Author Archives: Mel

PSA: Gaming Online Etiquette follow-up

I have been terrible at keeping this updated once again, but at least both blogs have been suffering together! …I guess? Anyway!

I am in the midst of buying/selling houses and have nothing but a tv and Xbox One to keep me company (oh, and my family), so posts are slim every which way. I’m writing this from my phone, which IS A BLAST. 

I wanted to give an interesting update to a post I did a while back about gaming online etiquette and the harassment I had received before. I wanted to do an experiment: I changed my gamertag to something completely free of gender implications. 

Unless you know who the Dread Wolf is. (That’s a dude.) 

And guess what? NOT A SINGLE SHITTY MESSAGE/COMMENT HAS BEEN MADE TO ME SINCE. Not a single one. I have received two messages in the last three-ish months- both said “good game.” 

What the hell, gaming community? 

To me, that makes it quite clear: there is absolutely an issue here.

As I said in my previous post, I didn’t want to think of it that way, as a gender thing. Surely, we were a little more evolved than that. I was wrong in such thinking, as indicated by the results you see here. 

And that’s a shame.

I gave up a gamertag I’ve had for the better part of ten years, to get some peace while playing video games. 

Are we not collectively better than that? 

I’m not here to pout about it- I like my new gamertag all right. It’s just so weird to not be who I have been for years. And yet, I don’t have people sending me hateful/vulgar messages every freaking day. 

Now whether or not in-game Smite has gotten any better, that answer is…

YOU ROCK!

YOU ROCK!

CANCEL THAT!

THAT’S TOO BAD.

BYE.

BYE.

BYE.

Public Service Announcement: Online Gaming Etiquette

*Suits up, sits on obligatory white chair in an all-white room, puts on Best Morgan Freeman Voice Mod*

So, lemme tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I hated playing online games. I liked sticking to single-player adventures, avoiding the masses like they were teh plague.

Because a lot of them are.

Sorry, getting to that. Anyway.

I would only play online with friends on my team. Strictly people I knew, and when the party was done, back to single-player offline goodness for me. This went on for years.

Like, so many years, that it only changed last year.

In Summer of 2015, a beta popped up on Xbox Live for a little game called Smite: Battleground of the Gods.

At the behest of my Dudebros, I downloaded it, and we played together. We started off in Co-Op, because holy shit it’s terrifying at first when you’ve got no idea what is even going on. We played almost everyday, finally working up the nerve to play Versus Mode against other players. We really enjoyed the game- our Three-Man team was Artemis, Zeus and Ah Puch; four-man added Ah Muzen Cab. Eventually there was a fifth, who played as whoever the hell, whenever the hell.

He had the advantage of a LOT of knowledge already being out there, joining much later.

We played through the beta’s duration, each of us buying the Founder’s Pack to get every God ever released for the game. We continued to play over the months, collecting Diamond Rank characters, picking and learning new Gods, gaining confidence when the game handed us a random God and said, “go kick ass.”

Now, I’ve got two Diamonds: Zeus and Medusa; a VII Bastet; V Aphrodite; IV Bacchus; a bunch of IIIs, several IIs, and a ton of Is. I have every God mastered, save the one that came out two days ago (SKADI IS THE BOMB DOT COM, PEOPLE).

In short, I know what I’m doing.

This part leads into the point of this post. I play in a group of all guys. I’m one of only a handful of lady-gamers we have around. My gamertag is clearly female in nature, and I’ve had the same one for over a decade. Recently, I have had an utter shit-ton of flack in-game from random strangers. In April alone, I have gotten a hateful/sexist/scathing message from a random player almost every single day of the month!

What do these messages say?

Some ask for Kik chatting or sexy pics or offer dick pics. Others bitch about my performance– which I can promise you, in all but ONE of these messages, I outperformed the person. Some complain about my gear choices.

If you haven’t heard it already: I have been playing this since it existed on Xbox. I know how to build anything, especially a mage. I keep up with item changes and updates. I know what I’m doing.

The problem? No one else on my team gets these messages.

No matter the situation! Just last night, I got spammed by a guy who wanted me to get more DEFENSIVE ITENS, as he said. The problem?

I DIED THE LEAST. MY MALE TEAMMATE (IN PARTY WITH ME) DIED THREE MORE TIMES THAN ME. I OUTPERFORMED IN ALL AREAS BUT ONE, WHICH THIS RANDOM GUY BEAT ME BY 200 PLAYER DAMAGE.

Did he message my party teammate, leaving disparaging remarks about how much he died, or his gear, or anything at all? Nope.

I used to bite my tongue, promise not to feed the trolls, report/block them, and move on. But they aren’t holding their tongues- why should I anymore? I sent a well-worded message, as I care about my online reputation, then reported and blocked him.

I am utterly SICK of how people act online. What makes anyone think they have the right to private message someone to say anything at all, much less to simply be a dick to a stranger? And why am I the only one getting them?

I don’t like making anything about gender. I am female. I like being female. I love my guys. They are my tribe. But not a single one of them is receiving messages like this. Over all these months of playing Smite, two of them have received one message each. I’ve received more than that since the beginning of April!

Why, people, why? Why is that okay? And why me in particular as the only target? Why not everyone else? I’ve checked and verified this with other players– they just don’t get the same treatment, no matter how much worse they perform, or any other variable.

So, this post is all about Online Gaming Etiquette. It can be summed up in one of my least favorite, but most accurate phrases:

Wait no.

Don’t have anything nice to say? Don’t say anything at all.

* Please DON’T take to the Xbox message center to spam people for ANY reason, especially if you’re just trying to be a dick to a stranger. And seriously, don’t pick on a chick because she’s a chick. Don’t be that person.

* Please DON’T constantly ping on your teammates when they are not playing the way you want. You are different people on the same team- learn the MMO adage of “Don’t piss off your healer. You’ll end up face-down in the dirt.” And if you decide to behave this way, don’t be surprised when they don’t help you anymore. You are not entitled to that.

* Please DON’T berate your teammates or abuse in-game chat systems. Seriously, rarely ever is someone legitimately trying to perpetually steal your kills. Again, same team, people. Now, if they’re following you and clearly trying to, then tell them to knock it off in party chat or in-game chat system, however you’re connected, but don’t be that guy. You are capable of civil conversation.

* Please DON’T join a team-based game, just to quit out on your team or be a jackhole to them and not help. Seriously, why are you even playing a multiplayer game, if you’re going to either not help or intentionally feed? Especially if you go to great lengths to make sure your team knows you’re not going to help.

I don’t want to have to quit Smite because of the obscenely shitty environment it has these days (just like everything else really), but I will, because holy fuck it’s stressful and infuriating. Most people play games to escape the stress and strain of daily life. Please, please don’t ruin that for them. The online gaming world– hell, the online world in general– is incredibly volatile. Please don’t be a part of the problem. Help foster a positive environment for you and your fellow humans. We never know when the alien overlords are going to come for our butts, so we should ban together while we can.

Until next time, please be kind and rewind, kids.

Into the Dreamscape: Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo.

This past week, Square-Enix FINALLY released a playable demo for Final Fantasy XV!

Huge emphasis on the FINALLY there. My Facebook memories reminded me just a few days ago that I was talking about FFXV 3-4 years ago. Sheesh, SE. Anyway! I’ve played the demo to completion on both Xbox One and PS4, and here are my musings!

**HEY, LISTEN! From here on, I’ll describe the demo in mucho detail. There are no actual story spoilers to be found, but hey, I WARN PEOPLE, NAVI STYLE.**

The demo itself is fairly short- you play the majority of it as a young Noctis, making your way through your own dreams. Ever-awesome Carbuncle is your guide (HOHMAIGAH CARBY!!), via a stray cellphone found in there. Follow me.

You begin in a lush, wooded area, following Carbuncle through a rocky terrain and seeing a few classic Summons/Avatars/Aeons before finally plunging into a lake… which leads to an oversized version of your dining room at home! Wheeeee~ dreams are fun. You encounter some very Kingdom Hearts-esque nightmares (think heartless with blue skin) as enemies, and dispatch them with either a sword or a squeaky hammer.

I was all for the squeaky hammer.

There are some awesome items hidden in the demo, such as the Shuriken and the spell Meteorain. There’s a detailed set of videos by Pixel Precision to help you CATCH FIND ‘EM ALL.

By the end of the demo, you’ll come across your hardest (and only) boss: the Iron Giant. Even if you don’t remember them from nearly every single Final Fantasy game, surely some of you guys will remember these dudes from Final Fantasy X, farming the Thunder Plains!

At this point in the demo, Noctis transforms into an adult, much to the shock of his radioactive squirrel friend. (Okay, I’ll say Carbuncle is way less radioactive squirrel in FFXV, unlike his FFXI days where he earned the nickname. WE RULED THE WORLD, CARBY! *cries over FFXI*) During this fight, you’ll learn several of Noctis’ abilities and most of the battle mechanics. The warp ability is pretty cool, and it very much reminds me of DmC: Devil May Cry’s Angel Lift with the Ophion. Which, at least to this girl, isn’t a bad thing.

Once you’ve defeated the Iron Giant, you follow Carbuncle to the end of your dreams, and the demo, at which point you’ll be able to name Carbuncle for future summoning! Wheeeeeee.

Overall, I thought the demo was quite fun. The call-backs to classic FF touched me in *just* the right places (giggity) and really made me excited for the game. In previous years, I lamented straying from Ye Olden Days of Final Fantasy where we took turns in battle and I could take 500 years deciding when I wanted to die to Sephiroth. But things change, and baby, I’m changin’ too.

Wow, that felt really Fleetwood Mac. I’ll take it.

The battle system is smooth and intuitive, though the targeting system made me crazy. Yes, it’s the standard lock-on system, but much like Dark Souls, it gets wonky as hell in some places, especially pushed against walls or objects.

Many people have talked about the frame rate dropping during gameplay, but I will say, I didn’t experience that on Playstation 4. On Xbox One, I had frame rate issues and the demo crashed out twice. I also got warnings of being in a restricted area (ala Borderlands), and being “returned” to a safe area, which meant me standing in the exact same place in the middle of town. Derp. I also felt that the graphics looked much better on PS4.

YOU GUYS HEAR THAT?! I SAID IT. PEE ESS FOUR, OKAY?!

I normally do ALL THE THINGS on my Xbox, but in continuing tradition, I’ll be getting Final Fantasy XV on mah Sony. Also because my PS4 library is like 5 games big. SRY NOT SRY.

So! What did you guys think of the Platinum Demo for Final Fantasy XV? Love it? Hate it? Wanna do weird things with it? Me too! Share with us in the comments.

Until next time, you stay classy, Dreamscape.

Guys. SRY.

First off, you find some funny stuff when you Google “SRY” for a sorry meme. Sexy shenanigans!

So! A LOT of life has happened in the past year. Again. DAMN.

I launched my debut novel, Godeater: The Second World, and my writing blog takes up lots of time, being mah job and all. But! I’m gonna try to balance that one with actually friggin’ updating this one. Thank you to everyone who is still hanging on!

This week, I’ll be covering the Final Fantasy XV reveal + Platinum Demo, so stay tuned!

Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings – Let’s go tomb raiding!

Yesterday marked the release of Dead Kings, an add-on to the much hated-on and near-leper status Assassin’s Creed Unity. Take a look at the “Before” picture above, and compare it with the new, dreary France seen in the trailer:

A little backstory time: While I did not agree with the masses on hater-status (shocking, huh?), I could definitely see where it came from. Initially, NOTHING FREAKING WORKED IN THE GAME. I couldn’t play with friends, I couldn’t get Arno to jump or climb or USE THE BATHROOM properly without game-glitching assistance.

Sorry for bringing up the pee problem, Arno.

There were so many issues that Ubisoft retracted the Season Pass for the game, gave Season Pass purchasers a free game, and gave Dead Kings away for free. It was kind of a big deal.

Luckily, Dead Kings does *not* reek of that “Free DLC” funk. It is incredibly well-polished, with gorgeous cutscenes that match the quality of the original games’ main story. The story itself takes place after the main campaign, its first sequence starting at Sequence 13, Memory 1, rather than a stand-alone title. Unlike The Tyranny of King Washington in ACIII, which was amaze-balls if you haven’t played it.

You have, haven’t you?

….

We will fight about how awesome Ratohnhake’:ton is later. This is all about Arno.

Arno Dorian is a dire man in this DLC. His mood and condition match the dreary, wiped out scenery that is Franciade; everything is in shambles. He is hired by a familiar face to find a Royal Manuscript– one that, if he finds it, will book him passage the hell out of France. Of course, the catacombs are under heavy surveillance– everybody wants those rare baubles found deep below, especially the other team…

The underground areas of Franciade are excellent. The lantern, one of two new tools found in the game (the other, the Guillotine Gun. Yep. You heard me.), adds a puzzle-like pattern to navigating the catacombs, as certain things will block your way without light. Think bats, roaches, other things that make Arno shudder. You must be a bit more stealthy this time around too- a new faction will beat the hell out of a macho Assassin in the deep dark of France. While I have always been a bit of a renegade with “stay in the shadows,” Dead Kings really means it. Undue shenanigans will get you killed.

The entire explorer feel is incredibly Indiana Jones-meets-Tomb Raider, which is ALL UP IN MY ALLEY. You can expect a good six hours to total completion for this DLC, which is another big bonus for FREE. I still question though- Arno had “Master Assassin'” gear in Unity. He clearly is still not a master Assassin in Dead Kings. Maybe by the end of it all, that’ll get cleared up for me… Anyway! I do hope you’ll pick up Dead Kings and give it the ol’ College Try, because honestly, Unity is NOT AS BAD AS YOUR HIPSTER GAMER FRIENDS MADE IT SOUND.

Until next time, you stay classy, Assassin.

Dragon Age: Inquisition – the Bioware Bender Continues

After putting a paltry 150+ hours into two playthroughs of Inquisition, I think I just might be qualified to speak on the subject.


My two Inquisitors: Thrycera Cadash, and Zyrggrah Avaar, both Ladies of Kickassdom.

It. is. amazing.

There just might be a reason that the game has garnered numerous Game of the Year awards!

While someone is always going to disagree, here’s the time it won’t be me. Dragon Age: Inquisition is a sprawling RPG, harkening back to the days of big adventure and knee-deep questing. If you haven’t heard the latest news in Thedas…

A massive hole rains demons down from the sky. A Blight isn’t happening, but darkspawn ravage parts of the western world unchecked. The Grey Wardens have all disappeared. Who else is there, in all of Thedas, to save the day?

A lowly spy, sent to the Conclave meeting of leaders, which was headed by Divine Justinia.

The only survivor of a massive attack on the Conclave, you (in all your create-a-character glory) fall from said rift in the sky, a green, pulsing mark across one palm. Of course, Cassandra Pendaghast is there to verbally assault you as soon as you awaken. She’s really good at being up in everyone’s business, that crazy Seeker lady.

Of course, she berates and imprisons you, as is her way, and drags you to see the rest of her troupe. Here’s where everyone’s (least?) favorite Dwarf shows up– Varric– along with Solas, the shifty, esoteric Elf who happens to know a hell of a lot about your mark. And rifts. And other things that some random Elf might not actually know… *cough* *gag* *sputter~WATCHAFTERTHECREDITS*

Soon after, you’ll meet up with the ever-eye-color-changing Nightingale, Leliana, and a whole slew of people that will probably hate you and think you’re a heretic; because of the state you were found in, you are considered the “Herald of Andraste” by many, and a horrible monster by many more. Your affinity with said people is also affected by what race you’ve chosen– YAY FOR GETTING TO CHOOSE YOUR RACE AGAIN! I’m lookin’ at you, Hawke…

Anyway! With the Chantry, Seekers, and every other organization in Thedas in ruin, Cassandra declares that an Inquisition shall be started, to bring the world back to order and slave off the chaos that wracks the land. And since you have the only mark that can close a rift in the sky… SHE GUESSES YOU CAN JOIN THE CLUB.

*trumpet blare*

Cullen also joins you (I swear, I should have just killed him when I saw him the first time. I never liked Cullen.), along with spry-Lady Josephine, and this group becomes the council behind the Inquisition.

You will spend the bulk of your journey bolstering you troops, power and influence across Ferelden and Orlais, ultimately picking a side in the war that Anders started in Dragon Age II: Mages versus Templars.

(Side note: Everything versus Templars… “everything” else always wins in my book. Jack some Templars.)

After you’ve chosen your side, and done with them what you will (you can pick a side, and then bone them over in such awful ways), you find what your true enemy is:

OH HEY GUYS, SPOILERS, IF YOU DIDN’T THINK THEY WOULD BE HERE.

Corypheus, the bastard from II, and a Dragon posing as an Archdemon.

He will seriously jack up your day. And a few weeks. Maybe months of your life, but ultimately, you shall NOT PASS!

er, wait. Sorry. Got a little Gandalf-y.

A few faces from the past greet you later on in the story– one particular Witch is my favorite– and you will eventually come out triumphant, smashing Corypheshit (as my beloved Sera calls him) in his ugly face. There are some real heart-swelling moments (think Grinch and three sizes type swelling), and it’s just tops, yeah?

Now that the story is all squared away, here’s the rest of my pocket full o’change:

*** I questioned in my previous DA post whether or not Inquisition would tie all of our adventures together, and the answer is YES! YES! YES!

YOU get a story tie-in! And YOU get a story tie-in! EVERYBODY GETS STORY TIE-INS!

There are so many options from your Dragon Age journeys that determine who even shows up in the first place; one of them, ALISTAIR *swoon*, had an extensive showing in my Dragon Age, all because I kept him as a Grey Warden instead of making him King. (I will note here that several people complained about their lack/bits of Alistair, but they made him King or got him killed off, sooooooo~ yeah.) Morrigan appears. And if you made a certain choice between those two, a very special young boy shows up. Wowza.

If you romanced Alistair like I did, your Hero of Ferelden is referenced a lot, including their own War Table missions.

Oh, and I guess Hawke shows up. *cough* It’s awesome because you can re-create YOUR Hawke, but… it’s Hawke… and we all know how I feel about that.

You know where that screenshot is from? THE OFFICIAL TRAILER. I never even SAW them until after I beat the game and re-watched the trailers for…. no reason…. move along people I JUST LOVE IT OKAY?

*** THE WORLD IS HUGE. I’ll tell you- in 150+ hours and two (one Mage-sided, one Templar-sided) playthroughs, I have yet to complete every quest, or find every location in the game. I’d say sorry for it, but there’s no damned achievement for DOING IT ALL THIS TIME, and damn, the Hinterlands will kill you.

*** Companions are freaking AWESOME again. Sera, Iron Bull and Dorian make the BEST party, especially when playing Qunari. On my second (Dwarf) playthrough, I used Vivienne (who seemed to hate my Dwarf less than my Qunari… jerk.), Solas and Blackwall, and they are a freaking bummer together… that second playthrough was on Nightmare and I didn’t care about anyone giving me lip… but I digress. The point is that each character is radically different, and your opinions can really sway your entire interaction with them. Their quests can be boring, but the cutscenes are much more enriched than in Dragon Age II. Also, FRISKY BITS. My love is like WHOA. I romanced Sera as Qunari, and Blackwall as Dwarf, and all I can say is whoa. Mmmmmhmmm. Blackwall’s romance story is probably the best in the game as far as advancing the story, though I haven’t gotten down’ta business with the rest of them. Frisky bits.

*** Twists and turns that the story takes. My outcomes were entirely different between two playthroughs– from who becomes Divine, to what happens with different companions. I know that there is a canon story out there, illustrated by the novels, but I love to weave my own. (ALISTAIR STAY WITH ME BABEH.)

*** Glitchy: I didn’t have a massive amount of glitches or game-breaking shite happen, though two of my achievements glitched. One of them unlocked with my second playthrough (getting 10 agents), but the second still hasn’t unlocked, even though I HAVE KILLED TWENTY HIGH DRAGONS NOW, YOU JERKS. Otherwise, random jerky things happened, and that’s it.

*** Multiplayer is pretty cool. It’s one hell of a grind, but once you start unlocking new classes, it gets super fun.

SO.

Do I like it?

DO I LIKE IT?

SAY LIKE AGAIN, I DARE YOU.

I freaking love it. In fact, so much of my time has been spent on Dragon Age since it released that, uh, folks question me when I’m not on there. Like if I’m sick, or maybe dying, or I’ve become a Looper and thus have no time for games because I’m chasing myself through time.

Dragon Age: Inquisition gets all the stars. 7/7 Skull n bones. I CANNOT EVEN TAKE IT.

Oh, how I love it. Did ya hear that part already? Oh well.

Before I gurgle on, I’ll leave you with words from everyone’s favorite Witch of the Wilds:

“Now we are left with a scar in the sky to remind us of what almost was.”

“It tells us that a great victory against chaos was won, but left the world forever changed.”

Until next time~ you keep it classy, Thedas.

Holy Batman Day, Batman!

All across Gotham Nation today, folks young and old celebrate my favorite Caped Crusader in style!

DC Comics declared July 23rd to be Batman Day, celebrating 75 years of the Dark Knight by partnering with retailers to bring special memorabilia to stores, including a special re-imagined edition of Detective Comics #27! If you aren’t familiar with the importance of that particular issue (I will hit you, then hug you– cry it out), it is the very first comic that our sweet, sweet Bats ever appeared in, way back in May 1939.

In addition to this free special print, retailers also received anniversary capes, posters, pins, temporary tattoos, bookmarks and MASKS! YEAYUH- paper masks, served in four styles:

DETECTIVE COMICS #27: Batman’s first appearance, as drawn by Bob Kane
BATMAN ’66: inspired by the classic TV series starring Adam West
THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: As drawn by Frank Miller
DC COMICS – THE NEW 52: As drawn by Greg Capullo

I was lucky enough to get my hands on *most* of these items at my local Barnes and Noble, who had a special event for the day as part of their Get Pop-Cultured celebration!

I JUST LOVE SWAG– CAN I TELL YA?

Barnes and Noble is also holding a special sale on DC Comics from Batman Day until the 27th– buy two, get one free! Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.

I hope all you kids out there in Gothamland enjoyed Batman Day! And remember: You are what you love– not who loves you.

Late to the Plate Reviews: Dragon Age II

Ahh. Fresh on the heels of my BioWare Bender post comes my first Late to the Plate review, which happens to cover Dragon Age II.

Boy oh boy, was I excited to get on this one. Within a week of beating Dragon Age: Origins, I interrupted myself playing Bioshock to play Watch_Dogs… which I interrupted to play Dragon Age II. Brace yourselves; sarcasm AND SPOILERS are coming. In the words of Theresa (ala Fable COME ON GUYS), “And so our story begins:”

The Blight is running rampant through Ferelden. Your character, a child of the Hawke family, serves under the esteemed (and severely disliked by Loghain Mac Tir) King Cailan Theirin at Ostagar. As all hell breaks loose under the unheeded signals at the Tower of Ishal, Hawke’s army breaks rank and the soldiers begin to flee the lands, leaving their lives (and King) behind.

Soooooo here’s where we are- fleeing with our mother and twin siblings, running like maniacs through the desolate wastelands surrounding Ferelden. After meeting up with a doomed Templar and his (obnoxiously boring, personality like a piece of paper) wife, you make your way to Kirkwall, a city that will ultimately hate your damned Ferelden guts. An unfamiliar face (but familiar voice) interrupts your journey– a particular Dragon Woman that goes by the name of Asha’bellanar, or *cough* Flemeth. She looks nothing like her former incarnate, but she’s still awesome. You need to do her a favor, whose reasoning is never entirely explained to you (sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself), and in return for your promise to do random said-thing, she’ll make sure you get to Kirkwall safely.

Oh, I forgot to mention: in essence, you are dropped into the midst of a story that’s already over– the entire game is a retelling of your story, from the point of view of a future/past companion, Varric Tethras. So you know how your story ends before you even start; you know you’re alive, because the Seekers of Truth are hunting you, interrogating your X-Men: Days of Future Past-style friend a better part of a decade into the future. You know you become the mighty Champion of Kirkwall, because that’s the only way they really refer to you.

Anyway, back to our story. In this city, you’ll spend the first year of your life in indentured servitude, thanks to your awesome Uncle Skeevy Guy selling you out to get you in the gates. You’ll work for one of two groups- the Smugglers or Mercenaries- being their little errand boy. (Your allegiance makes zero story difference, by the way.) After a few quests, you get a cutscene that a year has gone by, and you, like a good little slave, have done your job. And ooooh gurl, you gettin’ famous!

Unfortunately, your servitude to this shithole never ends- the entire game takes place in Kirkwall, save walking outside a few times to dungeons and caves that share the exact same map every time. This is one of many marks that mar the pretty surface of this game.

You keep trucking, doing idle quests and making quasi-responsible choices; the system in place here is similar to that of Mass Effect, where you’ve got a Paragon/Cheeky/Renegade-style wheel that narrows your choices to that of being a total gimp, or a huge asshole, sometimes all within the same choice. The reason I say quasi-responsible? This game is like playing the Game of Thrones- everything is always screwed, no matter what choice you make.

At the onset of your adventure, you’re not entirely sure what your purpose is in the narrative. Hell, well into the final Act, you’re not entirely sure what your purpose is. You get really famous for pissing various people off, either choosing to side with the citizens of the Free Marches (read: Kirkwall and the surrounding areas), or the Qunari that have set up shop in their city; the Templars, who persecute Mages like cockroaches, or the Mages who, after severe treatment, retaliate with Blood Magic, resulting in most of them becoming abominations. “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die; there is no middle ground.”

By the end of your story, you’ll have chosen which sides you believe to be right, setting into motion the events of a game that doesn’t happen in the one you’re playing. That’s right- Dragon Age II is not a complete story within itself. Some people are cool with that- I personally am not such a fan. Let me explain: if you give me a ‘middle game,’ it should at least begin/conclude its own full story, all within a greater arc that continues into another game.

A good example of a middle game: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.
A bad example of a middle game: Final Fantasy XIII-2.

AC:Brotherhood has an entire story to itself, all while connecting the previous and following titles. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a disjointed trainwreck of a game that doesn’t even finish its own story, leaving a “To Be Continued…” screen at the not-even-an-ending end. I know that the ending was supposed to be DLC, but it never happened that way, which left Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII to not only tell its own story, but to try and tie up loose ends left by the disaster between the first and third titles. I feel that it did a good job.

But back to Kirkwall! The game itself never fully explains why the Seekers of Truth are looking for you; what actually happened to you; why you did any of the things you did… it really was just a vehicle for your choice on the Magi vs. Templar. The entire adventure was bland and erratic; I wasn’t even sure why I was doing anything! “Hey, go here! Do this! Here’s a reward!” I zoned out on dozens upon dozens of quests, as the sense of mystery was gone. There is very little foreshadowing or building in the story, as everything is either explained up front, or not explained at all. You end up not caring or being invested in what is happening to those around you, save the few crucial moments that your narrative builds to.

That leads me into companions. In Dragon Age:Origins, I was quite invested in the majority of my companions– their stories were well-fleshed, and they seemed like real people, with real lives, that I could directly affect. If you read my BioWare bender post, you know that I moped for hours after making some decisions regarding Alistair and other companions. In Dragon Age II, your companions can come and go, depending on your choices, but you don’t ever truly care about most of them. Even when romancing a companion, their quests do little to further your stance on them (please don’t get me started on how FRUITLESS Merrill’s quests are. I spent so much of the fucking game doing useless things!) They’re just there– they buy into you ridiculously easily, they fall in love with you without you even trying, they act like you have a relationship that you’ve never even experienced, because the game skips ahead 1-to-3 years at a time. Some of them stand on one side of the line or the other– Anders, Fenris, and Aveline in particular are fierce about their beliefs– but in the end, it matters very little. Anders does set into motion some craaaaaaazy shit at the end, though, that finally fleshes him out as a character.

And if you were hoping to see your old beloved characters, you’re hoping too hard. Alistair showed up for like one minute and three sentences. That’s the extent.

Overall, where does Dragon Age II stand with me?

Three out of Seven on the Skull*N*Bones scale. I almost feel guilty giving it such a rating; I didn’t hate it, but at the same time, it did not deliver on its own. Honestly, it could have been an add-on to Origins– one hell of a massive add-on, but it did little to further the overall storyline, or complete one within itself, so an add-on it becomes. I felt little connection to my own character or those around her, spare a few moments that made a difference. Kirkwall was a bland setting, made even worse by the use of recycled maps and pointless locations. But it is still a Dragon Age title, and in that right, I still like it.

Oh, sequels, you lot are tricksy business.

BioWare Bender: Thralling and Indoctrinating

My ladies o'Bioware.

First off, yes, it’s been A WHOLE DAMNED YEAR since I wrote something here. Shame on ME. Pesky life and things happening that don’t involve controllers and consoles. Sheesh.

Bringing it back to you lovely folks of the interwebs, I wanted to talk openly and freely about my obsession with BioWare games. *deep breath* 

Hi, I’m the Samurai Cowgirl, Mel, and I’m addicted to BioWare.

(This is where you say, “Hi *insert jumble of which word you think you’re supposed to say from my name*, thank you for sharing.”)

Those fine, battle-hardened ladies gracing the top of your screen? My FemShep, imported throughout the entire series; my Dragon Age Origins Grey Warden, Akian; my Dragon Age II soldier, Troika. Aren’t they just marvelous? ♥ ♥ ♥

Ahhhhh.

My first foray into the BioWare universe was indeed Neverwinter Nights. Yep, I still have that giant ass GOLD COLLECTOR’S EDITION in my attic, in sparkly awesome condition. After installing and ogling over the damned thing, I enshrined it, keeping it fresh to show my children and future generations how we did PC. And yes, I played the hell out of it. Neverwinter is awesome! And all fine and good! But then… Mass Effect Happened.

My life was forever changed. Not only could I create my character, I could live her life. My choices were hers; her choices, my gameplay fate. It was fucking incredible. The story enthralled me. Indoctrinated me, even. Now yes, I played this way freaking late; Mass Effect 3 had just released when I beat ME1. The most excellent part of my late-bloomer status? I got to play all three Mass Effect games back to back. Thankfully, I didn’t lose a family member, nor did my house catch fire while I was utterly under the surface with Mass Effect. In a less than a month, I had conquered them all. And I’ll tell ya- I didn’t hate the story’s ending as much as the rest of the world.

I knew– I understood– there might not be some grand “everyone comes home yeehaw!” ending. I didn’t expect the hero’s ending, Paragon as I may be. I chose Destruction for my end choice; I had spent crazy amounts of hours fighting the Reapers, and I would not let it stand to simply walk away. I could not force the entire world to meld with technology, and I would not trust a single damned soul to control the Reapers. With my Effective Military Strength through the roof, I annihilated the bio-technology that had ravaged so many galaxies. My only regret? Legion. I’m sorry, buddy.

Ah, good times. And yep! Got that bonus little “*gasp* chest move” update, too. Sorry that BioWare brokeded your game, peeps.

Anyway!

After realizing the story-telling prowess of BioWare beyond my PC screen, I knew I had to play the Dragon Age series. For whatever reason, I started playing II. Then I thought, “Dubya-Tee-Eff, Mate? Why am I doing this? Who are you people? Why are you pretending to be familiar to me?!” Sooooooo~ I had to go back and rectify my whole bouquet of Oopsie Daisies. Origins came highly recommended to me by one of the most awesome chickies I know, so I was quick to bite. I binge-played Origins so hard. Toddler asleep? Origins. Eating? Origins. Seeing a castle overrun by Darkspawn down the street from my house? “Hey! There’s one of those in Dragon’s Age!”

It was tough. Toughly awesome. The game’s end choices had me really WTFing. At one point, I had chosen to make Alistair King, flying solo after hating on that Queen-ho. And guess what? My whole world crumbled. He left me all alone. He was unhappy. I was unhappy. The previous Queen was piiiiiiissed. I moped around my house for a good two hours before reverting my save. I had fought so hard to get the rightful King on the throne, and when he got there, I hated it. So we gave the Queen the throne, killed off her Daddy (biaaaaaaatch.) and went Grey Wardening all over Ferelden together.

Oh, and big shout out to Alistair for being my first hetero-lifemate in a BioWare game! *smooches* Liara was the only one for me all through Mass Effect. Yep, I’m missing the Paragon achievement for ME2 because I couldn’t romance her. I am no cheat.

I also made the REALLY fucked up choice to go along with Morrigan’s plan in my true playthrough. While I am normally quite selfless in a game– Dragon Age wasn’t it. The devastation of losing Alistair to the throne had ruined one night; I wouldn’t let either of us dying ruin another. So I was forced to watch that whackadoo scene where two of my favorite people have sex with not me. Blegh.

So, we saved the day, we both win, all good yay happiness things! Oh, and “This is War” by 30 Seconds to Mars as the end theme? I WAS ALL ON THAT JARED LETO – ALISTAIR HOOOOOOO!

Immediately after, I began Dragon Age II. I’ve started it twice now; one without importing my Origins, one with. Ohhh shenangians. Still working on that playthrough.

The WHOLE POINT OF THIS JOURNEY IS TO SAY, “Hey BioWare, gurl you fine.”

With E3 just passing last week, we got to see some incredible work from Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the new worlds from another Mass Effect title! If you missed it, hereyago:

Mass Effect shenanigans.

Aaaaaaand~

Dragon Age: Inquisition shenanigans.

While I don’t know what to think of Mass Effect 4, as there aren’t enough details to truly judge anything [DID YOU HEAR THAT, INTERNET?!], I will definitely play the next installment. Dragon Age: Inquistion? THROW ME ON THE WAGON AND DON’T EVER LET GO. I’m curious to see if either story legitimately ties in with its predecessors, or if it will be an instance of passing comments and side story, meant for when you click on an NPC way too many times.


“I’ve never seen a better hunter, but the nugs are still on loose.”

And these days, there are very few game publishers that I buy into, heart and soul– I’m not so trusting and naive as I once was. For many years, Square Enix owned a portion of my soul. Their grasp slipped a few times, over some real shady moves (Hey, SE? Yeah, I bought the Final Fantasy XIV Collector’s Edition the first time it came out, ‘kay?), but in general, I trust their gaming judgement. Ubisoft is another publisher that I am on *squee* level with; I am a bona fide BROTHERHOOD member, gitwhatImean? THE LIBERATION OF MY PANTS HAS BEGUN!

Oh Ezio, you know you liked that!

Watch_Dogs is currently melting my face with the astronomical amount of shite I can do right off the bat– at least in Assassin’s Creed, they limited how OCD I could get before forcing me to further the story. Unnngh. But so far, I think Ubisoft has delivered on this IP, too. When it comes to Borderlands, I totally trust 2K. Capcom is full of sneaky bastards who get me to repurchase their games by adding letters, numbers or words onto older titles… or when they re-release Resident Evil 4 again. And again. And again… Did I mention that I own four editions of that game? Moving on. Konami? You’re hit and miss sometimes, but Castlevania is on lockdown-good status; I don’t love them all, but you’ve managed to keep the IP alive for so damned long. Sega makes terrible decisions and good games.

But I hate EA. You hear me, BioWare? I HATE EA. But I love you, baby. For better or worse, sickness and in health, Alistair and licking lamp posts in winter, forever, I do.

Putting Your Game Face On: What Techonology Changes Do for (or against) Gaming

Technology is a glorious, beastly thing. If it weren’t for technological advances, I would not be typing this to you, out to the world of the Interwebs. In fact, I’d probably be outside chasing a gopher, with a rock, in something resembling undies.

I do enjoy chasing gophers in my privies, but that isn’t why I brought you here.

In this updraft of tech change, we are constantly bombarded by NEW. NOW. NEXT. From TVs, to cell phones, to Bill Gates’ freaky auto-temp-house, things get upgraded time and time again, as we, little squirrely humans, attempt to get the best out of our tech-drunken civilization.

Being near the heart of this change is, of course, video gaming. Every year, every generation, we see something that we couldn’t even encapsulate in our greatest dreams before. And it’s schnazzy! Humans start to look so realistic that we can hardly separate fact from fiction; textures pop in front of our eyes and simulate light, depth, and realism to the highest ability; the world itself becomes larger, grander, more colorful and beautiful.

But sometimes…. technology makes it weird.

In our conquest for greatness, sometimes what matters most is left behind. In this case, it’s the attachment to the way certain things look, or how we know them to be. This can disrupt our entire experience, forcing our suspension of disbelief back into its hidey-hole until you can coax it out again. To make the most sense of what I’m telling you, I’ll dissect of my absolute favorite game series: Assassin’s Creed.

(The scope in which I write this is from a visual standpoint. I love the whacked-out story, the lines all blurring together into one weird lump of history- I’m not here to debate that part, lovies.)

Part One: Desmond Miles
Being a massive part of the AC Universe– rather, the conduit by which it all happens– Desmond is quite the important guy. The span of time from his first adventure, Assassin’s Creed, to his last, Assassin’s Creed 3, is all within one year- 2012. His body does change, as indicated by supporting characters throughout these games; he is mentioned looking emaciated, weaker, etc. as his trials go on. But if anyone can please show me how THIS change works, I’d love to hear it:


Assassin’s Creed 1 – 2 – Brotherhood – Revelations – 3
Click for a better view.

Biggest Note: REVELATIONS. I will tell you- everything is fucked up about the visuals in Revelations. I loved the story, as I’m quite attached to Altair and Ezio, but WHAT THE HELL? Assassin’s Creed: Revelations completely broke my suspension of disbelief. Suddenly, the men that had become a part of my life looked like freaky dopplegangers who were bad at their sole job. Desmond Miles, a once-chiseled young man, somehow looks like a dark-skinned Adam Sandler with no strong cheek definition and a pudgy jaw His eyebrows also magically got shorter on the sides, with a different browline! At times in the game, when lighting hits just right, he kind of looks like his former self with a beard.

The rest of the time? Assassin Adam Sandler.

Part Two: Ezio Auditore


Assassin’s Creed 2 – Brotherhood – Revelations – Embers
Click for a better view.

Ezio has apparently had something crack his face right open, so that it sinks in everywhere but his chin. Oh! And I can’t forget his monkey lips:


Click for a better view.

The closest Ezio truly comes to looking like himself is this face, and it’s simply because he’s made it a million times since he was a teen:

Even then, it’s only the facial gesture, not the character himself. His eyes are clearly the wrong color as well, though that’s been a toss-up as an oversight in lighting. I say that is garbage. His eyes are clearly amber in Revelations, and so are Altair’s! Where did regular brown go? This Ezio is not the man I watched grow up, wither, and leave behind a legacy.

All of this is supposedly the might (READ: fault) of new technology. According to Ubisoft, it was a redefined Anvil engine, and the models were supposedly still rendered from the same guy as before, namely Francisco Randez:

If you promised me that the mighty computer flurrped out Ezio in Revelations as looking like this guy in the future and you swore it was him, I’d still kill you. Age tests were rendered with Randez, and the characters still look nothing like them:

Let’s not forget Altair! Not only is his face mapping different, but his voice actor was changed also. I can admit that when I played the first Assassin’s Creed, I questioned why Altair spoke with no accent compared to the rest of the characters in Masyaf; I chalked it up to the Animus, and the fact that Desmond was linked, thus adapting speech. In Revelations, he has an accent… and has most of the same vocal inflections. This doesn’t bother me as much as the face swaps, but putting a voice change that far into a series is a brave decision.


Altair in Revelations.

Throughout all of Revelations, I found myself watching anything else on the screen when it came to cutscenes, else I could not believe in the world presented to me. Altair looked younger at 62 than Ezio did at 53, and the aging only gets worse. In Assassin’s Creed: Embers (which is Ezio’s final foray in the series, and SO WORTH WATCHING), Ezio is an elderly man, who still looks nothing like his younger self. His nose is more defined, which is great, but the rest still slips. It’s like gravity to a special liking to Ezio’s face after his 40s.

A serious problem within all of this is that the support characters in Revelations look amazing! Their movements are graceful and articulate, their facial gestures are spot-on, and they are polished to a sparkly shine. So why are the main people who make up the game’s purpose the ones left in the funky parallel universe of Uglyland?! I just don’t understand it. I honestly feel as though they put all their oomph into everything else, then ran out of time for the Main Event. I mean, they release once a year… they’re good, but I’m sure that puts a wrench in the works. I know they tend to start developing further in advance, but even so, something has to give. You can’t give me a dog who rides a small pony while wearing a sombrero, and tell me it’s a cat who assassinates people surprisingly well.

When technology is on the upswing, the world is a magical place. I can appreciate the details in terrain and the gorgeous flourish of my cape. I can immerse myself in the universe you create, given the tools. When the engine is more respected than the characters you’ve brought to life, you’re asking for trouble and heartbreak. I adore that Ubisoft wanted a game to look better for the fans, and without the characters, it does! Unfortunately, the characters ruin the realism of the game. We built worlds within ourselves, composed of these people- you can’t just pretend they are the same as they were before because your “engine is better.” If making the game better means changing it to nearly unrecognizable status, I’m not sure I want better.

(Heya, if you want more comparison pictures, and a few LULZ, here are more for your perusal:)

(Above image belongs to Alan Edwards)


(Above image belongs to chibirella.com)


(Above image belongs to GamesRadar.)