What I've Been Playing This Week (aka Pile of Shame Sunday)

Screenshot of Ryder and Jaal in Mass Effect Andromeda
Check out that sweet N7 rifle

The following post is part of a series of posts that are published every Sunday to update readers on what Mark G has been up to with respect to finishing off games on his "Pile of Shame". The games to target are picked by Choicest Games contributors Choona, Luke and Lanna. As I'll be talking about my progress through these games, there may be spoilers ahead, especially for games containing a narrative. Consider yourself warned.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

So Mass Effect: Andromeda is Lanna's pick and is the game taking most of my gaming time (besides Rainbow Six SIEEEEEEEGE). I've managed to get to the same point I was at prior to getting my new PC and then some. So what does that mean? Well I've managed to start the climate change process on the desert planet Eos and now the Andromeda Initiative has a colony called Prodromos. I managed to fight some Kett and a huge monster at one of the failed colony sites and turns out that if you can position yourself properly, an engineer's job can be pretty cruisey, especially with a beefed up assault turret and your two squadmates as meat shields...

After completing some missions on Eos I spent a solid hour just walking around my ship talking to the crew, which kind of reminded me of the days back in the Milky Way as Shepard, talking to crew mates on the Normandy. I noticed there were a lot of flirt options in this game - with almost every crew member but there's a reason to this, because despite being able to attempt to romance every crew member, there's actually only certain options available depending on your sex. After returning to the Nexus, I got an opportunity to customise the Pathfinder VI at the Cultural Center which was kind of cool. I also managed to piss off some people on the Nexus by choosing to start a science colony on Eos instead of a military one - but it's okay; I ended up abusing my power as Pathfinder to placate them by ensuring their relatives were thawed out of stasis earlier (needless to say, the Nexus commanding officers weren't too happy). Oh, I also almost killed SAM (the AI that exists in a symbiotic relationship with Ryder) with a Trojan Horse too (apparently those things still exist hundreds of years in the future).

After that I headed to the Angaran homeworld called Aya (the Angarans are a race native to Andromeda) although only after narrowly escaping the Big Bad Boss called the Archon. The Angarans are obviously mistrustful of outsiders after the Kett acted like jerks to them, so they send off one of their own called Jaal to accompany you on a choice of two missions: helping scientists on a jungle planet called Havarl, or going on a rescue mission to grab the Angaran equivalent of Albert Einstein on the ice planet Voeld (what is this? Allied Mission 1 of C&C: Red Alert?). On Havarl, I came across some Turian Ark survivors which was pretty cool but their Pathfinder had apparently gone missing. Havarl was where I also had my first experience fighting a group of Angaran xenophobes: their snipers really hurt! I eventually aided some of Havarl's scientists who were frozen in stasis bubbles, thanks to me (with a little help of SAM of course) disabling some Remnant tech (Remnant is the name given to some advanced race that used to live in Andromeda but only left their robots behind); rescuing the scientists resulted in the Angarans finally trusting me enough for them to consider an alliance with the Initiative. Returning back on the Tempest (Ryder's ship) I also managed to get a glimpse of a butt-naked Jaal - one of the most awkward moments in recent gaming memory (although I'm sure he might provide a bit of eye candy for anyone who are into male aliens).

I wanted to head to the frigid world of Voeld next, but on the way I managed to complete some side quests: I found some survivors from the Asari ark on Eos and I also unlocked another memory of Ryder's mother and father after they had returned to Earth. Soon after, I visited a bar on the Nexus (coz every decent space station has got a bar, right?) where I managed to lose a game of poker to Gil, the ship's engineer, but only because I don't like to cheat.

I eventually got to the planet of Voeld and rescued the "Moshae" (as mentioned before, Female Alien version of Albert Einstein) with Cora and Jaal as my squadmates. We witnessed this creepy conversion process known as the "Exaltation" which converts the Angarans into Kett, and it was all done at this facility that we were meant to raze to the ground - however, Jaal wanted us to rescue as many of his people as possible which meant I had to effectively make a deal with the Devil (actually, the Cardinal of the Kett) and leave the facility be, in exchange for evacuating as many Angaran prisoners as possible.

I'm now up to exploring the Angaran capital city on Aya.

Company of Heroes 2

Luke suggested I give Company of Heroes 2 a try again. I originally played the game for 6.2 hours after trying a bit of the single player campaign and multiplayer but never really got that far. I started re-playing the campaign and while the first mission is a piece of cake (although in reality, I'm sure Stalingrad was no cakewalk) I managed to get to the second mission... and fail it! At one point in the mission, you're meant to stop an enemy advance of armoured cars with nothing more than anti-tank mines. Sure, they're very effective against the vehicles but sometimes the vehicles just drive around them, meaning you've got to expend a lot more resources if you want to be thorough and cover up the whole goddamn road. But, stationary defenses are usually a poor man's substitute for a mobile army, and every armchair RTS general knows that - it's just you don't have much of a choice in the single player mission. So, despite the single player campaign of Company of Heroes 2 guiding you on how to play the game (like a lot of RTS single player campaigns), you still have to be a bit smart about it and treat the AI with respect, since it's as unforgiving as it is in a compstomp situation.

I even managed to fail the second mission a second time later in the week because despite me learning from my mistakes and placing enough land mines to stop the vehicles getting close with their machine guns, some German infantry squads managed to waltz through my flank and capture the final objective. Company of Heroes 2 is weird in that squads can often survive taking multiple potshots and making it to the other side, despite having no cover. Anyway, after a third attempt, I finally managed to succeed and learned a couple of things: (1) the engineer flamethrowers are not to be trifled with and (2) if it's too late to setup mines, as a last resort you can distract a scout car with a squad of conscripts while you rush in close with engineers to plant explosives. Saved my ass at a critical point in the mission, let me tell you.

A Virus Named Tom

Choona suggested I take a look at A Virus Named Tom which is a casual puzzle game similar to the classic Pipe Dream, except instead of rearranging pipes, you're rearranging circuits. Since each level doesn't take very long (ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes) you can actually make quite a bit of progress in a short period of time. I've already played the game before in co-op mode on the Steam Link and it's actually good fun. I think I just finished the fourth campaign mission which had something to do with sabotaging a walkway.

[ The Pile of Shame ]