dmilewski: (Default)
The Sorcerer's House (2010) is a fantasy-horror novel in the usual vein of Gene Wolfe. If you know how Gene writes intellectual, detached horror wired together with abrupt fantasy and human interactions evocative of older decades, then you'll know what you're getting in this book. If you enjoy Gene's work, you'll enjoy it well enough, but if you need a story with heart, this isn't your thing.

The work is an epistolary novel, one told entirely in letters and writing. The protagonist Bax is an ex-con doing his best to keep his head above water when he gets a plan to squat in a haunted house. From there, things slowly get inexplicable with the mud thick unclarity that only a Gene Wolfe novel can provide.

I found the front half of the story interesting and engaging, introducing characters at a nice pace and deploying them well. 
I enjoyed the setup and the slow reveal and the inexactness of the magic system. About halfway through, the number of characters increased, and for me, they didn't fit as well nor add as much to the story as I would have preferred. By the end third, I was utterly baffled by the almost random way that the character's threw themselves at the oddest circumstances, losing every bit of charm that the first third possessed.

Stories make promises. I feel that this story set up a number of promises that it left behind, never fulfilling, and instead fulfilled a completely different set of promises, which is why this book, though excellent, had a hollow ending for me. 

You see, early on, Bax does a bit of magic that he doesn't do right, and that's supposed to cause him a bit of trouble. Naturally, you would expect that this would cause him trouble, and it seems to, but the story should then progress to him actually doing what it takes to resolve that issue, but the issue gets dropped and is never seen again. His quick wealth accumulation and his status as a felon should also come back to haunt him, but it really doesn't. This is what I mean when I say that the story promised certain things, but then dropped them. 

Otherwise, I quite enjoyed the format. The quick chapters made for lighter reading, rarely bogging down. There's some indications that the narrator was unreliable, but not enough that it became a true plot issue. The secondary characters all seemed a bit one dimensional, sometimes with a good explanation, and sometimes not. The action scenes didn't work, nor did any scene dependent on tension.

Lack of tension control kept this from being a true horror novel. While there is some tension in Bax's circumstance, and the general threat of the unknown, when the bad stuff does arise, the stakes are too nebulous and the rewards too inexact to allow any true increase in tension.
dmilewski: (Default)
Alphadia 2 (2013) is an old school RPG for the Android operating system. By the aspect ration, I must assume that the game was ported from a platform with a squarer screen. The game is a direct sequel to Alphadia, featuring the same world and several characters from the last game, such as Enah, the android. Most of the game mechanics remain identical, including rings and infusing.

The overall play difficulty of this sequel was noticeably more challenging than the first installment. While I could cruise through most fights on auto, the fights themselves ground down my party. At times, I found myself constantly healing party members after every fight. The fights could also be grinding while exploring, with encounters erupting as frequent intervals. Scout Orbs are available to avoid fights, but they don't last long.

While the primary artwork was pixels and sprites, each character had a high res portrait for conversations that looked clean.

For the most part, I didn't care about the characters or the plot, not that you need much plot for dungeon delving. Where the story hewed to "go there," I was happy enough. I wasn't ever in doubt about where to go. When the story skewed towards the actual plot, I didn't care, with tiresome conversation following tiresome conversation.

This game had a mission mode which I found annoying. While most missions were straight forward, and therefore fun, some missions that required finding certain items dragged on and on because those items didn't drop. By the end of the game, I still hadn't found enough of one drop type, even with farming, to complete the first set of basic missions. While the missions did offer a mission store which used mission currency, I found it cheaper and easier to just purchase the items from a vendor. This made 95% of all store items useless to me. One early mission didn't work right when the receiving clerk refused to accept my items. Since that part of the game was bugged, I didn't go any further. Later on, I found out that you were supposed to give those items to somebody else, which is completely stupid because you are supposed to give all mission items to the receiving clerk. 

I found the ending tougher than expected. I'm used to hard endings, but this one seemed harder than it ought to be. I think it's an example of, "you must win by playing a certain way" style of ending, where I played the game wrong, so I lost repeatedly. If I had really liked the game, I would have thrown myself at the ending, but as I don't care, I don't find myself well motivated. I may try the ending again, but I won't work hard at it.

On the whole, I'd give this game a medium review. It's entertaining enough, but there's really nothing here to fall in love with.
dmilewski: (Default)
Seven Sacred Beasts (2013) is a JRPG released by Kemco on the Kindle Fire. It's a basic monster evolution and fighting RPG, containing all the mechanics that you've come to expect from the genre. You capture monsters, evolve monsters, and fight monsters. To add some spice, there's a competition. All of that sounds like a nice relaxing grindfest of monster-fighting-fun. But wait, there's more, because between the various fights are interminable cut scenes where the characters yak and yak and yak. Oh My GOD, will they ever shut up? This game would have worked well enough as a monster-fighter with a light plot.

If that's not enough, you'd think that a game featuring a tournament would feature the tournament as the end fight. You'd be wrong. The whole thing is really about a final boss battle. I understand following convention, but isn't that taking convention a little too far and a little too literally?

As a monster fighter, the game is a lighthearted grindfest appropriate for anyone. Go team! As an RPG, it feel like somebody dropped a piano from the third story. Don't play this game for the story. 
dmilewski: (Default)
Portal 2 (2011) is a first person, puzzle solving video game that attempts to catch lightning in the bottle twice. Like Portal, it features Chell (our silent protagonist), a portal gun that create teleportation portals from point A to Point B, malevolent testing computers, deathly hazards, and a story. Unlike the original, it doesn't catch lightning in a bottle, but don't take that as a criticism. Valve took what worked in the first game, added more puzzles and narrative, kept the wickedly evil sense of humor, and generally gave you more game for your buck. For me, this took the game past that sweet spot of the first game, creating an experience which pulled me to the end rather than slamming me into the end with so much energy that I wanted more.

With more game play, Valve gave us more acts and more mechanics. The first act of the game lasted about as long as the original, with enough puzzles and plot after that to total 2 to 2.5 more game than the original. If you like puzzling, getting this game for cheap is worth your money. New mechanics include flingers, light bridges, light tubes, and various goos.

Towards the end, the puzzles trended harder than anything in the original, with solutions that approached so crazy that they just might work. Rarely did I run into puzzles that made me scream, even if I did die a lot.

I must admit that the ending was madness. It didn't give me the utter satisfaction that the original ending gave me, but I found it frightfully clever and satisfying.

I had no crashes during any play session.

At no point was the world at risk in this game.

I got both game bundled, on sale, which proved an amazing value.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Star Trek: Beyond (2016) is a fine example of a popcorn movie. You walk in, stuff happens, stuff keeps happening, you eat popcorn, if there's someone special, then clutching happens during the exciting parts, eye candy appears on the screen, and eventually the film is over. The end.

There's also a plot and a motivation, not that those matter very much.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Fallout 4 (2016) brings us back the same Fallout that we've known since Fallout 3 and Fallout NV. The wasteland is the wasteland and war, war never ends.

I'll get to the bad stuff first. The bad stuff for me is more apparent, while the good stuff takes a little thinking about.

This game went on too long for me. If a game goes over 100 hours of gameplay, I get bored. Once I finished exploring the wasteland, I rushed through the ending, happy to be done. Which brings me to a second part of the game, unengagement. I often walked through these quests, no caring who lived or died. Part of this was their use of random quests to fill out the game. At first I didn't notice this as the quests were new, but once I got to know that these were just randomized quests, they lost any real story meaning for me.

The story didn't feel like a 200 years later sort of story. That never felt right. This story should have been a thirty years later sort of story, or maybe seventy, but not two hundred. For two hundred, I needed a wasteland stranger and even more decrepit than Fallout 3.

I felt pretty mixed about the settlement system. Early on, I just ignored it. Later, as the end game came on, I appreciated its use in game play. Its through the settlement system that you build rapport with the Minutemen. By literally walking in their shoes and taking on their jobs, you build an appreciation of their goal, which is to rebuild the Commonwealth. When the end choices come, this gives them a powerful implicit argument to support their side, which is what I went with. I could support a military dictatorship (the Brotherhood of Steel), a meritocracy (the Institute), or a Democracy (the Minutemen). I'm not surprised that I went on to support the democratic solution.

I enjoyed the robot content. Here is where the humor and the twisted ideas of the original Fallout remained in full force. Here is the biting social commentary and outlandish personalities. Everywhere the robots showed up, they worked.

With the customizable guns and armor, I wound up enjoying the equipment crafting system a little less than I had expected. Once I settled on my kit, very little came around that could replace it. I went the rifle route, with a close rifle and shotgun, and a sniper rifle for longer ranged engagements, with my combat rifle and sniper rifle acting as my main weapons. I didn't have the points to put anything into hiding, so I wasn't a super-sniper.

I spent my entire game with Dogmeat. His strange wandering about patterns made sense for a dog. When I went about with a companion, they always felt a bit weird acting as strange as Dogmeat did. For most of the game, I was heavily committed to the lone wanderer lifestyle.

As for VATS, I didn't use it at all. That saved me a massive number of points, but it made dealing with insects absolutely infuriating. Otherwise, I found that I didn't need it for most fight. By pointing with my mouse, I found that I was well coordinated enough to hit most opponents.

While Power Armor was interesting, I found that the armor provided just as many negatives as positives, so I went about in Combat Armor instead, doing just fine in most situations. I only fell back on power armor when the radiation levels got too high or the opponents got too tough for my level.

Unlike previous Fallouts, this Fallout scaled well above 30th level. Only when I reached 60 did I start encountering enemies that proved ridiculously resilient. In previous Fallouts, that happened around Level 30. (If I ever play Fallout NV again, I am so taking the level 30 limit perk.)

I haven't done any of the DLCs, mostly because I don't want to pay for them as they cost more than what I paid for F4 on sale. The main game gave me enough content. (Admittedly, Nuka World does look tempting. There has to be something twisted to it.) Eventually I may purchase some content, but not until it's cheaper.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the latest film offering by J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter universe. Newt Skamander loses magical beasts, catches magical beasts, and collides with a plot all set in 1920s New York.

Having recently written a fantasy book in the 1920's, I had a an extra layer of interest in the film. I won't compare the two, because the stories are baseball and ping-pong, but I will follow her game and say what I think.

First, color grading. I detested the color grading. While I don't require the film to look fully naturalistic, having it look less gray would be great. This current fashion of colorless color films is detestable. Where color does exist, it exists in the wizarding world, so I do appreciate that the directory made a choice here. I respect that choice, but I still detest results.

Costume was half a win and half a loss. I adored the costumes on the girls. For large swaths of the film, they got to wear ordinary clothing that fit the era. In general, all the costuming looked well done, and the designers used appropriate period sources. Where the designers fell down for me was with the American aurors. All aurors wore the same trenchcoat outfit. Back in the 20's, gendered outfits were the norm, so the female aurors should really have had a feminine auror look all their own, just as sharp, and just as professional, with a skirt. (Women in pants? A definite no-no.)

I liked some of the revived archetypes that showed up the in film. A ditzy but sweet blonde, an ordinary joe, the stereotypical banker, the New York cop, the religious zealot, these all drew off those older character types. Their revival felt fresh compared to the modern archetypes. The only place where the characters really lost me was when they weren't the old archetypes. (By the way, these old archetypes were popular for decades because they worked.)

They had the architecture and technology generally right. Those madmen made a complete 3D model of New York for the era, and a skyscraper under construction in the film was likely a famous NY tower, my guess being the Chrysler Building. (The Empire State was closer to 1930.) The only thing NYC needed more of was cars. Even back then, it had a maddening number automobiles. As for the horse carts, they were still in widespread use in the 1920s, so they're accurate. (For a period comparison, watch the Jazz Singer.)

I loved the set for the girls' room in the boarding house. (I like how it was a boarding house but they simply didn't explain it. Good.) The set for that was spot on, down to the mix of era being shown, and the accumulated clutter. This looked like apartments in old movies and felt lived in. That really sold it.

I thought the story bit off a bit too much to chew. I would have dropped the political plot. I was having enough fun with the primary characters in the comedy that the real plot was an annoying distraction, which would have freed up more time with the characters. There were many good opportunities left untouched.

Given the same setup, I would have veered towards the ever-complicating comedy, where all the crazy solutions come crashing down at the end and the main characters are doing the damnedest things to keep their plan from falling apart.

I felt disappointed with the character arcs. Newt wants his animals back. OK. Good enough arc. Cop girls wants to become an auror again, but her actions only don't seem to get her there. That doesn't seem to be her motivation at all. She's just there as the straight man. The donut guy follows along but doesn't ever seem to be helping himself, or even saying, "hey, this is better than a canning factor." And finally, psychic blonde doesn't seem to have any mission at all, or aims, or anything. With each character now having a goal, each character's action can now impact the other characters, advancing and disrupting the other goals. It's a good comedy setup with real potential, but has to get written that way from the get-go. You can't just slot it in. You can keep the story comedy adventure as well, but the final conflict would be the result of Newt's mistake. I'd even be up for saving a rare creature from destruction by the wizards as that's what Newt's theme is. As it stands, the political stuff has nothing to do with most of the film. The bad guy could want the bad thing to destroy all donut shops just as much as some other vague and unexplained plot goal.

I found the film lacking in heart. This film needed more of that. Much, much more. I needed that heart to love the characters and care about their goals.

Although the 1920s were the backdrop, they mattered too little in the overall arch of the film. I could just as easily have set this in 1980's NY with almost no changes. (Yes, there would have been the whole national TV thing going, so the end deus ex machina would have to be different, but it would still be a deus ex machina.)

I noted some seeming lore conflicts with the earlier films, but I don't care. Perfect continuity sucks.

I think that the whole "exposing wizards" didn't work, as people didn't believe in magic anyway, so I was often left mystified by this plot point.

The street preacher was under-used. I suppose that she was supposed to be some sort of red herring, of the sort that doesn't work. I never suspected her of anything other than fanaticism. Indeed, she wound up confusing the tensions within the film rather than heightening them or deepening them. She represented a conflict that just didn't pan out.

Overall, I found the film perfectly entertaining fluff, and well done fluff at that. (Fluff may seem easy, but it's not. Fluff isn't an insult. The world needs good fluff.) Don't think about it too hard and you'll be adequately entertained.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
The Hidden Twin (2016) by Adi Rule is a young adult fantasy novel exploring a young woman's discovery of her own power, her realization of that power, and becoming a hero through the use of her power.

That's all pretty typical of the genre and well within expectations.

My daughter picked this book out, enjoyed it, and invited me to read it as well, so I did. So for the age group that interested in these types of books, it works. For me, who isn't the target audience, the book was a bit of a miss.

The style of the novel itself threw me. Written in first person present, the feeling and intensities of the moment spring out, meanwhile, the settings and the other characters grew remote. Throughout the whole book, I felt removed from the action and the drama.

I often found myself saying "What?!" when the character goes through some experience, by every imagination horrible, then just throws it off like it wasn't a big deal. Hello? You just did what? To who? And you aren't freaking out? That incident wasn't a throw away incident, it was the hook for a entire book. Why did it just go elsewhere? If this had just happened once or twice, I'd shrug and go by, but this sort of thing happens through the entire book. So many interesting possibilities ignored!

I often wondered at the personality of the main character. I thought that her personality wobbled around quit a bit. The intrepidness and heroics were fine, you expect that in a fantasy novel, but I wasn't ever sure which person was going to come out for any particular scene.

Where I think that the novel fell down most was in its use of impressionism to build a sense of the setting. While excellent at the sentence level and passable at the plot level, the book often fell apart at the paragraph level. Rather than building up a picture of the place, the impressionistic descriptions often amounted to noise, neither giving me insight into the character nor building images nor making the setting into a character in its own right. Ostensibly, the book is steampunk, yet manages to make nothing of this fact. Sometimes I felt that the writer's MFA was just getting in her way of writing a good book.

As for the character internal journey, the book often begins a theme, forgets about the theme, then pays off the theme, which feels rather jarring when the theme jumps back into being. If the theme had really been that important, shouldn't I have run into that theme over and over again? Certainly. That sort of thing really made the ending feel less solid than it should have.

Beneath all of that is an interesting setting, both familiar and strange to the reader, that hold good promise, if the writer can only let it shine through as a character in its own right.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Eclipse of Illusion from Kemko Games is built around the classic, 8-bit style Final Fantasy framework, only taking far less time to play through. There's nothing new under the sun here, but there's also nothing bad. This game is like going to a diner and ordering eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns. There's nothing special about it, but it is exactly what it needs to be.

While this game won't blow you away, but you'll be entertained for your money. Your characters will advance up jobs, you'll fight monsters, you'll summon suits of power armor, and you'll fight bosses. You start off as nobodies and end up saving the world. In between, they hit all the beats, even giving you your own airship.

Once you're done, there's a new dungeon, some super-hard bosses, rare weapons, and the like. If you choose to play again, you'll start at your current level with all your gear.

The combat system is straight forward. You have an AUTO mode for the fights, which isn't brilliant but will serve you most of the game. If you've played enough JPRGs, you'll recognize all the mechanics.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I spent from December to March playing Elder Scrolls Online. I paid $30 for the privilege, and I feel that I got my money's worth out of the game.

The game itself is split into three segments: the primary play through, where you get all the side-quests and world-building quests, a second and third play through where you play through the storylines of the other factions, and a PVP storyline (I suppose, as I didn't do much PVP). Once you get to be a high-enough level, you can PVP, while the other area storylines weren't opened to your character until they completed the main storyline.

I appreciated how the game split the storylines into manageable chunks for their writing teams. One team wrote the main plot, which was the same everywhere you played. It didn't interact with the regional plots very much, instead focusing on the big story that drove all the regional stories. The guild stories spanned all regions as well, but they were optional (I assume). Each guild had its own crisis and opened up its own area in the end. Finally, each region had a crisis connected to the character of each region. The regional storylines were all unique, so the only way to experience them was to play through a second and third time. With this structure, each team was able to plot very independently, making an otherwise impossible situation workable.

Your character advanced levels, but in addition to advancing levels, they also collected experience in their skills. Even with allowing you to reallocated, you couldn't just become an expert in a skill immediately. You had to work it up. However, once you drop a skill, you'll maintain any experience that you have in it, so swapping back is easy, if expensive.

In terms of disk space, the game was a whopper, taking up 50 gb.

I played the game as an extended single-player game. I rarely teamed up with anyone, but I got through most things fine. Some things were frustrating, but often I only needed one other opportunistic player to team up with. Many dungeons were closed to me, but I don't feel that I missed much.

I found the crafting practical if uninspiring. I studied smith. The crafting gave me some advantage, but no more so than money would have. I could have gotten by on looted equipment. Crafting itself was mostly creating static recipes with mix and match bonuses.

All in all, the game entertained me well while I played it. I got halfway through the second set of quests when I hit my "I'm done with the game" apathy. I just didn't want to play it any more. My attention had simply wandered. That happens with me, which I why I only paid $30 for the game.

Overall, I rate the game as an enjoyable experience and I recommend it to my friends. It's a fun Elder Scrolls distraction and a fine addition to the Elder Scrolls line. Have fun. Play it. When you're done, move on.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
If "charming fantasy" isn't an official fantasy category, it ought to be, if only to make a generously welcome home to Ursula Vernon. Her latest work, Castle Hangnail, contains so much charm that you could hire a roving band of hippos to stomp the charm out of it, and it would still be charming. Note that charming isn't saccharine. (It's not.) The book isn't always sweet, but even at its darkest moments, even the dark moments have charm.

I will skip any spoilers, because I want you to read this book.

Our heroine is Molly, twelve years old, who wants to be a wicked witch. (She has a good twin sister, so it makes sense that she's the evil one.) When she finds a place that needs a new evil master, Castle Hangnail, she jumps at the chance, even if she does a break a rule or two (or some other uncomfortably high number that's much larger than two). Meanwhile, the minions of Castle Hangnail have been desperate to get a new master, and if they don't, the castle will be forced to close. (This isn't a pleasant thing either for the minions or the castle.)

The tone of the work is light and fun, yet consistently sincere. There's not a hint if irony or sarcasm or pessimism, except where useful. The plot moves along jauntily (I don't believe that I used that word), always spending enough time with the characters, yet never so much time that the jokes grow dull or the scenes drag. All the minions are firmly realized, getting their moments to shine. And you even get some gardening tips as well.

If you read aloud to your kids, I doubly recommend this book.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I never expected to play Final Fantasy III. I had relegated it to history as I never intended to track down the game, nor did I ever intend to own a console again that would play that series. I had once owned a PS2, and on it I had played Final Fantasy X and X-2. That would be it. There would be no more. Then the tablet revoltion happened, and a very intelligent Square Enix remastered their Final Fantasy series, putting out the series for Android. As FF3 was only $5, a bargain in my book, I decided to buy and play.

I found FF3 a fairly charming story of four youths, four Warriors of Light, out to save their weird little corner of their polygon world. How do we know this? A sentient crystal told us so. The silly thing is that I never realized, until right now, that I had gotten my question from a sentient crystal. Perhaps it had some sort of being in it? Anyhow, once the crystal told me that I had a Mission-From-God to Save-the-Orphanage, it was time to hit the road and get the band together.

The band? A group of four young people from all walks of life, each given their own assigned color. Where have we seen that before?

So by now, you should realize that there's nothing original in this story. Most of the adventure revolves around grabbing something from some dungeon and then putting it into another dungeon, and then a boss fight happens. After the boss fight, something big may or may not happen that allows you to go out and find more dungeons for more boss fights. You can pretend that you saved the world after any boss fight that you want to because the story will vary very little.  Yet, that's not a knock on the game. As I said, the game is charming. It contains no cynicism or betrayal. In that way, it may be an early entrant into the New Sincerity movement. Or would it be late? I always misremember when that movement started.

As for hitting the road, you hit the road in style, receiving a series of ever-better and ever-cooler ships to wisk you about the world, sometimes above it, and sometimes below it. There never seems to be a lack of new ships.

My biggest mechanical complaint was for the final battle. You had to fight through multiple dungeons, beat multiple bosses, then take out the main biggest-baddest-boss, all without saving. That last battle was an all-or-nothing marathon. I guess that was to make sure that you showed your true grit, but for me, that was an annoying way to lose several hours of gameplay with one bad battle.

My smaller mechanical complaint was occasional need for grinding. I would run into absolutely brutal boss fights, barely eeking my way through. I eventually figured out that I wasn't grinding at all, and that my characters were completing dungeons seriously under-leveled. In a way, I guess that I showed what a bad-assed RPG player that I was, but that wasn't my intention. What I really wanted was some brain candy and some auto-fighting.

Early on, I did lose the plot a few times, wandering about the world like a lost fool, which turned out to be helpful as that was grinding, except not grinding because I did have some fun exploring.

The 3D part drained my Kindle's battery like nobody's business. All 3D games suck down power on my Kindle.

Would I have paid $50 for this game? I don't think so. But at $5 for my Kindle, I think that it worked out well enough. 
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
The Quest for the Diamond Sword, by Winter Morgan, can be best described as a heaping helping of Minecraft adventure with some characterization thrown in. If you are into Minecraft and you just can't get enough of the stuff, then this book may be for you. For everyone else, it will leave you wondering why anyone would even bother playing Minecraft at all.

The story centers around Steve, the quiet farmer. After a zombie invasion of his village drives him off, he swears to return and help his friends defeat the zombies, but returning isn't so easy. Through luck, perseverance, and quite a bit of Minecraft knowledge, Steve takes a tour of the Minecraft world. Despite all his challenges, the dangers of this world aren't nearly as bad as the challenges posed by the dangerous and fun-destroying GREIFERS.

The text feels like it was churned out. To test that, I wrote my own Minecraft story of similar ilk, finding that I could write at 2K words per hour, which is pretty insane rate. At the end, my prose was similarly polished. So, my hat goes off to Winter Morgan, for finding a niche and profiting fiercely.

The book itself isn't very long, racking up a hundred pages, or about 20,000 words. The pacing throughout is quick, spritely, and eager to move. If there's a dull moment in this book, it will only be a moment as the story keeps moving no matter what.

If you do play Minecraft, the pages are full of many useful hints and clever tactics that you can use against your enemies. Any Minecrafter out there should find himself a better adventurer for these stories.

While I can't give this book any high rating, I also can't say that I was the target audience. So, for a non-Minecrafter, I would give this book two stars. This book is not fo ryou. It's competent but dull. For a kid who's into Minecraft, I give the book four stars, because it contains so much of what the audience desires. The book is all Minecraft, all of the time.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
A few years back, I bought a slew of Bioware games for dirt cheap. By the time that I completed Dragon Age, I was thoroughly sick of Bioware games. Fast forward two years, and I finally felt up to playing Dragon Age 2.

It was a game, and what there was, it had a lot of it.

I'm not a fan of Bioware storytelling. I find the whole cinematic story a bridge too far for me. For crying out loud, drop the cut scenes and give me shit to fight, OK? Fortunately, I learned the use of the ESC key to grind through the cut scense faster.

I finally learned what it was that annoyed me about the cut scenes. I think that they use novel writers to create the dialog, which I think is a pretty bad idea. You do want the novel writers creating the story and the world, but when it comes to dialog, if you want a cinematic story, you need SCREENWRITERS. If Bioware ever gets smart enough to hire halfway decent screenwriters, those cut scenes might become worth watching.

The story itself follows a rags-to-riches structure. Hawke and family, fleeing from war, come as refugees to the city. Here, Hawke, a person of no particular character, advances through the city ranks through butchery of everyone else's foes. After enough butchery, she rises in status, and a new chapter of the story unfolds, with all the same heartless butchery as the previous chapter.

Apathy. That's what best decribes the first act. I went though all the adventures with total apathy. With chapter two, apatchy was replaced with disgust. By the time that I ended that chapter, I wanted to walk out of that city and let the place burn to the ground. It deserved it. Chapter three was just annoying, and I that I wanted to do was to board a boat with Tits, the Pirate Girl, who is most notable for her huge and well displayed tits, and Jugs, my sister, and leave the town in ruins, a victim of its own turpitude.

Your supporting party would have been better played by a slate of characters without any personality at all, as that would have beaten the annoying and irritating personalities that they were given. In short, they each deserved to be abandoned to their fates. It's only because you got almost free XP from helping them that you actually bothered helping them at all.

A major plot thread centers around the conflict between the mages and the Templars, the military mage herders. To say that each was institutionally stupid understates the pure strains of stupidity driving a wedge between the groups. It seems that mages can use demons to make themselves strong, and the only way to defeat them is by organzing into a group and not fighting them one-on-one. Given that the Templars can kick a wizard's ass, its doesn't seem that wizards should even be a problem, and yet, they are to be feared without limit. So naturally, the Templars stick all the mages together into one place, because that's safer, right? Right?

In my imagination, I walked out of the game at the end of Act 2. In truth, I took the game to the end, fought the final battle, then went to bed without thinking about the ending at all. At this point, the ending is already hazy, which shows you how important the ending was.
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