Sunday, 29 April 2012

Recently on the MonkeyBox - April 12

Recently in the MonkeyBox...

Evening all! Just a quick update here, I'm not going to post another Mass Effect Races post tonight, I'll probably save that for during the week.

I just want to update you all to let you know that I don't think that the gaming world revolves around Mass Effect - to an extent it does for me, but that's just because I'm so involved in the series and could replay it again and again!!

At present however, I've finally unwrapped my copy of Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception that I got for my birthday, and I must say it's a thrilling ride as are the previous 2 titles. I'll get around to doing a formal - albeit late - review on it soon, first I want to just enjoy the amazing story, beautiful graphics and sweet gameplay.

When I'm not on a console and I've got some time on the PC, I'm still ploughing my way through season after season on Football Manager 2012, again I want to write a review for this title as well since it never fails to grab me year on year. I always make my own stories in this game, like reasons why players have stopped liking me, and reasons for moving from job to job. Anyways...

At present, my manager is in charge of a resurgent West Brom team. I started life unemployed until Scottish 3rd Division side Peterhead gave me a chance, in my debut season, I got them promoted to the 2nd Division as Champions. However after this success, the lure of a big club in the English League was too much to turn down. I accepted a rebuild and win job at League 1 side, Sheffield United, much to my own arguments as a Leeds fan. However after an involuntary summer clear out of most of my best players, I had to rely heavily on the loan market to stablise my new team. At first it was shaky, but I managed to get Sheff Utd promoted to the Championship - again as Champions. After a massively rough start to life in the Championship, including a run of over 10 losses in the league and League Cup, I somehow managed to be linked with Premiership side West Brom. After applying for the job, the chairman of Sheff Utd told me to resign or be sacked, so I resigned, and shortly took the helm at struggling West Brom. Only 12 matches into the season, they were 18th in the table, and seriously struggling for any kind of form. But they had money and a lot of talent that was sitting around doing nothing. Roy Hodgson had gotten sloppy! I came in, and after 11 league matches I've steered them to 11th in the league after some tough matches included Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal, all the other matches (apart from a 1-1 draw with Bolton) have been resounding wins, maybe none more-so than the 8-3 spanking of Fulham. Anyway, in summary, things are looking up for me on FM12 after a shit start to the season with Sheff Utd.

My form since taking over at West Brom. Not bad if I do say so myself.
After Uncharted 3 however, I'll finally be getting my hands on Batman: Arkham Asylum, admittedly coming very late to the game there. Stay tuned as well for a run down of my Top Ten Games from 2003, a little bit of research will be needed there but that will be coming soon.

I also want to go through some of my favourite Android games as well, like Angry Birds (obviously), Stupid Zombies, Temple Run and other little games like Frozen Bubble and Alchemy.

Oh and outside of my gaming achievements and misdemeanors I am going to be doing a little something like getting married in early June and honeymooning at the end of June, so there might be a bit of lag there. Unless I sort out blogger for my mobile phone..then on the wedding day when I'm waiting around in the morning I might post something. :)


Toolbox 24

MonkeyBoxGaming on Facebook

MonkeyBoxGaming on Facebook

Morning All! MonkeyBoxGaming has finally got a profile on Facebook. On there I will post links to the site and various gaming updates that are better suited to a couple of lines as opposed to an entire blog post.

Just Search for "MonkeyBox Gaming" and you'll find our profile with this profile piccy:

I hope to see some of the random people who have visited the site on Facebook! If you have any suggestions or things you'd like to see, let me know and I'll do what I can!

Speak to you soon! (Hopefully on Facebook)

Toolbox 24

Mass Effect Races 2



Hello there, Toolbox 24 here for another dose of Mass Effect. This weekend, I'm focusing on the Drell.

As ever, if you want any more information on anything that you've read here, please visit the Mass Effect Wiki.

I mentioned in my last blog, that this race (to look at anyway) was the favourite race of my oldest daughter Roxy. Who immediately pointed to the picture of the Drell on the Mass Effect Wiki. I believe her stance however also shifted slightly towards the Volus - who again will be mentioned in a future blog.


The drell are a fascinating race, in my opinion one of the more fascinating races, in Mass Effect. This might be because their history isn't as expanded as a lot of the others, and also because the main drell in the game is a total legend.

There is more information in the in-game Codex of course and through conversing with Thane in ME2, but not a lot of people do that unfortunately.

The drell are a reptile-like race, who originally came from the arid, mostly desert world of Rakhana. About 800 years before the events of the game (in the 1300's, when we were still on horseback and an advanced weapon for us was a longbow) the drell were still stuck on their homeworld of Rakhana, and had not yet developed space-flight. This was quite the problem for the drell because they had heavily industrialised their planet and had depleted the vast majority of its natural resources. This problem was again compounded by the 11 billions inhabitants of their world. Heavy overpopulation and lack of resources meant that their world would have started to resemble something like Mad Max - I presume. Nations warring over dwindling supplies of water and food, not to mention any remaining oil.

Fast forward 600 years (1900's while we were taking our first steps towards the moon), and those 11 billion drell have dwindled and dwindled down, and are killing each other over something as simple as a glass of clean water.

Enter the hanar, another race (which will be touched on) who discovered Rakhana in this state, and knowing that it wouldn't be very long until the drell became extinct decided to offer as many of them as they could refuge on their homeworld of Kahje. The hanar could only rescue 375,000 drell, and the others had to be left behind - presumably to slowly die from the elements.

The hanar welcomed the drell to their homeworld, and by saving their race, formed what is known as the Compact between the 2 races. Essentially, the hanar are floating jellyfish, with limited capabilities of which I will go into more in another blog post, and the drell are enlisted from an early age to train to do things that they cannot do or find very hard to do. Since it is an honour for the drell to do this, very rarely do any drell refuse.

Drell now tend to stay on Kahje, not very often leaving the planet - although those that do, tend to be the more adventurous type. Drell are an established member of the galactic community, and a recognised Citadel race - meaning they come under the protection and jurisdiction of the Council.

Unfortunately, the rescue by the hanar brought with it it's own set of complications. The world that the drell came from was naturally arid, but the opposite can be said of the hanar homeworld - it is pretty much all water, 90% of the surface being covered in the wet stuff. This constant exposure to such a humid and wet environment has had it's effect on the drell, creating the disease Kepral's Syndrome - the biggest killer of drell on Kahje. Basically the moistness of the air erodes the lungs ability to take in oxygen, and this disease spreads out to the other organs slowly shutting down the host's systems.

A very interesting facet of the drell is their perfect photographic memory, something that I suppose explains the big red writing at the head of the blog. Due to them having to remember so much vast expanses of land to find vegetation, fresh water sources and prey migration paths, they evolved to develop a perfect memory. The memory is so vivid however, that external stimulous can trigger a strong memory recall - whether the individual wants it to or not. Thane mentions that he prefers to spend lonely nights with nothing but the perfect memory of another.

Finally a little word on their religion, the drell are especially religious and their religious structure is polytheistic, meaning they have multiple gods for various reasons. The 3 that are mentioned in the games are:
  • Amonkira - Lord of Hunters
  • Arashu - Goddess of Motherhood and Protection
  • Kalahira - Goddess of Oceans and Afterlife

The drell believe in this religion that their souls and bodies are seperate, that their soul merely uses the body as a vessel, and the 2 combined are a Whole. When a drell is particularly injured or sick, or when they suffer from a severe emotional trauma, they are then no longer Whole, and need to heal to regain that status. However, due to their small population and experience of other cultures, a lot of drell have adopted other religions, like the hanar's belief in the Enkindler's (the protheans, more on another blog) and the asari philosophies.

Notable Drell
Thane Krios - Thane joins the party in Mass Effect 2 as a squad member after the mission Dossier: The Assassin. As the dossier suggests, he is an assassin - perhaps the greatest alive. Firstly, his voice is so cool, all drell have that slightly guttural way of talking, but his sounds that much cooler than the other 2 drell in game. Anyway, we find Thane on what was to be his final kill, a nasty piece of work asari who you come across in a minor side mission in the first game, and who seems to be out for herself and nothing but evil. He reveals that he has Keprals Syndrome, and says "the universe is a dark place, I'm trying to make it a little brighter before I die". Although an assassin, he takes his religion very seriously, and prays for help on the hit and for forgiveness afterwards, and when talking about his career as a hitman, he merely shrugs this off, saying that his body was trained from a young age to kill, that his body is just a tool, basically saying that if somone shoots a man, you blame the person holding the gun, not the gun itself - this stems from the philosophy that the soul and body are separate, and that the soul doesn't shoulder the responsibility of what the body has done. Thane reveals that he has a son, and is a widower. His wife was killed by hitmen taking revenge on him for a hit, and due to his work, he wasn't there enough for his son. His loyalty mission is to stop his son from killing a racist politician on the Citadel, to prevent his son from walking down the same path he did, he fears his son has become disconnected, that he isn't Whole. When you find his son, Kolyat, he is about to kill the politician, and you have to try and talk him around - not easy because now Kolyat doesn't want to know his father - in a nod to Harry Chapin, the achievement for completing this mission is called "Cat's in the Cradle" about a father who has no time for his son due to work, but deeply regrets this and wants to make amends when the son is grown up, only to find that now his son doesn't want to know him. We find Thane in Mass Effect 3 (as long as he survived the Suicide Mission at the end of ME2) in a hospital, having entered the latter stages of Keprals Syndrome, he is at peace with his imminent departure from life and when your squadmate Ashley/Kaiden is in the hospital he vows to watch over them for you. When the Cerberus coup takes place, he finds it deep within himself to fight back and does so with such swiftness and tenacity, that he even manages to fight off the almost indestructible Kai Leng enough for him to want to run instead of fight. Not before Leng impales him with his sword. This is the final straw for Thane, who after the coup is back in the hospital, and lying on his deathbed with (if the loyalty was passed) his son Kolyat. I can honestly say that Thane's death was one of the most emotional scenes I've witnesses in any game, and rates very high among emotional, tear-jerking scenes from film, TV and literature.

Kolyat Krios - Thane's son (left), who finds himself on the Citadel taking a contract to kill a politician, cashing in on his father's name and repuation. Thane along with Shepherd steer him from that path, and he finds himself taking a more religious path as per Thane's wishes. Kolyat is there at the end for Thane, and finishes his prayer for him, just prior to him passing away. Kolyat reveals to Shepherd that Thane's final prayer was for Shepherd, as he had already found peace with himself.

Feron - Feron is an associate of Liara T'Soni, who helped recover Shepherds corpse. He was however double dealing between Cerberus and the Shadow Broker, but eventually sided with Liara and Cerberus, preventing the Shadow Broker from obtaining the Commander and being captured, thus saving Liara's - and Shepherds - life. After the Broker captured him, he held him in a torture chamber for 2 years. The machine he was hooked up to (right) dealt out electric shocks, but at the same time medical care to prevent him from dying. After Liara became the Broker, he stayed with her to help set her up as the new Shadow Broker.

Well that was my run down on the Drell and their notable characters in the game. I hope you enjoyed the read and will join me for the next post on the turians.

See you soon!

Toolbox 24

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mass Effect Races



Hello again.

Yesterday I went and wrote a bit of a lengthy blog, going into a bit of detail about the story of Mass Effect. Personally, I know I didn't do it justice as there is so many personal aspects of the game that I ignored. It's just a massive an immersive game, that a single blog wont do it the justice it deserves.

However this should be a bit different. I'm going to go eventually into detail about all or most of the races of Mass Effect, from the asari to the volus. It's a diverse galaxy out there, and I want to show that off.

Just for those who care - I asked my daughter Roxy which alien she liked the look of the most, after showing her pics of them main ones in the games. She decided that her favourite was the Drell. More info a couple of blogs away.

Again, if you want to find out more information yourself, then please go across to the Mass Effect Wiki.


The asari are the most established race in the galaxy. They were the first race to find the Citadel, and due to a prothean archive sitting on their homeworld of Thessia, they are also the most advanced race.

It could be argued that the asari are the dominant race in the galaxy, and because of their incredibly long life-spans of about 1000 years, they have personal experience of so much more than your average person from any other race (apart from the krogan, who also live for about 1000 years).

All asari are natural biotics - that means that they can use biotic powers, a bit like Jedi powers to look at but more scientific - even if not all train to use them for combat. This is due to the prothean's interfering by spiking water supplies with element zero (the element used in mass relays and mass effect drive cores in space-ships) tens of thousands of years before when the asari were still primitive.

Also all asari are tinted either a blue or purplish colour, and instead of hair have semi-flexible cartilage like extensions on the top of their heads, that contrary to in-game lore doesn't flop around.

Asari are also mono-gendered, specifically all female, and have the ability to procreate with any other species including females - the offspring would then share the traits of the other species parent, so if the other parent was a salarian, for example, they'd probably talk very fast and be a quick learner. Because of this trait, they are often seen as promiscuous, using their attractive femininity to get their way.

Asari go through 3 stages of life - Maiden, Matron and Matriarch. The Maiden stage starts at puberty, and usually leaves the asari with the want to explore and experience whatever they can. They are usually seen as dancers in clubs or being a part of mercenary groups.

The Matron stage starts at around the age of 350, but this can occur earlier if the individual asari had melded (shagged) frequently. When this happens, they are again usually compelled with the urge to raise children and settle in one area.

The Matriarch stage usually starts when they hit about 700, again this can happen earlier but usually when the individual asari has melded rarely. Matriarchs are revered in asari culture due to their age, wisdom and centuries old experience, which is why they usually serve as councilors and sages. It is usually because of this that they are rarely seen outside of asari space.

Liara T'Soni - Prothean expert, daughter of Matriarch Benezia. She is first seen in the game in an old prothean trap in ruins that are under siege by geth forces headed by a krogan warlord. She joins the Normandy's crew and is a potential love interest for either gender Shepherd - in my opinion the true love interest for Shepherd, since she is one of 3 people seen in the ending cutscenes of the 3rd game (the other 2 being Joker, possibly as Shepherd's BFF and Anderson, Shepherd's mentor). Liara is the one who helped to recover Shepherds corpse, and prevent it from going to the Collectors, sending it to Cerberus in the desperate hope that they would be able to resurrect him. The person who was working with the Collectors to retrieve Shepherd was The Shadow Broker (a broker who sells information and sometimes valuable assets to the highest bidder). Liara spends the time between Mass Effect 1 and 2 hunting out the Shadow Broker, and with Shepherds help manages to find and kill him. Liara then takes his place as the new Shadow Broker, using the Broker's vast resources and vast banks of info to Shepherds advantage in the upcoming Reaper War.
Matriarch Benezia - Benezia (left) is Liara's mum. She was a highly respected and powerful asari, known throughout asari space and beyond for her counsel and widsom. She comes into contact with Saren and seeing that he has been heavily corrupted by Sovereign, attempts to bring him back from the brink. This noble plan however fails miserably, and she ends up being indoctrinated by Sovereign as well. You face of with Benezia on Noveria, where Saren is attempting to resurrect the ancient and deadly race of Rachni from a rachni queen that was found in suspended animation, to add to his army. You end up killing Benezia, but not before she admits that she is not doing this of her own will, that she has been subverted. She dies knowing that history will remember her as a traitor, not as the respected Matriarch she had worked centuries and centuries to become.
Sha'ira (The Consort)
Sha'ira (left) is known on the Citadel as the Consort, and has her chambers on the presidium. It is implied that she and her acolytes offer more than standard entertainment and advise. However she is well respected regardless, and has many high powered clients. Her words of wisdom are revered the galaxy over, and she is usually spot on the money. If you play your cards right with a couple of side missions in ME1, she will give you a trinket which can be used with an obscure artifact on the obscure planet of Eletania. Also if you show disappointment of her advise, she'll fuck you as well.
Matriarch Aethyta
Aethyta is first seen in Mass Effect 2, on the planet Illium working as a bartender. When probed on why a Matriarch is serving drinks, she tells Shepherd that on Thessia she tried to warn the powers that be that "we can't go a single asari lifetime without some big war breaking out" and that the asari should be training their young to be soldiers, not sending them off to work as dancers and strippers and as petty mercs. It turns out after meeting her in Mass Effect 3 that she is in fact Liara's father, and is keeping her eye on Liara on behalf of other Matriarchs. Oh and her father was a krogan, so she's got some cool things to say in the game.
Aria T'Loak
Aria T'Loak (left) is the "boss, CEO, Queen if you're feeling dramatic" of Omega, the Terminus System's version of the Citadel and in her own words "Omega has no titled ruler and only one rule: Don't fuck with Aria.". She is one of many, many characters in the game voiced by a very famous actor, this one Carrie-Ann Moss. She is a source of information in Mass Effect 2 for recruiting Archangel and Mordin Solus (details on them in later blogs) and also helping with Samara's loyalty mission. In Mass Effect 3 she is found on the Citadel, seething with rage at The Illusive Man and Cerberus for taking over Omega, vowing to get revenge and take back what is hers. Her influence is far reaching, as she knows full well about how serious the Reaper War really is, she's willing to help with no strings attached (so far, DLC might change that) by telling you who to contact in order to gain 3 powerful mercenary groups (Blood Pack, Blue Suns and Eclipse) as war assests in the fight against the Reapers.
Samara is an asari Justicar, an order of law keepers she compares to the human Knights Errant or Samurai, they also seem quite similar to the Jedi in Star Wars. They have given up all family and worldly possessions - apart from their weapons and armour and live by a strict code which deals with all matters in black and white, right and wrong, live or die. She becomes a part of your crew in Mass Effect 2, and is revealed to be hunting an ardat-yakshi - an asari with a genetic mutation, meaning that whoever they meld with, suffers a brain hemorrhage, and the ardat-yakshi gets stronger. Usually, they are identified shortly after being born, and are raised in a special monastary, where they are of no threat to anybody. Samara is hunting one, and has done for hundreds of years, who enjoys killing others, luring them in and fucking their brains out...literally. Oh that ardat-yakshi is called Morinth, and is Samara's daughter. If she survives the events of ME2, she is found at the ardat-yakshi monastary, helping to defend her other daughters (also ardat-yakshi) from Reaper invaders.
Morinth (L) vs Samara (R)
Serial killer extraordinaire. She is the focus of Samara's loyalty mission in ME2, and can either be killed or she can survive your encounter by killing Samara and taking her place. If she lives, then you only receive an email from her in Mass Effect 3 saying why she had to slip away. She is also referenced on Liara's Shadow Broker terminal, showing emails she sent her ardat-yakshi sisters - which were deleted and unread. It's a sad end for Morinth who can finally appear as a Banshee (an ardat-yakshi that was re-purposed by the Reapers as badass mini-bosses) in the assault on Earth.

Well despite there being many other notable asari that I could mention (Nassana Dantius, Matriarch Diliniga, The Asari Councillor, Rana Thanoptis and many more) I just wanted to touch upon these ones as key asari for me.

Part 2 of this blog will be coming soon. It will detail another Mass Effect race.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Toolbox 24

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Mass Effect Storyline



As I recently mentioned on a previous blog a long, long time ago - yesterday - I've got quite the level of love and affection for Bioware's Mass Effect series.

Now by the look of this blog and taking a bit of a scan through the previous posts, you would be forgiven for thinking that I tend to appreciate the computer game medium. That would be because you'd be right.

Some people love films, or books, or certain TV shows, or music, or comics etc etc. They are all amazing as well of course, and heavily established parts of day-to-day life for almost every person on the planet. Be it just loving a certain TV show (my daughter has quite the obsession with Dora the Explorer), loving certain films (my lad has quite the obsession with Harry Potter and Star Wars) or being obsessed with a certain singer or band (a very good friend of mine has an almost unhealthy obsession with Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars...poor mentally ill thing that she is) but my obsession is undoubtedly Mass Effect.

Everything about the game is outstanding. If the company gets their Extended Cut DLC right in the summer then I could easily go as far to say that the games are in fact - perfect.

Anyone who has played a Bioware game knows that they stand out from the rest, in no small part because of one incredibly vital component - Story. Be it Baulder's Gate, Dragon Age, Neverwinter Nights or even their own take on Star Wars in the 2003 classic Knights of the Old Republic or The Old Republic; Bioware are heavily focused on the story-telling aspect of video games.

Mass Effect is no different. It is probably the most intensive story that I have seen unfold before my eyes. And the extra sprinkle of greatness comes from the way you can shape your story, the way you can make it unfold the way you want it to - to a degree. If you read a book or watch a film, you are told a story. When you play a computer game - especially Mass Effect you are part of that story, telling it as you go. This is probably why you can't help but be so absorbed while playing.

I strongly encourage anybody who wants to learn more about any and all facets of the Mass Effect Universe to visit the Mass Effect Wiki.

Anyway, let me give you a bit of background in the game's own words...

In the year 2148, explorers on Mars discovered the remains of an ancient spacefaring civilization. In the decades that followed, these mysterious artifacts revealed startling new technologies, enabling travel to the furthest stars. The basis for this incredible technology was a force that controlled the very fabric of space and time.

They called it the greatest discovery in human history.

The civilizations of the galaxy call it...


Already a nifty little slice of story pie. Basically, the first game is a tale of treachery, a bit of "cat n mouse" chasing, decisions, elevators, old secrets, twists, turns, elevators, massive revelations, elevators, new secrets and more elevators. In essence, you find out through a rogue Spectre (top level agents of the Citadel Council "the left hand of the Council, both our first and last line of defense"), Saren, that there is a secret, impossibly ancient race of sentient machine/organic hybrids called Reapers, that hide in dark space (the space between galaxies) for sentient life to rise from the primordial muck, develop the ability to fly spaceships really fast, colonise most if not all of the galaxy and to reach a certain point in their own development before coming out of dark space and harvesting all advanced sentient life in the galaxy through brutal force, efficiency and through the insidious means of indoctrination. Saren believes that by cooperating with the Reapers, that they will find a place for useful beings in during the inevitable harvest of all life. Oh I mustn't forget, along the way you stumble across this little terrorist group in a couple of side-missions called Cerberus who apparently are just out for the advancement of the human race. They do this through some brutal experiments and highly unethical methods - the ends justifies the means style. One of the main thing's they're trying to accomplish in this game is create a (cliche induced) Super Soldier from various aspects of other species. Below is a picture of Sovereign taking off from Eden Prime.

The way in which the Reapers know when to come out, is that they leave a single Reaper behind in the galaxy, a vanguard called Sovereign, who periodically observes the sentient races of the galaxy to establish when they are ready to be reaped. Sovereign then sends a signal to the Citadel - a massive space station of their own construction left to be discovered in order to be a natural hub of galactic politics and centre for all the races of the galaxy. The signal it sends to the Citadel converts it into a massive Mass Relay (a high-tech slingshot, many of these were again left by the Reapers, which flings spaceships from system to system across the galaxy) which links to the thousands of Reapers in dark space, they then flood through, and decapitate every race's government while also having immediate access to all records and census information in order to then systematically harvest all advanced life in the galaxy.

This pattern has been repeated over and over again, over millions of years. However during the last cycle, the Protheans (the previous dominant race in the galaxy) discovered exactly how this happened, and through a secret world untouched by the Reapers (due to no records being kept on it) they created their own mass relay called the Conduit that linked to the Citadel. After the Reapers thought they had finished their harvest, the last handful of Protheans travelled to the Citadel through it's newly created back door, and altered the signal to give some hope for the next cycle - us.

This time around, when Sovereign signaled the Citadel, nothing happened. This caused Sovereign to enlist help within the galaxy - how? How does a giant spaceship thingy ask for help? Not exactly the sort of ad you'd expect to see at your local Post Office..."HELP WANTED: SENTIENT MACHINE/ORGANIC HYBRID BY NAME OF SOVEREIGN REQUIRES HELP TO LET HIS FRIENDS INTO THE GALAXY IN ORDER TO HARVEST ALL ADVANCED SENTIENT LIFE. NO CRANK CALLS, SERIOUS OFFERS ONLY."

Sovereign does this through that little thing I mentioned before, indoctrination. It allowed itself to be discovered by the Spectre, Saren, who then boarded Sovereign, and eventually became it's slave. Sovereign also enlisted the help of a race of AI machines - the geth. It acknowledged them as useful tools to find out what happened to the Citadel's signal. They knew it had to be something to do with the Protheans from the last cycle, so hunted for knowledge on them - anything that was left. Below is a picture of Saren and some of his geth followers.

Then started the cat and mouse chase through the galaxy, Shepherd and his crew hunting for clues just a step behind Saren and his geth, travelling to the worlds of Noveria and Feros and also searching for a Prothean expert in the Artemis Tau Cluster. All the while, the Citadel Council - the effective rulers of the galaxy - maintain that all you're doing is hunting Saren, attempting to bring Saren in, and believe all of your talk of Reapers is elaborate bullshit spouted by Saren to trick you and try to help him.

Eventually however, you find the secret world of Ilos - the secret world I mentioned - home of the last few Protheans before they all died out. They find the Conduit - the prothean built mass relay to the Citadel - and the means of altering the signal back so Sovereign can call his chums in. After fighting through Ilos, Shepherd travels through the Conduit in pursuit of Saren, almost instantly moving the fight from Ilos to the Citadel. 

While Shepherd n Co and Saren with his geth are battling through the citadel to the top of the presidium where it'll all go down - Sovereign and it's geth slaves attack the Citadel's fleet of ships, in preparation for the rest of the Reapers to flood through.

A battle ensues in space around the Citadel and on the Citadel itself. Ultimately Shepherd beats Saren, and the Citadel fleet - spearheaded by the humans - defeats Sovereign and the geth. Yay! We're safe! For now. The Reapers will still come. One Day. Oh and after the final battle, you stand before either the Council or the human ambassador - surely now after a Reaper sat on top of the Citadel they're going to start believing you and preparing for the inevitable Reaper invasion. Yes. Brilliant, they know what they need to do! Prepare, ready themselves while they can! And they do! Below is a picture of Sovereign being destroyed inside the Citadel arms beside  the presidium.

Well not quite. They originally say all that I'm sure just to placate you, it's soon apparent in ME2 that they no longer think this, and therefore are not really preparing at all. 

Anyways cue Mass Effect 2. We start with the hero Commander Shepherd doing some sweep n clear ops on geth when suddenly a massive weird looking spaceship/hive/asteroid looking ship appears, destroys the Normandy and kills Shepherd. The spaceship belonged to an enigmatic race, thought by many to be a myth called the Collectors. Below is the SSV Normandy being ripped asunder by the Collectors main gun. 

So, Shepherd dies. If only it was the future and there were super duper futuristic methods of resurrecting corpses. Wait a minute...

You know that little terrorist group I mentioned before? Cerberus? Well it turns out they're not so little, and not strictly speaking a terrorist group, more a splinter group of the human race. Well they manage to recover Shepherds body, and they kick start Project Lazerus to turn the pile of "meat and tubes" that is currently the good Commander, and restore him into the man he once was. It's a slightly laborious project, taking a good 2 years to complete. But they do it, they bring him back from beyond the brink and return him to active duty, with a new spaceship - a bigger, better version of the original Normandy, some old friends and a mission. Below is a screenshot from the game showing the inside of one of Shepherds veins, being injected with some miracle formula to regenerate his blood.

Well this time around, the Collectors, the lot that killed you at the start, have been abducting entire human colonies. Leaving them in a kind of massive version of the Marie Celeste. Your mission, is to find out why, and stop them. You are guided by Cerberus's mysterious leader, known only as The Illusive Man or commonly known as TIM in forums online. He wanted you resurrected and unaltered in order to help lead humanity against the Collector and eventual Reaper threat, which is being largely ignored by the races of the galaxy. This is because they all now think - or want to think - that Sovereign was just a massive ship of geth design. And nothing more. Below is The Illusive Man, it may be the 22nd Century, but smoking still looks cool apparently.

Along the way, you'll need a crew - unfortunately most of your crew from the first game went their own ways after the Normandy was destroyed and you died. However the old ship's Doctor (Doctor Chakwas) and Pilot (Flt Lt Jeff "Joker" Moreau) joined up with Cerberus in order to work with you on the new Normandy SR-2. Along the way, you just so happen to reunite with some of your old crew and make some new friends along the way (characters will be touched upon in another blog) while investigating the Collector threat, you find out that once upon a time the Collectors used to be Protheans, re-purposed into the Collectors by the Reapers. They are controlled by a single Reaper - Harbinger - who has the ability to "assume direct control" of them from Dark Space across the galaxy.

The Collectors live beyond the unmapped Omega-4 mass relay, a relay which has seen thousands of ships through the years pass through but none return - apart from the Collectors. Through various investigations, you find out the means upon which the Collectors come and go through the relay, and manage to pass through yourself. You do, which brings you to the Collector base, where all of the harvested humans are being taken. You crash land on the base and enter, it is here you find out that all the humans are being turned into sludge, and pumped through tubes and vats to create a new Reaper. In game it is hypothesised that this is the Reaper version of reproduction - and the ultimate fate of all harvested races throughout all of the cycles. Below is a picture of Shepherd looking at the Human-Reaper, according to EDI - the Normandy's AI - this Reaper appears to still only be in an embryonic stage.

You end up destroying the human-Reaper and escaping the base as it is either destroyed or radioactively purged of all life - your choice. No matter what happens, Cerberus ends up being able to send lots of scientists and researchers in to find out what they can about the Reapers and how to defeat them...

Afterwards, as per the Arrival DLC, you are called into action by the Human Alliance in order to rescue a secret agent from prison. You do so, and find out that the Reapers are about to enter the galaxy through the system that you are in. The secret agent found this out and planned to destroy the system's mass relay by flinging a massive asteroid into it - even if the resulting explosion would be comparable to a supernova that would destroy the entire system and hundreds of thousands of civilian aliens. Well, as I said, you rescued this secret agent, and returned her to the asteroid which they want to propel into the mass relay...except they only know the Reapers are coming there because they found a Reaper artifact...which has indoctrinated all the people on the asteroid into not wanting to stop them coming. They proceed to capture Shepherd, and wait for the glorious arrival of their Reaper saviors. Except you're Commander Shepherd - qualified badass. 

You escape your captors and proceed to turn on the engines to throw the asteroid into the mass relay, taking out swarms and swarms of enemies along the way. You manage to escape, but not before having a little conversation with Harbinger who tells you the usual chuff about it all being inevitable, and a line I enjoy, "like dust struggling against the cosmic winds". Anyway, as I said, you are picked up at the last minute by the Normandy and escape by the skin of your teeth through  the mass relay just as the asteroid collides and eradicates the entire system. Below is the aforementioned asteroid colliding with the Mass Relay. 

You are informed by Admiral Hackett - another certified badass - that although he agrees that there was no other alternative, that you must return to Earth to face trial for this, as the batarians (the race of people who you have wronged slightly by destroying a mass relay and killing about 300,000 of them, again the Races of Mass Effect will be touched on in another blog) will want blood for this. Hence we begin Mass Effect 3. If you have yet to play ME3 but plan to, and are avoiding any spoilers, then do not read any more. Nice to see you here visiting, come back soon!!

Mass Effect 3 starts about 6 months after the events of Arrival. You're holed up on Earth, awaiting trial when you are summoned to face an Alliance defense board. Apparently a lot of very large things have appeared on long-range scans, and they're a bit worried it could be the Reapers. Maybe. Well they kind of dismissed the threat in the last game, and now they're thinking that maybe they were wrong to do so. And how right they were to be wrong! Not long after the meeting starts, you find out that the Moon has gone silent, and the UK is in the middle of a bit of a shitstorm of some descript. That's when all hell starts to break loose in the city of Vancouver. Below is a picture from one of the many cinematic pre-release trailers. It shows a few of the Reapers landing on Earth.

In short, Shepherd manages to flee Earth in the Normandy, and is tasked with going to the Citadel to rally the races of the galaxy to retake Earth. However just before leaving, you see a small boy that you tried to help die in an explosion which seems to definitely have an emotional affect on Shepherd. 

First however, you must stop off on Mars, the location of the massive Prothean archives mentioned in the very first opening scrawl because there could be something there that could point to a way of defeating the Reapers, since conventional warfare might take a couple out but wouldn't be sustainable or possible to defeat them all.

So you head to Mars and go to the archives, where you meet an old friend and find out that Cerberus is there in force in an attempt to get the data as well. After a lot of fighting with Cerberus troops and a trudging battle through the archives, you find out that the Cerberus troops have been heavily implanted with Reaper tech to improve their effectiveness, loyalty and strength. Eventually you find yourself at the central archive, but unfortunately Cerberus is there first. They not only have taken all of the data, but have started to destroy it as well. You manage to salvage some of the info, luckily the info required and you find out that the Reapers are not the only bastards to be messed with in this final war, but Cerberus will be a thorn in your side as well.

You find out that the Protheans had plans for a super-weapon, one capable of destroying the Reapers completely, called the Crucible. The Human Alliance starts to tentatively pick through the plans for the Crucible in an attempt to understand it, and to eventually build it. Meanwhile, you head to the Citadel.

At the Citadel you're told by the other races that they just cannot help the humans or assist in retaking Earth, a bit of a bummer since it's currently being bummed by the Reapers. However mission after mission, favour after favour, you manage to get a lot of the other races onboard as they see more and more how desperate the situation is getting. Every now and then, you find yourself having disturbing dreams where you are chasing after the small boy who died on Earth, only for him to burst into flames when you catch up to him.

(Side note: I could delve into a lot more detail on the story, like the way the turians enter the war or the krogan with their genophage, but if I do I'll end up writing more of a novel than a blog, and it's already looking pretty large! More details on the Races will come later.)

After getting some of the other races onboard, you find out that the human Councillor is assisting in a Cerberus coup led by the Cerberus Assassin, Kai Leng, to kill the Council and take control of the Citadel themselves. However after some heartbreak and some intense fighting at a location that was always a safe haven, you stop the coup and gleefully kill the human Councillor. Trust me. He's a douche. This is a bit of a wake up notice for the races of the galaxy, one of which promises support in the Crucible and the retaking of Earth as a direct result of this.

You manage to rally more races, through more missions, possibly most importantly you manage to gain geth support. (Side Note: I should have mentioned, it turned out that the geth antagonists in ME1 were geth heretics, who joined with the Reapers or Old Machines to be given their future. True geth decide their own future.) In gaining geth support you also resolve a centuries old balls up, after the creators of the geth - the quarians - are able to return to their home planet after being forcefully evicted by the geth centuries before. Below is a picture of a quarian and a geth prime after resolving their conflict.

(Side Note: Listen, I understand that there is an awful lot of information to take in and that I might seem like I'm rambling. However know this, I'm taking all this information from my own cortex and not referring to any source online whatsoever. This is how much the story just invades your mind and takes center-stage.)

Nearing the end, you find out that the Crucible is almost finished, the fleets of the universe are gearing up for a final battle over Earth and more and more people are signing up for the cause. You find yourself at another Prothean Archive, hidden for thousands of years by the advanced asari race. They are under heavy assault by the Reapers, and know that time is of the essence if they are to salvage anything from their own homeworld - Thessia. Below is an image of the Statue of Athame, which you can see starting to crack. Hidden within is another Prothean Archive.

Now the reason you need to go to Thessia, is because while building the Crucible, they find out that they need a second component - the Catalyst. Without it, the Crucible is a giant white elephant, so they need the data from this second archive to establish what the Catalyst is.

You arrive on Thessia and fight your way to the archive, only to be royally fucked in the eye-hole by Cerberus yet again. You find the archive, and even start to speak to it's Virtual Intelligence when Cerberus assassin, Kai Leng, arrives, takes you and your squad down and takes it away before you can get the info you need.


You return to the Normandy and tell the asari Councillor that Cerberus beat you to the punch, and depressed you address your crew. Luckily, one of your crew is able to pinpoint where Kai Leng went. To the world of Horizon, the home of Sanctuary - a location that is constantly mentioned in the background as a supposed safe haven from the Reaper War.

You arrive at Horizon and find that indeed the assassin is there - you also find that Sanctuary is a Cerberus front. It's actually a massive lab, where the thousands, if not millions of refugees are tricked into coming and then brutally killed in horrific experiments to figure out methods of controlling the Reaper ground forces - and eventually the Reapers themselves.

If ever there was a single example of how evil and brutal Cerberus is, this is it. Preying on the fear and desperation of scared refugees, they manage to find out that it is possible, in theory to control the Reapers. A former crew mate is already at Horizon, and will let you know that she placed a tracker on the Cerberus assassin who has been a pain in the arse this game - which leads you directly to the secret HQ of Cerberus. You still need to find out what the Catalyst is, so to Cerberus HQ we go.

You arrive at Cerberus HQ, and have to obliterate all resistance in your path. You eventually find yourself at The Illusive Man's cool spacey room, where the prothean VI is. You have to kill Kai Leng before you can finish up here, and unfortunately you find out that The Illusive Man has fled to the Citadel so he's still in the picture.

Speaking of the Citadel, you find out that that is the Catalyst. In a bit of a twist, TIM has informed the Reapers that everyone now knows what the Citadel is and what it can do. So logically, the Reapers come to the Citadel, and take it away, in orbit over the Earth. Where they can defend it heavily.

Hence the final battle. Below is an image of the combined fleets rallied near Earth.

So the final push arrives. The combined fleets of the galaxy descend to our little planet in an attempt to retake Earth and to set up the Crucible with the Citadel/Catalyst. You also find out that the Reapers have set up a direct link, again called the Conduit, to the Citadel from London. Therefore in order to get inside the Citadel to activate it with the Crucible, you need to go to Old Futuristic London Town and enter the Conduit.

So that's what you do. Using the Normandy's stealth drive you manage to get your boots on the ground in London where you fight your way through wave after wave of Reaper forces until you reach the Conduit - see the picture below. The Normandy meanwhile joins the massive fight in the space around the Earth. Below is the Conduit in London.

Well this is where things get a little hairy in the story department and has caused massive controversy, and resulted in Bioware declaring that an Extended Cut DLC will be available in a few months to expand the ending. It is all very much up for debate but this is my take on it - as well as many other people.

You and the ground forces start to charge at the Conduit, unfortunately the Reaper, Harbinger (from ME2) is standing guard over it, and destroying everything that comes close. Eventually destroying a thick path in front of you, which results in you being knocked out.

You wake up to hear over the radio that all ground forces were obliterated, and that nobody made it to the Conduit. Shit bags. Looks like it's up to Shepherd to limp there. After limping there and taking out a few enemies along the way with your pistol that has a seemingly never-ending supply of ammo, you hit the Conduit and are transported to a weird central chamber in the Citadel.

Again you're knocked out for a short while, but when you come to, you find that Anderson - your mentor through the trilogy and leader of the resistance on Earth - is there as well, as he is communicating with you through the radio.

You limp your way through the long corridor, which resembles various locations throughout the trilogy, and find yourself in a central chamber where Anderson is already at a console - but seemingly partly under the influence of the Reapers.

As you start talking to him, The Illusive Man appears, and whenever he talks near you, black shadows crawl in from the sides of the screen - seemingly showing the signs of indoctrination on you. Eventually both TIM and Anderson die in the resulting conversation, and you are contacted by Admiral Hackett that the Crucible is in place with the Citadel but nothing is happening. You need to do something on the Citadel.

You crawl towards the console that Anderson was at, when you collapse and the floor underneath you raises up to another area. Upon entering this area, you are greated by the ghostly apparition of the small child who you saw die on Earth, who has haunted your dreams. This StarChild informs you that he is the Catalyst, and that it lives on the Citadel. It informs you that he created the Reapers (synthetic beings created from harvested advanced organic races) in order to protect advanced organic races from their apparent eventual demise at the hands of their own synthetic servants (like the geth...who are helping you and now living in peace with their creators. Or EDI - the Normandy's own AI that inhabit's a saucy robot body...who wants nothing but to help and support the crew of the Normandy, who has said that she would die for them)...cue funny picture. Below is actually an accurate representation of what the purpose of the Reapers is.

However, then you're given the option to either Control the Reapers, which doesn't kill them, but gives you total control of them. Destroy them, which...will destroy them. Or depending on your playthrough - Synergy. This will bind your DNA with the Catalyst and result in all beings - synthetic and organic being merged the same DNA. The result, no matter what you do is this video:

Essentially whatever you do results in the same thing - except the colour of the explosion. There are many questions and many flaws in this ending, which is why Bioware are going to address it in the Extended Cut coming in the Summer.


The story of Mass Effect is amazing. It's action packed, filled with hundreds of decisions which directs the way you look at the whole game. I've just played through the trilogy as a nice lovely guy, and as a complete bitch and it does make the game feel quite different. Except that at the end all the Mass Relays get destroyed which - as is confirmed in the Arrival DLC - destroys the entire system that the relay is in. So it kind of makes you feel like all of the decisions that you might have mentally fought yourself to make, had absolutely ass all effect. In spite of this, I will play through the games again and again in the hope for now that things are clarified in the summer. Even if it doesn't make a lot of difference - I'll still love them. This trilogy of games for me cannot be ruined by the last moments of Mass Effect 3.

Thank you for reading through this blog which has been a labour of love today!

Toolbox 24

Friday, 20 April 2012

Mass Effect Time


I'm Toolbox 24. And I'm a massive Mass Effect Fan. From the start to the finish - even with it's somewhat flawed final 10-15 minutes.

Because the Mass Effect trilogy is more expansive, more chocka block with historical data, side missions, characters, one-liners, than a massive amount of fictional works in any medium, it deserves a huge amount of respect and admiration from the gaming community.

In the 5 years since Mass Effect came out and people the world over started to go weak at the knee's at Garrus Vakarian, laugh at Urdnot Wrex's utter brutality in everything or think that even though she's blue with tentacle-ish hair things on her head you'd still get busy with Liara T'Soni, Mass Effect has come a long way baby.

I want to guide you through most, if not all aspects of the game. From the storyline, to the weapons, to the side missions, to the comparisons between the Mako and the Hammerhead, to the sound, music, enemies, and the people we love to hate (Turian Councilor and Udina anybody?). From funny moments to sad moments to moments that you could replay again and again, from unsung heroes to brave martyrs, to megalomaniacs to humble fish loving krogan. Mass Effect is much more than a game, it may sound cheesy and cliched to say, but playing through Mass Effect is an experience. It's an odyssey. It's by far and a way, the most epic computer game series I've ever played. Hats off to Bioware for working on this amazing masterpiece, even if they did kinda go a bit JJ Abrams on the ending.

I think I'll start at a logical point - the storyline. Following through the 3 main games, from the shake-down run to Eden Prime to the trilogy's ultimate conclusion. It will be here soon.

Toolbox 24

Friday, 6 April 2012

Top Ten Games 2002

Top Ten Games of 2002

In addition to the Top Ten list, I’ll be giving you a couple of facts about the list before hand based on my findings! Firstly, the most popular genre in the top ten is easily Action/Adventure with no less than 5 of the games below fitting nicely into that genre. Despite this, the number 1 spot goes to a First Person Shooter! Of the 4 platforms listed, 5 titles are available on the PC, whereas 4 were available on the fledgling XBOX and only 3 games listed were available on the PS2. Lastly, as per the norm, some of the games were released on multiple platforms this year, and as a result there are a couple of release months listed. However if you can think back 10 years to 2002, you would be forgiven for thinking that for the bulk of the year you were relying on the previous year’s top games, since in this list, 8 of the top 10 were released in November*! Understandable though, as this is one of the, if not THE peak month for computer games, due to its close proximity to Christmas. Anyway, look back at 2002 and we were in the middle of the PS2/GameCube/XBOX era, a good few years away from the next generation of games and games engines. Starting the top ten this year though is…

*All Release Dates are for the EU/UK.

10. Ratchet & Clank – Insomnia Games – PS2 (Nov 02)

We start the list with this platform/shooter game from Insomnia Games. Ratchet & Clank, went on to spawn another 9 games (so far) on PS2, PS3 and PSP as well as a few comics thrown in as well, with not much sign of them slowing down with their latest incarnation All 4 One being released back in Oct 11. When you think of platform games, generally 2 names dominate the proceedings, those names being Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. But Ratchet and Clank brought something a bit new to the genre, sure 3D platforms were nothing new when you think of the strides Mario makes with each generation of Nintendo, but R&C brought a little bit more of the 21st century attitude along with it, as well as the comedy involved in the game and it’s successors since is always good for a chuckle. Worthy of a spot in the top 10, however probably not worthy of a spot in the top 9.

9. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – Ubiso
ft – XBOX (Nov 02)

Before I start, yes this game was also released on several other platforms, however not in 2002. So I have only listed the XBOX above. Anyway, Splinter Cell is and continues to be a fantastic franchise from Ubisoft and the ever reliable Tom Clancy. Splinter Cell was one of the games of that generation of consoles and gaming that again, made the whole gaming community sit up and take notice. Mainly due to it’s story and amazing graphics. I wish I could bump this game a bit further up the list, however this is my list of top ten games, not yours, and although I liked the game, I didn’t love it. Definitely one of the games of the year, and undoubtedly a massive coup for Microsoft to get before anyone else on their XBOX, but I felt that the other 8 games listed pip it by either a short way or quite a long way.

8. TimeSplitters 2 – Free Radical Design – PS2/GameCube/XBOX (Oct 02 – PS2/XBOX) (Nov 02 - Gamecube)

TimeSplitters 2 was the 2nd game in the TimeSplitters trilogy (rumoured 4th game on hold indefinitely)that was one of the landmark FPS series of the PS2/XBOX/GameCube era. So epic in fact, that TimeSplitters 2 is the game that Shaun and Ed play in 2004’s RomZomCom – Shaun of the Dead. The gameplay is smooth, the graphics pretty good for the time, and it was very addictive in multiplayer. It’s what you’d expect from a company made from ex-Rare employees, developers of classics Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark. If you still have a 6th generation console (PS2,XBOX, GameCube) then grab yourself a copy for 99p down the local market or eBay and fire up that bad-boy to see what I mean.

7. Age of Mythology – Ensemble Studios – PC (Nov 02)

Created by Ensemble Studios who were a giant of the RTS genre before their dissolution at the hands of Microsoft in 2009. Creating the Age of Empires trilogy, Halo Wars and Age of Mythology. Personally, I love the AoE games, playing Age of Empires, back when I was an impatient 10 year old in 1997. Fortunately, the games never changed or lost their core values, improving graphically, and through smoother gameplay each year. Age of Mythology adds the twist to the series that it’s based entirely on the myths and legends of the Greeks, Egyptians and Norse cultures and somehow manages to link them all. Easy to learn gameplay, and fun to either play through the game’s story mode of 32 scenarios (bigger than the previous 2 “Age of” games) and fun to play online. It’s game engine was very complex at it’s heart, even resulting in some tests in Australia based on the AI of the game. Basically, these Oz bastards created some gamer-bot AI’s to play through the game with a different personality, aggressive, reluctant etc and it turns out that the Neurotic Bot not only won outright, but also won the quickest in tests! So remember, put your neurotic head on if you want to play this game and crush it!!

6. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast – Raven Software(PC)/Vicarious Visions(consoles) – PC/GameCube/XBOX (Mar 02 – PC) (Nov 02 - GameCube/XBOX)

I do believe that a lot of people thought that this title was a PC only game, myself included for a long time after its release – however no it was actually released on the XBOX and GameCube as well! The game focuses still on Jedi Knight, Kyle Katarn. Those of you familiar with the extended canon of Star Wars will know that he isn’t just the star of these
Jedi Knight games, but goes on to be a massively influential character in the story arc, along with the main characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. I digress however, this game was a really good Star Wars title. It usually goes one of 2 ways for Star Wars games, they either bomb, or they soar. This title soared, mainly because of it’s continuation of the familiar story and character in Master Kyle. The game could be played as a FPS or as a 3rd Person Shooter, much like DFII: Jedi Knight, and also had a much improved online play capability. Gameplay was pretty smooth, and managed to pull off lightsaber use – basically, I find that a lot of games companies get sword-play all wrong in games, as it seems a difficult beast to master, however JKII seems to have set the groundwork for future games, such as Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age, Fable etc. A good game to spend a lot of time playing and getting invested in.

5. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – Silicon Knights – GameCube (Nov 02)

Now this game enters the top 5 in some style, and other years would have been more highly placed were it not for the competition. The highest ranked GameCube game for me in 2002, EDSR – as I will call it – was a change of pace from your usual pink and fluffy, for the whole family GameCube titles. It is best described as a psychological horror game that spans over 2000 years of history. The lead character is voiced by video games stalwart Jennifer Hale, who provides her unique talent for perfectly voicing diverse characters here in spades. A fantastic feature of this game that really makes it stand out is Nintendo’s patented “Sanity Meter”, which can be depleted and replenished throughout the course of the game, the emptier the meter is, the looser the player’s grip on reality is. If the bar is depleted, then strange things can occur, but most importantly, the player’s health bar will be affected. Scary, clever, and thoroughly enjoyable. EDSR is definitely worthy of this top 5 spot.

4. Neverwinter Nights – BioWare – PC (Jul 02)

Neverwinter Nights (NWN) is a massive RPG from giants of the genre – BioWare. Still growing, and fresh from their successes with Baulder’s Gate, and with Star Wars Epic Knights of the Old Republic firmly in the pipeline, Bioware took another massive step towards computer game immortality with the brilliant NWN. The story is quite epic, spanning 4 main chapters, but covering hours and hours of play within each chapter, not just from the main story, but also from the dozens and dozens of side missions in the forms of quests, sub-quests and mini-storylines – very recognisable traits from BioWare if you look at Mass Effect or Dragon Age. The gameplay is very addictive, and those who get themselves into the NWN Universe find it very hard to come out – hence the games ongoing popularity to this day. To me personally, a great game has to have a great story. Which is why BioWare will always be there or thereabouts in the race for best game of the year when they release new titles.

3. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Bethesda Game Studios – PC/XBOX (May 02 – PC) (Nov 02 – XBOX)

A lot of people now know about The Elder Scrolls games through Oblivion, Skyrim and Morrowind. But these games started out with Chapter I: The Arena, then Chapter II: Daggerfall both in the mid 90’s. Morrowind took the advanced gameplay mechanics from both of those games and turned it into a massively graphical (for the time) masterpiece. However when comparing it graphically to Oblivion or Skyrim, it just doesn’t compare, but when comparing to most other games at the time, it was quite a way ahead. The story, as I mentioned before, plays a big part for me in how good a game is and how much I want to play it, play it again, play it another time and keep playing it. Morrowind did that for me in spades, with it's main story keeping you attached to the game and the seemingly never-ending side quests keeping you enthralled. A fantastic game, and a massive game world to keep you constantly interested time and time again.

2. GTA: Vice City – Rockstar North – PS2 (N
ov 02)

GTA: Vice City, is definitely another one for the ages. Capitalising on GTA:III’s success from the year before, Rockstar stepped it up a notch, by going bigger, badder, and back to the 80’s. If I hear the song Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung, I am immediately thrown back to the beaches, the Hawaiian shirts and short-sleeved jackets of 1980’s Vice City. And I am also thrown back into the shoes of the much loved character Tommy Vercetti, voiced by the iconic Ray Liotta. So much loved was Tommy, that when the recent trailer for GTA:IV was released, the older character in it was touted to be an older Tommy Vercetti by thousands of fans who had seen the trailer and tried to dissect it – this rumour was met with an amazing buzz and excitement from even more fans. Unfortunately this was put to bed by Ray Liotta, who has denied any involvement with the game. Even if the character is Vercetti – he wont be the same without Liotta’s voice. Anyway, I’ve sidetracked quite amazingly here, the point being however that the character you play as Tommy Vercetti is lovable, likeable, hard as nails and brings some of that Liberty City toughness to the (at first appearance anyway) soft streets of Vice City. We see some links to GTA:III in this game, but it’s a fan favourite of many due to the setting and the incredible voice cast. Also the game improved on GTA:III by adding helicopters and motorbikes to the repertoire of usable vehicles – as well as more melee weapons. From the start, Vice City’s story is gripping, engaging and full of plot twists and turns. If it were any other time period, it wouldn’t have worked, it’s a story that fit’s into the 80’s like bad clothes, funky tunes and cheesy attitude. Unfortunately however this game is pipped to the top spot by a game of even grander proportions.

1. Battlefield: 1942 – Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (DICE) – PC (Sep 02)

World War II – or in other words, one of the most done to death genre’s in computer game history. With titles spawning all of the time, usually from the FPS genre, there was a time, especially in the early Naughtie’s where it was all a bit meh. Medal of Honour games were coming out all the time, and all just seemed a bit…meh. But then DICE stepped up and said, “HEY!” and then they proceeded to say “Look at this shit right here.” The “shit” to which they were referring was simply called Battlefield: 1942, or BF42 for short. What makes this game different from most other games in the WW2 genre, is that it is simply put battle after battle, generally in a “capture the flag” style of play. Each side starts with a Base Point, and there are several other base points around the map which are unclaimed. Base points are locations from which you can spawn from after being KiA. The point of each battle is to fight the enemy until you have claimed every spawn/base point, and killed every enemy. Simple, yes? And also incredibly fun! So amazingly fun!

Not just that, but for the first time, you can drive any vehicle you see. ANY vehicle. Jeep? Jump in. Sherman tank? Get on it! Spitfire? You bet your mother funking ass. Hey, wanna sail a battleship? Then do it! Simply put, the only thing that makes this game less realistic (apart from spawning back from the dead!) is the fact that Joe Solider can jump in a plane or a tank and just go for it. However, I was crap in the planes, so that probably made it more realistic than me gunning down the enemy, then leaping in my jeep to the airfield, jumping into the cockpit of that fighter, and soaring around the sky. I would jump into the cockpit, just about take off, and then land in a tree. If I was lucky. Otherwise I’d crash into a building, dying pretty much immediately.

The game itself didn’t even follow a narrative, apart from the fact that in-game it’s WW2, and you are a solider in the following battle. And the battles were amazing. From the Battle of Britain – didn’t play that one much…did I tell you I couldn’t fly? – to the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, to Al Alamein. This game will take you where you want to go in WW2 – from 1942 obviously. You’re not going to participate in the Battle of Dunkirk here.

I cannot tell you the countless hours I spent playing this game during my younger youth. Just writing this is making me wish to spend more time now playing it. Although I have yet to get it, DICE and the ever popular Games Company of the People EA released Battlefield 1943 for XBLA and PSN with improved graphics, which I must admit, might be something I look into after my current list of games has dwindled.

In short though, BF42 is an amazing experience – I don’t feel right calling it a game, because it feels more than that, it feels like a real experience, where you are willing to fight to the last to win, or to gallantly lose. Every kill gets you closer to your victory, and every victory gets you closer to Kyoto or Berlin (depending on which theatre of war you experience).

So there you go, the top ten games from a whole decade ago! I hope you enjoyed it, I enjoyed writing it!

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