Andromeda 90210, multiverses, & Black Friday fails.

blackHoleScenery

Romance in a galaxy far, far away.

To rehash the obvious: games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect have a lot of fans who just want to get their nookie on. Romance options (or lack thereof) are always a big thing when a new DA or ME game is released. Usually, I find myself zeroing in on a love interest very quickly. When I played the first Mass Effect, I was all about Kaidan. In the long run, I ended up being all about Garrus (because really, everything should be all about Garrus), but I don’t regret choosing (and sticking with) Kaidan the first time around, because over the course of all three games, that romance arc is pretty epic. And frustrating. And heartbreaking. Lives ruined. Blood shed. Epic. (Thank you, Veronica Mars.)

Mass Effect: Andromeda made life difficult. I aimed my Sara straight at Gil right off the bat, because how could I not? Accent, looks, sense of humor–that guy had it all. Then he very nicely let me know that I wasn’t his type. Dammit.

Jaal
Jaal

I thought I might end up going for Liam, but I decided to keep my options open. Then Jaal started looking pretty good. That whole “open display of emotions” thing was interesting. Forget stoic, forget hiding behind duty–give me a guy who isn’t afraid to express what he feels. It’s why Torian Cadera’s romance over in SWTOR ended up being one of my favorites. (Torian managed to come across as contained and completely unashamed of his feelings at the same time, which made him total love crack, as far as I was concerned.)

But then along came Reyes, and that’s when shit got complicated. (Note: I decided to give Vetra a pass this time around. I focused on Garrus in so many playthroughs that it felt like I needed to branch out a bit. Especially when I realized I’d started flirting with her without even thinking about it at the beginning of the game.)

Liam is idealistic, passionate, and all about teamwork. He’s also a bit of a hothead. But his passion seemed to be reserved for the job, and romantically, he came off as running a bit hot and cold. I agreed with Lexi’s evaluation of him: I was a little worried that when things got dark (because they always get dark), he’d implode.

Jaal is sweet and open. He’s strong, but also willing to show his vulnerable side. We had interesting conversations. He can channel electricity through his body. (Don’t pretend you didn’t think about it.)

Reyes
Reyes Vidal

Reyes, on the other hand, is the bad boy you know you shouldn’t get involved with and do anyway, because you can’t seem to help yourself. He lies, he manipulates, he uses you, and you still remain convinced that there a guy underneath all that crap who’s worth the effort.

I couldn’t decide. I ended up trying to keep all three options open, because I just. Couldn’t. Decide. The Pathfinder’s personal life turned into a hot mess of uncertainty. I’d accept a date with Reyes and spend the whole time worrying that it might make Liam or Jaal give up on me. I’d flirt with Liam and wonder if Jaal would hear us and force a choice. I know how Mass Effect romance works: there’s always a point of no return, and usually you’re free to flirt it up as much as you like until you cross that line, but what if things are different? I didn’t want to look it up and spoil anything, so I ended up just living with a confusing mess while I was trying to make up my mind. Every time I thought, “That’s it, it’s Jaal,” or, “Nope, I’m going for Liam, and that’s final,” that Reyes jerk would turn up and my resolve would go straight down the toilet.

Which probably makes this the most realistic romance(s) I’ve ever experienced in a video game. I don’t know about you, but it’s eerily similar to how I spent a good portion of my 20s. It also made it painfully clear what a total moron I was back then. Ugg.

HDR is the shiznit.

I currently have two nearly identical 50″ 4k televisions sitting in my house right now. Same brand, and you can’t tell them apart just looking at them, but one has HDR and one doesn’t. Let the testing begin!

Yes, it makes a difference, and in my opinion, it’s huge. Running Assassin’s Creed: Origins without HDR looks great; running it with HDR is spectacular. After playing without HDR for weeks, my first reaction when I hooked up the HDR television was, “Why the hell is it so green?” No, the colors didn’t need to be adjusted–it was just that the trees and grass and other plant life suddenly looked lush and bright. Transitions between colors–such as green fading toward yellow at the tips of leaves–looked much more lifelike. Torches and other sources of firelight were noticeably different. NPCs wandering through the streets were practically invisible to me before, and now I can’t stop noticing their clothes. In non-HDR, they all sort of blended in and faded away. Now I actually pay attention to the variations in colors and patterns in a way that I didn’t before.

Even Skyrim, which has a pretty muted color palette, has noticeable differences. It’s the little things that got me here. At a fort near the mountains, the trees in the middle distance used to appear mostly grey under the snow. In HDR, there’s actual green visible now. It’s a muted piney green, of course, but it does help to make the world feel a bit more real. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

I’ve been playing with 1080, 4K, and HDR over the past few months, and I’ve come to what is probably an obvious conclusion: if you’re going to upgrade your old television, go 4k HDR. There’s a boost in clarity when you go from 1080 to 4k, but with/without HDR is a much bigger deal.

Sale fail.

Black Friday / Cyber Monday are dark, evil days. It’s hella easy to end up spending way too much money so that you can… you know… spend less money. That said, the Xbox sale was pretty sweet, Steam’s was comparable, and Amazon had so much going on that it was easy to get completely lost while browsing through deals. The PlayStation store was… meh. Surprisingly meh. I checked it a few times, and not only did they seem to have far fewer deals than I would have expected, they weren’t always matching the Xbox prices.

Dell, on the other hand, was a major fail. At least for me.

I spent most of last week agonizing over whether to take the plunge and get the PS4 Skyrim VR bundle. Depending on who you ask, it’s either the most awesomest thing ever, or it’s a barf fest with major issues. Amazon had it on sale all damn week, and not a day went by that I didn’t visit the page and think really hard about it. Dell had it on even salier sale (yeah, I don’t know… moving on.) I think Dell probably said, “Check what Amazon’s selling it for and subtract $25.” I probably would have caved and purchased it, except that I couldn’t get Dell’s shopping cart to actually work.

I could navigate around the site and sign in with no problems. As soon as I added anything to my cart, things went sideways. The shopping cart popped up with an unhelpful, “Sorry, something went wrong, try again” error, but the page had an overlay and a spinner that just kept spinning and spinning and spinning. I couldn’t click on anything at that point. I could only bail out by backing up, or by leaving the site entirely. If I left and came back and tried to just click on the cart, I ended up with the same error, the same overlay, the same infinity spinner.

I tried FF, Chrome, and Edge–same thing happened in all three browsers. I tried it on a PC at home and at work. I even tried it on my phone. No dice. As far as I was concerned, Dell was having a pretend sale. After four days of lackadaisical, on-again off-again attempts, I finally thought to try IE 11, and guess what? It worked. Added stuff to cart, no problem. No spinny-thingy, no error message. I finally said fuck it, I’m getting this thing. I tried to proceed, got a notification that there’s a “new level of security” for credit cards, and then got a popup asking if I wanted to let the site run a control. That’s pretty much all I managed to get from the popup, because before I could read the whole thing, IE shut the site down and told me it was to prevent malicious code from running.

My score is now 4 out of 4 browsers failed (6 out of 6, if we count the Chrome/FF browser versions on my phone separately). Hint: This is not how you want your site to behave on the biggest shopping days of the year.

Crisis on Earth X

Wow. Did I say wow? Seriously–wow. The epic Supergirl/Arrow/Flash/Legends of Tomorrow crossover looks like it’s treating the four episodes as one giant storyline, which is awesome.

See, the big alien crossover pissed me off a little, because I don’t watch Supergirl. I’m willing to watch an episode if it’s part of a crossover, but the only bits related to the alien crossover at ALL happened in the last two minutes of the episode. Thus, I was tricked into watching an entire episode of a show I don’t care about in order to see those two minutes at the end. Lame. I might try to sit down and actually watch that show someday, but I have to admit — by the time Supergirl came along, I was feeling a bit of superhero fatigue. There’s like two zillion shows, and only so many spare hours in a day. And I’ve never been a fan of the Superpeeps. They’re just so…. good. Brrrr.

But “Crisis on Earth X” is mostly a hell of a lot of fun. There’s no wasted time here; everyone is crammed together into one big superhero-filled cake. The action scenes are so full of Nazi-punching goodness that I watched them all twice to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

Watching Mick and Caitlin was hilarious. The look on Mick’s face when she turned into Killer Frost was priceless, and that mustard thing killed me. All the other heroes were off punching Nazis, and Mick’s just looking for some damn mustard. (I still can’t believe she actually went and got it for him.)

Is anyone else OVER the whole Oliver/Felicity thing? They’d better resolve this shit one way or the other, and soon, because I’m thoroughly sick of it. In or out. On or off. Shit or get off the pot.

It was funny as hell every time someone said, “I hate Nazis”, but the best part was watching evil Earth-X Nazis criticizing Earth-1 Nazis. Kudos to the Arrowverse for not giving any ground. The “Nazis are bad” theme wasn’t subtle, and it shouldn’t be.

Let’s close this out with the hilarious Acme Nazi trap from Wolfenstein II. Just because.


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