Sunday, May 29, 2011

Let's Watch: Toad's Point of View

Hey guys, Meriel is in the middle of a number of missions and therefore has not had a chance to report back yet.  I'm sure it won't be too long in coming though, so be looking for two updates from Meriel in the coming week. Why don't you enjoy the video below  while we are waiting to hear back from her?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's Talk About - Connie Willis' Doomsday Book

Sometimes I get rid of books and then hate myself later for doing so because the book is no longer around when I want to read it (like tonight). If you Medieval Era and Bubonic Plague history nuts out there want a fantastic read I suggest you give Connie Willis' Doomsday Book a try. It is about a history student in 2048 who is transported to an English village in the 14th century via modern technology. You see, in the future historians simply travel to the past in order to study it. Some eras like the Middle Ages, however, are too high risk. Despite active discouragement from her advisor, Kivrin convinces the history department to let her travel to 1320. It will be perfectly safe, she says, and they can transport her back to modern times well before the Black Plague hits. Needless to say, she arrives in 1348 the eve of the Black Plague.

A word to the wise, this is in no way a happy go lucky time-travel novel. It is, however, a spectacular read from a Hugo and Nebula award-winning author. More than anything Doomsday Book uses the Black Death to investigate how different people react in times of crisis. Due to the fact that unfolding events are told from the perspective of someone who knows what is to come, this novel is emotionally heavy. Since the reader also knows how history plays out, it is easy for them to connect with the book's protagonist as she desperately tries to come to terms with her new reality. After all it is one thing to study a catastrophic event from afar and a completely different thing to actually live through it. Willis' novel leaves the reader wondering how well they would have fared had they been in Kivrin's shoes. The golden rule of time-travel is that one must not interfere with events or attempt to change history lest they change the future too.  Doomsday Book makes the reader wonder if this golden rule still applies when you yourself do not know if you will come out alive. Does the fate of a future you know outweigh the realities of a past that you are currently experiencing? At some point in time all protagonists in time-travel stories are forced to ask this question. It just happens that stakes in Kivrin's situation are higher than most.

I stumbled onto this novel one day when looking for a new read and while it was in no way what I had expected Willis' book proved to be a very engaging, if very somber, read.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history, philosophy, death + dying (yes that is an academic field), and the overall human condition.  I've heard that Doomsday Book was in the works for anything from five to ten years.  However long it took, it was clearly a labor of love and is a quality read for those of you interested in more serious novels that have a sci-fi twist.

Image: Good Reads 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Let's Watch - Elder Geek's Witcher 2 Review And Impressions Of My Own

As I've mentioned before, my video card can not currently run The Witcher 2 properly. That does not mean though that I haven't been keeping tabs on the game post-release.  Most of the people I know, myself included,  found out about The Witcher 1 via word of mouth after it had already been on the market for a while.  TW2, however, has received far more press and build up in the United States than its predecessor.  As a result it is quite interesting to see how people receive such an unapologetically intense PC exclusive game that makes you work for everything you get.  Yes I'm aware that TW2 will likely receive a console port in the future, but CD Projekt RED constantly reminds the public that their focus is the PC market.  They feel that it is unacceptable to "streamline" or "dumb down" a PC release just so it will be easier to port over to consoles.  That combined with the fact that it, and TW1, is currently only available on PC makes it a PC exclusive in my eyes.

From reviews I've read over the past week or so, it seems like everyone agrees on a couple of things.  

1) The initial combat is very difficult, even on normal setting, and requires you to actually strategize.  You cannot go in swords a-swinging and expect to rule the day.  You will die.  A lot. 

2)  The game is short by current RPG standards.  People generally quote a time between twenty and thirty hours.  CDPRed made every minute count, however, by not including all the padding and Fed-Ex quests that contemporary titles often indulge in.  Your decisions in this game have a great deal of impact on the game's ending.  With sixteen ways it can finish, some of which require a Witcher 1 save game to access, replay value is high and you will want to play it multiple times.

3)  While my video card is too old to run the game smoothly, I was still able to install the game and at least get it to boot up.  From what I did manage to see in game, amidst my atrocious FPS, was pretty beautiful even for the lowest all around visual settings.  The camp I found myself in was humming with activity and natural animations.  It also looked and sounded like what I think a king's military camp should look and sound like.  Fantasy elements could not be denied, but there was a certain realism about the whole scene that made me embrace it as real.  The camp did not use fantastical architecture and impractical props as a way of pointing to itself and saying "Look at me!  I'm a war camp in a fantasy game!"  The game honestly tried to mimic an alternate reality and from what I saw it did so very successfully.  Most everything I have read has reinforced my impressions.
If you are still uncertain about whether this game is for you, Elder Geek has a spectacular video review that seems to hit on all the major points.

Image: Available as a wallpaper from with purchase of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Sunday, May 22, 2011

ME1 - One's Own Crew, Part 2

A new crew member changes dynamics aboard the Normandy as Meriel checks in with her team.  She  makes an assessment of Liara's character and wonders what on Earth is up with Kaidan.

There are spoilers after the break. Continue reading at your own risk.

Happy World Goth Day

Happy World Goth Day folks!  

Things have been kind of crazy here this past week and my posting schedule has reflected that.  This week should return to the usual schedule though.  In an effort to get back on schedule I'll be posting another journal entry for Shepard later tonight.

Image: Megan Balanck 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

ME1 - A Scientist Recovered

With the Normandy now under her command, Meriel and her companions go in search of the scientist Liara T'soni.  They hope that her research can shed more light on the current geth problem and help them better understand what Saren is after.

There are spoilers after the break.  Continue reading at your own risk.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I was going to update Meriel's journal tonight.  When I was catching up on television from this past week that I had missed though, the last thing I watched was the Castle season 3 finale.  If you have seen the finale you will understand why I'm not exactly in the right mood.  It was amazing, but just ... wow.  Let's just say it was very intense.

See you tomorrow folks.

If you haven't seen Castle before, what have you been waiting for?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ME1 - One's Own Crew, Part 1

Meriel has taken on a large number of companions but knows next to nothing about them.  With conflict looming on the horizon, that needs to change very quickly.

There are spoilers after the break.  Continue reading at your own risk.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Soundtrack - Witcher 2: The Assassins of Kings

Despite the fact that it can't be played yet due to my inferior graphics card, I picked up TW2 via GOG before it went on sale to the masses and downloaded the soundtrack as soon as it came available early this morning. Folks, this soundtrack is a winner.  TW1's music was pretty phenomenal and I listened to it for months before I bought a computer that would be able to handle the game.  This time around it looks like I'm in the same boat, but honestly I can't complain too much.  If you loved TW1's music then the sountrack for TW2 will bowl you over.  A number of the key musical themes have returned from the first game as has its overall feel.  This soundtrack, however, takes it up a notch with the addition of a few new instruments, more vocalizations (yes!), and a grander, more epic feel.  Unlike many game soundtracks, this one stands well enough on its own and could easily be enjoyed by both gamers familiar with TW2 and the casual listener as well.  Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz and Adam Skorupa are truly in top form once again.  This is one album that will be on serious rotation in the coming months.

Edited to Add:  Here are a couple of tracks that particularly caught my attention.

The first "video" is rather bombastic in nature and acts as the game's theme song. The second  video, "A Nearly Peaceful Place," is beautiful but much more subdued.  In it you can clearly hear how The Witcher 1's main theme has been woven in with that from The Witcher 2. Those who pre-ordered TW2 from GOG and received the bonus tracks will notice that Bonus Track 3 was a slightly different version of this second video. Just for comparison sake, the third video is TW1's "Dusk of a Northern Kingdom" which prominently features the first game's main theme.


Image: Available as a wallpaper from with purchase of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Let's Talk About - Beneath a Steel Sky

Since this has been a very busy weekend chez moi,  I haven't had a chance to update Meriel's Journal yet.  I have, however, been taking a bit of time here and there, as time has allowed, to play around with the old DOS game Beneath a Steel Sky.  BaSS was developed and published in 1994 by the British adventure game company Revolution Software with help from Watchmen's co-creator Dave Gibbons.  Revolution Software is perhaps most well known for their popular Broken Sword series. Infused with sarcastic humor, pop culture references, and an irreverent robotic side-kick; BaSS is a real treat.  Even if you, like me, do not typically enjoy point-and-click adventures you might want to give it a try.  I haven't finished yet, but except for a couple of puzzles that left me scratching my head, the game's flow is rather intuitive.  The graphics are quite good for their time, the dialogue is witty (often on the side of cheesy), the settings are industrial, and the overall story is rather dark in tone.  Also in its favor, the game is quite easy to put down and pick up when time is limited since you can save at any time and the game runs well even on slow netbooks.

Beneath a Steel Sky can be found for free at  The game comes already integrated with DOS-Box (no extra set-up needed on your part), and has been tooled so that it will work with XP, Vista, and Win 7 (32 & 64 bit).  All GOG games are 100% DRM-free and do not require the instillation of a dedicated client in order to play.  The game does, however, require that you create a GOG account, if you do not already have one, in order to download the .exe file  When you pick up the game, don't forget to download its free manual, wallpapers, avatars, and comic book.

Image: Source

Thursday, May 12, 2011

ME1 - One's Own Command

Note: As you may have noticed, this post was published at midnight on Thursday but Blogger's downtime screwed things up and the post decided un-post itself.  Here it is again.  I apologize for the inconvenience.

With another hearing called, will the Council see reason and believe Shepard's evidence?

There are spoilers after the break.  Continue reading at your own risk.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Now Available - The Witcher Enhanced Edition: Director's Cut

I wouldn't normally do this, but I have had a ton of people hitting my blog lately in search of Witcher news.  As a result, I'd like to remind everyone that The Witcher Enhanced Edition: Director's Cut is now available for purchase at GOG for $4.99.  It will revert to its standard price of $9.99 after May 14th.  I already have a hard copy of it that I purchased a couple of years ago, but I went ahead and purchased it again for the art book.  With so many paintings and pieces of conceptual art it is pretty spectacular and makes you wish that you had an actual book in your hand.

For those of you interested in the Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings why don't you check this new video with GOG's now infamous, and rather beloved, French Monk ... in the Witcher 2.

From Their Website -  No one expects the French Monk !

Huh. We just saw this in a playtest of The Witcher 2 from our sister company.
What do you think a repentant French monk is doing in the game?
I wonder if he has something for Geralt?

Check out the video of Geralt meeting the French Monk and tell us what you think is going on

Image: Wallpaper available with Witcher 1 purchase from GOG.

Monday, May 9, 2011

ME1 - Gathering Evidence

Commander Meriel Shepard's story continues as she wakes up in the SSV Normandy's medical facility after a less than successful mission on Eden Prime.

There are spoilers after the break.  Continue reading at your own risk.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

ME1 - Doomed From The Start

Tonight begins the story of the Normandy's Commander Meriel Shepard via Mass Effect on PC.  If you missed it, be sure to read her introduction which lays out the character's personal background and motivations.  Since writing that, a couple of other character guidelines have emerged regarding interactions with others.  They are as follows.

Conversations with Normandy Crew - Meriel treats them with respect, but is reserved in what she will say to them.  Any information she divulges to them is on a need-to-know basis only.  At all other times she requests that they simply follow orders.

Conversations with Team Members - For the moment Meriel is keeping herself at an emotional distance from her team members.  Since she is relatively new to everyone on the team, she doesn't yet know who she can trust.  Since they work closely in the field though, honesty is key.  She will tell them the most pertinent information about their missions and likewise will tell them if they have done well or if they have screwed up.

Conversations with Captain Anderson -  The Captain and Meriel appear to have a very close working relationship with a great deal of trust already existing between them.  Her conversation choices are respectful and defer to his rank when the two of them are in the company of others.  When speaking in private, however, Meriel is brutally honest and doesn't hold back if there is something on her mind.  Anderson appears to feel the same way since he is also very open with her.

Conversations with The Ambassador and The Council - Meriel adopts a polite tone when speaking with both of these parties.  She has no love for politics, but understands that things generally must remain civil if anything is to be decided.  You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  She may lose her cool if the other party is being particularly thick, but then she quickly regains her composure and doesn't let her emotions rule day.  That said, she sees political red tape as an impediment to actually getting things done, and recommends that the consultation of appropriate political parties be forgone if possible.  In some cases it is easier to ask for forgiveness then it is to ask for permission ... especially when the Council is biased against you from the start.

On the Subject of Spectres - She dislikes the autonomy they have since it makes them unpredictable.  She is not against the general concept, but Meriel mistrusts other individuals to make the right decisions when acting under their own volition.  In combat situations she sees their unpredictability as a liability.

There are spoilers after the break.  Continue reading at your own risk.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Let's Watch - The Literal Skyrim Trailer

I know I've posted a lot of videos lately you guys.  I sorry!  I have one more paper to finish tonight and then things will go back to normal I swear.

That said, Ferry shared this over at Video Games Blogger and I had to pass it along.  It's pretty brilliant.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just Kidding About That ...

Eeep!  I still have way too much to do before Monday night!  I'll see y'all sometime Wednesday instead.

In the meantime, let the sound of Jørn Lande's voice hold you over.