Wrap on Skyrim; on to Crysis 2

I gave starting Skyrim over with a new character a go, but I just couldn't get into doing the same mainline quests all over again. It was an awesome run, but time to put it up on the shelf.

So, on to Crysis 2. Best Buy has been doing some pretty nice sales leading up the holidays, which have mostly been selling out in a heart beat... But Crysis 2 is one I managed to jump on before the sell out.

Didn't have terribly high expectations for the game, but I really enjoyed it. It's short, and frankly I would have felt like it doesn't have enough bang for the buck at full price, but at $10 I like it quite a bit. Played through it initially on Easy difficulty, which was fun and generally not terribly challenging. Now replaying on Supersoldier (top difficulty) for the draw of some additional achievements and to see how far I can get. I'm currently a little over halfway through, but I know there are some pretty stacked battles in the later chapters.

You build up your dude throughout the game and all of those enhancements carry over to a new play. So, I imagine the initial chapters are much easier as they are geared towards a guy with very limited power ups. I'm just starting to get into later chapters. *gulp*

The main hook of the game is a cloak mode and an armor mode which you can switch to almost instantly. They drain energy which replenishes when you are in 'normal' mode (i.e. not cloaked or armored up or sprinting or jumping.) Each mode is pretty self explanatory. In my second play through I'm going the stealthy route quite often - safer with the beefed up enemies. I've had a few portions where I've methodically cleaned out most enemies only to have one of the final stragglers cut me down. At that point I usually switch to full cloak and just run past everything. Works sometimes, other times not so much.


"S" ranked Skyrim... Now What?

Knocked off the final two achievements for Skyrim yesterday evening for the S rank. Definitely bitter sweet as this game had drawn me in for longer than any game has in quite a while. About a week ago I started to get tired of side missions and switched to concentrating on just the main quest and major side quests (Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Daedra, etc.) I'd also crafted all the equipment I needed and hoarded more than enough gold, so looting was turning into just taking daggers to enchant later, gems, and gold . By the end I was just killing dudes with 0 cost destruction magic and running right past their still warm corpse.

But that was after I had sunk many hours into the game over the course of a month. Can't complain on that at all.

My final two achievements were One with the Shadows (final Thieves Guild achievement) and Master Criminal (1000 bounty in each of the nine holds.) One with Shadows is a bit tedious, but I had done quite a few Thieves Guild missions earlier in my playthrough so it went faster than I initially expected. Master Criminal was quick and sounded like it would be fun, but in practice it was also fairly rote. Fast travel to major city, kill guard, get far enough away to fast travel to next major city, repeat. However, I would say that Skyrim has a very nice set of achievements. Nothing too crazy that requires hours of grinding and no achievements that require multiple playthroughs. For example, if they had created separate achievements for aligning with the Empire and the Sky Cloaks - definitely appreciated that these were combined so you picked up a dual achievement no matter which path was taken.

I think I'm completely done with my current character. There are still many quests and miscellaneous missions to complete, but I'm not digging them at this point. I played him as a pure magic user who wore only non-armor clothing to get the alteration bonus. After I maxed destruction I switched to leveling archery, but after that hit 90+ I was getting bored of using a method that just didn't work as well as free Incinerate spells.

A bit sad my computer isn't up to running Skyrim as I'm sure the upcoming mods would add some replay value, but I had to go with 360. I might start a new character and go the exact opposite with him (heavy armor, two handed weapons, smithing) and play on the top difficulty, but I have a feeling that will be a bit more frustrating than fun for me. Really wish the game separated saves by character as I just know I'll end up writing over all of the saves I have from my current guy.


Really wish you could shortcut outfits

Now that I've maxed enchanting and have created a set of robes/hats/gloves/etc for nearly any situation, e.g. Sneak + Pickpocketing, Archery, Destruction + Magicka boost, Lockpicking, etc. It would be excellent to have the option to create a named outfit shortcut which auto-equips your hands, ring, necklace, hat, etc. when selected.

I renamed my enchanted items so they are grouped, but still shortcuts would be easier.


Enchanting kind of breaks the game

Decided to focus on Enchanting over the past several days and before long ratcheted it up to 100. Actually much easier to level up Enchanting than the main magic skills (Destruction, Restoration, etc.)

Anyway, that allowed me to custom craft the exact equipment I want and I quickly made a set that allows me to cast Destruction spells for free. Then I went on to create sets to buff up my lockpicking, sneak, pickpocket, carry weight, blah blah blah. And sets for resistance to Fire/Frost/Shock/Magic/etc just in case I need them. I'm enchanting standard clothing only so I can use Ironflesh with the bonus for no armor. I have plenty of cash, so I've been buying filled grand soul gems from vendors when I see them to save time. (Using a necklace that reduces prices which I enchanted, of course.)

I probably have a few different variations of hats, gloves, robes, etc to enchant and then I'll have every piece of equipment I'd ever want. Since they are all standard clothing it will only weigh about 30-40 pounds to carry them all.

I've been playing on the default difficulty, but I guess I should turn it up a notch. At this point the past handful of dungeon bosses, dragons, and giants are all falling very easily.

My destruction skill recently popped over 90 and I'm looking forward to hitting 95 and buying some master level spells. I guess I won't spend a perk point to cast them at half magicka when I hit 100 since I now have equipment which makes them free... Though I'm not sure what I want to use my perk points on at this point. I figure I'll mess around with archery once Destruction hits 100.


Decided to Stop Hoarding Perks

I've been specializing in Destruction/Restoration, but some of the perks don't seem useful to me so I've been stockpiling them. For example, I picked up the perks to beef up fire damage by 50% and I just use fire all the time unless I'm fighting a fire resistant enemy. So, I don't think upping my ice or lightning damage is worth the perk points. My stamina rarely drops in combat because I use spells 100% of the time, so the perk to refresh stamina along with health on the restoration path is similarly not worth much to me.

Anyway, finally decided to add Alteration as a 3rd specialization. I'll be going with all non-armor apparel and buffing up the perk that boosts the armor spells.

It would be interesting to play around with enchantment or alchemy, but I would rather use the perks on combat abilities.

Definitely enjoying playing a straight magic user. I have my standard kit down to a never-used dagger, robes, a few potions, and a selection of magical rings/amulets/etc. Once I drop recent loot I head out from Breezehome with barely 20 pounds in my inventory.


Dragon Slaying in Skyrim

So I've really been sucked in to Skyrim and my dude is slinging magic fire like a champ. If anything the game still seems a bit easy on default, but I'm loving it and have decided not to up the difficulty, at least so far.

The best perk I have is the one that staggers most enemies with a dual wielded destruction spell. I can take out most any single large enemy by constantly hitting him with dual firebolt. The momentary stumble gives me enough time to launch another double firebolt. Rinse, repeat, dead. A few of the toughest enemies recover quickly enough to get off an attack here and there, but I'm able to swap to Fast Healing for a quick shot in the arm. Even dragons go down pretty quickly with this method. I guess I've just fought 6 or 7 of the weakest dragons to this point, but I'm semi-surprised I'm dominating them at level 14/15.

I love the flexibility you can have in handling different encounters. In one dungeon a few necromancers were fighting some other enemies and I decided to try setting a fire rune right in the middle of them. The explosion sent them flying. :)


Skyrim got me back into gaming

I go through peaks and valleys with my gaming and the past few months have been a valley. I didn't really have Skyrim on my radar, but all of the hype got me to read a few reviews and I figured I'd give it a go. Glad I did as it is damn fun.

With RPGs I generally go with the safe build which usually means I am playing your standard sword swinger. But with Skyrim I decided to throw in with the High Elves and go for a straight magic duder. I'm enjoying the flexibility of being able to swap out spells to attack different combat scenarios in different ways. Lately I've been spamming healing in one hand and flames/flamebolt in the other. Most enemies I'm currently hitting can barely move my health off max while healing is active.

I could probably leave healing active and just stand there taking hits from a minor enemy or two to build up Restoration, but so far there has been no need to grind skills or levels. If anything the game has been a bit easy, but a lot of the fun is in all of the things to do/places to explore/people to chat up. Still I'm only level 10, so too early for me to really say if they game is a cake walk or not.


Loving Borderlands... But not The Underdome

Can't believe how much time Borderlands has eaten for me.  I think I probably have over 30 hours and I'm finished the main game and the Zombie Island DLC.  That is on  playthrough 1 BTW.  Don't think I love it enough to do a playthrough 2, but I'll kick one off and maybe it will grab me.  However, I took one 40 minute run with Underdome (2nd DLC) and that was enough for me.  
5 rounds of 5 waves each was just way too damn repetitive for me by the end of the 3rd round.  Then I happened to screw up and get killed in that 3rd boss round and the second wind didn't pan out (boss was the only enemy to kill) so I was dumped back at the beginning of round 2.  Ouch.  Did some googling to see if the DLC gets better and found out it actually gets worse.  For those who haven't played through, apparently the secondary challenges have you playing through 20 rounds of 5 waves each in each of the three arenas.  And you can't save in the middle.  And you don't get experience or loot for your kills.  Over three hours of straight tedium, three times...
For me it's actually a bit liberating as I was contemplating S-Ranking the game and all 4 DLCs, but there is no way I'm getting the Underdome achievements so that frees me from fooling with playing missions in split screen for the co-op achievements and some other things I would have to do artificially.  Don't get me wrong, I already did the co-op achievements you can pick up in a minute or two in split screen.  :-D
Thankfully I bought the GOTY edition of borderlands so I didn't pay $10 for just Underdome.  I could see if I had paid $10 how I would probably feel obligated to schlog through the boredom.  Also, while I am pretty motivated by achievements, I am sane enough to not beat my head against a wall playing a mode of a game I don't enjoy for 12+ hours for a few of them.   If your progress was saved after every round, I could see myself eventually working through this mode playing a couple rounds here and there.  But, frankly I very rarely play a video game for longer than 2 hours at a stretch - really 1 hour is typically my session time.  Three 3-4 hour sessions do not appeal to me.
Too bad they didn't make a proper expansion with a story and various missions like they did in the other DLCs.  My biggest complaint with the rest of the game is it got way too easy after my character leveled up, had some decent weapons, and enough cash to top off my ammo at every vending machine.  But there was something about it that kept me wanting to play even with it feeling a bit easy.  I think it was the variety in the story and the humor.
I do wish they just made the bank so it is accessible at every New-U station and added more than one New-U station in each DLC pack.  Warping close to a new objective is more fun (IMO) than fighting to clear the same sections of the same enemies every time you fire up the game.


Red Dead Redemption is damn good

Started playing just after Thanksgiving and finished everything I'm going to do with the game yesterday.  Really fun game with some awesome dialog and atmosphere.  I even picked up on some subtle things reading the wikia pages about some of the characters.  Some of the stuff listed there is a reach IMO, but other observations are dead-on and things I did not notice.  For example:  (Major spoiler if you haven't played RDR...)

 Also loved John's line  "Some trees flourish, others die. Some cattle grow strong, others are taken by wolves. Some men are born rich enough and dumb enough to enjoy their lives. Ain't nothing fair. You know that."
Found myself pondering that line later, heck it's still rolling around in my head.  I have that happen with very good books and movies, but rarely with a video game.  Voice actor delivers it very well as well.  Up there with "War, war never changes." as my favorite video game lines.
I nabbed a decent share of the achievements, passed on all of the multiplayer ones and a few of the single player ones including 100% completion.  If the single player achievements were enough for an S-Rank I'd probably have gone for it, but there are a bunch of DLC achievements I can't get and I really don't care for multiplayer achievements, so that made my decision to not grind out a few boring or frustrating activities easy.
Rockstar obviously puts a lot of effort behind developing excellent dialog and atmosphere in their games, in addition to creating fun gameplay, and they deserve the success they have reaped.

Morning Radio...

So listening to one of the morning radio shows today and they are talking about how there is a Facebook group dedicated to dead baby jokes.  We probably all loved them when we were 10 and haven't really thought much about them since.  Apparently some people are offended by this and instead of simply not visiting that group, they want facebook to remove it from the site, which they haven't done so far.
So, the radio folks are talking about how it's incredibly poor for anyone past puberty to still be into these jokes and facebook should take it down because they are offensive.  The female personality acts like she has no idea what these jokes are, so they get one off the group and read it on air to enlighten her...
See the hypocrisy there?

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