Monday, February 28, 2011

The Search for Fuel 3

Well my search for the perfect gaming tea continues.  Two weeks ago I mentioned that the Rum/Plum/Lycii Berry tea I'd ordered from Design a Tea was phenomenal and it would become a staple in my tea line up.  In an effort to make good on this claim I've ordered a much larger bag of it, because let's face it ... the first bag was gone within a mere number of days.  Yes, it is that good.  Seeing how much I enjoyed the custom rum flavored tea, I ordered another of the company's signature teas - Tropical Snowflake.  A black based tea with rum and coconut, the rum flavor is nice and subtle as is the coconut.  They mix together nicely without one overpowering the other. Overall I like it and will certainly enjoy the tea, but I'm not certain I will buy it again.  It is really well made/mixed but I think I personally prefer things that aren't quite so light and floaty tasting.  On another note, the company sent me an extra, unsolicited packet of lycii berries with my order.  I'm not sure if it was intended for the Tropical Snowflake tea (should I choose to add it) or if it was meant as an optional addition to the Rum/Plum/Lycii Berry tea.  Either way, it was a very pleasant surprise and I shall be adding it into the Rum/Plum/Lycii Berry tea.  Well folks, that's one more tea down and in a few weeks I suspect that there'll be another one to discuss.

Coming Next - Thanks for hanging in there last week with all the work I had to do.  I hope you enjoyed playing around with the HHGTTG game on the BBC's website.  I find that it is an amusing way to procrastinate when more important matters should be commanding my attention.

Perra returns Wednesday afternoon with the coronation of Bhelen.  From there we will see how it all goes but I suspect that Perra's further adventures outside of Orzammar will continue on Friday night. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Let's Play - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Do you remember playing the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text-based game when it first came out in '84 for the Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST and the IBM PC?  Did you miss it the first time around but really want to play it?  Fear not my friends for the BBC has got you covered.  Providing you with two different ways to play this classic, BBC Radio 4 has archived their web page containing the 20th Anniversary Edition of this cheeky game.  Both versions utilize the games' original text while providing the player with new contextual images that make it easier to visualize the story.  It's a very fun game that I have yet to beat.  Be prepared to die ... a lot. 
Your home collapses in a cloud of dust, and a stray flying brick hits you squarely on the back of the head. You try to think of some suitable last words, but what with the confusion of the moment and the spinning of your head, you are unable to compose anything pithy and expire in silence.
> go s
You keep out of this, you're dead. An ambulance arrives.
> go s
You keep out of this, you're dead and should be concentrating on developing a good firm rigor mortis. You are put in the ambulance, which drives away.
> stay
For a dead person you are talking too much. As the ambulance reaches the mortuary a fleet of Vogon Constructor ships unexpectedly arrives and demolishes the Earth to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.
We are about to give you your score. Put on your peril-sensitive sunglasses now. (Hit RETURN or ENTER when ready.) 

by Douglas Adams - 20th Anniversary Edition
Version One ~ Version Two


Update 12/4/2011 -  The BBC versions are once again working. Should you have any issues, however, I have provided and alternate link to a graphic free version of the game which is hosted elsewhere.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's Watch - Skyrim Trailer

Ok I know that everyone and their brother is posting this today, but I simply could not resist because it looks amazing!  It has all the things we have come to expect from Bethesda with the astonishingly beautiful scenery (if it was like that in real life I'd spend more time outside) and the beyond beautiful soundtrack. Seriously.  In heaven I believe the angels will be playing TES music.

If you want a special little surprise though, skip to time stamp  1:12.  No you are not hearing things, that really is the Morrowind theme song sounding even better than ever.  This is one soundtrack I will most certainly be purchasing the moment it hits the stores.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let's Visit - The Imperial Library

I know that all I seem to talk about thus far on L'Épée Magique is the Elder Scrolls series and Dragon Age: Origins.  I swear that I do play other games.  It just happens though that Morrowind is considered by me to be one of the best RPGs ever made.  As a result of my extreme bias, TESIII:MW is the first thing to pop into my head when the subject of gaming comes up, and as a result I still find myself looking for more things to read about it after all these years.  Thankfully if one chooses to read about Vvardenfell and its neighbors these days, one need not go far.  Enter the Imperial Library.  An amazing website that has been around for quite some time, the Imperial Library makes it possible for geeks like me to go back and read in-game books without starting up the actual game and hunting down the volumes.  Any Elder Scrolls devotee will rave, if you have enough time to let them, about the massive amount of text encapsulated in these books.  Now you can catch up on all your lore from Daggerfall to Oblivion with one click of your mouse.  Do you need to freshen up your knowledge of TES geographies & histories, peoples & societies, languages & arts, or religions & mythologies?  Maybe you've always wanted to learn the Daedric Alphabet? The Imperial Library has your back.

I have just ruined any chance you had of being productive for the rest of the day.  You're welcome.

 Image: Destructoid

Monday, February 21, 2011

DA:O - Perra's Tale This Week

Perra's story (starting with Bhelen's coronation) will return next week.  Unfortunately there are simply way too many demands on my time this week to play and blog her story.  I do have a couple of other fantasy related blurbs scheduled to post throughout the week though while I'm buried in my books.  Don't forget to tune in to check those out.  As for Perra, be looking for her to return at the very beginning of March.

Image: source 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

DA:O - Into the Void

“If Branka is anywhere, this will be it.  She will not be unprepared.”

This post contains spoilers.
Continue reading at your own risk.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

DA:O - Through the Ominous Door

Well that can't be good.
The last bit from Orzammar shall be divided into a few parts due to length issues - The Dead Trenches, The Anvil of the Void, and the Coronation.  This is part the first and it's very image heavy simply because I ended up with a number of awesome screen caps of Perra's team fighting and couldn't pick between them all.  Consider it my way of illustrating just how much fighting goes on.  To Bioware's credit they kept the enemies and surroundings in this section constantly changing. In doing so they forced me to actually evaluate the scene, and then strategize my way through the level.  I always do that on some level I suppose, but often you can run in hack 'n slash style and still come out on top.  Throw in a couple of high level baddies this time around though and you've got yourself a fightin' good time. 

While the beginning of  this post is largely images, the later part contains some major spoilers so continue reading at your own risk.  If you have not played DA:O before I would also warn you that the following post contains potentially disturbing content.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

DA:O - Fashioning Your DA2 Import

This afternoon I stumbled across a story that ran back in December 2010.  While long, it is a good guide for those who plan on importing an old save into Dragon Age 2, but didn't take the consequences of their character's actions into consideration last play through.  Since I generally take those kinds of things into consideration anyways it is not going to affect the way I play.  If, however, you are more of a hack 'n slash spur of the  moment type gamer, or someone who lets others guide what the "best" decisions are to make, then you might want to consider a replay of Dragon Age before DA2's launch.  Important issues this article does bring up concern mods, DLC, Awakening, and side quests.  If you regularly use mods that affect vanilla gameplay then this might corrupt your savegame and make the import of an old save difficult.  Likewise be aware that how you played the DLC, the quests you took from the Blackstone Irregulars/Mages' Collective, or how/if you played Awakening may all alter the world you face in DA2.

Read "Dragon Age 2 – Building Your Import" Here 

Image: Dragon Age Origins Blog 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Search for Fuel 2

Almost two weeks ago I posted about my most recent tea purchases - two black tea mixes of Amaretto/Strawberry and Hazelnut/Vanilla.  I have enjoyed both of them, but I don't think either of them were the solution to my search for gaming fuel.  Yesterday in the mail I received the next wave of teas.

Rum/Plum/Lycii Berry - This has an amazing flavor.  I asked Design a Tea to place emphasis on the rum and the result did not disappoint.  This is some good stuff and has won itself a permanent position in my resident tea collection and gaming fuel repertoire.

Chocolate/Cranberry - Design a Tea, at my request, put extra emphasis on the cranberry which resulted in a surprisingly dark flavored tea.  I don't see myself drinking this on a regular basis, but it certainly would make a nice substitute for coffee on days when I want that dark flavor but none of the excessive caffeine.  This also would go nicely with cream.  If I order this again I will probably ask for an even heavier emphasis on the cranberry as the chocolate flavor is slightly overwhelming when consumed sans milk.

Update (2/28) - I drank almost the entire bag of this Chocolate/Cranberry mix while buried in my books last week ad have since acquired a taste for it.  I still like the Rum/Plum/Lycii Berry more, but the Chocolate/Cranberry mix is pretty divine once you get used to it.  I'm thinking of making this a "exam/paper time tea" to help me get focused.  It is dark enough to evoke thoughts of coffee, but when made with a Rooibos base it is caffeine-free.  It's like psyching myself into believing I'm drinking a caffeine loaded drink. :)
Ice Wine - I haven't actually had a chance to try this yet, but this is one of the company's pre-designed teas.  I read a review for it on Tea Review Blog and they made it sound divine.  I will try it tonight as I continue fighting my way through the Dead Trenches.

Update -  I have since tried the Ice Wine tea and it has a really nice smooth flavor to it.  I would certainly consider buying this again. 

This weekend is a busy one folks, so be looking for the next entry in Perra's story sometime late Monday night at the latest.

Friday, February 11, 2011

DA:O - Amusing Oddities 3

Now that the weekend is here I shall be venturing into the Dead Trenches very soon. In the meantime I present you with another edition of Amusing Oddities. Every once in a while I run across things in the game that are slightly befuddling or make me laugh. Below are a few from Orzammar. 
 This post involves very mild spoilerage about the Circle Tower.

Shale I Choose You! - Sure this is neither amusing nor an oddity, but I thought that you might be interested in seeing what Perra's entire party looks like. Thus, I present you with the current party selection screen. For those of you who have played the game before, you will notice that Wynne is not present. Earlier in the game Perra was one hard-hearted Hannah. She provoked Wynne at the Circle Tower and was eventually forced to kill her. That's right, our hero killed an old lady. At this stage in the game I highly doubt that Perra would do such a thing, but at the time she was fresh off her skull-crushing days with the Carta. When you combine her early violent tendencies with the Templars' insistence that the Tower must be cleansed ... well one can see how Perra made the decision she did. Having completed Dragon Age twice before, I must admit that playing without Wynne feels a little odd. She is such a pleasant "old sage" character who really seems to take the roll of Camp Mother seriously. I also appreciate Wynne's hunger for knowledge. If Dragon Age took place in the Wheel of Time, and Wynne was an Aes Sedai, I'm 99.9% sure that Wynne would have been in the Brown Ajah if it weren't for the fact that Wynne is a healer (and thus of the Yellow Ajah). I love the Brown Ajah. Okay, now I'm sad. This screen grab is for you Wynne. RIP.

Bathrooms - For years I wandered from video game to video game blissfully unaware that they all contained one major flaw. Then, a number of years back while digging through Planet Elder Scrolls, I ran across Morrowind house mods by the venerable Princess Stomper. Perhaps one of the most skilled Elder Scrolls modders around, Princess possesses one famous pet peeve. She is bothered by the fact that video game homes do not have bathrooms. As a direct result of this, everything she mods features a bathroom or washroom of some sort. Years of playing her mods have stripped me of my ignorance, and her pet peeve has since become mine. Imagine then my glee when I realized that Orzammar homes have washrooms! I do not know if Bioware has been listening where Bethesda has not, but either way it is clear that civilization has finally reached the dwarven halls. It's rather funny when you think about it, because Oghrin is the only in-game companion to resist bathing and cleanliness. Granted, he's also an unrepentant drunk ... a dwarf so deep in his cups that even other dwarves shun him for his habits. Maybe his lack of hygiene, like his drinking, do not speak for the whole of his race.

Appreciated Trespassing - Well before Perra met with Bhelen for the first time, she and her gang roamed freely through the Royal Palace. The ability for strangers off the street to meander unsanctioned though royal property is peculiar enough. Consider then the case of a thieving expedition, which had tunneled through the palace's floor, that was thwarted by our heroes. Not only did the palace guard arrive late to the fight (read: all the thieves were already dead), but afterwards he let Perra and Friends continue their wanderings unchallenged. There was no "What are you doing here Brand" or "You don't belong here Brand." Nope, instead the guard thanked Perra for her help and let her party continue on it's merry way. That is some tight security Bhelen has going on there.

Vengeful Spirits - Remember my issues with the sarcophagi in the Elven Ruins? Well I for one was glad to see that Bioware did not repeat the same mistake in the Deep Roads. Instead, Perra & Friends ran into at least three waves of restless spirits guarding their crumbling thaigs. For historical accuracy, some of them even commanded stone golems in battle. The spirits came in multiple classes - Forgotten (former casteless), Indignant (former rogue bards), and Enraged (former 2H greatsword warriors). Perra has yet to meet the fourth class of Legion Spirits (former Legion of the Dead). You know I've always wondered how Perra can fight spirits of the dead with weapons. Why doesn't her ax sweep harmlessly through them? Aren't spirits non-corporeal by nature? Yet, like their flesh and blood comrades, these spirits bleed when struck. Unlike their living counterparts though, they disappear into thin air when defeated. You know what? I'm not going to think on it too hard. I simply appreciate the fact that the undead haunt these abandoned halls.

I openly admit that the Deep Roads have an excellent story arc, but sometimes this leg of the game feels like it goes on forever. It probably feels like that, because it does. That said, Bioware really did right by the dwarves. From bathrooms to avenging spirits, they left no ancestor blessed stone unturned.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

DA:O - Thank You Perra! But Our Paragon is in Another Thaig!

"Once you take in the darkness, you do not miss the light so much."- Ruck

This goes without saying, but here there be spoilers. 
Continue at your own risk. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let's Visit - Morrowind: A Fool's Tale

"Oh, and that ridiculous hat ... I immediately put it on my own head."
Back when Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was new to me I wish that I'd thought to keep a journal of my first character's exploits. Don't get me wrong, journaling is still a possibility since the game continues to be an adventure and deep role-playing experience. Even so, I fear that I've been exposed to Vvardenfell for too many years now to look at it with fresh eyes. Some people do not seem to have that problem though. Proof of this is the short-lived 2009 blog series A Fool in Morrowind. Sadly the author Alec Meer dropped his journaling after eleven entries. Thankfully, those eleven entries are so full of humor and nostalgia that they'll have you reinstalling the game on your PC in seconds flat. If you have half an hour or so I highly recommend you give Fool in Morrowind a look.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

DA:O - You Can Never Go Home Again

What happened, Duster? Did you miss getting spit on?

Orzammar is such a long quest (really a series of quests) that there is no way to encapsulate it all into one post. Considering Perra's troubled past inside Orzammar's gates, this portion of her tale is even more involved than it seems on the surface. Not only has she been charged with Grey Warden duties that entangled her in a dispute for the dwarven throne, but she also must deal with ghosts from her personal past. To make this visit all the more unpleasant, her stay outside of the city has transformed her into a surfacer. Being casteless, or a Brand, had been a trial. During that former life, however, she had at least been recognized as an Orzammar-ian ... even if all of society hated her guts. As a surfacer though, she is sky-kissed and is thus less than a dwarf. Who knew that there was a level below casteless? It is true that Perra's new status as a Grey Warden should compensate for this "sin," and superficially her new rank does garner respect from individuals of all castes. Superficially. Yet in her heart of hearts, she knows differently. With a reputation that precedes her, tattoos that "brand" her, a new life to balance, and her family to consider, one can only hope that Perra will not lose herself in midst of it all.  

This goes without saying, but the following post is chock-full of spoilerage.
Continue at your own risk.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DA:O - Amusing Oddities 2

Later this week I'll have an update from Orzammar (Not all of Orzammar because it is one very long main quest) but today I present a mid-week edition of Amusing Oddities. Every once in a while I run across things in the game that are slightly befuddling or make me laugh. Below are a few from the Brecilian Forest's Elven Ruins.

Piles of Filth -These things are not restricted to the Elven Ruins, since just about everywhere Perra goes she discovers "piles of filth" or piles of other things that hide loot-able objects. I understand that these things are likely supposed to be piles of hay, straw, and maybe burlap (the large brown spaces) but why are the piles so regular looking? For something that supposedly piled up over time or was simply dumped somewhere you would think that it would be more irregularly fashioned. Instead it looks like the pile was shaped with care and then lovingly flattened to form a cushion shaped object. Even more confusing in nature is the origin of said hay/straw/burlap? The only time that the location of these piles made sense was when Perra saw them in Castle Redcliffe's basement. That whole area had been strewn with hay, so random piles made sense. Here, however, in the middle of an ancient elven ruin, a couple piles of filth are the only instances where one sees hay.

Moreover, the mere name pile of filth indicates that it is a trash heap of sorts where one dumps refuse. First of all, I'm not entirely certain that the werewolves are quite that sophisticated, but then again they did have piles of sacks and numerous crates laying about. I could be wrong in that assumption. Second of all, if the pile of filth is indeed a trash dump of sorts then why is it only represented by that? Why doesn't it also show a couple objects peeking out of it? The whole situation is rather perplexing.

Sarcophagi - Let me be clear, I'm not confused by the presence of sarcophagi in Dragon Age. Every self-respecting sword and sorcery RPG should have them. What is perplexing, however, is the lack of ghosts or avenging spirits guarding them. If you consider the sheer abundance of animated dead in this game (shambling skeletons, fanged skeletons, devouring skeletons, revenants, arcane horrors, and numerous fade demons) then why on earth is there no form of avenging dead protecting the sarcophagi? The first time I went to loot a sarcophagus, I saved the game first because I expected to be accosted by some vengeful spirit bent on protecting the skeleton inside and its burial artifacts. (Stealing from the dead! I have no shame.) Do know what happened when Perra opened the burial box? Nothing. That's right, nothing. Apparently in the world of Dragon Age: Origins it is normal for ruins to be scattered with skeletons that animate themselves and attack you. The same world, however, could care less about bodies that were actually buried with care.

I will take a moment to say that there is one sarcophagus guarded by a very very angry spirit, but this particular spirit isn't activated by you disturbing her place of rest. Instead she is already awake, visible from a distance, and her mortal body appears to have been placed in a wooden casket instead of a stone box. The grave was clearly disturbed prior to your arrival as the casket's lid has been knocked off and one can see the skeleton inside.

The Werewolves' Lair - This is not so much perplexing as it is amusing. I accepted the premise of watery portals (pool of water = door to another non-watery place) a very long time ago thanks to C.S. Lewis. Did you ever read that Magician's Nephew? In Nephew, Digory Kirke, Polly Plummer and Uncle Andrew use a series of pools within a magical forest to transport themselves to various places in the yet-to-be-created Narnia. For some reason, that is what this part of Dragon Age reminds me of.