Currently playing…
I loaded up Oblivion on the PC, downloaded a dozen mods to 'fix' the game, and it was still barely tolerable. The game feels lifeless, soulless, and meaningless.

The landscape is good looking, I'll give it that. The people, the cities, the armor, the ruins, and the caves range from ugly to boring. Fallout 3 had lots of ugly but it also had some character.

Yet, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is on my 'to buy' list for 2011. Why? Morrowind.

I loved Morrowind. When I first got the game, it required too much RAM for my system to handle and I still managed to chug through the first part at about 2 FPS. I'd never played, or imagined, a game like that. The concept of open-world gameplay was completely new to me. I recall the first time it rained and I called my mother over to the computer to look at it. I'd never seen weather effects in a game before.

I played through the entire game and I enjoyed it. I played through parts of Fallout 3 and enjoyed them as well. This is all I ask. I believe Bethesda can do it again.

Speaking of Morrowind, the Morrowind 2011 Graphical Update has been released.

As soon as I saw it, I uninstalled Oblivion and downloaded it. I'll probably start with vanilla Morrowind as installing Tribunal means an assassin attacks you as soon as you sleep. I also need to find that 'less hostile creatures' mod. I'm don't want mudcrabs, rats, and raptors chasing me across Vvardenfell.

For those of you who like casual, flash games, I have two:

Every Day The Same Dream - Very simple. Listen to the woman in the elevator. You only need to play it once but I played it three times. Also, a bit depressing.

Bloxorz - A puzzle game in 33 stages where you manipulate a rectangular cube and attempt to put it in a square hole. I am currently stuck on stage 11.
Coming in 2011
Happy holidays to whomever reads this blog. All two of you.

I've caught a bit of a cold and it's almost freezing in Las Vegas, which means I'm miserable, cold, and disinclined to game. However, it's hard not to be excited about the Christmas after Christmas when I opened my spreadsheet, list all the games I hope to buy this year, what date they're coming out, and how much this will cost me.

2011 looks to be a ridiculously awesome year for gaming. 15 games I want, 5 games I might be interested in, and who knows how many titles that I'm not aware of yet because they're not a sequel.


Q1 2011

Dead Space 2 (January)
Crysis 2 (March)
Dragon Age 2 (March)

Q2 2011

Portal 2 (April)
Witcher 2 (May)
Torchlight II (TBA)

Q3 2011
Batman: Arkham City (TBA)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (TBA)

Q4 2011

Elder Scrolls V (November)
Mass Effect 3 ("Holidays")
Dungeon Siege 3 (TBA)
Risen 2 (TBA)
Guild Wars 2 (TBA)
Diablo 3 (Maybe)

Interested in:

Rage (September)
I Am Alive (TBA)
Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm (TBA)
Defense of the Ancients 2 <- Valve has made the popular Warcraft III mod into a game.
The Old Republic (Q2/Q3)
Austrailia may get adult games
R18+ Rating For Computer Games Close

The Gillard Government appears to be ready to embrace the notion of an R18+ rating for adult computer games, after a review found there was little evidence of a strong link between violent computer games and violent crime or aggressive behavior.

The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O'Connor, released the review yesterday.

It comes shortly before a standing committee of attorneys-general from across Australia discuss the issue at a meeting in Canberra on Friday December 10.
Under consideration is a proposal to introduce the R18+ classification, restricting sales and viewing of adult games to people aged 18 and over. At present, since they are refused classification, such games cannot be sold in Australia.

O'Connor appeared to be amenable to the new category in his remarks yesterday.

"We need a classification system that protects young minds from any possible adverse affect, while also ensuring that adults are free to make their own decisions about what they play, within the bounds of the law," he said, adding: "I'm keen to proceed with making this important decision, based on solid and robust evidence."
Game Packaging
From the linkosphere: An Extremely Interesting History of Game Packaging. That's the name of the article. I only found it somewhat interesting.

I've finished with Flame of Vengeance and ought to have the review up tomorrow.
Divinity 2 – The Dragon Knight Saga

You may recall that last year I picked up Divinity 2: Ego Draconis and considered it 'one-third of an awesome game.' I was thrilled to read about the Flames of Vengeance expansion that would supposedly finish the story of the Dragon Knight.

Flame of Vengeance was to arrive in August but got pushed to November. It then came out as part of the Dragon Knight Saga, which is a graphically enhanced version of Ego Draconis and the expansion bundled together. As far as I can tell, there's no way for owners of the original game to simply buy the expansion pack, but Dragon Knight Saga is only $39.99.

After instillation, I attempted to load up my last save so I could jump into Flames of Vengeance, but the game says my old saves are all 'wrong version.' I can create a fresh, high-level character for FoV, but I might as well replay the original game. It's been almost a year but I do recall I wanted to try out something other than the basic melee build I originally used.

Unfortunately, the 'enhanced graphical engine' still gives me a black screen when I pick my PC's native 1680x1050 resolution and attempts to reset to 640x400. My video card doesn't even support that. Why in the world would a modern game even acknowledge the existence of such a screen resolution?

I do what I had to do in the first game and open: C:/Users/LSN/AppData/Local/Divinity2/Profile/graphicoptions.xml

And manually set my resolution.

The game doesn't support screen capture, so it's FRAPS time.

Despite my issues, I will say that the game itself is already faster. In the original, the main menu would appear and then I'd have to wait 15-30 seconds before I could interact with it. The time to load the character creation screen is also faster.
Dragon Age II Items, BioWare loot, and Blog Update
Dragon Age II Items

If you sign up for the BioWare/Dragon Age newsletter, BioWare will give you codes for two DLC items in Dragon Age II, the Staff of Parthalan and Hindsight, a magical belt. You need to have a BSN or EA account.

To get the Staff, click here and sign-up for the newsletter. They'll mail you a code but it's taking a month for some reason.

To get Hindsight, click here, click Get Your DAII Penny Arcade Belt, and sign up to the newsletter *again*. This item will automatically appear in your game promotions.

Comments: I signed up and immediately was sent 2 DA II newsletters + EA newletter. Others have not gotten any newsletters. I don't know why they didn't automatically add the Staff of Parthalan to your promotions. I guess Hindsight is 20/20?

The Hindsight belt promotion shows for the X-Box 360 and PC, but not the PS3. That does make me wonder if they're having problems with PS3 accounts.

BioWare Loot

It occurred to me while writing my Fallout: New Vegas review that BioWare sent my current video card. I won it in the community event they had in April, but it seems like something a game review should mention, yes?

Sadly, though I've only had it for five months, light grays have started to turn pink. Whites, blues, reds, yellows, blacks – fine. Light gray? Slightly pink. It's an ATI Radeon HD 5770.

Blog Update

You might have noticed, but I went incognito in the spring and have just resurfaced like a terrible sea creature rising from the irradiated depths to devour the scrumptious inhabitants of New Tokyo.

If you see this as a good thing, thank
1) swirlwind, a woman at the BSN who was kind enough to say she would like to read a review of New Vegas from me,
2) Monster Import, which I devoured an entire can of while I wrote the review, and
3) The Myst Series soundtrack.
Fallout: New Vegas – Journey through the Mojave Wasteland

Preamble, the skipable part

In May of 2004, I learned that a new development studio, Obsidian, would develop the sequel to Knights of the Old Republic. Like Trokia, the developers at Obsidian were former Black Isle employees. Specifically, they were known for working on two respected games in the RPG field: Fallout and Planescape: Torment.

My perception of their games was as follows.
Fallout 1 and 2 – Never played them
Planescape: Torment – Excellent
Icewind Dale- I bought it when it came out, created a group, got one quest to kill goblins, killed those goblins, and then uninstalled the game. I never attempted to play it again because no gameplay element appealed to me.

Arcanum - Very good
Temple of Elemental Evil – It looked like another Icewind Dale, so I never picked it up
Vampire: Bloodlines – Very good

I looked forward to Knights of the Old Republic 2, got it the day it came out, called in sick to work, and played through in one 26 hour sitting. KotOR 2 was a great game… in places. It was fascinating, interesting, and stylish but some aspects of it were quite disappointing.

I was still a fan of Obsidian and looked forward to their next game. Unfortunately, I found Neverwinter Nights 2 to be more of a disappointment. I've heard praise for Mask of the Betrayer. I ought to play through it someday, but doubt I will do so. I own Alpha Protocol. I even installed it. I never played it and it's currently sitting in a plastic bin with a bunch of other games that I ought to organize.

I did eventually play Fallout 2. There was a great deal about it I liked, but I found the combat cumbersome. I played for 20 some hours before I hit one of the harder fights, and after several tries, and getting killed by my squadmates repeatedly, I set the game aside and didn't pick it back up.

I didn't panic when I heard Bethesda picked up Fallout 3 but I did adjust my expectations. I had played Morrowind and Oblivion, the first of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Bethesda can make good RPGs, they just can't make strong main plots or interesting NPCs. I never 'finished' Fallout 3, but that's because I abandoned the main plot as soon as I could and only rejoined it when I had to or I happened to stumble across the right NPC. I hear it had something to do with my Father and water.

That leads me to…

The Review

Fallout: New Vegas is a great RPG. It's the RPG that I've waited six years for Obsidian to create. I was prepared to like it, but I was not prepared to love it. It's the best open world RPG I've played. (Beats Morrowind) It's the best first person RPG I've played. (Beats Deus Ex) Is it the top of my RPG list? Possibly. Ask me in a year when the luster has worn off.

Two caveats to the above. One, I live in Las Vegas. I live a one block from the strip and there is a certain 'neat!' factor to roaming around a post-apocalyptic version of your own backyard. Two, I haven't played a good game in awhile. Assassin's Creed 2 in March would be my last one.

That's seven months without a good game. It's a bit like being abstinent for seven months and then having sex; I'm inclined to like it more than usual.

Fallout: New Vegas is not the type of RPG I like. In general, I prefer story-driven RPGs like Dragon Age or the Witcher. Open world RPGs are a bit more touchy. I want to explore, but if it's something like Oblivion where I feel I have to hike five miles from one place to the next, I quickly get bored.

New Vegas gives you with the feeling of a desolate wasteland, but packs it with stuff. It's a delicate balance. The only time walking distances managed to make me cranky was when the game kept me up passed 2 am, which is generally when any game element can make me cranky.

The graphics are rough. I am fine with this. If you're not, there are already a number of mods available already to tinker with them. Given the overall quality of the game, I was surprised at all the new art assets. Yes, many objects are the same, but when it comes to the environment, there's a great deal of new content.

There are several new Vaults and all but one is a treat. There's the Science Experiment Run Amuck Vault, the Sinister Moral Dilemma Vault, and the Zombies Attack! Vault.

Bizarrely, many Vaults are flooded with water. This makes no sense because the setting is *a desert*. Rainfall is rare, storms are incredibly rare, and while flooding happens, it rarely lasts more than a few days. It begs the imagination as to how one vault designed to withstand a nuclear bomb might suffer massive water damage underground and remain flooded for years, let alone three.

Combat is much like Fallout 3 though thankfully not every death is accompanied by a gory and slow-mo moment. You get companions early and the humans are well done though the AI can be horribly aggressive. I entered one Vault, stood near the enters and just waited to see what my companions would do. As I stood there, they cleaned out the first floor (even opening doors to do so) and started on the second before returning to me.

Fallout: NVneeds to place a marker on the local map for fallen companions because they frequently run off to battle something you hadn't notice and then die. Several times I would be running along only for the [Cass has fallen unconscious!] message to pop up. I'd backtrack and find her lying among a group of giant radscorpians that she'd taken on with only a 10mm pistol.

Oh, I gave her a shotgun, but earlier I'd used my sniper rifle to take out a large group of Fiends. Cass, bless her heart, had decided to charge them, firing round after round while she was still a half mile away. She possibly did no damage, but she easily ate through the 40 slugs I'd scavenged. After running out of ammo (though still not at their base), she then stood there furiously cocking and reloading her shotgun while going "Fuck! Out of ammo!" "Fuck! Out of ammo!" "Fuck! Out of ammo" (I somehow heard this clearly though she was nowhere near me) until a Fiend armed with an incinerator popped out and fried her.

Screen Note: [Cass has fallen unconscious!]

That said, the companions are likable, interesting and, when the AI works, incredibly useful. If your PC wants to focus on soft skills instead of combat, the companions level up with you and are all designed around combat so you can sit back while they kill shit.

Can I heap more praise on this game? Yes.

The plot is interesting. The sidequests are varied and the minor NPCs well done. I like the various factions, though the game needs to be clearer about the difference between Karma and Reputation. I killed a bunch of Powder Gangers, which lowered my Rep with them but increased my Karma. I then took their stuff, which lowered my Karma because apparently stealing from dead outlaws makes you a bad person.

Speech, Medicine, Barter, and Repair all make frequent appearances in the dialogue, but you'll also see Sneak, Survival, Charisma, and Intelligence on occasion. There's a perk called 'Terrifying Presence' which I've only seen once, and it didn't do anything. There's also something I call the 'I'm a lesbian' perk, which gives you +10% damage to female characters and extra speech options in regards to…being queer. They're not always flirtatious or romantic, and one wonders how liking women helps you do more damage to them. (You're intimately familiar with female anatomy?)

I like the music, though there seems to be less variety than Fallout 3 and I quickly turned off the radio. Mr. New Vegas isn't as interesting as Three Dog though Wayne Newton does a good job.

(On a side note, Mr. Newton agreed to come to an event my company sponsored but didn't show up. I *still* get the occasional angry e-mail from men who came simply to see Mr. Newton and say we lied about him coming.)

I've heaped praises on this game. Is there anything I'd change? Yah. The bug that won't let me finish after 50 hours of playing.

Oh Obsidian. I was waiting for this throughout the game. You've given me 50 hours of interesting, fun gameplay along with an enjoyable story and the feeling as though the world was really reacting to my decisions. Now, however, whenever I step onto the Strip, I'm attacked by a swarm of robots who have missiles and grenades. And my ally, the one I've worked with since the beginning, now will no longer speak with me, and the main questline is marked as FAILED.

Why? There are two possibilities. It seems the turrets of a random Vault are marked as part of the Strip's faction. Therefore, even though they automatically target you, if you destroy them, you're marked as hostile. In addition, it seems that if you tell a companion to return home, they're attacked for some reason when they try to enter the Strip where the home base is. When they defend themselves, again, the PC is marked as hostile.

I've done both of these things in the ten hours since I was last on the Strip. Yes, I have a save, but it's been *ten real time hours* since I went to the Strip last.

For now, I'm uninstalling and waiting for a patch. I know one has come out already. I tell myself that in a month, another will come out, I'll reinstall, and play through the entire thing without a hitch.