Category: Featured

Star Wars: The Old Republic: A Sith Warrior’s Tale

No High Scores

If you’ve been listening to the podcast you know I’ve developed a certain fascination with the Sith Warrior character I’m soloing in The Old Republic. You are hereby warned – I’m about to, like, totally geek out and stuff. (Modest spoilers to follow as well.)

In the movies the whole light side – dark side thing is fairly simplistic. Good. Evil. Kittens. Spiders. You get the idea. Jedi are about peace and passiveness. Sith are about anger and hate. I can’t speak for the Star Wars novels, but in the original Knights of the Old Republic Bioware spent a bit more time exploring the idea of what it was to be a Jedi and what it was to be a Sith. The notion that seems to have been settled therein is that Sith ideology is about using emotion to fuel their power over The Force. Jedi use zen-like detachment. Again, this could be canon for all I know. Maybe the comics or the books deal with it, but kudos to Bioware if it’s their idea because I find this a fascinating angle to the two sides for how it gives the Sith more nuance than, “I like power and killing. Grrrr!”

My hope, since buying The Old Republic, is that they’d go further in exploring this idea. I truly didn’t expect much and there’s an extent to which I think how they’ve handled it has wasted some of the inherent potential of fallen Jedi and redeemed Sith (maybe; got a long way still to go), but they’ve gone much further down this road than I ever expected and I think that’s pretty cool. With the premise established, let’s talk about what it is to be a Sith in The Old Republic…

The Delight and Deceit of Skyrim

No High Scores

Okay, so, Skyrim. A couple days ago Mike had like 24 hours in the game, so by now he’s probably got 112. I am not Mike. I have about four hours. I know – winning. That does not, however, mean I don’t have some impressions to pass on. Consider my contributions to NHS’s Skyrim lore the leisurely tourist’s guide.

First off, my thanks to the approximately 153 of you who kindly pointed out the No Spiders mod. It looks absolutely ridiculous the way the giant frozen in time bear drops onto the screen. Combat with it is rough because you can’t really tell when you’re being hit. It’s a still image that just sort of drifts around the screen. And the sounds… oh that sound is still ever so creepy. But, I’m getting killed by a statuesque bear and not a malicious eight-legged freak, and that’s all gravy with me. (I’ve been telling people I was going to tough out the spider phobia thing with this game, but that lasted up to the point that I cut through my first set of webs. Then I thought, “Why am I doing this to myself?”)

So, here’s the thing: As I noted on the podcast, I really couldn’t get myself particularly excited for Skyrim. The last of these games I really, truly devoted hours and hours to was Daggerfall. Something with first person fantasy RPGs just doesn’t grab me, even though there’s a whole lot of stuff about these games I should like. It’s not like I’m Bill where I have a strong preference for low fantasy. I love me some high fantasy, but somewhere along the way I lost interest in seeing myself wave a semi-disembodied ax around in front of me. Skyrim hasn’t changed the book on that. I still don’t care for the melee combat in the game and, believe it or not, it’s making me nostalgic for the combat in Demon’s Souls. Truly, you put the combat controls from that game in Skyrim and I suspect I’d view it very differently.

That does not mean, however, that I’m not starting to dig the cut of this game’s jib. Read on…

Of Maps and Manuals

No High Scores

Back in the days of yore (2008) Bill and I had another blog, The Nut and the Feisty Weasel, where I once penned a missive bemoaning the lack of cool game manuals and pack-ins, most notably cloth maps. I still miss creative, immersive manuals like those included with Starflight and Mechwarrior 2, so it was with great admiration this morning that, while catching up on RPS content, I came across Adam Smith’s piece, “Fantastic Cartography: Memories and Maps.” It’s a terrific post and you should go read it. There’s one spot, in particular, where I think Smith absolutely nails what’s missing from even today’s collector’s edition game contents:

When it came to exciting extras, Infocom were the kings. The Lurking Horror was a good one. The player is a student at G.U.E. Tech, which has a great deal in common with Lovecraft’s Miskatonic. Inside the box, my excited boyish eyes discovered a student ID card, a guide to the campus and, horror of horrors, a rubber centipede! It’s easy to mock but it was genuinely exciting, not only because owning things was still quite novel for me back then, but because it was an attempt, no matter how crude, to make imaginary worlds easier to believe in.

There’s one physical object that came to define the area around my computer desk though. Not tiny figurines, as with many of my friends. They’ve never interested me particularly because they have an opposite effect to the Lurking Horror’s student ID card. Figurines highlight the imaginary nature of the world. If I am holding a statuette of the player character, no matter how finely crafted, it serves to emphasise that the people of that world are collectible objects in the real world. It places me, as the player and collector, in a different relationship with the game world and it’s an entirely different sort of buzz to owning things that appear to be from that game world.

I can’t tell you how much I wish I had written that. It’s perfect. Art books and making of DVDs are okay, I guess. Little figurines too. But as I wrote back in ’08, I miss the production value of physical content that helped immerse me in the game and its world the way Ultima V’s journal of Lord British’s doomed Underworld expedition made me so eager to dive into and become a part of that game’s world. Much of what today’s collector’s editions offer doesn’t accomplish that.

Dissecting Deus Ex: Going Out with a Whimper

No High Scores

Alright, so after a thousand words or two about Deux Ex’s final act, I’ve barely even mentioned Hugh Darrow or The Decision you have to make in the final moments. That’s where we’re picking up with this installment, because the ending in this game didn’t have to be a letdown of epic proportions. It is, though. Very much so.

I’ll again point out for the record that even though I’m about to do my level best to eviscerate the ending, this is still nothing short of a B+ level game. I like it. It’s ever so close to greatness and I absolutely want Eidos Montreal to do another one. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t spend the time on it. Yadda, yadda. Also, as with the first installment, this post is absolutely spoilerific, so if you haven’t finished and don’t want to know how it all ends, go no further. For the rest of you, let’s go wreck this game…

Dissecting Deus Ex: Missing the Human in Human Revolution

No High Scores

I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution Sunday night, which makes me the last “critic” on the planet to have done so and the rep on the game is pretty spot on: It’s an, at times, amazing piece of work that loses momentum through a bog standard final third of the game that then runs right off the rails with an outright miserable ending. By the time all is said and done I didn’t really know what was happening anymore, nor did I care to find out, and when the ultimate choice is laid before me I couldn’t have cared less what choice I made.

This is the point where I point out that, if I don’t like a game, I’m not going to write this much about it. I like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. A lot. I also think it’s a game that merits discussion; one loaded with dissenting opinions. So let’s get it rolling here by talking about the boss battles and how the ending lets down the promise of some of the principle characters. I’ve got another post drafted on the actual ending itself, but this is long enough that I don’t want to jam it in here. I’ll get that up int he next couple days.

Important: I’m not going out of my way to avoid spoilers in this one, so if you read past the break, keep that in mind…