Divinity Weekend

Auto Excitement

For the most part we hung out around the house yesterday and devoted most of the entire day to working through the mountain of laundry.  As the day drug on, my wife had a few errands that she wanted to run so around 3 pm we got ready and took her vehicle as it needed gassing up.  For some time it had been squealing mercilessly, but she took it to an auto place Thursday and they replaced what I believe was the main serpentine belt assembly and tensioner.  At this point I am just parroting the talky words they told us, because I am very much not one of those guys that knows anything at all about cars.  Miraculously the squealing went away and we were super happy to no longer have to listen to it.  Yesterday for the most part was the first time we had driven it since that day.

As we were heading back to the house we were driving along our street and a pickup truck passed us, and at the same time we heard this noise.  To me it sounded like when you drive over a hot tar road and some of the chat flies up into the undercarriage.  I didn’t really think much about it, and my wife thought maybe the truck threw something out at us…  until she noticed that the battery light came on… and at the same time our engine started overheating.  We were really close to the house so we limped along and pulled in.  The engine fan was working harder than I had ever heard one work, so when we got in the driveway I popped the hood to let it get more air.  Thankfully there wasn’t the smell of anything burning, so I think that part at least is good.

We were maybe a block from the house when it happened, so we decided to go walk down to where we heard the noise to see if we could find any evidence.  I was already overheated at that point and the walk did not help.  We found no evidence of anything in the road, but while walking my wife called the auto place that we took it on Thursday, and they said that pretty much the only thing that could have happened was that the serpentine belt had broken.  Now we have to have the vehicle towed to this this morning so they can work on it again.  Luckily since they did the work, pretty much everything should be covered.  I am just thankful it happened while we were running errands and not while my wife was driving 45 minutes to work… stranding her on the side of the road.  Thankfully we have AAA and they will tow us for free, we just have to arrange that to happen this morning.

Divinity Weekend

Divinity2 2014-07-04 09-47-42-646 For me finding the Divinity Franchise has been like discovering that Fallout or the Elder Scrolls had been hiding under my nose all this time.  One of the things that drives me forward in games is the rich setting, and Rivellon has been built up to be this really cool thing over the course of several different games at this point.  While I have not played the original Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity… you are given a lot of the lore that comes from that game in Divinity II as you play through it.  So essentially I know the basic elements that happened, as you are dealing with the ramifications of them throughout your play as the Dragon Slayer.  Friday during the day I pushed forward with Divinity 2 and go to the end of the game.

Divinity2 2014-07-04 10-34-22-097 I don’t want to give any spoilers, because you really need to pick this game up on steam and play through it yourself.  But I have to say the ending is an absolute sucker punch.  I did not see it coming, nor did I expect any of the ramifications of it.  That said thankfully Divinity II:  Flames of Vengeance quite literally picks up moments after the ending of Divinity II:  Ego Draconis.  The only problem there is that after the fever pitch of the ending of the first half of the game… I just could not take playing any more in Rivellon for a bit.  So after beating it I played a little Bioshock Infinite and then Saturday I worked my way through as far as I managed to get in Tomb Raider.  I know at some point soon I will pick up Flames of Vengeance because I want to know where the story goes from there.

Back to Rivellon

DCApp 2014-07-06 08-13-00-53 Saturday I returned to the setting of Rivellon, this time decades before the events of Divinity II during the war that ensued after the death of the King Sigurd.  Essentially all of the half dragon children of the king fought for control of the land, and you play a nameless, faceless character under the tutelage of the greatest wizard of the setting… Maxos.  If you want a full and proper review you should totally check out my SteamPowered Sunday feature on the game from yesterday.  As I said in my review… the game is deeply confused as to what it wants to be.  At times it is a Civilization clone, other times a Starcraft II clone, and in still other times a dragon air combat game.  All of these disparate parts are wrapped together in a really interesting narrative firmly rooted in the conflict and setting of Rivellon.

I feel like Larian had this story that they wanted to tell about the period of strife after the death of King Sigurd, and didn’t quite know how to tell it.  Since they have never really been bound to only creating one specific type of game or another…  they opted to use the best vehicle for them to tell the story of a war… and that is the 4X and RTS genres.  The game is deeply rooted in the roleplaying fabric of their setting, and as you move through it you make decisions that effect your council of generals and the allied races assembled.  Additionally for the first time you get to see a proper map of what the world looks like and which races control which territories.  There is so much fertile ground here for future games and setting that have not been explored in any fashion.

Shortly before our eventful trip out to run errands I managed to finish the main storyline.  Unlike many other conquest type games, there is no big cinematic however as you wander around the ship you get to listen to how each of the various members of your crew feels about the events.  The overall experience was enjoyable for me, but I don think it would have been had I not had a firm grasp of the lore of the game before sitting down to play it.  This is very much a conquest game for Divinity fans, and nothing else.  It is enjoyable enough on its own and the assemblage of parts leads to a fun game play experience… but the hook for me is the storyline and nothing mechanically that I am doing.  The real payoff in playing this game is that it filled in a few more puzzle pieces in the evolving narrative of Rivellon.

Original Sin

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-29-50-035 After the excitement with the automobile, we were so ungodly hot after our hike that we went for a swim.  When I got back upstairs I wanted to chill out a bit, so I broke the “turtle” for a bit and hopped on voice chat.  Kodra was online and we decided that we should try and play Divinity: Original Sin as a duo.  This apparently is the superior way to play the game, and since the release Tam and Ashgar has been working their way through the content talking about how awesome it was.  The game uses steam for match making, but doesn’t actually use steamworks as a server.  Instead one player starts the game and controls it, and the other player connects into that game.  This means that the player that begins the game will be the one that saves, and has the actual game files on their machine.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-21-47-476 I created my traditional “Belghast” character based off the fighter archetype, and was pleasantly surprised that even with the limited customization options I was able to create a character appearance I was happy with.  Another surprise is that as a fighter, apparently I also have one of the better heals in the game with cure wounds.  So not only would I be the tank for our group but also be a healer when we needed one and could not rely on potions.  We set off into the world and decided to do the tutorial dungeon.  For the most part everything was going really well, and then the connection issues started.  At first I got disconnected from Kodra’s server, and when I reconnected I was sitting in the boss chamber with no way to return to him.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-36-55-790 I didn’t even make it through the dialog before I got another disconnect.  We manages to get through the boss fight, and open the door for him to make his way into the encounter to join me.  On the way to the first town I got disconnected again.  At this point we ran a ping test for both of our connections.  Mine tested out almost perfectly 0% packet loss, 21 ms ping and 1 ms jitter whatever that means.  Kodra on the other hand kept getting varying results and the second time he ran it he was up to 3% packet loss, and 15 ms jitter.  Additionally while my ISP was rated at 4.39 out of 5 for quality, his is rated at 2 something.  So while so many of his problems were in fact coming from a six year old machine… there is also most definitely an ISP component happening there as well.  Rather than continuing on frustrated… we just gave up on the co-op notion for the night.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 22-58-35-411 I created my own game and started playing through the tutorial.  I have a feeling that Divinity: Original Sin is really Larian’s magnum opus.  This game is so ridiculously content dense that I cannot fathom just how many hours of playtime it will take to be able to see even vaguely close to everything in it.  I spent a good two hours faffing about, and I have quite literally done nothing past the first town.  I am still meeting and engaging with every single person in it.  This game brings back the proud RPG tradition of talking to everyone being important.  One person in a line of four might have a single tidbit of information the moves your quest forward.  Additionally you want to barter everything that has the option, because you never know what someone might be carrying and willing to part with.  I’ve seen otherwise generic NPCs carrying around blue quality items already.  This game is going to be a blast, and is likely going to cause me to stay out of the MMO scene for a little longer at least.

#Divinity #DivinityOriginalSin #DragonCommander #DivinityII

Not A Bel Game

Thomas Was Not Alone

thomaswasalone Two significant things happened last night.  First we went out to eat and dinner did not set well with me, causing me to want to go lay down for a bit.  The second of which was that I decided to take my new Playstation Vita with me.  Now I have done this before with other handhelds, but what was significant here is that thanks to Playstation Plus I had a smorgasbord of games that I could download and play that were already attached to my account.  The first game I gave a shot was Terraria, which I have played a truly silly number of hours of on the PC.  The game almost translates to the handheld, but not quite making it so much more frustrating of an experience especially when it comes to trying to build anything.  When I decided to stop playing that, I opted to boot up a game I have heard so many things about from my friends.

Thomas Was Alone is this deceptively simple game about getting a series of different blocks with different properties through mazes.  You start off with the red block Thomas, that can jump quite a bit and thanks to the magic of the narrator we find is a rather cheery fellow.  You then add a series of blocks each with their own traits like the ability to float in water, or the ability to bounce other blocks higher that additionally have similar interesting traits that we learn via the narration.  The game reminds me in a way of Bastion, in that the game itself is somewhat lackluster but it is the superb narration and voice acting that make it really pop out there.  Thankfully this same narration is artfully displayed on screen at the same time allowing for the experience to translate hopefully to the hearing impaired.

Not A Bel Game

This game very much did not seem like a “Bel” game, as in there is no carnage, no body count… and I am forced to solve a series of structured puzzles to get through the levels.  The funny thing is… I spent most of my night playing it and next thing I know it is 12:30 and I am forcing myself to stop on the above level rather than “play just one more”.  There is something unbelievably charming about this game, and just doesn’t make sense when you approach it from its most simple parts…. that it is a game about a series of blocks.  The game tricks us into using that most human of traits, and attributing personalities and feelings to inanimate objects.  Even when the narrator is not necessarily talking from the standpoint of a specific character… as you move that block you imagine what that character might be saying in your own head.

If you are like me and a Playstation Vita owner, with a Playstation Plus subscription… I highly suggest you install the game and give it a spin.  If you are NOT like me… then I highly suggest you purchase the game because even at $10 for a what is essentially a puzzle platformer… it is money extremely well spent.  Nothing about this game makes sense at face value, that you should not want to care about a series of blocks on the screen in the way that you do.  As you progress through the levels and are slowly being trained to face new challenges you truly do.  The game does an amazing job at introducing concepts slowly and then building upon those concepts in each progressive level.  Most of the levels will involve solving a challenge with a subset of blocks and each time there is an often poignant narrative that goes with it explaining how the blocks feel about being split up.  I am shocked an amazed that I could feel this way about a series of abstract pixels.

Very Bel Game

Divinity2 2014-07-01 22-25-58-747 The other game I played a significant amount of last night was once again Divinity II.  At this point it feels like I am getting near the end, considering I am fighting through progressively larger and larger waves of mobs at a given time.  This is honestly a bit disappointing, considering the early combat was extremely interesting and involved some interesting boss mechanics, and now the answer seems to be the old tried and true throw more bodies at the screen.  That said I am still enjoying myself, but there are lots of things that end up frustrating me, like getting stunned by mobs that are halfway across the screen.  As I have progressed through the levels, it feels like playing as anything but an archer is really a sub optimal experience.  I’ve noticed that even the “Wizard” and “Healer” type mobs now fire nothing but a bow, and the overall gameplay experience at times devolves into a shooter.

I feel like maybe this is why Divinity: Original Sin did not return this game into the “behind the back” dungeon crawler.  The throw waves of mobs at the player thing tends to work fairly well in a Baldur’s Gate type game, but it just feels childish when you do the same mechanic in a first person or over the shoulder style scenario.  Thankfully there are still vignettes of smaller scale gameplay that work extremely well, and interesting puzzles to unlock… but the overall depth and granularity of the game seems to have decreased.  There are entire zones that are made up of nothing but these giant flying fortresses that you clear first in dragon form and then can clear out on the ground.  In all of them so far, it has been a focus on quantity of mobs not necessarily the quality of them.  I am somewhat off the rails right now in my play through, but I am wanting to see it to the end.

#DivinityII #ThomasWasAlone

Three Hours Well Spent

Kidneys Safe, Vita Obtained

I have a running joke with my friend Rae, that each time I go off to meet someone to make a purchase from Craigslist that I am more than likely going to end up in a ditch somewhere missing a kidney.  What can I say… I have a dark sense of humor.  Regardless of this eventual fate, I am extremely cheap by nature, or more so I cannot stand paying more for something than I actually have to.  As a result there are a handful of things I search Craigslist for a few times a week, one of them is the Playstation Vita.  For a long while I have known that sooner or later I would get one, but seeing as I have a pretty lousy track record for playing handheld games…  I most certainly did not want to pay much for it.  Essentially handheld gaming is awesome if you travel a lot…  whereas I actually actively avoid travel.  If I am at home, I am more than likely going to be on my PC or one of my consoles rather than milling about on a handheld.  That said I am still very much enthralled by handheld gaming, and the since I have a PS3 and a PS4…  the Vita remote play functionality even as limited as it might be…  seemed intriguing.

So the other day when I found a Vita that had been posted for a few days for $100 that came with two games… both of them something I would play, I honestly thought it was too good to be true.  However over the course of a series of text messages I gleaned two things.  Firstly that I suspected the person that was selling the unit was female, and that they did in fact seem legitimate.  This is my own personal bias at work, but generally I consider women far more trustworthy than men, and potentially less likely to steal my kidney.  I could not meet up that day so we scheduled a meeting for yesterday after work.  Basically I did not want to mention it on the blog, because I really didn’t want to jinx it.  There was a comedy of errors however when it came to actually meeting up.  The person lived in a town roughly thirty minutes away from the southern most point of the Tulsa Metro.  Since I prefer to meet at QuikTrip for safety sake, and that town did not have one… we decided to meet at one in Glenpool, thinking I had been there multiple times and it would be in the path she had to travel anyways.

Wrong QuikTrip

The only problem is that apparently Glenpool is big enough to actually have two QuikTrips… both of which are apparently across the street from a McDonalds.  I must have looked insane walking around the QuikTrip parking lot looking for a pink and grey Chevy cruze.  Like I was confused enough at one point that I even googled what a Chevy Cruze looked like on my phone, because I thought maybe I was not remembering which model was which.  Once we realized we were at two separate locations she came to me because I had zero clue where she was.  Everything checked out, the Vita is pretty awesome and only has a few scratches here and there on the case.  It came with the vita unit, 4 gb memory card, charge cable, car charger, soft sided case, rubberized skin for the unit, Injustice Ultimate Edition game and The Walking Dead game.  The owner had wiped it back to factory settings so all I had to do when I got home was set the unit up and I was streaming Resogun from my PS4 in a matter of moments.

The main reason why I knew sooner or later that I would get a Vita is that I have been a member of Playstation Plus for awhile.  One of the awesome things about Playstation Plus is it is blanket subscription and does not care at all if you actually own the piece of hardware it is giving away games for.  So since the moment I started subscribing I have been picking up every Vita game offered through the web storefront.  As a result I now have a library of 35 good titles ready to download to my Vita.  The only thing I need to pick up really is a bigger memory card, because quite frankly 4 gb will not hold much of anything.  All in all this makes for another wildly successful Craigslist purchase.  One of the things I am going to have to test out soon is the ability to play across the internet from my PS4 sitting at home.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, but just the fact that something like that could possibly exist seems awesome.  Also if you are on PSN and we are not already friends… look up “Belghast Sternblade”.

Three Hours Well Spent

I have seen the Realm Maintenance podcast a few times before, but never actually sat down to listen to it.  I tend to listen to podcasts when I can during the day because it makes the work day go a little faster.  Yesterday Godmother of Alternative Chat had linked this weeks episode, which is a special 100th episode that included her.  The podcast was rather daunting, in that it was a 3 hour retrospective of a bunch of wow podcasters being interviewed and the results knitted together into a narrative.  While it took me literally all of the day to get through it, listening in bursts here and there…  I have to say it was three hours well spent.  Listening to the collective pet peeves, advice and challenges of all of these extremely successful and popular podcasts was rather inspiring.  I would not really put myself or the work we do with Aggrochat in the same league as any of these people, but it was awesome to hear that they had struggled with some of the same issues I had.

One of the most interesting takeaways from the whole show is that for the most part, all of the podcasters list radio and more often than not NPR as being an important influence.  I guess to some extent that makes sense, because what is a podcast if not an online radio show.  If I am in my car I am pretty much always listening to NPR, and I know personally I wanted to do a podcast out of a sense of awe of everything that radio can be.  I’m a huge fan of This American Life and have even gone and seen Ira Glass in person, when he did a lecture here in town.  One of the tougher questions the various guests were asked…  was who their favorite podcast is.  Most of them gave extremely diplomatic answers, but I have to say for me at least there are two podcasts that I pretty much drop everything I am doing to listen to when they are posted.  The first of these is Alternative Chat, because Godmother somehow takes the production value of This American Life, and condenses it into a fifteen minute bite sized chunk.  It is very easy to listen to because I know, no matter what else I have going on, that I will receive this fifteen minute vignette of awesome.

The other podcast that I listen to as soon as it is posted is that of the Battle Bards.  There are two things that make this experience awesome.  The first is the chemistry that has evolved between Sypster, MMOGC and Syl.  Their tastes in music and games have this weird way of fluttering back and forth between complimenting each other and diverging at the same time.  So on a specific topic you might get two of the three to agree, but I have never really seen all three agree on something at exactly the same moment.  This chemistry aside, I love the focus of the podcast because I too am extremely passionate about video game music.  While I might not know the whys and hows like they do… or even know the composers by name…  when I am not listening to podcasts at work, I am listening to soundtracks.  Video game music has always stirred my imagination in ways that nothing else quite can.  It is this warm blanket of nostalgia that I wrap myself in regularly, and it is always awesome to listen to the Bards as they dissect various tracks that I know and love.

Overly Cerebral Morning

Divinity2 2014-07-01 22-22-07-779 As is the case with so many mornings, I sat down to write with a vague idea of some of the things I might talk about.  However as a whole this morning shaped up to be far more cerebral than normal.  I wish I had pictures to at least accompany some of my giant walls of text, but alas you are going to have to settle for a really cool shot from Divinity II last night.  When I got home from my adventure I piddled around with my vita for a bit, logged into Wildstar to claim another boom box and then after our walk settled into Divinity again for the rest of the night.  I find it so odd that I have fallen so in love with a game that is over six years old at this point.  Everything about the game still feels fresh and new to me, and I am loving exploring this world.  All my of my friends are busy and enthralled with Divinity: Original Sin… but at this point I don’t even want to look at that game until I “finish” this one.

I have a feeling that “finishing” Divinity II is going to be a lot like “finishing” Skyrim.  That there will always be something left unfinished and begging for me to wander around and finish at a later time.  The only thing that makes me question this, is that already the game has made some significant changes that caused me to lose access to a number of quests.  The world keeps getting stranger, and I am not really sure how I feel about the chief antagonist.  He keeps showing up to taunt me, and then instead of actually attacking me… sends an army of fodder at me claiming it will “finish me off”.  While I am sure I cannot take him down yet…  I am level 30 and wondering how long this game actually runs.  I am only in the second “area” so far, but not sure just how many more there are.  I know of at least one more that is connected to the area I am in currently, but at this point I have put almost twenty hours into the game and feel no closer a finish than I did at the very beginning.  I love when a game feels like it could go on forever like that.

Happy Strain Day

I’m a Dargon!

home-headerLast night I had every intent of playing World of Warcraft, but that didn’t actually happen.  One of my good friends decided to re-up WoW for a bit, and since we had not played in ages we made tentative plans to hang out on horde lowbies over on Scryers.  July 3rd The Scryers is merging with Argent Dawn the server that I have 11 Alliance characters on, and this will give me 11 Horde characters as well.  I’ve always had friends on both side of the fence, but had trouble choosing to roll a character over there and give up a potential character on the alliance side.  The merger of the two servers solves all of this.  However last night didn’t actually happen and while I logged in a few alts and loaded them up with the few heirlooms I had laying around, I didn’t actually play them much.

Instead I fired up Divinity II again and continued questing my way through their extremely interesting world.  Apparently none of the screenshots that I took actually recorded, which is a problem I am noticing more and more with Dxtory.  If it has been open for any period of time, it seems to forget how to work.  So as a result I am pretty much going to have to start shutting it down and reopening it every night before I sit down to play.  I thought I had recorded quite a few nifty things, but in reality it is probably best that they didn’t record given that they probably were spoilerific.  A lot of interesting stuff happened last night and I am not entirely certain how I feel about some of the choices the game made me choose.  When a game makes me feel like that, it is probably doing a good job.

Happy Strain Day

home-header This morning the first “Ultra Drop” as they call it is now available for Wildstar.  This big patch weighs in at well over 3 gig and includes two new max level zones, a slew of new housing options and various cosmetic customization.  While I am nowhere near high enough level to appreciate any of this I am amped to see it happening.  Basically I am always happy when a game releases content for free to its players that expands the footprint of the game.  So many companies have promised a progressive patching schedule but to date very few of them have actually manages to keep up the promised pace.  The holy grail seems to be a patch a month, but the problem is that real life gets in the way, and things often don’t work out quite like they intended.  So far the only company that has come close to this sort of schedule is Guild Wars 2, with its bi-monthly story updates.  The problem there is that it didn’t actually expand the game, and was just a sequence of self expiring quest content.

The funny thing is that apparently some of the player base considers this too soon.  I was floored to read on twitter when a friend of mine lamented that she was not even close to finished with the current content, and was frustrated that she already felt “behind”.  Me personally I want to be flooded with content, so I can pick and choose what I want to complete without feeling the need to actually play every little morsel that comes out.  Now my tune will change completely if I find out that this is some sort of limited time or expiring content.  For the longest time Rift had done an amazing job of pushing out little content patches, but over the last year they have put in a number of limited time events that have caused me to really want to stop playing entirely.  We talked about this a few weeks back on Aggrochat, but when a company tries to force me to log in every day for a period of time…  I ultimately get frustrated and just stop playing entirely.

Day One DLC

WildStar64 2014-06-25 21-18-34-634 The early patch like this is really designed to give the player base confidence at the end of the 30 day trial period.  It essentially is a way of stringing the player on and making them want to renew their subscription that should be expiring around the time the patch lands.  The thing is… this is so commonplace now that it is literally meaningless.  The patch landing at almost exactly the one month mark, is really the equivalent to a brand new game shipping with day one DLC on the CD.  This is content that was in the works and ready to go at the time of launch, that was essentially held in reserve to land right at the one month mark and reinforce player loyalty.  That is not to say that it is actually content that COULD have shipped in the game, generally speaking it is done but not stable or untested, and requires a month or so to incubate and get ready for prime time.

Even games as notoriously slow at patching as Star Wars the Old Republic, had their one month in patch that introduced a brand new dungeon “Kaon Under Siege”.  The real test is going to be if we see a similar “Ultra Drop” timed for August 1st and September 1st as well.  No company has really proven that they can continue to expand their game content on a month by month basis, thereby justifying the expense of a subscription fee.  I would love to think that Wildstar is going to be the exception here, but when no one has actually managed to accomplish it once the subscriptions start slipping…  I just don’t have much confidence.  That is the unfortunate reality is that a number of players are already “done” with this game, as evidenced by a string of tweets saying as such.  Will be interesting to see how the numbers shake out once all of these people flake off.

I’m Around Awhile

I personally am subbed for at least another six months, but I am hoping that this will be my new MMO for a long while.  There are a number of players that are showing extreme commitment and subbing for an entire year at a time.  Right now I want to be playing, I just can’t handle the large scale social interaction at the moment.  Coming home and crawling into my own private single player world is just too comfortable at the moment.  However within a few weeks I will get tired of being alone and will happily return to Wildstar.  Here is hoping that there are still a large number of people playing it then.  If not I might end up switching factions to Exile.  I feel as though we probably picked the wrong side to play on Evindra since every person on my twitter feed seems to be playing Exile there, and since they are locked to only 6 character slots are not wanting to play Dominion as well.

I don’t feel like Wildstar is going to be a game that I stop playing just because my current circle of friends stops playing it.  I played Rift for most of a year successfully by relying on the good graces of other circles of friends with their established guilds, and I figure I can do the same with Wildstar if it comes down to it.  The sad truth is that unless the game is World of Warcraft, House Stalwart and the Alliance of Awesome so far don’t have the best track record of actually staying in any game for any period of time.  I think this is mostly a multi-gaming thing, and I am just as guilty of it as anyone.  Right now I want to play Elder Scrolls Online as well… but I just don’t end up logging in and doing it on a regular basis.  So I feel bad for the folks that are over there and playing in relative silence.  Once my current crush on Divinity 2 wears off a bit, I will likely return to ESO and try playing that since it is a much less frenetic game.

#Wildstar #DivinityII #Evindra #ElderScrollsOnline

Finding a Franchise

Dolly the Donkey

dollythedonkey Since I didn’t really have a place anywhere else this weekend to post this, I figure I will lead off this mornings post with it.  Meet Dolly the Donkey, she and the other donkey Carl are freaking adorable.  I’ve never been a huge fan of horses, but there is just something cute about Donkeys.  They are kind of like the corgi of horses, and these two are super good natured.  While they were obsessed with their food Saturday when we were visiting a friends ranch, on previous times they have been all too happy to come up to the fence and have their heads scratched.  Nothing miraculous or spectacular to see here, I just wanted to post a picture of this awesome animal.

The last time we were out there was for a end of school cookout, and at that time they had these adorable kittens.  You could pick one up and it would just collapse into a fit of purring in your arms.  We already have three cats, but there have been multiple times in the past we have had four.  The neighbor down the street has this adorable kitten, and off and on throughout the summer I have had to go down and feed their animals for various reasons.  So in the following weeks I had almost talked myself into getting a kitten.  However Saturday when we actually went to visit again, they were all sweet and adorable… but I just wasn’t feeling it.  All I could think about was the glorious mess that having a new kitten is, and the fact that I would be woken up at all hours of the night as it was off exploring.  I passed for now, but it may or may not be my final answer.

Finding a Franchise

Divinity2 2014-06-29 20-48-23-455 So all of this time while playing the game, I kept thinking in the back of my head…  why had I not played this game before now.  I originally thought it was a pretty good product offering considering it was released in 2012, but apparently I was looking at the wrong date.  2012 is when the last version of the game was released that rolled in both Divinity 2: Ego Draconis and the Flames of Vengeance expansion.  This game was actually released back in 2009, which makes it all the more impressive.  The problem is that it launched in a really tightly packed crowd of new releases.  Apparently this released opposite both Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2, which probably accounts for why exactly I had not played it before.  I was simply too busy with those two games to give much of a damn about anything else.  The thing is…  that is kinda sad considering just how good of a game it is.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 19-51-22-875 What is awesome about this experience is that it feels like I am discovering Fallout of Elder Scrolls for the first time.  Divinity is apparently this extremely storied franchise that I have not played at all.  At this point I have played Divinity Ego Draconis for over eight hours according to steam, and I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface.  I have only just now left the very first area of the game.  I would imagine that Divinity 2 is at the very least going to be a 100+ hour game for me, in the amount of detail it already has and how much I am finding myself backtracking to unlock past content.  The whole game reminds me so much of if the original Fable and Guild Wars 1 had a love child, because it seems to embrace the best qualities of both of these titles.  The further I get into the game, the more enjoyable the content and the various puzzles are.  This game is currently the king of jumping puzzles for me… in that they are challenging but not so frustrating that you want to throw the controller across the room.

Disappointing Skills

Divinity2 2014-06-29 17-53-29-549 The only real complaint that I have so far is that the skills that you unlock with your talent points, feel like they are not that exciting or powerful.  As a result you can see in most of the screenshots I only actually have 2 to 3 attacks unlocked.  I’ve found it far more beneficial to dump my mounts is sword and shield proficiency and lockpicking.  Both of which I have managed to max out currently, and both of which make the game so much more enjoyable.  Essentially the magical attacks for the warrior archetype are just “ho hum”.  Right now I have a whirlwind attack that knocks the enemies back sometimes, and a charge attack that I can use as a gap closer.  Neither one hits nearly as hard as a standard basic swing attack.  So I guess my problem is that it feels like I am wasting points if I continue to dump more into either of them.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 19-01-07-121 The only one I find myself really using much is the gap closer, because all of the ranged type enemies absolutely love running away and attacking from a distance.  Overall however the combat has been really fun, and there are several special abilities that you can perform based on a combination of movement and jumps along with your swings.  Nothing extremely powerful, but it can make a huge difference when fighting extremely tough encounters like the couple of Trolls that I managed to take down so far.  The game can be brutal, and this is definitely one of those games where you want to save often as there have been more than a few occasions where I screwed something up permanently… and had to reload from a previous stage.  One of the more interesting things about the game is that you can mindread NPCs when you talk to them…  you should do this every time because in some cases you will not get a second chance.

Gorgeous World

Divinity2 2014-06-29 17-49-07-764 This game is very obviously no Skyrim…. but it also predates that game by a years time.  For what it is, the game is extremely pretty and runs stable for me with absolutely everything cranked up.  In 2009 I am sure this game was a sight to behold, and was probably among the prettiest titles on the PC.  I still have no clue at all why this was not bigger news here, and why it managed to skirt under my radar.  I mean I knew the series existed, but quite honestly I never picked the previous games up on steam because they confused the shit out of me.  The first game is called Divine Divinity and the second game Beyond Divinity…  I kept looking for a game just called “Divinity” because I hate starting in the middle of a series.  I am not exactly sure when I purchased Divinity II but I am guessing it was a flash sale and extremely cheap for me to try and start in the middle of a series.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 18-25-46-594 Now however I have both Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity waiting to be played once I have reached a point where I feel like I am done with this game.  Additionally I went ahead and picked up Divinity: Original Sin the new game for when I finish with those.  I have a feeling that this franchise is going to become a favorite for me.  Honestly I think one of the things that kept me from picking up the game in the past is the Gothic series.  That game series looked so amazing and was apparently extremely popular in Europe, but each time I have tried to sit down and actually play it… the games have felt like complete crap.  So since this is also a European title, no matter how cool it looked… I kept remembering my continued disappointment with Gothic.  I guess there are probably a few other games out there that I should give a second chance, because there are likely more diamonds in the rough that simply did not get the press needed to make them a great success.

#Divinity #DivinityII

Divinity II: Directors Cut

Old Time Rock and Roll

Something interesting happened this weekend, I was hit with a critical case of nostalgia.  This all started while playing Wasteland 2 the other night, and seems to be continuing on today as I search for more games to give me that classic PC role-playing game experience.  I said yesterday that I was in a bit of an existential funk, and that seems to continue.  While I like the concept of playing Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online… for whatever reason right now they are just too fast paced for my current mood.  Essentially I am needing games that are a bit more prodding and deliberate, and preferably without other players bothering me.  I am going through one of my retreating phases, and I right now I just want to be lost in my own little world.

Divinity II: Directors Cut

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-29-05-500 I’ve had this game in my steam inventory for quite some time, but for one reason or another I never actually fired it up.  I had heard really good things about the Divinity series and the other night my friends Tam and Ashgar were off playing the brand new Divinity: Original Sin.  So when I cranked this game up I was expecting a Baldur’s Gate esc game along the lines of the original Divinity and Original Sin.  What it is instead however is something more akin to Knights of the Old Republic.  The control scheme is a behind the back pseudo action combat setup that still somehow manages to feel old school at the same time.   The controls are a bit prodding at times, but this is not exactly a high action game that allows you to dodge out of combat here and there to avoid enemies.  Instead there are minor flourishes that you can do here and there to improve your success, but for the most part it is stand up fighting.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-01-20-776 The character creator is adequate, as I was able to create something that I liked, however there really are not a lot of options.  Essentially you can be blonde or brown haired, and with a few different facial and hair choices for each color.  This allowed me to create something I liked enough to make me happy, but there really is not a lot of configuration available.  Thankfully in Divinity: Original Sin the newest game they seem to have fixed all of this and given players a bajillion different options.  I would say the customization is “passible” if only because it allows me to give my character long hair and a beard, which is “close enough” to the Belghast appearance.  The limited appearances makes me really glad the game is not Asian inspired, because I am pretty sure I would not have been able to create any character that I could stand.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-02-00-559 The game utilizes a silent protagonist with text dialog options for most of the interactions, and quite honestly I am happy with this.  I always find it jarring when my character has a voice that is not my own.  So if I am given the option of a well voiced character, or a silent one… I will almost always choose the silent one.  These games are about me inhabiting the space of the character, and not about watching the lives of someone else.  So in a game like Uncharted… I am watching a movie unfold in front of me that I am not a part of, this type of game however… it is all about the character being an extension of me.  The dialog is charming at times, but nothing I would call spectacular.  But then again I am not really playing this sort of thing for the dialog, I am playing it for the overall adventure.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-52-12-425 The game is several years old at this point, but it still looks extremely good.  This is no Skyrim mind you, but the world definitely looks believable and something I don’t mind spending a significant amount of time in.  Occasionally there are some really nice vistas and lighting effects like this one that I find really nice looking.  During some of my screenshots I was running on the default settings, but once I cranked everything up to max the game started to look extremely beautiful.  The visualization options like the mini-map and where we are supposed to go for various quests is pretty much non-existent.  The end result means you need to pay attention to the dialog and spend a good deal of time wandering around in order to figure out how exactly to complete each of  the quests you are given by townsfolk.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 09-00-14-372 I’ve not really played enough to get a good handle on how exactly character progression will work.  However when you first start the game you are set up as a Dragon Slayer, and as part of the ritual that gives you the powers of a dragon… it also wipes your memories, giving you a clean construct for picking a brand new path for your character.  You essentially have the choice of following the path of the melee warrior, the ranger or the mage.  In the first town you can freely switch between them, but once you leave the village your choice is locked.  There is thankfully a little testing ground that allows you to try each of the combat styles and see what fits you the best.  I of course went with the melee warrior, but I feel like the ranger would probably be extremely fun as well.  Mage on the other hand…  felt odd because there was a significant cast timer on each of the attacks.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-28-54-664 Admittedly so many times with these Steampowered Sunday games, I play it for a little bit but then never return to it.  I don’t think that is going to be the case with Divinity II.  This honestly seems like about the perfect game for my current mental state.  It feels the right speed, and I can cocoon myself in this fantasy world and explore it without the need to feel like I am letting anyone down in the process.  So while I have taken a break to knock out my morning blog post, as soon as I finish writing I am going to return to clearing the goblin camp I was working on when I paused the gameplay.  Right now on the summer sale this game is only $8 for the directors cut, and so far I am loving it.  If you are looking for an old school Knights of the Old Republic style adventure, then it might also be the game for you.

Enter the Waffles

Last night we had an odd recording of AggroChat as has happened before in the past, we had two of the original cast otherwise busy this week.  I butchered the hell out of the explaination, but thankfully I was corrected.  Essentially this week Tam and Ashgar are off to visit Kodra and to somehow have an intervention to replace his current machine, that we have not so lovingly referred to as a toaster.  That said I feel like maybe that is a disservice to toasters everywhere, as they seem to be far more functional.  As you’ve listened to our podcast in the past, when Kodra goes robot on us, it has nothing to do with his internet connection but is instead his machine freaking out.  Here is hoping operation replace Kodras machine has been a success.  In the meantime that left us down two people for the podcast and thankfully we had replacements all too happy to step in.

This is the first show to include Warenwolf, another one of our multi-year old chat group, also lovingly referred to as Waffles thanks to Mumble pronouncing his name oddly a few times.  In addition to Waffles we are joined by Dallian once again who is the best fill-in guest ever, and pretty much is just now our regular “5th man”.  We talk about the Steam Sale, Wasteland 2, Saints Row IV, Lego Minifigures Online, Wildstar, and Warlords of Draenor alpha among other things.  We ran a bit short this week due to some technical difficulties causing chunks of the show to get edited out, but I hope you will all still enjoy the results.  I believe next week we should be returning to our regular format.

#AggroChat #SteampoweredSunday #DivinityII