Business Trips and Podcasts

So I just finished Persona 3: FES the other day and have played quite a few different games since my last review. I’m debating reviewing P3 or possibly something else I have played in the last two months, but I’ve been short on time as of late.

The company I work for recently went through a big merger and the game’s completely changed for me. I have a lot of stuff to do including a business trip to Maryland at the end of the month (super nervous!).

I’ve been continuing the CommuniCast with my buddies on the Escapist and have made a lot of new content we haven’t posted yet. We’re kind of in the process of re-branding it in a similar way our sister podcast, the Failcast, did. It’s been good fun :D

Also been doing some forum RPs lately… something I haven’t really done since way back in High School. Kind of refreshing, but I still prefer tabletop. I’ll be running a Persona RP on the Escapist in the near future, so I have been trying to organize ideas for that as well as for my webcomic idea.

Also, I just found out today that the Dragonborn review I did back in December is nearing on 10,000 views on the Escapist. Pretty good for the User Review subforum XD

Thanks guys!

I kind of want to do a Persona 3 review… but… hmmmm…. we’ll see.

 

- Daniel

THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM – DRAGONBORN DLC REVIEW

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dragonborn DLC

Skyrim’s new DLC, Dragonborn, is one of the most nostalgic experiences I’ve ever had playing a video game. If you’re a Morrowind fan and still happen to be playing Skyrim one year after launch (or looking for an excuse to come back to the game) buy this add-on ASAP. No seriously, don’t even think about it. Just do it. Oh, well… I suppose I should elaborate.

Dragonborn takes place on the island of Solstheim, a setting previously used for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind’s second expansion Bloodmoon. Those who’ve played Bloodmoon should expect to see many familiar locations, but with the eruption of Red Mountain 200 years prior, the entire southern half of the island has been covered in a thick blanket of ash. This adds some new things for Bloodmoon vets to see as well as showcasing non-Bloodmoon-specific throwbacks. You have netches roaming the coastline, Telvanni-style mushrooms sprouting in the southeast, and the Imperial-abandoned settlement of Raven Rock now controlled by the Great House Redoran.  You’re greeted with the familiar label “outlander” and the first thing you’re told is that you’re no longer in Skyrim. You’re now in mother fuckin’ Morrowind, you dirty n’wah.

The Oghma Infinium was only the beginning.

For those of you plebs who haven’t played Morrowind there’s still a huge amount of content here to appreciate. While Skyrim’s previous DLC, Dawnguard, only added some extra dungeons and outdoor areas, the island of Solstheim is an entirely new landmass to explore comparable to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s Shivering Isles expansion. On top of this you also have the forbidden knowledge of the daedric realm of Apocrypha at your fingertips. Apocrypha is host to a plethora of cool new powers (both passive and active) that you can unlock as you collect Hermaeus Mora’s black books, some of which really change up the game. The Lovecraft-inspired landscape of Apocrypha is riddled with enemies that severely lack variety and would be an extremely boring endeavor if not for its labyrinthine design and awesome visuals.

Despite being a cool nod to Morrowind’s ascended sleepers, seekers are not all that fun to fight, though they’re the exception to the rule. Dragonborn adds a much needed collection of new and interesting enemies, many of which pose a far greater threat than those native to the mainland. Yes, you still have draugr to kill every now and then (they were featured in Bloodmoon after all), but you’ll likely spend most of your time fighting the new ash spawn and the goblin-like rieklings. There are some other cool enemies I won’t spoil here as well as the addition of a “secret” boss that actually managed to one-shot my level 54, armor-capped dunmer. Those looking for more of a challenge won’t be disappointed venturing into Solstheim.

Bethesda also upped the ante on its dungeon puzzles. Many of them are actually a bit more complex and inspired than turning some stones with pictures of little animals on them (i.e. actual puzzles). You’ll have to think outside the box and use your environment in order to solve many of these. I actually got stumped on one of them for a bit.

Speak quickly, outlander.

As for player-oriented features, Morrowind’s chitin and bonemold armors return as well as Bloodmoon’s stalhrim weapons and armor. Each set is a fantastic reimagining that serves to please both the fanboys looking for their Morrowind fix and the Skyrim vets simply looking for more variety. Also, Nordic Carved Armor, mmmm yummy… you’ll know what I am talking about when you see it. There are also plenty of new magic items including armor sets with unique enchantments you won’t find anywhere else. Aside from fat lute, Dragonborn adds new spells, dragon shouts, alchemical ingredients, exploding spider bombs, player housing, new followers/“pets”, new spouses, powers, and more.

Am I forgetting something? Oh yeah, dragon riding. It sucks. I didn’t have high hopes for it to begin with, but once you finally mount up on your first dragon get ready to be underwhelmed. You can’t actually control the dragon other than telling it what to attack. If there are no hostiles in the area it’ll just fly in circles until you land or fast travel somewhere. You can cast spells while flying on it, but it doesn’t work very well. Unless you’re doing it for the achievement I’d pass on this entirely.

Having gotten this far discussing Dragonborn it’s a bit surprising I haven’t mentioned the quests or story yet. Well, that’s likely because unlike Dawnguard—in which most of its content was tied into the main narrative—Dragonborn is very much like the game that spawned it. Dragonborn is more about exploring Solstheim and continuing your character’s grand adventure in an alien land than it is about the central conflict. The story is there however, and while the main questline is brief there are plenty of other questlines available for players to discover for themselves.

The main plotline was interesting enough but it did suffer from the same issues many of Skyrim’s other storylines suffer from, albeit with some more interesting characters. The main villain is just some douche with no clear motivation that the player needs to kill, and the explanation for some of the plot points felt very convenient and uninspired. As always, Bethesda’s great at lore but sketchy when it comes to actual narratives.

The shamanistic Skaal haven’t really changed all that much in the last 200 years.

As I mentioned above some of the characters do in fact leave a bit of an impression (surprising, I know). Raven Rock and the Skaal village have NPCs that are a bit more fleshed out than you’ll see on the mainland, but most of this expansion’s personality comes from the Telvanni questline. A familiar Telvanni wizard from Morrowind (whose name I will not spoil here) steals the show with his obscene levels of snobbery and total disregard for the wellbeing of others. His questline is also very reminiscent of the absurdity present in the House Telvanni questline in Morrowind. Hermaeus Mora also plays an interesting role in the story of Solstheim, though he may have acted a bit… too direct at times. He’s always struck me as the kind of daedric prince that’d stick to the shadows and influence the mortal world by manipulating his followers, but in Dragonborn he doesn’t practice the same level of discretion he has in previous TES games.

The final point to touch on here is that of Dragonborn’s soundtrack. Nostalgia overload! A few Morrowind tracks return that feel so… right while playing this add-on. Considering Jeremy Soule’s been composing music for the franchise since Morrowind it fits right in with the original soundtrack. I just wish those tracks played while playing the vanilla content. There also seem to be a few new tracks as well that sounded spectacular. As always, Soule’s outdone himself.

Dragonborn is very much the expansion people have been waiting for since Skyrim’soriginal release. Many were disappointed in Dawnguard’s apparent lack of content, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Dragonborn is the Shivering Isles of Skyrim. You don’t have to be a Morrowind or Bloodmoon fan to appreciate the work Bethesda’s put into this add-on. Simply put, this is the expansion we’ve been waiting for.

The Dragonborn add-on is now available on Xbox 360 for $20 and is said to be released for PC and PS3 early 2013.

Like or hate the review? Share your insight here or on the Escapist!

CommuniCast – Episode 1!

This is the first official episode of the CommuniCast! Hope you guys enjoy.

 

Lots of Updates!

I haven’t updated this blog in quite some time D:

So here’s the deal:

- Me and a few others are spearheading an Escapist community podcast we’re calling the “CommuniCast”. I’ll embed our first test episode at the bottom of this post. The first official episode is to be recorded tonight, so check it out!

- My next review is due to be out early next week. The cool part is that I get to post the review on release day. The sad news is that I can’t discuss what it is I am reviewing until then.

- Almost done with my third and final Mass Effect d20 campaign!

- I started playing Morrowind again >.>

That’s about it.

Stay tuned for next week’s review and check out the CommuniCast!

Marvel vs. Capcom Origins Review

Marvel vs. Capcom Origins Review

It seems every old arcade hit these days is getting the XBLA/PSN treatment and it’s nice to see Capcom’s classic fighters are no exception. Marvel vs. Capcom Origins is a 2-in-1 piece of fighting game history that any fan of the franchise would be privy to try their hand at. Neither of the included games may have the roster of MvC 2 or the flash of MvC 3, but both have their own unique charms that make them memorable fighters in their own right.

“I Now Hold Omnipotence”

The older of the two games, Marvel Super Heroes, was released in 1995 with a roster of 6 playable heroes and 4 villains (excluding secret characters). Based loosely off of the story of Marvel’s famed The Infinity Gauntlet storyline, MSH pits a somewhat reasonable assortment of heroes and a strange collection of villains against each other in a gambit to wrest the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet from the clutches of Thanos. Unlike many of the other titles in the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise MSH only allows you to play one fighter at a time. This may be a turn-off for some fans of the franchise as it is known for 3-on-3 clusterfucks of action, but I felt the standard 1-on-1 setup was a refreshing change of pace for this brand of fighter.

Lightning + Adamantium Skeleton = Ouch

While it may not have the enormous amount of team combinations featured in other MvC games, MSH suffers no loss in depth due to its dynamic Infinity Gem system that adds an extra layer of complexity to combat outside of health bars and super gauges. At the beginning of a match (usually) each player will have a small assortment of gems on them that they can activate in the midst of combat to give them temporary boosts. The gems: power, mind, soul, time, reality and space each grant their own buffs to characters and many of them affect the characters in different ways. When activating the “power” gem for example, Spider-Man attacks his foes with a mirror-self that flanks the opponent while Psylocke makes two clones of herself for some air-combo insanity.

Though the roster is small, each of the characters and their respective stages/themes work well together and ultimately make the game feel like a true Marvel video game (albeit from the 90’s). It’s not without the obvious pitfalls of an older fighting game however. I played it with both a 360 controller D-pad and an arcade stick and found that the commands lack in accuracy compared to most modern fighters. Trying to do simple inputs for supers seems to fail more often than not and the infinity gems occasionally refuse to activate. The AI is a mother fucker to say the least in this game. In true fighting game fashion the AI is garbage with some characters and godlike with others. Just hope you don’t fight Spider-Man late into the arcade mode. Seriously, fuck Spider-Man. Also, don’t go into this game thinking it’s a legitimately balanced and competitive game. It’s a fighter from the 90’s. Take what you can get and have fun with it.

Marvel Super Heroes is not the best MvC game Capcom’s ever produced, but the gem system puts an interesting twist on a traditional formula. I don’t know, I just really love the gem system for some reason. I guess it helps that I am a huge fan of the source material…

“The Crossover Battle Returns!”

The first true “Marvel vs. Capcom” game and the game that earned the franchise its namesake, Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes, is a great fighter with a weird roster and some really nutty mechanics. Similar to its more widely-played successors, MvC allows you to play two characters in tag-team combat and randomly assigns you a third assist character that you can summon to attack your foe. Strangely, on the Marvel-side these assist characters are almost exclusively X-Men characters. MvC’s story is virtually non-existent and doesn’t really play to any established stories in Marvel or Capcom canon. Onslaught’s shown up to fuck some dudes up and the Capcom characters are there for some reason… whatever, let’s just fucking fight! Crossover! Yeah!

It’s hard to block two enemies at once!

While MvC pioneered a lot of the ideas its successors are known for it does have one gameplay mechanic that separates it from other entries in the franchise. “Duo Team Attacks” allow you to tag-in your second character for some multi-fighter action reminiscent of professional wrestling where they just go off and say, “fuck the rules”! If your opponent triggers a duo team attack in response you suddenly have four fighters cramped into a small area beating the ever-loving shit out of each other. I guess you could say this game was the precursor to Super Smash Bros. and Power Stone.

The roster is full of odd choices, though I’d say Capcom’s side is guiltier of this than Marvel’s. Hey, at least this game actually has Mega Man! Capcom be troll’n. Aside from that there really isn’t all that much to complain about in this game. The AI isn’t overtly cheap (although Onslaught is obnoxious) and the commands feel much tighter and more reliable than in Marvel Super Heroes. In fact I’d say MvC is a much more solid fighter experience than its successors Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. MvC 2 may have a much larger cast and 3-on-3 action going for it, but MvC just seems far more balanced and thoughtfully put together. MvC 2‘s huge cast is kind of a detriment as it almost feels like a MUGEN game if you go back and play it.

At the end of the day Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes is a solid fighter with some really fun mechanics. So long as you can get over the limited and somewhat questionable roster choices you’re in for a treat.

The Whole Package

As a whole package there really isn’t much to talk about. It’s got online play of course, though I wouldn’t go in expecting it to be very balanced by any means. The pan-title unlock system has much to be desired, but there’s only so much you can ask of a $15 re-release. The achievement tracking system is really neat though and I find it actively affecting my play style. Anything that subtly forces you out of your comfort zone in a fighting game is a good thing in my mind. Both games also look great remastered and can be set to widescreen, so that’s a plus.

So yeah, at a $15 price point Marvel vs. Capcom Origins is a great addition to any fan’s collection and a quirky title for those unfamiliar with the franchise to check out. Having played both games when they came out in the 90’s I would say they stand up to the test of time as being fun fighters, but they are by no means in the same league as their modern counterparts in regards to balance and competitiveness.

Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins is available on XBLA and PSN. Go get it!

Like or hate the review? Share your insight here or on the Escapist!

Torchlight II Review

Enjoy :3


Like or hate the review? Share your insight here or on the Escapist!

Double Update Backfire!

I haven’t really been treating this thing as enough of a blog have I? This thing’s a year old and I am just now making my 10th post.

In any case I have two updates to share:

- My Persona 4 review got spotlighted on the Escapist. Hooray!

- Next week I am getting into more talks about a permanent position at my job. Cross your fingers!

Yeah, that’s about it.

D*Con was awesome! We really need to dress up next year though >.>

Peace.

- Daniel

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