It's been a while and the amount of minutes I've played Ishar 3 can be counted on half a stumpy finger. Well, that's not quite true. I did pick it up again a couple of weeks back but the game crashed and I hadn't saved it, so it effectively meant I may as well have not played it. So, I'm calling it a day on Ishar. I am a bit disappointed with myself - I did really want to get on with the series. It was always something that I'd seen as a child and thought looked amazing, but it just wasn't to be. Every time I played it - any of the games from the series really - I just felt like I banging my head against a brick wall. I just didn't enjoy a second of my time with it. So that's that. I'm not so much of a masochist that I'm going to try and continue with it.
Next up on the series list is Unreal. I have Unreal, its mission pack, and Unreal 2. I'd always been a Quake boy back in the day, and had never tried Unreal, so I was interested to see what it would be like. From the reviews of the day I remember, I assumed it was going to be a lot like Quake just with fancy multi-coloured lighting all over the place. I played a bit of it last night, and that assumption is kind of right, but it makes it feel very different from Quake's relentless brown. What I didn't expect to find, though, was a story. I always thought Unreal was going to be just a stock shooter with a flimsy back story, like Quake, but was surprised to find log entries lying around and screens giving out pertinent information. It's all very welcome - I'll have to see how it pans out. One annoying technical issue is that for some reason it starts up and runs fine the first time I play it, but if I shut down Unreal then the next time I try and start it up it just completely crashes my computer. Not ideal at all! I guess it's some junk left in memory, or something, but I can't work it out. It is rather putting me off playing it, though, my poor old PC doesn't like that kind of stress.
In other news, I've only played the first mission of Pharaoh after installing it weeks ago, thought I'd get through Unreal first. It brought back some great memories, though. It has a beautiful intro movie and a really good sense of place that sets it apart from your standard SimCity-alike. Oh, but it has also got a horrible over-reliance on firemen. I forgot how easily fires start in the baking Egyptian sun! I've also been playing a bit more Mass Effect 3 and am making some headway. It's hard to know how far through it I am, as it feels like the earth's about to be destroyed any second from the very first minute you play. I've picked up a bunch of allies, though, and got a few war readiness points (or whatever they're called), so I think I'm around the half-way point. I'm still loving the game and the series, but there are a couple of niggles. First up is the way multiplayer is integrated - basically, if I don't play multiplayer (which I'm not going to) then I lose half of my war readiness points...That's just a staggeringly stupid design decision. Okay, maybe make it so you can gain a few more points by playing multiplayer if you really want to integrate it, but make me lose my hard-earned single-player points. Crazy. And they show you that information every time you start the game - look, you've lost 50% of your points - not the way to make me smile, Bioware. My other niggle is with the design of your ship (and it's lasted throughout the series). After pretty much every mission, you're recommended to travel through the entire ship talking to your crew to get their feedback on the mission, and it takes forever - literally half an hour of mostly sitting through loading screens. I don't even mind the talking so much, but when I'm done, why not let me call up the star map (to plan the next mission) from anywhere on the ship? Why do I have to run back to the lift, wait for the lift to load the next level, then run from the lift to the star map every time? Sounds small, but it bugs the heck out of me.