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Warhammer 40000 Space Marine Demo: These Boots Were Made for Facestomping August 25, 2011

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Commentary, Video Games.
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Wow. It’s been what, almost a year since I last got off my ass and updated this thing? Damn. Sounds about right, I suppose. Blogging, as it turns out, is hard work. Particularly when one is trying to blog one’s way through a game.  Actually, that’s not entirely true. It would be more accurate to say that not blogging is disturbingly easy. This usually (for me, at least) manifests itself as a complete apathy toward taking notes as I play. It’s something I generally need to do—especially in longer play sessions—but it’s just so much easier to just not worry about it and play the game.

And that, ultimately, is what happened here. Not only did I totally slack on actually playing stuff, I didn’t take any notes or gather any thoughts on the things that I did play. The not doing any backlog-related stuff I can live with. I have other projects that won out for attention, so them’s the breaks. The lack of note-taking and writing about what I actually got around to playing is a bit harder to excuse. It pretty much boils down to “gee, if I don’t stop to write I can play more!” And that, in a nutshell, is more or less what happened.

I’m not going to post a big-ass update about everything I’ve been up to over the last ten months or so, but, as the post title already gave away, I am going to wax poetic about THQ’s Warhammer 40000 Space Marine demo. I played through both missions earlier this week and I can safely say the demo is awesome. There is an overpowering visceral thrill revolving around wading into a horde of Orks and delivering sweet, swift justice with a chainsword or a power axe. Admittedly the end result is not entirely accurate to the tabletop game, but meh. I can accept the trade when it involves STOMPING FACES in power armor. And there’s a jump pack. Which is also far too much fun.

The demo gives the player access to four ranged weapons (bolt pistol, bolter, sniper rifle, grenade launcher) and two melee weapons (chainsword and power axe). The full game will have even more weapons in addition to other Chapter skins. Gameplay is a straight up action shooter. There is no cover mechanic like in Gears of War—instead we’re back to the oldschool “stand behind stuff if you don’t want to get shot” method of not getting hit. Even better is killing everything that’s trying to kill you, which you can do either by shooting it in the face or by hacking it apart with a very fluid melee system.

While you’re shooting and stabbing and slashing things, you may want to mix in a few stun attacks. These stun enemies, allowing you to perform an execution. Executions are graphic and satisfying killing moves (and there are multiple animations), and restore a portion of your health for each one. You also have access to a fury mode. A gauge fills up as you mete out destruction, and once it fills you can press a key to fire off a mode wherein you regenerate lost health at a highly accelerated rate and do a whole lot more damage—at least, with melee attacks. In fury mode normal enemies die in one hit. I found no health packs or any such thing in the demo, and it appears that executions and fury mode are the only ways to regain health. Except when the game sometimes give health back between encounters. It should also be noted that you can still take damage in both execution animations and fury mode, and die as a result. So you can’t just go forth and mindlessly execute and fury everything in sight.

The jump pack, for which there is a short level in the demo, is just as much fun as everything else. It’s use is simple—press the space bar to trigger it, aim with your mouse, and click mouse 2 to do a very satisfying and brutal ground smash. This can be used to both gain extra horizontal distance from a jump and send packs of enemies flying. And you don’t have to gain a whole lot of air before you slam down, either; a simple hop will do. Hopping from one group of enemies to another seems to be a viable tactic, and any enemies that aren’t killed outright will be briefly stunned and set up for an execution. The jump pack level took away everything by my bolters and melee weapon; I don’t know if this will be par for the course, but it wasn’t much of an issue.

Graphically, Space Marine is quit pretty. It looks suitably dystopian for the crapsack universe of Warhammer 40000, though distant vistas don’t always have a whole lot of detail. Animations are fluid and really impart a sense of violence and power. And the sound—both voice acting and sound effects—get the job done. I don’t actually recall anything about the music, though that could be because I was too enthralled with the action to care, or because it’s entirely forgettable. I’m not honestly sure which.

Really, everyone who likes shooters owes it to themselves to check out this demo. It’s up on Steam, so there’s no excuse for not trying it. Additionally, I recorded playthroughs of the two demo levels with a running commentary. You can find them at my youtube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/EmeraldSuzaku.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with this blog moving forward. I’m toying with the idea of recording some Let’s Plays in the future, and I think a blog as a counterpoint to the videos. Additionally, I still like writing about my experiences with various backlog-related things, and not all of that would work as well in a video—either because the content is just not suitable, or because I don’t have the means to record it.

That said, if I do decide to continue with the blogging, I may or may not continue on this blog. I am undecided if it would be better to relaunch on this blog or start fresh on an entirely new one. The fact that I’m not exactly swimming in followers would certainly make it a simple affair to pick up and move. And speaking of moving, I’m actually doing that myself over the course of the next few weeks, so whatever I end up doing won’t be happening until mid-September at the earliest. Though, it would be cool to have things sorted out by this thing’s two-year anniversary. We’ll see. There’s time.

 

Fallout – Part II: Now We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 2161 October 29, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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I restarted with a new character—Samson Webb. His SPECIAL pool looks like 4-7-6-4-7-8-4. I picked the One Hander and Skilled bonuses, and tagged Small Guns, Energy Weapons, and Repair. I have no idea why I didn’t grab Speech. That was retarded. I may restart yet again to fix that….

This time I went straight to Shady Sands, and didn’t run into any random encounters. Chatted up Katrina and Seth again. Didn’t catch the thing about the raiders to the southeast, and the broken elevator in Vault 15 before. Good to know. Also got VATS working. Which is awesome.

I nabbed a Survival manual from a bookcase in the house just west of the town entrance. I knows wilderness survival! Woohoo! I also ran into Razlo and his wife, who appear to offer healing. But only during the daytime. They just want to rest on their feet at night. Weirdos.

Seeing as how Shady Sands has its own irrigation, maybe I should just pack everyone up and move them here instead of trekking across all creation looking for a water chip. Sure, the brahmin apparently stink, but meh. I’m sure the Vaulters aren’t exactly spring-fresh either. Especially without fresh water.

I had a conversation with Ian, and he filled me in more about the rad scorpions and the bandit groups that periodically raid the place. He was also kind enough to provide directions to the Hub and Junktown. Though, he wasn’t nice enough to join me without me having to cough up $100. I knew I should have taken speech.

Aradesh’s cook gave me some tasty eats, so I decided to help the bossman with his rad scorpion problem. I’m thinking the food was probably laced with something, since I didn’t even ask for a reward. Razlo wants some of their venom, though, so I might be able to get something useful out of him. I’d really like to pick up Ian if I’m going to be tangling with rad scorpions, but the stingy bastard wants cash I don’t have. Schmuck. That’s right up there with the outhouse I can’t use.

I ended up going after the rad scorpions alone. And promptly about crapped my jumpsuit when one wandered out from the cover of a wall to have at me. Turns out they can double attack, and it hurts. Poison doesn’t help, either. Luckily a few well-placed shots to its brain took care of it well enough for me to grab its tail and run. Sadly, it managed to make me blow a stimpack, and also poison me before I could take it down. Radscorpions: the gift that keeps on giving. Sidenote: missing multiple times on an 87% hit chance is silly.

I beat feet the hell out of the caves and went back to see Razlo. I gave him the tail, and he formulated an antidote. He wouldn’t cure my poison when asked, so he probably wanted me to use the thing he made. Which I didn’t want to do. He was also overcharging (in my opinon) for healing, so I spent a bit resting up to full health and wellness.

And that’s where we left it. There will be no mention of the time I accidentally bartered my spare knife away for free….

Fallout — Part I: The Vault-Dweller With No Name October 28, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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Since I don’t have New Vegas, and the chances of me getting it in the next month are fairly slim, I decided to go back to the beginning. Not all the way back, since I also don’t have Wasteland, but back to the beginning of the Fallout series. Steam has a pack of Fallouts 1, 2, and Tactics for $19.99. Can’t go wrong with that!

After I snagged the pack, I quickly downloaded the first two games while I finished up Costume Quest. At under 600 MB each it went pretty quickly. Then I tried to run them, and the nightmare began. It turns out that Fallout 1 and 2 do not play well with Windows 7. This particular dislike was realized in a whole mess of rainbow-colored pixels everywhere—even in the FMVs. Tweaking the file compatibility settings didn’t do anything useful, so I was forced to turn to that ephemeral oracle in the sky, Doctor Google.

I ran across several “fixes” for this issue—anything from hacking the ddraw.ini file to running the game in the Windows XP virtual machine to launching the game with the desktop resolution window open. The ddraw.ini hacking actually did fix the rainbow corruption, but caused another issue: oozing artifacts all over the FMVs. So that was out. A bit more searching took me to No Mutants Allowed, which has a whole host of patches and fixes, official and otherwise. I snagged the unofficial 1.2 and 1.3 patches for Fallout 1, and the hi-res packs for Fallout 1 and Fallout 2.

The hi-res packs are awesome. Among other things, they implement a new submenu in the options screen that lets you set your resolution, and switch between 8-bit and 16-bit color mode. Toggling over to 16-bit fixed all the graphical issues I’d seen. I also played with resolutions. 1920×1080 (the same as my monitor) zoomed everything way out. While it was cool seeing more or less the entire map without having to really scroll, everything was a bit too small for my tastes. I dropped it back to 1280×720 and hit a nice medium of viewable map area and sprite size. I set Fallout 2 up the same way, with the same awesome results.

Once I finally got the game running to my satisfaction, I created a character. I am a man with no name. Not the awesome one played by Clint Eastwood, but the one generated by a retarded player who forgot to set a character name. I decided that I wanted to go with a gunslinger type of character, so I pumped points into Agility, Intelligence, and one or two other things that I forgot to write down. I tagged Small Guns, Energy Weapons, and Repair, and I nabbed the Small Frame and One Hander options. I’m still undecided as to whether or not I want to dump Small Frame for Bloody Mess. I might go remake the character, give him a proper name, and change that. It’s not like I got terribly far in the game, as will soon become apparent.

With my nameless character created, I began the game. I’m greeted by a large face with a large mouth telling me that the Vault needs a water control chip to ensure its survival. And somehow I am the only one who can retrieve it. I suspect the old dude is just jealous because he actually has a name. He is not a unique butterfly like me. Whatever the reason, he kicks me out of the vault into a cave where I’m surrounded by rats and bones. Bastard.

The first thing I did was crank the difficulty up for both game and battle. I haven’t played a Fallout game on anything higher than the normal difficulty before, so this should be interesting. I realize Fallout 1 can be a rather brutal game even on normal difficulty, but I’m on an adventure! Lower difficulties are for losers, and people with names, it seems.

Since this is an RPG, and I’m surrounded by rats, I did what any self-respecting adventurer would do. I slaughtered them all. I have decided that in this world, there is no PETA. Consequently, the shift in difficulty was immediately noticeable. The rats died much harder than they did on normal difficulty, and the bit a tad harder as well. I was using a knife the whole time (hey, I’m not about to waste precious ammo on rodents! Especially if they’re not even unusually-sized!), but I’m starting to wonder just how long my ammo will hold out once I start running into things I need to shoot. I did snag another knife and some other ammo off the skeleton by the vault entrance, though. I doubt he’ll be getting much use out of it.

After the Great Rat Hunt was complete, I made for the cave entrance and the world map. Yay, daylight! Now it’s time to hoof it to Vault 15. It can’t be that far, right? I did get into an encounter with a pair of mole rats along the way. They didn’t hurt terribly much—usually hitting for just 1-2 points of damage an attack—but they apparently have quite a few hit points. Apparently with unusual size comes unusual health pools. I kited them with my pistol for a bit, which kept one of them off me for a few rounds. Once they both caught up, I made judicious use of weapon swapping to shoot and stab them every round. Once the first one went down I noticed that the damage the pistol was doing wasn’t that much more than my knife, and I could stab more than I could shoot anyway (3AP as opposed to 5), so I stuck with knifing the bugger. He went the way of his buddy and life was grand. I do miss VATS. I thought I recalled it existing in F1, but I can’t get it to trigger. I’ll be trying that out more tonight.

My irradiated critter sacrifice complete, I continued my journey to Vault 15. I accidentally passed a town before I could stop the autotravel, but I ended up running into a group of fellow travelers who were going that way, and I just hitched a ride with them. It cost a day, but they were such nice chaps that I couldn’t refuse. A day later we arrived at Shady Sands.

I was immediately told to holster my weapons, so I did. I mean, with a name like Shady Sands, what sorts of trouble could I possibly run into? It sounds like a perfectly blissful retirement community. I chatted with the guards at the gate, who were quite welcoming. They keep pointing me in the direction of the village leader, which means I should probably go poke him. Katrina mentioned that Vault 15 was attacked. This may not bode terribly well for my quest. Oh, and I have the option of visiting the radscorpion caves. I am totally not doing that right now. I don’t like normal scorpions as it is; irradiated ones give me the willies. Not that I’m likely going to really have a choice. It is a quest, after all. And I am nothing if not a sucker for quests.

I talked to a few peasants wandering around, who basically told me to get lost. Crotchety old bags. Apparently this is not nearly as nice of a retirement community as I thought. Note to self: ship old dude from Vault 13 here when I get back. I’m sure he’ll fit right in. I wonder if they have Jell-O Fridays?

And that’s as far as I got. The technical issues ate up most of my evening, so I didn’t get a lot of time to play. I did try to pop into the Steam overlay to take the notes for this, but the overlay didn’t work. I’m not sure if the issue is with the game, or with Steam. I’ll have to do more checking. I did find the help screen, however (F1). That was totally accidental, though not unappreciated.

I’m sure the next entry will be chock full of old people, violence, irradiated wildlife, and me screaming like a girl. Not necessarily in that order.

Tsukihime – Part II: We’ve Got Your Psychotic Dysfunction Right Here! October 25, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Commentary, Video Games.
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So. Tsukihime is done. Completely. All the endings, and all those pesky CGs. Everything. And I’m tired. It was fun and amusing, and the characters kept getting more and more interesting as I went down more of their paths, but I’m rather glad it’s over. There are just so many scenes rehashing the same things over and over again, with just one or two small things that are different, and thus are not technically previously viewed. So the game doesn’t skip them. Even the same scenes in multiple paths get this treatment. Ick.

While it was fun unraveling all the mysteries, I have to say. The main character, Shiki, is pretty much an asshole. Everyone else at least had some interesting reasons for being crazy in the head, but Shiki is just a jerkass. But, hey, I guess when you have the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, rape is love or something. And always remember, the only thing that matters is what you want. Never anyone else. Unless you don’t want to pilot the Eva. In which case, suck it up and do it anyway. And then bang the girl whether she wants you to or not. So, yeah. I pretty much liked all the characters except for Shiki. Even Yumizuka, which is a little hard for me to swallow.

As far as the story goes, it was pretty spiffy how the last couple of characters really wrapped everything up. They even filled in some stuff from the main story, even though they didn’t deal with any of those characters. Pretty cool. It was a very solid way to do multiple characters. In retrospect, I probably really shouldn’t have played through the whole thing like I did. It likely would have been better to space out playthroughs between other games, but meh. After Akiha I thought I would be able to knock out the rest of the game fairly quickly, which was totally not the case. Even though the last two paths technically had less scenes than the rest of the characters, they ended up being some really long scenes.

The only hang up I had was that after I had finished everything, I was still four CG images short of a full gallery. A couple of them were really quick to get, but I ended up stuck on one I was missing from Arcueid’s gallery (page 1, image 6). It turns out that it’s automatic on Arc’s path if one has near max affection at one point. Which I didn’t either when I went through it originally or when I went back poking all the options to try and get the last image. The weird thing about the CGs is that some of a character’s CGs show up in another character’s path, and it varies as to which character’s gallery they are placed in. Sometimes they end up with the character who’s path unlocked them, and sometimes they end up with the character depicted in the CG. Which is what made finding the stragglers interesting. At least it’s easy to tell if it’s an h-scene CG or not by where it is in the list.

Overall, Tsukihime was a good experience. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to try out the visual novel genre. The story and characters were engaging, even if Shiki got on my nerves. As one delves deeper, it becomes more and more apparent that everyone is really messed up in their own special way before eventually wrapping it all up at the end. Which was really cool. Any game that can still give me wow moments after that much play time and story iteration (and revelation!) is pretty special in my book.

I had originally planned to move onto the stuff on the PLUS+ Disc and Kagetsu Tohya when I finished Tsukihime, but for now I need a crazy departure from visual novels in general. Even Atelier Annie is not looking very appetizing at the moment. I’m sure something will tickle my fancy at some point this week. Right now I’m trying very hard to not buy Fallout: New Vegas. And I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably.

Tsukihime – Part I: Blood, Boobs, and Vampires October 22, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Commentary, Video Games.
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As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been spending a large chunk of time with Tsukihime lately. Partly because I’m enjoying the break from conventional games, and partly because it’s easy to play through while watching football. Oh, and it also has a decent story.

The plot is fairly straightforward—at least, initially. You take the role of the main character, Tohno Shiki, who is returning home for the first time in 8 years after being fostered by another family. The head of the Tohno family has died and named Shiki’s sister, Akiha, the successor. It is she who invited Shiki home. At the same time, there have been a series of nighttime attacks around town, and the media is talking about a “vampire killer.” Which is a mystery you’ll unravel as the game progresses. There are other secrets—every major character is hiding something, it seems—and those become clear as you progress through the different paths.

When I talk to people about Tsukihime, I usually get one of three responses:

  1. “Isn’t that a porn game?”
  2. “Didn’t that spawn Melty Blood or something?”
  3. “Tsuki-what? The hell is that?”

The answers to the first two are “sort of” and “yes” respectively. Tsukihime is an eroge (erotic game), but unlike most hentai games that is not the focus. In fact, the time spent with the hentai scenes is but a (very) small fraction of overall play time. With one exception on two of the routes, you only run into them in an interlude towards the end of the game.

Tsukihime tells a story on two different levels. First, and the most obvious, is the overall plot of the game. The first time you play through the game, you have no choice but to go through this. But just playing the game once will not answer all the questions the game raises—that’s where the character stories come in. As you play through the game, you are not only unraveling the larger plot, but you are also getting to better know the game’s main cast. The choices you make affect your affection level with the female cast, and dictate which path you take through game.

There are five main characters, each with their own path. These paths are further divided into the Near Side and Far Side routes. The Near Side route consists of Arcueid’s and Ciel’s stories, and must be completed once before the other three paths—those belonging to Akiha, Hisui, and Kohaku—become available. The Near Side route follows the game’s main plot, though each individual path provides different information on the characters, and grants a bit of a different perspective as to what’s going on. The Far Side route keeps things closer to home, and focuses on the Tohno family itself and the three girls at the mansion.

The writing is decent enough, even if it has nothing on actual novels, and the game definitely keeps an edge of suspense throughout. Much of this is dulled by the time you’re on your third playthrough, but even once you know what’s going on there is still an air of drama to the story, as there is seemingly always another mystery to unravel. And it is these mysteries that keep me coming back, even after I’ve seen the same bit of story from three other angles already. Until you’ve finished all the routes, there are still things to uncover.

Naturally, Tsukihime is designed to be played multiple times. To aid this, there is an option to auto-skip scenes that you have previously viewed. While this is an excellent option when you have to run through part of a path multiple times to get to a different branch, the game can be somewhat annoying as to what it views as the same scene. If you have a scene that takes place after a path split, but is in both paths, viewing one does not let you auto skip the other—even when the scene plays out the same way. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this happens quite a bit over the course of the game. Luckily, there is also a fast forward key, as well as a key that displays an entire page of text at once.

When it comes to actually taking different branches, you do have the option of loading up a previous save and simply making a different choice. The game allows you to save anywhere, and has 20 save slots, so this is a viable option. And once you’ve cleared a scene, or gotten a particular ending, it stays recorded even if you reload to a previous point. So you don’t necessarily have to replay the entire game just for a minor branch.

This is good because there are a lot of branches within paths. Four of the five characters have two endings. Kohaku only has one. Which of a character’s endings you receive depends on the final choice you make on their route, so you can just reload that save after seeing one ending to see and get credit for the other as well. Arcueid requires you to have cleared the game once to get the choice to her “Good” ending, so if you’re doing her first, you’ll have to reload a couple choices back after getting her “True” ending. The rest of the characters do not have that requirement.

Thus far I’ve cleared Arcueid’s, Ciel’s, and Akiha’s paths. I’m currently working on Hisui’s. I did Arcueid first, and her True Ending appears to be the canon ending to the game—especially looking at Melty Blood. Her character development is probably the most natural in the game that I’ve seen so far, perhaps tied only by Ciel. But that’s probably only because Akiha’s felt a bit forced. I’ll have to see what happens with Hisui and Kohaku.

I will say that I have been quite happy with the way that the mysteries surrounding the characters have been set up and resolved, though—especially across paths. Ciel, for example, shows up in a bunch of paths. Like, all of them, as near as I can tell. I was introduced to her in Arcueid’s path, and there were some questions generated about her that were never answered. Then I pop on over to her path, and get the answers. And then I play through Akiha’s path and get a few more answers about Ciel. Which was pretty cool. It’s nice to continue learning about certain characters outside their own paths.

The one thing I did have an issue with was an inconsistency in character art for a particular (non-Ciel) character that shows up across multiple paths. The Near Side art is drawn one way, but the Far Side art gives the character a totally different look. It’s a bit awkward. There are also some odd continuity questions as to why certain things do or do not happen on certain paths, but those are relatively minor, and don’t really get too much in the way of getting into a character path.

All in all, Tsukihime is a decent game with a pretty good story. If you find yourself wanting to try out the visual novel genre, want to see what the heck is up with those crazy Melty Blood characters, or are just looking for a change of pace, check it out. Mirror Moon has translated the entire thing, and done a bang-up job on it. I highly recommend their excellent patch. Not only did they fully translate the game, but they also have an option to disable the erotic scenes, if those aren’t your thing. The game certainly stands on its own without them, so they’re entirely optional.

Now, back to affectionizing some maids….

The Return of the Lazy Backlogging Bum October 22, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Anime, Blog-along, Video Games.
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So. Here we are. I am officially a lazy bum. What happened these last months, you ask? A couple of things. For one, I got distracted by a couple of non-backlog-related projects. And then when I did start playing again, I ended up spending all my time playing and not typing up blog posts. Bad, evil, naughty me.

But I’m back! For what it’s worth.

Let’s see…progress….

Dragon Age Origins is done. I started up a Nightmare game with a female human noble rogue, but am still in Ostagar on that. Haven’t touched the game in a while. I did play through the Return to Ostagar DLC on my mage, but I haven’t picked up the Awakenings DLC yet. I should probably do that at some point before DAO2 comes out.

I still have a few trophies to nab on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, but that game is just about all done. I think I’m just down to a couple of challenge missions and finishing up the boost collection.

I think I’ve touched Demon’s Souls once since my last blog entry on it. It’s at the point where I pretty much need to start over, I think. Or at least replay some parts with my current character to get back into the swing of things. I did watch a speed run of it, though, and was rather amused.

Star Ocean: First Departure has likewise been on the back burner. Mostly because I got bored being so bloody powerful. I’ll probably restart it and refrain from being awesome at Art next time around.

I haven’t touched Metal Gear Solid or Valkyria Chronicles in forever, and I don’t even remember where I am in them anymore.

Okay, enough about how much I suck. I did manage to actually beat some games and finish some anime these last months, even though I didn’t mention it on here. The list of games I’ve taken care of in 2010 is currently thus (as best as I can recall):

SNES
Dragon Quest I
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

PS2
Ar Tonelico : Melody of Elemia
Final Fantasy X International

PS3
Assassins Creed II (+ first DLC)

Bayonetta
Final Fantasy XIII
God of War (God of War Collection)
God of War II (God of War Collection)
God of War III
Heavy Rain
Resistance: Fall of Man
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

PC
Dragon Age: Origins (+DLC)

Mass Effect (+DLC)

Mass Effect 2 (+some DLC, but not Shadow Broker)
Plants vs. Zombies

Tsukihime
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

PSP
God of War: Chains of Olympus

I think that’s fairly accurate. I’m still going through Tsukihime to finish off all the character routes, and I started up Atelier Annie. Oh, and Final Fantasy XI and XIV. Not that I’ve done much with either in recent weeks. And I started up Xenosaga again in an attempt to get through all three games.

As far as anime goes, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Gundam OO were my most memorable watches, and I very much enjoyed both. Black Lagoon was so-so. I’m slowly working through Golion, at like an episode per month. That is quite a slow series.

And I think that puts us back on track. The next update will likely be on Tsukihime later this afternoon. Like, as soon as I type it up. Which I’ll start doing after I post this. I also have a backlog-related project in the wings that I might start on next week. If that happens, I’ll be posting more details then.

For those (few) interested, my current video game backlog looks like this:

http://www.backloggery.com/suzaku

Sadly, it’s actually a tad bigger than that, though the sense of scale is about the same. I haven’t updated it as quickly as I’ve been pulling games from Steam sales >_>

Until next time (which I hope will be matter of minutes or hours, rather than months)!

Dragon Age: Origins – Part III: Keep on Rockin’ November 20, 2009

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Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I didn’t do too much more in Dragon Age over the last couple of evenings. I ended up getting sidetracked by some miniature painting videos. I did, however, knock out both DLC areas.

I started with Warden’s Keep, since that one so conveniently began in camp. After making my way through the mountains to Soldier’s Peak, I was greeted with lots and lots of demonic stuffs. Which I promptly made all fall down. The dungeon itself was fairly short and linear. I killed the several waves of stuff outside, then proceeded inside to mop up. There were a couple of NPCs to chat with inside the keep. The first, Sophia, wanted nothing more to go out into the world and in exchange would close the rift that kept pumping evil nasty things into the keep. The only problem with this plan was that Sophia herself was inhabited by one of the aforementioned demonic presences. So I splatted her. It turns out she had some nifty armor, which Alistair is now wearing.

Moving on, I found a jar of some blood-like substance on a table in a random room, and was offered the chance to drink it. Since it wasn’t technically being offered by strangers (there were none around), I did and was awarded two new abilities, both involving cutting myself. Now it’s like I’m a ghetto blood mage! Though, the ability to cut myself and get mana back alone is worthwhile, with the other ability allowing me to cut myself and hurt that enemy over there. So fairly nifty all around.

I ran across Avernus a few rooms on. It turns out he was the other person responsible for unleashing the bad juju into the keep. We had a pleasant conversation, sealed the portals, and I let him live. I also told him to keep pursuing his research, which rather peeved Wynne. Not that I noticed any appreciable drop in affection from her for that. He said he’d send for me when he made more discoveries, but I have no idea if that will actually happen or not.

Completing Soldier’s Peak unlocked a couple of fairly pointless shops, and the very much not pointless storage box. I really wish that the box would appear in camp, but I suppose I can keep coming back to the Peak periodically if I really have to.

Next up was the Stone Prisoner DLC. This was also rather short. I arrived in the village and had to kill a bunch of darkspawn. I found Shale doing his best imitation of a scarecrow, tried to wake him up, and failed miserably. You just can’t trust merchants these days, can you?

I found the one house that had a glowing door when I held the Tab key and went inside. There were, of course, more things to kill inside. What would a quest be without a constant stream of enemies, anyway? I fought my way to the basement (cellar?) where there were actually survivors. I chatted with the man whose house it was, and it turned out his daughter ran off. Of course she did. So I had to follow in her wake. I got to the end where she was entranced by a demonic cat. It reminded me of my college days, actually. Anyway, I wasn’t taking any of the demon’s crap, so it infested the girl and forced me to kill it. Well, damn. There was nothing to be done about it but go back to the guy in the cellar and tell him his daughter was dead. He gave me the correct phrase to awaken the golem in the center of town, which I did.

Shale was an interesting creature. Apparently the control rod didn’t work anymore. Amusing. But he agreed to come with me in any case. He’s currently sitting in camp unused. Which is probably a shame, but I’ve come this far with my groupies, so I may as well finish it off.

After finishing the DLC I decided to head to Orzammar. I didn’t get terribly far in, but I did get a girl permission to study with the Circle of Mages, caught a few Nugs, and told a guy that he couldn’t start a Chantry in Orzammar. I picked up a couple more quests, but haven’t started on them yet. When next I play I’ll probably see if I can gain entry to the two contenders’ houses in the Diamond district, then see what there is to be seen in Dust Town.

And in closing, an interesting note about Arcane Warriors. If there’s a piece of armor that gives bonus stamina and stamina generation, when an Arcane Warrior wears it replace the word “stamina” with “mana.” Cool, huh? When you find armor that gives +25 or +50 stamina…watch out! On a random note, my mage is wearing Superior Dragonbone Plate, Alistair is wearing the armor Sophia dropped, and the Juggernaut set is sitting in the storage chest at Soldier’s Peak.

Dragon Age: Origins – Part II: Gathering the Clans November 16, 2009

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Whoo-boy. It was a busy weekend. In Ferelden, that is. I pretty much did nothing but laundry, some badly needed cleaning, and Dragon Age. Have I mentioned lately how good this game is? This game is good.

Let’s see. I cleared Redcliffe, including all the questing that involved, recruited the mages, and I cleared the Elves. You know, come to think of it, that doesn’t really sound like much. It’s funny, really. The game is so much fun, and really sucked me in, but there is so much to each segment that when I look back, it feels like I didn’t really get anywhere compared to the amount of time I spent.  I tried to figure out what was causing them to take so long, and I realized…I can easily spend 30+ minutes just talking to NPCs in a location. Since it feels like I’m actually having something of a conversation with them, I don’t even notice the time fly by. And then there’s the length of the dungeons. With all the encounters and occasional NPC interaction mixed in, those take hours. Plural. And of course that’s not counting the various party interactions and sidequests. Like sexing up Morrigan. Oh, you wild witch, you.

So, where to start. At the beginning, I suppose. That would make the most sense.

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, there was a massive battle, the Grey Wardens were all but annihilated, and we had been saved by a rather questionable witch of the wilds. Who gave us her daughter. Sweet. First stop, Lothering.

For a such a small town, there sure is a lot to do here. After dispatching the bandits (toll collectors…suuuuure….) , I checked out the town. Half the place was filled with refugees, and the other half wasn’t terribly happy about it. The first Chantry board of the game was here, which turned out to be an excellent source of income throughout the game. I picked up Leliana, a rogue, and she is still a staple in my preferred party. Her affinity for opening things people would prefer to keep locked has been very helpful—and has the added benefit of free party experience. Win/win! I initially started to stress the archer route with her, but then I had a change of heart (mostly because she couldn’t keep her nose out of melee combat) and refocused her into a basic rogue with a touch of dual-wielding. I also came across a caged gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor, and I just couldn’t pass up the chance to free him and take him into my service. Of course, as it turned out, pretty much everything I did pissed Sten off, so I replaced him at the earliest opportunity…some hours later. So I did some questing, ran around the Chantry, recruited a couple of party members, and drove off roving bands of bandits, bears, and spiders. All for the greater good and pocket change, you understand. After I was finished in Lothering, I decided that my next step should be Redcliffe. Oh, boy.

The events surrounding Redcliffe are a rather lengthy series of quests, and the fact that I elected to head there first added another whole thing. But more on that later. The people in Redcliffe seemed rather cranky, but then so would you if you were subject to undead invasion every night. The first step was to recruit a handful of villagers to defeat the undead horde (and a horde they were). That was easily accomplished with some promises and spare silver. Then the actual undead incursion started. It consisted of fighting off two waves of enemies. (Unless, of course, you leave the village after starting to gather the villagers, but before initiating the defense. In which case it happens without you. That was actually cool. Then I reloaded.) The first wave wasn’t too bad, but the second prompted me to switch the game over to Easy difficulty. It turns out that it is indeed very possible to horribly screw up spell and weapon selection as a mage. I ended up not being able to do jack to the undead critters. Luckily the easier difficulty fixed that. The village defense was followed shortly by a castle assault of my own, which went pretty well. Things got a bit hairy in the courtyard when I had to fight a revenant and a horde of archers and other undead baddies, but I pulled through.

It was interesting to see that Jowan poisoned the arl. I wonder who it is in the other origins…maybe some character specific to each of them? I released him from his cage (much to Alistair’s disapproval). When given the choice, I decided not to attack the boy, or kill Isolde and enter the Fade that way, much as that latter offer was tempting. Instead I went to the Circle to ask for help. Which brings us to…

…the Circle of Magi event(s). Redcliffe got to be put on hold for a while so I could spend a day dealing with that freaking place. I did get Wynne early on (buh-bye, Sten!), and then proceeded to fight my way up the tower. Not much of any remark happened until near the top, but the sheer amount of papers and notes I came across that relayed the plot was awesome. I eventually reached the Sloth demon (who didn’t even make mention that we had met earlier. Shame on him! Unless he was a different Sloth demon. Possible, I suppose.)  The Fade portion was both ludicrously fun and a royal pain in my arse. Not playing with a walkthrough, I didn’t do the areas in anything resembling the “proper” order, so the golem was the last form I got. It was really cool morphing into different spirits to navigate my way and defeat the various bosses and such, but all the backtracking was horribly annoying. The whole thing culminated in a boss fight that started me thinking that maybe I wasn’t doing it right, as the demon kept changing forms, but I finally got it down. Though, not until after realizing just how awesome massive AoE spells would be in my hands.

So,  a couple of hours later I was out of the Fade and was able to finish the tower. Despite all pleas to the contrary I did not in fact kill everything in the Harrowing chamber, tempted as I might have been. Nor did I succumb to Uldred’s temptations, even though I thought it may unlock the Blood Mage specialization. No , I played the white knight and killed all the bad guys while leaving the innocents standing. Then I traipsed on down to the first floor and secured assistance for Redcliffe. Yay.

Before I left I also ran through the summoning rituals in the library and the common room upstairs. I don’t recall if I got anything nifty out of them, but the quests were done. The statue puzzle in the common room(s) was particularly arcane.

So, back to Redcliffe. Using the lyrium from the mages I popped into the Fade and rescued Connor. I was very tempted to trade the kid’s soul for the Blood Mage specialization, but I declined. Now I’m kicking myself, but whatever. I’ll pick it up for Morrigan next time around or something.

Of course, the arl still needed saving, so queue yet another (lengthy) quest chain. This one sent me seeking an urn of dead lady ashes. After a brief pit stop at Denerim for information, I was off to the village of Haven, which appeared to be a set piece for Siren or something. Very spooky, and the bloody altar didn’t help. I ended up having to battle my way through a bunch of cultists until I reached the revered father running the thing, who in turn tried to convince me that they weren’t all bad. Leliana wasn’t having any of it, so I killed the bastard. What can I say? The boobs made me do it. One NPC rescue later I was on my way to a huge temple where the ashes were supposed to be. Several hours, another failed coercion attempt, and some drake scales later I reached the peak of the mountain. Wow, is that ever a big dragon. Dang. I’ll have to come back to that. The “Gauntlet,” as the structure at the top of the mountain was called, beckoned me, so I had a nice spot of tea with the guardian inside. Then I went forth to be tested, which was fun. I like the rhyming riddles in this game. They amuse me. The one sticking point was a bridge puzzle, but after drawing the whole thing out on a piece of paper it started making sense and passing that section was made simple. I made it to the end and claimed the urn. Yay. On the way out I swatted the dragon kicking around and skinned it.

I made it back to Redcliffe with minor incident, but I also picked up a new party member. Zevran (which makes me think of Zathras every time) is an amusing fellow, but not very useful at picking locks, which meant that Leliana was staying. Sorry, buddy. In the end the arl was cured, and Jowan was packed off to the Circle. Yay, and stuff. Now the arl wants an escort to Denerim. I think I’ll do the Elves next, actually. Thanks, anyway.

The Dalish clan, much like the Circle Tower, was comprised of two main adventuring areas—the forest, and some old ruins. Also much like the Circle Tower, it took for-freaking-ever. But this time there were werewolves. Which made it cool. After the usual NPC interrogations I wandered into the forest, disturbed some revenants for their armor, returned an acorn to a giant tree who sounded like an ent from Lord of the Rings, and found some werewolves holed up in some ruins. Naturally I wanted to root them out. I fought my way through the wolves at the front gate and proceeded with an absolutely enormous dungeon crawl. Literally every time I thought I’d reached the end, there was another floor. But I did get the Arcane Warrior specialization out of the deal, so it wasn’t all bad. In the end I sided with the cute nekkid spirit chick, there was a shiny lightshow, people died, and the curse was lifted. The Dalish were free to join the alliance. Yay!

That was pretty much all the plot I went through over the weekend. I did do some other sidequesty stuff—mostly Chanters boards and random bits for the Irregulars. I did also get two sets of drakescale armor, as well as Superior Dragonbone Plate. Morrigan has been “slept” with (anyone else find it odd that she actually put a bra on just for that occasion? Does she carry one in her purse just in the event of sex? Is it a magical witch condom?), Leliana is up to a bit over 90 affection, Alistair is in the 70s or 80s, and everyone else is meh. Wynne is a bit friendly, but my tryst with Morrigan pissed her off a bit so she periodically disapproves.

Speaking of Wynne, keeping her around opened up a series of plot points that were really quite cool. And got me something spiffy. Also, her interactions with Alistair when I’m just wandering (or anyone’s interactions with Alistair, really) are absolutely hilarious (it’s a sock)!

At the moment I have the humans, elves, and mages behind me, a bit over 100 gold in the bank, and 100 inventory slots. My next step will either be Orzammar or Denerim. Probably Orzammar. I’ve put in something over 35 hours at this point, and I don’t see finishing in less than another 10-15 or more. I’m thinking this is easily a 60-hour game. I do still have some sidequests hanging out there, but only time will tell how many I actually do. I’m not doing the assassination ones by choice, and at this point I’m taking the rest as the opportunities present themselves. We shall see.

Dragon Age: Origins – Part I: A Tale of Two Versions November 13, 2009

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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I know I haven’t updated in a while, but I went on an extensive sidetrack away from game-related things. While I did fiddle around with some games for a bit, I didn’t really accomplish anything. I knocked out some levels in Scribblenauts, got to Silvalant in Star Ocean, and went pretty much nowhere in Demon’s Souls.  Oh, and I made more progress on Ultimate Alliance 2, now that the new DLC is out. But that will be its own post.

But the real purpose of this post is to discuss Dragon Age: Origins. I had pre-ordered the PS3 collector’s edition from Amazon months ago, and it finally arrived this week. After a fairly lengthy round of installing and inputting content codes, I was taking my first plunge into the world of Ferelden.

Or not. In reality, I spent the next long time in the character creator. It is a very, very sexy thing. I’ve only spent that much time in a character creator once twice before—in Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes. Putting some serious time into designing a character in an offline game is a somewhat new experience for me. I was amazed at the various options and depth of customization. And the kicker is that you can only actually customize your character’s face (and hairstyle, voice, and portrait, but meh). There’s no body customization. It’s an interesting choice, but probably for the best. I’d likely still be sitting there if body customization was available.

I ended up creating an Elven mage (typical, I know—but this one was really based off of my WoW character, so….) and running through that origin story. The origin section alone took several hours, and had a lot of dialogue trees. The dialogue in Dragon Age is amazingly well-acted, and the lips sync up well with it. It’s a small thing, but it helps bring the characters to life. And even early on there are some interesting lines you can pick. There is some odd shadowing and shimmering on character models during conversations on the PS3, but nothing major. Movement and conversation work well.

And then there’s combat. Combat works well enough if one is soloing (which is the case for the first couple of dungeons in the origin), but the interface really starts to get clunky when the combats get larger, as I found out in the third dungeon of the origin. By that time I had a cone of fire that I could spew, and would have killed my compatriots several times over had I been playing on a difficulty higher than normal. The limitation of only having 6 abilities hotkeyed at quickly becomes an issue, as well as only being able to pause combat by opening up the radial menu. The game is screaming for tactical combat, which the PS3 version does not deliver. It’s fun for what it does, but it’s easy to see that the designers had more in mind.

The menu interface also leaves something to be desired on the console. In order to compare equipment in your inventory with equipment that you’re wearing, you have to highlight the equipment and hit a button. This brings up two big boxes with equipment details, covering pretty much all the screen. You can scroll through your inventory in this view, but you can’t actually see what you’re doing. It’s mildly annoying. The codex interface is a bit more annoying. The quests and codex entries are just linear lists that take a lot of scrolling to get through. It’s also easy to close a section you wanted open, and to open a section you want closed on accident. Overall, the menu system, like the battle interface, is functional but not optimal.

I did make it up to the Tower of Ishar in Ostagar in my first evening. I had planned to make the ascent and light the beacon last night. Despite interface annoyances, the game really dragged me in. Three hours passed unnoticed, followed by a couple more. Dragon Age really is addictive.

But wait, there’s more!

After airing my grievances with the PS3 version with a couple of friends who own the PC version, I looked into that version more in-depth. It appeared that none of the issues I had with the PS3 version were present in the PC release, and the interface was actually *gasp* intuitive! After much hemming and hawing, I decided to but the PC version. I installed it (15+GB? WTF!) and quickly recreated my character. The PC version has a couple more sliders in the character creation area, including the ability to tweak the character portrait’s expression. Nothing major, but cool nonetheless.

I had to run through the origin again, but it really wasn’t as tedious as I thought it might be. Even running the same content again a day later, the game was still totally engrossing. I think part of that may have been the actually logical and intuitive interface this time around. The quick pause feature alone is worth it. The tweakable camera angles are also great. There are a few more tutorial tips in the PC version because of the new interface, but nothing major.

The interface isn’t the only place the PC version differs from the PS3 release, however. The loot appears to be different in the PC version (and a bit less to boot). Running through the Harrowing went quickly enough. The dialogue options were exactly the same, and the controls were easier to use (duh).

I popped out of the Harrowing, and ran around the tower with no hint of the framerate hiccups present in the PS3 version. Yay! Though, in my explorations I noticed that bookcases no longer sparkle like chests and crates if they have loot. That is very good to know. Some other things also fail to sparkle, so it pays to be more observant in this version, as well. With the mouse and camera control, though, it’s really pretty simple. Things that you can poke still glow blue when you mouse over them.

My next real eye-opener was the spider-infested store-room tunnels. Now, I am running the game at maxed-out graphical settings, but DAMN does this place look good. Total night and day versus the console. Once again, navigation was simple, auto-pausing upon entering combat was great, as was the occasional manual pause. This (mini) dungeon was much more fun this time around. I was in and out in no time.

A couple of quick conversations later and I was on to the third and final (and only *real*) dungeon of the origin. This was where the game slapped me upside the head and informed me that I was an utter fool if I thought the difficulty level would be the same as the PS3 version. That is very much not the case. The PC version is *harder*. Not because of any interface clunkiness, but because the enemies seem a little smarter, hit harder, etc. And later on, there are more of them. I was much more involved in combat this time around, and I got this overwhelming feeling that this was how the Baldurs Gate and KotOR games *should* have been. It was incredible. Combat was fast, frantic, and just plain awesome.

I plowed through the dungeon without much of a problem, came out, had my conversations, watched a couple cutscenes, and joined the Grey Wardens. I did pick a couple of different dialogue options this time through just to see, but nothing really affected anything. Which, since I don’t have any real party members yet, makes sense.

Onward to Ostagar! I tore through the dialogue, and found a quest that I hadn’t run across previously—a guy captured for desertion had a key to a shiny cool chest, but wanted me to get him some food and water before he’d trade it to me. I could have tried to kill him outright, but I decided I wasn’t playing that kind of character this time around. Because I screwed up with my skill allocation I hadn’t picked up a level in Coercion, and I failed to get him his food. Oops. I guess I’ll see about trying that quest next time around with a rogue.

My trek through the woods went well enough, though I did have to reload once. It turns out that in the PC version, letting yourself get sidetracked while the other three members of the party deal with a mob of enemies will start getting people killed. Who’da thunk? Did I mention that the PC version is harder? With more enemies? Yep, this is where it really starts to show. I cleared through the woods well enough, this time conspicuously avoiding the old Grey Warden ruins until I’d finished up my other quests out here. After getting all the side stuff done I went along, met Morrigan and her mother, and returned to camp. Though, not before sprinkling some ashes on some rocks and awakening a demon and having to dispose of it. Yep, something else I hadn’t found last time through. Spiffy.

Like before, I came, I saw, I Joined. The war council was the same, with the same sinking feeling that Loghain was going to turn tail when the beacon was lit. The cutscene of the beginning of the battle once again gave me flashbacks to Lord of the Rings (might have been the totally awesome music), but this time was much prettier. I fought my way to the tower (sustainable abilities, like frost weapon, really can suck up the mana) and went inside.

And promptly got rocked. Repeatedly.

This was the point where the game told me it was serious. That it had shown me how to play and now expected me to put up or shut up. It flattened me. Several times. This was where I learned that just because I had a healing spell didn’t mean that it was actually going to do the job all by itself. I ended up mowing down health packs like a starving denizen of a third-world country, and that finally got me through. The next several rooms were a tad easier, though no less intense, and then I got to another big room, this time with a ballista close by. That I could use. It was awesome. By the end  I was pretty much bowling for party members, but meh. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I discovered on the PS3 that even with friendly fire off, cone of cold would still freeze allies even if it didn’t damage them. I suppose the knockdown from the ballista would be no different. So I kept firing the bugger with the occasional break to life drain the baddie shooting at me and using health packs on the rest of my team.

I tried to cautiously go room by room, but apparently enemies in this game can open doors, so I was pretty much up against 6+ guys at once at a minimum. But it’s all good. There were many mana-giving corpses on the ground—thankfully all the enemy’s.

When I reached the top of the tower and saw my opponent, my first thought was “wow, that’s a badass looking monster” followed quickly by “he is *so* going to eat me.” He did have a lot of health, and he hit really hard. I ended up not being able to keep the rest of my guys up, usually because he was picking one up and squeezing them repeatedly—which not only hurt them, but also denied them actions so they couldn’t health pack when my heal spell was down. Of particular interest to me, however, was that some of his attacks were manually dodgeable. He’d start to throw a really big rock, and I could run out of the way. He’d charge, and I could dodge. I used this to great effect after he’d broken my other three party members, and managed to take him down with a sliver of health left on my main character. Talk about a tight battle! I love this game.

After the epic boss battle I lit the beacon, watched the cutscene, went “Ah-hah! Called it!” at Loghain’s part in it, and promptly got pincushioned with arrows and landed on my ass. I woke up at Morrigan’s hut, had a lively chat with her and her mother, and am now ready to go to town (literally and figuratively).

And that’s where I stopped for the night. I can’t wait to continue my adventure this evening.