Monthly Archives: October 2011

One-goal Molly wants to be Master of the Fighters Guild in Oblivion

A long ways back, like in April 2011, on that infamous day where everyone gets hiiiiigh, I talked about diving back into The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and giving some it another go, this time trying to play a little differently, as well as finishing up all the major guild quests. Well, that plan quickly fizzled out as that was actually the last time I played the game until this very weekend. I think my gaming ADD hit me hard, and I was off on some other adventure, one that was probably immediately followed by another adventure. And so and so on. Such is the life of a gamer…

But then, as the world outside went snow crazy, I started Oblivion all over again, giving Hodor the heave-ho and creating a creepy looking Night Elf woman witchhunter with bleach blonde hair named…Molly. She focuses on a little bit of magic and a little bit of bow and arrow action. Not bad, truly, and I was able to rush through the majority of the opening quests for the Fighters Guild, finally breaking into new territory, advancing not once, but many, many times. Oh, just look:


Swordsman, Fighters Guild (10G): Reached Swordsman rank in the Fighters Guild


Protector, Fighters Guild (10G): Reached Protector rank in the Fighters Guild


Defender, Fighters Guild (10G): Reached Defender rank in the Fighters Guild

Good job, Molly. You’ll be Master of the Fighters Guild soon enough. Four more ranks to go. That is if the power comes back on and I don’t yet have The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to eat up. See, on Saturday, as an October snow unseen of before descended over New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the power kept flickering on and off. And yeah, I continued to game, or tried to at least. The last straw was the power shutting down as I was exploring a cave for the quest Azani Blackheart; I hadn’t saved since I entered the cave and did not feel like doing it all over again, at least not just then. So, we’ll continue to advance in rank some other time. I promise, Molly.

What is helping this playthrough versus the one I started with Hodor is that I’m no longer worrying about all the little things, such as picking up every bit of gear to sell, collecting a thousand and seven ingredients for alchemy purposes, and always trying to level up this skill or that in hopes of reaching the next level. All that matters is the quest at hand, and as long as Molly has some potions and plenty of arrows, we’re good to go. The quests themselves are not terribly difficult; the difficulty lies with–and this is inherent in all open-world games, I guess–the player’s determination and not getting distracted by Everything Else. With blinders on, one can get through the guilds pretty fast, I’m assuming. After Fighters, I think we’ll tackle the Mages Guild since Molly does have a knack for summoning skeletons.

This spurt of Oblivion playing is also a great reminder of what worked in that game from 2005 and what’s going to be ten times more fantastic in like twelve days. Every time I speak to someone and the camera zooms in on their fugly faces, Tara makes a noise. A mixture of a gasp and utter disgust. Especially for khajiit women. It’s the best.

Achievements of the Week – The Elusive Master of Fashionistas Edition

Well, it’s been a week, and a busy one at that, at least in terms of my Gamerscore going up, up, up. Since Grinding Down last ran this feature, I’ve unlocked 12 Achievements in total for a whopping 190G, which is nearly on par with an XBLA title that generally offers 12 for 200G; what’s even more amazing is just how meaningless all those numbers actually are. It’s all about e-peen. Nah, not really. Still, they give me content to post about, and that’s nothing to ignore, especially as I am finding myself struggling more and more to, I don’t know, write both intelligently and originally about videogames.

And now, the main event…some of my favs from this week:

From Fallout: New Vegas…


Master of the Arsenal (25G): Caused 10,000 damage with Gun Runners’ Arsenal (GRA) Weapons.

Initially, I was worried about this one as it seemed like every GRA weapon available to purchase at the beginning of the game was crazy expensive, save for Energy-based weaponry. Well, my fourth playthrough character is not going the Energy skill route so I had to save up some bottle caps. That took some time because it’s not like there’s a lot of employment available in the Mojave Wasteland; it’s all about just collecting everything you find and selling it no matter how bad the deal is. Anyways, after some scrounging, I purchased the 5.56mm pistol and a bunch of different ammo types for it and went to town, killing super mutants and nightstalkers and White Legs galore. Didn’t take long, and I’m still using the gun (until I can afford something cooler). Pew, pew, pew!


O Daughter of Babylon (30G): Crushed the White Legs.

Read about me completing Honest Hearts for a second time by utilizing your Comprehension perk and clicking this very sentence.

From L.A. Noire…


Give My Regards (20G): Shoot every letter down from the tower at the Broadway Hotel.

In The Naked City DLC, during the final showdown, you can either pop the criminal on the run quickly or take your time destroying the lit-up sign, one letter at a time. That’s what I did, and now I’m 20G richer!


The Big Unfriendly (20G): Complete ‘Nicholson Electroplating’.

Compared to The Naked City DLC case, Nicholson Electroplating was an extreme disappointment. I couldn’t believe it was over so fast. Like, under an hour and half, I think, while the other case at least stretched a little longer than that. And it had a lot of potential, with a crazy great explosion in the beginning, hints of suave espionage, and a big shootout at the end. Oh well. Might replay it for the other Achievements I missed, or I might just buy the other two DLC cases and see if they’re any good.

From Mass Effect 2…


Missing in Action (5G): Save your crew from an overwhelming attack

I’ve already covered how weird it was to actually earn this during the demo version of the game and then magically unlock it once Microsoft could confirm that I now owned a copy of Mass Effect 2.


Very Elusive (10G): Return to active duty

SPOILER! Shepard returns to active duty!


Fashionista (5G): Personalize your armor in your quarters on the Normandy

I turned Shepard’s armor a nice mix of green and yellow and then picked some odd cowboy-like attire for his casual wear. He looks ridiculous in cutscenes with it on, and I do plan to change him into anything else.


Merciless (10G): Make 20 enemies scream as they fall or are set on fire

I…guess this is something I did? I never actively pursued it, just shot dudes and aliens and robots that were, well, shooting back at me.

I’ve said this time and time before, but BioWare puts some freaking love into their Achievements images, both in their Mass Effect franchise and Dragon Age franchise. These war medallions look fantastic and are extremely detailed, making me want to unlock them all and then cover my shirt with them until you can’t tell I’m wearing a shirt anymore.

Think that’s enough for now. This weekend is going to be full of snow (???) and a wedding, so I’m not sure how much gaming I’ll honestly get done. Plus, I’m trying to finish up my 31 Horribly Bad Horror Comics challenge and a number of other artsy projects. But, at some point, I’ll probably give all the above more time, as well as more puzzles with Professor Hershel Layton and, uh, Oblivion. I popped it back in the other night to refresh myself and also give me a point of reference for when it comes time to play Skyrim like woah. Which is soon. Oh so soon.

30 Days of Gaming, #28 – Favorite game developer

Still struggling with these final few topics for the 30 Days of Gaming meme, this one in particular. Why? Well, I don’t really pay developers much attention, to be honest. Sure, they are the people behind the products that I either end up falling in love with (Suikoden II – Konami) or absolutely hate (Grand Theft Auto IV – Rockstar) or find confusing and hard to pick a solid stance on (Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Eidos Studios Montreal), but they’re the puppeteers, not the main show. Yes, it is their ideas and work and coding and crafting that make the product come alive and end up on retail shelves, but at that point, I’m eating up the product and not those that made it. I’m not leveling up and thanking XYZ for creating the leveling up aspect of the game. Let me try it this way: when you go out to a restaurant and eat a great meal, do you talk more about the meal or the specific chef that cooked it?

So, with that all laid out, I guess Konami is my favorite developer. Mostly because they developed a lot of games I love. Suikoden, Suikoden II, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid, and Castlevania for NES and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to name a few. And they also worked on some other games from my collection, which I do not love per se, but did play (or watch Tara play) for a decent amount of time: Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times, X-Men Arcade, Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville, and Dance Dance Revolution.

However, I could not name a single person that works or worked at Konami. Not for a million bucks. But a lot of their games really hit home for me, and that’s more than enough reason to call them my favorite developer. And now I’m imagining a universe where this company made every game ever, including a proper new entry in the Suikoden series; this Genso Suikoden: The Woven Web of a Century for the PSP is no good. Simply no good, ya hear?

Right. Well, I know there’s not a whole lot of text here, but I can’t figure out what else to say about my purported favorite developer. Only two more topics to go, and then this meme is complete. I know you’re all excited for me to count up how many actually days it took me to round up thirty posts of content. While we wait, tell me a bit about your favorite developer and what makes them oh so special. Please. I need to comprehend this all better.

Crushing the White Legs never felt so easy

As y’all should know, I’m working on my fourth (but not final) playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas, with the focus being to side with Mr. House all the way to the end, as well as complete some miscellaneous challenges and unlock the final few Achievements just begging to be released before the next two months of intense, Skyrim-heavy gaming begins. With the following now popped, I’m only ten away from getting ’em all:


O Daughter of Babylon (30G): Crushed the White Legs.

Yup, I stored some heavy stuff away in Lucky 37’s Penthouse Suite and then took Rhaegar all the way to Utah’s Zion National Park from the Honest Hearts DLC. Only took a loading screen or two. He’s probably rode a dragon for most of the trip. My first time through I wrapped up the add-on fairly quickly, with my then Courier helping to evacuate the locales instead of fighting back. I didn’t save beforehand, meaning I couldn’t reload and go after the second method, which involves a lot of river-walking and shooting. And most of it wasn’t even done by me; for choosing the “destroy them all” path, you gain Joshua Graham as a companion, and he’s pretty wicked with his unique .45 Auto pistol–awesomely called A Light Shining in Darkness–so I let him do most of the grunt work, still earning XP all the way.

It was not very difficult and only took a few hours to breeze through. This is the easiest of the four DLCs, and unfortunately also the most uninteresting. I still found no reason to go exploring all the numerous caves, but I did complete a quest that I missed my first time through, helping a lost bighorner calf back to its mother. Other than that, I played through Honest Hearts exactly the same way, shooting more or less the same animals and hostile White Legs; there was only one strange happening, which involved exiting a cave and coming face to face with a giant green gecko with the power to swipe once and knock poor Rhaegar’s head off. Otherwise, not much else to report.

I emptied all of the end DLC’s lootbox’s contents into Rhaegar’s pockets and now he’s over-encumbered and far from home, but I’m hoping to make it to a vendor soon as those new GRA weapons are freakin’ expensive. Then, when stocked up, lighter in the pants, and rich, I’ll pursue some more opportunities across the Mojave Wasteland for those tricky new challenges and then make sure that the house always win.

Monster Rancher EVO is for circus freaks only

I’ve never been to an actual circus before; all I know about circus life comes from secondary materials, such as the fantastic Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine or those few hours I spent wandering around the Circus Circus Las Vegas when I was 17 and on vacation with my family. In my mind, a circus is all of this set to accordions and applause: tumbling, dirty floors, spotlights, smoke and mirrors, tents, tension, colorful costumes, and gasping. Freaks of wonder, too, but I’d never call them monsters and raise them as my own. Not in real life, at least.

Well, Monster Rancher EVO is a videogame based around a group of circus performers. Don’t worry, I was just as confused you most likely are now. Granted, I went into this game totally innocent, completely untouched. Through all my years of gaming, I’ve managed to never play a Monster Rancher game. The franchise’s hook was always appealing–use CDs/DVDs to create random monsters for your farm, meaning a seemingly endless amount of user-created content–but the lack of a story or overall goal, other than raising an animal with love and care, kept me away. In fact, I didn’t pick this game out while perusing the local GameStop for my sweet, succulent Suikoden III; Tara found it and so it went with my buy pile. I didn’t give it a try right away.

It’s a rough first hour, full of bad dialogue and way too much information. You get to name the protagonist, but are given no solid indication that it is a he or she, and thanks to the anime-esque look to the majority of circus freaks it’s honestly kind of hard to tell. Naming him Pauly, I lucked out to discover he’s a dude. After that, you meet the gang at the circus and learn how sad the protag is over his latest monster’s lackluster performer. In walks a mysterious woman–I think her name is Marlene–and she teaches us how to make monsters. I put in my copy of Parklife by Blur and get some kind of weird pumpkin beast. Another guy talks about schedules and how to train to put on a great show, and then I’m given direct control of the protag. Tried to read the menus, but it was just an overwhelming amount of data and stats and things to come. Another character gives me a quest: she needs a cake, and even hands over the money to pay for it. Something like 500G, which seems excessive, but I don’t know much about this world; maybe that’s a good deal. I hurried over to the village in search of cake and made a beeline right back, but was told that I took too long and she no longer needed said cake. Eff you, and eff this stupid game. Power switch…OFF!

The cover for Monster Rancher EVO does convene its circus-ness, but I bought the game pre-owned from GameStop in one of those dummy boxes, which is void of pertinent details like that. Lastly, the artwork on the game’s CD limelights a woman in a slutty outfit. Do you equate fishnet stockings with monster-raising?

Also please note that she’s only wearing one fishnet stocking, with the other leg bare of such sexual dressing. Simply boggling. I don’t even know who this character is as I don’t think pointy-haired Pauly met her during the opening hour. I’d like to believe I’d remember something like that.

Right. Monster Rancher EVO. Don’t think I’ll be going back to this one, but if I could find one of the more traditional titles in the series I’m willing to go again. I mean, what else am I going to do with CDs like My Own Prison by Creed and Fairweather Johnson by Hootie and the Blowfish? Throw them out? That’s unheard of.

Games Completed in 2011, #32 – Bastion

It’s easy to feel like you’re floating when playing Bastion; in fact, due to the Calamity, a catastrophic and harrowing event, the world of Caelondia is now a set of floating islands, and it’s up to The Kid to recreate the Bastion, a safe haven where everyone can go for food, shelter, and answers. But that’s not the real reason for feeling suspended in the air; no, one floats through this colorful and amazing downloadable title because it’s just so freaking special. It begins and makes a home in your heart. It ends, but never leaves you.

Bastion is an action RPG, but it’s greatest strength is in its story, which is paced effectively thanks to the Narrator. Voiced by Logan Cunningham, Rucks the Narrator is both a storyteller and employee for Big Brother, remarking on your every move. Fall off the side of the level? He’ll make a quip. Slash like a maniac with your war machete, murdering a dozen squirts? Be prepared to be called wild and raging. It’s a solid hook, though at times it can be distracting or hard to even hear him over the frantic cries of on-screen enemies and spellbinding soundtrack. Because of this, I missed a few bits of commentary, but thanks to New Game+ got to hear them a second time around, as well as new dialogue made specifically for those on playthrough two.

The game is more action than RPG, but both elements mesh well with each other. The Kid can choose a weapons loadout before heading off to find Shards to complete the Bastion; these include tools of destruction like muskets, hammers, bows, and pistols, as well as a secret skill. All of these weapons can be upgraded with found items and gems, earning stats like 25% more damage or longer ranges/less spread. The Kid himself increases in levels too, with each new level letting you acquiring a new drink from the distillery; these do things like absorb stray fragments (Fetching Fizz), 33% speed while defending (Cinderbrick Stout), or automatically retaliates when injured (Stabsinthe). All of this makes a difference in staying alive and just rolling/slashing your way to an early grave. And be ready to roll a lot; combat can get fast and frantic, but if you know what you’re doing and remember to block now and then, it’s survivable. Of course, if you ever want to up the challenge, turn on some idols.

I won’t go into all of Bastion‘s story details, but it’s a hefty, emotional affair. There comes a time near the game’s end where The Kid will have to make two–not one–major decisions. These are presented blandly on a menu, with some modest flavor text, but they forced me to sit and ponder their individual outcomes more than anything else of late. Watching these choices play out is extremely satisfying; we all play videogames with the hope of completing them, but here, it was more than that. I needed to see what happened next, and not just to get to the credits. I never wanted the credits to scroll, in fact.

As an artist, I have to comment on Jen Zee‘s work in Bastion. Lush, colorful, hand-painted–these all work as adjectives for what makes the game’s visuals pop so much, but I’m sure there’s even better ways to describe. Initially, the look of the game is what bought me; everything from the way the world floated up in front of The Kid to the blurred yet still distinguishable underworlds had a sense of oneness. Even the darker levels let color shine. At times, I wished to zoom in more to get a better look at those crates or gasfellas.

Oh, and I unlocked all the Achievements in the game, which is pretty rare for me. Only a few required some work, but I’ll get to that in another post. Hopefully. Don’t let me forget.

I highly recommend Bastion. For 1200 Microsoft Points (or it’s now on Steam, too), you get an experience unlike anything else, one that continues to resonate long after you’ve completed every Proving Ground, survived every trip to Who Knows Where, and fully upgraded the Bastion itself. Get it, and get restoring the world. Hurry, before Rucks calls you a slacker!

This Mass Effect 2 Achievement certainly isn’t missing in action

I unlocked an Achievement before I even began playing Mass Effect 2, and this left me momentarily confused, wondering if I’d ever escape game glitches or if I was doomed to be trailed by them until biological aging takes me down into the dirt. I have Tara as my witness that this Achievement popped on the main menu’s screen after selecting to start a new game with my simian character from the original Mass Effect:


Missing in Action (5G): Save your crew from an overwhelming attack

Blinking back into reality, I then realized that my save data from when I gave the demo version of Mass Effect 2 a spin back in June 2010 had been accessed. That demo consisted of the very beginning stage, and then a stage much later in the game wherein Shepard and company were trying to rescue a biotic named Jack on some crazy, floating prison. I remember a message popping up that told me my data for the first chunk of the demo was being saved, but nothing further than that would get collected. Okay. So, in the demo, I saved Joker and as many crew members as I could as the Normandy tore asunder, earning me the above Achievement without it actually popping. Then, when it was clear that I had a full copy of the game, a year and some months later, the Achievement pops. Yet I still have to play through that opening part again because I loaded up an older Shepard character and not the one I used in the demo. Weird, but whatever.

Disappointingly, Mass Effect 2 suffers from tiny text syndrome, which the original game did not. Most of the dialogue is spoken, making this not a problem, but the dialogue choices left to Shepard are not said aloud, meaning a lot of squinting and sitting directly in front of the TV to make sure I’m going the Paragon route and not the dickhead one. And I can forget about actually using the Codex, which, like in Dragon Age: Origins, is just brimming with cool lore and details, but is no use to my bad eyes/lame TV. So yeah, that’s that.

Otherwise, it’s fun so far, with interesting characters and crazy-looking aliens. At this point, I’ve changed Shepard’s armor and casual attire, learned how the hacking mini-games work, and got a fast-talking alien scientist to join the cause to stop the Collectors. Seems like there’s plenty of others I need to recruit, and I’m looking forward to it. Not sure where to go next, but I’m sure Shepard doesn’t mind bumbling along across the galaxy; also, I totally forgot who I saved–and let die–in Mass Effect, so it was nice that I got a little refresher before the game began. Refreshers are great. Saves me time from reading wikias and getting spoiled prematurely.