Monday, February 24, 2014

Assassin's Den Review: Fable Anniversary

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to the Assassin's Den! Today, I am going to tell you about a new game that came out in the states earlier this month, Fable Anniversary! And since I've played this game for about a week and a half, I've had a chance to play it in and out, and have seen everything the game has to offer.

Now, the best way to describe this game is "Fable the Lost Chapters as you knew it, but with quite a few updates." Those updates include graphics, UI, controls, achievements, and addition of new items.  And I will tackle each of these in turn.

Graphics.  The graphics have been completely overhauled; it is a late generation Xbox 360 game, complete with HD compatibility.  Unfortunately, I don't have an HDMI cable for my 360, so for me, a LOT of text is TINY.  So be ready for that if you are like me.

But the world looks beautiful. Albion is lush and far more colorful than it looked in 2004.  If you really look, you can see texture on the individual leaves on the trees, where in 2004, you could just see the individual leaves.  Big change that is allowed by the more powerful hardware.

And the people aren't as pale!  They actually look like they've been outside, instead of hiding inside their homes for the whole year.

But what I really like is the remodeled PC model.  Some of the hairstyles look a LOT better, as are the beards. And the age mechanic looks MUCH less annoying; you still age, but it doesn't look as drastic.  Yes, you are going to get white hair, but you aren't going to look older than your 20something sister and 50-60 year old mother.  And the Will lines are more pronounced on the less pale skin as well, and look far better.  (Unfortunately this means you won't be able to see your tattoos if you are a powerful Will user like the characters I create, but you take the good with the bad.)

Weapons and armor are more details too, though some of the good aligned armors look duller now.  Same with the Archon's Armor you get in the Necropolis, but I guess the duller colors are more realistic.

The character models are hit or miss, however. Most of the male characters look awesome.  Jack, Maze, Thunder, Twinblade, Guildmaster...they all look awesome.  And the male NPCs look great too; they look like updated versions of the character models we saw when the original Fable was released.

Female character models? Miss, more than often not.  The NPCs look fine.  But the important characters?? Not so much.  Theresa and Lady Grey have acquired what I like to call "baby cheeks disease"; their cheeks are SO FAT in comparison to their heads that it is hilarious to look at.  And while I am glad that most people in this game are less pale, it for Lady Grey.

You know, it would just be easier to do image comparisons instead of describing them.

Here's Twinblade;

Here's the hero as a child;

Great so far, but here's Theresa in Fable TLC:
And her HD version;

And finally, Lady Grey;

And since I couldn't find a picture of her, here's a youtube video of her HD version;

Skip to 1:32 to see Lady Grey's face.

The other important characters, Briar Rose, Whisper, and your mother, look fine.  But these two ladies, who I have a certain image in my head of them, look terrible.

UI.  If you played either Fable TLC of Fable 2, you'll feel right at home with this UI.  The cool thing about this is that it is set to look like a storybook.  And while some things are not where you may remember them from TLC, everything is placed somewhere that makes sense within the UI.

And we are finally given the ability to save at any time.  The game now creates checkpoints during your quests, so if you are doing a really long quest and either you have to go somewhere, the power goes out, or the game crashes (yes, it does happen, though not as frequently as the Xbox emulation for Fable 1 and TLC does on the 360), you can start back up from your last checkpoint; for example, the game will save during the Bargate Prison quest, and you can come back in halfway if you need to.

Controls. This game gives you two options for controls; Traditional, which is the original control scheme from Fable 1 and TLC, or Fable 2/3 inspired.  And I'm of mixed opinion on these.  On the one hand, I prefer the control schemes used in Fable 2 and 3, and Fable Anniversary is more fun using that control scheme...until I get more than three spells under my belt.  And that is when I have to switch back to the Fable 1 control scheme, despite me not liking the melee and ranged combat from the original game. The major reason is that Fable 1's spellcasting is drastically different than Fable 2 and 3's.  Fable 2 and 3 use a charging system, and focus on mostly attack spells, with really one support spell.  Fable 1, and by proxy Fable Anniversary, has a LOT of spells.  And the most useful spells in this game are support spells.  I only have 1 attack spell I use regularly, and that spell is mostly for crowd control.  The other 5 spells I normally use are support spells, and trying to switch between them in fast combat with the Fable 2/3 inspired control scheme is getting me hurt.  Cycling through too many spells with the Traditional scheme gets me hurt as well, and that's with three spells at a time. 1 spell at a time? No.

New Items. These I don't have access to, since I'm still without a router, so I can't connect my 360 to the internet without disconnecting my computer and doing a bit of work.  But what I've read, these are some new Legendary weapons and armors that you can purchase from vendors, so long as you've got the DLC for them.  I only use 1 Legendary weapon per game; Avo's Tear/Sword of Aeons, so those really don't interest me.

Achievements. As with any modern game, you have a list of achievements you can get.  They fall into the three major categories that the games I normally play fall into; stuff you'll get from playing the story, stuff you'll likely get from just playing the game, and stuff you need to look up how to get.  Nothing more needs to be said about these.

But all this comes down to 1 thing; is this game worth 40 bucks?  I'm actually of 2 minds for this.  If you haven't Fable TLC before, but have played Fable 2 and/or 3, most definitely.  If you're a collector of Fable related media, you should also pick this one up. But if you own Fable TLC for the Xbox, you could easily give it a pass, especially if your Xbox still works.  You should only pick this up if your Xbox experienced the hardware failure that mine did, because it is FAR more stable than the Xbox emulated version on the 360. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hail to the freaks! Thoughts on self identity

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to the Assassin's Den!

So I was at work yesterday, singing One-Eyed Doll's "Beautiful Freak", and I got a couple of strange looks from a co-worker who walked by.  I said "It's a song by a metal band." They went "Oh", and went back to work.  And that got me thinking about the concept of identity.

You see, there are two major forms of identity; your public identity and your self identity.  Your public identity is how others see you, and your self identity is how you see yourself.  You can control your public identity to some extent, by how you act around others, but for the most part, it is out of your control on how others perceive you.  Which is why I am focusing on self identity, the one that is completely under your control.

Self identity is how we perceive ourselves.  It is who we are when we are all alone.  It is the things we like, don't like, our education, our body image...etc.  It is what we wake up with, and what we go to bed with.  And yes, it is constantly re-evaluated as we assimilate new things, but for the most part, it remains constant as we get older, barring life changing events that rock us to our core.  And even then, we retain who we are.

I know this seems like a teen angst topic, but even people my age have existential issues if things aren't going the way we had planned.  The late Justin Carmical is proof of that; a man in his 40s made a rash decision based on kinks in his self identity.

So how does this tie into the song I was singing yesterday, and have been listening to on repeat since I started writing this?  Well, let's check out the lyrics.

You've got a face
Only a mother could love
Well I'll love you
You my Beautiful Freak

You're out of style
You're out of touch
Well I'll touch you
You my Beautiful Freak
Beautiful Freak

I'll be your mama
I'll be your brother
I'll be your sister
I'll be your lover

Your Pain
Your Pleasure
My Beautiful Freak

All my life
So lonely
Didn't know I was
a Beautiful Freak

To my pleasure
You've shown me
Now I love you
My Beautiful Freak
Beautiful Freak
My Beautiful freak
Beautiful freak

I'll be your mama
I'll be your brother
I'll be your sister
I'll be your lover

Your Pain
Your Pleasure
My Beautiful Freak

Kind of uplifting, in a dark way, isn't it?  It's about finding love just by being yourself.  Which also says, to me, that you can find happiness by just being yourself. By not letting anyone or anything tell you how you should be.  By not letting your circumstances tell you that who you are isn't right.  If it makes you happy and doesn't hurt anyone, who cares what anyone else thinks? (And that's the kicker though; so long as it doesn't hurt anyone.  That's other people and yourself.  Justin's rash decision has me on a crusade to promote suicide prevention.) Play your strange video games, watch your strange movies, write your strange songs and stories!  Be the beautiful freak that you are, and don't worry about what anyone thinks of you.  Yes, your public identity still affects you, but when it comes down to it, when everyone walks away and you're left alone, you have to live yourself. So celebrate what makes you a freak.

So I leave you with this thought; even if you have a face only a mother could love, it is still your face. Love it, celebrate it, and never let anyone or anything belittle it.  Because you are a Beautiful Freak!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Single Awareness Day, everyone!

Yes, I am not a fan of Valentine's Day.  Never have been. Or, at least, I'm not a fan of the secular version of the day.  Because seeing all these people getting flowers, cakes, candies or doing stuff for their significant other just reminds me of my failures with romance. Between stupid grade school crushes, to bullshit games that the girls in high school played with me, to bad dates I had in the military and college, to  that bitch Michelle Matas (and yes, I am using her real name for a reason.  I'm sorry Michelle, but you don't get a free ride for fucking someone else because you were mad at me), I have had little to no luck with finding love.

All day at work, I had people, co-workers and customers alike, talking about what they were doing for their significant other.  I even had an old woman say to me "I hope you're doing something nice for your lady when you get off work."  I had to say to her "I am single, ma'am.  Unhappily so.  And I know you're trying to being nice, but all you're doing is reminding me that I'm going home to an empty home."

Yes, I was being melodramatic. But sometimes, that's how it feels.  Especially on a day that reminds me that, at 31, I'm running out of time to find love.

Now, in my head, I know that's not true.  My dad was in his mid 50s before he found his true love; his current girlfriend.  So I've got plenty of time to find love. But in my heart? It is screaming "I want to be loved!" every time I see a happy couple.

So I leave this blog entry with a quote by Thomas Merton, a catholic priest and mystic, because this is why I don't just just seek any open arms (again, kiss my ass Michelle); “Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.”