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Because all I needed for Christmas were more games ;_;

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I actually think I managed to exercise a pinch of restraint this time around. So here's what I picked up from Steam, GoG, and Gamestop sales. With random summaries.

Steam:

  • Just Cause 2 - this game is ridiculous, I'm pretty sure in a good way. I've only spent a few hours messing around; both times ended badly, one due to a glitch in which I grappled inside of a building that did not have an interior, and was trapped in the geometry forever after a 30-minute fight with military forces >_>, the other after I spent an hour on a mission and died. The autosave did not work. A fun game, but I'm HATING the checkpoint system. Will have to be more careful with saves. Spent around $8 for game and all DLC, half of which won't activate. Huh.
  • Prototype - Miraculously, it RUNS ON MY LAPTOP. I don't know why. I don't know how. All I know is that suddenly I have a sandbox game that won't explode when it hears the words 'Intel Integrated Graphics', and is running on Medium to boot :D. Only played about fifteen minutes so far, ended up grinning like a fool. Spent about $7.
  • Bastion - Bought before Christmas sale. I should finish it before going back to school. Easily my favourite game of this year; there aren't really words to describe it properly. Just go buy it, and get the soundtrack too. $5
  • Audiosurf - I've meant to buy this for a long time. It's not my favourite thing in the world, but for the $2.50 I spent I think it's worth it. F***ed Up tracks make for some good rides, and I like all the variety.
  • Divinity 2: Dragon Knight Saga - I played and liked the demo, and finally picked this guy up. It's MUCH better than the demo. The humor really is a breath of fresh air in the stuffy fantasy game genre. For $10, it was totally worth it.
  • My friends gifted me Dungeons: The Dark Lord and Fable: The Lost Chapters. Haven't played either, but I've been considering both for a while. Sweet.

Good Old Games: You know what this is, right? GOG? If not, go plug that into Google. I will accept your thanks later, after you have bought things and wiped the tears of joy from your pallid zit-bespeckled cheeks.

  • Planescape: Torment - I just found my Baldur's Gate saves after a panic that my 80+ hours of questing was lost. I have to import to Baldur's Gate II still and finish that game, but Torment will be nice for afterward. I'm looking forward to it a lot after hearing so many good things about it. $6
  • Outcast - Weird voxel-rendered game from 1999. Took a high-res patch and some major .ini tweaking to be playable, but it's like nothing I've ever played and has a fantastic soundtrack performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Choir. I'm not completely sold on it, but for $3 it was hard to go wrong and I have to say I've enjoyed what I've played so far. Very unique.

Gamestop:

  • Super Mario Galaxy - nothing needs to be said. Cost me $15 new. It's supposed to be as good as Mario 64 - if it's half as good, that price is worth it :)
  • No More Heroes - Played a bit with two friends. Effin' awesome. Seriously, it's like joy in a wiimote. $0, got it free ;)
  • MadWorld - Haven't played any yet. Looks beast. $10
  • Metroid Prime Trilogy - $60. I have never spent that much on a game before. But that shiny tin case...and then playing a few hours into the Chozo Ruins reminded me that there was a time in my life when I would sneak downstairs at 3 in the morning to play Metroid Prime on my Gamecube on our crappy old TV. The smell of the game cabinet in there, long empty of games, still reminds me of chilly mornings when the heater hadn't quite turned on, but I was never sure if the shivers were because of the cold or because of the title screen music...
  • Metroid: Other M. It was $6 practically brand new. Looked like somebody cracked a peek at the cover art and returned the thing in horror. I'll just skip the cutscenes and pretend it's a really, really weird Ninja Gaiden mod. On the Wii. If boob physics happen, there WILL be ranting.

OH MY HERPING DERP, I AM NOW AS POVERTY-STRICKEN AS A TWO DOLLAR STREETWALKER. WITH AIDS.

Also, academic prohibation. Thankfully I am only .375 too low on the GPA scale and have a whole semester to correct this. And after years of frustrations I have finally succumbed to the will of doctors and accepted an ADD medication. I argued the doc into a low dose that doesn't work very well, just because I have my pride and still need that masochistic sensation of beating my senses into a brick wall (or, you know, my knuckles. They've healed quickly this time. I'M LIKE DEADPOOL).

My dog is attempting to bark in his sleep. It sounds like a case of flatulence.

Anyway, I finished Dragon Age: Origins with my Human Male Rogue archer/beastmaster today. All in all a decent game that focuses too much on the generic plot instead of smaller, more interesting/morally controversial topics like the Mage/Templar conflict (beyond the goofy GAY PEOPLE RIGHTS = MAGICK PEOPLE RIGHTS LOL parallels) or the plight of the elves. And the Dwarven caste system, and the goofy Paragon dealies. It felt like all the parts I really wanted to be playing were stuck in the codex while I trudged through Fantasy Epic 1301.

I've got to decide if I'm going to play Awakenings, Golems of Amgarrak and Witch Hunt in order to do a full Ultimate Edition rundown, or just review Origins.

I should try to sleep. There's a chance I'll be hanging out with some high school friends tomorrow night and I don't wanna pass out in the middle of things. Plus I've got some level design work to do for the team I'm on, and a drawing of my friend and I as a fused Saiyan (he's got a boss earring; I was thinking of getting a matching one in the other ear and was reminded of potaras xD). Plus I have to draw my other friend in roller derby gear cutting through a Minecraft mountain with a pumpkin while swinging a dead deer around her head by its antlers.

Because true story. Except for the bit about the deer.

tl;dr - I AM SO PRODUCTIVE ON BREAK. SO, SO PRODUCTIVE. ALSO, VIDEO GAMES AND THE SHIRKING OF RESPONSIBILTY.

Sometimes I Am A Derp

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Actually, most of the time I'm a derp. It's finals week and I've been having a pretty dreadful semester. I've been struggling with ADD for years and it's never been a crippling issue until now. Being in college and dealing with semi-independence naturally means that one has a lot more on one's mind, and between juggling my faith and sexuality/gender crap and coursework and social life and finances and gnat-like attention span...sheesh.

Anyway, to get to the point, I spent 8 hours trying to study for a Java final, accomplished almost nothing, blew a gasket and then punched a wall.

I haven't punched a wall in a very long time. The only good to come of this most recent iteration on that action is that I can be assured of my punching form's excellence - my ring and pinky knuckles are completely unscathed. And I only scuffed the paint (didn't full-force punch; I don't want broken bones lol), so the lease people won't chew me out for that.

But damn I'm stupid. I split the skin on my left knuckles and have a giant bruise halo around the right ones.

I told my roommate I was moving furniture when she asked what all the noise was >_>.

In retrospect I prolly should have lifted weights instead, but that takes too much focus and I was too antsy to even play God of War. That's really, really sad beyond all allowances of human tragedy.

Such a derp am I.

Built a brand spankin' new computer! :D

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...for a friend. Thankfully she happens to reside next door to me in the residence hall, meaning that I may have access to it. I feel like vomiting specs everywhere in a fit of pride that the damn thing runs so beautifully.

  • Motherboard: ASUS M5D87 with 870-series chipset. It's blue. So purdy.
  • Processor: AMD Phenom II 970 Black, 3.5GHz. This thing is badass. The cooling unit on it boasts some really impressive design. Cooling fans and copper everywhere. We were able to save some cash since we didn't need a separate one :D
  • Graphics: EVGA Nvidia GTX 460 1GB. We originally found a bundle that came with Arkham City and Dungeon Siege 3, but we delayed in ordering so the bundle expired. Oh well.
  • Hard drive: Seagate 500GB 7200 SATA hard drive
  • Memory: 8GB Crucial 1333Mhz. Not the fastest, but it was on sale for cheaper than 4gb of 1660.
  • Zephyr 750 watt power supply (way too much, but this way she can keep it if she needs to build a new one someday)

Then there were speakers and monitor and whatnot. The grand total was around $950 - well under the price of buying a similar pre-built computer. Huzzah for Tigerdirect sales. I can't pronounce what she named it (some bizarre Engrish attack name from an anime), but it's fantastic and I'm kinda proud of it. I don't even really have space to be jealous :P

I also picked out parts for my friend who lives down the hall, but because his budget was twice hers I organized an Intel machine. It was around $2000 and had that top-end i7 sandybridge (the 2600K I think) and dual 460s (580s were too expensive for his liking, and it made the power supply price ridiculous). I'm not as interested in it because I didn't help him build it. It did have one of those boss MSI mobos w/ the P67 chipset, and it kind of can blow the above little AMD rig out of the water, but I'm rooting for the underdog with the anime name (we call it Zetsu) in this case :P

Anyhoo, that's what I did over the weekend.

I miss my gaming rig...

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I've gone from a very respectable machine that could handle pretty much anything as long as I was conservative with AA, to a Lenovo laptop with Intel integrated graphics. Installing Steam games is an exercise in frustration as I browse past title after title that I know won't run, no matter what I try to do. Plus, since the laptop runs Windows 7, games that the terrible HD3000 can handle balk at the operating system.

I am so thankful for Terraria right now. What a godsend. It runs flawlessly and satisfies the need for exploring, building, looting, killing, and dying a lot simultaneously. When I go home over Christmas break I'm using a chunk of my savings to build a rig. This laptop is second to none for usefulness, but pretty much rubbish for gaming.

On the plus side, I'm able to get back to my PS2. A friend and I made a walmart excursion to test out our transit passes, and I found a brand new copy of the GTA III Trilogy for $10. Much nicer than the copy of San Andreas I almost bought used at Gamestop for $17 a few days back.

Holy Steam sales, Batman!

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Inspired by Neatfeatguy, I will likely post my full PC backlog in the next few days for people to facepalm over.

It's ridiculously long, but not likely to grow as quickly as it has been. Very few games on the horizon really interest me, and most of them I won't buy until I can get them on sale anyhow. They all have 3 in their name, too: Mass Effect 3, Saints Row 3, Battlefield 3, Far Cry 3, and Half-Life 3.

But right now is the time of sales, and here so far is what I have bought.

  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Deluxe (all the expansions & DLC for $8.50? Why not!)
  • Beat Hazard ULTRA (Loved the original despite its flaws; this DLC amends most of them) - $3.00
  • Assassin's Creed - $6.79
  • Assassin's Creed II - $6.79
  • STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl - $4.99
  • STALKER: Clear Sky - $2.49
  • STALKER: Call of Pripyat - $3.74
  • Deus Ex Game of the Year Edition - $2.49
  • Far Cry 2 Fortune's Edition - $4.99
  • Fallout 3 Game of the Year Edition - $10.19
  • Terraria 4-Pack - $7.49

That's a pretty good haul. The only other game I'll buy if it goes on sale is Bulletstorm, but not unless it's under $10. Even then, meh.

There are a few others I kind of want, but my backlog is massive and they really don't interest me that much. I've finally caught up on the majority of games released in the last 10 years of PC gaming that I am interested in. It's a good feeling to be like, "Huh, I'm in the mood to play -insert game here-" and realize it's waiting for you at home on your hard drive.

I probably won't finish all of these games - that would take years - but my $1 per 1 hour of gameplay principle means I will get more than my money's worth out of all of them. I've stopped worrying so much about my backlog because of it. Games are about having fun, not just trying to barrel to the end. If it's a game worth finishing, sure. But sometimes finishing a game becomes a chore I feel compelled to complete, and that ruins the whole point of gaming :)

Black Ops Free Weekend - Am I Playing The Same Game You Are?

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TL;DR version: WTF.

I've never played a CoD game, let alone one online. My only experience with the series is people calling it stupid, enjoyable arcade fun. I've spent the last few years vigorously bashing the online CoD community thanks to meeting several people who fit the most negative stereotypes possible, but came to realize that this was not productive. I should at least play this game, and hey, I like arcadey shooters, right?

I envisioned something with fast gameplay a la Timesplitters 2 and amazing graphics and gunplay a la Bad Company 2 (which I will likely blog on soon, since it has converted me to the online-gamer masses :D).

Instead, I sank my unsuspecting bare foot into a virtual pile of something still-warm and faintly steaming.

The game looks like crap. Now I love older games - I just got Ghost Recon during the Ubisoft sale and it'll probably be something I'll spend a lot of time on. But BLOPS doesn't look dated, it just looks poorly designed. I cannot understand how people defend this game's visuals over something like MoH or Homefront. In fact, I was so shocked that I had to look up screens online to convince myself that I hadn't screwed up the settings somehow Textures are blurry or visually unappealing, animations look to be copy-pasted from the first Medal of Honor games (Frontline FTW!), and the environments are static and boxy. It looks like Counter-Strike Source rolled around in Vaseline. And don't get me started on the lulz-worthy napalm bomb fire effects. It's painful to look at. So, so ugly. My little brother, who until today was a staunch defender of the series (congrats, Activision, you have the middle-school market cornered), stared at the screen open-mouthed and shouted, "THAT ISN'T COD! THAT LOOKS WORSE THAN MODERN WARFARE 2! THAT LOOKS LIKE CRAP!"

From the mouth of babes. Anyway, back on track...

It sounds like playing airsoft. The guns spit out insipid digital popping noises instead of proper intimidating roars. I'm so spoiled by Bad Company 2, it's not even funny. I took so much in that game for granted until now. Heck, even Ghost Recon's low bit-rate gun samples have that chilly element of realism; that oh man this is a lethal weapon sensation. These are on par with, say, a .22 air pistol with a-half CO2 cartridge.

It runs like a geriatric marathoner with severed Achilles' tendons who is having seizures. I can run much better-looking games with all their settings maxed and experience no hitches. This stutters constantly, even on menu screens! Trying to aim down my M16 was an exercise in lulz as the soldier I sighted on teleported around the area in a fit of lag, and then during Second Chance (a great idea which Borderlands did very well; I loved it in that game) I shot him to death in the knee with my pistol and then got stuck in a wall and lagged out. The ping for all the servers I tried was under 50. I lagged out 7 times in 30 minutes of playing.

The playerbase is atrocious. I wanted to play so I could get rid of all those generalizations I had been spewing. Half the servers I tried were full of kids with whiny voices screaming offensive sexual epithets; the others were occupied by people blasting Justice For All over their headsets.

It isn't fun. Even seeing big points appear on the screen didn't feel rewarding. My naive younger brother's verdict? "MODERN WARFARE 2 HAS LOTS OF BUGS BUT THIS IS EVEN MORE WORSER."

I don't know about MW2, but I want my 47 minutes and 8 gig of internet back :(

Am I doing something stupid? What am I missing? I honestly came into this game wanting to love it; ready to overcome my prejudice against its underage fanbase. Instead, I've had ever one of my most vitriolic forum posts confirmed. Groundless hate no more.

What on earth went wrong? What did I do wrong? I was even playing pretty well; got some great killstreaks going in between all the teleporting and backing around corners and rubber-banding and being threatened with bum rape.

Is this the real, honest-to-goodness Black Ops that everyone is going on about? Again, I only had a prejudice against the players and not against the game going into it. I didn't want to hate it. So why do I loathe it so much? Why am I incredulous that people pay money to play this?

WHAT AM I MISSING HERE?

Finally finished Borderlands (PC). Semi-review with screenshots.

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After one false start as a Hunter (the sniper class) that lasted about 6 or 7 hours, I restarted as a Soldier and played to the end of the main game. I did ever sidequest available, and clocked in a finish time that was just one minute short of 21 hours, and a level of 37. The entire experience was played solo, given that my network violently disagrees with Gamespy and the friend I had expected to play with and I were unable to get connected.

screenshawt

The art 5ty1e lends the game some pretty decent atmosphere. Also, this SMG has a reload speed of 0.4 seconds an a fire rate of 16.2 bullets per second.

It ran beautifully on my machine (quad core AMD M3N-72D phenom, GTX 260, WinXP SP3), but unfortunately it took some work to get it there. Mouse smoothing and Vsync had to be forced off and on respectively before it was playable, and both of those options made themselves available only through messing with .ini files. On top of that, the font size set for the PC version truncated weapon stats, making it impossible to see what particularly rare guns with lots of bonuses did. Also, the intro ads were unskippable until I commented them out in the .ini.

Folowing the tweaks detailed HERE worked wonderfully. The game loses a few points in my book by just how irritating it is to do that kind of tweaking, but after I did I experienced no crashes or lag.

moar skreenshawt

Fetch quests (almost all are strictly optional side-quests) are made less mundane by the writing. Here I am collecting pamphlets from a bandit cult. This one advocates the neophyte to 'git off ur ass an on ur nees'. I do believe this one might make for a good sig someday, were I less of a lazy ass.

The game has a plot with a lot of potential to be fantastic. Unfortunately, the otherwise top-notch and very funny writing was put to waste when the ending culminated in a boss fight pulled out of the developers' ass. Thankfully a final couple of teaser images instead led me to want to play the DLC to see what happens instead of being disappointed. Don't get just the main game if you want to play solo. The story is terrible. The jokes, on the other hand, are crass and low-brow and wonderful.

kinda lonely skreenshawt

Borderlands does not have any anti-aliasing, and it suffers a little because of it. Forcing AA on through your graphics card control settings works very well and does wonders for the game, but causes haphazard frame rate hitches.

The game's biggest flaw is that it just doesn't provide enough of a framework for all the gameplay. You get an ARPG with great combat (standard FPS rules apply; headshots and critical shots to aliens that don't have heads :P), a cool and original weapon system (guns with stats instead of swords and things), and really slick controls. But there are only a small number of enemies and they all have fundamentally the same behavior. Combat is only fun because all the guns handle so wonderfully and you are leveling up - otherwise, it would get very stale. I can see why people say it's much better in co-op.

lol pink

This gun is called the Swift Law. It has a 4.6x zoom scope and a freaking bayonette. On a revolver. Is it awesome?

I've mostly been complaining about things I didn't like, but that's because I enjoyed the overall game so much. Once you turn off the terrible mouse smoothing, it controls excellently. The guns all feel different, too. The only ones I don't like are the rocket launchers, which don't seem to do enough damage and take too long to reload; and repeaters, which are basically pistols and not useful compared to SMGs, which shoot faster and hold much more ammo. Sniper rifles are fantastic, and I really, really loved the revolvers. They were just c1a55y, not to mention very accurate and they looked sick. I didn't use them much as a Soldier since my abilities catered more towards shotguns and rifles, but I might bring up my Hunter again and try them out with him. Headshots and critical hits just feel great.

new toys

Yeah, pretty awesome.

The game just has 'flow'. That's a word I don't really know how to define. To me, it means that you can start playing a game and simply continue playing, each event leading you to another goal ahead of you. It's definitely more shooter than RPG, but it strikes a balance that really works.

it's super effective

Very, very awesome. I didn't use the Swift Law very long since I didn't specialize in revolvers, but it's coolness and general overwhelming badassery have lingered with me long after I sold it for a sweet shotgun that set people on fire.

It's a kind of game that hasn't ever been done before, and that shows a little in how that 'goal-ahead-of-you' often tends to be a lot of mundane side-quests, like Gearbox wasn't sure what to have you do. I did them all for the achievments and because I wanted to see how long a maximum do-everything-and-kick-ass playthrough would take. My Soldier also had a c1a55 mod (things you can equip that provide bonuses to skills and such) called Support Gunner that let him regenerate ammo at a rate of 11 per second. This means I could literally fire some guns and my ammo would replenish faster than I would use it up, so I didn't have to worry about stopping to buy ammo all the time.

d'awww

Meet Skrappy. He is adorable.

The problem is that now I'm a little afraid to play another c1a55. My soldier came to rely on that regeneration, since the game's ammo-drop mechanic is irritatingly haphazard and never drops what you really need, and never in great enough quantities. A gun like my Malevolent Stinger SMG (see first screenshot) would be useless without the Support Gunner mod. It sadly also kept me from using any other c1a55 mods, even though the others had some cool bonuses. This is a design problem I hope is fixed in Borderlands 2, because it detracts a lot. The same problem comes up with the health system - you get shields and a health bar, and only the former regenerates. This leads to misery in the early game when everything goes through your shield like butter, and health packs restore measly amounts of health. I used only health regenerating shields the entire game even though there were many others that looked really fun and useful.

glitch

There are a few amusing collision detection glitches. Here, I parked my car in mid-air.

I think the reason I enjoyed playing a Soldier so much is that his talents and c1a55 mods functioned as bandaids for shortcomings in the game's design. If you play in a group, the support from other players would also serve this purpose. Solo, however, the problems rise to the surface. I hope to meet some friends who own the game and try out the co-op someday.

If you're playing solo, though, I recommend playing a Soldier. Jack-of-all-trades and master of all of them. Metal Storm and Stat skills are awesome. You can respec any time too, for cheap :D

It's a mark of crummy design that a game is really only good if you play as one character though, and I recognize that, but the amount of fun I had was worth it regardless. If you see the GOTY edition on sale somewhere for less than $30, I'd say go ahead and buy it. Just be aware that it's not a perfect game. But it's a unique one with a huge amount of atmosphere and personality and fluid gameplay, brought down by unfocused plot and a group of niggles you may not be able to ignore the way I did.

ned

Part of the Ned DLC. Already it's more focused and more visually appealing than the main game. I can't wait to finish playing through it. Right now I have Dragon Age occupying my time, but I know I'll come back to it :D

I, for one, am looking forward to the inevitable sequel, especially when I see just how much they learned from the main game and executed in the DLC I've played so far.

Old vs. New Games

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Short blog. Vomiting a veritable term paper's worth of hasty keyboard-scribble and next to no second editing is fun, but occasionally I feel the need to post succinct blurbs of hasty keyboard-scribble with absolutely zero second editing.

Or just write really, really ironic sentences. Sometimes I do that too.

Old vs New - a difficult thing to judge. I enjoy different things in the games of different eras.

Older games tended to be more simple, but also much more complex in a way. That is not meant to be contradictory; what I mean is that they had simplistic mechanics that, though, genius game design, became much deeper. There was very little to work with, so they had to be creative with what they had. A game that really embodies this for me is Descent. The foundation of the game was essentially the same as Doom (explore for card keys and blow up monsters), but with the full 3D motion the levels were much more complex. Even combat never got old, since you had to pay close attention to where you were. Cover might work from one direction, but not from another. I love Descent. It's a simple idea (add another dimension to combat) that really added depth.

Older games aren't as easy to play, however, and I don't mean in terms of difficulty. They just can be counterintuitive and frustrating. You could argue that this makes them more 'hardcore', but when I'm searching all over for a switch to open a door and can't find it because it's hidden from me to pad out the level (I'm looking at you, Dark Forces!) that isn't good game design.

Newer games are much more intuitive. Let's take Mass Effect 2, for example (please stay away from the IT'S NOT AN RPG RAAAAGE argument - the ME series is a third person shooter with RPG elements, an action game, not meant to be something else). You can't get lost, you don't need to glue your face to an automap to painstakingly figure out where that invisible switch is, you won't suddenly die from a cheap enemy spawn room (*cough*SERIOUSSAM*cough*). It's safer-feeling. You go through the game, it's the same every time (no learning how to skip areas with Thermal Detonator jumps), you watch the cutscenes, and save the world. It's a good game. It has a complex plot and character interactions, has some awesome setpieces (HORIZON!) and can provoke real emotional responses. That's something an older game with its crummy graphics can seldom do. But in return, it's about as linear as a game can get, with lots of corridors leading between shooting galleries. Pretty shooting galleries, but still.

I play old and new games for different reasons. Lately I've been loving on Serious Sam and Dark Forces; just a lot of older shooters in general. And then I'll feel the need for something a little less one-dimensional and boot up a newer title.

'Better' and 'Worse' don't work when describing eras of video games. Design back then was crazier, freer in a way, but it was much less find-tuned and could be flat-out annoying at times. It's a trade-off.

I just like games. Old and new doesn't really matter for me - providing I have a system that can run them

Dragon Age 2 Demo Impressions. Warrior, Rogue, Mage, and Crappy AI.

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I haven't played Dragon Age: Origins yet, and as such know nothing about it besides what I gleaned from reading a few reviews. The Ultimate Edition on Steam taunts me with its tantalizing $40 price point, which would more than satisfy my one-dollar-per-hour prerequesite for purchasing a game. But then I look at my backlog, most specifically at the Baldur's Gate games, and at KOTOR II, and remember that I have other RPGs to attend to.

But the DAII demo hit Steam yesterday, and as I completed it for the first time just last evening, I have decided to give some opinions from the point of view of an individual who has not played its predecessor and is coming into it with what is essentially an eager, open mind. Trailers left me underwhelmed, but I find most of BioWare's trailers to be dreadful, so that doesn't much matter. Here's a quick rundown of what I was worried about before the game.

I Was Afraid...

1. ...it would be a hack and slash ARPG with a party system a la Dungeon Siege

2. ...it would be 'consolized' and dumbed down

3. ...the character designs would be ridiculously pretty and JRPG-ish

4. ...it would remind me too much of Mass Effect

I got the demo running and, after mucking about the options, found that I could only run it at Medium settings, with no option for AA above 8x or any fancy customization. Apparently this is because I have DX9. Oh well. Should still look okay, right?

Anyway, once I got the keys bound in what hopefully would be a functional fashion, I start up.

The game begins with a pissy Chantry Seeker (whatever that is) yelling a lot at a guy named Varric. I dislike her voice; it sounds as though she doesn't know what accent to use. She does look much better as a brunette; while the white hair was kind of neat in the trailer, it was too unrealistic. Anyway, Varric's voice is good. Nondescript and sort of permanently stuck on 'nonplussed', but inoffensive. The lip sync is not good, nor is character animation. They move too quickly and the camera has trouble keeping up. When looking at my dozens of screencaps I often noticed some really cool things that were completely missable when the game was in motion, which is sad. For example, armor textures are fantastic. I'm really digging the angular, rough aesthetic.

Varric starts telling his story, and so we go to Hawke and some mage chick who has Miranda Lawson's chest and, I swear, some of her facial and body animations. Her voice is dreadful. It sounds like somebody trying to sound young and innocent. Overall not in any way a likeable character, and I'd imagine she has quite some back pain.

Fighting feels like a mess at first. For one thing, the camera is confusing. You move around and rotate it using the keyboard, but direct-controlling your character and turning it without the mouse just feels clunky. I tried zooming out, but it doesn't zoom very far. Panning it with the mouse like in Baldur's Gate would be much better. Combat looks kind of cool, but there's so much flashing and slashing and blood effects that it's really hard to tell what's going on. I can't monitor my characters well. Health sort of regenerates sometimes, but I couldn't tell why. Was it with each strike? Was it when I killed an enemy?

Clicking another character to select them centers the camera on them like in KOTOR, which would be great if I weren't trying to control the game from an overhead view. The camera (from what I've seen) can only be rotated, not tilted, so zooming in means I look either at character's backs (and can't see what they're hitting) or the tops of their heads. I have trouble selecting things to target them, like the mouse doesn't register it's over an enemy.

Combat feels very flashy, but is pretty uninteresting. Then I discover the abilities, and kill a circle of guys in one blow. It's pretty awesome, but there's no real sensation of impact. Strikes in KOTOR and BG feel more dynamic than this; dunno why. I'm kind of baffled; the game just feels like it's playing itself at this point. It feels like it doesn't know whether to be God of War or BG. Suddenly, just as a new wave of Darkspawn appear, a dragon does some cool roaring thing on top of a hill and...

Cassandra interrupts, because apparently Varric is telling a tall tale. A-hole. There are loading time pauses in the middle of cutscenes, which is incredibly obnoxious. Not loading screens, just stops. The characters stop, the screen stops, and it loads (which I can tell since a little blop of white text in the corner says so). Mass Effect 2 didn't do this, and it looked much better than this. Kind of confused here.

So now I get to play the segment again, except this time it's what really happened. There's a screen where I guess I would customize and name him, but the game won't let me. A few seconds later, Brendan Hawke is good to go.

Hawke is fleeing with his family after their village was burned by orcs...er, Darkspawn. There's his mom, who dresses like a woman much younger than her years, brother Carver who I don't dislike quite as much as Miranda's medieval clone, and Miranda's medieval clone herself (she's named Bethany). Hmm, there's an amusing visual pun here; Bethany's chest is about half the absurd size it was. I guess Varric's tall tale covered more than just ogres...

Anyway, I fight a bunch of darkspawn on the way down a linear pathway. The camera is more of a bother than the monsters. I decide to zoom it in while travelling, but it always is tipped down way too much for me to see enemies. So they come running from all directions from off screen and I can't zoom out far enough to get them all on screen, so I fight with the utterly crappy friendly pathfinding. So far, I am not liking this demo. Every time something cool happens, it's offset by the clunky gameplay.

Then we meet some new characters: Aveline the Warrior Princess and her whiny, obnoxious Templar husband Khalid! I mean Wesley! He gets hurt in a cutscene and falls over. Some more fighting, and then Wussley starts calling Bethany an 'Apostate' and repeating some orders or something in a disturbing fashion until Aveline (who is not actually a princess) snaps him out of it.

Bethany begins dying almost instantly thanks to archers. When I try to tell her to target them with a fireball, it doesn't work. Are they too high? Am I out of mana (I wasn't)? Is the moon just not aligned correctly? The game didn't tell me, and while I fought with it the monsters kills Bethany and Hawke, the latter of which had stood about like an idiot doing nothing after killing something. I can deal with bad AI if you can micromanage (BG and KOTOR both have some pretty bad AI), but the crappy camera didn't let me see him because I was controlling someone else. That worked in KOTOR, having the camera zoomed in and being able to quickly jump between characters by clicking their portraits, but it doesn't work here since half the time it brings up their stats menu and there are usually about three to four more times the enemies on screen than in KOTOR. You also can't line up a list of things for characters to do. They have one action, and when it's over they're on to something else. I messed with the AI behaviors but they were just rudimentary tweaks (Aggressive and Defensive) to basic behaviors.

Aveline killed the archers by herself.

More fighting, more going down a linear path while staring at butt-ugly ground textures, and an ogre appears and bashes Carver to death. We kill them and move on following a painfully boring scene that is supposed to make us feel sorry for a character who so far has had about six lines of dialogue. Then there's another fight with another ogre and I'm bored out of my skull and then there's that dragon again. It flies around, kills a bunch of Darkspawn to make me feel lame, lands, and then transforms into an old lady with some really cool raven-feather stuff that reminds me of the crabby witch from DAO (at least what I've seen in screenshots). Morrigan or whoever.

Dragon Lady turns out to be the MILF....er, Witch of the Wilds...and after some talking sends us on a fancy fetch quest to do something, and randomly mentions her daughter, who I'm guessing is Morrigan. This mention seems really out of place, and I figure is only there to cater to DAO fanboys. The probability of my ever joining their ranks is decreasing by the minute of this crappy, combat-heavy, uninteresting demo. Her character design is pretty cool, though. Oh, and then Wussley...er, Wesley...apparently caught Darkspawn AIDS (Blight, or whatever, which is never explained), and so Aveline has to stab him, doubtless setting herself up as the tragic love interest for a male Hawke. It's actually a pretty well-done scene, avoiding many of the typical lines that plague similar events in other movies, books and games. Aveline's bitter, almost dispassionate reaction is also very interesting. She is probably my favourite character so far, not counting the dragon witch lady/Morrigan's Mom.

Some random exposition, and then we suddenly switch locations after a quick check-in with Cassandra and Varric that confirms Varric is now telling the truth. The new place is introduced by an ugly, grainy FMV. Why not in-engine? I'm guessing they recorded it from the game set on High and us DX9 kids get the crap FMVs. Aside from the ugly video compression artifacts and much lower frame rate, the actual details on characters looks phenomenal. Armor looks lovely, even on medium, but I think I mentioned that before. These characters have faces I like, in that most of them tend not to be incredibly beautiful or good-looking. They do all have BioWare Chin Disorder, in which everybody's chin juts forward; Aveline, the gravest example, looked at certain unfortunate moments a little like a ginger Schwarzenegger after a few rounds of estrogen treatment and some extensive facial surgery. Not to say she's ugly, she just has a very odd face. None of them have faces you would see on the street. They look fine in the game, but if you picture them out of it, walking down the street, you can't make them seem real if that makes sense. Mass Effect 2 had that same problem – the faces looked good, but just had something off about them. Like a 'realistic' cartoon. Thankfully here people don't all look as perplexingly striking (only pretty people could join the Normandy; that's why Tali keeps her helmet on. And Grunt was very pretty for a Krogan).

Unfortunately, we then encounter Isabela the Rogue. Either Varric's lying his ass off again or this lady has set some new record in gymnastics. Women who may be reading this, would you find acrobatics feasible if you were to have a chest that large? Sure, breasts are attractive, but she's just built so wrong. BioWare Arm Syndrome, an odd disease in which female characters have absurdly wide shoulders with skinny arms tapering to tiny waists and DEM HIPS and DAT ASS, is in full effect in this game as it has been in every BioWare title since Jade Empire introduced it. The male characters also suffer from ugly arms, but at least the rest of them isn't on vacation in the Uncanny Valley.

Isabela seems an interesting character, though. That makes two love interests introduced so far. My Hawke, were this the full game, would likely err on the side of Xena the Warrior Ginger than **** the Supergazonga. There ensues some more dialogue, some recaps of events that the demo skips, more painful FMVs, and then more fighting before the demo ends. In the last fights, my team had been jumped ahead by several levels, so I was able to choose more skills for them. I caught a few tastes of combat that reminded me a lot of Baldur's Gate, except much flashier and with short cooldowns instead of a stock of spells. In one cool twist, I pulled all my guys back from the fray and had Varric (who was in the party, as this is a flashback of his) use a cool technique that rained arrows down in a wide circle. All but the leader of the enemies died nearly instantly.

Overall, I can't say I was disappointed by the demo, as I was not coming into it with huge expectations of awesomeness. I just was not happy with it, and actually forced myself to complete it. To make things easier, here's the update version of that I Was Afraid thing.

1. It isn't hack and slash. One click and your guy starts hitting. Fears allayed.

2. I haven't played DAO and RPGs have just kept getting more simple over the years, so I don't know about dumbed down. I didn't have access to the especially game-changing spells, but none of them really looked all that, well, game-changing. There were a lot of attack spells that did different amounts of damage in different directions, but overall...I don't know. Consolized yes – the mouse movement feels clunky.

3. Aside from Isabela's improbable figure and outfit, I'm impressed with the characters. Not sure who that...thing in the Steam screenshots is, though, the one with the dark skin, blinding white Nagisa Kaworu hair, and glowing veins is though. I think it's a woman, as BioWare isn't known for its girly-looking men (let me know if I'm wrong; again, I have not played NWN, BG2, or DAO).

4. Doesn't remind me of Mass Effect except with the dialogue wheel, and that feels different. I like the 'joking' tone and the 'tough' one, but really hate the good-guy one. My characters like to play as Chaotic Good – morally sound, but a little rough around the edges. This is beyond Lawful Good extending into Gormless P***y territory. Who stops while running away from bad guys to have a heartfelt chat? Who does that? No! Keep running!

Oddly, my negative feelings towards the demo became less pronounced as I was away from it. I found myself wanting to know what on Earth was going on. But that clunky, indecisive camera and messy combat turn me off. I just felt confused the entire time, like I had these ideas for what to do in my head and none of them really mattered. Maybe playing Rogue or Mage would be different, but I like playing a class which focuses on getting up in people's faces and brutally beating their noses in with a sword.

It left me conflicted. I think I'll play again and see what it's like as a different class (or maybe even gender) and see how that works out. So far I'm a little worried, as the game just wasn't very fun to play. But now that the horrors of that camera and the unresponsive powers have worn off, I find myself wondering if Carver's really dead (somehow I like him more in retrospect), what Dragon Lady is up to and why she wanted me to go to this city, what Isabela's looking for, just what is going on in general (DAO would probably answer that for me), where Aveline came from, what's going to happen to Varric, and if Cassandra will get her voice together and be recruitable somehow down the line. And also if those crappy FMVs will be in the final product.

May add screenshtos later.

EDITED AFTER PLAYING DEMO AGAIN:

I replayed twice more, with a Rogue and then a female Mage.

Rogue was a lot of fun and much more tactical than Warrior. My friend instructed me in the ways of panning the camera using rightmouse, so that rectified one of the issues, but the inability to zoom out and actually have a strategic view of the proceedings is still frustrating.

The game still felt clunky and unpolished, however. The AI constantly pulled bonehead maneuvers out of its ass, such as when my Rogue ended up fighting a pack of enemies on his own thanks to the rest of the party wandering away and getting stuck running against a cliff face. It only got worse. I tried to take control of them to move them back, but they would not respond. What. Even worse, Bethany, who had begun taking damage before she ran away, continued to take damage from an enemy that was on the OTHER SIDE OF THE MAP AND USING MELEE ATTACKS.

On my Mage playthrough as a girl Hawke, I learned two things: one, the AI is truly worse than in KOTOR. At least in that game when somebody ran off I could run them back; in this half the time they won't respond. My mage died three times because of this, and then fell victim to the Invisible Telekinetic Melee Attacks of Doom glitch another two times.

I did find it cool how the game adjusted for which class you picked. At the beginning of the game when you are accompanied by Bethany as Rogue or Warrior, you are instead joined by Carver if you are Mage. Clever.

What's most frustrated for me is how fun the game could be when things started working. I'd pause, queue up some skills and attacks, and then un-pause and watch the fireworks. Unfortunately, after two and a half times through the demo, it began getting boring. It feels so mono-dimensional. I recently began playing Titan Quest again and can honestly say that that game feels like a more involved and deeper gameplay experience.

In fact, the times in this DA2 demo where I had the most fun were the moments in which I could pretend I was playing Baldur's Gate HD.

The 8 from Gamespot is more than justified. I'm sure BioWare fixed most of the console-tastic glitches such as the unresponsive mouse commands, but it just feels so shallow and boring. From what I've read of your comrades not being able to switch armor (*cough*MASS EFFECT*cough*) or weapons...ugh. My reaction is one of surprising revulsion.

Those alterations sound like things would would appeal to many people. I can't really say they're 'bad', as I know people who would really, really like them.

Such as my brother.

Who is ten.

Finished KOTOR, starting Baldur's Gate

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Let me just get this out of the way first:

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has aged better than perhaps any other game I have ever played (except maybe Chrono Trigger). Over and over while playing I kept thinking to myself, "I can't believe this was made in 2003!" I ended up thinking of Morrowind, another big RPG from that era, and how bad of a first impression it made until I spent 6-8 hours modding it to the gills (and playing it can still feel like a huge chore).

Now, Morrowind and KOTOR are two very different games, but the issue still stands. I had to get myself into an 'I am playing an older game' mindset before I could enjoy Morrowind. With KOTOR, I could stay in the same mindset I have when playing Mass Effect 2 or Mirror's Edge - that confident 'This game needs no excuses' mentality as opposed to the 'This game needs some blind eyes turned' one. Believe it or not, going back to the ME games felt like a downgrade to a shallow, shmuppy experience.

That's right. ME2, GOTY fodder ME2, feels like a downgrade compared to a game that's 7 years older. I'll talk about this more in my inevitable review, but for now I'm going back further in the RPG timeline, back to Bioware's first game: the almost disgustingly famous Baldur's Gate.

I didn't boot BG up right away. Since I had BG2 also, courtesy of that GOG sale, I installed both games and used Baldur's Gate TuTu, a mod that rebuilds BG inside the BG2 engine for better graphics, UI, and more coherent D&D rules. A few minor tweak mods later (such as a resolution mod so I could play above 800x600), I was ready to go.

I'm not using any of the extra classes introduced in BG2 - I'm playing BG1 as it originally was, except with a bit of a visual makeover, so that meant no special kits or spells or whatever. My character is a basic Human Male Fighter, with the Chaotic Good alignment and proficiency in Axes and Two-Weapon Fighting (probably a stupid choice considering fantasy games' penchant for making swords t3h best thing evar, but I have a thing for axes). His name is Grymjawe, deliberately designed as a jab at generic, over-spelled names.

The 45 minutes it took me to figure out my character and re-roll his stats over and over made me very thankful for having played KOTOR, as it gave me a (sparse) introduction into how to AD&D rules work, what a dice roll is, what '1d6' means, and so on. Let's just say that BG is not exactly the most n00b-friendly RPG on the planet. After poring through the PDF manual and a few forums for what in the world 'THAC0' was and why having a low Armor Class was better than high, I eventually got Grymjawe up and rolling.

Abusing the export/import character function let me steal two sets of plate armor, some axes, spells, potions, 3 wands of Fireball and Magic Missile, two longbows, a magic shield that's not identified, a couple of helmets and a pile of arrows by raiding the inventories of some tutorial NPCs who show you how to fight in groups. One of them was named Canderous; he was the one with the nice plate armor. Thanks, Canderous. Now find me a crazed Russian cat lady and I'll rebuild my KOTOR squad :P.

So, just out of Candlekeep, I have a negative AC, decent weapons, tons of arrows for Imoen, and equipment for whoever I'll meet next.

Not sure what to make of the game yet; I'm having fun so far. I'm sure I'm going to get steamrolled once I meet something more dangerous than a pack of Gibberlings, but right now I can traipse around enjoying my temporary invulnerability and pondering why a 13-year-old game is so much deeper and more engaging than a title that came out just last year.

Hmm, perhaps there is something to this whole 'death of PC gaming' thing that people like to lament.

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