Friday, June 29, 2012

Vodka cures all

Things are quiet all over. Very little new coming out. Not much news as the gaming press continues to nurse their cumulative E3 hangover. It's a great time to catch up on things.

Witcher 2 came to a confusing conclusion last night. Let's see if I can take all of the political intrigue and break it down into who betrayed who. The Kingslayer (who was a witcher that Garelt had once saved) teamed up with some terrorist elves to kill a king. He succeeded, then killed a bunch of the terrorist elves and escaped. The kingslayer kidnapped Triss, Garelt's pet sorceress, and used her to escape. Garelt and the leader of the terrorist elves gave chase, leading to a showdown between all of the other kings of the area, the scary empire to the south, the cadre of sorcerers and a god damned dragon.

Lots and lots of magic users died, Garelt fought, defeated and then cured the dragon (who had been under the control on one of the sorceresses), rescued Triss, and then let the kingslayer go.

At least that's how it went down in my game.

For a linear feeling game there was a great deal of choice in Witcher 2 that actually effected how the story plays out. Teaming up with the elves or the remaining security forces of the dead king is the big one, leading to, from what I understand, two very different scenarios, but there are many other small choices that add up to bigger things later. At the end of the second act I had to choose between chasing down the scum bag mayor of a town or rescue multiple whores from a burning building. I chose the whores (who wouldn't) so he ended up keeping the town and selling it off to the highest bidder. I could have killed the dragon instead of curing her, so she got to return to her human form and lead the resistance instead of being turned into swanky armor. I didn't have to spare the kingslayer, but after sharing a story and a flask of vodka there was nothing to gain by killing him.

It is almost enough to warrant a second play through. Choices in Witcher 2 make a difference, but unlike Mass Effect this choose your own adventure novel doesn't loop everything back together by the time things come to an end. Playing it on easy allowed be to focus on on the best the game had to offer and skate right past the choppy combat and over complicated alchemy system. To be honest, I find just about any crafting or alchemy system in a game incredibly boring, so this is more an indictment of  my attention span than the game's quality. If I didn't have to sleep or work I would go back and do it all again at a higher difficulty level, force myself to deal with the constant threat of death. As it is I am happy that it was a relatively short RPG, as I have another one in the wings that threatens to consume 60+ hours, and that is after Dawnguard.

Tonight, though, it is time for bullet hell.



Bullet hell and beer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The grocery list has a time limit

Dawnguard is out and I can't play it!

Well, I could, but that would be a great way to make sure that Witcher 2 never gets finished, and I do not wish to add the sequel to the same list of its predecessor. Wither 2 apparently isn't that long, and it feels like I am closing in on the end of the second chapter, so maybe another week and I can knock it out. Then it will be vampire hunting time.

...

Speaking of Skyrim, it's open ended nature meant that it was never too late to go back and finish off side quests that were missed the first time around. The game does not end, so to speak. The main quests ends, but you are still free to wander about the world being a dick to whomever crosses you path. The plot in Witcher 2 has places to be and things to do which results in side quests being locked off without warning. Linear(ish) RPGs are usually nice enough to tip the player off if they are about to cross a point of no return, usually through a rather blunt statement from a non-player character. "Are you sure you are ready? There's no turning back, you know." Witcher 2, true to its standard of not coddling anyone, dispenses with this and just fails quests that you take too long to get to.

I only had two left in the second chapter, neither of which I knew how to do. My laptop was all the way upstairs, so I was going to close out the evening by advancing the plot until the end of the chapter. Nope, I walked through a door and a message popped up saying that the quests were no longer available. They weren't very interesting quests, but I would still have liked to figure them out. One was a riddle so cryptic that I no idea where to even begin and the other was a 'kill all of X monsters' but it didn't bother to say how big X was. Gamefaws had the answers, I just never got the chance to cheat.

Finding inconsequential things to complain about is a good indicator that I am enjoying something, and Witcher 2 does indeed amuse. I know full well that by playing it on easy I am missing half the game (the challenge) but I am fine with that. There are too many games to play for me to spend time replaying a battle over and over just to find the correct combination of potions and sword buffs to sneak by with my life. My enjoyment comes from progression, not repetition, and being comfortable with not being very good at games is an added bonus.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Don't look down

It is difficult to pick out individual events from Witcher 2 to talk about. The narrative is so densely packed that quests flow into one another. This keeps day to day play from feeling like working on a checklist, but it makes it much harder to tell amusing stories about what happens, and the games lacks the random, open ended nonsense from Skyrim that turned an evenings work into the next days conversation around the water cooler. There are choices in Witcher 2, but they are limited, so they way I handled the succubus is the same way about half the other people who got that far 'handled' her.

For the record, I thought she was innocent, but I couldn't find any evidence, so I killed her anyway. Besides, her goat legs were a huge turn off.

Garelt, in spite of loving Triss, takes full advantage of both his sterility and immunity to middle aged STD's. The number of conquests has been brought down from the first game, and you no longer collect naughty cards as a reward, but Garelt still gets more in one game than Kratos did in five. I am not going to get into any sort of discussion about the treatment of women in video games; much smarter and more eloquent men than I have taken up that gauntlet. I will say that the deed is displayed in a much more detailed (read: graphic) way than other (in)famous video game sex scenes. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. Witcher 2 gets away with an awful lot, up to and including full frontal female nudity, and I am just curious as to when the line was moved, and whose idea it was to move it south.

(This is not the first game to do so. The devil's undulating schlong from Dante's Inferno would like to say hello. Triss is just a little nicer to look at.)

Back to the actual game, Witcher 2 strengthens my belief that level caps are a symptom of lazy design. Garelt levels quickly, sometimes jumping two levels at a time, but his growth is capped at level 35. This is not a meaningless number: he only gets ones ability per level to use and there are well over 35 choices to make. There is also no way to re-spec after points have been allocated, so if you make a bad choice you are stuck with it. Witcher 2 is not the only game to do this recently; Kingdoms of Amalur made the same choice, but that level cap was so low that I hit it four hours before the game was done.

Most likely this is done to preserve balance and maintain challenge through the end game, but at the same time it does this it punishes people with the patience to max out their character. If I want Garelt to have all the abilities and have the free time to kill monsters until he gets there, let me. Instead what I get is a character that stops developing before the game is done.

Playing on easy doesn't help this, as combat stopped being challenging in the middle of the first chapter. I could bump it up to medium, but honestly, I am scared. My Garelt has gotten away with not using his alchemy or sign skills. He just wades into battle swinging his swords, having success using one third of his combat options. Force me to use the other two thirds and the results would look much like my Virtua Fighter 5 play.



Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mental limits

This is fascinating, though I wish it was more about the chess guy than the self aggrandizing dude from an irrelevant  TV news magazine.



Ten simultaneous games with his back turned? He's not human.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I've tapped that

Collectible card games were a significant weakness when I was in college, focused mostly on Magic with a very interesting foray into Legend of the Five Rings. I had the standard late night retail job that most college slackers had, with a good chunk of the proceedings reserved for paper crack. I was never that good, partly because I never got over my infatuation with big creatures and partly because the I could not put enough money aside to buy better cards, but it was always a good time. As I got older I had better things to spend my money on and my once large collection has dwindled down to a moldy box of cards somewhere in the spidery part of my basement.

I like to think that my black wienie deck filled with hasran oggreses, black knights, breeding pits, fallen angels, a pestilence or two and the lord of the pit is still there, waiting, but in reality the cards have all fused into a continuous block of cardboard and shame.

Magic Online was interesting, but paying real money for imaginary things was a bit much, ever for me. Duels of the Planeswalkers is the perfect balance. It's definitely Magic, just without searching for that one card to finish your deck. There are still options, but they are limited to the extra cards that can be unlocked. It is perfect for killing an hour or less right before bed.

What it doesn't do is generate constant income for Wizards of the Coast, so they have released a new version every year since the first one. I of course have bought them, though each has been played less than the last. 2013 is not a big jump from 2012, but there are more decks and more cards to unlock for each, which in turn should lead to more variety when playing online. At least I hope so, as long as one of the decks doesn't turn out to be significantly better than all of the others. I am currently working through the campaign (playing on the hardest difficulty, of course) and have an issue with one of the new additions.

Part of what Magic enjoyable is that no matter how well you design your deck luck will always have an impact. The game forces you to play with at least 60 cards (which I think is a bit high, I used to play with 45), not all of which are useful right away. You can get screwed for mana, but your opponent can, too, which keeps everything fair. 2013 has added encounters to the campaign, with the main difference being the cards coming at you are not random, they are the same every time, so the decks design always works. The first encounter was nothing but 1/1 flying creatures, one per turn, every turn. This can't happen because only four of any given card can be in a deck. It is also difficult to deal with, because if I happen to not get a creature out on turn two I will be behind for the duration.

The answer to that encounter was a red deck that could do one damage to all creatures.

The second encounter was noting but prodigal sorcerers (1/1, tap to do one damage to anything). By round six they are coming out two per round. The computer did not know how to actually play the cards, attacking instead of tapping for damage, so they all died. The third was even worse, with a series of green creatures, each more powerful than the last, culminating in an overrun. I am not looking forward to what is next.

These encounters are not fun because they do not follow the rules and therefore don't teach the player anything. Sure, I figured out how to beat an army of 1/1 fliers, but that can never actually happen, so what's the point? I don't want game breaking innovation in Magic, that's what Culdcept is for. Someday I play those again.

Someday.

...

One of my favorite cards:


That plus an Icy Manipulator (tap 2 to untap target artifact) = fuck you. Sometimes I would make him fly for extra saltiness.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Terrible news

I do not trust Nintendo with the Fatal Frame franchise.

http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/nintendo-acquires-fatal-frame-publishing-rights-report

Not in the least.

But I just did this for eight hours

I have started the first Witcher at least three time, the last one only a few weeks ago just to see how well it would run on my new, untapped video card. The first two attempts ended with broken quests that annoyed me right back into the arms of console RPG's, and even though I found that it runs quite well now and has been patched from stem to stern I just haven't been able to make the time to get back to it. This made it difficult to start Witcher 2 a few nights ago, and the game made no apologies for not hand holding the uninitiated. I know who Geralt and Triss are, and I think I remember the dwarf, but who the hell is this bard named Dandelion and why can't I kill him?

The tutorial does indeed pass judgement on the players ability, suggesting the appropriate difficulty level based on how many bad guys are killed before Geralt is overwhelmed.  I killed three, then died horribly, so decided it would be in my best interest to allow the game to mock me into playing on easy. There is so much to the combat, from two main weapons to daggers to mines to traps to six different spells to buffing your weapons to drinking potions before the fight even starts, that I was admittedly overwhelmed myself. Too many options, too soon, so I died. Playing it on easy has certainly made what would have been a very frustrating experience much more enjoyable, and I still managed to die last night because I don't understand the difference between blocking and parrying.

This is not a console game. No concessions were made in its transition from the mouse and keyboard to my controller, which leads to a few unfortunate fights between the PC user interface and my weary thumbs. There is a lot of shit to wade through in the menus, all of which looks to be very easy with a pointing device. On on controller I need to juggle between screens using the triggers and bumpers, which makes checking the map for a quest marker after changing weapons an arduous task. Not that most of the quests even have markers. They are content with a line or two of instruction and a pat on the back. 'You'll do fine,' they say, 'what you are looking for is out there, somewhere. Just don't get killed on the way.'

It certainly has it's own feel: dark, lurid, morally ambiguous. Sounds like Game of Thrones, I suppose, but this games is actually good and embraces the supernatural. There was a dragon in the prologue, and while I never fought him his return is all but guaranteed. I also ran into a drunken troll who stopped collecting a toll to cross his bridge in lieu of pestering travelers for vodka. He was depressed because his mate was gone; I found her head on a collectors wall. Even this little side quests had at least two ways to turn out: I could have killed him or killed his mate's poachers and saved him from the demon drink.

I saved him, because a drunken troll is not something that I have seen before.

While I am enjoying it, I can definitely understand why Chance did not make it to the end. Witcher 2 is work. Quests are not always explained very well and do not ever resolve as one would expect them to. Combat is not easy even on easy. There are quite a few characters to keep track of and who is on your side is also never clear. I do have a feeling that it will be worth the effort, but maintaining my focus of this kind of game for a long period of time is not easy.

Especially when I bought Magic 2013 last night. The old addiction to paper crack returns.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why the Okami HD remix is nothing to be excited about

I am going to catch some heat for this one.

Let me be clear, Okami was a very good game. It was quite enjoyable when I played it in 2006.

2006 was really not that long ago, and it existed on hardware only one generation in the past, hardware that is still readily available for next to nothing. The game itself it not that difficult to come by, and if you don't want to dig up a PS2 or don't have one of the super cool early PS3's Okami was re-released two years later for the Wii. My point is that this is not a game that is difficult to obtain. If one were to have a sudden urge to play Okami it would not be difficult to do so.

But it's an HD upgrade, you shout, with trophies and move support! Move support is something you put on the game box when you run out of other nice things to say about a game. It is a bullet point, not a feature. HD upgrade? Yes, I watched the video and yes, it did look better, but not much better than PS2 games ran through the 'upgrade' filter on my launch PS3. And trophies? Not much I can say about those, being a bit of an achievement whore myself, but using that as a selling point smacks of straw grasping.

This is a quick cash grab by Capcom. If this is meant to obtain funds to finish up the new Darkstalkers, fine, but the odds of that are slim to none. I would sooner have had even the limited resources required for this glorified up-port applied to a new game instead of remaking one that isn't that old to begin with. Okami HD's only redeeming feature is it's price, proving that Capcom took the time to see what used copies were going for before pricing their digital new one.

Is the idea bucket for developers so low that they need to remake games that are only six years old? This same argument could be made against the Beyond Good and Evil XBLA release, or Konami's Metal Gear and Zone of the Enders compilations. Why is time and effort being put into releasing old games on new consoles instead of making new games on new consoles?

The answer is financially obvious: remaking an old game is a safe investment. Just ask Square how many times each Final Fantasy has been released. I can buy Final Fantasy 1 on my god damned Windows Phone, and nothing comes out for Windows Phone. These games finance the AAA titles, are fodder for collectors, and are generally a waste of time for anyone else. But where does it end? Capcom has a tremendous back catalog of old properties, what's to keep them from releasing nothing but remakes?

How about *gasp* a sequel? Capcom certainly has no problem with those. But a good sequel requires effort, money, and time, and all of that is tied up with Resident Evil 6 and spinning the retail failure of Street Fighter X Tekken.

Monday, June 18, 2012

This is not the prequel you are looking for

I played nothing this weekend, opting instead to leave the house on Saturday for large screen entertainment and spicy chicken appendages and stay in on Sunday for small screen streamed entertainment and a bag of dollar store pretzels. Three out of four of these things were actually enjoyable.

The big screen - Prometheus - not good


I had heard rumblings of Prometheus being bull shit and ignored them because, hey, a new alien movie, right?  It had been years and I was in the right mood for jump scares, exploding guts and extending jaws. It really isn't an Alien movie, which I could forgive, if anything that happened made sense. I am not going to get into a philosophical discussion about people being seeded by an ancient space faring race to be used as a breeding ground for bio-weapons several million years later because even though it is a pretty big stretch at least it was done with telling a story in mind. Everything else in Prometheus seems to have been engineered in reverse: the special effects crew came up with some kick ass effect that they wanted to use and the writers found a way to back into it under threat of death or unemployment.

For example, and thpolierth of course:

Special Effects guy: I have a burning urge to show a woman being sliced open by a machine and an alien removed from her stomach. Let's make it happen!

Writer 1: Well I suppose we could have her get attacked by a face hugger.

Writer 2: There are no face huggers. This is not an Alien movie *wink*. Come up with something better.

Writer 1: Okay. Her boyfriend gets infected by something and then 'infects' her, if you know what I mean.

Writer 2: Sounds good, she have nice legs, but how did he get infected? No face huggers.


Writer 1: He takes his helmet off in a hostile environment!

Writer 2: We already filmed the scene with everyone taking their helmets off. For no reason other than we couldn't keep the helmets from fogging up on the set and we ran out of Windex.

Writer 1: The evil robot infects him?

Writer 2: Why?

Writer 1: Because he's evil?

Special Effects guy: While you guys were talking I already finished the scene. Next!

Prometheus is bad and Ridley Scott should feel bad.

...

Wings of the spicy variety. Good!

...

CEO. So, so hype.

I only got to see the top 12 of the AE finals, but it was the best top 12 of anything I have seen in quit a while. Eleven different characters, with the only duplicate being Rufus. Ricky was as good as he normally is and Justin Wong seems to have remembered that there is money to be had by wining. There was also a Cody, which is rare in high end play, and a Fuerte, which I have never seen on a stream (at least never seen win on a stream).

EVO is close, so the Japanese killers have begun there invasion. Three of them made it top twelve. One of them took second, and it wasn't Daigo. Momochi's Cody was amazing to watch, and while I was pleased to see Daigo's return to Ryu, it was just as if not more pleasing to see two American Rufus players knock him out of the tournament. I have no doubt he will make a serious run at EVO, but his time of dominance may have passed.

It is regrettable that I missed the Marvel finals, but Justin won those, too.

...

Dollar store pretzels. Dry, salty, crunchy, pedestrian. Still better than Prometheus.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

No one wins but me

Game of Thrones tries very hard to make you care about the characters in the final few acts, but all it succeeds in doing is highlighting how they are all scum, but perhaps that is the point. Having no familiarity with the novels and mini-series I can only assume so. I was asked to choose one of the two characters to 'fulfill their destiny' before starting the final chapter. I chose Mors, because up to that point his actions had adhered to his own code. Twisted as it may have been, at least it was consistent. Here is how it went down.

Spoilers! As is anyone else will play this.

Fifteen years ago Mors disobeyed a direct order from his lord to kill a rival lord's wife and children. He knew that his would mean death, but his friend, Alester, convinced him to 'take the black.' Move to Castle Black to protect the land's northern border. Mors took the offer in exchange for Alester promising to hide and protect his family. Fast forward to game time and Mors makes it back to where his family was hidden to find them dead an buried. Much drama ensues.

Mors finds out that the main bad guy (and Alester's half brother) Valaar killed them. There is some side business with the last living member of the previous dynasty and her child, lots of other people die, and there is a final confrontation between Mors, Alester and Valaar. Mors and Alester win (because I had figured out how to break the combat) and in his death throws Valaar asks Mors if he knew where Alester was when his family was killed.

Flashback time. It was indeed Valaar that killed Mors' daughter, but Alester killed his wife. They had received orders to kill Mors' family as a punishment for his disobedience. Alester has to obey, for if he did not his family would be next. Valaar enjoys things a bit too much, Alester gives him a nice gash across the face and then flees the country until the present day.

Mors reasonably decides that he needs to kill Alester now. As usually happens when the computer takes over a party member and forces you to fight him, Alester suddenly grew much more powerful. I know how many hit points he had an I should have killed him in two hits. It took about five minutes. Mors takes the baby who he promised to protect and leaves.

No one wins, everyone is is scum.

Well, I win, because the game is done now and I can move on to something else, like watching CEO finals tomorrow night.

Friday, June 15, 2012

It makes bacon?



Fuck yeah.

What not to do post-mortem

Just about everyone is dead, and one of the two main characters has died and come back, so I must be nearing the end. Mor's death and resurrection was the first nod to the supernatural in a game that up to that point had been all about rape, betrayal and necrophilia. You know, real problems.

Mors and Alester had caught up with the main bad guy and instead of starting an all out brawl with him and his men (which they would have lost) Mors challenged him to one on one combat. This worked out better for me, as Mors could do so much damage in two hits that no previous victims had survived. The boss lived, sort of, as after each repetition the fight stopped and he talked for a while. I do not think the writers thought this was possible, as each cut scene had Mors huffing and puffing while the bad guy strode around, making speeches in true main bad guy fashion, when a few seconds ago it was Mors on top, hacking at that bastard's head and neck with an over sized sword.

This happened three times, until finally it looked like the bad guy (yes, I have forgotten his name and I do not feel like looking it up) actually admitted defeat by summoning a demon to finish the fight for him. This was the first non-human combatant that I had seen, and even though it was present only in the cut scene its presence was certainly jarring. It was not the standard horns and hooves business, either, just a malevolent shadow that appeared from behind and stabbed Mors in the back. For a moment, I was impressed, but that passed quickly.

After the battle was over and all the bad guys were dead Alester found Mors' corpse, administered last rites in his own, fire laden way, and finished the ritual by kissing Mors right on the lips. Never one to put up with that touchy, feely bullshit Mors sat up and asked Alester what the hell he was doing. Part of that last sentence did not actually happen, but it would have been better if it did. Mors barely acknowledges that he was dead, instead swearing vengeance against just about everyone.

The wheels have come off and the car is still moving, sliding along with a hideous momentum, right towards a wall that will not forgive its hubris. I am just along for the ride.

...

I wish I was joking about the necrophilia. The fate of Alester's sister, post beheading, says otherwise.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The leap

There is a definite difference between 'not good' and 'bad.' Games are 'not good' by way of comparison to other games, all games fitting somewhere on a giant sliding scale with (insert you favorite game here) on one end and Barbie Horse Adventures on the other. It is quite possible for a game to be 'not good' and still be quite enjoyable. I enjoy most shooters even though most of them are not very good when compared to Half Life 2 and Call of Duty: The Next one. It is not a crime to be not good, it just means that there was not enough time and/or money to make it to the next plateau.

Being bad, though, is grounds for abuse and mockery.

Up until last night Game of Thrones was simply not good. It does a great many things that were done by other western RPGs, borrowing most heavily from Knight of the old Republic and perhaps Dragon Age. It doesn't do anything as well as its victims, but everything worked just well enough for me to ignore the shadier bits and enjoy the morally bankrupt characters stabbing one another in the back. I did wonder why it kept the two main characters apart for so long, filling the parties with throw away red shirts or bad asses who will undoubtedly betray you for the smallest amount of coin.

Ten chapters in the two finally met, with Mors having an eye burnt out for his troubles and Alester finding out the younger brother he thought was dead was not and then seeing the same brother murdered. Neither were in a very good mood, so being tasked with fighting their way out of a dungeon was suitably cathartic. For the first time my original idea of a tank with ranged support was going to go into battle. I chose to keep control of Alester, poisoning and igniting and being a general nuisance while Mors and his dog took all the abuse and did most of the damage. It did not take long for me to notice that Mors was not using any of his abilities, instead blandly swinging his sword and whoever was in front of him while getting murdered from behind.

Other characters in your party have no AI. They will not do anything that you do not tell them to do. In KotOR and and Dragon Age (and every other turn based/real time RPG ever) NPCs in the party could be set to a few different presets, allowing the player to control his character and intervene only when necessary. Game of Thrones forces the player to control both of them at the same time, and with a move queue of only three that means jumping back and forth every five seconds or so. It's incredibly lazy. It's bad.


Game of Thrones made the leap from 'not good' to 'bad' and it did it with authority. It did it with intention. I had been suckered in by its so so looks, abusable combat and well written but poorly voiced dialogue, so I was not prepared for everything to go to shit all at once. I must soldier on, as there isn't much yet, but I have nothing else nice to say about this game.

Aside from a rather amusing cameo from George R. R. Martin as a healer with quite a bit to say about a book he is writing that he will never finish. It tries to be funny, so I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that it is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Now where did my cane go?

I am not going to talk about Virtua Fighter 5, as I am pretty sure Chance and I will have another discussion about it posted eventually. Hint: we do not disagree this time.

...

Those bastards at GameFly have loaded me up with three RPG's: the terrible but somehow enjoyable Game of Thrones, the masochistic Witcher 2, and the completely unknown Tales of Graces F. I suppose summer is the right time for this, as my bed time has shifted back by about a half an hour, but still. To make matters worse, I am actually enjoying Game of Thrones. There is a moral ambiguity present that is completely lacking from most other RPGs, especially ones that come from across the ocean.

My archer has graduated from worthless to cheap as hell, able to stun lock multiple enemies and then back away, filling them with poisonous arrows just after having lit them on fire. It a better game this would be extremely satisfying. Here it is just enough to get me to the next dialogue choice between something awful and something much worse. Alester, because I can actually remember his name now, has spent most of his chapters trying undermine his half brother (who is going to marry his sister) while looking for his missing younger brother. I found the younger brother last night, mostly in one piece but certainly not alive. In a room down the hall his killer was imprisoned, betrayed by the people who paid him and beaten to a pulp.

Alester is given the option to kill him then and there or rescue him, thereby accumulating favors that I assume will come into play later. Alester then lies to his sister about this later, telling her that those responsible for their brother's death have been taken care of. The whole game is deliciously devoid of morals. It makes me wish that it was much better and want to see the HBO series.

How can I hate a game that has a quest whose best possible outcome is sending a girl back to work at a house of ill repute after having killed her cousin and a dozen of his lackeys, then hands out an achievement titled simply 'pimp' as if it was the sort of thing that happens every day? Alester is more or less a good guy, but he does very bad things to advance his good goals. Sometimes he feels guilty about it, but more often than not it is just the cost of doing business when you are a lord and you want your land back.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Take this octopus

I meant to post this yesterday and somehow screwed it up.

Friday, June 8, 2012

It's a reflex

The two separate plots in Game of Thrones have started to make sense, or at the very least I understand how they are related to one another. It would appear that my two 'heroes' are actually on very different sides and that they will end up squaring up against one another. This is where I search the recesses of my brain for a 'just like such and such' comment to prove both my intellectual superiority and how many terrible game I have actually played. Not going to do that today. No sir, that's lazy writing and I need to be more creative. I went back and read a few reviews I wrote over a year ago and while I would not call them amazing they are certainly readable. I still made with silly comparisons, but that is just how my brain works. I live off of connections and patterns, so much so that new things take a very long time to be integrated into day to day life.

God damnit, just like Kain and Raziel fighting in Legacy of Kain Defiance or the protagonist briefly switching sides in Baten Kaitos. It's a a nervous twitch, I can't help it. I am (skinny) comic book guy, just for video games.

Back on topic, the loading scenes in Game of Thrones warn that choices made now may have effects on future events. I certainly hope so, as my archer who is supposed to be sucking up to the evil queen to get his town back has done nothing but piss her off and him being sent off to the gallows would be hilarious. I'm not doing it purpose, I am just doing everything wrong. For example, there was a soldier from a defeated rival city hanging out it the queen's court saying nasty things about her. I told on him, because that is how I roll, so she instructed me to take care of it sans violence. No problem, I went through the dialogue tree taking the snarkiest possible choices, eventually accusing him of misplaced loyalty to a dead price based on what kind of services he paid said prince when he was but a young, nubile squire.

Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

That bastard attacked me! Even though I killed him in self defense I was still reprimanded. I am pretty sure that this character is headed for a bad ending, which is okay, as long as it is amusing.



Thursday, June 7, 2012

You must unlearn what you have learned

Ah, that new fighting game smell.

Well, at least new to me, and not exactly new. I had a cup of coffee with Virtua Fighter 4 on the PS2 years ago, enjoyed Kumite mode, the usual deal. Since then I had not touched it, but my hands remember just enough Sarah to...

Who am I kidding, I won two matches in ranked last night out of twenty or so. The difference between this and, say, Mahvel, is that I know exactly why I lost. While playing Street Fighter my default position is down back, both because I play charge characters and because it is relatively safe. Most characters don't have fast overheads, and if they do most of them don't combo into anything. It is a relatively safe defensive position (for my ability) that keeps all my offensive options open. In Virtua Fighter down back is not safe. Yes, it avoids throws, but since there really aren't overheads, just mid attacks that need to be blocked standing that everyone has several of, sitting there waiting is just sitting there waiting to lose. Not to mention holding back to block is superfluous and just my hands playing the wrong game.

It is also very difficult to see what is safe and what is not safe, both for my character and my opponent. Over and over again last night I found myself lashing out at something that looked unsafe only to either whiff or have my attack blocked, followed by eating a punish for the trouble. I don't need match up knowledge, I just need to understand the game engine first. This will take time.

It's a good thing that, in spite of the copious ass kickings, I had fun. I played a series of player matches against a few PA people who had slightly (read, a lot) more experience than I who coached me through what to improve. Crouching jab is the go to 'oh shit, get them off of me' move, something that I can file under 'crouch teching' in my brain as a move to use but not abuse. If I am going to continue to use Sarah, and I am, I need to learn more of her kick mix ups and not rely on her juggles and elbow - knee attacks for damage. She has an interesting feint that I think is good, I just do not know how to use it yet. Characters in Virtua Fighter have a paralyzing number of moves to choose from. I went through all her attacks in the tutorial and forgot most of them by the time I got online. Just have to do it again tomorrow.



Tonight it is back to the Game of Thrones. Somehow a three button fighting game did a number on my hands that will require an extra day to recover from.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It talked me into it

I would like to call your attention to Sidequest. Go ahead, play it now, I will wait.

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Brilliant.

And not exactly an exaggeration.

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I hate it when a bad game has a hook just good enough to keep me interested. Case in point, Game of Thrones is a bad RPG that is so wordy that I simply must know what happens next. This is in direct opposition to Dragon's Dogma, a game that is no doubt superior but that I quit because it was not wordy enough. I was responsible for all of my own enjoyment in Dragon's Dogma, and being quite lazy, that did not fly. Game of Thrones is linear to a fault, with a few Sidequest sidequests thrown in just to pad things out, but I am actually enjoying it. All of the talking actually moves the story along, and it moves along quickly. There have been two murdered lords, two whore houses, betrayal, and monarchy approved incest.

This is the only game I can think of in which a sister and half brother being forced to marry is even mentioned, much less a major plot point. Kudos, I guess.

Combat has been figured out to the point that I can stop thinking about it. One of my two characters (who exist in different time periods, more on that in a bit) is a two handed sword wielding tank. He wades into the thick of things like a goth windmill, swinging at everything and then making blithe comments on how pointless it all is. The second character, who I designed as backup for the first, is your typical leather wearing archer. A pansy, in other words. I found out that these two characters never end up in the same party too late, so I have been forced to use my archer, who has no hit points or armor, all by himself.

It did not go well until I unlocked the 'paralyze' attack. Now I walk up to someone, hit them with paralyze, take two steps back and fill them with arrows. No honorable, but it works. There were options in the combat system to get out of an almost impossible situation, and it only took a few deaths to figure out. I am not sure if this give points in the games favor for being flexible or mine for being able to quickly break game mechanics when necessary.

I'll take the points. I am going to need them when I try to go online with Sarah Bryant tonight. Block button, what the fuck is that? And I have to move it 3 dimensions?!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Not that game of thrones. Ew.

Just to be contrary I am not going to talk about E3 anymore, and it's not because Nintendo Press Conference is going on more or less right now and I stopped caring about Nintendo years ago.

Okay, one little lolSony for the road:


Oh man, what is that? Looks like an unused prop from a Sasha Grey video. And if you get that joke you should be ashamed of yourself. I know I am.

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In spite of shipping a day later, Game of Thrones beat Witcher 2 into my mailbox, so I am going to start with the lesser of the two games. I know nothing of Game of Thrones; I have not read the book and I refuse to pay for television so I have not seen the show either. I think it ended up on my list because I saw a preview for it in Gameinformer that looked mildly interesting, so here it is, mildly interesting at best.

It does a thing or two quite well. Character customization actually allows customization beyond what they look like and what color their underwear is. First you choose one of three archetypes, then you divide up ability points in a very second edition D&D manner, then you mete out specific ability points, then you make a few choices from a tech tree or two, and then you can choose a balance between advantages and disadvantages. Characters start out with nothing from either list, which is boring, so I chose to handicap my guys just a bit to keep things interesting, with the side benefit of extra ability points with every level gained.

Okay, so now I have a character carved out to my liking, more or less, what do I get to do with him? The answer, unfortunately, is play a game that looks and feels a lot like Knights of the Old Republic. Combat plays out almost identically, with queued abilities in a almost real time setting. It's a bit boring, but you do have to pay attention, as enemies will queue up their own abilities that you need to interrupt or get smoten for your laziness. The combat is just good enough,  just, to keep things moving along.

There is certainly a lot of talking, which I assume is staying true to the HBO namesake, but there have been no boobs so far, which does not (or so I have been told). After three hours Game of Thrones can best be described as 'quaint.' Certainly not high praise, but better than a kick in the nuts.

It is going to be put aside tomorrow, anyway, when I try to remember how to play Virtua Fighter. I predict that it will not go well.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Too much news vs too much work

I am not going to attempt to keep up with the avalanche of trailers and news that will be forthcoming in the next few days, and re-posting things here is just silly (yes, I know I just did that, but I am that excited about Zeno Clash 2). In any event, go here or here for news in bite sized chunks if you are time challenged like myself.

Under the table news is the best news

I was trolling around sites today looking for something to be excited about as E3 ramps up when I stumbled on this little gem:



Yes. Yes. New Gears? Sure, that's nice. Halo 4? Meh. But a new Zeno Clash? Never saw that one coming.

Then there's this bit of news. I don't necessarily believe it, but it would be nice.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The separation of game and story

Binary Domain had all of fifteen minutes left last night. I was convinced that what appeared to be the final boss was not the final boss so I stopped early the night before. Sega fooled me by not fooling me, which is rather fitting for the game. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the way the game plays is significantly better than not terrible; it's actually a pretty good little cover based shooter with a speech mechanic that no one will ever use and two competing RPG bits that fight each other for your experience points. It certainly looks the part, culminating in a battle again three refugees from Front Mission and there over grown general. It still does not get a pass on its unlikable characters, poor writing, and terrible handling of what could have been interesting plot points.

For example: the entire reason that NATO has sent in this Rust Crew is the discovery of hollow children: robots that are indistinguishable from humans. The current batch is not even aware that they are robots, but turn inexplicably violent when the truth is discovered. Just this by itself could have created a lot of tension between the player character and the other soldiers in the party. Think of 'The Thing' (the re-make, not the re-re-make) but with robots. Unfortunately this never happens and the story instead makes another leap. The female hollow children are so advanced that they can reproduce with human males, creating hybrid humans who are totally organic but stronger, faster and smarter than normal people.

This little bomb shell forced my brain to pack in for the night and go to sleep, especially when one of the party turns out to be a hybrid and everyone turns on her all at once. Dan, being the good guy that he is, decides not to kill her, and she forgives everyone else for trying to murder her just because her Mom had more in common with a toaster than her father did. It was a twist worthy of M. Night Shyamalan later movies, and garnered a similar reaction.


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I am once more convinced that GameFly is run by spies whose job it is to make sure that games are shipped to you in the worst order, at the worst time. Binary Domain was a good three day shooter, and I am in the mood for another snack sized game or two. So what shipped? The Witcher 2, a game that I had wanted to not come until I actually finished the first (which will never happen) and the Game of Thrones RPG.

My new bull shit detecting dog is going to get a work out from one, if not both.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A break from the unreal

I didn't play anything last night, but I did climb a 5.9 wall for the first time and got by belay card. Neither of these things are at all impressive, but that are certainly markers of progression in one of my non-gaming hobbies. Climbing actually compares rather well with Street Fighter, if only because improvement comes in spurts and the plateaus are maddening to get past. The steps that need to be taken to improve are also obvious. In Street Fighter I need to work focus attacks into my game, learn the crouching medium kick into ultra 1 link, and quite possible play a real character. For climbing, it more simple, but also much more boring: I just need to be stronger.

For just under a year I have gotten by on simply not being very big. Not having to haul much weight makes easier climbs much easier, which also allowed me to gloss over not having the strength or endurance for more difficult moves. Last night I found myself dangling from an overhang with a very clear idea of what I needed to do but not able to do it. There is always a right and a wrong way to solve these indoor problems, and event though I am pretty sure I had the right way I just couldn't pull myself up. Pull ups are the only answer, but pull up, hell, exercise in general, is so boring that I have never even entertained it before. I need to decide if I really want to get good at this or be satisfied with my current plateau. Improve or settle.

Such an awful decision, because money is also involved. Not to make (too many) excuses, but my SE arcade stick is also one of my problems. It has more than served its time and has had one too many trips across the room for its own good, therefore it is in serious need of replacement. A Qanba is over $150. A pull up bar is negligible, but other climbing equipment is really fucking expensive.

Not everything is Street Fighter, but it makes for great analogies.

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