While away for medical school, I explored the idea of new games for me and my friends to play over the internet. Not all owned a console or had the similar interest in PC games. But with small off games like Munchkin and Settlers of Catan under our belts - I knew I just had to find the right game in that direction to pique our interest.
This led me to finding Pandemic. This is a game mentioned previously by Will Smith (of Tested.com) during a Kessler Kam where those fine folks show cased several great board/card games. We (or rather my brilliant friend) customized the board to match an the even higher nerdery of Star Trek. It was an amusing run and it is a game you can pick up and learn while it goes. Though they lost the first game, they understood the rules and were ready to go again. And by, customize - this is all online through a board so that I could post updates as they moved. Essentially, sort of like the current Arkham Horror game going on in Off-Topic.
I mention this now, because while my group hasn't touched the game in over a year now (July 6th 2009 was the last time) - I may be picking this back up. I've had a new resurgence of want for board games and such, having picked up Race for the Galaxy - which me and my friends will be playing this weekend for the first time.
So as I've just built my new PC, I'd need to re-download GIMP along with getting the map and all needed icons from my friend - but that'd be a simple matter. Maybe in time, once I refamiliarize myself with the rules - Pandemic/Star Trek (we called it, Stemming the Tide) can be brought to GB!
EDIT Also, I know the board may seem confusing - but I assure you, even if you don't know how to play Pandemic, you could learn the mechanics during game play. Winning... on the other hand, is another thing. Essentially, the game is a 4 player co-op working against "the game".
Well, I did try to write a post directly after my trip through the Korcari Wilds - but unfortunately it got eaten up. And so, I decided I would simply trek out and tear through at least one new area for me before I posted again.
Where I Am
After finishing through Lothering and setting up camp for the first time, I headed straight for Soldier's Peak (Warden's Keep: DLC) and defeated that. My main reason to do this was to get the storage chest as I am finding I'm holding onto items for sentimental reasons (Family's Sword, Morrigan's Robe, Chantry's Robe) or just sets of armor "just in case". I am a freaking pack rat. And the buying of back packs is not a cheap process (last one was just over 7 gold to bump it from 80 --> 90).
Difficulty " There's nothing like a brush with death to make you... not like death very much" - Alistair "Always try to flank your enemy. History won't remember how valiant your failed frontal assault looked." - Load Screen
Playing on Hard mode is keeping the game excitingly challenging. I think I am doing very well though as rarely do any of my party members ever fall - and I'm not even quaffing potions like mad. The more difficult battles come because I am simply flanked - but even then with a quick bit of rearranging or kiting I have had no trouble. I know people are having trouble on Normal, and I am not bragging but I'd like to at least speak on my tactics. It has much do to with my party configuration, which consists of my main (Rogue) - Alistair - Sten - Morrigan. First off, why did I choose this party set up. Well on my second play through (the first play through I got up to Lothering and decided to respec so I started over) - I found that I was effectively utilizing the three man melee team and Morrigan brought that extra punch at the end to finish off folks. So instead of sticking in a squishy Leliana, I traded her for Sten who could clearly handle himself and dishes damage as well.
Each of my meleers have a "stun/interrupting" technique - the Rogue (Dirty Fighting), Alistair (Shield Bash), and Sten (Pommel Strike). Pommel Strike, I believe has the shortest cool down. So often, when stamina wasn't a problem - I would start off with that. Simultaneously, I would have the Rogue and Alistair use a single-target damaging skill on them. At this point - depending on how the opponent one, normal attacks from all four party members can typically kill it off. Moving to the second target, I'd apply Sten's Massive Blow with Morrigan's Winter's Grasp, if the threat still had ~50% life, I might consider stunning it and then just pummeling it with normal attacks. Depending on your level - you might be out of offensive talents (I'm pretty early yet so I don't have too much) - but this would quickly eliminate the second target. All this is obviously situational, I normally use this tactic if I'm not too crowded and watching everyone's Health. If 3 or more are on one person or he is getting slapped around - I'm specifically targetting folks ganging up on that PC.
I never let Morrigan near the melee. She is there to finish folks off quickly. Winter's Grasp followed by the lighting spell (sorry forget the specific name) can quickly finish off an enemy simply engaged by Sten after he's used Might Blow. Also if needed - horror to stun off a "Yellow Rank" to keep him out of the way. Another trick, is when out in the open - it is insanely easy to simply kill off one to two enemies with range at a distance. Often, I started off battles this way and only aggro'd over a few enemies if possible. All this being said - I never use tactics. My game is very paus-y. I'm constantly checking to see when cooldowns are met, and adjust to the situation at hand seeing who is getting ganged on and generally trying to focus everything on one person.
So essentially, Sten only uses Pommel Strike, Mighty Blow and the Sustained Powerful Swings. Alistair uses Shield Bash, Shield Pommel and Overpower(?) typically with Shield Wall activated. My rogue uses mainly only cripple + riposte (I attempt to not have to rely on Dirty Fighting unless he's in a bind, since he outputs a lot of damage with those skills but his willpower because of his armor sinks quickly). Morrigan uses Winter's Grasp, Lightning... and then rarely Mind Blast and Horror. Everything is situational of course... I wish I could pin down more tactics for folks. Hard is definitely doable - and besides a few sticky battles, I've walked away just fine.. and even in those that were harrowing - it was fun indeed.
We'll see how things change though in time though as now I'm finding Sten running out of Stamina - and even my Rogue. Alistair seems to be fine though, in fact, the best off in battle with his fat Grey Warden Armor and Giant Shield with activated Shield Wall on.
So Besides Battles...
I've clocked just around 11 hours and 30 some minutes I believe. Too lazy to check now on the minutes exactly, but besides the insanely fufilling tactic battle for me there's so much life in this game thus far. Besides the temporary character at Ostagar, I was surprised to see that characters like Ser Jory and Daveth (the other Grey Warden recruits) had a back story at all. It certainly wasn't anything earth-shattering, but the fact it was there and was written enough to give them both life and personality, I enjoyed a lot. It was a seamless way of introducing companions and how you could ask their back story. Other details which are there for those that want to lose themselves in the lore is the extensive Codex. I know I had commented on this before, but really it needs to be said again. The creature codex (as well as others) continues to expand. There is hardly anything that is a simple few lines (Genlocks do come to mind I believe). Even the "Wolf" codex has small story paragraphs that are told not as some bland basic informative lecture - but instead told more like a pseudo-scholar/Discovery channel interest in the lore and life of such creatures. The writer's have really put a lot of in-depth thought to many, many parts of this game that you can lose yourself in if you'd care to.
Party Banter is just what I wanted. My personal like for Alistair and Morrigan are even more emphasized as the two trade scathing words back and forth. The conversations, I feel, are more revealing and witty then found in previous BioWare game. Personally, while I knew Alistair and Morrigan would have this kind of witty banter - it is surprising to me how Morrigan and Sten interact and how interested I am when they have words as well. It's nice seeing the ever biting and demeaningly sarcastic Morrigan (to Alistair) having to hold her own against Sten's dour and grim attitude!
DLC Warden's Keep: Worth It?
T his may come up so I might as well just state my opinion now. First, I am an insanely biased fan of this game. My opinion will differ with people who are just typically more critical of things. Consider also, I received this DLC for free - and I have no previous DLC experience with any other game. Also, $7 is just of little value to me on a grand scale (outside of DLC). I can't even see a movie in a theatre for this much anymore. So take everything that proceeds with that disclaimer in mind.
Would I suggest this to a fan of the game? Yes. What about an average player? Well if they ask with hesitation.. I'd answer with hesitation. It is very hard to define value for a person. For me, I got a storage chest - the lore in the game was expanded on, the Codex bloated up with more things to draw me into the game and the level design itself was well done with engaging battles. As for exact time spent in the initial adventure - just by glancing at my save files, I want to say it took me around 1.5-2 hours.
This was the first place I went to, after Lothering, so maybe it'll be good to see the value of this after I've seen all the other places to visit in DA (Redcliffe, Denerim, The Circle) and measure it up to them.
Well I think I have commented on enough at this point time to continue the adventure.
Officially (I think) starting off this blog as I round off my Human Noble Origin.
How do I know I'm going to enjoy this origin? In the first seconds of the Origin, Tim Curry is there. My only disappointment is that when the bastard eventually betrays me (as any "good" Tim Curry character should do!) I didn't get to see him spout off any evil moustache twirling lines. Oh Tim Curry, why do you tease me. Come back!
What really amused me through this origin was Operation "If it has pockets, I'll steal every damn thing from it". With a cunning of 16 and Steal Level 1 - I robbed every damn person in that castle.
"Hello loyal and dutiful guard!" *Yoink!* "Hi poor servant that probably makes coppers per day" *YOINK* "Yes, yes, I love you too mother..." *YOINK!"
Except for three big dogs in the beginning (Your Father, Arl "Curry" Howe, and Duncan) none stood in path of my pilfering joy. On the same note, I hate children. They have nothing. Worthless brats! Also, only one chest stood in my way - which I can accept, especially since I will not be picking up on the "Pick Lock" tree until level 5 and 6.
All in all, the voice acting was just right. I thought the PC's brother was amusing and real, even the child voices weren't corny. The tutor amused me as he walked off saying "Apparently I'm just going to walk off here and talk to myself, talk to myself *mumbles off*". The dialogue offered to interact to them was just right and as this was my second time through this origin, I noticed that regardless of choices they ended up generally saying the same thing - although each time I never chose anything too radical. So the human noble origin was pretty straight forward as far as dialogue choices went. I think it's strength came in the fact that it was moderately sizeable so that it was fun to explore without being overwhelming. Also I accept it as a "tutorial" stage, introducing some basic elements seamlessly. I enjoyed it very much. Plus, I got to flirt an elf into my bed - sealing the fact that my character will no doubt be a man-whore. Ah Sweet Iona.
Play time was 1 hour and 57 minutes. This was with a nice down time of going through all the codex and soaking in the lore at the very end as I stand perched on Ostagar. And what lovely well thought out lore it is. The writer's really put time into this. Sections like "Religion" have hymns and such as if the Chantry and the Chant of Light was a real thing. I especially enjoy how "skewed" the points of history can be from the Chantry's teaching.
So as the Blog Topic states, this is my second time through Human Noble Origin - so I probably lost some initial observations this time through and probably wandered less. I did this specifically to respec my Rogue down a certain talent tree which I thought would be far more useful. And as I'm playing on Hard Difficulty, I really feel I'll have to keep an efficient line up of things. I'll pop a new blog shortly in the evening after wandering the Korcari and clearing it out. I can already assume I'll be talking more about companions and battle tactics as I skipped on it here. But I'm itching to get back in... so... yes, back I go!
So I begin Dragon Age with a couple shots and a couple beers streaming through my veins.
More than less, a High School way to announce that I am beginning this fantasically reviewed game - but that is the honesly the state I am in. Obviously - good enough state to communicate through the generous thing we call the intertubes and share my journies. Whether or not I am persistent enough to continue this - the future shall hold, but my hope is that after every little session, I give an honest write up on what I experience - ranging from battle, story, right onto how I intend to rob everyone NPC I come across.
So my first journey shall be a.....
Difficulty Level: Hard Human Noble Rogue Stats: Str12 Dex16 Will12 Magic11 Cunning16 Con12 Talents: Dirty Fighting (Pre-assigned), Dual Weapon Training, Dual Striking Skills: Poison Making (Pre-assigned), Combat Training (Pre-assigned), Coercion
There's the basic set up. I have actually planned him out a bit, at least up until level 8. But we'll see how much my pre-determined outlook on him shall go - and what the game requires on him reflects. Wish me luck chums. I'll update with my takes and the total time at the end of each session.
Let it be known, right off - that I play very methodically and probably more frustatingly patient than most folk - so my "total time" result may be a lot longer than most. Also, I poke around and linger - talking to NPCs and companion and alike - this will not be reflective of a speed-run AT ALL. I soak up the environments and get every value from my game ^_^ - I will be divulging my full opinion on all I do in my session - nothing will be held back - spoilers may certainly follow! In the same, though, in the same - please do not post comments of spoilers. I plan to do 8 play throughs total, and wish to be unspoiled!
I'll probably post that little bit above preceding each run, just hoping to warn folks of spoilers as well as hopefully keeping folks from ruining my own! That is assuming anyhow pays attention to this.. and truthfully, if I even keep this up! We shall see.... oh, so wishing many good things from this game ^_^!!!
A long past question, but I just feel like dropping my little "Wish List" for the upcoming 2009.
Dragon Age: Origins Splinter Cell: Conviction Bioshock 2 Assassin's Creed 2 Left 4 Dead 2 Borderlands --------- Most of the above games, I'm probably going to wait on a review or two and a few game-play videos before I throw wads of cash at respective game stores. Dragon Age, though, for me is sold. I've been waiting for new 'Baldur's Gate/NWN' type game -- and am in just the right mood to learn some basic C++ to begin the module making.
As for games out now that I'll probably grapple shortly after tinkering with the current games on my shelves
Trine looks amazing. And I can't resist a nice remake ala 'Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition' along the way snatching up the new 'Tales of Monkey Island'. That ought to keep me busy until DA:O comes out.