Defending Dawn – Dawnguard Review

Hey, readers! Back in June I bought Skyrim Legendary Edition. Ostensibly, this gift was for my brother, who loves The Elder Scrolls (albeit not as much as I), and he hadn’t played the expansions on his Playstation… Neither had I! Coincidence? No! I’ve been putting a good bit of time into Skyrim lately, and I’m finally starting to do all the DLC with my Imperial character that I made. I’ve decided I’d do a little series detailing my adventures through Skyrim with my first time doing the expansions, and this first entry will cover Dawnguard’s first playthrough and my opinions on it.
 

 

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I’m Not A Terrorist, I’m a CONDUIT!!

I want to do an impressions post on the first couple of hours of my first playthrough of Infamous: Second Son on the Playstation 4. This isn’t anything more than a disorganised ramble, because I’ve accumulated about 5 hours on the game, and I’ve written down my thoughts beforehand… Each time I blog, I make one draft, and that’s what I post with little revision. :p

In short, it’s a pretty great game. You play as Delsin Rowe, an Akomish Native American living in Washington. He’s dressed up like your stereotypical emo brat with a vest full of patches and pins and an beanie, and the story opens up to him vandalising a billboard on his reservation. Very nice start to the game… Just what I wanted to do was play as an emo Indian.

Anyway, he quickly gets found by his brother Reggie, the local sheriff, and Reggie’s berating him is interrupted by a Conduit, a being with supernatural powers that I don’t understand because I didn’t play the previous titles. Anyway, he accidentally gives Delsin some of his powers, and Delsin becomes a conduit with fire powers, and he chases after the Conduit who turned him, because he threatened the tribe, and then the DUP, the Department of Unified Power, which is a bastardly evil military organisation that’s occupying Seattle and the surrounding area in an attempt to stamp out the very few remaining conduits (or “bio-terrorists as DUP calls them), shows up, and they attack Betty, an elderly Tribal lady and torture the tribe searching out the conduits in the area, and Delsin resolves to take care of them.

That’s the gist of it without spoiling it. I’m not that far into the story, because once I got to Seattle, I started exploring instead of actually doing the missions. The gameplay is gorgeous, it’s fluid, and I was quickly doing awesome stuff with his superpowers, which include turning into smoke and using air ducts to fly up to the roof, using parkour free-running to climb, shooting firebombs, etc. It’s quite fun.

Delsin actually isn’t that bad of a protagonist as far as emo teenagers go. He’s got the kind of banter that reminds me of the old Spiderman PS2 games that had witty dialogue in them for about every scenario, and it’s actually fun to go tagging, fighting, or doing random things just to hear what he has to say.

The highlight of the game so far has to be climbing up the Space Needle in Seattle and having the big showdown on it with the first real “boss” in the game. The view was amazing up there! It was incredible to look down and see the whole city and see the mountains and the Puget Sound, although the gameplay does not extend beyond the two islands that make up “Seattle”.

All in all, though, it’s  a fun game, and I thoroughly am enjoying it. Once I finally beat it, there’s definitely going to be a review of this, I believe. It’s a great game.

Minecraft in Space (A StarMade Impressions Post)

In this completely impromput, totally disorganised, and probably very boring “first impressions” post, I want to talk about Minecraft… In Space! The game is called StarMade, and is similar to Minecraft in that it’s a voxel-based infinitely generated universe of blocks that can be harvested for crafting. The difference is that while Minecraft focuses on a single planet, StarMade is a whole galaxy. There are tons of planet types, asteroids, space stations occupied by pirates, other factions or are derelict, and more! It’s really a fun game, I think, and it hits upon my love of creating that Minecraft used to offer, and it fulfils my love for space exploration.

The game starts you off outside a Traders’ Guild space station, a shop where you can buy and sell resources for Credits, and you have enough parts to build a small ship and 20,000 Credits, the currency in-game, to spend as you please. Once you make the ship, you’re free to explore the galaxy.

You can fit the ships you make (you can make as many as you have money to make, and I happen to have two ships, one for mining and one for exploration and light combat) with cannons to attack enemies, you can attach mining equipment to it and rip terrain and resources from planets and asteroids (which can be totally removed! – although planets are so freakin’ huge I’ve not tried it with them), or you can just explore and look at things… Something I’ve done a lot of.

On a rambling, off-topic comment, it’s very disorientating in space. You’re used to “Down” being the direction gravity pulls you towards, but when you’re away from a planet, your cardinal directions become completely arbitrary constructs that have no meaning, and so it’s tricky to get used to orientating yourself or your ship to do whatever you fancy when you’re floating in the black with no nearby planets, stations, or asteroids to use as a reference to call “up” or “down” on.

I’ve not really gotten into huge epic battles with the pirate fleets or other factions, nor have I done a lot of mining, except when I needed parts/currency to update the main exploration ship, affectionately called the Space Shuttle Dreamer after my best friend who sent me the game on Steam. The mining I have done is nice, though, and it’s fun to rip every piece of material worth owning on a planet or asteroid, and then turn around and return to the one I’ve dubbed “Home” (creative name for a planet with trees and grass, I know) and build more of my large land-based facility above and under ground in order to facilitate my exploration and acquisition of resources…

The next stop will be an eventual space station constructed in space somewhere! That’s my end goal, since there is no goal currently in the game, aside from exploration and fun. I want to make a big, glorious looking space-station to serve as my mobile home out away from Home… Why spend forever on the planet Home when I can live in the black and explore ice and lava planets and other cool stuff in a large mobile home?

Since I’m a big fan of the British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, I’d like my space station to be a replica of Red Dwarf, though a ship of that magnitude is a little out of reach for me as far as resources and creativity go. Then, I’d probably fly that between planets and use the SS Dreamer (my combat/exploration vessel) and the “Pickaxe” (my mining vessel, named after Minecraft) as short-range vehicles to harvest resources and other things. (Ships have no fuel, by the way, at least in alpha, and I just want to have a space station to dock to, because why not?)

This post has gotten really ramble-y at things point, but TL;DR: I really enjoy StarMade. As it turns out, the alpha version of the game is currently free and will be free to download and play, although like with Minecraft and other games, you can purchase the game for $9.99 and get to receive the updates through Beta and into the full version when that comes around. And, it excites me, because there’s already a lot of amazing things in the game, and it’s only in ALPHA right now! This game will only excite me more and more as time goes by and I get to update it into Beta and then the full release.

Anyway, I shall return whenever I have something interesting to say in the future, and once I’ve had a length of time to get into everything about the game and create a formal opinion on everything about it, I might do a proper review of StarMade. Bye, guys!

The Great Siege of Narra

It’s time for another scheduled gaming-related post, but since I haven’t got the time or energy to write a full-on review, I’ve decided to share an excting (and nerve-racking) story from my Mount & Blade: Warband save.

To give a brief overview, I’m a Lord in Sultan Hakim’s Sarranid Sultanate, and I’ve been rather instrumental in our acquisitions of Narra, Dhirim, Reyvadin, and Uxhal, plus a bunch of surrounding castles. Of the set of things we’ve taken, the Sultan has granted me the town of Narra, which I had personally sieged and taken after the Vaegirs weakened it, but were unable to break in and claim it, I own Uhhun Castle, the nearest castle to Narra, and I own Kelredan Castle, off in Swadia country, as well as a handful (5-6) smaller villages, all of which I collect taxes from. (map of Calradia, to reference for locations)

We’ve been at war with the Nords, the Swadia (who we got out of war with just before the siege), and the Khergit Khanate for some time, because all of them have things that we’ve taken from them at some point or another, and they want the stuff back. Anyway, the Khergit Khanate decided they wanted my city of Narra back while I was off at Kelredan Castle, and I get the notice that it’s happened, so I sent a message asking the Sultan to move over there, which he says he’d do, and I depart immediately to check out my town and break the siege… There are 900 men waiting for me… I’m starting to ramble alread… To the point, then!

Sultan Hakim of the Sarranid Sultanate left me hanging out to dry, and I had to fend off the king of the Khergit Khanate, their Grand Marshal, and a half-dozen or so lords, who brought a total of 920 men into battle against poor little me. The bastard… I take all this land for him, then when I send a message calling for aid, he leaves me hanging out to dry…

So anyway, Sanjar Khan, the enemy king, is sieging Narra, a town that used to belong to his kingdom, but that my king has owned for a few years and has let me rule over and collect taxes from. Since it’s MY town, I thought “to hell with it. If it’s being taken, then he has to put every one of the defenders to the sword”.

They try to assault the walls, and  about 150 of 300 men (between the garrison and my 50 Sarranid Mamlukes and 20 assorted other men that I had with me to begin with) hold 400 back from taking the walls, and the Khanate has to regroup.

They are sitting outside the walls for a few days, maybe a week or so, and a few of the Lords break off to harass Sultanate caravans for supplies. So since they are split, I take a risk and break through the siege lines with the strongest men I have at my disposal, leave the city fairly minimally defended, I swallow the smaller Lords with my 120 men (about 200 were not injured or dead – mostly just survivable wounds), so there are only about 90 men in the town. Then, I am met outside the walls by the Grand Marshal and the King, who have a combined 375-400 troops still available against my 120 in the field. And, it’s a calvalry-strong army, being the Khanate. I miraculously defeat them by keeping my army grouped and with me moving around the battlefield to scatter their men and hit them over and over while periodically letting the men separate to strike hard hits.

Then, after a long battle (30 minutes real time, which is a good while), we manage to defeat the entire army, and we had a few Lords as prisoner, who I promptly threw in Narra’s prison to rot while I awaited a ransom from them. Then, I just sat in Narra with my army while I sent recruiters, and we have 350 recruits that I am taking into the field and quickly training while my Constable trains others to rebuild our garrison. But, at least I broke the bulk of the Khergit Khanate’s army, I’d say, so hopefully it will be a while before they try striking at Narra again.

I swear, bards will be singing of that day. And, I imagine the men who survived all three major battles (the siege defense, the caravan defense, and the direct assault against the King) are doing a lot of praying, feasting, and baby-making after this one.

So, to recap: 300-320 men vs. approx. 920-930, and about 100 remained combat-ready. Damn. I am still amazed it went so well…

Also, in case any Warband players ask, the recuiters and constable come from the Diplomacy module, which I love because it adds a lot of treaty options, it adds the Chancellor, Constable, and Chamblerlain, who help manage your affairs (keeping a treasury to put the income in, moving troops around, training troops, getting troops, you can manage your fief improvements there, send messages and gifts to Lords, etc). Google it for more information, if you feel so inclined. I am just pointing out that that’s where my two non-Native things I mentioned came in from.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, so I’ve whipped up a fast one. It’s not as detailed and elaborate as some others, but right now, I can’t find the motivation to do more for it. I’ve been playing a lot of games recently, and I could theoretically write over a dozen new game reviews. In order to get back into the habit of blogging, I’ll probably make a review at least twice a month, starting with this one and the month of February… Yes, you guys, it’s the 31st of January still. I know. ;D

The first game I’ll do is an older one: Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.

What do I say about it? On the one hand, the story didn’t impress me as much as I’d have hoped. The bulk of the story is progressed through a grand total of five-ish missions, each of which are accomplished after doing 4 of 5 miscellaneous missions that don’t push the story at all. Outside of these five missions, you do nothing in regards to gathering or learning about the intelligence that pushes to these missions. You’re just told to do them, and it’s disappointing, considering as Luke Skywalker and Kyle Katarn’s star protege you’re put into the heart of all the important Cult of Ragnos missions.

Those cons with the story aside, the gameplay is wonderful for the release period. Once you key in your Force powers to your preferred hot-key arrangement, you are a fluid, deadly Jedi apprentice and Knight. Combat is quick and deadly with the lightsabers realistically severing limbs and doing massive damage to enemies, and there are a nice variety of guns and miscellaneous items like mines and grenades that can be employed by you, although in truth your Force abilities and lightsaber is more than adequate for all missions except for one (where you are deprived of your lightsaber after being taken hostage), so there wasn’t a lot of gunplay on my part, although it was nice to have the option available to me. Force powers are nice and varied, with several light, dark, and neutral powers that can be trained in and upgraded to tailor your Jedi to your own playstyle.

The miscellaneous missions, while useless to the story itself, are fun and varied, ranging from things as simple as fighting your way through bandits on Mos Eisley to disarming bombs, or even ranging out to exciting racing/jousting on Speeder bikes as you race through valleys and canyons or taking part in a “wild west” style takeover of a commandeered train.

Visually, the game has aged quite well, and there are numerous subtle atmospheric touches that enhance the combat experience within the beautifully designed levels, including steam from rain falling on your ignited lightsaber and burn marks created on walls and the floor if your lightsaber strikes a surface or body in combat or just while running and moving around.

While the story the game tells is weak in terms of dialogue and development, the gameplay, the fun variety that comes with the miscellaneous missions, and the variety of customisation options related to your Force powers and lightsaber provide enough to the game for me to give it a recommendation, if for nothing else than the most exciting Jedi combat I’ve experienced in a Star Wars game, aside from during The Force Unleashed (let us never again speak of that horrible entry into the Star Wars franchise, which is only good for combat).

Now, for the games I’ll potentially write reviews for, these are the ones I’m considering, though by listing these, I’m not guaranteeing that they will be included or that this will be the order they are done in. The current list is Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Hearts of Iron III, Crusader Kings II, Civilization V, Grand Theft Auto V, MXGP, Watch_Dogs, perhaps a nostalgia post/review about Star Wars: Battlefront II, and Dragon Age: Origins — which is the last, and maybe the least likely to be done, because my friend who recommended it assures me that the dozen hours I spent getting to where I’m at is only “barely into it”, so more playing is necessary to write a fair review of it.

Mafia II: Director’s Cut – First Five Hours

Hey, blog readers, I’m back once again with a new post. This time, I want to share a little bit on a game I’ve been playing recently: Mafia II. Up front, I’m saying I’ve not finished it, but by my reckoning (and Google) I’m just over two-thirds of the way done… Damn it, this game is short…
For those who don’t know, the game is set in the 1940s and early 1950s and is centred around protagonist Vito Scalleta’s return home to Empire Bay – a fictional city based on New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Detroit – following his service in the US Army during World War II.
Upon returning home, Scalleta learns that his deceased father has left his family with a lot of debt to a loan shark and his forced to turn to his old friend and mafia man Joe Barbaro for ways to get work, leading to his involvement in the workings of the American Mafia and his becoming a made man.

The story itself is not bad, but it doesn’t particularly stand out in my mind, and Vito Scalleta is a rather emotionless man, who, despite the existence of a good potential backstory, just isn’t a very emotional or real character to me. He is just a man who can do stuff, and there is little depth to his character, making it very hard to relate to and appreciate him and what he accomplishes as the story moves along. That’s not to say he doesn’t have his moments, but they are too few and far between.

This man has about as much emotion as Agent 47 does. While 47 is a cloned Assassin trained to be cold and efficient, Vito Scalleta isn’t. He’s supposed to have feelings, unlike the former, but they are so bland and uninspiring that they do nothing to further him as a character. He’s simply your stereotypical “I’ll do anything” Mafia man who loves beer and his family (both his blood family and the Mafia).

On to the world itself. The world has the appearance of being open, with gas stations, diners, the gun store, and more showing up on the map, but in reality, the game is very linear, and you’ll visit these places very rarely. When you’re on a mission, you can still visit the gas stations to fill your car, you can visit clothing shops to buy outfits to wear in your home when you’re there to end a mission or start one (and to lose your wanted level if you get in trouble on the way somewhere), and so on, but otherwise, there is very little functionality to these places.

That’s not to say you can’t free roam and explore. When you’re on a mission (each “Chapter” is a mission with a string of objectives), there’s nothing to stop you from just going out into the streets to shoot people, steal cars, get clothes, etc (unless it’s one of the few timed mission objectives), but it’s not the same as a true free roam, because you’ve always got a waypoint on your map saying to go do something, meaning you never feel like you can just relax and enjoy the bland city.

If there is anything redeeming about the map and world, it’s the police and how they respond. I’ve always liked the idea of a game where the police actually gave a damn if you were speeding, and in this game, they do. You have to keep an eye on the radar for when a cop car is around the corner and slow down or tap your “Safe Driving” button (which caps the car at that street’s legal speed limit), and wait until he’s out of the way before driving recklessly again.

Speaking of driving, there’s a lot of it in the game. I love driving around and exploring, but the massive city takes forever to navigate through, and the fact that there is nothing to do along the way only makes it that much worse. ONE WHOLE MISSION WAS JUST DRIVING. There was no action whatsoever outside of driving across most of the town at the legal speed limit…

At least there is a decent sized soundtrack of period music that I’ve enjoyed listening to… Except for the part where is seems like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Baby It’s Cold Outside are the only ones that are ever on at any given time when I play.

The wanted system is pretty great. When you commit a minor crime like speeding, the cops will chase you to give you a ticket, and you can either slow down and pay it or evade them. And, with more serious crimes like homicide, when you’re wanted, you are wanted perpetually until you change clothes, meaning you have to break line of site and work your way to a clothing store where you can purchase an outfit to add to Vito’s at-home wardrobe, or run back to the wardrobe to grab clean clothes and clear it.

The same with vehicles. If you’re wanted and you’re in a car, the car gets a wanted level attached to it, meaning you have to ditch it or take it to a body shop and paint it, change the tags, or otherwise customise it.

Despite the reality of having a limited purpose, because you can’t free roam and there are no side missions to speak of , there are surprisingly a lot of options for car customisation, with two dozen colours to choose from, rim options, a license plate that can say whatever you want, and engine upgrades.

The aiming, running, stealth, and cover systems are very much like a Hitman game, to use the Agent 47 comparison again… Meaning they aren’t very original or groundbreaking. You kneel behind cover, you swing your entire body out of cover to fire, and then you duck back.
There was a slight learning curve to the controls in general, because a few of the controls didn’t feel like they were in intuitive enough places, but for the most part, it’s a playable game. Just don’t play this for hours and then move on to Grand Theft Auto, because they are different enough to confuse you when you play after a while.

The controls and the remainder of the gameplay and story that I haven’t touched on have proven mundane enough that I can’t even motivate myself to write them out.

And, what’s the deal with clothing in Mafia 2? Firstly, there are only a handful of options (admittedly they are all very mafia-esque, so they don’t bother me personally to wear) and a handful of colours a piece. With so few and so uncustomisable outfits, why even bother having the feature? If I was scripted to wear certain outfits in each mission, it wouldn’t bother me, but since a half-assed feature was implemented, I can’t help but feel annoyed that the feature even exists.

And, the main purpose for outfits is to clear your wanted level by changing your clothes… So, you buy an outfit or go to your home wardrobe. But, the purchasing of items is meh. I can draw my gun, shoot the wall or the cashier (more often than not it’s her, because those 40s hairstyles are meh), and I can just steal the stuff off the shelf. Honestly, what’s the incentive to spend money if I can get for free, shoot any responding cops, nick a suit to change out of my wanted clothes, then waltz out the front door? I only change my outfit to get un-Wanted anyway, so it’s not like shooting a handful of more cops before nicking a suit is an unreasonable option to me with the COD-like health regeneration.

Oh yeah, health regens on its own, but I’ll let that point slide; this post is long enough already.
To cap off, here are the good and the bad, in my opinion:
Good:

  • Wanted System and breakable laws
  • Soundtrack
  • Graphics
  • Weapons available
  • Car customisation

Bad:

  • Pseudo-open world
  • Linear gameplay
  • Lack of side missions
  • Excessive driving
  • Lack of melee weapons
  • NPC AI

Meh:

  • Combat and cover system
  • Clothing options
  • Melee combat

For a final verdict, this is a rather mediocre game. It’s not the most amazing thing ever when compared to similar games, and the limitations imposed on the player coupled with the average story and character development will only give this game one or two replays before I set it aside and stop playing.

Why Oblivion’s Main Quest Disappointed

I’ll cut to the point for this post, as I’ve got nothing particularly interesting to add to it. I was playing some Oblivion on my brother’s Playstation for the first time in forever, and I remembered why I never play Oblivion, but still am madly in love with Morrowind.

Let’s just cut to the chase – first off, it’s not a very original idea to fight off a demonic invasion of the world, so to begin with that could have been polished a little more. But, I’ll just let that point slide for now. This second point is what really grinds me about Oblivion…
SO MUCH of the MQ is a fetch-quest.

  1. Get the Amulet to Jauffre.
  2. Fetch a sigil stone to close Kvatch’s gate.
  3. Fetch the Count’s ring
  4. Fetch Martin
  5. Find Barus and then fetch the 4 commentaries
  6. Fetch the Xarxes
  7. Fetch a Daedric Artifact
  8. Fetch Tiber’s armor
  9. Fetch the support of the Counts to aid Bruma
  10. Fetch the Great Sigil Stone
  11. Fetch the Amulet
  12. Battle for the Imperial City

That’s the gist of the MQ. It didn’t feel particularly interesting, and despite feeling relatively short next to Morrowind and Skyrim (in my own opinion), it felt like it just DRAGGED on. And, after a while, you start to get tired of being the errand boy. C’mon, Marin! I know you’re Emperor and I’m a Blade, but there are a dozen of them in the fortress! It’s someone else’s turn to go fetch items.

That’s where I felt Morrowind excelled (yes, I know I love Morrowind and talk of it a lot – because it IS the best). The quests varied a little more than straight collection quests.

For instance, Morrowind, you had to initially fetch some notes for Caius Cosades, but once that was done, you were out in the field exploring and experiencing Vvardenfell, being sent by Caius to visit Great Houses, tribal clans, explore dungeons, or just go do whatever you fancy, as Caius on numerous occasions dismises the player specifically to go visit guilds or quest, because you’re one of the secretive spy Blades (not the ceremonial warrior Blades of Oblivion who are personal guards to the Sovereign) and you have to keep your cover identity as a citizen and adventerer/mercenary intact.
You were constantly being immersed into this province’s culture, and the world felt more real than the standard fantasy towns of Cyrodiil that you had to rush through, as the Main Quest always felt pressured to be finished, because everything was urgently needed (which is appropros for what the story is, but it makes it harder to experience the open world, in my opinion as a roleplayer and not a power-gamer).

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with errand boy quests on the side (such as Skyrim’s Radiant quests where you go out to gather herbs, deliver papers or items), but those quests are supposed to be fun little atmospheric quests to help you experience people, those quests enable you to visit other people and experience all these different areas, because it’s a casual thing.

Oblivion sent you to quite remote regions that typically had little to see, because the map was so… bland. The Lake Arrius caverns and the area around the Shrine of Azura, for instance, were around trees and rocks. The same thing I could look at in my  yard. And, the Shrine itself, while a nice representation of who the Prince of Dawn and Dusk is, is still a bland and boring experience, compared to others. For instance, Azura’s in Skyrim stood on a Mountain and was visible from long distances, and when you approached, being so many times larger, it felt monumental and it was an experience to hike up the mountain to find it.

But, I’m starting to digress. Point is, Oblivion is subpar for the Main Quest, thanks to the nature of fetching things all the time. Then, I broke away into irritation at the landscape, because I was rambling.