Saturday, October 27, 2012

Equipment list

For anyone who cares, here's a link to my amazon wishlist for equipment I need to start my webseries.

My equipment wishlist.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Repost of an old review: Dragon Age: Origins

This was originally posted on February 4, 2010, and I am doing this to bring my ads back to where they should be; games and other nerdy stuff.

Today, I'm doing a review on the newest Bioware game I own; Dragon Age Origins. I'm going to go right ahead and say it; I'm a Bioware fanboy. But I'm not the stupid kind of fanboy; even though I will buy every game that comes out that's from Bioware, I am NOT willing to overlook some of the flaws. The version I own is the Xbox 360 version, since my computer can't handle the PC version.

The basic story is this; you are a Grey Warden recruit who's been put in a position to save the world from the Blight. You were betrayed by Teryn Loghain Mac Tir (voiced by Kain himself, Simon Templeman) during the battle of Ostagar, where King Cailan Theirin had gathered an army to face the darkspawn horde. Loghain was supposed to be respond to a signal flame that you and your fellow Grey Warden Alistair (later revealed to be the half brother of Cailan) lit, but he retreated and left Cailan to die. The story is about your and Alistair's efforts to recruit an army to fight the Blight, and your efforts to stop Loghain from making things worse.

Now, here's the big thing Bioware made a big deal about in the pre-release; the origins. You have 6 origin stories; Human Noble, City Elf, Dalish Elf, Dwarven Commoner, Dwarven Noble, and Mage (Either human or elf, but not dwarf. The reason dwarves can't be mages is explained in the game.). Each origin gives you a different view and mindset for the rest of the game, which plays out exactly the same regardless of the origin. Granted, you are looked at differently depending on your origin; the Dalish Elves are MUCH more accepting of you when you enter their territory then they would be if you were human, but the game plays out the same way regardless. You do have certain points where you can diverge your story; you can, for example, let the werewolves kill the Dalish and have them in your army, , or choose Bhelen over Harrowmont when trying to get the dwarves to elect a king, or choose to let the mages be wiped out and gain the aid of the templars in your army, and that DOES stuff affect the ending you get, but the story still flows the same way to the end; you still have to fight the archdemon at the end, and everything after the Landsmeet happens exactly the same regardless of your choices.

My take on the Origins is simple; they do add a lot of little things to the story. For example, say I play as a Dalish elf. She's one of the wandering clans elves who are trying to rediscover their lost history and lifestyle. The Dalish Warden knows she's looked down upon by humans, but unlike the City Elf, she looks carries a bit of anger at the humans, and looks at them unfavorably in turn. In her mind, she will not be treated like a slave by the humans, despite her defending them from their own folly. Her every thought is filtered through this mantra, which she was taught since childhood; "We are the Dalish, keepers of the lost lore, walkers of the lonely path. We are the last of the elvhenan, and never again shall we submit."

Her interactions with the humans of the world differ as well. Since the Dalish believe that the humans attacked the Dales because they would not worship their god, she has a very low view of the human Chantry, if you choose the right options.

And there are minor differences when you've chosen the other origin stories. The Human Noble has a special link to Arl Howe, while the interactions that you have as a Dwarven Commoner in Orzammar will be different than if you are a Dwarven Noble. And the things you do as a City Elf affect what happens when you return to the Denerim Alienage near the end of the game. And the vast majority of people are scared shitless of you when you're a mage, because the Chantry has vilified magic so much.

The combat engine is reminiscent of Knights of the Old Republic; auto-attack and skills that you can use that use your stamina/mana pool (depending on the class you choose.) Unlike Mass Effect, however, you can switch party members on the fly, giving you complete control of the battlefield.

Class choice goes back to the regular fantasy classes that are well known; warrior, rogue and mage. Warriors and rogues are self explanatory; warriors tank, draw aggro and do high damage, rogues are great archers and are the only ones capable of unlocking doors and chests, and are most effective when they "do it from behind". Mages are a little different; they are more like the D&D sorcerer class than the mage class; they use a mana pool to cast spells it has learned.

The specializations add to the game play very well, though some specializations are better than others. Each class has 4 specializations which add new strengths and skills. For example, the mage specialization, Spirit Healer, allows a mage to cast very powerful healing magic, while the warrior specialization, Champion, allows a warrior to buff their party and debuff their enemies. (I'm not a fan of the rogue specializations, to be honest, but that's just me.) And the different specializations give you different stat buffs; Berserker, a warrior specialization, gives you a +2 to your strength stat and 10 more HP, for example.

I'm pleased with the voice cast in this game, as well. Instead of doing like I did with my Mass Effect review, however, I'll just post a link to the Dragon Age Wiki with the voice actors.

Now, I will comment on a few;Ohgren, Gorim and First Enchanter Irving are all voiced by the same guy; Steve Blum. Which is funnier when you consider that, if you aren't playing as a Dwarven Noble and bring Oghren with you when you first talk to Gorim in Denerim, they talk to each other. Granted, I know it's not how voice acting works, but I can just imagine Steve Blum in the booth, switching back and forth between the voices.

Romances are well done; You have 4 people to romance in this game; 3 for a male PC, 3 for a female. For female, you have Alistair, Zevran and Leliana, and for a male, you get Morrigan, Leliana and Zevran. That's right, you have a male romance character who is bisexual. And while I don't swing that way myself, I'm glad that there's the option in the game for both gay men to have someone to relate to.

Now, I am prepared to talk about the things I don't like. First, the influence system. Now, I've ranted on influence systems in the Kotorfanmedia forums, but my main gripe is this; they are needlessly metagame concepts that take you out of the gameplay. Instead of bringing along a party that is best suited for the situation, I have to take a less than idea party with me, just because I don't want to lose influence with a certain party member because of the choices I'm making on this playthrough. It doesn't help that positive influence gives tangible rewards as well; the better influence you with a character, the more of a boost to a certain stat they get.

Another thing how the game handles random encounters; when I don't want to deal with them, they pop up, and when I want a certain random encounter to happen, it never does. For example, there are two good random encounters; the meteor metal ore (which comes from a Superman reference. Check this video to see!)

Anyway, the other good random encounter is a store that has a few good items.

But the random encounters, while good for a few EXP, really disrupt the flow of the game.

I do have a complaint, however. EA and Microsoft forced Bioware to push out a DLC that was essentially a virus; the"Return to Ostagar" DLC originally deleted all specializations that you weren't using at that moment for your individual characters. So, I could continue playing with my warrior-Templar/Champion just fine, but if I wanted to create a new mage, all the specializations I had unlocked were gone. And every time I turned the system off, the specializations I unlocked during the game session got deleted when I turned the system off. Granted, I learned a way around that problem, and Bioware fixed the glitch, but it was irritating for a few days until I learned how to fix it.

I can only hope that this isn't going to become the standard of EA, to force Bioware to put out something before it's done.

Finally, the "sex scenes" in this game. I think Bioware made them look incredibly cheesy because of the controversy regarding the Mass Effect; you see underwear the whole time on during the "sex scene", all the time. And they don't even try to hide that fact; there are several scenes where you see the character's entire body. I laughed so hard when I first saw this. It's almost as if Bioware is saying "Go ahead Kevin McCullough and Cooper Lawrence, make yourselves look like fools again with our game. This time, Sesame Street is racier than what you can see!"

All in all, I like this game. It's flawed, yes, but what game ISN'T flawed? But, even a flawed Bioware game is better than most games that are made today.