Ardwulf Plays: Dragon Age Origins Episode 3 – Ostagar

An unplanned but thankfully temporary internet outage has delayed Episode 3 of our Dragon Age: Origins playthrough, but here it is! In this episode I continue the first part of the storyline, having escaped from the stifling clutches of the Circle.

Now in the ancient fastness of Ostagar, I find a merchant to sell off my unwanted loot and accept a task from the Kennel Master, who is trying to aid an ailing Mabari hound. After that I meet up with Alastair, the Grey Wardens’ previous new recruit and a former Templar, who maybe isn’t quite as funny as he thinks he is.

Meeting up with our leader Duncan and two other recruits, Daveth and Ser Jory, we are tasked with venturing into the nearby Korcari Wilds to find three vials of Darkspawn blood needed for the upcoming Grey Warden ritual, as well as some ancient documents lost long ago by the Order.

Graphically, I think that Dragon Age: Origins, released in 2009, hasn’t aged all that well in five years. This may be the result of being designed primarily with the limitations of consoles in mind… in fact, I first played it on the PS3, but saw immediately that I would enjoy it more on the PC. There is a nice parity between the gameplay graphics and the in-engine cutscenes (of which there are a lot,) but most of the characters walk with a stiff gait and look kind of plasticky. Not a big deal, and it’s by no means an ugly game, but it’s not up to current standards for this kind of thing, and in fact I think Bioware’s own Mass Effect, released two years earlier, holds up considerably better.

Where DA:O does shine spectacularly, though, is in the wonderful Inon Zur soundtrack (available on Spotify!) which is cinematic, thematically unified, complex, alternatingly somber, moody and exciting and just all together really well done. I would say that it’s one of my favorite video game soundtracks.

Stay tuned for episode 4, due on Monday!

Ardwulf Plays: Dragon Age: Origins Part 1 – The Harrowing

Dragon Age: Inquisition looks, and by all accounts is, pretty damned cool. However, between the holidays, graduation and needed plumbing work I can’t afford to buy it just now. It’s on my Christmas list.

However, I never let a little thing like that stop me. Plus, I never did finish (or even get very far in) Dragon Age: Origins. So, as part of the relaunch of Ardwulf’s Lair I’m starting with a playthrough of that. I have the ultimate edition, so I have Awakening to get through as well. All together that’s quite a lot of content. So onward with Episode 1!

Expect to see the next part in a few days.

Ardwulf Plays: EverQuest II

My current front-burner project (in my copious free time ha ha) is a Let’s Play run at EverQuest II. I’d been waiting for ages for character slots to go on sale, and they finally did (all September.) So I bought several and finally got to start a new character.

The new character is a Wood Elf Fury, starting in the Greater Faydark zone. The plan is to get that zone finished and then move on to the next zone, but with a different character. I have the first two episodes up, embedded below. After various rendering and uploading difficulties. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Fixed the embed on the second vid. Byproduct of a failed upload.

Capping Guild Wars 2

300px-Normal_gw2logoI’m a great tryer of MMORPGs. I tend to move between games frequently, often sticking around only for a week or two, only to come back in three months of two years or whatever. It’s easy to do especially in these days when freee to play ios the rule rather than the exception, and I can play for even just a day or two before moving on or becoming tied up with real-life things.

On top of that, I tend to play with alts a lot, usually quickly filling all of the available character slots, and sometimes more if you can buy them separately. In EQ2, for example, I have crafting alts in every tradeskill, plus a couple of extra characters in classes that I just wanted to play. For the last three years or so, EQ2 has been my primary game during summer and winter breaks, and I’ve been making a conscious effort to level my main there.

Even in EQ2, though — a game I have put hundreds of hours into — I don’t have a character at the level cap in either adventuring or crafting. The only game to date that I’ve capped a character is WoW, in which I managed a sustained run of about 8 months in the WotLK era. Even there, I only capped my main, although I came close with a couple of other characters before the cap shifted further out of reach.

Yesterday I hit the level cap in Guild Wars 2, which took (as a guess) maybe 110 hours. There’s still a lot left undone there, of course — offhand, my gear is shit and I still have about 45% of the world left to explore, to say nothing of the running series of events that GW2 has been rolling out pretty regularly since its launch. I have also done little — very little — PvP despite this being one of the game’s strong points. I may have another try at that in the limited time I have left (just one week) before school starts again.

Over on the MMORPG.com forums, the running narrative among the nitwit set seems to be that GW2 is a big faceplant. Personally, I don’t see how that’s the case unless the metric of success is causing the downfall of World of Warcraft — which frankly no game except World of Warcraft is going to do (although it is managing it.) Sales were strong (over 3 million copies sold as of this past January,) and there’s still plenty of people in game; every North American server is at at least High population even at obscene hours.

Granted, it’s not a flawless game and we know sales have started to flatten, but at this point it’s fair to say that it’s aging fairly gracefully. Its trinity-less combat model hasn’t turned out as well as we all hoped; I think it works fine for play in the open world but in dungeons and against bosses it’s both screwy and dull. Too, the “living” world works well enough for the most part, but it’s not as organic as it sounded before launch, and frankly after 80 levels of it everything seems pretty stagy. Although I have been nominally leveling by exploring, and GW2’s open objectives are indeed a novel alternative to strictly linear quests, I haven’t felt like I was really discovering anything new for at least 40 levels.

It is also in some respects a frustrating game… although not nearly as frustrating as its predecessor, in which I tried (I really did) to finish all three campaigns, multiple times, only to eventually get stuck. It’s odd how similar the two games are, and yet how different, with GW being a true departure from the MMORPGs of its day and GW2 bringing the series much closer to the mainstream, but both sharing similar support models and art direction.

GW2 is getting good support but I wonder how wise ArenaNet was in opting for the current scheme of live support and regular updates instead of a dedicated (and marketable) expansion. I can see playing quite a bit more of it myself, but I’ll get shunted away into schoolwork in a matter of days… and I think we can already see some dwindling of interest that would be rekindled by an expansion.

Ireland Unified

Yesterday I “completed” another game of Crusader Kings II, this time playing as the Count of Dublin. By “completed” I mean that I made my in-game goal, the unification of Ireland. I still need considerable practice at realm management, however, as Ireland promptly fell apart upon my death. Next time I may play a nation like France and work on that.

Then again, there is so much to Crusader Kings 2 that I could play forever and basically never be done exploring all it has to offer, even without the new expansion The Old Gods (which I will grab when it goes on sale, likely this summer) or the next two years of additional DLC that have recently been announced.

Back From Break While I’m On Break

Over the last several weeks the stress has been grinding on me to the point where I’ve been incredibly on edge and have not held it together 100% of the time. There are about a dozen sources of this stress that I won’t go into, but one of the big ones — the mounting pressure as finals loom — is now over with, and I have a couple of weeks of only full time plus work in which to unwind. It’ll feel like a vacation in Hawaii.

That’s more or less the reason there’s been so little in this space for the last two months; I have gotten a little writing done but almost no gaming, and thus just haven’t had much to talk about on what is still predominantly a blog about MMOs.

Traditionally my main game during any extended break has been EverQuest II. This time around I’ve been fooling with Guild Wars 2 and Vanguard, plus I may hit the Age of Wushu Beta that opens up to basically everybody on the 20th. And more Planetside 2 is always a possibility.

I was tempted by the shocking news that Turbine has resurrected Asheron’s Call 2 on a single server, but trying that would be subbing to AC1, and watching a couple of videos of the revived game cured me of the impulse. It’s an interesting artifact and I wish it well (and wonder about Turbine’s motives) but I can do without it.

So yeah, I’m back for the time being.

Well, That Only Took Like Five Years

So it appears, with some encouragement from the massive Triple Station Cash sale from a couple of weekends ago and the fact that I am in fact still subscribed, I’ve been spending my limited free time in EverQuest II, working my way up in the levels, finally getting my glider mount (which takes some getting used to, lemme tell you,) and settling into new digs in Freeport. I have not felt terribly motivated to blog about any of this stuff, partly because it’s all old hat, but also because of the limited time available.

While I’m at it, though, I may as well pimp the latest Ardwulf Presents, which has been up for a couple of days now. I do have some plans for more videos and over the holiday break may actually get time to make them. Enjoy!