Archive for March, 2010

My blog 2 – The Quickening

Posted in Gaming, Movies on March 20, 2010 by Aunion

Well, been a bit over a week since my first blog post and so I guess it’s time to post again. Been busy with this and that… and a little bit more of this… but now I’ve got a few minutes, so let’s start covering my experiences since last time.

Last weekend was a kind of movie weekend (inspired by the Academy Awards), I watched 3 different movies; Up in the Air, It’s Complicated and Julie & Julia. Up in the Air was a good movie, part serious, part comedy, all good… really enjoyed that one. It’s Complicated was more of a pure comedy and a great one at that. It’s good to see Steve Martin again and it’s always nice to see Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep. Talking of Alec Baldwin, I’ve really enjoyed seeing him in 30 Rock, a show I just recently discovered. Julie & Julia was… good. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, it was a nice movie… but it suffered a bit from being over-hyped. Oh… and tonight I watched Pixar’s Up, which I really enjoyed :).

So… on the game front I started out playing a bit of the now free Dungeons and Dragons Online. Well… free with premium purchases you can buy and I can definitely vouch for those services bringing in the revenue just as well as a monthly fee; found myself buying access both to 32 point builds and the monk class immediately. Neither is essential for playing, but… it’s what I wanted to do, so… :p. Spend my time in the game with a friend (let’s call him Mr Alpha since that’s the name he generally goes by on this kind of sites), doing all the “noobie island” dungeons on every difficulty from normal to elite. It’s a nice system, with every quest being an instance in itself, gives them a bit more of a story feeling than the typical “find and kill 20 tigers” stuff in most MMOs. Once away from the “noobie island” we decided to take a short break; with a free to play MMO you don’t need to feel stressed to play all the time to get the most of it, you can play a little now and then, whenever you want :).

Me and Mr Alpha also started off on the Warhammer 40 000: Dawn of War II campaign on Primarch difficulty. The first time I played through it I just took the basic normal difficulty and blasted through it at ease, but primarch really offers a nice challenge. We have to keep coordinating our attacks and Cyrus the scout who was rather worthless on normal since he’s quite low on direct damage is suddenly one of the best units to have around. Really enjoying the campaign and can’t wait to get to the Chaos Rising campaign (you get to keep your original team from the first campaign ^^)

What have I done other than that? Not much, but something ;). I’ve played a bit of Dragon Age: Origins, trying to complete the campaign with a human noble so I can become king ;). Also purchased the Awakening expansion… can’t wait to try that out when I’m done with my 3rd playthrough of the original campaign (city elf rogue, human mage, human noble). I’ve also stumbled into a really addictive iPhone app called Angry Birds, seen the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympains: The Lightning Thief (the name’s a mouthful and the movie’s nothing spectacular, but better than I expected and quite enjoyable) and received my new creative headset, which is the most comfortable and Awesome headset I’ve ever owned.

That’s all for now, be back in a week (or more or less… you never know :p).

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Well worth the wait

Posted in Gaming on March 9, 2010 by Aunion

When Assassin’s Creed was released for the PC a couple of years back it quickly became one of my favorite games. It made running around the roofs of beautifully modeled cities both thrilling and easy. Unlike most games where you do lots of jumping and climbing; like Tomb Raider or the Prince of Persia series, where jumping can be really frustrating; AC made it both fun and effortless, it was like just flowing over the city roofs. Add to that a very nice combat mechanic and assassination moves and you had a real hit.

A couple of days ago Assassin’s Creed 2 was released. At first I was a bit annoyed, because Steam kept pushing back the release, from Wednesday to Thursday and then from Thursday to Friday, but once I got my hands on it, I was completely hooked. It had the same smooth climbing, combat and killing and then some. You could describe the new additions as “You shouldn’t mess with perfection, but you might add to it”. The new features like double kills or even nicer ways of climbing roofs weren’t exactly missing from the first game, but they sure do make nice additions for the sequel.

I really liked the “home castle” in AC2, a place where you could spend the wealth you earned throughout the game (yes, there’s actually money in this one, so if you run out of throwing knives you can buy more, you don’t have to find a suitable target to pickpocket :p), both improving it and shopping at a discount from the stores there. The addition of currency and stores was also really nice, bringing along small gadgets like smoke bombs and health potions which wouldn’t have been easy replenishing in the first, storeless, game. Something really nice for me, being a completionist, was being able to buy treasure maps, making finding everything a lot easier. Even though there was no such thing for finding the collectible feathers, even that was made easier by the game keeping lists of how many feathers you’d found in certain city districts, making the missing ones a bit easier to track down (also, this excellent guide helped.

Downsides? Well, there were a few. I can’t really say that I enjoyed the vehicle sequences too much. Neither the cart sequence nor the flying sequence was really that bad… but they weren’t that good either. And the additional flying added to Forli from the DLC which was automatically included in new copies of AC2 wasn’t really anything to cheer for either.  Also, I can’t say I cared for the new model for Lucy, I thought the first games was much better… and with all the beautiful female models in the game, I’m surprised that they so utterly failed with hers. Another thing which really confused me was why the wanted posters you could tear down to decrease your notoriety never wear at street level? Don’t they want people to see the wanted posters? :p

The PC port was a bit lacking in the control department; you clearly felt that the keys were just selected to replace console keys… and when introducing new abilities you only got vague pictures of buttons, sometimes coloured ones representing the console controllers coloured buttons. Would’ve been nice if they’d bothered switching those instructions to things like “press E for eagle vision”, “keep right mouse button down for aggressive action” etc. As it was I had to frequently go to the customize controls menu to check

Assassin's Creed 2 PC Control scheme

what these pictures represented on the keyboard (picture of this menu added; the only thing you see when instructed to do something is those small circle icons, then you had to go to customize controls to figure out what they really meant). I was also a bit annoyed by the fact that only the first 4 number buttons were tied to specific weapons and then you had to start digging through a weird feeling ability wheel for the rest; would’ve really liked to bind some of those other abilities to shortcut buttons. Same went for the game menus; weird feeling and hard to browse with the mouse, obvious direct console ports without making any effort to adapt them for PC and mouse use.

The story of the game was excellent… though the fact that the game was supposed to take place over 20 years felt a bit strange… from how the storyline played out it felt more like 2 weeks. Both Ezio’s story of vengeance and Desmond’s story which focused more on the “Pieces of Eden” and the mystic (or futuristic technology, which often is the same as mystic :p) were excellent. I would’ve liked a few more Desmond sequences, really only got two in this game, but from the looks of things the next game might focus way more on him.

Anyways, enough rambling, AC2 is a great game, met all my expectations and then some. I’d really like to give it 10/10, because once you get over the poor console port issues it’s a fantastic game, but I have to dock some serious points because of that laziness and end up giving it “only” 8/10. Next time, if you’re gonna release a PC version months and months after the console one, try to at least have something to show for it…