Posts Tagged ‘Lore’

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Read Lately: SWTOR: Annihilation

January 4, 2013

SWTOR AnnihilationI have to say Annihilation is probably one of the better Star Wars books by Drew Karpyshyn, which is quite a relief after the train wreck that I thought was Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan. It’s amazing what a good writer he can be when he’s not being rushed. Now that he is no longer at BioWare, I’m glad he left us with this before moving on to his future endeavors.

For a while we’ve known that Satele Shan, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order during this time in the Old Republic, has a “secret son.” We met Theron Shan when he first appeared in The Lost Suns comic. Now he stars in his own novel, which further explores his activities as an undercover agent and operative for the Republic, but the book also reveals a lot more about his parents’ history and his own mysterious past.

I could tell Karpyshyn had a lot of fun writing Theron’s story. It is my experience that characters in books based on movies/TV shows/video games, etc. very often read like caricatures and hardly ever feel like real people. However, I thought Theron had a clear personality right away, and even found myself taken in by his confidence and dry wit. I also enjoyed acquainting myself the supporting characters like Teff’ith the Twi’lek, whose weak grasp of Galactic Basic was a nice humorous touch, as well as finding out more about Master Gnost-Dural, whom fans of SWTOR will no doubt recognize as the keeper of the Jedi archives.

The story is pretty much your run-of-the-mill fare, but very entertaining nonetheless. There were of course the obligatory space combat and lightsaber battle scenes, but I was surprised at how well done they were. Drew Karpyshyn is extremely adept at writing good action, but I was even more surprised to see how skillfully he tackled some of the emotional issues in this book without making them sound overly contrived or sappy. Like I said, he can be very good when given enough time to develop his characters.

One last thing I should note: I listened to the audiobook of this, courtesy of my library’s digital collection. Though I’m confident to claim Annihilation as a solid entry to the world of Star Wars novels, in the interest of full disclosure I must also mention the possibility that the quality of the audio version may have influenced my opinion. For one thing, it was my first experience with a Star Wars audiobook, so I’ve only just discovered the talent of Marc Thompson, who is probably one of the best audiobook narrators I’ve ever come across. His voices are simply phenomenal, and together with the sound effects and music I was just blown away.

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Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – New Zones

October 23, 2012

First of all, I want to thank the Rift team and especially Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols for the amazing opportunity of being offered a private tour of their upcoming expansion Storm Legion during this beta weekend. This Monday, I was provided with a level 60 character, and along with the masterful Elrar acting as my personal in-game tour guide, we traveled to a variety of locations in the game so he could show me some of the features while allowing me to get in some hands-on time.

I’ve always admired Trion’s dedication to building rapport with their players and their enthusiasm to reach out to bloggers and the gaming community, and I’m really grateful to have been included. I know several have already gotten their write-ups posted, so here’s mine.

The fact is, Rift and I have always enjoyed a genial relationship; I played for many months, leveling my Cleric to 50 and continued to enjoy the game for a long time after that thanks to the flexibility of the soul system and the frequent content updates. I did stop playing around last winter when pretty much all my MMO gaming came to a screeching halt when I gave birth to my daughter, but with the announcement of Storm Legion this summer I knew I was going to be heading back into Rift sometime soon.

I just had no idea how soon. I knew I wanted to play the expansion, but my plan was originally to hold off on it until next year when my current MMO plate isn’t quite so full, but after my tour on Monday I think I’m going to have to reevaluate that plan. It’s probably safe to say that some of the things I saw shifted around my priorities somewhat, and there are more than a few features I’d definitely want to get a jump start on and not wait around for.

Elrar began our tour in Tempest Bay, the massive new cross-faction city on its own island on the map. The mechanical eldritch theme it has going there reflects a long history of its highly-advanced society. I imagine once the expansion goes live and players begin flocking to this city for their everyday in-game needs, it’ll look sufficiently more populated and lived-in. For now, from what I saw Tempest Bay positively radiates the majesty and grandeur of a central capital.

Elrar and his supermod powers ported us to various locations around the world next, exploring some of the new zones. Storm Legion will add two gigantic continents to the game world, Dusken and Brevane. Each of them will be bigger than the original game world, essentially tripling the size of Rift. Level 50s will have access to these areas in the new expansion.

Our first destination, Morban. And yes, the mood of the zone is as baleful and sinister as the name suggests; in the area called the Forest of Flesh, my guide led me by several foreboding structures nestled in a twisted wood. It’s an eerie sight to behold and yet a feast for the eyes. Rift being an original intellectual property, Elrar explained how their artists get a lot of free rein to design and theme the zones. Indeed you can see the full extent of the creativity at work here in the unique lines and forms of the architecture and biodiversity.

Our next stop was Seratos, the next zone over. My guide ported me into an area called the Pus Swamp. Hmm, flesh and pus and hey, I think I’m starting to see a pattern here! I was reminded that we’re in the realm of Regulos now; everything here has pretty much been taken over by the planes. Speaking of which, throughout my tour I was treated to many interesting tidbits of background information and the history of Telara. So, not only has the Rift team been hard at work adding content to their game, they’ve also beefed up the lore big time.

I also had the chance to visit the Kingdom of Pelladane and the Eastern Holdings on the other continent of Brevane. Along the way, I got to see how quests will be treated in the new expansion. Firstly, I was fortunate enough to experience a spontaneous rift event during my tour and was assured that rifts will continue to be a main feature and the driving force behind the game. I was happy to hear that. Of course, there will also still be quest hubs where players can show up and talk to a bunch of NPCs, but Elrar also emphasized a concerted move towards improving the flow of questing and making it feel more like a natural and organic experience.

I was shown a couple of examples of this. In one instance, I was just running around the area when I suddenly stumbled across an item on the ground with a quest indicator floating above it. In another instance, me killing a random mob also triggered a quest. This obviously is a move to encourage more exploration; Rift has always been very good at doing this, what with their artifacts and collection system and such — but now there’s even more reason to go poking your head into every nook and corner, or killing every monster you see.

Storm Legion is going to be chock-full of new features and lots of cool stuff, and there’s definitely no way I can fit all that I saw on Monday into one post. So stick around, I’ll be sure to cover my tour of dungeons and raids, and housing and dimensions in my next couple of updates!

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The Faults Of Theramore

September 20, 2012

I’ll admit it; before this week, I knew very little about the new World of Warcraft scenarios that will be introduced with the Mists of Pandaria expansion. All right, so I don’t deny that I’ve had my head way too far up in the pet battle system to give any other upcoming feature much thought…

This changed Monday when the game went live with Theramore’s Fall, and I discovered that “instanced three-person group quest” pretty much describes scenarios in a nutshell, and no particular need for tanks or healers. The only difference is, objectives are given to you in stages, so you’ll have to complete them in order to move the story forward.

Yes, you heard that right. Story. My excitement level rose when I learned this, mindful of the rich and colorful lore behind the Warcraft franchise and pondering the many ways Blizzard can now use this new mode of story-telling to their advantage.

But days later, it appears that the Fall of Theramore scenario has been showered with rather unanimously tepid reviews. Personally, I was tempted to agree, even though the joy of being back to playing with my old WoW guild pretty much trumped every complaint I had — the fact that it was too short, not very inventive, and just in general lacked the oomph I would have expected from an expansion pre-launch event.

Still, because I’ve read Tides of War, the WoW novel that provides all the details behind this event, I didn’t notice anything amiss about the story until I saw Green Armadillo’s post, and then I realized that he’s absolutely right — if you haven’t read the book, you’ll have absolutely no bloody clue what it’s all about. So a mana bomb hits Theramore, a bunch of ships are burning, and Jaina Proudmoore’s hair is now white and she’s being scary. Okay. Since I’m Alliance, I only did that faction’s version of the scenario, but I looked up some videos of the Horde side, and things look even more confusing over there if you don’t know what’s going on.

Actually, now that I’ve taken some time to think further about it, even I’m slightly peeved at how everything in the book was hastily boiled down to a short cutscene and a couple lines of dialogue. Selling us short with explosions and cheap destruction is what this is, as so much of what made this a poignant, momentous event for Azeroth was completely left out. This isn’t fluff I’m talking about either; this is the actual whys-and-hows behind what’s happening, which you’d think would be relevant to the understanding of the story.

Also, call me crazy, but while a tie-in novel should give players more background and context into the story, I don’t think the most important and exciting scenes should be locked and hidden away behind its covers. Not to mention how people, you know, tend to get irritated when they have to shell out more money for pertinent additional story to a game they’re already paying monthly to play. (And I say this even as someone who reads a lot of game books, and enjoy doing so a lot.)

A longer instance with more explanation and detail seems to be what most players wanted out of the scenario, so if being story-driven was their goal, it’s clear that the opportunity and potential was squandered with this one. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure Blizzard is well aware they missed the mark with FoT, and hopefully future scenarios (at least ones that don’t have anything to do with limited-time events) won’t be so cut-and-dry. WoW has plenty of material to work with and now they have real way to deliver context with content; they just need to beef up the execution especially since a good story component has recently become something many gamers expect from their MMOs.

And finally, not that I’m frustrated about my bad luck of not getting anything else in my reward bags or anything, but…fireworks? Considering Theramore was just wiped off the map, a little harsh, no? Well, pretty, at least!

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Read Lately: Jaina Proudmoore – Tides Of War

September 17, 2012

While I may play World of Warcraft off and on, one constant is my interest in the lore behind the game, an interest that extends to pretty much all MMOs I play, in fact. I’m always devouring every piece of lore and background information I can find, even if that means putting up with some not-so-well-written novels every once in a while. I’ve long discovered that looking for quality writing in most video game tie-in books is a lost cause.

Admittedly, I didn’t think Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War was going to pose much of problem on that front, because I’m generally well-disposed towards author Christie Golden’s works. The book’s eponymous heroine is also a major WoW character that I’ve always liked and followed with interest.

Indeed, if you’ve kept track with WoW lore and characters as closely as I have in recent years, I think some of the events in ToW will impact you in more profound ways than if you hadn’t. The story reaches back in time to touch upon several important points in Jaina Proudmoore’s history, just as it looks to the future and hints at upcoming changes in the expansion Mists of Pandaria. It lays the groundwork in explaining how the Alliance and Horde will end up discovering the new continent, and why the two factions will be battling when they do.

Unless indicated (and it’s mostly just the end of this post), I’m going to be keeping this book review relatively spoiler-free, though I suspect the majority of WoW players are already aware of much of the novel’s background. As we all know, Garrosh Hellscream is now the leader of the Orcs and the Warchief of the Horde, and he has decidedly chosen to walk a much darker path than his predecessor Thrall. The much talked-about complete and utter destruction of Theramore is his responsibility, as are many other terrible actions in this novel, so you’ll probably despise him. Still, not everyone in the Horde shares his views, and this has resulted in a clear split within the faction. Somehow, I have a feeling that this dissension in the ranks will play an important part in a future story line.

In any case, I’m aware that Blizzard has a history of altering their characters with every new expansion, but that’s not always a good thing. Female characters (e.g. Tyrande Whisperwind, Sylvanas Windrunner) especially always seem to receive the short end of the stick in this regard, so I was initially worried that they were going to change Jaina in the same way.

The new Jaina.

My concerns were unfounded. Yes, Jaina is changed, but in my opinion, for the better! I mean, she witnessed her entire city being destroyed and all of her closest friends brutally murdered; I would have been angrier and more frustrated if she’d remained the vapid and naive pacifist sitting up in her little tower sipping tea and twiddling her thumbs while waiting for the day Alliance and Horde will lay down their arms and sing Kumbaya around a campfire. Instead, she has finally taken a stand. She’s still the strong and independent woman she was before, but now with an edge.

In truth, it was actually Jaina’s reaction to the aftermath that saved this book for me. As much as I like Christie Golden, I admit her writing style can be hit or miss; sometimes she’s so over the top with her WoW novels that the prose can be so contrived to the point of being borderline insulting. ToW was like this. In my heart, I’d almost given up on the book until I reached the story’s climax. After that, I just couldn’t stop reading.

Like I said, it wasn’t the writing, nor was it really the story’s events because much of it was already public knowledge. In fact, the best part of the book was the description of Jaina’s emotions — the grief, the suffering, the guilt and the rage — all of which were very raw and believable. Though her desire for revenge was frightening and terrible, I couldn’t help but sympathize and a part of me actually rooted for her to go through with her desperate need for vengeance. I even found myself liking Jaina more when she was ruthless and cold, because that’s when I felt a real personality starting to come through. It made her more real, which also makes her more likeable (at least in my eyes).

Jaina also seems to have finally gotten over pining for Arthas. Speaking of which, there is a small aspect of romance in ToW, though I felt it sometimes got in the way of the story (like standing in the middle of the ruins of Theramore is where you choose to share your first kiss? Come on!) Regardless, I’m hoping that she’s finally found someone worthy of her, because we all know poor Jaina’s had pretty bad luck in the past when it comes to boyfriends.

In sum, writing-wise Christie Golden has delivered much better, but if you can put up with the mediocre writing that’s almost “fan-fic-y” in its hokeyness, I recommend this for fans of WoW especially if you plan on heading into MoP. I’m sure you can always get the whole story by looking up some two-line summary on some wiki page, but the canvas of emotions and feelings that you get from this novel is what makes it worth reading.

Scenarios (“short, instanced adventures for three players that directly follow the stories and events in the open world”) are also going to be a new feature in the expansion, and I’m personally looking forward to experiencing the Fall of Theramore scenario that will be available in-game starting today. I’m not sure what to expect, but after reading ToW, at least lore-wise I’m prepared.

Warning: Spoiler territory ahead
I leave some final random thoughts here because of spoilers, and also because I just don’t think I can wrap up a discussion about this book without admitting how upset I felt over Rhonin’s death; I was surprised that it affected me even more than Theramore being wiped off the map. I’ve never particularly liked the way his character was written by Richard A. Knaak, but at the same time he was always much more than just “that leader of Dalaran guy standing in the Violet Citadel.” He was a father and a husband, which makes me sad now, wondering would happen to his wife Vereesa Windrunner (and god knows that family has seen its fair share of heartbreaks) and their half-elven twin sons.
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GW2: Insert The Standard Launch Character Introductions Post Here

August 25, 2012

It’s inevitable, I’m writing a character intro post which must mean Guild Wars 2 headstart has kicked off and is live!

It’s also inevitable, that the very fact I’m not playing right now but am instead banging out this post means that we’re experiencing some hiccups at launch (it’s around 8am at the time of this writing). I just hope that most people will be patient and realize launch days are going to be full of unexpected downtimes like this. I was grateful that Arenanet decided to bring up the servers three hours early last night, allowing me to create my characters and sneak in some brief playtime which I otherwise thought I would not have, and for the most part my hour-to-two-hours played beautifully and without a single hitch. I even got the names I wanted, without having to give last names.

If you’d like to say hello, my ID is Caylinn.6459, my guild is Knights of Mercy, and the server is Fort Aspenwood. I think most people have committed to a home by now, but if you happen to be still looking or if in the future you’re looking to guest, ss my Asura would say, we’d be pleased and honored to play with you, bookah! Without further ado, let’s get on to the new additions of my MMO family.

Kilioe (pronounced Kee-lee-oh-eh) – Sylvari Guardian

Kilioe, or Embelia pacifica, is actually a plant native to Hawaii. Not only had I wanted a flora-related name for my Sylvari, as I looked upon my Guardian in the character creator I suddenly recalled this name from a college botany project and to me the the name just seemed to fit. The current plan is for her to be my main.

Moggsi – Asura Thief

I frequently go by the abbreviation MMOGC, which some people in the blogosphere/twittersphere have taken to pronouncing it “Mogsy.” While I admit to thinking it was the most unfortunate nickname at the time, since then it has grown on me. I “Asura’ed” it up a bit, doubling up the “G” and replacing the last letter with the more feminine “I” associated with female names in Asura culture (I’m such a lore nerd). You can’t really tell by her celebration hat and town clothes, but my Asura Thief is pretty much the splitting image of the one I made in beta.

Sooner or later, I’m sure their stories will take shape and develop. (One thing I do know though, is that my Asura will be getting a happy childhood and not the damaged past that some commenters seem so fond of bestowing upon their own Asuras ;) )

One of these days I will also be making a Charr for our guild warband, a completely voluntary and fun project promoting camaraderie by KoM. Since the custom is to involve a common word in all our names (which as a guild we’ve chosen by popular vote as “Knight”), it’s going to take some idea brainstorming.

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What Do You Consider Content?

July 25, 2012

Yesterday, while browsing for some news on MMOs I must have suffered some sort of brain fart, because I don’t know how else to explain how I ended up in The Secret World forums. While there, a particular thread caught my eye — someone new to MMOs was expressing concern over the several “lack of content” complaint threads that were starting to crop up, and they were wondering just how well TSW holds up in this area compared to other games at launch. Oh dear. To be a newcomer and to find themselves in the general discussion section of an MMO forum. But anyway, I digress.

I think the answer depends. Firstly, I believe anyone should be able to play a game however they want without being crapped on for it. Whether you prefer to chisel away at the content slowly versus holding marathon gaming sessions is no one’s business but your own. But those gaming habits will determine your experience. If a game has 200 hours of content, someone playing 2-3 hours will probably never lack for things to do, as opposed to someone who plays 10 hours a day who will probably tap out that content in about three weeks. Players run all over the spectrum and there will always be some at both extremes, so these “There is not enough content!” threads at MMO launches are nothing new.

But I think the more important question is, what do people consider as content? Is it just quests and dungeons? Or is it more?

It occurred to me that what I may consider content, some people don’t. Speaking for myself, I consider “content” as generally anything I would actively need to put aside time to do. Last night, I calculated my /played to come up to about 105 hours and I’m only about halfway through the Scorched Desert in Egypt. That works out to about 30 hours per zone. It seems like quite a lot, but I’m afraid it might lead people to believe there is an abundance of missions or quests to do in TSW.

The thing to keep in mind is, I tend to try and do everything before moving on to the next zone. “Everything” includes missions, both main and side quests, but also activities like exploration, lore hunting, achievements, the whole shebang. It could mean running instances to PvPing to simply standing around “doing nothing” but cycling through each NPC’s dialogue options.

On the other hand, some players who are ambivalent towards things collecting lore items or talking to NPCs and who partake in those activities casually or only when they come across them incidentally, can argue that stuff like that adds flavor, not true content. Fair enough. Others will point out that repetitive activities don’t count, like dailies or dungeon grinds, and there I might even have to agree.

In the end, it comes down to the kind of gamer you are. Granted, I’m nowhere near the end of the game so I don’t know for sure, but I’d say if the number of zones plus the quests and instances they contain are all you’re willing to consider content, then TSW probably does not have as much as other MMOs like World of Warcraft, or Rift, or Star Wars: The Old Republic at release. That said, TSW isn’t for everyone. The more I play the game, the more I get a “niche” vibe pouring off of it.

So if on the other hand you’re the type of gamer who likes to poke their nose into everything, there will be lore items to find and read, NPC monologues to listen to, rare mobs to hunt down, outfits to collect, achievements to complete, nooks and crannies to explore, weapons and talismans to craft, and the list goes on. I’m aware that not everyone will agree, but that’s all content to me. TSW is about more than just a quest and dungeon grind and there’s really no reason to rush to a “cap”; I believe they made it so every aspect of the game is meant to be savored, a special treat for those who enjoy delving completely into unexplored worlds.

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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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