Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dawn of the Old Republic

I didn't realize that my beta access for Star Wars: The Old Republic on the Personal Computer only lasted over the last weekend only. I did play a good 3-4 additional hours into the game after I wrote the previous article on the game and based on that experience, I thought that ToR is very polished but it is mostly catered towards fans of Bioware role playing games and the Star Wars license. The real distinction found in this game that other massively multiplayer online RPGs don't have is the cinematic conversation. That is pretty much it. Well that and the whole Jedi thing. Other than those things, it's rather substandard. The graphics do look nice but it just cannot compare to the glory that is Rift. The fact that I actually stopped playing this to jump back to League of Legends - thanks a lot Riot Games for distracting me away from my limited beta access - should tell you where this game stands. My prediction is that ToR will probably become free to play after 6-9 months when people finally realize that unlike the single player Bioware games, their in-game personas are not all that unique in ToR's game universe because of the other similar players running about. If the game is still subscription-based at that point, then it means that the game has long-term value. If not, then I am sure that it will pop-up on Steam under the Free-to-Play section.

Awww... Oh well, back to LoL!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Thanks Sony! Vita is Vile

After seeing the memory card pricing setup for Sony's upcoming PlayStation Vita, I am through. I am not excited about this new handheld anymore. I mean, seriously, $120 for the highest capacity unit of 32GB. That is just sad. For a handheld that is supposed to thrive off the PlayStation Network Store, we need at least 1TB and not having any memory space in the handheld out of the box is just plain criminal. Sure you can always just stick to buying the physical games but then I should just be happy making my purchases of the PlayStation 3 version of the Vita games that were supposedly be linked up between the two devices. As with the Nintendo 3DS - still waiting for that inevitable dual-stick model - I will not be jumping on the Vita bandwagon immediately. I am sure that a year down the line, as the Vita struggles to keep up with the 3DS, they will eventually release a Vita that has a large internal memory in addition to any memory card (propriety or preferably otherwise) you add to the system. That would be my Vita of choice, not this incomplete, over expensive launch model.

I think I will just stick with the PS3 for a long while. I smell a fail on the horizon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Games Played 11/21/2011 - 11/27/2011

- 11/21/2011 -

- 11/22/2011 -
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC

- 11/23/2011 -
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC
League of Legends - PC
Otomedius Excellent - X-Box 360

- 11/24/2011 -
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC
Deathsmiles IIX - X-Box 360
League of Legends - PC
Otomedius Excellent - X-Box 360

- 11/25/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Otomedius Excellent - X-Box 360

- 11/26/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta - PC

- 11/27/2011 -
Culdcept Saga - X-Box 360
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC
League of Legends - PC
Radiant Silvergun - X-Box 360

Is It My Eyes or Is It Skyrim?

I was playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on my Personal Computer last night after being away from it for two days and I thought that the game looked really nice. It felt a lot smoother too for some reason. I thought that Bethesda had rolled out a patch for the game but there was nothing in the update notes. I know that I have been very harsh on this game when it comes to its graphics. Well, even now I still think that the game could look a million times better - I mean just look at those horrible looking pine trees - but I am guessing that my eyes have adjusted to the game's looks. The open expanses do look remarkable sometimes, especially when it is all snow covered. So much so that I have used the following image as the wallpaper for my PC:

I love the cold, so this is perfect.

Whether the improvement I was experiencing was imaginary or not, I know for sure that this game is going to look remarkable once those graphics modders are done with the game and I just found out that Nvidia themselves are already helping out with the situation via the release of their newest beta driver and some really helpful tweaks that I am sure going to try out very soon. Update Note - 2:08pm: enabling ambient occlusion as well as the other graphics tweaks suggested by Nvidia do make a big difference in the overall look of the game with minimal performance hits. I highly recommend them!

I used to think that Skyrim is a drab, lifeless place...

But now, there is always a surprise lurking...

...around every corner of the map.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My First Game Trade on Steam

A friend of mine had asked for me to get Bulletstorm on Steam for him from the Autumn Sale as a trade because of the regional difference in the pricing for the game. Apparently, it is still expensive in Europe while it is only $9.99 here in North America. I asked him to get Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga for me as an exchange and this is my first time ever using Steam's excellent trading feature. Basically, the game must be purchased as a gift to be saved in your inventory. We then both went into the trade screen and presented the items that we have for trade. It was simple and convenient though there was a rather lengthy wait time involved for the transaction to be completed after both partied agreed to the trade. What I really love the most about this feature is that after you have received the game, it is not automatically linked to your library. Instead, it remains in gift form, which means that you may choose to just keep the game in your inventory to be gifted or traded again in the future. If not, you can always link the game to your library. Awesome stuff!

Digital game trading is the way of the future.

The Taste of the Culdcept

I was finally able to convince my friend to play some Culdcept Saga with me last night and it was... beyond delicious. I have not played the game for such a long time and now I am reminded of how incredible this game is and why it deserves to hold a spot in my Top 10 Greatest Games of All Time. Playing the game again felt like the I just had my first kiss, and that I had just fallen in love for the very first time... It's a deeply magical, uncontrollably orgasmic feeling. Culdcept Saga, how I have abandoned you. If there was one game that can make me subscribe to X-Box LIVE Gold again, it would be this game. And no, I am not looking for elitist competitors to play this game with me. I am looking for a friend who enjoys the game as much as I do. A friend who would like to experience the game for the sake of fun. I felt bad last night because I couldn't find the option to use a randomized book to play against my friend - I spent 5 minutes looking for it, I have been away from the game for way too long - but he said he didn't mind. I told him that if we were to play this game more often, I'd subscribe back to Gold. We will see how this is going to develop. I know he just did it just to be nice and not necessary because he is as obsessed with the game as I am. But man, Culdcept Saga is such an incredible game.

The last shining beacon of hope for LIVE Gold...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic - A Strange Place

I got my invitation to play the massively multiplayer online role playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic for the Personal Computer by Bioware earllier this week that granted me access to join in on the beta-testing fun starting today at 10am PST. I actually have forgotten to log in until about an hour ago because I was distracted by the Dreamhack tournament live streams earlier today. I have downloaded the game client a couple of nights ago so all I had to do was log in and start playing.

Great introduction movie but the tutorial area where I ended up was a bit boring.

I have only played less than an hour of the beta so this is just a very brief report of my intial reaction to this hyped about game that is scheduled to come out next month on the 20th. The game feels very generic and I am sure that those who have played MMOs in the past would agree. Even though the Star Wars lore is being used brilliantly here, the character classes that you get to choose from are the typical fighter/mage/rogue/hunter variety. This game is pretty much a generic MMO that takes place in the Star Wars universe and they really didn't take the liberty to create some new class categories that we have never really seen before. Of course, it is very easy for me to say this because I haven't leveled up my character at all to discover how things would branch out eventually but the initial descriptions for these classes are just a little too familiar.

Behind that pretty face... Dark side! 

The part that is the most troubling for me with this game is the cinematic conversation that you would have with the non-player characters. Sure I always love these in a Bioware game and sure it does add a lot to the immersion but this also reminds me that the game could have been a single player adventure. Playing SW:TOR feels like you are playing a tarnished, diluted version of one of the previous Bioware titles like the Mass Effect or the Dragon Age series. I think having fully voiced interactions both for your character and the NPCs is wonderful but I couldn't help wishing that this game was not something that you would have to pay monthly fee for to keep playing. But alas, these are just the little quirks that I have against the game. I can tell you for certain that the early part of this ST:TOR beta is not as engaging as the Rift tutorial area but I am going to play as much of this game as I possibly can and write more about my experience as I discover the rest of the game's contents that are made available in this beta.

Friday, November 25, 2011

LoL: I Am Playing This Game Too Much

Riot Games recently released an interesting infographic in regards to its League of Legends subscriber base and that made me reflect upon the amount of time that I have spent playing this game myself. The game has been occupying the number one spot of the most played games for a long while now and I am pretty certain that I have spent more time on this game than all other games I have played before combined. Let's just make an estimation on how many hours I have spent playing LoL, shall we?

The result screen from the last game I played before writing this article.

Bear in mind that this calculation only includes the normal solo queue. I have played a number of ranked matches alongside the smaller 3 versus 3 maps and the new Dominion map. At this point, I have 998 wins and 954 loses. So that is 1,952 matches that I have participated in. A match averages around 30 minutes - though they mostly go a lot longer than that. So 1,952 x 30 minutes = 58,560 minutes, which equals 976 hours. Yes, I have clocked in around 1,000 hours playing LoL. That is just epic. But I just remember: I did play Final Fantasy XI Online and World of Warcraft for several years respectively so perhaps LoL cannot claim the title of my most played game just yet.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

So I'm on LIVE Gold and...

After Thanksgiving dinner earlier this evening, I jumped on my X-Box 360 to check out the free access to the LIVE Gold that was activated for all Silver members for this Thanksgiving weekend. The first thing that I did was sent several messages out to my online friends and then booted up Otomedius Excellent. I soon discovered that nobody was playing that game online - of course they don't - but at least I was able to reconnect with a couple of my old friends and we ended up playing Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing for a while. I was quickly reminded that the problem with paying money for access to online multiplayer is that you have to make sure that you have people that you can play with who also wanted to play the games that you yourself wanted to play. In my case tonight, those games included Culdcept Saga, Deathsmiles IX, and Otomedius Excellent. I really couldn't think of other online-enabled 360 games that I was really in the mood to play. If I were to reactivate my LIVE Gold membership right now, Microsoft is offering a year's worth for only $39.99: that's $20 off! But would that be worth the price if I cannot even get to play my favorite games online consistently? Worse still is that some of my online friends are not even responding back to me when it comes to playing some online game with them this weekend to take advantage of the free access. Oh well. At least I made an interesting discovery tonight while chatting in the X-Box LIVE party:

This character select screen hides a diabolical secret...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Steam Will Keep Us Warm!

Steam has just kicked off its irresistable Autumn Sale and this frustrating - because you want to get them all - but fun event will take place all through the weekend. Every day, new outrageous discounts will be offered alongside hundreds of titles that have their prices nicely slashed. The featured items are getting a big 50% - 75% discounts so keep your eyes peeled for those games that you have always been wanting to get. Microsoft may have X-Box LIVE Gold available for free to Silver members this weekend - a move that should actually be a revelation to the current Gold members that the service should be free to begin with - but I know where I will be spending most of my gaming time... unless of course, if you still wanted to play some Halo, Dan!

We will be rolling in dead leaves... I mean, new games this Thanksgiving weekend!

Arrival in Skyrim

It was somewhat delayed both justifiably and no quite so, but I finally arrived in Skyrim late Monday evening. I must say that graphics wise, things are rather quite disappointing. I remember saying "that's pretty" when I first booted up The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and even Two Worlds II. That didn't happen with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Instead, I said, "Ewww, why is the character hair looks so bad?" Of course, I am playing the Personal Computer version of the game and I have everything maxed out on the graphics options and the game runs really smooth but it is so obvious that the limitations of the X-Box 360 are being kept in mind by developer Bethesda. Thankfully, PC owners do get to play in higher native resolution, almost non-existent load time, and we do get a longer view distance but those bad shadows, bad character polygons, and bad textures... Well, they are just... awful! When you look at everything from afar, things look good - as long as you can avoid long-distance rivers (ugh, they are ugly) - but then once you get close to things, it's like wow, how could it be this terrible? At least the PC community is hard at work to beautify this game. I am not big on gameplay tweaks - that is also called cheating - but I am all about graphics mods. If you can believe it, there are already so many nice graphical mods available and they do improve upon the homely look of the game.

The world of Skyrim is populated by ghosts. We don't leave footprints in the snow...

The visuals may not be all that but the gameplay is definitely there. I do find the prologue to this open world role playing game to be rather weak however. It tried to create a dire situation out of nothing and it ended up feeling a bit forced despite containing a rather gruesome and disturbing scene in it. I am now 4 hours into the game and a couple of levels up and I am just trying to follow the main quest line while indulging in a little bit of the side quests. Things haven't been terribly engaging but the game is quite fun. I am playing the game in third person mode almost exclusively, which is impossible to do in past entries, and it works beautifully unless of course, when I am trying to use a bow. Because of that, I am just going to abandon archery completely. I am very impressed by the perks system that provides immediate impacts on your specialization choices. It makes you feel immediately powerful every time you level up and it also rewards you for planning out a specific character build to be effective in combat. There is definitely a lot of room for experimentation here and creating new characters should be a lot more fun than the previous entries in the series. The perk system is apparently an innovation that is improved upon from the one found in Fallout 3. It must be noted also that Skyrim, like Oblivion, is designed around the use of the gamepad but unlike Oblivion, the gamepad support is built into Skyrim. Good luck navigating the bad interface using a keyboard and mouse if you decide to play it that way. Overall though, I can see a lot of potential in this game. I am really looking forward to building up my destruction plus conjuration focused character. I am playing this concurrently alongside Fallout: New Vegas however, so I am hoping I am not going to get horribly exhausted by them.

Beta testing Star Wars: The Old Republic...


Monday, November 21, 2011

Games Played 11/14/2011 - 11/20/2011

- 11/14/2011 -
Dirt 3 - PC
League of Legends - PC
Saints Row: The Third - PC

- 11/15/2011 -
Diablo III Beta - PC
League of Legends - PC
Saints Row: The Third - PC

- 11/16/2011 -
Diablo III Beta - PC
Dirt 3 - PC
League of Legends - PC
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - PC

- 11/17/2011 -
Dirt 3 - PC
Fallout: New Vegas - PC
League of Legends - PC
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - PC

- 11/18/2011 -
Fallout: New Vegas - PC
League of Legends - PC
Saints Row: The Third - PC

- 11/19/2011 -
Dirt 3 - PC

- 11/20/2011 -
Fallout: New Vegas - PC
League of Legends - PC
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Wii

Friday, November 18, 2011

It Ain't Skyrim but It's So Thug!

It's getting harder and harder to keep myself away from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ever since it was released just a week ago. A number of my Steam friends are playing it and from what I have gathered from them, the game is well-optimized for play on the Personal Computer. I asked one to even post some screenshots for me and they look pretty good. The fact that a couple of impressive graphical mods are already out to clean up the game's graphics also made the game extremely attractive to me. Also, I do feel somewhat guilty about my bad impression of the game prior to its release but that $59.99 price tag for just one game is just such a hard thing to justify. My only hope is that perhaps I may receive the game as a birthday gift this month but since I don't celebrate my birthdays, the chances of that happening is rather slim.

Thankfully, I am finally able to really get into Fallout: New Vegas again. At first, I was afraid that I might get bored of having to go through the starting area again after I lost my save file but I didn't. It also helps that I was extremely encouraged to get deep into the game after discovering that one of my friends has actually clocked in an impressive 174.4 hours into New Vegas!  Additionally, I have started playing another open world game, Saints Row: The Third on my PC. This game has one of the most exciting prologues ever that must be played to be believed. It is really hard to stop playing the game after going through how ridiculously epic that whole thing was. I really like the lite role playing progression system too that allows you to improve your character, vehicle, and gang as you level up. The game's character creation is fun to mess around with and since this game is so tongue in cheek, I have decided to make my character dress silly and that involves making him look like a cowboy without pants who is also wearing high heels.

How to look sexy and dangerous (as well as silly) at the same time.

The real kicker here is that I decided to use one of the female voice options for his vocal representation. This often creates a major confusion for me whenever my character is talking to another female character because my brain just couldn't make the connection between the manly (well, kind of) character and his soft female voice. It is safe to say that I will be able to occupy myself while I wait for Skyrim to drop down in price. But for how long?

Darling Clementine strutting his stuff. I think I heard a whistle!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

In Other News...

Never step on your phone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Diablo III Beta Impression

Playing Blizzard's Diablo III beta is easily one of the most fun things I have done on the Personal Computer this year but it comes with one huge problem: It makes me crave for the game even more. The campaign that you are given access to play in is extremely short - if you don't do much exploration, it's around the one hour mark - but the good news here is that at least you can keep replaying it over and over again as your heroes continue to grow. The beta sees you arriving in a town plagued by the undead. You will soon receive a quest line that will have you travelling through cemeteries and ancient tombs and everything culminates into a boss fight with the Skeleton King.

Be very, very quiet... I am hunting demons.

There are five classes to choose from: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Wizard, and my personal favorite, the Witch Doctor. You can select a male or female version of each class and their personal appearances, though not customizable, differ by class. I like the Witch Doctor the best because of the whole voodoo vibe and that he or she is definitely the most interesting looking of the bunch. The Doc can summon creatures to do his/her bidding that ranges from exploding frogs to hounds of hell on top of being able to apply the fun curses and hexes on the enemies. The game is set at "normal" difficulty level and so far, it's on the very easy side. Until I reached the Skeleton King, I never had to worry about using health potions and the mana pool regenerates so fast that it never goes down below 90% even when I was wildly spamming out spells. The difficulty level is supposed to rise up with more people playing with you but I didn't notice it while joining an online game because we were basically owning everything that comes into view. Bear in mind that this is expected however since the gameplay here is only limited to the beginning area of the game.

I am a level up addict for sure.

The 3D models of your heroes are not that detailed, as you can see from the character creation, but they are animated beautifully. The same can be said about the non player characters and the evil creatures that you have to destroy. During the gameplay, you can't even zoom in on your hero which I am sure was done to hide the graphical blemishes but at the fixed angle of the camera, the game is certainly beautiful to look at. The dark, muted tone of the environments create that dark, sinister feel to the adventure but then you get the very flashy spell effects to visually brighten things up. The game features fully-voiced non player character interactions, something that should be a must in all games these days, and even the heroes themselves are voiced. The voice acting is pretty good but the racially characterized accents are a bit annoying.

More! We want more!

One interesting aspect of the gameplay at the moment is the way the skills are learned by the heroes. There is no skill tree where you can customize how you want to develop your heroes. Instead, the skills are automatically unlocked as you level up but you can only equip some of them with you at a time with a maximum of 5 active abilities and 3 passive abilities. This system provides a great amount of flexibility in how you play your heroes but it does take away some level of complexity in your character building. Overall though, I find the game to be quite polished in both its presentation and gameplay. That shouldn't be a surprise however knowing how long the game has been in development. I did find one strange graphics bug where a spell effect ended up looking boxy but other than that, it seems like the game is just about ready for the big release. With the latest World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria being recently announced, I have a feeling that this game is probably going to be released months after that expansion. Because you know that once Diablo III comes out, people would stop playing WoW which is making a lot of money for the company. And that is, of course, Blizzard's dilemma and the reason why this game is being stuck in an eternity of development hell. This is even more evident now that they are offering a free copy of Diablo III to those who will commit to a one year subscription of WoW. Yes, we can see right through you, Blizzy. Just man up and release this game already.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Diablo III Beta Get!

I was very quick to request a beta invitation for Diablo III on the Personal Computer when Blizzard started accepting the beta applications many centuries ago and I finally got an invite to the closed public beta test today. I am so very excited about this opportunity of course, though it took so long for me to get here. I am downloading the game as we speak, a process that should take quite a while if the World of Warcraft patch server was any indication. There is only 2.75 GB of data that is needed for the beta and from my understanding, the beta testers don't even get to explore the entirety of Diablo III's first Act but it should be fun to mess around with the game nonetheless.

The real evil of Diablo III is the wait we have to endure before it is released.

LoL: Fun with New Mastery Talents

It's an exciting day for League of Legends players as Riot Games releases a really cute but deadly champion, Fizz - really loving that shark ultimate, as well as changes to the summoner spells you can bring into battle. More important however is the new Masteries redesign that features some truly clever changes. They are still pretty easy to figure out because the 3 trees are still separated by the type of role you want to play but the amount of statistical improvements you can now get from focusing on one mastery tree is just staggering. I really, really like how they stack a bunch of summoner spell improvements with just one skill point and that "Sage" mastery under Utility that grants bonus experience per assist? My Soraka will truly appreciate that. The new "Surge" summoner spell is really scaring me though... 35% attack speed and up to 70 ability power for 12 seconds? People are going to be dropping... fast! Overall, I do appreciate Riot's attempt to change up the game and make things continuously fresh for LoL. Still haven't played the game? What are you waiting for? Please click here to sign up for your free summoner account. The game is 100% free to play, guaranteed! It's so good that you will feel guilty not paying for the game, which you could remedy by opting to buy alternate champion skins - that's how they make their money folks. If you are okay with default skins, then you don't have to spend anything.

The little pictures look a lot more attractive too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Games Played 11/07/2011 - 11/13/2011

- 11/07/2011 -

- 11/08/2011 -
Kirby: Mass Attack - NDS
League of Legends - PC

- 11/09/2011 -
DC Universe Online - PC
Kirby: Mass Attack - NDS
League of Legends - PC
Otomedius Excellent - X-Box 360
Sonic Generations - PC

- 11/10/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Sports Champions - PlayStation 3

- 11/11/2011 -
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 - PlayStation 3
Kirby: Mass Attack - NDS
League of Legends - PC
Otomedius Excellent - X-Box 360
Sonic Generations - PC

- 11/12/2011 -
Fallout: New Vegas - PC
Kirby: Mass Attack - NDS
League of Legends - PC
Otomedius Excellent - X-Box 360
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

- 11/13/2011 -
Dirt 3 - PC
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 - PlayStation 3
F1 2011 - PC
League of Legends - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fallout: New Vegas - Return Danger

After learning the positive things about the Personal Computer version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim recently, it would be a lie for me to say that I am not tempted to obtain the game and start playing it. That $59.99 price point is of course a major deterrent for me so to alleviate some of my open world role playing game craving, I have decided to jump back into Fallout: New Vegas. I have only spent about 3 hours playing the game and now, I have made a grave error in regards to the save file that I loaded up this evening. Without looking at the time stamps, I chose a custom save file instead of the auto-save where I left off. Since I have the auto-saving enabled every time an area transition occurs, I discovered too late that I was back to the first hour of the game and my auto-save had already been replaced. I got a bit mad and deleted both files. Now, I am left somewhat frustrated with the whole situation. Perhaps it's a good thing that this happened though because starting fresh may be just the thing I need to really get back into the game again.

When these two games collide, I lose a save file.

Update Note: 11/13/2011 - I got a better idea. Since I missed out on the launch of the late September version 2.0 update for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, perhaps it's a good time to return to that game instead!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Steam Forum Hacker Get!

The Steam forum page has been down ever since some strange messages appeared on it several days ago. I haven't visited the forums since that incident until now and I saw the following official announcement from Valve:

It is apparent for a while now that our information is really not safe anywhere on the Internet because those hackers out there are really very insistent and truly clever when it comes to bypassing database security. The bad news here is of course it never feels good to know that people are rummaging through your personal information but they do that all the time anyway without us noticing. The good news here is that the forum information is separate from the actual Steam account information unless you use the same user name and password to access the two. Still, if anyone is trying to log in to your Steam account from another computer, they would have to get the confirmation code from your email anyway so unless they somehow obtain your email address and password, it's hard for others to do much with trying to gain access to your Steam games but those things are probably the last things these hackers were interested to gain in the first place. Though the damage here, at least at this early stage of investigation, isn't anywhere near the catastrophic Sony intrusion, perhaps Valve would be offering some sweet compensation for all the users in the way of free games or an "Intrusion Detection" discount in the spirit of the recent asteroid-inspired promotion. Do it, Valve!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

October 2011 Gaming Analysis

The results shown below are of course based on the combined data from the Daily Game Log which should provide a clear indication of a game's usage frequency. Bear in mind that even if a game is played twice or more during a particular day, it would still register as 1 in the Day Count column below. In a sense, "merits" are given based on how often a particular game can make me play it again throughout the entire period of the month on a daily basis. A game that makes a gamer play it over and over again or at least spend a lot of time with it... Isn't that what we mostly want from a great game? I don't think it's really fair to count all the way down to the number of hours played since some games only require a short amount of time to properly serve their purposes.


Total Games Played: 31

Dark Souls for the PlayStation 3 definitely ate up a lot of gaming hours last month but I visited it less often than League of Legends on the Personal Computer that once again took the number one spot. I have played less Dark Souls this past week however because once the game became too predictable and easy, the fun lessens and the game starts to feel too repetitive. Still, I am interested in getting my character to level up some more so that I could equip some of the cool looking weapons and armor sets I found. I don't think I will stop playing it any time soon.

On the third spot, Bleach: Soul Resurrección for the PlayStation 3, which is one really addicting game. It's another Dynasty Warriors clone but the cool-looking characters and their over the top fighting styles made it hard for me to stop playing. The fourth most played game last month was Dungeon Defenders for the Personal Computer. This tower defense turned action role playing game features plenty of crazy loot to collect and up to four player co-op action. The developer Trendy Entertainment released a free Halloween add-on specifically for the PC version late last month that brought with it many unique rewards. I would have played this more if I wasn't too distracted by Dark Souls.

This Month's Inductees:

Total Inductions: 20

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Skyrim Drama

I logged into Steam this morning and I saw something funny and something a bit disgusting. Let's start with the funny: Rage just receives a 33% discount thanks to the "Asteroid Fly-By" promotion. Valve's sense of humor is impeccable. Now for the disgusting part... Steam is trying to push sales for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as you can see from the screenshot below:

Last chance? Who wants to pre-purchase it anyway?

The game is being released tomorrow so Bethesda is doing one final push to shove this game down our throats without any form of lubrication. The game does offer a pre-load option however, so those who pre-order it will be able to play the game immediately once it goes live if they choose to download it now. I have always been an Elder Scrolls fan but let me tell you why I wouldn't be rushing to get this one. Firstly, we all know by now that the Personal Computer is not the lead platform for this game because the developer has only been showing the X-Box 360 version of the game to the public. Why is this a bad thing? Well, because the latest in the series deserves what the PC technology could offer it and now, we have to just make do with something that is designed with quite a hefty limitation. Notice that Skyrim is only 5.10 GB in size. Wow. It doesn't even utilize Steamworks. Double douche. It's like the Final Fantasy XIII situation where the game was obviously designed with the disc media limitation of the X-Box 360. The series has always been developed with the PC in mind but now that commitment to quality has changed. I have played Oblivion both on the PC and the 360 extensively and yeah, that near infinite loading time and the bad textures on the 360... Horrible. The only reason why I stick with the 360 version at that time was because I was rebuilding my PC. Secondly, that price. Please do not try to force that ridiculous $59.99 price to the PC market. It's bad enough that Activision is already doing that. $59.99 for a digitally distributed game = death. As for me, I am going to wait until this game hits the $20 or lower mark before I would even consider getting it because of the poor decision on the developer's part. They certainly don't deserve our support.

Update Note: 11/10/2011 - The gameplay footage for the PC version of Skyrim has finally been revealed and at least it looks a whole lot better than the console version with greater draw distance. And the load time is almost non-existent too. The texture works still look pretty bad though. If you are going to get this game, the PC version is the right choice.

11/11/2011 - This game actually uses Steam as the digital rights management tool! I apparently missed that somehow because I have been looking at the store page on Steam predominantly and there was no indication that it was going to use Steamworks. Today, Steam achievements have been listed on the page and I was able to confirm that other copies of the game, digital and physical, do indeed require Steam activation. My apologies Bethesda, you did right! The price is still a little high but you sure did the right thing. I'll make it up to you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Truth About Special Editions

The spouse asked me why I didn't choose the "Special Edition" of Otomedius Excellent and got the regular release that was priced at $29.99 while we were at the store to pick up that game last Sunday. My response was simple: a) it's a $20 cheaper, and b) my perception has changed over the years in regards to the "premium special release" (or let's refer it as PSR for short) editions of games. Looking back over my video gaming history, it is very safe to say that whenever I get a PSR game, the excitement would normally last less than a day and after viewing all the special contents included in the package once, I normally don't look at them again, like ever. Nor do I even have the interest of going back to gloat over them.

What has always been important is the actual game itself and all the extra materials really don't add to much. The only PSR item that I actually gets infused into my daily life is the Vault Boy bobblehead that I got with Fallout 3 on the Personal Computer because it would be sitting on the armrest of my futon so that I could see it move whenever I take a seat. Of course this doesn't mean that I don't like video gaming memorabilia, it's just that game developers should only release one edition of the games they are selling so that extra physical materials packaged with those games become more of a standard. The way that the PSRs are usually priced do make them go over that budget commitment I have agreed upon recently anyway so this revelation fits well with that personal scheme. Perhaps I am just so into digital distribution so much these days that I really don't see the value in physical products anymore. PSR materials are sometimes pretty but too quickly, they become forgettable. And they take up so much space too and I'd like to leave whatever available space I have for freebie gaming items, like the new Sensu Japanese Folding Fan I just got from Club Nintendo. Sure I wish I waited to order that one though because I rather get the new Classic Super Mario T-Shirt reward...

The Nintendo fan.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Games Played 10/31/2011 - 11/06/2011

- 10/31/2011 -
Dark Souls - PlayStation 3
Sonic Generations - PC

- 11/01/2011 -
Dark Souls - PlayStation 3
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - PC

- 11/02/2011 -
Dark Souls - PlayStation 3
League of Legends - PC
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - PC

- 11/03/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - PC
Sonic Generations - PC

- 11/04/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Sonic Generations - PC

- 11/05/2011 -
Dark Souls - PlayStation 3
DC Universe Online - PC

- 11/06/2011 -
Dark Souls - PlayStation 3
DC Universe Online - PC
League of Legends - PC
Otomedius Excellent - X-Box 360

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Otomedius X: Cover Up for Cover

My most anticipated game of this fall is none other than Konami's Otomedius Excellent and I finally got it inducted into my Game Library today. Otomedius X is actually the third in the series - the first two never made it out of Japan. The series is what I would call a fantasy sequel to the Gradius series and it features a full female cast and a comical/cute presentation. The gameplay is pretty much the same as Gradius, complete with the upgraded power-ups, core-based shooting, and familiar ship as well as stage designs. I have played a little bit of the game and it is already a lot of fun. It's too bad I can't play it online because of my X-Box LIVE Gold situation. What I found really amusing about this game however is the game's cover art. You would think that Konami would feature some risque images that is definitely present in the actual game but instead, they went for the modest route as you can see from the screenshots below. Apparently, ESRB already approved of the partial nudity in the game so it's strange that Konami is not using it as a way to entice those who are unfamiliar with Gradius but are into the whole Japanese lolita scene. If you are a fan of the shmup genre, please support Konami and buy the game as soon as you can!

Suggestive, but not to full effect.

The breasts are even cleverly hidden on the back cover.

The full view from the game.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

DC Universe Online: No Wonder It's Free to Play!

I have always wanted to play the Personal Computer version of DC Universe Online by Sony Online Entertainment but since it was one of those massively multiplayer online role playing games, I was not willing to pay the monthly subscription for it because I may not be able to maximize the use of the paid gameplay time. As of November 1st however, the game has adopted a "free-to-play" model and despite that claim of free access being nothing but an elaborate illusion due to the limitations imposed upon non-paying players, I still decided to finally check out the game.

Don't make Castrata angry... You definitely would not llike her when she is angry.

I have played superhero-based MMOs before like City of Heroes and Champions Online but the main difference between this game and those titles is that DCU is more of an action RPG and I found that playing it with the X-Box 360 controller is the way to go instead of using the keyboard and mouse. Having DC characters in the game also makes things a lot more exciting. The character creation is not that impressive but better looking costume pieces can be acquired by playing the game and you are given full control over how you want your character to look - you can lock specific gear pieces if you don't want new equipments altering your overall costume design. The game looks great and the button-mashing gameplay is fun but I can't play much of the game right now because it is buggy. Like it's extremely buggy. Sometimes, you can't proceed to the next area because the option to exit the area is missing. Sometimes, you get stuck on the loading screen. Worse still, closing out the game and logging back in means a five minute login queue time. This game was first released in January 2011 and the user interface itself is still buggy. When you minimize the size of it, they move towards the center of the screen instead of staying at the corner of the screen where they should be. The funny thing about this UI bug is that it occurred on the recently released Dungeon Defenders but after I reported the bug to Trendy Entertainment, it was fixed almost immediately. Well, at least I know now why this game has become FTP: It is one hot and steamy pile of mess. Perhaps this is all caused by the recent surge of new subscribers? SOE should have been ready for it. I am going to give this game a week and if nothing changes, I am out!

Update Note: 11/06/2011 - If you keep getting stuck on the loading screen at the beginning of the game, try this solution I found on the Steam forum.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: The Human Centipede 2

The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence (2011)
Genre: Horror
Director: Tom Six

When I watched the original The Human Centipede, I wasn't impressed. Tom Six's concept of a movie about connecting three human beings to each other anus-to-mouth was indeed disturbing but the movie itself was not that horrific - please click here to read my review of the first movie. This sequel however sees Tom Six back with vengeance in his heart as he presents to us one really vile piece of work that will leave a distinctive stain on the history of horror cinema forever.

The shift in the story is rather remarkable. In Full Sequence, we are presented with Martin, an obese, mentally-challenged parking lot security officer who is obsessed with the first movie. He watches it continuously and is convinced that he can make his own version of the human centipede (only with a lot more people) by copying the fictional Dr. Heiter's infamous procedure. This meta-film approach works really well because it makes the entire proceeding a lot more realistic because it suggested that the movie happened in real life versus the cinematic world where the original tale took place. To make things even more interesting, one of the actresses from the first movie return to this sequel as herself! You know that Martin is one sick bastard for wanting to actually include the original actress in the first movie to become a part of his own human centipede chain. There are other telling signs of his psychotic tendencies as well, from kidnapping people from the parking lot to the utterly merciless things he does to them to realize his depraved little fantasy.

Unlike the first movie, Full Sequence has quite a build up, that is if you even want to call it that. We get to see Martin's home life in between his kidnapping sessions, where we learn that he is a really troubled man. But surely, no justification is ever enough for the amount of torture he inflicted upon his victims nearing the end of the movie when he finally performs the surgery to join his captured men and women together. Unlike Dr. Heiter, Martin has no access to the best medical equipments out there. Instead of a scalpel, perhaps a kitchen knife would do? To get his victims to remain unconscious - which is hard to do without anaesthetics - perhaps they could get knocked in the head with a crowbar? You get the picture. It's not a pretty sight. It's totally disgusting and above all else, it's extremely cruel. When they are finally attached to each other thanks to Martin's shoddy handiwork, he then intensifies their suffering by doing a number of nasty things to them for his pure pleasure.

This movie is not for everyone. It is an interesting horror movie and it is quite a deviation, perfect for those adventurous people who wanted to watch something remarkably different. It eventually turns into a torture porn and the violence you get to witness was done for the sake of violence alone. The movie uses a stark black and white presentation, amplifying its somber, despicable mood. The way the centipede situation resolves itself is truly unforgivable and Martin will go down in history as one of the most evil characters to ever disgrace the silver screen. The story itself has some logical loopholes - they could have escaped Martin together at one point - but nonetheless, this is Martin's world after all. The version that I have watched is the international cut that clocks in at 88 minutes. After some research, a rape sequence and a self-mutilation scene were indeed shortened in this version of the film and of course, I am not entirely happy about that. Still, it is better than the UK cut with 3 more minutes of footage removed. I don't know if I should look forward to the unrated release. Perhaps I have seen too much already.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sonic Generations PC: The Good and the Bad

Still holding off on the Personal Computer version of Sonic Generations because you are afraid that it would be a horrible port like I did? Well, you can now breathe a sigh of relief. After playing through the first four Acts in the game, I can assure you that Devil's Details has done a great job with this game.

Nostalgic... But the feeling doesn't last.

They did such a great job as a matter of fact that this is definitely the best looking version of the game. I am able to run it on my PC at native 1920 x 1080 with all the graphical settings maxed out and everything ran very, very smoothly. The game looks sharp and colorful with a highly improved level of clarity compared to the PlayStation 3 demo I tried out the other day. I did notice some slowdown when the environments were moving really, really fast but they didn't occur often enough. The compression quality of the full motion video introduction sequence is not the best however, which is unfortunate because it could have been accomplished using the real time engine easily on the PC.

I love the warping effect of the burst move.

Now for the bad, and it doesn't even have anything to do with the technical standpoint of the game as a port. It actually has a lot to do with Sonic Team's design of the game itself. This is another "confused" Sonic game, a downgrade from the excellent Sonic Colors on the Nintendo Wii. After completing the two Acts in one area, there is no boss fight. Sonic Team has forgotten that we love destroying Dr. Eggman's in his crazy contraptions no matter how easy they are to beat. Instead, you have to unlock boss stages from the main hub and they are not interdependent to your ability to move on to the next themed area. I don't know, everything just feels disjointed. Still, there is no denying that the actual stages - both for classic Sonic and modern Sonic - are really, really fun. At $29.99, the PC version is the one to get and despite that very low price, it's an excellent port, and surprise! It even comes with an online mode where you can submit your best stage time to a leaderboard and play a trial challenge.

As a console port, Sonic Generations gets a rating of "S"!

Review: Megan is Missing

Megan is Missing (2011)
Genre: Horror
Format: Netflix Stream
Director: Michael Goi

Now here's an interesting movie that actually manages to become a cautionary tale for parents as well as an exploitation cinema for the hardcore crowd. The only problem is, the film is so hard to watch that the former would be completely turned off by it. It also doesn't help that this film is probably not appropriate to be watched by younger viewers despite its focus on teen life.

Megan is Missing shamelessly combines the ongoings behind the 2004 murder of Carlie Brucia with the reference to Megan's Law and then then abused the "based on a true story" concept into the stratosphere. It's exploitative for sure but it's not without its merits. The entire movie is presented using supposedly collected video camera recordings of the 14 year old Megan and Amy, two best friends who are truly polar opposite to each other in terms of their personalities. Megan is addicted to drugs and boys while Amy is the school outcast who is not growing up as fast as the other girls. The movie does a very good job familiarizing you with the two girls and their daily lives, making their characters believable. The film takes its time to ensure that you could connect to one or both of these girls before they started communicating with who they think is a boy from another school by the name of Josh using online chat. At first, the film seemed to be quite tame even though the ideas involving the kidnappings and the potential murders of these girls are disturbing enough but then film decided to tie everything up with something remarkably brutal. The last twenty minutes or so is so dark and unforgiving: a nasty sequence of human suffering that  is both extremely shocking and sad.

The only problem I have with the movie is that it tries to lighten up the situation somewhere in there with a rather comical representation of the news media and it seems so out of place in comparison to the ultra-realism that the movie is striving for. Other than that though, this is a powerful movie that enforces the idea of stranger danger to its fullest. With its creative storytelling device and its bitter, hard to swallow message that there are people out there who want to do us a lot of harm, Megan is Missing may be a bit deficient in its integrity but it certainly isn't missing a lot of impact.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Review: Insidious

Insidious (2011)
Genre: Horror
Format: DVD
Director: James Wan

When it comes to horror movies, nothing is more insidious than poor execution and even poorer story concept so it is quite fitting that this movie is called Insidious. The screenwriter/actor Leigh Whannel is back in an attempt to write something better than the first three Saw movies and failed miserably. To be fair, he did okay with Dead Silence... at least for the second half of the movie. A note to James Wan - you don't have to direct everything that Whannel writes. It's time to fly solo, my friend.

Insidious is a confused mess of ideas that never really takes off because it wants to be so many things. Is it a tale of a haunted house? Is it a superhero story? Is it a ghost story? Is it science fiction? Is it a dark fantasy? Is it a spiritual exploration? Heck if I know. Is it a bad movie? Oh yes it is. Basically, a little boy went into a coma after falling down a broken ladder. The doctor was not able to explain to his parents the cause of his comatose state - perhaps a concussion maybe doc? - and it was later revealed that it had something to do with the separation between the body and the soul. Oh brother. The film takes on this theme very seriously and that is all and well if not for the extremely uneven pacing and betrayed potentials. The first half of the movie was filled with a thick atmosphere of dread and there were definitely some truly horrifying moments when you get to see little fragments of spiritual beings manifesting themselves on screen. The second half of the movie went all out crazy with showing us what it means to be on the other side of the veil beyond the physical realm, a place that makes little to no sense even according to the film's own established rules. A note to Whannel - if you ran out of ideas midway while writing a screenplay, perhaps its best to start fresh with a new one.

If Wan and Whannel really wanted to make more money, here's an idea for them: Why not team up to make more Saw films? It feels a bit empty this year now that the Saw films have been discontinued. Since the sequels have been very, very successful, it seems like a good place for the duo to go back to. Then again, perhaps the franchise should be revived by more capable hands. The two out of five rating is for Lin Shaye flat-out stealing the show as a medium in what is definitely one of the worst horror movies ever made.

RATING: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Preview: The Lord of the Rings - War in the North

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (2011)
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Platform: Personal Computer
Induction Date: 11/01/2011

I didn't pay much attention to The Lord of the Rings: War in the North during its development phase because it looked like another generic LotR action game like the ones released by Electronic Arts during the height of the movie franchise's hype. A couple of weeks ago, I found out that the game was actually being developed by Snowblind Studios who were responsible for the outstanding Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and the Norrath-inspired dungeon crawlers I have played on the PlayStation 2 and my excitement level went up. The game could have opted for the top down view similar to all of their past action role playing games but with War in the North, the developer is opting for a more stylish and modern presentation while keeping true to the familiar mechanics that has made their former games quite addicting to play.

It's time to hate on all things orcs and goblins all over again.

The game's story is a separate tale that occurs concurrently to the events in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and this is of course, a great thing as it brings with it a fresh perspective into something that most of us are probably very familiar with at this point in time thanks to those epic movies by Peter Jackson. It all starts off with a meeting in Bree between Aragon and the three playable characters: Eradan the Dúnadan Ranger, Farin the Dwarf Champion, and Andriel the Elven Lore-master. You are soon tasked to create a diversion for the forces of evil to distract them from Frodo and the gang. The game features a branching conversation system when you are talking to the non-player characters and these interactions are fully voiced. The way that the camera moves back and forth between the participants during the dialogs reminds me of a Bioware RPG but without the morality system. The NPCs are engaging enough, thanks to the good voice acting. I have only played about 2-3 hours of the game and the structure seems linear but you do get sub-quests to complete alongside the story missions.

Don't ask me where the dwarf's right hand is...

War in the North is an action RPG and that translates into fast paced, action-oriented battles with RPG-based character progression. All the characters have the ability to attack with both melee and ranged weapons, with the latter played marvelously in an over the shoulder third person perspective, but they gain access to very specialized skill sets that are broken down to three skill trees. Whenever your character levels up, you will gain access to attribute points to improve your character's base statistics and one point to spend on the skill tree. I have spent most of my time playing Andriel in both melee and range capacities. I prefer the game's melee combat because of the responsiveness of the controls. The game can be a button masher, especially during large skirmishes but the characters' unique special abilities, which come with cool-downs, do spice things up a lot. There are also critical moves that can be performed on a dying enemy and it is fun to do so - chopping your enemies into little pieces is always exciting - as it is beneficial because of the extra experience points given when triggered.

Equipping gears alters your character's look. Hope there are plenty of gear varieties in the game.

War in the North can be played with 2 other players via LAN and the Internet or with computer companions. I have only tried the online play briefly and it looks like you can use your offline characters for the multiplayer mode. Interestingly, you can choose to save your online progression on a separate save file but I am not sure why anyone would do that. When playing with the computer allies, you can only switch characters between stages and though the changes you have made to each class is saved, they will not be applicable to your computer companions. For example, say you are playing the Ranger and have equipped him with a certain set of armor and abilities, when you switch to say the Champion, the computer will customize the Ranger with its own set of armor and abilities. The computer allies are smart enough but it would have been great to provide them with your own individual choices of visual alterations and statistical boosts that you have given to a particular character when you are not playing him or her. Overall though, the game is a lot of fun if you are into the genre. I haven't mentioned that the action maps are filled with a lot of crates, barrels, and treasure chests to satisfy all of your looting needs. It is apparent that the PC version is not the game's lead platform since there are a lot of unholy looking low-resolution texture works. Still, there are plenty of visual options to play around with, which is nice to see and it is a solid port with nary a performance hitch with the settings maxed out on my PC. A high resolution texture pack would be great though. The PC version utilizes Steamworks - hurray - which comes with achievements and cloud save.