Brief thoughts on Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl

An excellent reminder that a demo is an unfinished chunk of a game: the Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl demo begins with some text reminding that this is an unfinished game and, specifically, several pieces of music are unfinished and shorter than they are in the full game. Which is good, because the music is repetitive and can be annoying if it features a sound that grates on your nerves.

Having never played an Etrian Odyssey game, I decided to give this demo a shot. I’ve always been intrigued but concerned at the reported difficulty and old-school nature of the series. But I’m hooked now and absolutely want this game, and likely will look into past releases as well. If the idea of drawing your own map while dungeon-crawling sounds enticing, this game is for you. The lower screen is dedicated to a map where the player can draw walls, denote doors and passages, and annotate special areas. Random battles occur as you’re exploring, which are fairly standard for an RPG as best I can tell from a brief demo. You can attack, use skills that cost Technique Points to buff/debuff and do elemental damage, and use items. Some enemies are weak to certain elements while strong to others. Sell collected materials to unlock better weapons and armor, then buy it. Specific character classes can only equip specific types of weapons. While not imaginative, it is well-designed and a good time.

The story is fairly interesting, with immediate hooks in the beginning to draw you in. You play a wandering Highlander, a race of people dedicated to justice. There’s a mysterious girl who only remembers her name is Frederica, knows your face is familiar, and uses terminology that confuses the other characters around her, such as “computer” and “terminal”. There are monsters and abnormal earthquakes threatening Etria that various groups are investigating. And you’re in the middle of everything.

The game also looks fantastic. The first-person dungeon-crawling works wonderfully with the 3D and character designs are delightful, if a little busy and cluttered. Certain events are depicted with animated cut scenes that are even more gorgeous.

Overall, I’m now very excited for the release of Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl and I hope to carve out some free time and money to play the full game once it’s released October 1st!

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R.I.P. RTD

Ryan Davis, along with Jeff, Vinny, Brad, and eventually Patrick, are the folks who gave me comfort in my passion. Video games have always been a large part of my life, but with no one to talk to about it, no community to add a voice to, it was only in the last four or five years that it became a passion. With a fresh General Education Diploma, having dropped out of high school, uncertain what I wanted to do with my life, and with no way of paying for college without a huge student loan debt anyway, I was introduced to the Bombcast crew, and eventually GiantBomb.com. The guys who gave me an example to grow from and a reason to write. And one of them has died.

The 8th was a long day for me and I did not check the internet once. I spent my day at work in meetings then came home to play some games and unwind. Little did I know the whirlwind of emotion that was happening online at that time and would be awaiting me the following morning. On the 9th, I did my morning Tumblr peek and came across a big, pink graphic that said, “THANKS RYAN DAVIS” and under that, “Gone way too soon.” My stomach dropped and I immediately went to Giant Bomb to see what was what. I found this article and could not believe what I was reading. What the fuck had I missed all day Monday? What the shit happened? 34? How? Why? I never once interacted with Ryan Davis and his death devastated me. Once I made it to work I couldn’t concentrate. I kept returning to a 24-hour long Twitter feed of eulogies, articles, pictures, and tweets. All about a man I had never met, but whose impact on me is undeniable. I’ve had to write this in fits and starts; writing in between wiping my eyes and clearing the lump in my throat.

My aspirations for a writing career obviously did not come to fruition, but the inspiration was there and is still felt. I still love video games; I still enjoy writing about video games. I write when I can and when I have the energy to do it. Ryan Davis is one of the greatest influences on me and my passion. I will miss him greatly but his effect will always be here. Writing is still my best tool and I’m using it to bleed some of my own sorrow away.

I offer my deepest condolences to Jeff, Vinny, Brad, Patrick, Drew, Matt, Dave, and everyone else whose pain I can’t even imagine.

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Weekly Rundown Update

I'm pretty sure the fact that I began a draft yesterday of last week's rundown but saved and never returned to finish writing it means I'm done with it, at least for now. There's just not the amount of interest to justify it,and I've lost the interest to write it for just myself. Maybe someday I'll feel like doing it again, but, as it is right now... meh.

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Weekly Rundown - 07/16/12-07/22/12

Games this week:

  • Game Boy Color - Pokémon: Silver Version
  • Xbox 360 - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Playstation 3 - DJ Hero 2

Games! I honestly don't know how many more of these I'll do, as I'm getting tired of it. Once every week since May last year, I'm just getting tired of writing for myself, I guess.

So, mostly, I powered through Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Because I'm tired of playing it but I can't stand to leave a game unfinished. But, mission accomplished, I finished the story. And now it's back on the shelf and I may never touch it again nor play Assassin's Creed: Revelations. I just don't care. I was talking to a friend about this, and I think the reason I'm disliking Brotherhood so much is because it's so much like Assassin's Creed II, which got a lot of leeway because it was the sequel to a game that had a lot of problems. And, as that sort of a sequel, it really shined and impressed. But, the sequel to that is more of the same, and all of the issues really shine through. I've spoken of these issues previously, but, a short recap: the controls are wonky and straight don't work some times. It's especially frustrating near the end of the game. I don't know if this is because I was just sick of it or if it became particularly problematic, but, I was very frustrated. The Leonardo missions are not fun. I played the warship one and the horse-drawn cannon and that was enough for me to know I wanted to avoid those missions. Both involved a shooting mechanic that was imprecise and slow. No fun. The Brotherhood mechanic is still awesome fun, but, obviously not enough to hold the game together. The writing is still fun, Ezio is great and seeing him grow throughout Assassin's Creed II and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was great. The Desmond stuff is still a little weak, and I'm not enjoying the complete cliffhanger endings that these two games have had. And I'll probably never know how Ezio's story ends, because I highly doubt I will ever buy and play Assassin's Creed: Revelations. Here's hoping that Assassin's Creed III fixes some problems and goes back to being fun.

I played a little DJ Hero 2, just to remind myself how much fun it is. I want to see if I can find a soundtrack for that game. I would love to have some of those mash-ups just in my music library. But, I only played four or five mixes, not a lot at all.

I didn't play much else. Pokémon, of course. I hit a wall needing to train up a Psychic-type, but, I'm truckin' along. I think I beat some trainers out of order, though. I beat Chuck and Jasmine, who were about ten levels over me, but now I'm outside Mt. Mortar and the trainers all have Pokémon ten levels under me. Whoops. Anyway, team currently consists of Drowzee (no nickname, didn't think I'd be using him on my team), Dee (Bayleef), Bob (Vulpix), Olette (Noctowl), Sean (Flaafy), and Glen (Quagsire).

I don't think I'm going to continue Final Fantasy X-2. I haven't played it in weeks and I have zero desire to go back to it. It's just not hooking me in. Maybe it's been too long since I played Final Fantasy X, but... just no interest.

And, that's it! Hopefully next week? I mean this in all seriousness, if anyone reads these and enjoys them, sound off in the comments or send an anon message or something. Something to let me know people legit enjoy these and would like for me to continue, okay?

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Weekly Rundown - 07/09/12-07/15/12 (Sort o')

Games this week:

  • Xbox 360 - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Limbo, Super Meat Boy
  • Playstation 2 - Final Fantasy X-2
  • Game Boy Color - Pokémon: Silver Version

Short and simple. I don't feel up to typing this today, and since I basically do this for my own enjoyment as only Mr. Grape reads these, I think... yeah, short.

Assassin's Creed... same as last time. I'm stuck in a part where I can't figure out what it wants me to do, and it's being very specific in its mission parameters. And it's a story mission, so, yay, I can't just ignore it! Must complete to continue the game!

Final Fantasy X-2... played it for five minutes then turned it off, didn't even save.

Limbo and Super Meat Boy I played shortly to show them to a friend's new boyfriend.

Pokémon... it's Pokémon. I'll give you a better update next Monday, maybe, but, come on...

And that's it! I think the problem is I'm in the middle of games I don't really care about at all, Final Fantasy X-2 and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and it's killing my will. But I have a difficult time not playing a game to completion, even if I'm not enjoying it.

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Weekly Rundown - 07/02/12-07/08/12

Games this week:

  • Xbox 360 - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Playstation 2 - Final Fantasy X-2
  • Game Boy Color - Pokémon: Silver Version

Hah! I remembered to do this at the appropriate time! Unfortunately, I barely played anything this past week. It's been busy.

I did play a little bit of Final Fantasy X-2. Which pretty much consisted of reading all of the tutorials for Sphere Break and going to the Djose Temple and meeting Gippal. All-in-all, about fifteen minutes.

I played a good bit of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. And, I know they wanted to change it up and such, but I'm getting tired of the game making me do things that aren't enjoyable. Piloting Leonardo's boat to take down the Borgia warships? Not fun. Driving that horse cart with the massive gun and trying to shoot people while it's bucking around? Just really frustrating. And desynchronizing as soon as I'm detected? That's extremely irritating. I can't remember if that part was prevalent in previous games. It's really bugging me. But, aside from these complaints, the game's still a lot of fun. It'll never get old getting up behind a guard on a roof and shanking him.

My absolute favorite part is the whole brotherhood mechanic. It's a lot of fun managing my assassin crew and sending them on missions. But the real kicker, as everyone who's even heard of this game probably already knows, is pressing that left bumper and having my assassin's drop on dudes from nowhere. So satisfying! Really sells Ezio, and by extension the player, as a badass leader of a little army.

And then, of course, Pokémon! Just caught myself a Sudowoodo and beat up the Kimono Girls. Team currently is: Olette (Hoothoot), Glen (Quagsire), Dee (Bayleef), Ladyboy (Ledian) is back, Sean (Flaafy), and... Bob. A Vulpix. Don't judge! As much as I love Ladyboy, he's not working out so great right now... I hate bug-type Pokémon, they're always so weak. But I'll roll with him as long as I can.

And then that's it! I've been having the urge to replay Mirror's Edge, but we'll see if that goes anywhere. See y'all next week!

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Weekly Rundown - 06/25/12-07/01/12

Crap, I forgot again! I hope I'm not losing interest in doing these.

Games this week:

  • Xbox 360 - Mass Effect 3
  • Playstation 2 - Final Fantasy X-2
  • Game Boy Color - Pokémon: Silver Version

So! Anyway, to get the big one out of the way first, I played through the new, free DLC for Mass Effect 3, the Extended Cut! I did a much bigger write-up of it earlier this week, but succinctly, I liked it well enough, but I liked the original better.

I also started Final Fantasy X-2 earlier this week. I'm enjoying it so far. I'm at 10% completion, I think, and three hours in. I don't know if I like the combat system as much. Not that it's bad, but, I'm barely using it. I basically switch between Gunner and White/Black Mage for Yuna and leave Paine and Rikku as a Warrior and Thief, respectively. Maybe I'm just under-utilizing it or maybe I find more dresspheres and garment grids later that increase the usefulness, but, yeah. That's where we are right now with it.

And our Pokémon update! I'm 10.5 hours in and I've just beaten Whitney. Plain Badge! My team consists of Olette (Hoothoot), Muscle (Machop), Glen (Wooper), Sean (Flaafy), Dee (Bayleef), and Rocky (Onix). I had a Gastly named Patti for a little while, but then Olette learned Hypnosis and my entire reason for having Patti went away. Alas, Ladyboy has gone. I might switch Muscle back for him, I've never been keen on rolling with a Fighting type in my party.

And that's all! See y'all next week, I'm gonna eat dinner and play some more Final Fantasy X-2!

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Thoughts & Ramblings: Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC

So, I finished the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC this morning. And... meh. I mean, I liked the ending of Mass Effect 3 in the first place, so, I was just worried that they would completely change the ending of the game to appease the whiniest of the whiners [NOTE: that's not to say everyone complaining about the ending was whining. There were some legitimate complaints, but, the loudest people I heard were complaining about it not being a happy ending]. And, to a certain extent, they did just that. But, they also closed off a couple loopholes that were really bothering me. Namely, how your squadmates suddenly appeared back on the Normandy after being blown away by a Reaper and why it was in the middle of a mass relay jump when the mass relays exploded. Understood, now! A couple additional cut scenes and we're golden.

The other big thing I noticed was a lot of additional dialogue explaining exactly who the Catalyst is, what the Crucible exactly is, and what each ending choice means. Which is fine and good for anyone who was confused before, but, it basically elaborated on things I had already understood my first time. So, it didn't do much for me.

As far as appeasing people who were unhappy with the grim nature of the ending, it looks like just about everything came up roses! So, I chose the Control ending when I played through originally and this time again for comparison purposes. Additions to make the ending happier! Shepard gets to keep her memories and herself, so, it's not like she actually died. =D And she had the Reapers fix the mass relays! So, no one's stuck anywhere and everyone got to go home and enjoy a nice cuppa. =D In fact, there are now scenes depicting exactly that. =D Frankly, I liked the grim ending a lot better. Seemed more realistic after such an extensive war. Of course everything's going to be in ruins. They knew they were basically going to come out of the other side either devastated or extinct. If anyone lived at all, they'd have to rebuild everything. Now, though, everything's happy and shiny. =D

I still quite enjoy the ending, and the game as a whole, and feel like it's very powerful, I just feel like some of that was stripped away so that it could end happier. The only thing they didn't address was a loophole I read about concerning the explosion of all those relays, though. Ostensibly, earlier in the trilogy a relay exploding is catastrophic and destroys worlds near the relay. That many relays going off near so many inhabited solar system would, presumably, kill trillions. But it's not even touched upon. Other than that, though, it seems like they addressed everything I had heard complained about. For better or for worse.

And, in playing, I was reminded how damned much I enjoyed it! And I love the stinger with Stargazer and the child. Paints the entire trilogy as this story a man was telling his grandchild of a hero hundreds of years ago. AH, so good!

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Weekly Rundown - 06/18/12-06/24/12

So, Monday morning keeps being busy right from the get-go. Anyway!

Games this week:

  • Xbox 360 - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Game Boy Color - Pokémon: Silver Version

It was kind of a slow week for video games. I basically just played Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, as far as current console games go. I'm enjoying it a lot, much like Assassin's Creed II, but there are issues. Much like Assassin's Creed II. Mainly, sometimes Ezio just doesn't do what the hell you want him to do. I assume some of it is just forgetting how to handle him, but until I get the hang of it again, he's running up walls I didn't want him to run up, he's jumping in the wrong direction, and not countering when I tell him to counter. As far as the countering is concerned, I think that's because I'm holding the right trigger before combat is actually triggered. I need to let go and resqueeze, but, that doesn't make it less irritating. But it's still fun and well-written. I just assembled my courtesan, thief, and mercenary crew. Wicked.

And I switched over to Pokémon: Silver Version. Go tired of leveling in Blue. Anyway, I chose Chikorita to start with, and named him Dee. Grass starter for life! I've beaten Falkner, Togepi hatched, and I'm currently making my way through Union Cave! My team, currently, consists of Dee (Chikorita), Omar (Hoothoot, though, I didn't realize it was a female Hoothoot when I named her. =X I'm going to rename her Olette first chance I get), Ladyboy (Ledyba), Glen (Wooper), and Rocky (Onix, not my name, traded a Bellsprout for him). And the sixth slot is held by Pi (Togepi) right now, but that'll change once I have a six Pokémon I want to roll with.

And that was it, really. See y'all next week!

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Weekly Rundown - 06/11/12-06/17/12

Bet y'all thought I forgot!

... okay, I did. I was busy this morning before work, give me a break! Ahem...

Games this week:

  • Gamecube - Resident Evil 2
  • Playstation 3 - Heavy Rain
  • Xbox 360 - Gears of War 3, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Gameboy Color - Pokémon: Blue Version

So! A bunch of Resident Evil 2 throughout the week. Finished it up. At least, the ClaireB campaign. I did get a response last week that the campaign does change a bit depending on whether you play as Claire or Leon first, but, I don't think the story itself changes. So, I don't care.

I liked it a bunch. I mean, it kind of gets a pass in my book because it's an older Resident Evil game, meaning the voice-acting is terrible and flat, but, that aside, I enjoyed it. It's been a few years since I played Resident Evil, and even that was the remake for the Gamecube, so, a direct sequel comparison is impossible. But, it feels like the overall game is shorter than than the previous title and there's just... less. Fewer puzzles, fewer scary moments (though, there were a couple of "Oh, shit!" moments), fewer boss encounters... I liked Resident Evil 2 a bunch, but, I definitely remember enjoying that remake more than this game. And maybe that's a bit of nostalgia as I played Resident Evil the first time years and years ago and I'm only now playing the sequel. Difficult to say. But, I'm debating whether I should jump into Resident Evil 3: Nemesis or Resident Evil Zero next. Decisions, decisions!

While deciding, I played some Gears of War 3 multiplayer. I had not done that at all yet, just played a bunch of the campaign then shelved it. My mate Tebo talked me into it, though. Played the Horde mode and Beast mode, and, they were wicked fun! Surprise! I really enjoyed the changes to the Horde mode a lot. Leveling up your barriers, and what level of barrier you can employ, is a great idea. And then the entire Beast mode as a concept is pretty great. I'm not sure how I feel about leveling up your class of Locust every game, but, it's not the worst thing and it's a bunch of fun tearing into COG soldiers with a Ticker.

Y'know what is the worst change from my brief foray into Gears of War 3 multiplayer? Needing X number of kills with Y weapon to unlock that weapon's special execution. That is completely lame and bummed me out a great deal when I went to take execute a locust with the Gnasher shotgun and was denied my golf-swing glory. I do not understand it and I think it's a terrible idea.

While continuing to decide, I finally started Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood! It's only been sitting on my shelf since December! Anyway, that game is pretty great so far. I'm barely into it, Desmond and co. just arrived in Monterrigioni and set up the Animus. But it plays like Assassin's Creed II so far, which means it's wicked fun to run around. And it picks right up with the story, which is great, considering how the second game ended. I'm looking forward to the Brotherhood aspects, though, those sound like a great time.

And this weekend I finished up Heavy Rain with Rebekah! That game's ending is phenomenal. Took me completely by surprise and, honestly, somewhat gut-wrenching since my favorite character turned out to be the killer. Whoa. I'm also glad I didn't just let Jayden die, despite hating him, because he was crucial in getting the good ending. He did, however, go completely insane and started seeing little tanks rolling around on his desk. Don't know what that was about, but, it made me laugh. And I can only assume that's because I used ARI too much and it broke his brain. Whoops!

Anyway, final thoughts now that I've finished it? I liked it. Despite its myriad issues, which I've already detailed and held true right to the end, I enjoyed it. The story was amazing, even if the game could be frustrating. And a bit glitchy. At one point, Madison walked into some stairs. Like, right into them. Clipped through and was just standing in concrete up to her chest. And then the collision detection started working! And she was trapped in the stairs. It was like a terrible Kitty Pryde-gone-wrong instance or something. And some of the ending felt... weirdly forced? The only thing that's bugged me was where the hell did Madison Paige know Norman Jayden from? I can only assume I've forgotten some interaction they had earlier in the game?

I asked Rebekah what she thought when it was done and the credits were through. She said, "I liked it." Succinct! A skill I don't always employ.

And I'm continuing to fill out the Pokédex in Pokémon. Getting tired of it, which is apparent by how little I'm playing it. 96 owned. Currently leveling a Psyduck.

And that’s it! Next week! Big ol’ empty slate for two consoles, let’s see what I start.

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