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    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 24th, 2016 at 12:52:27)

    I wrote my last entry when I left Velen for Novigrad, so I'll write this one a couple hours after leaving Novigrad for Skellige.

    I am very glad to be out of Novigrad. Several things contributed to it starting to feel tedious:

    (1) Novigrad is a big city. Coming from the wide open space of Velen, Novigrad feels tiny and constrained, and I'm constantly running back and forth through alleyways and trying to find people in corners of buildings and whatnot. Lots of running through the city trying to find what I'm trying to find and running into locked doors, unscaleable walls, etc.

    One thing I realized is really nice though is that the minimap tells you whether an objective is above or below you. All games with minimaps and vertical areas should tell you this information!

    (2) Quest levels have gotten weird. Since I have done every quest I can, I am over-leveled for the main stuff. They are gray and reward only 1 or 2 experience points sometimes, which is sort of annoying. Although I do enjoy the little narratives, it reduces the pleasure when I get nothing else from them. This is confounded by the monotony of running around Novigrad. But at the same time, I ended up leaving Novigrad with a few quests that were 10 levels above me. This is better now that I'm in Skellige though. Quests and enemies got a bump in level, so I'm not so much stronger and they are back to being challenging.

    (3) Partly as an outcome of out-leveling quests, some of them just seem to drag on and on. For example, I thought I was wrapping up in Novigrad, when something happens to Priscilla (won't spoil it). I end up doing this long secondary quest when I was ready for Novigrad to wrap up. I mean, it was still cool, don't get me wrong, but I was over-leveled and tired of Novigrad, so it was like "Come onnnnn, let's gooooo."

    One thing that was great about Novigrad, like Velen before it, was the overarching story of the place. In Velen it was the Bloody Baron and the politics of Nilfgaard and Redania. In Novigrad, it is the Eternal Fire's persecution of non-humans. Right when you enter Novigrad, you see two people being burned at the stake, and it's established that the Eternal Fire is a fundamentalist religion that condemns magic-users, elves, dwarves, witchers, witches, mages, dopplers, monsters, etc., etc., anyone who isn't a normal human.
    During your time in Novigrad, the Eternal Fire gains greater control of the city. They shut down the university at Oxenfurt, they set up checkpoints requiring people wanting to leave the city to have a pass certifying that they aren't magic-users, they are assassinating people, and more.

    Triss is trying to get mages out of Novigrad and save them before the Eternal Fire gets them. One great secondary quest was to help her save an alchemist. You have to go to his family's estate and stealthily get him on a ship out of Novigrad before he's murdered. The conclusion to the Triss/Eternal Fire/Novigrad narrative was so excellent and emotional that I almost shed a tear!

    Novigrad also had like a cast reunion from the previous games. Almost every major character I could remember makes an appearance (Dandelion, Roche, Zoltan, Triss, etc.) and I think there's a lot of fan service built in to the end of the Novigrad story. For example, you're trying to find Dandelion because he can help you find Ciri, but to find Dandelion, you've got to convince a doppler who saw him last to come out of hiding, so you put on a play with an acting troupe. This was so much FUN. You sort of help Priscilla write it, then you get cast in it and memorize some lines, and perform a 5-act play that is funny and serves its purpose in luring the doppler. And Dandelion gets a LOVE STORY. Whoa. There was a lot packed into that city!

    So from Novigrad to Skellige. Now that I'm into Skellige, my enthusiasm is renewed. Skellige is massive like Velen was; no more cities! Skellige is made up of a lot of islands with a lot of clans vying for power. By purchasing maps off merchants, you unlock the fast travel signs for them, which is cool because that means you don't have to physically sail a boat to them all. Easy!

    When I arrived in Skellige, I found a funeral for the King happening in the main city. Skellige's clans are all there and they're going to vote on a new King. It's interesting because although Skellige is meant to be very Norse-esque, they have many democratic aspects to their culture. Men and women are said to be equal, however this is ideal and not real. For example, when a king dies, his wife is expected to immolate herself alongside him. And there is a female character contending for the crown, and it's made clear that others don't think she can do it, though her main goal is to prove herself as good as the men. Doesn't really seem so equal to me! Maybe Skellige will deal more with gender issues, whereas Novigrad dealt a lot with race issues.

    Anyway, I'm just a little bit into Skellige. I've got a ton to explore and can't wait to get into the Skellige story, which seems to be about succession to the throne, conflict with Nilfgaard, and threats to local culture. Cool. Also, at some point I will write about Gwent, the full-fledged card game in the Witcher.

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    Outland (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 24th, 2016 at 12:12:46)

    Been looking forward to this 2d platformer (+ bullet hell now that I'm playing it) for a long time and got a chance to start playing yesterday after retiring Jet Set Radio. Long story short, this light/dark mechanic is amazing. Here's the gist of how it works:

    There is the light (blue) and the dark (red). You get the power to switch between light and dark with a button press. The environment and enemies can also be either light or dark, and can even switch between them too. You are not harmed by the environment when you are the same color as it. You are not harmed by non-physical enemy attacks when you are the same color. You are always harmed by enemy physical attacks no matter the colors. You can only harm enemies of the opposite color.

    Your main environmental obstacles are various devices that shoot red and blue bullets. They are deadly, but the patterns are beautiful. Did I mention how stylish Outland is? It's a wonder to look at. So you'll have these bullets flying all over the screen, enemies moving about, and your task is to get through it all. Each screen is like a platforming puzzle. You observe the colors, the bullets' trajectories, the enemies' colors and movement, the platforms you have to jump on, etc. and plan it out in your head. Try it out, and if you die, do it again with modifications, or more carefully. It's so much fun to play.

    I've encountered one boss so far, who was pretty easy, and I think I'm near a second. The boss was a golem. This was before I could switch between red and blue (I was only blue). He sent a red spark along the ground that I had to jump over. When he did that'd, it would render him vulnerable for a moment. Jump up on him and attack, then jump off before the spark came back and hit you. Then he'd pound the ground and knock these armadillo-like enemies out of a tree. Take care of them and get health and whatever you need. Then he'd rain down blue and red bullets, which you just had to avoid the red ones until it was over. Repeat. It took me two or three tries, and I actually got an achievement when I beat it because I didn't take any damage. Go me.

    Anyway, really really really looking forward to playing more! I still have abilities to unlock (teleportation, some beam weapon, ??) and I can't wait for the difficulty to ramp up some more. I've already died plenty, but this is the kind of game that I enjoy mastering controls. Oh yeah, speaking of, the precision feels a bit sluggish, but that may be because I was playing on the TV. Sometimes that happens. I turned down the graphics level which helped a bit, but I will try it on my laptop sometime.

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    Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 24th, 2016 at 11:35:46)

    Haven't updated Hearthstone in a long time, and yes, I am still playing this. Hard to believe I've been into this for 2 years.

    I had a funny experience yesterday that I wanted to write down. I was playing wild with this bizarre mage deck I have. The deck is almost all spells and culminates in Yogg-Saron, a 10-mana card with a battlecry that casts a random spell on a random target, one for EACH SPELL YOU'VE CAST in the game so far. It can be amazing/hilarious/disastrous. So if you've cast 5 spells and play Yogg, Yogg casts 5 random spells on the board. I have a Brann in the deck that doubles battlecry effects, so if I have cast 5 spells and have Brann on the board when I play Yogg, Yogg will cast 10 random spells. That's the real gimmick of the deck if I can get that to happen.

    But the deck also has Antonidas (whenever you cast a spell, put a fireball in your hand) and two summoning stones (whenever you cast a spell, put a random minion of equal value on the battlefield). So if this deck gets rolling, it's just a massacre of hilarious random spells and minions.

    Anyway, in this story, I have my opponent to thank for the ensuing fun. I was on the ropes. He had a bunch of legendaries. I used a doomsayer/frost nova combo, and he tossed down the Old Gods Deathwing on his next turn. This Deathwing has a deathrattle effect that puts ALL the dragons in your hand on the board. So the doomsayer wiped the board and I was wondering "what dragons could he have?!" because he hadn't played any dragons and wasn't using a dragon deck. Wow, so out comes Chromaggus, Nosdormu and one of the other 8/8 legendaries!

    Nosdormu is an odd one. If Nozdormu is in play, both players only have 15 seconds to take their turn. I managed to toss down a summoning stone and a couple spells, so I had some board presence. Then on his turn, he got hardly anything done in 15 seconds. Was he on a tablet?! Phone?! Was his connection slow?! This was great! I played a bunch of cards including Antonidas and built up my board. He got one or two things out before time. I killed off all his dragons except Nozdormu. It was clearly disadvantaging him against me. I had Yogg in my hand but didn't end up tossing him down. I had a lot of fun exploiting this person's Nozdormu effect!

    This mage deck doesn't do very well most of the time though. It's just fun when it clicks!

    **Edit** I was playing as I wrote this, and, for example, I got a giant Yogg combo down with Brann out and had probably cast 15 spells before, so I pumped out 30 when Yogg came out. Well, the end result was that I killed myself, oops! The first spell out was a pyroblast against myself, then various other things that changed the board, turned Yogg into a frog, and unfortunately damage spells kept hitting my character, and I died. Haha. Oh Yogg...

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on May 24th, 2016 at 11:51:44.


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    Jet Set Radio (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 24th, 2016 at 10:53:56)

    I picked up Jet Set Radio in a Humble Bundle along with a Sega Classics collection that I'm excited to play some of (it has Golden Axe!). I missed most things Dreamcast back in the day, though I do remember playing a lot of Typing of the Dead with friends. Jet Set Radio has been something I've always wanted to play just from hearing its name over and over and seeing its cool cel-shaded graphics.

    Upon playing the first time, I was surprised to find out that it was a roller blading game and I immediately drew parallels to Tony Hawk. But the skating is way simpler. You just push up to go forward, hold RT for a short speed burst, press A to jump, and LT to tag with spray paint (on Xbox controller). I think that's all the controls, very simple. So...a simplified skating game where you spray paint graffiti. Cool.

    I took to the story right away. Your gang's turf is being contested by rival gangs in Tokyo-to, and you go around covering up their graffiti and drawing your own while avoiding the (annoying) authorities. It's got a heavy tone of youth and anti-corporate resistance, which is cool. The main bad guys are a corporation, and the titular Jet Set Radio is a pirate radio station run by DJ Professor K (I'm Professor K too, but no DJ...!).

    Like I said, the game is really simple. This is good because I could pick up and play quickly, but bad because it started to feel real repetitive and dull and frustrating after a while. I played for two two-hour sessions; the first I enjoyed, the second not so much. You collect a cast of stylish characters who want to join your gang, and you've got to beat them in races to get them. This happens periodically. Then you just go to the city map and select missions to complete, which are all basically the same thing. Most of them involve skating around an area and tagging all the marked spots within the time limit. You pick up spray paint bottles, health bottles (for when the authorities shoot you and stuff), and just go to town finding tag markers and tagging.

    The authorities get really irritating sometimes. It starts out with this one guy with a gun (you just shoot roller bladers in the street?!), then expands to police, then riot police, and finally helicopters that shoot homing missiles, and probably some more I haven't seen yet. If you have a long tag (they vary from one step to like 12 steps to tag), you'll be constantly interrupted and injured if the authorities are there, so you often have to do the level a few times and strategize an order in which to tag. Usually start with the easy-to-get-to tags and save the hard-to-reach tags for when the authorities come (because they can't reach them either!).

    Yesterday I played an awful new type of mission where you have to tag other gang members, like physically skate behind them and spray them. There are three gang members in these missions, and they generally stick together. You've got to tag each of them 10 times in the time limit, and they follow a route that you can learn. This is where I realized (as some of the regular tagging missions had become difficult too) that the difficulty is not in my lack of finesse or skill, but just in crappy controls and collision physics that stop and sometimes injure your character if you simply touch an object. To tag the other gang members, you must get RIGHT behind them, which 9/10 times meant I would touch them, which caused my character to cry out and stop or fall down and take damage, which meant I then had to catch back up to them. And usually I wouldn't even get a tag out of it because you have to be SO close and can only tag when an icon appears. This led to my strategy of getting really close and spamming RT so that when the icon came up I'd at least get one tag before I inevitably ran into them and fell down.

    Anyway, I feel I've seen all there is to see here, and I've got the gist of Jet Set Radio. Cool game, I understand why it's so popular, got some enjoyment out of it, but better things to play!

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    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC)    by   dkirschner       (May 15th, 2016 at 19:33:08)

    The Witcher 3 has quickly become one of my favorite RPGs. Like the two before it, it is gritty, dark, and the story flourishes in moral gray areas. There's rarely a "good/right" or "bad/wrong" decision. Geralt (the titular Witcher) has the capacity to care about people, the capacity to desire money, and the capacity to not give a shit about other people's problems. He can move between any of these attitudes and more, just like (gasp) a real person! Other characters are similarly complex. The Bloody Baron is a great example, and his story is amazing to play, as he enlists the Witcher to find out where his daughter and wife fled. What in any other RPG would be a short quest-line, this plot line has mandatory and optional parts, multiple outcomes, and is interwoven into several other plot lines as it unfolds over the entire Velen act. Did I say the storytelling was amazing yet?

    This is a defining feature of the game as a whole and its relation to you, the player. It does not hold your hand. It is wonderfully, thoughtfully complex. It provides some help via a bestiary, quest trackers, and some other useful modern open-world RPG staples, but it will throw an impossible quest your way without thinking twice. I am level 14, for example, and I just picked up a Witcher contract (like a monster hunt) that was marked level 25. The thing is, I might be able to do it now if I am very patient in combat, use potions, oils, and signs effectively, etc. The tools are there, but the game will do this: Here's a challenge; tackle the near-impossible now if you think you can handle it, or just come back later when you're more prepared. In the meantime, there is plenty of other stuff to do. Another way to say this is that the Witcher 3 treats me like an intelligent adult, and I am into that.

    Today I completed what I believe is the first act, if I can break it into acts. Geralt is searching for his daughter, Ciri. His friend and sometimes lover Triss and he decide to search in 3 places: Velen (no manís land), Novigrad, and the Skellige Isles. Iíve spent a whole RPGís worth of time in Velen alone, and am about to head into Novigrad. Iím at the gates! Velen might be way bigger than the other two places. It is massive. If itís not bigger, then Iím looking at a 100-hour game. Whoa. It is interesting the way the game moves you across the map. Youíre free to go just about anywhere from the get-go, and I actually immediately went to Novigrad (recommended level 10; I was like 2). Halt! Canít cross the bridge on account of the Redanian army is blocking through traffic. Need a pass! Well, I got a pass pretty easily (and later found 3-4 other methods of acquiring one, cool), ventured across, and got slaughtered by higher level monsters when I tried to do much of anything. So I went into Velen instead.

    If you look at the map, you will see some golden notice boards with quest exclamation marks, as well as a crap load of question marks scattered around. The notice boards are in settlements, and thereís usually one job on each one, often a Witcher contract. These are FUN and often CHALLENGING. And thereís usually a cool story to go along side it. Townsfolk, scared, superstitious peasants that most of them are, are occasionally terrorized by monsters. Maybe something is haunting their fields, or a family member went into the woods and never returned, or a foul poisonous mist is creeping along the land, etc. Your job is to go figure out whatís the cause of the problem. Once Geralt determines what kind of monster it is, he has to kill it or otherwise resolve the contract. These are basically mini-bosses, and some are pretty involved. I remember trying to kill my first noonwraith (a female spirit spurned in love or who passed in some other emotional turmoil) and spending probably 30 minutes doing it. You have to trap her with the Yrden sign to make her material and attack her. Sheíll move out of the Yrden circle, so youíve got to maintain it and lure her into it again. Sheíll periodically disappear and create illusions, each of which you must kill. Repeat until sheís dead. It was easier the second time I faced a noonwraith. This is how pretty much every new monster is. Youíve got to think, develop a strategy, try it, fail or succeed, revise if necessary, etc. Wyverns are another class of monster I remember using a lot of brain juice to learn how to kill. I recently discovered a monster nest with TWO level 21 wyverns. I tried it a few times, but I donít do much damage to them.

    The question marks are areas of interest that you can explore at your leisure. There are a lot of different types of areas of interest (the type is revealed when you travel to it), including guarded treasures, bandit camps, abandoned villages, monster nests, monster dens, etc., etc. Thereís almost always some good experience or loot to be found, and sometimes even a little quest. I usually get really bored over time exploring maps because it feels all the same, but it doesnít feel that way in the Witcher 3. I love uncovering all the question marks and seeing what lurks at each one, partly because even though the types of areas repeat, there are so many different monsters and treasures that could be there, and then so many different approaches to take to do whatever needs doing at each place. I recently learned, for example, that I can fight on horseback. (Geralt can call his trusty horse, Roach, to his side at any time and ride). If you gallop full speed and time your sword attack well, you can insta-kill enemies. Itís great fun to gallop around bandit camps hacking off heads as they freak out and try to defend against oncoming death.

    Combat is pretty fun. As with the other Witcher games, you use two swords, a silver one for monsters and a steel one for everything else. You can craft oils (I craft them but never use them) that increase damage against certain enemy types and potions (also which I craft but never use) that enhance your abilities and bombs (which I craft but only use to destroy monster nests). You have 5 signs at your disposal that have nifty little skill trees now. I can turn an enemy with my Axii sign now, my Igni melts armor, and Quen has become indispensable as a healing spell. I hear that the others once leveled up are also quite powerful. Too bad Iíll never have enough ability points to use them all at max, but I can buy a potion that resets my skill tree! In addition to those three signs, I have a bunch of points in the fast attack skill so I do more damage and more and stronger critical strikes. A lot of Witcher combat is dancing around enemies, parrying, and striking opportunistically. Iíve learned to make good use of the roll and dodge moves, and I can parry and counterattack pretty well. Each enemy is different to fight. Itís really refreshing.

    And. Thatís all for now. Wanted to write something before I got too much farther and finishing Velen seemed like a good time to reflect! On to Novigrad to talk to Triss!

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    Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)    by   Dr.Game

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Wednesday 28 September, 2011
    I have finally finished day 3 of playing Grand Theft Auto S.A.-Thank God!

    After my second day of playing the game, I got so tired of doing the same thing over and over again that when I started playing this morning I was just counting down the minutes. In the beginning I decided to once again attempt finishing the mission I left behind during my second day of playing, although I simply could not bring myself to continue through with it. As such, I once again began my rampage in search for some sort of excitement or challenge which I could derive some sort of satisfaction from. As expected, I quickly grew tired and took a look at the clock, hoping I had played for at least 30-40 minutes. To my surprise, I found out that I had actually played for almost an hour and fifteen/twenty minutes. I guess my cognitive attraction to the game lie buried deep within my subconscious (I hope this isnít true).

    In retrospect, the fundamental reason behind my abhorrence to the game was a result of my previous discussion of its marketing and its lack of an intellectual objective. Being a business student, opportunity cost, benefits, and costs have been ingrained within me and I couldnít help but try to judge the game for what it was offering me (the pursuit of self-interest). Therefore, every time I played this game I tried to calculate the benefits of playing vs. the costs. After my quick analysis of the games offerings, I came to the conclusion that the costs of playing far outweighed any benefits. In playing this game, I lost money, sleep, and increased agitation while I had gained at most five minutes of satisfaction. Therefore, through my perspective, luring kids to a costly game may very well be considered as unethical as manipulating a person into signing a contract for a venture which you already know will be unprofitable.

    All in all, through the 3 days that I played this game I probably derived some sort of pleasure/ utility for at most 15-20 minutes. The unlimited use of stereotypes, offensive language, and atrocious criminal acts without consequences, I found revolting. Consequently, as you might have guessed, I look forward to not playing this game anymore and the still open possibility of discarding it for good.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Game

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