Archive for the ‘Whatever’ Category


I don’t know whether it’s just that time of year or what, but I’ve had dozens of new user registrations, but no comments being held in the queue. Just as a reminder, ALL comments get held for admin approval. It’s not that I particularly want to censor anyone, but I’m certainly not going to turn this into a running advertisement for pharmaceutical sites, which is typically what happens when unmoderated comments are allowed. Consequently, I’ve turned off new user registration. Existing registrations are still there and comment approval is still on. If anyone else wants to register, you can PM me on either the Bethesda forums or on the Nexus. I’m not that hard to find and don’t mind doing that manual creation thing. Just make sure you give me a valid email address.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an all-encompassing look at what’s headed our way for 2013. There are lots of (hopefully) really good games coming this year that have lots of excitement in their fan bases (a new Tomb Raider, a new Metal Gear Solid, a new StarCraft and the like), but which don’t hold much appeal for me. These are just the ones that are on my own radar. Some are a lot higher on that radar than others; I have much higher expectations for some than I do for others; some are going to be definite purchases at or near release time, while others will end up on my “I’ll get to it eventually” list and a few are on my “I intend to avoid it like the plague” list. All in all, 2013 looks to be shaping up into a decent year for gaming.

The release dates are what I could find at the time. I suspect that many will turn out to be wrong and a few will hit their release dates when they should really have been pushed back for quality purposes. That’s the gaming biz. Gotta love it since there aren’t enough places to hide the bodies.

Game

Developer/Publisher

Release Date

Thoughts

Elder Scrolls Online Zenimax Online/Bethesda Softworks TBA Previews have been generally positive, but since I am not into MMOs, it has little appeal for me.
       
Grand Theft Auto V Rockstar North/Rockstar Games Spring 2013 Lots of buzz and excitement in the fanbase. I absolutely adored GTA San Andreas (still play it occasionally), but was not horribly thrilled with GTA4 or its expansions. It’s on my “get it” list, although I have not pre-ordered.
       
Crysis 3 Crytek/Electronic Arts February 19 I was not horribly thrilled with the original and do not own Crysis 2, so this one barely blips on my radar. That might change, but don’t bet the farm on it.
       
SimCity Maxis through Electronic Arts March 5 My college roommate and I played the hell out of the original and I also enjoyed SimCity 3000, but became more enthralled with Sierra’s city-building games like Caesar III and IV and Pharaoh. This will definitely be on my “get it” list for this year. The co-op aspects of the game look interesting.
       
Dead Space 3 Viceral Games through Electronic Arts February 5 I pretty much enjoyed the original, but it mostly came across as another horror/shooter game. If I’m lacking anything better to do and I can find it on sale, I’ll likely pick it up.
       
BioShock Infinite Irrational Games/2K Games March 26 I really enjoyed the story and gameplay of BioShock and BioShock 2. This one is definitely on my “get it” list.
       
Splinter Cell: Blacklist Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft Q2 2013 The jury is still out on this one. I can’t say enough good things about “Splinter Cell”, “Pandora Tomorrow” or “Chaos Theory”. “Double Agent” left me a bit underwhelmed and “Conviction” is still on the store shelf. The franchise is moving much more into the shooter genre and there are much better shooters (and sneakers) out there.
       
Dragon Age III: Inquisition Bioware/Electronic Arts TBA I’m going to be really leery of this one. DA and DA2 were wonderful games, although DA2 didn’t quite rise to DA’s bar IMO. But having heard the “endings that matter” spiel from BioWare and been massively burned in the past on that, I think this is one that I’m going to wait to see the fan reaction before shelling out anything. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but BioWare has its “Mass Effect 3” legacy putting a massive damper on my enthusiasm.
       
Arma III Bohemia Interactive TBA I’ve never played any of the other Arma games, but will probably buy this on just to piss off the Greeks. Once I’ve bought it, I’ll feel obliged to play it, but aside from my overwhelming desire to give the finger to Greece’s idiotic security service, I have no expectations for the game. We shall see how it turns out.
       

Since most of what I’ve been covering in my game guides and blog posts has to do with Bethesda games, I’d be remiss if I didn’t dust off the ol’ crystal ball and take a shot at some prognosticating in Bethesda’s direction.

There is starting to be some movement in the Fallout franchise. Bethesda confirmed that they had a couple of projects in the works after the release of Fallout: New Vegas. One turned out to be Skyrim (no big surprise there), leaving Fallout 4 as the logical choice for the second one. Most recently, there was some excitement over Erik Todd Dellums tweeting about being contacted about reprising his Three Dog role (and having Bethesda’s blessing to do so). While this might have something to do with a Fallout movie of some sort, my money is on a game gig. That might just be wishful thinking on my part, but it seems the most likely explanation. Bethesda managed to milk four good games from the Gamebryo engine (Morrowind, Oblivion and both Fallouts). The “new” Creation Engine for Skyrim is rumored to be slotted for at least one more game and, again, Fallout 4 seems the most likely scenario. I’m sure we’ll hear more tidbits and buzz over the next few weeks, but I would not expecting a major announcement before spring at the earliest.

The “Dragonborn” DLC is still due for PC sometime in the next month or so and, God bless ‘em for their patience and fortitude, the PS3 community is still waiting for a fully functional Skyrim AND a port of the existing DLCs. I have high hopes that Bethesda will be doing something for them in the very near future.

There might be one more DLC out there for Skyrim. Bethesda has registered “Redguard” as a trademark for digitally-delivered game content and they have left the entire Aldmeri Dominion issue unresolved up to this point. Assuming this to be something addressed by any such DLC would be wildly speculative, but there’s no love lost between Hammerfell and Summerset Isle if we look at the lore thus far. Also, we got a good look at Cyrodiil in “Oblivion”, High Rock in “Daggerfall”, and Morrowind in “Morrowind” and the “Dragonborn” DLC, so doing something in Hammerfell wouldn’t be too far outside the bounds of reason.

Of course, dealing with the Thalmor problem would also make excellent fodder for an Elder Scrolls VI and wouldn’t’ necessarily depend upon a single outcome for the Nord civil war. So my suspicion is that we’ll probably see one more DLC for Skyrim which may or may not work as a lead-in to the next TES game. Around the time of that DLC’s release we’ll probably get something official on Fallout 4. Todd looks like he’ll be a fairly busy guy for some time to come.

Playing through Dishonored again. After escaping the prison and jumping down into the water, I guess I slipped up because the three guards behind the barbed wire started shooting at me. I decided to see if I could get to them and climbed up the rocks and over the barbed wire at the right side of the big wall. I’m thinking that I wasn’t supposed to be able to do that, but the game let me, so I’m not going to complain overmuch about it. At any rate, after taking care of the guards, I went around the corner looking for loot that I might have overlooked in previous play-throughs (I’m still coming up about 90 coins short of what the game says should be there) and didn’t find any, but did find this:

2012-10-19_00001

A good indicator of this being a non-player area, no?

While searching high and low for my Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas CD (it’s around here somewhere), I thought that I might have purchased a digital download version from Direct2Drive a few years back. Turns out that I hadn’t, but GameFly (the successor to Direct2Drive) had GTASA on sale for $3.75 and L.A. Noire for $4.99. One of my student has been pestering me to get it and, short of totally hozing my system, you can’t beat a $5 game. Sign me up.

If anyone is of a mind to pick it up, GameStop is currently offering Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II and a small DLC for $19.99. You need to use their client to download it, but they even went so far as to discount me the sales tax and it certainly beats the $20 that Steam wanted to charge me for just one of the games. No idea of how long they’ll hold that price, but they’re pushing their digital download service, so have a bunch of games at 75% off.

In spite of my complaints about BioWare of late, I’ll play almost anything if you give it to me cheap and won’t have much cause to bitch about it if it turns out to be a turkey (you get what you pay for, after all).

Stumbled across a petition addressed to Namco Bandai asking them to either ditch their plans to release their PC port of “Dark Souls” on GFWL in favor of releasing through Steam or to at least release it through both. My only experiences with the GFWL client software were with “Halo 2” and “Fallout 3”. “Halo 2” wasn’t too bad once you managed to get the game started, but my FO3 experience was so bad that I eventually resorted to turning GFWL off entirely and have successfully avoided any GFWL games since.

I haven’t signed the petition since it involves a game that is way down on my “want to play” list, but the link will take you to the petition if it’s on yours (the PS3 and XBox versions have decent ratings on Metacritic). I suspect that the release conditions are already a done deal, though. Companies usually don’t make these kinds of announcements if the contracts haven’t already been negotiated and signed.

On a side note, I remember Bandai as a toy company that made the most awesome 1:48 scale model tanks. No idea what they’re up to today (aside from game publishing, obviously), but if their game quality is anywhere near the quality of their models, maybe I need to move that game up the list.

As reported at GamesIndustry International last week, EA is still defending itself against the inclusion of same-sex relationships in some of their video games, most notably “Mass Effect 3” and “Star Wars: The Old Republic”. Not a word, apparently, about inter-species relationships or the gooey gore you get from a successful “Carnage” strike or that abortion of an ending. Just same-sex relationships.

If EA wants to put same-sex relationships into their games, that’s cool with me. They were beaten to the punch by a lot of other games, though. The earliest one that I recall was “Singles: Flirt Up Your Life,” developed by Rotobee and Deep Silver back in 2003 or 2004, but I’m sure there were others before them. And if you’re terribly upset by same-sex relationships, might I suggest a very simple solution: DON”T BUY THE GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE!! It’s not like it didn’t come with a fairly good description of what the game entailed. If a game offends you that much, don’t play it.

In deference to this Fruit Loops section of the audience, I’d like to formally announce that I have transgendered my FemShep, terminated her/his relationship with Garrus and am now ardently pursuing Ashley. Am I in a same-sex relationship or am I in a straight relationship? It made for some interesting conversations with Garrus at the beginning of ME3, let me tell you, since I had romanced him in ME2. But that’s OK, though. I intend to reward him by quaffing a few and missing my shot at the can when the opportunity presents itself. As for Ashley, well… She’s got a much nicer rack now.

Probably old news, but Overhaul Games has announced plans to release an iPad/Mac version of the classic “Baldur’s Gate” game. More info (what little there is) can be found at their website: http://www.baldursgate.com.

This is something that I’d consider coughing up a few bucks for. I’m not a Mac kinda guy, but if they can work around my big ol’ fingers, the iPad app sounds interesting. “Make way, evil! I’m armed to the teeth and packing a hamster!”

In a press release Thursday, BioWare announced a free (until April 12, 2014) DLC for Mass Effect 3, entitled “Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut”, due sometime this summer. Casey Hudson, ME3’s Executive Producer, promised “to provide the fans who want more closure with even more context and clarity to the ending of the game, in a way that will feel more personalized for each player.” All of this will be provided through additional cinematics and epilogue scenes. The BioWare panel at PAX East fielded a few questions in this area without straying too far from the official line. One fan was kind enough to upload their camcorder video of the panel discussion to YouTube, although in five pieces and not including the Q&A session at the end. Remember, these folks are not addressing the DLC beyond what was in the press release, so the lack of the final 10 minutes or so isn’t crucial. Most of the relevant stuff about the DLC happens in the first 10 minutes or so.

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5

Another fan was kind enough to upload the full hour, again at YouTube, but the audio is pretty poor. It’s audible, but you’ll need to really crank up the sound and/or use headphones to hear it clearly and even that is iffy.

After all of the finger-pointing, name-calling, hand-wringing and assorted post-release hoopla over ME3’s ending, I’m not sure whether I’m in the “Oh, noes!” or “whatever” camp, but I’m certainly not ecstatic over the announcement. Add to this a series of threads on BioWare’s forums to the effect of “Do you feel sorry for (insert group or name here)?” and it gets even murkier.

Perhaps a bit of recap might help. I stand by my original assertion that ME3 is an outstanding game, provided one ignores the last few minutes. There are a few things that I found to be a bit less than satisfying, but it works well on many levels from the start until about 5 or 10 minutes from the end. To that extent, and with the understanding that I’m excluding the last few minutes from that assessment, I have almost no heartburn with what BioWare released. It’s only those last few minutes where I’m taking exception.

I’m not even up in arms over the Day-One DLC nonsense. For those who might not know what that’s all about, the “From Ashes” DLC was released concurrently with the game (for about $10). It introduced a Prothean squad member, Javik, and a mission to recruit him. All of Javik’s in-game assets were apparently on the original game disc, so players essentially paid $10 for a mediocre mission pack that simply unlocked what they already had. Bad marketing and suggestive of a very poor view of the customers, but not the most egregious of things that a gaming company could do. Just very indicative of a “let’s see how many different ways we can get players to part with their money” mentality. Considering that the entire economy is aimed at separating customers from their money, it’s not even unusual. It’s just tacky.

As far as the game itself and from a story-telling standpoint, there were only a handful of possible conclusions to the Reaper story arc. Shepard was either going to be successful in destroying the Reapers or not. “Not” might include some other means of removing the threat, but my initial guess would have been that “not” would be synonymous with “failure”, so I would have predicted that the successful ending would have been the destruction of the Reapers. All three of the endings effectively remove the Reaper threat. Whether that removal is permanent or temporary (according to story canon) depends on your final choice in the game.

Since this was to be the final game of a trilogy chronicling Shepard’s adventures, then Shepard was either going to survive or not (survival of squad members was probably going to depend on how you played the game). While a happy ending might have been nice, Shepard needed to be definitively and finally removed from the ME universe. Some heroic final sacrifice was not only within the realm of possibility, but almost certainly required. In fact, had the game gone to credits right after that final scene with Anderson and we simply assumed that the Crucible worked its magic and Shepard peacefully bled out, I probably would have been somewhat happy with it. I don’t like my characters dying, but sometimes that’s what needs to happen in order to make the story work.

As an alternative ending, I would have found some dark humor in Shepard being appointed humanity’s council member to replace Udina and could almost hear Claudia Christian’s voice in the background: "I feel like an old war horse, trotted out after a parade so all the kids can point at it" (my first Shepard to complete all three games was female). Or perhaps something along the lines of “Ulysses” would have done the job (Ashley’s not the only one who reads Tennyson). Any of those would have worked with Buzz Aldrin’s post-credits scene and we would have had a satisfactory ending, or at least mostly so.

But where were the wildly different endings? On both play-throughs, I ended up with three “pick your favorite color” endings. Since I did my best to acquire every war asset that I could during both play-throughs, I’m assuming that all other possible endings are “worse” than the three that I got. I’ve seen video of one ending where the Destruction option was the only one available. In that video, London (and presumably the rest of Earth) is incinerated and Shepard is blown to bits, so I’m pretty sure that I saw the “best” endings. OK, “ending” since the cinematics are almost identical.

BioWare is adamant that this Extended Cut DLC will not add any new endings to the game, so it would seem that we’re pretty much stuck with RGB as canon. The question is whether that can be improved or clarified through the addition of cinematics and epilogue scenes. My initial inclination is to think “not”. As one poster on the BioWare forums so colorfully noted, a turd is still a turd, no matter how much sugar you put on it.

So, if we’re stuck with RGB, then what can be done to provide clarity and insight? How about dropping that whole Star Child thing? Aside from a bit of exposition and presenting the color choices, it served no useful purpose and was probably the biggest “WTF?” moment in the game. A BioWare forum poster managed to dig up an obscure Codex entry from ME1 which might overcome the charge of deus ex machina commonly leveled at it. But it’s an awfully flimsy thread for tying up this monster.

How about we do something about that final Normandy scene with Joker trying to outrun the shockwave (or whatever that glowy thing behind him is) and then crash-landing on some jungle planet where the squad members who were with Shepard just a few minutes early somehow manage to safely disembark. That bit never made a lick of sense on multiple levels. First, if the Normandy has FTL capability, how is it unable to outrun an explosion which, in normal space, cannot go faster than light? Second, how did the crew members who were with Shepard just a few minutes earlier in London manage to get on board? Third, why was Joker running away at all? I don’t remember anyone sending him a “Get the ship out of there” order. All in all, it was pretty cheesy.

Since we have been told “no new endings”, I suppose that those two ideas are out of the picture.

Some of the more vocal fans on the forums are still ranging between dismay and outrage over the whole mess. I’m taking the more philosophical approach to it. BioWare says that they have listened to the fans. Since they would have had to be hiding under a rock or something to not know what the fans were upset about and why, I’ll take them at their word on that. BioWare has decided that they will not change the existing endings. I’m not thrilled, but that’s the decision, I don’t see them changing it and what will be, will be. So with those two points settled, what else is left but to wait and see what comes out in the DLC.

I’m trying to be optimistic about it. These are the folks that cranked out 2.99 really solid games (yeah, I’m still not giving them an ounce of goodwill for the ending). Not just solid games, but games that have developed an enviable fan base. The players love the characters, love the universe and (again, excluding the last few minutes of ME3) love the games. They have proven themselves willing to buy sequels, DLCs, souvenirs and trinkets, you name it. I don’t believe that their feelings about the ending will cause that to change. After all, you don’t passionately fight for something that you don’t care about. In the end, I think the vast majority will simply come to accept the ending. After all, it is what it is and either we learn to like it or go find another game.

While the fiasco with Mass Effect 3’s ending gets sorted out and fixed (or not – jury’s still out on that question), I figured this might be a nice time to go back and fiddle around with Fallout 3. My initial temptation was to simply go purchase it again through Steam (it’s only about $20 for the GOTY edition), but “cheap” overrode “simple” and I went for the DVD that I purchased several years back. Considering that I also have a digital version through Direct2Drive, plus the five DLCs, forking over an extra $20 for the convenience of having it in my Steam library just didn’t seem worth it.

Onward to the DC Wasteland! A much more inviting place than dealing with BioWare at the moment.