Mass Effect: The Brilliant Multiplayer Time Sink of Doooom!

In my other post, I talked about one of my favourite hobbies, Magic: The Gathering. Now, we come to another of my favourites, video games. I figured the best way to start things off would be to talk about one of the best games I’ve played in a long time.

I’m going to talk about Mass Effect, of the 3 variety in particular. I’m not going to talk about the single player (maybe later), excellent though it is. I’m going to talk about the multiplayer. I’ve heard a lot about the single player online and from friends, but rarely do I hear people mention the multiplayer.


For those of you who don’t own Mass Effect 3, or who do, but have never gone online, or even for those who tried it once or twice, then discounted it, I’m going to tell you why you should play it. I mean right now, (finish reading this first), go play it.

ME3 multiplayer is a horde mode kinda deal, where 4 players start in a map and 10 waves of guys from one of four factions, who they have apparently caused grave offence to, attempt to cause them as much harm as possible. It is a simple formula and Mass Effect is not the first game to use it. It is, in my experience, the best use of this formula. It isn’t without flaws, but no game is perfect and ME3 is about the closest we have right now in the waves of angry guys genre.

The magic (non-gathering related) comes from the huge variety of ways to shoot, explode, punch and throw across the map presented to you. At the start, you are given a choice of 6 classes, all of which are human. You can then go on to unlock 53 more combination of race and class. Then come the weapons, with approximately 7 bazillion different (okay, maybe that’s a lie, this isn’t borderlands) combinations of weapon and the two attachments each weapon  can have.

Then there is the equipment….

So you ask me, how to you get all this stuff. I shall tell you. This is where the game becomes a time sink, as each match completed awards credits (amount depends on difficulty, 4 difficulties available) and credits (or actual money, for people with more money than sense/free time, delete where applicable) are used to buy packs (7 different kinds available) and these packs have some stuff in.

This is where we get to one of the flaws and a bit of a barrier to entry to new players, as the contents of each pack are random. Added to this, each weapon has 10 levels, each equipment has 5 levels, each attachment has 5 levels and each character has 5 or 6 unlockable levels of customisation. I’m not sure how long it would take to unlock everything, but it could be well over 1000 hours of in game time. Starting to see the problem?

This does not reduce the fun of actually playing, and unlocking new, random items is a fun experience. But there is the knowledge that I’m probably never going to unlock everything puts me off a bit.

Despite this, I would encourage everyone to give Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer a try, or a seconf try if you already gave it one. The game has been out a while, so the price has dropped, the DLC is free and the single player is excellent.

The last thing I’d like to mention is that this was the series first foray into multiplayer and is viewed by some as a beta for the next game. In that case, its the best damn beta I’ve ever played and I’m very much looking forward to the next one.

And the doom? That was just me being dramatic…


Magic: The Socialing

For my first post I’m going to talk about what is possibly my favourite hobby, Magic: The Gathering.


Well, why should you care about Magic: The Gathering. It’s just a lame cards game for kids and guys who live with their parents for way too long, right? WRONG

For anyone who doesn’t know, Magic: The Gathering is a trading card game, played all over the world, with regular competions and is popular enought that if you are really, really good, going professional is an option.

This isn’t me. I’m just a guy, who very much enjoys spending an evening with friends playing cards, usually at a pub. The friends I have now are almost all from playing Magic, and the group of people in my area who play are very much a community. We have a facebook group to chat and organise events. We meet on fridays for Friday Night Magic (I’ll explain this in another post). Most importantly, people who play Magic, at least from what I’ve found, care about the group. If someone has a problem, we will try and fix it. If someone doesn’t own the cards to join in, you can be 99% sure someone will lend them something. As a group, we want people to join in. It is far and away the best social experience I have found. It gets people talking. As someone at an event, you know you will always have at least one thing in common with the people there.

Something else I that I find amazing, is the variety of people that are brought together by playing a card game. The age range of our group is from about 17 to around 50. Most people are around 20, as it is a uni town the group was set up by students in the first place, but there is no awkwardness, whether you are a student, a secondary school teacher (who sometimes brings work he needs to mark to get it done between games), a bouncer or someone who sells batterys. When we meet up everyone is a Magic player and that evens it out.

What I cannot emphasise enough though, is how much playing with people you like being around matters. I’ve been lucky with the people here, and when eventually I have to leave, finding a new group who are as welcoming as they are is a little daunting.

So, if you are reading this and you are curious to find out more, to find out if it is something you would be interested in, there are a couple of ways.

1. The best way to find out is to find a group near you and either contact them somehow, or just turn up at an event. This is a link to a page where you can find events near you. Don’t worry about intruding, variety is key with Magic, people want other people there, with different ideas and different ways of playing, to keep things new and interesting. If you are like me and don’t really enjoy asking people you don’t know about anything, standing awkwardly for a while will probably lead to someone coming over, asking about you and getting you involved. If you say you don’t know how to play, someone will teach you. If you say you want to get into Magic, someone will suggest how.

2. If you don’t fancy just turning up somwhere and asking, without knowing how to play then Duels of the Planewalkers is a good start. It’s a game on Steam, on Xbox, on PS3 and on tablets. It’s a good starting point and will teach a new player the rules, but isn’t nearly as fun as sitting round a table with friends, face to face, where you can talk. While it is true that something is lost in translation, it is still a really good introduction.

I know I haven’t really talked about how the game is actually played and I will get to that in another post, but for now all you need to know is it’s great fun, the players are welcoming, it’s great fun, it’s different from anything else you might get up to in the week and it’s a really good way to meet new people. Whoever you are, you should give it a try. The worst that can happen is that you find don’t like it and you have spent an evening trying something new. Go try it, you may find it really is your thing. Also, did I mention how much fun it is?