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What I’ve Been Doing 26 Nov 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Nov 26th, 2012 by Dan

Nintendo World Bag

This bag houses my new Wii U. It also has a picture of YOSHI OMG!

Guys, I got a Wii U in NY this weekend. I know what you’re thinking, stupid gimmick system, right? Maybe, but I don’t feel like it is yet. I’m having tons of fun with it so far, just gotta sink more time into the multiplayer with friends this weekend.

Movies

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva – Not gonna win any awards, but it was inoffensive and funny in some pretty ridiculous ways. Min and I had fun watching it.

TV

The Mindy Project – A lot of people give this show grief, but I find Mindy consistently funny and pretty sharply funny most of the time. She’s still got that awkward funny down pat too. The bit with Ed Helms was cringe-worthy.

Childrens Hospital – Newsreaders episodes tend to be pretty funny, but this one didn’t have the same oomph as last season’s with all the spinoffs.

Homeland – Marathon catch-up and, holy cow, what’s going on?! Can’t wait to see the reunion with Abu Nazir, but the Gettysburg shootout seemed way implausible.

New Girl – I was not expecting a Parent Trap. Pretty strong episode what with all the Nick hitting on Jess’ mom thing. Guess what, guys? Winston still does nothing.

Happy Endings – The Native American trials thing with Dave? Uncontrollable laughter. Holy cow I loved it.

Glee – I like Grease so I didn’t mind this at all. Wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t offensively bad either.

Music

Lot of Black Friday sales up, but here’s one for the hearts of my readers.

It makes my heart swell even though I’m not literally from Latin America. It’s a beautiful song.

Books

A Confederacy of Dunces – Slow progress. Still under 100 pages.

Video Games

The Walking Dead – What a gut punch. Holy cow. I was so glad I played the finale alone because I was on the verge of tears the whole time. Strong, strong game of the year contender for me.

Dark Souls – Finally put some time into this sucker. Hey, it’s pretty awesome. I was feeling really stressed about every decision and expecting death around every corner, but that’s the real joy of the game. My other favorite thing was how sparse everything was. I was just in a place and exploring it was up to me. No quest markers, no waypoints, just loneliness and wandering. In Skyrim that’s boring because it’s a boring place and the combat isn’t fun. In Dark Souls I’m just on edge and tense and confused and I like it.

New Super Mario Bros. U – I tried out the boost mode while Min and Lee played the game. Trying to save folks (and/or impede them) is way cooler than I thought it would be. Can’t wait to mess with them some more.

Nintendo Land – Here’s one that I thought would be an unfun mess. So far I tried the F-Zero, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, and Ninja games. The only one I didn’t really care for was the Ninja one, but that’s just because I don’t love light gun shooters. Donkey Kong was, by far, my favorite. I loved the little ghosts for the times. Wasn’t expecting that at all. Super fun and super cool. Can’t wait to try the asynchronous multiplayer games with people since I forgot to take wiimotes to NY with me.

2011 in Video Games [GO]
Jan 5th, 2012 by Dan

HAY GUSY! ZELDA GAMES ARE 25!

So maybe I wasn't playing video games at birth nor was this blog running 25 years ago, but this is my 25th year too!

2011 was an odd year in games for me. It started out like any other, filled with joy and happiness, and then it was all wrenched away halfway through, thanks to that burglary, until I was able to start replenishing my stores and getting the ball rolling again for the second half.

This list, unlike last year, will cover the games I played most this year, even if they came out several years ago :cough: Team Fortress 2 :cough:. I think it’s better to reflect upon what I put the most game time into, even if it wasn’t new.

Resident Evil 5 – 2011’s 2009 Game of the Year has to go to Capcom’s co-op survival horror epic. I remember the Giant Bomb guys pimping this game super hard, but I ignored them over and over again for nearly two years because I’m not much of a scary games guy. Then the steam sale happened and I wanted something co-op to play with Min and Lee, so I buckled. This game was so good, guys. According to Raptr, I played 57 hours of this guy just cruising through all the levels, S-Ranking each one, finding all the emblems and upgrading all the weapons, and getting every achievement for the first time on a full-sized game. Then I came back and played it all again with David. RE5 may be some of the best bang I got for my buck in 2011.

Batman: Arkham Asylum – I think it’s hilarious that I played both Batman games this year. Make no mistake, Batman: AA is the better game. Tighter story focus, less wandering and rambling around, and that sharp, crunchy combat system that we all love. It almost literally hurts to watch Batman punch people in the face in this game. Lots of fun, even for a guy who doesn’t really like Batman.

Red Dead Redemption – Man, every game that I played in January came out in another year. RDR has a lot of those Rockstar quirks that I hate (incorrigible supporting cast, homicidal ludonarrative dissonance, etc.), but it also has one of the best realized characters in recent video games in its portrayal of John Marston. Horseback riding is fun, lassoing fools is fun, and the story is frustrating (because of the asshole supporting cast), but also solid most of the time. The only thing that really annoyed me was breaking horses every fucking time. Why? It’s not like it was fun to do…

Magicka – 2011’s Game Most Likely to Make You Strangle Your Friends. Ask Min how many times I killed him by striking him with lightning. I never took this game seriously and mostly tried to speed cast lightning. Fun, but the polish wasn’t there. Buggy as all hell. Not to mention that lightning bolt was the only spell worth using…or maybe it was the only spell I knew?

Ghost Trick – I used this game to try and improve/practice my Spanish. It’s lots of fun, quirky, weird, neat, but I never finished it. I thought it wasn’t taken in the burglary, but I’m having trouble finding it now. I want to finish it soon…Pick it up if you have a DS. It’s quirky and fun.

Costume Quest – Picked this up on sale and played it for a few hours. It’s definitely got that Double Fine humor, but it couldn’t hold my interest.

Pixeljunk Shooter 2 – I don’t know why some of the magic was gone with this one. Maybe the new fluids weren’t as innovative or neat? The fluid mechanics remain super awesome and the game is plenty fun on its own, but even more fun with a partner to troll.

Face Raiders – Shooting at Min’s face is the best thing I did with my 3DS before it was stolen.

Pokemon White (Black) – I got David to try a new Pokemon game with this and I’m super proud of that. Gen V brought a lot of really interesting changes to a game that most people feel is flat and unchanging. I had a lot of fun playing it until the momentum was killed with the burglary. When Grey inevitably gets announced I’ll probably buy it.

Game Dev Story – When this finally hit the Android marketplace I was ecstatic. Then I played it and realized it was a competent, but not overwhelming sim. Worth a few bucks.

Borderlands – Another co-op game for Min, Lee, and I to play. Lots of fun even though the story is stupid as hell. Brings out the loot whore in all of us.

Planescape: Torment – Talk about old! Didn’t get anywhere close to finishing this. It seems interesting, but never captures my interest enough to play it for longer than 20 mins.

Portal 2 – This is, bar none, the greatest example of story and comedy narrative laid out in video game form. Portal 2 has just brilliant writing and pacing. Everything from Wheatley to the history of Aperture Science to the origins of GLaDOS is perfectly realized. Then you have the game itself…Portal 2 is not a bad game at all. It’s just not as hard or interesting, with respect to puzzles, as Portal. This was a result of narrowing the possible solution space (story-justified by the decay of the facility, but still) in such a way that it was mostly obvious where portals needed to go, removing that aspect of figuring things out. It’s still probably the best game of this year, but I wish it they hadn’t pared it down as much as they did.

Pro Yakyu Spirits 2011 (Professional Baseball Spirits 2011) – I had a fun, challenging season going with my 2011 Hiroshima Carp before that jerk (those jerks?) came and stole my copy of a Japanese baseball game (in Japanese, mind you!). What were they gonna do with a game in Japanese featuring teams they weren’t even familiar with?! PYS 2011 was a huge step forward from 2010. Home runs may have been a little easier to hit (ok, a LOT easier to hit), but 2011 looked sharper and had enough new, interesting features (the player development was cool) that I was super stoked…until it was all taken away from me. Assholes.

L.A. Noire – I got about 1/5 of the way through the game before someone stole it. I still remember the forensics guy asking me if it was any good. Here’s the thing about L.A. Noire: It’s an adventure game skinned with GTA. Getting anywhere in LA is unsatisfying because driving is a bummer (and property/car damage lowers your rank), the devolution of most cases into shootouts feels a little artificial, and, worst of all, most of the chases (car and foot) let you see how the sausage is made. What I mean is, you can tell that you can’t catch up to a perp before a certain point and you can also see where the game just makes a perp crash or fall intentionally to just let you catch up. The face modeling stuff is super cool (and eerie if you watch Mad Men) and works pretty well minus one or two people. A tremendous achievement, but ultimately a mediocre game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – I’m combining these because I don’t have much I want to say about either. The shooting is good, but the missions are kind of lame. I can see where this might be fun, but it’s also not for me.

inFamous – This was my free mea culpa game from Sony after the big hack fiasco. Decent open world game, but it suffers from being an open world game, in my eyes. The electric powers were fun, but the story was stupid. I don’t regret beating this game or getting it for free. Skating on the rails and then getting hit by a train is awesome.

Shadows of the Damned – I wish I’d taken the time to actually beat this game. It plays exactly like a Resident Evil game, has a super cool aesthetic, kickass soundtrack, and some of the funniest, most Japanese characters I’ve ever seen (come on, Garcia Fucking Hotspur is the greatest character name of the year!). Maybe I’ll beat it in 2012.

Hot Springs Story – From the devs what brought you Game Dev Story we have Hot Springs Story. See the entry above. It’s equally meh to me. I think I just don’t like playing games on my phone.

Torchlight – Gave me my Diablo fix a whole year before I’ll ever see Diablo III (I bet D3 is still not out in 2012). It’s fun and addictive, but it can get a little repetitive after a while. Good for loot whores/junkies.

Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyu 2011 – I got this expecting to have as much fun with it as I did back when it was the only Pawapuro/Konami-style baseball game I could play. In a post (Dan Mesa) PYS world, the simplifications of the engine don’t quite work for me. I need the extra systems that PYS layers on top.

Team Fortress 2TF2 has always been good. The addition of large-scale achievements made it even better, but the real tipping point for me was Strange Weapons. Once I learned that there were weapons which tracked the number of kills you had on them…well I couldn’t go back. This year probably saw the most TF2 playing from me since its launch. This game is barely recognizable to what it looked like in 2007. It’s free to play now. It’s got so many new maps and weapons and hats. It’s still the best competitive shooter a person could play right now.

Cahterine – Some people don’t get Catherine. They think the block puzzles are annoying and frustrating and find the whole thing to be stupid, too anime-y, and a waste of time. While Catherine makes a turn right near the end that mucks with its interpretation, it’s still one of the most interesting, adult experiences out there, which isn’t to say that it’s got nudity (none) or sex (none on screen), but, rather, that it deals with a lot of grown-up problems. Vincent’s life is in a rut, he’s being pushed into committing to a woman he’s afraid to commit to, and then he finds an escape in Catherine. I have yet to play a more interesting or convincing game about growing up, taking responsibility, and becoming a man. Catherine forced me to take a hard look at myself, my life, the incidences of cheating that have been in it, and just think about it all. A lot of games don’t do that.

Yakuza 4 – Got maybe two hours in before it was stolen.

Dragon Age II – Man, a lot of people have a lot of beef with Dragon Age 2 and I don’t really get it. Maybe it’s because I came to the game knowing all the complaints that everyone had before I got there, but it’s really not that bad. It “suffers” from the Mass Effect 2-ization of Bioware’s properties, but that’s not all bad. Dragon Age: Origins was bloated, over-long, and caused most people to quit right at the cusp of its climax. The way I see it, there were two things that were glaringly wrong with the game mechanics. First was the way that enemy reinforcements just seemed to pop in out of nowhere, artificially extending every fight and turning them into hyper-frustrating affairs. Keeping things limited to the enemies on-screen would have been vastly preferred. The second big miss was the lack of polish/variety of locations. It was very clear that this game was rushed to market because there were maybe three or four map styles recycled to cover a lot of locations. The minimaps weren’t properly reflecting when doors were shut and it was painfully apparent how much recycling happened. These are not sins worth crucifying the game for. The way that it focuses exclusively on Kirkwall and Hawke’s family is actually a good thing. Rather than be as sprawling as DA:O, it allows for a more personal story. Every relationship in this game is way cooler/most interesting than the ones in DA:O and, arguably, any of the ones in ME2. DA2 gets a lot of shit, but it’s a great game.

Bastion – Considering how much everyone just loves this game I really wish I’d given it a little more time this year. I barely played it, but the narrator was cool and the game seemed neat. I’ve got to beat this in 2012

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – I bought this game to get the pre-order items it came with for TF2. I don’t regret doing so. Played about an hour or two of the game. Haven’t felt compelled to go back yet.

Gears of War 2 – This is the year that Min and I beat GoW1 & 2. It took a long time, but we still managed it. These games are really fun in co-op. Easily among the most fun we had in couch co-op this year.

Gears of War 3 – My GOTY comes down to this or Portal 2. I know I’m way late to the GoW train, but god damn these games are razor sharp. Shooting in this game just feels so right, you know? It’s about as polished and good as a third person shooter can possibly be. Fighting the final boss for two hours because I turned on no ammo drops will be memorable for a long time in a way that I don’t often make memories in video games any more. Thank you, Epic, for this amazing game.

The Binding of Isaac – The second I heard that the dude from Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen, was coming out with a new game, I knew that I would be buying it and that it would be tons of fun. You’ll remember from last year that SMB was the best game I played. The Binding of Isaac is not quite the best of this year, but it is a more realized game than it has any right to be. I mean, the game was $5 at launch, for Christ’s sake, and it featured a free content patch at Halloween. Isaac took 55 hours of my time this year, assuming every one was counted by Raptr, and I anticipate it taking more before I’m done with it. This game is the best $5 you can spend this year.

Galaga Legions DX – Coming off the awesomeness that was Pac-Man CE DX I expected big things from this game. It’s nowhere near as fun, but maybe that’s because Pac-Man is a way more fun game than Galaga ever was.

Batman: Arkham City – I’m pretty sure you already know that I think this game was a major step back from Arkham Asylum. I really don’t think the open world aspects did this game any favors. It’s still got that super-crunchy, razor sharp battle system, but it’s also marred by too many poorly dressed women constantly being called b***hes. This is a game that aggressively pushed me away from it and I was more than happy to be done with it when I was despite being the best thing to happen to brawlers in ages.

Dungeon Defenders – Tower defense made even more fun by allowing us to run around in the environments. I didn’t put in anywhere near as many hours as Min did, but it was fun while I played it.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Man, Uncharted 2 was fantastic, wasn’t it? Try this new one! It’s a lot like the old one, but with a little less charisma. A little less je ne sais quoi. Despite featuring my favorite video game characters of the modern era, Uncharted 3 was lacking in weird ways that the appearance of the The Last of Us trailer makes clear. Focus was diverted. Glad that we got three of these, but I wish it was as much a step forward as the second one was.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Remember how I wrote that article where I outlined everything I hated about this game? Since I wrote it I played another hour or two and said, “Nope. I don’t want to play this.” Will I ever go back? God, I hope not. It was worth spending $60 to drive in the point that I don’t like Bethesda open world RPGs. Here’s a note to Future Dan: Don’t buy any more Bethesda games, you moron.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – This poor game is being victimized by the launch of The Old Republic. Had TOR not come out there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would be playing the most charming Zelda game since Wind Waker non-stop. Skyward Sword plays sharply and is tons of fun.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – My life has been sucked into this game in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I can’t believe that there was a time where I was actively thinking about avoiding this game and staying away from MMOs altogether. Bioware did something fantastic here by adding story to a genre that typically lacked it. This game has already rocketed up the charts for total time played and I predict that it will never be usurped based on how much I truly love playing it. I haven’t even finished one story and I’ve still got seven more to go.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword First Impressions [GO]
Nov 21st, 2011 by Dan

Zelda 029

A little on the nose there, Nintendo, but you're right. This game dropped on the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda

Skyrim and Skyward Sword are two vastly different games, but playing Skyward Sword made me realize just what felt off about Skyrim. It’s that uncanny valley problem again. When your game strives for photorealism as much as Skyrim does, it can’t help but feel a little off when your character doesn’t move like a real person. LoZ: SS has none of those problems, as you might imagine, because it looks so stylized.

As you might imagine, Skyward Sword is yet another Wii game trying to do more with less. In motion and outside of cutscenes the game looks perfectly fine. It’s only when you zoom in for those cinematic moments that you have jaggies and aliasing and the seams start to show. I really do appreciate the brilliance of the Nintendo artists because games like this and Kirby’s Epic Yarn both look fantastic on a 480p connection.

Zelda 002

The collector's edition bundle, complete with special Wiimote Plus

I’ve still got to put more than two or three hours in, but Skyward Sword is shaping up to be one of my favorite games of this fall for one reason: character. If there was one thing that Twilight Princess lacked, it was character. Everything was dark and dreary and realistic just like every other stupid fantasy game out there. It was especially glaring after what we got in Wind Waker with its vibrant colors and eccentric characters. So far, Skyward Sword has that in spades.

Zelda 044

Her hair is a pendulum. It's awesome.

The Skyloft area is a hub of zany fun. Link’s classmates are hilarious archetypes with the pompadour-ed bully and his goofy looking lackeys. Zelda and Link’s relationship reminds me of anime high school relationships and his headmaster is named Gaepora! Fly outside of the city and you also get characters like the bartender at the pumpkin bar place who I’m now in thrall to thanks to a chandelier…er…accident. It was awesome!

Zelda 041

Property damage has never been so fun!

Our interaction went something like this. I walked into the bar and the camera showed me that there was a heart piece hanging from the roof. When I spoke to the barman’s daughter she told me not to try to knock it down because it wouldn’t work. Naturally I went right up to the second floor and knocked down the chandelier. Everyone in the bar was super shocked and then the barman started yelling, “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!” It…was…awesome. Now I have to sell soup for him, but it was totally worth it for that absurdist moment there. That’s what Twilight Princess was missing. When TP got absurd it got creepy and weird.

Zelda 040

The most hilarious moment of the session. I love how this game comments on the mayhem that most players cause in the world

Below are the rest of my miscellaneous observations:

– Not having access to fine tune settings like text speed is a little weird for me. I hate the glacial pace that the text flows and there’s no quick way to fast forward it.

– On the other hand, they did give me the option to remove most of the UI and that is awesome. Nothing worse than an overcrowded UI.

– There are new mechanics that are neat. Actions all seem to drain stamina in a Mario-style pie chart. Running, hanging from ledges, climbing, rolling, spin attacks…It’s not a huge change, but I like it.

– The way they bind motion option selections with a string is brilliant in a way that makes me wonder why no one has ever thought of it before. So much better than hunting for menu items with the pointer.

Zelda 028

Why has no one thought of this before? It's really quite brilliant.

– Like I said earlier, Headmaster Gaepora! Awesome. Can’t wait to find more mythology tie-ins

– Ok…using the sword is super cool. Sometimes I get a jab when I want a swing, but that’s usually when I’m being lazy. Getting swarmed was tough to deal with at first, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it as time goes on. Doesn’t help that my shield has a health bar. What gives?!

Zelda 020

Maybe I should have named Link Min instead of Daniel

– Flying is initially clumsy because you control it with the wiimote, not the cursor. I’m getting better at it, but it flies against first instinct.

– It’s the little touches. Always the little touches:

– The Zelda found secret stinger is played on a harp since the arc instrument in this game is a harp
– In the bazaar the music changes to reflect each vendor’s motifs, adding and dropping instruments based on proximity. In fact, all of the music in this game is pretty awesome so far.
– Everyone’s house/room tells a little story about who they are from someone who collects cute things to someone who clearly doesn’t dust at all. No one room is a generic “room”. Skyrim doesn’t have these emergent stories. Homes are homes with scant little to differentiate or personalize them.
– There was a woman with antiques who charged me every time I broke her stuff by rolling into the wall. I emptied my wallet laughing so hard and breaking all her shit. That was so much fun.

Zelda 026

Looking in people's cupboards reveals a little bit about them...at the cost of a minor scolding.

– If there was one terrible thing, it’s the constant reminders about rupee denominations. I KNOW! It’s annoying and it doesn’t add anything to keep reminding us what everything does every time we run into it.

What I’ve Been Doing 21 Nov 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Nov 21st, 2011 by Dan

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Link gets his green tunic

The more things change the more things stay the same.

This was a really video game and TV heavy weekend. Two big “Sky” games in Skyrim and Skyward Sword hit and I put in pretty good time with both.

Movies

Wow, I’m surprised I didn’t get one in this week again.

TV

Fringe – My momentum has slowed somewhat on the show thanks to all the new games, but it’s still lots of stupid fun.

Samurai Champloo – Funny episode about westerners being accepted in Japan. They seemed to imply that they might be there already, but are they really? The gay jokes were also a little too much, but the beat boxing was anachronistic and awesome.

Homeland – Suuuuper tense. We’re only in episode 10 and they already showed us who the terrorist is. Where do we go for the last three eps? Will it just turn into 24?

The Walking Dead – Line of the night: “You see eleven condoms, I see eleven minutes of my life I’m never getting back.” I like Maggie and Glenn and Daryl. They’re really killing Andrea with her subplots this season, but I still like her as a character too.

Glee – Mash-ups! This is usually my favorite part of the season. A few notes:

– Singing a love song with your student’s mom is kind of weird.
– “You look skinny like all the crops failed on your family’s farm.” How great is it that 1920s-era Irish jokes are apparently insults in Glee?
– Dodgeball musical number…hilarious. This is what people point at when they say Glee is lame, but I dug it. Too bad they had that anti-dodgeball thing at the end. I didn’t play dodgeball in high school, but I loved it in elementary school. Tons of fun.
– I like the costuming in the Hall & Oates number. Those mustaches!
– Best line from Todd VanDerWerff’s The AV Club recap: “If the next week on is any indication, everybody’s going to learn about how Santana feels hurt by being outed by singing “I Kissed A Girl.” The model of restraint, this show.”
– David especially likes to rib me about liking this show, but that Adele mash-up at the end (not sure how long this Hulu video will stick around, but it’s still here now) was everything great about this show. Killer number mixed in with all the emotions and feelings of the episode (this isn’t even the cut that showed in the episode, that was more intense). Numbers like this are what keeps me coming back to this show even when it’s monumentally stupid like it was in S2.

New Girl – Best lines: “I don’t want to hear, Schmidt, Schmidt, you’re using too much tarragon.” “Oh, I’ve had zero pumpkin ales.” SO MUCH BEST BUY PRODUCT PLACEMENT!

Parks and Rec – I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting the Leslie/Ben relationship subplot to go this way, but it’ll be interesting to see if this does actually cause a scandal. Pretty solid episode since you can’t go wrong having Ron Swanson interact with anyone.

Up All Night – I’m glad this show is getting rewarded with Thursday (even though it comes at the expense of Community, kind of) because it’s the strongest comedy I’ve seen that’s debuted this year. Great laughs with Will Arnett. Even Jennifer Hall got some fantastic laughs this episode.

Community - So they pretty much took the documentary episode from S2 and mixed it with the Jesus meta-contextual video episode from earlier and threw in a little Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse for good measure. Most of it really worked and I love the way that Dan Harmon constantly pokes the shippers in his audience.

The League – Jeff Goldblum was super funny as Ruxin’s hyper-critical father. I like that he took on some of Ruxin’s mannerisms too. That’s good acting.

Persona 4: The Animation – It kind of toes the line between outright offensive and kind of offensive, but anime isn’t well known for its sensitivity to homosexuality. Still, the last two episodes were riotously funny. The show seems to be moving so fast that I’m wondering how it will stretch to 24 episodes, but I guess there are lots of social links to explore.

The Wire – Went back to this to watch some commentaries and I’m loving it yet again. Just ponderous and slow and interesting as it gives you the perspectives of both the MCU and the drug dealers. Great stuff. The “fuck” investigation scene is still one of the best moments in TV history.

Music

Skyward Sword came with an orchestrated retrospective on 25 years of Zelda. That CD is pretty awesome. Get your hands on it by buying a first run copy of Skyward Sword. Don’t come to me crying if you miss it.

Books

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Podcasts and eating in the office killed some of my reading time on my nook, but I’ll probably get some time to finish this weekend with the holiday and all. Still very funny.

Video Games

Skyrim – Sprawling and super involved, but I’m having a real hard time immersing myself in this. It’s just not working for me and my theory is that it’s an uncanny valley issue. Still, I’m enjoying playing it. I found myself fighting vampires last night and that was really cool.

The Binding of Isaac – Up to 9 Mom kills. Just one more and I unlock Sheol, the final dungeon. This $5 game gave me a ton of mileage.

Resident Evil 5 – David and I finally beat the game! Lots of fun, this was. Glad to play it again.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – I was really not expecting to love this game as much as I have. It may be the best Zelda I’ve played since Wind Waker (ok, it’s only the second after WW, but still!). Lots of character and lots of fun. Those were things definitely missing from Twilight Princess and that’s what makes Zelda great.

Skyrim First Impressions [GO]
Nov 18th, 2011 by Dan

Elder Scrolls V Skyrim 03

It's definitely a very pretty game (Photo courtesy nxcuso)

Well, guys, I finally did it. After all the hype and all the insistence of my friends, I plopped down $60 and bought me Skyrim. Mind you, I found Fallout 3 to be dull most of the time and marginally entertaining at other times and I never had even the slightest interest in playing Oblivion, but here I was, buying into the hype.

Within the first hour of playing Skyrim I ran into every single thing I hated about Fallout and every reason I didn’t want to play Oblivion. I will enumerate these things below:

1. The fucking fantasy accents. I really hate how people insist that everyone in fantasy media have some sort of European accent.

2. Combat/Movement is floaty, disconnected-feeling, and not fun. The NPC animation is kind of janky. I dunno. Nothing has any of that tim rogers-style friction. My actions don’t pop and I feel like a bull just barreling through the world with zero finesse. It’s clumsy and awkward to me (at least at the moment)

3. Halfway through the first quest I became so encumbered that I had to clear out my inventory or walk at a glacial pace.

4. Not long after that I came across a lore book. Instead of easing me in to the world of Skyrim, this book contained 35 (not exaggerating that much) terms – be they races, countries, concepts, or things – that had no explanation or basis for someone like me to understand. It read something like this to me, “And then Fulanito found a jibbertijab and took it to Fluttergamon so that he could take his place as the leader of the Roobawoo people.” It’s incomprehensible. I literally could not parse more than a handful of sentences and this book was meant to set up the whole Dragonborn thing.

5. Conversations were super boring! “Let us both stand completely still and talk about Whiterun. If I move my vocal chords shut down.”

6. There were arbitrary rules about stealing stuff in the first house I was at. Dude will literally empty his pockets and give everything on him to me, I can take all his food, pick up gold coins from his table and keep them, but if I take his boots that are under the table…no, that’s stealing.

7. Last bad thing: the interface on PC is shit. It’s built for a controller.

I know it sounds like I hate this game. Despite all of these things immediately reminding me why I didn’t want to play Skyrim, I didn’t feel that exasperated with the game until this morning when I was thinking about it. Here’s what I did like:

– This game is really pretty. Normally that’s not that much of a factor for me, but it actually felt like a real place that I was wandering about.

– During the opening dragon attack sequence I accidentally ventured too far ahead and stood directly in the path of the dragon’s fire attack. I’m pretty sure this means I’m fireproof. Fighting dragons is gonna be a joke.

– Some of the systems do actually intrigue me. The skill progression system seems cool as does the fact that some dude apparently just yells at people to kill them. That sounds like an awesome ability to have.

– I can dual wield fireballs. I shoot streams of fire from both hands…and then my mana runs out and I back away from my assailants in circles until I can shoot them some more.

– Further along that point, I like that you build up weapon skills/abilities by use. You have the proficiency to use everything kind of poorly. It’s up to you to progress down whichever path you want.

– I’m absolutely looking forward to slaughtering as many elves as possible. My character is this ugly lizard man who I’m role playing as having utter contempt for every other race he encounters…especially elves. Can’t wait to meet some elves.

– Everyone is super ugly. Makes sense. I like that.

– I’m super excited to just wander around and see what I run into/come across. That sense of, “Oh, hey, there’s something really close by that I should just check out…” from Fallout 3 definitely persists and feels fun. Can’t go wrong with that.

Skyrim has me cautiously optimistic to play it. Maybe I’ll be able to move past the things I dislike about Bethesda games and actually enjoy the game that everyone else universally loves.

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