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Dragon Age 2 review

Well after not really posting for a while, I've been gaming quite a bit, so here is my Dragon Age 2 written review. 
Hope you guys enjoy it. Please leave feedback, whether or not you disagree with what I say.  
Dragon Age 2

Being someone who is a huge-huge, Bioware fan, and a huge huge fan of Dragon Age: Origins, I came into Dragon Age 2 with extremely high expectations, that were, for the most part, throughly met, but left me asking a few questions about certain technical decisions. 


To begin with, Dragon Age 2 feels a lot different than DA: O, possibly because I played Origins on the PC and DA 2 on the 360, but there is something about the game that  makes DA 2 feel more polished and well refined, and more confident about how it works. This game feels a lot like KOTOR 2, which is odd considering Bioware didn't make KOTOR 2, but it has this sense of you being a hero fleeing from a massive disaster, and you don't really know everything that your party members know or think about you, which moves us into the story.

The tale told by DA 2, is much different than the one in DA:O. At the outsets, the whole world isn't at stake in this game, and at first the only thing at stake is your character, Hawke, and his family. The story is told from the perspective of Varrick, one of your companions who's being interrogated (nothing like Black Ops interrogation) by an unknown group. His tale begins when Hawke and his family are fleeing Fereldan from the Blight (The middle of DA: O), and decide to go to Kirkwall, a City-State in the Free Marches, far away enough from the Blight for them to be safe. Hawke's mother assumes that they have wealth and status in the city, but upon arrival they find that their Uncle has squandered away all of his wealth. Hawke and his sister/brother (depending on your choice for male/female) have to work off the debt for one year, just so they can live in a crappy slum, and the story spirals into something much more profound and deeper. Clearly this is a much more personal story, because your actions don't affect the world around you quite as much as DA: O, and instead they affect your family and your party members. This means that you really need to feel invested in the characters and most importantly your character, which I feel the Bioware nailed.  


The characters are much more interesting and engaging in DA 2 than DA: O. I found Alastir in DA: O to be interesting, but extremely dull to listen to. Yet in this game, Varrick, a dwarf who initially cares only about himself, but slowly comes to care for Hawke, and won't leave his side; Isabella, a super hot, super busty, pirate, who extremely self-centered, and (depending on your choices) may still be so at the end, has hilarious lines, especially when you're just randomly walking around town; and Merril, a confused, naive, and innocent elven outcast, who is extremely interesting and twisted, and kind of reminds me of a female Mortin Solas from Mass Effect 2; are the 3 best characters, with Merril being the best. The story turns into something much more, and without giving too much away, in the end, the choices you have to make truly change the makeup of the world around you. The story ends with a very puzzling ending, that although is Cliff-Hangerish, it is kind of bizzare and not really well explained. Hopefully there will be a sequel after this to better explain it.

The choices are the next big thing I want to address. In DA: O the choices were very Black and White, "should I kill him or should I not, should I do it the easy way (Evil) or do it the hard way (good). Should I accept him into my party or should I not." In DA 2, the choices fall much more into the gray, which Bioware makes easier by marking each choice with a symbol based upon the tone of the action or line of dialogue. These choices many times have unintended consequences, which I thought was an excellent "choice" on Bioware's part, because that is how a real choice works. For instance, you may think by telling your sibling not to come with you to the Deep Roads, you're saving her, however when you get back you find that she's been taken away, instantly making you wonder if you should've taken her with you, despite the apparent risk. Also since the choices are more personal, and it allows you to truly shape your character, which was something I feel Bioware missed in Mass Effect and DA: O, but had in KOTOR. In Mass Effect 1 & 2, and DA:O, you know that your characters are going to save the world and become heroes, but the choices are more about how you go about doing it. In DA 2, like KOTOR, the choices truly affect the outcome and the ending on a huge level, and you really get to shape your character's personality, which adds to the overall story.

Gameplay is next on the list, and the biggest difference is combat, especially on the Consoles. In DA: O combat was tedious (especially on the PC), and awkward (especially on the consoles). It was seen [by me] as something I just had to do to advance the story. In DA 2, the combat is actually something that I look forward to, partially because it is much easier, and partially because It is a fun part of the game that just feels good to play,. Many have criticized this by saying that it takes away RPG elements, but so did Mass Effect 2, and how many GOTY awards did it win? Having combat that is fun to play, and doesn't require you to sacrifice story elements, is never a bad thing for any game. I will say though, that towards the end, the combat does feel a bit repetitive, but fun nonetheless. Additionally the dummed down the leveling up system, which has its merits, but I can see why people dislike it, however it doesn't detract from the overall quality of the experience. Another thing that many have criticized about the gameplay, is that it takes place in just one city, which makes it repetitive and unoriginal. However; I would say that it makes the environment more personal and important to you, because by the end of the game you are saying "NO ONE MESSES WITH MY CITY" when you need to defend it. 

Technically the game is ok, but this is where it is at its weakest. You will unfortunately spend a lot of time at the loading screen, and I had to install the game onto my 360, to lessen the load times, which it does dramatically. The visuals are good conceptually and style wise, but they don't look that great when executed. Textures pop in and out, and look dull and reused. There are tons of anti-asling and issues especially during cutscenes. I will say however that the combat is much more colorful than in DA: 2, which makes it feel that much more awesome. The soundtrack is much improved over the first game's, which I thought was like a lulla-bye trying to put me asleep. The sound design is also solid, and I had no issues there. The voice acting, like any BioWare game, is absolutely flawless, the performances feel real, not over acted. 

At the end of the day Dragon Age 2 is a really superb package that RPG fans will greatly enjoy. It is a much different game than its predacessor, however it is not flawless technically, and sometimes it's terrible visually. The story is excellent [albeit with a weird ending], the characters interesting, the choices difficult, and the combat is fun. I would recommend it to any RPG fans, and even to people looking for a good action game with an interesting LOTR-like tale. 


Inception Review- To Dream or Not to Dream

     I am a huge Nolan fan. After his tremendous accomplishments on Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight, I knew he was for real, and not just a one time wonder. Now I saw the teaser trailer for Inception nearly a year ago, and I was interested. A movie with Leonardo DiCaprio that was directed by Christopher Nolan had to be decent, but after seeing the movie, calling it decent is an insult. This is the best movie I have ever seen on so many levels. 

The film's protagonist Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is the best dream extractor in the world. He is efficient, slick, and he understands the system of dreaming. Together with his partner Arthur (Joseph-Gordon Levitt) they steal information from corporate executives minds. This comes at a price however, as Cobb is a fugitive from the US and cannot get home to see his children, until Cobb and Arthur are given a job offer by Saito (Ken Watanabe), a wealthy Japanese Corporate Exec. Saito wants Cobb and Arthur to plant an idea in the son of an energy Tycoon (Cillian Murphy), through the process of Inception. Cobb and Arthur believe it to be impossible to do at first, but Saito says that if it is done, Cobb will be able to go home to his family. Cobb has been enticed, and begins gathering a team to perform Inception. No more should be said about the plot. The story is needless to say...incredible. The script is tightly knit, intelligent, well thought out, and just plain suspenseful. This is a rare movie that really requires you to think to understand the plot. 

The cast is really amazing. DiCaprio nails his role again, Joseph-Gordon Levitt was really really incredible as Arthur, Tom Hardy as Eames gives a really solid performance, and looks and acts like a future Bond in many scenes. Ellen Page is surprisingly perfect in her role as Ariadne the architect, but the best of all was Ken Watanabe as Saito. He needs to be nominated for best supporting actor. He was just so emotional and everything he said was so meaningful and powerful. Michael Caine...well he just did his thing and who cares. Cillian Murphy was also really excellent as Robert Fisher, and gives a chilling performance till the very end. Marion Cotillard as deserves a nomination for best supporting actor, because she her actions influence the entire chain of events more than any other character, and she makes you hate her, but feel terribly sorry for her. Nolan again does an incredible job of getting the most from the whole cast, as  he did in the The Dark Knight.

Production wise, Nolan's direction needs to be recognized by the Oscars. The way he moved this story along, and he so tightly controlled the script and his vision created a truly breathtaking movie. The Cinematography is also incredible, and Wally Pfister will win his oscar this time around. Hans Zimmer pulls off his best score in the movie. The Special Effects, or lack there of are really amazing. As in the Dark Knight there is very little CGI, although it is used sparingly it used very well. 

This film does things that view movies have ever really done to me, except for maybe Memento (What do you know! Another Nolan Movie). They cast a spell on me that causes me to question my first impression of the movie. It makes me wonder why? Makes me really try and reason with the protaganist, and I never knew more than the protagnist knew. At the very end of the movie I felt like there were more questions left unanswered than answered. The film is unlike anything you've ever seen. It may combine elements of the Matrix and James Bond, but at the same time it really has so many different parts to it that it is incredibly unique and entertaining.  
You will laugh at parts, you will cry at parts,  you will be on the edge your seat at parts, you will ponder in confusion at parts, but this movie will become a part of you. The movie is entertaining throughout, yet the ending although action filled, is extremely emotional on so many levels. 

Nolan has created a masterpiece that will keep people guessing forever. This movie, after seeing it twice, has surpassed Saving Private Ryan as my favorite movie ever. I love movies, but this movie is more than love. It is something that really gets inside your head and as the motto of the movie says, "Your Mind is the Scene of the Crime". 

See Inception the Best Picture of the Year.   


The game that I've been waiting forever almost here

As many of you can assume based upon my prof pic, I'm a Starcraft fan...a really big one. I was a huge fan of the originals and played them avidly, and still play them today. I have waited, along with many others (particularly the entire nation of South Korea), for 11 years for this game to come out. And it is almost here TEN MORE DAMN DAYS!!! TEN MORE DAYS!!! It's almost as if I'd been hoping and hoping to date this super super hot homcoming queen that I was friends with back in High School, but never got the chance to seal the deal, and I'm getting a second chance in college. Yeah ok...nvm. Well anyway I think SC II has the potential to be the GOTY. Without a doubt. If it delivers a Blizzaresque campaign, with interesting new gimmicks, and a really enthralling multiplayer (which after playing the beta I can almost gurantee), then I think Blizzard will have the GOTY tucked away nicely.  
In other Yankees have the best record in baseball, my Heat (I live near Miami, but am from NY) are gonna be beast this year with the new trifecta of awesomeness, and my 360 is ....still broken like it has been for the past four months...I'm saving for the new one.  
Hope all is well with you the GB community.  
AND BTW i am also seeing Inception monday with some friends and I hope know it will be incredible.  
Happy Gaming...


Tonight...the historic night in TV History

 As many of you know, 24 and Law Order end tonight. Two TV shows that, in many different ways have shaped modern Television. Law and Order, the longest running prime time drama show in TV history, has abruptly come to a close, in a way that was probably shocking to so many people. I'll admit that I agree with "Screened" that the show was at its best when Ron Livingston was the trial DA and not the "Head DA" , but all that aside the show's writing and production has still been excellent. It also has Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsay Vaughn guest starring as a secretary (she's really hot btw). Also, from what I've heard I'm assuming that when it was filmed they didn't anticipate it would be the show's last new episode on NBC which may make the episode feel anti-climatic, but who knows, that might make the finale fit more with the theme of the show, that although it may end, crime doesn't. Hopefully Law and Order will get a revival on cable as did its CI comrade. Additionally Law and Order: LA is starting up, which could potentially turn out to be a very interesting show.  
24, a show with an extremely unique, yet brilliant concept on how to tell a story that takes place in one day, with every episode taking place in real time, on the other hand is going to be much tougher for me to let go of. I have been a very huge fan of 24 always, and then I just kind lost track of it in seasons 5 & 6, but last year in Season 7 it really caught my interest again, and I along with a few friends became really avid fans again. This season left the door open for so many possibilities and it started off pretty well, but some of the middle episodes were pretty slow and unimaginative. It picked up around Episode 14-15, and ever since then the tension is mounting and my adrenaline has been flowing faster and faster. I hope tonight will do the show the justice it deserves, and at least closes the door on this season and doesn't seem like a teaser for the possibility of "24 Movie". 
All the speculation of what will happen to these shows after the leave their current slots and networks aside, I believe this to be one of the most historic nights in television history, up there with the end of MASH and the Fugitive, although it will never receive as many viewings. I just hope that these two brilliant and excellent shows get the finales they deserve, something that will leave fans of both wanting more, and regretting that the end has come. What do you think?    


The Video Game Publishing Parody

I was watching the Call of Duty Black Opps trailer again today, because the first time I saw it, it intrigued me a bit, because it looked like for the first time in Treyarch's stabs at Call of Duty, they were trying something different with the mechanics and story telling. As the trailer finished I saw the release date appear. 11. 9. 10. I said wow, Activision already knows the release date nearly 6 months in advanced. I was thinking, why couldn't Blizzard have done that for Starcraft II. Blizzzard waited till May to announce a july release date.   So I said, "It'd be really great if Blizzard could learn from Activision." Then it suddenly hit me........Blizzard and Activision are the same company. 
WTF is this? Am I the only one who thinks this is messed up....?


What's Next for Blizzard?

With Blizzard shelling two games out in the same year for the first time in the company's history, and with Diablo III probably coming out next year. What's next for Blizzard? We know that they'll work on the SCII HoS and LoV expansions, but what about the WoW team. Will they make another WoW, or will they go back and make a Warcraft 4? I mean I could really see them doing it. 
As I play the  starcraft II beta I realize how brilliant and talented Blizzard really is as a developer. They are masters at their craft. As most of you know, I am a huge SC fan, and highly anticipating SCII, but I was  never more engrossed or attached to any game (MW2 included), than I was to Warcraft III and Warcraft III TFT. Those were the times where I spent my early Middle School years on the Computer till 11 at night and I'd wake up at 6 in the morning to play it some more. Although now being a teenager I could never do that....I need my sleep. 
Warcraft 3 did everything right. It looked good, it ran well, it never had any problems, the balance of the 4 races was truly mind blowing, the voice acting was superb, the campaign was engrossing and compelling, the game-play flawless as it combined RTS and RPG elements, and it was years ahead of its time in terms of its multi-player. The matchmaking system that that game had back then rivals MW2's now, and SCII is even better than MW2's. I realize comparing Warcraft 3 to MW 2 is like comparing apples to oranges, but...they're both fruit. Warcraft 3 was my favorite game of all time, followed closely by Half Life 2 and Starcraft, and today I was urged to watch Greg Kasavin's Gamespot review on Warcraft 3 from like 8 years ago, and watching it really made me want a really badly. I know that Blizzard's got three teams working hard, on WoW Catyclsim , SCII and Diablo III, but they'll have one team to work with and I hope to God they make a Warcraft 4....
So who thinks its possible?


The story of a starcraft lover...

   As many of you giantbombers know, I have been waiting for Starcraft 2 for like...forever, and every year it seems that I'm disappointed by the fact that Bilzzard, as usual, has miscalculated the timeframe for their release date. But i am almost certain that this Summer will be the time that my ultimate video game wish gets fufilled. 
What makes me like Starcraft so much?
Well Starcraft and Starcraft: Brood War, were the reasons I began gaming, and hold the spot in my heart as the number one games of all time (followed closely by MW 2, Half Life 2 , and Mass Effect 2. My neighbor had gotten SC on its release date back in 1998, and then got another copy for Christmas, and being the nice neighbor he is, gave me the extra copy for free. I eventually got around to playing it, and was truly amazed at how much fun video games could be. Now mind you, I was pretty young, so I had to rely a lot on "poweroverwhelimg" &"blacksheepwall" to get me through my campaign missions. I made sure to get Brood War right when it came out, and loved it just as much. I began delving into the Multiplayer, quickly realizing that I was only good with Cheats. I became better and addicited as the 2000s rolled around. By 2002 I was pretty damn good for someone my age, and had gotten my way into a good clan. Then in July of 2002 Warcraft 3 came out, which I fell just as much in love with, and then of course Warcraft 3: TFT, which was one of the greatest games my opinion. When my interne was out for a while in 2004, I would just go right back to playing the SC campaigns realizing that Blizzard couldn't have made a better game. I lost my copy of Warcraft III and never felt like buying it again, since Starcraft was so great. I continued to play SC reguarly until around 2007 when I got a 360, and  became a COD MW lover. I still come back to Starcraft, which I have been doing  in preparation for the awesomeness that awaits me in Wings of Liberty.
Why do I think Starcraft II will be so amazing?
 First off, it's been 10 years in the making, so it has to be good. But why do I think it will be great. Because Blizzard has yet to fail anyone. They may take half generation to make a game, but in the end, it always seems to be worth it. From what they have show, the technical aspects seem quite astounding and perfected. The story is always excellent, and is unparralled in its amazingness. I could see myself getting more addicted to Starcraft 2 than I was to Starcraft or Warcraft III, and maybe even MW2....
So yeah. after seeing that the collector's edition had been announced, I realized with a sense of joy I've rarely ever had in my life, that my long awaited wish will soon be filled.
Thanks for reading.
Get Starcraft 2
God Bless
Happy Gaming


Is Mass Effect 2 already this years GOTY???

Well I think so. I  haven't beaten it yet, I'm about a third to halfway through, and I have to say, Bioware pulls off some really amazing things in this game. The visuals are out of this world, and the combat improvements are really mindblowing. The little technical issues no longer peeve me, and the story is better and more personal than any other game i've ever played. The choices you made in the first game really have a huge impact in the second game. I haven't finished it, but so far it is a definite contender for my GOTY 
What do you think
That is until I play Starcraft 2, which looks mindblowing...