Barnes catches up with the Sony and Ubisoft press events at E3

I missed them both. Work got in the way of one, family time in the way of the other. I’ll get by.

But I have been catching up while continuing the B3 festivities, which right now includes drinking Illy coffee and watching Escape from New York. Not Escape from L.A. mind you. It would be like salt in an open wound, in more ways than one. Here’s some thoughts on ‘em.

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Dang it Ubisoft, I want to see more Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Hell, just put the guy up there tinkering with gas systems and other internal gun components for a while while Yves Guillemot says “may vee see zumtheeng else?” and I’ll be happy. Watching the guy in his Lunging Tiger stance required to play it with Kinect, not so much. Oh well, Far Cry 3 more than made up for it. I just picked up a $10 copy of Far Cry 2 last week and I’m really digging it, definitely looking forward to a retun to the jungle setting of he first game. It looks great, here’s hoping that they smooth off some of the rough edges and reptition of its predecessor.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations looks great, but what’d you expect? Another “well, duh” announcement. I don’t need for this to be advertised at me, you’ve got my sixty bucks- day one. But seriosuly, that preorder bonus bullshit has got to stop.

I’ve never cared a lick about Brothers in Arms, but Furious Four looks fun. For one thing, it’s being developed by Gearbox. For another, it looks like it gets right down to the noble business of killin’ Natzees. As in, it’s clearly the brainchild of someone who watched Inglourious Basterds and thought that there was a good video game idea in there. I like that it’s more of a pulpy, two-fisted and very over-the-top take on WWII. After all of he po-faced, very earnest and sincere games that have attempted to make us feel somber about the trials of our fighting men in that conflict, it’s nice to see something that just owns upt to being about puttin’ the boot (and Texas-shaped brand) to the goose-steppers. Could be fun. But it could also be one of those that turns out to be a total dud.

Rayman, I can’t imagine a game series I have less interest in.

Well, the question of whether or not they’d talk about the outage was right up front. Nice show of decorum without hyperbole or just blowing it off.

I have mixed feelings about Sony’s showing. Of course I’m bonkers for Uncharted 3, who wouldn’t be. It’s one of those where I don’t even bother to look at the screenshots, I know it’s something I want. I’ll just wait until it’s on my TV screen to see it, thanks. But most of Sony’s exclusives this year aren’t particularly exciting to me. I couldn’t get into the other Resistance games, so that one’s third installment is sort of a miss for me. Infamous was one of those squarely OK games, I’ve got a copy of the just-out sequel coming from Gamefly but I wonder if I’ll bother to even play through it. Sly Cooper is in the same “don’t care” bin as Rayman. Starhawk and the EVE Online shooter Dust 514 look OK, but seriously…when the best thing other than Uncharted 3 that you’ve got to show is the multiplatform Bioshock Infinite…well, that says it all, doesn’t it?

3D blah blah blah, still don’t care. I’m very excited about the ICO/Shadow of the Colossus reissue, but I couldn’t care less about the 3D. Sony needs to quit trying to stump for its gimmicks and let the games do the talking. The Move still exists? Huh. How about that.

The Vita (formerly the NGP) looks pretty good. I like that it’s at least priced competitively with the 3DS- which may lure Nintendo into an already-needed price drop. The games look outstanding, and all I needed to hear was “Bioshock” to get my on board for it. Street Fighter x Tekken looks fun, and Capcom has already proven that they can ace the portable fighter. I like Cole McGrath as a character in it more than I like Kratos in Mortal Kombat, but I sort of hate that character, so there you go. Ruin looks neat. Yeah, I think I’ll put a preorder in for one of the 3G models. I have AT&T already.

I dunno, I think Microsoft’s show was more “wow”. But even it wasn’t a jaw-dropper. The ball is now in Nintendo’s court. They’ve got a lot to prove this year, just like last year. And they aced it in 2010, but now we need some follow-up support on the 3DS and they’ve got to get the core gamers back on board for Project Cafe. Tomorrow should be pretty exciting.

B3 2011- Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls impressions

One of the hottest games being shown at B3 here at my house in Decatur, Georgia this year is Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. It’s the first Wizardry game released in the US since 2001. It’s old school to the max, even though it has that newfangled anime art instead of cool s#!t like red foil embossed dragons and Apple IIe graphics that made you squint to recognize a goblin. But hey, they kept the logo at least. Read on to see what I thought after my hands-on. I ate a lemon bar while playing the game. I’m not kidding. It’s just like E3. Wanna come over and play some Super Mario Bros.?

Kate didn’t make it.

She was a young priest, and even though I had her on the back row of the party, she bit it when the eye-patched samurai woman misjudged a trapped chest and it blew up. We dragged her dead body back to the temple and I made a donation to the church to hedge our bets. The resurrection attempt turned her to ashes, and then when I tried again I guess the ashes blew away or something because she was “lost forever”.

And so goes the saga of life and death in Wizardary: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, a new game in the long-running dungeon crawling franchise. Originally developed by Sir-Tech back in 1981, the games were challenging, unforgiving, and they had a certain mystique that games today just don’t have anymore. I don’t think there’s been a Western Wizardry game in ten years, but it’s always been, strangely, big in Japan. It’s turn-based gameplay and emphasis on developing individual characters is an obvious influence on the way JRPGs developed. It isn’t hard to see the series’ hardcore ethos and demanding gameplay in Demon’s Souls or King’s Field.

The new one, available for $15 thanks to Xseed and Acquire on PSN, is definitely a niche, super old-school title that will appeal only to a small number of players. Definitely try the demo to see if it’s your kind of thing. However, if you’ve read this far in to an article about a Wizardry game, it probably is your kind of thing. It’s not Diablo, it’s not Elder Scrolls, and it’s not Final Fantasy. You’ve got a party of six characters- which you can build out yourself or pick from preset ones. There’s a front row of three characters that typically you want to be your melee/close combat fighters. In the back row you want to stick your ranged attackers and spellcasters. Everything is turn-based. Oh, and this isn’t a game where you can guzzle mana potions and spam healing spells all day long. Early in the game, you’re lucky to get to cast two spells each trip into the dungeon. Resources are tight, and careless play will get you killed by a pack of kobolds. Or simply lost.

There is a menu-based hub town where you conduct business, get quests, rest, listen for rumours, and all that good stuff. You’d better buy torches and a map before you go down into the dungeon, because it’s dark and easy to get lost. There’s a guild where you can create and swap out party members, which is something worth doing often so that you can level up several different characters across different classes. Just in case. The game’s mapping system isn’t nearly as cool as the one in the Etrian Odyssey games, but at least you don’t have to break out graph paper.

Combat is slow, menu driven, and definitely old fashioned but it also calls for tough choices and strategy. This is not a high-action, cinematic game at all. There aren’t even any animations. I don’t like the anime artwork because I think it ruins the potentially cool, 1980s D&D atmosphere the game could have, but I guess it’s got to have something to bring the kids in the door. Boy, will they be disappointed.

This is definitely an old folks game, and it’s one we’d likely never see in the West without a download service such as PSN to make its localization a much smaller financial risk. Despite the anime crap and Japanese voiceovers (“Wizahdoowee”) I’d definitely recommend it for fans of the classic Wizardy games. Or anyone who might get interested if I said the phrase “party-based first-person non-random Roguelike with brutal difficulty”. There’s not really much of a story to speak of, it’s really more about completing simple quests, grinding, and getting to where you can afford the outrageously expensive equipment to keep your people from dying. I’m enjoying it, and I’m surprised at how tightly it clings to traditional Wizardry gameplay.

One final note- if you’re rolling up a new character and want to be a cheat, you can keep trying to get better bonuses. The random bonus it gives you to assign to stats ranges from 6 to 40. That’s a little ridiculous because a character with 40 extra stat points is obviously going to be stronger, but so it goes. You’re going to need all the help you can get anyway. Besides, you don’t want your newly created priest to wind up like poor Kate.

B3 2011- Barnes half-assedly watches the 2011 EA preview at E3

I have to admit I only half-watched EA’s preview event because I was trying to get some work done while it was on TV. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take off for the big B3 events going on here in Atlanta, where you don’t have to worry about getting lost in Compton on the way back to your hotel from the Staples Center. There were some cool highlights from what I could see. I’ll just hit the high points…which are totally subjective. My high points may not be your high points.

- Mass Effect 3 was shown. Everyone in the world will be playing it next March. What is there really to say? It looks effing great if you like the ME series.

- Battlefield 3 looks far, far more interesting to me than Modern Warfare 3. Footage shows more gameplay elements, and it looks less like a big, expensive theme park ride where you don’t really do anything other than push up on the left stick or point a mounted gun at a moving target. Battlelog, the game’s answer to the NFS Autolog, should be a great addition that adds a social networking angle to the game. It looks like this game is a no-brainer, day one purchase for me. Production values are through the roof, and it retains that distinctive Battlefield feel.

- Speaking of Need for Speed, The Run didn’t really impress me much. I don’t play car games to run around. Or deal with a story, at least not one beyond “I bought a 1969 Dodge Charger and painted it to match the one in ‘Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry’. It went fast. The end.”

- Overstrike is Insomniac’s new multiplatform IP and the trailer looked fantastic…if it were a Pixar action movie. There was no gameplay footage shown so it’s a hard call, but at least it looks cool. I like the slightly cartoony, colorful style, it’s very refreshing. Another class-based co-op thing, by the looks of it with a superspy-kind of theme. It looks like there will be plenty of trademark Insomniac zany weapons too. Definitely on my “ask me again when we see gameplay footage” pile.

- FIFA 12, holy crap it looks great. I took FIFA 11 off but played the bejeezus out of South Africa. It looks like there’s tons of advancements to the game, many of which I as a casual fan may not be able to fully appreciate. I have no idea what L’il Wayne has to do with. Rooney’s hair transplants are looking nice. They really should have had a featurette how his new locks will be modeled 1:1 in the game.

- Other sports games, blah blah blah, I’m sure Bill Abner can tell you more about them. Some guys in football uniforms got up there and huffed and puffed, wielding a trophy. It didn’t make any sense to me and I had the sound off. If it ain’t Tecmo Bowl, Mutant League Football or TV Sports Football, it’s trash as far as I’m concerned.

- Kingdoms of Amalur looks surprisingly good for a game with such an awful name and the involvement of Todd McFarlane and nerd potboiler author R.A. Salvatore. I’m about ready for a new Western RPG, The Witcher 2 notwithstanding. Curt Schilling definitely knows games- he’s a hardcore tabletop wargamer. As in, ASL hardcore. As in, he publishes ASL.

- SSX, I stopped caring about it around the time they stopped making Surge.

- Star Wars, maybe if it were any time before May 21, 1999 I’d be excited about it. And if I liked MMORPGs. Which I don’t.

- Sims blah blah blah, played the first one a decade ago, made everyone miserable, went back to playing No One Lives Forever.

So a huge disappointment because there was no surprise Mirror’s Edge 2 reveal, but otherwise some good-looking stuff. The Insomniac title was a wild card, but once again- all stuff we’ve seen and known about ahead of time. Oh, Internet, you’d ruin Christmas if you could.

B3 2011- Microsoft's Global Press Briefing @ E3- The Barnes View

We are having an awesome time here at B3 in Atlanta, 2000 miles away from E3 and getting potentially caught in The Big One should it happen to strike California at any monent. I sure am glad I’m not there, I like being not trapped under rubble, giant Fear 3 banners, and people with terrible hygiene. But I did watch Microsoft’s Press Briefing from the safety of my living room and scribbled out some random thoughts about it. In short- it’s all about Kinect this year. Read more, if you dare. Or if you’re not already sick of hearing about E3.

The 2011 Microsoft Press Briefing kicked off with a playthrough of the entire Modern Warfare 3 single player campaign- all fifteen minutes of it. It looked beautiful. But it also looked like more like a heavily scripted theme park ride directred by Michael Bay than a video game. Ditto for Tomb Raider, despite the promise of “open environments” to be revealed later. It looked amazing and I want to get on board with a Lara Croft origin story, but when the gameplay shown is almost non-interactive other than QTEs, I get suspicious. One of my all-time favorite video game feelings was in the first Tomb Raider when you would walk into a big area filled with ruins and realize that you can explore the whole thing. I don’t know if I like a restrictive, linear Tomb Raider. I guess it all has something to do with the Bermuda Triangle.

These and the other big core titles weren’t exactly surprises. We’ve all played at least some of Gears of War 3 already (but not with Ice-T and Cliffy B.), the Halo HD remake has been in the aether for awhile, and Forza 4 was shown in a preliminary state last year. Forza 4 comes out on my birthday and I do really like cars. I’m just sayin’. No surprises here, but all are typical, solid-looking games that will certainly sell bazillions of copies. I’ll skip on the Halo remake though, I’ll gladly never slog through that incredibly boring campaign again.

It was pretty surprising to hear that Ice-T will be reuniting Body Count for Gears of War 3, sans dead original guitarist Ernie Hudson. I saw them at the very peak of the “Cop Killer” controversy opening for Sepultura and Ministry- filling in for Helmet, who had crashed their bus on the way to the venue. It was awesome. He said “they told me they was gonna arrest me if I do this song, but I’mma do it anyway” and they of course, played “Cop Killer”. He did not get arrested. I think that Charleton Heston’s reading of the lyrics to that song is one of the greatest moments of Western Civilization.

Kinect was definitely the focus of Microsoft’s showing. And truth be told, this was the briefing that Microsoft should have had last year when Kinect made its big debut with a bunch of junky post-Wii “family activity” games. They came out swinging for the hardcore fences by demonstrating almost ALL of their games with Kinect integration. And that’s the key right there- integration rather than games to encourage your aging mother to shake her “bootay”. And who would have thunk it- Minecraft for Kinect?! I bet Mojang can afford a Lamborghini Countach at this point. And that, my friends, is a barometer of wealth.

I was actually quite impressed at some of the Kinect features shown. The voice responses in Mass Effect 3 seem cool and immersive, although I wish I had a nickel for every time some gamer out there tries the command “Liara, take off your top”. I love the idea of possibly verbally arguing scientific ethics with Mordin Solus. I balked when I saw the “Better than Kinect” tagged on ME3, but…you know, it may just be. One thing that was kind of weird was saying the on-screen prompt and then Shepard said something else. They really write the dialogue to match up so that what you say leads into Shepard’s response.

I was also impressed with the functionality shown by Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier despite the weird, cat-like squatting the demonstrator had to do with some very non-intuitive gestures triggering controls. Was it me or was he doing jazz hands to shoot. The gun customization looks absolutely nuts, like a Gran Turismo for firearms- you can customize parts in a fully manipulative exploded view. You can call for an optimized weapon for QCB or long range. The actual gameplay was just a firing range, but if they bring forward the more tactical approach of past Ghost Recon games, it could be pretty darn good. No wonder this game has been pushed back so much- it looks like they may actually be trying to do some new things with it. After the nightmare of Ghost Recon Wii, I had kind of written this series off…but what they showed was interesting. But it also wasn’t campaign gameplay, so there’s that.

Kinect looked much less impressive in the games where it’s the central control input. Crytek’s Ryse didn’t look that impressive to me at all, although I’m sure our very own Bill Abner will be putting on his Caesar costume from Party City and jumping around his living room. Fable: The Journey I couldn’t care less about. Come on Molyneux, couldn’t you have made some more strident claims while you were up there? The world was watching, tell us how we’ll never possibly understand the depth of the gesture-based farting mechanic or something!

Disneyland Adventures, Star Wars, and Double Fine’s Once Upon a Monster (the Sesame Street Game) looked like fun stuff for kids, but I’m still not feeling the “you are the controller” business. But the Sesame Street game looks really, really cute. If my boy was just a little older, I’d get it for him. Kinect Sports Season 2, who cares. The Wii Sports ship sailed out a long, long time ago. The guy playing quarterback and hollering should be ashamed of himself. Dance Central 2? I’ll just go to a club, thanks. One that plays music that I like.

Kinect Funlabs is a great idea, and the demonstrations were shockingly cool in terms of creating content and its scanning technology. It’s one thing when the device recognizes and recreates your face, it’s another when it does your clothes too. Crazy stuff. The cool thing about Funlabs is that it really shows what can be done with it on an experimental level. They pulled a Saturn on it- it’s available right now.

Bing, YouTube, live TV. Snore. I guess I’m old fashioned. If I want to see a video of a cute puppy howling along to “Boyz n the Hood”, I’ll do it on my phone. I don’t watch TV, and I still use Yahoo. It is smart business though, making the console more central to home entertainment. 40% of Xbox Live traffic isn’t even gaming, and that’s quite significant.

They closed it all out with Halo 4, which again wasn’t exactly a surprise. Just an announcement teaser, really. Another big fat Barnes “so what” on that one. Yeah, of course I’ll play it just like everybody else, Holiday 2012. In all, it was a fairly decent presentation without many embarrassments or disappointments. I was really surprised at how decent Kinect appears after being out for months without anything interesting to do with it. It still remains to be seen if all these promises pan out and if it turns into a significant gameplay feature rather than another novelty, but I think if they stick to this concept of Kinect as an optional enhancement for core games then they could be onto something.

Holy shit, Skyrim footage. I need to go get a drool rag, I’m slobberin’.

The Witcher 2 – Spoiled

No High Scores

This is something I intended to do for Dragon Age 2 and never got around to, so I’m giving it a go with Witcher 2: A dedicated post in which I talk detailed spoilers for a particular game. I left all spoiler content after the break, so there’s no chance of you wandering in unaware. In future iterations I’ll probably just look at particular key points from a game, but I think the nature of The Witcher 2 demands something a bit different.

As anyone familiar with the game already knows, it’s highly variable, so the plan here is just to talk about what I got out of my experience from beginning to end, relate what little I know of alternate paths, and let you all talk about how what you saw was different from what I experienced. This is gonna be loooong, but hopefully, for at least a few of you it should be fun… knock on wood. That said, if you’ve finished the game once and another playthrough is in your future and you don’t want to know about the paths not taken, this is not safe ground either.

So, with all that established, let’s spoil some shit…

Disclaimer: Keep in mind, as we dig in here, I’m going off of memory with a lot of this, so I may fudge some details. I welcome corrections if I get anything flat out wrong.

I let Aryan LaVallette live, although since I’ve done the prologue three times now, I’ve got a decent grasp of how it can change. With Aryan alive, I later encountered him in the dungeons in which Geralt is imprisoned for Foltest’s assassination. He helps Geralt reach a secret exit; in the midst of doing so, he puts the torch to the place. In my other two attempts I dueled and killed Aryan. This leads to an encounter with his mother (imprisoned in his place, evidently) and the Niilfgardien ambassador. I’ve seen that encounter play out two ways. One, I ran into her being escorted through the halls of the dungeon. In my current run-through I found a shortcut to the torture room where I instead found her being tortured (topless this time; classy). I don’t recall exactly how I got out in the former, but in the latter the ambassador comes in and strikes a deal with her that includes distracting the guards so I can sneak out. If you can get out without a bunch of killing, fires, etc. Roche is pleased and you get a serene send off from the port, but it doesn’t appear the castle’s condition makes any impact on the rest of the game.

Chapter 1
There are a few smaller choices in this chapter, but the big one is obviously the decision to side with Roche and his Blue Stripes in their takedown of Flotsam’s corrupt Commandant Loredo, or to go with Iorveth to free some Scoaiatel located on a prison ship. What you choose here has enormous ramifications for chapter 2. If you go with Roche you become part of a multi-pronged assault on Laredo that includes sending Roche’s aid, Ves, in as a whore. You eventually encounter her being tortured and threatened with lines like, “I’m going to cut your tits off” (again with women being tortured). In the back room you find a “young” elf about to give birth. Earlier in the chapter there’s a guy who laments that his honey has gone off missing and nobody knows what happened to her. This is the girl. She gives birth and kills herself and you take the baby to the father (that event is just a quick cut scene). Not sure if you can fail to save the baby or not.

In getting to all this you’ve got a visually epic battle with an enormous squid-like creature called a Kayran. This is a battle that can be easier if you take the time to learn how to craft a Mongoose potion by seeking out an ingredient known as Ostmurk. It makes taking the poison sting of the Kayran considerably less perilous, which is good because doing the stop, drop, and roll bit to avoid its tentacle slaps over and over again does get old.

The best part, for my money, is the scene with Triss at some elven ruins that, for a center piece, features a sculpture of two lovers. The sex scene that ensues is gratuitous at points, but the build-up to it with the rose is great, as is the final bit when the camera pulls away and you see a band of people traversing the ruins, one of them talking about how legend has it if you listen to the wind you can still hear the voices of the statuesque lovers. The dwarf in the group scoffs as they leave, but then pauses to listen and hears Geralt and Triss. The expression on his face is priceless. Soon after this Triss is kidnapped and not seen again until Chapter 3.

No High Scores

Chapter 2
This is where it gets interesting in terms of narrative pathing. There are basically two factions here, one that finds you starting out in the camp of King Henselt and the other in a city controlled by a warrior/commoner named Saskia. I have only the vaguest notion of how the Saskia plotline plays out, but I do know it ends with the revelation that she’s the dragon you see in the prologue. This is something that, as far as I can tell, never comes out if you play out the Roche path, which is either a dropped ball or a design choice I’d be fascinated to hear the reasoning for.

On the Henselt path you have to begrudgingly agree to lift a curse that the king caused when he had his sorceress burned for raining down hell fire on both friendly and enemy troops in a battle he was losing.  You do this by recreating her execution (along with a bunch of stuff). I’m guessing if you go down the Iorveth path you never have to do any of this. Then, however, you have to take care of the ghost battlefield as well, which I think is something common to both paths. This path also sees you interacting a ton with the warlock and Henselt advisor known as Dethmold as well as the sorceress Sile whom aided you in defeating the Kayran in chapter 1. It’s here that you learn of the plot among some of Henselt’s troops to see him overthrown, that Sile is directly connected to Letho (King Foltest’s killer), and that you have direct ties to Letho as well. You and Roche also, of course, end up betraying Henselt after freeing him of the curse and he decides fair is fair by murdering Foltest’s special forces unit and raping Ves. (Again, find me a woman in this game who isn’t either conniving or denigrated like this. I don’t mind that the story has these things happen, but you need some sense of balance.)

Geralt and Roche end up chasing Henselt into the city as he attacks Saskia’s forces, which leads you to choosing to let Henselt live or let Roche exact vengeance upon him. I chose the latter, although I was never quite clear on the consequences for having done so. All I know for sure is that if you don’t kill him, he shows up in Chapter 3 to play a part in its deliberations. If he’s dead he’s notably absent. As for the battle at the end of Chapter 2, it’s never made clear quite what became of Saskia or Iorveth, although Iorveth is at least mentioned in dialog in chapter 3. Saskia never came up again in my playthrough and I had assumed she died in the battle, which obviously wasn’t the case since it turns out she’s the dragon. She and Flemeth should hang out.  

No High Scores

Chapter 3
Where Chapter 2 is all about lifting curses (on the Roche path, at least), Chapter 3 returns politics to the center state. You’ll have to forgive me here as my memory of Chapter 3 is a bit fuzzy; not that I ever had a real grasp on everything going on anyway.

You learn about a secret coven of sorceresses known as The Lodge. Triss, of course, is a member, although apparently not a popular one with the group’s two primary power brokers: Sile and Phillipa. Who is Phillipa you ask? That’s a damn fine question because although I think I saw references to her in Chapter 2, there was never a direct encounter. My understanding is you interact with her much more on Iorveth’s path. Sounds like an even sorceress swap in Ch2 between her and Sile. At any rate, I think the Lodge was part of a group attempt of power brokers in the North to set up a sort of joint-rule among nobles, sorceresses, and sorcerers, but I may be remembering their motives wrong. Certainly it’s a powerplay on the part of the sorceresses. One thing that is certain is the chaos among the northern kingdoms has opened the door for the Niilfgardian Empire to make a move that could see the north overthrown.

Indeed, as Geralt recovers his lost memory and learns of his past relationship with the kingslayer, Letho (a sequence that unfolds in ch2), you start to find out just how many shifting loyalties these characters have. Letho is secretly working for the Niilfgardians on the promise that the empire will restore their order of witchers, but Sile also hired him to kill King Demevend (the first to be slain, prior to the game’s start) for her own purposes with the Lodge. Letho joining with the Scoiatel and moving on to kill King Foltest and attempt to assassinate Henselt was not part of her plan. Fascinating stuff, really, but as mentioned, hard to keep track of all this.

At any rate, you arrive with Roche at the ruins of an ancient elven city called Loc Muinee (?) where all these groups intend to set the future for the north. Your first real choice comes when you must decide whether to rescue Triss (held captive by the Niilfgardiens) or to rescue the daughter of King Foltest, Anais, evidently the rightful heir to the Temerian throne. Seems she’s been captured by Dethmold/King Henselt (if he’s alive?). This was a rather bizarre revelation in that Anais is actually the younger of two siblings, the older being her brother, Boussy. Evidently, between the Prologue and Chapter 3, Boussy is killed. I haven’t the foggiest as to what happened there; actually I don’t know how Dethmold got his paws on Anais either, or what his specific plan is. This is what I’m talking about when I say the game has issues with its disparate plot threads not entirely coming back together.

I was playing Geralt’s first priority as saving Triss, so despite Roche’s desire I help him rescue Anais, I went after my Special Lady Friend. This was a tough decision for me. How do you not ensure the safety of a little girl? (Especially when you have one of your own.) But on the other hand, Roche was going with or without me. He’s quite capable that guy and I figured it would be possible to save both. Turns out, I was right, but Roche certainly wasn’t happy about it.

So, I save Triss from Niilfgard, which meant killing a whole mess of their people including an ambassador who was always turning up around each of the featured kings trying to sow seeds. Triss is beaten up pretty bad (of course), and you have to decide if you’re pissed she withheld information about The Lodge from you. I let it go and we escaped only to find Roche fighting for his life with Anais at his back. You help him and Anais escape with the implication being that he’ll keep her hidden away until she’s old enough to lay claim to the throne.

You head off with Triss to the council of kings, sorceresses, etc. to confront Sile’s treachery. She admits to everything and runs when, of course, the dragon attacks. You follow Sile and find that in her attempt to escape she’s fallen into a trap that Letho has set. You get to choose whether or not to bail her out of it. (I saved her and let her leave. She really wasn’t evil. Just conniving. Also, I’m a softy.) This leads to the battle with the dragon in which you defeat it and are left with a decision of whether or not to kill her. I had no idea Saskia, whose name had dropped completely from the story by the time Chapter 3 started, was the dragon. I let her live just on account of the fact that in the Prologue, Geralt says something to the effect of, “Witchers don’t kill dragons.”

No High Scores


With that you’re off to confront Letho. This is where all the cards really come out with regards to who he’s working for and why and it’s brilliant. From the moment the Prologue is over you’re hunting Letho. He’s killed your king, left you to take the blame for it, and you want answers and revenge, figuring that blame for it all was purposely laid at your feet. It wasn’t. Letho has absolutely no ill will towards you at all. In fact, given that you once saved his life he’d actually prefer not to kill you. So for the big finish you basically have a conversation with Letho about life, the universe, and everything. You can, after that, choose to kill him, but at this point there didn’t seem to be much point in doing so. I let him walk, which lead to Triss and Geralt walking out of the city together. Fin.

Witcher 2, as I’ve said before, is a game with a giant sack of answers, but very little resolution. The north is still in chaos and what comes next for the world or any of the game’s big players is entirely uncertain.  

I badly need to play this game again and try and get a better understanding of the bigger picture, but I remain monumentally impressed at how many variables there are. So, here’s  your job. You know what I got from my play through. How did yours differ? What happens in Chapter 2 on the Iorveth path? What about Chapter 3? What role does Henselt play if allowed to live? What happens to Triss if you stick with Roche and rescue Anais? Does killing Sile or Saskia change anything?

I look forward to seeing your respective takes in the comments. (And bonus points to you if you actually read this whole thing. I know this was a metric ton of rambling.)

B3 2011- Pinball News- Little Wing's Pinball Tristan comes to IOS!

Halo 4? Oh come on, don't act like you were surprised. I was more suprised over the weekend that Pinball Tristan hit the App store at $1.99- and it turns out, it's the best pinball available on IOS to date. Yes, it's even better than the Charlie Sheen/Chuck Norris triple-pack Gameprom put out. Hopefully it's also a sign of things to come from Little Wing, a Japanese studio that's been doing "solid state pinball" tables for years.

Tristan was their first and simplest table. It's very old-fashioned, with a late 1960s-early 1970s layout with a bright, "toy"-like theme. Easily identifiable targets, no missions, no split playfield, no video modes, no "mod cons" so to speak. At first blush, you might be thinking "Hang on, Slayer Pinball has got to be better than this." But you'd be dead wrong, because Little Wing's physics have always been great, and their tables have a ruthlessly addictive quality that make their titles a perfect fit for portable devices. The scoring is deeper than you think and there's a couple of "secret" shot angles to discover. There's even a weird "Rock'n Play" mode that pretty much turns the game into a no-fail marble rolling game if you want to go ultra-casual. The only two negatives are that I wish it had some kind of feedback when you nudge the table- either a vibration or a screen shake- and there is a particularly egregious use of the dreaded Jokerman font. Bad taste!

I can't wait to see these guys bring Crystal Caliburn, Loony Labyrinth, and Angel's Egg to IOS- they're all more complex than Tristan, but they retain an appealing simplicity and clarity. They've also done some more modern-styled 3D tables more competitive with ZEN's offerings- the Disco-meets-Arabian Nights themed Jinni Zeala, a monster carnival one, and most recently a sequel to Loony Labyrinth. But I think their 2D work is the best fit for IOS.

Spider-Man: Edge of Time Trailer Madness

More E3 trailer madness with everyone’s favorite wall-crawler getting the trailer treatment this time. I’m looking forward to this one as I enjoyed Shattered Dimensions, flaws and all. If they improve upon that design then this one should be quite entertaining. How’s that for a critical summary? What can I say? I’m just killing time until I can go to the airport.

Prototype 2 E3 Trailer Makes No Earthly Sense

I tried liking Prototype, I really did, but I just couldn’t do it. As a result, I guess I shouldn’t expect to know what’s going on in this Prototype 2 trailer, but at the same time, shouldn’t the trailer do something for new players other than show them a bunch of unconnected scenes of extreme violence? I mean, I have no earthly idea what the hell this game is about other than slashing people and breaking Army vehicles. That virus bomb thingy looked pretty cool, assuming I understand the trailer correctly, which I probably don’t. Oh E3 marketing, you so crazy!

Calendar Man – Week of 6/6

No High Scores

Hey, it’s E3 week! Woo-hoo! The cynic in me would say that any games released during E3 week are done so as to not be reviewed when they first come out, allowing for a week of criticism free purchasing. The release of Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters on almost every gaming platform known to humanity would certainly add to this theory. Practically speaking, it’s probably just how the chips fell for most of these games, although I do wonder why Red Faction: Armageddon had it’s release pushed back to the 7th, but review copies were still sent out in time for the original release date of May 31 and the review embargo lifted on June 1st. Ah hell, what does it matter any way? Green Lantern will be waiting for me when I get home, regardless of how good it is, and I’ll have to play it like the good little reviewer I am.

New Releases
Oh look, all of those Green Lantern games I mentioned. By lantern’s light, there sure are a lot of them.

Cole Whatshisface, everyone’s favorite moody lightning slinger is back in inFAMOUS 2. I really wanted to like inFAMOUS and I’ll probably pick it up as the free PS3 Welcome Back game, if anything just to goof around. I haven’t gotten a good enough feel on this one to know if the problems I had with the first were fixed. In the end, I’ll probably just stick to renting. Sorry Cole!

I honestly have no idea what the Operation Flashpoint games are about, but they look like military shooters, so, um, yeah. Research!

The Red Faction: Armageddon reviews ended up being both disappointing and not terribly surprising at the same time. The demo played like a third person shooter made interesting by destructibility and the magnet gun and that’s pretty much what the game is. That was well and good for the demo, but I’m not sure it will hold up for 8 – 10 hours, especially if I’m spending 60 bucks for the privilege of playing. Hello GameFly. Time to work your magic again.

This isn’t a deal, but the DS Lite is now 99 bucks, an excellent price if you have a younger kid who is just getting into gaming and doesn’t need all of the fancy bells and whistles of the DSi or the 3DS. My son has my old DS Lite and it suits him just fine.

Toys R Us – Free $50 gift card with purchase of either Xbox 360 Slim Kinect bundle or PS3 320GB Move bundle. DS Lite on sale for $89.99. Save $20 on the following games: Dragon Age II, MLB 2K11, TW PGA 12, NFS Shift 2 Unleashed, Crysis 2. Save $10 on the following: Mortal Kombat, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, MX vs ATV Alive. Buy inFAMOUS 2, get inFAMOUS for ten bucks. Save $10 on the following DS games: Kung Fu Panda 2, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, Squinkies.

Target – Following DS games on sale for $17.99: Cooking Mama, LEGO Indiana Jones 2, Despicable Me. The following DS games are on sale for $24.99: LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, LEGO Star Wars III, LEGO Battles Ninjago. The following Wii games are on sale for $29.99: Just Dance 2, Zumba Fitness, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters.

Best Buy – Save $30 on any of the following games when purchased with inFAMOUS 2: Gran Turismo 5, Motorstorm Apocalypse, Killzone 3, SOCOM 4, MLB 11: The Show.

Steam – To celebrate the release of Red Faction: Armageddon, all of the Red Faction games are on sale, as are a bunch of other things, all on the < ahref = "" target = "new">specials page.

Impulse has Crysis 2 for $29.97 as well as some other good deals on their

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