Archive for Bioware owns my soul

Adventures in old Bioware games

Posted in Games, Science fiction with tags , , on January 6, 2013 by Cara Marie

After being coopted into a Star Wars marathon for new year’s, I’ve started playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This is an older Bioware game (2003), which I had yet to get round to.

It’s interesting to see how things have evolved since KOTOR was released. For one thing, its D&D origins are much more transparent. I can play Dragon Age and not think about the numbers behind the scenes. I play KOTOR and I can see that, oh, this weapon is a 1d6, and it crits on 2×20. Or this is a cross-class skill, so it costs more than the others.

It’s only in the last year that I’ve played D&D. I wonder how much sense things like the crit number would have made to me before then?

The other thing that makes me aware of the game’s age is how frustratingly far apart the auto-saves are. I expect my games to save after a boss battle or similar sort of achievement! Especially if it’s going to lead almost immediately to something else I might die in. Because chances are I will.

But some things haven’t changed: the first companion you get is still voiced by Raphael Sbarge. He voiced Kaiden, who was my Shepard’s love interest in Mass Effect. And Carth in KOTOR sounds pretty much the same. Which means I keep calling him ‘Kaiden’ when I talk to my computer screen. And I put up with a lot more of his, ‘look, you can’t trust anyone’ angst than I otherwise might!

On the other hand, there’s another companion who has the same voice actor as Commander Shepard, and they sound completely different! I don’t think I would have realised if I hadn’t already known. (When I say the same VA as Shepard, I mean Jennifer Hale. The voice of the one true Shepard. Not that dude they have on the cover.)

Part of it is that Bastila, your KOTOR companion, has a British accent, and Shepard does not. But even aside from that, their voices are distinctive. Bastila has a softer, breathier voice. Shepard’s is stronger, more authoritative – maybe that second part is more how the dialogue is expressed, I don’t know. But I could never get the two of them confused.

Storywise, I’m enjoying the game thus far – certainly more than I enjoy the actual Star Wars movies /bad sci-fi nerd. My favourite companion at this point is Mission, who’s a teenage girl, with a convincingly teenaged view of things. She and Carth have some pretty entertaining conversations. I like it when my companions argue with one another, but I like it best when they end up getting along.

Moral choices and Mass Effect

Posted in Games, Science fiction with tags , on April 3, 2012 by Cara Marie

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Playing the past

Posted in Action/adventure, Fantasy, Games with tags , on April 21, 2011 by Cara Marie

I finished Dragon Age: Awakenings last night, which is a bit backwards of me, I know. Hurrah for happy endings! It’s quite satisfying to get your epilogue come up with, ‘And you were awesome, and your Arling was awesome, and your Keep was awesome, dwarven architecture is awesome, all your companions were awesome, except maybe the one you picked up at the last minute, she went off and died.’ We’ll ignore the part where it tried to tell me Deve’s true love was Alistair. Nu-uh. Zevran all the way ♥

The epilogue was especially a relief because I’d looked at the Codex while off hunting the Mother, and all the character entries for people I’d left at the Keep said they’d died D: I thought, I built those walls for nothing? And was so distressed I had to get a cup of tea.

But no, happy ending!

I do prefer the framing device around Dragon Age II. The possibility for lies allows for future games in a way the straight epilogue doesn’t … I’m looking at you, Anders. Although I’m not sad that DAII happened to him. (I am a little confused as to how he possibly could have got to Kirkwall in time to meet Hawke.)

It’s funny, in my second playthrough of DAII I decided to romance Anders so I could have an even more traumatic ending … except I played a mage, so it was actually more triumphant? There was a moment after he blew up the Chantry when I thought, oh god, I could have talked them down! But then I thought about it, and was like, well, it would only happen again next week. Anders is right, down with the Chantry! (Sorry, Sebastian, I’m not going to kill my lover just ’cause you’re not down with the revolution.)

Having gone back to an earlier game, it now clicks why people were so frustrated with the recycled layouts. Awakenings has so many excellent, different settings, more moments of visual gorgeousness/creepiness. But on the other hand, DAII is way easier for me to navigate. Less realistic, maybe, but I like not getting lost, so it’s an acceptable trade-off.

Playing Awakenings also reiterated for me the joy of having a voiced PC. I kept feeling like I should be reading the dialogue out … Voicing means the timing’s better, you get a better sense of character, you get little asides and comments where player choice isn’t necessary … the Warden comes across as a taciturn person, who never even goes ‘huh’ to anything. Even if her dialogue is that of a persuasive, charming person.

This is the Warden I used for my latest DAII run-through (and because Zevran showed up in the battle against Meredith!) so I now have a bunch of head-canon where Hawke and her buddies hop on a boat with Zevran and seek refuge in Amaranthine. Read more »

Justice does not approve of my obsession with you

Posted in Action/adventure, Fantasy, Games with tags , on April 9, 2011 by Cara Marie

After I made a distressed facebook update re: my completion of Dragon Age II, one of my friends asked whether my reaction was due to the no-win plot, or just because the game was nowhere near as awesome as Dragon Age: Origins.

Well, the no-win plot. But also I’m not sure that it’s not as awesome as the first game. I said I was willing to forgive a lot on account of not having to trek through the Deep Roads for hours on ends, and that’s part of it: even though Origins wasn’t actually any longer, I think maybe each quest required more time investment. II cut down on all that trekking, and that makes it way more replayable, for me.

I mean, I was so distressed about the ending I decided I had to replay it immediately so that I could romance Anders and get even more heartbroken. And then I actually did. And now I’m halfway through, and that’s the farthest I’ve ever got in a replay of an RPG! And I’m looking forward to getting it back to it. And I’m getting different things out of it. (And I haven’t even started my pro-Templar playthough!)

The two games are quite different experiences, and maybe Origins is more suited to the word ‘awesome’, but I feel like II actually offers me more. It’s the book I have to reread immediately, not in another couple of years.

When I mentioned to my friends last month that I was looking forward to Dragon Age II, S said that he’d heard it was bad. And I was a bit D: because, why would you tell me that? But also, not true. I was excited about this game then, and now I’ve finished it, I’m still excited about it.

II is another step closer to my ultimate game, the game that will eat my soul and keep me trapped in my room forever. And I just know that’s going to be a Bioware game. I swear, one day I will finish an RPG by another company! Just not any day soon. I’ve got another playthrough to finish :D

Finishing Dragon Age II

Posted in Action/adventure, Fantasy, Games with tags , on April 5, 2011 by Cara Marie

I made an epic effort last night, and finished Dragon Age II. My Hawke was definitely tired of it all by the end. Spoilers for the endgame

Where have I been?

Posted in Action/adventure, Comics, Fantasy, Games, Manga, Science fiction with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2011 by Cara Marie

Today is my first day off after seventeen days of work. Finally! I will be happy never to do that again.

Most of my free time has been spent playing Dragon Age II, which I am enjoying – I don’t think it’s as strong as the first game, but it’s fun. I’m glad they went for a fully voiced PC for this one. I just don’t feel like the PC is actually a character when they’re the only one who’s not voiced. It really bothered me in the first game when Alistair was giving big speeches that ought to have been mine to give.

It’s been quite rambling so far – I know the cut scenes with Varric are meant to imply an overarching plot, but I’m not seeing it in the gameplay yet. Merrill is my favourite of the companions; she’s just so adorable and bloodthirsty. Her conversations with people crack me up, I need her with me all the time just for that. Also because my PC is a rogue, but I feel way more useful in battle if I’m controlling a mage, and she’s the one with the best attacks.

I’m actually playing on normal this time, I’m so impressed with myself.

The other thing I have made time for is reading A Distant Soil. I had been going to spread it out more, but after I read the second volume, I had to read three and four in a rush. It feels to me like Colleen Doran must have enjoyed exactly the same things as I did as a girl : epic shoujo manga, Elfquest, Anne McCaffrey and Tanith Lee. It has the same id-appeal.  And the art is absolutely gorgeous.

Speaking of ridiculously girly comics, I am one of those people who is really excited that Kodansha is going to be bringing Sailor Moon out in English again. Sailor Moon is one of the things that got me into comics in the first place. I never got to read the whole series, on account of when the Tokyopop editions were still in print, I was too young to have the money to buy it all. I’m so looking forward to these releases – I might own them already in Japanese, but that doesn’t do me much good :D

Mass Effect 2 is eating all my time

Posted in Games, Science fiction with tags , on February 2, 2010 by Cara Marie

I have a big vid review post planned, but alas, Mass Effect 2 is out, and that means I produce nothing. Yes, I am enjoying it ♥

It’s structured quite differently from the first game, or from Dragon Age – instead of having a few big epic missions with lots of little tasks interspersed, you have many, shorter missions, recruiting your companions and ensuring their loyalty, plus the compulsory ones that move the main plot forward. Which I like – you can play in smaller doses and actually feel like you’ve achieved something. Plus it means lots of hanging out on your awesome ship. Which is good, except when you forget to feed your fish and they die D:

I’ve played through the loyalty missions for Miranda and Jack so far, obviously because I care more about the girls than the boys. They tend to be the ones I take with me too. When you get your characters loyal, you unlock an extra outfit, and I find it quite amusing that the unlockable outfit for Jack is less revealing than her usual costume. Not that that’s hard. You have to help her blow up the cell she grew up in, then you can tell her to put on a goddamn vest. (Except I then decided I preferred no vest. Why would you want to cover up those tattoos, pssh.)

So, lots of fun. Being Commander Shepard is still awesome, ILU game.

I have now finished two RPGs in my life

Posted in Games with tags , on December 2, 2009 by Cara Marie

After some 50 hours of gameplay, I have finished Dragon Age. Go me!

Spoilerish ramblings

Current obsession: Dragon Age

Posted in Books, Games with tags , , , on November 20, 2009 by Cara Marie

I fear, sweet internet, that I have been remiss. I have been showering my attention on someone else, letting them keep me up to the wee small hours. It’s okay; I know you’re not languishing without me. If anything, I’ll be the one to regret my affair.

It’s like this, see. Bioware has a new game out. You know, the company who proved it was possible for me to finish a game that wasn’t a simulator alone? That I could play a fight in real time and not freak out?

Okay, so, it was my sister who bought Dragon Age, but I’m the one with the most play time. (She was playing when I got home today, and wasn’t very amused when I asked if she was trying to beat me.) It’s an epic fantasy game, which isn’t anything new, and there’s lots of options for how you can play it, lots of different stories you can get out of it. I am determined though to finish this first playthrough before trying out another!

Probably one of the most impressive things for me is that someone’s made a game where I actually enjoy the combat. Admittedly, I’m playing on easy, but it makes me feel as if I’d like to make things more challenging on myself. Usually real-time combat freaks me out (either that or I go for button mashing – me and button combinations don’t mix), but turn-based combat is boring. Wandering through landscapes having random monsters attack you isn’t that exciting, and Dragon Age cuts most of that out, for which I am grateful.*

I enjoy the interaction with the companions, although I am not impressed with when Leilani starts talking about shoes! My favourite is probably Shale, who is a sarcastic golem and likes to talk about bashing people’s heads in. Hundreds of years frozen in the middle of a village square has left her very unimpressed with humanity. Also pigeons. She especially loathes pigeons.

I don’t enjoy having to make bad decisions :( I suspect there will be tears before the game’s out.

When I haven’t been playing, I’ve been rereading Wizard of the Grove, which is pretty much my standard for epic fantasy (no wonder I don’t usually bother with the genre). It was kind of interesting reading it again as an adult – things I pick up on that I didn’t before, the bits I remember and the bits I didn’t, which scenes are hotter… They are an awesome pair of books. I think I will have to go finish her Quarters series next.

I am also waiting for Karin Lowachee’s first book to arrive, as I really enjoyed Burndive (they’re related books, but I don’t believe the order matters). Even though not an awful lot actually happens – it happens in really character building ways? (I wouldn’t be surprised if the author had come out of fandom, actually, because that book is really slashy.) I do wish there had been more female characters. Also less blonde people. It’s like watching Shortland St – every second person is not blonde! Really!

Anyway, my sister’s downstairs now for Rove, so I will be sneaking up to put in a few more hours game time. Ha, I’ll make a proper gamer yet.

*See also, when I played Oblivion and went off the roads and ended up taking a much more direct route to what was supposed to be a pretty far off goal, so that when I got there, it was way too hard and I had to run away screaming. I think I did pretty well before that, considering.

Another reason Mass Effect is my favourite

Posted in Games with tags , , on April 10, 2009 by Cara Marie

I’m playing Oblivion at the moment.  I’m enjoying it – except the bit about being poor (I want to get to the part where I can buy a house!) and also the bit where I kept dying.  Also, the more I play it, the more I realise how well-designed a game Mass Effect is.

I don’t know for sure that it was deliberate, of course.  But why else the long elevator scenes, the decontamination period before you got on your ship?  Maybe some people find it annoying, but I thought it was brilliant.  Mass Effect has built-in wristbreaks!

Oblivion, on the other hand, does not.  If I want to make sure my hands do not die, I have to keep track of time myself.  With Mass Effect I didn’t worry about it; there were enough cut scenes and things where I could flop and not have to distract myself from the game.

Right.  Off to save the city and earn myself some moolah… just hopefully not for too long all at once.

ETA: And then my sister told me that they didn’t do it just for me, it was just disguises for loading pages. But regular, predictable loading pages that were actually integrated with the story! So still superior.