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Malik (10/20/08)

The one nice thing about feeling sick on a Sunday in the fall is that you get a free "get-out-of-watching" card for a day. That day would be particularly good if your options are to watch House, cable movies, and FOX cartoons or to watch the Seahawks butcher their season. In other words, I skipped watching the game...for the most part. Like any horrible train wreck, I did watch a little during commercials on other shows.

Once the score was 3-17 (Tampa Bay winning, of course) at half time, I had no more desire to keep NBC on my previous channel button. That was it. A final score of something like 10-20 isn't too bad, but it still is yet another loss. This is worse when even St. Louis won...putting the Seahawks in last place for the NFC West. Yes, I think with a 1-5 record, the season is done. The only two things to look forward to now is what the solution to Hasselbeck will be (draft a new QB and start him on training the new guy for the next few seasons) and what will happen when Holmgren is gone and some new energy is injected via Mora.

On a different note, despite it being somewhat short, I am happy to say I purchased Braid for the 360 Arcade. This game is the definition of a mind f$#@. If everything makes perfect sense to you as you play this game, then you are a special person. If not, then this is still a great game for you. Nothing like a game that really makes you think outside the usual parameters. Plus, with being short, it's still not too late to use Braid as a perfect time killer before Fable 2 hits at midnight.

Speaking of which, I must be getting old. I say this since the idea of a midnight release for Fable 2 just doesn't appeal to me. On one hand, this doesn't seem like an ideal midnight release game (not overly anticipated, not considered a be-all-end-all killer app and without a massive leader board controlled online segment). On the other hand, if you live in the real world filled with careers and all that, then getting the game at midnight to run home, put it away, and sleep until it's time for work the next morning just doesn't seem to matter.

Anyway, I'll be picking up my copy during my lunch break tomorrow (since EB is only three blocks from my place of employment) and playing as soon as I get opposed to the midnight pickup option and then not playing until I get home from work tomorrow. The only difference being that I get more sleep with my currently planned method.

Anyway, I have more stuff I could write about, but I'm in a special level of denial about the Seahawks that requires me to not think much...sigh...or else it may hurt me even more from a mental standpoint.


Malik (10/21/08)

Quick post today. I've been stuck in a land of too much to do and not a single minute to spare to do any of it.

I should have thoughts on new Nirvana DLC (Rock Band) and Fable 2 tomorrow. For today, I just want to say that I've beaten Braid and Tales of Vesperia lately.

ToV has a weak ending. It feels like things were left in too tidy of a package without enough resolution or explanation. It's typical for Tales games to lack substantial endings, but I would have liked something a bit more complex than the standard "drawings/sketches of post-ending events that don't matter". At least the game was well worth the time to play it. Too bad the ending failed to make ToV a solid perfect package. It's like a damned good cupcake...with no frosting on top. Good, and should be experienced, but you just feel like something is missing when it's all said and done.

As for! This game is an awesome example of why 2D should not be considered dead. It's a platformer and puzzle game in the same line of thinking as Krusty's Funhouse (SNES) or any other side scroller puzzle game. However, there's a subtle twist with the innovative time manipulation puzzle solving mechanic. Most of all, there's a two-layered plot (the simple and obvious as well as a far more hidden plot that will require spoilers to explain). Most importantly, there's a plot twist to this seemingly simple plot that blows almost anything I've ever experienced (movie, book, TV show, game, or anything else) well out of the water. It would be like learning that Link is the bad guy and Gannon is the real hero in a Zelda game. It would be like learning's blew me away and I think that's the best I can say without throwing in the spoiler action (which I don't feel like doing).


Malik (10/22/08)

So, the free 20 DLC songs have been announced for RB2...and it's crap. Well, there may be some hidden unknown gems, but there is nothing that stands out to make the hype feel warranted. In fact, we get more of the same crap (Between the Buried and Me) that makes me feel like I must be getting old since this metal-head cannot accept this poor excuse for shit as real metal...or even music. We also get some obvious MTV crap in The Cab. Between these 20 songs feeling like a letdown, the fiasco with the AC/DC "pack", and then Nevermind being release minus the three most awesome songs on the album (Come As You Are, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Lithium), and now this 20 free songs being so weak, I really feel like something is goofy at Harmonix. There's even rumors of country coming to DLC before the year ends.

I just hope, above all else, that we have the power to erase individual tracks from these 20...or else I may have to skip just to avoid BtBaM and The Cab.

At least rumors (can't find a real link...check message boards all over the web for RB2 and you may find this mentioned) says Presidents of the United States of America three pack on November 4th (fits with election day).  It includes one of my personal favorites (Feather Pluckin' Insane), so I'll be good with that on the day of the dreaded 20 DLC mess.

At least the new Nirvana pack is awesome...even minus three important tracks. In fact, there's even some surprises on the new Nirvana stuff. In particular, I actually failed a Nirvana song (expert guitar) on the first try. Breed is unexpectedly bitchy, but awesome. The first run on that song is like meeting an old friend for the first time in many years and learning that he was not quite who you thought he was. In this case, the old friend is a lot more refined than you ever assumed.

Still, the new tracks are all great fun and I hope Harmonix finishes the obvious full album soon. Just three more songs that have been licensed out so many times that there would be no excuse for them not being available unless the masters have been lost.

As for my other endeavor last night, bottling beer is a lot more stressful than I ever expected. Oh...wait...I was probably expected to discuss Fable 2, so I'll leave the nightmare of a beer flooded kitchen to my own mind.

I didn't get enough time to make many decisions about Fable 2...yet. I passed the first quest outside of childhood and entered Bowerstone. I've also enchanted the people of Bowerstone with my awesomeness. Beyond that, I'm still not too far into anything.

I can say the controls do feel awkward. I could swear that Little Sparrow (the nickname you start with) is drunk. He walks like he's constantly saying "I'm not drunk...I'll gooo on my adven-shur". In other words, you feel like you're fighting a cross between the camera and the controls at every step. I'll probably get used to it with time...unlike the loading. There is a lot of loading, even with entering and exiting menus. It almost makes you want to avoid using a menu screen as long as humanly possible. Drunken stumbling is far more preferable than loading screens and frozen action.

Also, the great mini-map of the previous Fable is now a long lost, and desired, memory. The only "mini-map" you have is in the first menu screen you get to hit the start button. This means you should obviously try to learn the layout of towns and such as soon as humanly possible. Otherwise, you might as well add another ten hours to the time needed to play the main quest of this game (which is, supposedly, only ten hours long).   In fact, the menu seems to have some other weird issues (like status of character is in "logbook" and the "amp" menu has no maps...huh?).

While I definitely feel like I want to continue, two things became obvious to me early on. For one, I definitely wish I could have played the new game with the Fable 1 engine. The visuals are great in F2, but the rest of the game is a bit lacking compared to the first. In fact, you have several menus to navigate in order to just find how good or evil you are. I don't even know what all the character reactions are (there's love/hate, and two others that seem to be fear/enjoy and one completely unknown to my guesses...maybe if your appealing/dirty).

The second part I can't help but feel is that this game will be a lot better next month. That's when game installations can be done with the next XBox 360 Update. Until then, the load screens are not helping the game or the console look all that impressive compared to a PS2 era game.

On that note of character reactions and the unknown ways they could feel, the most frustrating part of this game, to me so far, seems to be how the game expects you to understand everything without proper instructions. The manual covers some basics, but doesn't go all that deep. The game tutorials are the same. You're left with many questions of what different things mean or do. I didn't understand how to get my dog (named Ein, after my own...which was named after the Cowboy Bebop dog) to perform a trick. I eventual learned it seems to come from you performing a social-interaction styled action and the dog helping to bring the point home. However, that doesn't explain how to select a trick when you have taught you pup more than one. With a real dog, that's not considered a "trained trick" as much as an untrained dog that needs some discipline.

I'm hoping the game offers some more explanations soon...and a mini-map that is not locked within my menu. I guess time will tell. I will get accustomed to the awkward controls and camera, but that is not the same as feeling really comfortable with a game.


Malik (10/23/08)

Who was the idiot at Lionhead that decided to make the menus work how they do for Fable 2? I would love to find this person and hurt them...a lot. Actually, I'd just love to yell at these people involved in the programming of the menu system and explain that they are asses.

My big complaint on Fable 2 is that the menu is not there to help you. It will not ruin the game, but it doesn't make the game feel polished. In particular, it's really bad when you buy several new books of expressions or dog tricks. You have to go into the menu, select your inventory, then select the books sub-menu. Then you select the book to may have to take some time to find the book(s) you want. Then you are kicked out of the menu. Now, rinse and repeat. If you have a dozen new books you've bought, like I had last night when I raided the bookstore with my blacksmithing gold, this process is a huge time waste.

Anyway, Fable 2 is a good game, beyond the menu. However, without being able to hotkey items to the d-pad (which you could do in Fable), it only becomes exaggerated in scope.

So, I started last night with making a new character. I felt like I was forcing too many "good" actions on a character that I'd prefer to be evil. Also, after being in Albion (world of Fable) many times as a male hero, thanks to playing Fable a good half dozen times, I wanted to see how the other end of the spectrum could be. So, I now have my new female character. I got all the way to Bowerstone (very early in the game), and found about three or four hours passed as I took it all in. I played the blacksmith job/mini-game (I'm level five of five in blacksmithing skill), impressed people with my trophy and lute playing skills, and bought a business. I even found someone who's good with premarital relations (wink, wink) and did the deed. All good fun...and all a huge time devourer.

While the game could, in theory, be beaten in ten hours, I already have about 5 hours and have barely started. I think I will definitely not feel short changed on my playing time for a $60 game when it's all said and done.

I have come across one other complaint with the game. Good and evil points seem a bit forced. You can be evil by killing people...but that doesn't seem right as the main evil factor. You get good points very easily (play your lute to get some by entertaining the people around you for free). Evil, however, comes down to stealing (hard to do with so many adoring fans), killing (evil should not just be confined to murder and I have no reason to kill my loyal followers...yet), and making forced choices. For example, there's an early mission (when you're still a child) of clearing a warehouse of beetles for a gold coin. After accepting this quick job, you also have a choice to instead destroy the items in this warehouse for the same exact pay and one evil ding. Since I already said I'd do the job, it requires killing monsters (which my character enjoys), and is actually quicker, I took the good option. Maybe if evil had a higher reward, I'd have taken the evil job, but it seems worthless from a RP perspective. If this was D&D, I'd be lawful evil...not just some entropy enforcing master of chaotic death and destruction.

Since it was said being evil is easier (simpler choices), I'd have expected some major evil points by now...however, I am actually more good than evil and I hope this changes. I want to play evil my first game, but neutrality with a touch of good keeps being the RP friendly route.

I hope this changes soon so I can do the correct thing with my plan for this character. Known and maybe even loved by all, but also known to be a cold blooded master of evil.

At least I will always have my second character (technically my first character) in the back ready to be a force of entropy and destruction if this first playing of Fable 2 turns out too nice and friendly.


Malik (10/24/08)

The Rock Band DLC for next week is looking a bit weak. Pretty in Pink may be fun for 80's child type people (like myself) for the nostalgia factor. Beyond that, it's a bunch of weak sounding songs...

...with the obvious exception being Dammit from Blink 182. Now this is one song I've been waiting for since RB was first announced. Great guitar lines and powerfully fun vocals are sure to make this a win in my books. If you add in what should be a good drum line (I don't recall noticing the bass line whenever this song comes on the radio or my iPod), it's sure to be a blast.

I'm still in my obsessive land of having to play more Fable 2 than my free time allows. Still, I have not made much progress beyond getting past the main known game ending glitch (if you do things out of order, the Abbott will become a normal purple NPC, instead of a green quest giver). If you want to avoid this glitch, the best advice I've seen online, and what I did, was to just do everything the Abbott asks without stopping for anything. Do the quest without saving and quitting, and do not take alternative quests or jobs in the middle of his stuff. If you do this, you should be fine...

...well, assuming you don't get other glitches. My big one is being unable to move or change my target is I'm in melee distance with a foe who's been knocked to the ground. This means that if I'm facing a group of bandits and I knock one down, I'm stuck kicking him, hoping he'll die or get up soon. Until that happens, I'm paralyzed using either AoE spells or just kicking one dude while his team pummels my backside. Not a game ending glitch, but it forces me to keep a lot of healing items on hand for damage I just cannot avoid (but know damned well how to avoid).

I really hope a new patch comes soon to fix many of the obvious bugs (especially the Abbott glitch) before too much more time passes. If it also fixed my lock-on-to-the-grounded-dude glitch, it would only make me more happy with Fable 2.

Anyway, with my current pace, I don't see myself beating Fable 2 any time soon. I would find that to be a potential problem, but I've lost all interest in playing Fallout 3 for now. I was once excited and wanted it day one, but the more game play videos I see, the more I see this as something that just isn't Fallout. It may have the same general atmosphere (post-nuclear attack), but the game play makes it look too much like a cross between Oblivion-With-Guns and Mass Effect. In other words, it has lost the RPG-ness that once made the series something I would droll over the thought of getting more of.


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