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by Nick Dinicola

6 Apr 2012


The morality system of Mass Effect has always been a blessing and a curse. It’s just nuanced enough to allow players to create morally murky and interesting characters, but BioWare’s insistence on maintaining a binary morality means it could never be as complex as it wants to be. Last week, fellow Moving Pixels blogger Jorge Albor wrote about the troubles that Mass Effect has always faced with its morality system on a narrative level, but I think BioWare has had just as much trouble simply figuring out a way to present this system to players in a manner that is clear and understandable as a metric.

by Nick Dinicola

30 Mar 2012


Some people don’t like the ending of Mass Effect 3. I’m not one of those people.

Mass Effect 3 reaches the peak of its climax when it asks Shepard to make one last choice. He has to choose to control the Reapers, destroy the Reapers, or merge all synthetic and organic life together. Of course, there’s more nuance to the choices than that, but it’s important how these choices are presented in their simplest form. They’re ostensibly plot points, and yet the similarity of the final cut scenes implies that the plot is not the most important aspect of this choice. The game seems to say that the consequences are interchangeable.

by Nick Dinicola

23 Mar 2012


In Mass Effect 2, the Cerberus Daily News Network was an in-game news feed located on the title screen. It would update daily, offering players a glimpse of what was going on in the galaxy while Shepard was off doing his thing. Since Shepard’s mission was secretive by nature, taking him to places that existed far outside the scrutiny of the general galactic media, his view of the galaxy was too narrow to incorporate these other aspects of world building. For example, Shepard didn’t care about financial corruption on the Citadel or the latest box office blockbuster, but I did. As a player invested in this universe, I wanted to know more about it than what Shepard could see, and the Cerberus Daily News Network was a smart way to please fans like me while not filling the game with needless expository world building.

by Nick Dinicola

16 Mar 2012


In Assassin’s Creed, the protagonist is always portrayed as a Master Assassin. His allies respect him. His enemies fear him. In the later games, he recruits new Assassins, trains them, and presides over their “graduation.” He’s clearly the leader, and he’s clearly a capable leader. But as the combat changes from game to game, so do the character traits that it implies.

The one-hit kill counter system that has been in place since the first game says a lot about the Assassins as a group, since this seems to be their default fighting style. It’s defensive in nature, emphasizing technique and technical mastery over aggressive flailing, which is to say: button timing over button mashing.

by Nick Dinicola

9 Mar 2012


I’ve already written at length about the mechanics of AMY. While the narrative isn’t worth writing about, the game still has a few fascinating quirks worth exploring. Specifically, its use of gender.

Featuring women and children in a horror story is nothing new. Lana and Amy’s relationship is interesting on a mechanical level, but it’s too shallow on a character or narrative level to act as any kind of commentary on gender in horror. In fact, AMY doesn’t do anything new with gender roles, but it’s interesting because it offers such an obvious example of how both genders are portrayed in survival-horror games.

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