They are my oldest and deadliest enemy. You cannot trust them.
If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favourable reference to the Devil.

Wednesday, May 25


Borrowed From Brickmuppet

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Saturday, May 14


Hobbes And Bacon

Hobbes.  And.  Bacon.

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Wednesday, May 11


Today's Unpaid Steamvertising...

Is brought to you courtesy of Kalypso, who are offering Tropico Reloaded (consisting of Tropico, Tropico: Paradise Island, and Tropico 2: Pirate Cove) for $1.74.

The only possible downside to this is that this bundle doesn't let you play the original version of Tropico, only the version with Paradise Island installed.  Which means you get the second, less, um, tropical theme song.

Also available at GOG completely DRM-free - and with the soundtrack as a downloadable extra - but $9.99.

I never liked Pirate Cove that much, but the original Tropico was a delight.  If you've ever wanted to run your own little Caribbean island nation, this is your chance.  You can play as a benevolent dictator, as a not-so-benevolent dictator, as an elected president, as an "elected" president, as a client state of either the US or the SU, however you like (though maintaining power while having free and fair elections on a regular basis is hard).  Very recommend.

Steam also has Tropico 3 Gold going for $4.99.  I haven't played that one yet, but it seems to be pretty well-regarded.

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Friday, May 06


One Day Only!

Mass Effect is $5 on Steam today.

Mass Effect 2 is $9.99.

Don't miss out!

Sadly, Mass Effect 3 has been delayed until next year.  And as it turns out, I'm not feeling Fallout 3 and Bioshock makes me queasy, leaving me with a sudden outbreak of free time.  Maybe I'll get some work done...

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Thursday, May 05


Quick Precis Time

Dragon Age: Origins

The best recent computer role-playing game.  Superb storytelling and characters, and the fact that the entire country is the colour of mud only enhances the realism.

Four giant undying demon dragon gods out of four.

Dragon Age II

Takes everything that was good about the original game and breaks it in the name of capturing a wider audience.

Zero teleporting darkspawn out of four.

Mass Effect

Superbly crafted story brought down only by some dull and overused settings.  (Not all of them, by any means, but some.)  Great science fiction action/RPG.

Three and a half exploding geth snipers out of four.

Mass Effect II

Superbly crafted setting brought down only by some dull and overused stories.  (Not all of them, by any means, but some.)  Great science fiction action game with just enough RPG elements to keep me happy.

Three and a half apologetic security droids out of four.

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Tuesday, May 03


Unpaid Advertising

It's EA week on Steam, and they've kicked it off with a bang: Dragon Age: Origins is $9.99 today.

That's for the basic version; the Ultimate Edition, which includes all the DLC and the Awakening expansion, is $24.99.

The only DLC I consider a must-have is The Stone Prisoner, which is included in the basic version.  Return to Ostagar and Warden's Keep are also good, but not necessarily worth paying more than twice as much.

If you like fantasy role-playing games and don't already have Dragon Age (and aren't horribly averse to Steam) that's just amazing value for money.  I expect we'll see the two Mass Effect games going for $9.99 apiece later this week too.

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Monday, May 02


Mass Effect 2: The Good

  • Unlike the first Mass Effect, where just a few locations stood out from all the concrete bunkers and steel prefabs (most notably Eden Prime) Mass Effect 2 consistently provided interesting and distinctive settings.  Possibly the best of all were to be found in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, but the sequel lifted the bar considerably here.
  • Combat was fast-paced and fun without being frenetic.
  • Mordin Solus, the scientist salarian you recruit.  He fills in a lot of back-story, and not in a dull way.
  • While I did say that the loyalty missions got a bit repetitive after a while, what with eight of the eleven characters dogpiling me with their problems, they do mix things up a bit.  There's more than one way to succeed with Garrus' unfinished business.  And failure is an option with one of the others.
  • Lair of the Shadow Broker.  Just brilliant.  It's only short, but it contains mystery, romance, adventure, betrayal, a car chase, and a running battle on the outside of a spaceship in a thunderstorm.
  • Many of the decisions you made in the first game reflect strongly in the sequel.  If someone died, they're still dead.  If you pursued a romance, it's still in effect.
  • Not being able to interrupt a cut scene is annoying.  Being able to interrupt a cut scene by setting an enemy on fire in mid-megalomaniacal rant is awesome.
  • This:
    You might have an ending where Shepard’s entire team survives, or where the entire mission is a bloodbath and everyone (including Shepard) is killed, or anything in between.
    There's no single predestined ending; how the game ends depends on how you played it, up to and including the death of the main character, which leaves you unable to import your saved game into Mass Effect 3.  For my part, I lost two characters in the final battle; I think I know why, but this hinges on conversations and actions that took place much earlier in the game.
  • Speaking of which, the suicide mission itself, particularly being able to meaningfully deploy your entire team.  I'd like to see that taken even further in Mass Effect 3.
  • The apologetic security droids.
  • The game allowing you to call the shots when it really matters, even if this leaves the developers with an exponentially expanding cloud of possibilities to support.
  • A very atmospheric score and generally strong voice acting.
  • You don't actually have to use the Hammerhead.

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Mass Effect 2: The Bad

  • The pathing bug that bit me a couple of times in the original (I got stuck in a corner of a staircase on Feros and it took me a bit of wriggling to get free, and at one point on Eden Prime I went the wrong way and fell down a hill and out of the game) is still with us.  On at least three occasions I had to give up and load from an earlier save because I simply could not move.
  • The Hammerhead stinks.
  • There are too many characters for the content - twice as many as the original - which means that none of them stand out as much.
  • The bridge between the original and the sequel is a bit lazy.
  • While the new combat, inventory, and skill systems do work, the previous systems worked too, and let you develop your characters just how you wanted them.  While it wasn't necessary to follow the original slavishly, some of these changes were for the worse.
  • The game allows you to continue on after the climactic battle - but all the NPCs turn into zombies at this point unless you left some quests incomplete.  Can I fault the game for simply giving you the option?  Yes.  It may not be fair, but yes.
  • There's no unique music for the ending credits like the first game had.
  • And that wrecked spaceship teetering on the edge of the cliff?  Great environment, criminally underused.
  • My fish kept dying.
  • Standard items only purchaseable in one store in the entire galaxy.
  • You will sit there and you will watch this cut scene.  No, you can't skip it, load, save, or even switch back to the desktop.  CLICKHERENOW  Ha ha!  Too late!
  • Just on the earlier too-many-characters point: If you run around the galaxy collecting people, at some point they start coming to you with their personal problems, and you have the opportunity to go on a mission with them and win their loyalty.  Only for me, they all picked the same moment, so that every time I got back to the bridge another one wanted to speak to me about something.  And with eleven of these errands to run, it all gets a bit repetitive.
  • There's no plausible love interest for a female Shepard, unless you romanced Liara in the first game and play through the Shadow Broker DLC.  Mind you, you definitely should.  Do that.  Both of that.

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I just finished Mass Effect 2.  No more new Bioware games until Christmas. sad

In short: While it doesn't do some things as well as the original, it does a number of other things better, and all in all measures up very well.  It takes a bit of adjusting, but if you loved Mass Effect you won't be disappointed.

On the DLC: There are a number of expansion modules out for the game.  Some come with it if you purchase it new (as opposed to renting it or buying it second-hand; there's a one-time download key included).  Others you have to buy; I don't think there's a "Game of the Year" bundle yet.

I'm not entirely sure what's in the included DLC, the Cerberus Network pack, but I think it includes Zaeed (one of the available team members) and the Firewalker mission.

Both of these suck.  If you bought the game new, avoid them; if you got it second hand, count yourself lucky.*

(Okay, I just checked.  It also includes a couple of weapons that I didn't really use, and the module I mentioned earlier that lets you hold a memorial service for the Mako.  That last is the only reason to get it, and much as I love the Mako it's not worth it.)

The second add-on is Kasumi - Stolen Memory.  I recommend this one; while the mission is relatively short, it's distinctive and fun, and Kasumi, who joins your team afterwards, is one of my favourite characters to have along on a mission.

My feelings about Overlord are mixed.  While the regular missions had some solid action and a couple of great scenes, they are interspersed with sections where you have to drive that godawful Hammerhead.  Personally, I don't think the rewards were worth the aggravation.

Lair of the Shadow Broker, on the other hand, is pure gold.  It's a lot of fun, expands the main story, and adds significantly to the core game.  It also has some of the most cinematic sequences in the entire game.  Highly recommended.

Arrival, the final add-on, isn't bad, but it doesn't have as much to offer as Stolen Memories or Shadow Broker.  While it's not horrible (i.e. doesn't involve the Hammerhead at any point) it doesn't greatly expand the game.  Still worth getting if you're a completist, or if you loved the game and want a little more.

So now I'm left waiting for six months or so until Mass Effect 3 lands.  Though I've still got the two new Fallout games to play.  And both Bioshocks.  And Civ V.  And I never did finish KoToR.  Or Jade Empire.  And I have a lot of work to do on Minx.  Guess I won't be bored.

* My Zaeed died late in the game.  I didn't mourn the SOB for even a minute.  I was more upset when my pet fish died.

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Sunday, May 01


Universe Sandbox

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