Self Similar self similar’s personal gaming nonsense blog

3Jun/170

The Tale of Garn Chapter 54

Warning: potential main quest spoilers ahead!

From Garn's recollections:

Paradise

Martin rode back to Cloud Ruler Temple while I stayed at Bruma to help tend to the wounded and the dead. Many good men died on that day, including many important members of the order of the Blades, and I felt it only right to take a moment to see to them. After helping where I could and ensuring the rest was left in good hands, I met Martin back at the temple. Martin had just finished making his final preparations. After giving me some last minute advice and making sure I was fully prepared the ritual began.

Paradise awaits!
"Paradise awaits!"

Strange smells filled our nostrils and the great hall gradually appeared to be enveloped in a thick, dark haze, then with a mighty crack the ground sprang open and a portal, not unlike a smaller version of the Oblivion gates, appeared before us. At first the portal itself was tiny, but with a second, deafening crack, the portal took on its full shape and after a few brief moments seemed to stabilize. With a quick nod to Martin I gripped my sword and stepped through the gate.

A beautiful backdrop for eternal torment.
"A beautiful backdrop for eternal torment."

In a flash I appeared in a clearing in the middle of a beautiful wood. As Martin predicted there was no return portal behind me - I was simply stuck there. I climbed a nearby hill to take in the area. Exotic wildflowers of rare colors were everywhere and the land was dotted with intricate white marble structures such as bridges and gazebos. I began to follow what seemed to be a path through the hills when I came upon an ice Atronach chasing a man through the trees. I quickly dispatched the Atronach using a flame spell and approached the severely shaken Briton.

The man had little in the way of clothing and was covered in minor scratches and bruises yet to my surprise he addressed me with pompousness not typically heard from someone who was cowering for their lives not seconds earlier. I met several such people while navigating these gardens. From what I could piece together they were servants of Mankar Camoran’s who died and, fulfilling his promise, were blessed with immortality and sent to his paradise. When Mehrunes Dagon had conquered our world they’d return to rule over it as lords. At least, that was the plan.

Always read the small print when signing up for a Daedric cult.
"Always read the small print when signing up for a Daedric cult."

While in this place (which they called Gaiar Alata) they were constantly tormented by the Daedric creatures who shared it with them and if they were killed they would simply be reborn to continue the torturous cycle. Most of them seemed to have been driven to the point of despair, if not utter madness, and seemed to have deep regret for their service to Camoran and Prince Dagon though surprisingly a few still remained loyal.

My retribution is ongoing, actually...
"My retribution is ongoing, actually..."

Eventually I came across a single bridge guarded by a Dremora warrior in full battle gear. To my surprise he greeted me on sight instead of charging at me like so many others I had faced. The Dremora introduced himself as Kathutet and claimed that his kin had fought me and said I fought well for a mortal, so well that they they had a certain respect for me and therefore it was no dishonor to speak with me. He told me he would let me pass if I could do a service for him, that, or challenge him. Either option would bring him honor. While I was unaccustomed to a talkative Dremora, he still served the Daedra, and I would not serve him. I drew my sword. He smiled with approval.

Kethutet: Not-so-adoring fan.
"Kethutet: Not-so-adoring fan."

Kethutet was strong, and his mighty Daedric longsword slammed against my Crusader’s blade, nearly pushing me off of my feet. As I slammed him back I found time to unleash a flame blast and hit him directly, causing him to unleash a horrific roar of pain. I parried his next attack as well, and another I blocked with my shield. Pushing him off of me a second time, I again cast a flame blast at him, knocking him off of his feet. I crossed the bridge and into the cave that he seemed to have been guarding.

I soon found myself in a complicated cave system that appeared to be some sort of Mythic Dawn dungeon. The cultists here were, seemingly, torturing other servants of Mankar Camoran. Given that everyone here was immortal, many of the torture methods I witnessed were particularly brutal. Soon I heard the voice of Mankar Camoran himself booming throughout the cave system. He seemed to be speaking directly to me, so no doubt his servants and guards knew I was here, somewhere.

There's actually a guy at the end of this chain. Yep, glad I skipped Mythic Dawn recruitment day.
"There's actually a guy at the end of this chain. Yep, glad I skipped Mythic Dawn recruitment day."

He spoke of the Daedra being the true gods, and the Divines I serve being false pretenders. He spoke of Tamriel being just another realm of Oblivion. Some of these ideas I heard before, read from some of the heretical books I studied in the Imperial City while searching for clues to my past. In the present though, I had faith in the Divines, and attempted to ignore Camoran’s ceaseless saber rattling.

I tried my best to avoid detection while I continued through the grotto but found myself face to face with one of the torturers. I drew my sword but he put his hands up, pleading for me to stop. He claimed that he could help me escape this place and take my revenge upon Mankar Camoran. Since at this point I had found myself quite lost in these maze-like caverns my curiosity peaked. I listened. He said his name was Eldamil and that he was one of Mankar Camoran’s chief lieutenants before he was slain in the battle of Kvatch. He claimed he had since had much time to come to regret his part of seeing the Mythic Dawn’s plans to fruition. He wanted to attone for his sins by helping me defeat Mankar Camoran. I had no particular reason to trust Eldamil but given what I had witnessed in my short time in “paradise” I also had no reason to doubt that he might have come to regret his place at Camoran’s side. Camoran already knew I was here, after all, so there was no point in attempting to deceive me with someone like Eldamil.

It turns out that the Dremora still hate me after all. :(
"It turns out that the Dremora still hate me after all. :("

Eldamil escorted me through the dungeon as if I was another one of Camoran’s men condemned to torture and while the other ascended immortals ignored me, some of the Dremora who guarded the grotto saw through our ruse. Eldamil and I soon found ourselves in an all out fight to escape the caverns. Thankfully, after defeating several fierce Dremora guards we found the exit and made haste to Carac Agailor, Mankar Camoran’s palace.

We were met at the gates by Ruma and Raven Camoran, Mankar’s children. They escorted us to see Mankar Camoran himself. Mankar spoke of the changes Tamriel would face under he and Prince Dagon’s reign and how fate had brought him and I together, as one final test of his supremacy. He assumed that I was a pretender and that they could make some sort of an example out of me as well as end Martin’s chances of stopping the invasion in a single, decisive move. They were quite wrong. While they might have the Daedra on their side, I was the Divine Crusader, and I had the Nine watching over me.

Err. A little sadistic to kill his children in front of him, but the ends justify the means, right?
"Err. A little sadistic to kill his children in front of him, but the ends justify the means, right?"

Ruma and Raven summoned Daedric armor and weapons and charged me while Mankar sat in his throne, an amused smirk on his face. Eldamil crippled Raven with a surprise electric bolt from behind me as Ruma and I traded swings. Soon it was two against one, and soon, just two. Mankar Camoran no longer wore his smile but instead became enraged. Standing up from his throne and raising his staff over his head he pointed at Eldamil who instantly dropped dead, electricity cracking over his body. I raised my shield and charged.

Catching him by surprise, I hit Mankar Camoran with a mighty shield bash and pinned in him the corner of his throne room, then quickly darted back. I peppered him with fireballs while he answered with a strong blast of lightning from his staff. I blasted him with fire bolt, tumbled to my right, and blasted him yet again. While I had no doubt that Mankar was a powerful mage, and one which had been bestowed the many gifts of a Daedric Prince at that, he seemed to have grown out of practice when it came to dueling. I rolled toward him as he cast his own fire bolt at me causing him to shoot wide and miss me entirely. As I rolled back to my feet the gleaming steel blade of Sword of the Crusader plunged deep into his belly. He he collapsed clutching his wounds I reached out for the Amulet of Kings and snatched it off of his neck.

As soon as Mankar Camoran had drawn his final breath his palace, and indeed his entire world, began to crumble around me. I raised my shield above my head and attempted to weave through the falling debris but it was pointless. Whatever magic bound that realm to our Mundus had been broken and I found myself suddenly tripping over a table in the great hall of Cloud Ruler Temple and stumbling to the ground. I was back.

28May/170

80 Years of First Person

I was as surprised as anyone to hear that Battlefield 1 was, in fact, really fucking good. Battlefield Bad Company 2 was the last of the franchise I got into, avoiding Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 due to hearing about how shitty they were at launch. Yeah, I’ve heard Battlefield 4 has improved massively since then, but sometimes a bad launch is enough for me to pass over a game entirely. Still, Battlefield 1942 is easily one of my all time favorite online games, and one I have some amazingly fond memories of, and Battlefield 1 has, to some degree, rekindled a bit of what made me love the series in the first place.

Doing a little scouting for Lawrence of Arabia in BF1's single player campaign.
"Doing a little scouting for Lawrence of Arabia in BF1's single player campaign."

So what does it do so right? Well, first it has a fun mini-single player campaign that serves as a nice introduction to some of the basic systems of the game, such as flying a plane, driving a tank, riding a horse, and of course running around on foot. While not incredible, it’s presence is definitely appreciated. Next, the graphics and sound are just great: very epic, with detailed, varied environments, awesome particle effects, it’s exceedingly immersive, and I’ve been literally wowed by how intense being caught in the middle of the (frequently extremely chaotic) firefights can feel on more than one occasion as a result. Adding to that, the maps feel nicely dynamic thanks in large part to a return of the type of large scale destructible terrain/buildings we had in BC2, and then some, the introduction of behemoths, and a dynamic weather system. Absolutely great!

I admit I don’t play THAT much and outside of a couple of epic Rambo rounds and individual moments I’m not exactly a pro at the game. I’m usually either on foot (Support being my current preferred role due to a fondness of these old LMGs) or riding along in a tank most of the time. I really like the balance between infantry and vehicles, with tanks feeling intimidatingly tough but far from invulnerable as infantry, and capable for lasting a long time if played intelligently as a tank crew. Despite being sniped by a skilled bi-plane pilot or vaporized by a bomber on many occasions, planes also don’t feel like total ownage to be up against either. I still get owned by snipers way more often than I’d like, but the scope glint is quite helpful when you have the opportunity to exploit it.

The infamous B.A.R. in action.
"The infamous B.A.R. in action."

Outside of the occasional annoying sniper and/or artillery barrage ruining my day, one of the only things left to complain about how is how virtually everyone is running around with an automatic weapon - it definitely feels more like a World War II game to me most of the time, which has me daydreaming of a proper modern day sequel to Battlefield 1942. For the moment BF1 has totally unseated Planetside 2 as my go to online FPS, despite it not having nearly the pick up and play potential, given that a normal round of Conquest is going to take at least 20 minutes. Still, if I have 20-30 minutes free, I’m often compelled to jump into a game of BF1 instead of playing anything else.

Speaking of playing something else, I finally got around to checking out indie darling Gone Home. Despite all of the flak it got for being a “walking simulator” the premise of a short, narrative, exploration based first person game was appealing to me. That, and I was familiar with Steve Gaynor, the designer, from his time with the Idle Thumbs crew and his work with Irrational.

WW1's massive tanks are quite a lot of fun too.
"WW1's massive tanks are quite a lot of fun too."

In case you’re somehow unfamiliar with Gone Home, the premise is that your character arrives at her family home after being away for quite some time to find it empty. As you begin poking around you start to find various clues as to what has been going on in the lives of your family members, particularly your younger sister, since you’ve been away. That’s essentially it, in a nutshell.

At first I was fairly underwhelmed by the game’s minimalist, oddly scaled graphics. For a game that takes place entirely within a single family home it seemed like the developers could have done a bit better with making this actually feel like a real house. Despite that, I soon found myself captivated by the mundanity and the mystery of it all.

Sifting through every unremarkable artifact of everyday life for some tiny clue as to what has been going on probably won’t sound captivating to anyone but the most perverse voyuers reading this, but enough of the old bills, letters, and notes you find are peppered with intriguing details that it somehow works. Soon you find yourself digging through every interactable object you can looking for a new clue, another answer. A storm rages outside, adding a creepy layer to the already slightly off-putting feeling of sneaking around in someone else’s house. If it weren’t for frequent references to your family and the game’s mid 90s setting, I might have felt like I was in some sort of film noir style detective game.

Gone Home looks even worse next to BF1, but don't judge a book by its cover.
"Gone Home looks even worse next to BF1, but don't judge a book by its cover."

As for that mystery, early on I found myself trying to figure out what question I was even trying to answer, and without spoiling too much, let me just say that I felt like I knew a lot about where Gone Home’s plot went from hearing about it on various podcasts and the like, yet I still found myself questioning what was REALLY going on up until the very end of the game. Unfortunately this wasn’t helped by the fact that I somehow managed to miss a giant portion of the narrative which made the end seriously confusing. Admittedly, I doubt many people had that issue, as if you follow all of the clues properly you’re going to be finding almost everything, and in the correct order, but it still frustrated my particular experience. Regardless, as it unravels the story feels incredibly intimate and personal, which is likely the game’s biggest single strength.

I’ll have to stop myself before I spoil anything and just say that if you think you’d enjoy a quick, exploration heavy game then it’s hard not to recommend Gone Home. There’s something special about the game that comes together to feel like more than the sum of its parts. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for other, similar games in the future, including Fullbright’s next game, Tacoma.

Now it's Gwendolyn turn to put her adventuring hat on.
"Now it's Gwendolyn turn to put her adventuring hat on."

Finally, a quick update. While putting together my last post I discovered that King's Quest had a short Epilogue episode in which you play as Gwendolyn, Graham's granddaughter. The concept of passing Graham's spirit of adventure from onto Gwendolyn was a major point of the overarching plot of King's Quest, so a quick teaser episode that has you adventuring as her before a full on, follow up series is totally logical. What's less logical is that it is only available to those who bought the "Complete Collection" package, not to people who bought the episodes piecemeal or bought the season pass like I did. Lame, very lame. I had to settle for watching a walkthrough of it on YouTube. Thanks guys... 🙁

4May/170

Questing and Surviving

A few months ago while looking for a new adventure-ish game to couch co-op through we noticed King’s Quest episode 1 for free on Xbox Live. Being a bit of a PC adventure game fanatic I’m, of course, quite familiar with the King's Quest series. My girlfriend had probably never even heard of it, but I think the aesthetics and production value of the new game were intriguing enough on their own to get her attention. We grabbed the Xbox 360 version and made it through most of the episode, enjoying it immensely and vowing to return to finish it off. Many months later, we finally dedicated ourselves to playing through the entire run.

The Kingdom of Daventry!
"The Kingdom of Daventry!"

The second time around we grabbed the Xbox One version, which wasn’t notably different, and bought the season pass. Re-playing episode one and then, eventually, making our way through all of the episodes, our opinions never really waned despite the fact that each episode is somewhat of a departure from the last. That is, they each have slightly different tones and even different gameplay focuses. The first episode felt like some of the more traditional (pre-Walking Dead) Telltale games, and exuded a whimsical, storybook tone while episode 2 was much darker with a lot more traditional graphical adventure game style puzzles. Episode 3 was a mixed bag but overall much more story focused, episode 4 had tons of back to back logic puzzles, not unlike something like Myst, and episode 5 seemed to mix up all of these flavors into one final, satisfying, and somewhat emotional finale. This is an interesting strategy to keep each episode feeling fresh, but looking at comments online I found that it often seemed to have a negative effect - everyone seemed to have his or her own favorite episode and was disappointed that the others weren't more of the same.

The lure of adventure still calls out to old geezers like King Graham and I.
"The lure of adventure still calls out to old geezers like King Graham and I."

Speaking of personal preference, oh man is this game beautiful, but it's art is highly stylized and I'm sure a small percentage of players found it immediately objectionable. Hopefully a little less divisive is the great voice acting across the board, including notable appearances from Christopher Lloyd and Wallace Shawn. Not only does Wallace Shawn shamelessly re-visit his role as Vizzini from The Princess Bride but oddly there are even numerous nods and references to his scenes in the film. The music, while fairly unobtrusive, is also well done, with some notable callbacks to the themes of the original games. The whole package feels highly polished overall and you can really tell The Odd Gentlemen spent a lot of time and care researching and designing this game from the ground up.

The story arc takes you through King Graham’s life as an adventurer, from before he was King all the way until the end of his reign, and while each episode has its own plot, the story that connects the episodes feels much better written than the loose, probably largely ad-hoc, through-lines that tied the original King’s Quest games together. It mostly attempts to expand upon and tie together some of the gaps in the fiction of the original games as well as re-imagine some of them entirely. For instance, the plot of the first episode barrows many elements from the original King's Quest game, yet tells a bit of a different story, and the plot of the third episode is almost a re-telling of King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne without invalidating too much of it. Episode 4 seems to draw heavily from King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human. Beyond that, there’s all kinds of other nods and references to the original series of games which nostalgic fans will probably get a major kick out of, and there’s even some direct flashbacks to the old AGI and SCI engines.

King's Quest almost looks animated, a la Dragon's Lair, in stills.
"King's Quest almost looks animated, a la Dragon's Lair, in stills."

While I’m sure there are some, maybe even many, King’s Quest fans who didn’t enjoy this new series, I’m personally delighted by this reboot, or re-imagining as they prefer to call it, and love seeing Sierra’s name once again tied to a whimsical, clever, and beautiful adventure game. It seems like relatively few people I know have played through these episodes, even some who would seem to be in its target audience, but it’s such a complete package on its own that if poor sales don’t lead directly to a sequel I can’t say I’d be too disappointed. If you are one of those people, however, I’d encourage you to at least check out the first (free) episode and see if you think you might like more.

Speaking of co-op experience, I finally took the plunge and grabbed the Xbox One version of 7 Days to Die. If you’re not familiar with the game, it started life as a Minecraft clone aimed at focusing on the survival element of the game, dropping you in a bleak zombie apocalypse. The more development time the game got more it came into its own, both in terms of presentation, with graphics now much more realistic, and gameplay, a little more hardcore, bringing in some of the statistics heavy elements some survival games are known for.

It's an ugly, desolate wasteland, but it's home.
"It's an ugly, desolate wasteland, but it's home."

I had actually purchased the game on Steam ages ago but it didn’t run on my old gaming machine worth a damn so I barely touched it. When the console version of the game launched relatively recently I was amused by how harsh the feedback was. People were turned off by the graphics, not realizing the game’s roots. Instead of looking like a realistic take on Minecraft’s big, cartoony voxels, people saw an ugly attempt at a more modern game. Still, between people attacking the game’s relatively unsophisticated visuals, there were smatterings of people who were absolutely loving the game. The console port, in particular, has the increasingly rare featuring of supporting same screen couch co-op, which seemed to be one of the more endearing features to people. It definitely is to us!

So how is it? Imagine Minecraft (Okay, sorry to keep harping on this, but it was my original frame of reference for this game) if it had a that gritty, more realistic art style I mentioned, and... oh yeah, guns. Imagine if instead of mining and farming, that game was more focused on scavenging and crafting. That’s it, in a nutshell. Sounds fun? Yes, it’s fun!

Modern day Detroit, MI. width=
"Modern day Detroit, MI."

One thing I’m finding a little unusual is that this game has a reputation of being brutally difficult. In fact, the title comes from the fact that every 7 days the zombies will aggressively swarm to your location. Maybe we were just playing it a bit more cautiously than a lot of people, but we’ve yet to be too challenged. We immediately took over an old farmhouse and began fortifying it. We then used it as our base from which we went on limited scavenging and exploration runs in an increasing radius around us. Other than running into some harry spots in some more dense cities, it’s been relatively easy going thus far.

We’re still playing this game in 2 or so hour chunks at a time and, I’m guessing, will continue to play it here and there for quite awhile. It’s still fun, and we still sometimes find ourselves unable to put our controllers down. In fact, one of the first times we played it together we found ourselves up until 2 in the morning, which is rare for us - surely a good sign!

At long last, I also FINALLY started putting real effort into playing through Skyrim with the release of the new remastered “Special Edition.” I grabbed the Xbox One version of it with the intention of letting my girlfriend play through it again, yet she ended up getting more satisfaction out of peer pressuring me to play it and watching me stumble around like an idiot while she amuses herself with the supreme power foreknowledge. Well...

All Draugr really need is hugs. Hugs and lightening bolts.
"All Draugr really need is hugs. Hugs and lightening bolts."

So, seriously, what is there to say about Skyrim at this point that everyone hasn’t already heard? I’m playing a grizzled orc warrior and having an utter blast, which, frankly, is no surprise to me and shouldn’t be much of one to anyone who has ever glanced at this blog before, as I’m a huge Elder Scrolls fan. Sure, every Elder Scrolls title is a little divisive, even among fans, but ultimately Skyrim, for all of its pluses and negatives, is an Elder Scroll-ass game and a great one at that. The only downside is that this unfortunately means it’ll probably be quite a while before I move onto my next console game...

Xbox 360 and Xbox One screenshots stolen by the Khajiit and traded for sweet rolls...