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by Ethos

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.

3/7/2011

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Well, I feel gypped.

Why? I just paid $6.99 for the recently-released Dead Space 2 add-on, Severed. Two new chapters! Play as a new character! Sounds groovy, right? Wrong. It is not groovy. In fact, it’s a bit of a damn disappointment.

Severed puts you in the shoes of Gabe Well, a Titan security officer who is desperately trying to reach his wife during the Necromorph outbreak. What ensues is two chapters in which you re-tread levels from the Dead Space 2 campaign. No, seriously. You walk backwards through them this time, but that does nothing to hide the fact that they’re the same exact levels from the campaign. It feels a bit cheap. Especially since it’s all extremely straightforward; the gameplay in Severed stays strictly focused on combat. There’s nary even a hacking mini-game, except for one at the end.

However, in its focus on combat, Severed can be entertaining. The super-satisfying limb-blasting combat is still here, and it’s still great. There are some decently challenging and hectic encounters in Severed, I will concede. However, none of it is particularly difficult – on normal difficulty, I only died once or twice.

But yeah. It can be entertaining, but it is not worth seven dollars. No sir. Not at all. I recommend against buying it. You’d honestly be better off just replaying some levels from Dead Space 2.

Ahem. But yeah. Aside from that. Dragon Age 2 comes out tomorrow.

Actually, it comes out in like 33 minutes. I don’t have it reserved, though, so I’ll be waiting until tomorrow morning to get my copy. I don’t work until 5 p.m. so that’ll give me a good chunk of time to play  it.

And in other news… the Crysis 2 demo is fun. Looks to be far more promising than Bulletstorm.

That’s all for now. I’m still alive, well, and occasionally playing games. What more can a man ask for, eh?

~Riddles

Dragon Age II Demo Impressions: Yeah, It’s a Lot Better

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

To all fans of Dragon Age Origins on the PS3 and Xbox 360, heed my words: you need not fear for the fate of Dragon Age II. In fact, if the rather robust and lengthy demo recently released on PSN, XBL and PC is any indication, you should instead mark your calenders and start counting down. It looks like BioWare plans to follow up Mass Effect 2 with style.

Strong words, you say? Sure, but I’m willing to stand behind them 102%. Let me explain why.

It actually looks, feels, and plays like a current-generation title

In fact, it may be the most aesthetically slick videogame that BioWare has ever created. Presentation values have been upped big time, and injected with a dose of stylization that gives Dragon Age II a real cinematic punch. Cutscenes are easily on par (and perhaps beyond) those of Mass Effect 2: well-acted, well-directed, and looking fantastic. Character models don’t have hyper-realistic textures like those of Uncharted 2 or Dead Space, but BioWare compensates for this with a mild cartoon touch to the graphics. It’s very subtle, to the point where it’s difficult to notice unless you put Dragon Age II side-by-side with its predecessor. But it works.

And it’s not just cutscenes, but all of the game that impresses. Not looking like shit through a grainy lense would have been improvement enough, but Dragon Age II actually looks quite pretty – I can’t say if this will apply to the entire game, but the areas I traveled through in the demo seemed much more intricately designed and detailed than those of Dragon Age Origins – which often suffered from a general blandess to its environments.

It runs better, too. Much better. No more slowdowns, frame hitches and obnoxious pop-ins. Even when the action is hot and heavy, with numerous foes on-screen, the game doesn’t slow down. You can tell it’s been designed from the ground up for consoles this time. Surely a sore point for PC gamers, but to exclusively console gamers such as myself, it’s a wish granted.

The combat system has been improved in every way. (Speaking as a console gamer)

But, we all expected the game to look prettier. The big question about Dragon Age II, since its initial unveiling, has always been its revamped combat system. Gamers (perhaps justly) fear that the newfound focus on action and gore will detract from the game’s more cerebral elements. Well, once again: lay your fears to rest. Combat in Dragon Age II is not only faster and more accessible – it’s deeper, too.

That’s right, it’s deeper, and it allow for a greater level of tactical control over your party. Like the original Dragon Age,  you can pause the action by bringing up your Radial Menu. Once you’re there, though, there’s a few more things you can do than before.

First and foremost, you can queue up commands now. Remember how, in the original game, once you selected an action from the menu, the game would automatically close the menu and the character would perform the action? Sort of annoying, right? Especially if you’re trying to manually issue commands for each of your party members at a single given time. Dragon Age II does away with this frustration by allowing you to select an action for each of your party members, and then close the menu to let ‘em rip. You still can’t stack commands, though. (i.e, select a string of two or three for a single character.)

Another useful addition is the Move To Point command, accessible from the aforementioned Radial Menu. In Origins, if you wanted to, say, re-position your Archer, you’d have to go take control of him yourself, and run his ass over to whatever point you had in mind. Not so any longer! Select “Move To Point,” position the marker, and the selected character will promply run to wherever you’ve directed him/her. It’s incredibly useful, and also necessary to overcome some of the more hectic encounters. My only complaint is the camera angle – it’d be nice if the console versions featured the ability to pull the camera back for a more tactical view of the map. Apparently, though, this is the bone being thrown to PC users. Which, seemingly, is the only reason we console gamers can’t do it.

Flemeth has drastically changed up her wardrobe.

Another notable addition is the importance of distance and space. You can move around the battlefield a lot faster and more smoothly in Dragon Age II. And that’s because it’s actually possible to avoid damage this way. Now, when a big, nasty troll charges at you like a bull,  you can do a quick sidestep. Then you can go start wailing on his back, if you’re quick enough. It’s the single addition that makes Dragon Age II feel more like an action game. To me, it’s a welcome addition – it simply adds another layer to an already layered combat system.

Dragon Age II may look like hack-and-slash at first glance, it’s not. Sure, you press the X button to execute individual sword-swipes, you can run around freely, and there’s lots of fancy, stylized action moves – but it only takes a few moments of playing to realize that all actions are still dictated by a very fast, unseen ATB bar. Kinda like Final Fantasy XIII. (Except you could see it in that game.) Mash buttons as fast as you want; the game is still essentially turn-based. It just does a damn good job of hiding it.

I could go on and on about this demo; if you can’t tell, I enjoyed the crap out of it, and it’s made me much more excited for Dragon Age II than I was prior. If you have a PS3, 360 or a capable PC with an internet connection, go try it out for yourself. I’m going to take this opportunity to shut up before I say too much about a demo. Dragon Age II hits North American shores on March 8. You can be assured that I’ll have much more to say about it then.

~Riddles

Hey! Look! Listen! #65 – You’ve got such super-wicked style

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

So I’m expected to visit Albion this week? Madness. I’m deep within the mystical land of Ferelden, and I have no desire to leave. Seriously. That game is so good, and I’ve really been getting into it lately, so the thought of putting it aside in favor of Fable is just… tough. It’s a tough thing.

But the theme week demands it. And while I’m generally perfectly fine with ignoring theme weeks, this time I’m gonna bite the bullet. For the sake of you all.

Anyway. That’ll come later. For now, let’s take a look at some goings-on across the internet.

Speaking of Dragon Age: Check Out this Sexy New Trailer for Dragon Age II

And when I say sexy, I do mean sexy. This looks more like a trailer for a slickly packaged action game than an RPG; and while that’s perhaps slightly off-putting, you can’t deny the sexiness of it.

Plus, unlike all prior trailers, this one is composed of actual in-game footage. No gameplay, but in-game footage. It looks quite good, actually.

Man. I need to finish Dragon Age Origins.

Funny: Steve Jobs Was Pissed Over Bungie Sale Back in 2000

Man, it really was ten years ago that Microsoft made that fateful acquisition of Bungie. (The Halo guys, for you clueless ones.)

Something you might not know about Bungie, though, is that before the Microsoft buyout, they developed games primarily for (wait for it) the Apple Macintosh platform. Yep. A few of their titles were ported to Windows platforms, but they were more or less what you’d call Mac developers.

So, when Microsoft bought out Bungie in summer of 2000, you can imagine that a certain Steve Jobs wasn’t entirely thrilled. He was far from thrilled, in fact; he was downright pissed. So pissed that he called Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer and bitched. Or something.

This is according to former Xbox exec Ed Fries, who recently told this story to Develop. Apparently, after the phone call, Ballmer ordered Fries to make some, uh… reparations.

“So, during the day, I got an email from Steve Ballmer asking me to phone Steve Jobs and calm him down about the whole thing,” he said.

“Anyway, we did this deal with Apple where we’d port some PC games to the Macintosh and help Peter Tamte create this company to do it, and I had to go to a Mac developer conference and get on stage and talk about this whole new partnership. It was a pretty strange time.”

That does sound like a strange time. For several reasons. Like, for instance: why the hell would Microsoft go to such lengths to placate an angry Steve Jobs? What possible advantage could that bring to them? Was it supposed to cultivate good relations? Because as far as I can see, the two companies still hate eachother. I mean hell, Melinda Gates won’t even let her kids have an iPod, for fuck’s sake.

So why? Was there a threat involved? Am I reading way too much into this? Am I just trying to up my word count? Is anyone still reading? God, I hope not.

The PlayStation Phone is a Thing

A real thing. A thing that’s a thing that’s a thing.

That is to say that it’s real. Endgadget says so. And they have pictures to prove it. Here, take a gander at this one:

Nice. No analog nub, but still nice. I’m actually interested in this, but unsure how much of a nerd stigma would come along with owning a PlayStation phone. I mean, we all remember what happened to the N-Gage, right? Granted that has very little to do with anything, but still, we all remember, right? Obviously the PlayStation Phone will look hella slicker, but due to the presence of PlayStation buttons, it’ll have to be hella slick indeed to avoid looking awkward when you pull it out at parties.

It’s rumored that the PlayStation Phone will hit the market “soon” – possibly in time for the holidays, though Endgadget calls 2011 a more realistic release window at this point. Supposedly, it’ll come equipped with the Android 3.0 OS, and will feature a “custom Sony Marketplace which will allow you to purchase and download games designed for the new platform.”

Oh, Jeezus: Check Out These New Catherine Screens

I’m pretty excited about Catherine. I mean, how can you not be? A distinctively and pointedly adult-themed game brought to you by the people behind Persona 3 and 4? Yes, please. Please. Yes.

However. It must be said that the screenshot below is one of the more disturbing images I’ve seen in at least twelve hours.

Is that… a chainsaw coming out of its eye? Two chainsaws?

Hit up Andriasang for the full batch of screens. Catherine’s been given a release date for Japan – and that date is February 17. No word yet on a Western release, but I’m sure we’ll get one.

That’s all I’ve got in me tonight, gents and ladies. Signing off.

~Riddles


Hey! Look! Listen! #61 – Man, I’m Tired of Being Homeless

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I really am. I mean, “homeless” isn’t entirely accurate – I’ve been living in a nice two-bedroom apartment with Dillon and his fiance for the last five weeks or so – but it’s only meant to be temporary, and the majority of my stuff is in a storage unit. It’s a place to live, but it isn’t my place, y’know?

And of course, when I finally got around to applying for residency to the apartment I picked out, I was denied because I didn’t pass the fucking credit check. Why? Not because I have bad credit; but because I have no credit. Why do I have no credit? Because I’ve avoided credit cards and car payments my entire life, and paid for everything with money out of my own pocket. So I’m essentially being penalized for being financially responsible, and that infuriates me to no end.

But, in a stroke of moderate luck I’ve found another place, in which my lack of credit shouldn’t be an issue. So, if all goes well, I’ll be in a place of my own in two to three weeks.

But enough about my boring personal life. Welcome once again to Hey! Look! Listen! I’m your host Oliver “Riddles” Motok, and it’s time to see what’s going on in my RSS feed.

Final Fantasy XIII Coming to Xbox 360 in Japan… What?

After letting it kick around as a rumor for less than a day, Square Enix came forward and confirmed that their shitty 13th entry in the Final Fantasy series will be coming to the Xbox 360 in Japan, as part of their budget-priced “Ultimate Hits” line. If you recall, while the game was released on both PS3 and 360 in the states, it remained a PS3 exclusive in Japan.

I assumed that this was largely because nobody in Japan owns an Xbox 360. And, as far as I know, that’s still the case. So, to be frank, this makes little sense to me. But then again, nothing about Final Fantasy XIII makes sense to me.  The game is, and remains, a giant digital clusterfuck.

The four existing Japanese 360 fanbots will be able to experience said clusterfuck on December 16. (VG247)

Check Out Dragon Age II’s Female Protagonist


Cute, right? Like Ethos, I always go Female when allowed to choose, because I’d rather look at something cute. And also, nobody else does it. And also, I fantasize about being a woman and it allows me to partially realize said fantasies.

That last part isn’t actually true, I just thought it would be funny to say. Or… is it?

Anyway. While I’m glad she’s hot and stuff, this immediately raised the question in my mind: will you be allowed to customize character appearance in Dragon Age II? If you recall, while Mass Effect always had the stock male model used in all the trailers and promotional stuff, they never bothered showing a female – makes sense, seeing that most people are going to create something totally unique anyway. So the fact that they’ve provided this specific female model makes me wonder. And google as I may, I can’t find any solid confirmation that appearance customization is a feature in Dragon Age II.

Maybe I’m missing something. Dunno. I have no idea *why* BioWare would remove the feature, seeing that it’s become sort of a staple for them. And my guess is that they haven’t. I’m just, y’know. Raising the question.

Check Out These Mass Effect 2 Stats

Now this is cool. And insane, in some cases:

28 times? 28 motherfucking times? Are you kidding me? I want to meet these people, and see how much of a life they don’t have.

Anyway, this image was part of an IGN interview with Mass Effect’s Executive Producer, Casey Hudson. In the interview, Hudson explained why they gather these stats, and how they’re used – or not used – to aid the development of future titles. Here’s an excerpt:

Ultimately it doesn’t always give you the answers, but it sometimes raises questions or gets you to ask the right questions…More people played the soldier class than all of the other classes combined. If you know that, then you can start thinking about future games. Is that good? Is that a problem? Should we look at the other classes and start thinking about ways to make them selected as often as soldier? As part of asking these questions, we can design games in the future a lot better.

The full article is rather interesting, and not absurdly long. I recommend you check it out here.

A PC With a Built-In Xbox 360 Now Exists

And it’s awesome. And… expensive. As fuck.

A company called Origin PC has built a high-powered gaming computer that not only has specs mad enough to play anything at max settings, but it has a freaking 360 Slim inside of it. The whole thing, with the same ports and connections. You can even play it while the PC is performing other tasks.

As for specs, the entry-level configuration includes:

-An overclocked 4.0GHz Intel Core i7 930 processor,

-A liquid cooled Rampage III Extreme motherboard

-Dual NVIDIA GTX 480 GPUs,

-6GBs of memory

-Dual 50GB SSD drives

-A 2TB hard drive

-A Creative Fatal1ty sound card

-A built-in Blu-ray burner

All that can be yours for a mere $7669. And if that’s not expensive enough for you, try the configuration used by CPU Magazine:

-Dual Intel Xeon X5680 processors overclocked to 4.3GHz

-An EVGA SR2 motherboard

-Liquid cooling

-Quad SLI EVGA GTX 480 GPUs

-12GBs of memory

-Four 50GB SSD drives

-Two 2TB hard drives

-A built-in Blu-ray burner

-A built-in 8 channel HD audio sound card

All that can be yours for a mere… $16.999. Interested? You can order “The Big O” (that’s seriously what it’s called) now at Origin’s website.

To say “do want” is a bit redundant at this point, but I guess I’ll say it anyway.

QUICKIE: There’s a Dissidia Sequel Coming

Well, this isn’t terribly surprising. According to the latest issue of Shonen Jump, a sequel named Dissidia Duodecim: Final Fantasy will be released next year. Confirmed to be in the new lineup are Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII and Kain from Final Fantasy IV.

“Dissidia Duodecim”? Really? That’s Nomura for you. Anyway, nothing else is known about the game at the moment, but I’m pretty sure we’ll hear more when TGS rolls around. (VG247)

And that, as they say, is that. It’s time to get some Taco Bell and then head to bed. Tomorrow’s my one day off, and hopefully I’ll be able to spend it playing Dissidia. If so, expect impressions.

‘Till then!

~Riddles

Welcome to Big Birthday Boys Week

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Yeah, that’s right. We’re having a week to celebrate our birthdays. Because they’re both in the same week. In fact, they’re back-to-back – Ethan turns 24 on the 19, and I turn 21 on the 20th. Isn’t that cute? Like a sign of a beautiful friendship to come, or something like that.

Anyway, yeah, I really don’t know what we’ll be doing with this week other than wishing ourselves happy birthdays, but I’m perfectly fine with that.

I just remembered that today is Tuesday. I’m supposed to write one of those gimmicky news/opinion columns of mine. Hmm. Well, perhaps I’ll do that. Until then, enjoy this debut trailer for Dragon Age II.

Pretty cinematics, if nothing else. Apparently the game has been given the official release date of March 8th, so mark your calendars! That should give me enough time to finish the first game, right?

Speaking of which, I’m about to go play it. Be back later.

~Riddles