Bastion is one of those games that has been near the top of my backlog for years. From all accounts, it was a hit when it debuted on the Xbox 360 on July 20, 2011, and in the years since, it has gone on to appear on damn near every platform, like an indie version of Resident Evil 4 or Skyrim. I first acquired it through a Humble Bundle in May 2012 and have checked it out a few times since, but never for more than a half-hour or so. In fact, I’ve spent more time listening to the soundtrack in the intervening years than actually playing the game! Obviously I think the soundtrack is great, but hey, it turns out the game is pretty good, too! Continue reading Bastion [Switch] – Review→
Spurred on by my recent purchase of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, I’ve returned to the series after a yearlong hiatus. Picking up where I left off, I’ve now completed Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, the final installment on the PlayStation 3. Debuting in North America on November 1, 2011, Naughty Dog attempted to top its predecessor, which I deemed a “greatest hits of the action-adventure genre.” In many ways, this entry does. The set piece events and ancient mechanical puzzles were more frequent and extravagant than ever before. Nate and company explored a variety of new, visually impressive and incredibly detailed environments. Gameplay was enhanced by an increased emphasis on melee and improvements to stealth takedowns. And, per usual the acting and storytelling was top notch. All that said, the multitude of “one-shot” cliff-hanger moments and the dependable presence of a perfectly placed ledge was wearing thin and eroding the veneer of realism. Continue reading Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception [PlayStation 3] – Review→
Well it seems I’m feeling better. My fatigue left me towards the end of last week and I got back into the groove of things proper by working my tail off in the produce department, completing research and homework, and playing video games. I’m seeing The Amazing Spider-Man later tonight so I’ve got something to look forward to. Afterwards, I’ll be neck deep in homework relating to business ethics and the environment. I tell you what, nothing will make you think the phrase “business ethics is an oxymoron” like reading in-depth about business practices and how they relate to the environment. On the bright side, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Red Dead Redemption has eluded me the past couple of weeks thanks to my increased focus on school. Still, the few hours I play it here and there keep me wanting more and continue to enlighten me of the impressive talent housed at Rockstar Games. When talking about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda Game Studios was given massive praise and rightfully so. One comment that stuck out to me (and it could’ve originated internally) was that the worlds they created were done so well, they were essentially the main character. Indeed, Skyrim was an impressive area in it’s totality. Playing Red Dead Redemption, I can see a glimmer of the same awesomeness in the massive environment they’ve created, but truly, Rockstar Games’ skills lie in the narrative – specifically the characters. They’re multidimensional personas that are not simply out to kill someone. The journeys I go on with them, where I’m giving a heaping helping of dialogue, fills me in on their motivations, goals, and personalities to such a degree that it’s almost pathetic comparing other games to Red Dead Redemption. Needless to say, it’s engrossing.
Also, I must give enormous congratulations to my best friend and his wife for their newborn daughter. They’re two of my favorite people and I wish all three the best.
I had a difficult time tracking down a copy of the Mass Effect 3 collector’s edition because I didn’t preorder it. It’s readily available at online retailers, but it’s pretty pricey – seventy dollars used. Still, it’s a collector’s edition that packs a punch.
Like most other collector’s editions worth their salt, or money as it were, Mass Effect 3 comes in a flashy tin case. On either side are images of the stock male and female Shepherd. Fleshing out more of the game’s art is the miniature art book the collector’s edition comes with. I’m usually opposed to these miniature art books (especially in Skyrim’swake) but Mass Effect 3’s is okay thanks to its detailed descriptions. Then again, it’s actually excerpted from a larger (page count and size) art book that’s available for sale.
There’s also a short comic book starring the queen of Omega, Aria T’Loak. It’s interesting and accounts for her time between Mass Effect 2 and 3, but it seems more like an advertisement for the related graphic novel, sort of like the art book being a “taste” of the full-size art book. Also related to the art is a lithograph of the Normandy. It’s really just a postcard without the necessary information, but it’s a cool picture of Normandy nonetheless. Another inclusion is a code to download a digital version of the soundtrack. I’d really like to give it a listen, but I wasn’t able to redeem it because I accidently have more than one EA account. To redeem it, I need to know what my EA account is that I signed into Mass Effect 3 with, and I don’t know what it is.
There’s a ton of digital content included too; namely, the From Ashes downloadable mission, character, and so on. It’d be great if used copies had unredeemed codes for this, but they probably don’t so it’s not much of a bonus for most. The rest of the digital content isn’t worth the extra money, and like From Ashes, they’re probably not available in used copies. Still, there are plenty of weapons, extra outfits, and other digital gear.
At twenty dollars over the standard edition, I think the extra content is worth it. Especially considering that From Ashes alone costs ten dollars itself. Oh! The collector’s edition also comes with an N7 patch, so yeah… There’s no dearth of content in the collector’s edition. Plus, Mass Effect 3 is a pretty darned good game.
I’ve written three articles covering collector’s editions of video games so far and they’ve all been similar. Namely, they all came in metal DVD cases; of course they contained other bonuses too but nothing spectacular in my opinion. Well, when it came to releasing a collector’s edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda Softworks decided to do it big.
The collector’s edition of Skyrim is hard to miss in a store thanks to the massive box it comes in. Because it houses a foot tall statue of the dragon Alduin, it takes up a lot of space, which is also why it’s been marked down from its original retail price of $150 to $100, so stores can get rid of them. That’s still a lot of money and the game itself is FANTASTIC and definitely worth playing, but maybe you don’t need all the extras the collector’s edition comes with.
Alduin is really solid, like, made of rock hard plastic, and he has many protrusions, so he’s hard to grasp and handle. Luckily he comes with a stand resembling a word wall from the game, although the stand is hollow and feels cheap, the opposite of Alduin. Regardless, that’s not disappointing because it does its job of displaying Alduin well. If you’re unashamed in your love of dragons it’s a wonderful display piece, if you’ve got the space.
Another bonus included in the collector’s edition is a massive art book, definitely the biggest and best I’ve ever received with a game. It’s not miniature like the ones I’ve received with other games; no sir, it’s a full size book. It contains nearly two hundred pages of concept art, computer-generated art, and descriptions of almost anything you can think of that’s in the game. It’s a seriously nice art book.
Lastly, the collector’s edition features a documentary DVD distilling many facets of the game. It never delves very deep into any particular subject, but, like the art book, covers so many features of the game. I wished I watched it before playing through the game or at least before beating it, but listening to the developers discuss various features of making Skyrim was still interesting.
The collector’s edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sells for around $100 now and personally, I think the premium over the standard edition is worth it, if you’re into displaying massive statues of dragons. The statue of Alduin is badass, the art book is ridiculous compared to the ones that usually get bundled with collector’s edition of video games, and the documentary DVD provides some deeper insight into the game. Too bad the game doesn’t come in a nice SteelBook though.
After formulating a plan to capture a dragon, Lydia and I returned to Dragon’s Reach. Standing on the giant porch of Dragon’s Reach, I let loose a shout that Paarthurnax taught me which summoned a dragon. After a minute or two a dragon flew in from the east and he began attacking us. After bringing him to the ground with Draongrend, we lured him in into the cacophonous porch of Dragon’s Reach and dropped a massive piece of lumber onto him. We made a deal that he would fly me to Alduin’s entrance to Sovngarde if I released him afterwards.
Flying on the back of a dragon was incredible. Getting to see Skyrim from their perspective left me speechless as we glided in between the clouds. He flew me to the far east of Skyrim to an ancient ruin nestled in mountains. Before finding Alduin’s portal, I had to face down Draugr and dragons and a strong dragon priest.
I breached the portal and was whisked off the Nordic afterlife of Sovngarde. It was a fascinating place, filled with the towering mountains of Skyrim but with more trees and flowers and hot springs. But also, more mist. I met a Nord looking for the Hall of Valor, but he complained of this mist. I used Clear Skies and made myself a visible path, eventually making it to the Hall of Valor. It was a giant building separated from the rest of Sovngarde by a bridge constructed of the remains of a dragon, also a large brute named Tsun. He wouldn’t let me enter unless I could defeat him in a traditional battle. I did and he allowed me to pass. Inside the Hall of Valor I met Hakon, Gormlaith, and Felldir, the legendary heroes who battled Alduin in the past.
They were ready to face down Alduin again and get it right this time,especially since he was feeding on the lost souls inside Sovngarde. We left the Hall of Valor and began clearing the mist. Alduin kept bringing it back. We continued this trend a few times before Alduin sought us out. I hit him with Dragonrend and plummeted to the ground; the legendary heroes and I wailed on Alduin until he took to the sky again. He called down flaming rocks from the sky and we dodged them as best we could and healed when we couldn’t. I kept hitting Alduin with Dragonrend grounding him and we dealt damage to him as best we could. We prevailed and destroyed Alduin for good. We watched as he died and his body disintegrated before our very eyes. The heroes were pleased beyond belief and we celebrated before I was transported back to Skyrim.
I landed back on the Throat of the World where Paarthurnax knew I’d conquered Alduin. Dozens of dragons joined Paarthurnax on the peak and they flew around the mountain circling me. I’m completed my birthright. As the dragonborn I rid Skyrim of Alduin, this time for good. But there’s still much to do in Skyrim. On this quest of mine I’ve met many people who’ve needed help. My adventure is just beginning…
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.
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!
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.
While Esbern didn’t know much about how to rid Skyrim of the dragons, he knew a place where we could get some ideas. He told Delphine, Lydia, and I of Alduin’s Wall – an ancient relief that accounts the reign of the ancient dragon Alduin, the rise of the first dragonborn Tiber Septim, and the battle between these two legendary figures. Esbern believed Alduin’s Wall resided in an ancient Dwemer ruin called Karthspire located to the east of Whiterun, near Markarth, a city I have yet to visit.
The journey wasn’t too bad from Riverwood and it marked my first time battling the Forsworn, a clan of Bretons who dressed in animalistic attire and were relentless in attacking us. I’ll have to research them later. Another group I didn’t know a lot about (but learned about thanks to Esbern) was the Dwemer. Esbern told me they’re a lost race of elves that were quite advanced for their time. I wondered why Alduin’s Wall was inside a Dwemer ruin, but as it turned out, Karthspire was a Blade refuge way back in the day; much of their equipment was still around.
Alduin’s Wall was impressive. It was very large and the detail in the relief was unbelievable. As we all examined it, Esbern told us of the story of Alduin. He was a powerful dragon that terrorized the Nords. They were helpless until Tiber Septim appeared as the first dragonborn and was able to battle Alduin. Esbern believed the relief depicted Tiber Septim defeating Alduin with a shout. He knew nothing of this and Delphine advised me to ask the Greybeards as they might know. I didn’t realize it before but Delphine has hostility for the Greybeards, and apparently the Blades and the Greybeards might not get along.
Lydia and I returned to High Hrothgar and spoke with the Greybeards. Arngeir was reluctant to tell us anything about this shout and he did show resentment towards the Blades. He believed that Alduin’s return represented the end of the world and if it was time, so be it. However a thundering voice came from the heavens and Arngeir had a change of heart. He was worried that I would become a merciless dragon killer and wander from the way of the voice, but I’ll do what I must to protect the world.
Arngeir and the Greybeards had basically taught me all they could and sent me off to climb to the Throat of the World and speak with the leader of the Greybeards, the source of the thunderous voice. I was amazed at what I saw when I made the trek – a dragon! This dragon wasn’t hostile towards Lydia and I however. He began speaking with me and revealed himself to be Paarthurnax, the leader of the Greybeards. He was a well of information and I learned so much from him; dragons are eternal and his time on Nirn has made him the wisest living creature in the world. What was most interesting to me is what he had to say about Alduin.
When Tiber Septim and the Nords rose up to Alduin and defeated him, they didn’t kill him; Paarthurnax believes they instead sent him forward in time! He believes they did this with an Elder Scroll, although he didn’t know the location of one (I later spoke with Arngeir and he told me to visit the College of Winterhold for more information on that). Paarthurnax also told me of the shout I was searching for. Dragon Rend as it’s called has the ability to decimate a dragon by forcing them to comprehend mortality (dragons are immortal) and tear them to shreds. This shout and the Elder Scroll are linked, and while Paarthurnax had a wealth of information and shed a light on so many things that would take hours to write down, I now need to head for the College of Winterhold to learn more on how to defeat Alduin.