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Welcome back, fellow xenoarchaeologists! Last time, we were taking a look at the marvelous alien worlds of yesteryear, but this week we are rapidly approaching the present. A terrifying time, to be sure. The 21st century presented us with some fantastic tech, which allowed us to explore more believable worlds; worlds which acted much like our own. These spaces were not as limited as the ones that came before and invisible walls were far fewer. However, nonlinear, open worlds are not the only avenue for exploratory adventures. In the case of our first game, it certainly helped, though.
Back in 2002 I was given an extraordinary gift, a copy of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I was aware of the series, but I’d never played Arena or Daggerfall. I was sick of generic fantasy races or locations and Vvardenfell offered something that felt entirely new. Keep your horses, I only want to ride a Silt Strider. Despite being a diverse place, it was consistently bleak and enigmatic.
The towering grey mountains — covered in ash — hid ferocious Cliff Racers, without a doubt the most unassuming and evil of all the province’s creatures and mysterious, haunted Dwemer ruins. Expansive wastelands and deserts could make a traveler lost and disorientated as sand and ash storms cloud their vision. The most verdant areas were marshes and swamps, where any number of bizarre beasties could attack at a moments notice. Morrowind could teach a lot of modern developers how to make an interesting, yet dour world without simply painting everything brown and calling it a day.
PS3, Xbox 360, PC (Reviewed)
Released: March 6 2012
Publisher: Electronic Arts
It’s been just over four years since Commander Shepard became a household name, at least in my household. In that time I’ve turned away from my initial skepticism and fully embraced the Mass Effect universe, let’s just say I’ve become invested. When I discuss the series — something that happens a lot — it’s always my Shepard that I harp on about.
I honestly don’t care what happened to the countless Shepard clones that you lot play, I care about Augustus Shepard, best buddy to Garrus Vakarian and Urdnot Wrex, lover of Liara, savior of the Citadel and even the Rachni; a fine chap who just wants to save everyone even if he has to throw his life away to do so. He might sound a lot like your Shepard, but he’s not yours. So bugger off.
With Mass Effect 3, BioWare hasn’t just ended a massively popular video game trilogy, they’ve ended the story of a character I’ve been shaping for years. That’s a big deal, which should be pretty clear from all the drama that has surrounded the game since it launched. It’s hard to say goodbye, but last night I managed it. I still feel a bit sad.