Wednesday 31 December 2014

Vindictus: Pirates of the Graveyard

[This is part of my Vindictus tutorials.]

Happy New Year all! Decided I'm not making another resolution list this year (because we know how the previous one went), so I'm just going to keep trucking on with my regular posts! :)

More Vindictus tips today but these are more for a Kai/ranged type.

After that somewhat tough jungle, you'll be happy to learn that the Ship Graveyard is a cakewalk for Kais. Half the bosses are sirens and they are all stupid, easily read and shouldn't be a problem for any Kai who knows to keep at range at this point. The giant crab would give you more issues (not a lot), so that leaves the pirates.

Barnacle Bill Simmons likes to spit poison on the ground but otherwise is slow with his cutlass. Just watch your step and you will be fine. Mad Willy Flint seems to be the captain and apart from some slash waves and thrown, slow seeking swords, he too is easily strafed. You just have to be a bit careful avoiding all the stuff he sends your way. Just strafe the slashes. Dodge the flying swords.

I defeated him with holy farts. Lol.

Longboot Matty is the most dangerous for me. He fights in a slightly submerged section of a broken ship and has a regular "shoot gun" combo that is painful, but easily strafed or blocked by the mast in the middle. He does have two troublesome moves though: One being that he vomits into the water making all of it poisoned, forcing people to go up onto one of the small box areas and second, he sends out invulnerable wisps that paralyze anyone they touch - long enough for him to pull a full gun combo on them. That mast becomes a life saver at those times so use it!

Sunday 28 December 2014

MMO Design: Witcher Potion System

[Part of my MMO Design Folder.]

In my previous review of the Witcher 2, I mentioned that I quite like the potion system there and thought I would explore the notion of putting a similar thing in an MMO. Currently the most common types of consumables I've run into in MMOs are the ones that either give you a buff for -x- amount of time or the type that you drink for immediate bonus like restoring HP or Mana. Sometimes you can drink like there is no tomorrow, as fast as you can press a key. Sometimes there's an arbitrary cool down.

Personally, I'm the type that keeps over 100 health potions in my pack because there's simply no penalty in doing so, and no penalty for drinking them in quick succession when I need to in most games. Mabinogi does start giving you stat deductions in that event but it takes a LOT of drinking to get there.

The system in the Witcher is pretty simple. You have a "poison" bar that fills up based on the type of consumable you are taking - often with three being the maximum before suffering an overdose. All of them have an effect duration, even the "health" potion which just temporarily improves your regeneration rate. Most importantly, almost all of them have negative side effects. A potion of fire resistance might make you more susceptible to cold for example.

This would force people to think about what they are doing instead of chugging down every type of bonus they can. It also makes encounters more manageable from a design perspective because people are more limited with what they can field on the table, unlike trying to make a challenging fight for both non-dosed players and those who have access to every consumable in game.

On the down side this might reduce the "gold sink" nature of potions somewhat, if people when faced with uncertainty of what to get simply buy nothing. What do you think?

Saturday 27 December 2014

Quests Failed!

Blergh, I know I'm a few days early but I'm going to call this now. I knew there's a reason I don't like writing up New Year's Resolutions. I'm one of those people that obviously just doesn't get them done! So let's take a quick look at that list from the start of this year...

Lose 12 kgs. That's just 1 kg per month!
Fail! I lost just as much as I gained and am back where I started. >.<

Start writing out the guild history, one chapter per 2 months would be good.

*Watches the tumbleweed*

Complete 10 quests for NWO.

Make a silly game of my own.
I actually did this! Twice in boardgame form. They weren't any good though.

Continue the Today I Smiled series with 2 per month.
Definitely didn't do 2 per month, but still posted 24+ during the year so I'll give this one a pass.

Finish composing another song.
Neglected. Which is annoying since I had half a new song already...

Score: 2 out of 6.

Retry next year? In theory it should be easier now that I have more XP right? For the most part yes, but we'll see if I'm in a mood to put up another list later! :P

Lastly I am sad to report that I am down to 50 links to other blogs. That might sound like a big number until I remind you that I was on around 150+ at one stage after the previous Newbie Blogger Initiative. Sticking to my rule of "must have new content within 4 weeks (eg. one post a month)" apparently was too much to ask for around two thirds of the population. Is this a sign that blogs are dying? No, probably not. Just that I'm either too harsh on my criteria or I'm simply linking the wrong people.

Friday 26 December 2014

Vindictus: Snake Worshippers

[This is part of my Vindictus tutorials.]
Welcome to Season 2: the Jungle! Yeah I know there's a ton of content I don't have tips for in Season 1 other than: "Why don't you evade?" and "100 Fine HP potions aren't enough". I'll have to go back and see if I can think up of any more. For now let's talk about Crescent Moon Island and the few bosses there that could prove troublesome. Yeah, the carpenter drone can become hardened against attacks but for serious, go kill a turtle and throw it at him like Mario. Solved.

No I'm talking more about the likes of Legtrap Kaula and her pet giant wasp Blackwing. For a solo Kai I strongly suggest trying to separate the two and taking on Blackwing first. The wasp has a tendency to teleport to you while Kaula has to actually sprint across the map. The wasp is also the easier of the two to read and defeat.

Kaula is the main problem though as she runs very fast, and can jump up and down those embankments faster than you can. She also has a strong and fast melee combo. The only weakness to it is that she keeps moving forward through it. For a Kai I'd recommend placing your dodge grapple midway along the long narrow path and make use of it to dodge through Kaula and shoot her in the back. Rinse and repeat.

Feel free to shoot her in front too.

Meanwhile, Death Chief Kielu has a pretty weak staff melee attack. What she does have is ye old black seeking orb (again - you should know how to evade these by now), and more importantly a scream followed by pounding her staff on the ground rythmically three times. This makes a giant snake tail pop up from right under you which can easily kill you in 2 hits. Running around makes it impossible for the tail to hit you, or you could just time your evades.

This is important to know because when you face the rest of the giant snake (Lakoria), it will do the tail attack up to 10 times on the person furthest away from it. Well, the last one is random target, but you can save your team a lot of hurt if you work out a "runner" ahead of time whose sole purpose is to distract the very painful tail spike away from the actual battle. 

Other than "if the snake swallows you, kill it from within", I can't really give more tips against Lakoria since I've so far only been the runner. :P

Monday 22 December 2014

Silent Night (Gloria actually)

Well, more like silence for a few nights as this will be my last post for a few days as things get a little hectic around here. So, I wish you all an advanced, very Merry Christmas and will return to posting a few days after. In the meantime, I'll leave you with another Youtube carol, this time by ThePianoGuys. Enjoy! :)

Saturday 20 December 2014

Today I Smiled: A Measure of Character (NWO Foundry)

Just spruiking my latest Neverwinter Online foundry creation which I've entered into a contest over there. Not sure if I'll win anything, but decor wise I think I've improved a lot since my first few attempts!

A Measure of Character

You have received a letter from Humberto Boffanart, a representative of the Merchant's Guild, regarding a matter involving Neverwinter City's dock districts. He has invited you to come to his office which is located in the Western part of the city.

Warning: There is a LOT of reading in this quest, a fair bit of traveling, and very, very little fighting. You are still recommended to bring potions though... just for safety.

Friday 19 December 2014

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

I only recently finished this game after getting it for free from the GoG site. Initially I was thinking of doing a playthrough for it but since one of this games strongest strengths is it's story (and because Astalnar already did one), I decided against it. Instead I thought I'd do a review! This game follows the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a "witcher" (monster hunter) of some repute, during a time of crisis for the land of Temeria as someone is going about killing all the kings in the region.

Suffering from magical amnesia might seem a little convoluted but it actually works well here as you slowly uncover more of Geralt's past as you play through the game. As a fan of the TV series (I haven't read the books, nor played the first game) Geralt and everyone in the world around him are portrayed wonderfully. The locations and environments are well detailed and fun and at times scary to explore.

Michal Zebrowski's Geralt is still the best version for me. :P

At the end of chapter 1 you are given a choice between two ways to continue. I've played through both and while you still go through the same maps as the alternate path, the story and plot points are quite different, barely coming together again at the end of the "tree". 

As expected of an RPG, there are many side quests to help gain XP, gold and other resources for crafting and there are three mini-games to break up any tedium from the main plot in the form of QTE brawling, arm wrestling, and my favourite: dice poker. I also quite like the potion system in place, which I'll bring up again in a later MMO Design post.

What I don't like? Well, for starters there is no epic or memorable music. It's just... ok? Even Neverwinter Online, which isn't really known for good music, has my wife humming the main tune every now and then - and she doesn't even play the game! The combat in Witcher 2 can also be quite challenging until you get used to Geralt's hit and run design, and all the abilities he has at his disposal. Perhaps most annoyingly, it suffers from Save Game Glut - where your saves are always put in a new slot. Each game session of mine would therefore begin with a few minutes of clearing some of the old ones out.

It's a pity that those things slightly ruin an otherwise good game. I still recommend it though, and give it four out of five silver swords. If you are only planning on playing one "path" (or are the type to only play through once) then consider it a three and a half silver swords instead.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Vindictus: Sewer Sniping

[This is part of my Vindictus tutorials.]

More tips today but these are more for a Kai/ranged type.

The sewers are both an excellent and a horrible place for a Kai. Apart from being tight quarters and home to some agile lizardmen assassins (who are perhaps the only trash melee mob that manage to get up and damage me in a combo), it features very few types of boss chambers. The first is little more than a slightly larger than average square room. This type sucks, and you will have to fight fairly against the usually spry (ratman kung fu dude) or cheating boss within (I'm looking at you Shadow Shaman Ingkara - who summons shadows of other bosses to help him)!

Fortunately the other type of boss room is much more favourable, and is connected by a few passages to a portion that looks like this:

The bosses in those chambers can be lured back here, and then by simply standing on a different level you can snipe them at your leisure. Only the lizard assassin boss I think has means to chase you up and down, but even then it isn't consistent, giving you ample time to displace and snipe him from

There's also one boss, Warrior Chuilin, who has a cliff. You have to be a bit speedy to make sure he is downstairs while you are up, but if you stand at this spot his AI breaks and again you can snipe the otherwise dangerous boss to death.


Lastly, the raid boss Thor - a giant electric frog, is pretty easy for a Kai player in a group. Stay away from the frog. Stay out of the water. Fire at will. Easy peasy.

Monday 15 December 2014

MMO Design: Gold Denial

[Part of my MMO Design Folder.]

You might recall me mentioning I'd do a post about "Gold Denial" (stop players from gaining gold) a short while back, which is an alternative to a "Gold Sink" (make players spend gold on x) but I was having trouble thinking up of a valid way to do this while still letting players feel they are "improving". Fortunately for me, Cryptic has already answered that question in Neverwinter Online with the introduction of Artifact Equipment. Let's go over the basics first for those who don't play.

In that game, killing enemies gives you items and a pretty small amount of coinage. Selling said items were what really brought in your gold, especially the higher tiered, rarer gear - the rarest of which actually is more profitable to be sold for other currencies on the player market. Like Diablo, some equipment has gem slots where you can enhance various traits or damage, depending on the gem. You can also enhance the gem quality by feeding it other gems to make it stronger and to make the progress meter break through to the next "level" you need special items that cost quite a bit and face an ever increasing chance of destroying them the higher the level is.

Since gems are just commonly dropped by bad guys though you could just be patient getting them and selling the excess gear for money. With Tiamat's arrival, players now have access to potentially powerful Artifact Equipment which doesn't eat gems to advance - it eats other equipment! Specifically it eats other "identified" equipment, since most things that drop are unidentified (and you sell them that way) this also diminishes the stacks and stacks of ID scrolls (another common drop) people are carrying.

This way players still get that feeling of improvement, yet at the same time have their gold income potentially cut down to almost zero. For awhile at least. A long while. Max rank for each artifact item is 60 which counts needs a total of 4,645,200 refinement points to reach. The most common gear gives around 100 points when consumed. Given that people can and will have multiple artifact items (cloak, belt, main hand, off-hand, etc) this acts as an awesome gold prevention method - which coupled by the gold sink that is Tiamat herself (on potions and injury kits) is good design, in my book anyway.

What do you think? Should this sort of system be introduced into more games?

Sunday 14 December 2014

Life of Pi

I had no interest to see this when it first came out and only recently watched it on TV, and wow - I was very impressed. The majority of the movie is a type of flash back as "Pi" is an Indian man who for the whole film is simply recounting his early life to a visiting book writer. The story is heavy on the topic of faith and has more and more fantastic visuals as it goes on, with perhaps some of the best CGI animals that I've seen in a film ever.

The first part of the movie deals with his childhood and only about half way do we reach the iconic and important part depicted by the cover where he eventually ends up stuck in a little life boat with only a non-friendly bengal tiger for company. There are funny parts, sad parts, tense parts, and parts where you wonder what the hell Pi is doing, but it is wrapped up so neatly at the end and makes for a fantastic work of art that has had a lot of thought put into it. It's also made me totally respect Suraj Sharma (teenage Pi) as an actor.

Given that all the things I like such as gory violence, female nudity and explosions are missing from this movie then you will understand when I say I give this movie five out of five flying fish, that you should go see it if you haven't already. Totally recommended!

Saturday 13 December 2014

Vindictus: Oversized Enemies

[This is part of my Vindictus tutorials.]

More tips today but these are more for a Kai/ranged type.

Giant, brute type enemies like Shakkar, the Ogre centurion, and Black Hammer always seem scarier, but in a non-raid mission this might actually make things easier for you if you are a patient Kai. Simply sprint away from the bad dude in a circle. They will stomp after you, slowly gaining ground until they think you are in range for an attack. At that point they will do something that looks anything BUT walking and that's your cue to evade. Maybe twice for good measure.

No Benny Hill music plays while doing so.

Turn around, plug the flailing fool full of arrows and run again. Done right he will never hit you while you slowly whittle away his HP. Boring and not very sportsman like, but it works. Not so much against big enemies that still seem agile like gnolls and tall but thin goblins, nor in raids. :P

Friday 12 December 2014

Today I Smiled: Competition

One thing Tiamat has brought is a small re-kindling of my NWO foundry building and I'm glad to report that the Scribes' Enclave still stands! To try show my appreciation I've joined this months mini-contest which involves making the Best Winter Home. I've made these two for people to enjoy - temporarily anyway. I will be taking them down once the contest is done to give way to actual quests.

Please note: There are no quests, monsters or reward in either of these. Just a house! :P

A Humble Abode - (NW-DTCJS6NS2) 

A Winter Home - (NW-DCBNR2ABC)

Speaking of foundry stuff, this review by Tipa (aka Brenda Holloway) of Arroway Manor also made me smile! No, I didn't win. Far from it, but still got the green level companion reward. That hasn't stopped me from joining another foundry contest, one involving the North Docks District. That one isn't finished yet but I'll be sure to post up my work here when it is!

On to non-Neverwinter stuff... I'm sure most of you have seen the "This is EVE" video by now. I don't play that game but boy that almost, almost made me jump the fence to try it. Another one that I'm on the fence for is Black Desert. Just from the first picture on Steparu's Final Beta test. I first thought it was a shot of tabletop models. Then I have to remind myself its open-pvp so... probably not. :P

Also something that probably no one (in my usual blogging circle) has seen before... female Streetstyle Freestyle final battle: Two chicks showing fantastic control with a soccer ball. Yeah, stuff like that interests me. :P

I guess I should finish off with something more Christmas-sy since it -is- the season, so here's Peter Hollens with a jazzy acapella version of Holy Night. Hope you all have a wonderful day!

Thursday 11 December 2014


Future Magic!

In the future, Earth is where all the oppressed, poor, and otherwise unsavory masses live while the rich and well to do reside on the nearby orbiting man-made satellite which gives the name to the movie: Elysium. Looking at it as a straight action film, Matt Damon makes a decent, unwilling protagonist who moves the again mostly predictable plot forward. The fights are pretty cool, especially the slow mo pieces where things just get torn up with futuristic high caliber rounds. The special FX are again top notch, though I must point out it is a lot easier to render mechanical stuff (like robots and space ships) over living tissue (like, furry dire wolves).

My main issue comes from the staggering amount of plot holes which seem to be just as many as if shot by those exploding rounds in the film. Basically ALL the future magic pushes the envelope of WTF too much for me. Shoulder mounted missiles that can fly out into space and can still hit targets in orbit? Check. Flight from Earth to space station, 19 minutes in a vehicle that seems to negate all G-force. Check. Pills that eliminate all effects of radiation poisoning (apart from death), check. Go'auld Sarcophagi that don't seem to need power that can heal anyone of anything except death? Check.

That last item is the main reason the "poor" people try to get up to Elysium, because the "rich" are so snooty they don't just send ships with said devices to go cure them. That everyone up there is that much of a douche bag is just as unbelievable as the device itself, though I suppose if they did that though there would be no movie because... peace is boring you know. :P

I give Elysium 2.5 out of 5.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Vindictus: King of the Trolls

[This is part of my Vindictus tutorials.]

I started getting into real trouble when I reached the troll inhabited Hilder Forest Ruins. It's like an exam of every boss you have fought, just that they move faster, hit harder, and are way uglier. I quite disliked the very first boss, Meperdu who has a unique(?) ability of pinning you against the wall and forcing the whole rest of the fight to take place in judo range (ie. zero distance). I could still beat him, but the one that really sucked was the king of the Shady Forest - Klaus.

Ho ho ho!

I think next to GW2s Liadri he currently holds the most number of kills on me in any MMO. The difference is that while Liadri was a duel, Klaus is a raid boss, and given that I only beat him on my ninth attempt means he destroyed the first eight different parties I went in with! Even the Neverwinter's mighty Tiamat only won four times before I broke her winning streak. Unlike Tiamat though there is no strategy to Klaus. It's pure skill and luck and if you have enough of both, he can be soloed.

This did let me study him quite a bit, and as a ranged character, I found out why he is so damned tough - because he is a crafty bastard and all his hits take out a ton of HP.

Two moves in particular are what would always get me:

First is his charge. Yup, he runs in a straight line from point A to point B. Sounds easy to evade right? Wrong. Point B is JUST BEFORE his target. He then shifts direction (if the target moved) and continues charging to point C - through said target, and anyone else in the way.  I would always dodge too early. It really has to be at the last split second that you move aside or he hits you with that giant horned helm.

Second is that he waves his magic mace/staff in the air. This actually sends out hard to see, translucent orbs at all players (+1) that SEEK. Again, you have to dodge at the last second, too early and it will track and hit you. Getting hit by any of these drain all your stamina, meaning you cannot run or dodge and making you pretty vulnerable to his charge which he likes to use right after. He also shoots an extra one, meaning someone has to dodge two translucent spheres. That final one not only drains your stamina but actually roots you to the spot.

Monday 8 December 2014

Hercules (The Rock's Version)

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Hercules is a pretty interesting take on the story of the rather well known greek demigod, and he makes an excellent lead in this sort of thing. Unlike Kevin Sorbo's version who pulls his punches, the Rock has no qualms about killing (and beheading) any enemies that threaten him, or his employers. Yup. This Hercules being a mere mercenary is just the start of rocking the boat to try throw off whatever expectations you brought in with you.

Or smashing them. As Hercules does. :P

Alas while the telling of the tale is an interesting one and the special FX are pretty damn good (I think the standard has raised because I keep saying this of most things now), the main plot is still pretty predictable and formulaic so don't get your hopes too high. Just enjoy it for the action flick that it is and you will be entertained. My only complaint is that there isn't enough on screen death of named characters, but I'm a little weird like that. I give it 2.5 out of 5.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Neverwinter Online: Tiamat has arrived!

I wasn't going to do a boss write-up today but this one seems to be needed at the moment. Despite the new and, as expected, grindy zone of the Well of Dragons being out for awhile it was only a few days ago did Tiamat actually begin trying to emerge from her temple (on the live server anyway).

Currently, the only requirement is that you can access the Well of Dragons to reach the temple to fight her. Doors open for 5 minutes every top of the hour. You will then get put into a small antechamber with 24 random players. Less random if you go in at the exact same second - use the count down timer to help with that.

The flames of your hate burn hotter than any of my breath attacks!

After the 5 minutes prep time in which you really should decide as a group if you are sending 5 people a head or zerging half and half, you will have 20 minutes to win. First step is kill the summoner (of your color - Rath Modar is "red"), take the dragon soul orb (of your color) and put it in a quick slot. Alternatively you can kill summoners 2 and 4 then jump to 1, 3 (Rath), and 5 which is supposedly quicker.

Remember to use this soul orb wisely as it will protect you and your allies from the otherwise insta-kill breath weapon of each head (and only the head of the matching color). Then kill cult leader Severin. All of this should be smooth sailing so go hard and go fast, ala the Dragon Herald zerg circuit. You'll know what that is when you hang around the Well of Dragons long enough.

The next part involves rounds of defending 3 clerics (Linu in the middle has the hardest time here) from demonic forces as they complete their spell to push Tiamat back in her hole. As clerics take damage their already slow filling progress meter is reduced. Use your best judgement and keep an eye on the progress bars to see who needs help. Ideally fight far away from the clerics too. If you stand at the edges you can make enemies throw themselves off for insta-kills which is great since all the adds are level 65 here.

When the cleric spell fires you have 2 minutes to damage each of the five heads as fast and as much as you can. Afterwards it becomes the cleric phase again then heads phase again and so on until you run out of time (at which point Elminster has to reverse time to cover your retreat) or you win.

How do you win? ALL FIVE heads must die in the SAME 2 minute gap. If any heads die early, they will be regenerated to 25% on the next cycle meaning you have just lost this hour's round for everyone. Characters also get various boons depending on how much treasure was recovered in the hour leading up to the temple doors opening but that is even more out of your control than this boss fight (unless you and your allies are crazy prepared), so just prep to fight without any boons. Health potions and injury kits aplenty are a good idea. :P

Tiamat is also one of the rare bosses in this game where adds should be ignored when the heads are open for attack. Nice going Cryptic!

Friday 5 December 2014

NWO: Grey Wolf Den Boss


Since I've been doing write ups on all these Vindictus bosses I thought I'd put one up for Neverwinter Online too. Ethraniev Marrowslake is the final boss at Grey Wolf Den and like most other bosses in this game summons adds (additional monsters) to aid her when her health drops to particular intervals. Like most other bosses the golden rule applies:

"Kill the adds. If you kill the adds, you will win NWO."

Obviously if you can kill the adds WHILE hurting the boss that's even better!

Ethraniev deserves a special mention though because if she hits any foe with her sword she automatically summons two shadow wolves. Fortunately all her attacks are easily enough to read so just avoid that sword at all costs. Most importantly - stow your NPC companions as they do NOT evade and will only guarantee more wolves spawning!

Keep that in mind and she is easily soloable with a level appropriate character. Or you can just rock up with your level 60 and destroy her however you please. :P

Thursday 4 December 2014

Vindictus: Monkeys in the Snow

[This is part of my Vindictus tutorials.]

The monkeys (yetis) in the Hoarfrost Depths also have some lessons they can teach you: Painful ones! Especially against the likes of the Yeti bosses, Big Horn and Rockjaw. You've already started to see bosses with combination attacks, but these guys are quite proficient at chaining them quickly forcing you to be quick with your wit and reflexes or to suffer the heavy damage from failure.


Practice reading them as it will make reading later bosses easier, especially with their jump and roll attacks - both of which usually happen in numerous succession. Future foes might look different, but the skeleton mesh used for the actions is the same.

As for the kobolds, they are the lesser threat here. I will mention that for the "Friendly Eweroch" who comes with two bear allies - kill the bears first while staying away from his ranged attacks. By the way, this technique of "kill the adds" is used for almost every single boss in Neverwinter Online. If you want to win that game, just kill the adds and you will win. Most of the time anyway. :P

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Gravity (Review)

Space, the final frontier. It's beautiful. It's quiet. It's also effing boring. This film follows newbie astronaut Sandra Bullock as she and her comrades try to survive deadly space junk, in space.

Honestly we were so annoyed at the low skill level of her character is was at times frustrating, which is not good since the movie really is a character piece more than anything else. Fortunately there's a lot of awesome CGI to look at, because there's not much else going on here.

Apart from the "space junk attack action sequences" there is only one memorable, character building scene for me - and a ton of WTF is she doing / did she do that for scenes, followed by face palming.

If that's enough for you or you really like Sandra Bullock and/or George Clooney then you may still enjoy this rather slow motion picture. Apparently a lot of people did. I'm just not really one of them. I give Gravity 2 out of 5, and that's being generous because of the FX.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Vindictus: Lessons from Vampires

[This is part of my Vindictus tutorials.]

Once you've managed to get past the two "tutorial" zones and finally find yourself in the perpetually burning town of Ainle (I wonder if the last "e" is silent) you will finally be facing your first fast moving -normal- opponents, the vampires. Yes, I think they run slightly faster than the kobold axe-zerkers you previously met in Hoarfrost Hollow but they still shouldn't pose much a problem.

Two of the boss vampires though have useful mechanics to get used to right away. The first is "The Knight" who is the boss of the mission "Being from the Other World". Sure he has a sword, but in my experience (as a Kai) he certainly enjoys casting fireball with his other hand. This orb tracks you and explodes on impact. Lots of the later bosses have a similar mechanic with the tracking orb, so it's good to practice against him here. The two important points of this are:

Don't dodge too early (or too late, duh), and avoid sloped ground as it will screw up your timing since the orb will explode sooner.

Likewise the second boss I want to talk about is "The Blood Lord" who likes to vanish into a cloud of bats and suddenly appear on top of someone. Again, this move is used with slight graphical difference but pretty much same effect by a few bosses later on.

Just look at those claws.

The lesson to learn here is simply to RUN when the bad guy vanishes, preferably away from your allies, and prepare to dodge if he does choose to pick on you. As a Kai who is constantly shooting from a distance this is really the only move you have to worry about from this otherwise slow and easily readable fellow.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Today I Smiled: The Golem City

I have a big reason to smile today, as a good friend and guildmate of mine has made a preview trailer for his new young adult action/adventure novel. I've never actually heard of anyone making a video trailer to a book but I found it pretty damn neat! Please give "The Golem City" a look on youtube, and if sounds interesting to you please follow the links to get the rest of the book! :)

'The Golem City' by writer Timothy Andrews.

Friday 28 November 2014

MMOs: Cosmetic "Tax" Gold Sinks

[Added to my MMO Design Folder.]

Getting gold out of the game is always a challenge for MMOs, given the amount generated by often times simply killing critters. Or killing critters and then selling their junk to NPCs who never run out of gold to hand out (outside of some early shards of Ultima Online from personal experience). While I put aside the "gold denial" topic for another time, you are probably familiar with the usual gold sinks already present such as fast travel, goods only purchasable from NPCs (often consumables), and maybe even death tax (which seems to be phasing out).

Well, while playing Vindictus I struck upon a silly notion. Cosmetic gold sinks! "That's not new," I hear you say. Yes you can already buy haircuts or name changes or dye to color your clothes, but all of those are one off purchases, at least until you decide to change your look, name, or attire which isn't all that often in MMOs.

Gear that eventually goes *poof* or simply deteriorates to being worthless stat-wise has never been popular when I've brought it up here before but what about gear that frays, rusts, discolors, tears and chips? Even if it is the same powerful item it once was, would you still be ok wearing it if there were growing splotches of flashing pink and green? Or if all your armor slowly turned into a turd brown color with sploches of yellow, full of scratches, ding marks and holes?

Hair is a good one too. Just let it grow every x days spent in-game and the longer you don't tidy it up via NPC barber then the longer and more unkempt it goes. Male characters would have facial hair growing as well. I suppose you could opt to be bald at the start though. Leave it long enough and maybe flies even start buzzing around.

Would this simply lead to a world of bald and/or shaggily bearded hobos running around with rusty looking weapons or do you think people would pay to keep their character looking "good" (keeping in mind that regardless of looks, no stats/usability changes for players)? What do you think?

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Vindictus: Newbie Guide

[This is part of my Vindictus tutorials.]

So you've just started Vindictus, made a character, maybe fought a giant spider already, and are now in the town of Colhen wondering what is next? Here are some tips that hopefully help someone out there. Note: The information here is based on the US servers.

Don't Use Steam
This is dependent on your setup of course but I find that Steam lags me. Playing through Steam might be convenient, but you will get a more enjoyable experience if you play the game without it. If you installed it via Steam, have no fear. You can go to \Steam\steamapps\common\Vindictus\en-US and run Vindictus.exe from there. Moves that make you travel big distances are more likely to disconnect you than any other (like Kai's dodge grapple), so if latency is an issue for you keep this in mind.

Free Gear
You will notice pretty quick that gold is pretty hard to come by. Indeed, apart from the loose change you might pick up in missions you won't be getting paid for your work until you reach level 20. This is an intentional anti-bot method applied to the game. To balance it out, you can "shop" with Ceara at the Mercenary Outpost to get free equipment - as much as you want! Make the most of it because once you reach level 20, all of it becomes unusable to you. Not to worry though because at that stage the gold starts flowing in.

Go Questing
All quests are a good source of EXP and Gold. Some just involve talking to people to complete. Press "M" to view the list of what you have to do. I strongly recommend doing all the optional quests too. Most are collection quests for items that you can simply buy at the Marketplace. Obviously use your best judgement but most are a good trade off for gold vs time loss and EXP gain.

Use the Marketplace
All items have two values, a sell price (the price if sold to the NPC) and a market price (the average price on the market). Many items have a higher market price than the NPC sell price so make use of it! As mentioned before, also use it to buy quest items to save you some time and effort. You won't be able to do this in Season 2, where you are forced to farm all quest items yourself. Don't worry about the gold. It will come on its own. Unless you intend to craft yourself, then you might need to be more clever than I am here. 

You will eventually come to areas that require "jumping". While there actually used to be a Jump function that has been removed. Instead just use your evade (Space) or sprint (double tap direction) in the direction of the gap and hopefully you will clear it. Of course this will only work if you are starting from a higher ledge than the one you are aiming for. As there is falling damage you should practice this early on. Later gaps will be fatal if you fail to clear them.

Check your inventory ("I" key) for an Honorbound event ticket. If you have one, use it! It will ask you to name someone who introduced you to Vindictus. The named person and yourself will recieve very useful bonuses every level you gain. If you are playing with a partner then name each other, or a friend you play with. If you have no one else to name then please name me "Josephsky" (if you are on US East)!

Carraige Driver is a Liar
The path to Rocheste is -NOT- dangerous and is only home to sheep. Feel free to run it on foot.

That's it for now! More tips, especially for archer characters, will be coming up soon! :)

Monday 24 November 2014


For the past month I've been playing the free to play action MMO "Vindictus" a fair bit and obviously find it quite cool. That said it I also see that it has its fair share of problems. The town hubs really serve as the main MMO aspect of the game, where players can interact and pick up quests. All the action itself is packed away into segmented instances hosted by the party leader, so two parties adventuring in the same place will never meet by chance for example.

You will also be stuck with whatever class restrictions you chose at the start. For instance, I made a Kai (bow wielder), and while I can customize his appearance to be slightly more unique, I am restricted to bows as my primary weapon and can never use weapons or armor of the other classes. As expected, the story is quite linear too and the side quests while being optional and grindy, are really optimal places to get EXP and gold from. While most battles are repeatable, none of the quests are. Much like the action, the story starts pretty slow but ramps up very nicely as you go through the game.

The combat itself is one of the big highlights for me, specifically the numerous boss fights. Really, none of the regular mobs have caused me any problems but the bosses require some good timing, concentration and on the later ones (season 2) some light planning. These are made more awesome by the fantastic sound track in the game. I like that they opted to not play any background music while actually running a mission and only to turn on the awesomeness once you reach a boss.

You can find the music under Vindictus/en-US/sound/bgm/

I do take issue that they put mandatory raids as part of the main story which is a bit of a downer since I absolutely hate the whole notion of raids to begin with. These also serve as pseudo walls to my enjoyment as it is very dependent on other people taking part. Given that the story is the my main reason for playing it, having stupid blocks like this only serve to drive players like me away. There's also a very tangible "pay to win" factor in the game in that people with NX cash can pay to be revived (or to revive the entire party) within mission.

I think Mabinogi (to which it is related) also beats it in one aspect: the "Life" part. The question of "after you finish the story, what is there to do" leaves a bit of a blank for me in Vindictus. It's the reverse in Mabinogi, where there seems to always be too much to do! Anyway, Vindictus is my "flavor" at the moment so you can expect more posts related to it coming up!

Sunday 23 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Aftermath

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

With no one on the throne again, Queen Anora quickly claimed it as her own and held a celebration to honor our victory. I also convince her to strip all lands and titles from the Howe family and give them all to the restored Cousland line, namely to Lord Ferghus Cousland. Yup, my big brother somehow survived and sat out of everything but is a-ok now. I bid him and Oghren, who decided to become a general in the Queen's army, farewell to continue my travels elsewhere with Quickly and Leliana.

In the months that followed the Queen proved to be a good ruler for the people, even providing the Dalish with new lands to settle in but the untrusting elves remained restless there. King Harrowmont didn't fare as well, isolating the dwarves further from the surface. He tried rebuild the Anvil of the Void to catastrophic results and was under threat of an exalted march by the Templars for harbouring free mages. Eventually he was killed by poisoning.

Knight-Commander Greagoir retired and died of old age while Arl Eamon had another gifted child. This one he gave to the newly built Circle of Mages as his wife Isolde died during the birth. As for Ferghus I heard he didn't make such a good lord at all, hitting the drink pretty hard and breaking things left and right. Eventually he left for a different land to become a blacksmith of all things! Well it's been awhile since I've seen him. Maybe I should go pay him a visit?

90%(?) chance of repairs! :P

Here ends the Tales of this Blight. Maybe it will continue it one day.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: The Price of War

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

With 50 Redcliffe Soldiers, 50 Dalish elf archers, 50 Dwarven Warriors and 16 Templars behind me I decide to try clear as much of the city as I can before chasing down the archdemon. The darkspawn on the firey streets are all pretty tough, numerous and later on well entrenched, but we persevere - slaying two enemy commanders before marching up to Fort Drakon, the top of which was where the archdemon was last spotted crash landing after Riordan managed to wound the creature. Alas, the Grey Warden himself did not survive the attempt.

Somehow Leliana managed to squirrel herself back to the entry gate too, just as darkspawn reinforcements were coming in but between her, the handful of Denerim soldiers and Quickly, who had transformed into a mighty beast during his long down time, they are no match and are easily driven back. Leliana then magically made it back to the rest of us in time to storm the fort itself, fighting our way past elite darkspawn until finally reaching the roof.

The archdemon was a beast to combat, but thanks to Arl Eamon, Knight-Commander Greagoir, my archers and emplaced ballista it was brought down easily enough even with darkspawn reinforcements coming to its aid. King Alistair, being the "older" Grey Warden and not actually wanting to be king anyway opted to end the beast by stabbing it in the face. An effective move against pretty much everything! With a big explosion, he and the archdemon died and the remaining darkspawn - now leaderless - fled the city. Victory was ours!

Everyone else up there somehow survived.

Friendly losses incurred were: Riordan, King Alistair, 13 of his Templar brothers, 28 elves, 28 dwarves and all the soldiers from Redcliffe.

*Sorry Rakuno: That was a very short summary to eat popcorn to. :P

Friday 21 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Beginning of the End

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Riordan shares with Alistair and myself why Grey Wardens are needed to stop the blight. It is specifically because to ultimately kill an archdemon, the last blow must be struck by a Grey Warden or the fiend will simply reform itself elsewhere. Ultimately, whoever does that also dies due to some absurd magical reason. Morrigan claims that she knows of a blood ritual spell that can save one of us from dying, it just requires sex. Man that sounds like an awesome spell.

However it also turns out that this will result in an "old god" being reborn so I'm not keen on it. Especially the "blood magic" part. Despite my best negotiation attempts, Morrigan gets upset by me not letting her do her ritual and leaves on the eve of the battle. Oh well. It's not like mages are a necessity anyway.

Not willing to be making any more "old gods" thank you very much!

The next day sees the army march forth to Denerim which is already in flames. After rushing the gates and defeating the outer most of the darkspawn horde it is clear the army is badly out numbered. Riordan suggests the only way to win is to go after the archdemon directly and advises I take a small team with me to try do so.

It falls upon Quickly to defend the gates, though Leliana claims she can command the defense there to prevent darkspawn reinforcements from appearing while at the same time joining me deeper in the city. That will be an interesting feat!

Thursday 20 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Ye Olde Rope-a-dope

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Since Anora will serve as another divider among the lords which cannot be dealt with right now, King Alistair orders her locked away in a tower for the time being while we deal with the blight. We make one last detour though to rob the Tears of Andraste from the pompous lord who set up an ambush for us last time - a pretty easy task. After anonymously donating the artifact to the chantry we head to Redcliffe to fight the darkspawn horde.

Sure enough the village has already fallen by the time we get there. Despite the numerous enemies present they are all lowish level making it a joy to wade through and slaughter. Clearing the castle courtyard is also just as easy. Fortunately the soldiers stationed there kept them out of the castle proper and soon, all the darkspawn are defeated! It is too early to rejoice though as Riordan, a visiting Grey Warden who I previously rescued from Arl Howe's dungeon, arrives to tell us that the main bulk of the horde is heading towards Denerim and there's no way we'll reach it with our forces in time to defend the walls.

We be clever!

That doesn't mean we're not going to try though, and plan to march at first light. This would be the last night before the great battle. Sharing a drink with Oghren, I learn he loves the surface and intends to find some old flame after our victory. At least he's optimistic!

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Matters of Leadership

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Before returning to Arl Eamon's estate I sort out a few other leadership issues first for the local thieves guild and the Blackstone Irregulars, killing the upstart faction leaders. I also decide to hand in all the evidence of the Mages Collective who previously were enjoying freedom from non monitored magic to Knight-Commander Tavish who is overjoyed at having someone to hunt and destroy.

I also make a pit stop at the local tavern where many of the visiting lords are relaxing, handing in tokens of their relations that I had freed from Howe's prison to earn their favor before letting Arl Eamon officially beginning the Landsmeet at the palace. It is a big event with lots of people in attendance and Loghain at every turn trying to win votes to his side. Too bad for him I'm simply better and win 5/1. El Presidente would be proud.

Loghain doesn't take defeat lightly and chooses to have a duel against me which I allow. Too bad the supposedly "great" general cannot detect stealth so it is easy for me to take him down, finishing him with a strong nut-shot kick. Humiliated, he surrenders himself for punishment and despite my best efforts to please Anora by not executing her dad, Alistair decides to claim the crown for himself (which I support) and as his first act - beheads the traitorous Loghain.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Alien Export

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Talking to Queen Anora at Arl Eamon's estate I am convinced she genuinely wants to stop the madness of her father. After easily proposing a marriage between her and Alistair as that would be the strongest candidate against Loghain at the Landsmeet, she first sends us to the elven alienage (slums) to find out what sort of schemes Loghain had going in there and why things got so bad that it had to be closed for so long.

Apart from meeting a hilarious group of beggars and assisting a near blind templar to cleanse a number of buildings of evil spirits and demons, I can focus all my attention on the supposed plague within, as well as group of Tevinter Imperium troops (overseas empire) who claim to be helping cleanse the sick via magic. With a bribe and a bit of snooping it becomes clear that is not what they are doing at all. They are slavers!

As expected, I carefully annihilate them all - especially the ones that try talk to me to stop the madness. Their leader ultimately reveals they are there legitimately as they struck a bargain with Loghain. He tries to make all sorts of deals too to spare himself at the end, and once more to Morrigan's disapproval I decline all of them - opting instead to eradicate such scum from existence.

Monday 17 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Break in Bad

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Soon after settling in at Eamon's estate, a handmaiden of Queen Anora - Loghain's daughter and widow of King Cailan, arrives asking us to free her from her imprisonment at Arl Howe's estate. I agree to it but get side tracked in robbing someone else's mansion first - only that whole job is a trap forcing a pretty big fight against the ambushing guardsmen to escape. Of course I make sure to kill -all- guardsmen before escaping just to make a point.

After the warm up round we go to Arl Howe's estate and initially are very cautious about killing anyone, using guard disguises and everything. Unfortunately Queen Anora's room is sealed magically which means having to kill Howe's magician who is currently with him in the dungeons below. The guards there see right through the ruse too, and put up a decent fight but are ultimately all killed like the scum they are. It helps that Morrigan's AOE blizzard hits through walls. Their boss, Arl Howe, dies as unceremoniously as the rest which leaves my thirst for vengeance quite strong.

Blood lust activated!

There are a few prisoners down there too, most with political ties so I free all but one who seems like a scum anyway. That one I execute on the spot. Before freeing Anora I also meticulously go through the top floor, not just raiding Howe's treasury but killing ALL the guards who worked for him (apart from the 2 non combat ones) both inside and outside the mansion before freeing the Queen.

Loghain's female bodyguard, Ser Cauthrien, shows up with a good number of soldiers at that point and tries to arrest me. Stupid bitch, only pussies surrender! She and all her minions are easily torn to pieces with good tactics that exploit their flawed "stand here and guard, no matter what" AI. Rescue complete.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: People of Importance

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

The assembly of lords at Orzammar listen to the tale of how I sort of killed two of their Paragons and destroyed one of their legendary artifacts and are then forced to swallow that I get to pick who their next king is, regardless of their previous voting. Obviously I chose Harrowmont and Bhelen and his supporters get so upset that they are moved to violence right there and then! After all of them violently die, Harrowmont agrees to assist in the war against the darkspawn. I even convince the Dead Legion commander to do the same.

Damn this thing is heavy!

I take a tour of the palace afterwards and find a poisoned noble lady within. Fortunately she doesn't need some hard to get holy ashes, just reagents and herbalism to sort her out. With nothing left to do here I decide to first visit Denerim again to try finish up any out standing side quests such as getting drake and dragon scale armor constructed, as well as meeting a boss figure of the Antivan Crows assassin group who tries to hire me. Needless to say I make sure he and his cronies do not leave the encounter alive.

Since lots of areas are still closed off to me, I decide to ultimately return to Arl Eamon and get him to call for the Landsmeet and travel with him to his estate back in Denerim. Lots of back and forth, I know! Loghain, his female body guard, and Arl Howe come to welcome us right away in person. After exchanging a few, not so polite or subtle words they leave and it's time to work on uniting the land!

Saturday 15 November 2014

Today I Smiled: Music to my Ears

Hi all! Just another short break from the Tales of the Blight story. Don't worry, it will be back tomorrow!

What has me smiling today are a few things, the first of which is something my cousin sent me... Terry Crews and the Power of Music, which is just as WTF as the rest of his Old Spice commercials. If you actually listened to all of that and had an earfull of Mr. Crews yelling at you then I have the best thing to heal your ears: Malukah's rendition of Pippin's Song - The Edge of Night.

On top of that, I've just discovered the music folder of a particular game that has awesome music. The name of the game? Vindictus. I'll be talking about that more after I finish the Tales of the Blight, but for those who actually have it and are not aware - you can access all the cool mp3 tunes under the Vindictus/en-US/sound/bgm folder. A similar folder exists for Mabinogi namely Nexon/Mabinogi/Mp3 if you wanted to hear those ones.

Lastly, I did a second board game attempt and it was a dismal failure! Mechanics all wrong, boring game play, and too many moving pieces. Back to the drawing board for me! :P

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

Friday 14 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: I'll be Back

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Back at Orzammar we have to execute a few of Jarvia's supporters before finding our way back to the Deep Roads. Thankfully with most of the darkspawn heading topside, nothing here has respawned and it is just a simple task of jogging all the way back to that Brood Mother who stopped us last time. She has no such luck now as we are higher level, better equipped, and literally are exploding with health potions. Morrigan even has a group healing spell now so that fat tentacled thing is toast in no time!

Eventually we find Paragon Branka who is still alive, having spend all this time using her own clan to test the traps Paragon Caridin left to guard the Anvil of the Void, which Branka is obsessed about. She forcefully enlists us too, and after fighting through a ton more darkspawn (because that's not getting old *ironic voice*) I finally reach the easily disarmable traps (for our level) and find said anvil and Paragon Caridin who has now had his soul put into a golem.

For the Emperor?

Turns out this anvil requires the death of dwarves to be put into golems and that doesn't sit well with Caridin or myself, which makes us ally against Branka when she comes bouncing along to try claim it for herself. After she is killed by her ex-husband Oghren, I help caridin to destroy the device by... hammering it? Um. Ok. But not before he fashions a fancy crown to help me sort out the dwarf king issue back at the city. Caridin then offs himself by jumping into some lava. Very terminator.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Not so Simple

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

The only thing left between us and the Urn of Andraste's Sacred ashes is a gauntlet meant to test pilgrims who have come to pay tribute, and boy what scummy tests they are. The first room is one of riddles which is solved easily enough if you listen to the question enough times. Then there's a part where you fight your doppelganger (because Andraste is a sadist I guess) followed by an irritating bridge building puzzle that took me ages to solve.

I hate you, logic puzzle!

Only after all of that do we finally get to our objective, and with a pinch of the sacred ashes in hand we return immediately to Redcliffe and cure Arl Eamon who is brought up to speed rather quickly about all the events that transpired while he was in his coma. He's a pretty cool dude, and is not too upset about me hacking up his demon possessed kid earlier. He even suggests calling a Landsmeet at Denerim to get all the lords to rally together and put an end to Loghain's civil war, as well as putting Alistair forward as king.

I say that's all well and good and to go call it, but he refuses until I use up all the treaties I'm carrying to get more allies. Damn, he means the dwarves doesn't he? Oh well. Without any choice we head back to Orzammar, dealing with random darkspawn forces on the road AND in camp on the way. Looks like the archdemon is starting to think we're a threat if he's sending monstrous assassins after us.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Cult of the Dragon

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Our next stop is the small mountain village of Haven, following a lead to find some holy ashes to cure Arl Eamon. I decided to bring Alistair and Leliana for their chantry background and Morrigan for her spells on this mission. The villagers are outright weird and unfriendly and it isn't long before they turn to trying to murder us just like they've been doing to some others. I find one brother Genitivi a prisoner in their chantry and after learning that the ashes are close in a nearby ruin, I send the injured man back to Denerim for his own safety.

After purging the village of all life we do find more cultists and their pet dragon kin in the ruin and do the same. Turns out this cult worships dragons and believes one particularly powerful one to be a resurrected prophet. Sounds like a different group I've heard of before elsewhere...

Wonder if they are related?

Anyway, I end all of them which angers Morrigan a little bit, including their "worshipped" dragon. That turned out to be a pretty lengthy but fun optional boss fight. Alistair eventually slays the beast, leaving the way clear to reach the higher sanctum where the urn full of ashes are meant to be.

Slightly off topic: For those who play Neverwinter Online, now is a good time to remind you that the Cult of the Dragon are raising/summoning Tiamat on November 18th! :)

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Friend Zoned

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Not wanting to run out of supplies again we made a quick pit stop back with the elves after fighting past a bunch of ents to buy over 1000 units of elfroot and blowing the rest of our gold on other reagents for Morrigan to make a LOT of health poultices. While there we also violently deal with a few elves still angry at the ex-werewolves and a bunch of mercenaries from Denerim.

That reminds me to visit Denerim next where we pay a visit to Alistair's sister, Goldanna who is not too receptive of her half-brother. While I'm out doing party related quests I also decide to head over to Flemeth's hut to try make heads or tails if she is a daughter snatcher heart eater thing. She certainly gives nothing away and since she doesn't defend herself about Morrigan's accusations I can only assume they are true and face her in combat.

Oh crap.

What I didn't realize is that she could shape shift into a dragon! That at least explains how she saved us from the tower near the start. It's a pretty decent fight and though our resident mage was unavailable for this fight as she didn't want to face her mother, the numerous health salves already came in handy as the entire team survived the battle until Oghren finally finished the old hag off.

Morrigan was very pleased when I gave her Flemeth's real grimmoire but for some reason suddenly friend zoned me. Can't work out why (other than the "social butterfly" nature of my character) but at least Leliana hasn't done the same.

Monday 10 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Drama Camp

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Back at camp the girls are giving me issues and forcing me to pick one over the other ever since I gave that special spell book (earlier found in the mage tower) to Morrigan. Having forced my hand, I pick Morrigan over Leliana because she is simply more useful. The witch is delighted and asks me to slay her mother, Flemeth, next because apparently Flemeth likes taking the bodies of her daughters as a form of immortality. That's nice.

Alistair also shares that Grey Wardens have around 30 years to live after ingesting the darkspawn juice, because well... its poison. The older wardens feel the taint get stronger and thus are drawn to the deep roads to go out killing as many dark spawn as possible. While on the subject he mentions he has a sister in Denerim that he wants to visit before things go bad.

I'm the pretty one!

Meanwhile Oghren is so drunk that he hasn't realized he's no longer in the Deep Roads, and Leliana is broken up for the shortest time before she decides to share an elven song with the party, and then continues to bed me. Wait what? Did I break the game or something? Oh well, not complaining! ;P 

Quickly doesn't care. He's a dog, and he's always happy. :D

Sunday 9 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Sod the Dwarves

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Kinda getting sick of all these tunnels and darkspawn now, and as we come across the great bridge of the Dead Trenches where we assist a handful of Dead Legion dwarves cross into the enemy line we see the staggering number of darkspawn marching below - following the call of the "archdemon" dragon (who luckily doesn't notice us despite having some sort of psychic link). The dwarves aren't that keen on helping us find Branka, whose trail leads deeper into enemy territory so it's soon just my squad again making slow progress through the irritating zig zag path.

The design also lends itself to cheap traps like spawning enemies out of thin air to flank you. Fortunately all are triggered harmlessly by my solo stealth scouting. After a lot of effort we finally reach the end and find a crazed dwarf (second crazy one we meet down here) who is going loony from not just eating darkspawn but also her fellow kin. She blames all of this on paragon Branka whose trail leads deeper still. Only one problem, there's a hideous tentacled broodmother boss in the way.

Come to mamma!

Try as we might, we simply don't have the firepower or health potions to shave off the last 5% of her life. Eventually I simply throw my hands up in the air and yell "Sod the dwarves!" and take my team not just back to Orzammar, but elsewhere entirely. I'll just let the short folk vote for their next king and force him to acknowledge the treaty, surely that would be less work.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Into the Deep

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

While Lord Harrowmont was happy with the result he needed to swing more voters to him and tasked me to next take down Jarvia's crime syndicate which operated out of dust town. It took a little while to find the entry to her secret lair, not helped by getting attacked by Prince Bhelen supporters, and an even longer while to clear the whole place before finally finding the crime lord and defeating her in what was a pretty decent showdown thanks to her hard to detect/disarm traps.

Harrowmont still needed more though and next tasked me to find Paragon Branka who took her entire clan into the Deep Roads two years ago. The same Deep Roads that the darkspawn are always in... great. Approaching the entrance we are stopped by a drunk warrior named Oghren, Branka's ex-husband, who demands to come along as he has been waiting for the day to search for her. He also claims his knowledge can help track her down so I accept, sending Quickly back to camp to keep Leliana company - and to keep an eye on Schmooples!

Just look at that fiendish face!

It's not long before we run into decently tough darkspawn, shrieks, and raptor like deep stalkers in the winding maze of claustrophobic tunnels. We also start finding bagged body parts which is a bit unsettling. At Carradin's Cross we also run into some of Prince Bhelen's cronies who are a nice change from the numerous darkspawn we've been fighting on the way. Deeper in, the giant spiders, stone golems and dwarven spirits also help break the monotony a little but it still feels really grindy. Actually the spider queen down here puts up a very tough fight, and only through throwing blizzards around the corner do we manage to beat it!

Friday 7 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Gladiator

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Next stop was the Frostback Mountains and the gateway to the dwarven city of Orzammar. After eliminating some bounty hunters on the road we find the gates to the city closed due to the death of their king. There's also a small group of Loghain's men trying to get in to gain favour but while they are denied, my team bearing the Grey Warden treaties are accepted. This causes some dispute and the deaths of Loghain's men.

Upon entering Orzammar I quickly learn about the caste structure of the dwarves, and find that in the dirt district dwarven thugs are just as pathetic as thugs of any other race. After offing a smuggler and catching a strange rabbit-pig for Leliana which she names Schmooples, it's time to get down to the business of sorting out an alliance here and that means expediting putting a king on the throne.

The candidates are Lord Harrowmont, who the previous king expicitly wanted to reign after him, and Prince Bhelen, the actual son of the former king. I'm not really sure at first who to support until I find out that Bhelen's camp wants me to lie for him. By default this means I support Harrowmont and to prove it I take part in the "Proving" arena tournament on his behalf and win the entire contest, including the optional "lesser games" (which are actually harder).

How to beat dwarf warriors: Stand a little to the side. :P

Thursday 6 November 2014

Warframe: Archwing

Time for a little break from my Dragon Age: Origins story. It will be back shortly!

"Ninjas in space" took it to another level with the release of the Archwing patch a couple of weeks back. Players are now able to take their Warframes into full space combat on select missions. To give you a better taste of it, watch this trailer.

Giant swords are more effective in space!

Yes, the Archwing is very cool - but how does it actually play? The short answer is like a space simulator. A very challenging and/or non-rewarding space simulator. In space, your warframe has none of its normal abilities. It is all dependent on the archwing type you have, and these (unlike other equipment in game) are currently unmodifiable as far as I know. The only two choices so far are the general type Odonata and the more bomber-class Elytron.

In my experience it's been a curb stomp one way or another, ranging from press "E" to win (melee is surprisingly effective) to you being alive for a mere few seconds if a swarm of enemies gets to you. That said I'm not a very good pilot, and as usual having team mates / wing men makes things a fair bit easier. One thing I'd definitely like to add is a "lock-on" alarm and missile radar to better know when to use those flares/chaff. Currently you need to eyeball that and use best guess and that's pretty tough to do when you have bogies in all directions.

All up the Archwing stuff is pretty cool, but still has a lot of room for improvement. The Archwing update also included a new type of warframe and have also put in six syndicate factions players can support / piss off. If there's anything Digital Extremes (the producers of the game) have proven, its that they LOVE updating and improving their game, and one of the main reasons I think Warframe is pretty successful. Definitely worth a try, though maybe wait a bit for the Archwing segment to improve. I have no doubt it will. ;P

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Ruined the Game

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Urgh. Ruins. So. Stupid. Filled with spiders, undead and traps galore I learned quickly to stealth scout ahead at each room. There are also spirits speaking some sort of dead language, but none of it matters because everything is hostile. Pointless, stupidly long with the only highlight being a small dragon at one section who came with a small dragon hoard.

Eventually we managed to swim into the lair of the werewolves where we had to fight even more of the furry scum. Really? I'm thinking of just wiping them out because of how annoying it was to get here, and how annoying their entire attitude is in general. Just as I kill my, I don't know - hundredth werewolf they finally want to talk. OMG. Fine. I opt to parley and are finally taken to their leader who reveals Zathrien is the one who cursed them. All he needs to do is lift the curse to cure them and his own people.

Conveniently, Zathrien appears nearby to "check on our progress" so we bring him down to talk to the wolves. His lust for revenge is insatiable so I end up fighting him and his foresty summoned allies before he finally concedes. He lifts the curse which kills him AND the alpha wolf, but cures all the infected and returns them to normal. Really? He could have just done that from the start? WTF. Stupid, waste of time mission. Even the random Spider Queen forest encounter on the way back was more exciting.

My reaction through most of this.

Anyway the replacement elf leader agrees to honor the treaty and promises their forces against the darkspawn. Man that was annoying though. It's one of those segments that seemed to be long just for the sake of being long, and that is never a good thing.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Sit! Stay! Bad Dog!?

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

With the majority of the city still closed to us we traveled next to the to the forest to meet the Dalish elves. They are quite stand offish from the get go so I bring Leliana along for peace keeping duty, at least in the camp. Seems they have a werewolf problem and their mysterious and ancient leader Zathrien tasks us with killing the alpha wolf and get its heart to help cure his infected people. After talking to a few other elves I strongly suspect Zathrien -is- the wolf but whatever.

More importantly I find this place to be an unending supply of the healing herb elf root and spend a bit of money on it. Soon it is time to enter the woods so I task Leliana with keeping an eye on the elves while Morrigan comes along for the action. It's a decent sized zone full of werewolves, ents, some maleficar and a few undead who are really the only ones who give us any grief. Those revenants are mean! The poet tree and the mad hermit who talks in questions were pretty cool though.

Almost as cool as this fellow.

After learning they could speak early on, I tried my best to talk to the werewolves but they were only interested in trying to kill us, or running away. Eventually we tracked them to some ancient ruins where they locked themselves behind an unopenable door. Sigh. Of course there would be a way around, but it would be somewhere deep within those ruins huh?

Monday 3 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Stronger! Faster! Harder!

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

We return to Denerim and easily find Marjolaine, Leliana's ex-teacher, ex-lover and current person trying to kill her. I guide the conversation to ensure combat and while Marjolane has some cool bard based stun tricks, she's not so clever in the moving department being quite helpless as we fill her full of arrows. The rest of her cronies are easily put down without her gimmicks.

While in town and now at the highest rank lockpicking (I've been busy) I also decide to do some jobs for the fence, Slim Couldry - mainly because his targets are related to Arl Howe. The first being Howe's mistress and the second raiding a warehouse with Howe's goods. While in the vicinity I also discover a flyer about Grey Warden supporters at the Pearl. This turns out to be a trap with more of Howe's men waiting to kill anyone lured to them. He sure lost a lot of stuff today! Hehehehe!

Finally I revisit that blood mage hideout with Morrigan. The patient scum didn't change anything the whole time we were away, so it is easy to pick up where we left off. Now that the team is in better gear and higher level we manage to finally clear it out fully. To celebrate, both ladies in the party shared my tent that night, though one after the other. Not sure if you can get them at the same time?

He likes me better!

Sunday 2 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: Assassins

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

With the castle clear we were finally free to see Arl Eamon, still in a coma thanks to Loghain's poison. His wife Isolde was obviously not on speaking terms with me, so it was up to Ban Teagan to suggest I go look for some sacred ashes that might be able to cure him. That was actually the reason most of his knights were away, they were all on a grail ... erm... ash quest. Deciding that maybe one of their knights can do that we go off to do other things (small skirmishes) first like helping some refugees against darkspawn, templars against undead, and Bannorn soldiers against Loghain's troops. Then we walk into an ambush!

Look out for the counter-kills!

A pretty decent ambush with a pretty lure, a good number of skilled enemies and a bunch of well placed traps. Unfortunately for them, my party was simply better. After beating them up I question their leader, an elf assassin named Zevran about who sent him. He openly admits that it was Loghain. Actually he's a pretty funny guy. I decide to let him live by offering him a different job - assassinating Loghain. He refuses because he's scared. Pity. That means he is also useless. After many hours of torture I feed what's left of him and his buddies to Quickly then continue on.

That night Leliana confides that she is actually being hunted by a past acquaintance in Orlais (France?) and that she was an assassin. She also kisses me, despite knowing what Morrigan and I get up to. The next day, what a surprise! Another ambush. Those hunters from Orlais are kind of annoying, so despite Leliana's protests I execute the captives after we get all the information we need from them. The important one being that their employer is in Denerim.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Tales of the Blight: The Solution to Everything

[Part of my Dragon Age: Origins play through. Spoilers ahead!]

We found ourselves infiltrating the Redcliffe dungeon underneath the castle proper and immediately encounter Loghain's imprisoned man, some blood mage tutor Isolde had secretly hired to teach her son, Connor. Already knowing where this is going I decide to execute him on the spot, much to Morrigan's disdain. Then begins the arduous room by room clearing of various undead and rescuing of still trapped civilians. We also open the castle gates to let in Ser Perth and his handful of knights to assist in the rest of the cleanup though only the named knight actually survives.

In the main hall we find the possesed Connor having turned Ban Teagan into a crazed fool while his mother helplessly looks on. It's not long before he turns all the remaining guards on us before fleeing himself and in the end it is my team, Ser Perth, and Lady Isolde still standing. Ban Teagan while downed, actually survived and was back to normal. The "hard" discussion of what to do came next.

Roll against Paralyzation!

I already knew what I wanted to do. Besides the only other option according to Morrigan required a Circle of Magi - just like the one I had purged. Up the stairs we went killing off more scum and finally facing the demon in combat. When it came time to finally kill it (and the child) Isolde interrupted again, asking for another way.

I reminded her that this was her fault for hiding him from the Circle of Magi to begin with then punched her as strong as I could in the face. Lucky for her I knocked her out. She might have gone insane watching me dismembering the demon child. Alistair certainly lost it. I asked him what he would have done, and how many others would have had to die for the life of one. That shut him up, but he was definitely not happy.