Back to Diablo – Week 11

Games Played: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Diablo 3, Misc. Games: Minecraft, Mass Effect 3, Sanctum,

Other Business: I want to start being more concise with my writing since I know nobody wants to even look at it when its just dense blocks of text. If I am trying to keep them short, I will be better about editing and thus the quality should also improve, at least in theory. Also, I plan to be more diligent about posting screenshots along with the blog, but that definitely didn’t happen this week.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I came back to Ass Rev this weekend with the specific intention of not playing the multiplayer and just trying to make good progress through the game story. I failed in my attempts. I instead spent about two hours or so training my assassin’s and screwing around with the bomb making. I find the whole Pokémon/Risk element of the Mediterranean battle map or whatever its called to be a bit addictive. Typically, I end up sending all my assassin dudes out and then just running around the city alternating between paying off heralds to stop talking about the ongoing genocide of all guards of the city and conducting genocide on every group of guards I run into. After about five minutes or so, my assassin’s finish their missions and I head to the nearest assassin’s den to send them out again. I did play one or two story missions and made it to a new chapter…I don’t remember what is going on. At one point I was interested in the Assassin’s Creed story and was looking forward to this game, but I just can’t get motivated to play it. What with recent release of Diablo 3, I really doubt next week will hold much more Assassin’s Creed for me.

Diablo 3
Apparently, it has been 12 years or so since Diablo 2 was released and I started sinking my life into it. I can remember searching Google for Diablo 3 news some five or so years after release and being disheartened by finding exactly nothing. Fast forward and BOOM, Diablo 3 is here, its released and …uh yeah who would have thought that whole always online thing would mean that the servers would overload and keep people out of the game? I felt especially good about my decision to sleep instead of stay up for the midnight release when I woke up the next morning and read about all the server problems. Honestly though, I am not surprised and only mildly annoyed by the servers preventing me from playing. I came home on Tuesday after work and booted up my computer so it would be set by the time I was done putting stuff away and so on. The first thing that popped up was the Diablo 3 splash screen and then the game loaded right into the opening cinematic. At first I was blown away that my computer would just start booting this newly released game by itself, plus it sounded really cool in my head to say “my computer knows what’s coming.” Once I thought about it for a bit, I remembered accidently hitting the play button on the launcher the night before and it just kind of freezing there. At the time I had just shrugged and click the X in the corner before putting my computer to sleep. Turns out when the game went live, the launcher activated and was set to go as soon as my computer came on again. Kind of cool, even if it was purely accidental. I got about two or so hours of game time on Tuesday before they took the servers down for emergency maintenance and another few hours on Wednesday having to fight the server issues a little to get in. Once you are in, man, its Diablo and I am glad to be back. The first character I made was a Barbarian named MrSlapHappy, which is the name and class of the first character I took onto Battlenet with Diablo 2 in 2000 or 2001 and the name I eventually took as my internet screenname. Its fun and I can’t wait to get back in game, so I am going to go do that.

Misc. Games:

Minecraft
I have started playing more and more Minecraft while I watch videos and stuff. The hollow mountain that is my residence now has doors and a long stairwell down to bedrock and some mining tunnels.

Sanctum
I played more Sanctum with my girlfriend. We are still having a good time with it. We last completed the Arc level on Normal with 10 waves. Between the two of us, we have about 5 or so attempts on that level so it was nice to finally finish that.

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer
I played another few hours of Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer this weekend. I mostly spent time getting my Batarian Sentinel leveled up. Currently, I believe he is level 12 or so and I have defaulted to assault rifle and shotgun after a brief run with a sniper rifle and assault rifle. As much as I was playing that class to get a break from that weapon set up on my soldier, playing anything else but those weapons seems like playing the character wrong since most of his abilities are close range. After that I decided to get the last level on my Soldier class, which looks like I need to play it about three or so more missions. Then, he maxes out and I guess I get to import it into my singleplayer campaign or something. I want to at least figure out what that is about.

Unbraided Week 10

Week 10

Games Played: Mass Effect 3, Choice of the Vampire, Braid, Sanctum, Misc. games

Other Business: Still posting on both pages, I like some of the features that WordPress has over Giantbomb’s system but not by much and I think its just laziness mostly.

Mass Effect 3
I have been trying to play more of the singleplayer campaign lately and as a result I haven’t really touched multiplayer all that much since the weekend. I did make enough credits this past weekend to buy the special expensive as hell pack and that unlocked a new race, that I have not played yet. I am looking forward to checking out The Batarian Sentinel. I do briefly want to mention that I did get a chance to play the multiplayer with some friends, not this week but the one before it. Its definitely more fun, but jumping in with strangers and just sticking close isn’t that bad in comparison. Anyways, back to the campaign: I have started meeting old characters! I guess there was the meeting with Liara on Mars, but that didn’t feel quite as special as bumping into Garrus and Jack. Garrus is a fucking badass now. He was kind of complainy and annoying in the first game and got pretty sweet in the second one (although, his armor always had to be damaged and that was annoying) and now he’s just a seasoned pro. I got the best feelings of “Dude, we have been through some shit” when I was talking to him. Talking to Jack was more of a “Holy shit, thats right she is crazy, but damn she has learned to care, blah blah.” I still wish I had more say in conversation. I am still getting the impression that I’m just directing Shepard’s general feelings and not actually getting prompted for my input. Oh well, despite all my bitching, I am starting to get invested in the story and I keep looking forward to meeting more characters and as always, shooting more dudes.

Choice of the Vampire:
Some of the people on the Gamespot UK Podcast were talking about a game called Choice of the Zombie for the IOS recently and as I usually do when mobile games, I got curious and went poking around the mysterious land of the Android marketplace, now called Google Play, I guess. I am not one to just drop cash on games I have heard about vaguely or really any mobile games since I spend very little time playing them, so when I saw a price tag on Choice of the Zombie, I took pause to consider. Then, I noticed that the company makes other similar games, games that are free of charge. What better way to get a feel for a game than to play the free version of something similar? I downloaded Choice of the Vampire, as I have spent a fair amount of time playing the pen and paper game Vampire: The Masquerade as well as the video game interpretations of that system and figured that experience to be applicable.
These “Choice” games appear to be the modern incarnation of Choose Your Own Adventure stories mixed with bits of Role Playing elements. This particular game/story/campaign takes place during the era of the War of 1812 up through the Civil War. The first thing I would like to point out about this game is that there is a lot of what seems to be accurate historical facts. In addition to playing a Vampire, you are also existing along side historical figures of the times and witness the major events as current events in the game world. I am no historian but what I remember from High School history class seems to match up with the events that are described in detail during the game. In general, its an interesting facet to the game, although the heavy detail can get a little dull at times when it goes on for a full screen or two about certain historical events. The other portion of the game, is of course being a vampire and doing that whole thing. Basically, you make a few decisions at the start, that flesh out the guy that made you a vampire and you as a vampire. I found the process to be a little overwhelming, but if you just roll with it and try not to over think, it is fairly smooth and painless. After that you start your journey running from the sidelines of the Battle of New Orleans into the city proper where your sire (AKA Dominus AKA your vampire daddy) establishes himself as the administrator of the vampires in New Orleans, which at the time is you and him. Plot proceeds and you develop your skills in a wide range of areas such as agility, stealth, charm, fighting, and so on, which factor into your success with related actions. Its fairly well written, there are some typos and a few places where it could have used some more editing, but in general the stories that it can tell are pretty good and quite varied.
I played through it twice, once as a male stealthy sleaze guy who stuck close to this master and a second time as a female upper crust who did her own thing. The stories that I experienced on each play through had several very unique points, well my stealthy guy ignored pretty much everyone and followed his Dominus like a puppy, so his story stuck pretty close to what you might call a main plot line. The female character ended up entangled in a romantic relationship with another character that I never spoke to with the first character. Your character can die, I found this out during the second play through. When this happens it gives you some stats on your character and your accomplishments and relationships with various NPCs, then drops you at a start over screen. The whole game is apparently going to be part of a series, much like Mass Effect, where your choices and character can be carried over to the next episode. I plan to keep an eye out for the next episode. Its a free download on Android, probably available on IOS as well and you can also play it from an internet browser on their site for free. If nothing else, it is worth a brief look and they have also made a pirate game, a dragon one, some romance game and the previously mentioned zombie game. I enjoyed my time with it and would consider an actual purchase if their writing continues to be good.

Braid
I have had a copy of Braid in my Steam library for an amount of time. I believe it was a gift, I do not know for certain. Whatever the case, I started playing it because I was looking for something light and easy to jump in and out of. The first two playable worlds of Braid offer that, with a few puzzles that require a bit of thought and well timed platforming to challenge a player. After those first worlds, Braid kicks open the door to the time manipulation closet and starts rooting around. I don’t want to go into too much detail since that is kind of Braid’s hook, even if I am probably the one person left who hasn’t already played this game. Now that I have gotten a bit further in the game and had some time in a couple more worlds, I have noticed a pattern in my approach. My initial reaction, when I enter a new world is to start experimenting with the environment to figure out what the mechanic of the world is. Generally, there are a couple minutes of play time to get a feel for things and then when I feel like I have a handle on things, I go after the puzzles. Typically, I can get a few more puzzle pieces before I get stuck and then I am struck with the realization of what sort of sadism the new mechanics allow in level design. Once I have had my eureka moment, I can almost hear the game laughing at me while I make my dude hover mid-jump, thoroughly abusing my time powers, just waiting for a new idea to come to me. This game gets hard. Well, okay getting all the puzzle pieces in a world gets hard, getting through the each world seems to stay fairly straight forward. I am not sure how much more of the game I am going to play. I want to at least get all the way through all the worlds and see all the different time mechanics. I don’t think I will be able to get all the puzzle pieces without looking at a guide of some kind. Perhaps I will look up whether or not there are any story elements that are revealed when all pieces are collected, if not maybe I will just let it go. The story is definitely a little pompous, but it is also the indie game that kind of helped boot the indie scene into public view so I can deal with it. Overall, a pretty amazing game with the unique style and soothing music, at least as long as you aren’t rewinding time. I want to say that its over hyped and the hype was misleading, but I think it is more my own fault for misunderstanding that the game wasn’t just a pretty platformer with some fun time mechanics. Its awesome, but damnit if some of those puzzle pieces aren’t freaking hard to get.

Sanctum
Sanctum was on sale this past weekend and my girlfriend bought it because she had enjoyed watching me play and thought she might like it as well. We have spent some time playing it because, I too purchased a copy at some point. Apparently, about two thirds of my friends list has a copy of Sanctum actually and yet I have never played it with more than two of them on a single occasion. She enjoys the game and has since put more time into it than I ever have (because three or four hours is so hard to top). I have also been reminded that Sanctum is a fun game and like most tower defense games I have played its all pretty manageable until the last wave, which fucks you. Thankfully, we have only been playing to 10 waves so at least the fucking doesn’t come at the expense of an extended period of time, otherwise I think this section might have more frustrated obscenities. We both have the extra DLC weapons and the two or however many maps that come with the DLC pack. It cost a little more, but at another dollar or two, its just worthwhile to get all of it in case the extra stuff is really good. So far I have yet to find more than one of the downloaded turrets all that useful. The Killing Floor is great, the rest are middling at best. Although, the Violator turret has a pretty great name and also doubles as being a decent turret for air and ground units. For the most part I enjoy the strategy of the setup and the planning of where I am going to stand, problem areas and so on. Its fun to plan it all out with a friend, or a girlfriend and its fun to have to make it up on the fly when everything goes to hell. Speaking of hell, that’s what the final wave seems to always be. The game all comes down to the last 40 seconds where you realize everything is wrong, your boned and if you are fast enough with your weapons upgraded enough you might just pull it off. We haven’t really hit any major defeat that felt outright unfair, typically there is just the feeling that a better loadout and a little bit of tweaking to the path setup will make the next attempt successful. Delusional or otherwise, I want to play more than the first few maps and find out just how nasty it can get. So, there will be more Sanctum in my future.

Giantbomb Week 9

Week 9

Games Played: Mass Effect 3, Saints Row: The Third, Team Fortress 2, Playstation 1 Games, Misc. games

Other Business: I have started posting this blog on WordPress and Giantbomb for the time being as I either make the migration completely to GB, stay on WordPress or just be lazy and continue to post both places.

Mass Effect 3
I mentioned last week that I broke down and bought Mass Effect 3 on a 50% off sale on Amazon. I then went through that whole discovery of how badly Amazon and Origin play together, but that is in the past now. I still don’t like Origin, but at least its not very intrusive. Its probably data mining my hard drive any time I have it running, but so is Steam so its not that different. The difference is how I see it in my mind’s eye: Steam is represented by a fat, smiling man who is politely flipping through the imaginary book that is my computer and Origin/EA is some sort of amorphous black hole or evil grasping hand that just absorbs all useful data from my hard drive and leaves me feeling cold and violated. Don’t judge me. Anyways, most of my gaming time this past week has been taken up by Mass Effect 3. Most of that ME3 time has been in multiplayer, despite how curious I am about the rest of the singleplayer campaign. The multiplayer is addictive, fast paced and seemingly very rewarding. I like how you constantly have to keep moving and changing your tactics otherwise you can get flanked or overwhelmed very quickly. I also like that it benefits from teamplay with communication, but it is not essential to the experience. My other favorite part about it is that even though I have given it all this praise, it can still be played fairly mindlessly. More often than not, I sit down at my computer and think, ” I want to play Mass Effect and get further in the story” but then I find a video online, usually Giantbomb related, and I want to watch that too. I start the video, boot up ME3 multiplayer and watch the video on my second screen while I run around and shoot dudes. Default audio levels are perfect so that pretty much anything else I have on is just a bit louder than the game so that I can hear videos or mumble channels better than the game but I can still hear important sounds from the game. I like it and I will keep playing it.
I have gotten back into playing through the story as well. I made my peace with my character and have just decided I will play through with this game and then ever so slowly work my way through a play through of the entire series. This incarnation of Shepard is an Adept and since I have been playing a Soldier in multiplayer, I forgot how to play this character. It did not occur to me until about 15 minutes into the game that importing a character means that they come in with their skills from the last game. That means that rather than getting a nice easy ramp into learning how to play a Mass Effect game again, I have to jump in the middle and remember how the hell these biotic powers work. Its still fun though, still Mass Effect, but damn if there doesn’t seem to be a lot of shooting going on. Shooting is definitely improved over the first one, which I have most recently played, and maybe a bit better than ME2. I still haven’t quite got into the flow of combat in this game though, especially the spacebar, which is responsible for so many different actions that whenever I press it, its more like rolling dice than performing a certain action. I feel like I spend most my time just hammering the spacebar to make sure Shepard is jumping over shit to get to the other side instead of sticking to them and waiting for whatever is gunning me down to finish the job. I think I just hit two and a half hours of game time in the campaign and I don’t know how much in multiplayer, so I have plenty of time to get the hang of things, lots more Mass Effect to shoot and talk to. Speaking of talking, I don’t feel like I am contributing as much to conversation as in previous games. It seems more like I am giving Shepard her motivation for a scene rather than prompting her responses. Example: Doctor ” Are you here about the Major?” My options “How is he doing” Or “No”, I chose “No” because I have no idea why the hell else I would be here, Shepard says “No, actually I am here for you. We need a doctor on our ship, you are the best around. What do you say, do you want to join?” It is at this point that I remember how the rest of my ME2 suicide mission played out: the crew died, all of them. Then, I get a prompt to charm or intimidate; my Shepard is a stone cold war hero, I make my choice and the doctor wanders off. Two prompts feels a little light for a two or three minute dialogue. Maybe it gets heavier when you start making decisions that effect the mission, instead of just demanding everyone do what I say because of the mission. Either way I am looking forward to meeting up with more teammates from previous games and shooting more stuff.

Saints Row: The Third Multiplayer:
Late Friday evening, early Saturday morning I had another session of multiplayer with my Saints Row buddy, screen name Ravenlight. We picked up carving our path of destruction through Stilwater right where we had left off earlier in the week, see previous post for screenshots. That game is still amazingly fun and awesome to play, I enjoy every moment I get to spend revisiting that world. This session involved more mission progression and more experimenting with how co-op is handled for the activities. Thus far we have determined that any activity that does not directly involve shooting (Trailblazer, Escort, etc) has the host character completing the activity as they normally would if they were playing alone and then the co-op player is contributing through some other means. In the Trailblazer activity for example, the host player drives the ATV as normal and the other player has unlimited Molotov cocktails to do as they will. A better example of the asymmetric gameplay is that during the Escort activities, the host player again is the driver keeping the car away from the press vans. Meanwhile, the other player plays a mini-game to help pleasure the client during the activity. Between bloody rampages down the streets, explosive activities and skipping merrily through missions, Ravenlight and I took some time to customize some cars. Mace truck nuts, bicycle baskets with beer and porn, hovering scooters, and horrifically colored everything, oh and nitrous, lots and lots of nitrous. In the practical aspect, we now have a wide assortment of vehicles to call upon for mayhem and also mission completion… probably mostly mayhem. I had taken a good number of screenshots of that evening’s events, well I thought I had except that I had also forgotten that my Steam overlay crashed as soon as I started the game. So…no photographic evidence of the evening, which is a shame because I had some good shots, including one where the truck that Ravenlight was driving got stuck in a garage door, which was raising and lowering. All the while he is laughing over the mic and asking me what was happening and all I could tell him between grins was to hang on while I got a screenshot. I think it might be connected to the new AMD drivers I downloaded to even get Saints Row running, but that has caused my overlay to crash in other games and makes Skyrim look awful with parts of the world geometry missing. I know Ravenlight and I will continue popping into that world and wrecking havoc now and again, especially after alcoholic beverages have been consumed. That game is just good fun, way to go THQ and I hope you guys make it out of this hole that you have dug yourself.

Team Fortress 2
I like to jump back into TF2 now and again, not just to keep my stats alive on the servers I visit (check out the Trashedgamers and their site at Trashedgamers.org, sorry for the shameless plug, I used to be an admin) but also because its one of the only competitive multiplayers I ever had any skill at. I played a bunch of Counterstrike: Source Gun Game mod before I played TF2, I got pretty good at that, but never amazing and Counterstrike skills seem to be the skills that degrade the fastest so I am terrible again. With Team fortress on the other hand, I have played something like 950 hours of that game over a three year period (about 940 of those hours in less than two years of consistent playing, not to mention that a bunch of that time is probably just server idling time to help fill Trashedgamer servers) so I have a pretty good foundation that I can go back to whenever I want. Also, I primarily play the soldier class, which when you cut out all the fanciness that a pro solider player can do, is basically shoot rockets at dudes’ feet, reload and repeat. Its not that hard to get kills as a soldier, the difficulty comes in trying to climb the ladder into the upper levels of soldier craziness. Just check youtube for frag videos with soldiers, I spend most of my time with my jaw on the floor watching what those players are capable of. Anyways, I can go back and slide into my soldier role easily. More importantly, I love the feeling of jumping back into that game and after only a few minutes remembering how it all works and just start kicking ass. Going back to that game has become even easier since Valve switched to the free-to-play model. Now there is always at least half of the enemy team that has very little to no experience with the game and no concept of teamwork. Easy pickings. Once I get into the flow of things I can average a 1.5 KDR (Kill: Death Ratio for the non-competitive gamer) and as much as 3:1 in a good round.
OK, now that my history of Team Fortress 2 has been explained, I played some on Friday night. In addition to keeping my 160ish ranking on the Trashedgamer server active, I also like to play TF2 because that is where I met most of the people I play games with online. Many an hour of drunken TF2 was passed. Anyways, I played Friday with friends and we destroyed free-to-players and had a grand old time. The downside to jumping in and out and also the groups of free players is that I end up stuck playing the soldier class because that is what I am best with and what I can help a struggling team push forward with the most success. Early in my TF2 career, I was a decent Sniper and at some point lost most of that skill. I have since been chasing the dream of becoming a good Sniper again. The problem is that you can’t really practice as a certain class if there are already three or four other people playing that class and not really contributing to the team (also read as, “they suck”). The long and short of it, is that I can’t play TF2 for very long because I end up only playing Soldier and I have gotten just about as good as I can at that class without moving up into serious competitive gameplay and that is just something I don’t have the time or the drive to do.

Playstation 1 Games:
Featured games: Blast Chamber, Roadrash: Jailbreak, Worms: Armageddon, Bomberman: Party Edition
Recently, I heard a podcaster mention offhandedly that the PS3 emulates PS1 games at the software level so most or all games can be played with no problems. I have a pretty hefty archive of PS1 games that I like to dip into now and again, but my PS2 tends to struggle on a few of and I can’t hook it up to my HD monitor like my PS3 can. So this weekend, my girlfriend (a budding gamer, but still pretty new and with no history of Playstation games) and I dove into my stash to discover what the late 90′s and early 00′s could deliver.
The first one I dug up and then immediately grinned as deep sinister memories poured forth from the depths of my mind was a game called Blast Chamber. My friends and I used to play this game and would frequently end up at each other’s throats in rage. It was glorious and we eventually were able to strike a balance of game time that was entertaining but ended right before physical violence. Anyways, after a few rounds in the game my girlfriend, between laughter and frustration blurted out “This is the ultimate ‘Fuck you’ game.” Shortly after that realization, we moved on to the next game.
Now, I grew up loving Roadrash. I played my copy for hours and hours and came close to the end of the singleplayer at one time, but one shiny thing or another drew me away and I never finished. I pulled it out of my stack of games because I remembered it was great and I loved it and wanted to show my girlfriend this weird game about racing bikes and beating dudes. I also had vague memories of a co-op mode with sidecars and midgets that I thought might be alright since I would be the one doing most the work. My girlfriend likes hitting dudes with a piece of lead pipe. She likes it a lot, like a lot a lot. The giggles of joy as she smeared guys across the asphalt and commented about how great it was that I did the steering and she got to just hit dudes, amazing. Basically, I spent the next hour and a half trying to navigate the early polygon roadways while also trying to get up broadside next to as many other bikers as I could so they could be bludgeoned unmercifully by my giggling girlfriend. Needless to say, Roadrash is staying out of storage for later use. After that I convinced her to try a couple other games and then we could come back to that one if the others were boring.
Worms: Armageddon played much slower and without the explosive fast paced violence that I remembered from playing it with my friends when I was younger. The girlfriend was bored and also with the significantly steeper learning curve instead of the “press button, hit dude” mechanic of the Roadrash did not mesh with the general mood and we passed it by after only a little bit of time spent. She did comment that she thought it would be better when played on a computer with a mouse. I found it interesting that she would pick up on that considering that I believe that was where it had originally been released and they had ported it to the PS1 at some point after.
The last game we got to that evening turned out to be Bomberman: Party Edition. I have played Bomberman with my girlfriend before, she likes it, I like it, its usually good times. We still had fun playing it, but we were tired or something because we were playing just terribly. The moronic CPU characters were more than a match for us, not because they killed us so often, but because we would end up killing ourselves more often than anything else. As a result, we spent a lot of time watching the computer players fight each other. They run a very obvious pattern that takes awhile to intersect and cause one of them to die. The whole situation was fun but also pretty embarrassing for both of us because we hadn’t even been drinking that night. That lead us to turn off the game and making up some drinks.

Misc. Games:
The girlfriend and I spent more time in copy of Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 that my brother gave me for christmas. That game is still fun to play and great to just zone out to. We had started drinking by the time we got there however and had to stop when too much shit was happening on screen that neither of us were following. All in all a good night for games!

Origin…Week8

Week 8

4/20 to 4/26

Relevant games this week: Shank, Mass Effect 3, Origin , Saints Row: The Third, Misc. games

Other Business: Post #8, that means I have been doing this for two months consistently!

Shank:
I started playing Shank last week and sat down earlier this week to finish the last two levels. The game is still ultra violent and gory and crazy, so it was all good fun in that regard. These later levels are also where the game starts to come apart at the seams however. The combat was always pretty sweet, with some caveats namely that enemies with guns are potentially life ending at any point they are on screen. There is only one instance that I had previously found where gun wielding enemies were situated on high points that can’t be jumped to. This means that you have to use your guns to shoot them, use your guns that can only be fire at 45 degree angles upward, to shoot enemies on high platforms on small maps. The last few levels of Shank play out this situation a good three or four more times culminating in a foyer fight with two balconies on opposite sides of the screen with baddies toting assault rifles. That was one part of the game that had me swearing and snarling at my monitor. Granted its not super difficult, its just horribly designed and frustrating because of how it brings the entire game fast pace to a stop. In the end, the final boss fight was kind of cool and it was satisfying to finish the game. I cannot speak to replayable for Shank, but there are a bunch of outfits I didn’t get and another difficulty that sounds quite punishing. I think I am done with Shank for now, I am going to keep it on the harddrive for a bit, but I can’t say whether I will return to it or just uninstall it.

Origin/Amazon Digital:
So Amazon had Mass Effect 3 on sale for 50% off and with a 30 dollar price tag I decided that was low enough to warrant finally breaking down and installing Origin. But first, I have to deal with Amazon’s own online download services. So I begin by downloading Amazon’s Mass Effect 3 downloader file. They are kind enough to include large pictured instructions on how to allow that file to download and then how to start that little downloader doing its thing. Amazon’s downloader kicks in and tells me it will take 5 to 15 hours to download the compressed 2.5 gb file. Once it starts downloading it tells me that it will take about an hour and a half. When its done downloading the file after some period of time, I wasn’t really paying attention to how long it actually took, the Amazon Downloader begins periodically raping my system to extract the data. Whatever it was doing would bring everything I was doing to a shuttering crawl, including Google image searches. Anyways, that took another half hour to decompress the 2.5 gb to its 10 gb actual size.
With that finished, Amazon’s thingie sits there waiting for me to hit the little Install button. Knowing that it will mean actually installing Origin, I hit the Go button and then Origin downloads, installs, and updates all pretty painlessly. They were even kind enough to show me all the handy, “nobody will ever see my profile, ever” settings right in the install wizard. The program asks for a product key which I copy and past from the .html Amazon included in its Mass Effect 3 folder. Origin finishes and pops up with my Game Library, that includes my recent purchase of Mass Effect 3 and also informs me that it knows I own a copy of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit by offering to have me download it from their platform too. No thanks, I will stick to Steam unless absolutely necessary. I tell Origin to install Mass Effect. Origin instead begins downloading the game. I stop the process, back out and go back in through the Amazon Downloader and its Install button. Origin recognizes this… and starts to download the 10 gb file. I stop the download again and move the Mass Effect 3 folder, that Amazon so caringly installed on my desktop without bothering to check if I like to put large files there or not, into the Origin Games folder that now sits in my C drive. I start and stop the “install” a few more times until it stops saying “Ready to Download” and starts saying “Ready to Install”. Sweet, I say, I have made headway whist bashing my head against the best that EA’s people can come up with. Clicking the button that now says “Ready to Install” brings up the launcher for Mass Effect 3 with an install button that when clicked bring Origin back into focus. I follow this circle around for awhile to amuse myself and also to convince myself this is really happening. Out of curiosity and desperation, I hit the Origin forums to see what excellent fixes users and experts have found for stuff like this. I immediately find a post regarding my issue which basically says to check on the integrity of the file that is currently zipped up. Also, Origin is aware of this and they are working on it. I try unzipping the file, which freaks out Winrar and doesn’t work. Cool, I say, Now I get to download it again; tomorrow, this is a tomorrow issue now.

Mass Effect 3
I have had a chance to play some of Mass Effect 3 after my previous issues with Origin and Amazon. At this point I have spent more time with the multiplayer than I have the single player campaign. Previously I had played through the first part of the PS3 demo to the game, which includes the games introduction and another level somewhere in the game. I finished the introduction of the demo when I played it then, this time around I did not make it that far. I have played about 15 minutes according to the game clock and I am already unhappy with the decisions that importing my ME2 character has left me with from the first game. I don’t give a damn about Kaiden in the least and Wrex was one of my favorite characters, and yet Kaiden is alive and Wrex is dead. At this point, the only thing really stopping me from just starting fresh is that I like having a few of my decisions from ME2 carry over. The Drell guy also died during my suicide mission, which while I liked the concept of him, as a character I was unimpressed. Plus, with his back story I thought it was pretty awesome that he died protecting someone (Tali, I think) in the fight. Also, my femshep’s face seems pretty dead, so I am thinking I would prefer their default femshep with a few changes. I think I have a few options in this matter: start over with a default shepard and just roll with whatever they pick for decisions, play through the 60 something hours of ME 1 and 2 to get a character with the decisions I want (something I plan to do anyway), or to use the save builder thing and create my character however I want.
After a break for food I came back to the game and booted up the multiplayer. I have to say after only about an hour in-game with it, that mode is just as fun as friends have said. Basically, its a horde mode to had to the growing list of horde modes that exist in the world. While playing it however, it occurred to me that I might not have ever actually played a horde mode other than the Last Stand mode in Dawn of War II, which isnt a third person shooter. So, I don’t have the same horde mode exhaustion that people who have been staying up-to-date with games seem to be experiencing. The game moves fast with lots of enemies that come at you with what seems like a pretty good assortment of weapons and tactics so far. I definitely need to play more to start to get a good sense of what is happening throughout. So far I can keep up with the flow of the waves and how the sessions start and stop, but a bunch of the stuff in the middle catches me off guard. With my low quality gear and level I struggle to coupe with the sudden appearance of massive enemies or some of the timed objectives. speaking of gear, there appears to be a lot of it in this game and they want you to know you can pay for it with real cash. What you are actually buying are packs that give you a bunch of single-use items and the chance at some good weapons or upgrades, you will at the least get SOME upgrades and weapons, they might not just be good. Thankfully, you can use in-game earned credits to buy these packs in addition to the real cash. The other thing I noticed is that I seem to be getting tons of experience and credits from each map I do. I typically level up at least two or three times and get something like 15,000 credits per completion of one map. That sure sounds like a lot and my character is leveling like crazy, but maybe the curve past level 15 or whatever I am now is much steeper and leveling up will slow down. I want to keep playing more of the game and look forward to playing with friends as well.

Saints Row: The Third – Multiplayer:
I have played more Saints Row with a friend of mine and it continues to be awesome. I jumped out of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer to join up with my same friend from my previous revisit to the streets of Stilwater. We have decided that playing this game with two people practically creates screenshots on their own. We played two sessions this week and I ended up with about six different shots, mostly from the first session since the second one was shorter and we spent more time in the plastic surgery and clothing store menus than running around causing chaos. Speaking of chaos, we did that…a lot of that. I will include more pictures of some of our mayhem. In summary though, it was basically running around shooting and blowing stuff up, taking missions to shoot and blow stuff up, or doing those same things but in some sort of vehicle. Aside from saying it was just more Saints Row co-op, the other highlight would be that we finally broke down and admitted that my character was too creepy to bear any longer and I remade him. While screwing around in the plastic surgery character creator I found metallic blue skin which inspired me to attempt to create Cortana from the Halo series. What I made might be similar for a fan to recognize but I think she looks more like a female, blue version of the Silver Surfer with some tight, almost the same color blue clothes on. Whatever, you know? My goal of creating an avatar that does not make me flinch away from the screen any time they do a close-up of its face has been accomplished. Now I can return to chaos and mayhem with reckless abandon!

"Cortana" Character

Invisible Car

The Garage Ate my Bus!

Bathrobe Mini-gun

Stuck in door animation while my buddy was driving

SO HORRIBLE

Golfcart Drive by

Misc Gaming:
I also played Shogun 2 and Just Cause 2 for a couple hours each this week. I don’t have much to say other than Just Cause is still crazy and great for a little bit here and there. And Shogun 2 is still that, although I started over because I had overextended myself in my first game and it was going to make things very difficult and or impossible to make any progress. Happy gaming!

Skyrim Racing Week 7

Week 7

4/13 to 4/19

Relevant games this week: Skyrim, Shank, Dirt 2, Grid, Misc. games

Other Business: Shorter post this week, I did not play all that much.

Skyrim:
I finished the main quest in Skyrim this week! Even though I kind of feel like I rushed through it a bit, I still enjoyed the end of that quest. The end of the story arc was cool and included a bunch of really nice and unique looking environments. The way they tied in the accomplishments of your character was subtle, but a very nice effect even if its just the inclusion of conversation options that all have the same result and an NPC with no conversation tree. How you are thrown back into the world and left to make your own way again is also very nice, if a little jarring. Things literally go from awesome ending to standing on a mountain top silently in seconds. As far as what is left for this character I am not really sure. I want to start new characters to explore other play styles but I want to get more shouts and finish some more side quest stuff too. I think I will just play as I feel like for awhile and see what happens even if that results in two or three new characters that each get only a handful of hours of play time. I will keep this character for finding cool shouts and stuff and maybe using it to locate those shouts in my other games, assuming at least that the word locations are not random. I might also take another Skyrim break like I did at the 80 hour or so hour mark and come back again later. According to the hour count on Steam, I clocked in at about 135 hours of game time, very little of that time it was simply left idle. A good 20-30 or so hours of that time is actually my girlfriend playing her own character, so its not all me. Whatever the case, I got all my money and more out of that game and what’s more, I have no doubts I will be returning to Skyrim in the future. Skyrim is an amazing game and I have nothing but high hopes for what new things Bethesda will do with the next Elder Scrolls game.

Fuck Ulfric, I should be High King.











Shank:
I played Shank this week! I have had it installed since I bought the Humble Indie Bundle 4 (…maybe it was the third one) and just never bothered to try it. That game is ultra-violent and crazy. In general it is fast paced and fairly simple with just enough depth to the combat to keep things interesting. The basic platforming is quick and allows you to flow quickly across the environments which are basically just a series of platforms where you slaughter people. The all of the art is well done and the backgrounds add a nice depth to all of the aesthetic. I wanted to play more than the 40 minutes or so I got in on Sunday, but there was some disagreement between Steam, my computer and the game that wouldnt allow it to load properly until I had restarted steam. By that point I had messed with it long enough that I didn’t want to deal with it anymore and also had to log off for the night. Additionally, it is one of those games that doesn’t really have any break points in the middle of levels where you stop and can decided to quit. Typically, I just want to keep going until I finish the level and even then its hard not to play a bit more of the next sequence.

Dirt 2 and Grid:
I have recently gone back to some of the racing games I have purchased during one sale or another. The Codemasters games are just well put together products that are both beautiful and approachable. I typically enjoy more simulation racing games like the Grand Turismo series (specifically the Playstation 2 era ones) and then more recently Forza 2 on my brother’s Xbox 360. However, I have not really found a comparable game on the PC so instead I have Dirt 2 and Grid (also Burnout Paradise, but that is for another time). I played mostly Dirt 2 and only jumped into Grid for a about 40 minutes yesterday to compare. I am not so much for the more arcadey racers, but damn if its not just a solid game. I am also forcing myself to drive in cockpit view because while it is harder, it feels more rewarding. Yesterday, I was specifically noting the water effects when you go through pools of water and are utterly blind until your wipers clear the windshield. Those moments after hitting water and before those damn wipers clear your windshield seem to stretch forever and instill real panic as I trace my best guess at a path that doesn’t intersect with a wall waiting for my vision to clear. The voice acting sounds fairly convincing and not really phoned in, even if the presentation is that of these pro racers literally calling you to try to boost your spirits after a loss or stroke your ego after a win. I want to keep picking away at all the events and just getting betting in general. I am currently racing in “serious” difficulty and trying to break back into “Savage” which I think is the 2nd highest difficulty, where I was racing before I quit playing so long ago. As for Grid, I played just a few races to help me decide which type of racing I wanted to try to really delve into during this marry little trip into racing world. Let me just say that you should not transition from off road racing directly into high speed asphalt races, one right into the other. Dirt 2 and Grid have two totally different feels to them. Grid is much more precise (at least in comparison to Dirt) and a racing line is so much more important. Dirt 2 asks that you keep fairly close to the actual track but otherwise as long as you make it to the finish, its probably fine. In Grid, your tires work on asphalt and they don’t work on anything else, period. So that was a bit of a struggle…also that my first race back after my break from Grid was the damn 24 hour race thing. That did not go well, but I did manage to finish near the bottom (but not THE bottom) of my class, ahead (if only just barely) of the class below mine. I also remembered that the stockcar racing is still bullshit. Anyways, I plan to keep playing Dirt 2, at least until another shiny catches my eye.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations is still on my radar as is Devus Ex: Human Revolution and Mass Effect. Hopefully, I can start working them back into the rotation. Happy gaming!

Piecewise Week 6

Week 6

4/6 to 4/12

Relevant games this week: Saints Row: The Third, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Skyrim, Phone games, Gotham City Imposters, Misc. games

Other Business: I want to try doing some different stuff like writing this up piecewise and also inserting images. Also, a quick note about Gotham City Imposters and its Catwoman mascot thing: Apparently, it came with my purchase (gift) so I also have one, which explains why everybody else seems to have it…

Saints Row: The Third
I came back to Saints Row on Friday and spent some time in multiplayer.  I had been drinking and it was late Friday night so to say it was awesome might be biased.  However me and a friend got in and played through a bit of the beginning of the game…three times?  We had some issues with whether or not to have new characters or when it was saved and so on. The result was that we started the game, played the bank heist mission, three times. I then proceeded to make the most horrific character, a giant mutant smuf-like man, and then dress him in a hideous tube top and fishnets. Well, he was dressed after both of us spent some time streaking around and then riding a motorcycle with Team Fortress 2 helmets on. Typically, when we were not in a mission one of us would enter a store menu and the other would follow suit, one player would finish before the other and inevitably, the other player would be either pulled from the menu by damage or exit the menu to a minimum of three stars of notoriety.  A merry chase would ensue followed by stopping to purchase property so we could duck inside and clear our wanted level.  Needless to say, it was a good time and I hope to return to it again. Note this portion of my video game update blog was written on Sunday so I wouldn’t forget what had happened.








Tomb Raider: Underworld
I spent two or three hours this weekend and some more during the week working through more of Underworld this week. I think I am in the last dungeon, but there might be one after this that is a shorter, final region to wrap up the plot. I just finished a cool spinning puzzle thing that had me climbing this rotating spire and aligning parts of the column to unlock a door. It was less fun to climb back down the damn thing however as the game shows more of its wonkiness when you are dropping down from one level to the next. The sequence is checkpointed well however, so any gravitational misunderstandings, player fault or otherwise, are not really that punishing. After the little puzzle spire they present you with yet another motorcycle dungeon crawl. I hate these sequences. I understand the idea: ripping through tombs on a motorcycle, taking jumps and dodging sudden walls that appear in your headlight. Why are there collectables then? The little ancient clay artifacts that Lara has to destroy to find the weird ass shiny tetrahedron things are everywhere in these areas. Thanks to those damn things, I have to stop every 30 feet to see if there is a shiny inside, thus destroying the fast pace excitement the developers were probably trying to cultivate here. Thankfully, I am not attempting to find all of the collectables so while frustrating, it’s not maddening and I can move on without scouring every inch of the tomb. The next area was maybe the second action events that I had to do more than once or twice (about five or six tries got me through) before I found the specific path they wanted me to take, having to start back at the checkpoint each time the level designer and I weren’t seeing eye to eye.

I finished Tomb Raider on the following Tuesday. A few notes in regard to the last portion of the game. Thor’s Hammer is awesome, first of all. Its a hammer that SHOOTS lightning at guys and wrecks normal dudes in a single hit. Definitely improves combat both in speed and entertainment. I did a cool puzzle with swinging hammers and crazy moving gears with chains and counterweight and stuff. Its one of the few things that has ever threatened to make me motion sick while playing a game. Then during the final puzzle thing a few final notes. Ghost Mom was weird and will probably make a lot more sense after I play Legend, which comes before Underworld in the timeline apparently. Also, the last puzzle sequence was horseshit. Long and drawn out, with way too much running around DODGING FIREBALLS and trying to figure out which freaking little ledge was the right ledge to get to the damn platform. The pay off was decent enough for what the game is however. Steam time clocks me in at 11 hours, which is a little high since I left it running a couple times. Either way, I got my five bucks out of it. I might jump back in to do some light searching around for collectables but probably not.








Skyrim
I have been much more focused on finishing the main quest; I even finished what the wiki refers to as Act 2. The second act, as it is called, culminates in the first big battle with Alduin that is pretty epic and awesome, the first time. I ran into a documented game breaking bug during the cutscene right before the fight with Alduin where you learn Dragonrend, the ability to force dragons to the ground. The scene would hitch and Alduin would not appear so it would just loop with all the NPCs stuck waiting for him to appear to continue the scripting. I retried it a few times to see if it was just the game being a bit screwy and it would fix itself. This is particularly painful because of the minute to two minute dialogue that occurs before the point the scripting can break. The solution was to load an old save, fast travel away from the mountain and try to use the required quest item, then wait 24 hours and try to complete the quest again. That fixed my issue, but I had to find that out on the wiki and then also spent another 20 minutes or so fighting and dying against Alduin. The solution to that particular fight was to just guzzle potions and beat on him until he admits defeat…sort of and flies off. Watching that whole scene play out six or so times definitely killed the epic feel of the moment, but I am curious about the next plot point. I will continue onward, growing ever more excited about starting a new character with a drastically different play style.

Phone games
I broke down and bought the full version of the emulator app for my phone this past weekend. Five bucks and now I can play SNES games on my phone, sounds cool to me, even if the controls are wonky and broken in most cases. The wonky control scheme leads me to my next goal, discovering which games don’t require precision in their controls. So far I have checked off all platformers on principle alone and I have tried Rock Roll N’ Racing and A Link to the Past, both require too much precision to play on crappy touch emulated controls. My fall back is to the wide assortment of RPGs on the system. I have spent a bit of time with Secret of Mana and hope that the looseness of the controls won’t prevent me from playing the game, but it is too early to tell. Hopefully, I can play it on the phone, if not I will have to break down and hook up my SNES to play through it that way. I don’t spend much time playing phone games, so I might have to get the SNES out anyways. I spent about 40 minutes waiting at the doctor today and got to play a bunch of the emulator, it works alright for the RPGs. I thus far consider it a good buy.

Gotham City Imposters
I played more Imposters this week as well. It is fun to drop in for a couple matches and go on to something else. I also enjoy tinkering with my character loadouts. I have started to unlock a bunch of stuff so it is getting to the point where I can actually have a couple different setups that are clearly unique in their abilities. I look forward to playing more.

Misc. Games
I played about two hours of Shogun Total War 2 this weekend while watching videos online. I enjoy that game and want to go back to it. I just haven’t spent much time playing it yet and haven’t wanted to invest the time.

Well that’s all for this week!

Busy Week 5

Week 5

3/30 to 4/5

Relevant games this week: Tomb Raider: Underworld, Skyrim, Phone games, Gotham City Imposters, Misc. games

Other Business: Forgot to post on Thursday again. Most of this was written on Friday afternoon during long loads on my computer at work, I just got busy on Friday evening and forgot to finish it up and actually post it.  I am also going to start writing this up in chunks throughout the week so I don’t feel like I need to commit so much of my Thursday evening to this write up.

Tomb Raider: Underworld

I put another few hours into Tomb Raider this week. I am still enjoying the platforming and most of the puzzles, but I have had a couple of stuck points where I resorted to the hint system and even then was unsure until I stumbled upon the solution. I also wish it would telegraph which edges Lara cannot cling to better. Frequently, she will spaz out on a cliff edge when I get her close to it and then she steps off to her death. I have started using that spazing as an indication of edges she can’t hang on, but it seems kind of strange that her model bouncing off an invisible, simi-solid wall is what I have to look for. The combat has continued to be pretty dull up until I have started fighting zombies, yes ancient zombies that jump out of pools of glowing blue water. I like fighting them because they don’t soak up a ton of ammo with no signs of taking damage like other enemies and the kick attack seems somewhat effective against them. As a result, I can mix up my combat with jumps and kicks between the volleys of shotgun blasts instead of just holding down the fire button and running backwards until they stop moving. The plot is still kind of dumb, but I like anything that explains the powers of ancient gods with advanced technology, so that is sweet. I want to finish it to say I have completed it, but also out of vague curiosity about where it will end. I heard some off-handed spoiler somewhere about Ghost Mom, so that should be hilarious and dumb as hell.

Skyrim

Skyrim has become that game that I pick away at for an hour here or there. Alternatively, I play it while I am watching a video on my other screen and just screw around with mods or side quests. As a result of this trend in my Skyrim gaming, I have made very little actual progress in the main quest since last week. I seemed to have reached a point where new spells I have never seen before are being used against me. I got utterly destroyed a bunch of times by a Falmer Shadowmaster in the Blackreach who that what I have to guess is a third tier ice spell. In order to kill him I had to equip all the cold resistance gear I had (a necklace…) and use the cold resistance potion I carry around for this very reason. Even then, I barely made it through the fight. I can officially say that I made it out of the Blackreach and have no intention of going back. I think I finished all the side quests down there, but I can’t be sure without checking the wiki, and I don’t really want to do them so I won’t be checking to see what I missed. (Hurray for circular logic!) I will continue working my way through in the future! If for no other reason than to stay ahead of my girlfriend’s progress…

Phone Games

While waiting for my girlfriend to finish cleaning at her father’s office, I booted up the little freebie emulator I downloaded on my phone for a bit. The novelty of playing Super Nintendo games on my phone is starting to wear thin, but I am still tempted to pay the five bucks to get access to save states and start working my way through old SNES games I never finished like Secret of Mana. Especially since Game Dev Story is not holding my interest as much as my first full playthrough did. The replayable stuff they added to the game makes me want to run through it at least once more, but I guess I haven’t been invested enough to keep going, or really had the opportunity. More on this at a later date.

Gotham City Imposters

A friend of mine bought me a copy of Gotham City Imposters this past weekend. As side from broken matchmaking that is basically the equivalent of flipping a coin whether or not you will get into a server, the game is a lot of fun.  At its core, Imposters is a Call of Duty clone. However, the game pulls it off very well so its refreshing since I haven’t really put time into a COD-like multiplayer since the first Modern Warfare.  Layered in on and around the Call of Duty aspects is a very clever and silly sense of humor that is revealed through the multitude of gadgets and weapons that are very unlike COD games.  Ninja swords, bear traps, invisibility potions and grapple guns are only a few of the silly extras in the game.  Speaking of the grapple gun, this game has an amazing sense of freedom of movement.  The designers included a wide variety of ways to augment the generic run and sprint movement that is so common now, including the previously mentioned grapple gun, a glider, roller skates and a couple bouncy shoe things.  The result is that most maps have a surprising verticality to them that is rare in a corridor shooter.  Within the Call of Duty flavor of the game there is still plenty of room for imbalances (ninja swords and roller skates, or three round burst rocket launchers) but generally teams have seemed fairly even so total destruction of one side or the other is rare.  That being said, they have adopted a massive amount of microtransaction in this game. Any of the costume pieces that you can earn and unlock can be outright purchased for real cash through the Steam store. It doesn’t really bother me, but it is very prevalent and the number of players running around with the slutty Arkham City  mini-Catwoman “mascot” that floats over your character’s head is astounding.  Most games I play in have at least two people per team with Catwoman floating near them.  Anyways, I will keep on playing for awhile as I like to watch the level up and check out the stats which the game does a good job of tracking. More next week!