Archive for the ‘XBox360’ Category

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Let’s Revive This Thing A Bit…

March 27, 2013

Okay, so my little break actually turned out to be a pretty long break. You know how it is when things get busy; you say to yourself, “All right, I’m just going to put this blogging thing aside for a next little while just until I get back on track.” Except 2013 has been crazy from the outset, so the obligations just keep piling up and before you know it’s been more than two months gone and your poor blog has gone from “on a little break” to flat-out neglected.

Well, I’m back to change that. Part of the reason for my absence also had to do with the types of games I was playing. In January and February, I used most of my spare gaming time to catch up with the Xbox360 titles, some of which had been gathering dust on my shelf, still enclosed in their original shrink wrap:

  • Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood (if you ask me, this game is where the AC franchise reached its peak)
  • Assassin’s Creed II: Revelations (I just couldn’t bring myself to do everything, so I breezed through it for the story)
  • Assassin’s Creed III (I had to give up on this for now, the gameplay proved to be grindier than I expected)
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (loved this, loved this, LOVED THIS)
  • Dishonored (I may be too incompetent and inept to ever become truly good at stealth games, but I don’t care what anyone says, I love my dark ending)

Um, yes. That would have been an overabundance of assassins.

In terms of MMOs:

  • Rift (Hey, I finally bought the Storm Legion expansion!)
  • The Secret World (TSW Mondays are still happening every week, and as always I am dressed to kill)
  • World of Warcraft (golden rule: when you’re married to someone who doesn’t have as much time to game as you, play what he wants to play during your mutual game time. WoW will ever be my husband’s MMO of choice, and I’ve been having a lot of fun raiding in Mists of Pandaria too, so I’m not complaining)
  • Neverwinter beta (very excited for this)
  • Defiance beta (with the game’s release right around the corner, you’ll no doubt be seeing me write about it now that the blog’s also been sufficiently revived)

It has been revived, yes? Yes. I shall endeavor to post regularly again. Thank you, and good night.

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Played Lately: Week At A Glance

June 29, 2012

Well, this has certainly been a busy week for gaming, I’m sure my Raptr feed has not seen action like this in months. Here’s what has been occupying my time:

The Secret War

I’d originally planned on going into this “blind” but I caved during last week’s beta 4 weekend. My husband and I played a couple hours just to get a feel for it, and in the words of Mr. GC, “‘Ignite gas cans and draw zombies into the fire?’ God, I love this game!”

Zombie killling-wise, I’d say my sentiments echo his, but I do have my misgivings about the clunky feel of combat. Still, it’s something I can see myself easily getting used to. More importantly, I feel it’s a small price to pay to experience this unique game with its mystery-driven story and incredibly atmospheric setting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Funcom has focused most of its efforts. I’ve seen people describe themselves as getting “lost” in TSW, and I have to agree with that feeling wholeheartedly. I look forward to playing in the early access this weekend — Templar on Arcadia.

TERA Online

I’ve been dabbling in this MMO ever since I bought it for half-price earlier this month. I have to say combat in this game is drastically different from all other MMOs and is very engaging. Graphically, it’s also a feast for the eyes.

Still, I’m not feeling the motivation to play it much. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m not making the connection because I don’t think the reason has much to do with the gameplay, which I actually find quite enjoyable. It galls me to admit that it might be due to the art style. Maybe I’m just being shallow, but you’d be surprised how much something that could have an impact on my experience. I’ll probably go into it a bit more in a separate post at a later date, but for now I plan on getting the most out of my free month and we’ll see where I’ll go from there.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

This is still my MMO of choice, and will probably remain so for a while even when newer games this year will come out and vie for my attention. Patch 1.3 was released earlier this week on Tuesday, and I had been looking forward to checking out the updates it offers.

I haven’t really had a chance, though. For the last few weeks, I’ve been playing on the Imperial side almost exclusively, concentrating on leveling up that Bounty Hunter I’ve always wanted, the class I’d dreamed about ever since the game was announced. Coupled with my husband’s Sith Warrior, we’re steadily making progress towards level 50 and I hope we can keep up the pace, as level-capping her is currently one of my MMO goals. Right now we find ourselves on Hoth, on the cusp of wrapping up Chapter 2.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

I swear, I’ve had this game and AC: Revelations sitting on the to-play pile still in their original wrapping since…damn, I think November of last year. In fact, I think I picked them both up during a Black Friday deal, telling myself that I’d better get it now at a good price since I had definite plans to play both at some point anyway. Famous last words. Incidentally, that’s also how I ended up with my unmanageable Steam to-play pile.

Okay, so it was probably a terrible, terrible idea to start this game Monday on the eve of the Skyrim: Dawnguard DLC and Mass Effect 3 extended cut releases, but I had a feeling deep down that if I didn’t open that box like right now it was never going to happen otherwise. And so, I spent the day playing Ezio and getting used to climbing walls and shoving around civilians again. I also discovered something about myself: I am way too impatient and bloodthirsty to make a good, stealthy assassin.

Mass Effect 3

No spoilers. I downloaded the extended cut for the ending first thing Tuesday and fired up my last save point that afternoon in order to see the changes. However, this time around I decided to choose a different ending, opting for red instead of green. Then, I watched the other endings on YouTube.

As you may know, I’d just finished the game earlier last week, with the original ending. I had a friend tell me that I should have waited for the extended cut to arrive before I did, but after seeing the new ending I’m glad I didn’t. Having played the original version so recently made me appreciate the new one all the more. It really emphasized for me my problem with the old one in the first place — not the actual events of the ending itself, but instead just how lazily the entire sequence was executed.

The new ending fleshed out the story, explaining some of the ramifications and the fates of my squadmates and friends. More importantly, it had feeling — which was what I felt was lacking in the original. I was almost brought to tears in the final moments, and that’s when it hit me: the storytelling is what I like most about these games, and the emotions they evoke. It’s not the what but the how, as in this was how the story should have been told, in the BioWare way that I know and love.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard

No spoilers. This week, I made my return to Tamriel in order to play the new DLC (I own the game for the Xbox 360). Thanks to the new content, I get to be a vampire lord! Er, a very nasty and ugly vampire lord, as in no one will be swooning over me anytime soon. Disappointed to say that playing as a vampire lord is a bit of a pain though, and I’ll probably only do as much as it takes to get my vampire perks, then go back to fighting and adventuring in my Nightingale gear.

I also get to ride a new flaming undead horse, which to me was a very timely addition, seeing as how one time these bandits shot and killed my last horse almost the instant I quick traveled and loaded into the zone. I wasn’t even on it! I’m not kidding, that actually kinda pissed me off, damn cowards that would shoot an opponent’s horse…

Uh, back on topic, so far I’m liking Dawnguard. Still, I’m not sure if it will be worth the money for some. As most expansions like these go, there seems to be one main quest line driving the entire thing, spruced up with some goodies like new weapons and locations, etc. on the side, but not much else. It also makes the gameplay feel more linear than I’m used to getting from Skyrim. You do, however, get to go deeper into the lore of the game, which is one of the strongest aspects of the Elder Scrolls series and incidentally something I happen to really enjoy.

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Mass Effect 3 Ending: I Hate It And I Don’t Hate It

June 20, 2012

Three and a half months later, I am finally finished with Mass Effect 3. I know I’m late to the party, but I wrote this post anyway because I was immediately asked left and right about my thoughts on the ending. Obviously, the rest of this entry will contain spoilers, so if you still wish to avoid them, feel free move along; I’ll understand. I myself have been dodging spoilers like a madwoman dodging missiles in a Michael Mann movie since March.

So here goes. After all that I’ve heard, I braced myself for the ending. From the hubbub, you’d have thought BioWare committed the worst travesty of travesties when it comes to the final moments of the game.

Now why do I feel like I’ve been punk’d by the entire internet? As the final scene after the credits played, I found myself staring at the screen and thinking…what the hell, it wasn’t that bad.

I sought to do some post-game research and discovered that those who dislike the ending mostly fall into one of two categories. There are those who hate it because it’s weak in providing different endings (read: there is essentially only one ending.) Okay, point. In this, I am in complete agreement. Especially after seeing that video, changing the colors in the cutscenes to make things feel more different is like rubbing salt in the wound and reeks of laziness.

However, with regards to the second camp, or those who are upset with the game because they wanted a “brighter” ending? What? Why? The hell with that, I say. A not-so-happy ending does not a sucky ending make. Some of the best stories ever told have “crappy” endings. The Fox and the Hound. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Romeo and Juliet. Pretty much almost everything written by Thomas Hardy.

Somewhere in the middle of playing the second game, I think that’s when I realized the Mass Effect series is one of those stories. In fact, I made up my mind right then and there in January of 2010, that this is the only way things could possibly end. The best case scenario could only be bittersweet.

Maybe deep in my heart I’ve always known it, expected it. It’s not just because of the “hero always dies” trope. It’s just that after three installments, I knew that Mass Effect has become so huge that to demand the “perfect” ending is an act of futility (or a programming impossibility). In such cases, perhaps deeply unsatisfactory and confusing story conclusions which lead to speculation, rage, etc. are an inevitability, and if I’m to ask my inner cynic, possibly even intentional. Because hey, they got us all talking about it, didn’t they?! If their goal was a memorable send-off, well then bravo, they’ve done it.

(And while I’m still in Cynical Mode, might I add that I feel Indoctrination Theory is grasping at straws (albeit some very dedicated grasping) and giving BioWare way too much damn credit? The irony is, I’m not entirely sure BioWare didn’t get exactly the result they wanted by having people formulate and discuss IT, under the guise of “Uh, yeah, we’re simply letting the players think and interpret things on their own! That’s it!” Of course, that does lead me to wonder if those who cling to the theory are in a way the indoctrinated themselves, desperately looking for the order from chaos (!) they are missing from the ending. But hey, now I’m just getting all meta.)

So ultimately all the choices I made over the course of all three games didn’t really have a smidgen of impact on the final ending, but I can’t really say it broke my heart. Let’s keep things in perspective; the ME series was never open-world, open-ended, open-anything. There really wasn’t ever that much choice to begin with, even going back to the first game (making Sophie’s choice with Ashley or Kaidan, anyone?) Always, I just made my FemShep do what I felt was best, and I am content with the result — even if that turned out, in the bigger scope of things, to be the only result.

Despite that, I’ve been allowed to make dozens of decisions that changed my journey in myriad ways. The game’s appeal has always boiled down to forcing you to choose between a rock and  hard place and then living with the consequences; for me that means no going back to an earlier save or “do-overs”. I’ve celebrated my smart choices, and likewise suffered intense regret from the not-so-smart ones. But all those choices, both good and bad, were mine, dammit. I lived with them, carried them with me.

In the end, it’s BioWare’s prerogative to write whatever ending they want, but for me it’s the entire experience that matters. I don’t think that would have changed, even if they’d decided to throw dog’s vomit into the last few minutes of the finale.

Still, while I’m not dancing with joy over the ending to ME3, I’ve nevertheless embraced it. And that’s not necessarily to say I didn’t like it, because I think I do, in fact, like it. What can I say, I have a soft spot for downer endings. Perhaps, speaking of Romeo and Juliet, the best way to explain my thoughts on this matter is with the following clip. Out of the entire last act the game, do you know which scene broke me down the most?

It’s this one (since I romanced the crap out of Garrus, obviously):

“Forgive the insubordination, but your boyfriend has an order for you…come back alive.” And of course, that was the one objective the game had to go and make me fail oh so spectacularly. Now I’m in that bar in the sky drinking by myself and Garrus is…well, wherever he is, we’ll still dream of turian-human babies together.

By now, you’re all probably sick and tired of the number of times I’ve extolled the joys of BioWare romances. But I do really enjoy them. I’m a romantic, but my favorite fictional stories always tend to be the ones featuring star-crossed lovers that end in tragedy. I’ll be the first to admit I may be screwed up, but to me it isn’t a great love story unless my heart feels like it was stabbed through with a dagger and torn out of my chest by the end of it. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I did like Titanic. And Nicholas Sparks also has me eating out of his hand, so sue me.

Sigh. It always comes down to love and romance for me. Out of everything that happened in the ending, that scene with Garrus is probably what I’m most torn up about. Even though it has so little to do directly with the final moments, looking back at it after I’ve completed the game still leaves me feeling gutted. Like completely gutted. Lying on a fishmonger’s block, G-U-T-T-E-D. Yeah, I kinda hate it. But then again, that’s also why I like it. Which just about sums up my views of the ME3 ending.

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Why So Hard On E3?

June 8, 2012

Now that E3 2012 has wrapped up, opinions on the event from all around the net are pouring in. I’m looking around and am given a turn by some of the words that have been used to describe it: Atrocity. God AWFUL. Shameful.

Now I grant you I was a little disappointed as well. I’ve even made my share of snarky remarks, like about the Wii U and Wonderbook and how the industry appears to be hell-bent on adding new peripherals to make us gamers look more and more like ridiculous fools while gaming.

Still, I have to wonder if my sentiments derive from just not being all that interested in this year’s showings. But even to that end, I doubt I’d use a word like “shameful” to describe the time and effort that companies and developers have put into making any of the games/technology showcased over the last few days. In fact, I think it’s anything but.

I’ve actually been quite impressed by some of this year’s games and tech at E3, even the stuff I have no desire to play/use at all. Quite honestly, a game like The Last of Us would probably give me disturbing dreams. But to say that innovation is dead because The Last of UsWatch Dogs, Splinter Cell, Tomb RaiderDead Space, Black Ops, Star Wars 1313, etc. etc. etc. are all just variations of the same game (an assessment I’ve come across more than a few times on various gaming sites in the last few days) because you get to swear a lot and/or shoot people in the face? I think that’s a little disingenuous. That’s basically ignoring all the other little things that can make a game unique, everything from story to graphics. I was personally excited that E3 2012 was a year of a handful of new IPs.

I also notice folks have been pretty hard on the all the press conferences, but especially Nintendo’s — after all, no price and no release date for the Wii U as well as the rehashed franchises and already released third-party titles. But while I may not want a Wii U, I think what it’s capable of is pretty amazing. Same goes for Microsoft’s Kinect and SmartGlass app, really; I may not end up using either, but I can’t deny that what it does is incredibly fascinating stuff.

Was E3 really so bad? Or have I just gotten out of touch due to my little break from gaming?

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MMOGamerMom

April 3, 2012

Hello readers (that is, if I even have any left), long time no see. Even wordpress has gone and changed its interface on me and I’m left here stumbling around like an idiot getting used to this posting thing again. Amazing how much can change in a month when you’re not paying attention. I don’t even want to know how far I am behind when it comes to what’s happening in the gaming world.

As you know, Mr. GC and I welcomed our first child back in February and we are as happy as can be! A month later, I’m still amazed when I look at her. It takes my breath away thinking about how much I am in love with this little tiny person. And yet, it is so true what they say — a new baby changes everything. I knew this already, of course, but I mean, wow. They really did mean everything in your life..let alone my gaming habits.

In truth, my life was turned upside down the moment that stick turned blue. I was ecstatic…and terrified (oh, who am I kidding, I STILL feel that way). Long time readers might remember last summer when my blogging activity dipped for a while (well, I’ll tell you it wasn’t just because of SWTOR beta!) I must have spent two months flat on my back, too nauseous with morning sickness (which should really be renamed to “all-day sickness”), playing MMOs and watching my toon bounce up and down made me motion sick (how the hell does that work?!) and most mornings my fingers were too stiff with carpal tunnel (another one of those joys of pregnancy no one tells you about) to even grip a mouse. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I could barely sit in front of my computer for more than a half hour without feeling like a rancor was stomping on my spine.

And those were the easy days. Now my entire life seems to revolve around feeding, changing, burping, rocking, soothing, etc. etc. etc. The first few weeks, I barely even found the time to pee! Needless to say, falling behind on my MMOs is the least of my worries. Even this blog post has taken me three sittings to write (so far). These days whenever I have free time, it’s no longer MMOs time, it’s do-my-long-neglected-chores time, eat-before-I-forget time, or catch-up-on-some-Zs time.

Yeah, I definitely miss playing games and blogging. There are evenings when I’m looking wistfully over my husband’s shoulder as he plays SWTOR while I’m nursing the baby, living vicariously through him as he clears Ops with our guild. I still have yet to play much of Mass Effect 3, since I made it only as far as the introduction. I’m still struggling with the decision of whether or not to preorder The Secret World. Will I have more time by then? Admittedly, taking care of the baby is getting easier day by day as she grows and I’m getting the hang of things.

But you know, despite being horribly sleep deprived and having to say good bye to all my hobbies, I love being a mom. I’d do it all over again in a second, and sacrifice even a whole lot more. Anyway, I think it’s time to officially proclaim this blogging dry spell as the semi-hiatus that it is. I’m not going to shut this site down or anything, I love blogging too much for that and I have every intention of starting up again once things get a little less crazy. Posts still might pop up every now and then depending on my schedule, but I think things are going to remain quiet for the next little while.

I look forward to when things around here pick up once more — when I start gaming again or when the baby can sleep more than two hours without waking up crying…whichever comes first! Thanks for reading if you’re still around, and have fun for me!

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My Top 5 Gaming Highlights Of 2011

January 6, 2012

I’m always so behind on these kinds of things. I realize we’re already six days into 2012 and almost figured I would skip the rundown this year, but oh what the hey…for tradition’s sake.

The five things that gave me much joy in the past year:

5. Rift

If I didn’t give Trion a tip of the hat it would be a great disservice — considering they kept me playing their game for much of last year, quite a feat when you take into account the influx of F2P MMOs in 2011 to distract me. Looking back, there were quite a few games that excited me but ended coming up short, but Rift wasn’t one of them. In fact, it was one of those pleasant surprises that caught me off guard; the rifts and flexible class system were what drew me in, but it was also the impressive number and frequency of updates from Trion that made me go back for more.

Oh, and the advent of area loot. Best thing since sliced bread.

4. NaNoWriMo

Last year I included Goodreads on my highlights of 2010 list, which wasn’t exactly related directly to gaming but regardless made an impact on my gaming life because of the social aspect behind it. I include National Novel Writing Month this year in my list for pretty much the same reasons. In November 2011 myself and a handful of my fellow gamer bloggers/tweeters took the leap and participated in this challenge, and I have to say any activity is more invigorating and inspiring when you’re doing it with a group of friends.

3. Launch of Star Wars: the Old Republic

Duh. This game has been on my radar since I was still in college, so yeah, I would say the launch of SWTOR was kind of a big deal to me. At one point on the eve of December 20, 2011 I had to pinch myself just to make sure it was really happening.

SWTOR’s impact remains to be seen, but already I get the feeling that story and voiceovers in MMOs are going to be a big deal. Even last year I noticed more games adding their own VOs and cutscenes — from Star Trek Online to World of Warcraft. I mean, after five years of not caring and saying shit all to me, Thrall finally wants to get chatty? How timely.

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Every once in a while I like to indulge in the single-player experience, and I’m so glad in 2011 I had Skyrim. The last time I was so absorbed by an RPG was probably Dragon Age: Origins, and my game time in Skyrim was probably close to double the amount of time I spent in that. I bought the guide, I bought the soundtrack, I read the Books of Skyrim compilation, and quite honestly, if I could I would go back in time and buy the collector’s edition. The game isn’t without its bugs, but it’s the whole experience that counts — and for me it was such that I would happily throw money at Bethesda if it means they will continue making immersive games like this.

Now if only BioWare and Bethesda would have a hot night of sex; their lovechild will probably be the RPG to end all RPGs.

1. Republic Mercy Corps and Imperial Mercenary Corps

I won’t lie, getting into the SWTOR beta and being able to play it for six months was pretty damn exciting. But actually being in general testing wasn’t what made the experience a highlight for me. As much as I enjoyed reporting bugs and writing up my feedback every week, in point of fact, it was the friends I made and the relationships I forged over that period of time which made it memorable. As we all know, finding a good guild can be a challenge. Early last year, I was content on waiting until closer to launch to start guild-hunting, but lo and behold, during testing I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing group of players. The result: the RMC and the IMC, a pair of great guilds I am happy to be a part of.

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True Nord – Thoughts On The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

December 7, 2011

Over the last month I’ve been racking up the hours on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but I know I haven’t been talking about it much. Quite simply, I’d always rather be playing the game than be writing about it. Certainly, I enjoy my time away from MMOs to be by myself and play games like this every once in a while.

I think I’m up to between 100-150 hours in that game (for some reason Raptr doesn’t always seem to log my time on the Xbox correctly, even when I’m connected) and yesterday I finally earned my last achievement. Not counting Arcade games, Skyrim is the only title I have for the Xbox right now that I’ve managed to fully “complete”. I think that alone is testament to how much I enjoyed it; there have been many other opportunities in the past to hit that 1000/1000 mark, but no other game has ever given me the delight and motivation to do it the way Skyrim has.

And yet, I’m still not done, judging by the dozen or so quests I still have left in my log, and I don’t doubt there’s probably a few more out there for me to find. But while I love huge games like this, at some point, I’m always wary of burnout. Despite the varied dungeon designs and gorgeous vistas, beyond doing the main quest lines, things could get a little repetitive.

I also have a tendency to want to do everything all at once — a dangerous habit for someone delving into a sandbox game, because I always end up spreading myself too thin. “A little bit of this, a little bit of that” is how I played, which is what happens when I’m not forced to prioritize. Friends I’ve told this to think I’m nuts, but I basically tracked every single quest (including the Misc. ones) so that my map would be filled with a mess of little markers. Instead of overwhelming me, the sight just made me happy. I think everyone tackles Skyrim a different way, but that’s how I did it — eclectically.

While I bounced between different quest lines with no rhyme or rhythm, I also varied using my abilities and took breaks out to craft whenever the fancy struck me. On the bright side, I think that’s how I reached level 50 so fast, because practically every skill was being leveled concurrently.

I also chose to play a Nord because I’ve always been drawn to the warrior archetype, but ended up being more “thievey” than anything. I love pickpocketing, but I think that has more to do with my curiosity with what everyone is carrying than any actual desire to steal.

I also enjoyed the dragon encounters. They definitely do their job of breaking up the old routine, being random and all. I’m sure everyone has an “unfortunate timing” story involving dragons. The funniest one I’ve heard belongs to a friend of mine, who was on the quest to burn 3 and exactly 3 beehives when a dragon descended upon him and incinerated the entire area, causing him to fail immediately. My own story involves a quest where I had to hand over all my gear in order to infiltrate a fancy function. Literally the second after the NPC took all my stuff, that was when I heard the dragon…and all I had were my party clothes.

So many quests of note in this game, but I think my favorite has to be the Dark Brotherhood story line. Funny how it turned out that way, since it creeped me out to do their quests initially, and I tried to save them for last.

Now all I need is the email that tells me my order of the epic soundtrack has shipped, and I’ll be a happy woman. Like many others, I also ended up purchasing the guide for Skyrim. It was invaluable to me in helping me get around the game’s massive world, and if the need ever arises I guess I can also use this monster of a book to bash in a dragon’s skull. And it’s not even the hardcover.

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