Happy Monday! Maybe. Probably not.

But here’s something to give you the warm and fuzzys: On Saturday, October 25th, folks from all over the world will be taking part in Extra Life, a 24 hour charity event for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. It’s been around for 5 years or so now, and this will personally be the 3rd time I’ve participated. I’ll be supporting SickKids Toronto if you’re interested in pitching in. Of course, you can play along with us, too! Follow our Gamentary Extra Life page for details about what we’re playing, and we’ll be keeping up on Twitter and Twitch as well. 

Friday, 3:38 pm – Albert

I completely agree with Ricky that I will most likely never dive into Mass Effect. Although I feel I am missing out on something that people REALLY got into — I just can’t make that commitment. I tried Mass Effect 1 when it first came out (thanks to Ricky) and I just could not get into it. Couple that with the rumors of the ending I have no desire to set myself up for disappointment. I’ve had enough of that since i’m still reeling from SimCity.

Extra Life! Ricky is awesome and i’m going to donate and be there to play some games with him when he’s all sleep deprived which should be a good time. There is a game that I wanted to float by and see if anyone was interested in playing it with me. Of Guards and Thieves seems like a pretty awesome Early Access Game. Check out that link and let me know if there is any interest.

There is also a new site I have been going to call Bundle Stars that has some amazing bundle games as well as individual games on sale. They are completely legitimate and are similar to Greenman Gaming. So if you’re looking to pad your Steam Library (ala Ricky), look no further (I see you Ricky with Petz Catz 2, Pet Dogz 2, Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game, and The Expendables 2 Videogame…)

On the personal gaming side I’ve reached 100% with Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor which included: Outcast Rescue Missions, Weapon Legends (Dagger, Bow, Sword), Hunting Challenges, Survival Challenges, Artifacts, Ithildin, etc. The last game I wanted to 100% was Red Dead Redemption. That is saying quite a bit for me. Amazing game — I strongly recommend it. I would only give the caveat that I had some frustrations with the wall climbing mechanisms. Perhaps it’s that I am used to the smooth transitions that Assassin’s Creed had but that is only a minor complaint.

I saw that Civilization: Beyond Earth was released! I was SO close to just purchasing it. I’m going to give it a day or so and see if I have time this weekend but if I do I am completely going to dive into it without the fear of Gandhi. Fingers crossed that the AI is fixed up so that when a Civ attacks me and I attack them back later on that everyone doesn’t go “OMG! YOU’RE A BULLY AND A WARMONGER.” I’m always like “But… he attack me like 2 turns ago”. So. Yeah. I’m probably buying it anyways.

Here’s to a weekend that’s packed with gaming!

Friday, 8:48 am – Ricky

I’m pretty satisfied with the rundown Gavin has provided on Mass Effect, and coupled with my own experience of Mass Effect 1, I know what to expect if I ever dive into the series. Chances of me diving into the series? Almost none. And it’s nothing to do with Mass Effect, but entirely to do with the time commitment.

Civilization: Beyond Earth released today, and despite my love of the Civ series when I was young whipper snapper, I never played more than an hour of Civ 5. And I bought it at release. With a new computer. I also bought both expansions. No matter how incredible Civ: BE is, if I get the strategy itch, I’ll jump into Civ 5. And again, chances of me diving in for 30+ hours? Pretty slim.

It’s not that I don’t want to – I love strategy games, and sci-fi space operas are right up my alley. But I’m good with re-watching Star Wars or listening to the Three Moves Ahead podcast instead of sinking 100+ hours into actually playing these games. I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t have that kind of time to dig into a single game. A game can can still engage and immerse me, but it doesn’t have to require 3 hour long play sessions or massive campaigns to do it.

That said: 24 hours of video games in support of SickKids Toronto this weekend! Preezie has picked us up copies of Killing Floor on PC to try out together, and I’m pretty sure some folks will be popping in and out of my place for board games throughout the day. I’ll be using Twitter and Twitch to keep everyone updated on what we’re playing.  Don’t forget to donate if you have a moment!

Wednesday, 12:35 pm – Gavin

Well, I finally did it last week – I finally beat Mass Effect 3.  I can’t recall the last time I dropped that much time into a series in such a short period of time – 135 hours in total for all three, including most of the DLC.  It’s like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulder, to know that the gaming backlog is officially done.  I can now play games on my own schedule and not feel guilty for paying for them and not playing them.  I’ve started fresh, and all is right with the world.

Finishing a game series of such length is like ending a long-term relationship.  The emotional stability I maintained with that series was, to be frank, unparalleled.  I had my ups and downs with it, but by the end of it, I was so invested that I didn’t quite know what I’d do once it was over.  That said, ME3 suffered from well-publicized issues with its endings, and I completely understand why people complained about them.  I could deal with a depressing ending, as many titles have had them and pulled them off well (I point to Spec Ops: The Line and The Walking Dead, Season 1 as the masters of this in recent memory).  I can deal with an unsatisfying ending, as Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mirror’s Edge succeeded despite their endings.  What I can’t tolerate, however, is endings that are completely tonally inconsistent with the story and the decisions made to that point.

Not to belabour the point, and I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but ME3 was the victim of its own hubris.  Had they stopped the ending ten minutes sooner and railroaded the player into one depressing ending, it would have been better.  Yes, we would have been sad, but it would have been consistent.  Instead, they forced the player into a lose-lose-lose-lose scenario in choosing an ending.  These endings were not foreshadowed the way the multiple endings to Deus Ex/DE:HR were.  These endings didn’t have a tonal consistency of choice, the way that The Walking Dead: Season 2 did.  They’re just sprung out of nowhere and you have to make this choice on the fly.

The ending left a foul taste in my mouth, but I suppose I was prepared going into it, as I knew the ending was bad from the years of internet chatter.  It lowered my opinion of the game, but not of the overall series, especially considering the magnificent “alternate ending” of The Citadel DLC.  I can allow a few missteps, even if they come at the worst possible time.  ME3 was still one of the best 2012 titles I played, behind Spec Ops: The Line and The Walking Dead, Season 1 (my, how that list has changed – I originally said my GOTY 2012 was Frog Fractions, with Sound Shapes coming in at #3.  I can’t even remember what my #2 was, and I don’t have any particular passion to find out).

All in all, if you like sci-fi, RPGs, and haven’t played the Mass Effect series, you probably should give it a try.  It’s a pretty genre-defining franchise – I have no qualms in imagining that this would be someone’s Star Wars or Star Trek.

Anyway, following that, I fired through Mirror’s Edge again, this time in a worryingly short amount of time.  First time I beat it, it took me about 6 hours.  Second time, about 4.  Third time, I’m down to about 3.  I still adore it – it’s a wonderful concept and it makes the most mundane video game action, movement, feel satisfying, like you’ve accomplished something.

Last but not least, I kicked off a few hours in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD.  I’m quite enjoying the aesthetic and the music, and generally the movement and combat feels good, but it’s not quite clicking the way I’d hoped it would.  It’s pretty self-effacing, making fun of itself and generally not taking itself seriously, which is great, but something about it just isn’t working the way I want it to.  I’ll still go through it as I’m enjoying it, but it needs *more*.  More enemies, larger dungeons (the three I’ve gone through so far have been pretty easy, and I’m midway through the first benchmark dungeon), etc.  I think it’s the lack of enemies that surprises me – I haven’t felt any particular challenge from the enemies yet.  The bosses, yes, but not the route to the bosses.

I’m also on my way through Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D.  Yowza, this game is hard.  Just getting through the levels themselves isn’t too bad, but there are plenty of unpredictable or cheap sections, especially forced-scroll sections like the Mine Cart levels or that damn level where the bugs chase you.  If you find Mario levels to be easy (which, in many cases, they are) and you’re a fan of Donkey Kong in general, this is an exceptional platforming game.  Bite-size, lots of insane challenges, and very well-crafted level design.

Monday, 7:26 am – Ricky

Looking forward to having some folks over on Saturday night for board games – there’s no rule stating you have to play video games for Extra Life, and I do love me some board games. Of course, I’ll be trying to get some Destiny and Shadow of Mordor in as well. More details on our Extra Life page soon!