A couple of months ago I saw a psychologist after years of seeking mental health help. I've tried pills and other forms of therapy, but haven't had much luck. Almost immediately after talking with me the idea of some form of high functioning autism was brought up. Something I had never considered. At this point I had two friends with Aspergers. One new, one old. That new friend is now my girlfriend. A gamer, with Aspergers. Out of nowhere, I'm suddenly undergoing diagnosis for something I knew little about but makes complete sense to me.
This week she bought me To the Moon, and told me how it made her feel. I've gotten emotional about games in the past but I didn't really expect much from the game. If you want to know more about the game I suggest reading a wiki, but the way the game deals with the mental health of the couple that the story is centred around is something I have never seen in a game before. The wife character is hinted at having a kind of autism throughout the game. Most likely high functioning. The narrative doesn't hit you over the head though, for those who aren't fully aware of the disorder.
They do constantly make reference to the effects that her condition has on the characters and world, such as the obsessions, difficulty with people and (what I thought was a nice touch) the ticking sound of clocks. This might seem overly obvious, but that's how it can be to live like that. These things affect almost every facet of your life and is not represented in games often. It still manages to remain in the background and provide a tragic flavour for the story without being the focus. It enhances the sadness you feel for the husband who has to deal with this, while also coming to terms with his own issues.
The game left me a little shaken and very emotional. It hit home in a way that games rarely do. Yes, straight white males can feel alienated in mainstream gaming. The things typical of the wife in To the Moon are not necessarily how I am. One of the other characters with autism in the game even explains that it is different between people. I still recognised some of myself in her, and the effects on the people in that world.
It left me wondering what will come of this diagnosis. I've spoken to them a few times, filled out some tests. They've interviewed my mum. I am waiting to hear back but... I don't know. I hate waiting. I guess it's not like an illness, where things will change depending on the result. I'll still be me. There's so much I don't know or understand about it though.
In the context of gaming, I don't know where to go from here. I finished up Steamworld Dig (the shiny new PC version) as that is a very light experience but the kind of impact To the Moon left on me makes it hard to think about playing something like Batman Arkham Origins, something that has sat installed on my PC since release and I have yet to play it. I've slowly been churning through games. I have an impossibly long backlog, but this is one of the games I bought recently and want to play. Wanted. I don't know.
I think I'll be more at ease once all this has passed, and I know, though it's unlikely many more games will have this kind of impact. I've heard of depression quest, and I guess that might be relateable in a similar way, and there are games that deal with other issues like Gone Home dealing with discovering sexuality, or Spec Ops The Line dealing with PTSD.
I'm curious if anyone had similar experiences to me, or any giant bomb members who have dealt with this kind of thing before. It would be good to hear from you.
I am sitting here looking at games in my steam library already installed such as Hitman, Hotline Miami, Darksiders 2, Witcher 2 and Syndicate amoung others. I'm not going to get them done before the end of the year though, so I'm going to cut off my list now. I don't think it has been a "disappointing year" like a lot of people. I've had fun.
If you manage to read it all, thanks for checking out this blog. Let me know your thoughts.
10 Games That I Enjoyed But Not In A Specific Order
1. Persona 4: Golden
Yes, it is a remake of a PS2 game for a struggling and expensive platform. Doesn't matter. They perfected an already incredible game. So many of the gameplay faults have been tweaked and fixed to make it a much smoother and enjoyable experience, not to mention the additional content that will make existing fans happy and provides a larger and much richer experience for newcomers.
I was really impressed with all the extra social events. it would have been easy to re colour some enemies and throw in a few new dungeons, but they didn't. it has the polish and scope of a full RPG even in the new content. Ultimately ,being able to spend more time with the characters I loved from persona 4 was more than enough reason to get this (even at the premium of importing it, since the UK release is a few months off).
2. Mass Effect 3
The story and dialogue elements in Mass Effect have had me hooked from the begging and I did everything I could up to the release of 2 & 3 to ignore the cries that it was being dumbed down. I still maintain that the things I love about the series have remained intact all the way through. I have also tried to stay out of the raging arguments about Mass Effect's ending, Bioware's failures, the quality of the game etc, but I feel I can say here that I don't care.
I enjoyed the game I played, and I enjoyed the ending that I got. I much preferred the Extended Cut ending that I got to the original, but unlike Jeff and Patrick I can easily replace the ending of my story with the one I played a few months later. It's all fictional, so why not? Well, it's easy for me anyway. Enough with the negativity. Some great characters, fun gameplay and a satisfying conclusion to pretty much every thread left hanging from the years I've spent in the universe.
3. Borderlands 2
Borderlands 1 was fun, but felt there was a serious lack of polish and refinement. A lot of it felt slapped together, big and open but slightly empty. I guess getting away from the space western vibe helped Borderlands 2 for me. The style, graphics, writing and gameplay all reached a level where it finally clicked with me on a level where I am enjoying myself as much as I can when playing a game.
Adding a leveling system to anything is an easy way to get me hooked, and even though this game is more Borderlands I never found that to be a bad thing. We get a lot of shooters, but I feel OK supporting a shooter that tries something different. It has it's own vision, and own goals for what it wants the player to do. Throwing homing MIRV grenades that spin through the air slowly chasing enemies. You don't see that a lot. Not that crazy weaponry is what I was looking for.
Honestly the thing that surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed the story. It has some twists, strong villains, recurring characters from the first game. Pretty much all I wanted from Borderlands 2.
I actually got this free with my graphics card, but I knew I wanted it anyway as I had played it earlier in the year at the PC gaming convention, Rezzed where I met some very lovely Giant Bomb fans. One even wearing a Duder shirt. Oh, also Matt. He's OK I guess.
4. Halo 4
I have played Halo 1 and Halo 3. That's not a lot of Halo in the last 10 years when you consider how many Halo games have been released. I really enjoyed both of those games so I figured it would be a good time to go back to it. I was right to do so. I'm not sick of fighting the covenant or using the same weapons, because it 10 years I've spent less than 30 hours between 2 Halo games. They're still fun to fight. In general the combat feels a lot like my memory of previous games, which is incredibly tight and satisfying. Nothing feels like a bullet sponge, a problem a lot of shooters have. The weapon variety gives you a lot of options.
Also, for an Xbox game it is incredibly pretty. I was impressed, but wished that it was higher resolution. I could very much tell this was on an Xbox360 and that bothered me. There's no other choice though.
This might have come out in 2011, but that doesn't mean I had to stop playing it. I spent hundreds of hours playing the game in 2011 and hundreds in 2012 as well. I haven't even touched any of the DLC yet. Mods, as with Oblivion, have expanded the life of this game so much. I wouldn't want to play without them now that we have the steam workshop available.
I have written some extensive blogs about my experience with Skyrim, so I don't really have much more to ad. I spent a lot of time with the game, and it remains one of the best games I've ever played.
6. Max Payne 3
Rockstar like to make games that are like movies. This game is even more cinematic than almost any other Rockstar game. The gameplay is almost an afterthought. The writing and presentation take precedence. I am totally OK with that. I had some fun shooting and diving through the air, but the character of Max Payne going through these crazy situations, and the turns the story makes kept me going. I don't believe in strong gameplay mechanics being important. Something as stylish and well presented as Max Payne deserves to be experienced by people, and it's unfortunate that it comes at the price of not being the best playing game but I never went in to it for that reason.
7. Sleeping Dogs
Nobody expected this to be any good, so I tuned it out. Until I saw it, then I was enchanted. "Look at that wet road!" I said to myself. I just had to see that road for myself. I'm only half joking, I really like the way the road looks. A great looking PC game overall. I can't quite articulate why I actually enjoyed playing it, but I did. Fun characters, interesting setting, strange plot. It stands on its own beside Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto. Not really trying to outdo either of them, but it does its own thing really well and has a certain charm to it missing from the bold, cinematic polish of Grand Theft Auto or the balls to the wall crazy of Saints Row.
8. Spec Ops: The Line
That story... man. I played the game, I listened to the podcast that Jeff was on with the writer and found it interesting. Most games don't even try to be interesting. They try to tell a straight story full of cliche's. It can be tedious at times, but the gameplay ties in to the story in some interesting ways and makes it worth it in the end. Not everyone will find it so interesting, but I did.
9. Alan Wake
I completely forgot this came out in 2012 on PC. A weird development history, and yet years after the console release it comes back home. I'm glad I waited, as the PC version looks very sharp compared to the blur-fest that is... well, any console game. I enjoyed everything about the game, and its only downfall being tedious repetitive combat. I've already mentioned how i don't care about mechanics that much, which is why I was able to keep going and enjoy the atmosphere and storytelling. Yes it's not exactly new, but it came out in 2012 for PC and I spent a good long time with it this year.
10. The Darkness 2
This will be overlooked by a lot of people since it came out so early in the year, and made a lot of changes over the first one that put fans off. Not me though. The more over the top style was jarring at first but I came to love it. It is a very different story that calls for a different tone. The story tries to make some serious points and shocking twists, which I thought might suffer due to the action being much better but thankfully that is not the case.
The only reason I am bothering to write this is that I won something. I never win anything. That isn't strictly true. I won a Digimon and McDonalds competition when I was a child but the prizes were basically nothing. I'm just happy to win things, even if you prizes are complete crap. In this case, I'm not so sure. In fact, I don't know the value of what I have won really.
There is a British multi-format magazine called GamesMaster that I read for 10 years, but not any more. I entered a competition recently to win some of the game junk they had laying around their office, and I won.
I'll do a little show and tell.
A metal Diablo pin. Very shiny. Doesn't seem like it was for Diablo 3 but may have been some promotional item.
A Jim Raynor noobz figure from BlizzCon09. In box, but not sealed. This is the coolest thing out of the lot.
Two Starcraft novels, one being a graphic novel. Still sealed.
I also got a bunch of other stuff including a "I (Heart) Starcraft" fridge magnet, a crappy wiimote controller grip, and a bunch of t-shirts. One from that cancelled star trek game (I think), one from Frozenbyte and the most interest one for Injustice. All really poor quality and HUGE so I can't wear them.
Is any of this worth anything? Doesn't have any particular value to me, though I do like the figure and the pin though I'm not likely to ever wear it.
I've also been playing some games. Went back to my finished Saints Row the Third save and cleared up the remaining side stuff. Well, territory control. Can't be bothered with the rest of it. The story made that game special. Started Viva Pinata on the PC again and slowly churning my way through that. Such an amazing game. One of Rare's best. I actually met some of the developers at Rezzed and talked to them about Rare as a whole...
Been an exciting past few weeks in games for me. Went to Rezzed in Brighton, played some Borderlands 2 and met some Giant Bomb fans. Nice to meet some real life duders. The talks with Peter Molyneux and Randy Pitchford were very good. I won't talk about that in great detail, but I will say that Peter is a very pleasant man and captivating on stage.
I've also been finishing games. Multiple games in only a couple of weeks. Steam has corrupted me, and I no longer finish every game I play. It eats away inside me knowing I have wasted money on games I might never have time to play but in a recent effort to correct this injustice I have started finishing games by the bucket load (a metric unit). Most have been great experiences, while others not so much but still enjoyable. I'll give a quick review/impression of each one.
Max Payne 3
Incredible cinematic presentation. The movement and shooting feels good but the main draw from me is the story and cutscenes. Nobody does it like Rockstar. The visual design in the game is incredible, from the logo down to the colour separation and scan lines.
The tone is dark and dialogue is cheesy and dramatic in just the right way. Bums me out to hear the giant bomb crew not liking it, but I don't need them to agree with me. Incredible.
Didn't like this as much as I thought I would, but it's still a fun game. The bullet economy isn't actually that much of a big deal. I found a lot of extra ammo and rarely spent any. Didn't use them to shoot either. Ended the game with a tonne extra. I would have liked if there were more purchasing options and rarer supplies, so hopefully the sequel will make it more meaningful.
The shooting itself is enjoyable, and the pneumatic weapons add an interesting kink to the action initially. Over the course of the game it starts to feel like maintenance if you want to use them regularly. Much like the flash light, you have to pump it up before use in order to get the most out of it. Fun at first, but when the fun wore out I switched to a regular assault rifle.
The story is confusing and sometimes incoherent mired by awful voice acting but there is enough intrigue to propel you through the story.
Penny Arcade Episodes 1 & 2
An excellent blend of adventure and RPG mechanics combined with the writing and art of Penny Arcade. I didn't expect it to be as good as it was. A shame it ended at 2 episodes but after Cthulu saves the world I expect Episode 3 to also be great, just in a different way. They did so much extra writing for intractable objects that you get new lines on the second or third click. Also, the steampunk look gives the game a great atmosphere along with its obsession with demon gods.
Try it. Get it in a steam sale and play it until your eyes bleed.
Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC
Not going to argue about this. I think it elaborates on all of the right things, making for a more complete feeling ending without actually changing the endings. Most importantly, it explains and shows the impact of your choice. That's what mass effect is about. It turned what I thought was the evil ending, control, in to what I felt was the ending I wanted the most. It placed my Shepard as a guardian of the galaxy embracing and assisting in rebuilding.
That's all. Moving on.
If it weren't for the analogue combat this game would feel like a low budget MMO with only 4 players. The quests and the story didn't draw me in at all. Run up to NPC, accept quest, skip dialogue, run towards the objective. I played the blunt weapons class and breaking thugs bones was the most fun I had with the game.
I uninstalled the game in the Jungle area last year and hadn't come back to it. I'm glad I finished it and got it out of my life.
Everything they say about this game is true. Zelda, God of War, Portals. Apart from some awkward late game pacing this is exactly what I wanted from a mature Zelda experience. Puzzle solving makes up the majority of dungeons and in between are combat encounters and traversal. You even get Epona half way through.
It reminded me most of Ocarina of Time. Not sure why, but drawing those parallels made me enjoy the game more. You don't get this kind of experience outside of Nintendo often.
GRIEFING. This game took 5 hours longer than it should have because of friendly fire. Stupid, funny, interesting, fresh. Some words to describe the game. End of conversation.
My opinion on this game completely changed two thirds through. It could never live up the original Bioshock, but the combat and plasmids have been improved dramatically. The thing that did it though is when I realised I was having way more fun than in Bioshokc after the twist is revealed. That was a drag, Bioshock 2 wasn't. People say it didn't need to exist but give it a chance and you might be surprised.
A friend recently started playing Borderlands for the first time on PC so I decided to install it and play along with him. After playing Borderlands 2 at Rezzed I felt like I was playing an inferior game, which made me feel a lot better about Borderlands 2 and excited for what is to come. Since I've completed this before I won't say much about it, just excited for the sequel.
Now... for the giveaway!
DOTA 2 Beta
I got 2 spare DOTA2 Beta invites. One I already gave away. The other is up for grabs right now here. You need to be a member of the giant bomb steam giveaway group which you can get an invite to here. Just enter and you could get the beta invite. Good luck and thanks for reading this blog!
I don't have a history with the Diablo series but I really enjoy those style of games. Torchlight is amazing, and that has satisfied me up until this point. I played the open beta and couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. I expected it to be good, of course, but not enjoy it all that much. I chose a monk and spent the next 4 hours PUNCHING FOOLS IN THE FACE.
See, that's the most satisfying thing. Forget your swords and spells, how about ROUND HOUSE KICKING A SKELETON KING IN HIS STUPID BONY JAW. I may have already selected my class for the full game. I think the game has an excellent sense of style in that dark, gothic fantasy kind of way. Excellent art design all around.
For that reason, when it came time for me to get a new mouse and keyboard I decided to go with the Razer Black Widow (I always wanted a mechanical keyboard) and the SteelSeries Diablo 3 mouse. It is a sexy piece of hardware. The tribal/gothic markings, the pulsing red light behind the diablo 3 logo and even just the weight of mouse. Feels great.
Unfortunately... I can no longer afford to buy the actual game! ARGH! Frustrating, sitting her with a Diablo 3 mouse and no Diablo. :/
Golden Duder Award
Winternet is running the Golden Duder Awards all month long. Such a great idea, I don't know how nobody decided to do this before. Get voting while you can, the second round is so close. My money is on one of the tested crew winning. I love those guys, even if I don't visit tested much any more.
Anyway, I decided to butt in and help out by making the official banner for the awards, because I was bored. Check it out, and leave some comments. Whatever you like. Abuse, even.
Bonus photo, I found some Gears of War 2 figures under my bed from a birthday years ago. I'm not in to action figures but they're pretty cool.
It has been 5 months since the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim , and over those 5 months I have put in 300 hours across 3 characters. Am I done? Not even close. I haven't touched the story. I haven't done any guilds. There is so much content I might never get around to the main quest. Well, that's not likely as that is what I am most excited about doing next. So what have I been doing? Exploring. I play on Master difficulty which made things challenging at first but now that I am at level 77 most of the combat is trivial.
Previously my favourite game of all time was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion , and I spent 300 hours on that game over 5 years. Now with Skyrim I've covered the same amount of time in just 5 months and Skyrim has replaced Oblivion. I'm not exactly proud, but I had a lot of free time on my hands. I became unemployed and went in to hospital in October, and Skyrim helped me perk up and enjoy my free time. As I said in a previous blog, unemployment sucks kids.
Before I share my final thoughts about the game, here are the previous blogs I've written involving Skyrim.
First I suppose I should show you my character. I name my RPG character after one of two things. Phoenix Wright characters or Fonts. My first female character was called Maya Fey, and my current character is named after the font Bebas Neue an old, bearded high elf. I have always played high elves in Elder Scrolls. I'm not sure why, I don't normally like elves but they have an incredible proficiency for magic. Especially in Oblivion. Skyrim has a very balanced approach to gameplay in that it doesn't limit you, unlike something such as Kingdoms of Amalur. Sure, you can respec in that but in Skyrim you can be the best at everything all at once. That is what my character is. At level 77 everything except archery and two handed are maxed out. It is so liberating having such choice.
My previous characters were pure mages but this time I went from an archer to a pure mage, to a mage/sword fighter combo. Chopping and burning are a satisfying combo. My weapon of choice is the daedric sword Dawnbreaker and a mod spell called 'massive sparks'. Even on Master difficulty I kill almost everything in one or two hits with the sword. I am using modded armour, a retextured version of the Nightingale Armour.
My main advice to anyone still waiting to play Skyrim is explore. There is a massive world to explore and unlike Fallout it is filled with ruins, dungeons, cities, inns. Everything you expect in a fantasy RPG. Unlike Oblivion they aren't all the same. They are still constructed from tile sets slotted together, but each place is different and tells its own story. So often you will stumble upon a quest just from entering a dungeon but another feature that I really enjoy is when the story is implied. You won't get something to register in your quest log, but you might stumble upon a journal, or a body and you can work out what went on. So much fun. One that springs to mind is a lighthouse filled with dead bodies and falmer. There is a slight quest hint to help you along but it is fun to just stumble upon and figure out through diaries.
Everything in Skyrim is styled very specifically to fit the lore and climate. In Oblivion each town looked very different in terms of architecture but in Skyrim things are very similar in the smaller holds but there is the stone fortress of Winterhold, the regal elegance of Solitude and the ancient dwarven city of Markarth. All very nordic and look appropriately freezing cold. The same can be said for the ruins, which look ancient and filthy. I really do miss something on the scale and design of the Imperial City, or the port town of Anvil... especially when I consider how great they would look in the newer engine.
The atmosphere from the new and improved lighting and weather effects is incredible. Oblivion gave me a great sense of immersion, like I was living in a fantasy world like I never had before. Skyrim goes much further and really drew me in. Sure, I have a ton of graphical mods enabled that alter pretty much everything from weather patterns to textures and lighting. I don't think that is a comment on me not liking the game as it is, but there is always room for improvement. Bethesda put out a fine product, they couldn't refine it forever or tune it to my preferences. At least with mods I'm free to pick and choose.
If I had to pick my favourite thing about Skyrim it would definitely be the atmosphere and immersion. A lot of that has to do with graphics as well as game systems that let you and all the NPCs live a 24 hour life. The world itself feels very alive pretty much all the time. Quests and interesting locations all around you, a ton of voice acting and enemies. Patrick already said this on the bombcast, but one of the more interesting experiences is walking in to a dungeon and finding a guy who is drugged up and insane, believing he is a ghost after spending years just pretending so he could find an artefact. At the end of the dungeon you find the exit backs on to the room he was living in. A tragic irony.
I've had giants, skeevers and horses try and take down a dragon. Even my dog had a go. I wish there was some gradation of aggression. The AI is either passive, fully aggressive or scared (fleeing). My dog should not just jump in to 'combat' mode and relentlessly attack anything. As hilarious as it is, I might prefer my dog to run away and return home. I think it'd be cool to come home and find my cold, injured dog.
Skyrim is known for being glitchy, and that has led to very sketchy moments like backwards flying dragons, flying drauger, NPCs with wood stuck to their head, bodies flying through the air like a rocket and so much more. The annoying variations are quests glitching, events not triggering, items falling through the world. Thankfully, on the PC you can fix any problem if you know how. The console allows you to spawn an item or person, fly through scenery, force quest checkpoints to trigger, bring dead NPCs back to life (I was told by a daedric prince to go and talk to somebody, and the quest marker lead me to a dead person... so I had to resurrect him).
It would really suck to play this on a console without mods or access to the developer console. It offers so much flexibility.
I have to talk about dragon again. They are the best thing in Skyrim. Incredibly well modelled, animated, though not especially textured (I have a mod that adds 49 more dragon textures so that is no longer a problem). One of the coolest things is the effect of their flesh burning off and leaving behind a skeleton. If only their bones didn't seem so rubbery. I am seriously impressed with the dragons in this game, especially with how dynamic they are and not fixed scripted moments. When I first brought a dragon crashing down to the ground and it slid past me with a cloud of dust I felt incredibly powerful, which Skyrim is good at doing.
The problem with the dragons in Skyrim is a lack of variety. There are several kind of dragon, scaled to your level. Once you reach level 50 you face the hardest dragons of the 'Ancient' variety. The diverse dragons mod adds quite a few dragon variants that not only look different, but have different abilities. Some can knock you over, others summon daedra, and there are also twins that fly together. Not just the look, but the combat in the battles lack variation and this mod fixes that.
Here are some of the other screenshots I've taken in Skyrim.
Skyrim is easily one of my favourite games of all time. Yeah yeah, you're probably sick of hearing about how great it is and the dirty hipster inside of you wants to hate it because it's cool. It is totally fine to not like the game, however, but that doesn't make it bad. Me liking it doesn't make it good, but Bethesda clearly went above and beyond with this game. The most cynical of publishers wouldn't necessarily let a developer put so much work in to a game that sells for just as much as a 4 hour Call of Duty game. There is so much content it is amazing, and why I can forgive a lot of the faults. They just don't matter to me. I can overcome them.
Now that I have reached the 300 hour mark I feel no need to keep talking about the game. I will soldier on in silence. See you when the first expansion comes out!
Please leave comments and such. Always fun to read.
I really liked the look of Pid when Adam Boyes first showed it here on Giant Bomb.
Even visually it has a lot of things going on that speak to me. Especially the colours. Going over information for the game there isn't much to go on... but I couldn't help but notice everyone has a hat. The kid you play as wear a hat, almost all the robots have hats built in to them. What's going on there? I really want to know. I also noticed a theme of stars, and on these two themes I made a couple of pieces of 'Fan Art'.
I asked them a question over twitter about the hats and they responded:
First is just a small card for press and trade sows that have a download code for the game. On the back is a nice piece of concept art I dug up from the site.
The second is a poster done in the style of an old movie poster. The same treatment I have given some other games in the past.
The developers sent me a message on twitter saying they think they're incredible. Probably just being nice, but still, good to hear.
The only reason I did these was because I needed to keep myself busy while I wait for Fez. WHat do Fez have in common? Cute indie platformers that feature... HATS! I am really excited to play the game. I saw Jeff Green saying on twitter that he's getting tired of faux 8-bit graphics but it looks so great. There are far more polygonal games released with a realistic art style, or cartoony. I'm glad they're keeping it alive and doing it right.
The little Fez on the main characters head is adorable, I wonder if they gave out small promotional Fez at any point. The gameplay will be good from what I've seen in the quicklook but I'll happy just to stare at it and listen to the music. Only 800 points? I expected it to be more. I wish I had impressions to give but it isn't out yet. If they release it on Steam and iOS I'll those too. Seems like a good fit. 3DS too.
That's all for this blog. Not much to add. Comments are welcome!
A real, printed calendar that you can hang on your wall. People still do that, right? My mum does. So if you are over 40 I guess. The photoshop thread would have been a perfect source of money shots for the monthly photo, but they're too low res for print. In the end, I just made a couple of months using the amazing Chat Dragon and Whiskey Warrior by Dave Snider.
Here's a sample that can be used as a wallpaper.
These are low quality, but you can get the 1920x1080 version by clicking. I'd like to know what people think. Would people buy a physical calendar? Not necessarily of this design of course. My mum has three. In the same room.
In my last blog I was 140 hours in to Skyrim. I recently broke 240 hours, so I figured it was time to talk about it again. I took a break for quite a while due to some glitches and wanting to wait for the modding community to mature. The creation Kit isn't out until this tuesday, but modders have already done some amazing stuff. Before the landscape gets crowded I'd like to outline and give credit to what users can enjoy.
The modding community had a horrible reputation as being all about nude mods, and the notorious 'clean faces' meme here on Giant Bomb. It does an incredible injustice to the work put in to make the game better. I don't even object to those mods. Whatever you want to add to the game, that's what modding is about. When people see those however, they roll their eyes.
So, to combat this here are my favourite pre-creation kit mods.
Honourable mention to the mod Skyrim Online which is a WIP mod that essentially adds online multiplayer to the game, allowing you to enter another players world. I don't use it, and it is basic and very buggy at the moment but amazing that somebody has even done it.
Souls To Perks
There are only 80 perk points in the game, as your level caps out at 80, yet there are something like 250 perks in the game. With such a huge game you can easily max out your skills before seeing everything, and I think that is a shame. The abilities given by perks are powerful and even give you abilities you can't get otherwise. By having such a limited amount of points you are forced to min-max and not experiment/choose more of the fun perks.
This mod changes that. You can exchange accumulated dragon souls for perk points (which adds a nice choice between shouts and perks). The default is 10 souls for a perk, but you can change it to your liking and balance it however you like. I recommend 1, 2 or 5. Whatever works for how you play. It'll allow you to widen your play style and enjoy more of the gameplay systems.
An interactive 3D map was a really nice choice for the world of Skyrim. Old cloth style map was cool in Oblivion, but getting a better feel for the verticality of the landscape is almost essential in Skyrim. So why not go even further? There are quite a few really cool map mods to enhance your experience. Unfortunately, it seems like these two are incompatible, but they offer different things for different people.
One of the earliest mods for Skyrim, and an incredible idea. The map in the game loads low res meshes, but imagine the map being a camera zooming around the world. It functions exactly the same but allow you to zoom right the way down to ground level and see all the details as if you were there allowing more exploration and navigational possibilities. Plus it's pretty cool.
One of the first, and best, house mods. The stock houses you can buy in the game are fine, but often don;t have the best assets, layout or utilities. A WIP, this mod gives you a hideout that provides everything Dovahkiin would need. Luxury living, full smithing, enchanting and alchemy tools, copious storage and even a library. Accessible from every in-game house this mod will give you a decent place to relax, store your stuff and improve some skills.
Always a lot of visual mods for these games. Maybe the textures are too low resolution for you, or you just don't like the way they look. Texture replacements are as easy as chucking files in a folder, and don't even modify the game's files. Just be careful not to overdo it because you will get textures failing to load if you have too many high res textures.
We are about to embark on a magical adventure full of unicorns, elves, and low resolution textures. I wasn't sure what I was in for, but the startup screen gives me a great indication. You know you're in for a good time when graphics options range from 'Fastest' to 'Fantastic'.
I am going in to this game with no previous knowledge about the gameplay, the story or characters. What awaits us in Secret of the Magic Crystals? Wonder? Childhood innocence? Let us take a look...
The game starts off with a slideshow describing the backstory behind the narrative, similar to other stellar games like Super Mario Galaxy.
Much like other modern games, Secret of the Magic Crystals initially deals with what seems like the apocolypse. As in post-apocalyptic FPS Rage, a giant meteor is set to collide with the earth, except the people in this world have escaped John Carmack blessing the land with Megatextures, and are instead spared the impact of the meteor. Which is the better of the two fates? You decide.
The meteor shatters in the Earth's atmosphere, and rains down magical crystals... if you believe the name of this game. In our world, astronomers might have noticed a giant meteor heading towards the earth. But this isn't your regular Earth with 'SCIENCE', this is MAGIC! Instead, these magic crystals are discovered by one old man, a university professor. Wait, professor? I guess in this world scientists are the quacks instead of mystics and psychics.
He believes the crystals have a profound effect on... wait for it... horses! Yes, of all the applications of magic crystals, horses are the only benefit of this incredible discovery. Hang on a second... nobody believes him? Impossible. Screw these students, what do they know?
The old man is then kicked out of the University for spreading his lies (we believe him though, right guys?) and retreats back to his home farm. There he grafts 2 pieces of jewellery for his grandchildren to raise horses on the farm, and that is where our grand adventure begins.
With the important stuff out of the way, we now have control over the farm. In case you were already aware of the stellar translation this game has received, my fist click on the screen results in finding an elf guarding treasure (where you ask? Let's see if you can find it in this screenshot... cos I sure can't). "You have found the Rainbow! You have found the elf guarding the treasure at the Rainbow!" declares the game. Great...?
Well, nothing happened. Moving on, pop up tutorials inform me that I am able to click on various elements on the farm and upgrade them or enter them. Surprisingly upgrading them actually changes the look of the structure. The farm is quite desolate and drab at the start so hopefully once I start earning money (there are coins in the corner of the screen) I can turn this place in to a palace.
The game instructs me to go to the stable, and inside I am greeted with my starting animal. A Unicorn! Morisa the Unicorn. Still a baby, it seems. On the left are some grooming tools so I take a brush and brush the furry unicorn to make it pretty. What? Don't judge me. After a minute or so of brushing my Unicorn explodes! What did I do!?
OK, disaster averted. The explosion was pixie dust or something, and my Unicorn is now an extra 6ft taller, muscular and has a giant head. It grew up? I guess the game is telling me now I can train my horse... or magic horse unicorn. Off to the corral.
At this point I have realised this game is a horse training simulator. Except MAGICAL. Considering you've been gifted with a magical unicorn beast and some magic crystals, you sure do some non-magical shit with it. Starting off by taking my Unicorn on a forest track which involves such mind blowing, MAGICAL feats such as jumping over twigs and branches.
The actually gameplay portion is similar to that of Rockband or Guitar hero, except here it is just arrow keys. When the horse passes under a giant floating arrow you have a 1 - 2 second window in which to press the arrow key. The the horse jumps over a trickle of water and some leaves. What happens if you don't press it in time? I don't know. The difficulty in this game is so forgiving that I got a perfect on every button press. At the end of the course it tallies up your score and with all perfects... 98%? Fuck you, game!
The other events are the exact same minigame just in a different environment. After a certain amount of activity however, your horse becomes exhausted and you must allow it to rest which is a great excuse to go feed it back in the stable or groom it. That, my friends is where my first day of adventure ends in this game.
Like what you've read? Let me know if you want to see more episodes in my Unicorn training diary.
As a thank you for reading this magical adventure I would like to give you the opportunity to win a prize. I have a number of steam vouchers to give away. Exciting, no? No? Oh, OK. But still, discounts off games. Even Skyrim! Feel free to give something in return if you like but otherwise just post your steam name and what you want, and it is yours for the taking.