[…] the team didn’t have the resources or ability […]

Leave it to EA, to seriously bum you out before a game even comes out. Probably in 2012, so basically 9 years ago, lots of ME fans like myself wished there was a Mass Effect client, that would just include all 3 games – a complete edition if you will. And maybe backport the more fluent fighting gameplay of 3 into its predecessors.

So, with the Legendary Edition coming out, seemingly promising something like this, everything should look really good, right? WRONG. 😛 There is a lot to unpack here, so I’ll skip some stuff and try to stick to the bigger points that rub me wrong.

I’m one of these people, who already have all 4 Mass Effect games (with ALL DLC also…) in their Origin account, so… it kind of does matter for which price this is going to be sold. I mean, this is EA, so I never expected them to just hand this out for free anyway, it’s just not their way, but I thought it might be possible, that they would have a discount or something, for people who literally have everything Mass Effect already. I thought wrong again. They are selling this for 60 bucks, no matter if you have everything, or are a new customer. The same price, you’d sell a new game for.

As if this isn’t disappointing enough, this is really only where the letdowns start. The main difference in this “Legendary Edition” is, that they say they dumped all textures into an AI upscaler [1]. Yeah, they are really killing themselves with this remaster… The kind of thing, you are getting for free on nexusmods for even The Witcher 1. But more importantly, this is something that kind of has been around for quite a while, in the form of the ALOT texture mod(s), that is available (again for FREE) for all 3 games.

So all things considered, this just doesn’t look like a very good deal for 60 bucks. At least on PC, maybe some people who exclusively play on consoles might find it more interesting, because they can’t install mods. For everyone else, the only part of this remaster that still sounds really interesting, is better controls for the Mako. But even here, how would anyone know, if they are actually better? It’s not like players could test that before buying. Even refunding might not be an option here, since it takes some time to reach the Mako and by then the refundable time period might be over.

But let’s go on, why this feels so much more like a (why would they even do this if they don’t have the resources to do this right? =>) cash grab, than an edition for fans. This isn’t even a complete edition. Pinnacle Station isn’t included because of some lame excuse and even ME3MP is gone – a multiplayer mode that managed to convert even people, who originally didn’t want multiplayer in a Mass Effect game, because it can be a lot of fun and is the only mode that allows players to play as almost any alien encountered throughout the entire series. Even today – 9 years after release, subreddits like r/MECoOp are still active. That’s how much fans love their Mass Effect. But BioWare clearly doesn’t care about that at all.

Now this is just a remaster and not a remake etc. and I get it. Still, most news bits just fail to paint a positive picture: It aims to offer ALMOST everything the originals did [2]. WTF? Shouldn’t an edition, which calls itself Legendary Edition, offer at least as much, or better yet, significantly more? They won’t port it to Unreal 4, because it’s too much work (unless something allows copy/paste don’t do it) [3], they won’t include multiplayer, because it’s too much work… And, it might require post launch support, which is something they are not willing to give to their 60 bucks game… Wow! [4] At least this time they are being honest about it upfront? Is this supposed to make anyone eager to buy this? Besides, how much effort could this support be? They cut all support to ME3MP many years ago and that still runs anyway. All they are doing for this game, is to not pull the plug. No one was expecting more of them for this game…

They won’t include Pinnacle Station because it is too much work, the original sources were supposedly lost and recreating this relatively minor DLC – you guessed it – would have been too much work [5]. It’s actually possible to find Pinnacle Station, or its remains, in Mass Effect 3, something that won’t mean anything to anyone now. It’s just this weird relic of another timeline. But hey, at least they made the elevator rides skippable! That actually never bothered me because I liked the conversations [6]. The rest of the changes for ME1, definitely the part that got the most attention, also don’t sound groundbreaking [7].

Is the complete change of the atmosphere good or bad?

So far they haven’t really talked about, if some of the bugs, that were left in the originals, were fixed. So I guess it’s safe to assume they weren’t fixed?

BioWare’s Mac Walters shares why Mass Effect 3’s ending remains unaltered

Anyway, this is a good overview, of what this thing actually promises. And here is my original Mass Effect 3 post, that I wrote 9 years ago and I’ve certainly never read myself (nor has the Internet). It does contain a lot of the meme stuff surrounding the eternal ending of ME3, which sums up what lots of ME fans feel and think about this particular disaster to this day – if you are truly looking for a legend, this is it right there. 😛 The LE comes out sometime in May, I think.

[1] All the original source textures – BioWare says there are “tens of thousands” – have been put through an AI upscaler […] https://www.pcgamesn.com/mass-effect-legendary-edition/release-date

[2] Legendary Edition, which bundles together the original Mass Effect trilogy, is a remastered take on the classic action-RPGs and aims to offer almost everything the originals did. However, Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer hasn’t made it in, and one piece of Mass Effect 1 DLC has been lost to a corrupted source code issue. https://www.ign.com/articles/mass-effect-legendary-edition-changes-some-gratuitious-camera-shots?sf137626439=1

[3] There’s no real copy/paste for that to go into Unreal 4 […] https://www.pcgamesn.com/mass-effect-legendary-edition/remake

[4] Walters explained that having a multiplayer component in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition would have meant a cascade of additional considerations, such as post-launch support and tuning, ongoing support of the online mode […] https://www.pcgamesn.com/mass-effect-legendary-edition/multiplayer

[5] Game director Mac Walters says “leaving it all on the cutting-room floor, it was heartbreaking”. […] Pinnacle Station is a pretty simplistic set of combat arenas with only a tiny bit of additional story to pursue https://www.pcgamesn.com/mass-effect-legendary-edition/dlc

[6] Legendary Edition adds an optional ‘skip’ button that appears once your elevator-driven load has completed. https://www.pcgamesn.com/mass-effect-legendary-edition/elevator-skip

[7] There are a host of other changes, including rebalanced boss fights, improved squad and enemy AI, reduced difficulty and frequency for minigames […] https://www.pcgamesn.com/mass-effect-legendary-edition/changes

Another aspect I haven’t really described yet in greater detail, is how same and generic many elements feel outside of the bigger characters. This world contains a number of different corporations, but they are all just evil. Now I’m not saying that some of them should be “good” necessarily, that probably wouldn’t be an appropriate fit for this setting, or even go against it, but there is still more that could have been done with this, than have all of them be the exact same type of evil.

I hate to bring this up at every corner, but The Witcher 3 did this so much better. Pretty much all of the kings/rulers in this world were monsters as well, but you’d still never mix them up with one another. They all still had their own characteristics and motivations, that set them apart and this offered substance the player could absorb.

Similarly, the game doesn’t really do much with the whole cyberpunk setting. The only effect I noticed throughout the game, was that some people just get cyberpsychosis from all the implants, that’s it. V themselves can install cyberware in all existing slots and the only external effect of that will be, that the cyberarms – as the sole exception – will be visible. That’s just it. Also interesting to note, is that installing double jump cyberlegs, doesn’t open up new areas. Some routes might be shorter – that’s all there is to it.

I feel like other cyberpunk games such as Shadowrun or Deus Ex, Technobabylon or… […] did this much better. In Shadowrun this is even a gameplay mechanic, the more implants a person gets, the more “essence”/humanity they loose. There is a direct price for it and not just in money, that has to be spent in order to buy the upgrades.

That’s even a part of the character creator I didn’t like, several visual cyberware options can be added to V’s face, but the player starts the game without cyberware upgrades – so what are these things supposed to represent? Every version of V should always show no signs of cyberware, until the first cyberware upgrades are actually installed.

There are also no bigger or noteworthy morals, meanings or messages in this game. At the very least there doesn’t seem to be a central theme of… well, anything. Everything is just a seemingly random chain of events. The Witcher has a strong and clear message in almost every fiber of its being. I don’t see why a cyberpunk world couldn’t have such a background. “Corpos are bad” isn’t really a deep message. Blade Runner had a message. Most entries in this genre have a message. I just wonder if this is intentional or another byproduct of a difficult dev cycle.

The “never fade away” song at the end is a nice touch, but I never got the feeling that it was intended to be the point of the game. Frankly, I don’t even know if V became a legend in the end, like they intended to be in the beginning. The only feedback the game gave, were the personal opinions of some characters V met along the way. I liked that, but it doesn’t tell what impression V left on the world, if any.

Maybe their DLC will be much more focused.

Almost all talk about Cyberpunk is focused on bugs. While that’s understandable, I’d rather talk about other parts of the game, that aren’t that great either. While bugs can be patched out and the majority of them most likely will be, all other flaws will just remain.

Prior CDPR games usually improved and built upon their predecessors in some, or even many ways. So what mostly surprised me about CP, wasn’t the bugs, it was that it seems to be a step back, from the game design of Witcher 3. I really thought this much would be at least as good. W3 had many complex questlines, which were interwoven with others and often had effects on the game (and sometimes even its world) beyond their own completion.

That is a huge part of what makes the game really interesting and satisfying to me. It is so elaborate in fact, that quests and characters would oftentimes reflect, at which stage the player would start the quest. Characters would say other things and it was clear, that the devs designed the game in a way, that usually was aware of the fact, that the player could just go anywhere and do almost everything in any order. Their flow charts and whatnot must have been a nightmare, to take all these possibilities into account.

Even sidequests in W3 could affect the main quests, characters could die, who would survive for other players. All kinds of really good, great stuff. Hardly any of that is the case in Cyberpunk. The game has several endings, but outside of that, I don’t even remember any big choices. While even the pan quest in W3 had the option of finding Thaler’s monocle on the floor (or not) and thus potentially making some interesting connections in your mind about the plot, even the main story (usually the most fleshed out part of any such RPG) in CP is pretty much static.

For the most part, it’s not possible to play the game in a way, that certain major characters might survive. If the game wants someone dead, they will just die, no matter what the player does or how they play their game. It doesn’t matter if I sneak out of the hotel and therefore Jackie takes less damage, or if I shoot my way out and we draw major fire, he will always die anyway. Evelyn Parker, same story…

The game gives the player the option (most of the time), to either kill enemies, or to just knock them out. But it doesn’t matter. This isn’t like Dishonored, where killing everyone (or not) gives a different ending. The world of Cyberpunk doesn’t react to that. Whether the player never kills anyone, or kills absolutely everyone in the game, still gives the same endings.

The only clearly noticeable reactivity the game has to killing certain characters, is during “gigs” (the game’s name for mini sidequests from fixers). Sometimes a fixer will demand to get a target out alive, or to kill them. Doing what the fixer asks, then results in a better reward and the phone call will reflect it. But that’s it. Otherwise a mass-murdering V is received and treated in the exact same way everywhere, as someone who’s doing a stealth run without kills.

There are also no “bigger” quests that have major characters meet up in any significant way. There are some more fleshed out questlines with Judy, Panam or Kerry, but they are all still isolated from each other. W3 had huge quests in which almost all major characters came together. CP didn’t do that with its much smaller cast – which should have made this simpler. All of these elements, that make W3 so great, take several steps back here.

Most dialogs have only 2 choices. And those too hardly ever change what’s going to happen. Even the rarer dialog options, that require certain attributes hardly ever change the outcome of a quest, they just have V say a different sentence. Quests in W3 would sometimes allow Geralt to say different things, if the player managed to find e.g. a relevant letter and read it beforehand. Finding clues and letters in CP before a confrontation, usually has no effect – even when V already has the answers/proof.

So yeah, the amount of visual glitches in this game is disappointing, but they don’t come close to all the stuff I described above. Maybe the DLC (they might eventually release) will be much more elaborate, but that still won’t change/improve the entire rest of the game and its entire world. btw: Calling it now, one of the DLCs will probably be about Morgan Blackhand, because they name-drop him several times very prominently and this character never appears during this game. Why do this otherwise? Okay, maybe it’s just cut content. Edit: Apparently that was Mike Pondsmith’s character, so that’s probably why it’s referenced at all.

All of this makes me think that the problems within CDPR run deeper somehow, because they managed to make W3 happen in a lot less time than they had for Cyberpunk and that (again) had a much higher amount of much more complex quests and outcomes. So…

PS: If you run around naked, no one will ever comment on it. Arcanum from 2001 pulled that off.

This game turned out to be pretty much exactly what I expected. I never expected to like it as much as Witcher 3, because I played those games since 2007 and I read all 8 books twice. Cyberpunk on the other hand is based on a 1988 tabletop RPG that I never even played once. The name of the game is even just the term of the genre, right there it seems so much more generic. It never stood a chance of having the same impact on me. So, in this regard, there were no expectations that could have been let down. What I’m really into in general however, is CDPR’s approach to characters, quests, stories and world-building. They are extremely good at all these things, I happen to enjoy the most in such games.

That’s why I like Cyberpunk 2077 as well, because they mostly managed to pull that off again. The major characters of this game live in this world, they have homes and stuff they are spending their time with – they don’t just pop in the game for the sake of a single quest and vanish, never to be seen again. This might be even more elaborate here, since characters can just call and text you and vice versa (to a degree of course). But again, it comes with the same caveat that they can’t fully compete with Witcher 3, because characters in that game make it seem, as if the player is reconnecting with old friends at this point. Judy and Panam are great (sorry, almost forgot to mention Kerry and Takemura), well-made characters, but they can’t compete with the likes of Yennefer and Ciri. The amount of lore and world-building these characters are surrounded by, aren’t heights Cyberpunk reaches, just as expected.

Because I’m one of these weirdos who are looking for the above, CP didn’t even need to have such a massive world. Night City is so big, that without the map, I’d be lost. Especially in the beginning. In fact, for their next game, they should probably take a long hard look at this approach and just make the world 50% smaller. Then they might get a handle on things again and hopefully have fewer bugs. The world isn’t even that impressive. I never stumbled upon something I was glad to discover. As with most open-world games, it just takes longer to get anywhere, outside of fast travel. It (again) also lacks this sense The Witcher 3 has. When I was standing anywhere in Velen, I essentially knew how far I was away from Novigrad and in which direction I would have to go. The various parts of Night City mainly differ in having different gangs active in them. If they wanted to make this world feel more alive and real (and make exploring it feel more worthwhile), they still would have to patch that in.

Having this game (world) have half this size, also would have helped with releasing it in a much more polished state. If this was a BioWare game for instance, it would be a complete train wreck, because this EA division doesn’t really improve their games much after release. What you see is what you get. At least with CDPR, players know they are going to patch this thing until it’s going to be in a state, it should have been in from the start. I guess their investors were loosing faith and demanded they release it immediately and not delay it again. In March 2021 they’ll most likely have a version of this game out, that won’t even resemble the glitch town it still is right now.

Now, as far as I know the real intense bugs are mostly in the console versions, I’m playing PC/GOG and this version has crashed once in 60+ hours playtime. I also never encountered any game-breaking bugs, like broken quests and the like (although many other players have). That’s why I’m quite positive on the game regardless. I hate those bugs the most. A floating coffee cup doesn’t destroy an otherwise great quest for me. I also encountered, only once, a car (not mine) that kind of sank into the street while it drove by. The mirror is bugged, my character is shown bald, while having hair and a helmet on. Almost all the most noticeable bugs are visual glitches like that. The messages had a slot that was just blank, no idea if the field shouldn’t have been there, or if I missed a text because of this. After patch 1.05 I suddenly could no longer upgrade the gun Skippy. So the situation over at CDPR must be so dire and chaotic right now, that they aren’t just fixing bugs, but also adding in new ones.

The most extreme one I encountered, was during a quest in a club called “riot”, a huge crowd of people was supposed to dance to music a DJ was playing. But most people just stood there without having the proper routine and the whole club was silent. It’s literally a place they “forgot” to finish. They didn’t put all the assets in, I guess. Completing the quest there was no problem, however.

So yeah, released 3 months too soon. Only other way would have been to make it smaller. I’m going to keep playing regardless. I know already that this won’t be the only time I’ll play it and I’m actually into playing a well patched game again, after already knowing the rougher release version of it. The same seems to be true for several games right now. I really like Wasteland 3 and had lots of fun with it, but they still managed to release an 11 GB patch today, whose release notes were like 12 pages long.

When it comes to gameplay, what’s almost worse than all those visual glitches, are interface implementations like crafting. Crafting ammo for pistols, for example, requires to hold the mouse button down for a while for each clip. It’s not possible to just have it craft ammo until it’s full. It takes really long and on top of that, it doesn’t even say when the max value is reached. For that it’s necessary to check another screen. I really hope they will change that logic into something, that just says “craft until full”. Or allows to choose how much stuff should be crafted at once. The inventory wasn’t necessarily their strong suit in Witcher 3 either and that definitely hasn’t changed. The release version of Witcher 3 had a different inventory as well, they changed that a lot over time. They began with that in Witcher 1, come to think of it. :D

V is also certainly no Geralt, which is probably why Keanu Reeves is in this game. And I’m not even trying to say that V is a bad character or anything, just that V isn’t nearly as established and iconic as Geralt. That’s no problem to me, but I think that’s why they put Keanu Reeves in there on top of it, just to compensate. Everyone likes him and he’s obviously a very good fit for this genre. He did a surprising amount of voice work for this game. Even small sidequests (many players will probably ignore), often have Johnny drop in to make some remarks.

One of the more interesting gameplay aspects of CP are the so called braindances. They remind me a lot of Remember Me actually (it has a similar mechanic of being able to rewind memories). I wish they would have done more with that. The game started out strong with those and then never used them again – in my playthrough. The same is true for some very interesting story bits about AIs in this world. Just as this creeps in, it’s over again. It’s just back to fighting mundane gangs again. I wish this would have been different. Obviously I can’t say if this is different for other life paths, since I’ve played only one so far, but I highly doubt it.

The game has a “definitive end”, which surprised me – most of these open world games come up with some excuse (if needed), why the player just remains in this world, after the main story is done. CP reverts to the last position before starting the final mission – like Mass Effect 3 does it. This probably means all future DLC will then also take place before this endgame. I only have seen one ending so far, but they probably are too diverse, to allow DLC after it. Given that the main story is about V being close to death (and needs to resolve this as soon as possible), this… isn’t exactly helping immersion.

The only cyberware that visually changes V, was the gorilla arms I got (and I ended up having cyberware in ALL available slots…). Every other alteration is invisible. It too feels like something they just didn’t finish. Why would cyberarms be visible, but not cyberlegs? But then again, the player can’t even change V’s hair. Don’t know if that’s an upcoming DLC, like it was in W2 and 3.

Another thing they didn’t improve since W3, is the loot. So much stuff is constantly dumped on the player, that I’m just trashing everything outright, that isn’t legendary (the highest tier). The only really noteworthy item I ever found, besides Johnny’s gear, was Skippy.

It also wouldn’t be a CDPR game, if it didn’t have countless references to other stuff, here are just a few incomplete examples:

Okay, enough of these references. Obviously this is an ongoing drama, so in the meantime I will keep asking myself, why – despite the obvious appeal of SOME cyberware – anyone would do this to themselves (and yes I read the lore on Lizzy, I’m wondering in general):

I finished W3 after almost 65 hours (I did all the quests available in my playthrough) and I’m impressed. The level of quality was raised significantly over W2. They postponed the release of this game and it really shows. I didn’t encounter a single broken quest or serious showstopper. W2’s initial release was kind of a clusterfuck – in comparison. It really needed those patches. Thankfully these games come from a dev who bothers to make them.

I like the other improvements to the formula as well. Some are seemingly little things, but they pay off big time anyway. It’s like saving 10 seconds during a task, which doesn’t sound like much, but if it’s a task someone has to do all the time it adds up quickly. Choosing to pick a lock has the ranger with the highest skill do it. Automatically. Such a relief.

W3 on the other hand, I can count everything glitchy on one hand easily. I gave my demolitions ranger the perk to walk over mines without triggering them and that had no effect whatsoever. It also happened twice during these 65 hours, that the game was loading endlessly. It was never going to finish, I had to kill the task and restart the game. The final area that leads to the confrontation with the patriarchs daughter, had an unreachable crate next to a fence. If this was supposed to be a joke or something, I didn’t get it.

The inventory doesn’t have a filter for the utilities, so the player has to fight their way through ALL items in order to find them. That’s probably the most inconvenient aspect of the entire game. 😁

I’m sure they are still going to find more than enough to fix/improve, but for the initial release of such a complex game this is IMHO one of the best launches in recent years. I’d see the most likely area to “quality of life” this game, in areas of rebalancing. There are a ton of weapons in this game and lots of them don’t make much damage. I especially noticed, how some weapons demand skill level 10 (max level possible), while others with level 7 or 8 do much more damage. That doesn’t sound right to me.

The only weapon in the game (I know of, of course), which does some serious damage, is the jackhammer (yes, the same gun that was in Max Payne). In most use cases this shotgun does more damage than rocket launchers… And it uses only 3 action points, while heavy weapons need 7 per shot. Only drawback is, the ranger has to get in relatively close, of course. It’s really unsatisfying to have a heavy weapon like a minigun equipped, shoot someone in the face with it for 7 AP and do barely any damage and then kill 3 people with the jackhammer, because they were in the cone of its ammo for 3 AP. Shotgun shells are also available everywhere (think looting) and among the cheaper ammo.

The second best choice of weapon were SMGs. There’s one named ripper, which was also quite strong. Even the highest tier assault rifle was quite the disappointment in comparison. btw: There is a gun from Gears of War in this game and its like shooting with a water pistol, despite being level 10.

The best skills to have and get to 10 as soon as possible are probably lockpicking and nerd stuff (or nerd stuff to 9 and equip a +1 item, lockpicking didn’t have one AFAIK), in that order. None of my rangers had animal whisperer (seriously no skill points for it left) and nothing bad ever happened to me as a result. I know that there is of course content in this game I couldn’t experience because of it (there are animals everywhere), but it’s very different than having hostages in a room (during a main quest) and being unable to access it, because lockpicking is too low. This blows up in your face quick.

There were actually situations in which I didn’t know how else to deal with them. A final boss was behind a lockpicking 10 door and that was the only way inside I could find. Okay, it’s possible to shoot at some of the doors until they are destroyed, but still.

I gave all my 4 main rangers the cybernetic upgrade and then never used it. The regular utilities seem better overall and the cybernetics don’t get an extra slot, so…

I was really into everything else I haven’t mentioned yet. Story, characters, music, setting, quests, overall design, reactivity…

W2 had more ending slides I think, but IIRC they added more in patches at some point. And they didn’t have this elaborate song system at the end. That must make it so much harder to account for “everything”.

The only good “friendlies” (AI controlled “companions” besides the actual rangers) I found where Party Pal and the toaster (loved it that they made this skill pay off big time). Major Tom died early in my game and I didn’t even notice when it happened. I just noticed after a while that he was gone. Later I bought Polly for $150 and this bird died literally 3 minutes after the purchase in the very first fight with her… This gameplay mechanic feels weird somehow. Are they supposed to die right away, so I’ll feel bad about it?

It’s not very realistic to keep such low HP companions alive for very long. I played on the second difficulty “Wastelander” (I think) and my people got downed a lot. This was mostly because of the already mentioned weak weapons. It’s hard to dominate a fight, if headshots give enemies 2% damage while they can just run at you and down a ranger with a single hit. Maybe I should have done a melee ranger? But even then, guns shouldn’t be so much weaker than melee weapons or the brawling skill.

They did a very good job of setting this world up, in terms of deciding which faction should be supported. Not only that, they really made me “suffer” through the consequences in the end. I “hated” what happened during my final fights and I felt terrible having to play through this. There were a lot of people I had to fight, because they didn’t agree with my decisions, people whom I didn’t want to fight at all, but it just happened to be the outcome of my playthrough. It all made sense, that a lot of people wouldn’t just support this. The whole time I was asking myself if it was really worth it. I guess I’m going to find out, when I play it again and handle things differently.

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