Hey there faithful following. Do you like free stuff? How about conditional free stuff? Well that is what I have today. I have, in my steam inventory, a copy of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, that one heavily flawed RPG that people seem to like a lot after the application of a fan-patch. The conditions? You must engage in a battle for the ages with in blog form. With who? I haven't figured that out yet (maybe @Mento, since he did so well last time with his Temple of Elemental Evil commission) Not me, even though I haven't finished (read: played more than 2 hours) it yet. I'm too busy playing questionable games like Might and Magic IX and thinking about writing about 4X games to deal with such. Maybe a blog battle with yourself?
The conditions? Write a 500 word essay about any person, historical or otherwise, who you would like to have a blogging battle concerning vampires with. Bonus points if they are an established writer, not that bonus points mean anything. The person with the most persuasive thing will get the game. If you already own Vampire the Masquerade, you could possibly volunteer to be the competitor in question, even if you've beaten it before. I dunno. Just... get this off my hands.
So I actually finished Fire Emblem Thracia 776 like a week ago, but due to me being busy (at work), or busy (vomiting) or busy (not really wanting to write something) you get it now. Just in time for me to be able to theoretically talk about other stuff too? Sure. Let's go with that.
Because there are things in this world that are not Fire Emblem.
Saints Row The Third is fantastic. But you probably already knew that. Honestly, most of what I could say has already been said by the bomb crew during various podcasts and such. The entire game thrives on being as ludicrous as possible, which makes up for the merely passable shooting and driving. I've only sunk in 10 or so hours, which can be blamed on it occasionally not wanting to work at the least opportune time (though I think my computer is at least partially broked, so it might be a problem with that) and I can tell that this is certainly a game that I enjoy.
The Steam Sale has already claimed money out of me. Warlock: Master of the Arcane seems very much like a rendition of @Mento's favorite Turn-Based Fantasy-Type Civ-Clone Master of Magic (one of the preset wizards clearly seems to be based off one of MOM's preset wizards, so I think the influence isn't coincidental), but set in the same universe as the Majesty games (what) and taking its cues from Civ V, as opposed to say... the original Civ, by having non-stacking units that level up a ton, the grid being hexagonal and your cities being able to defend themselves. It also takes the cue of "Yo dawg, fighting is all that matters", because diplomacy seems painfully limited and it seems like most of your victories are going to come in the form of conquest (though there are 3 other conditions: cast the ultimate spell, control all the holy ground, or defeat a god's avatar). While your chance of obtaining it dirt cheap like I did have already passed you by, it's still pretty cheap. I also bought Rayman Legends, but I think to get anything out of that game I'm going to need a controller. Which I should probably get anyways.
Because I refuse to shut up about Fire Emblem
Fire Emblem for the NES is old. If you've played Shadow Dragon, you know that Shadow Dragon is probably the worst of the series to have reached western shores, with its fairly simplistic plot and overabundance of junk characters that you would never use. Now imagine that. But crusty and without stuff like the weapon triangle. That's not to say that I probably won't play it to completion (and then play Book 1 of Monshou no Nazo for good measure), just that I won't like doing so. Fire Emblem Gaiden on the other hand seems genuinely neat, as the Zelda II of the franchise with all of the implications that label entails. Oh, it's still crusty and old, but it has an overworld map, you can grind, and some units even have split promotions... a bit like another game in the series. Also Tear Ring Saga, which as far as I can tell, is Fire Emblem. On drugs. And doesn't have a translation patch. So that should be fun.
But what I'm really here to talk to you about is Thracia 776, the 5th game in the series and the last one for the SNES, released in 1999 (!), making it one of the last games released for the system as a whole. And, like the last one, it only came out in Japan and there are roughly 3 people on these forums who have played it not counting myself. It's probably the first "Modern" Fire Emblem in the way that it's set up, including things like the rescue mechanic, side chapters and fog of war. It also has some stuff that has yet to make it elsewhere. You can capture enemy units and take their stuff, which is how you will obtain most of the useful weapons and items. Your units also have a "Fatigue" stat, which increases as your units fight and junk and if it exceeds their HP you can't deploy them in the next map. Thracia 776 is also balls hard. Back when I still inhabited the dark, dark recess of horrible awful people known as the Fire Emblem Community, it was considered the hardest. While that throne has since been taken by the absurd, clearly not playtested, maximum difficulties of the last 3 titles (the aptly titled "Lunatic" difficulty in both Shin Monshou no Nazo and Awakening has enemies with absurdly high stats rushing you out of the gate, not even counting Lunatic Reverse and Lunatic +) that does not mean that it still isn't the hardest game of the series on default difficulty.
The aforementioned fatigue and capture systems are part of it, but a lot is just sheer evil level design. Whereas something like say... Act 1 of Radiant Dawn is hard because all of your units have the general durability of a piece of wet toilet paper, Thracia is hard because there are maps with ballistas, and ballistas are actually dangerous and capable of murdering your non-flying units. And then there's that one level where the boss has 10 leadership stars, which stack with the OTHER boss' leadership stars and gives all of your enemies like +45 to hit and avoid or something crazy like that. If I didn't just warp Asvel over to the boss and critted his face in with the Grafcalibur spell, it would've been most difficult indeed. Because that's kinda the secret about this game. You can cheese a lot of the difficulty out with proper staff management. While mounted units are the kings of Seisen no Keifu, Staff users are undoubtedly the kings of this one. That's partially because mounted units have to dismount indoors, where they can only use swords, but mostly because this game's repair staff has 7 uses, which can be expended on say... that warp staff you get in chapter 9. Or Tina's thief staff that can steal ANY ITEM from the enemy as long as her magic is higher than theirs. While I sadly used most of my repair uses on stuff like Leaf's Light Sword or Asvel's aforementioned Grafcalibur, it's easy to see how you could warpskip your way to victory if you wanted to be lame. Of course, you don't have any of those in Chapter 4, 4x and 5, and those are probably the hardest parts of the game anyways.
That being said, this game is also very good. You know how I said that Seisen no Keifu is good? This is similarly great. The difficulty is manageable by simple matter of a lot of your units being powerful enough to handle what is being thrown at them (Othin, with his automatic criticals on counterattack and personal killer hand-axe, is of special note). The story, being a midquel that takes place slightly before and during the second half of Seisen no Keifu, mostly deals with just fleshing out what Leaf was doing while Celice was steamrolling the countryside with his merry band of steamrollers. Leaf himself is pretty boring for a Fire Emblem lord, but there's still enough good dialogue from his tactician and the side characters to make the translation worth using. Sadly the translation in question doesn't have the menus entirely done (which sucks) and occasionally throws in some really stupid jokes that are clearly not part of the original script ("IN AMERICA" is used and is nearly as cringe worthy as one would expect). Once again, my recommendation comes down to: If you like these games and don't mind the dubious legality of emulators-n-junk, then seek it out. Just make sure to check Serenes Forest to get some of the secret stuff, which is well worth getting.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some other things to do. Which ones? Not sure.
Oh Fire Emblem. A franchise that I am totally cool with being some variation of the exact same thing in every installment. Yes, swords will beat axes, axes will beat lances and lances will beat swords. Yes, you will invariably start with a pre-promoted character (usually a Paladin) who starts out powerful and either ends up sucking (Jeigan archetype) or actually is able to keep up with the rest of your army (Oifaye archetype). Yes, you will have two cavaliers, one red and one green who specialize in strength and speed. Actually, just read the franchise wiki page. It's quite well done. Point is, Fire Emblem is totally rad and I know fully well that I will end up playing every game in the franchise (as well as the “Totally not Fire Emblem” PS1 game Tear Ring Saga) at some point, regardless of the fact that the NES installments have undoubtedly aged super poorly and probably weren't all that amazing to begin with in Gaiden's case. Thus, to make good on that, I will attempt to talk about a few of them without sounding like a raving lunatic. It will be difficult, but I'm sure it will be worth it in the end. Oh, and don't worry if you've never heard of them. They're all Japan-only this time, so I'm sure this blog will get lots of comments, just like that one time I wrote about how I thought Alpha Protocol was bad. For the record, I still stand by that statement and when I made my now former roommate play through it he said the same thing.
Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu (Genealogy of the Holy War)
Maybe you have heard of this game. I know I certainly have. Some guy on our forums seems to consider it to be the best game ever. He's wrong, but Seisen no Keifu is clearly where Fire Emblem started hitting its stride. Whereas the first three games are some variety of ok, I feel like this one in particular represents a rather large leap in quality in both a gameplay and story perspective. Is it perfect? No. Is it a hella cool Fire Emblem game? Yes. And let me tell you why. With words.
Released in mid 1996, Seisen no Keifu is the 4 game in the series and one of the most popular (in Japan). In fact, it was the best selling title in the series until Awakening came out earlier this year. It introduced the weapon triangle in addition to skills. However, while the weapon triangle has gone on to be a definitive part of the series, and skills have been in most of the newer titles, the single most unique thing in Seisen no Keifu is that it takes place across two generations of characters. The first half deals with Sigurd of Chalphy trying to find his father (which of course turns into a story of intrigue as he is branded a traitor and has to clear his name) and the second half has his son Celice and everyone else's kids finishing where their parents left off.
While the story is still very much a plucky young hero and his friends defeating an evil empire (that their parents inadvertently helped create), there is a surprising amount of characterization and incidental dialogue between both generations. Indeed, though the translation patch is at times a bit stilted and overly literal, it still gets a surprisingly well-told story across. Dark cults, family drama, incest, potential incest and waifu obtaining all get their fair share alongside storytelling tropes that one would expect from a game like this. It's a pity then, that the translation patch I was using doesn't have the ending translated (apparently it's bugged or something), and I had to look it up on the internets instead.
Anyways, it's a Fire Emblem game. However, the maps are insanely huge (there are only 12 of them) and often requires you to capture one enemy castle before moving on to the next one. As a result, the game is rather lenient with its saves, since you can do so every turn without penalty. You can also deploy everyone in your army at all times. These tilt the balance of the game towards mounted units, which is fine and dandy since half of your army is mounted in either generation. Foot soldiers have their place as well (the swordmasters in this game are crazy good, for example), but the two generals you get are totally garbage and not worth touching at all.
However, low movement units are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of the insanity that lurks beneath the hood. While the first generation is respectably difficult most of the time, despite Sigurd being a death machine from level 1, the difficulty of the second generation revolves heavily on which characters you paired with which mother in the first (and if you didn't pair them at all you get hilariously crappy replacement characters). Like the support system in later games, pairing characters is as simple as making them stand next to each other for an inordinate amount of time until they have a conversation or get a mark on their status bar. While there are no wrong pairings per se, there are most certainly right pairings. While these have been discussed to death by the contentious and debate-happy Fire Emblem fan community, it bears in mind that if you pair Arya (a swordmaster) with say... Lex (an axe knight), her two kids will gain double experience, attack first at low health and have respectable amounts of defense and HP in addition to their already high speed, skill and inherent meteor sword skill (5 hits full damage).
Thus, it is unsurprising to say that one of the things that Seisen no Keifu has no sense of whatsoever is balance. Holy weapons give +20 to certain stats, Wind Magic and Swords are significantly lighter than other types of weapons and the game occasionally decides to throw like 25 high level enemies at you at once, which is all well and good since your characters are supposed to be broken enough to deal with them. Even if you for some unholy reason decided to do an all-replacements run, the preset units in generation 2 (namely Aless, Celice, Shannan and Altenna) have enough holy weapon lolbroken-ness to at least even out the last two or three chapters. I'm pretty silent on the first generation in this respect, because for the most part the first generation doesn't have this problem, since only Levin and Briggid have holy weapons before the last chapter.
I could probably go on and on about this game, but I will suffice to say that if you are a fan of the series and don't mind the legally questionable zone of downloading ROMs and translation patches then you should most certainly play Fire Emblem Seisen no Keifu. But before I go... bonus games!?!?!?
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776
Unlike the wall of text that you just read, I have not finished Thracia 776, the other crazy SNES Fire Emblem game (released in 1999, which is totally crazy), and is a midquel that takes place right before and during the second generation of Seisen no Keifu. It's more standard in the way it's structured, and is notable for introducing the rescue command, fog of war maps and multiple victory conditions. It's also notable for being BALLS HARD, which is why I haven't finished it and why it's a footnote in this blog. However, from the half or so that I have finished, I can tell you that it's fantastic. Unlike something like say... Act 1 of Radiant Dawn the difficulty comes from the fact that most of your units are capable, rather than wet paper that dies in two hits. You will probably be hearing more about this from me in the future, assuming my current Fire Emblem bender holds.
I also played and finished the second DS Fire Emblem (Shin Monshou no Nazo), and it's quite good. However, not much needs to be said, other than that the translation patch isn't finished and that it is basically like Shadow Dragon but better. A lot better. Because Shadow Dragon was kinda bleh.
And thus concludes a blog. About video games. You should play them. I obtained Suikoden IV for free as part of a buy 2 get 1 free sale at Play-N-Trade. That may have been a poor choice. The Civ V expansion seems pretty cool. I'm out.
Ah yes. Remember me? Thought not. I used to blog here, once upon a time. But then I went to school and got addicted to League of Legends/procrastination/staying up far too late and the best I could muster was some talk about Deus Ex Invisible War, Dark Souls, and The Witcher in all the time I was in that dorm room. Oh. And I wrote my thoughts about Mass Effect 3 like the week after I got home. And that won't really change, because 32 hours of my week are devoted to my current job at a certain worldwide retail chain that ends in -Mart. I guess I could complain about that, but I'm getting paid and the job itself isn't all that hard so a lot of that is immediately null. So instead, I guess I can talk about the video games that I have been playing since I finished Mass Effect 3. Because I still enjoy doing this, oddly enough.
Games that aren't Suikoden III
You're right. I could have written something on Diablo III. I, like anyone else with a computer, both played and finished Blizzard's loot collecting simulator on Normal difficulty, and in my case I figured that was good enough for now and I could play on Nightmare when I felt up to it. But the thing is, as far as Diablo III is concerned, I really don't need to write about it because everyone already knows what it is and how they feel about it. Diablo III is a game that, much like Starcraft II, takes very few risks in differentiating itself from its 12 year old predecessor. And I'm fine with that because the game is fun. But that's all I have to say about it.
However, if we may, we can talk about some other games that I have been messing with, in case the idea of reading what I have to say about a decade-old niche JRPG doesn't tickle your fancy. Let's start with the games that I bought along with Suikoden, as part of a buy 2 get 1 free sale from my local creepy electronic media pawn shop:
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
Advance Wars Days of Ruin is already 4 years old. That's insane, because it means that Advance Wars Dual Strike is like 7 years old now and that means that I'm old and I can't asfd;kjhaskdljfhaslkjdf. Ahem. Despite never owning the game in the past, I had played a decent amount of it when it came out and can continue to confirm my claim of “One step forward, two steps back” from the days of yore. Namely, while all the gameplay changes are really smart and make it a much better, more balanced game for the purposes of playing against other people the campaign is much more reliant on trial and error and the change to the “darker” aesthetic falls flat on its face due to everything still being as cartoony as the old games, but without the lightheartedness that made it permissible. Still, I will probably finish it because I love Advance Wars and because you need to beat the campaign if you want to unlock all the other COs. You know. So I can play online with my friends (joke).
Valkyria Chronicles II
Speaking of turn based strategy games that are on handhelds and are apparently not as good as their forebears, I also played a good amount of Valkyria Chronicles II. Despite the game failing to adequately explain some of its mechanics, I find it pretty enjoyable and would probably have prioritized it over Suikoden... except for the part where the story and characters are a smattering of every anime/JRPG cliché and trope imaginable. Obviously, I've always been a “Gameplay First” kind of fellow and think that if you are looking for good story and characters in a video game you are probably not looking in the right place, but Valkyria Chronicles II is grating to the point where it is actively diminishing my enjoyment of the game. Apparently the first and third games are a lot better, but I don't own a PS3 or live in Japan, so those options are sunk. Once again, you will most likely hear something about this again at some point, but not today. I think I'd actually rather finish Tactics Ogre instead, and that game has some pretty apparent issues despite being pretty cool otherwise.
I was also going to talk about Fire Emblem, but that would require a blog unto itself. So instead I'll just say that I saw Prometheus last night and could not tell you what I actually think of it as a movie, and man I should really watch Alien because apparently that movie is pretty good.
Yo guys, Suikoden III is pretty good.
When it comes to JRPGs developed post-SNES era, I'm perhaps not the most knowledgeable. The N64 was my first console and if you know anything about that console's library, it's that the best RPG for it was the original Paper Mario, which while clearly a great game that is one of my childhood favorites, is not exactly indicative of the kinds of things that were coming out on the Playstation around the same time. Same goes for the Gamecube and its abysmal RPG representation (Even after all these years, I'm still not entirely sure what Baten Kaitos actually is) Thus, while some of you can defend Final Fantasy VIII's bizarre and arcane magic system with a straight face, I can defend the fact that Donkey Kong 64 has the Guinness World Record for most collectable objects in a video game with a straight face.
It's a trade-off, and thus for a JRPG to catch my interest, now that I actually own a PS2, it has to be crazy (Final Fantasy X-2), balls hard (SMT Nocturne) or especially novel (Persona 3). Suikoden III is the third one, because its not hard, nor is it the delicious “stupid to the point of self-parody” styling of X-2. Thus, it is novel for a number of reasons: First, it has a story that doesn't dip into the JRPG cliché well all that often, instead playing itself pretty straight for the most part and managing to handle an ensemble cast surprisingly well. Of course, the main villain still wants to destroy the world and cheats in order to steal the macguffins needed to do so, but up to that point there is a lot of nations at war and a lot of the world's history is introduced in context rather than being forced down the player's throat through unnecessary exposition, not to mention how the story is told from multiple perspectives before everyone teams up to beat the bad guys and stuff. While the localization is perhaps a bit dry at spots, it is similarly very well done. If there is a weak point in the story, it is Thomas' chapters, which are totally optional for a reason. Even moreso than kinda dull young-guy protagonist Hugo, Thomas' story of how he gets the castle that houses the 108 stars working is equal parts boring and cloying, not only because he doesn't get to fight all that much but also because his conflicts are, by comparison to the rest of the story, pretty petty. The main characters themselves are quite good however, with Hugo being less awesome than mercenary captain Geddoe or Knight Commander Chris. I also made the mistake of choosing him as the Flame Champion, which meant that the last two chapters centered around him, but he's not so bad as to make the story unenjoyable.
The second trait that makes the Suikoden series novel is the whole 108 Stars of Destiny gimmick, whereupon you can recruit hella dudes to join your cause. While doing that in the first two games supposedly requires a guide, there are only a few in this game that would really require such. I went up and did it, and while the reward for getting all the characters isn't amazing (basically an hour long side story from the perspective of the villain), it's pretty fun in and of itself. While most of the non-main characters are pretty much defined by their quirks, they usually get a decent amount of exposure through incidental dialogue. Where it gets really crazy in that part is when you get the theater director character and decide to put on the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with whomever you please. It's random stuff like that that gives Suikoden III personality. I got myself a copy of Chrono Cross, and that game is ostensibly how not to do a bunch of different characters, so that should be fun to see. Also, much like Deus Ex Invisible War, I have to know for myself how much of a trainwreck that game actually is.
That being said, the gameplay is pretty standard as far as the genre goes. That's not to say that it isn't well done, with its 6 characters but only 3 commands type thing, but it never gets hard enough for you to really worry about using any advanced tactics, and the only battles that are hard are ones that you are supposed to lose anyway, but can win if you are lucky/grind a bunch. Being that there are a ton of characters, there is also a ton of customization in how to spec them and build your party... but only for the last two chapters and even then there are clearly some characters who are much better than others. Before that point you are pretty much stuck to whomever the story chooses to put in your group. There are also duels, which are glorified Rock/Paper/Scissors type things and strategic battles, which once again are only hard when the game wants them to be. It's a pity, because much like the basic RPG combat, the strategic battles only really get interesting near the end, and at that point the game is almost over anyways.
Ok. well, I think I've written enough. I'm sure some jerk is going to put a tl;dr somewhere in here, but in conclusivity, Suikoden III is very much a game I am in favor of, and I will totally seek out the rest of the series as a result (though I hear that Suikoden IV is kind of a bummer all around). It doesn't have the highest production values (indeed, the graphics aren't great and the soundtrack is pretty forgettable) but it makes up for that with personality and a story that avoids the pitfalls that the genre seems so willing to fall into. And that, my friends, is enough for me. Now, to finish me some Fire Emblem...
Because everyone is probably sick to death about talking about Mass Effect 3, I apologize. If you are sick of people talking about it, please press the back (<---) button on your browser and continue looking at the forums. I however, am not sick to death of talking about Mass Effect 3 because I feel like all of the major discussion surrounding it has been about one thing, namely the ending. Allow me to get that out of the way now: The ending of Mass Effect 3 is terrible, but the people getting themselves in a frothing rage about it are more terrible. Ok. Done. No more ending talk. Also, there are no real spoilers, so feel ok about that if you for some reason have yet to play it.
Instead, I will talk about the other parts of the game, namely the 20 hours that it took to get to that terrible ending. Because up to that ending, Mass Effect 3 does exactly what it should. It responds to what you did in the previous games in various ways, though unfortunately not really in gameplay-relevant ones, and is basically a giant fanservice parade, to the point where it strains the credibility of the plot. Since Bioware has inadvertently dug themselves into a hole by giving you the ability to kill off your Mass Effect 2 party members, all of them with the exceptions of Garrus and Tali (not coincidentally the only returning party members from the first game as well) appear at various points in the game, usually involving them doing something totally badass... only for them to give some sort of lame, half-hearted excuse as to why they can't cruise with you on your radical spaceship to fight the reapers. It's delicious candy for anyone who liked the last game, but that is how every serious sidequest goes down. Because seriously, who actually went out of their way to do most of the fetch quests in the citadel? Of course, even more insane is what happens when you let them die. While I'm sure most of you are anal-retentive about that kind of thing and are incapable of letting anyone die, I wasn't and I let Tali die in the collector base, which had an entirely different character do what I assume was ostensibly the same thing. Except for the part where you can't negotiate a peace between the Quarian and the Geth without her alive.
Otherwise, the game is basically what Mass Effect 2 was, but there are no hacking minigames (sure, I'm fine with that) and you can customize your weapons in a way that echoes the first game, but without the whole pesky “Incredibly poor inventory management” thing. That is also to say that it is a passable third person shooter, as long as you are willing to play it that way. For my part, I was using an imported Vanguard and thus basically used Charge+Nova for the entire game, to the point where the combat stopped even being remotely challenging and was basically a joke the entire time. I'm sure if I was playing on insanity or whatever I couldn't have abused it as I did, on Normal it does the job for literally everything. It's a pity too, as the weapon arsenal seems greatly expanded, something that I'm really only getting into with my forays into the multiplayer.
Speaking of that, the Multiplayer is functional and enjoyable, if only in the vacuum of me having not played a ton of Gears of War and other real Third Person Cover-based shooters. It's a pity that it also exposes one of the other ugly things about ME3, namely that there are only three types of enemies. Cerberus, Reapers and Geth, which all in all results in a little more than a dozen enemy types overall. The complete randomness of the progression seems flawed in some fairly serious ways. While I'm fine with a bit of randomness, the fact that it is all random makes it discouraging, as the chances of me getting a new race or weapon is somewhat less than I would desire. While I literally got sick of Modern Warfare 3 after like a day of playing, you can't deny that it works.
All these things being equal, I would like to close by saying that I went back and I played a few hours of Mass Effect 1 today. Holy shit. To say that it is a radically different game than the other two is perhaps something of an understatement. I can tell you already that one of the things I now, retrospectively, miss in Mass Effect 3 is the very distinct, very pronounced 70s/80s sci fi tone, equal mixes of Star Wars and Star Trek with a thick, thick film grain filter and lots of lens flare covering the entire thing. Sure, half of the supporting cast is not much more than living codex entries, substituting personalities for lore-porn, and sure, the gameplay is kind of ass. But it seems clear to me in remembering these things that, regardless of whatever else the series has become, the first game is very much of a clear vision, one that knows exactly what it wants to accomplish, even if I still think that hybridizing shooters and RPGs usually is not for the best. Something that the ending could have taken some tips from.
Other stuff (in bullet point form)
On anime: The last episode of Excel Saga is either brilliant or incredibly tasteless. I'm inclined to say both. The series itself? Sure. I admit to liking insanity, even at the cost of it being obnoxious on occasion. Best parts are the parts that don't actually involve Excel, which is more than one would think.
Also Ghost in the Shell is a goddamn bizarre movie. I wasn't expecting nearly as much hamfisted philosophical dialogue as I ended up encountering. Perhaps more hilariously, its spinoff series: Stand Alone Complex makes the main character attractive and ditches all the "What makes something human?" nonsense in favor of Cyber Cops doing awesome cyber cop things. Sure, I'm not entirely sure if it insults the grand ideas of the movie, but it's a lot more entertaining to watch.
Ranma 1/2 is kind of terrible in a way that I'm into. No wonder I've watched like 50 episodes.
On other video games: I will probably play Icewind Dale II and finish it up this month. Honest. I'm on chapter 5 of 6. It's not like I have a ton left to get through. That game still isn't as good as Icewind Dale.
League of Legends is still a thing. Now that I'm no longer in the same hall as the guys I play with however, I've been cutting back somewhat. Better the idiots I know than the ones I don't. Ziggs is a pretty good mid carry.
As I said, I literally got bored of Modern Warfare 3 after a day of playing. My reflexes simply aren't up to the task anymore and I feel like an old man being wrecked by the ScopeXXSnipeXX420s of the world. It's a bummer that Black Ops II actually looks kind of intriguing.
My Ironman playthrough of Wizardry 8 may be thwarted by me accidentally trapping myself in part of the level that I can't get out of. Which is a bummer since I was doing so well too.
The Legend of Grimrock is cool. I got stuck but am too stubborn to look at a guide... yet.
On real life: Having no close friends at home is a bummer.
Finding a job so your parents don't invent chores for you to do is a bummer
Cards Against Humanity is amazing. It's also horribly offensive.
This sucker isn't going to be attached to the forums, if only because it's not in the formal style of my other blogs and is more just a stream of consciousness-type ordeal. Also because I am offering you stuff and I don't want those forum plebs to know about it.
Kickstarter-funded development is definitely going to blow itself up at some point. There's just no way that something this feel-good (despite a surprising number of naysayers) can last. Because the remake/reimagining/generally maligned object of The Bard's Tale is the daily deal on steam, I've decided to educate myself on what exactly the hell InExile's previous work has been, since I've seen enough of Hunted to know that I never want to play it ever. I think Brian Fargo talks big, and I still put my $15 behind Wasteland 2, but he was in high administration by the time that stuff like Fallout and Baldur's Gate started coming down Interplay's pipeline and cannot be lumped in with the likes of Tim Cain and Chris Avellone. If not anything else, I'm at least expecting an Arcanum-style interesting failure as opposed to a Lionheart uninteresting failure.
Speaking of that, I reinstalled Arcanum. That probably will go nowhere, but if it does, maybe I'll write something up about it. Icewind Dale II is slowly being worked on in between me getting distracted by things that matter and things that don't.
I am done with school in a month. Not having spring break has its perks, though this is kind of bad since most of my classes seem to be bottom heavy as far as multi-hour projects are concerned. On an entirely unrelated note, I've found that I occasionally have trouble concentrating. I say this, not because I'm an attention whore and like talking about my personal life (that's what Facebook is for, and quite frankly I value my internet privacy for as paranoid as it makes me seem at times), but more likely than not it means I'll be able to actually sit down and blaze through some vidya games (and that means hella old RPGs) when I'm done for the day with whatever horrific manual-labor based job I end up getting for the summer. Most of my friends will be gone anyways, and it's not like my parents can get on my case when I'm making money. Summers past have yielded some blogs on some lengthy games, so we'll see what happens here.
I have reached the threshold of League of Legends where I am now playing against people who know what they are doing, and thus am unable to mess around with champions I suck with but think are fun, instead having to resort to champs I am good with. Currently I enjoy rocking Vladimir and Shyvana, though it seems like my AP carry of choice changes with the seasons. Also, my roommate is now level 30 while I am only level 26. I guess him always staying up later than I do adds up.
Now for free stuff. And by free stuff, I mean I will give you the opportunity to purchase a game for only $25 as opposed to $50. Because, for some reason, I got these 50% off Might and Magic: Heroes VI coupons in my inventory. Maybe it's because I pre-ordered the game? I haven't played it since October, but for all its faults I think Heroes VI is at the very least an interesting game and I think it's worth $25.
I'd like to make an interesting contest out of this, but since I'm attaching it to the forums and the number of people who want Heroes VI, or even know what it is is miniscule. Thus, it's first come first serve. If I don't already have you on steam, put your account in the post or whatever.
It only took me 3 months of on-again, off-again playing to do it, but I've finally manged to finish one of the more egregious black spots on my RPG backlog. I've been meaning to do this for some time now, as my impressions blog from mid January shows, but silly things like "School" and "Other Video Games" got in the way and helped contribute to my personal assumption that I am horribly inefficient at actually finishing games. With Midterms out of the way and no other immediate concerns I finally managed to sit down and finish The Witcher, giving me the almighty privilege of writing about it for my tens of adoring fans. This is also good because I can finally attempt to start writing semi-regularly again. But first, let me give you a brief summary of my video game playing from the last two months.
Things that are not The Witcher
Of all the other games I have played recently, aside from the always present League of Legends, the major ones of note seem to be Shadows of the Damned and Dead Space 2. They're both third person shooters with a strong "horror" element, with the difference being that they are practically inverses of each other. Dead Space 2 is, in fact, a game that is very similar to Dead Space. Similar enough that at some point I really couldn't tell you if it was better or not. Much like the first game, it's super polished, it drags something fierce around the middle before coming around at the end, and the actual art of murdering fake "The Many" is still incredibly enjoyable. The story is also still "Isaac! Go here! Uh oh, there's something in the way, so now you have to go here!" Having Isaac talk actually adds nothing to the experience since he is the most generic actionBro you could possibly put in a role like that and in fact I preferred it when he kept his mouth shut (on the plus, he curses whenever he stomps corpses). All in all, a great game and one I heartily recommend... but not on the PC. I experienced the shittiness of EA's DRM firsthand with this one and was unable to play the game until it randomly decided to work. It did look really good on my computer though, so there's that to be glad about.
On the other hand, Shadows of the Damned is not a great game. It's hilarious, bizarre and juvenile in the way that Suda 51 games apparently are (I wouldn't know, though I really want to play No More Heroes now). But the shooting is kind of bad. It's floaty in a way that is frustrating, making precise shots impossible and ensuring that you will kind of just fire wildly (missing far more than you should) instead of focusing on headshots. Which is weird, since Resident Evil 4 and 5 were, among other things, fairly tight as far as shooting went. I also watched all of Gurren Lagann on a particularly self-destructive bender. If we ever want to talk about tonal dissonance in an admittedly great work of fiction, that show is a textbook example. I also watched like 10 episodes of Fruits Basket because I was sick and my roommmate was goading me into it. I do not recommend that course of action unless you are a 14 year old girl who thinks that people turning into animals when they get hugged by Laura Bailey is in any way hilarious.
Things that are The Witcher
With that rather unfortunate revelation out of the way, we turn our internet heads towards the actual subject of what will obviously be a lengthy write-up. The Witcher is a great game with great characters and a great story. It's also about 10 hours too long for its own good and doesn't really show its true colors until halfway through, although when it does it's one of the better RPGs I have played since Dragon Age Origins.
But maybe I should slow down a bit. The Witcher is a RPG released in 2007 by CD Projekt Red, with much hulabaloo on the internets how it is supposedly super rad and is basically proof that you can release a full-on RPG in this modern era capable of achieving financial success. In the current climate of “Hating on Bioware is cool guys”, it is seen as a beacon against games that are dumbed down shooters full of pandering fanservice. To which I respond: Kinda. Saying that The Witcher is some sort of hardcore RPG is like saying that Halo Wars has the depth and complexity of Starcraft. Saying that The Witcher is free from pandering fanservice is a terrible lie, one that can be exposed the second one realizes that cards of naked women are a collectable, which may or may not be equally offensive to me as Bioware's weirdly obsessive focus on your dude romancing non playable characters. And let me tell you: there are a lot of cards. I still maintain that the combat is dull, the mechanics simplistic and needlessly obfuscated (you could finish the entire game without ever realizing that the secondary components of ingredients can be used to make better potions) and the actual quest designs are either based around the Planescape caveat of running back and forth between multiple NPCs or the excessively dull “kill X monster for money and experience that you really don't need”.
In general, I'd compare it to Planescape in that way, although every quest in Planescape was filled with that delicious, delicious writing that made it so great. In general, The Witcher is about 45% fetch quests that act as padding between story segments. It's one of the reasons that I think it would be a better game if it was shorter, and the not amazing minigames of fist fighting (which I never figured out, despite doing all the quests for) and dice poker (It's poker. With dice.) don't really serve as the interesting diversions one would think they are.
But these broad generalizations don't reveal what makes The Witcher great. While it fails to present a great impression until midway through the second act, once it starts rolling it gets a lot better. The grey morality at work is always interesting, with the game usually showing you the consequences of your actions, often in a real gameplay sense. While Geralt is a fixed character whose responses are clearly within a certain range, his choices and moral compass are within the hands of the player. Does one side with the terrorist Scoia'tel, who are trying to fight for their freedom (by murdering all the humans), or does one side with the zealous Order of the Flaming Rose, who may or may not be racist zealots. Or does one just say “Screw both of you guys, I'm not taking a side!” Because you can totally do that too. Giving any more specific examples would spoil the fun, since (like Planescape) the gameplay isn't good enough to hold up on its own. Similarly, the game does a surprisingly good job of establishing a supporting cast that can be helped or screwed over in a menagerie of ways. None of this would be as effective as it is without great writing, which The Witcher definitley has. The voice acting is less consistent, with Geralt's delivery being the kind of hilariously forced emotionless gravel that I find ironically endearing. Still, it never dips into “Early CD Game” territory, so at least we have that to be thankful for.
Other than that, I have to say that I'm pretty sure that the game still looks acceptable (especially considering that it's running on a heavily modified version of the Neverwinter Nights engine), but I wouldn't know from personal experience, as I had to do some out of game tinkering to get it to run on my laptop (which far exceeds the minimum specs) which in turn made me unable to improve texture quality or anti-aliasing. The anisotropic filtering was totally bitchin though, so at least the character models looked nice.
So thus, in order to prevent me from stealing any more of your time (then again, you are browsing a forum, so you clearly don't have much else you need to be doing), I will say this: I think you should play The Witcher. I don't think I personally will give it another playthrough, for as much as the choices make it viable to do so, but I think it's worth at least one of them. And thus, now I leave myself with another RPG out of my backlog completed... which means another one to start playing again. I'm thinking Vampire the Masquerade, or perhaps finishing up the last third of Icewind Dale II. So you can expect a blog on either of those... in 1-3 months.
Believe it or not, I have a half-written blog on my computer that was originally going to be on Might and Magic VIII, which I totally started and finished over Christmas Break, with the hypothetical blog being posted on January 1st. However, after realizing that most of it would involve me ranting about how easy, bland and uninspired the entire affair is, I stopped, since that can be conveyed in only a paragraph or so. It would take something like the sheer mediocrity of Might and Magic IX to end up as blog material, and I'm not sure I have the fortitude to play that game for any extensive length of time. Believe me, I've tried.
Oh wait. What was this blog about again? Oh right.
People tell me that I would like this game, and a good 10 or so hours in, I think they may be right. When/if I finish this game it will get the full length blog it deserves, but I might as well write down my thoughts so far. You know. Page views and all that.
I'm going to start off by giving a less than popular opinion, namely that The Witcher gives a pretty bad first impression. While it still looks good, especially considering that it's running on a heavily modified version of the Neverwinter Nights engine, the opening prologue does a pretty bad job of explaining why you should care about anything that is happening and the actual makeup of the world is only vaguely explained, forcing me to check the codex about what a Witcher actually is. After that prologue (complete with a "this is obviously an important choice" choice) and a few hours in the initial area though, I started liking the game a lot more. Geralt shares a trait with Deus Ex HR's Adam Jensen in that every line he gives is in monotone, but unlike Jensen he isn't an angsty prick. No, Geralt is actually enjoyable in a non ironic way thanks to his "don't take shit from no one unless they're paying you a ton" attitude and I'd like to see how he responds throughout the rest of the game. Sure, I still don't understand how that gets him as many porno trading cards as he does, but I guess in a "Gritty mid-fantasy" world like his not being able to catch syphillis or impregnate someone is a pretty big draw.
Indeed, it is the tone and content of the world of the Witcher that impresses me the way it does. While I could do without the voyeuristic trading cards, mostly because I find them juvenile and just kind of silly (If she has a name and a pair of breasts you can probably bang her for a card that no doubt contains nakedness. Oddly enough, the naked nymph with a boob job you persuade to sex for health reasons is covered up on her card, which I found mildly amusing) I do like the plot so far with its investigation team quality as well as the phiosophising about the role of Witchers in a world where there are fewer monsters to hunt. The writing is good and the voice acting is mostly good, almost in a Planescape Torment kinda way.
What I don't like is pretty simple, as it is what I didn't like with Planescape. I find the combat exceptionally boring and I find the RPG mechanics to be shallow. While CD Projekt should be praised for releasing an actual RPG in a world where only Bioware and Bethesda still matter, I don't find rhythmically clicking the mouse to be challenging or entertaining in the slightest, nor do I think that a skill tree where I will obviously be able to max out pretty much everything is of much import. Maybe I'll warm up to it, but from what I understand it doesn't get great until The Witcher 2 anyways. It's a pity that unlike aforementioned PS:T, there is a decent amount of it.
In any case, I will be playing more of the Witcher, as much as my school work and my crippling League of Legends addiction (which I have managed to rope 3 other guys in my hall into as well as another one who has already been playing for a while) will allow. While I won't make any promises, I will say that I am liking what I have seen so far and am interested to see more. While the much vaunted "grey morality" actually isn't that prevailent, when it does appear it is significant. Do I save this Witch who obviously killed some people or do I defend her from a village of rapists? I figured since I slept with the witch, it'd be pretty dickish to kill her like that. I hope there's more like that in the hours to come.
WIN FREE STUFF?!?!?
Oh yeah. Want a free Steam copy of Disciples II Gold? If you do, write in your response what you think Disciples II actually is and I will give it to the person with the best answer. If you actually know what Disciples II is, you obviously own a copy and therefore know that Disciples III is crap. I would've given it to @CharlesAlanRatliff's giveaway, but I already pledged a copy of X-COM and that's good enough for my karma this month.
[EDIT] Contest Closed. But you can still tell me what you think Disciples II is if you want.
As someone who until recently had a totally garbage computer and not much spending money, I had to make due with whatever old games would come my way. Thanks in no part to Good Old Games, as well as that shady Gamestop downtown, I have been able to play more stuff than I used to, both new and old. That's not to say anything about my free time though, which I probably abuse more than I should.
List is in a particular order, but as always should be taken with a grain of salt because whatever man they're all good. Stuff marked with Asterisks have extra comments below, assuming you are reading the blog and not the list.
This was the year I finally got into Team Fortress 2, and thanks to it I managed to avoid the temptation to spend money on any other First Person Shooters. Even if you are bad at shooting rockets or totally dislike being a heavy because everyone immediately starts shooting you, there are plenty of other classes that one can have fun with and still contribute to the team effort. Plus, now there's loot!
Two F2P games right next to each other? Yep. I have not reached level 30, so I cannot comment on the high level play (and high level douchebaggery) that exists. Otherwise, this game is what sold the DotA formula to me, even if all my memories of DotA are traumatic experiences mostly related to being yelled at back when I was into Warcraft III.
Deus Ex is not without its problems, but honestly those don't detract as much by the end of the game as they do at the start. The shooting is straight up bad, the stealth is similarly questionable, but the ability to approach any situation in any given way and be rewarded for doing so is not something that many other games can claim to have accomplished.
(Tie) As someone who started with SFIV, I can tell you that Third Strike is a very, very slick fighting game and well deserving of the praise it gets. You haven't lived until you have experienced the majesty that is a Sean vs Sean or a Twelve vs Twelve mirror match.
(Tie) I couldn't decide between these two, so they both tie. Don't like it? Too bad. I like CvS2 because of its roster, not necessarily because the fighting itself is super great. It's perfectly fine, with the way you can pick your super meter and subsystems, but its more the part where I can beat up people as both Kyo and Vega that makes me approve this thing
What? You think I'm joking? I'm not. While my enjoyment of this game is around 70% irony and 30% the combat system, it's still enjoyable. Assuming you approach it as flippantly and cynically as I do. If I cared one bit about FFX, I'd probably consider this game to be a travesty the same way you guys do.
Consider this a spot for King's Bounty: The Legend as well, considering they're pretty much the same game. *
Best old game of 2011: Planescape Torment
Honestly, I'd consider this to be a pretty weak number one, as I could switch it with ToEE and feel comfortable with doing so. Unlike Dark Souls, which at some point demanded that it be number one or else it would gank me, Planescape has its share of problems, namely the mediocre combat or the part where on some basic level most of what you are doing amounts to fetch quest after fetch quest. Those detract, certainly, but they don't overshadow the part where the writing is amazing, the characters are likeable, the world is well fleshed out, and the situations you find yourself in are incredibly unique. The game also does a pretty good job of allowing you to play as a neurotic asshole if you so choose, which is different than the standard "murderous psychopath" that seems to show up in games like these as an evil option. (Original Blog)
Second best old game of 2011: Temple of Elemental Evil (assuming fan mods are installed)
You see those parentheses? Those are the caveat that this game has, and the ultimate reason why I decided it couldn't be number one. And specifically, I'm talking about the vanilla version of the Circle of Eight mod as opposed to the new content one, as the New Content actually serves to break the game's vaunted difficulty at a certain point. Hilariously, sure, but once ToEE loses its edge it becomes a kind of shitty D&D game with ho-hum story and generally awkward pacing. The genuine reason this game (almost) wins is the combat, which manages to be pretty great most of the time even when your party is being slaughtered en masse. Whatever. I've written enough. Mento has written enough. Video_Game_King has written enough. If you like older RPGs you should play this game. (Original Blog)
Most annoying minor quirks: Sid Meier's Civilization V
On any level, be it a purely objective level to a more subjective one, Civilization V is the best game in the series by a wide margin, streamlining without really dumbing down and having a technology reader guy who somehow tops Leonard Nimoy. Indeed. What singularly brings this game down is the way it encourages a military victory, pretty much over anything else. At some point in Civ V, you are going to have to go to war. The AI is too erratic to be your friend for any real length of time, and science and culture require a game-wide active attempt at obtaining them. Thus, I feel like even when I'm someone non-militaristic, I figure I might as well go the whole way with an enemy civ and wipe them out before they can attempt to attack my culture cities again, which leads to other civs denouncing me and eventually declaring war on me. A minor complaint yes, but one I feel the need to express one year later.
Most awesome major quirks: Mount and Blade Warband
Mount and Blade, in general, has a lot of serious issues. It's ugly, janky, and the singleplayer is far too bare-bones and open for its own good. And yet, there's a certain charm to it all. I'm not going to pretend that the game couldn't use a more effective interface, perhaps have a bit more direction in how to progress your character, or not look at home among many of 1999s top releases, but the combat is good enough that its easy not to care. The kind of game that can consume a weekend, only for you to realize that you screwed up somewhere along the way and have to reload a previous save.
Most caveat-filled inclusion: King's Bounty series
I say series, because they're basically the same game. Armored Princess has some minor mechanical differences from The Legend, mostly in terms of pacing and character building, but they use the same engine, a lot of the same assets, and still have that enjoyably derivative gameplay. If you haven't figured it out by my icon of the evil skeleton wizard, I am a huge fan of the Might and Magic series and its spinoff Heroes of Might and Magic. King's Bounty blatantly steals a lot of concepts of those games (and more specifically the DOS game King's Bounty, which was basically the precursor to Heroes) and runs with them. And its pretty fun, for the most part. Where King's Bounty gets me is the way that your progression through the game is pretty much artificially tied to your character's leadership stat, as that allows you to field bigger armies. Thus, most of the game is spent going between the different areas, surgically eliminating the monster armies that your army can handle, battle after battle, until you level up and can recruit enough troops to deal with the next largest stacks of enemies. It's a bit of a slog sometimes, but it's also an enjoyable slog. Assuming one experiences it in short bursts.
Stuff that didn't make it on the list but deserves mention
Best Games I haven't finished and therefore will possibly include on next year's list: SMT Nocturne and Icewind Dale II
Really, both of these could be on the main list. I just figured I would make this special category as a way of making it less hard to whittle down to my top 10 (or 11, as the case may be). Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne seems like the kind of JRPG explicitly designed for me. Its astoundingly difficult, especially in comparison to stuff like Final Fantasy X-2. It has a very distinct visual aesthetic, which is backed up by a great soundtrack by the guy who does all the Persona music before he was way into J-Pop and engrish lyrics. It's also astoundingly difficult, which is one of the reasons it has yet to be finished. Ironically, I kind of tossed that fact aside when I was talking about Dark Souls, soooo.... whatever. It's great.
Icewind Dale II is about half-finished at the moment, but I can already tell you that it is probably not as good as the first game. This is for several reasons, the implementation of 3rd edition rules being among them. Listen, I think 3rd edition is way better than AD&D 2nd ed. Temple of Elemental Evil proves that. But the way it's implemented here is awkward. The Infinity Engine clearly was not designed for it, and the actual character building options are somewhat slim. There aren't a whole ton of useful feats or skills, and being that this is regular 3rd edition and not 3.5 a lot of special abilities are of questionable use. Its still fun though, with all the subraces available (guess what guys: Drow Magic Resistance is actually somewhat useful, even if it doesn't compensate for the fact that my Drow Wizard is on average 2 levels behind my sorceress.) and that combat that forces you to micromanage or die. Just perhaps not paced as well as it should be. The reason this game was unfinished was Skyrim, and with that game currently being taken a break from, I will probably try to finish this sucker over the break. We'll see.
Most Civilization-esque game: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
I'm just going to stop here and tell you guys: Yo, this game is like Civ II, but in space. I really appreciate the way the factions are based on philosophy, rather than nationality, as well as the way that you get a quote read to you every time you research something. It still has the things that annoy me about older civ games though, such as the glacial pace, the demanding AI, and the rather un-informative interface. I didn't even know you could change government types until around halfway my second game. Enjoyable nonetheless, especially when you get planet buster nukes, but not something that would crack my top 10.
Most Inoffensively Bland Game: Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader
Never heard of it? Doesn't that video make it sound great (or "great")? Of course you haven't. Lionheart was the last game to be published (not developed) by Black Isle before it went under and spawned Obsidian, which is basically has the same level of talent without the same budget. But I digress. Lionheart is hilariously deceptive about what kind of game it is. The first hour or so can be likened akin to something like Fallout, but in an alternate history version of Spain where there are monsters 'n stuff, even going as far as having the same stats and the same kinds of skills as Fallout. After that hour though, your speech skills will be worthless, your pickpocket skills will be worthless, and from what I understand the rest of the game is pretty much a straight linear hack-n-slash with a generic save-the-world-chosen-one type plot that doesn't capitalize on the unique setting. Ok. I've posted that video like a dozen times already, but I had to do it again. It's just that good. The actual gameplay isn't terrible. It's just not great either.
Seemingly best D&D game that I should possibly play more of: Dark Sun
Once again, I get into some obscure stuff on my internet travels, and that includes Dungeons and Dragon games from the DOS era. While Eye of the Beholder and the Gold Box stuff is arguably pretty well known as far as old games went, its the stuff in the interim between EotB and Baldur's Gate that seems to be forgotten, usually for a reason. While I have yet to play the absolute worst in terms of D&D games, I would need a 3DO for that apparently, I have messed with some of the less good stuff, Menzoberranzan included. What surprised me though, was the Dark Sun game, which features the same kind of tactical turn-based combat reminiscent of what Temple of Elemental Evil does. Also there are bug people who get twice as many attacks per round. That's pretty ballin'. I should really print out a walkthrough or something and actually sit down and play through it, because it actually seems quite good.
Best Open World-ish Diablo Clone: Divine Divinity
Once again, this is more a matter of not playing enough to make a comprehensive judgement than a qualitative assertion. Divine Divinity is far, far better than Divinity II. The Skills actually do things. The soundtrack is great, and yet the open world aspect is somewhat defeated by the fact that it's also really hard. Still, an interesting game to check out. It's half off on GOG, so that means its like $3. So is Lionheart by the way. Sure, you could spend your money on quality products, like all the D&D games or maybe Fallout 1, but why do that when you can buy the RPGs that time has understandably forgotten about. Hell, you should pick up Arcanum while you are at it, because I haven't smack talked that game nearly enough in the present it seems.
EDIT: Most worst baddest not good entirely terrible game of the year. That I beat: Deus Ex Invisible War
Hey guys. What if they made Deus Ex, but then made it for the original Xbox and made it totally terrible? Well, that's what Invisible War is. While it is competent from a basic mechanical level, at least as compared to the first game's dice roll shooting, it's designed way worse. The level design is atrocious, the plot is somehow more laughable than the overly-earnest conspiracy theory mumbo jumbo that the first game consisted of, and the actual character progression is pretty much over halfway through the game. (original blog)
And thus, it ends. Until next year. Or perhaps not?