The will likely be spoilers, but should I talk about something super new I'll warn ya. But consider this a pre-emptive warning! You're WARNED!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fear the Reapers

You know, Destructoid's review of Arrival, the last bit of Mass Effect 2 DLC, is so on the nose with how I felt about it that I'm taking the lazy way out and simply saying: read what they done wrote.

In short: play it post-game, if possible. It lacks the emotional punch it could have had, but it's still a nice universe-expanding set of events, and it's got me all jazzed for Mass Effect 3 (like i wasn't already). It's nowhere near as good as Lair of the Shadow Broker, but then, what is? LotSB is pretty much the best piece of DLC ever. Unless you count Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare, but whether you count that or not is your beeswax.

Anyway: worth the 560 MS points? I think so, but then you know how I roll with Mass Effect: I roll NERD.

I don't really know what that means, sorry.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Arrival arrives tomorrow

Via IGN- check out the launch trailer for Arrival, the last chunk of Mass Effect 2 DLC. It hits tomorrow! THE REAPERS ARE COMING! Oh no.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A teaser is just a tease...

...but damn if this trailer for a Dragon Age fan film doesn't look as good (maybe...umm...better, even) as the one for the officially sanctioned Felicia Day-flavored mini-series. Writing aside, mind you, as who knows what either will bring; but effects and costumes-wise...(Darth Vader voice) most impressive.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm-a gonna ween!

As someone who clocked in more hours with Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 than was probably healthy (Toad FTW), I found this video to be what the kids call "hilarious". The sound effects killed me.

OMG Shale.

I know this will appeal only to those of you who have played Dragon Age (and even then, perhaps only some of you), but I saw this in the BioWare forums (yes I visit them) (shut up) and I had to post this: a shot of Shale, in Cassandra's book at the end of DAII.

Ahhh, the chicken. I hadn't spotted this in my playthrough. SO GOOD!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Is it just me?

I was reading an article about a man arrested for punching another man and when I noticed the attendant mugshot of said puncher...

...I immediately thought, "So that's pretty much what my Fallout 3 character would look like in real life."

I thought that because this was the hairstyle I chose for said Fallout 3 character, albeit mine was blue:


once more unto the breach

One last chunk of Mass Effect 2 DLC hits PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on March 29. Called Arrival, it'll charge Commander Shepard with saving an informant who has information about the impending Reaper invasion. Save this person, and then the next time the Turian councilor is all... can be, like, "SEE?"

Anyway, this sets the stage for Mass Effect 3 later this year, and it's a good excuse to haul out ol' FemShep one more time before then. Oh, and for those who played through Mass Effect, Arrival will also give us a chance to finally meet Admiral Hackett- voiced by Lance Henriksen!- face to face.

Man, over a year since ME2 was released and they're still putting out new content. I got nothing except THAT IS SO AWESOME to say to that.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This was a triumph.

It's only a wee TV spot for Portal 2, but once GLaDOS chimes in, it just drives home the point: I CAN'T WAIT. April 19!


Pixelogic has a big, chunky interview with some of the art team behind Dragon Age II and if you care about that sort of thing, it's a rather interesting peek at not only what goes into the art of video games, but also the changes made between Origins and DA2. Beware, there are definitely spoilers throughout the interview! If you care about that sort of thing, then simply ignore the words for now and drool over the pictures.

Oh, and DA2 spoilers are totes allowed in the comment thread for this post, so get in there and talk! If you've finished! I'm lonely in there. :(

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

today in awesome: Hipster Effect

Two of my favorite things- Mass Effect and ribbing hipsters- together at last! While perhaps a modicum of Mass Effect knowledge is necessary to really get it all, I think everyone can enjoy Fuck Yeah Hipster Effect on some level.

I related news, "Ribbing Hipsters" is now the name of my new band. Tell everyone you liked us before we went mainstream.

Got the tip on mah Twitter! Thanks, sarcasticdoug.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Now that I'm done...

...with Dragon Age II, let me just say: wow. When I left off in my review of Act I, I was unsure how I really felt about it. I was still getting used to the vastly different gameplay, but more importantly, the story hadn't quite gelled yet. Well, it didn't take long in Act II before it clicked- or I clicked, or whatever- and it really started to heat up. The story grew and grew and wrapped around itself, hurtling towards a denouement that was nothing less than...sorry, I have to use the word- epic.

Dragon Age II doesn't have the scope of Origins in terms of geography; where previously you could travel around an entire country (Ferelden), now you're limited to the sprawling city of Kirkwall and a couple of outlying environs. What it lacks in scenery, however, it more than makes for in terms of scope of story. I found this tale of politics and religion to be ultimately more intriguing, mature, dark, and deep than the "stop the Blight" tale of my Grey Warden in Origins. I can't help but feel that huge complaints in that department must come from players who haven't finished yet, or are prefer action to story and blah blah blah.

While early on DA 2 feels like little more than a bunch of random sidequests, they nearly all weave together by the time the tale ends. What you do in Act I- sometimes even the most trivial of decisions- will have repercussions later on, for better or for worse.

As I knew I would, I dug nearly all of my companions- some of them, however, I didn't bother to get to know this time around. By the time it was over, I ended up killing a couple of them and romancing a couple of others. They're constantly surprising, whether it's their reaction to something you say or do, or their in-game actions. The friendships, when you acquire them, are ultimately more satisfying than those in Origins- here, you can't necessarily kiss ass and give presents to get someone to like you. You can't please everyone all the time, and for various reasons and in various ways, you can lose most of them. Permanently.

Likewise, my Hawke became fleshed out as the story went on, as she evolved into the Champion of Kirkwall. The Hawke family drama never ends, and on several occasions...well, let's just say I had to bust out a "There's just something in my eye." as my vision got all water-blurry.

All of this is to say: I loved it.

This doesn't mean it's a game without faults, because it certainly isn't. Personally, I never experienced graphic and texture glitches, but I've seen plenty of complaints about them. PC players are largely unhappy that the interface has been console-ized. The re-used environments smack of "rush job" and are disheartening. It's one thing to be stuck in Kirkwall and its environs, but it's another when every house in Kirkwall has the same interior and the bandit cave looks just like the cave inhabited by Shades. It's know, something you have to deal with, and the story, to me, more than makes up for these sorts of quibbles.

As I've noted, the combat is certainly more button-mashing than tactical. That's going to matter to you, or it's not, depending on your own preferences as a player. A profound statement, I know! Warrior and rogue are a hell of a lot of fun, and while I miss the sweet animated finishing moves of Origins, there are ample "Did you just see that?" moments and some incredibly difficult battles. One huge fight in particular...good gravy. When BioWare themselves say "Heaven forfend you try this on Nightmare difficulty", you know it's a toughie.

And as I've also noted, the inventory system is a bit caca, but you get used to it. It does have improvements over its predecessor, though, like the fact that there aren't potion sizes anymore. You get a "lyrium potion" and that's that. Ordering runes and potions from your home is a nice, convenient touch as well.

Right before the credits roll, there's one small, seemingly throwaway line that hints at what's been going on in Thedas in the decade since Origins began...and that something is coming. For all the "Hey, where's my Grey Warden?" shock when the protagonist of Dragon Age II was announced...well, we should have known that this is all some big master plan on the part of developers and that the stories of The Hero of Ferelden and The Champion of Kirkwall are far more intertwined than we could have imagined. All I know for sure is that my drooling for Dragon Age III has already begun.

BEWARE: SPOILER DISCUSSION IN THE COMMENTS. Like, full-blown, game over, say whatever you want, everything is revealed spoilers. You've been warned!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

a few thoughts on DRAGON AGE II

This morning, I faced a terrible dilemma: should I write something about Dragon Age II, or should I wait until I've finished the game? As I've only just completed Act I after a week of playing into the wee hours of the morning, when the house has gone all still and quiet, a full review wouldn't come for a long time yet. But! I feel like I should say something about it, hmm? I've got enough play under my belt to have a decent opinion on it, so why not give some thoughts on it, especially after the way I've gone on and on and on about my ? That's what The Internet and BLOGS are for. I mean, I read one review written after 3-4 hours of gameplay, which...well, that's not really enough time to grasp it, I think, but if you hate a game, you hate a game. And it seems that the knee-jerk reaction from fans, so far, is on the negative side of the scale.

That's because an awful lot has changed since Dragon Age: Origins...big big changes, some for the better, some for the not better. I suppose this is what Morrigan was talking about at the end of Witch Hunt, when she was going on about all the changes that were coming and how people don't like change but they must accept it and adapt. Very slick, BioWare! Very slick.

Let's hold hands and walk through some of this. I will keep this spoiler-free, but I'm going to assume that you played through the, I guess there are actually spoilers for that, but nothing that's not covered in the first 30-45 minutes in the game. Oh, and for what it's worth, on my first playthrough I'm a sessy rogue Lady Hawke.

The visual style in Dragon Age II is vastly different than in its predecessor. I'm not a huge graphics hound, so while I'll admit the environments- particularly "wildlands", for lack of a better word- are a bit dull, I'm perfectly happy with it. A note- dungeon layouts are reused...and reused some more. Areas will be blocked off during one quest, then opened up for another. It's not quite as glaring an issue as it was during Mass Effect, but some players are shouting about it from the top of Mount Internet. I don't find it that distracting, personally.

The biggest changes has to do with character race. Elves, dwarves, and Qunari have all undergone massive design overhaul. Massive. MASSIVE. It's good, if initially a bit shocking to anyone who's played the first game. Characters you met in Origins who pop up in DA II will look vastly different than you remember them. I like that now elves don't just look like slightly shorter humans with slightly pointier ears, and Qunari don't look like slightly taller humans with brows that are slightly more furrowed. They're definitely other races, which ties into the story as a whole. In particular, the new Qunari design is awesome. They're kind of terrifying. Check out Sten, a companion from the first game, and the Arishok from the second. Which is more formidable?

As I noted in my review of the demo, there's a fair amount of button mashing during combat. This may be because I'm a fan of melee; a mage might be tapping the A button significantly less. The action is so fast and furious, I think going back to the battles in Origins would feel like fighting through molasses. The tactics menu feels deeper, which is good; since there's no auto-attack option (at least on consoles; I've read there is auto-attack on PCs), it's tough to dole out commands to party members in the thick of things. I love that, actually. I'm not big into planning and plotting and controlling everyone on the battlefield at all times. I set up one mage to heal me when I need it, and then I go in hacking and get shit done.

Items and inventory comprise one area where Dragon Age II drops the ball, methinks. Most RPG fans dig loot. They dig stats and earning money and items with lore behind 'em and inventory micromanagement. DA II has essentially gotten rid of all of that, and it just plain stinks. While you can change your companions' weapons, you can't change their armors or outfits- there are a few upgrades available for them throughout the game, but their appearances can't be altered. There are woefully few outfits and weapons for Hawke, as well, although judging by the items I have picked up, it's rogues who get the short end of the stick in that regard. Junk inventory- the crap you pick up solely for the purposes of selling- is limited to eight or so varieties ("torn trousers", "opal fragment", etc) and it goes straight to the "junk" tab. It's all very streamlined, but as I said- that micromanagement is something most RPG nuts dig and while it may seem a small thing, it does add to immersion. IT DOES. I don't care if that makes me a nerd. I will cop to the fact that I find the armor to be much more badass-looking than in DA: O.

Story is where BioWare shines, but I'll admit- it's only at the end of Act I that Dragon Age II really starts to come together for me and even now, it feels...well, I can't quite get a grasp on it. The formula they've used for most every one of their games in the past- big, overarching plot; 4-6 large hub worlds; sidequests- has been eschewed in favor of...I'm not sure what. Once you arrive in Kirkwall, you remain in Kirkwall save a few expeditions to the coast and whatnot. Fast-traveling from place to place, it seems like a game made up exclusively of sidequests. Your journal keeps missions categorized (main plot, secondary, companion, etc), but it doesn't feel cohesive. A bigger picture is hinted at through the framing narrative with Varric and Cassandra as he tells Hawke's story, but I don't feel mired in it as Hawke herself. So far, while well written, it's just not completely gripping. It's getting better, and it seems that even small events will be intertwined as things play out- and I'm certainly not saying I don't dig it, or that I'm not invested. It's just a bit more scattered and superficial than I've come to expect from BioWare.

Hmm. My sessy Lady Hawke has picked up a lot of people on the road, but we don't feel exactly like a band of Merrye Travelers like my Warden's gang in Origins. The conversation wheel doesn't bother me in the least, but companion interactions are far shorter than they were in the first game. Maybe some players don't want to talk to NPCs for ten minutes at a stretch, listening to their stories and conversing; I do! It's one of the things I like best about BioWare games. In DA II, there's no central camp where everyone hangs out. Everyone is scattered across the city; if you want to talk to Isabela, you have to go to the pub. If you want to talk to Merrill, you go to her house. So far, most interactions- whether with companions or with random NPCs- feel limited to "Hawke asks three questions, the end". They're not conversations like you find in Mass Effect 2 or Origins (even with your silent protagonist), and as a result my sessy Lady Hawke feels a bit flat. I can't gauge her personality yet, even this far in.

All that said, most of the companions are decent enough, though they pale when compared to the charmers of Origins.

The person I'm most happy with so far is Flemeth. Holy fucking shit. I don't know if I've seen the last of her in this game or not- I hope not- but I love what they've done with her. Her appearance sheds light on plenty that happens in Origins, and you finally get a sense of how damn powerful she really is, if not completely what she really is. Again, I don't know if I've seen the last of her in Dragon Age II, but if so, I hope she becomes a major player and force in the franchise. And her aesthetic redesign is made of 100% pure awesome.

I dig this game. A lot, though I'm still trying to get my bearings, so to speak. It's very different than its predecessor and I'm not as completely enamoured with it as I was with Origins or either Mass Effect or KotOR, but I'm still loving the hell out of it, just in new ways. I guess I really took Morrigan's words and warnings in Witch Hunt to heart!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Be a legendary nerd!

Umm...okay. Look, we all know I have a weakness for all things BioWare / Dragon Age, yes? Yes. And we all know I have a Facebook page, yes? No? Well, now you know. Anyohdearlord, those two things have come together in the form of a bucket of water and a bear Dragon Age: Legends...yes, a Facebook game. But! It's not just some DA-flavored FarmVille clone. It's RPG-y! There's combat! Look: Kotaku said "it's worth playing"! DON'T JUDGE ME!

Look! A desire demon!

Right now the game is in Closed Beta. I have five keys to give away that will allow...umm...five people into said Closed Beta. You can team up with people to take down tougher enemies and...look, I don't know how it all works completely. I just started playing. Along the way, you get some junk you can use in Dragon Age II, and that's good enough for me.

So. If you want in- to join up with my rogue Rubella (yes, "Rubella") on some quest for whatever, then hit me up and I'll give you a key. First come, first served. Don't be shy. Everyone's doing it!

Or, at least, I am, and I'm only a little bit embarrassed about it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


In related news, OH MY YES IT'S HERE.

"I'm going to Silent Hill."

Madame FanGirlTastic sent me this still and info from the forthcoming Silent Hill: Revelation and dammit, I've decided to be excited about the film.

That's right. EXCITED. I remember how much I looked forward to Silent Hill and whether or not it ended up living up to the hype I created for myself, it is awfully nice to be pumped about a movie, to gobble up trailers and practically run to the theater for the first showing on opening day. It's easy to get bogged down in cynicism, to no longer care about films coming down the pike because everything sucks anyway, but you know what? Fuck that. I've been mighty bored with horror lately, and I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being tired of it. I don't want to get all wrapped up in negativity and just put down everything, whether it's in pre-production or it's 30 years old. I love horror, and I love it most when I'm excited about it.

Therefore, I am excited about Silent Hill: Revelation. My interest was aroused (SO HOT) when it was announced that Michael J. Bassett (Wilderness, Deathwatch) was at the helm, and now that the basic plot is out there, my interest is like a boner the size of the Great Wall of China, which plenty of spam messages have assured me I can have if I send away for some pills. Behold!
For years, Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) and her father have been on the run, always one step ahead of dangerous forces that she doesn’t fully understand. Now on the eve of her 18th birthday, plagued by terrifying nightmares and the disappearance of her father, Heather discovers she's not who she thinks she is. The revelation leads her deeper into a demonic world that threatens to trap her in Silent Hill forever.
DUDE. They're basing it on Silent Hill 3! Heather! Female protagonist! Totally unexpected. Totally boss. I hope that they're true enough to the game that she sports a silver puffy vest and there's some effed up Otherworld mall action.

At the risk of sounding like Kool Aid Man, OH fucking YEAH.

They've just started filming this in Toronto, so it's going to be quite some time before I have to worry about being first in line...but you know what? I CAN'T WAIT.

Friday, March 4, 2011


It is really, really killing me- KILLING ME UNSOFTLY- to pay as little attention as possible to news about Star Wars: The Old Republic. It is a Star Wars game. It is a Star Wars game from my favorite developer. It is a Star Wars game from my favorite developer, who already made a Star Wars game that is one of my favorite games.

As it's clear that The Old Republic is like a perfect storm of my heart, why am I disregarding it so? Because it's an MMO and...meh. It's not so much that I'm a solitary gamer (though I am)- it's that there's the repeat cost thing, subscription fees. It's also that I'm afraid I'll get completely sucked in and become some tragic story on Kotaku or something: SAD WOMAN SPENDS FOUR STRAIGHT DAYS LEVELING UP, FORGETS TO EAT, DIES, IS FOUND BY NEIGHBOR HALF-EATEN BY CATS. Seriously. At least non-MMOs have an end point! The story will come to a close, and no matter how much I obsessively play, I know I'll be saved from sad death if only by the virtue of a finale.

Okay, I probably wouldn't DIE, but a neverending story is bad for me, unless of course Limahl is somehow involved.

Oh yeah, and the other big reason? I don't have a PC and my Mac is decidedly all my fretting about my sad death is fretting about something inconsequential.

The point is, I find it best to be a big baby and ignore things I want but can't have. They make it so difficult, however, when they do things like making trailers for the effing bounty hunter class. Stupid awesome-looking game! Stupid out of reach temptations! Stupid everything!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


My mobile phone, she is a simple thing. It makes calls and sends texts (or, more accurately, I make calls and send texts on it), but it does little else. There is a camera, but the quality of the photos is exceptionally sucky and further, I don't know how to get the photos off of there. I mean, I've got a picture of a door with a sign that says TOYLET PLEASE NOCK on there, and I can't really share it with the world. What's the point? Aside from the lovely built-in cameras, I don't envy people with their fancy iPhones and whatever else is out there. I don't need (or want) to check my email or what my cyberfriends are posting on Faceplace when I'm away from my computer. My brain is an old peoples' brain in that sort of regard; this incessant, constant attachment to The Internet (and each other) baffles me. But, you know. Whatevs.

However, my views don't mean that I fail to see how handy a mobile Internet can be. When a-browsin' and a-shoppin', I've often scolded my phone for not doing more. "If you were fancier," I say, "I could look up a review of this game/movie/thing I don't really need, and then I could make a more informed decision about whether or not to purchase it."

Understandably, my phone is usually put off by this. "You used to buy things- or not buy them- back in the days before The Internet. What did you do then, hmm? Besides, the reason I'm not fancier is because you don't really care about me. What's the point? Why should I be all nice and feature-laden and pricy when you ignore me? You let my battery die and don't charge me up for days. You forget where I am. You leave me in your car's glove compartment, cold and lonely amongst the maps and insurance information. Is this my fault? If I'm not everything you want me to be, then maybe you should look at yourself."

My instinct is to react harshly, to give my phone a rebuttal that ends with it in no less than four pieces on the sidewalk, but after a moment's pause, I realize that my phone is right. I also realize that it can do something besides take cruddy pictures of barely-literate gas station phone can connect to other phones, which allows me to talk to other people!

This is all my incredibly long-winded and pointless way of saying "I was at a Gamestop somewhat recently, and I came across a cheap game called Divinity II: Ego Draconis. I'd never heard of it, but it seemed like a Dragon Age-esque western RPG (be still my heart) and the Latin in the title intrigued me. However, "cheap" is still not "free", and I was unsure whether or not to pick it up. I would have asked for opinions from the Gamestop staff, but...well, come on. So, what to do? I stepped outside (don't want to be talky and rude in the store, you know) and called a friend, who looked up Divinity II on The Internet for me. The verdict seemed to be a decided 'not bad'. I was still intrigued, so I decided to pony up the cheap dollars and bring it home."

That was only marginally less long-winded than my original introduction, so I apologize.

In Divinity II, you begin on the path to becoming a Dragon Slayer, one who seeks out and kills Dragon Knights, people with the ability to transform into dragons. After a twist and turn or two, however, you are imbued with the power from Talana, a dying Dragon Knight. The hunter becomes the hunted! As kids from 20 years ago might say, "Oh snap."

There are standard fantasy RPG elements as you travel throughout Rivellon- fetch me this, kill some goblins that- but some tweaks to the formulae keep it fresh. For example, instead of the standard "choose your class" at the beginning (eg mage, rogue, or warrior), you can become any hybrid of the three that you wish. You can duel-wield weapons, pick locks, and cast spells. Mind you, if you spread out your skills too much when leveling up, there's a chance that you won't be strong in any of the classes- you can't learn everything about everything. I felt decently balanced, though, as a rogue who could cast healing and a few offensive spells.

Combat is pretty fun, if a bit stilted one way or another throughout the entire game. At low levels, I got my ass handed to me constantly, to the point where I couldn't advance the story because I was unable to defeat, you know, the 50 skeleton warriors hanging around outside the place I needed to go. At higher levels, though, I was all but unstoppable, laying waste to everyone around me.

This is definitely a western-flavored RPG, in that it's not turn based and conversation choices mean you can give your character- male or female- some personality. Only some, though, as the development isn't too deep. At one point, for example, a quest text entry says "Your parents would be proud."...but who the hell are my parents? Who the hell am I? The game begins as you're about to undertake the Dragon Slayer initiation, but any personal history you have prior to that is up to your brain.

There are some "moral choices" to be found, but they don't influence much beyond the immediate outcome. You can help Person A or Person B, but it won't have much of an impact on the game as a whole. Through dialogue, you can render yourself goody-goody, smartass, etc. There's no romance, but there's flirting...and there's a surprising amount of humor.

And yeeessssss, eventually you can transform into a fucking dragon! Fly around blasting shit with fire! Undeniably, it's sweet. You change form in a flash, making the transformation quick and smooth. It's a highlight that gives Divinity II an edge over games know, you can't turn into a dragon at will.

Overall, I really dug this game a lot. The graphics were nice- particularly the environments- and the gameplay was fast and fun. I don't want to give anything away, but I've read people complaining online (WEIRD, RIGHT?) about the ending, which is...a twist to say the least. Personally, I loved the big FUCK YOU it gives players as it sets up for the inevitable Divinity III. It's a dark semi-resolution, as you might expect from the middle chunk of a trilogy...I mean, if you learned anything from The Empire Strikes Back, LotR: The Two Towers, or even Mass Effect 2. Apparently there's content out there (downloadable on PC and...maybe Europe?) that adds an epilogue more satisfying to gamers. This content will be included with Divinity II's Xbox 360 re-release in April, Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga.

See, if I had an Internet phone and I looked up Ego Draconis that fateful day at Gamestop, I might've found out about that re-release and held off on a purchase. But what would I have done instead? Would I have bought another game? Where would I be in my life? Why, this could be a review of a CSI game or something! How strange.

Should you hold off? Perhaps. I'm not sure what the bonus content will do to the ending, but again, Ego Draconis is a satisfying, complete game. Though lengthy, it's not as deep and complex as Dragon Age, but again again- you can turn into a GD dragon! If you like western RPGs, you could do much worse than giving it a go.