Quick Review: Dragon Age Inquisition
Any long time reader of the blog here will know that I am a huge fan of Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise. Yes, despite the faults with both Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3, I am still a fan. Why? Bioware can weave a story like no other. Though, they ought to be careful, lots of indie companies and writers are coming out of left field with amazing stories and even more engrossing games. Consider the recent positive release of “The Evil Within” as just one example of amazing storytelling from the fantasy given folks over at Bethesda. Bethesda, personally, is not a game producer in which horror springs to me. Fantasy, yes. Terror induced nightmares, no. But they did it, and its all for the better because hopefully it’ll keep other game developers on their toes producing even better stories and games. However, we’re here to talk about Dragon Age Inquisition. So lets chat.
I was really excited about the release of Inquisition. Again, I love the series. I love creating my own custom hero and going forth on quests and dungeon raiding, and all that nerdy mess. As a writer, my medium is horror. I live and breath horror. So, fantasy games like Dragon Age allow me to step back and breath from fresh air before lunching back into the pit. So hopefully my now, you can imagine my excite with the release of a new installment. And there I was, Friday night, all to myself. Wife was out with friends. Kid was spending the night with grandma and grandpa. I was all alone!!! I insert the disk. Feet dancing away in delightful anticipation. And what do I get? I big oh 10-15 min. loading time. Apparently, without warning (thanks Bioware) the game will take up 7G’s of storage space. This wasn’t a problem for me, though not everyone has that much memory. So this is my first taste, after all the waiting, I have to wait some more. No big deal. Be patient, right? Okay…moving on.
To help clarify, I do not own an Xbox One. I’ve got the older sister, the Xbox 360. The Xbox One will be in the foreseeable future, but not yet. Not until I’m pretty much forced into forking over the hefty funds to purchase one. But with games, like Inquisition being offered on the 360, I feel like the change is not yet necessary. Or is it?
Dragon Age Inquisition is offered on a wide range of platforms, including my own 360 version. But maybe it shouldn’t have been. Let me explain. Once the loading time finally finished and I got to the game itself it became very apparent this was not the game I was sold. For the last Dragon Age that will be offered on the 360, no doubt, I expected something — more. The graphics will elementary. Plastic even. The custom options for your custom hero are languished, at best. When I heard you could add scars for your character, I got all nibbly bibbly! But when I went to look for it during my character creation slot, the scars were no where to be found… even worse, the beard option and hair options are equally despicable. You almost have to make your character as bland as toasted oats in order not to look unbearably manikin.
Look. I don’t want to sound like a sour apple. I have no idea if this game looks better on the next gen console than it does on the 360. But there are a lot of faults with this game. Mostly with the way it looks. The game play graphics, the sound effects, everything…its all weird, and, well, lazy looking. I feel, with the product that is in front of me, like Bioware rushed it out the door to meet the Holiday season, forgetting to do some coding with the 360 version. Hopefully, some of these issues can be resolved with some simple updates. I just pray they take the time to do them.
Okay. With everything I don’t like with this game, there’s a lot of it that I do like. The story, though choppy at first, is solid. I felt thrown into the mix without a narration. Okay Bioware, this is basic storytelling. You need a narration. Once I got my feet on the ground, the story started making more sense. And I am currently enjoying the game a lot more. The combat system is fun, much like the second game. The areas are massive. And the side quests are plentiful. Almost to the point where you’ll spend hours in just one area. The new details are also fun. Like with the War Room. I feel like I am actually playing the part of Inquisitor. Plenty of looting, despite the super small text font. There are plenty of new twists to the game to keep your interest. I am just into the very beginning of the game still, as I spent most of my weekend hanging out in Hinterlands. I eventually had to walk away in order to experience more of what the game has to offer. I did get to watch a giant and a dragon duke it out on the coast and then was able to take down the giant. Just watch out for the flying boulders. The impact will kill your character. The options for strategy look impressive, though the party characters all ready come equipped with general combat common sense, which is good. Plus there is an added feature, the “run away!” approach. I had to use this Monty Python strategy a few times against annoying fade creatures.
I’d give this new installment 3 out of 5 stars. I was/am disappointed on how rushed the game looks. Again, my review here is for the 360. i pray the One version is cleaner. But the more I play Inquisition the more I like it. And no doubt my rating will go up to 4 out of 5 stars if only Bioware actually puts out a patch and update all the messy glitches. If you have not yet purchased the game, you may want to wait and see if Bioware actually does put out a patch. Or, if are a hardcore Dragon Age fan and do not want to wait and can put up with mediocre graphics, then by all means. As I said, the game is growing on me, though it shouldn’t have to and if this was any other game from any other production company, I may have returned to sender! In summary, the graphics need major improvements, as well as the glitches; while, the story and combat systems are impressive.
Batman Arkham Origins & the Symphony of Emotion
October is crawling. The anticipation of both Halloween and the release of Batman: Arkham Origins is almost too much! While Halloween is easily sedated by simply screening the many wonders of horror and spooktacular films, like: The Thing, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Frankenstein, and so on; but, what can be done to quench our unsteady nerves as we wait and wait and wait, as it seems, for Origins’ release? Besides playing one of the two predecessors, Asylum or City, the only thing left is to tediously scourge and watch as many YouTube videos as we can muster. Such as the below video from RobotGamer1HD:
Which isn’t half bad. Here, we at least get a look at some of the game play. What did you think? Awesome, right?!? Seriously, thinking back when Arkham Asylum was first released, who would have thought the game (before you played) was going to be so amazing? The greatest part was being able to put ourselves into the story and from the very get-go, was so pleasantly surprised how much the game did not suck. How being competed wasn’t a complete waste of time (cough-cough Mass Effect 3). One of the most clever parts with this new generation of Batman games…and yes, clever, are the stories, the little tugs on our emotional heart strings, pulling us deeper into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and making us a part of his world: from the Asylum, being dosed with Scarecrows toxin and subjected to nightmarish flash backs of when mommy and daddy got shot, and with Arkham City, when Wayne’s very life was on the line through the entire game, the poison within slowly eating away on our insides. Plus, plenty of action to make the game masculine enough to call ourselves men (or ladies, whatever the case may be)! Here is one of the newest clips for the upcoming Batman release:
While there isn’t any actual game play; the story is very much alive in this just shy of a minute TV spot. Here we see the catalyst for Batman’s existence. Besides the original CGI Origin video released several months ago, this particle clip is my next favorite. Why? Sure, its rather simple and also rather short. Where you don’t see much; you feel plenty: the raw energy of vengeance being transformed into something greater, something criminals would fear and victims hope. The reason why so many of us nerds love the series and are, again, excited to don the mantle of masked vigilante and take part in one the greatest story arcs yet created.
Batman: Arkham Origins releases in just over a week! Oct 25, 2013…
Will there be a new Mass Effect?
Its been well over a year now and many of us (nerds) have already been asking for sometime now: “Where oh where has my Mass Effect gone?” The buzz on the web has both confirmed and non-confirmed the fate of the Mass Effect franchise. From what i’ve gathered, it doesn’t seem as if BioWare (at this point and time) has any plans on continuing the series. One rumor floating around is that they are actually planning on crafting an entirely new space odyssey. Why? Because the ending of Mass Effect 3 was so confusing and drastic they had to add a free DLC to help explain what happened. Plus, the two out of the three “choose you’re own adventure” ending didn’t help matters…leaving the future of the organic races in the Mass Effect universe questionable. Obviously, plenty O’ gamer became ticked that the series they had been following from the beginning and all the choices they labored over actually didn’t matter in the end. But does this really mean BioWare couldn’t continue the series? Absolutely not and i’ll tell you why.
For one, just because M3 gave the player the option of three different endings doesn’t mean a new Mass Effect game couldn’t pre-select one ending as the foundation to base a continuation from. Basically, in my proposal for a new Mass Effect game, i’m cutting out the two dumbest endings: synthesis and control. Personally, after everything Shepard and his (or her) team had gone through, and the juxtaposed relationship between the Reapers and everyone else (minus the Geth), the only rational ending would be Destruction. Why? I’m glad you asked! The Reapers were (supposedly) immortal amoral beings whose sole purpose was to protect the galaxy by keeping organic life in a drastic cycle of checks and balances…IE exterminating all organic life once they reached a certain point of evolution. The Reapers wanted to keep organic life from destroying the galaxy, which they saw as an inevitable probability, unless advanced organic life could be kept in check through extermination. This is the nuts and bolts of the story, as i’ve understood it.
So, again, why choose the Destruction ending as the foundation? The problem with amoral beings is that they cannot take change into account. Shepard faced similar arguments with the Reaper known as Sovereign, who explained to Shepard during their conversation that the Reapers “impose order on the chaos of organic evolution. You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.” According to the in-game history, the Reapers had already gone through several cycles of extermination. We don’t know how many. But we do know the Prothean’s were the last dominate organic life before what now exists (humanity, Asari, Turians, Krogans, Salarians, Quarians, and many more). Without getting into a huge long drawn out discussion, let me be frank and just say that the biggest difference between the Prothean’s and the modern races was that the Prothean’s were not a peaceful race. They controlled power through a tyrannical government and were reportedly very oppressive to the other races during their time. So much so, we never even hear about the other guys. What little information exists in the game regarding the old races are simply about the Prothean’s with little mention of anyone else. The modern races, represented in the Council and through Shepard’s efforts, while not perfect, made the effort to work together, even more so in the third installment. The Reapers ignored the diplomatic change in civilization.
Convincing an amoral being that you’re not going to ruin the galaxy for everyone else is nearly impossible. In their eyes, organic life is organic life, and must be kept in check. This is why the Reapers should have been Destroyed. My proposal is built from the following ending captured beautifully in Admiral Hackett’s narrative:
A solid Mass Effect game could definitely spring board based on the above ending. The new game should start in the near future, say ten years or so from the events that took place during M3. Why ten years? I think ten years gives a good enough time to allow the worlds damaged during the Reaper invasion to rebuild. Cities could be rebuilt in that time frame, memorials, museums, and military strength as well. The Mass Relays could also be repaired and a new Citadel Council could be established with added races that helped during the war. I would include a Krogan and Quarian representative on the council for obvious reasons. Would the Quarians be “unmasked” now that they have a home world and could stop being vagabond germaphobes? I’ll leave this bit open for debate. It would be interesting to see how the Quarians assimilated into a more broad society.The Krogans would also make for an interesting addition among the civilized galactic community, and they have most definitely earned their place on the council. The Geth should still be on the fringe. Some things cannot be healed with time and the Geth are unpredictable. I would imagine folks surviving the war with the Reapers would have some hostilities toward sentient beings.
More details could be added regarding the other races not included on the Council and some detail needs to be relieved regarding the destiny of past characters. These folks do not need to make a cameo, but the importance of their role in shaping the future cannot be ignored. I think a memorial for Shepard, Anderson, and the Normandy should be a visitable location on Earth in any future Mass Effect game. The one aspect of the previous games they must continue on into any future game is the music, especially from the first game. If your not sure what i’m talking about, check it out below:
My proposal for the hero is to have a full fledged Spectre story! As “Spectres are not trained, but chosen. Individuals forged in the fire of service and battle—those whose actions elevate them above the rank and file,” the Reaper Invasion would have forged many new recruits across several worlds. The best part in doing a spectre story is being able to craft a hero based off a multinational foundation: the spectre’s work for the council and using the back story similar to the one above, you could create a character from the six council represented races. Could you imagine having a playable Krogan character?!? Mind = blown!
This would also be similar to the way BioWare has established some of their other games in the past. This story would be set up similar to Dragon Age: Origins. Each race would have their own origin story which would then funnel into the main spectre story. You could go as detailed as you wanted. Similar to DA, each race would be better suited for different specializations, such as: a Krogan would not be adept, but would be a dangerous solider. Salarians or Quarians would make great engineers, Asari lethal adept or infiltrators, and humans could play toward a more versatile character.
I’m not sure where the story would lead, but considering the vacuum the Reapers left in their wake, there could be plenty of options to choose from. One could be about Cerberus in the aftermath of the Illusive Man’s death. A company that big and shady wouldn’t go quietly into the night. The Batarian’s could also be a good major story, especially considering they no longer have a home world and are struggling to find their place in the galaxy. The Reapers left plenty of scars to base future story’s on and whatever direction BioWare decides to take with it, they will need to be more down to earth than with the original trilogy. The worlds end doesn’t necessarily need to be a factor in every story told and after the events of M3, i’d prefer something a little more mundane. We just saved the entire galaxy; lets work on maintaining the promise of galactic unity.
Whatever happens, we know that Shepard’s story has ended, but the entire Mass Effect lexicon shouldn’t have to end as well. BioWare scribes have spent some considerable amount of time crafting Mass Effect’s rich universe and there are still many things left unexplored. And to be honest, another reason why i’d hate to see this series end is that Mass Effect is as close to a Star Wars console game we’re going to get. The “force lift” and “push” make the adept character the most enjoyable playable class in Mass Effect, hands down!!! For now, the best we (nerds) have to look forward to is the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Inquisition. After that….just maybe we’ll get our next Mass Effect game. Fantasy is great and it has its place in time, but Mass Effect was a truly unique space odyssey.
The Birth of the Worlds Greatest Detective
April 9, 2013, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced the upcoming release of Batman: Arkham Origins, ushering a third installment in an amazing franchise. This begs the question: can Warner Bros. Montreal (the new developer) deliver? Games are always intended to be linear; getting better with time. However, most of us gamers known all too well that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes things just go bad. Back in 2008, there was a lot of doubt surrounding how well Batman: Arkham Asylum would do. Superhero games are some of the hardest to pull off successfully. But oh Nelly!!! Asylum blew all our nerdy expectations out of the water! Still today, five years later, Asylum is very much re-playable and still very much enjoyable.
The same could be said of Arkham City, which released in 2011. The same voice acting carried over and was top notch for both Asylum and Arkham City, with Kevin Conroy as the caped crusader and legendary actor Mark Hamill as both the Joker and Scarface. The graphics were stunning. The combat smooth and nontechnical. And all the gadgets a budding detective would need in taking down Gotham’s villainy. The only thing missing for me in Arkham City was a continuation of the Killer Croc sub-story that had developed within the pits of Asylum’s sewer. I’m sure there have been other complaints, but for the most part its all nit-picky stuff, nothing fundamentally upsetting. The only thing really nagging me, regarding if Arkham Origins will rock, is that, as mentioned above, WB Montreal are taking the helm, instead of Rocksteady, who had developed the two previous games.
According to Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment website, “Batman: Arkham Origins features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline occurring several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. Taking place before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous villains and assassins, the game showcases a young, raw, unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, witness identities being formed and key relationships being forged.” Thus far, all the press releases following the announcement for Arkham Origins, makes everything seem very hopeful that the game will be one of the best, maybe even perhaps better than Asylum (big maybe).
Some of the new features in the game include new enemies, such as: the Enforcer and a more nimble martial arts experts. The Enforce is as it sounds, a tank, who will need to be dazed and then dearmored by a special attack move before they can be hurt. The latter is more agile foe, with blocks, evades and counterattacks, prompting the Dark Knight to switch tactics more vigorously between all the different enemy types. The new gadgets seem to involve a deeper level of detective play, such as: recreating a 3D crime scene. There are also some new interesting ways of taking down goons, such as with the remote claw, allowing players to aim between two different targets. The new story looks even deeper than the previous two games, with the Black Mask set as the main antagonist. Not much else has really been said regarding all the new features, though I’m sure there will be a few more announcements sometime soon. The trailer/short film recently released showcases some of the games visuals, as well as some of the subtext that will carry the mood of the game. If you haven’t yet watched it (where have you been?), check it out below:
Batman: Arkham Origins is set to release October 25th, 2013.
Dead Space Goes Fan Fiction
Few games have ever truly terrified me. Dead Space, however, has proved to be one of those games in the long history of survivor horror in which I was really, honestly, unequivocally freaked out. Sure, the twisted forms in the fog lands of Silent Hill and those cute little dobermans jumping through the looking glass in Resident Evil (Directors Cut) were both frightening, in their own time. But those scares are trivial compared to Dead Space, the only game I dreaded playing with the lights off, but in some strange way, couldn’t help but to play in the dark. The following film was produced by fans of the series. This honestly proves that a live action film could and would work. Can you imagine if Carpenter or Barker or even Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead reboot) got their creepy little hands on this franchise? Mind = Blown!