Alfhedil’s Journal – Middas, 14th of Frostfall, 4E 201

The peace talks between the Stormcloaks and the Imperials.

When Lydia and I made it back to the Throat of the World, I spoke briefly with Paarthurnax before unrolling the Elder Scroll and getting a glimpse of the past. As I raised it to my eyes, it changed what was in front of me. A colorful aura displayed the ancient Nordic warriors discussing their battle strategies before Alduin returned to the highest peak in Skyrim. Hakon, Gormlaith, and Felldir gave it their all but it wasn’t enough. Facing death, Felldir resorted to using an Elder Scroll with unknown effects. It worked back then; unfortunately it sent Alduin forward in time. Watching this battle was an important step in defeating Alduin because I heard the ancient heroes use the Dragonrend shout, and I can duplicate it.

Before we had a chance to leave the Throat of the World, Alduin surprised us. He spoke and sauntered about before unleashing his fury on us. When I shouted Alduin was grounded and left open to our attacks. We wailed on him before he fled. Paathurnax was in awe of our strength but he warned us that Alduin had most likely returned to the sanctuary where Alduin feeds – Sovngarde. Somehow Alduin has found a way to enter into the realm of the Nordic afterlife.

Paarthurnax knew the whereabouts of his entrance and it’d require an aerial entrance. Paarthurnax would not be able to aid us though. Fielding ideas, he told us of the history of Dragon’s Reach. The fortress the Jarl of Whiterun calls home was originally intended to capture a dragon, hence the name. Paarthurnax told us that the ancient hero Tiber Septim captured one there and if he was able to do, so can I.

Lydia and I traveled to Whiterun and we spoke Balgruuf the Greater. He was weary of the idea and wouldn’t agree to while Whiterun was still under threat of attack from the Stormcloaks. He knew it was extremely unlikely, but he suggested I should broker a temporary peace treaty between the Imperials and the rebel Stormcloaks. The only way he thought it would work is if it was overseen by the Greybeards. After getting Arngeir to accept the idea, Lydia and I ventured far to the northeast to speak with Ulfric Stormcloak in Windhelm.

Ulfric was a strong-willed man, no wonder as he initiated this civil war, but when he knew that the Greybeards were wanting peace, at least until the dragons were dealt with, he accepted, so long as the Imperials accepted too. So, we headed all the way across Skyrim and into Solitude. Lydia and I convinced the Imperials to join the meeting and we headed back to High Hrothgar. The dialogue between all sides was intense. Each side wanted outrageous demands such as replacing the standing Jarls of opposition cities with those loyal to their respective sides. Neither side was happy with their results, but it was enough to have the halt their attacks, and allow me to trap a dragon in Dragon’s Reach.

Before leaving High Hrothgar, Delphine (her and Esbern also attended the talks) pulled me to one side and gave me an ultimatum. She wanted me to break all connections with the Greybeards and stay on my track of ridding Skyrim of dragons, including Paarthurnax. I told her to give it a rest. Paarthurnax has been of great help to me and sure, he’s made mistakes in the past, but I’m not going to murder him. That’s the way it’s going to be I guess.

In Between Posts, March 18, 2012

Spring break! That’s right, this week I have no school. I’m still working my normal schedule of around thirty hours in the produce department, but I’ll have so much more free time this week. I’m going to use it!

The biggest thing I have planned is a day trip with my girlfriend. We’re going to Arcadia, Oklahoma to visit POPS. It’s a restaurant on Route 66 known for two things: its massive selection of over 600 kinds of soda and the giant neon soda bottle that lets travelers know they’ve arrived. We’re also planning on visiting Oklahoma City and seeing a couple of museums. Coincidentally the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama will be speaking in nearby Cushing, Oklahoma so I would enjoy  trying to swing by there if we’re timely.

I’ll be productive with the rest of my spring break too. I’m going to finally get the chance to play lots and lots of Mass Effect 3 and be able to discuss the game in-depth with friends and coworkers. I’ll also have the opportunity to write more. Last, but not least, I’ll be able to partake in many outside activities. I believe rain is in my local forecast, but no matter what, I’m going to play some disc golf, tennis, and maybe even a little fishing.

Enjoy your week!

POPS

WZRD – WZRD

When I listened to the Drive soundtrack, I figured it was right up Kid Cudi's alley and I was right.

For those who don’t know, WZRD is a collaborative project between Kid Cudi and his producer friend Dot da Genius. They’ve worked together on a few songs in the past, most notably the song “Day ‘n’ Nite.” I believed WZRD was going to be a rock album due to its prerelease hype but it’s not. Sure a guitar is present and Kid Cudi sings instead of rapping, but WZRD is awfully similar to Kid Cudi’s previous albums.

I’ve been a big fan of Kid Cudi’s ever since I first heard “Day ‘n’ Nite.” The lyrics and sounds of the song coalesced into a quantifiable feeling that I have since termed nighttime music. On the albums Man on the Moon: The End of Day and Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, Kid Cudi and his menagerie of producers and collaborators put out concept albums full of lyrically introspective songs coupled with beats and sounds perfect for nighttime. WZRD continues this trend, albeit slightly differently.

The sort of sound environments that Kid Cudi has put forth before are ever present on WZRD. Every song has a dark vibe, not angry or aggressive, just mellow like a summer night. The biggest departure from his previous works is the occasional inclusion of a guitar riff. Now, Kid Cudi isn’t soloing until his fingers bleed, instead he’s layering what sound to be fairly simple guitar riffs on top of Dot da Genius’ production. It doesn’t provide for a drastic change over his past work, but it’s refreshing to see him try something new.

This isn’t an album full of rap, instead Kid Cudi sings. What I look for in singers isn’t necessarily what others do. I like Kid Cudi’s caramelized voice and how he hangs on words and draws them out. He doesn’t have any range, and honestly, pretty much every song he’s put out to date falls prey to that fact too. That’s not what I look for from Kid Cudi though. WZRD continues his trend of introspective nighttime music and it’s a genre he owns to himself.

The only song I’d recommend is “Teleport 2 Me Jamie” [featuring Desire]

 

Phantasy Star – Review

Looking at the box art, you wouldn't guess that the game is sci-fi.

Originally released for the Sega Master System in 1988, Phantasy Star was Sega’s attempt to duplicate the role-playing game format standardized by Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Unlike those games, Phantasy Star is set in the future and in space, although the execution of this setting is poor (treasure chests and fantasy outfits). Still, for those interested in a challenging quest that requires heavy player involvement with little narrative reward, Phantasy Star shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of the previously mentioned titans of the genre.

As Alis watches her brother die, she listens to his final request: kill the evil king Lassic and set things right in the Algol Solar System. Alis’ quest for revenge begins on the forest rich Palma, continues on the arid Motavia, and leads her to the icy Dezoris before finally heading back to Palma and defeating Lassic. Along the way she builds a party of like-minded individuals including the feline Myau, Odin, a warrior turned to stone by Medusa, and the wizard Noah. Getting these adventurers to join Alis’ party was no easy task however.

Gathering leads on these individuals required Alis to chat up everyone she met, and required me to keep a record of what they said. Heck, without the NPCs doling out such vital information, I’d have little reference for towns and dungeons, items, and even where I should be heading. Phantasy Star wasn’t a game I could passively enjoy; if I didn’t keep a record of acquired knowledge or chart out maps on paper, I’d never have beaten Phantasy Star without resorting to a FAQ, which I still did.

Trouble resides in that mansion...

Like every other console RPG from the era, I viewed towns and the overworld from a top-down perspective, granting me a large view of the game at a time. But, when Alis entered dungeons the perspective changed and I saw them from her eyes. Without a large view of dungeons, I had a hard time navigating them without getting lost. Some were small enough that I could get through them without much trouble, yet others were so large and filled with traps that it’d take hours if I persisted with trial and error.

An RPG like Phantasy Star wouldn’t be complete without battles and character progression and it has both! Like its contemporaries, Phantasy Star has a simplistic battle system. Battles occurred randomly as I explored the overworld and caves, and these were also viewed from the first-person perspective. I had few options and the two that really mattered were fight and magic. I had multiple types of magic; what I found most effective was the healing kind although there were helpful spells that exited my party from caves or returned them to towns; on top of powerful damage dealing magic. The order of events seemed fairly random, sometimes I’d attack an enemy first, while other times I’d fight the exact same enemy type and they’d attack first; characters had no speed stat.

I didn’t find the early portion of the game very enjoyable. When I started out, my party consisted solely of Alis and in her early state she could only fight a couple of battles before having to be healed. As I accumulated better equipment and experience enemies began fearing me. Especially once I increased my party size. Grinding for experience and mesetas (money) took up most of my time with the game, and that’s just how these older games are. It’s not a bad thing; in fact once my party could withstand a lot of punishment and equally deal it out I enjoyed returning to caves and building up a small fortune. But doing that over the course of twenty or so hours doesn’t appeal to everyone and in fact I ran out of steam at the end of the game.

Dragons were a handful early on, but my party was able to wipe the floor with them eventually.

I liked exploring the caves from the first-person perspective. It seems like a remarkable technical feat considering when Phantasy Star came out. But, keeping track of where I was, was very difficult, especially when caves began growing in size and they had trap floors dropping me a level. I also enjoyed having to personally piece together what my next step was through NPCs, although the lack of character or plot development wasn’t what enticed me to continue playing, it was strengthening my characters. I battled and battled and battled some more and empowered my party to great strengths and this was pleasurable. Battles were very simple, but I was able to speed through the menus and overpower enemies once my party members were of high levels and equipped with good gear. I did run out of steam in the end however. I tend to do that, probably because I’ve proven my strength in the game and the payoff I’ll get for completing an “ancient” RPG like Phantasy Star won’t be revelatory. Still, Phantasy Star was enjoyable, as long as I had the gumption to get involved.

In Between Posts, March 11, 2012

Well I picked up Mass Effect 3 last week, but unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of time to play it yet. I originally preordered it from GameStop, but did so too late and wasn’t able to reserve a copy of the collector’s edition. I was interested in what it came with and it wasn’t extraordinarily expensive so I went on a quest after missing out at GameStop. I went to Walmart next, same story, had to preorder it, but Target was my savior and had copies.

So for this week, I’m looking forward to getting to play it. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to posting articles this week. I should post my thoughts on Phantasy Star and my last post of Alfhedil’s Journal for a long time to come, but not the last! I might even finish an article over the new group/album WZRD. I’m brimming with new articles too!

Enjoy your week!

Alfhedil’s Journal – Morndas, 12th of Frostfall, 4E 201

Blackreach was unlike anything the duo has encountered before. It was a magical place, yet still lethal thanks to the vibrant Falmer population.

On our way to the College of Winterhold, Lydia and I came across a deceased horse near the entrance of a lighthouse. This piqued my interest and I decided we should check it out. Inside we found a murdered family and a lengthy tunnel filled with falmer and charrus. The tunnel was immense and it appeared that these creatures burrowed into the lighthouse and took over. Each family member left journals and it was devastating to read these and put the events in order, figuring out how and when each of them died.

Continuing our northeasterly trip we finally made it to the town of Winterhold. I’d wager that it’s the most northern settlement in Skyrim. It rests on the sea and its freezing; snow is always falling and there’s very low visibility. Outside of town lies the College of Winterhold, my destination to learn more about the Elder Scroll I’m looking for.

Soon after arriving, I was directed to an orc who runs The Arcanaeum, the college’s library. Urag gro-Shub was a smart fellow, and he let me sift through a couple of books devoted to understanding the Elder Scrolls. What I read was fascinating, implying that the power withheld in the scrolls was that of the Divines. Unfortunately they didn’t clue me into the location of the scroll I was seeking. Luckily, Urag knew someone who might. He told me to search the northern sea where a Septimus Signus was studying.

The trip to reach Septimus Signus will go down as one the worst things I’ve had to do. This fool is studying in what seems to be a glacier and to reach him I had to navigate slabs of ice floating on the sea. Not to mention the constant snowfall obscuring my vision and the occasional aggressive horker! Regardless, Lydia and I made it and Septimus had a lead, although he wanted us to help him too. He was studying an ancient Dwemer artifact that was buried in this glacier, and whatever lied inside the artifact Septimus believed to be more important than the Elder Srolls. And that’s saying something.

Septimus believed the Elder Scroll I needed was in a Dwemer ruin located near the lighthouse Lydia and I explored earlier. Alftand was full of ancient concoctions like creatures made of metal and gears. They came to life before our eyes, yet I couldn’t ascertain how they functioned. Like the lighthouse, we found journals of a crew of explorer’s that documented their downfall in this harsh metal ruin.

Connected to Alftand was a gigantic underground world where luminescent mushrooms grew as tall as buildings and all sorts of interesting creatures ran about. When I returned to Septimus he called this place Blackreach. This place was very large, connecting three ancient Dwemer ruins. It was also very dark, save for the glowing mushrooms and plants. Unfortunately falmer have overrun it. I found my way to an ancient Dwemer puzzle and after many minutes studying it, I figured it out, and received the Elder Scroll!

When I returned to Septimus he wanted me to extract the blood from each type of elf (creatures with names ending in mer) as he thought that would be a way to unlock the puzzle he was studying. Did I mention Septimus is off his rocker? When I left him a black cloud blocked my path and began communicating with me. It revealed itself as Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of knowledge and memory. He elaborated that it was really he who wanted to unlock the Dwemer contraption that Septimus was studying and that Hermaeus was controlling him. Believing he would soon have no use for Septimus he asked if I would become his mortal puppet. I declined.

With the Elder Scroll in my possession I need to return to the Throat of the World and read it. This is the spot where Alduin was originally defeated, or sent forward in time, and hopefully the Elder Scroll will give me a vision of this event.

In Between Posts, March 4, 2012

I thought I’d change the format of these weekly posts up. Instead of rambling on mentioning what games I played in the previous week, I think I’m going to discuss my highlights from the previous week in regards to anything and what I’m looking forward to in the next week.

So my highlight from the previous week was the advent of springtime weather and the ability to begin playing tennis, disc golf, and more outside activities regularly. My girlfriend and I don’t get to spend a ton of time together but we’re always together on Thursdays. Conveniently enough, in Oklahoma last Thursday the temperature nearly reached eighty degrees Fahrenheit and I took the opportunity to coax her into an hour of tennis.

One more brief highlight from last week before moving on. I’m a huge fan of Picross DS and Picross 3D and last week I finally took the plunge and downloaded the GameBoy game Mario’s Picross for my 3DS. I’ve been playing that when I have the chance.

Let’s see what am I looking forward to this week? I know, the release of Mass Effect 3! I’m excited to play Commander Shepherd’s finale and am really looking forward to seeing how it wraps up.