Monday, May 30, 2011

Gamehelp: D&D Daggerdale - Man at Arms achievement

Just posted a detailed list of weapons needed for this seemingly daunting task over at

Man at Arms Achievement in Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale  - Collect 1 of every weapon in the game.

Hop on over and have a read if you're struggling with this, and spot me a vote or comment if found helpful.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Role-Playing Grind: Dragon Age 2

This was first published over on on March 17, 2011

First let me start off by saying that this was written while playing the game, and both the positive and negative impressions had time to develop into love & hate relationships. Once something negative popped up, not once did it abide or grew on me, but was continuously reinforced.

I have a distinct feeling DA2 was made for reviewers; a feeling strengthened by the simplifications made all around, the corners cut, the re-use of so much content, the needless plethora of delivery-boy side-quests, and knowing Bioware is putting out two big-name games in a year if you discount the litle MMO game they are also working on. With ‘made for reviewers’ I mean the game has an immediate polish and it’s easy to be vowed by the trailers, the demo, and the solid opening. This I think is were the reviewers failed, but the players soon discovered. It’s when you scratch at the surface or invest serious time into it - what we core gamers and achievement hunters do - that the deep cracks show. I suspect the overall reviews paid a big part in how financially viable Dragon Age 2 was and heavily dependant on review scores.

I’m not sure I even thrust the reviews at all - they seem to have been playing a wildly different game than me, and with probably some 40-50 hours sunk into it including a vacation day off work, I have doubts a reviewer put that much time into the game and managed to have the review out the day it was released. What should really concern Bioware and EA I think, is not the 8’s given by reviewers, but what the players think of it. At the time of this writing, about 2-3 days after release, over 2000 registered members at Metacritic took the time out of gaming to share their thoughts and reactions, and to score DA2. Between the 360, PS3 and PC, the average player score is hovering around 4 out of 10.

Add in the fact that Bioware was on the issue of reviews the day after launch defending everything in the game in interviews to any gaming site that would listen, it is a rather unique situation and tells us the obvious; they know what DA2 is and hope to get away with it without a dent. The player rating still stands when I finish up and post this a week later, but the amount of players who chime in their opinions have doubled. Not even Bioware’s own employees voting for DA2 as a perfect 10/10 game seems to help. Funny stuff:

I’m not one of the detractors however and dive into DA2 with zero prejudice. My intention with these blog posts have always been to write something like a causerie highlighting the good and the bad, first as a die-hard RPG fan that has been around since the early D&D games on the C64, and second from the perspective of an incurable completionist and gamerscore addict. That won’t change, and addicts like us have a different perspective on the matter.

Let me just finish the lengthy intro by saying that I’m really beginning to fear a yearly Dragon Age and Mass Effect akin to EA’s sports games, and I don’t like it one bit.

The Good Stuff

Isabela. What a wonderful game persona. Very well written, animated, and just interesting all around. I freely admit I’m smitten by her charms, the voiceacting, her values and outlook on life, and really wanted to know more as the game progressed. A first in my 25 continuous years of gaming, and an accomplishment I feel deserves the first mention. A heartfelt thank you, and much respect to whoever wrote Isabela. Without her at my side from start to finish I seriously doubt I could keep motivation up to complete DA2. Bring on Isabela’s Story as DLC! I’ll buy it knowing full well it could be utterly broken.

The writing. Is seriously good all through the game. Not the overall story or plot specifically; that is probably the weakest and most mundane Bioware have managed to put out so far. No, the dialogue between characters, the rich background story that is so under-utilized, the personalities for all the characters, pc and non-pc, really shines. This is from where I got most of my entertainment fix, and I cannot help to think that with the below impressions Bioware should really consider switching to adventure games instead.

Do try different combinations of followers when you trek back and forth through Kirkwall on your fetch assignments. Their interaction is seriously good, funny, and really builds their personalities. As I always had Isabela with me obviously, her exchanges with Varric, or with Anders or Merril as innocent bystanders was ‘laugh out loud’ moments more often than not. Do yourself a favour; stop and listen. DA2 will be a better game for it.

The Bad Stuff

Load times. I do get a sense that DA2 is trying to be a speedier, more streamlined experience. Battle is quick and a powerhouse of button mashing, and you move about always running. Hell, even the rattling skeletons could compete in and win a 100 meter dash. Jumping in and out of houses or crossing a section of town is usually done in a few seconds, while every transition you are greeted by a 15-20 seconds loading screen. After a while it becomes so disruptive to play that you dread going in to new places only to find that you have been there several times before, or that they are mostly empty and you have another date with the loading screen. Installing the game have little to no effect on this.

Combat. I understand Bioware wanting to try and repeat Mass Effect 2 which players loved as a whole. What I don’t understand is why everything has to be so quick and void of the need for tactics, skills, equipment and character development - very important ingredients in any good RPGs in my book. It’s a button-mashing contest before you exit the tutorial, a style that carries on to the very end of the story. Or your controller.

Why, oh why, Bioware, didn’t you just consult with Snowblind Studios? They made Dragon Age 2 10 years ago with Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance and scored well enough with both reviewers and players alike.

Nowhere near Extreme Makeover and the life of a Garbageman. On the surface it looks like you have plenty of choice to put your own spin on things with a seemingly robust character editor, tons of weapons, armor; basically stuff we expect to play with in an RPG and it’s all good. Bit by bit you realize you’ve been had. None of your companions can wear any of all the armor you find, and a few of them even come with pre-defined weapons you cannot change. As for you own character, after a few levels you will only have use for your class’ armor due to requirements. What this means is that beside some different colored boots, and gloves, your appearance is extremely limited to what few different armors you can find for your class. I didn’t pay this too much mind at first, but on the second play-through I realized how similar my new character was to the old despite another hair color, different class, and somewhat different facial features. Once the crew was recruited and on the road again, I simply couldn’t differentiate the experience much from what I did previously.

A result of the limited use of what you find is that you basically sell maybe 90% of every item you pick up. Opening a locked chest or finding a somewhat hidden pile of rubble is as exciting as finding lint in your bellybutton. Bioware seems to be aware of this, and have conveniently named all items you pick up that cannot possibly be used for anything “Junk”. They even make a mockery of it on several occasions where our hero finds nigh but dirty underwear in the garbage, as well as a sidequest tasking you with collecting dirty trousers.

Any Junk you pick up is automatically moved to a separate list in your inventory that can be sold with a single click. For me, the result of simplifying and removing the whole ‘loot’ portion of an RPG is bordering on the absurd. Picking up shiny things and wonder at their possible use is a rather unique RPG aspect in my opinion, one that is utterly destroyed in Dragon Age 2.

The downright ugly and scary stuff

Recycling. I don’t mind some effective use of styles and interiors, but what Bioware does here is just embarrassing. You have an achievement for visiting as many as 10 caves in the vicinity of Kirkwall, and as much as I like spelunking in the dark, the charm of that is quickly crushed under the heel of a ‘copy/paste’ regime. First cave I visit, fine, something to see and explore. Second cave; also neat. Third cave gives me a sense of deja-vu stepping in, but is soon revealed to be the exact same cave I visited initially. And no, my lackluster sense of direction did not lead me back to the first cave. This was a whole other quest, filled with other inhabitants, and even a barrel and a chest was switched around. Minor disappointment aside, I keep pushing the green button to advance and shortly find myself merrily on my way to the next grand adventure, in a cave. If my blond little Rogue could swear she would probably have uttered “What the hell! Weren’t we just here guys?” Isabela would throw me some snide but funny remark. You might think my navigational skills or lack thereof was at fault again, but sadly no. The jolly band of adventurers stumbled into cave after identical cave until finally something else; a repeat of the second cave. Five out of the six first caves/dungeons I experienced were identical. Not the best first impression. Once this trend settled it was not just limited to caves, but basically all of Kirkwall’s internal and surrounding areas wherever a quest or encounter happened. There is only one mansion, backstreet, dwarven ruin, etc. and they are all reused indefinitely. Talk about environment-friendly recycling!

First day DLC. The Exiled Prince DLC was a special edition offer you paid for initially, but contrary to usual pre-order gifts and offers, it’s a full DLC with achievements. Microsoft have even included it in the base game if you check your games overview on the Box. 1000/1000 GS will not show a complete game whether you bought the DLC or not. The base game is counted as 1130 total GS, Exiled Prince included.

Releasing a game with buyable DLC already on the marketplace is just bad form. Releasing a game with buyable DLC on release, that is broken, were just Pinpoint Strikes to the crotch. None of the DLC achievements will unlock and if you bought and played it, prepare to do it all over again and recover your gametag or other hassles. Seriously Bioware? Scary. Over a week later nothing has been done.

The Achievements

Nothing even semi-challenging here, just frustrating. Most of them are story-related and non-missable, with a few thrown in to force replay. A few collectibles also make an appearance here, and these are the biggest detractors to good achievement design. For the collectibles you have to play through everything, meet everyone, and play with all your puppets. It’s possible to get away with one thorough play-trough, and then mop up the remaining couple achievements in a speed-run, but that requires a lot of planning and that you know exactly what to do and when.

The biggest hurdle is probably Supplier to which Foxfire49 made a tremendeusly useful guide with a ton of effort.

SupplierThe Supplier achievement in Dragon Age II worth 76 pointsFind every variety of crafting resources.

The Rival achievement I have serious trouble doing in any speedy fashion on a second play-through, as I also try for Supplier with a minimum of time spent. I will try and write up a solution for this once I crack it (without using one of many many glitches, this from the broken first-day DLC).

RivalThe Rival achievement in Dragon Age II worth 50 pointsEarn the rivalry of one of your party members.

UPDATE: Finally got around to finishing Rival, and made a detailed guide in the process. Check the Rival achievement.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Role-Playing Grind: Alpha Protocol

First published October 27, 2010, over at

RPG or Action, Good or Bad, the jury is still out. I did finally complete it though and here are some observations, but mostly banter.

Alpha Protocol

The first original work from Obsidian, the highly debated masters of IP continuation, with titles like Knights of the Old Republic 2 for the good ole Xbox, Neverwinter Nights 2, and current Fallout New Vegas everyone is buried in. Not a bad lineup, so why did it fail commercially? I don’t know. Personally I liked large parts of it:

The Good:
It’s not-a-fantasy-rpg. Alpha Protocol draws its obvious inspiration from popular ‘modern warfare’ and political thrillers alike. You’ll be thrown into gunfights with Strykers, popping heads with your assault rifle, skulking, and trespassing in places you shouldn’t be while breaking necks you shouldn’t have.

An aging unreal engine with various limitations delivers okay graphics. The settings are varied and believable. The dialogue system works once you get into it, and the whole thing does come off as at least an A-title.

Variation is probably the games strongest point here, and what really makes or breaks an RPG in my mind. Nowhere will you feel you made stupid choices on character customization, and nowhere will you feel the little RPG-features are just tacked on and pointless. Gaining a level gives you skill points and distributing those makes a semi-notable difference on what you can and cannot do.

Last but not least, hairy-face-fans will be thrilled to know that in character customization your limited selection of appearances will include the ‘lumberjack’ in the category facial hair, a rich jungle of hairy goodness almost putting the new Medal of Honor marketing to shame. Why was this not an essential key selling point?

The Bad:
Checkpoints. Combined with the inability to save anywhere, and combined with the dialogue system that warrant some further explanation, makes for unnecessary and unwanted ‘replay-value’. You see, there are a lot of people to met and chat up, and every time you do so you are force-fed a timed response system akin to button mashing sequences like those in Tomb Raider, or the dialogue system in Mass Effect, only with a timer, and consequences. You can choose to come off as the ‘Suave’, the ‘Professional’, the ‘Aggressive’ nut, the Veteran, or mix and match any of those all the time to come off as a total batshit-crazy psycho clown from hell. The last option shouldn’t really be listed under Bad as it provides some comic relief.

The dialogue system could equally be a good thing. For me however, it introduced just another level of uncertainty, something I had to figure out and master, and as achievements go (which for a completionist is alpha pro…omega), made everything infinitively more complex and time consuming to navigate.

The Ugly:
Sadly, the only really ugly thing about Alpha Protocol for my part, were the achievements, so let’s cut to it.

The Achievements:
Are interesting at first, then a chore, then madness. I could be lazy, but missing out on one achievement that virtually requires you to play through the game for a third or fourth time…is not that interesting anymore. Sounds insane right? We all know and slightly loathe the ‘play through on hard/insane/batshit-crazy psycho clown’ difficulty settings, and although Alpha Protocol have such an achievement, the ugly comes when working towards one or more multi-part achievement requiring several ‘choices’ over several missions, and doing so will make sure you cannot get the ‘opposing achievement’ which is the exact opposite of what you are doing.

Several interesting achievements alleviates this somewhat, like having your way with every female agent/contact in one game, which is not an easy task at all, wooing and catering to their every whim and preference. Similarly, and even more of a challenge, getting through the whole game without being seduced by the same female agents, gives a good idea of the many mutually exclusive achievements you have to tackle. Once the interesting parts wear off it’s just downright ugly.

On the upside, Alpha Protocol added another 1000 in the RPG genre, gave an okay experience, and put me on the list of top 100 RPG players. Now to fight for that position with 5 more RPG’s out before Christmas.

I also took the time to write up a solution for the most difficult achievement encountered; give it a vote if found useful.

The Ready For Anything achievement in Alpha Protocol worth 12 points. Acquire the vast majority of Intel available in the game.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Role-Playing Grind: MagnaCarta 2

First published at October 07, 2o10

The RPG grind continues. Picked up this new for about 15€ and shelled out for the DLC before starting play. 400msp for 240 extra GS and a huge in-game advantage up front. More on that below.

Not technically a JRPG, but the term fails on modern games anyhow. Believe it or not, but there are other countries besides Japan making RPGs with pointy-haired girly-men. Korea is the culprit in this case, so Asian would be more fitting. I now coin you ARPGs, or simply ARGs (Roleplaying is one word no?), and come to think of it, that's the perfect feeling one has when grinding out Trapezohedrons, Unobtanium or similar for that hateful last achievement in a 150 hour game that refuse to end.

So, this ARG have it's ups and aaarghs. I'll break it down in the good, the bad and the ugly:

The good:
- It's not 100+ hours! Even with the DLC and ekstra achievements, the total of 1240 GS is done in roughly 35-40 hours depending on much guidance you choose to use.
- There is practically no grind. None of the bosses or battles offer any type of challenge even when you fly through. If you do take the time to grind some ekstra gold or levels towards skillpoints and items, you'll be overpowered in no time.
- Graphic-wise it's on par with everything else.

The bad:
- It's so generic it hurts. From the story to every little twist, to the awkward dialogue of sighs and moans, the settings and characters, it's very hard to resist just skipping what can be skipped.
- I did just that I admit, after the first few minutes I skipped my first dialogue and was hooked on the timesaver. 40 hours of skipping every dialogue bit, and I still felt I didn't miss out anything storyrelated. That says something about filling up an RPG with hours and hours of spoken dialogue when the story is so predictable and generic you CAN skip it.
- The reason for skipping all that I'm afraid, is that the whole of MagnaCarta 2 is sadly so boring, that I don't think I could have completed it without taking some shortcuts, and using the few video sequences as bathroom breaks and coffee refills.
- Downloading the DLC before you start play will give every character an uberweapon-of-doom that is twice better than the last weapons you find without the DLC, ready for use in the tutorial and onwards. Meaning you'll one-hit-kill EVERYTHING from the tutorials and then on for 20 hours at least. The result is total apathy when it comes to combat, and when you reach the end and are forced to use the combat tricks and combos you learned several days ago, prepare to make irritated googles on tutorial questions.

The ugly:
- Nothing about Magnacarta 2 is really so ugly that it stands out. Then again, nothing ever shines either. The only thing could be that the lower middle screen is filled with your battle meter, of wich you need to keep a very close eye on unless you "overcharge" and go into a cooldown period. I know I can turn it off, but instead I suffered through - whenever a friend logged on, the notice placed itself neatly over the battlemeter to screw your timing and go into cooldown. Another great way to refill the coffee cup.

The Achievements:
- Nothing to it, but with the DLC you are looking at some serious collecting and tracking of stuff. Complete all missions, find all weapons for all characters, and some other easier collectables. Nothing bad, but unless you track everything throughout, you are likely to miss one thing and screw everything. The rest is either story related achievements, and some skill allocation ones. For an ARG this bland, I actually commend it for a good achievement setup. Any misteps here would simply rocket the whole experience into oblivion.

To sum up, easy on the ride, easy on the eyes, easy on the challenge, easy on the time, and easily boring.

Updated: A few spelling oddities and a mention of the now amusing battlemeter / friend logged on clash.

The Role-Playing Grind: Divinity II Ego Draconis

This was first published over at on Sept 27, 2010

Just finnished this up and with the new blog functionality, felt like sharing some thoughts for fellow RPG'ers.

Divinity II: Ego Draconis (EU Ver)

Simply put, wow! What a great game. Truly a "hidden" gem. Hidden in a sense that it wasn't easy to come by (bought used), recieved mixed and below average reviews. As much as I try to figure out the reason why that is, I cannot:

- For an RPG it's beautiful, with detailed sharp graphics and vibrant colours. Compared to say DA, it's simply stunning. Compared to Oblivion/F3, it's quite on par, but feels more 'handcrafted'. Every area in the world feels unique and although some resources (like bridges, castles, towers etc.) are used several times, nothing feels 'generated' but rather lovingly crafted.

- It's an open world sandbox with restrictions. You'll be traversing 3 large areas, where completing a step in the main story will open up and close areas. Nowhere will you feel a clammy hand holding you and pushing you along a linear path.

- It has 3 base classes (Priest, Warrior, Hunter) plus a general class, and the great positive is that you can do whatever you want here with mixing classkills whatever way you like. Skills use points, wich you get by levelling up or as rewards for completing tasks or finding 'secrets' - just the way I love it; where putting in the extra effort can really make a difference. In addition you have stat points for the usual attributes like strength, dexterity, vitality etc. that you get in a similar way, by level or tasks.

- Experience is limited. Meaning there is no grind. Your end level and the ease of the game is relative to how much time you invest, and how thorough you are, not how many hours you can kill the same thing over and over. Once killed a creature will not respawn. Couple this with the above class system and you have my ideal mix.

- Tons of weapons, armors, jewelry, and ways to modify and change your setup. Enchanting and charming equipment to suit your needs is satisfying - the next improvement is never far way, and more importantly the decisions you make matter - 'every point counts', unlike say, ME/F3/OB and similar where points invested have a severly limited effect.

- Story is cool, nothing groundbreaking, nothing too odd. The developer actually had the balls to do something different for the ending too. This will not be what you expect, and looking at some comments around the interwebs, many are ticked off that they didn't get their hollywood-ending. This has zero impact on the gameplay itself.

- Beyond the character you get your own base of operations, that can then be upgraded via quests, and provide you not only with cool new stuff, but a sense of accomplishment unlike such aspects in similar games.

- You will be able to polymorph into a dragon at will, take to the skies and soar all over the world you were previously earthbound in. All the while breathing fire and mayhem. 'Nuff said.

Convinced yet? I have to admit my taste in RPG's are somewhat non-commercial and may differ from your cookiecutter hold-your-hand American stuff. Other than that, I'm torn if this is the best game in the entire roleplaying genre or not.

This year, Divinity II will recieve an expansion, Flames of Vengeance. This was too big for Live, and the developer has instead opted to repackage the game and the expansion into a new game - The Dragonknight Saga - due out this year. A completely overhauled gameengine is also included, and I hope this will make Divinity II - TDKS a separate new instance on Live. Looking forward to playing through the whole thing and more again!

Noticed Divivinty II were missing some guides, probably due to the unfortunate crash. If noone is trying to recover or restore these, I'll put up some new ones.

Do check out
The Divinity achievement in Divinity II: Ego Draconis (EU Ver)

Gamehelp: Tales of Vesperia - Hardcore Gamer title

When doing the Hardcore Gamer title for Raven late in the game, you have to play the Tales of Draspi game 30 times. For the title to pop you don't actually have to play the game, but you do have to pay to play 30 times. Just a quick tip: pay, enter the title screen, exit out. Repeat 29 times for the title.