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      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
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      A happy young lady shares a table at a tony restaurant with her cat; they both wear festive, cone-shaped party hats. The woman gaily says to the tuxedoed server, “One martini and one glass of milk.” The cat does not … Continue reading →

Getting behind on blogging!

Posted by joeabbott on September 30, 2011

I have over two dozen “blog this” mails to myself and I know I need to knock those out more frequently. But I’m just not finding time for working on the computer. I have stories about my hiking/kayaking trip with the boys, have the temp chicken coop and shelter that I’d like to detail, and all the other little stories for home that I usually write.

One of the reasons is that I was finishing up a video game. That’s right, my Xbox was getting more time and attention than the blog. Hey, it’s been stressful and quite nice to just knock out an hour or so of dungeon spelunking rather than doing real work. And, sorry (not really) to say, I have a lot more gaming to work through between now and the end of the year!

Let’s see … let’s take a look at what’s been going on with my Xbox these past few months.

image

Arcania: Gothic 4

I like RPGs … Role Playing Games. I like the exploration and finding all the little secrets. Yup, they typically take/waste a lot of time, but I watch zero TV so consider this my vice. On July 5 I started this game and played through the 29th of that month. Pretty quick for me, actually!

I liked the game enough while playing … as a matter of fact, I’d started a couple games at the same time and the controls and story for Arcania had me playing this game through. However, I sorta hated the achievements for this one.

The two problems were that they had a lot requiring you to gain expertise in a type of combat and then use that combat as the sole fighting technique through the game. I gained the Arcane Reaper achievement by wiping out 300 enemies with magic. But, as the game doesn’t respawn enemies, I wasn’t able to get the Sniper (kill 100 enemies with arrows) or Duelist (kill 100 enemies with flurries) achievements.

Also, you couldn’t go back to certain areas once you moved through them, making your gathering of collectibles (yeah, I’m look at you Ancient Treasure, Radiant Blessing, and Dark Reward achievements). Yes, I could collect them all as I went through the game, but it breaks up the immersive flow to do that. I usually play a game through and then run back and scan for all the hidden treasures.

Anyhow, the absolute worst feature was that, in the final battle, you didn’t get any experience for killing any of the bad guys. There’s an achievement, Legend, to reach Level 30 with your character; I was a couple hundred points from being at that level and, without experience in the final boss battle, without having enemies that respawn and not being able to get to all the prior locations, I missed this achievement.

I could always replay the game but I have too many other “distractions” and projects to replay anything. So, I look at the nine achievements I missed in this game, sigh, and move on.

imageBully: Scholarship Edition

Now, when this game came out from Rockstar Games, it was after the Columbine tragedies and panned by the Press for encouraging schoolroom violence. But, the premise of the game is that you’re a punk kid in a prep school and you’re out to “rule the school”. You need to get the nerds, preps, jocks, greasers, and townies on your side to do that … and, your first year roommate ends up being your rival.

You do end up getting into plenty of fights, can shoot people with a slingshot, and are a general menace, but no one can die, there are no guns, and if you pick on little kids, girls, or an adult, you’d best be running or cops and prefects will chase you down and cool your heels in detention our the county jail.

While not my usual cup of tea, I was entertained by the hijinks of little Jimmy Hopkins enough to play it through … and enjoy it.

I managed to get all but four achievements but gave up without trying hard to get them all. In one part you need to go to “class” and in the biology class you need a keen hand to dissect a frog in a time trial. I usually hate time trials and this was no exception … I just wasn’t getting close to done by the time the “class ended”. So, I knew I wouldn’t get the Perfectionist achievement. And, if you’re not getting one … it’s easier to pass on the other.

Overall the fun part was the variety of missions and that little Jimmy wasn’t evil or hurting people … he actually helped quite a few folks (as long as there was something in it for him). So, this was a fine way to spend the month from July 31 to August 18. Oh, it was a game on loan from my nephew David (and his pop Steve). Thanks, guys!

imageDivinity II: Ego Draconis

This was a complex game in the love-hate category. It was simple to get into, had almost no bugs that I found, allowed you to fly as a dragon, and had a lot of variety: you start out battling “orcs” (or goblins or something like that), end up building up a Mage Tower, and ultimately battle the bad guy as a dragon! What a hoot!

But the “hate” part: leveling is wonky in that an enemy above you by a level or two can wipe you out easily, those below you by a couple levels cease to be a challenge, even en masse, and the unforgivable sin of keeping me from getting one of the 41 achievements!

The achievement in question is Adrift and to get it, you have to find Michael’s secret raft. In the story, you have the opportunity to run across a guy named Michael. Talk to him and you find out he’s building a raft to escape an island. That’s it for then. Later in the story, as you’re in the final battle with the bad guy, you can go back into an area, find the raft Michael had built, and get the achievement.

Unfortunately for me, I talked to Michael but must have died, went back to a previous save, and then didn’t talk to Michael in that gameplay. So, when I went to look for his raft, I’m not able to see it. The really bad part is that the game only allows you to have a few game saves and so my earliest saved game is well after I had a chance to find Michael.

So to get this one achievement, I’d need to replay the game. No thanks.

So, while novel and engaging for the time from June 22 through September 26, I won’t be returning to it. Alas.

imageAssassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

While it may look like I was trying to only play those games that had a colon in the name, that isn’t the case. but it’s darned funny they all have sub-titles!

Now this is a game I really like. I popped the disk in on September 19 but only to see if the scratches on it would impact the gameplay … I bought it used. I really started playing on the 27th and have been itching to spend more time in 15th century with Ezio, the Italian assassin!

This is the third in a series of games in which you play Desmond Miles who has “ancestors” who were assassins; you can tap into their memories and live out their lives. There’s a bunch of cloak and dagger manipulations in the story, you meet a young Leonardo da Vinci, and other historical figures from that time. But, at the heart of the gameplay is Ezio, jumping from rooftops, hiding in shadows, and deploying all manner of martial forces to stop the Borgia from taking over Rome! (and, as I said, it’s much deeper than that)

What I like about the game is the crisp controls (mostly … don’t try to run at a sprint and turn a corner; you end up running up a wall!), the buttery smooth animations, the fluid graphics, and (again) the variety.

You sometimes have to escort other characters through city streets unnoticed, you need to remove guards silently, you have to find your way through cavernous ruins to uncover hidden treasures, and you can build up your villa by earning/spending money. There’s just a lot to do and most of it isn’t terribly tedious.

Also, the achievements are generous. Some games have you going days and days without getting an achievement … come on! They’re fun to get! Hand ‘em out! With Assassin’s Creed, you get them at moderate play-through time and for reasonably easy accomplishments (Your Wish is Granted: throw coins in a well). While I won’t be getting them all (they have a lot of co-op gameplay achievements), I have 13 now (of 50) and I imagine I’ll end up with 43 … give or take.

That’s it

And that’s it … that’s what I’ve been doing game-wise. As I said, I don’t watch TV but I do play Xbox most nights that I don’t have dedicated to something else. Coming up, though, I have a couple games that I’m really waiting on: Rage and Skyrim. With Skyrim being a game I’ll be playing a very long time!

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