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

Dragon Commander: Divinity

A Cursed Bread Maker

Last night we recorded our thirteenth episode of AggroChat.  In various cultures the number thirteen can be either a positive or a negative, and going into the show I was not quite certain how that would shake out.  Apparently for us however, thirteen is a very unlucky number.  Last week Ash, Kodra and Tam were off hanging out together, and one of the activities was to build Kodra a brand new machine.  All of this time we thought his intermittent problems were related to running on six year old hardware.  Apparently whatever demons infested his previous machine have jumped ship and are now residing in the new one.  We had trouble keeping him online and when he was online he seemed to have issues broadcasting.

All of that aside I think we had a pretty good show last night.  We talked about a hole bunch of topics including Tomb Raider and the fact that I maybe just maybe finally enjoy narrative gaming experiences.  We also talk quite about about Thomas Was Alone and how that game manages to get the player emotionally attached to a red colored rectangle.  We also talk about Rob Pardo leaving Blizzard and the potential effects, as well as the idea that no one person is really that responsible for anything in a game.  Additionally we talk about the Divinity series of games, and how the publisher seems to be able to stick to just one genre.  We did pure madness this time, due to some confusion on my part we ended up with five guests.

Dragon Commander: Divinity

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-24-29-89 As has been the case so many times… I added a game to my wish list in part as a way of tracking to see if it goes on sale… and then another friend comes along and griefs me by adding it to the pile of unplayed games.  I say grief in the nicest possible sense of the word, because Ashgar has supported this thing I call Steampowered Sunday so many times in the past with an interesting game that he would like to see me play.  This time around he ended up purchasing a four game pack and decided he would not play Dragon Commander for some time.  As always I am extremely thankful of his generosity, and the fact that it pretty much determined what game I would be playing this week.  I am still pretty new to the Divinity setting, but so far I have to say I love the universe that it is set in.  I am glad that I played my way through Divinity II this week, otherwise I would have been completely clueless playing this title.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-27-53-25 At face value this game is a rather pretty 4X title, and were it only for that the game would be forgettable.  The game is extremely confused as at times it is a Civilization clone, other times an RTS like Starcraft, and other times yet a flight simulator.  What makes the difference however is the narrative of the game and the lore of the franchise backing it up.  As a result the game takes you on this deep quest to win the hearts and minds of a kingdom and at the same time defend it from your mad half dragon brothers and sisters.  The game itself is set before the events of Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity and Divinity II: Ego Draconis.  As such you play out the events of your quest alongside Maxos the wizard that is spoken of in Divinity II in an attempt to liberate the world.

You’re Going to Need Friends

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-26-36-21 The storyline centers around your command carrier the raven, a ship that holds many dark secrets… not the least of which is the fact that the ship itself is a bound demon.  In order to power the infernal machine, Maxos has bound Corvus the Raven demon in a special chamber that eventually you can enter.  The rest of your ship is made up of ambassadors from each of the races of the games setting, as well as a number of gifted generals that you can call upon to guide your troops in battle.  At various points these ambassadors will want to meet with you, an the above picture shows a three way discussion happening between the generals Edmund and Catherine and the Dwarven ambassador Falstaff Silvervein.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-42-10-10 On board your ship you have representatives of the Dwarves, Lizards, Elves, Undead and Imps…  and each time you do something that benefits one faction you inevitably piss off two others.  Like so many of these games it quickly becomes a juggling game to try and keep most of them happy in the process.  Making the advisors of the various races happy seems to earn you cards that you can play that can turn the tide of a battle.  These give you surprise troops, or a tactical advantage or even there is a card called “Genocide” that lowers the population of an area before attacking it.  I’ve not actually used this one, but had the enemy play it on me multiple times and it can be rather devastating.

Taking Territory

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-28-30-99 Through the bridge of your ship you have access to the map view of your territory.  From here you can assign one building per area be it a War Forge that allows you to build units, or one of many other buildings that gather some form of resource in a turn by turn basis.  From here you try and gain a foothold against your siblings that you are locked in a land war to control as much of the Rivellon heartland as you can.  Combat is resolved in one of three ways.  You can pay one of your generals to lead your forces for you, giving you some tactical advantage in the process.  You can let your army lead itself, which seems to only be advisable if you have an extremely superior tactical advantage, or you can take up the banner and lead your forces yourself.  The limitation is that you can personally lead only one battle per turn, and similarly you can only have a single general lead your forces per turn as well.  This means that you want to limit combat to as few volleys as you can per turn.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-35-50-40 When you choose to lead your own forces the game changes yet again.  This time around you are presented a real-time strategy playing field where you conquer resources on the map and use them to churn out more troops to eventually overwhelm your opponent.  The interesting thing about this mode is that I tend to leave it in reserve for battles where I do not have a very obvious superior tactical advantage.  There have been fights that I came into the conflict with a single unit, but through the RTS game play get the best of my opponent and push forward with a victory.  If this were not enough, you also have the ability to quite literally manifest yourself on the battlefield and take your dragon form to attack the enemy.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-38-09-29 When the map starts there is a counter in the center of the HUD counting down how long before you can take flight and join the fight as a dragon.  When you do, you become a nearly unstoppable killing machine with a series of dragon powers that either hurt enemies or help your fighters.  From the air you can wreak havoc on enemy buildings, or hover over your troops and heal them from above.  To make things feel even cooler…  you are a Dragon with a freaking jetpack.  Personally as enjoyable as this mode is…  I tend to try and RTS my way through combat as much as possible without taking to the skies.  There are moments where you think that this game is ultimately four different games that they built, but couldn’t really decide on which one to finish.  However each of these elements is integrated so well into the whole that it just feels natural.

Embracing Controversy

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-26-58-98 There are some really odd events that play out on board of your ship, and a number of conflicts that you will be called to resolve.  Early on you are chosen to pick from one of four princesses paraded before you, and I opted to go for the one that seemed the “sweetest” which oddly enough… was the undead princess Ophelia.  Moments after tying the knot she confides in you that she is wracked by a debilitating disease that will eventually eat her bones from the marrow outwards.  There is no known cure, and her father the Undead Advisor forbids her to research any of the options as such things are considered to be heretical.  However with your permission and the protection of your ship…  there are a number of increasingly twisted things that you can do to resolve the issue.  All of them with some pretty severe moral implications as you are tested to find out just how far you would go to save your bride.

DCApp 2014-07-06 08-13-32-84 Similarly you have to deal with all manner of moral and ethical decisions as you engage with your crew.  Some will attempt to bribe you to look the other way as various things happen.  There is one specific event where an undead artist is revealed to have been a lesbian, and after her death the undead have taken to the streets trying to purge all of her art as heretical.  Do you step in and preserve her works, or do you let the course of undead society go unimpeded.  Similarly there is a general who is by nature a very misandrist character.  She comes to you telling you that she and the other female general are not making near as much as their male counterparts.  Do you do the right thing and increase their pay, while at the same time angering all the males on your ship?  The game does not shy away from presenting issues pulled from our own times, including the ratification of gay marriage.  All of which gives the setting and lore that much more of a living feel.

Sum of All Parts

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-40-07-38 If you  were to take apart all of the different games that make up Dragon Commander, you would end up with a passable but uninspired civilization clone, a passable but uninspired starcraft clone, a political intrigue and romance sim, and a dragon flight combat game.  None of the parts is really that amazing on its own, but when combined together with the woven narrative of trying to save your kingdom from the hands of your insane siblings the game becomes extremely compelling.  This is a truly ambitious title, and it is carried out with such charm that you tend to overlook the rough spots here and there.  The hardest part honestly is the fact that the tutorial could use a bit of refinement.  It took me a couple of games before I felt like I was getting the hang of it enough to survive for long.  If you like Age of Wonders and Starcraft and have ever wanted to fly a dragon with jetpacks, I highly suggest you check this one out the next time it goes on sale over on steam.  It has definitely managed to eat the better part of two days for me, and as soon as I finish with this post I plan on going back to the game and playing some more.

#DragonCommander #SteampoweredSunday #AggroChat