Monthly Archives: November 2011

The early life and times of an Imperial Dragonborn with an obsession for cheese wheels

My Grinding Down post…uh, post playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the very first time did not turn out like I originally planned. I was hoping to do more of a summary of the times, the handful of hours spent, about the things Lohgahn did or did not do since stumbling into freedom, as well as my usual colorful commentary on all things broken with Bethesda’s supposedly brand new engine. In the end, I babbled on about the quest The House of Horrors and how surprised and conflicted I was by it. So here we are again, for Skyrim post numero two.

If you’ve ever read any of my posts on Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, or Deus Ex: Human Revolution, then you know how I like to roleplay. At least initially. Sneak, steal, and get by with skin still on my bones. Sell everything not sealed down. And so that’s how it began, with Lohgahn getting his greedy Imperial hands on a bow and quiver of arrows as soon as possible. He snuck through caves, snuck up to villages, snuck through the forest, and so long as he was able to hit an enemy first without being detected, they were usually dead with one shot. If not, they generally didn’t reach him by the time he had reloaded his bow. However, I did have a backup strategy for when things got up-close and personal, and that was a combo of fire magic and an enchanted axe that also contained fire magic. Yeah, fire’s cool. Also now have a fire-based Shout, so watch out frost-based critters.

And sadly, I’ve been using the bow less and less. Now I’m really into summoning a spectral wolf companion or a demon from another plane to help out in battle. I haven’t gotten another stable companion since Lydia died, and I don’t know if I ever will. I do enjoy going at it alone, even if the dragon fights are tough with nobody else to aggro at. Speaking of dragons, I’ve taken down six now. Some perks I’ve picked up are zooming in with the bow, gaining a bonus to armor protection if wearing all pieces of light armor, and more damage with one-handed weapons. It’s weird seeing where Lohgahn started and where he’s at now, a mixed bag of tricks. This could potentially be dangerous down the line, with him decent in multiple styles, but not strong in a single element. We’ll see. I might not ever even complete the main storyline considering how many side quests rock and how many miscellaneous tasks I’ve got in my log.

And now, some more blabbering about a fantastic quest I turned in recently called A Night to Remember. Spoilers follow, people. After a hard day of looting bandits and cooking their food, Lohgahn headed to the tavern in Whiterun for some drink and music. Well, he certainly got one of those two things. A man named Sam Guevenne challenged me to a drinking contest for a magical staff, and I accepted, guzzling back three glasses of whatever we were guzzling. After blacking out, Lohgahn woke up in an entirely different hold, with no memory of what happened. He then has to piece it together, and in the end, after talk of stolen sheep and getting married, it’s more mindgames being played by Daedra princes. I think I’m going to absolutely love every single Daedra quest in Skyrim.

Also, I’ve begun recording some of the glitches in the game. Here’s one where doors in my Whiterun house magically stand up without walls. I’ve got another one to upload that’ll make your head spin.

In summary, after roughly fourteen or fifteen hours, Lohgahn loves cheese wheels, is now level 16, and has only done a smidgen of the main storyline quests. He has, however, been deemed a hero of the people. It’s true. See right here:


Hero of the People (30G): Complete 50 Misc Objectives

He’s thinking about learning more about magic, and yet, at the same time, wondering if he’d fit in with that underground thieves guild. Hmm…

LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 is fun, but more of the same

LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 came out on 11/11/11, but despite that, GameStop wasn’t handing out copies until a few days later, which was a little annoying and makes me want to never pre-order with them again. This is the second time in a matter of weeks where they did not respect a game’s release date–Professor Layton and the Last Specter, yo–while every other place in existence did. So I had to wait, though the waiting wasn’t terrible as I had The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to eat up my hours. I swung by GameStop after work earlier this week, got my copy, got my pre-order bonus of a Dumbledore’s Army t-shirt which I’ve passed on to my wife, and snagged two more cheap PlayStation 2 games (Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and Legacy of Kain: Defiance, if you’re curious). Tara and I finally found some time last night and gave the game a go.

So far, it’s LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 with the years changed in the title. That might seem like a harsh comment, but it’s not. It’s warranted. We’re literally exploring the exact same rooms in Hogwarts that we explored in the first game, destroying the same items, hitting the same chairs/desks with spells, and completing the same challenges, such as turning on all the torches for a gold brick. I already spent many, many hours doing this to get a bajillion studs and buy everything and complete the game to 100%, and it’s clear now that if we had all just waited for a product called LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-7 to come out, it’d be everything and above. A shame this got separated in two beings (much like the final film). The developers even then had to come up with some way to make Harry and his friends lose all their hard-earned progress, just like Samus in Super Metroid went from hero to zero; Umbridge puts a ban out on several spells, taking them out of the selectable spells list. Why couldn’t the game read my save file from LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 and decide that I’m devoted enough to let me keep everything I already learned? I’m looking forward to moving past the school stuff and on to newer, stranger territory in Harry’s seventh year. Seems like Grimmauld Place–not where Tara and I live, but the actual House of Black–will be the second game’s new hub.

Unlocked two Achievements out of 49, with the first’s name being maybe the best name for a Harry Potter-themed Achievement thus far since Solid Snape:


Albus Percival Wulfric Brian (10G): Complete “Dark Times”


Off the Beaten Track (10G): Complete “Dumbledore’s Army”

A review of the game’s first sixty minutes, with some funny comments from Tara, is forthcoming over at The First Hour. Will obviously let y’all know when it goes live. And whether or not the magic seeps back on in…

The Top Five Worst Fishing Minigames

Some of my favorite memories are based around fishing, which I find funny as it’s an activity I haven’t done in many years. Or desire to do anymore. I don’t mind crabbing and pulling up traps to see if anything crawled on in, but hooking a worm and just waiting for a tug is no longer ideal for me. Plus, the last time I went fishing, I ended up standing still for so long that the back of my legs got some wicked sunburn on them, an unfortunate lesson definitely learned.

And yet, when it comes to videogames, there’s something addicting about fishing minigames and trying to catch the biggest or rarest sea critter possible. Crack-like, almost. In some games, fish means food. Others use it as just a means to money. And some have it simply for the sake of another thing to collect. To this day, I’ve still not caught a coelacanth in Animal Crossing: Wild World, but I know my sister has, and for that, boat-loads of respect. I did get every other fish and enjoyed every minute of it.

However, this list is not about my favorite fishing minigames. No, this one’s all about those that didn’t do it for me, that were too complicated or not deep enough. These are the ones that should’ve been tossed back in during development.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

To unlock the fishing minigame, Link has to first complete a totally optional sidequest. One that’s easy to miss, too. Something to do with a mermaid, and I don’t remember any of the details except that your reward is a fishing rod. You can then go fishing, which uses the DS touchscreen to its fullest: tap to cast your line, then place stylus over Link and pull down on him without ever lifting the stylus off the touchscreen, and if you are good enough, you’ll snag a fish on your hook. Now it gets even tougher. Two meters pop up, distance and your rod’s strength, and you have to pay attention to both as you try to reel in your catch. LET GO and PULL constantly pop up on the top screen. It can take several tiring minutes to be successful, and I think I only caught two fish in total before not caring anymore. The minigame was too hard, too technical.

I had more fun using the ship’s crane to pull up underwater treasure chests. If only it could snag fish, too.

4. Final Fantasy XII

I spent well over 70 hours romping through Ivalice, completing as many marks as I could safely find, filling out the license board, and killing judges with extreme glee–and yet I never stumbled across the fishing minigame. Oh, it’s there. I’ve seen talk of it on the Interwebz. But like the entry just above in this grand ol’ list, you really have to work towards unlocking it. According to others, the fishing minigame becomes available after Vaan and the gang visit the Draklor Laboratories area during the main plot. However, to get the most out of the minigame, several mark hunts have to be completed, as well as the Barheim side-quest. I’m guessing I never did any of that stuff. Supposedly, the fishing game consists of a very basic button memory test, with six opportunities to catch a bottle or fish. Through this, you have the chance to catch the ultimate reward, the Lu-Shang Badge, a key component of the most powerful weapon in the game. I consider it one of the worst fishing minigames because it seemed to be dropped into the game like an afterthought.

3. Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times

This game is, for all intents, a Hogwarts-themed clone of Animal Crossing: Wild World, which would lead many to believe that I’d absolutely love it. But no, I don’t. The devs added a middle man to their fishing minigame, one that’s fairly annoying. In AC:WW, you catch a fish and you either donate it to the museum or you sell it directly to Tom Nook for some sweet bells. In MG:MT, you catch a fish, and your only choice is to donate it to a magical book, which will then give you an item based on the type and size of the fish, which you can then bring to the local shop to sell for some money. It’s a slow, unpredictable process, but unfortunately it’s one of the main ways to make money to buy new brooms and CDs. If only you could just take the fish to the shop and cut out the middle man book.

2. Nier

My experience with Nier so far has been this, word for word, fish fail for fish fail. I’d like to play some more of the game, as there were a few interesting bits, but if there’s any more story-related fishing quests, I don’t think I can soldier on.

1. Professor Layton’s London Life

Yup, a minigame within a minigame–and it’s atrocious. Fishing seems simple enough in London Life: acquire a fishing outfit, find a good spot, and cast away. When the exclamation mark appears above your avatar’s head, press the action button to reel in the fish. The wet noodle is that it’s seemingly random. If you’re not fast enough–and you have to be super fast as one millisecond off is enough to fail–you won’t catch the fish and lose a ton of Happiness. Maybe between 2,000 to 3,000. Which only then makes catching fish even harder, as a happy fisherman is a successful one.

And right now, I have two quests for one character. Deliver a note, and the other is to catch two Thames trout. However, I can’t turn in the former quest until I complete the latter, and that might take awhile as I’ve tried numerous times to catch these special fish. It’s frustrating, and I find myself trying once, losing Happiness, and going off to do some other actions.

More than likely, I’d rather be really fishing than testing my patience with these fishing minigames. Got any fish stories of your own? Speak up in the comments below!

Being nice in Skyrim means even to Daedric princes

[This post contains spoilers about the quest called The House of Horrors. You’ve been warned.]

Last night, I did something horrible in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, something completely out of character, and for it I was rewarded a crazy new enchanted weapon and the boost to cross over to level 15. Part of me feels bad for the role I played, Lohgahn’s polar opposite of being righteous and nice to everyone, but part of me understands that this is another’s life, a fantasy at that, and living a life is never predictable. I’m rolling with it, and so I’m Lohgahn, Dragonborn and overall nice guy who sometimes steals cheese wheels and does the bidding of a Daedric demon prince. I didn’t want to beat that priest to death; see, the voice above told to me.

Normally, with RPGs that let you be anyone from everyone, I’m one style through and through, with my first playthrough usually devoted to the role of a hero, a smiling lad (with a beard) willing to help out those in trouble, who would do every quest for no money simply because saving the world is truly what matters. My second playthrough is saved for being a jerk, stealing blindly from stores and murdering those that don’t like it. I try not to mix and match, but with that said, I also dislike reloading old saves if things don’t go as perfectly planned–the only time I do that is if I accidentally steal an item by pressing the button too soon before the cursor can hover over the person I want to speak with. That’s not my fault nor my intentions, but if a quest spins me on my head…that’s fine. Just let me know when it’s safe to get off.

I stumbled upon the quest The House of Horrors unknowingly, and after the first bits of it passed by I had a choice. Back away and pretend I never got involved, or follow through, with maybe a hope of turning the tide come the end. With this quest, the Dragonborn is tasked with finding a priest after discovering a Daedric demon haunting a house in Markarth. Molag Bal is all voice and no body, but what a voice he has–this is what drew me into the quest and, alas, kept me there. Mesmerized by his masochistically libidinous tone, I agreed to do his bidding. Anyways, you eventually lure this priest back to the house to pay for his crimes of tainting Molag Bal’s altar, and are then demanded to beat him to death. There were no other options. Beat him. Here, use this rusty mace. Beat him some more. Make him regret life. I did, but I didn’t like it. My reward felt somewhat sickening:


Daedric Influence (10G): Acquire a Daedric Artifact

It’s the unexpected like this that really make Skyrim shine. I mean, what does this mean for Lohgahn now? Is he going to slowly trickle down into darkness? Or is he only going to work harder to be a great dude to make amends? For my time in Skyrim so far, he’s been nothing but upstanding, taking down dragons (four in total), retrieving lost family heirlooms from bandits, and putting little ghost girls to rest. His only crimes so far have been small and unintentional, accidentally setting some guards on fire during a crazy chaotic dragon fight outside Whiterun. He’s not a servant of some cruel Daedric prince. He’s not.

Right?

I don’t really know, but I’m ready to find out.

Achievements of the Week – The Blessed Unbound Master Edition

It has arrived. The day is 11/11/11, and it is so much more than a Spinal Tap reference or a day to honor Veterans everywhere–it’s the day dragons awoke, the day I became a bearded man of import. Getting there wasn’t hard; Tara and I went to my local GameStop around 10ish, paid for my copies of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 (which I won’t be able to pick up until early next week) and then hung out on the store’s floor for a bit. We gamed on our DSes for a bit, but eventually had to line up outside in the cold as we drew nearer to midnight. Once the time chimed high, we were sent into the store in groups of six or seven, given our copies, and ushered out. The drive home seemed to take forever.

Got home, made my character–his name is Lohgahn, and he’s rocking some killer Wolverine-esque sideburns–and played until the intro tutorial part was completed. Then I saved my game as I was a truly sleepy bear, but woke up early this morning to continue bounding onwards. Have only taken a break to make/eat lunch and type up this Grinding Down blog post.

I’ve never waited for a midnight release of anything before, and it was a little interesting seeing what type of people came out for this event. Mostly young teenagers or kids just getting into college by the look of ’em. There was a group attempting to sing–to everyone’s horror–Queen. And then listening to them spew words about how dumb Batman ultimately is and what Final Fantasy is the best had me cringing a bit–is that what I sound like, just not out loud? Ugh…

Well, maybe more on that later. For now, here’s a rundown of this week’s Achievements. They all come from a single franchise.

From The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion…

Blah blah blah, who cares now. All hail Skyrim Achievements!

From The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim…


Unbound (10G): Complete “Unbound”


Blessed (10G): Select a Standing Stone blessing

These are probably the first two Achievements the majority of gamers will unlocked. The first one is basically tied to Skyrim‘s tutorial/intro level, and the second is obtainable by following your companion right down the main path a little ways. Can’t miss it. Unless, upon the game truly opening up for you, you headed left or right with such ferocity that you never found the easiest Standing Stone possible. Bummer to you.

The first few hours of my game have gone well, and I certainly didn’t see any crazy horse-on-carts antics, but knowing it’s a Bethesda game means it’s only a matter of time until the glitches start popping up. I did stumble upon one oddity. I was speaking to a woman inside her own home in Whiterun, and she was ready to give me a quest, but said it’d be better to talk to her in her home in case anyone was eavesdropping. We…uh, were in her home. Speaking to her a second time triggered the correct dialogue, but it was still pretty amusing.

And with that, I go back to make Lohgahn a better archer, a better necromancer, and a better thief. To arms!

London Life Pauly, and the living’s easy

Have I gone into any long musings yet about London Life, the so-called mini-RPG bonus loaded with over 100 hours of gaming included with Professor Layton and the Last Specter? ::scans Grinding Down‘s archives:: Hmm…looks like a resounding no. For shame! I’ve lost a lot of Happiness.

First, let’s take a look at London Life Pauly in all his snazziness:

Pretty impressive, right? That snazzy top hat just melts your eyes. Normally, I like dressing in fairly bland clothing, the day-to-day stuff like a single-colored polo shirt or something flannel, but that 60 Formality really helps me get inside some of the fancier places in Little London, such as the casino. And you kind of want to get inside everywhere, as it opens up more quests, jobs, and people to mingle with. Let me set this all up a little better.

In London Life, you create an avatar and spend the majority of your days and nights talking with citizens, doing fetch quests for them, buying clothing, decorating your room, fishing, and earning money by completing a number of miscellaneous jobs. If it sounds a lot like Animal Crossing: Wild World, it’s because it is, with a few differences, some better and some worse: you don’t have a mortgage to pay off because you live in a tiny, small apartment studio; citizens in Little London do not really live lives, staying in their respective spots during the day and night times, speaking the same lines of dialogue over and over; and you have to be aware of your avatar’s Happiness, which I guess is a way to keep them alive. I’ve not yet run out of Happiness–though I’ve come dangerously close after some bad spouts of fishing–so I don’t really know what happens when the meter hits zero, but I don’t want to find out. A happy avatar lives better, they say. And there’s plenty to be happy about…

For starters, the writing in London Life is fantastic. And most has to do with the small observations or the flavor text for items, fish, flowers, furniture, and so on. There’s humor to be found in everything. Your avatar can basically examine anything he or she sees, and is rewarded with some text for it. Not just “It’s a desk.” This same level of attention to minutiae is prominently in Professor Layton and the Last Specter, found when tapping around the screen, and it’s greatly welcomed here. The music’s bubbly and bouncy, appropriate for each place you go into. And the graphics…my god, the spritework! It’s just heavenly, and it’s also amazing how well defined different items of clothing can be with just some simple sprites.

Okay, let’s take a look at my cramped living quarters, too:

Used to have a roommate, but he wasn’t down with my toy and stuffed animal collection, so he left. Toodles to him. Little London Pauly collects what he wants, when he wants. Not sure what the benefits of a roommate are, and I guess we share a bed Scott Pilgrim/Wallace Wells style, but whatever. With him gone, it just means I have more space to put stuff down. Such as a stack of books I recently bought. Yay!

I don’t know if there’s actually 100 hours of gaming in London Life, and I don’t really know how many I’ve already spent so far–maybe around six or seven–but there’s definitely a lot of things to do, and it’s just so dang charming that I’m going to keep on doing them until the charm wears off, which will most likely be after I stop getting newspapers full of quests every morning. Will try to check back in again, especially if I’m able to move into a larger pad or if I figure out how to open up that mysterious LOST-like hatch. Since the game is still so new and relatively obscure, there’s not a lot of info out there, which is actually kind of cool. It’s been some time since I’ve had to really figure something out for myself…

All must bow before the Master of the Fighters Guild

Well, of the remaining quests to complete to the Fighters Guild, three more involved going into a cave and killing [plural noun]. The final ones actually broke form, but even with that said, they weren’t that exciting, despite being concerned with taking down the Blackwood Company and destroying a crazy drug-producing tree. It was still go here, kill these people, report back what happens, accept next quest. Very disconnected and disappointing, but I’m glad to have to at least fully completed a guild questline–other than the easy-peasy Arena one–so here, look at my shiny rewards:


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


Master, Fighters Guild (50G): Completed the Fighters Guild Questline

The final quest involves you taking down the Blackwood Company, a group of no-gooders that have popped up a few other times during your growing career in the Fighters Guild. Instead of going to a cave to murder them all, you go to their base of operations in Leyawiin…and murder them all. Molly summoned a lot of skeletons to distract them and then plucked them down systematically with her bow and arrows. Nothing terribly hard. In the basement, she found a tree surrounded by cogs and wheels and other crazy-looking mechanisms. Every time you click on it, nothing happens. You are tasked with destroying the pumps powering the chaotic thing; I loosed some arrows and fire spells into it, but nothing seemed to be working. Then I noticed some boards on the ground, which fit perfectly in the spinning wheels, breaking them fast and setting the whole place on fire. Upon returning to mean ol’ Vilena Donton and telling her all about Molly’s good deeds, she bestowed upon her the grandest of grand titles, the Master of the Fighters Guild. After that…um, nothing. There’s no confetti or party in the basement, no roasted rat meat and seasoned cheese wedges, no cheering and clapping, no anything. Hollow from beginning to end.

For this marathon run, I stayed focused. I picked up very little loot, unless it was lightweight or simply gold or more arrows for my enchanted bow of numbing, and that was a little hard for me at first. I am, by nature, a lootwhore. I like taking everything, whether I plan to use it or not. I mean, in my mind, there’s always the possibility that X might come in handy or that I could always just sell Y at a later point, but this then leads to spending a lot of time on inventory management. My goal was to see every quest completed, and so there was little time for fidgeting. Bad enough all the loading from fast traveling to and from constantly, from cave to city, city to city, city to cave.

And that’s mostly that for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. From what I’ve gathered, the most exciting guild questline in the game is that of the Dark Brotherhood’s, but I chose poorly, going with Fighters Guild and am now out of time. Tonight, I am going to be devouring The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in big-eyed fashion, and while there’s no Fighters Guild in this new snowy realm, there is another guild similar to them. The Warriors? I dunno. I think though for my first playthrough I’m going to work on getting into the Thieves guild and going from there.

Molly the Master, out!

Y’know, that Alpha Male Deathclaw glitch

I’m going to be talking about a spectacular glitch from Fallout: New Vegas today, one so amazing in its horribleness and mind-fuckery that I had planned to draw a journal comic about it, but my wife beat me to the punch, which is fine as it’s a great l’il comic that captured the infamous event perfectly:

Click for a bigger version, yo. And yeah, I like to sit on the floor when I play. Wanna make something of it?

Right. Glitches and Fallout: New Vegas. I just can’t seem to escape writing about ’em. And this one’s a doozy. I was just beginning to scope out the landscape with Rhaegar, my fourth playthrough character, trying to locate some of the more pertinent locations so that they would be ready for fast-traveling. Leaving Goodsprings, I headed out towards Sloan because I knew that I could at least get a few snippets of EXP from fixing one of the generators and healing Snuffle’s injuries. What, you don’t know who Snuffles is? Why, she’s Sloan’s personal mole rat, a friendly one too. As I crept closer, I noticed the [hidden] status changing to [caution] and then [danger] despite no enemies being nearby at all. The status continued to change back and forth, too. Very bewildering. I headed into one of the shacks in Sloan to ask about how to make Deathclaw omelets, hoping to nip this weird status glitch in the butt. Nope, so I headed back outside…

…to discover, to my and Snuffle’s horror, that an Alpha Male Deathclaw, probably the toughest enemy in all of Fallout: New Vegas, had spawned directly in the middle of Sloan. Now that blinking [danger] status made sense. With one swipe, it murdered Snuffles and then took Rhaegar down. The game loaded up with my latest auto-save, which was me exiting the building, and the Deathclaw still spawned. Rinse and repeat. The third time, I turned 180 degrees, and went back inside the building, praying nothing followed me–nothing did. Carefully, cautiously, I went back outside. The Deathclaw was gone, my status stated I was safely [hidden], and all was quiet. Too quiet. No sniffling sound, and that’s when I saw her, Snuffles, slumped over, unmoving, unmovable. The Alpha Male Deathclaw glitch had left its mark for certain. I made a bee-line for Novac and haven’t gone back to Sloan yet. Probably never will.

Last night, Boone found himself trapped inside a bunch of desks in Vault 3 for too long, switching between melee and ranged weapons with strange determination. A funny glitch, but not as harrowing as the Alpha Male Deathclaw one. We’ll see how many more pop up as I continue to hunt for those few remaining Achievements…

30 Days of Gaming, #29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving

I have to believe that the last time I played with LEGO blocks–actually played with them, like used them to build the most buffoonish of homes loaded with booby traps and secret rooms–was when I was still only in the single digits. Now, as a man of twenty and eight years, I play with LEGOs all the time, but digitally, with a controller in hand, using them to collect a bajillion studs, form platforms, and as a means of transportation. That’s right. From toys to videogames, the building blocks of life.

At first, when LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game came out, it was hard to think of it as anything else but a children’s game. I mean, it uses the toys of children to tell a simplified story of something much more epic, with no punishment for failing, minimalist controls, and bright, colorful characters. It plays everything safe from a visual standpoint, and at that point, no one knew what a LEGO game was. Some kind of sandbox thing where you just play around in a room with virtual LEGO blocks? A racer? Multiple choice trivia? Nowadays, everybody knows what a LEGO game is, and you’ll either love love love each one that comes out or find them uninspired and repetitious. Me, I’m addicted to their goofiness and collection-based gameplay.

I remember the very first time I played LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game quite well. I was beardless then, and in a Target, wandering around the aisles. Many of my weekend evenings were spent doing this, as at the time I had no girlfriend, no wife, no friends. A playable PlayStation 2–behind glass and locks and the occasional employee with shifty eyes–was making noise, and that noise sounded pretty dang familiar. Upon closer inspection, it was the theme to Star Wars. You know how it goes. I grabbed the controller and started playing. I was a little LEGO Jedi, and the first action I took was to use the Force to push a battle droid all the way across the screen until it exploded…into LEGO bits. Like magic, every ounce of me warmed and tingled, and it never got tiring, Force-pushing dudes. Some young kids stopped behind me to watch, ooh-ing at all the right times.

Getting to the know the LEGO games more intimately, I saw that they were just as much for adults as they were for children. In fact, many of the puzzles were overly complicated, involving planning and meticulous placements of key items. Kids might enjoy seeing characters falling down or opening a treasure chest to find a lone banana in cutscenes (those folk at Traveller’s Tales love their fruit jokes), but it’s the little nods and things unspoken that hit home for older gamers in the know. Such as LEGO Jack Sparrow’s swagger or the way LEGO Malfoy heckles Hermione or how LEGO R2-D2 floats perfectly across a chasm. And they are fun to play co-op, though maybe not at first, as the camera tech hadn’t come around until LEGO Indiana Jones 2, allowing players to split off in any direction and join back up whenever they were ready.

Since that infamous day in Target, I’ve played every single LEGO-based videogame save for these: LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars and LEGO Rock Band. That’s not surprising as I’m not interested in much Star Wars lore other than episodes four through six, and plastic instruments are inferior to true instruments. Sorry, it’s true. And I’m picking up LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 on the same day I get Skyrim, and while I’m naturally more excited about traversing mountains, cooking salmon, and stealing spoons, I’m also giddy to get back to Hogwarts with my wife and cast some spells. Very curious to see if this LEGO game gets as dark as the final books/movies, though I’m mostly confident that TT will have handled the material a whole lot better than the film franchise.

Too many caves for the Fighters Guild to count

Molly’s been working like a mule as of late in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, increasing two more ranks in the Fighters Guild. See here, non-believers:


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


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

Ping and ping. That’s all well and good, but to be honest, these last few quests have been a grind. An extremely bland one, too. All involved going to some cave marked on the map and exploring it, whether to find out what happened to so-and-so, escort so-and-so safely through, or simply murder a bunch of so-and-sos/escaped prisoners. In fact, the majority of quests for the Fighters Guild so far have been of this ilk, with the only ones standing uniquely being “A Rat Problem,” “The Unfortunate Shopkeeper,” and “Drunk and Disorderly.” Otherwise, it’s been this on repeat: tip-toe through a really dark cave that looks just like every other cave in the game, spam the heck out of Nighteye and Minor Life Detection spells in hopes of seeing something, and save frequently to avoid losing progress to quick deaths from unseeable tripwires and pressure plates. Not overly exciting stuff, and it doesn’t help that I’m sitting in a freezing cold living room, crawling through digital caves that look just as cold, if not colder.

But up two ranks means that I’m almost done with the Fighters Guild, right? Well, no, not exactly. The endgame of the latest quest got problematic. Seems like the mother of Viranus Donton, found dead in a cave, was not happy with the mission’s outcome. Did I also mention she’s Master of the Fighters Guild in Cyrodiil? Yup. So, she threw in the towel, firmly, firing Modryn Oreyn for his lack of winning. Molly was also reprimanded and demoted down to the rank of Defender. So, it’s more like, up two ranks, down two ranks. I gotta make good and climb back up the corporate ladder for the Champion and Master ranks, which means more cave quests. I think I will just grin and bear it though as I’d love to complete at least one whole guild before The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim arrives. Once that game comes out, I’ll probably forget all about its predecessor–the same thing happened with Fallout 3 once Fallout: New Vegas reared its shinier head.

I’ve already joked with Tara that I’ll basically stop playing Skyrim the way it’s meant to be played when I get my first cave quest. I’m sure my character will be content to just spend the remainder of his/her days in a safe, well-lit town, decorating his house and chatting with locals. Maybe he’ll start a spoon collection. Or just make potions and fancy foods, sunrise to sunset. Who knows. The realm is my oyster. It’s gonna basically be Animal Crossing: Wild Skyrim, and that’s fine. Unless, I dunno, the caves got a whole lot better in the fifth game or my bad eyes are perfected magically overnight. Let’s hope for both of those things, my fellow fantasy spelunkers. Let’s hope.