t he take it back, take a breath, and then give it back to you, and repeat, til help arrives? is there some reason that mask only works like a scuba mask once?

the vast majority of weapons in this game are WAAAANK. behold, the pistol that does no damage. the assault rifle, that does no damage. the shotgun, that never hits its targets. and even the sniper rifle, that does, you guessed it, no damage, while shooting exactly like the pistol with a scope on. if you want a strong single-shot sniper rifle, R&D the Isharay, which can actually OHK chosen and raiders with a headshot. and if you want decent damage from an AR, R&D the Valkyrie. speccing into assault rifles early isnt that bad of an idea tbh, given the level 6 AR talent is super super good to bring down tanky mobs. up to +24% damage? yes please.

speaking of talents and speccing. you can only have 3 skills equipped at a time. my loadout was incinerate (for armor), overload (for shield), and invasion (for tanky mobs and bosses). for my purposes, that… covered everything. i had no biotics (except the shield passives). i had no combat skills except the gun passives. well, and combat fitness, which is a must because you have no HP. i want to do another play through where i largely skip out on gunplay and instead use all four Favorite profiles or whatever, seamlessly jumping from one skill to the next, and when they’re on cooldown, swapping profiles. have a boss profile, a big fight profile, a remnant profile. rely on the remnant VI to bring the pain. mine tickled, but i didnt build for it at all, it can get really strong.

in terms of combat, your squadmates are largely either interchangable or not helpful. there’s

  • peebee, who has some control biotics and NO HEALTH
  • cora, who can bop around and disrupt things with her biotics (and cryo ammo, which is SO good)
  • drack, my personal favorite combat partner, who is both tanky as shit and capable of dealing good damage
  • liam, whose main ability seems to be being tanky as shit
  • vetra, whose main ability seems to be being tanky as shit
  • jaal, whose skills make him out to be a cora/tank hybrid, but in reality he just stands in the open and dies because the squad AI is brutal

whenever possible i traveled with cora and drack.

so yeah, the squad AI is really bad. your team almost never take cover. they often run in your way, and you can’t shoot through them. and you can’t even control their skill usage like in past ME titles. it’s just abilities, randomly tossed out on cooldown.

the various worlds look amazing. eos and elaaden are both very well done deserts, havarl a gorgeous jungle planet, voeld an excellently done Hoth, aya a hidden paradise in a hellscape, and kadara… kadara is annoying but it’s at least really pretty. kadara is the only place i died in the nomad, because a squad of roekkar dropped in front of me, i ran them over, none of them died, and they shot me as i drove off. i never stopped at all. was just fucked. it’s just incredibly convenient how all these locations–humanity’s first colony, the resistance base, the science outfit, kadara port, and even new tuchanka–just HAPPEN to be right next to the one place on the whole planet i need to be to fix the climate.  that’s a nitpick and i’m willing to accept it, it’s just a little weird, okay?

speaking of a little weird–how much later than everyone else did ark hyperion show up? the nexus is already mostly built, and has had a rebellion, which saw the krogan leave en masse and set up a full colony, and a human colony has already been attempted and failed, and milky way outlaws have already run into the angara on kadara and even kind of taken over there? this was a problem in no man’s sky. it’s a little sketch to accuse me of discovering all this stuff in the galaxy when people are already there. it’s also a little sketch to accuse me of initiating first contact with the angara when they already share kadara port with milky way castoffs.

THATS NOT HOW A BLACK HOLE LOOKS FROM DISTANCE. the supermassive black hole at the center of each galaxy is extremely bright because it’s surrounded by stars. if you’re close enough to actually see the dark event horizon, you’re too fucking close to a black hole. is there no system between the black hole and any other system in andromeda? is there no interstellar dust? why can we just see that far? why does it look so close? why does the gravitational lensing distort things in front of the black hole? i have so many questions.

so i had some conflicting thoughts about this as a mass effect game. i wondered if it would be a lot more fun to me if it didn’t have that legacy behind it. after all, FTL travel in that universe is done via mass relay, not via the Alcubierre drive the tempest is rockin. where did that come from anyway? there’s also the question suvi asks near the end of the main storyline: is this as good as chasing prothean artifacts? i chose the “it’s better” option honestly. prothean artifacts were boring. it’s really old shit. it’s the work of archaeologists, and liara can study them all she likes in my stead. the remnant is alive, and powerful, and advanced enough their tech looks like magic. i want to know more about the remnant, and about the jardaan, who, apparently, are the alien race behind the remnant, despite never being properly introduced as such. they just appear in the dialogue of the first meridian mission and everyone just seems to know who they are. this is how that should have gone:

SAM: (whatever sam says about this place being left by the jardaan)
Squadmate: “The what?”
SAM: “Not what, who. I believe the Jardaan are an alien race.”
Ryder: “They… built all this?”

so would this be a game i had more positive thoughts on if it were a mass effect ripoff and not part of the series? especially since the paragon/renegade system is gone in favor of a choice system that makes no clear difference to the game… it honestly might.

Loyalty Mission Power Rankings

  1. Cora – the Ark Leusinia mission is my favorite part of the game. it’s fun, it’s mass effecty, it’s spacey, and it has a real decision that really impacts the game.
  2. Vetra – the whole mission is a giant fuckup, but it was a fun fuckup, and the only time vetra’s relationship with her sister (which is constantly present) ever pays off. it was kind of dumb though. do you REALLY mean to tell me these hostages never thought to plug in the generator??
  3. Jaal – this one took absolutely no time at all, but rises in the rankings because of another decision that impacts the game. i wish it impacted it more. i wish akksul’s change of heart meant the roekkar stopped bothering me, at least on that planet.
  4. Drack – odd choice for a loyalty mission. i guess so was cora’s though. both could be story missions. the krogan won’t make it without these seeds. the initiative seriously need the asari. so maybe that doesnt count against it so much as just how damn easy the thing was. drack talks the whole time about this and is 100% right. boringly easy mission.
  5. Peebee – i gain your loyalty by helping you fight your ex girlfriend’s thugs for a remnant object that we didn’t even get? through what’s basically a few rounds of horde defense? get out of here. i’m also biased against this one because i tried to shoot her ex but the prompt went away too fast and it didn’t register.
  6. Liam – liam is a pretty crap character but he’s someone who thinks things out, has contingency plans, that’s all required for crisis response you know? so the very premise of his loyalty mission is mindmeltingly stupid. “we’re gonna sit in this container and get raided.” yeah fuck you liam. i may have your loyalty, but you just lost mine.

Loose ends, Plot holes, probably DLC

  1. the Quarian ark will almost definitely be a DLC. it arriving in the post-scene, and asking us to keep our distance, definitely hints at that.
  2. we never do find out who the “benefactor” was. it’s crap that we only learn this through the nonsensical “memory trigger” fetch quests, but the benefactor and jian’s murder are the most interesting plot points in the game. i wondered for a while if the benefactor was the illusive man, but since this is such a multi-species project, i kind of doubted that in the end. either way, we’ll answer both those in DLC i’m sure, unless the answers are buried in irrelevant Tasks.
  3. our biggest enemies are the scourge and the kett. where did either of them come from? what do the kett want with the cluster? neither are answered, though kett information is alluded to in the side-mission with the STG agent. brace for “striking the kett” DLC.
  4. and we are more reliant than anything else on the Jardaan. who are they, where are they now, what did they want the angara to accomplish here, and why did they leave? will there be DLC to answer this? is it meant to be sequel fodder?

my final thought is on the final mission. in some ways, i loved the final mission. it felt urgent, the comms chatter was great, your twin’s inclusion was really interesting, and the endless waves of remnant (and a nerfed architect) trying to stop you from unplugging the archon were all awesome. i hit the last console, and it showed the archon being unplugged, and i was like, fuck yeah, here we go, final baddie, lets fuck up this archon, and mass effect said NO! HE’S JUST DEAD. YOU WIN GG

this was building up to be a really, really, really, really good last mission. you cut it off before the final boss, you assholes.

in many ways finding meridian was a lot like the game as a whole. somehow a whole lot of fun… in spite of itself.