A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Baldur’s Gate

Post-Apocalyptic Beginnings – Fallout 3

So yesterday I finally knuckled under and purchased Fallout 3 on Steam. I’d previously played and beaten Fallout and Fallout 2 (although I much prefer Fallout since I know that game pretty darn well) and I’d forgotten one thing: the moment I leave the comfort of the starting zone, I’m totally and completely lost. Like, seriously lost. If it wasn’t for the compass on the bottom left of the screen, I would’ve probably died to sunstroke or something before finding a settlement. Okay, that’s an exaggeration since I’m better at games than I like to think I am.

Considering Fallout 3 has been out a while, I’m going to guess that no one minds a few spoilers, so here we go. I found the intro to the game to be pretty robust. I enjoyed the kind of on-the-rails gameplay in the Vault because it really did help to introduce me to the world and get familiar with the controls. I’m still struggling with first-person perspective, so I bounce between 3rd person and first a lot. Yay motion sickness!

Upon exiting the Vault my first time, I didn’t really notice the compass, so I just made my way out to the scenic outlook sign and took in the scenery, trying to figure out where this town called Megaton that’d I’d read about in the Overseer’s notes was. Eventually I made my way down to the road and hung a left, walking my way between the skeletal forms of single family homes and past a former gas station and being serenaded by a floating robot with speakers that talked with Malcom McDowell’s voice. Immediately I’m suspicious because, well, Admiral Tolwyn encourages such a thing from me.

Eventually I found signs pointing my way to Megaton and upon entering I stopped playing. It’s hard to not feel overwhelmed by the game. It’s the same sensation I got when playing Final Fantasy VII and I just left Midgard or Baldur’s Gate and I’d just left Candlekeep and Gorion was killed. There are plenty of fish-out-of-water situations, but the D.C. Area Wasteland is simultaneously covered in enemies and moderately familiar to me. It’s hard to tell which is dangerous: the enemies or my potentially useless area knowledge.

Anyway, in every fight thus far (not many) I’ve thanked God for the VATS system since I’m typically a horrible shot. More or less. Here’s hoping I don’t get in too much trouble as I play more.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Question 1; A frenzied vault scientist runs up to you and yells I’m gonna put my Quantum Harmoniser in your Photonic Resonation Chamber. What’s your response?” – Mr. Brotch during the G.O.A.T. test.

Deciding on a Game to Play

Now that I’ve finished my Bounty Hunter playthrough of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’ve been a little lost as to what to do next. I’ve got a lot of great recommendations from my viewers, but I’m torn. Here’s a few of the ideas for what to play next…

Planescape: Torment – brilliant idea. I’m just not sure if I’ll be able to put up with it long enough to beat it. I remember it being kind of hard. I’d be willing to buy this again.

Baldur’s Gate – also a great idea, but I’d have to buy it again and I’m not sure I’m willing to do that. I beat this back in the day.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – this time as a Male Jedi Knight or a Male Sith Inquisitor. That’s a great idea and extremely tempting, but there’s a spoiler concern I ignored when I did the Bounty Hunter that I’m feeling a lot more these days.

Mass Effect – this is another brilliant idea, but I would probably trim out all the side quests. Stick to primary story and stuff. I’d have to pay even more attention to what I was doing though because, well, things aren’t as clearly defined as they are in SWTOR. Hey, it’s either that or have a full 40-80 hours of gameplay put up on YouTube… and that’s just the FIRST game.

Lord of the Rings Online – not a bad thought, but I’m not willing to make a new character. I did the first part of the game TOO MANY TIMES. That’s my fault, but hey, that’s how it goes. If I do show anything, it’d just be me doing random things at level 66. I highly doubt that would be interesting.

The Secret World – I see the allure here of wanting to see a bit of Let’s Play here, but again, it’d be a spoiler issue AND I don’t own the game.

Civilization – Uh… no. *laughs*

Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition – I don’t like football enough, sorry.

Those are all the game requests. There was one for a series of snapshots of different games until Neverwinter comes out (uh, that’s going to be a while) and there was one request for reviews on books, shows, movies, etc. and that’s also a perfectly valid desire.

I’m leaning toward a couple of these and I’m far from making up my mind.  Maybe SWTOR, Torment, or some other game. Mostly I’m just thrilled that I have viewers that give a damn about what I put up. In the meantime? I guess I’ll talk to my camera.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “The difficulty in life is the choice.” – George Moore

New goals

Aloha everyone!

My intention for February is to post at least once a week on Mondays. So, expect to see something on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th.

In fact, this month I’m intending on doing a vlog-every-day kind of thing. This will force me to learn how to best use my camera and editing software and should get me in the habit of talking to my camera (which doesn’t seem TOO unhealthy). I won’t be talking about JUST games on the vlog, but expect a fair amount. I’m intending to post a video every day even if it’s about mostly nothing.

Further, I’ve set a few personal goals for the month (a little bit of working out mostly) for just health and comfort reasons. I still have my Saturday D&D game (the 5th is when we get back to playing) and my every-other-Sunday D&D game (we played this past Sunday and it was rather fun).

Speaking of D&D… we’ve been playing the Pathfinder system and it’s working out really well. We’ve got a couple of games going to accommodate attendance issues, so I’ve got a Summoner, a Fighter (heavy repeating crossbow), a Fighter (two-handed sword), and… that’s it. With the recent release of Psionics into the Pathfinder system, I’m intending on remaking my favorite 3.5 character, Juan Moore (Psychic Warrior). Further, I’m interested in trying out a gunslinger/rifleman when it gets out of playtesting and I’d like to try a healing Oracle (life mystery).

Also on the D&D front, when I was at my friend’s house where we play our Sunday game, I noticed a book lying amongst a pile of things he’d gotten from an acquaintance. This book was entitled Volo’s Guide to the Dalelands and was released in 1996 as a supplement to AD&D Forgotten Realms by Ed Greenwood. I snatched it up and borrowed it (with permission, duh) and started reading it. It’s a literal travelogue and it’s fascinating. Like most travel guides, it makes you want to go there and I do remember occasionally visiting the Dales in my extensive travels, but my party and I were never truly there for long enough to experience all the things that Volo is talking about. Oh, by the way, Volothamp Geddarm is someone I’ve run into in the past courtesy of the original Baldur’s Gate game. Last I recall, he was hanging out in the bar in the mining town of Nashkel… at least, that’s where I physically ran into him.

This book makes me think about my times playing Baldur’s Gate. I’m pondering going back and playing through the original Baldur’s Gate and then playing Baldur’s Gate II all the way through (for once). Maybe this month, along with all the other things… maybe.

Anyways… until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Here are the Dales as you have never seen them before — Volo’s Dalelands. (Elminster: Nor are likely to again, unless someone else as given to exaggeration, misrepresentation, and flights of fancy happens along.)”

Septerra Core – Impression

Welcome to the world of Septerra Core. This planet is strangely built to allow for seven world layers that orbit a core. Every hundred years or so, these layers align properly to allow a beam of light to strike the core. When this happens, and if people are paying attention, someone can go to the core and receive the Gift of the Creator: the Kingdom of Heaven.

This game was whipped up by Valkyrie Studios and distributed by (the now defunct) Interplay Productions (responsible for Fallout, Baldur’s Gate, and a variety of other RPGs for the computer gaming market). I’d purchased Septerra Core a long time ago as part of a collection of games and I actually purchased the collection because I was interested specifically in this game. An interesting note is that you can still find the Septerra Core website.

Anyways, down to the mechanics of the game. I really enjoyed the turn-based combat (kind of like the Active Time Battle system in older Final Fantasy games) where each character had a different speed and took different amounts of time to charge up. You’re given a three part bar (per person) and each part of the bar represents a different level of power. The first segment represents some of the weaker attacks available to that character, the second segment represents more powerful attacks, and the third segment is where you’re charged up enough to perform the most powerful attacks that character has at their disposal.

Each character also contributes to the party’s available “core power” or effectively a mana pool that the whole party can tap into to perform special attacks. For example, Maya gets access to a piece of equipment early in the game called “Grenade” which allows her to perform an area attack upon enemies. Using such an attack consumes a small amount of the party’s available core energy. It’s the blue bar at the top of the screen during combat. Speaking of characters, there are nine people you can have in your group, of which you use three at a time and Maya (the blue haired girl) is always in your party (except in rare circumstances). The other characters are necessary to solve certain puzzles and everyone gains experience at the same time, they just level at a different rate. For example, Selena the Chosen swordmistress ended the game at level 62 or something whereas Led, the army mechanic daughter of a general, was level 28 or so. They had the same amount of experience points, just different levels. I thought that was interesting. The characters are: Maya (uses a gun), Grubb (mechanic who uses a staff), Runner (robot dog built by Grubb), Corgan (Wind City guardsman), Selena (Chosen swordmistress in love with the main bad guy), Led (uses a big wrench), Lobo (former cyborg soldier of Jinam), Araym (bounty hunter demolitions expert), and Badu (Underlost warrior who wields dual knives).

Further, the game has a magic system built around tarot cards. These tarot cards are specific to the world of Septerra Core in that they use the legendary figures of Marduk, Gemma, Kyra, and Dogos to perform special things. In fact, you can combine cards with your three characters and perform special spells and so forth. From giving your whole party protection from damage to casting massive fire strikes, the card combinations are versatile enough to provide a wide variety of combat options. You can even summon the famous Marduk to bring a beating to your enemies. Pretty cool.

The game is built like an adventure game (Monkey Island is a great example) with a very capable and intense combat engine. There are a great number of key items in the game that allow you to solve puzzles and bypass obstacles. Something that kind of annoyed me closer to the end of the game were the massive mazes that lead to only a key that would allow me to access the next maze that led to another key that led me to another maze… and so on.

I originally set out to beat it several years back and made considerable progress, however I hit one dungeon (the catacombs full of undead on World Shell 3) that just pissed me off so much with all the switches and I got lost and so I just put the game away and forgot about it for a while. This time, I was so into getting the story done (finally) that I cheated. Yup, I cheated to beat this game in a reasonable amount of time (still took over a week to beat). Lots of walking can’t be avoided, but the fights would last only a few seconds (if I felt like not fighting). Oh, yeah… lots of fighting in this game since everything respawns when you leave a screen. That can be rather annoying, but you can run around some fights like in Chrono Trigger.

Overall, I enjoyed the game, but I’m not a big fan of switch mazes (mazes that rely on switches to change the layout). I mean, they’re cool, but when they get really big (like they do later in the game), well, I’m stuck staring at a map for 10 minutes trying to figure out where I need to go and how to get there. Oh! There’s not much of a tutorial for this 11 year old game, so I didn’t realize that TAB pulled up the area map until about halfway through the game! *laughs*

The graphics have DEFINITELY held up and the game still works on a Vista laptop with a minimum of fuss. It even alt-tabs flawlessly. The cutscenes hold up pretty well too. I was rather dissatisfied with the ending because I felt it was too short for the length of the game. Oh well. I appreciated in the credits where they say that if they left anyone out, it was an accident and they’d buy them a pony to make it all better. Ah the good old days, back when game developers had a sense of humor and did it for the love of creation instead of a love of money.

Anyways, I finished this game today (after playing it off and on for a week with a walkthrough and cheat codes) and felt that it warranted a place here. It’s definitely a unique game and I challenge anyone to find a combat system or storyline like it.

Until next time, remember that the full body tattoos of Kyra are temporary and will go away in a few weeks. I’m looking at you Maya.

– Elorfin

P.S. All screen captures courtesy of the Valkyrie Studios Septerra Core website I linked above. More screens can be found there.

What makes a great game? – Part 5: Home

Home is where the heart is. Home is where you hang your hat.

Cliche, but true. Home is that place we feel safe and secure, where we can rest, recuperate, relax. It’s where we reflect on what we’ve done, what we have yet to do, and for some it’s the only place we call our own. I’m going to touch upon a few of these “homes” I’ve picked up over the years in games (not specifically computer or console games though, as you’ll see shortly). Oh, yes, spoilers ahead. If you haven’t played these games yet, sorry. Deal with it.

One of the more recent (comparatively) homes I’ve picked up is the SR-1 Normandy. The nexus of all the events in the first Mass Effect game for the XBox 360 and PC, the Normandy was where I spent a great deal of time talking to my companions. In the ending of the game, she really shines. For the record, Joker is awesome. Spoiler warning for those who haven’t played the games yet (but if you haven’t, you should get around to it): the SR-1 Normandy meets her demise at the beginning of Mass Effect 2. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, I will forever feel horror watching her break apart, watching my home get destroyed by some unknown aliens. Pour one out for the SR-1 Normandy, boys.

The SR-2 Normandy managed to be a more than adequate replacement for the original. Just watch the spoiler heavy introduction of the ship here on YouTube. That ship and my crew have been through a lot together. At the end of Mass Effect 2, the ship is really beat up (more or less depending on how much you upgraded her). It doesn’t matter how many times I go through the end-game, I always sit on the edge of my seat as the Normandy takes a beating… but dishes out a more serious one. I feel that the SR-2 was much more of a home than the original mostly because of the random conversations you could hear just walking past people. Further, the interactions between the two engineers are absolutely hilarious as well as the interaction between Joker and EDI. I reiterate that Joker is awesome. Just putting that out there. Both Normandy’s gave me a sense of security, a place to catch my breath, regroup, and get to know my fellow crew members. It’s where romances flourished and moral issues discussed. Where loyalties were secured. The Normandy had better be in Mass Effect 3 or Bioware is in for a world of hurt. I look forward to my next unique trip to this particular home… but in the meantime, a third play through of Mass Effect 2 is in order.

Ahh, the Ebon Hawk. The fastest ship in the galaxy that I happened to “acquire” on Taris about 3996 years before the Battle of Yavin. In Knights of the Old Republic, I battled the Sith while discovering the location of the Star Forge. I built up a group of incredible warriors and lasting friends. In fact, I even benefited from her in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords when I “inherited” it from the Peragus Mining Outpost shortly before said outposts’ mysterious destruction. Except for a couple of times (invading Sith troopers, little gizka running all over the ship, the occasional Nar Shadda gang member) the Ebon Hawk was my place of refuge. It was where I could get grenades from Zaalbar, computer spikes from T3-M4, security spikes from Mission, or later, it was where I talked galactic economics with G0-T0 and helped Mandalore rebuild the Mandalorian people. The Star Wars universe was and still is a dangerous place and the Ebon Hawk was my one safe place in it. Got to love the Dynamic freighter.

Changing course just a little bit, the capital city of Naboo, Theed, became something of a home to me while playing Star Wars: Galaxies. It was where I got my start in the game and the universe and where I always aspired to hang out when I had a 56k modem. The hospital was always full of players needing wound points removed, the cantina was always full of entertainers and players looking for groups, the palace had quests, the hangar housed my starfighters, and everyone always knew where things were. Today, the legacy quest takes you straight through the city and the experience, while changed, is very similar. No longer is the hospital full of players, but the cantina is a recognizable waypoint on the path to getting the buffs necessary to survive many a quest, and you can still find people clustered out in front of the hangar, preparing to tackle their next space mission. There was a point not too far from the city (in fact, not far from the perspective of the above screen) where I sat and looked upon Theed in wonder. In 2003, the graphics cranked up, I saw a handful of waterfalls and, through the mist, the massive palace and just sat there for a minute going, “Holy crap, I’m there.” Why do I keep going back to play Galaxies every now and again? Because I can go THERE and see things that were once only in the movies or in the books and my imagination. However dangerous the wildlife outside the city of Theed, I always find a moment to look back in wonder whenever I’m there.

Shifting back to space craft for a bit longer, the Mon Calamari MC80 Star Cruiser Liberty was my home for the latter (and larger) portion of X-Wing Alliance. It’s where I spent many hours in the simulator tackling TIE Fighters to see how many I could swat from the sky in 20 minutes (got up to 186 after a lot of practice, with the first three minutes being 10 kills per minute). It was where I could stop, dry my hands, grab a drink, and prepare to dive into the next mission, the next skirmish. It was where I learned to make the X-Wing truly dance and where I learned to appreciate the raw speed of the A-Wing. The last of the Star Wars locations, I promise.

Speaking of flying, I spent a fair amount of time serving in the Confederation. Specifically, the Terran Confederation of Wing Commander. I count as my home every carrier I ever flew off of, especially the TCS Victory and the TCS Intrepid. I will, however, speak a little on each.

The TCS Tiger’s Claw, home for the first installment in the Wing Commander series. I didn’t fly from her until college, but the missions were as important as ever, required as much skill if not more than the later games. Safe speeds in an asteroid field were something I paid a great deal of attention to. I was thrilled to get the upgrade from the Hornet to the Scimitar, and even more so to experience the Rapier.

The TCS Concordia was where I encountered the extremely ornery Tolwyn (which gave context to my experiences in WC 3 and 4). Wing Commander 2 was a thrill to play, especially with all the controversy surrounding the Kilrathi pilot on board by the callsign of Hobbes. Later, when sabotage showed up and when I could finally prove to Tolwyn the existence of the Stealth fighters that trashed the beloved Tiger’s Claw, I experienced an amazingly deep and complex world where my home was constantly threatened by those pesky Cats.

I spent an inordinate amount of time on the TCS Victory. Better known as “Tin Can Sally”, I came to appreciate the varied pilots under my command and the amazing forward firepower of the Thunderbolt VII (with its “Sunday punch” torpedo). When Hobbes betrayed everyone, I was legitimately upset. I came to trust completely in Captain Eisen and reveled in an opportunity to show Flash exactly how we roll on the front lines of the conflict with the Kilrathi. I came to look forward to one day visiting Vaquero’s cantina and I valued the friendship of the cardshark Vagabond. Oh, and Maniac quickly became a favorite annoyance (“I bet you stay up late nights just polishing it huh?” “No, in fact, I get Majors to do that for me.”).

Wing Commander IV was an amazing ride that gave me two carriers to call home. The TCS Lexington wasn’t much of a home, so I’m not going to talk about it… mostly because it was my torpedo that took her out. I felt kind of bad about putting the girl down, but hey, Captain Paulson was a bit of a jerk about replacing Captain Eisen. Now, the BWS Intrepid, that was home for the game. When I wanted a lively discussion, I’d sit in on Panther and Hawk or watch Maniac and Dekker have it out. I loved flying the Banshee (Four lasers… where have I benefited from that array of weapons before?) and the Dragon was like a cheat code unto itself. The final cutscene where I flew into Washington, D.C. itself was incredible and I really felt sad that Tolwyn had fallen so far.

In Wing Commander Prophecy, I found myself calling the new supercarrier, TCS Midway, home. The fact that Maniac was still around was a bit of a plus, and humbling him was a bit of a pleasure. I still feel bad about not being able to save Dallas. This felt less like a home compared to the Victory and the Intrepid because there were only a couple of places to go on the Midway for a mere pilot. Specifically, in Wing Commander, there was the bar, the bunkroom, and the briefing room. Likewise (I think) for Wing Commander 2. Wing Commander 3 had 7 locations on the Victory I could visit (including the briefing room) and Wing Commander 4 had on the Lexington and Intrepid 5 locations each. Hm, I guess now that I think about it, Wing Commanders 3 and 4 were the anomalies. Oh well. By the time I was done with the Nephilim, the Midway and all her crew was home and family.

To round out the space faring ships for this truncated list, I introduce the USS Sovereign from Star Trek: Bridge Commander. The picture is of the Enterprise, but they’re the same class of ship. In Bridge Commander, I was originally in charge of the USS Dauntless, a Galaxy-class vessel similar to the Enterprise-D. After a short while, you’re transferred to the Sovereign and there you stay for the remainder of the game. You really don’t go anywhere in the ship aside from the bridge (a pity) but you come to rely on your crew after a fashion and find that your first officer isn’t so much of a cranky princess after a while. Fighting off the rogue Cardassian threat was an incredible introduction into the post-Next Generation/DS9/Voyager world of Star Trek. At least we didn’t have holodeck problems while we tried to figure out why stars were going nova a bit early.

Continuing on, I’ve included a location that I’ve never spent much time in, but I fought to preserve anyway. I’m referring to Vault 13 from Fallout. You spend the entire damn game trying to ensure the security and health of the members of the vault and in the end? You’re kicked out by the Overseer because you’re “tainted” by the outside world. *rolls eyes* That guy’s a real punk. Oddly enough, Fallout works perfectly on a Vista machine. Works without the CD too if you did a full install. Oh, and by the way, the Mutant threat? Closer to Vault 13 than anything else on the damn world map. *laughs* I remember reading somewhere that it was supposed to be the vault with the extra water chips instead of an extra Garden of Eden Kit. Whoops. By the way, the Vaults? Nothing but a terrible social experiment by the guys who built them. Yikes. Still, it was home back in the late 1990’s.

Another location that was introduced to me around the late 1990’s was Candlekeep. Located on the Sword Coast about halfway between Baldur’s Gate and the northern border of the nation of Amn, Candlekeep is one of the only locations in the Forgotten Realms where entrance can be secured by offering up a rare book. This was where I learned to play the game and I was grateful for the opportunity. This was also where I learned what THAC0 meant, as well as several of the ins and outs of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons system. It’s also where my character lost their adoptive father and started on their quest for vengeance and understanding. If you will, this was my actual first introduction to Dungeons & Dragons and today, well, I try to find excuses to visit Candlekeep.

Next on this list is another Forgotten Realms location, Silverymoon. Silverymoon is often dubbed “the Gem of the North”. It is one of the few civilized places in the middle of the rough and untamed wilderness that is the North of Faerun. It has a rich cultural life and is renowned as a meeting place for all races that are morally inclined towards good. Why is this a home for me? My favorite and legendary Dungeons & Dragons character, the Psychic Warrior Juan Moore, lives there. He and his party of adventuring friends settled in Silverymoon and are well renowned for their capabilities. I won’t go on for long on this place, but whereas we don’t spend a lot of time AT home, I don’t think we could’ve picked a better location. All the amenities we need are right there in Silverymoon or just a “short” trip away to Waterdeep in the west.

Lastly, another D&D locale, the city of Stormreach in the setting of Ebberon. In Dungeons & Dragons Online, this is the epicenter for all of your quests and it’s where everyone winds up anyway. Can’t play the game without running through the streets of Stormreach. I’ve been around the Harbor and Marketplace so much, I can probably navigate them in my sleep. Some of the lower level dungeons are ridiculously well known too. *laughs*

These are some of the places I’ve gathered throughout my years of playing games. I’ve spent a great deal of time in each of these locations and I’m attached to some more than others. If I had to pick my favorite Wing Commander carrier though, it’s got to be the TCS Victory. Out of all the others, the Victory is more of a home to me, I know the people, I know the place, I’ll scramble in an Arrow any time to shoot down attacking Kilrathi Paktahn bombers and I’ll be more than happy to take out the offending Skipper missiles. Plus, it’s the only game where I can fly the Thunderbolt… and I love love loved having SIX forward guns.

For our homes, we’ll step up and fight, and nowhere like in these places have I ever been given such an opportunity to protect the home that shelters me… but for the most part, these ships can’t fly themselves. It’s the crew, the merchants, the characters that help the locations have personality and cause the personality of each one to come forth. When Colonel Blair reminded Admiral Tolwyn of this in Wing Commander 4, Tolwyn replied, “Quite, quite right. It is the men, isn’t it?”

Now for a last word on home: “The pleasant converse of the fireside, the simple songs of home, the words of encouragement as I bend over my school tasks, the kiss as I lie down to rest, the patient bearing with the freaks of my restless nature, the gentle counsels mingled with reproofs and approvals, the sympathy that meets and assuages every sorrow, and sweetens every little success — all these return to me amid the responsibilities which press upon me now, and I feel as if I had once lived in heaven, and, straying, had lost my way.” – Josiah Gilbert Holland

Until next time, never be afraid to go home again.

– Elorfin