Category: Video Games

DA2LogoAs everyone knows, BioWare is my favorite game developer in the world.  In my eyes they can do no wrong.  I can even enjoy and love Dragon Age 2, despite its flaws.  Also, you may know that I enjoy writing.  So when I heard that BioWare was hosting a writing contest based on the Dragon Age universe and featuring mages and templars, I absolutely had to enter.  And I really wanted to win.  Unfortunately, I didn’t, but I read some of the entries that placed and I can kind of see why.  They all had something that made them really stand out, made them emotional.  Gave that special feeling to the reader.  Mine, as you’ll see below, is more based on action.  I definitely see now ways I could have improved.

Anyways, below is my entry for the competition, entitled Somniari’s Sleep:

 

As a templar, my motivation is supposed to come from the desire to follow the will of the Maker, to protect the innocent from the havoc a mage could cause.

It does not.

Rather, my driving force comes from a place deep within my soul, a bitter seed that has left me desiring one thing: revenge.  Revenge that is well deserved; revenge on a rogue mage.

A mage who happens to be my identical twin sister.

Tasked with rooting out mages who never joined the Circle, it is Candra I search for among the apostates.  I hunt rumors and legends; often following trails that have long since grown cold.  She is the one I hope to confront every time I track an apostate.

As I approached Knight-Captain Reyes in a small alleyway off the market within Ansburg, my heart thrummed, quickened by the news I brought.  I was eager to gain his approval for my next task.

“Knight-Captain?”  I asked.  He was the templar I treated with deference, as he was the one who took me seriously.  After my mother died, I sought to join the templar order, craving a purpose and a chance at revenge.  Being half elf, half human, I was laughed at and thrown out.  Only Reyes had recognized my passion, allowing me to work for him privately as a templar hunter.  Officially, I was akin to a mercenary.  But in my mind, I was a templar.

He turned, and I bowed my head.  “Evaine.”  His dark features and lilting accent established that he had come to the Free Marches from Antiva.

“I recently heard of a dangerous apostate, and I’m looking for your favor to find her.”

He lifted an eyebrow while his coal colored eyes studied me.  “Go on.”

“There have been strange happenings in northern Ferelden, near Highever.  People being pulled into the Fade against their will.  Hauntings.  A woman going mad.  A mage was thought to be the cause of it, and it stopped after she disappeared.”

Reyes’ mouth tightened as I spoke of the mage’s deeds.  “Where is she now?”

“She was seen heading west, stopping in Orzammar,” This was all the information I would present, and now I would await his decision.  I doubted it would result in anything other than finding her, but I needed his blessing all the same.

“Strange that an apostate would travel so close to the Circle Tower.  And that she would choose Orzammar, of all places.  The dwarves have no magic in their blood.”  He ran a hand through his hair.  Nervously waiting for an answer, my fingers began to grow cold.  Surely this wouldn’t be considered too dangerous a job for an unsanctioned templar hunter?

Finally he nodded.  “Bring her to the nearest Circle, if possible.  Nullify the threat, if not.”

I acknowledged this with another bow and turned to go.

“And Evaine?”

I looked back.  His brows were creased.

“I’m not sure what type of magic this is.  Be cautious.”

 

Reyes may not have known the type of magic this apostate was using, but I did.  It sounded all too familiar to me.

Somniari.  A dreamer; someone who could enter the Fade at will and manipulate it, driving others into the Fade, attacking people in their dreams, destroying their minds.  Even killing them through their dreams.

It was rare magic, thought to be extinct in all but legends.  My throat tightened as I thought back to when my parents were alive and my mother wasn’t emotionally scarred by the horrors my sister had wrought.  Candra inherited the magic bloodline of our elven ancestors, while I was simply a half breed with no magical talents.

I was young when Candra began having nightmares.  Our parents were concerned, because she told them of demons who called to her.  But who could they turn to for help?  My mother, a Dalish elf, had abandoned her tribe to marry the human she’d met on an expedition in the Brecilian forest in Ferelden.  My father was disowned by his family in Denerim for wedding an elf rather than a noble.  They were afraid of bringing her to the Circle, as they might never see her again.

It became difficult to wake her up.  She would sleep through the morning, not rising until mid-day.  Eventually nothing could wake her.  It terrified us.

I stopped my thoughts.  I was standing at the entrance to Orzammar, being sized up by a sour dwarf.  Garbed in loose robes, with a hood pulled low over my eyes, I was dressed for anonymity.

It was early in the morning.  Although there was a circle of trading stations set up in front of the doors, most of the traders were still in their tents.  Those that were awake were blearily setting out their wares, paying us no mind.

“What do you want?” spat the dwarf, his voice as icy as the wintery air.

“To get inside,” I replied sardonically.  Before he could respond, I drew my dagger and pressed it against his throat.  “Let me in, or I’ll take your tongue and feed it to a nug.”

He grunted in distaste, but the intimidation worked.  He opened the doors, muttering about hoping darkspawn would eat me.

I was closer than ever to the goal of finding my apostate twin, and was both elated and terrified.  It had been over a decade since I’d seen her, back when I was 15.  I was now 29.  Yet I could still picture the last day I saw her, the day mother and I fled for our lives.

Passing through the entrance hall, I entered the Commons.  I was struck by the impressive architecture, the dedication that went into carving the entire city from stone.  While I admired the craftsmanship required, I also felt oppressed.  The lighting provided by lava and flickering torches felt unnatural, casting a ruddy hue on the surroundings.

I took in the view, and then moved to cross the bridge over the bubbling lava.  Alert, I scanned the other side in the off chance I caught a glimpse of her.  Seeing only dwarves, I wandered on the stone street.  I overheard conversations about the death of a king, and arguments over his successor.

Walking towards the dingier part of Orzammar, I felt a change in the atmosphere as I crossed over; the air itself was heavier.  Knowing that eyes watched me, I kept my hand near my blade.  Feeling the stirring of movement behind me too late, my knees were suddenly kicked out from under me, my hood thrown back, and a blade pushed against my throat.  Ironic that I’d just done the same thing to a dwarf.

A voice raged in my ear.  “What’s a surfacer doin’ here in Dust Town?”

“Let her go!”  The command came from my right, but I didn’t dare turn my head with the knife resting against my neck.

You,” the dwarf sneered.  But the blade lifted, and he backed away.

I was on the ground with my hand against my throat.  It was disconcerting to think I might have been moments away from meeting the Maker.  A shadow fell over me, and I looked up to see that the voice belonged to an elf.  His brown hair was streaked with red and fell into his gray-green eyes as he studied me.

“Candra, what are you doing?  I thought we agreed you’d stay inside.  Come on, let’s go.  That dwarf will be getting his friends right now,” he informed me, wrapping an arm around my waist and lifting me up.  My heart leapt within me when he mentioned her name.  He hadn’t even realized his mistake.

He guided me to an abandoned structure, of which the door had been ripped off its hinges.  The front room was empty, but as he drew me into a room deeper within the hovel, he moved aside a broken chair and rug to reveal a hatch in the corner.

“Are you hurt?” he asked as he helped me down the stairs.

“Just shaken.”  My voice cracked convincingly.  I was standing at the bottom of the stairs, which led to a tunnel, into which many passages emptied.  He closed the hatch, and put his arm back around me.  I leaned on him, under the pretense of shock.

“If you thought to be less conspicuous in that outfit,” he stopped to chuckle.  “You only made yourself stand out more.  That dwarf thought you were a prime target.”

We took a left at one of the passages.  I hadn’t seen any signs of life, and I was getting anxious.  I glanced at the elf supporting me, noticing he was looking me up and down, frowning.  “Where did you get that outfit…?” he asked slowly.

“Elin!”  A voice stopped us.  He released me so abruptly that I stumbled.  We had turned a corner, and there she was.

Candra.

It was like looking into a mirror, how similar we appeared.  Blonde hair like gold, deep navy blue eyes, a sprinkling of freckles on the nose.  The lean build of an elf, the stature of a human, and the slight point in the ears.  Except she looked exhausted.  Her shoulders were slumped, dark purple circles like bruises marked her eyes, her eyes themselves were dull, and her face was pale.

As I stared, I saw a parade of emotions cross her face.  First, annoyance for Elin, then suspicion as she looked at me, giving way to shock, then sadness, ending with confusion.  I drew myself up, wearing the most spiteful glare I could muster.

“Candra,” I greeted.  I paid no heed to Elin, who was glancing between us, dumbfounded.

“Evaine,” she breathed.  Her eyebrows drew together.  “But I thought… you were dead.”

“Still living and breathing.  No thanks to you.”

She seemed to realize my anger.  I was trembling with emotion, barely keeping myself contained.  I wanted to scream at her, I wanted her to answer my questions, I wanted her to feel the pain I’d felt.

“All this time, you’ve… been alive… I can’t believe it,” she whispered.

I couldn’t believe her tone, which sounded like she cared after all she’d done.  It tore me apart.  “Yes, I have.  Do you know what you did to father?  How mother was left heartbroken by your actions, that her mind couldn’t comprehend it, how I had to care for her until she died?  That is, after we fled for our lives because you almost killed me.  She repeated ‘Somniari’ over and over, one of the only things she would say for the rest of her life.”  I stopped, breathing hard.  She had let me speak, but her face was crumbling as the accusations hit.

“I hate myself for what happened.  Father was trapped in the Fade because of me, and I thought I’d killed you.  I understood why mother ran.  How far away from an abomination was I, that I was capable of such things?  I should have been made tranquil, cut off from the Fade.”

It took a moment to process this information.  I thought she’d had no regret, that she’d done what she had because she’d wanted to.  It never occurred to me that maybe she’d been as horrified as me.

She continued quietly, “I begged them to take me to the Circle Tower.  They decided against it.  I knew something wasn’t right, but I thought, even if they made me tranquil, at least… they’d have you.”

I was stunned.  I reached for something that wouldn’t rend my whole basis for becoming a templar.

“Why Orzammar?”

The pained look returned.  “I was trying to control my abilities, and found a Dalish tribe who was sympathetic to me.  But they knew of nothing that would help, aside from killing me outright.  At that point, Elin wouldn’t allow it,” she smiled faintly at him, and he moved to her side.  That could be problematic, two against one.  “I left before anything happened, and Elin came with me.  I tried forcing myself to stay awake, to not allow myself in the Fade, but that was impossible.  I failed miserably in Highever.  Then I thought of Orzammar.  Maybe, since the dwarves have no magic, I wouldn’t be able to affect them.  I want to stop hurting people.  Evaine, I’m… sorry for what happened.”

It was too much.  I didn’t believe her, couldn’t believe her.

“That can’t be true,” I muttered.  “Because of what happened, I became a templar.”

Candra’s face was unreadable, but Elin growled, “Why can’t you see she has a good heart?  She doesn’t mean for anything bad to happen.”

“The problem is that bad things keep happening.  One way to solve that problem is to become tranquil,” I replied sharply.

“I deserve nothing less,” agreed Candra.  Elin looked startled.

“What?  No.  No!”

“Elin,” she said, touching his face gently.  “You have to let me go.”

Tears formed in his eyes, and he was clenching his jaw.  In a sudden movement, he leaned forward and kissed her.  I was surprised by the tender display, but turned, as the moment felt intimate.

I heard Candra gasp and whirled around.  Elin was backing away, tears running down his cheeks.  Candra was clutching her chest, from which a knife’s hilt protruded.  Blood was seeping onto her clothes.  She fell to her knees.  I moved without thought to her side.

“I won’t live in a world where you have been made tranquil,” I heard Elin whisper.  “I can’t.”  He bolted past me.

Astonishment rooted me there.  Gingerly, I touched where the blade had struck, feeling her blood on my fingers.  My mind was trying to come to terms with what had happened.

She was dying, and not by my hand.  But then, she wasn’t what I had expected.  If I had killed her, would it have haunted me?  Or would I be more upset that I hadn’t been the one to strike her down?

It was incomprehensible.  The fury was waning, unsure of how to react.

“Evaine,” she swallowed with difficulty.  “I’m sorry for the way things happened.  Please… forgive me.”

I looked into her blue eyes and saw my reflection.  Here we were, twin sisters reuniting; so alike, yet so different.  One twin, a dreamer, everything a templar would fear, but in her heart, remorse for the suffering she’d caused and a desire give up her abilities.  The other, a templar hunter, who had lived in the shadow of what her sister had done, who held on to bitterness all her life, spent it searching for the one who had wronged her.

“I… ” The words stuck in my throat.

Tears slid past her temple, dripping to the ground.  A sigh escaped her lips.

She was gone.

 

I am Evaine, a half breed with a heavy heart of regret, who wasted years on a misguided idea.  I am still an unofficial templar hunter, but my motivation does not come from the Maker.

It comes from the need to give others a second chance.

 

-Kat

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Grand Theft Auto 5

In the world of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is akin our California and is made up of three major cities. In this is San Fierro, Las Venturas and Los Santos. Each of these represent and are modeled after real world cities with Los Santos being Los Angeles. Unlike in San Andreas when we strike out in Grand Theft Auto V we will not have an entire state in which to run amok, but instead Rockstar will focus on one city, Los Santos.  According to Rockstar:

“Developed by series creator Rockstar North, Grand Theft Auto V heads to the city of Los Santos and surrounding hills, countryside and beaches in the largest and most ambitious game Rockstar has yet created.

A bold new direction in open-world freedom, storytelling, mission-based gameplay and online multiplayer, Grand Theft Auto V focuses on the pursuit of the almighty dollar in a re-imagined, present day Southern California. ”

This comes as good news. I was relatively fearful they would attempt a full scale state again like in San Andreas and, while very impressive, it was just far too daunting. I’m also not the only one who holds this opinion. By focusing on one city they can breath unprecedented life into it, which is what they are apparently intending to do. However I have one big question: what could they possibly mean by “bold new direction”?

The Grand Theft Auto series has been instrumental in open world video games. I’m not going to say that open world gaming wouldn’t exist without GTA, but I think many people can agree that without Grand Theft Auto we wouldn’t have worlds quite as, shall we say, grand. Rockstar is known to push a map to it’s limits and this will undoubtedly be no exception but with everything they have done previously what more can they do for open world-freedom outside of turning GTAV into an MMO?

According to Rockstar Founder Sam Houser:

“Grand Theft Auto V is another radical reinvention of the Grand Theft Auto universe,”
“We are incredibly excited to share our new vision with our fans.”

I think back to previous iterations of Grand Theft Auto. Vice City kicked off the ability to buy up surrounding property and San Andreas began to incorporate turf wars between rival gangs. Anymore in video gaming the worlds we exist in during the game are altered and changed in terms of how they look and how people react to you. Could this be where Rockstar is taking this installment of Grand Theft Auto? Let’s start the wildly unproductive machine called “Speculation and Baseless Theories” shall we?

GTA V Rumors

See? Even these girls REACT to someone running.

If we look back to the Grand Theft Auto V trailer released yesterday we see that the narrator is saying “He wanted to be a good guy.” Could this in fact mean that they will follow in the footsteps of many other games and implement some morality system that affects the world around us? This would most definitely create an entirely new element in the GTA universe. Historically you were an anti-hero. You were not what most people would call a good guy. You lived in that role and didn’t have a choice. While not actually developed by Rockstar, LA Noire put you in the other perspective. You were a  good cop and you didn’t really have a choice to be anything else. It’s time they implemented a little variety into the mix.

Think of it like this: A world where you can buy and build property. You can adjust rent and other factors that affect not just income but how the building looks. You actions affect those in the areas and neighborhood. If you’re good people react favorably to you wherever you go. You could be outwardly wonderful while behind the scenes you are a sinister ass-hat. Or heck, you could even be nice behind the scenes. However if you’re a price gouging slum lord who reducing the surrounding neighborhoods to squalor then odds are the news will not be nice to you. People will react to your presence with vitriol and dislike. It could even effect how carefully the police watch you and how much you can get away with.

Now in this world lie people who want your property and maybe even your life. You are bound to piss a few people off in your rise to glory and prestige and odds are they will be gunning for you. Since this is GTA we’re talking about they will absolutely be gunning for you. This could create plenty of drama and action to keep gamers coming back for more but still providing an outstanding system to build a world on that would absolutely decimate people’s time.

This would also be a “bold new direction” that would be a “reinvention of the Grand Theft Auto universe”. I mean at this stage where else can they take open world gaming? They’ve done so much that I’m more or less at the edge of my seat to find out more.

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DC Universe Online goes Free To Play

Around this time last year we were very excited to hear about a release of an MMORPG on the PS3. We had never had one before and it was about time we got to put the system through it’s paces. Once the beta was released we were beyond underwhelmed. This isn’t to say that it was a bad game, it was just incredibly underwhelming. It strikes me as a bad idea to pay $15 a month to do the job of a DC Universe superhero while they stand back and watch. Sure sometimes they jump in to help but most of the time they just told you to run along and stop crime. While you paid them to do it. Bastards. Most of us wanted to play with the superheros not around them.

However now it seems that enough people had gotten bored with DC Universe Online to open it up to everyone. It’s not completely free to play mind you, there is just a free to play option. While some MMORPGs will hinder your abilities or advancements DC Universe Online doesn’t seem to be doing this. They just somewhat limit your options in a way that means you can’t do/carry/say as much.

According to the DC Universe Online Website:

 Legendary DCUO

 Premium DCUO

 Free to Play DCUO

Access the game,
plus DLC Expansion Packs.
Maximum game features unlocked!
Access the game and
earn bonus features.
Access the game
for free!
Game Updates Free Free Free
DLC Expansion Packs Free access * Purchase Optional Purchase Optional
Character Slots 16
(can purchase more)
6
(can purchase more)
2
(can purchase more)
Inventory Slots 63
(can purchase more)
42
(can purchase more)
28
(can purchase more)
Auction Slots 20
(can purchase more)
5
(can purchase more)
0
(can purchase more)
Bank Slots 48
(can purchase more)
24
(can purchase more)
12
(can purchase more)
Trading Items and cash Items only None
In-game Currency Unlimited 2000 Max 1500 Max
Chat Unlimited Proximity (voice) chat, 6 text chat messages per 30 seconds 6 text chat messages per 30 seconds
Send Mail Text, items and cash Text and items Text only
Vault Tickets One free ticket per day One free ticket every 3 days One free ticket per week
Players Leagues Can form or join Can join Can join

So as you can tell you can still suit up and superhero the hell out of whatever city you care to join, however you just won’t be able to carry as much. It’s really not that big of a hinderance to the cause. Granted the button mashing style of gameplay will still be there as will the “see how fast I can hit level 30″ routine.

If you’re curious about how to go about playing all you have to do is fire up the PS3, log into the PSN, download it, let it install and then fire that puppy up and let your cape billow in the breeze.

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SPOILER ALERT FOR FALLOUT 3

Seeing as how the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim releases in a little over a week (Vote for what console you want Kat to play Skyrim on!), I wanted to take a look back at another game brought to us by Bethesda, Fallout 3.  I know that this game is old news; heck, even the full game expansion pack is likely old enough to be under $30 at your local retailer.  But I wanted to take a step back and examine what made Fallout 3 great.

When Fallout 3 first came out, I was only mildly interested, if that.  A game about a post-apocalyptic, war-torn land, with crazily mutated beings wasn’t exactly up my alley.  A friend brought the game over and showed me the gory head explosions (or whatever limb you happened to target) and seemed even less likely that I’d want to try it.

Fallout 3 Centaur

Yeah, this is really NOT what I picture when I think 'Centaur'.

Months later, the Game of the Year edition went on sale at Target.  I decided to purchase it and give Fallout a try.  After all, Bethesda had also given us the Elder Scrolls games, so that should say something good about Fallout.  Fallout 3 starts off pretty safe, with you growing up as a child in a vault that has protected you from the ravages of the radiated Wastelands.  Escaping the vault was both nerve-wracking and thrilling.  And stepping out into an eerily empty town with partially or mostly destroyed houses set a great, lonely tone.  It was a relief to finally make it to Megaton, knowing that there actually were survivors out there.  I decided to keep up with the ‘Following in His Footsteps’ quest.  I wanted to see Liam Neeson *ahem* – dad – again.  Unfortunately, since I’m such a Scaredy-Kat, going into the tunnels caused me minor panic attacks (Feral Ghouls, Super Mutants?!!!  Limited ammo?!!), and I gave up.  You have to admit, some of the creatures are very creepy.  (Centaurs!!?)

A month ago, I decided to pick the game back up, and was sucked in.  I found Dogmeat, and having a companion by my side made me feel much better about traversing the Wasteland and even… tunnels.  Once I had this confidence, I was able to see Fallout for the great game it actually is.  There are so many aspects to Fallout, so much to do and see.

Fallout 3 Couple

*ahem* This couple was clearly enjoying themselves when disaster struck. And the creepy part is, you still have the option of sleeping in that bed...

For one, this certainly is no kids game.  There’s the more obvious limb exploding and violent deaths, but there’s also a lot of rough language, sexual aspects, and just plain horrific events.  Visiting Minefield and seeing a smaller skeleton than most in a room that contains kids toys is just heart wrenching.  The whole deserted mood of Minefield is haunting (no pun intended).  Did anyone else pick up through their conversations that Jericho raped/attempted to rape Jenny Stahl?  And of course, there are the perks:  Lady Killer, Black Widow.  There are actual sex benefits to choosing this perk (at least for a woman as a Black Widow), and one being a threesome, in fact.  Nova is there for more than just viewing pleasure.

Fallout 3 Springvale

Telephone Poles: Built to Last, even through Nuclear Catastrophes!

Another is that this game, the whole Fallout series, presents a unique idea that hasn’t been explored as much as a genre like fantasy has.  And they do it damn well.  The vistas, while fascinating as a torn apart and gritty world, don’t exactly make me want to live in such a world.  But they speak strongly for what the game is portraying.  The mood created in the game is often lonely, always eerie, and deserted.  Most of what you encounter in the Wasteland is going to try to kill you.  Finding a town might be a safe harbor, but you can’t rely on that.  In fact, a lot of the towns will have something nasty lurking inside; Raiders, mines, fire ants, super mutants.  But in a world like Fallout, that fits perfectly.  It’s to be expected.

The story of Fallout is great because, while there is plenty of tension waiting around every corner, and you never know what you’ll encounter next, but there’s hope in this dark world.  There’s hope that life will continue, despite all the hardships, and that what’s been destroyed can be rebuilt.  And that’s really what keeps me playing.

-Kat

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Grand Theft Auto V Logo

Recently Rockstar began to tease Grand Theft Auto V without giving anyone any real information as to where the game was to be located. In it’s fifth outing rumors and speculation began to flutter wildly around the interwebz as to where the new Grand Theft Auto V would be. Would it be Washington DC, New York, LA, Shanghai? People began to dissect the logo looking at every minute detail of it to try to glean some new information from it to break the “code”. Well ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Vinewood.

What we see is an idyllic Hollywood style town called Vinewood. It starts off with the narrator talking about how he wanted to live a perfect life, to retire and become one of the good guys. He wanted to start a family and be a dad. However life doesn’t always go as planned. But Vinewood is only part of the greater world. It seems that San Andreas is once more our stomping grounds for GTAV. The question now is “Will  San Andreas in GTAV be as large as it was in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas?”

What’s interesting about the Grand Theft Auto V trailer, and maybe it’s just  me here, but I can swear that we see Niko as a hobo at 0:58, CJ running at 1:06, and Tommy Vercetti 0:39. We can almost be certain that Grand Theft Auto 5 will have it’s share of cameos, but are they going all out in Vinewood? Has everyone come out west for a piece of the San Andreas Pie?

Now even though Rocstar was just a publisher for L.A. Noire I’m curious to see how much the map is similar. I mean they have the map why not try to get some more use out of it. A great deal of care and effort went into creating it; just make a few changes and let ‘er back out there. It will be interesting to see if this is the case though. Will the Grand Theft Auto V map be the an updated L.A. Noire? I might actually find that relatively enjoyable.

Also am I the only one who thinks the person talking sounds like Uncle Kracker?

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