Saturday, December 31, 2011

I've got something in my eye, that's all.

Skyrim did indeed end two nights ago. I killed the last guy, took took ever the world, was a prince among dragons. I was the head of the thieves guild, leader of the companions, listener for the dark brotherhood, and the arch-mage at the mages academy (in spite of using a grand total of three spells). I had escaped from jail, stolen just about everything, committed murder in full daylight and walked away clean because I was the thane of almost everything hold. Thousands of men and women of every race and size had met death by my bows, some of them deserved it, many of them didn't and I just needed the coin. I had faked my way through bards college, released hideous deadra upon the world and hoarded their weapons the the chest of an unfurnished house.

For just eighty hours I lived in the world. It was a comfort to return to it after sojourns into other games. When it was finished, at least when the last main quest was done, I returned to my lair in Whiterun, dropped off the last load of weapons I did not need but not one could afford to buy from me, and I wandered around the town. I went back to the tree in the center of Whiterun that I help resurrect. It was still there, proof that for the right amount of coin even I could do good. The companions' hideout was still there, probably wondering why their leader never moved into his bedroom. It was home, but it was time to move on.

The last thing I did was sit down on the bench in front of my house at simply watch the people walk by. I had done right by all of them, saving the world by traveling into the afterlife to kill the eater of worlds and all, but I had also broken into most of their homes to relieved them of their gold to fund this venture. It became clear that just didn't want to turn the thing off, because I knew it would the last time for quite a while. Only Red Dead Revolved had made me feel this way before.

But, as the title of the blog makes clear, there is always something new to be played. Good or bad, every game deserves to have some look it over, perk under its hood and poke fun at its short comings. Goodbye Skyrim, you will be missed, until Tamriel demands more of money anyway.

...

A bit of follow up of my tooth related bitching from a few days, Yesterday was my first round of sedation dentistry. There is so much to be done that it will be easier to know me the fuck out and take care of it all at once.


I took three pills at 11:00 AM. At 11:40 AM I walked into the garage and then I woke up in my bed at 4:00 AM this morning. In my head there was nothing between these events, but in actuality I had been driven to dentist, had a crown and several cavities taken care of, been wheeled on in a chair, pissed myself at least once, crawled up the stairs, and then back to sleep. I don't recommend it, but it was still better than getting drilled for crown.

...

Thanks for link, Chance! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's like a dragon water slide

Skyrim is now in the final downhill run towards the main quests conclusion, though if everything else I have done is any indication there could still be ten plus hours of game play left. I was worried that doing the actual story last would lead to a lot of backtracking, but so far it has not. Each location has been new and just far enough away from places that I could quick travel to that some walking was still involved. Traveling oftentimes brings about shenanigans, like last night when I quick traveled to a meeting location only to find my two companions getting their asses kicked by a platoon or foresworn and a dragon. It was funny enough for me to hide in a bush and watch it all go down, coming out just in time to land the final hit on the dragon and swallow his soul.

On the down side I have stumbled across a deadric quest that would have been much better to find earlier. Part of the quest is killing one of each kind of elf (and orc, just for good measure), but it refuses to give me credit for the hundreds of things I have killed up to this point. I could probably swab off the used arrows in my quiver and take care of most of it. Instead I would have to revisit areas, searching for a high elf that I can kill without bringing an entire hold down on my head. After almost eighty hours I am comfortable walking away from a quest or two. It will give me something to do in the inevitable expansions.

...

A final bit of gaming injustice regarding Rayman Origins. Playfire tracks how rare your achievements are. Apparently finding all the hidden lum cages and defeating the hidden boss are exceptionally rare. Gaming world, gamers as a whole, I am ashamed of you. A pox on the community for not buying the shit out of this game.

...that was a little harsh, as I didn't actually purchase it myself. So shame on me, as well.

...

One last thing. Even though the Skyrim journal faded quickly it was a good idea, mostly because it was a theme to get me posting more regularly. December was an anemic month, both in post quality and content, and if this experiment is to be continued I need to do better. What I need to do (but do not 'resolve' to do, because resolutions are dumb) is write more reviews, regardless of how new or old the game I am playing is. Looking through my old archive from Saving Progress I wrote a few gems and more than a few stinkers, but I think that was the right format for me: five or six paragraphs, less about the mechanics and minutia of the game and more about how it made me feel and if it was any fun or not. Doing this will actually require losing some gaming time (or sleep), but I think it will be worth it.

And if they are terrible, tell me, I will go back to bitching about how expensive oral renovations are.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Now I'm all pissy and poor

Oh my, what was that feeling? The feeling of getting significantly poorer for a non-game related reason? As amusing as eating a salad made up of $4500 in ground up bills sounds, trust me, it blows. At the very least I will be unconscious for the two procedures, but then I think about how much beer I could buy for that price, and how much more fun using that to render myself unconscious would be, and letting every rotten bit of tooth fall out of my face seems like viable option. Who needs teeth when you can drink your meals?

It's such a racket, too. A crown costs $1000. I could buy a pretty good TV for that. What am going to get for that $1000 instead? A bit of molded porcelain that no one will ever see and relief from constant, agonizing pain. And the worst part of it is that after all this money is spent and all of this nonsense is fixed there is precisely zero chance that I wont be in the same god damn chair in six more months with at least a cavity or two to repair. This financial embarrassment is the culmination of years of neglect, but had I actually been a good boy and been drilled every six months the net total would be about the same. Dentists are right up the with chiropractors.

It's bull shit, I tell you. Dentures would be preferable to this. I would be able to better floss between by teeth if I could remove them from my head to get a better angle at them. As it is now (and if I actually did it) it requires Cirque Du Soleil caliber contortions to take care of these things. Why can't we be like sharks and just let the things fall out, only to grow brand new ones behind them?

$4500. God damn. And I was thinking about buying a Vita.

And some new speakers.

And then rolling around in the rest, wallowing in my own crapulence.

Instead I get a monthly 'fuck you' bill to go along with all the rest.

Now I'm much too upset to talk about how shallow of an experience Rage is. See what going to/not going to the dentist gets you? Teeth suck.

 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Please, don't end

It is with some trepidation that I started on the final missions of Skyrim. The main four guilds are done; thieves guild was by far the best and the mages college the least best. It was difficult to define when the thieves and dark brotherhood sections were over, as the game will keep generating missions for you after the scripted ones are done. According the achievements there is something left for me to accomplish with the thieves guild, but it requires do around thirty or so of the generic quests (which just means I will get to it later). The bards college quests are done, I sided with the storm cloaks and have kicked the empire out of large sections of the country. There are surely more deadric quests to be done, if I could find them. And still, after 70+ hours of play, I run across a cave I haven't explored every time I turn the damn thing on.

This is the greatest triumph of Skyrim over Oblivion. After a short time I stopped spelunking random caves in Oblivion because they were mostly the same. In Skyrim they are all different, and a good chunk of them have a quest to do inside. Even the ones that don't are still interesting enough to clear. Even though my character has pretty much stopped leveling, hasn't changed armor or weapons in months, and has no need for more gold, I still go through them, just because I want to see them. This is no longer stabbing mobs to acquire phat loot to stab more mobs, it is a quest for visual loot. I am doing things just because doing them is fun.

It doesn't hurt that I almost never die anymore. I just need to remember to not get so close to dragons; it doesn't matter how many hitpoints you have or how good your armor is when you fit neatly inside of the monster's mouth.

...

Rage is a strange thing. It certainly looks gorgeous, and the driving is surprisingly good, but it has no soul. It doesn't even try to tell a story or build sympathy for the main character. He does things with no motivation other than being told to do them. Literally, he wake up after a hundred or so years of cryo-storage, some weirdoes try to kill him, he is saved from a guy who desperately wants to start in the new Mad Max movie, and you then run errands for the guy. Incredibly violent errands, which is better, but still: you are his bitch for no good reason.

This is a game engine, nothing more. A tech demo to show more talented developers what can be done, and just enough to tide us over until Doom 4 comes out.

Actually, Serious Sam 3 should be what tides us over until Doom 4 comes out, I just keep hoping it shows up on the Steam sale.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thumb blistering classic (and more terribleness)

Rayman Origins got one more thing exactly right before it was done: the balls hard hidden final level. Collecting enough of the magic whats-its to actually get it was not that bad, but my god was it a punishing several areas to get through. There were no more things to collect, just a series of one hit death areas with forced scrolling. Oh, and everything kills you. Everything. Had this been a normal level I might have complained a bit, but I worked hard for this pain. I earned it, and I was going to get to the end regardless of how long it took.

That last level took me almost an hour and a half, but it was worth it. Not for the achievement (which I do enjoy, mind you), but because it was some of the purest platforming I have played in years, and it was not afraid o kick your ass at the same time it was begging you to keep going. None of the floaty, build your own level bullshit that Little Big Planet shat out, none of the over forgiving level design of New Super Mario Bros, just raw platforming goodness.

And the last boss? Genius.



This is an absolute gem, folks, please play it.

...

I am having a really hard time coming up with the worst game I played this year. Sanctum of Slime was bad because it wasted an excellent license and made several poor decisions. Bloodstone was bad, and it killed (more or less) a studio that I liked. But the worst?

Let's look at metacritic...

Fist of the North Start comes in at 59. Tron: Evolution is just slightly worse at a 58. Duke Nukem Forever pulled down a 49, though I really didn't think it was that bad, just a little embarrassing to play. Sanctum of Slime is a 45, so I was exactly right about that one. Let's see, Mindjack at a 43, now we are getting somewhere.

Oh my. Venetica is at the bottom with a 42, and if Playfire is to be believed, almost no one played it (side note, don't sign up for Playfire, it spams your entire friends list with invites). I don't remember it being that bad, but then again the human mind tends to block out traumatic memories, which puts playing Venetica in the same company as a botched root canal and breaking an arm. At least both of those left me with a good story to tell.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Worst of the year #2 (and odd, high pitched singing)

Bloodstone makes the top three not just because it was a terrible game. It certainly was, leveraging the worst of two disparate genres into a nearly perfect storm of boring shooting and frustrating driving, but that is certainly not the limit of its offenses. It was also the swan song of a developer who had made very few mistakes up to that point, only be done in by two questionable releases in a row. Bizarre Creations has some excellent titles under it name, Geometry Wars and Project Gotham Racing chief among them, so I don't understand exactly what they were thinking with Blur and Bloodstone. Blur was necessarily bad, but it had the same feel as a licensed kart racer, something that the world would survive just fine without. I didn't get it, it wasn't fun, but I supposed with the right people with the appropriate amount of alcohol it could ruin friendships just as well as Mario Kart and that damned blue shell.

Bloodstone, though, was just bad. Perhaps someone at Bizarre Creations owed someone else a big favor and was coerced into creating it. Maybe they saw the racing market getting further cornered by Forza and decided to make a break for the door. Regardless, it is the last game on it resume, and certainly not the kind of thing that helps get ex-employees a new job.

And yes, I know that Bloodstone came out in 2010, but I got around to playing it earlier this year. It didn't age well.

...

Part of me is not happy about Rayman Origins pulling a Mega Man and having be revisit previous worlds in the end-game. It would be worse if the levels were not all new, but they have the same themes as last time, so as good as they look it is getting a little old. I think I am almost done now; my thumbs will be thankful for the rest, as levels are getting much more  difficult as I go along. Simply surviving is not enough, you have to get from one end to the other and collect as many lums as you can and find the two hidden areas in order to have enough of the games currency to make sure everything in the next area is unlocked. I have not had to revisit any levels yet, as the old platforming skills came back pretty quickly, but I have a sinking feeling that I will find myself locked out of a few things because I have no interest in returning to old levels for speed runs. As good as the controls are, I barely survived them the first time around, now I am supposed to go back and do it again, only faster? No thanks.

Remember my comment about the music? Listen to this, all of it, and no cheating:


I am not sure if I love this or hate it. I find myself sinking into the relaxed groove of it, then can't help but wonder what the hell I am listening to.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cleaning up; worst of the year 3

Please note that the change of my Now Playing picture does not actually mean that I am done playing Skyrim. On the contrary, I am always playing Skyrim, every other day at least. At around sixty five hours I have just about wrapped up the dark brotherhood quest line (it was not nearly as good as its Oblivion counterpart) and am ready to move on the joining the Stormcloaks and taking a crack at the mages guild. By the time I get to the main quest I predict that I will be around level 50 and able to one shot giants. The fact that most enemies do not level with you does make returning to old areas and destroying things that once gave you trouble fun, but I hope that I this cake walk does not include the main quest.

Who am I kidding, I killed the final boss in Oblivion with two arrows, a record I am looking to beat this time around.

...

Rayman Origins is, to be blunt, brilliant. It looks like I am playing a high definition Saturday morning cartoon, controls better than any side scrolling platformer I have played in two console generations, hits all the major level tropes and does them better than Nintendo has done in years, throws in a few bits reminiscent of 'Spolosion Man for good measure (and to keep you honest because the are damn hard) and it is an absolute shame that it has yet to crack 500,000 in sales. I have no idea how much this cost Ubisoft to produce, but I have my doubts that a puny 500k will generate enough scratch to fund a second game.

The only complaint that I can come with is the sound which crosses the line between cure and ear puncturingly annoying just a little too often. But hey, it's French, so it makes sense that it mixes in a little annoyance to temper the awesomeness.

...

I will collect these into one post later, but game one of my worst of the year goes to Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime. There are quite a few things to complain about here, but I am going to focus on something that actually prevented me from finishing the game. Sanctum of Slime was designed as a four player cooperative game. This it and of itself is not a problem, as more and more games these days have the audacity to encourage the player to interact with actual people (not in person, thank goodness). Most games throw a bone to the lonely by rebalancing things for one person or making the AI that controls the human-less toons smart enough to get the job done. For example, Gear of War 3 did a reasonable job keep the computer controlled members of my squad out of my way during the action and close enough to raise me when I got careless and had my torso separated from the rest of my body. My experience was not lessened because I prefer to play games by myself.



Sanctum of Slime, through either ignorance or incompetence, does none of this. If you are unlucky enough to play by yourself no adjustments are made to either the number or difficulty of ghosts to bust. On top of that the companion AI is idiotic. They aren't just suicidal, they are completely oblivious to your needs as well. If and when they do notice that the actual player, the person who paid cash money for game, is in trouble they will walk in a straight line to help, usually getting killed in the process. Sanctum of Slime is worse than just a waste of a license. It is willfully awful it its own right, and has earned the number three spot in my worst of the year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

So lazy. So, so lazy.

It's my own fault, but I am beginning to lose interest in my own blog. Topics are more difficult to come up with. Good ideas fall by the wayside because I lack the skill/patience/dedication to make them work. I haven't written an actual review in forever. It comes down to two things. First of all, when I have free time I want to play games, not talk about playing games (and work as of late has not afforded me the necessary slacking time to blog). Secondly, no one is making do it and there is no feedback (direct or implied) so I have little incentive to continue.

I am also extraordinarily lazy, and that certainly doesn't help things.

What I don't want is for the blog to mirror my relationship with Street Fighter, in which I am the abused spouse returning to the abuser time and again because this go around will be better, I'm sure. This is supposed to be a creative outlet, but I have lacked the creativity to make it more the a silent sounding bored for petty complaints and quirky one offs of questionable quality. There may not a solution, this may be the best I am capable of producing, but there is one last thing that compels me to return to this place.

As a person who enjoys playing and talking about games I am profoundly lonely. When I ran a game store I had a built in audience who appreciated what I liked and could dish it out just as well as I could give it. People would come to my place just because I knew what the hell I was talking about. Now, in the filthy 'professional' world, the subjects of note are football and golf and how to not get fat, none of which I care very much about. This blog (and to a much lesser extent, the PA forums) are the best replacement I can find, so I am hesitant to walk away from them despite my limited participation and readership. But when I look back at things I wrote and say out loud 'what the hell is his problem' before remembering that I am that guy I really wonder if it is worth the time.

...

Sometime over Christmas I will pick the worst of the worst for this year. As bad as X-Men Destiny was, it's not even in the running for the bottom three.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Letting go of an old friend

Silicon Knights - the old friend who did one or two cool things and nothing since, but instead of trying to recapture that fleeting moment of greatness all he does is talk about the old times and be generally obnoxious and pathetic.

You first met Mr. Silicon Knights when he put out the very first Blood Omen, home to of the greatest villains/heroes in a game series that has yet to get a worthy finale (from any game company). The he will never admit it, you think that Kain's voice came first and his character came second, but that doesn't matter. Yes, Blood Omen was just a Zelda clone, right down to the annoying over world map and backtracking with newly gained weapons, but it was grimdark before it was fashionable to be grimdark. The series left Silicon Knights long enough to produce some stellar titles and a few terrible ones, including that whiny bitch Raziel, and it never came back. This was not the highlight of his career, but it was certainly an unexpected early success, the very thing that haughty beatniks point to when they says that they knew about before they were cool (and before they weren't cool again).

It took six years for Silicon Knights to put something out again. Sure, he said that he was working on something, that it was supposed to be on one piece of hardware and then there was a generational leap and they had to start over, but you never believed them. Then out of nowhere he drops Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube, of all things, and no one quite believes that he did it. Eternal Darkness would be in rare company regardless of quality, being a third part exclusive title on a Nintendo platform, but it being excellent from top to  bottom brought up even more questions. 'You did this all by yourself?' you remember asking him over beers one night. He just smiled an nodded, noting that it was only going to get better from here. Almost immediately people began to scream for a sequel, something that he promised (and has been promising) for years and never got around to doing. Years later he admitted that he had caught lightning in a bottle and did not think he would be able to do it again.

Still on the Gamecube, he released a remake of Metal Gear Solid two years later. It was generally well received, but there was more than a little help from Konami; Kojima's spies were everywhere. It only took two years to do and it kept his name in the spotlight, so Silicon Knights did not complain. He took the money and poured it all into a game that he swore was going to be his masterpiece. This was a game, just like Eternal Darkness, that had it origins on older hardware. He swore that the next generation of hardware would finally have what it takes to bring his vision to life. So you waited, along with everyone else, for him to get this out of system to he could make the game that everyone actually wanted.

Four years latter Too Human came out. Silicon Knights put it out with all the hoopla it could muster, but the game itself just wasn't very good. It was clear that it was intended to be a loot heavy action RPG, but the combat itself wasn't very fun, and while parts of it looked very good other areas were so ugly that you wondered if bit from the previous versions were just literally dumped over to save time. The reception seemed to surprise Silicon Knights, and he spent far too much time refuting poor reviews and the poorer retail reception. 'You have no idea how good this is, just play it for a little longer' he would say. No one did. 'Don't you remember me, I did Eternal Darkness! If you buy this I will have the money to make another one of those!'

Still, no one did, and Silicon Knights never recovered.

You didn't see him for several years, and when you did here from him it was a short note reminding you of all the good times you had had it the past (with no mention of Too Human). It was kind of pathetic, really, but there was no way to help him. Silicon Knights had become almost delusional, to the point where he thought taking on an X-Men licensed project seemed like a good idea. 'It has a built in audience!' one of his last emails said, 'and I will put in all the cool shit that all the other cool RPG's have! There will be choices that affect the plot, choices about powers, you will be up to your ears to choices!'

The game came out and no one noticed, not that they should have. You played through it out of courtesy to an old friend, but even you could not sugar coat your reaction. It was terrible, and it was your job to tell him so. That may have been the last straw, and you doubt you will see Mr. Silicon Knights again. After your firm but harsh reaction he just walked away, head hung low. You could see that he knew it was terrible and was just hoping you didn't notice. It's for the best, you tell yourself, his time is past.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Still manly

The simmering homosexual tension between Dom and Marcus has been the butt of many jokes and I freely admit to making more than a few myself. They are just so manly and close that it's hard to not imagine how well they know the ins and outs of each others armor. When the world is ending you get it where you can. After poking fun, though, I always admitted that I liked Marcus and Dom; they might not be the deepest of characters, but they are likable, and I have seen them go through some pretty terrible things. Dom finally finding his wife alive (more or less), then shooting her out of mercy was an unexpected emotional moment in what could have been a mindless shooter.

I knew that there was going to be something similar in Gears of War 3, but it still got me right here when Dom sacrifices himself to save the rest of the unit. And if that wasn't enough, for the first time in three games Marcus' eyes opened to a bit wider than a squint. He was no longer an emotionless hard ass bent on the destruction of another species. For a few moments he wild eyed with panic, willing to throw himself into a literal inferno to pull out the remains of his friend. It was amazingly well handled and frankly a devastating moment. It was also not the end of Marcus' torment, as his father turns to ask in his hands after saving the world/killing all the locust and lambent everywhere. When the game is finally finished Marcus walks past the cheering crowds of the (few) surviving humans, sheds his armor, and sits by himself on the beach, wondering what to do next. Yes, the world is saved, but now what?

Gears of War 3 is not the first game to use the annihilation of an entire species as a plot point. Killzone 3 did, but it chickened out at the very end and kept the bad guys alive. The ending of Gears sees all the locust everywhere being killed. It also manages to make them the victim, as Marcus' father was in contact with them years before their initial attack and was tasked with taking care of the lambent problem. He failed, the locust attacked out of desperation, then kidnapped him to keep working on his weapon. There is never an explanation as to why the locust queen was human, which I would have liked, nor do any humans show any remorse for destruction of all the locust. I suppose this in understandable, as even though the locust had to leave their tunnels they did not need to do so with such enthusiasm.

My off hand statement from last week, putting Gears ahead of Halo in the realm of exclusive shooters, stands. They are better single player games, which all I really care about.

...

The King of Fighters XIII experiment is on. When the connection is good it is almost as good as Street Fighter. When it is bad it is really, really bad. Matchmaking is broken, as the filters make no difference. I set things up to only allow invites from people with four bar connections and then went into arcade mode. The first invite I received was from some Alaskan bastard's basement over a cell phone connection. It was unplayable, so I have decided to avoid that completely and play only with people I know. The game itself feels like an odd mix of Street Fighter and Marvel. Spacing and footsies are important, though much more jump heavy and Street Fighter, and success can be had with simple hit confirms and short jump in combos. On the other hand there are also massive execution heavy combos that require all your meters, all your time to learn, and all the you fingers to do. I know I shouldn't worry about those, but damn if they don't look pretty.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The hideous list

I cannot in good faith do a best of the year post, and not because it is only December 9th. There are far to many top tier games that I have yet to play this year. Batman comes to mind, as does Uncharted 3, and Rage, and Dead Island, and Assassins Creed. In short, there is a distinct possibility that I have not played the best that 2011 has to offer...

Lies, I am playing Skyrim right now, and will be for the foreseeable future, but the point stands. What I can do is look over the long and ugly list of what I did play this year and pick the three worst games. This will not be easy, as I play just about anything, but I think it will be a good exercise to look back over the wasted hours of this past year and pick out the worst of the worst. Perhaps I will be so embarrassed by my poor choices that my queue will be slimmer next year and I will take time to not be terrible at Street Fighter and pick up the new King of Fighters.

And I am going to stop drinking and work out regularly, too.

So here it is, in chronological order, the list of shame:

Castlevania: Legacy of Shadow
Fable III
Call of Duty Black Ops
Fallout: New Vegas
DJ Hero 2
Spider-Man: Dimensions
Hydrophobia
Enslaved
Fist of the North Star
Star Wars Force Unleashed II
007: Blood Stone
Hard Corps:  Uprising
Splatterhouse
Saw 2
Tron: Evolution
Dead Space 2
Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll
You Don't Know Jack
Marvel vs Capcom 3
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime
ArcaniA - Gothic 4
Lego Star Wars III
Two Worlds II
Homefront
Outland
Dragon Age II
Killzone 3
Bulletstorm
Crysis 2
Mortal Kombat
Red Faction Armageddon
Child of Eden
Duke Nukem Forever
F.E.A.R. 3
Magic 2012
Mindjack
Venetica
Hunted: Demon's Forge
Portal 2
Ms. Splosion Man
Kill Team
L.A. Noire
Dungeon Siege III
Lego Pirates
Knights Contract
Infamous 2
El Shaddai
Rock of Ages
Shadows of the Damned
Street Fighter III: Online Edition
Alice: Madness Returns
No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise
Crimson Alliance
Call of Jurez: The Cartel
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon
The First Templar
Transformers 3
Trackmania 2
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
DiRT 3
Catherine
Space Marine
Bastion
The Cursed Crusade
Battlefield 3
Bodycount
Otomedius X
Resistance 3
Renegade Ops
Lord of the Rings: War in the North
Gears of War 3
Skyrim

Good lord, that quite a list. Before the end of the year the new Rayman will make it in, and King of Fighters XIII will be purchased sometime this weekend (because I hate myself). Look at all those hours. Almost all of them have been played to some level of completion, with the exception of Gears of War 3 which I will finish tonight and Skyrim which will probably never end.

I am not sure to be proud or embarrassed.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Skyrim Journal #6

Dragon encounters are becoming much more frequent, and I have become familiar enough with their tactics that only the most powerful give me any trouble, at least when they come at me one at a time. Just yesterday I spotted a green one in the distance sporadically diving at the group, probably roasting sheep and the shepherds for a meal. The green dragons are little more than bears with wings; a few unexpected shots from behind is all it takes to knock them out of the sky. I chased him for quite some time, waiting for him to get tired of torturing whatever it was chasing and settle in for a meal. When that didn't happen by arrogance finally overcame my patience and attacked it head on. The thing was so surprised by something not running away that it reared back from my first shot, made a hard right and crashed into a cliff that forgot was there.


The climb to finish the poor, stupid dragon off would have been bad enough, but he crashed directly into a blue dragons nest. Blue ones are must nastier than green, as their cold breath makes aiming a bow incredibly difficult. He actually put up a good fight in spite of the direct hit he took from his lesser cousin. I don't enjoy fighting dragons, but they seem to be attracted to me, and the treasure they leave behind, both monetary and soul based, makes them more than worth trouble.


This was not a dragon hunting trip, just a little side benefit to an errand I was running for the thieves guild in Riften. They recruited me almost as I arrived in town. It was not my reputation that they knew, I just looked the part and they were desperate for help. In was only after I joined their little band that I learned of their staunch no killing policy and that they had been slowly declining in power for many years. Still, they lacked the annoying machismo that the companions prided themselves on, so it was easier to deal with their little rules. To the contrary, emptying a house of all its valuables without murdering the inhabitants was quite a challenge. They certainly made it more difficult on themselves than they needed to.


Riften itself was corrupt to the very core, and it had nothing to do with the thieves guild that made its home in her sewers. The entire city was run by one family; even the jarl answered to them, so it was no surprise when I was sent on missions directly for the ruling house. One of my favorites was a the rather underhanded task of poisoning a competing ale producer's wares. Not enough to kill anyone, mind you, but more than enough to make everyone who consumed it terribly uncomfortable. I found the results much funnier than I should have and must remember the exact kind and dose of poison that I was told to use. It could definitely come in handy.


Shortly after receiving the blessing of the family that actually ran Riften and the guild I was made aware of the true plight of the thieves: their leader had been murdered by one of their own, and on top of that the deadric goddess Nocturne, who supplied every thief with their luck, had turned her back on them. No one bothered to explain why, they just tasked the newest thief in their midst with figuring out how to fix it. I should have seen the setup coming, it was as clear and painful as the poisoned arrow that nearly killed me a few days later. Of course there was a double cross coming, the new leader of the guild had killed the old, framed another, and over the passing years had emptied the uncrackable vault of all it held.


And he was,of course, the one who had angered Nocturne. 


I don't know why I fall into these things, as it is almost the exact same series of events that I was pulled into with the companions, only that time I ended up as a werewolf, and now my soul supposedly belongs to Nocturne after I die. The jokes on her, I will be called to the hunting grounds, if you believe in that sort of thing, before she can get her hands on me. Either way, I don't plan on dying any time soon, so they both have a long wait ahead of them.


After being indoctrinated into another secret organization we tracked down the old leader of the thieves. He was trying to land one last job and then disappear, a job that took him deep underground into a fulmer breeding ground. The first few didn't put up a fight, but the deeper we went the more powerful they became, eventually slinging spells equal to those I had seen above ground. When we finally killed the traitor and retrieved what he stole from Nocturne we were farther underground than I had ever been. With his dying gasp he set off a trap that began to flood the chamber, killing all the fulmer below and threatening to drown us as well. As the water rose it snuffed the torches first, hiding possible exists behind foam and darkness. I will admit to panicking when the cave filled to the top in spite of my mask allowing me to breath under water. I don't remember who or what I killed to get it, but it was certainly worth it.


The weight of the water broke down a cave wall and we were sucked out into an underground river as quickly as it filled. I was told that I needed to return what was a stolen, a skeleton key that can open any lock, to Nocturne if the thieves guild was to get its luck back. It sounds like a children's story to me, though I have seen more than my share of things that I cannot explain since arriving in Skyrim. I will most likely return it, but that does not mean I will not use it for a few things before accomplishing the task. There is very little any of them or their gods can do to me at this point. At the risk of my arrogance once again surpassing my abilities, there is very little that they could do to me if the tried.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A break from the excitement (with more excitement)

One third of the way through December and I ma finally playing one of this years big(er) games that I have missed: Gears of War 3. There is not much to be said; it is more of the same, tough it lacks the overbearing machismo that the first 2 brought to the table. According to Cliffy B it is because they have had a different writer each time, but I like to think that Haze set to bar so high for amusing grunts and shouts that they didn't bother trying to top it. It also might have something to do with the entire goddamn world being destroyed and the remaining humans huddling together on a salvaged aircraft carrier. The impending doom or your species can be a bit of a downer, I suppose.

After the first few levels I was worried that the new lambents were all I was going to get to kill. They blow up real nice, but their frenzied style just isn't as much fun to fight as the locust. During the second act, when the refugee locust ambushed me from an outpost that once been occupied by humans, complete with their gutteral chuckling and bad aim, it made me very happy. When the boomers showed up with a new weapon, screaming 'DIG' instead of 'BOOM' it made me even happier. And when their snipers started one shotting me from across the map I remembered that Gears was not all fun and games, it was a brutal experience that will punish simple mistakes with quick and grotesque death. I had forgotten how much I missed it.

The locust are being portrayed in an almost sympathetic manner, as at the end of the second game Fenix flooded their entire world. They are in the same boat as the humans, now, cast offs wandering the world that they helped destroy, plagued by the lambent. I supposed that there will be more explanation to come, as Fenix's father is *gasp* alive and the bulk of the game will be spent getting to wherever he is, but I do not think it is necessary. They seem to be trying to create the same kind of dense sub-narrative that Halo has, but the difference is Halo needed it and Gears tells you everything you need to know through what you do, not what you are told.

...

I have done so much in Skyrim and there is still so much to do. The companions missions are done and I am working on the thieves guild, though going through the bards college side quests also took a fair amount of time. I need to come up with another journal entry, but Leven has been just going through the motions lately. He keeps stealing everything that isn't nailed down but he has nothing to spend it on. His abilities have stagnated, with bow and sneak in the high nineties, and since he doesn't do much else new levels will be few and far between. Even his armor stopped changing; I have been using the same bow for around twenty hours of game play. I suppose that is the danger of a game with this large of a scope: sometime things just stop happening.

It might help if I did something from the main quest once in a while, but fuck that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Apologies

I feel like I should apologize for not delivering on my Skyrim idea. I really want to point something 'in character' after everything time I play, but sometimes nothing happens. It is so easy to start walking in one direction and literally looses several hours to random caves. That's one excuse, and another is how tremendously shitty things have been at work recently. For example:

Customer: I have this problem!

Me: not sure how to fix it, let me get back to you.

Person who should know: not sure how to fix that, but I am not going to show any urgency in helping. In fact, I am going to blow it off.

Me: Fuck you. Now I don't get to sleep because I cannot turn off my brain when I am worried about something.

Skyirm (and War in the North, for that matter) have been escapes even more so than usual. They have been places to hide, if for only a few hours. It has been a long weekend of wasted time, company christmas party and all, and I do not think I have the energy to do much of anything tonight. I should play Skyrim, or start Gears of War 3, or *shudder* that awful X-Men RPG is ready to go as well. Instead I am going to sit here and watch NEC, hoping that everything is magically better when I go to work tomorrow.

It wont be.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A job is a job

So, there are other games out there right now besides Skyrim, it's just that none of them are as good.

For example, I am trying to take every other day off and keep working on the backlog, as November has tripled its size. I am usually successful, but then people start talking about how awesome King of Fighter XIII is and I begin to break out in a sweat. I have to work, I have to eat, I have other family related obligations, how in the world am I going to pick up another fighting game to be bad at? It may or may not happen; I played a little of XII and the netcode was ass, though there have been many assurances that this one is better. At only $50 it is tempting...

I am also trying to work by way through Lord of the Rings: War in the North and am happy to say that it is nowhere near as bad as some of the reviews will lead you to believe. It is just a loot dropping hack and slash game very much in the vein of Dark Alliance (but from the wrong perspective. Isometric for life, yo!) Enemies to grow in power at roughly the rate your equipment does, and the special moves are rather plain, but it plays the Lord of the Rings fan service card rather well for not being attached to a movie. I enjoyed wandering around Lothlorien talking to members of the fellowship before they started out, and Bilbo sitting alone on a bench, writing everything down so he doesn't forget them as he swiftly ages, was just a little touching. (I could have down without the Legolas cameo, but what are you going to do).

The voices were off and the a few of the faces were terrible, but I get what they were trying to do. They couldn't inject new characters into the Lord of the Rings story proper, so they created another conflict in the same general area. It works, and it just engaging enough to keep me from thinking about just how many times I have mashed the X button over the last few hours. Reminds me of the short time I attempted to play Marvel, hiyo!

Of course it is not as good as Skyrim, and it does indeed occupy some of the same mental space, to the point that I started worrying my armor degrading while I was fighting a dragon last night, but it is not a bad distraction. Skyrim is almost a job. A good job, to be sure, one that includes thieving and murder and intrigue and dragons, but a job none the less. So many people what my attention that I tend to pick a direction and wonder off, spelunking and looting until I can relax again.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Skyrim Journal #5

I am beginning to wonder if my activities in Skyrim are attracting the exact wrong kind of intention. It is bad enough that a Dark Brotherhood assassin somehow managed to find me in the middle of nowhere. He must have been an initiate, as I could smell him coming before I could hear him, and when he finally made his move he found two flaming arrows in his chest. The assassin was not the part that bothered be; the contract in his pocket was much more troublesome. From what I understand, once a contract has been paid for the Dark Brotherhood does not fail, so I can look forward to a parade of assassins, each slightly more skilled than the last. Perhaps that wolf blood will come in handy after all.


The Dark Brotherhood I understand; someone has paid them to kill me. It's just a contract, any nothing personal as far as they are concerned. What I do not understand is why I have become a magnet for daedric princes looking to harass mortals for their personal amusement. On three separate occasions (that I know of) I have run afoul of their games. All three were awful experiences, one involving betrayal and murder, another betrayal, murder, and cannibalism, but the first is the tale I recount to you now, at least what little I remember of it.


Only a few days after escaping execution and finding a place to stay in Whiterun I was challenged to a drinking contest by a wisp of a man who was sitting alone in the bar. Elves are not exactly known for holding their liquor well, but I had seen bastard swords that weighed more than this nord, and I was a little short on gold, so I took up his challenge. After two glasses he yielded, offering up his staff as a reward if I could finish one more glass of the drink he had provided. I finished the drink and blacked out before I hit the floor. To this day I still have not pieced together everything that happened in the days that followed.


I awoke a full week later in a temple that I did not recognize. One of the attendants noticed that I had regained awareness and immediately ordered me to leave. My bewildered look kept her from drawing a weapon long enough to explain to me what she knew.


'You are in Markath. I found you three days ago fondling the statues with your, well, it was quite inappropriate and lewd. It took three of us casting spells that should have been fatal to subdue you.' It was quite clear that she did not like me.


On the way out of the door I asked her if I was alone. She explained that there was a terribly thin man in a similar condition, along with a goat that had seen better days. I knew who the man was, but the goat? I fled the city quickly, to the jeers of the city guard, the vendors in the market, and just about everyone else that I passed. Each one accused me of an act more heinous than the last. By the time I reached the gates all I wanted to do was find the man who started this, kill him, and then buy a mask so no one would know who I was.


It was a days journey from Markath back to Whiterun, and it took more than half of it for  my head to clear. I ran afoul of a farmer, apparently the owner of the goat, who I only kept from calling the guard by bribing with a significant about of gold. Once he was calm enough to talk I explained that I had no memory of any of it and that I was looking for the man that I had been traveling with. The farmer had no information about him, but he did say that I was going on and on about a ring that I had purchased in Whiterun for my wife to be.


This was getting worse. I took my leave (and a few items from his house when he wasn't looking) and continued back to Whiterun. There was only one jewelry vendor there, so I knew where to start. She was also none to please to see me, saying that I owed her a significant amount of gold for the ring. I did not have the ring, and I lied about not having the gold, instead begging her for information about this woman who I was supposed to marry. She had not seen her, nor had she seen my drinking 'companion,' buy she did remember where I had said the wedding was to take place. She also wondered where the goat was and how I would live with myself.


'It becoming more difficult all the time.'


It took a bit of searching to find the cave where my wedding was supposed to take place. Bandits had taken up residence and picking them off one at a time was an excellent outlet for several days of frustration. This was not place for a wedding: it was dark, moldy, and on the verge of collapse. There were rooms here and there, and each was littered with empty wine bottles. In one there were bits and pieces of several men strewn across the walls and ceiling alongside claw marks that I recognized as my own. I was sick to my stomach with fear, but also had to admit that a drunken werewolf must have been a sight to see.


The empty bottles provided a path to follow, leading to some sort of portal in the center of the deepest rooms. It looked like a pool of water standing on its side, but I could peer through it and see a forest that looked more than a little like home. After putting an arrow through and pulling it back intact I closed my eyes and leaped through; looking for answers had supplanted personal safety. I had to know what happened, who this man was, and what the goat had to do with any of this.


There was indeed a forest on the other side, but it was not home. It was filled with spirits of all sizes, all content to go about their business and ignore the very embarrassed elf who was not intruding. I could hear the sounds of a party in the distance, so I followed them, honestly afraid of what I was going to find out. Over a rise I found the party, or rather, what should have been a party. There was a tremendously long table with beings of all races seated at it. The sounds of a great celebration were all around, but none of them were moving. Each was frozen mid-motion; some eating, some drinking, at least a few involved in much more lascivious activities. At the head, and the only one who reacted to my presence, was the man who started it all.


'Welcome!' he bellowed. He appeared at my side without moving from his seat. 'What a time we had! That week with you was one of the best time I have had with a mortal. Your lack of morals and willing to try just about anything was quite refreshing. Truly, you have earned this.'


He handed me a staff, which I took without looking.


'I can see you have many questions, none of which I will answer. You see, I must return to my party. Know that you spent a wonderful, awful weak with the daedric prince Sanguine, and that you have lived to tell the tale. Or not tell it.'


He waved his hand and new portal appeared. I could see the cave I had started in through it, but hesitated before going through.


'Please, I must know. The goat?'


Sanguine turned and pointed at the table. In the center stood a goat with a  wedding ring in its ear, looking terribly pleased with itself.


I bought that mask I was talking about and have worn it ever since.  



Friday, November 25, 2011

Time to breath

Time to play catch up. There are several things that I have been meaning to talk about that have been continually put off by either being busy at work, not being around, or (most of all) Skyrim. Working the Friday after Thanksgiving in a non-retail establishment is actually not so bad. It's been relatively quiet today, so I should have just enough slacking time to collect my thoughts.

Resistance 3 was mentioned briefly last week. It was very good when I started it, and it only got better as the game went on. Yes, there has been a glut of upper tier shooters this year, all of which have come out in the fourth quarter, but Resistance 3 is the first one that has effectively sealed the deal with an excellent (read: not a quick time) ending. First, the bad: Warhammer was a very good shooter that no one played which decided to end you the player mashing X instead of doing what had been fun for the rest of the game. Battlefield 3 has exactly the same kind of ending. I have not played the new Modern Warfare yet, but I bet 1000 quatloos right now that it pulls the same shit. Resistance 3 has the common sense to let the player finish things off in the same genre of game that got them there: shooting things.

It would have been very easy for Insomniac to take the easy way out and have the player pushing buttons in a prompted manner as a giant terraformer falls out of the sky onto a tower that had open a portal to somewhere else in the galaxy. What they did instead was genius. You fall through the floor, loose all but one of your weapons, and get tangled in cables hanging from part of the ship (think the end of Return of the Jedi without all the whining). As you hang there the chimera, lacking common sense to the very end, start pouring out and shooting at you. It honestly surprised me when I realized that this was not a cut scene and that I actually had to aim at these bastards while swinging from a cable. After the first wave you fall further and are swung upside down, and you still are responsible for keeping yourself alive. It was the most exciting final two minutes of a game that I have played through in years, and just because Insomniac had the courage to actually let me play the last two minutes.

(Chance, if you are reading this, you should feel guilty about not playing this)

...

Last Sunday I had a chance to sample Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. The actual playing lasted only a few minutes, as what few words of the difficult foreign language I had picked up the first time around had been forgotten, replaced with random super jumps and missed  inputs. We all gave up around the same time and just ran through the new characters supers. Marvel and I have come to a firm agreement: I love to watch the game, I love to watch people who are very good at it play the game, but under no circumstances should I attempt the game myself.

...

Skyrim would easily devour all of my time if I let it, so for the last week or so I have tried very hard to play it and another game simultaneously. This worked with Resistance 3 because it was worth playing, but how would it hold up with a shitty game? White Knight Chronicles 2 made it all of an hour. It did not help that I spent literally that entire hour in menus, leveling up characters because the game expected me to archive me save file from the first game and gave me generic level 35 characters because I didn't. Once I was done with that and got into the game itself I remembered comparing the first game to torture, turned it off and sent it packing. Part of what can make a bad gamer tolerable is the surprising way a game can mange to be bad.  When I know exactly what is coming the fearful anticipation of forthcoming terribleness is just too much to bare. I don't fell bad that I turned it off, I just wish that simply turning the game on hadn't generated a trophy so it would be easier to forget.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Skyrim Journal #4

The old man, the leader of the companions, had the same reservations about the the blood I now carried, but not for the same reasons. He was concerned about the long term affects on his soul, where he would spend his afterlife. My biggest worry was getting stabbed in the back be werewolf hating extremists, though the the likelihood of that happening was reduced significantly after I killed most of them. He pulled me into his quarters to chastise me for what he called over zealous revenge. In the same breath, however, he told me the story of how the companions were cursed in this way.

Several hundred years ago they made a deal with a coven of witches. Those in power at the time thought it would be easy to remove the curse later, so they took what they thought would be a short term power boon to complete the witch's task. After it was done the witches betrayed them and they could not find a way to undo the curse. As the years went by more and more of the companions came to accept it as a gift and use it accordingly, but the current leader thought it went against what it truly meant to be a nord. Being an elf I cared little for the second part of his plight, but the betrayal of the witches was not imagined. I had come to enjoy their company in spite of myself, so when he asked me to seek out these witches and kill one I accepted.


Killing one of them was not really an option. It was a long, cold walk, so by the time I got there anything living in their cave was going to be the victim of my frustrations. The old man had spoken of the witches in a way that had me more than a little worried. Had they been smart enough to all come at me simultaneously there might have a problem, but each was sequestered away in her own little section of the cave. I have no idea what each of them were doing, honestly I didn't look hard enough to find out, instead killing them from behind with several well placed arrows. They may have been ancient, but they bled like anything other living thing, and died just the same.


The old man had specifically requested one of their heads to use in the ritual to remove his curse. If I knew then what I know now I would have harvested several, but at the time even placing one in my pack was difficult enough. The smell was incredible and it never seemed to stop bleeding. I killed a pilgrim I ran across on the way back just so I had more clothing to wrap it in. By the time I got back I could not wait to be rid of the thing, but it was not to be. In my absence the remnants of the Silver Hand attacked. There was only one casualty, and it was the one person who cared about the what was to happen to him after he died.


I did not want to be moved, and I certainly did not enjoy this feeling of loss. He had given me a task, and I had completed it, but my shield brothers were too incompetent to keep him safe while I was gone. This was their fault, not mine. I stood as far from them as I could during the funeral, and afterward when the remaining members of the circle retreaded to their cave I made a move to the now empty guild house, intent on emptying their coffers and taking my leave. The blacksmith pulled me aside and asked that I retrieve something from the now dead leader's quarters. He had hidden the final piece of an ancient weapon in his quarters and I was to retrieve it. Only fitting, seeing as I had been all over Skyrim looking for the damn things.


It was not difficult to open the locked cabinet that contained the final piece. Besides that I found several nice sized gems, a bit of gold, and finally his journal. With no one around I was free to read through it. He though highly of me in spite knowing nothing of who I was or what my motivations were. It was his intent to pass the position of leader of the companions down to me upon his death, but he had not planned on dying for a long time. Out of respect I put back his gems and gold, instead emptying the quarters of those responsible for his death. If they couldn't do as much as protect an old man then they certainly did not deserve any of the wealth he had helped them accumulate.


I was half way out of the door when they stopped me. No, they did not know that my pack contained most of their gold, but they did want my input on what to do next. I was of the opinion that the old man was right, that the blood of the wolf was a curse, and I told them so. Surprisingly I was not alone; at least two other took my side, and even those who would never give the ability up admitted that it was his right to seek a cure and that it was a pity they he did not find one before he died. 


There was silence for quite some time, as no one, including myself, knew what to do to properly honor our leaders death. Finally the blacksmith entered the cave, carrying an ax much to large for any normal sized man or elf to properly wield. He said that it was the reforged Wuthgard, heated it the fires of out leaders funeral pyre. With this weapon we would be able to unlock the very place that souls moved from this life to the next, and it was to be my job to carry it there. I believed none of this, but had I refused this 'honor' I would have been cut down right there. I accepted it, noting that I could not possible use it in battle, and placed it in my pack right next to the witches head.


The journey north to the nord's holy burial ground was a long one. How these people live here in the winter is a mystery to me. I am swaddled like a babe under layer upon layer of skins and they trapse about in little more than chain mail armor and a smile. Thankfully they are much too troubled to harass me, and my opinion of them was low enough that I would not have taken it gracefully. The cave itself was guarded my a statue over twice my height. This ax was clearly meant for it, and I was told that only it would open the way inside, so I placed the ax in its hands. I was happy to be rid of the thing, and it did indeed open a hidden door behind us.


As we made out way deeper into the cave one by one the companions deserted me. They made excuses of honor or shame, but I saw only fear. We were assaulted by the ghosts of companions past, there to test us and make sure only the worthy made it to the central altar. Only one companion made it there at my side, the woman whose wolf form shed the blood that turned me, and even she did not make it without injury. By the time we arrived at the central alter my quiver was dangerously low and she was moving at about half speed. Much more of this and we would both not survive.


The alter itself was little more than an over sized brazier, though how it continued to burn with no one to attend it I could not understand. Behind it stood the shadow of our leader, looking as he did in his youth. Death had suited him well, and he knew that I was there with what he needed to save him from his curse, even now. He instructed me to place the witch's head in the flames, and as soon as I did so it erupted into a bright green flame. The ghost faded quickly, replaced by a new specter, a giant red wolf that attacked us as soon it noticed we were there. It was a difficult battle but we prevailed, and in retrospect I do wonder why physical arrows did anything to a ghost in the first place. I survived, and that is all that matters.


When the old man returned he thanked us for out efforts and asked if I had brought anything to cure myself. He told me that if I had brought another head that he would be able to cure me as well. I want to believe that his original instructions to kill only one came from ignorance, not malice, but I did not hide my disgust with him very well. His words of parting were that I was indeed to be the new leader of the companions, a statement echoed by the only companion to make it to the end of this at my side.


I wanted nothing to do with these people any longer. Each was more self serving than the last, right down to the one I actually though had my best interests in mind. I did not tell them this, instead accepting the appointment with the condition that I be allowed plenty of time to pursue my own interests. Then I left them, wondering if they would ever figure out who it was that left with all their gold.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Choices, choices

The Resistance games have always had a very specific visual malaise: depressing with just a hint of silly alien design. Okay, more than a hint, the grunt chimeras make very little sense physically. Thankfully that does not detract from how much fun it is to kill them. Resistance 3 feels like an intentional homage to older shooters, even more so than the previous two games. Weapons are not limited by the physical space it would take to carry them. Almost all of them have their uses, thought they to tend to break down into up close, medium range, and blog up big shit categories. Regenerating health is also gone. I really hope that I am not the only person who sat behind cover during the first boss battle waiting for my health to come back, then getting very confused (and dead) when it didn't.

It also just plain lifts entire levels from other games. Without going to far down the same tangent Yahtzee did is his review, yes, Nibelheim from Half Life 2 is present in its entirety, right down to the overtly religious nut jobs who run the place. I don't mind it too much, but a nod to Valve in the form of an easter egg here or there would not have been a bad idea. Not everyone has played Half Life 2, so they might not know that this had all been done before.

Better.

With a gravity gun.

Playing Resistance 3 is difficult. Every moment spent with it instead of wandering from cave to save in Skyrim feels like wasted time. Big, important things are constantly happening there, some of which I cause and some of them I see from the sidelines, but just walking through towns is an event. There will be a full journal update either tonight or tomorrow, but picking out a few things to talk about is not going to be easy.

It's not just playing Resistance that's hard right now, doing anything with my spare time that does not involve Skyrim feels like a chore. The second night I sat down in my comfortable chair and did not move for three hours. Nary a beer or snack was retrieved and I was quite sad when it was time to go to bed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Skyrim Journal #3

It was certainly not the same dragon that inadvertently saved my head. Not only did it not look the same, but thanks to the 'new blood' I have in my veins, I could smell it before I saw it and knew it was a distinct beast. Familiarity did nothing to temper my fear. Seeing an animal that large flying with such fine control, then belching fire down on screams nords is more than enough to warrant fleeing for ones life.

I didn't, though, and not because I had any feelings of obligation toward the brutish guards that fought by my side or the jarl who had petitioned me to go along. I had to know if it could be killed. I had to know if it bled, if it hurt, and how much hurting in could take. The battle began with around twenty men, each and every one fighting for his life. The dragon circled the remains of a guard tower, snatching up straggling guards with its claws and flinging them into the surrounding fields. Those were the lucky ones, as being burnt to a crisp was much more unpleasant, judging from the screams.

The rocks torn from the tower provided adequate over and fired arrow after arrow at the dragon. Fewer than half found their make, and even less punctured his skin. One lucky shot lodged right below his eye and I saw him wince in pain. It was a momentary victory; it had given away my position. The dragon landed and circled around me, trying to get a clear shot on the one who had actually injured in. From above a mage began to rain down spelling. They had about the same effect as my arrows, but distracted the dragon enough for me to find a new place to hide. 

It took well over fifteen minutes and several scores of arrows, but the dragon fell. Of the twenty men only six were left, and two of those may never wield a sword again. Once the dragon stopped moving I approached, curious and greedy, looking for spoils that it might have ingested. At my first touch the dragon burst into flames, the smoke swirling around me. It was the same sound I encountered two days earlier coming from the wall I could not read. The images returned, and this time I could understand. This was not just a word, it was power, and for some reason, it was mine.

After the last fires died down the soldiers slowly approached. 'Dragon born,' one said, 'you should try a shout.'

Shout? That was what he called it. Though I still did not understand the power, it was more than a shout. I turned to the wreckage of the guard tower and said the new word. Nothing happened. Disappointed and angry, I yelled it as loud as I could. There was a tremendous gust of wind, pushing everything in front of me back and dousing much of the remaining fire.

Even the guard captain took a step back. This would prove useful indeed.

Getting biblical

I really did mean to start Resistance 3 yesterday. This was before the mandatory gig of updates and fifteen minute install broke my will and I loped back to Skrim like a ADHD puppy. I didn't have enough time to get anything done, I just wanted to wander through hills and try to kill a giant (it worked, they lose track of sneaky thieves rather easily).

The kind of freedom offered in Skyrim can sometimes be counterproductive. With so much to do and so many way to do them a player can become overwhelmed. Thankfully Skyrim organizes your quests just well enough to keep things moving and the side quests are more than the usual fluff used by other titles to flesh out play time. Everything if permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Yes, I could walk through town and kill almost everyone, but that would break so many quests that it would be counterproductive. It is tempting to empty of town of things to do and then turn into a werewolf and eat my way from one end of town to the other, but that will have to wait until after the main quest is done.

Resistance 3 will be started tonight, for sure this time, though I will not promise to be thinking about playing something else the whole time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

An impossible pace

This Skyrim journal will be difficult to keep up at this pace. There is so much to talk about, so much of what happens is forgotten by the next day. Leven, my elf, is already turning out differently than I planned, and I am okay with that. He was to be an evil, vengeful elf, but the attitude of the the companions has softened him a bit. Yes, he regrets accepting the werewolf curse, but it was his choice, and I think even he will come around about that eventually.

Or he may kill them all. It really depends on how powerful he becomes.

The backlog knows no mercy, so I will be taking a day off of Skryim to play Resistance 3. I really hope it is short.

Skyrim Journal #2

This guild, the companions they call themselves, are a very strange group. They have the same odd obsession with honor and dying well, but just below the surface they are just as vile and deviant and anyone else. They hide things from each other and plot against their fellow companions while toasting their accomplishments with ale. One would think that I had fallen in with the dark brotherhood.


After running several simple errands for them that I used as explanations for the spoils I returned with I was summoned to one of the inner circle's quarters. He said that I was ready for my test and that one of their number would accompany me. There had been reports that a fragment of a weapon had been found that was important to their history and it was to be hour job to retrieve it. Seemed a bit pointless to men since there weren't planning on selling it for something useful, but the companion standing behind me with one of the largest swords I had ever seen made it clear that this missions was not an option.


We encountered the same undead monsters that plagued me while retrieving the golden claw for the merchant in Riverwood, but my companion guide/guard dispatched them with hideous efficiency. I scarcely had time to pull an arrow from my pack before they lay in pieces on the floor, and the way he danced in and out of my firing lanes made taking shots more difficult than in should have been. On one occasion I glanced an arrow off of his back. A steady glare was my only punishment, though I was very sure that it did not happen again.


Apart from that he was very tolerant of treasure hunting. I opening every burial pot they we found, picked through the pockets of every corpse, opened every casket and retrieved all the gold I could find. He chuckled, then walked on, content to kill things and let the most important part, the looting, for his dunmer charge. It was a strange team, but it worked, right up to the point where I locked myself in a room and he had to find a way to get me out.


He was not angry, just annoyed at the diversion. He had been searching the room for only a few moments when seven or eight heavily armored nords appeared from nowhere, each one with a sword that appeared to my eyes to be made of silver.


'We have found you, at last,' the first one said as they circled the companion. My guide still did not seem frightened and there was nothing I could do but watch, still penned in  a trap that I had set off in my haste. Before the attackers could land a single blow their victim sheathed his sword, closed his eyes, and began to howl. He's gone made, I thought, until the room was bathed in light and he began to change. In a flash the man was gone, replaced by a werewolf twice his size. The monsters dispatched his attackers with ease, tearing them to pieces, before finally turning his gaze on me. I expected it to tear the bars from the wall before killed me as well, but instead he spoke.


'Wait here.'


Had I not been terrified I would have made a pithy remark, something like 'where am I supposed to go,' but I quickly nodded. He dropped to all fours and ran around a corner, there was flash, and the gate I was stuck behind begin to rise. I crawled underneath before it was all the way up and had already started to run when he called me from behind.


'Stop. You are in no danger. And tell no one of this, you are not yet supposed to know.'


We eventually found what we were looking for, but not once did I take my eyes off of him. I had never seen a werewolf before, and I certainly did not want to see one again.


...


Upon returning to the companion camp the finished my indoctrination with more than a little drinking and song. I found it enjoyable in spite of myself; it was the first time I felt like I truly belonged since fleeing my homeland, and even then it was more an attitude of tolerance then acceptance. These people didn't care that I was a wood elf, it was irrelevant. All that mattered was that I could kill a man before he knew I was there and had no moral hangups about doing so.


This complacent attitude lasted less than a day. After being sent out to kill another batch of werewolf hunters I was told to wait behind their guild hall in a cave beneath their forge. As if this was not enough, the entrance was hidden and spent most of the evening leaning against a rock wall freezing my ass off. Without warning it opening behind me and I was dragged in. I would have attacked had there not been another werewolf there along with a human companion. It was not the same one as before, a bit slighter in build, vaguely feminine, but just as frightening. My discomfort was obvious.


'Steel yourself, elf, I have an proposition. You show great promise, but to fully join our ranks the blood of the beast must run in your veins.'


I must admit that I was very curious, but not what I would call excited. To their credit they let me leave to think about it. I left town as quickly as I could and raided another bandit cave to clear my head. A few close calls later I realized that this would be just another tool, another weapon to use. I had been offered a chance to become more powerful, the intentions of those who offered it were not important. What was important was what I intended to do with it.


The next night I returned and completed their ritual. From what I am told it was a difficult transformation. I do not remember much, bits of piece and running through the forest at impossible speeds. They finally caught up to me over an hour later, calmed me down, and I returned to my normal form. The regret was immediate. What good is this weapon if I cannot control it? What had these people who I had just began to trust done? It was certain that they were much to powerful to take direct revenge, but this is indeed a curse and I must find a way to have it undone.


...


There is also the matter of meeting, fighting, and killing a dragon. It was the first, technically second, dragon seen in the lands in many lifetimes and I put in the final blow. I understand what happened next even less that the werewolf curse I was talked into, but I will say that at least this power I can point at someone.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Skyrim Journal #1

I did not ask for this, but someone will pay.


The boarder to Skyrim is not clearly marked, and I had been wandering the cold woods for weeks, so I had no idea there was any danger beyond packs of wolves and the occasional bear. I was, admittedly, on the run from other dunmer who did not share my opinions on work and how much anyone owns anything. Why should I, who has nothing, think twice about taking food and money from those who have everything and are not smart enough to take the time to enjoy it? The choice was to either stand, fight, and most likely die or run and not stop running. I ran, ill prepared, hungry, frightened and injured, I ran.


I remember warnings from my childhood about the cold of Skyrim, how it was as much of an enemy as anything with teeth and claws, but I did not believe them. That first night, huddled beneath the skirt of a pine tree, unable to even build a fire to keep myself warm, I gave up. I surrendered myself to be eaten by the next animal that approached. Nothing came, the stench of cowardice was enough to fend them off, I told myself, but I knew I was just lucky. A wood elf, a dunmer, unable to fend for himself in a forest? For the very first time I was disgusted with myself, second guessing my thieving ways. 


Out of the corner of my eye I say a rabbit, nosing at the few bits of food I had thought to bring along. It was innocent, only doing what was natural to it, and it enraged me. How dare this thing take what belongs to me! I wheeled my bow around and notched an arrow, pulled the string back, the stopped just long enough to appreciate the irony of the situation. I was this rabbit, stealing bits from people who should not have noticed, fleeing when they did.


I killed it anyway.


From that day forward I lived a feral existence, stealing from nature what I needed to survive. Long dormant skills with the bow bubbled up, and I was lighter and quieter on my feet that I have ever been. I had stumbled upon a group of pale men, nords I believed, that were speaking in hushed tones in spite of no one being within ear shot. Their gold and weapons did not interest me, but their clothing did, so I waited. I watched. So focused was I on the kill that I was caught in the same ambush that so surprised my prey, knocked out from behind by the pommel of a sword, and thrown in the back of a wagon with the rest of them.


When I awoke my bow was gone and my hands bound. The men were talking to each other, still in hushed tones, and did not notice right away that I was watching and listening. Finally the largest of them turned and I recognized him from the camp: I was going to kill him first. There was bravery in his words, but also fear, as he slowly explained where they were being taken. He spoke of rebellions and leaders and the tyranny of the empire, none of which I understood. I was not so resigned to me death, and while I was not innocent, I knew that this was not meant for me.


This large nord never stopped talking. It was actually a relief when the cart stopped and we were herded out into a well defended courtyard. There were guards posted in every tower, along every wall, and more in the buildings with arrows trained on us. A bit much for seven men and an elf. The leader of their group noticed that I was not on their official list of beheadings for the day, and I had the faintest glimmer of hope that they would simply let me go. But no. 'Just a dunmer,' he said, 'kill him anway.'


I could not believe that these men simply stood in line waiting to be killed in this way. They bragged on about honor, which is meaningless after your head has been separated from your shoulders. One did finally try to make a run for it was was brought down quickly by arrows, but at least he died on his feet. These other fools did nothing. I went over escape possibilities in my head as I watched the first man die. A bit anti-climactic, actually. The axe came down and he stopped moving, nothing more. The bastards called for me next. I was in a panic. There was nothing I could do and was going to die cowering on my knees. A distraction, something to turn them from me for just a few moments would be all I would need. I could disappear back into the forest, head back to my own lands.


There was noise that I am afraid I cannot describe. Something like a werewolf, but much larger, and it was coming from the sky. Then there was fire. Then there was screaming, panic, and the smell of flesh burning. I looked up from the block and caught the glimpse of wings through the smoke before the walls came down.


Once more I ran. Tied, burned, terrified, I ran.


The imperial commander came upon me and feigned authority. 'Come with me, prisoner,' he yelled. I laughed, and he might have killed me if the there was not another explosion behind him. Then the talkative nord appeared and asked me to follow. At least he might let me out of my chains. We retreated to the basement of the castle and he did indeed free me, just in time to kill a few soldiers who followed us in. As one died he muttered something about a dragon and I finally put together the bit and pieces of what I saw. A dragon. I thought they were long since gone, but the sounds of the castle above being destroyed said otherwise.


I was with this nord for quite some time, all the while my impression of him deteriorating. He never stopped talking, spinning tales about people and places that I have never heard of. He also wasn't very bright; it took him hours to finally give me, a dunmer, his bow. Watching him fire it had been torture, and when we made our escape from the castle I did not give it back to him. He suggested that I see his sister in the next town, Riverwood he called it, and I took my leave of him by ducking into the next cave I could find. The silence was wonderful, broken by a cadre of bandits that had also taken up residence. I killed them, one by one, until the quiet returned.


Their food tasted terrible, but it was better than starving.




...


Eventually I did make it to Riverrun, weighed down by the weapons and armor I had stolen from the bandits who no longer needed them. It was late, but there was one shop still open. The nords inside were arguing about something, a golden claw that had been stolen, and they did not notice me at first. After they composed themselves I was greeted warmly, something I was not expecting. 'Nice to see anther wood elf,' the man said, 'make sure you stop by a few doors down, another of your kind has been living here for quite some time.' After unloading my wares, with no questions asked or course, I asked about the golden claw they were fighting about. The man promptly launched into a long tale of finding the claw and it bringing him luck, then having it stolen two night ago by thieves whose hideout was on the other side of the lake.


'You look like you can handle yourself, do think you could look into getting it back?' The woman beside him, his sister, clucked her tongue at him.


'Bringing strangers into your problems. Just like you.' 


I was interested enough to get more details, and also did not want to be in town to meet this other wood elf, so I accepted his proposition, planning to keep the claw for myself once I obtained it. The woman led me to the edge of town and bid me good luck. If these bandits were anything like the ones I had faced previously in the cave, loud, drunk and with little skill, this would not be a problem.


...


The first few sets of guards I ran into were exactly what I expected. They panicked as the first arrow came out of the shadows, yelling into the darkness, then crying in pain as the second and third arrows pierced them. As I got deeper into the complex and the walls changed from man made brick to much older cave formations they got a little better, but still not as fearsome as a few wolves or a single angry bear. It took a giant spider falling from the ceiling, blinding me from across the cave with precise shots of venom, to finally break my hubris. The spider could see into my dark corners and did not succumb to pain as a man would, so it was only by attrition that it finally fell. I was standing over it, catching my breath and harvesting its venom, when someone called to me from the shadows. It another nord, a thief from the looks of him, that had been captured by this spider. He was strung up in a doorway, already packaged as a meal. He begged me to cut him down, offered me money and assistance if I would do so, but it was not until I asked him about the golden claw that he gave me a good reason to actually save him from his plight.


This thief said that he had indeed stolen the claw, that he had it right now, and that it was actually a key to greater riches further down in the cave. I did not believe him, but I did need to cut him down to proceed, and I should not have been surprised when he ran off as soon as he hit the ground. I put an arrow in his back and he still did not fall, forcing me to chase him, annoyed at my terrible aim. He finally turned to face me and was rewarded was several more arrows in the chest, all of which missed the golden claw he had in his sack but were rendered dull and un-usable by his armor. I should have slit his throat before cutting him down.


I was curious about this treasure he mentioned, so against my better judgement I ventured deeper into the caves. There I met undead creatures much tougher than any of the live nords I had faced so far. They swung giant two handed swords in arcs so wide that they could block the entire hall way, forcing me to retreat. At least they couldn't move very fast, but a hit or two still found their mark on me and I was forced to dip into my small supply of healing potions. Wonderful things, I have no idea how they work, but I will steal every last one of them I can.


The cave turned into catacombs, filled with more of the same monsters, until it opened up into a cavern whose ceiling was so high that I could scarcely see its limits. In the center was a single stone coffin, undoubtedly belonging to someone quite important, surrounded by a wall covered in words that I could not read. As I approached I heard a noise, not with my ears but somehow in my mind. It was the same sound the dragon had made as it by chance rescued me, a screaming roar, but this time I could make out what sounded like words. The characters on the wall began to shimmer, and for a just a moment, I could read them. I knew what they meant, there was great power there just out of reach, but before I could make any sense of it the coffin behind me fell open. It was indeed an important man, judging from the weapon he still held in his dead hands, and it was only by luck that I manged to defeat him.


It was a nice axe. Pity I cannot wield it. The shop owner asked many questions about it when I returned with the claw, and I answered none of them. I am only returning the claw to him so I can steal it back later. I predict his sorrow will be delicious.


...


Much more has happened that I cannot fit into this journal. I now have a house that used to belong to some kind of alchemic witch. She doesn't need it anymore, and it will provide a nice base of operations. I eventually made my way to Whiterun where I have found myself involved in both the fighters guild and city politics. It should be interesting to see if I can get them to kill each other before I get bored and do it for them. They have some very nice things that would like much nicer in my possession.


I did not ask for any of this. This land and its people, some one will pay. They all will pay.