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    Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 20th, 2014 at 07:50:16)

    Alright, expansion pack! This will also cover the four official DLCs. I actually started a couple weeks ago but never made a new log until yesterday. I decided to create a new rogue character instead of importing David the mage from the original campaign. I'm glad I had the opportunity to try out different types of characters. I had a rogue in Origins, but I didn't spec it into any stealth skills, so I did that here. But the stealth rogue was kind of lame. Stealth didn't add much to the experience. It's hard to be stealthy when the rest of your party isn't. I'd tell them to wait, then go into a room full of enemies alone...then realize there wasn't much I could do. I'd toss a bomb or lay a trap, or sometimes just backstab an enemy, fade into the shadows, and call my party in. Not all that effective. But, still cool to sneak around. Oh, and there were hardly any locked chests! There were a ton in Origins, but relatively few in Awakening. Plus, out of like 7 characters, 3 of them were rogues! In addition to me, you get a dual wielding rogue and an archer rogue. It was rogue overload!

    There was no tanky character until late in the game (in the order that I did the objectives at least), so I was running around with the dual wielding rogue in heavy armor. She survived pretty well. My rogue had stealth and lots of evasion tactics, so he survived pretty well. You get Oghrun again, a 2-hand weapon wielding warrior. He had great armor, so he survived pretty well. It was interesting playing without a tank because normally, I'd set each character to attack the tank's target, ensuring that enemies attack the tank and other party members wouldn't pull aggro. But without a tank, I set them all in a free-for-all. Every fight, they just spread out and took on enemies themselves. My fourth character was a healer, and she managed to keep them up. But when that tank character came along near the end, I defaulted to my usual party makeup.

    How was Awakening? I liked it. These smaller campaigns are so much more focused than Origins. Origins was a long game with tons of side quests, overly long areas (Deep Roads, Fade, I'm looking at you) and inventory management. Awakening packed the same punch, but condensed. The main drawback was the keep-building element. You are tasked with fortifying Vigil's Keep, the city of Amaranthine, and the surrounding farmland, to prevent the Darkspawn from sacking it all. You have to go gather materials, recruit traders, and pay money so that Vigil's Keep will have strong walls, the army will be well outfitted, the nobles will be pacified, and so on. I thought this would be like that one Neverwinter Nights expansion pack where all of your decisions really matter, where you get to actually manage the keep, see the walls being build, allocate soldiers here and there. But unfortunately there was no real management. The facade of meaningful actions was very disappointing. Why did I bother spending money on walls or finding ore to improve the army's armor? It didn't matter.

    Despite that letdown, the story was cool, characters were good as usual, and I especially liked the bad guys. They developed a great plot thread that explained more about the Darkspawn, why they seek out the Old Gods, and how some Darkspawn may prevent that. The sentient Darkspawn idea felt silly at first (they're...SMARTER!), but it went in a cool direction. There was a nasty bug I encountered that caused my main character to lose all his equipment. Watch when you go in the mines. I didn't realize I should have gotten my stuff back til the end of that area, and by then I had been down there for like two hours. I had more equipment in storage, so I just used that. Not as good, but it worked. I can imagine though some players being wrecked by this bug.

    As for the 4 DLCs, I first played Leliana's story, which explores her back story with...whatever her lover/companion's name is back in Orlais. That was my favorite because I really liked Leliana. The Darkspawn Chronicles DLC was interesting. You re-play the end of Origins as a Darkspawn commander trying to repel the Grey Wardens and save the Old God. I didn't like playing it much though. Being a Darkspawn wasn't any different than being a Grey Warden as far as gameplay went. Ok, you can enthrall other Darkspawn, but that's pretty much like recruiting a new party member or summoning a spider. There was no important narrative element to this.

    I did those two before Awakening. After Awakening, I played Golems of Amgarrak. This was the hardest of the 4. I had imported my rogue, but upon having another melee companion as my first, I switched and imported my healer. You wind up with a cool Runic Golem in your party that also heals and does golem-y things like hurl boulders. This DLC had a neat puzzle element with different colored switches that phased objects and enemies in and out depending on what color you activated. You could also mix colors, so by activating blue and red switches, you phased into the purple realm. Finally, Witch Hunt brings Morrigan back and seemed to provide some hints for another Dragon Age game, maybe Dragon Age II. My favorite parts about that one were talking to Morrigan again and creating a battlemage character with badass control spells. Crushing prison, paralyze, mass paralyze, miasma...these spells are fun. Also the battle mage was cool because he could stand back and cast spells or wade into the fray with various armor spells, one that repulsed nearby enemies, one that debilitated nearby enemies, spells that drained life and mana, animated dead...all kinds of cool things. And there was one spell that made the battlemage's spellpower modify weapon damage instead of strength. I simply pumped every point into magic. I had like 80 magic. The battlemage's sword was deadly!

    OH, and I forgot to mention one other funny thing. In the last DLC I played, I learned that...you can expand the hotkey bar. WHAT?! I played the entirety of this game being like "Man, I wish I could have two hotkey bars or expand it somehow." Literally with 30 minutes left out of the 90 hours I spent on this game, I figured out how to do it. Haha. It sure was useful for those 30 minutes.

    Anyway. Dragon Age: Origins is officially and fully complete. I feel accomplished. Excellent game, highly recommended if you like RPGs. Dragon Age II is downloaded and ready to go, though I'll likely wait a bit. I feel like some console games under a blanket with the heater on. Winter is good for that.

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    Worms Crazy Golf (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 20th, 2014 at 07:19:57)

    This Team 17 Humble Bundle turned out to be more lame than I expected. I remember loving Worms games when I was younger. Although they are still silly in a good way, I was so bored with every one of them. I think Armageddon was the best. It was 2D like the original, simple, but with good graphics, cool backgrounds, and fun weapons. Mayhem I had played in college at some point. It was the first 3D entry in the series. While I had fun with it then, I think it was because my roommate and I used to play each other. Playing solo was slow going. And the camera is not very good, making it difficult to see where your worms are headed and how to orient yourself to fire or at the end of turns to be protected.

    There was also included a horrible Worms Pinball game. It had one table and I couldn't even figure out how to control the flippers. No instructions. Finally, two were sort of neat. There was a Worms puzzle game which used various weapons to match three. Other minigames within that game I didn't like. Anyway, despite it being novel, again, I was bored. Then the name of this entry, which represents the whole bundle, is Worms Crazy Golf. It's just a little physics puzzler with a golf ball. You have to shoot par or better on each hole to advance to the next. There are a bunch of courses and various obstacles in each course, including lawn maintenance guys, grannies (why?), sheep, wind, and all manner of Worms-like geography such as cliffs, statues, and holes in the ground. It was my favorite of all of these, but...again...slow.

    It would be great if they speed up the pace of Worms. I still love the premise, and the weapons are zany. But it doesn't matter much if it feels like every turn takes 10 minutes and hitting a golf ball becomes a chore of watching it slowly fly through the air, then watching your worm crawl across the grass to the ball. How about a Worms arena shooter? That would be fun...

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    Dragon's Lair (DS)    by   jp       (Dec 12th, 2014 at 14:08:00)

    I've done some more digging around (as well as asking) and the game can be described as "multicursal" - there are a few branches and the locations are
    shuffled in there. So there. Learned something new, I did.

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    Ghost Trick (DS)    by   jp       (Dec 12th, 2014 at 14:05:22)

    I have some students working on a game partly inspired by this game so I thought I'd play it so I can understand how it works and what makes it interesting/special from first hand experience (rather than stuff I've read).

    Gameplay consists mainly of interacting with objects in hopes of getting the story to move along. There are also some moments when you need to interact at the right moment (possess an object as it moves within range, or at a certain moment so a character sees it and reacts to it). It's an interesting game so far, primarily because the world and "rules" are intriguing. The main character is dead and a possessed lamp helps him understand what he can do and so on. A lot of this is couched in terms of rules that just "are". He can't possess his own dead body, he can rewind time when possessing someone else's and so on.

    I'm also VERY impressed by the quality of the animation. The characters really come to life as they walk around and do stuff. You don't control them, but it's still a joy to see them move around. I'm wondering if they rotoscoped the animation?

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    Sonic Adventure DX (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Dec 8th, 2014 at 08:00:52)

    I've been plowing through games from Humble Bundles, the Team17 one (Worms) and the Sega one. This is obviously from the Sega one. Apparently the game was hailed upon release as demonstrating what was aesthetically possible in video games in the late 90s. Visually, it has aged well. Although this is, I believe, a port of a port remastered in 2003, it looks great. It's a very colorful game with an interesting soundtrack.

    Like every Sonic game, you stop Eggman, or Dr. Eggman, or whatever his name is, from carrying out his nefarious plans. This was the first 3D Sonic game and even has open world elements. You control Sonic and have limited abilities. You can run around, spin, jump, and do a jump attack. Given how good the world looks, it's a shame there's not more interactivity available...but I have to remember this was 1998. I played a couple of the "levels" where Sonic is racing around getting coins. Although the game is 3D, the levels function essentially as 2D levels. Like, although you can move along X, Y and Z axes, you're stuck on a rail doing so.

    The set pieces for these levels are really awesome. In the first one, Sonic was racing along a boardwalk. The camera moves in front of him and you see whales jumping and crashing through the boardwalk behind him. The sense of speed is fantastic and still impressive today. It was cool to watch, but like I said, I didn't feel as if I was doing much to control Sonic besides pressing forward and doing the occasional spin.

    You can play as different characters. Each has some different abilities (i.e., Tails can hover and float), and from what I read, they all have slightly different storylines, sort of like 5-6 perspectives on the main Eggman narrative. Sounds pretty cool and ambitious.

    But, I never made it that far because I am stuck in the 'open world.' It is very difficult to navigate because the camera sucks. I can rarely see where I am going and have little control over the camera. You can move it in 45 or 90-degree increments, but like Alien Breed that I recently played, this is difficult to do while also trying to run and spin and attack, especially as fast as Sonic is. And the camera is slow to respond when you do try and move it. It's just unnecessarily difficult, the kind of thing that would be so much easier with a controller and the ability to freely rotate the camera with a stick. I ran around the open world section for 15 minutes without ever figuring out anything that I could do. I found some ledges, some mysterious orb that I released from a waterfall, some NPCs, but I couldn't DO anything. I thought I may be able to reach some ledge by jumping, but the camera position at that point makes it so I can't see where I'm jumping.

    Anyway, neat game to poke around with. Made me nostalgic for old Sega Sonic games that I used to play as a kid!

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    Recent GameLogs
    1 : dkirschner's Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening (PC)
    2 : jp's Ghost Trick (DS)
    3 : jp's Dragon's Lair (DS)
    4 : dkirschner's Sonic Adventure DX (PC)
    5 : dkirschner's Worms Crazy Golf (PC)
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    1 : jp at 2014-11-07 11:48:25
    2 : dkirschner at 2014-10-24 21:53:37
    3 : jp at 2014-09-26 18:24:02
    4 : dkirschner at 2014-09-19 23:41:17
    5 : jp at 2014-09-19 11:41:27
    6 : dkirschner at 2014-09-16 19:00:32
    7 : jp at 2014-09-15 10:17:11
    8 : dkirschner at 2014-08-25 09:28:45
    9 : jp at 2014-08-22 09:46:49
    10 : jp at 2014-08-22 09:44:50
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    Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)    by   TStanesa

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Tuesday 18 September, 2012
    Despite how well known this game is, I played it seriously for the first time very recently. Although I like adventure games, there are many that I don't have the patience or attention span for, and Zelda is the type of game that I usually lose interest in quickly. However I was kept engaged in Zelda basically by the lack of direction. Not only was I free to explore, but the only way I could succeed was by doing so, even if it meant often going the wrong way or doing the wrong thing. I found this more engaging than many newer adventure games because it removed the feeling of waiting for the mission to be over, and knowing how far you were in the game.

    [read this GameLog]

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