Sunday, April 24, 2011

Monday Musings - 25th Apr 2011

It's been a big week of gaming so let's crack open some musings.

Lord of the Rings Online

I'm now lvl 16 and am completing quests in Bree. There was something special about first entering the town, and getting to enter the Prancing Pony. I've been completing story quests for Strider. I even saw some Nazgul. The history of this world in its books and some well made films lends to the overall wonder of exploring, and feeling like you're affecting the world of Middle Earth.

There is another thing that LotRO has going for it - at least for now - and that is how overwhelming it is as a new MMO. What i mean is that when i first started playing WoW, i had no idea how it all worked. The world was beautiful and massive, and each town, and quest, and new ability was amazing and important. Looking into crafting and travelling to new areas, reading the lore, this was all exciting. After 6 years of playing the game, the shine kind of wore off. The game is no longer overwhelming because i know how everything works. Because of that, levelling is more of a by the numbers game than full immersion. Hmm, i don't think i've explained that as well as i wanted to. The point is that LotRO, i still don't know what i'm doing, and that makes it an exciting gameplay experience... for now.

Space Quest 1 - The Sarien Encounter

I played this for 20 mins. I still haven't made enough money at the slot machine. I've been getting some really bad luck. I may or may not try again this week.

It also doesn't help that there is a slot combination that can kill you. They really wanted this one to be difficult.

Final Fantasy XIII

This has been a rocky affair. The 2nd form of Barthandelus in chapter 11. I have fought him close to 10 times now with no success. After the first 3 - 5 defeats, i searched online forums and read pages of discussion about this boss. I changed up my entire strategy. Still to avail. This new strategy works, it's just that Barth is a very cheap boss that is capable of some nasty things. Mostly daze and fog, which can put your fighters and healers out of commission. He also has 3.3 million hit points, and at the 20 minute mark of the fight, he casts doom on your leader. Many times i'd wipe out 2/3 of his health and he'd manage to fog my healer, daze my leader, and then use his super laser attack, resulting in yet another game over.

So i did the unthinkable last night. I did something i said i wasn't going to do in this game, because it was tedious and boring. I went back to a farm spot and grinded till i maxed out the Crystarium for my 3 main characters. I caught up on episodes of the podcast Outside the Cinema while this happened.

So now i have a maxed party that is newly equipped (i changed around some weapons and accessories), and a new paradigm strategy. If i don't defeat this boss, i may just rage quit. I hope it doesn't come to this. I have read that this guy is one of the most annoying bosses in the game so if i can beat him, i feel good about plowing through to the end.

Portal 2

This was the big release this last week. The game that everyone's been talking about. The game that everyone's been playing. I would not have purchased it as $50 is a little steep for my liking, but my good friend Roo gifted me it over Steam as an early birthday present (my birthday is tomorrow). I have to say, this game is... well it is gaming excellence.

Between the writing, the pacing, the delivery, and the superb gameplay mechanics, i've been having a blast. The puzzle rooms have some really clever additions, and upon solving a few of them, i felt like an intellectual powerhouse. The characters and their delivery are great to listen to. I have laughed many times, and most of the time while i'm playing, i have a huge smile on my face, especially when a solution dawns on me.

I've been pacing myself with the single player (i reached the rooms introducing the gel last night), and i haven't even tried the co-op campaign yet, but in my opinion, Valve have released a winner. Whether it's a contender for Game of the Year, well there's a lot of year left, and some huge titles coming out. Time will tell.

Final Thoughts.

Speaking of Game of the Year, Portal 2 got me thinking about the year Portal came out, 2007. Now that was a year of gaming. Portal actually only made my #2 spot on the top 5 that year. Super Mario Galaxy defeated it for #1, and it just jumped ahead of Bioshock in #3. For those of you interested, #5 was Contra 4 for the DS, and #4 was Phoenix Wright (which had just been released in Australia that year).

This year we have LA Noire quickly approaching. We have Deus Ex 3 coming out later in the year. People are excited for Skyrim (i personally have not touched an Elder Scrolls game since i lost months to Morrowind). The Last Guardian could be coming out, Skyward Sword could be coming out. Hell, Mass Effect 3 is supposed to be coming out. Rumours out of Nintendo say that there might be a new 3DS Mario game before the end of the year (and some people think there might be a new console announcement too, but that's neither here nor there).

I'm excited about the indie scene as Journey, and The Witness might both be hitting this year (the previous games by both these developers are favourites of mine). I could go on. As i'm typing other titles keep popping into my head, and i can only enter in sentences in above paragraphs so many times before it becomes silly.

Needless to say 2011 is shaping up to be a big gaming year.

Till 2012, and till next week, happy gaming all!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Monday Musings - 18th Apr 2011

This is going to be an interesting week for musings. My gameplay habits kind of threw me for a loop. Let's begin.

Space Quest 1 - The Sarien Encounter

Yeah, we're going old school to start the week off. First a little background if you'll indulge me. Sierra adventure games were my introduction to the genre. Aside from King's Quest 6, the KQ series never did much for me. My first adventure game was Police Quest, and my favourite series was Space Quest. Thanks to, i have the full set of both of these, and last week i decided to start playing through them all over again, starting with The Sarien Encounter.

Starting up the game really threw me back. Text parser? Check. EGA graphics? Check. PC Speaker music? Check. Incredibly difficult opening sequence to the game where death is as common as breathing? Check. After 20 mins trying to get off the ship by myself, i acquiesced and found myself a walkthrough. I still remember the first time i played The Secret of Monkey Island (my first Lucasarts adventure) and marvelled that i couldn't die. Still, death in adventure games has one great positive, and that is the obvious death. There are points in the game where you know something will kill you, so you save... and then you go do it to see what happens. Then you smile and reload. Out of all the Sierra games, i always found the Space Quests to contain the most grisly demises (especially when the games started showing you what happened).

So i escaped the ship, escaped the desert (playing through an arcade speeder sequence where you have to turn the game speed to slow just to survive... and luckily you can save and reload during it), and found myself in Ulence Flats. There is a bar there. Entering the bar and seeing the entertainment cracked me up. Even now, the sense of humour of this game shines through. So far this is my favourite part of the game, and i have searched youtube to share it with you.

I've used the slot machines to purchase myself a ship, and now i need more money to purchase a navigation droid. Leisure Suit Larry had a similar sequence where you need to earn yourself money (i'm sure there are other games too). It seems like busywork as all you do is save after a good spin, and reload everytime you lose. Ah well, it's not too much time lost (i mean it's not an MMO am i right?)

Super Meat Boy

Finally completed the stage i was on (6-5) and now am up to the Dr. Fetus battle. Hatchie Matchie! It's gonna take some tough platforming to defeat this. I shall persevere (even if it takes me another month to return to the game)!

The Lord of the Rings Online

I've been getting the itch to play another MMO recently. I wanted to give Warhammer Online a play, but their sign up system was glitching or something and i couldn't create an account. So i downloaded LotRO to give it a try. I have heard good things, and hey... it's free!

Coming from primarily playing WoW (i have given other MMOs a try before WoW, like Asherons Call 2... and this Korean grindfest that i can't even remember the name of. I just remember it had great intro music), i was going to judge this game by the most successful competitor in its genre.

I have a lvl 11 Dwarf Champion at the moment. Let me run through what i like about the game. First and foremost is actually the music. It's incredible. Very orchestral and atmospheric. I look forward to listening to more as i progress. Secondly, i love the main quest chain. Each section has a main quest going through the area (with a lot of other quests for exp, rewards etc). You'd expect a game based off Tolkien's work to be rich in lore with good writing. Well so far, the progression of the main quests have been keeping me interested in the game (and i'm only playing through the prologue).

The combat seems standard fare, with the Champion being a melee damage dealer (not like a rogue though). Crafting seems interesting as you choose trades, each having three professions. I chose historian which includes Scholar, Weaponsmith, and Farmer... though i haven't really done anything with them passed the introduction quests.

Being a free game, the LotoO store is how they make their money. If you want an advantage for your character, you can purchase it. If you want crafting materials, and recipes for your professions, you can purchase it, if you want the ability to sell things on the auction house, you can purchase it. It's a shrewd system that i'm sure works well for Turbine to keep the MMO free to play. By completing deeds in game (achievements), you can gain turbine points (the store's currency), but i'm sure the amount will never suffice to anything one might want. Still, from my experience thus far, the store is not essential to play, and as long as things stay that way, i don't see a problem with it.

Final Thoughts

As a fan of old adventure games, i used to be heavily into the Abandonware scene to play these games (abandonware is the name given to games that are not being sold anymore yet are not in the public domain). I actually used Windows ME for 2 years because it had better dos emulation than XP (in retrospect, i should have stuck with 98). When i discovered Dosbox, my abandonware collection really started and grew quite sizable (even as companies were shutting down all the best sites). Abandonware is an offshoot of game piracy with its own set of grey areas. The main argument for it is if you're not making your game available for me to purchase, how else am i going to play it (and of course then there's the added fun/headache of getting some of these games to run)?

Speaking for myself, since came on the scene, i haven't felt the need to use abandonware. Oh sure there are plenty of titles i still wish to play from bygone years, but i have enough old games from GoG to keep me busy for quite a while (still, if Privater and the Wing Commander games happened to show up, i'm sure i wouldn't be the only happy one). The inclusion of dosbox executables for each game has removed the headache of getting these games to run (i became a wizard at optimizing dosbox years ago. Of course programs like d-fend helped keep my options saved once i got things right), and the prices are not extravagant (although i do find some of the $10 titles questionable at that price).

Heh, i guess this has turned into an advertisement for, but seriously they're helping preserve game history, and seeing as game history is my favourite game discussion topic, they're doing all right by me.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Monday Musings 11th Apr 2011

Hello gamers. It's a beautiful day, let's get to some good ol' fashioned Monday Musings!

Final Fantasy XIII

Closing in on chapter 12. It turns out i was right about the tower. It was full of pointless busywork puzzles and there was a big boss at the end. A rather cheap boss too. Twice it destroyed me with one attack about two thirds into the fight. In any other RPG i would have been fine, but players of this game will know that when your party leader dies, it's game over. So here's what i did...

I switched my leader to Fang who acts as my sentinel. I basically spent the entire fight in defense mode and the boss went down without issue.

After that we reached the village of Fang and Vanille. There was what seemed to be a simple side quest, but one of the things i had to collect was guarded by a creature i shudder everytime i have to fight it. It's called a Vetala. It has immunity to physical attacks through a shield, has some really nasty spells, and doesn't seem to focus its attacks on a sentinel. When you stagger it, it doesn't stun, so a lot of your stagger time is spent healing from the nasty spells cast. This is made especially annoying because its shield goes down when staggered (only about half the time though), and attacking like crazy with a commando is the best way to widdle down its crazy amount of hp.

I have a feeling i've saved just before the end of chapter boss fight. More on that next week.

Dawn of War II

I love RTS games. I have since i discovered the genre with the original Command & Conquer and was blown away by this new take on the strategy genre. Confession time though, i suck at them. I have always sucked at them and they don't take long to lose my interest because of it. Nevertheless, i try to see what's new in the genre and one of the leaders in the last decade have been Relic.

I really enjoyed the first Dawn of War so when the sequel was super cheap one weekend on steam, i picked it up and let it download this week. I think my interest has been lost already, but damn if there aren't some really neat changes to the first game.

The overworld map seems to be standard fare with stage selection, but there is an RPG element to upgrading your units with experience, weapons, and armour. Gaining levels gives you points to unlock new abilities and improve your units. This leads into my favourite thing about this game. Each unit (well, squad) is a character with a decorated past. One of my favourite things about the Relic game Company of Heroes was that unlike any RTS i had played before, CoH made me feel guilty when any one of my squads was wiped out. It seems they've taken an extra step here, trying to grow greater attachment between the player and their units.

Aside from this great addition, the gameplay seemed a little stale to me. Set up behind cover, use abilities, suppress, march foward. Sure things are broken up by different tactics (with the abilities), and you have to keep an eye on battles cause most cover is destructable, but by the 3rd mission i was not engaged.

I also gave skirmish a go, mainly to try other races (the Eldar looked so awesome in the intro). You know that feeling of character and attachment i praised them for just two paragraphs ago? Well multiplayer pretty much destroys it (well i guess single player would have too). Basically base building destorys this feature. That really important ground squad led by the decorated veteran? Let's pump a few of those out. I shouldn't be shocked by this. I mean, a multiplayer match with just 5-8 squads / vehicles per side would probably lose its fun quickly. I guess that when i saw what they were doing with the squads, i instantly thought of the Commandos series. This is certainly nothing like the Commandos series.

GTA IV - Episodes from Liberty City

Aside from spending more time fooling around with my completed game of Lost and Damned, i started the Ballad of Gay Tony this week... and then went back to fooling around in my completed game of Lost and Damned. It's not due to any fault of the game (the characters are all fun, and i imagine things get more crazy), but at the moment, i just want to wreck havoc around Liberty City.

Also, i'm not a fan of being graded after every mission. It doesn't seem to gel well with the open world gameplay.

Lastly, I need to look into how to record longer video clips and how to control said recording. The automated system... well functional is not a good way to describe it.

Final Thoughts

Am i the only one that while playing through a longer game looks at a bunch of the other games they have and is tempted to just start something else? No? This could be why i never finish games. I dunno, i guess i'm a fan of the starts of games. Those first couple hours are more often than not designed to immerse the player and hook them in. It's just the longer a game goes, the less motivated i often get to return. That's usually why i play a few games at a time, so that while i'm playing something else, i can get the itch to continue all the other games on my plate. Readers of this blog will already notice that this method is only partially successful.

Case in point, while FFXIII has been going slowly, i'm constantly getting this itch to play Persona 4. While my Fallout 3 progress has dropped to a crawl, Mass Effect 2 is taunting me from my steam menu. While i should finish off Mario Galaxy 2, i'm looking at my virtual console and thinking about playing an old Zelda (LttP, OoT, or MM). Hell, i was THIS close to starting a game of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance on the Gamecube the other night.

It's a terrible affliction. :)

Have any thoughts on what's written here? Don't be afraid to drop a comment or two. We can have ourselves a discussion!

Till next week, Happy gaming all!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monday Musings - 4th Apr 2011

Musings are a little early today. I'm going over to my buddy Shane's place to watch Wrestlemania in a couple hours. With that said, let's talk vidya games!

Final Fantasy XIII

I've played a few more hours on Gran Pulse. I can feel the game leading to a finale... though FFXII taught me to be weary of that. The funny thing is that right near the finale of 12, i had to climb and fight through a huge friggin tower with a major boss battle at the top. In 13, i've arrived at what looks to be a huge friggin tower with what looks to be a major boss battle at the top.

I've been hitting those Role levels in the crystarium so have been having a decent time of it in the battles. Basically with all the sentinel setups, it's just a matter of smart paradigm changing and time. I'm not getting those 5 star ratings anymore (without a pre-emptive strike), but it's rare i can't power down an enemy, while keeping my sentinel healed.

Part of me is looking forward to the game being finished so i can tackle the other two titles remaining in my PS3 library (those being Vanquish and Metal Gear Solid 4), but there's a part of me that would love to power level my characters and attempt some of the side quest and end game content in 13. Another part of me wants to give Persona 4 on the PS2 another crack. Whatever happens, FFXIII's story is quickly coming to a close.


It was $5 and looked fun. It is. It's part puzzle game, part racing game (as in there are stars and leaderboards revolving around the fastest time through levels). You control a little spaceship towards the checkered flag, but gravity and acceleration are your masters. There are plenty of bounce pads, boosts, and obstacles to keep you going, and the overworld structure has lots of branching paths (and some levels have collectable coins to unlock content).

My only main concern (aside from being stuck already on world 3) is that the controls take quite some time getting used to, with how the ship turns. It feels like the ship is fighting you, and even when you get the hang of things, it doesn't feel like you're totally behind the wheel. I mean seeing as you have no acceleration, maybe this was the point, but done purposely or not, bad controls can affect a game negatively.

Fallout 3

It's been a little while but i decided to enter the wastelands again this week. I followed the main questline once again and found myself fighting super mutants with the brotherhood of steel outside the Galaxy News Radio building. My god, that Super Mutant Behemoth eh? Yeesh. That was pretty cool though. I didn't expect anything on that scale. It's like the first time you encounter a giant in World of Warcraft.

I noticed i really haven't needed to upgrade my weapons in a while. Between the sniper rifle, hunting rifle, and combat shotgun, most things fall in one or two shots. Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but i guess it does remove some of the feeling of progression. I mean i'm level 8 and feel like i have all the supplies i need. In the early levels, i was scrounging for everything and finding a new weapon was always cause for celebration. I'm sure i'll find some energy weapons or something on my way, but some of the thrill of those early levels is gone.

GTA IV - The Lost and Damned

This has actually taken up most of my gaming time this week. I'll load it up, and just screw around for an hour or two (often recording hilarious deaths as video clips). I must admit, some of the things i've been doing are pretty dark and brutal (i often remark as such after i do them), but i guess that's part of what makes the GTA games so enticing. You have full license to act like a complete psychopath and then to witness the consequences. Of course most psychos don't have a full arsenel of weapons on their person as they take a stand against the cops (including helicopter destroying rocket launchers), nor do they have a magic cell phone that makes the police go away when they tire of the carnage.

I find myself driving around a lot too. Rockstar really have crafted a beautiful living New York replica in this game. I'm constantly finding new things to appreciate and new places to explore. It makes me wonder what the GTA series has in store for us next.

Final Thoughts

My Cabal Clones post i wrote over a week ago has me thinking about other things i can do for this blog. Well, that, and i've recorded a couple Let's Plays for my friend Robbie this year now (and i enjoy doing them). I might look into recording footage of mame and old console games, and then doing a review / analysis / let's play voiceover. I shall call them... replys (or something not stupid).

Till next week, happy gaming all!