The Good Ending

Recently, I replayed Metro: 2033 with little doubt I’d get the good ending. I knew all about the hidden morality system and had confidence that I’d be able to work it to my advantage. I got the bad ending. Since, I’ve been wondering why—and what my ending says about me.

In the case of 2033, I didn’t accrue enough moral points to unlock the choice at the end. The bad ending comes without a choice; the good ending comes with a choice to take a chance or let the bad ending happen. I think it must have been close. Throughout my playthrough, I stunned where I could—rather than kill—and when given the option to do a good deed, I generally did it. I listened to conversations and tried to interact with NPCs. I found hidden items. But I didn’t do enough, and the question of why has a pretty easy answer.

Continue reading “The Good Ending”

Romancing the Game: My Digital Loves

I didn’t even know romance was a thing in games until Alistair Theirin gave my Warden a rose. I had suspected he was sweet on her up until then, but that one gesture was above and beyond what I had experienced before – which was a big fat nothing because I didn’t know romance was a thing in games. I’d either missed a cue (I suck at flirting) or was too busy lining up a headshot to notice the availability of the character standing next to mine… or understand their intent.

Dragon Age: Origins changed a lot about the way I play games. I expect better combat mechanics than I did before, and seriously mourn the loss of the macros you could write for party members in that game. I tend to look for a deeper story now, and a world that feels bigger than it is. And I’m open to the possibility of romance inside a game, as long as it doesn’t distract me from the main quest, because when it’s well done, having someone to fight for works just as well in a game as it does in fiction.

To celebrate Valentine’s, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite game romances.

Continue reading “Romancing the Game: My Digital Loves”

5 Video Games I’d Love to Play Again (For the First Time)

I “borrowed” the idea for this post from a recent feature on Unbound Worlds listing five books to read again, for the first time. I am, of course, working on my own list for that one, but while considering books, I started thinking about the games that rocked my world, the ones I wish I could go back and play again for the first time.

I’ve played a lot of games and this list could get unwieldy if I started at the very beginning. When thinking about early adventures like Zork (played on a Compaq with a little green screen and fold out keyboard) or Asteroids (or anything on the Atari), I acknowledged the greatness and moved forward. I don’t really want to play any of those games again. Instead, the earliest game I’d really like to rediscover is: Continue reading “5 Video Games I’d Love to Play Again (For the First Time)”

My Weapons of Choice

I am not a violent person, but put me in front of a PC or an Xbox and I will kill things until they’re…well, dead. Not surprisingly, I have favourite ways of doing it, too. If you want to read between the lines, my weapons of choice might say a lot about me – or something other than the fact I like to kill stuff. But, honestly, it usually comes down to two things: expediency and fun.

The following tributes list could be more extensive. Over the course of my murderous career, I’ve discovered a lot of ways to slay my enemies. Boredom was never one of them, however, so I have limited myself to five (or six) spectacular instruments of death, presented in no particular order.

Arbiter

Dante swinging the Arbiter
Dante swinging the Arbiter. (Picture credit: DMC Wiki)

Game(s): DMC: Devil May Cry

Weapon type: Demonic Axe

Effect(s): This axe is a killing machine. Like most two-handed weapons, it’s slow, but the power of every strike more than makes up for the lack of speed. Upgraded, it can make the ground shake (damaging and destabilizing enemies), create fault lines and discharge spinning, exploding axe heads. Sunders armor and destroys shields. Demonic, so all the awesome against angelic shielding.

Awesome Factor: It looks cool. Really cool. This axe is the first demonic weapon available in the game and, upgraded, is my go-to big gun throughout. It’s fun to swing around, and with the radial ground shake and fault line upgrades, you don’t even have to be that accurate. But when you hit something, it looks and feels good. By feel, I mean the controller will shake in your hands. You feel the ground shake and you can feel your demonic blade chopping your enemies into smashed bits.

Virulent Walking Bomb

Alistair walking through the aftermath.
Alistair walking through the aftermath. (Picture Credit: Me)

Game(s): Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II

Weapon type: Magic

Effect(s): DOT (damage over time). Victim takes intermittent spirit damage (plundering health and the ability to regenerate). If the damage depletes their health, killing them, the resultant explosion inflicts physical damage over an area of three meters. Anyone caught in the blast radius has a 50% chance of becoming afflicted with the less virulent version of the spell: Walking Bomb. If the blast didn’t kill them, the damage over time probably will. And when they die, the explosion will damage anyone else in the blast radius. Unfortunately, the cross infection effect only happens once.

Awesome Factor: This is a set-it-and-forget-it spell. See that clump of miscreants over there? Hurl one spell and let it take care of them while you take care of everything else. Pick off the survivors later – their health will be depleted at the very least.

What makes this a favourite, however, is not the effectiveness. More, it’s that the simple version, Walking Bomb is a first level spell. You can take this at the beginning of the game! Casting it indoors always results in a meaty/echoing explosion that never fails to make me laugh. Later in the game, it can be combined with other spells such as Walking Nightmare and Blood Control, further confusing the victim, who can be directed toward their own allies.

Trebuchet

That house won't be standing for long.
That house won’t be standing for long. (Picture credit: Holy Geekola!)

Game(s): Age of Empires II

Weapon Type: Siege/Ranged

Effect(s): There is nothing built that a trebuchet cannot knock down. Forests, walls, empires. But acquiring a trebuchet (or fleet of them) takes a lot of patience.

Awesome Factor: This is the weapon of choice for and against turtles. That’s my style of play. I’m the original turtle. I build and upgrade, build some more and upgrade some more. I construct rings of walls and defenses. I rarely venture beyond my walls. I will consider alliances, but may turn on my allies when they’ve at their weakest—and there is no one else left on the board to defeat.

My husband has ground my empires to dust with trebuchets. Watching them advance through the forest at the top edge of the map is beautiful and scary.

Fat Man

Must have seen a cockroach. (Image credit: Fallout Wiki)
Must have seen a cockroach. (Image credit: Fallout Wiki)

Game(s): Fallout 3

Weapon Type: Tactical Nuclear Catapult

Effect(s): It’s a tactical nuclear catapult. What else do I need to say?

Awesome Factor: Look up. All the awesome is right there in those three words.

My daughter also loves the Fat Man. Unfortunately, she has yet to figure out the best use for it, which is dropping, sorry…catapulting nuclear payloads into canyons, valleys and ravines. I don’t care if there are friendlies down there. Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out. You’ll need a good stock of Nuka Cola to head in there to claim your loot, though.

Poison Darts

These are sleep darts. Not quite as much fun. (Image credit: Assassin's Creed Wiki)
These are sleep darts. Not quite as much fun as berserk darts. (Image credit: Assassin’s Creed Wiki)

Game(s): Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed III Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Weapon Type: Ranged/Poison

Effect(s): Darts deliver a number of useful effects, including temporary sleep, fatal poison and berserk behaviour.

Awesome Factor: Like the Walking Bomb, this is a set-it-and-forget-it weapon. I’ve yet to play through the effect, however. I love the berserk darts. LOVE THEM. Not only is it entertaining to watch the enemy turn upon itself, but there are so many neat ways to do it. Brutes are among my favourite targets, but I also like shooting the riflemen stationed on rooftops and in towers. They can deliver a pleasing amount of friendly fire before they’re taken out—or simply die, exhausted by their berserk betrayal.

Nuclear Missile

Nuclear Missile, StarCraft 2. (Image credit: Blizzard/StarCraft Wiki)
Nuclear Missile, StarCraft 2. (Image credit: Blizzard/StarCraft Wiki)

Game(s): Star Craft, Star Craft II

Weapon Type: Terran weapon of mass destruction

Effect(s): Mass destruction, which can be rather precise if you use a ghost—an invisible agent—to paint a specific target. This is fairly end game stuff. Like the trebuchet, it takes time to build toward a nuclear arsenal and employing ghosts requires patience and cunning. But Terrans are the choice of turtles, galaxy-wide. Why not hide behind your bunkers and nuke the crap out of the rest of the board?

Awesome Factor: Nothing stirs fear in your opponent(s) like the sound of “Nuclear Launch Detected”. It’s especially effective at a LAN party where someone downstairs isn’t using headphones so the warning rings out across game space, followed by howls of “Kelly!!” and “Crap, crap, where’s the ghost!”

Okay, I think that’s enough reveling in destruction for one post. So many weapons, so little time. To finish up, I’ll simply list a few other favourites and encourage you to share yours.

Fibber (Borderlands 2)
Shockwave (Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3)
Tentacle Bat (Saints Row IV)
Finkle’s Flenser (World of Warcraft)

 

 

Ooh, Shiny!

My first impressions of Dragon Age: Inquisition, spoiler free.

About every two years a game costs just a bit more than the cover price. A new video card is required, or your power supply conks out, or you need a new fan…or, in the case of Dragon Age: Inquisition, a new motherboard, processor (DA:I requires a quad core) and, sure, let’s grab some more memory while my wallet is open. So I had to wait a couple of weeks to throw myself back into the world of Thedas. During those two and a half weeks, I successfully avoided all spoilers but one. I kept reading about shiny hair. Apparently, despite the fact the WORLD IS IN PERIL, everyone has had time to apply product to their hair.

A devout role player, I selected a skull trim for my first Insquisitor. I often play nearly bald male characters because the choices of hair are always awful, not to mention the fact ponytails never stir in the breeze and a more elaborate ‘do just isn’t practical when the WORLD IS IN PERIL. So Maxwell Trevelyan entered Thedas with a smattering of freckles, deep blue eyes and a pleasing lack of shiny hair—only to confront Cassandra, whose hair reflected the light of a thousand suns. Andraste’s flaming sword, her hair was so shiny, it cast a glow upon Maxwell’s lips.

I soon realised that his lips would always glisten, regardless of available light.

The Frostback Mountains are cold. There is snow everywhere. Frozen lakes groan beneath the rime. I would have cautioned Max against licking his lips in such temperatures, but I never actually saw his tongue swipe his glossy mouth. Something else was making his lips shine. Sensibly, I could assume he carried a tub of rendered animal fat (no cherry Chapsticks in Thedas). He was rather a pretty boy and obviously preferred not to let his lips chap. But I was going for realism here. I couldn’t have Max halting the Inquisition to reapply his lip gloss.

In a desperate attempt to adjust the lumen rating of everyone’s hair, I turned to the ‘net for advice and stumbled across a very good, spoiler free article on Kotaku, Tips For Playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. There I learned how to adjust the mesh setting, thus stealing the blinding highlights from everyone’s hair. Unfortunately, the only fix for Max’s lips was to abandon him in Haven and start afresh. Seeing as I had spent two hours swearing at the combat system “improvements”—why, oh why do developers need to tweak the combat in each and every installment of the game?—I happily returned to the drawing board. Sorry, Max.

Say hello to Felix.

Felix Ingesson Trevelyan
Felix Ingesson Trevelyan

I dialed the “lip shine”—really, BioWare?—down to zero, chose a hair style that didn’t suck, dotted his face with freckles, because he’s kind of a ginger and that just happens, tweaked the inner and outer iris colour to achieve a green that’s probably not really possible in real life, and then played with his nose and chin until they looked no different from when I had started. Honestly, you could spend hours in the character creation section. BUT, to my dismay, you are given very little choice regarding class.

One of my favourite aspects of Dragon Age: Origins was the dual wield warrior. A DW warrior is the perfect example of why the DA:O character creation was so awesome. I generally like to play a rogue, with daggers, please. DA:O not only allowed you to train your rogue in a mind boggling number of ways, but you could also play a warrior who functioned very much like a rogue—less tricky, but with more hit points, which could be handy if you were the only man standing near the end of a fight. You could design a true scrapper, and that’s a role I relished through my umpteen playthroughs.

Leveling involved spending points—as it does in Inquisition—but those points could be spread over a number of skills that further specialised your character. You could make a stealthy/sneaky rogue. A persuasive warrior. A pickpocket and thief. Add enough points to dexterity and you could master dual swords. Two swords! Throw enough willpower behind a warrior and they refused to be knocked down in a fight.

The new system of character creation and leveling is easier, I suppose…

Combat has been tweaked again. I had a hard time maneuvering Max during combat, so much so that my party kept dying in the first boss fight, which occurs before they even splash the title of the game across the screen. Ridiculous, right? Now and again in my gaming career I have come across that one fight that stalls my progress for days. I’ve even had to abandon a couple of games there, knowing that I’ll never get beyond that point. To have that happen before a game truly got started was a little disheartening (no, I did not want to turn the difficulty down, generally I enjoy challenging combat).

I figured out the problem. The A and D keys on the mouse have been mapped so that your character looks from side to side. To actually move side to side, you need to click and hold with the mouse. Doing so while using a mouse button during combat is…hard. I’m forty-six, and I’ve just never been that coordinated. You can strafe using the Q and E keys, but teaching my fingers to dive up and to the side when they’ve been trained to WASD for years is beyond me. So, I remapped my keyboard. I now strafe using A and D and if I am struck with the urge to actually look side to side, I can use Q and E for that.

The difference is amazing. Felix suffered no more than a flesh wound up until four and a half hours into the game when I approached a rift I wasn’t quite ready for. My party died a horrible death. I did try to follow the on screen prompts for resurrection with the last remaining party members, then I tried to run. I was cut down without mercy.

I have yet to play with the party combat tactics. That’s next on my “to do” list as I start to engage in battles that require a little more than pointing and clicking. Then I’ll continue exploring this gorgeous new world.

Now that I’ve stumbled through the first couple of hours, I have very few expectations for the game. I’d like to see the story started in Origins brought to a convincing close, and that’s about it. I know Inquisiton will be fun because it’s a BioWare game and I usually find them both playable and entertaining. I’m delighted by the return to Ferelden, even though it makes me nostalgic for characters I role played on a forum four years. My writing partner, Jenn, and I talked about what our boys might be doing now, some elven years after the Fifth Blight. We decided they are happily retired and blissfully unaware of current events. Some characters deserve a happy ever after, don’t they? Speaking of which, Felix takes his name from my hero in our upcoming book Chaos Station (Carina Press, March 2, 2015). When I showed him to Jenn, she created his counterpart, Zander, who is her hero in our book.

Zander Damainos Anatolius Trevelyan
Zander Damainos Anatolius Trevelyan

These characters owe their inception to Dragon Age: Origins and the years of role play we participated in afterwards, so it seems only fitting that my first proper playthrough pays homage to that heritage.