Monthly Archives: February 2011

Felicia Day is Tallis, the snarky, Elven assassin

Felicia Day just announced today that she’s starring in a new, six-part webseries based on the Dragon Age video game series, which will come out later this year. She’s playing Tallis, an elven assassin hired by the Qunari to find a rogue mage who is pretty much up to no good. She won’t be tracking down this mage alone either, backed by a varied band of followers. It’s a little hard to tell from press releases and interviews with Day if this is gonna be a serious webseries or something less heavy…or something in-between. I mean, between Alistair and Morrigan, there was actually a lot of snark in Dragon Age: Origins.

I’m not a watcher of The Guild, as World of Warcraft isn’t my thing, but I’ll definitely be looking forward to this. And no, not just because it stars a redhead. I mean, yeah, sure, that’s a big part of it. Like 65% or so. Maybe 70% even. But I do also really enjoy the lore and history of Ferelden, the stories of the Maker and the clash between the numerous races and cultures, and everyone’s thoughts on darkspawn taint and–okay, okay. And the many, many redheads. I love my redheads.

Humor is not the weapon of unarmed people

I’m pretty sure I’ve mused before about all the things I’ve never done in the Fallout universe, such as keeping a good distance from using big guns to actually not seeking out Dogmeat as a companion. Another tactic I’ve never tried in my 300+ hours logged over Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas is that of fighting unarmed. Now, to clarify, unarmed doesn’t necessarily mean totally unarmed; some weapons like spiked knuckles, a bladed gauntlet, and the zap glove count, as does using just your bare fists. Regardless, one will have to get pretty dang close to their opponents to do some heavy unarmed damage, and I generally like to keep my distance, imitating a ninja or dustwheel as best as possible. This sort of guerilla style gameplay took a while to get used to, but I did eventually, and soon found myself charging fists-first into battle, ready to uppercut NCR troopers to their new home above the clouds.

And so I’m pretty proud to see this baby pop late last night after I gave a large fire gecko a swift smack to the back of its head:

Old-Tyme Brawler (15G): Caused 10,000 damage with Unarmed weapons.

Zelda, the fiend of the Mojave Wasteland, is around level 17 currently, with an unarmed skill of 55 points. Not bad, and it will surely grow as she’s already rocking a 100 cap in melee weapons. She also has a wonderful perk, which will sometimes knock an opponent to the ground from an unarmed attack, allowing for more free punches and kicks. Teamed with ED-E for support from afar, she’s a decent warrior (except against Deathclaws). And this weapon helps a lot:

What a beauty! That’s a power fist for the uninformed. It’s an armored gauntlet that uses a pneumatic ram to really send the message home. There really is something special about watching Zelda, a thin, redhead dressed as homely as possible, wielding this fist of death and knocking the heads off enemies with ease. I really have to make a conscious effort to make my evil characters appear more evil.

Anyways, I can’t believe I went this long without trying out an unarmed character; it does have its downsides, as big groups of enemies can basically surround Zelda and riddle her with bullets, but otherwise it’s been a lot of fun. And once she hits around level 25 or so, I think I’ll give Dead Money another try, now that I’ve got a character built specifically to handle all their melee and unarmed weapons, as well as a high survival skill for turning junk food into the most delicious thing ever.

So many slimes to save, so little time

Actually, out of the 100 slimes to save in Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, I need to only rescue 25 more at this point. Which is awesome because that means I’m this much closer to clearing up a spot in my travel case for Radiant Historia. And that gives me hope that, yes, I can do this…I can actually finish some of the videogames I buy before moving on to (possibly not) finish new games I buy. It’s a vicious cycle, I know.

Right. Anyways…Boingburg. It’s definitely looking a lot prettier now that it is a bustling city-state again, full of friends and enemies-turned-friends. Only 25 captured slimes left to rescue. Easy peasy, especially now that Rocket Slime can charge through crystal walls. Do your worst, Flucifer’s Necropolis. The only part I’m a little worried about is the inevitable upcoming big boss tank battles; I did two minor tank battles in a row the other night, and my left hand felt crippled and sore, tired of constantly moving Rocket Slime from room to room to gather ammo. I swear, my thumb NEVER left the d-pad once for both battles, and each one was probably over five minutes long. Wah. Someone get me a Batman bandaid. I do wish the developers had realized how useful the stylus and touchscreen can be, but this game was released way-back-when in late 2006, and that was actually before many people knew how to utilize the system’s software.

Naturally, I’ll be talking more about the game when I’ve completed it. And there’s a lot to discuss actually, from puns to the constant staples from every Dragon Quest game ever, to the humor of it all, as well as the crazy tanks. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is definitely one of those cases where I bought the game cheap and was rewarded greatly for doing so.

All right, slimes! Let’s goo! I mean…go.

Cass was murdered in Fallout: New Vegas by accident, I swears it

I’m tepidly hopping back in and out of Fallout: New Vegas. This second playthrough of a very straight evil run is not as exciting as my first playthrough was though I do love Zelda’s skills with the Rebar Club; currently, I’m stuck on the Render Unto Caesar quest, which gives The House Always Wins a run for its money in terms of being the longest, slowest quest in the game. Given to the Courier by Caesar, Render Unto Caesar is made up of eight parts: Part 1, use the Platinum Chip to downgrade the security bots; Part 2, dealing with Mr. House; Part 3, gaining the Boomers’ help; Part 4, gaining the help of the White Glove Society; Part 5, dealing with the Brotherhood of Steel; Part 6, Caesar’s Illness; Part 7, taking out President Kimball; and Part 8, protecting the Legate’s Camp.

Yeah, that’s a lot of parts. What makes things even worse is that each part might very well be made up of several other quests, making this a neverending story of sorts from a gameplay perspective. For example, getting the Boomers to help means getting them to like the Courier, which also means doing at least five nice tasks for them. I got bored after solving their ant problem that I just went and slaughtered Loyal and that old grandma with a Power Fist. And now I’m stuck on dealing with the Brotherhood of Steel, which leads me to the main point of this blog post…

I accidentally murdered Cass, and she’s dead dead! Can’t get her back. Whoops-daisy.

See, I’m trying to do the alternate method of Part 5, wherein you just kill the Brotherhood of Steel patrols outside the bunker at night. For some reason, according to the world of wikia, this works and will trigger Part 6. The problem is that these BoS dudes take Zelda and ED-E down rather fast, and I’d like a second fleshbag in my ranks to absorb some heat. Can’t have Boone as I’m BFFs with the Legion; can’t use Veronica as I doubt she’d like to help murder her BFFs. Cass was my next best choice as I’ve already visited with her before, but that was back when the NCR and I were pals. Now they shoot on sight, and I guess Zelda was swinging her Rebar Club a little too wildly–and a little too closely–to Cass as she sat at the bar drinking her woes. She died. Quest failed text scrolled by. I looted her body nonetheless and put a bottle of scotch atop her corpse out of sorrow, out of respect.

It’s weird that once they become your companions, they can’t die (at least in vanilla Fallout: New Vegas), only go unconscious, but until you recruit them, they are fair game. I guess I could go after Raul or Arcade next. Not sure if they’d want to join my forces though. We’ll see. I really don’t want to have to do that whole sneak through the Brotherhood’s bunker and sabotage it phase as I’m a level 15 character and have point ZERO points into sneaking. It just can’t be done.

As I mentioned before, this second Fallout: New Vegas playthrough is not as grand as the first one. In fact, it feels like a lot more work. I wonder why that is.

Pre-ordered that obscure Radiant Historia game

I am not kidding when I say that the last time I pre-ordered a game was back in 1997 for Final Fantasy VII, and the throw-in bonus was a t-shirt that I turned into a bedtime shirt and wore until it became too faded and frayed for a human boy to possibly wear any longer. That was, uh…some 14 years ago. Wait, is that right? Let’s see. 2011 minus 1997…carry the three…divide by six…multiply by a dozen childhood nostalgic tears. Yup, looks like that was about 14 years ago. How depressing!

Radiant Historia gets the honor of being the second game I’ve ever pre-ordered in my entire gaming life. And naturally, it went down oddly. Here’s a dramatic recreation for y’all:

Pauly: Hi, do you guys do anything special for pre-ordering Radiant Historia? I read something about a soundtrack being included.
GameStop Guy: Wow, yeah. I think we do. Let me check. You’re the first person to ask us about that game actually.
Pauly: Really? The first?
GameStop Guy: Yup. At least when I’m working. [Hits the keyboard with his fingers.] Yeah, if you pre-order, you get a music CD. Don’t know how much music is on it.
Pauly: Okay, great. I’d like to pre-order it then.

And then he asked me this, the emphasis his doing:

GameStop Guy: So, are there any other, uh, obscure games you’d like to pre-order today? How about Okamiden?
Pauly: No, I’m good. Thanks though.

Obscure. What an interesting word choice for Radiant Historia. I mean, yeah, I guess it’s a little off the beaten path, but it still seems to be a heavy hitter this month for the Nintendo DS. March 2011 is gonna be a doozy for the system, with Pokemon Black/White, Monster Tale, and the 3DS coming out, but for right now, Radiant Historia is sitting pretty with little to no direct competition. At least, I certainly hope the game doesn’t end up in retail obscurity. It’s too pretty for a life like that:

Twelve days to go! TWELVE!!!

Tell me a monster of a tale, Monster Tale

Without warning, I have a new game to add to my list of DO WANTS for 2011. Enter Monster Tale! It’s an adorable platformer for the Nintendo 3DS made by the creators of Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure that’s a mix of an RPG, a Metroidvania, and a throwback to SNES classics. Beautiful sprites suck me in every single time.

Anyways, you play as Ellie, the blue-haired heroine above as she explores a mysterious world with her pet Chomp. A fairly hollow setup, but it’s more than enough to start with, and the gameplay seems to be the most unique thing about Monster Tale. See, Chomp can assist Ellie during combat and gain EXP (from eating cookies from one instance that I saw) and use items you pick up on the top screen. These items are dropped to the bottom screen–the “Pet Sanctuary”–where Chomp can hang out, regenerate health, learn skills from scrolls, and use items to help you out in battle. Chomp also comes with his/her own skill tree and seems to be customizable in terms of skills and actions.

Imagine if all monsters could gain experience and strength bonuses from eating cookies:


Today is the first I’ve ever heard of this game, but I guess I’m late to the party as some Googling shows a few sites doing previews and all that jazz dating back to early January 2011. However, what really hooked me was the Quick Look over at Giant Bomb, which does spoil a bit of the beginning, but does wonders to show you why it’s gonna be a great addition to anyone’s DS collection. It comes out some time in March. Between this and Radiant Historia, my DS is gonna be cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

Here’s a few more screens to slober over, too:

Cracking skulls and standing still in Halo 3

I was feeling rather aimless last night after getting some good work done on the latest Sekrit Projekt, and I figured I’d give Halo 3: ODST another go even though I have no clue what’s going on in the game and can’t really kill more than three alien enemies before having my armored ass tossed aside. Only I ended up putting in the second multiplayer disk instead and found myself playing…Halo 3. Well, not the main campaign, but all of its online maps and modes. Weird. Even weirder was that running this CD also tricks my Xbox 360 into thinking I’m playing all of Halo 3, and thus I now have a new list of Achievements separate from Halo 3: ODST to get. Except I can’t get them; I only have the multiplayer aspect of that game, and while meaningless in the longrun, I do find it a bit annoying now that there’s going to be a slew of unlocked Achievements on my system that I didn’t ask to be placed there.

But yeah, Halo 3 multiplayer. I played a round of Oddball and a round of King of the Hill before moving on to fiddle about in the forge mode by my lonesome. In each game mode, I made a single kill and was summarily destroyed every time I pushed forward on the analog stick. My best defense was standing still and hiding from other players. Don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to be played, but whatever. I’m at peace with the fact that I lack significant sniping and sticky grenade skills. And now I’m definitely spoiled by Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, which rewards players with losing streak perks if they’re having a hard time keeping up.

A quick scan of Halo 3‘s Achievement list–quick because, well, there’s 79 Achievements to look at, and most of them don’t apply to the multiplayer–mentioned finding hidden skulls on specific levels. I tried to do this on my own, just running around and flying around in Forge with the floaty camera, but alas, these hidden skulls are seriously hidden. I had to look up a guide to find two of them:

Orbital Skull (25G): On Orbital, found the hidden skull.

Assembly Skull (25G): On Assembly, found the hidden skull.

I’m not sure what’s more creative there. The Achievement name or the flavor text. I’m just kidding. They both suck. I might look up a few more guides for the others though some seem really complicated, such as the hidden skull on Sandbox. These might very well be the only Achievements I’ll be able to unlock here. Le sigh.

Unfortunately, I still don’t get Halo. The multiplayer felt so quiet and repetitive, and the graphics were spotty. I dislike having to hold down a trigger button to pick up a weapon, and I don’t know if there’s a sprint button, but I hope so. It feels like an uphill climb no matter what the elevation. I just can’t see what I’m supposedly missing here, that’s all.

So much brotherly love for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’s multiplayer

I didn’t expect to love the multiplayer aspect of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, but I do. Oh so much. The quick sessions (five- to ten-minute matches), the cat-and-mouse gameplay, the thrill of assassinating your target completely undetected or chasing them down and landing an aerial kill, the constant upgrades your persona gets with each level increase…it’s all pretty amazing. I prefer some game modes over others, as being teamed up in Alliance with a whiny, high-pitched teenager who kept telling me I sucked was not my idea of a good time. Wanted is probably the best way to go, as the hunt and be hunted aspect will always keep you on your toes.

My favorite persona to play as is The Nobleman, and I will be sad for an entire session if I have to play as anybody else. It pretty much doesn’t matter as all personas are merely skins with different kill animations, but I’ve grown attached to the way he walks, to the way he stalks, to the way he balks when spotting an incoming Templar. Plus, y’know, he’s got a clawhand:

The claaaaaaaaaaw!

Someone else seems to really like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood‘s multiplayer, and she doesn’t even play the game. That’s right. My darling wife Tara will literally stop whatever she is doing if she walks past the TV and sees me stalking a target. From there, she’ll be a second pair of eyes helping me out. I love it. We both also share a distaste for the crazies that like to run around on rooftops, screaming to all, “Here I am! Come stab me! Badger badger badger!”

If there’s one aspect that’s a little daunting and less loved, it’s the online multiplayer Achievements. A lot of them seem very tricky to pop, most relying either on boosting or an extreme downpour of luck. Here are three that I’m extremely proud of earning legitimately:

Needle in a Haystack (5G): Kill your target while hidden in a hay bale (Multiplayer Only).

Fast Learner (25G): Kill your target and escape your pursuer in less than 10 seconds (Multiplayer Only).

Ahead of the Curve (20G): Perform a double or triple escape (Multiplayer Only).

However, there’s probably not many left that I’ll be able to get. Level 50 is a long way off as I’m around Level 11 at  the moment, and you need more and more XP with each level increase. I actually came close to taking the lead with 10 seconds left once; I made an undetected assassination with 25 seconds left and went on to win. Arrrrgh. Why couldn’t I have waited 15 more seconds to murder the Doctor?! Still, I’m gonna keep playing as it’s fun, bite-size, and always rewarding. I do have to wonder if Ubisoft will carry any of this over to Assassin’s Creed III or if it was solely to tie into the assassin guild theme  here.

Epic Mickey, epically forgotten

I received Epic Mickey for Christmas, and since then I’ve played it twice. Two times, people. One…two. That kind of says it all, but this is Grinding Down after all, and I always like to say more than is probably necessary.

Epic Mickey is a sad game. It’s sad for many reasons; sad that it can’t be what it wants to be, sad that its controls don’t work like we’re told how they’ll work, sad that its camera is disgruntled and ready to quit at any moment, sad that its best aspect has nothing to do with gameplay. Just sad, sad, sad. And for a Disney product, that’s astounding. Certainly, this would have been much more stellar with all the in-game levels removed, the controller denied access, and released as a straight-to-DVD bargain bin flick. It’s a great story. It would make a great family film.

And here’s a summary of the story: Epic Mickey is set in a world crafted by the wizard Yen Sid (pssssst, that’s DISNEY backwards) which houses all of Walt Disney’s forgotten characters.  Our titular hero Mickey Mouse accidentally spills paint thinner on a page containing the world and is dragged inside. Here, he’ll discover the Phantom Blot has been manipulating the world in very evil ways. Using paint and paint thinner, it’s up to Mickey to set things right (or maybe not at all). Also, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first ever cartoon hero, who hates the Mouse with unbridled passion, is out for revenge. See, it’s good stuff. It has layers, and it’s a real treat to see many of the forgotten characters actually dealing with their depression and anger. And poor Mickey is just kind of thrown into the mess of it all. Storyboard-style art really helps bring to life the characters and world, and I wish someone else would come over to my apartment, play the game to unlock all the movies, and then go away so I could just watch them one after the other. Yes, that is my wish.

The story is not Epic Mickey‘s problem. In fact, it’s its only sparkle of light. I’ve never been excited over using the Nintendo Wii for anything other than Wii Sports as the WiiMote and Nunchuk are prime examples of masochism. Pure hate against the consumer. They are the worst controllers in the galaxy, and playing anything with them is a minigame on its own. Using the WiiMote to aim the paint/thinner weapon is pointless because even if you do aim it right, the game doesn’t shoot the paint/thinner where you are aiming at. It always falls short. So that’s fun to work with. The controllers also don’t make general platforming easy, especially with that camera that Epic Mickey game designer Warren Spector won’t even admit is more horrid than Goofy doing disco. And good platforming is kind of key for a…platformer. I mean, when I say that I can’t get any further in the game, I mean that in the sense that I physically can’t get Mickey to where he needs to be because the jumping and climbing and clinging controls are broken and he keeps falling to his death. Looks like Mickey is doomed to the same fate as Smee and Oswald, abandoned, stuck in limbo, forever forgotten.

Alas, Epic Mickey is not the second coming of Mickey Mania.

Over at The First Hour, Nate answered with “doubtful” to if he’d continue playing Epic Mickey, and I have to echo his sentiments though I might give it one more try. An epic shame in the end.

Games Completed in 2011, #5 – Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC
Genres: Stealth, action, historical timefunk, silent stabby stabfest
Modes: Single-player, online multiplayer
Hours clocked: Around 15 to 20 hours

Well, I honestly didn’t expect to complete Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood as quickly as I did, but basically once you’ve reached DNA Sequence 7, the game pushes forward at a tremendous pace, allowing no pauses or breaks or wild meandering across Roma. Sucks to be Ezio, I guess. Sucks even harder to be Cesare Borgia.

Anyways, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a direct sequel to Assassin’s Creed II, a game I did not play, and I think I suffered a little bit from missing out on Ezio’s original adventure. Not a ton, mind you, but enough to get me wondering what some of his remarks meant and why he trusted person X or distrusted person Y so vehemently. A string of events take Ezio to Roma (or Rome, as I call it), and it is here that he will begin to build his own guild of assassins to take down the continuing Borgia threat and steal back the Apple of Eden from Cesare Borgia. On the flipside, Desmond and the other Scooby-Doo people are trying to get a password out of Ezio’s memories to find out where he safely hid the Apple. It’s a decent story with some possibly interesting characters, but a lot of folk are dropped and forgotten about after their sole mission. A shame, really, especially when concerning Ezio’s sister.

There’s a lot to do in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I’ve discussed this before. In fact, there’s so much that I did not get to finish it all before being forcibly pushed forward to complete the game. Thankfully, after the credits roll, you’ll be able to return to virtual Roma to continue burning Borgia towers, collect flags, and open up shops. This is good; this is very good. Now I can play and run around the world without quests getting in the way. That might seem like a weird thing to say, but the worlds Ubisoft constructs for its Assassin’s Creed games are just so wonderfully dense and detailed that it is fun just living in them. Don’t need to do anything special. Heck, that’s why some of my favorite missions were when Ezio had to follow a person around the city without being detected; sitting on benches never felt so great.

Having never played Assassin’s Creed II, I can only compare this new outing to the original. The controls are much smoother, but having Ezio jump in a specific direction is touch-and-go; sometimes he does a cool leap, and sometimes he just leaps to his death. The fighting…has actually been made easier, which is a letdown. Once a killing animation begins, Ezio can basically chain together five to ten more instant kills with the touch of one button. Sure, it looks freakin’ fantastic and shows off the uniqueness of every weapon, but it makes fights a little on the bland side. I failed more missions from being detected than from dying in a fight, especially since you can loot medicine from fallen soldiers’ bodies.

Upgrading Roma is an addicting thing. The minute I see a closed shop, I need to buy it so I can increase my income. If it’s under the shadow of a Borgia tower, down goes the tower. Some shops even have quests, which require you to find a specific number of items from hidden treasures and rewards from assassin contracts. And speaking of contracts, man…having your own brotherhood of assassins is great and crappy. The great comes in from summoning out of nowhere to do your bidding; the crappy refers to the, uh, text-based minigame of sending them off to do contracts to gain XP and level up. It’s a neat idea, but it’s presented uninterestingly in menu form only, and I can guarantee that people stop actually reading contract text before long.

So I have a few flags, shrines, and Borgia towers to unearth yet, as well as Subject 16’s puzzles. After that, I probably won’t head back into Roma, but I definitely will give the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer much more devotion. Currently, I’m a level 7 and loving it. Have only played the Wanted mode, which is a cat-and-mouse game of hunt and be hunted, but it’s a blast. Unlike anything else I’ve ever played online. Considering I love just walking around and blending in with crowds, it’s perfect for me. That said, I’m not great at it. Haven’t figured out how to do a stun yet, but I was able to assassinate a target from hidden in a hay pile. Will write about that and more multiplayer musings in another post.

All in all, I was surprised by the quality in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, as well as the amount of things to do. It may be a sequel to a sequel, and even just a torso for the multiplayer legs, but it’s still a wholly entertaining experience. Considering I got it for sale at $39.99, I’m pretty satisfied. So, Assassin’s Creed III…where’s Ezio off to next?