Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Tale of Garn Chapter 11

Warning: potential side quest spoilers ahead!

From Garn’s recollections:

Canvassing Chorrol

Feeling a little paranoid about the potential for suspicion regarding my involvement in Slythe Seringi’s death I decided to avoid busy roads and paths and instead travel through the Great Forest to the northeast, eventually arriving in the city of Chorrol, nestled amongst in Colovian Highlands. Other than my a visit to the area earlier while mapping landmarks and another to seek training a the Mage’s Guild I had no recollection of ever visiting Chorrol before. The strange looks of possible recognition that I sometimes received from people in other areas were all but completely absent around this city. The feeling was liberating and despite its rocky, rugged surroundings I warmed up to Chorrol rather quickly.

Both the Mage’s Guild and the Fighter’s Guild had a strong presence in the city and my first stop after walking through Chorrol’s considerable main gate was to the Mage’s Guild to view their wares and see what guild members were offering training. As the evening began I headed over to a The Grey Mare inn for a drink and a room for the night. The Grey Mare was small and lacked any real frills but it was quaint enough. Of the few patrons still hanging around the bar was a man who introduced himself as Valus Odiil. He was drinking heavily with a deep look of sorrow in his eyes. Without any invitation from myself he began telling me all about how he and his two sons owned a large farm outside of the city walls and how it had been recently plagued by raiding Goblins. The Goblins, he said, weren’t of a great enough concern for the city guard to take up arms against.

Drop the mug and put your hands on your head!
“Drop the mug and put your hands on your head!”

Apparently though, the Goblins attacks had been increasing more and more in frequency and they had more or less chased Valus and his family from their homestead. His own sons had decided to stand their ground against the Goblins and that, it seemed, was Valus’s problem. Fueled by ale he confessed to me that old age had tempered his enjoyment of battle and that he now feared such conflicts, though he feared for his son’s safety even more. As he looked up at me from his tankard I could he had had hatched a plan and sure enough, he asked if I could go in his place.

Slaying Goblins was nothing to me and the man seemed sure that he could offer me a reward I’d be pleased with if I could not only protect his sons but also deal with this little Goblin problem once and for all. More work, so soon. Excellent!

Early the next morning I met his sons outside of the gate and whilst both boys were vengeful and hungry to fight they also seemed rather naïve and ill-equipped. No matter, I kept my thoughts to myself and followed them to their fields. As sure as the daylight a small group of Goblins ran towards the farmhouse only to spot us and change direction, drawing their weapons. As they charged I summoned a Daedric creature to assist me and drew my blade. One of Valus’s son became spattered in blood as I cleaved the first Goblin to rush past me in two with a single smooth swing. Screaming with fury he charged into another group of Goblins that had been stirred by the shouts of the first. The battle was over quite quickly, with both sons still quite alive. After I healed their wounds we patrolled the parameter of their farm to ensure that we had slain them all and I returned back to The Grey Mare to give Valus the good news.

My kind of farming...
“My kind of farming…”

Valus was, at first, ecstatic. After scratching his chin in a look of prolonged contemplation he reached under the table and brought forth a blade wrapped in a cloth satchel. As he unwrapped it he explained that when he was younger and an adventurer like myself this short sword, Chillrend, had been his most prized possession and saved his life countless times. As he apparently no longer had the will to fight he figured he didn’t need it anymore and would pass it to me. The blade was indeed quite a treasure – it shimmered with a faint blue glow and it turned the air immediately around it frigid. For a moment I thought about asking if the blade might make a better gift for one of his budding adventurer sons though I quickly reconsidered and accepted the sword as payment.

Later that day after making my rounds around the city I stood at the base of the hill where Chorrol Castle sits glancing up at it when my concentration was broken by the shrill voice of an older peasant woman. She told me that “today wouldn’t be a good day” because the countess was “right cross” about something being stolen from her. Curious, and with little else to do, I walked to the castle to pay my respects.

Countess Arriana Valga was a gracious host though she had a hard time hiding her frustration even while talking to me about her city and her court. She informed me that her and her guard were in the middle of an investigation. Apparently someone had stolen a portrait of her late husband, Count Valga, right out of her bedchamber. As we talked more she eventually asked me if I’d like to help her with the investigation and mentioned that they had already narrowed down some clues and potential witnesses and/or suspects.

Sweet statue...
“Sweet statue…”

There were only a couple people with direct access to her private bedchamber: the castle porter and the court mage. First, however, I decided to talk to some of the other people who might know more about the situation. First up was the castle’s herald, Laythe Wavrick. Laythe’s only piece of information concerned the drinking habits of the porter. He was apparently a drunkard and had even sunken to asking for money to help support his habit. Very interesting. Next up was an Orc steward named Orok gro-Ghoth. Orok said he wasn’t out that night due to the heavy rains but also mentioned catching the porter drinking in the castle’s west tower one night and confronting him about it. Finally I spoke to the Captain of the Guard, Bittneld the Curse-Bringer. Bittneld apparently hadn’t gone to the castle that night but had mentioned running into the mage in the west tower on another occasion which he seemed to find at least somewhat curious.

Finally, the actual suspects. First I spoke to the porter, an Orc named Orgnulf Hairy-Legs. Orgnulf had a bad attitude and at first refused to even speak to me. Eventually he begrudgingly told me a story about arguing with a delivery boy who had slipped in the rain and damaged a shipment of wine that night. Chanel, the Court of Chorrol’s resident mage, told me she spent the night taking star readings in the courtyard and then drank some wine in the great hall and went to bed.

So now I had a motive for the porter. However, the mage’s story definitely didn’t check out. Two separate people mentioned it raining heavily the night of the robbery yet she claimed to be in the courtyard taking star readings. Very suspicious. I decided next to search for clues around the castle. First stop, the great hall. I found some paint stains on the carpet but nothing to point me in the right direction. I then decided to head over to the west tower. Upon exploring it I found an easel with an unfinished painting on it and evidence that it had been painted recently – someone in the castle is a painter! Since both suspects had been spotted in the area this doesn’t really help out too much though, though it’s hard to imagine the stubborn Orc being an artist. I moved my search to the suspects themselves’ rooms.

Entering the court of Chorrol.
“Entering the court of Chorrol.”

The Orc porter, unsurprisingly, gave me quite a hard time about searching his room but professed that he was hiding nothing. Indeed, I found nothing of real interest there. Chanel, the mage, was a different story. I woke her from her slumber and began searching her room. At first she seemed overly friendly towards me but when I did nothing to entertain her advances her attitude changed sharply. Soon I found some painting supplies that had been hastily stashed in a small lock box upon her dresser.

As I grabbed up the painting supplies I took a step forward and pointed at her. “You! You’re the one!” At first she bit her lip, curled her brow, and focused on me as if every bit of anger she’d ever possessed was bubbling to the surface and the possibility of her using whatever abilities had earned her the position of Court Mage to attack me popped into my mind. Fortunately for all involved the hatred in her eyes almost immediately melted into sadness as the tears started to run down her face.

Quietly sobbing, Chanel confessed her affection for the late count. Not only for he himself, but for his portrait – a portrait that she herself had painted. She evidentially missed him so much, and was so jealous of the countess having the painting all to herself, that she stole it. She removed the rolled up canvas from under her bed and gave it to me, pleading not to tell the countess where it was discovered. While more questions remained about the exact nature of their relationship I decided not to press Chanel further as the countess might be none to pleased with me if I were to stir up such accusations. Regardless, I felt it best to tell the countess about what I had learned about the robbery.

Ye gods, get back into the shadows old woman!
“Ye gods, get back into the shadows old woman!”

The countess was quite displeased at being betrayed by a member of her own court and stern in her punishment. She stripped Chanel of her duties and banished her from ever coming back to Chorrol. In gratitude for recovering the painting she rewarded me with a generous helping of gold and gemstones and, possibly most importantly of all, I had made my first friend in power. Yes, Chorrol was working out quite nicely for me…

News stuff

There’s always lots of gaming news but I don’t make much of an effort to talk much about it unless it particularly interests me. Hell, E3 came and went a few weeks ago unnoticed by this blog for that matter. Lately though there’s been a stack of stories that I’ve wanted to comment on all hitting the gaming news aggregation sites at around the same time.

It turns out that EA’s merging Bioware’s Old Republic and Mythic’s Warhammer Online (and, I’m assuming other) teams. Mark Jacobs of Mythic has also stepped down though it isn’t clear under what circumstances. It’s understandable that EA might want Mythic to lend its considerable MMO experience to the Bioware since this will be Bioware’s first MMO but given Jacob’s departure the opposite scenario could be true as well – perhaps EA wants Bioware to help save Warhammer Online?

Mark leaving is also a bit surprising to me as he’s been the voice of Warhammer Online and Mythic as a whole to some degree for a while now and, while I admit I haven’t been keeping up on Warhammer Online news after unsubscribing, he didn’t seem to be receiving too much credit for any of the game’s shortcomings. Perhaps EA feels differently about it though. For what it’s worth I liked Warhammer Online quite a lot and will probably check it out again someday. I can only imagine the recent changes such as the addition of the Land of The Dead are only improvements. As a bit of a Bioware fan I also hope that Old Republic turns out to be the World of Warcraft killer that so many people think it might be.

Two games I was interested in, ArmA II and Battlefield 1943 have both been released. ArmA II is, unsurprisingly, apparently chalk full of bugs. The first ArmA game was much the same way though in my experience much was fixed in post release patches. I’ve got it on order but don’t plan on jumping into it too soon. The XBLA and PS3 Battlefield 1943, however, is quite good according to most reports I’ve read. It has been having major server problems since launch, however. I definitely plan on checking that one out quite soon. Battlefield Heroes is also officially live now and I don’t know how I’ve not yet tried it.

Seemingly out of nowhere Piranha Games officially confirmed that it is working on MechWarrior 5. Battletech/MechWarrior lovers rejoice! Fans of the series have been pining for a sequel to simulation heavy MechWarrior PC series for quite sometime now and the closest they’ve gotten recently were the two MechAssault games on the original Xbox… which is to say not very close. Sadly I predict that MechWarrior fans will freak out even more than Fallout fans did over Fallout 3 when this is finally released and isn’t exactly what they wanted it to be down to the last detail. Check out this trailer.

Bethesda’s parent company Zenimax has bought Id software. I guess Bethesda wasn’t screwing around about wanting to get more into publishing games. John Carmack has done a few interviews and whatnot and seems generally quite pleased with the deal though as an oldschool Wolfenstein 3D and Doom fan it still stings a little. Still, this makes the total gaming geek in me wonder about the possibility of the next Elder Scrolls or Fallout game running in an Id engine or even a Doom open world RPG. 😛

Finally, and these ones are a bit older than the rest but well worth the wait. First of all LucasArts is releasing a remake of the original Secret of Monkey Island on PC and XBLA in a special edition format with remade graphics and voice acting. Soooo bought. Telltale Games, responsible for the Sam and Max episodic games, has also announced it’s working on an episodic Monkey Island series called Tales of Monkey Island. Again, bought… Well, eventually. It’s only coming to WiiWare and PC at first so I might hold off for a XBLA release.

Finally, LucasArts announced that it’ll be releasing some of its back catalog on Steam. The first round isn’t amazing exciting though it features some games I’d definitely consider classics such as The Dig and the Indian Jones adventure games. I’m sure they’ll be more than this released down the line and there’s a high possibility that I’ll be buying it all. I wish LucasArts would release these old games in a retail format as well, just for safe keeping, but Steam is better than nothing!

Sheesh. All of these announcements are making me think that the original The Secret of Monkey Island may be the next game I review.

Pacific Vacation

I feel like a total slacker for neglecting my blog so much in the last few weeks. Apologies to the few of my friends who keep up with it. There’s a variety of reasons why: As I mentioned previously I had been trying to put my nose to the grindstone and get through Ninja Gaiden 2. I’d also not been playing much Oblivion since I had a backlog of Garn entries to write. That’s becoming a real bummer with the current format I’m using – I’m really excited to play but can only play so much before I need to stop and find time to write about what I’ve played. I’ve also been trying to get my America’s Army 3 clan off of the ground which I’ll write a lot more about soon. Probably my main excuse is that I usually write my blog entries during my downtime at work but due to changing positions and some new, major projects I’ve had very, very little useful downtime over the last few weeks.

Anyway, I did it! About two weeks ago now I managed to beat Ninja Gaiden 2 on warrior difficulty. Like the first game the difficulty kind of plateaued towards the middle – sure, they’d keep throwing new enemies at you but they didn’t necessarily get any harder, just different and, thankfully, I never ended up getting anywhere close to as pissed off at the game as I did earlier on. I ended switching from using my trusty leveled up Dragon Sword to my even trustier leveled up Eclipse Scythe and never really looked back.

The most notable thing about the finale of the game had to be the 9 (yes, 9!) boss battles more or less back to back in the last 3 levels of the game. Luckily only one, the second to last one, gave me any real trouble. Like the first game I’m shamefully sort of proud to have struggled through and beaten a game so few others have. I almost immediately changed my XBL avatar to a NG2 one in celebration. I can’t imagine playing it again any time soon through and hats off to the few, extremely hardcore players who continued upwards through the higher difficulty modes. No thanks!

I'm so glad doesn't have this problem.
“I’m so glad doesn’t have this problem.”

I moved on to the next game in my backlog queue, Battlestations: Midway for the Xbox 360, and man is it interesting. I don’t think I’d call myself a huge military/war buff compared to a lot of people out there but I do have an above average appreciation for such things and this is an entirely different take on the World War II genre. It reminds me of some sort of twisted interpretation of what Battlefield: 1942 was originally promised to be back before it was released and a lot of people didn’t think it’d ever work. “Wow man, you can run around on the ground, fly planes, drive tanks, even sail ships!” So yeah, Battlestations: Midway is like that, only as a real time strategy game instead of a first person shooter. Ok, that statement didn’t make much sense but I was totally asleep when I originally wrote it. 😉

I feel that I’m being somewhat inaccurate calling it an RTS though. It definitely is an RTS though it doesn’t have much in common by with the mainstream evolution of the genre. That is to say that there is no resource gathering and no base building. You simply have a bunch of different units, all vehicular, under your command. You also sometimes have units that can produce other units, most commonly aircraft carriers which can, of course, launch aircraft. Yes, given that his game focuses on the naval battles of the Pacific in World War II it mostly deals with ship (including submarine) and air combat.

You can direct your units’ targets, behaviors, and all of that, to some degree, both in game and by using a real time tactical map. You can also hop into any of these vehicular units and either observe or take over the controls yourself. The first person controls are mostly fairly arcadey though their are occasional simmy features thrown in. For example, the menu to manage assigning crew to repair damage to your ship is unlike anything I’d seen outside of a sim for years. Still, it all works out easily enough as long as you spend more time managing your units than of playing them.

PT boat versus heavy cruiser, I wonder how this will turn out.
“PT boat versus heavy cruiser, I wonder how this will turn out.”

Of course, like a lot of RTS games the single player campaign is far from the entire experience. Instead, you’re thrown into very specific scenarios with very specific units and objectives. I’m over half way through the single player campaign and ever since I put it down I’ve been pining for more. Despite the short campaign there are a number of single player “challenges” to play through as well.

Online is where this game (apparently) shines though, letting you and potentially three partners duke it out with up to four other people in anything goes, all units on the table, massive battles in and over the Pacific. The online is what originally got me interested in this game in the first place after reading recounts of some of the awesome, epic battles people were having over Live. I’m sure hardly anyone is playing it these days (especially with it’s sequel already out) and those who do are probably gods but I might end up giving it a try. I’m trying to burn through this one though, not making any special efforts for achievements or anything else before it’s on to the next game. At the very least it seems that my experience so far has bumped Battlestations: Pacific into my wish list.