Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dragon Age Origins & Dragon Age 2

Part II

Welcome to Dragon Age Games evaluations part 2. In this post I will try to introduce Dragon Age 2 (DA2) in comparison to Dragon Age Origins (DAO). Let me begin right away:

DA2, in many aspects, is very different than DAO both in technical aspects and content-wise.

Firstly the graphics are much improved and the slightly blurry world gives way to a crystal clear resolution. But Bioware has not forgotten those with computers that can not support a high resolution game so you can run it on lower levels as well.

Character creation has gotten a lot better in the sense that what you create is what you see on the screen when you start the game. The only thing missing is body adjustment, a mage with biceps is a little weird thing to behold...

The fights are relatively quicker and by that I do not mean unchallenging bosses and fights. I mean your toon's movement and attack speed have increased and the effects have been improved. One might think that maybe this time they overdid the speed a little but if I have to chose between too slow and too fast I will definitely go for too fast. Yes maybe it looks a little unrealistic but at least it doesnt make me want to poke my own eyes and shrink from a fight because it is too damn boring. I did not much like the respawn mobs in DA2 though. The skill system is basically the same including a great many of the skills themselves from DAO (actually I think 90% of the skills are the same) but in DA2 you will find them in a better organized table.

One of the best features of the game was how you were able to transfer your save files from DAO to DA2 and according to the decisions you had made in DAO the story, the family tree and on occasions the quests you got in DA2 changed. Now that made me play DAO even more times in order to unlock the extra footage I had never seen before.

But what I loved the most about the game, DAO fans criticized the most and I can see why; Only I do not agree. Most of those complaints concern the content of the game rather than the technical aspects.

It is true that when compared to DAO the content of DA2 seems limited. You can not play an elf or a dwarf and what you got is only the Hawke family. If you remember from my previous post what I said about your character's not being voiced in DAO, then now its time to discuss this. The limited content of the game might be due to the video footages in DA2. In these footages your own character is voiced and you can see him/her act. It was quite the different format of interaction with the npcs, one which I had never seen before save for a few Play Station games where it was done only for a very small portion of the game but never the entire game itself (not the games I had played anyhow). It must have taken a lot of work to get it done and I must say it: I simply fell in love with this style. I did not mind having a more limited game content (not one bit especially since it made the game fairly quicker) , I did not mind having a smaller map, because the way I could see my character's anger, despair, joy, love made it all worth it for me.
Another point which the fans harshly criticized concerns the dialogue options: How your hero does not say what you choose in the dialogue options. That has put a lot of people off. Well not me. When you sit back and think on it more calmly you will understand that it can not be done. What you see on the screen is a short little sentence and yet the video cut is a lot larger so I am thinking to myself: I prefer my character saying something to that effect rather than just speaking in short sentences. Maybe as a compromise Bioware could begin the dialogue with the visible sentence on the screen and then widen it. Besides I liked the little surprises thrown here and there especially when you play a mischievous character. It seemed more fun to me than pain.

It is true that the story sometimes feels a little confined though. The countless outcomes of DAO can not be found in DA2. But then again at the end of the day there is a limit to the times you play one single game (at least for me there is). I did not explore all the outcomes of DAO after all, just 4 of them, out of a possible... what 10? 15? I played DA2 more often than I played DAO despite the limited outcomes because it was fast, the fights were not endless and it was so much more easy to reach the different content without getting bored over the same battles.

For me three things lacked in DA2 that DAO had:
1- Various Dungeons: The recycled dungeons of DA2 looked pretty cheap. The interiors of the dungeons were the same over and over again
2-  The ability to interact with your companions without having to jump through loops: In DAO (not The Awakening just DAO) you can converse with your companions any time you like. You do not need to visit them at their locations or homes to do that. I honestly missed that a little while playing DA2.
3- A modding tool. The great variety of mods in DAO made the experience so rich. The mods of DA2 mostly included the character creation and npcs.

A few more things were also criticized by the fans. The ending came as a shock to the most and some did not like it. I also felt as if I was shot through the head at the end of the first play through but I can not say that I didnt like it. Objectively speaking I found it well developed. The way the story leads you to that end without you knowing it is impressive. The development and the psychology of the characters were well arranged and although my Hawke did not like how things ended, I did like it as a player. 

As for the expansions: The Mark of The Assassin is a nice little expansion with pretty good drops and really intriguing story. The appearance of Felicia Day (from the series The Guild) as an elf was a nice touch. I liked this expansion better than The Legacy. I think they are more or less the same length but The Legacy always seems a little larger to me, whether or not because it actually is or simply because I find it less fun is still up for grabs. The Exiled Prince is not a stand alone expansion, it is an extra companion with his own story embedded into the game and mingled with the story of your Hawke. It is cheaper to purchase when compared to the other expansions and I like having an extra companion along.

All in all, DA2 simply captured me. I played it for 6 times (so far but I still get in and make characters) despite the limited game content (thats right) and every time I played it I loved it even more. The technical aspects were satisfactory, the story was intriguing and the video cuts were absolutely fantastic. Very few times have I had such a deep connection with a character I had created in a game save for the old on paper D&D games where I got to play the character myself. I definitely recommend it to the other Fantasy Role Players out there.

Monday, 30 July 2012

GAMES: F.E.A.R. (link)

Now I have never played the game myself and never even seen the game except on youtube but a good friend of mine has written a nice article about it. If you are interested here is the link:


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Notre Dame De Paris

Written by Victor Hugo and published in 1831 Notre Dame De Paris (or The Hunchback of Notre Dame) is considered one of the classics of literary world. Little known fact is that Victor Hugo wrote this novel in his pity for Notre Dame Cathedral which was falling apart and no renovations were being made. His main goal was to attract the attention to this cathedral by his novel which he achieved. Most of the scenes take part, within, atop or right outside the Cathedral. Not only did he save Notre Dame Cathedral from being demolished but also he presented this unbelievably beautiful novel to the world, one of my personal bests.

I am not going to evaluate the story, theme, motif etc here. I just want to express my own feelings on how I took the novel in. From the first paragraph and on, the detailed descriptions told me that what I held in my hands was a masterpiece. What made it masterpiece was not the story. If you read a summary of the novel on the internet you will not find it any different than a Brazilian Soap. But sometimes how you say something is so much more important than what you say. The way Master Hugo relates this story renders it majestic rather than melodramatic. What sets the old classics apart from the more contemporary classics (and by that I mean 20th century and on) is that the old writers wrote to reveal truths in human nature in a humanistic way and no detail escaped their notice. Do not mistake what I am trying to tell here, I do not mean Disney World humanistic where everything is pink and human is capable of incredible goodness. No, that's not my meaning. What I am trying to convey here is that, despite the terrible acts, violences, infidelities, betrayals you will find it hard to hate those characters. And that is a fantastic skill in writing. Notre Dame De Paris as a novel will make your hair stand and when you finish the book it will still follow you wherever you go for quite some time.

Disney's Notre Dame
The Hunchback 1997
There are so many adaptations of this novel most of which -if not all- deserve to be thrown into a trash can. Why some directors think they can do better than the writers themselves is beyond my understanding. In most of them the characterizations are off the mark especially that of Esmeralda, a good natured young gypsy who is partially unaware of the degree of her charms (at least that's the idea you get in the book) and she can be naive to the degree of stupidity. In most of the movies she is a vamp woman well beyond her 30ies and a she-wolf  to boot as if Monica Belluci should play her.

One of the worst adaptations I have seen so far is the movie: The Hunchback (1997), directed by Peter Medak who achieved brilliant new levels of destroying a perfectly good story. Whether the movie was made for children or grown-ups one cannot tell. When Disney changes the end of a violent book thats understandable because children are going to see that, when a grown up does that I think it is because they failed as writers and are avenging themselves in this fashion.

The best adaptation is the French-Canadian production musical which debuted on 16th of September 1998 with the original title of the book. The novel has got a great potential as a theatrical act either way since it offers very few scenes on locations other than the cathedral itself. This adaptation, I found, was very loyal to the novel itself, despite the fact that it is a partially modernized version,with a few finishing touches from the director and the actors. The theatrical musical has become specifically famous for the beautiful song 'Belle'.  Below I attach the video from the work with the famous song 'Belle'(Beauty) with English translation and everything :) Enjoy :)

 Finally as I close this post I would like to say that if you are into classics at all, Notre Dame De Paris is a must in your library. Thank you all for reading :)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Dragon Age Origins & Dragon Age II

Part I

Dragon Age Origins (2009) and Dragon Age 2 (2011) are perfectly well produced games by Bioware. Before I further analyse them according to my likings though, I may have to tell you all that I played Dragon Age 2 before I went for Origins so I favour Dragon Age 2. But I will come to that later on in Part 2.

 Let us begin with Dragon Age Origins (I added the trailer above as well). It was announced in 2004 and was  released in 2009. That's 5 years of developing showing itself in the product. From the story development to the music Dragon Age Origins displays the highest qualities of hard work. The outcomes of the choices you can make vary so much that you may have to go through with at least 4-5 playthroughs on each race to explore every single one of them. The map navigation is unusual when compared to the games like Oblivion or Skyrim but getting used to it should be no problem.

 The companions are so real that you run high risks of getting too involved in the story. If you check the Bioware Forums you will see people with crushes on specific companions, fans and even fan made stories and artworks of them. Many, fervently support those fictional game characters as if they were a real life persona and I suppose this is a testament to how real they seem as you play

The game does involve a score of video cuts. I believe it was the first step into video cuts in Dragon Age 2. Something I fell in love with as I played. But those video cuts in the Origins never involve speeches of your own character as he/she is unvoiced by a voice actor. The format of interaction with the companions and npcs are like in the old games, you get a choice of options at the bottom of the screen as you watch the reactions and replies of the rest of the world (I think you can see it on the picture on the left as well). This of course has got its advantages and disadvantages but I will discuss them further later on as I comment on Dragon Age 2.

The soundtrack is excellent. The tracks were composed by Inon Zur and performed by the Northwest Sinfonia.  Dragon Age Origins also won the award for "Outstanding Music Supervision" at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards. There are two songs in this soundtrack that I actually uploaded to my mp3 player and love listening to them outside the game. Those songs would be: Lelianna's Song and Love Song both sung by Aubrey Ashburn.

The technology is old enough. The character movements during the fights look and feel like in slow motion (dont be surprised if you keep saying: "Strike already!" in a fight) And lets face it, the graphics look old and it aint a pretty looking game. As a matter of fact I find it unclear; even blurry at times. I have to add here that I played the game mostly for the plot and not for the fights. In my third play through I downloaded a mod which enabled me to skip the fights and it was a nice breather. I knew exactly where to go by then and who to fight, I had done it twice already and by that time all I wanted was to explore the different outcomes of various choices and the stories of different races.

But the worst is the character creation and not because it lacks choices. The problem with the character creation is that you can play with it for almost an hour, make a character which looks good on the creation screen and then you log into the game. It takes quite some time till you get a close up on the character you created and then the shock follows because it looks almost nothing like what you have made. Character creation without mods is simply a nightmare in Origins...

But that's the thing, there is an endless choice of modding in Origins. From extended scenes to video epilogues from extra dialogues to even extra companions; not to mention the extra armours, weapons, graphic and character creation enhancements. I am going to level with you all and go out on a limb here and say: If it was not for so many mods I do not believe I would have played Origins more than twice (as I did in Skyrim). But the mods enrich your gaming so much that you go for many more rounds. Here is a link you can visit if you wish to mod your Dragon Age Games: Dragon Age Nexus Mods. If you'd like to ask which mods I liked the most I will be happy to help you out with them all.

There are a lot of expansions to Dragon Age Origins. Some of those are embedded into the story and one is a stand alone expansion: The Awakening. I played all the expansions on my 1st play through and in second one I only went for the Awakening. Third and Forth times I never even touched them so in my opinion they are less intricate and more sloppy than the original game. However they do offer the closure you need on many occasions. 

So, Dragon Age Origins is a game which would easily lure you in and chain you to your computer desk for many weeks and maybe even a few months. Although the graphics are old you will find yourself wanting to play it again after some time just for the sake of the story, well made characters and moving scenes. Before I purchased the soundtrack I even used to load some saves just to hear some of the music.

But sometimes new indeed is better...

To be continued on Part 2, stay tuned for Dragon Age 2 in comparison to Dragon Age Origins.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Band of Brothers

Released in 2002, Band of brothers was -in my opinion- one of the best serious series I have ever watched. The series is just one season (an advantage which not many series make use of in greed of making money) and its about Easy Company, a part of the 101st American Airborne Division and their story through their training to the end of the Second World War.

Once you get through the first episode which is very much like an introduction to the characters and can get a little boring the story really picks up. What is really great about this work -beyond the excellent directions and a serious life-based scenario of course- is the fact that every episode is filmed by a different director (sorry Tom Hanks I did not like the episode you took upon yourself that much). That way in every episode you see the story from a different point of view.

A war movie or war series in our age is usually handled in a way where you see the worst of each individual or you see just the heroes in an epic way. We could say that these series do have the both but both points have been handled very delicately and I might add very very professionally. In characterization you can go beyond the acts and deeds and touch the characters' psyche. From a fearless leader to a very cowardly private you can find it all but not as cardboard characters: as humans. That's because all those characters you watch on your TV are real. I loved the fact that the producers went through all the trouble of finding those people who actually took place in Easy Company back then and had them included in the show; At the beginning of each episode you see them commenting on their own personal experiences which added to the feeling of a documentary in this work.

But its not just the producers who went through an amazing amount of work in the Band of Brothers. The actors were actually taken into a military camp before the filming began in order for them to adapt themselves, in the true sense, to the situations of an army camp. And this also shows itself in the work as every actor is doing his job to the best of his ability. They actually did look as if they were army hardened.

David Schwimmer in Band of Brothers
Damian Lewis as Dick Winters
 Now I do not necessarily like the acting of Damian Lewis but even he is very well fit for the main character he plays. I was especially sceptical on the choice of David Schwimmer, well known Ross from the sitcom Friends, but I have to give it to him, he was not bad at all despite the fact that you could see his sitcom past in the first scene; nevertheless he did a good job.

The sets and the locations where the series were shot, were either the original locations or extremely well-made sets. The atmosphere plays a great role in series such as these and I have to say it is a job very well done. I could actually see in front of me that age and that time. I found myself given a start when there was a bombardment and I could feel myself welling up at many points.

All in all, if you are interested in war movies or the Second World War then you have to at least see Band of Brothers. Adding it to your collection will follow anyway :)

A little Artwork of the Characters I Play

The title should read hardly artwork but here it is:
I had made those sketches in likeness of my characters in the game Lord of the Rings Online and how they looked like in my head rather than in the pixel world of the game. They are nothing much but I like them all the same. 

 The one above is the character this blog is named after. She is Tinuvela Celeblindar (translation: silver bard) an elven minstrel. You may recognize the sketch from the profile picture. Although she is hardly my main any more, the years of using her name on the internet and in every game (even the good old D&D on paper ) has grown on me as an unbreakable habit. And so here she is.

This is Amberlinn Crimsonshield my true main. I love role playing with her as her character resembles me and so it is not very hard acting with her :) She is a guardian and she loves tanking but in role play circles she is a fervent adventurer and a mischief seeker.

Here you see Estelamir Arrnalindir (translation: HopeJewel Stormsinger) my elven Rune Keeper. Rune Keepers are actually not compatible with the lore of the Lord of the Rings but still they are quite the powerful DPS and effective healers to boot.

 And last but not least is a villainous burglar who in role play is my shameless assassin. She is immense fun to act with and as a class she aint bad at all. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Laureina the shameless :)


 An Epic-Feel'less' Game

In this blog a great many of online or PC games will be discussed since I count myself among those who enjoy not-so-casual-almost-sick gaming. In referring to those games I will be expressing my thoughts only and how "I" liked or disliked them and why. Be warned though that my gaming experience, usually if not always, consists of Fantasy Role Play games so if you are also a fantasy role player then stay tuned to this blog and please share your thoughts.

Let us begin with Skyrim. The least of my favourites.

My qualms with Skyrim does not involve its technical qualities. The graphics are superb, as are the fights. The fact that you can navigate around the world, (a luxury that lacks in the previous bioware Dragon Age Games) and the map travels are certainly additional advantages of this specific game. Class building is very much like as it was in Oblivion and it is a very nice approach. Character creation could be better but it is not painful. The interactions with npcs are tolerable, crafting is also enjoyable and in general the game is definitely worth purchasing.

However this does not mean that it couldn't be bettered:

The fact that there is no specific end game kills some of the pleasure you get from creating a hero or a villain. "No end game" should be restricted to online games, not pc games. Expansions can be fit into the story but when the story of your much valued character hangs in the air then you feel as if the game is incomplete. A video cut or an epilogue of some sort is a must.

 In Skyrim you go around magnificently powerful and overtake impossible obstacles, not to mention that you are the Dragonborn, the long expected hero, and yet the game fails to give you the impression that you indeed are the hero, the fate changer. No no, you walk into a town and, regardless of the fact that you might be an honoured citizen, a guard insolently belittles you with these words: "Let me guess. Someone stole your sweet-roll." I am wearing a Deadric Armour...Do I look like I would let anyone steal my sweet-roll???!!!



The lack of Epic Feel does not end here. It is especially felt after you have beaten "The World Eater" and are forced to kill Paarthurnax by the so-called Blades and unless you do they wont be interacting with you again. I do not have any problems with making a choice in a game, after all I can always make a new character and explore the things on the other side but this specific scene is done in such a way that you, the great hero of Skyrim, do not get a say in it. You do not even get a dialogue option to tell them off. You simply and humbly bow your head and get out of there.

!!!!!End of Spoilers!!!!!

Now it has been quite some months since I completed my second play through and by then there werent many mods in altering the gaming experience of Skyrim. So all the points referred to in this post are comments on the original game not the modded versions.

As for the NPCs and companions and romantic relations within the game: I have to first tell you that I like having a companion within a game romanced or no. Marriage in Skyrim is possible with a great many options of NPCs and with the use of the console you can add even more to that list. I did not have a special complaint on romances (actually there are no romances in Skyrim just marriages) being maybe a little too discriminate when compared to some other games out there. But I do have complaints on how your companions constantly get in your way and that every time you would like them to wait you have to talk to them. I dont know if this can be altered through console but I shouldnt go through with the trouble of correcting things as a consumer. 

So lets round up this post: What were my final thoughts on Skyrim after having completed two playthroughs? I wouldn't recommend it most fervently to those who play games to be the hero and/or would like to feel the entirety of their hero's feelings and thoughts and even put themselves in their places. However if you like casual or challenging questing while enjoying building a character, taking part in impressive fights and an environment so real and clear, then Skyrim is for you.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A New Comer

  I am very new to blogging experience but since almost everybody around me is lately into the blogs I thought to myself: Why not? :)

  I intend to keep this blog as casual as possible. Mostly it will be about literature (ok maybe this did not sound that casual :P), movies, travels, games, maybe even some ramblings about daily events. So I hope you will bear with me :)

  Anyway lets keep this one short and start working on a first post. I hope you will enjoy my blog and cheers people :)