I play old games that you would expect me to play(Icewind Dale 2)

Oh hello there. I've actually managed to finish Icewind Dale II, a game that I've been talking about for at least the last century, during the first week of school before it actually gets hectic and difficult. Hopefully the mistakes of the past (namely getting my roommate and several other guys in my dorm addicted to League of Legends) will not be repeated and I can theoretically aim to succeed in my work rather than barely avoiding academic probation. But enough about my hopes and dreams, let's talk about 10 year old CRPGs. And of course, other things! Because I occasionally do other things! Really!

Other things?

I watched Full Metal Panic. Even despite my limited exposure to Anime in general, I could tell you that I didn't think it was especially great, or rather that the majority of it is especially great. The parts where it is a serious mecha are... kinda dull. The parts where it is a wacky anime high school comedy with hilarious antics? Far better, though the ratio is such that it's only around 25% of the show. The spinoff, Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, addresses this problem by making that show nothing but hilarious wacky anime high school antics and is thus a much more entertaining show by far. It's also where 's ball-faced avatar comes from. Glad I know that now. Sadly, the second spinoff (which is actually a sequel and apparently much better than the base show, once again) is not on the Netflix, though I'm sure I could find it if I bothered to look. Kinda like how I never finished the second series of Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, but probably could if I typed something into Google. (Spoilers: The reason I didn't get around to finishing it is because it wasn't as good as the first series, at least as far as I watched) But enough talk about that. This isn't Anime Vice, though if it was I'd wonder what I was doing there.

Vyce is basically a totally different character based on if you choose the law or chaos routes at the end of the first chapter. As you can see, he's a bit of a dick if you pick Chaos

Tactics Ogre continues to be pretty good. What that game does to endear itself to me when Final Fantasy Tactics hasn't is up to debate. It's not a significantly different game, as FFT is basically a sequel with more The localization is pretty great in the way it occasionally descends into purple-prose levels of fancy-lad englishe and also the way the plot decides to avoid cliché (I haven't played the SNES original, but if it was anything like this remake that is an accomplishment for sure), though apparently a lot of it is entirely different depending on which route you take (I am taking the Law Route). I would say that the game isn't grindy, because to some extent it isn't (as characters and classes gain experience and skill points just by fielding them), but that isn't entirely true since I've gotten to the point where I've started recruiting story characters with unique classes and better stats than the generics I've been rolling with for most of the game. These characters are clearly worth using, so I now am in the situation of having to grind them up to the rest of my party, which is thankfully pretty painless since I can have them stand in the corner and generally not die while everyone does the heavy lifting (Canopus is probably the single best unit in the game. Still.) Maybe I'll write something, maybe I won't. Either way, it's a nice reminder that the PSP is a pretty great system if you like those kinds of games.

Ho there friend! Do you like Fantasy Turn Based Strategy games? Well this is one of those!

Because it's on sale this weekend, I have two GOG copies of Age of Wonders just laying around the virtual internetspace. If you want one (and I assume you'll at the very least want it more than you'll want Vampire the Masquerade you filthy ingrate), tell me your favorite D&D class and why. Bonus points (which are meaningless) if you somehow justify the concept of the Fighter/Mage/Thief. At this point, I'm keeping that copy of VtM for a special occasion when I can use it in the manner I desire. Really though, even if you don't win it, you should buy Age of Wonders as well as Age of Wonders Shadow Magic (You don't need AOW 2 because Shadow Magic makes it redundant). Oh, and 's favorite game: Master of Magic. Because that is on sale as well.

Oh right. Wasn't this thing about Icewind Dale? Let's get on that.

Obligatory Box Art.jpg

Icewind Dale II was developed by Black Isle Studios and released in 2002. It is the last game made using the always amazing Infinity Engine and the only one to use full on 3rd edition rules (sadly not 3.5, which makes Rangers actually interesting and unique instead of just crummy fighters who can dual wield and cast some druid spells), rather than the extra character classes of Baldur's Gate II or the weird additional rule tweaks added in the Heart of Winter expansion to the original IWD. It's also probably the worst game made using that engine. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, or that it's a bad game, but there are elements that are not so great to go along with the elements that are great. Let's start with some of the obvious: While sadly no D&D video game has gotten even close to the utterly absurd amount of game-breaking feats and spells featured in the various Pen and Paper supplemental materials, the character development in Icewind Dale II is still broken. The initial blame can be placed on having a point-buy system but not putting the minimum stat cap at 8 (or 6 if penalized) for character creation. This led to my party having more than a few members with 18s in anything that mattered and 3s in what didn't (mainly Intelligence and Charisma). This was also somewhat possible in the first game, obviously, but not quite to the same level of absurdity. It bears note that subraces are in this game and are pretty dang useful. Sure, my Drow Wizard may have been 2 levels behind everyone else, but I honestly wish I had made more characters with magic resistance because of how insanely useful it is. Indeed, I can even see the +3 ECL Deep Gnomes being worth using because of their magic resist (among other things, like being able to cast invisibility once per day). Sadly no prestige classes, but it's not until NWN 2 that we have those and subraces in the same game.

The game still features plenty of this...

However, I think there is a problem with using 3rd edition; namely that it is implemented somewhat poorly, at least in comparison to something like Neverwinter Nights or Temple of Elemental Evil. Two of the main draws of 3rd edition: skills and feats, aren't necessarily inserted into the game in any sort of interesting or well-done manner. Whereas the first game loved throwing insta-murder traps and a decent number of locked chests at you, the traps in IWD2 aren't that deadly and the locked chests aren't as common. Thus, no real need to heavily invest in a rogue character. Persuasion skills are nice, and indeed allow for some of the more amusing dialogue exchanges the game has to offer, but there isn't anything necessary to gain from using them (That being said, the amount of incidental dialogue based on your character's race and class is quite impressive, though the downside to that is that Paladins and Monks will refuse quest rewards). Stealth is as useful as it floats your boat and then Alchemy, Animal Empathy and Wilderness Lore are all worthless. Feats are similarly truncated, and it wasn't long before my fighter had everything he needed (namely the Maximized Attacks feat, which grants max damage for 10 seconds once per day). The spell selection fares better, obviously, except for the druid spellbook which is kinda a bummer. Only 3 level 8 spells? What. At least one of them is Finger of Death, which totally rocks.

...But far more of this than I think should be in there.

But enough... mechanics speak. The mechanics are fine in that they are Dungeons and Dragons mechanics and I happen to like those rules quite a bit. My real problem with Icewind Dale II is the pacing. Whereas the first game had a single hub town and you tackled one crazy huge dungeon after another, this second game has the unusual problem of having far too much talking. Oh, don't worry, it still does the thing where it throws bajillion guys at you at once and says “deal with this”. It just does that far less in favor of Baldur's Gate or Planescape-style “Walk around and talk with random people to progress. The worst example of this is in Dragon's Eye, where you have probably killed almost everything in the first few minutes but you still have to move between all three floors constantly until you finally, finally, finally can escape... only to run into a fairly interesting but still rather meandering temporal shift. This would not be a problem if the story was as interesting as something like Baldur's Gate. It makes more of an effort than the first IWD, but it's still a pretty straightforward tale of your party of dudes murdering their way to victory against an evil army of half-breeds. It's not that the areas you go to aren't interesting or that the combat isn't good, it's that you often have to stay there too long solving some sort of infernal mirror puzzle (not a joke). The endgame area is perhaps the exception, since it does have interesting writing and scenarios, but it's still a bit too long and a bit too late to change my opinion.

So thus, in TL;DR, Icewind Dale II is a sequel that tries a bit harder to be an actual respectable D&D adventure, but doesn't go far enough for that to actually work. The inclusion of 3rd edition rules is a nice benefit, even for as pointless as half of the feats seem at times, and as always those pre-rendered backgrounds look fantastic (and as always the character pathfinding is abysmal). The soundtrack was sadly not done by Jeremy Soule this time, but the guy who replaced him does a decent job as well. This game is an acceptable send-off to the Infinity Engine, but perhaps not the one I personally would want. Oh well. I still enjoyed it. Really. Don't forget to tell me what your favorite class is if you want a copy of Age of Wonders.


I play old games and perhaps even write about them (Conker's BFD)

Hey guys! Video games! I play them on occasion! Even sometimes blog about them! Like right now. Thus, it is my pleasure to present to you yet another Fire Emblem blog where I talk in explicit detail about the myriad of systems in such a way that only people who play the games would understand and... what? You say the title isn't about Fire Emblem? Oh. Oh right. 3D platformers. But first, as per usual, other things.

Other things

Am I a bad enough dude to finish Icewind Dale II sometime in the next decade?

At some point between this and the prior (Fire Emblem-related) blog, I finished Saints Row: The Third. Normally I'm not really a big fan of GTA-style games, but Saints Row's weird, absurdist sense of humor is such that I didn't really mind that the shooting and driving were merely competent. I'm going to echo the rest of the Giant Bomb crew when I say you should play it, even if that means just beelining through the main game and avoiding the side stuff. I hope the next game similarly delivers, though it's going to be hard to top the raw levels of balls-out absurdity that is present in this one.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a video game. No, really. It's a video game. I'm several hours in, and that is the overwhelming sensation I get. The combat is quite fun, but everything surrounding it is... kinda stupid? The amount of pure lore dump that goes on is just astounding, especially since it's all tell and no show, thus giving the player zero incentive to care. Also there are like a billion quests and the game falls into the zone of “Single-Player MMO” pretty hard, though unlike the other games I have derisively used that term for (Divinity II), I don't think Amalur is a bad game. I hear the faction questlines are the ones to do, so maybe I will focus on those. Maybe that way I can finish the game before school starts and I undoubtedly lack consistent access to a Xbox. Because all those great PC games I'm playing can wait?

Speaking of PC games. I'm totally going to finish Icewind Dale II. Mark my words. Sure, the game actively tries to make me disinterested with its aggravatingly terrible sense of pacing, but I'm totally almost to the end of Chapter 5. There are 6 chapters. I CAN DO IT.

If you want that copy of Vampire the Masquerade, I still have it. PLEASE TAKE IT.

And now, your feature presentation:

Because I didn't want to pay $60 for a N64 game

It's not unfair to say that a good chunk of my early gaming was courtesy of Rareware. There was quite a bit of Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64 and Diddy Kong Racing played on my N64. And while this could lead to some awkward confessions like “I didn't 100% Banjo-Kazooie until I played the XBLA version” or “Yo, I still never have beaten DK64” (both of which can be blamed on the fact that I was 6 or 7 when those games were relevant and liked deleting my own save files for some reason) this also leads to me unsurprisingly saying that I never played Conker's Bad Fur Day, as I didn't start playing M-Rated games until long after that game became expensive and hard to find. Oh wait. It's still stupid expensive and kinda hard to find. I don't care if they censored more of the swearing and changed the multiplayer, I figure that paying significantly less for the remake is a respectable trade (especially since the selection at my local Play-N-Trade is otherwise quite dire), though I'll probably end up obtaining the N64 version out of some ill-conceived sense of wanting to fill out my N64 collection to something resembling definitive somewhere down the road. For posterity. Or something.

With context out of the way, let's talk about what the game actually is. To say that Conker's Bad Fur Day is fundamentally different from something like Banjo-Kazooie would be an exaggeration, as it's still a 3D platformer in which you platform n' junk. There is an ill-advised swimming section at one point. Also Lava. The difference lies in the structure, which is far more linear. At no point did I have trouble not knowing exactly where to go or what to do, which leads to the game being noticeably shorter than the rest of its ilk. Not that that's a bad thing. You never really do the same thing twice, which is a welcome relief from the challenge barrels of DK64 or the shooting segments of Banjo Tooie. If I have any distinct fault with the gameplay, the camera is kinda tricky in the way that N64 cameras are tricky and the emphasis on shooting in the lategame leaves something to be desired. Even with Nazi Teddiez.

It's not all poop humor. There's a part where you hit a talking furnace in the balls with cinder blocks.

Of course, it's impossible to really emphasize what makes it different without getting into the tone. Conker earns its M rating easily. Banjo-Tooie definitely had its share of innuendo and double-entendres, but BFD is all of that brought to the forefront. Be it rolling around a giant ball of poo, fighting a giant singing poo monster, pooping on villagers as a bat or even peeing on flame demons to extinguish them, it's fair to say that scatological humor plays a significant role. Also violence and the occasional movie parody, with the best and most notable being a reenactment of the D-Day scene from Saving Private Ryan. There's also that part where they make fun of The Matrix, which I'm sure would have been less totally dumb in 2001, when bullet time or making fun of The Matrix wasn't as played out as it has been for the last decade or so. The thing is, most of it still works. The humor is gleefully offensive in a way I can get behind, and it also helps that there is a lot of dialogue. Like, a lot. And most of it contains copious amounts of swearing. And the voice acting is goofy and amateurish in a way that works with the characters and dialogue presented. Also you fight a giant singing poop monster.

I can't really emphasize that enough. If that does not appeal to you, then do not play this game. And yes, I am aware that the word "shit" is censored. Once again, don't care. Honestly, that's all that can be said without getting into weird specifics, and if we wanted to get into weird specifics we could talk about Fire Emblem again. Or maybe Tear Ring Saga, now that a translation patch is out. Point is, this game is pretty good and I can now claim to have played all 4 of Rare's N64 platformers. It's not my favorite, obviously Banjo-Kazooie has the benefit of nostalgia, but I'm glad I finally got around to it.


You vs Vampires vs Blogging (win free thing)

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 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.

Start the Conversation

I play old games that only came out in Japan (part 2)

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 '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

Everyone has their favored franchises. Mine just happens to have been Japan-only for half of its run

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.

It may not look it, but this prison escape level is murderously difficult. Just like a lot of the game, actually.

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.

Sety is in this game, and is somehow even more broken than he is in Seisen no Keifu. Maybe because all non-HP stats cap at 20 and Holsety still gives +20 speed?

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.

And then he's all like HOLSETY. And then they die. You can totally not recruit him, but why would you?

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.


I play old games that only came out in Japan (SNES Fire Emblem)

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)

In which I talk about a game that you have most certainly not played and convince you to play it. Also Incest.

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.

Sigurd gets points in my book for being the only Fire Emblem protagonist clearly over the age of 16. Also he's crazy powerful, which helps. Pity his son is like 15 and looks like a girl.

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).

Assuming you pair Levin with Fury, Sety is entirely capable of steamrolling most enemy opposition thanks to the +20 speed granted by the holy wind tome Holsety

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

...Which is a pity since he's so awesome in Seisen no Keifu
Leaf kinda sucks in this game...

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.


I play old games (Suikoden III) as well as newer ones.

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

Because what a final boss really needs is units that regenerate health

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

Hey guys! Anime WWII Funtime Schooltime Desu Desu Kawaii!

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.

No, really. You should check it out.

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.

Wager how long I will last before I get frustrated by this game?

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.

Don't worry. I'm close to finishing another obscure game. But this time it's not even in English!

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...


A write up about Mass Effect and other things

Seriously. If you are sick of talking about this, why did you click on my topic to begin with?

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.

A reminder of where we came from

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.
  • I am probably going to bed now.

Arbitrary Thoughts on Random Things + chance of free stuff

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.

Start the Conversation

I play semi-old games (The Witcher)

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

Made in Poland. Also, did I mention that Image Formatting is still the literal worst?

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.