I have some fond memories of the Mortal Kombat franchise starting from running into the arcade cabinet at a local grocery store of all places and admiring its cutting edge digitalized graphics and fantastic gore, quickly followed up by the obsessive, glowing buzz it gained from most of my then-8th grade compatriots. Soon after there was a lot of hanging out at local arcades as well as tracking down the various home console releases of the first two games with my friends. By the time Mortal Kombat 3 was released I had already developed a solid aversion to fighting games thanks largely to a mixture of the whole arcade/fighting game scene locally and my own lack of fighting game ability – really, most of my countless hours spent playing the console ports of MK 1 and 2 consisted of little more than me acting as a kind of moving punching bag for one of my much more skilled best friends. Great fun, that. (For the record I sucked at Street Fighter 2 as well. ;))
""For a good time... don't call Mileena."
Still, I wasn’t being sarcastic about the fond memories. That was more than 15 years ago and I view those years in particular with a ton of nostalgia. So yeah, even if the MK games weren’t some of my favorites I still have a soft spot for them. I picked up the N64 port of MK 4 at some point, and I dabbled with some of the later games including Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. I can’t say I was greatly anticipating the 2011 Mortal Kombat but I was definitely intrigued by it. Fortunately unlike the last several MK releases this one had apparently actually lived up to its claims of returning to its roots and managed to become a better fighting game to boot by further diversifying and rebalancing its various characters.
I spent some quality time going through the story mode, some of the character ladders including the co-op ladders, and of course playing around in versus mode. Does it live up to the hype? Sure! If you never liked MK for its fighting system you might and I stress might be able to appreciate it a bit more now… but if it was the silly characters, over the top gore, dumb setting, or skimpy outfits you found objectionable then not much has changed – all of the stuff that appealed so strongly to my middle school peers and I is still intact if not even turned up a notch or two. The female character’s outfits are even more ridiculous, the gore… fatalities especially, even more gruesome. It’s the complete package. The biggest improvement there has got to be the story mode. I laughed along when I heard some of the podcasters I listened to scoffing at how many writers the game had credited well before its release but it actually does a surprising amount of fleshing out of the silly Mortal Kombat backstory. It essentially re-tells the plots of the first few games and the movie. It’s still dumb, sure, but unfair 2 vs. 1 matches and some annoying boss fights (suck it, Shao Kahn) aside it was great fun to play through.
"My main character - an Inquisitor Cleric."
I’ve started winding down my WoW time lately for various reason and have instead started playing around with Rift. My brief synopsis: it has nice graphics, a cool class mechanic, and some other goodies but only really does one thing completely new to the genre: not suck. Well, let me explain... Rift’s mechanics are very much inspired by World of Warcraft (I’m being nice, guys) but unlike most of the MMOs that have come (and gone) since the success of WoW Rift actually not only barrows a ton of goodies from it but does so well. It’s very polished from the get go and the vast majority of little features and design tweaks that have helped WoW either become successful or stay successful over the years are already there. It’s so annoying to hop into a new MMO and come across problem after problem that have already been solved in other games. A lot of the time these are eventually patched out but… come on guys, why not just fix it from the fucking beginning? That’s Rift.
It’s about as good as you can expect from a WoW clone that aspires to be little more than a WoW clone. The setting and backstory are somewhat interesting but don’t appeal to me much personally but really, I’m almost totally done with this type of Everquest inspired theme-park MMORPG anyway, currently subscribing to the “if I want WoW, I’ll play WoW” mentality. I’ll still play around with Rift (and WoW) for a while but I doubt I’ll make any serious commitment to an MMORPG again until the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic… not that it is necessarily all that far off... nor may it do much to change the WoW formula itself, sadly. That said I’m very much interested in whatever Trion Worlds does next – they definitely seem to be an above average MMO developer so far.
"It might look like I'm winning but there's about 500 more marines not in the shot..."
I’ve also wrapped up the adventure mode of the Xbox 360 version of Peggle Nights – no surprise there, it’s still great, simplistic pick up and play fun. Finally, I’ve been playing some Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade again, just dabbling with the Necrons in skirmish battles since I’ve been considering returning to playing tabletop 40k again and am learning towards putting together a Necron army. Thank god the table top game and Dawn of War’s RTS mechanics are nothing alike because I’ve yet to win a single damn game as the Necrons.
Warning: potential side quest spoilers ahead!
From Garn's recollections:
Corruption in the Imperial City
The next week or so was fairly uneventful. Although I still mixed at the taverns and made quick visits to the Market District to look for potential leads I did so less frequently. Because of my unknown past and my still undisclosed involvement in the Emperor's death I was a bit wary of becoming one of the "regulars" around the city. A mysterious, famed adventurer? Sure. That guy who is always hanging around at The Foaming Flask? Not so much. With that in mind, for possibly the first time since my emancipation I was able to engage in a healthy amount of genuine relaxation. It didn't take long for opportunity to knock, however.
I had been hearing rumors, particularly from some of the shop keepers in the Market District, that there were some corrupt guardsmen around town. Not surprising. Interestingly more and more of these rumors seemed to point to a particular person, a Captain of the Guard in fact, Audens Avidius. It was only a matter of time before two men, commoners who lived the Temple District, approached me and asked me to take action. Apparently Luronk and his friend Ruslan had been browsing a store when the guard shook them down for their gold pieces at threat of being imprisoned for thievery. Quite a gutsy thing to do right in the middle of a shop, in broad daylight, and by a high ranking guardsman at that. Having developed a disdain for corrupt, abusive guards from my time in the Imperial Prison I told them that I'd be glad to look into it.
The more I thought about it the worse I thought the idea of engaging the captain was. Instead I simply decide to carefully speak to other guardsmen about the subject. Very quickly I learned the no one was willing to help - some, probably guilty themselves, became highly agitated with me even broaching the subject. Eventually I did encounter an honest guard who took a genuine interest in the subject, though he informed that due to Audens's status of a captain, only another Captain of the Guard could actually arrest him. Off I went to locate another captain. At first I spoke to Hieronymus Lex, who dismissed the notion saying instead that he was busy attempting to track down the famed Gray Fox. He did at least refer me to Itius Hayn.
"Garn carefully dances around telling the Captain of the Guard that his guards are all assholes."
Surprisingly Itius seemed to take me seriously, though he wasn't willing to help without witnesses who would testify due to the seriousness of the accusation. Luronk and Ruslan took a bit of convincing but eventually agreed and I accompanied them to Itius, who immediately left in search of Audens. Upon being confronted Audens exploded with rage, threatening to kill me as the guards took him away. Hm, perhaps it wasn't so smart for me to show my face at his arrest? Regardless, another deed done to help bolster my good reputation, and as a bonus a few of the shop keepers offered me a discount for dispatching of he troublesome captain.
"A bit anti-climatic!"
Later that very day I was approached by a Dunmer woman who said that her husband Gilen sent her to ask me to meet him at Seridur's house to discuss a matter of the utmost importance. She knew nothing more of what this pertained to but, cautiously, I went anyway.
I was greeted at the door to the house, located in the Temple District, by a Dunmer wearing full heavy armor. He told me that I had been expected and lead me to a basement door, which he then unlocked and motioned be towards. While this all seemed a bit unusual I didn't feel like I was necessarily in any danger. The house, the basement stairway, everything seemed normal enough. When I reached the basement proper I found myself in a well lit lounge, with tapestries and other very deliberate, themed decor - it seemed as if I was in some sort of guildhall. Sure enough, one of the few men gathered there stepped forward to greet me. It was Seridur himself, and he presented himself as the leader of The Order of the Virtuous Blood, an organization dedicated to hunting out and killing vampires. That was where I came in, as it turned out that none of the members of the group were capable enough fighters to stand up to a vampire but the group had at least managed to locate one.
"The meanest! The baddest!"
Seridur claimed that he was walking by Roland Jenseric's house one night when he heard a scream. As he ran around to the back of the house he found Roland and a young woman he had been courting in a struggle. Seridur tried to intervene but Roland fought him off and fled, leaving the body of the woman with two puncture wounds in her neck behind. Finding and destroying Roland Jenseric was the order's top priority and they were offering me the job. While I had only limited experience with vampires my exposure up to that point told me that I could handle the task - I'd need to be very careful, but I could do it. I accepted the job. Seridur suggested I start my investigation at Roland's house.
Later that night I lock picked the front door of Roland Jenseric's house and snuck in. Other than some Skooma and an unusually large stash of alcohol, I didn't find much out of the ordinary in the house. The most interesting items that I located were a series of love letters addressed to Roland and were signed Relfina - I was pretty sure that Seridur had mentioned this as being the name of the victim. I read the last few letters for potential clues and although I found no hints at any motive beyond vampirism there was mention of a cabin that Roland had in the hills of the Heartland. This sounded like a perfect hide out.
"Not the world's scariest vampire den."
The next morning after a short ride I reached a cabin that fit the description of the location in the letter. I could clearly hear someone stacking firewood inside. I drew my sword and burst in. The man was startled, and thinking I was a bandit told me to take what I must and leave him unharmed. This didn't strike me as something a fearsome vampire would do, and when I voiced my confusion he seemed puzzled. It wasn't until I mentioned that name Seridur that I saw Roland's face flash with the realization of what had happened. He offered me a seat and told me about how he had been afraid that his lover, Relfina, had been seeing another man. Following her one night he watched as Seridur crept out from the shadows, embraced her, and bit her neck. Roland tried to attack but Seridur's strength was too much and he was knocked out. Upon waking he immediately fled the city in panic. All of this, however unlikely, seemed quite believable to me, so I set off back towards the city to locate Seridur. Roland suggested I look for proof of Seridur's identity at the First Edition bookshop as he knew that Seridur frequented the shop.
Phintias at First Edition confirmed that Seridur often stopped by to purchase and sell books, sometimes with a backpack loaded with supplies. He said that he overheard Seridur mention Memorial Cave to another patron once. Memorial Cave was just outside the city and was apparently a place used to bury dead warriors long ago. This sounded like a fine potential place for a vampire to hide out, so off I went.
"Getting a warm welcome to the REAL vampire den..."
Upon entering the cave it seemed unquestionable that it was being inhabited by something sinister - ancient coffins were overturned, desecrated bodies strung about as warning signs to would-be intruders, and soon enough I encountered my first vampire. The vampires there were mostly magic users, likely gathered together as part of a vampire cult, and were weaker than I was expecting. I had always heard that weak vampires tend to live in groups, whilst the most powerful, seasoned vampires could easily survive undetected on their own. As I continued to explore the cave system I questioned if Seridur was indeed a vampire or if perhaps he had only been visiting the cave as part of his investigations. It also occured to me that Roland could have still been a vampire and had sent me there in hopes that the cult would take me. Not likely!
Soon I received my answer, as I swung open a makeshift door to see Seridur, clad in armor, standing at an alter apparently preparing a ritual. He turned, anger filling his eyes once recognizing me. He began to explain how he figured he'd get caught all along and wanted to lure me away from him but, failing, he would now dispatch me. I was already preparing a summoning spell and by the time he began to rush me I had the initiative. Despite his enhanced abilities Seridur fell easily. He may have been at the top of his group of weak vampires but he was still just a weak vampire.
"Yeah, this is a happening place..."
After clearing out the rest of Memorial Cave I returned to Roland's house to tell him the news. Roland was overjoyed and visibly much calmer after hearing of the death of Seridur. He told me that he had planned to resume living in the Imperial City and was even considering taking over The Order of the Virtuous Blood of which I, would of course be an honorary member. He awarded me with one of his few valuable possessions, an enchanted ring, for sparing him and helping him bring his lover's murderer to justice.
Very clever, a vampire running his own vampire hunting group. The ruse was not enough, as Seridur let his arrogance and thirst for blood get the best of him as many a fabled vampire had before him.
"Ah, I finally *really* pissed someone off."
Later that day while returning to my home in the city I heard a blood curdling scream behind me, growing rapidly louder. Instinctively I turned, drawing my sword. It was Audens Avidius, no longer in his captain's armor, and wielding a crude knife. As he charged me I smoothly cleaved across his belly. A pair of city guardsman rushed up to him from behind, joining the melee. Once Audens lay dead, one of the guards searched his body, finding a note in which he confessed escaping the Imperial Prison to avenge his imprisonment. I was assured that I was indeed quite lucky to survive such an attack though I was more concerned about the fact that Auden's had apparently used the same escape route as I did. If more people knew about the existence of those tunnels than surely I could eventually be fingered as escaping at the same time as the Emperor was assassinated. This was troubling indeed...
This had been the buggiest Oblivion session I've had since I started this run. Ruslan began stopping me and talking to me without my consent whenever I saw him, which was very frequent as if he was following me around. I had to lock pick my way out of Ralsa Norvalo's house at the beginning of The Order quest, and do so unseen or get arrested afterwards. I had a Shadow Wolf that was somehow stuck in the ceiling constantly stalking me (and occasionally biting me) the entire time I was in Memorial Cave. I eventually killed it by finding some geometry it would stick through and hurling fireballs at it. Finally, during my final fight with Audens he kept triggering the guards to aggro me even though he was the one initiating the attack. I had to re-fight him about 3 times before the guards finally concluded that I was innocent. Jeesh.