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Another View: Dragon Age II Impressions

Having just (finally) finished Dragon Age: Origins, I was dismayed to see my colleague's comments on the newly minted demo for the upcoming Dragon Age II.

The beautiful thing about Dragon Age has always been the versatility of play: if a player wishes to tactically play the game they can, utilizing different powers and setting traps, as well as combining powers and attacks in an effort to be the most effective; however, if the player wishes to just play the game as a hack-and-slash, they can too, and this is what Dragon Age II recognizes.

I fought with the battle system and control scheme from Dragon Age: Origins from the first. After buying the game at launch and hitting a series of snags, I was unable to review the game as planned, first from the difficulty of the proceedings (I, like many gamers, don't like to knock down the difficulty because of a little challenge) and then because I encountered a disc read error on my 360 that would not resolve.

So I sold the game, finally repurchasing and finishing it almost two years later (and discovering that I was something like four hours from the end when the game stopped working).

Coming from that experience, with its jerky combat woes and long areas of disconnected grinding, Dragon Age II was a welcome change. You press a button... something happens. This was not what Dragon Age: Origins did, and the change is good. Things feel solid. Combat carries weight. And the writing is great.

Another welcome change is the protagonist, who is actually a character this time. I understand the nostalgic feel of the silent protagonist, but the inclusion of that made it hard to care about what happened in the last game. Here, however, I do care. And not only that, I'm fascinated by the way that they're telling the story. Framed narratives, such as the one presented in Dragon Age II, aren't a new thing, but they aren't often done well in games. That doesn't seem to be the case here.

Ultimately, I came away very pleased, and anxious to get my hands on the new game. I don't know if Deep's comments were because of a static control scheme or the lack of familiarity with the original game, but I do know that on the console, Dragon Age II is looking to be the first great RPG of 2011. If that's the case on the PC, I don't know, but I wouldn't doubt it; the combat has lost none of its depth, it's just far more accessible.

For Bioware fans, for fans of any significant story or action game, that's a very good thing. And it means that Dragon Age II is going to be excellent.

As an aside, there were several sexual references in the game, along with a focus (unnecessary, actually) on large breasts, and tons of blood and gore flying everywhere. This is seeming to be a pretty hard M, so if you're not old enough or don't want to deal with that stuff... don't play it.

-Drew "Drewsov" Regensburger

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Dragon Age II demo impressions

So a few days ago, I was able to download and play the demo for Dragon Age II. My first impression was "This is really stripped down." I wasn't surprised, as this is a demo. So I watched the opening cutscene, and thought that was decent enough. Then the game started. When I first started controlling, I noticed a serious flaw: The mouse does not rotate the camera unless the left mouse button is held. The problem with this is that the left mouse button is also your action button. You attack, move, select and do more with it. This may not seem like a huge issue, but when the enemies are constantly moving away from the screen, the only way to reliably adjust the camera for attacking is to pause the game. While this is a fairly common feature in Bioware games, this scheme was incredibly awkward. If I so chose, I should be able to actively control and fight without having to pause the game to readjust my viewing frustum. There was no such option that I could find. I can excuse the lack of customization since it is a demo, but the control scheme is a battle to use effectively.

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Tron Revival!

Over the weekend I finally saw the new "Tron: Legacy"...twice.  I enjoyed it so much, I took my younger daughter with me the 2nd time.  One night later, she went again.  This time with my wife.  I'm hoping to see it one more time before it leaves our theater.  The music, the visuals, the sound.  I absolutely loved the movie and came back with my first real 'movie experience' in years.  It's one of those movies I'll remember when I saw it in the theater.

I've been a fan of Tron ever since the original was released.  It really made an impact on me at the time.  It was such a great idea and concept.  A world inside a computer or video game.  I also pumped many quarters into the arcade game.  Over the years, it had become a fading memory.  Though a memory I would reference every so often.

In 2002, I bought my first DVD.  It was the 20th Anniversary of Tron.  My wife was like, "I"ve never even heard you mention this movie before.  That's what you want to buy?"

In 2003, my hopes were raised as the PC game "Tron 2.0" was released.  I swooped it up and really enjoyed it.  The beginning of the game was frustrating and hard, but once I worked through that, the game ended up being a really exciting time.  I still have fond memories of many of the levels and puzzles.

The following year (2004) I bought "TRON 2.0: Killer App" for the Gameboy Advance.  I enjoyed it, but the shining part were the minigames and port of the Tron arcade game.

There were rumors of a new Tron movie in the works, but nothing ever came through.  But ever since then, I've been waiting patiently for the Tron sequel.  Well, "Tron: Legacy" met my desires for a sequel.  I love the many references to the first movie and the updated Tron world looks SO good.  Different enough you know it's an update, but similar enough you know you are in the world of Tron.

This last weekend saw a Tron revival inside of me.

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My new Android phone

I recently got a new T-Mobile G2.  Any time I get a new gadget, I always investigate its gaming potential, whether it's intended by the device creators or otherwise.  I still remember writing a simple Final Fantasy-like game for my old calculator in High School.  I've also always installed solitaire on even the most basic cellphones when possible, because, well, you never know when you'll need it.

Fortunately, this device doesn't make gaming so hard.  In fact, with the fast CPU, capacitive touch screen, and physical keyboard and trackpad, it doesn't get too much better for a cellphone.  And the Android Market doesn't disappoint when it comes to variety.  And last but most certainly not least, it's not a closed system like an iPhone.  Closed off systems drive me nuts - I will only accept openness, and Android provides that in spades.  But that's perhaps for another blog post.

As for games themselves, I have downloaded around 30 so far, but I have mostly played just a few of them so far.  I have played Angry Birds the most by far.  I highly recommend it.  And since the Android version is ad supported freeware, there is no excuse - grab it now.

Other good ones include Frozen Bubble - which is a classic ported from desktop Linux.  Bonzai Blast is also high quality, as is PewPew.  My wife likes Glow Hockey, and of course I had to load the requisite Solitaire Free Pack.  OpenSudoku is also nice.  Please beware of violence and scantily clad ladies (only in the menus), but Gun Bros. is a very high quality game, which reminds me of Ikari Warriors somewhat.  But I'm not too thrilled with the menu 'decoration', so we'll see how long I keep it on my phone.

I could talk about others also, but suffice it to say that I don't need much more convincing on one point - Nintendo and Sony should definitely continue to make sure that they offer compelling portable gaming experiences that are worth bringing along another device for, because since getting this phone I've been trying game after game, and playing little else.

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Games I am playing

Wii: Epic Mickey (I'm playing in small doses, I'm not a console gamer!)
PC: Magicka (frustrated over stability issues) Baron Wittard Nemesis of Ragnarok (stuck and no walkthroughs yet for this adventure game)
On the go: Final Fantasy Dawn of Souls (GBA) Beat FF1 playing FF2 need to grind.  I got DQVI on pre-order!

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Whoops! I fixed the RSS feed

I'm sure not many people were interested in a feed of our seldom updated FAQs and Walkthroughs.  The RSS feed now points to computer reviews.  Enjoy!  When we migrate to the new site, the console and PC reviews will most likely be merged.  Yay!

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One game off my bucket list!

I beat my first Final Fantasy game.  I just finished the GBA version of Final Fantasy.  It was pretty easy, I got my characters up to level 65 before tackling the final boss who I beat on my first try.  Next I'm going to play a few PC games courtesy of GamersGate and I look forward to Dragon Quest 6 coming out next month.  After those I'll tackle Final Fantasy 2!

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Game Based Movies: Why Are We Tortured?

Doom, Alone in the Dark, Mortal Kombat, House of the Dead, Blood Rayne...  When you saw these, did it feel as if you were being punished?  We, as gamers, are letdown repeatedly by these half-efforts at making a good film.  The potential is there, why can't these films be at least on par with the rest of what the movie industry gives us?

The problem stems from a director's inability to portray the game in an effective way.  The actions inside of a game cannot be mimicked on screen, it's up to the director to portray their own vision of things, not to try to copy game in every facet.  Remember the first person shooter scene from Doom?  If you do, you should learn to block it out like I have, because that is exactly the reason game-movies are awful.

The movie industry is butchering what could be great movies, all to gain a quick buck off of us fans. Doom should never have been made into a movie, period. It’s the epitome of a mindless shooter, and it has done nothing story-wise. Was it a fun game? Yes. It was revolutionary in its time, but not because of its story.

Silent Hill held a lot of promise, but it was a letdown. Overall, I liked the movie, but it was mediocre at best and could have been so much better. The same could be said for Max Payne. Again, it held promise, but was ultimately a letdown. These games are perfect candidates for something that could be turned into wonderful, thought provoking films, but no one wants to try with them.

Are all game based movies bad? No. I liked the Resident Evil films, I thought that the creators drifted far enough away from the games, and I was happy. Prince of Persia wasn’t all that bad, either. Neither were great, but at least they prove that game based movies can be something successful.

I don’t really know why I decided to just ramble on and on about this whole thing… It just felt fitting. I heard a bit of news about the Bioshock movie, and the thoughts of all these failed projects came to mind, so I just had to share them with you.

One last thing before I go…. Fire Uwe Boll!

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Games: According To My Budget

Budget gaming is an art form, and I am a Picasso in the field.  I rarely spend $60 on a new game when, for the same price, I could get two or three olde titles.  Being the artist I am, I always choose to let my games age, like fine wine.  Not only are they better in my eyes, but I don't feel robbed when I buy them.  In the list I am about to present, expect the games to reflect upon what I have just said.

 

Game I'm Digging:

Prototype - Despite what I'd heard, I'm greatly enjoying this game.  The freedom of being an anti-hero is rather refreshing.

Alan Wake - So thought provoking.  The atmosphere and story are both highly praised by me.

Dragon Age: Origins - While I am not enjoying it as much as Bioware's other series, Mass Effect, it is an excellent game nonetheless.

Need To Play:

Fallout: New Vegas

The Saboteur

Dead Space

Assassin's Creed 2

Epic Mickey

Uncharted: Drake's fortune

You know what's the really sad part?  I have at least 10 more unfinished games sitting on my shelf, just waiting to be played.  There is still hope, for I will prevail over this numerous stack of lost hours!  I will finish the unfinished, and will tell you about the fun, or lack thereof, these games have provided for me.

 

Until next time,

Jesse Owens

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How to use CheatEngine

Okay I admit it...I hack my gold in Majesty 2 games.  I use a free program called Cheat Engine.  It's pretty easy to use.  Make sure you go through the tutorial.  Here's what I do for Majesty 2:

1. Launch Cheat Engine
2. Launch Majesty 2
3.  Start your game and take note on the amount of gold you have. (Save your game!)
4.  Alt-Tab and go back to Cheat Engine.  Choose the Majesty 2 process.  
5.  Type in the Gold value, select Float for scan type and click the First Scan button. Wait for it to finish.
6.  Go back to Majesty 2 and when the gold changes go back to Cheat Engine.
7.  Type in the new Gold value and click on Next Scan.  When it finishes you should see 2 memory addresses.
8.  Double click on those addresses and they will go to the bottom.  Double click on them again and enter the desired amount of gold.  999999 works for me.  :)

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Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges

In the presence of arms, the law grows silent.

 

Since I haven't posted yet, I'm going to inaugurate this with a bit of Science Fiction fanaticism. Namely, I'm going to take you through my favorite franchises and such. At the end, I'll include a top 5 list with my favorite Science Fiction shows is order.

 

The title of this blog, the translation for which is in italics, is the title of an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, my favorite Star Trek show. Why is it my favorite? For starters, it has deep, convincing characters and incredible plot arcs. It dives into Trek mythology deeper than any other show has, especially with the Cardassians and the Bajorans. It is also one of the few shows where the status quo changes after every episode. If there was significant damage to a runabout in the previous episode, odds are you won't see it, and will likely hear Chief O'Brien complaining about it.

Next up, we have the Stargate franchise. Their have been 3 shows in the franchise, Stargate: SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, and Stargate: Universe. SG-1 revolves around the adventures of the titular team, SG-1. SG-1 has various lineup changes along the way, but the mainstays are Teal'c, Samantha Carter, Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson. Other noteworthy members include Jonas Quinn, who took the place of Dr. Jackson during season 6, And Cameron Mitchell, who commanded SG-1 during seasons 9 and 10. Sadly, Richard Dean Anderson, who played O'Neill left show show after season 8. SG-1 starts off as a fairly episodic show, mainly getting the audience used to the idea of the Stargate. Then it starts dragging plot elements in: The Ancients (The Race who built the Stargate) the evil Goa'uld, and the friendly, if reserved Asgard. The show becomes more arc-based as the show progresses, with seasons 9 and 10 involving a series of arcs involving a malevolent race known as the Ori.

Atlantis is a different deal altogether. It deals with the Atlantis Expedition, who journeyed to the distant Pegasus galaxy to explore the lost city of the Ancients, Atlantis. Right off the bat this show is different. A different gate, an almost-new set of characters, different wormholes, different everything. The Atlantis Expedition finds the Pegasus galaxy to be victim to a race of aliens called the Wraith. Starting with the first episode, the show takes a very serialized turn.

Then we have Doctor Who. The good Doctor has been saving time and space since the 60's, but the show went off the air in the early 90's. It was rebooted in 2005, with the ninth incarnation of the Doctor played by Christopher Eccleston. After one season, the Doctor regenerated into his tenth incarnation, portrayed by David Tennant. This incarnation was the best-received incarnation to date, and my personal favorite. After 3 seasons of saving the universe, the Doctor regenerated once more into his eleventh version, played by Matt Smith. Doctor Who is known for being a quirky show, and the new series is no exception.

Then we have a show that defies cliche. This show has the best acting of any Science Fiction show, some of the best effects of any science fiction show, the best characters, some of the best plots, and above all, highly serialized. Ladies and Gentlemen, this show is Battlestar Galactica. BSG ran for 4 seasons, has 2 movies and a miniseries pilot. The miniseries sets the stage, the show enacts the greatest television drama in Science Fiction history. The movies, while secondary to the plot, add more depth to the already-grand universe. The narrative can drag at times, and some episodes aren't near as fulfilling as others, but some flukes cannot drag down such a show.

 

The top five:

5. Doctor Who

4. Stargate: SG1

3. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

2. Stargate: Atlantis

1. Battlestar Galactica

 

Honorable mentions include Babylon 5, which I have sadly not seen enough of to judge properly, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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Time to play those new games

With the end of year sales and Christmas, I don't know about you, but we ended up with a few new games.  Rather than going through each game and trying to play all of them at once, I took a different approach.  I decided to take it easy and get to know one or two games at a time.  It's helped me to really enjoy and savor each game, rather than moving quickly on to the next one.

Between Black Friday and Christmas, we got five games.  We did not start playing anything until Christmas, though.  I've been concentrating on "Mario Kart Wii" and "Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip (Wii)" and having a great time.  Both of these games have been superb and very enjoyable.  Mario Kart has been fun for our whole family and we often play it together.  "Shaun White" has mainly been single player gaming, but my daughter and I just started playing the multiplayer part of the game.  Both of us have been having lots of fun with it.  The controls are really well done and the game itself is quite enjoyable.

I recently popped in "Toy Story Mania (Wii)".  Reviews have been mixed, and rightly so.  The interface is rather confusing and what they call 'Story Mode' is not a story and also contains a few rather weak mini-games.  Initial impressions were...confused.  But after further play, and moving into the more open parts of the game, you realize those weak mini-games are rare and most of the mini-games are full of fun and charm.  It's a great family game as you play against each other and compete for high scores.

Still left to play is "NBA Jam (Wii)" and "Kid Adventures: Sky Captain (Wii)".  Not sure when I'll get to those, but in the meantime, I am very happy with the first three purchases.

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1/10/11: Cola Bears

Mood: Relaxed with some energy from the Pepsi

Thinking About: When I'm going to brush up on Japanese before class starts

Currently Playing: Bioshock 2, Dragon Age: Origins -- Ultimate Edition, Aion

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Why can't I be this good at Minecraft?

 

Maybe I should actually play....  If you're too cheap to buy Minecraft here's a free alternative : Maniac Digger

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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