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Ethos and Riddles talk about video games...
            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Here’s a thing

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Yeah, we’re definitely ramping down content a little bit here, but while you wait for a Scatter Storming sometime in the next few days, here’s a conversation I had with myself on our site’s Facebook page.

3/25/2011 – Rinse and Repeat

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

That’s a definitive keyphrase for my life right now. Hey, it happens, I’m not crying about it. But, it makes for bad blogging – or no blogging, as it were. My poor site, Riddlethos, has been sorely neglected for some time now, and frankly it bums me out. Not quite the “vision” I have for it, as it were. But, the sad fact of the matter is that Riddlethos doesn’t pay the bills – and if I view it as a chore, it’ll only worsen the situation.

Riddlethos will always be around. But, it will always reflect the varying up and down points of mine – and Ethan’s – lives. When I put it that way, it doesn’t sound so shameful.

One of the not-so-shocking facts about videogame journalism is this: if you aren’t actively playing games, it’s damn hard to muster inspiration. Browsing news hubs can only be so thrilling when you’re not out tasting the actual, sweet nectar of the videogame industry. Gone, sadly, are the halcyon days of my youth during which I could play Final Fantasy XII for 30, 40 hours in a week and not be strapped for a single moment. More than two weeks after its initial release, I think I’ve managed to reach a whopping 18 hours on Dragon Age II. If that. Really, I’m impressed I’ve even gotten that far.

Well, no, I’m not. There have been numerous times where I’ve sat down with Dragon Age II and a notepad, intending to take some notes and write an article. But, I would always end up setting my notebook aside and playing 3, 4 hours without taking a single note. Then going to work. Rinse and repeat. (Hey, there it is again!)

But after 18 hours, I certainly have an opinion. Here’s the thing: I agree with all of the complaints about the game. I do. It’s clearly a rush job from BioWare, and while I always suspected this being the case, it’s still a little disillusioning to see the results. After 18 hours, it’s clear you never really leave the one, main city of Kirkwall. You venture to several other surrounding areas and environments – all of which feel very samey – but there’s not a single other fully realized city or environment in Dragon Age II. After the massive map of Ferelden that we were allowed to explore in Origins, it’s quite disappointing to see Dragon Age II falter like this.

But. God damn it, the game is just fun to play. It’s the most immediately engaging and playable RPG I’ve seen since Final Fantasy XII. The main reason for this is the absolutely top-notch battle system that BioWare has put together for Dragon Age II. So incredibly easy to pick up and play, and yet, BioWare has carefully preserved – and even improved – on the tactical layers beneath the action. If you’re patient enough to sit and spend time adjusting all the tactical pre-sets for your teammates, you’ll be rewarded with a well-oiled machine that deals death with style and efficiency. It’s incredibly satisfying – but even beyond that, it’s still a breeze to pause combat and issue manual orders during tougher situations. Which is good, because the game is still a good challenge on the normal difficulty setting  - if you don’t take the time to pause and strategize, tougher battles can destroy you.

Beyond that, the writing is still top-notch, and the story is interesting enough to keep my attention. It’s not as desperate or epic as the story in Origins, though. Or at least it doesn’t seem to be so far. I’ll be honest and tell you: I’ve hardly advanced the main story at all in Dragon Age II. At 18 hours, I’ve just entered the Deep Roads for the first time.

Yeah. I’ve been questing like a motherfucker. Because, like I said, Dragon Age II is the most entertaining RPG I’ve played in years. I take extreme pleasure out of mowing down a throng of armed Qunari with my well-oiled fighting machine of a team. Similarly, I enjoying spending collective hours amongst the game’s menus, carefully choosing which stats to upgrade, what skills to purchase, and what tactics to set for my party members. It’s just a shame that these amazingly refined mechanics aren’t a part of a bigger, better overlying framework. I think Glenn said this first, but Dragon Age II feels more like Dragon Age 1.5.

After I finish the game, I’ll likely give it a proper review for my site. (Like you did for Dead Space 2? Oh snap!)

Ahem. But no, really, I’ll try my best. I really have a lot more I’d like to say about this one.

~Riddles

More 3DS games

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

I just got five 3rd party 3DS games today. Far more interesting stuff than Steel Diver and Nintendogs + Cats. At the very least my next Scatter Storming will have impressions of them all.

03/23/2011 – I’m stealing Riddles’ shtick

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

I think we’ll keep this Dragon Age II Week thing going if Riddles doesn’t have other plans I don’t know about. I’d like to do some impressions with Riddles if he gets a shot in his busy schedule, and there’s an outside shot that I’ll get a review up.

Most of all, I’m taking the encouragement from you guys and calming down a bit about keeping Riddlethos up to date. There are a number of projects I’d like to get truly started (most importantly Lusipurr’s Fountain of Perpetual Disappointment), and that might mean keeping this site in low-gear until we can finally afford the re-design that Riddlethos has desperately needed for about 10 months.

Doesn’t mean that I won’t be updating, of course, just that I won’t be promising 17 weekly features.

The dishes are really really gross today, but I did a lot of them. In fact, I’ve been largely productive after work this whole week and it makes a difference on my psyche.

Anyway, that’s it. Let’s see if I do anymore actual work this evening.

Scatter Storming. Issue #048

Monday, March 21st, 2011

See! What did I tell you? Another Scatter Storming.

Today I am quite tired and have a lot on my plate, so let’s go to.

Let’s Be Honest

As much as Riddles and I love this site and are committed to it, it’s obvious that content and enthusiasm has been down since the beginning.

The fact is that Riddlethos does not pay the bills and takes a tremendous amount to effort to keep afloat at the level that both Riddles and I aspire to.

This leaves feelings of frustration when we can’t produce content like we’d like and feelings of guilt when we take time to ourselves.

But the point is that we truly appreciate all our readers – the ones who comment and the ones who don’t – and while Riddlethos will have dips and dives in its content production, you guys are the reason we still even consider this little site as something worth working on.

Riddles and I plan to talk soon to rework a few things, and maybe it’ll mean officially diminished content, maybe it won’t, but all decisions will be made carefully and with the future success of the site in mind, even if that means darker days for a bit.

Sorry for the rant, but I wanted to touch base and let you all know that a lack of content does not equal a lack of love.

Ugly

Pilot Wings Resort

Fuck the other games that came with my temporary 3DS unit, Pilot Wings is the shit. It has almost every good thing I remember about the 64 version while adding some good new things and removing most – but not all – of the annoying. You can blast through all the missions very quickly, but to master each one and get a perfect score in every level is a true challenge.

A challenge that’s actually not often seen in any game nowadays. It’s a clever move that Nintendo demonstrated with Mario Galaxy 2: the difficulty setting without a need for a difficulty setting.

It would be perfectly easy for a beginner player to toy around with the title and have some fun in the easier modes and the free flight and not get frustrated with the difficulty. An intermediate player would find challenge in unlocking all of the levels as a decent amount of skill is needed to do so.

A player of my experience with gaming and the series, however, can blast through and unlock all the levels, but will then have a very challenging and ultimately satisfying time with the game trying to get a perfect score on all the levels. It – very largely – takes skill and intimate knowledge of the intricacies of all the vehicles to do so. There will be no flukes to gain a perfect run.

Yes, very fun. But ugly.

However, all that praise being said, the game is actually a horrible showpiece for the new system. The graphics are bad. I saw what the launch software was capable of when I was in New York, and Pilot Wings Resort is ugly in comparison. There is no argument. It’s a stylistic choice I guess, but one in the same vein as Wii Sports, so I’m not going to defend it.

Also the 3D is bad. If I only had this game to go off of, I would say that the system’s 3D doesn’t really work that well. Now I’ve seen about a dozen other titles, so I know that Pilot Wings Resort is the exception, but it’s still a Nintendo first party launch title, so…

On the lowest level, it’s actually very pleasant. The effect is obvious, but not intense, and it can even be helpful for some of the jet pack missions. But crank the thing up and it all goes to shit. Unlike every other game that I’ve played for the system, when the slider is completely up – or even over the halfway point – there’s no way to properly focus. There is no sweet spot. The 3D just doesn’t work on max for Pilot Wings.

Anyhoo, there’s a solid preview for when I get the go ahead to write a review. (Psst, the go ahead will be once I see a review from IGN).

Other than that…

…I haven’t really been playing many games. I just haven’t been home. Dragon Age calls to me, but because it has turned out to be “just a fun game” and not really the sequel that Origins deserved, I haven’t been cutting into sleeping time to play it.

I have been playing Pokémon when I can, but I’m just on the grind now. I picked up a few Pokeymans that really suck now, but evolve late and will be worth the investment. I’m at the Elite Four, but haven’t properly challenged them yet. I’ll post my winning team when I finally do.

That’s all! I actually wrote more than I expected, so suck it.

Weather Forecast: Scatter Storming

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Riddles and I have both been very busy. He with work, me with work and nonstop social activity. Perhaps his is more legitimate? Who knows. All I know is that this is the first time I’ve been home in a while, and I’m about to leave.

Never fear, however. I’m going to keep this Scatter Storming thing alive and at least start it tonight. That means it’ll go up tonight or tomorrow. I’m not like Riddles who starts a Dead Space 2 review and never finishes. Once I have a draft up, it’ll be posted within 24 hours.

Edit: I actually started it today (Monday) and I’m just waiting for an awesome picture from my friend to use for the cover. So it still will be posted within 24 hours. That just might mean Tuesday now.

Concerning Dragon Age II and Not Playing as a Female

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Well that’s an unwieldy title. I might change it later, in which case I’d have to remove this sentence as well. Or maybe I won’t, which means this sentence will still be here. And you’ll be reading it.

Ahem. It’s Dragon Age II week here at Riddlethos, and I’ve decided that in the sixty minutes or so I have before I must depart for work, I’m going to attempt to write… well, something about it. Some simple impressions would be almost superfluous at this point, so I decided to touch on a tangential topic relating to my personal playthrough.

In every BioWare game that I’ve played before Dragon Age II (which is limited to Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Dragon Age Origins) I’ve always chosen to play as a female. (Cue tired jokes). Ethan’s the one who originally gave me the idea (cue more tired jokes) and I’ve always found it to be a rewarding experience, for a few reasons. First and foremost, Shepard’s female voice is far easier on the ears than the male version. Jennifer Hale is a goddess among voice actresses, and that is a fact. Second, lesbian sex scenes. This may only apply to the original Mass Effect, really, but whatever. And finally, playing as a female is just a good ol’ change of pace to me. I’ve played plenty of games with burly or even not-so-burly male protagonists. I’m past the stage where I idolize angsty spike-haired males – who, in fact, are often more effeminate than Jane Shepard could ever be. When I have the chance to decide, I’ll go with the change of pace, and remain confident enough in my own sexuality to not be ashamed of it.*

My dude looks less douchy.

That aside. You may notice the title of this article includes the words “not playing as a female.” I almost feel sheepish saying this after the above mini-rant, but it’s true: I chose the Male warrior in Dragon Age II. And I didn’t do it because I’m having a crisis of sexual identity.** I did it for the history books. Yes, the history books, children. I’m willing to guess that many of you are confused right now, so let’s advance to the next paragraph, where I will elaborate.

One of the most rewarding things about playing through Mass Effect 2 was seeing how my decisions from the original game carried over and affected the people, events, and world around me. The world behind Mass Effect is one of the richest fantasy mythologies created for a videogame, and the cohesiveness of it all – even factoring in the vastly different decisions of different players – is mind-blowing. It’s why I’ve never replayed either of the Mass Effect games. I want my story to be perfectly preserved, and I want to see it through to the end before I go back and mess around with different decisions. As a gamer, it’s like I’m building my own legacy, my own mythology, within this fictional universe. For some reason, that really tickles my fancy.

As we all know, Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 share the same protagonist. Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II do not. When I first played the demo for Dragon Age II, I selected a female warrior like usual. Soon, though, I found myself thinking: how much sense does it make for Fereldan’s heroes to all be… y’know, chicks?

Think about it. In my playthrough of Dragon Age Origins, a female Grey Warden named Luthien saved Fereldan from the blight. Not sure what grand effect on the world Hawke will have when it’s all said an done, but I imagine (or hope, rather) that it’s something similarly epic and world-changing.

I realize how entirely vague and bizarre I sound right now, but for whatever reason, raising another female Fereldan (or Kirkwall-ian) hero just didn’t sound appealing to me. And it’s not how I want my personal history in Fereldan to play out. So, I chose to play as a male. I changed up my appearance a bit so I look less douchy, but I’m still definitely a dude. And… it’s not bad. I’m glad I did it, but it seems I’m more partial to playing as chicks than I thought, because it’s still a bit strange.

Honestly, though, I’m not sure playing as a chick would make it much better. I think Hawke him/herself is a little on the bland side. Granted, I haven’t gotten too far yet, but I just can’t quite pinpoint the dude’s motivation.

But that’s an article for another day. Like tomorrow! I mean, it IS Dragon Age II week.

*I would recommend  you write that sentence down and use it out of context to embarass/troll me at some point in the future.

**A sexual identity crisis may well be happening, all I meant to communicate is that it had no bearing on my decision to play as a male Hawke.

Oh, and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

An update on all the stuff I can do before you.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Just saw an advanced screening of Paul and it makes so many nerdy references, your face will bleed. Also, it was a lot better than I expected. Really a great movie.

Also, I got my grubby little hands on a 3DS unit. It’s not mine, but it’ll be in my possession for the next few weeks. I’ll be bringing you impressions/reviews when I can/am allowed to.

Hope all’s well!

Welcome to Dragon Age II Week

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Sure, Dragon Age II came out a week ago, but we’re only now having a theme week – which, of course, is the most important thing.

Nah, I’m kidding. But we are going to talk about Dragon Age II this week, which should be a fun time – seeing that many people already have some strong opinions on the game. Such as Yours Truly.

Yeah, I’ve been playing it. I know I haven’t been around here much, but I have been playing videogames, so that counts for something. I’m only ten hours in at the moment (shameful, I know) but I’ve certainly played enough to form an opinion. For now I’ll say that I’m enjoying it quite a bit –  but, many of the complaints about the game echoing about the interwebs are, indeed, valid.

Except for the ones about the battle system. It’s awesome.

In other random news, Angry Birds is strangely addictive. This morning I woke up to find that my electricity had been shut off (which inspired no small amount of rage) and even after I paid the exorbitant sum in order to turn it back on, I had to sit in a dark apartment for at least an hour. With no electricity, I had naught for electronic entertainment aside from my lovely iPhone 4 which I love. So. I finally decided to give Angry Birds a try. It’s fun. I always feel kinda dirty playing such candidly casual stuff, but I won’t lie: I enjoyed it. So there.