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It’s not like they are a new company. It’s not like they came out of nowhere. If you haven’t at least heard of Shin Megami Tensei then I feel a little sorry for you. However over the past few years I let out a little excited groan when I hear about new video game with Atlus written somewhere on it.. This is not to say that I am unhappy seeing them push forward with new projects, in fact it’s far from it. I love playing games by Atlus and until very recently I didn’t know why.
A logo I'm starting to love
With even the most paltry and superficial research you will learn quite quickly that one of the harder games to come out in recent years was Demon’s Souls. It is lauded as being a controller breakingly difficult game that is so unbelievably fun and rewarding that you begin to question if just maybe you enjoy being abused. While this wasn’t developed by Atlus their name is still attached at publisher. Now we have to give great credit to From Software for making an amazing game in both story and style. All Atlus really did was make it available here in the States but that’s saying something. In a time when an RPG will hold your hand autosave every three minutes and occasionally, not always, give you a big bright shining yellow line to your goal so you can’t even get lost if you tried Atlus took a gamble and pushed it to the store shelves knowing that Demon’s Souls level of ferocity may be viewed by gamers here as being too much. This was a gamble that paid off for them.
One of us wants some corn. The other wants a hug.
While Ego Draconis really did get panned by reviewers I am absolutely a fan of Divinity II: Dragon Knight Saga. I mean who wouldn’t be, you turn into a giant dragon, summon an upgradable creature comprised of body parts of the dead. But this is not why I find myself enamored with Divinity II. There something that harkens back to the days of playing the Ultima series. While Divinity does give you a log of current quests what it doesn’t do is hold your hand and tell you where to go. It more or less says “It’s somewhere, go find it.” This encourages you to explore every nook and cranny of the game. There are plenty of crannies and even more nooks.
But what Divinity also does is flat tells you that you need to expect to die. During one of the numerous loading screens it says “When you die during a fight reevaluate your tactics or run until you know what to do.” This is a viable tactic that you legitimately have to utilize during playthrough. Death is something that will happen and happen frequently. It doesn’t throw hordes of weak enemies at you who attack in groups of twos or threes. If you misstep you’re suddenly staring at seven or eight enemies close to or higher than your level who surround and attack. It’s this very reason I’ve been stuck on the last boss for about a week now not able to survive more than a minute into the fight.
Divinity II begs you to strategize and exploit flaws. It requires you to plan your attacks and play upon the weaknesses of the enemies. It’s not like a Dragon Age where more often than not you can get away with creating a tank and running in full bore to clear out a room. You must think before you act. You have to try a few different things before you find what works, and if you didn’t save before trying? Well let’s just say that while there is an autosave it’s more or less a pleasant surprise than a helping hand. I am pretty sure it autosaved maybe four of five times.
You will both hate Catherine and love her
Then there is Atlus’ latest outing Catherine, a simple platformer that tells the tale of a man named Vincent in-between complicated puzzles. This is yet another game where we see that they aren’t making games to help you and make you feel warm and fuzzy. I have died more times than I care to count in Catherine either because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my surroundings or the puzzle just created a problem that I couldn’t solve in time. Each time I die I watch my available continues go down and I’m met with both nostalgia and panic. But the puzzles are so gratifying in their level of difficulty that upon completion I have found myself jumping up and talking smack to either the puzzle or whatever was chasing me. This is a game that had me actually utter the phrase “Take that you stupid giant baby!” Okay to be honest what I said was slightly more profane.
Ultimately it’s this reaction that Atlus is able to illicit in their recent offerings that is endearing them to me. Whether some obscure item is hidden away in some hard to find alcove on the side of a mountain or I have just completed a grueling boss battle or level I feel a sense of relief and accomplishment. Has gaming really deteriorated into a state where we expect the games to play themselves for us? I mean yes while having 150 potential outcomes in the conclusion of a game is interesting where is the challenge in it if I can breeze through it? I guess what I’m trying to say is “Thanks Atlus, for bringing us games that make us feel like we actually accomplished something.”
Dragon Age 2 was a fine game that we at Polish the Console really enjoyed. While it wasn’t the marvel that Dragon Age: Origins was we can’t help but feel that perhaps we may have let our expectations from BioWare get the best of us. All in all Dragon Age 2 was a good romp through the Free Marches.
Many reviewers touted the lack of diversity in the landscape as a flaw of the game (and it was) and almost irrelevance of Hawke to the story as another drawback, BioWare looked to correct some of this in Legacy. Correct it they did. What we have is an adventure through an old Grey Warden prison buried underground that holds an ancient Darkspawn. While it’s not going to be enough to elevate Dragon Age 2 to the epic heights of Dragon Age: Origins it does serve to help lend more weight to the game by further fleshing out the tale of Hawke
Since this is just an expansion we still see the same graphics, gameplay, and control. BioWare didn’t revamp the entire system. It’s just an add on and as such we will forgo droning on about them with the same cliched analogies that you’ve heard before. What will ultimately make you want to play Legacy is the question “Is the story in Legacy worth spending $10.00 on?”
In a word, yes. I believe the word I actually used to describe it to Kat was “ballstastic”. To me this was a very worthwhile purchase. Dragon Age 2: Legacy playthrough lasted me around 2.5 – 3 hours which is fairly respectable for any expansion pack. Now this was padded intermittent pausing to take my two dogs out, so for you I would imagine that it would be less. Unless you really like to stop and enjoy the scenery.
These shields are a nuisance on more than one occasion
It was interesting to me to watch the tale unfold of the family Hawke. Throughout Dragon Age 2 we were constantly reminded and spent time with the matriarchal side of the lineage, the Amells. But throughout this adventure very little was ever spoken of the Hawke side. Legacy provides a brief glimpse into the other half of Hawke’s lineage, but to be honest I found myself asking “Why do I care?” They never brought it up during the main campaign of the game, at all. I mean yes they made references to Hawke’s father so we know he existed and had some relationship with his children however not once did they ever mention that the family may have some additional purpose or strange history. It felt very tacked on.
Now this is not to say that it was not thoroughly enjoyable and interesting. As we explored our way through this Grey Warden prison my companions continued their interesting and witty banter back and fourth that elicited more than a few chuckles. Something about Isabela saying “See, this is why I don’t wear pants,” will go a long way to produce a wry smile across a man’s face.
But they didn’t stop with just an interesting story. The weapon received is not just some obligatory “here’s a fancy new sharp killy thing.” It plays an integral role in the story. In fact without it the story itself could not proceed. It’s called “The Key” and helps Hawke to complete the task at hand. While this may not sound all that interesting what sets it apart is that as the game goes on you assign traits to it based on what you want from it. Think of it a little like the weapons in Fable III, but better implemented. It’s this aspect I would like to see them develop more in future Dragon Age 2 expansions and Dragon Age 3. It became such that I got excited when I got to upgrade my weapon because I couldn’t wait to see what was out there for me. By the end I had developed the perfect weapon for my character and would have loved to have spent a little more time with it.
Now as you can tell from trailers and various pre-release information you are once more dealing with some talking Darkspawn that were believed to be seen for the first time in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. This was referenced in the game by Anders (who was in my party) and questioned if there was a relation between the two. What began to unfold was a much more interesting story that also gives players some insight as to the origins of the Darkspawn altogether. This was like an unexpected present of knowledge and lore and who doesn’t love that?
While the story in Legacy isn’t going to make Dragon Age 2 a game of the year it did certainly make me feel better about Dragon Age 2 as a whole. It’s something that helps create a more complete offering. While it’s not earth shattering ground breaking by any means it’s still better than you see in some games.
For this reason we’re giving Dragon Age 2: Legacy gets a 4 out 5.
With the deluge of fun information and releases coming out of Comic Con, I can’t help but feel I’m going all fanboy on Star Wars: The Old Republic. This will likely be the last update on this for a bit but when I saw the Join the Fight Trailer for SWTOR I just knew it was a glorious thing of beauty that had to be shared:
However this is not the only bit of news to come out of Comic Con. In a brief Q & A session (dutifully transcribed on Darth Hater) we learned some interesting bits of information about the game.
When some fine fan after our own hearts asked about romance arcs we were informed that there will in fact be romance arcs. In fact it was stated that there will be a lot of different romances. One would imagine that in the vast Star Wars universe to pull from we will be seeing anything from jilted lovers to devoted partners.
But then one has to wonder how certain classes will be involved with relationships. Do you forge your own or are you merely a bystander watching the lives of the NPCs unfold.
She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts
When asked if there would be customization there was an expected yes, however what struck us as most interesting is that you won’t have to wait until you are at a higher level to begin customizing your ship. You will be able to find new ways to tweak and adjust your ship right from the moment you get it.
However it was expressly stated that the upgrades and customizations were to the weapons and shields and general offensive and defensive capabilities to the ship. We have yet to see any visual customizations.
But they aren’t stopping at just your ship. You are also able to customize your companions. You can give them new clothes to wear, what weapons they use, what armor they use. You can upgrade their equipment in the same way that you can upgrade your own.
Additionally it seems that you will be able to adjust their facial features, skin color, and overall appearance. It’s not to know that you’re not stuck with someone that you won’t actually want to look at. They did not, however, touch upon any AI adjustments to make to the companion characters.
In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic companion death was something that we had to deal with. It was a motivating factor. In the Star Wars universe loss is a rather common motivating factor for characters. However when asked about companion death in Star Wars: The Old Republic we learn that there is no permanent companion death.
While they originally looked into this aspect of the game and planned for it adopting a mindset of “If you’re dumb enough to kill your companion then you have to deal with it” they opted for a more simple approach. During tests the players viewed this as a little too severe.
We don’t want to take away your companion character forever because unfortunately what we found through testing was that players would make that choice just to see what happens and they would get really mad that their companion character is gone forever, you can’t reload the game. And if you’re used to having a healer as your companion because of their aspects of aiding combat and you lose your healer, that hurts a lot.
Anything new that comes out about the final episode in the trilogy that is Mass Effect gets me excited. So when I saw that images of the new character, James Vega, had been released, I was eager with anticipation. Finally we’d see the new guy joining the Mass Effect 3 crew! What would this guy look like? I was personally hoping it was that Sam Worthington look-alike from the ME3 trailer (who was kinda hot). And if it WAS that guy, well. Sorry Kaidan, I’m dropping you for this new guy. Well, you might make it into my second playthrough.
Can you see it? Or am I crazy? Heck, even the setting is similar.
Needless to say, when I actually found the picture of this new James Vega character, I was shocked. Here’s a pic:
Let's just say he won't be winning any Ass Stamps of Approval anytime soon.
Yeah, that’s not exactly what I was hoping for. At. All. First of all, his face… in my opinion, it kinda reminds me of a pig. Yeah, that’s not good. He actually looks like a guy I went to high school with. That I didn’t really like. I can’t stand that haircut, either. And the tattoos on his neck? Ew. Now let’s move down. His neck sits between two massive hunks of meat which might be called shoulders. But it actually makes him look like he’s constantly shrugging. He’s muscular, which is great, but there’s a line between sexy and scary bodybuilder types.
But I suppose there’s more to a guy than his looks. Don’t judge a book by its cover. So I’ll have to wait until March to learn about his personality. Because honestly, that’s the only thing that’s gonna save this guy. Unless BioWare decides to edit him a bit. Or a lot.
However, I’m also wondering how great his personality will be. BioWare stated that they wanted him to be a newcomer to the story, so he won’t have a lot of knowledge of politics and whatnot. He’s an ‘experienced’ military man, but he hasn’t seen the darker side of the world. So, tell me, just how experienced can you be if you haven’t been into some seedy places? In light of all this, congratulations BioWare, you did well in creating a complete meathead (meatbag) with little to no experience in the world.
It looks like we’ll just have to wait until March to see what this James Vega guy is really about. And who knows? He could charm me into thinking he’s attractive. He could become the next Alistair. But I highly doubt it.