Daily Archives: May 14, 2010

Two videogames beaten, but not over with yet

Over the past couple of days, I beat two videogames. Namely, Dragon Age: Origins and Pokemon HeartGold. Both will be getting full reviews from me in the near future, one most likely here and one most likely over at The First Hour, but I still want to talk a little bit about them at the moment…since their deaths are so fresh in my mind.

Both of these games are now beaten. I have seen the end credits roll. And yet, against my power, both of these games demand I continue playing them. In different manners, of course.

For Pokemon HeartGold, they are asking me to play the same game again. The only difference is a new skin to it with new Pokemon to collect, but the fundamentals are all the same: explore the land, collect pocket monsters, defeat gym leaders, and rise to the top of another league for ultimate bragging rights. I’m going to do it, but considering that I just did exactly that for 49 hours…well, I’m not terribly excited for déjà vu to set in.

For Dragon Age: Origins, it’s all about playing the game as drastically different as possible. Because what’s done is done. My Grey Warden character defeated the darkspawn (I don’t consider this a spoiler as, duh, you knew it was going to happen) and now there’s nothing else to do. Can’t reload and venture about Ferelden to do sidequests until the cows come home. Instead, thanks to the numerous origins and different classes and varied dialogue choices, one can play BioWare’s fantasy RPG a second time and experience the complete opposite of what they did before. That’s nice. And also, I didn’t do that Achievement boosting trick where you save before you make a big decision, unlock the Achievement, reload, and then unlock the other one. So I’ll be heading back in to side with the werewolves and help the mages in the Circle Tower and so on. To be honest, I’m looking forward to experiencing it all over again.

Now…about these games’ endings. They were totally lame, especially considering the hours spent to get there.

Pokemon HeartGold tossed an extremely tough battle in your face unlike anything your Trainer ever fought against, and I suspect a lot of players were in the same boat as me. Meaning…lots of grinding to catch up and be halfway formidable. And once that’s said and done, you’re treated to a short scene stating your awesomeness and then credits with little animated Pokesprites running around and being silly. Fade to black. Reload to discover you basically only “beat” 50% of the actual game. Laaame.

Talking about the ending in Dragon Age: Origins is a bit more challenging. I don’t want to spoil specifics, but I really felt like there was a lack of imagination in the final battle. Honestly, your team just moves from zone to zone, fighting wave after wave of darkspawn until you make it to the archdemon, and then you fight it and it releases wave after wave of support enemies and then you kill it and then you’re done. And treated to–and I’m not kidding here–static paintings with some tiny text boxes telling you about what happened to people and places in the years to come. BioWare couldn’t even shell out for some voice actor here after all the speaking that when down during my 41 hours of gameplay. Sigh. There may or may not be more to the game’s ending though depending on some choices you previously made. Time will tell in that department. Either way, it felt kind of lame. Like, that boss battle with that giant tentacle-wielding woman-thing was much more exciting (and original) than this. Oh well. Maybe my second playthrough will reveal something else.

But yeah, despite the fact I’m still going to be playing these for some time, they’re definitely getting crossed off the backlog list as completed.

Portal is great and free, but just not for me

In case you’re curious, you’re supposed to read this blog post’s title in a sing-songy voice.

So, the big news is that Steam is now available for Macs, and that everyone can download a free copy of Portal (from now until May 24, that is) to celebrate this triumphant moment. Sounds like a sweet deal, right? Between the Humble Indie Bundle and this, the Internet’s been pretty kind to us gamers as of late.

I use a MacBook at home, lovingly nicknamed Macaroni, a laptop I’ve never considered gaming on save for silly little Facebook applications and, uh, Chess. Yes! The computer always wins, but whatev. That is until I got Aquaria, and that runs like a professional marathoner. So I figured what the hey, and downloaded the file to get Steam a-going. Took less than a couple of minutes to get set up with my name and profile and all that junk. Then I clicked to download my free copy of Portal. And then I waited. And waited some more. And made dinner. And took a shower. And grinded some more in Pokemon HeartGold. And checked to make sure it was still downloading. It was. I watched a little TV. And then it completed downloading…after around five hours. Hmm. That’s fine and all really, considering it’s a free game and I was downloading it a few hours after it was announced publicly.

Unfortunately, I get a message from Steam saying my video driver card thingy is not up to snuff for Portal. Bugger that. They offer me a link to download an upgrade. I click it, and nothing happens. I click it a few more times…still nothing. Finally, I just say screw it (not out loud, mind you) and run the game with what I got.

At quarter to midnight, I loaded up Portal, excited to play. That feeling faded fast when moving the mouse on the start menu felt like dragging around those boulders muscle men lift onto podiums for random peen tournaments on like ESPN. Uh-oh. Not to be confused with Ho-Oh, my kick-ass rainbow Pokemon. I thought this thing could run on Macs from the get-go. I start a new game, which opens into tutorial levels.

I only manage to get to the one room where a machine shoots a ball of fire/energy. The lag was so terrible, and I tried switching all the settings to be as least demanding as possible, but nothing worked. The sound was fine, with the robot’s audio coming in clear and crisp. Alas, controlling our leading lady was sluggish and unfriendly, and getting her through portals was like leading a cat to the bathtub. So frustrating. Such a shame.

And this is why I’m a console gamer, through and through. With a console, you have everything you need to play a game, more or less. You don’t have to upgrade video cards and alter settings to get a smoother performance. It’s just frustrating that I’d have to jump through all these hoops to even get Portal moving at a sane clip. I’m not interested enough for that. Besides, I could always pick up The Orange Box for Xbox 360 and play lag-free then. And now there’s really no point to me keeping my Steam account as I’ll forever be afraid to buy a game and then discover it won’t run well on Macaroni.

I guess if I want to play Portal, I’m going to have to stick with the Flash version for now.