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Petri Wessman's weblog

Dragon Age finished

Flemeth and Morrigan

Well, I finally finished Dragon Age: Origins. With the zillion things demanding their share of my free time, it’s pretty rare for me to actually finish a computer game – most of the games I like are long and complex affairs, and… well, they take time. I think the previous “big” game I finished was Half-Life 2 (including episodes 1&2).

Playing through Dragon Age took me a whopping total of 69 hours of play time. It’s a huge game, just like the game it’s the “spiritual successor” of: Baldur’s Gate II. Since BG2 happens to be one of those other big games which I have actually finished, and also one of my all-time favorites, it’s fitting to compare the two a bit.

So which is better? I honestly don’t know. I loved both. BG2 has a slightly more unorthodox plot and has more weird plot twists, but Dragon Age’s plot switched to high gear during the end section. While the beginning was a bit predictable and by-the-numbers in places, the end was pretty awesome: it forced you to make a lot of honestly difficult choices, both morally and tactically, often with no really “good” choice available. The end part delved heavily into realpolitik, and overall Dragon Age is a much more “gritty” and realistic game – as far as action-adventure fantasy games generally are, anyway.

Both have excellent NPCs, but I guess Dragon Age wins simply because the NPCs have full animation and (good) voice acting.

Both have interesting tactical combat, where the more difficult fights will kill you dead if you just wade in. On the other hand, neither featured frustratingly impossible battles of the “aaargh, let’s reload that for the 50th time” sort. Overall, nice balance.

Both have lots of variability in how they play out, depending on player choices. I think Dragon Age wins here, there are tons of subplots and even main plot variations that depend completely on what you do. This contributes to a great replay value; even though both of these games will eat up a humongous amount of time, paradoxically both are also games that tempt you to play them again. I played BG2 about halfway through the second time, and I’ll probably give Dragon Age another go too, this time with a different character and main companion selection (played as a mage this time).

I’m keeping Morrigan, though. She’s an amoral antisocial bitch, but she’s fun.

So. Fantastic game, jumping to my “all time favorites” list. It’s not perfect, it’s a bit predictable and cliched at times… but it’s quite a ride.

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Striders incoming!

Finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2 over the weekend… and now I’m stuck with the rest of the world, waiting for Episode 3. While Episode 1 wasn’t anything too special, the second ep was a hell of a lot of fun. Driving (and mowing down zombies) is always amusing, and the new Hunters were a bitch – not to mention the last big battle, which had me hitting the “reload, dammit!” button more than a few times. I thought the length was pretty much spot-on and the graphics and scenery were great (partly due to me being able to play the thing with all the HDR goodies turned on with my new graphics card).

Valve continues to rock.

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Dystopias

“… time, Doctor Freeman?”

While we’re not in Big Brother -ville yet, it’s a slippery slope, as the recent censorship idiocy here in Finland shows. Ah, the good old “won’t anyone think of the children!” argument, where silly little things like freedom of speech and due process get trampled by the obvious demons of “child pornography!”. Of course, if you’re against this censorship, you’re a supporter of child pornography! Sigh. The fact that this is a secret list, which apparently contains lots of non-child pornography pages too, seems not matter too much to some people. History has shown us where things like this tend to lead – but knowledge of history doesn’t feature very high on the list of these people, either. “We have to save the children!!!”

I could write lots about this, but better writers than me have already done so. It should not come as a suprise that so many people are ignorant of the real implications of all this – but the fact that one of those (willfully) ignorant people is our Minister of Communications, Suvi Lindén, is sad. I get some little satisfaction from the fact that as of now, over 10,000 people have signed an address asking for her resignation, while only about 4500 people voted for her originally. The sad fact of democracy is that now and then, utter morons get elected into office. Usually they do no harm there. Usually.

In an alternate reality we’d have a Gordon Freeman clone with a huge arsenal storming the senate and kicking ass. Here and now, we’ll have to do without gravity guns and general mayhem. Maybe that’s for the best.

Speaking of dystopias and firepower…

…yes, I finished Half-Life 2 this weekend. Quite a ride, and the end cliffhanger was nicely done. Now all I have to do is resist the temptation to buy the Orange Box until I have time to actually play Episodes 1 & 2. Not this week, at least – I have an Exalted game to prep and some other stuff to do. Next week, maybe. I can resist. Yup. No problem. Sure.

That took care of Sunday. Saturday we had a VTES tournament run by Teemu; was a lot of fun, and even though my Anarch Daughters voter failed in the first two rounds (in first because of bad table seating, in second because of abysmally bad card draws), it did manage to get me a game win in the third round. Not enough for the finals, but still, a game win is a game win. I have some small tweak ideas for that deck, but nothing major; I suspect it’s close to as good as I can make it, without totally changing some major focus.

After the game I shambled to a friend’s place where a blini party was in full swing. Blinis plus bubbly wine, wonderful combo.

Added a bit later: this post cuts right down to the heart of the censorship debate, tongue-in-cheek as it may be (in Finnish).

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Freak Angels and Half-Life

On Friday, Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield published the first “episode” of Freak Angels, their new collaborative free web comic project. Ellis is one of my favorite comics writers (Transmetropolitan rocks like few things do), and the art on FA looks lovely. Some sort of British post-apoc deal, with the Midwich Cuckoos thrown into the mix – as the protagonists, it seems. Or something. I’ll be following this.

For a change, I spent most of Sunday playing Half-Life 2. I had almost forgotten how fantastic a game this was. I’d previously played this up to the point where you fight a helicopter gunship under a huge railway bridge (on the coastal highway), now I started the game from scratch and actually got past that point by midnight or so. It’s a lot faster when you know/remember what you need to do – but now I’m again in unknown territory.

Good single-player games can be a huge amount of fun. The original Half-Life was one of the very few major games I’ve actually completed. Took a long, long time… but still. HL2 is, if possible, an even better game; I’d venture to claim that it’s currently the best FPS out there. Yes, there are better graphics to be found (though HL2 is very pretty, too), but HL2 has a great story and a huge amount of variability. You don’t get stuck in a rut, mowing down the same group of bad guys on levels that all look the same. Here you go from hydrofoil chases to dune buggies, from whimsical weaponless story interludes and physics puzzles to full-out firefight brawls. Oh, and the Gravity Gun rocks.

Special positive mention goes to the character of Alyx Vance. An actual smart female character in a computer game, and one who dresses and acts like… a normal person. Who’d have thunk. Oh, and can’t forget Dog. Dog rocks.

At the moment, HL2, Baldur’s Gate 2 and System Shock 2 top my personal “best computer games ewah!” list. Maybe it’s the number “2” that does it? Dunno.

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