Archive for January, 2006

01.04.06

Christmas Gaming

Posted in General at 8:47 pm by jw

So I took the time off over Christmas and New Year to catch up on some of the single player games I’d been neglecting the last year – namely Morrowind (I’d actually never played it right through) and Dungeon Lords.  Here’s my take:

Morrowind

This is the game that all the CRPGs out there really try to emulate.  The basic storyline is very new and fresh (you’re a god reincarnated, or maybe you’re not, and maybe the gods aren’t really gods at all etc.) unlike many of the “prophesied nobody saving the world from evil” games that are out there now and that Morrowind lures you into believing that it is as well – at least in the beginning.  Despite being 3 or 4 years out of date, the graphics are still very fresh and can be smoothly turned all the way up on my X850 to give a very good gaming experience.

The real key to Morrowind though is the absolute absence of a linear story pushing you forward.  As has been shown you can finish the full game in under 10 minutes if you really know what you are doing but in doing so you miss the entire point of the world which is very much alive and full of intricate plots and lore (though I must say the idea of avoiding Vivec altogether is appealing).  Took me about 10 days of gaming but I ended up finishing Morrowind, Bloodmoon and Tribunal and have to admit that even the expansions are great.  Overall I could very much recommend this game and the expansions as still excellent entertainment and you’re really missing out if you haven’t tried them.

Some Morrowind humor:

Dear Mom,

                    First of all, please keep this under your hat. Apparently being an orphan is one of my job requirements (I didn’t know that when I applied, honest), and I wouldn’t want to disappoint the big boss..

Anyway, I hope this finds you well. I am doing fine, although the scenery here is a bit overly dramatic – Uncle Bob (the Realtor) could sell both sides of some acres. The natives are mostly friendly, although a lot of them seem to have sore eyes. Have been practising my Alchemy furiously, but still can’t make ‘Optrex’, which would be a big seller. Maybe you can ship some in?

There are lots of opportunities here for a smart kid .. for a start, the whole Island badly needs a decent bank. Maybe we can sell the franchise to Mastercard? Would you believe that nobody here can make change for a 10k soul gem. No, really! I asked about opening an account, and the local merchant looked at me as if I was mad.

Actually there are a lot of really poor folk here – even the bandits don’t seem to have more than 7gp in their pocketses, and the enchanters are all in threadbare common pants. Of course, when you consider that they take a 200gp amulet, and 60k gp soul gem, and 16k gp in cash to turn out a measly amulet-of-open-sesame, and then claim it’s worth 60gp, you can see where they are going wrong!

The wildlife situation is pretty dire too. I think you better alert the WWF, because at the current rate there won’t be a Cliff Racer or Alit left in the place by the end of the year – half of them are diseased or blighted, and even the healthy ones attack me on sight .. the natives must be a pushover, however your trusty son  is a whole different kettle of fishes.

Actually you’d hardly recognise me now – I did what Pop said, and invested in training, and now I can run the whole island from South to North without getting winded. I was going to enter a Triathlon, but apparently the Dwarves (people here call them Dwemer, by the way) never got around to inventing the bicycle. Damn shame .. then they went and died off (the Dwemer that is). Someone wanted to know why, but it’s pretty obvious that they all choked to death trying to pronounce place names like ‘Mzuleft’ and ‘Nchuzfel’ (not sure I’ve got those quite right, but you get the idea). And all their cogs rusted .. I would send one for Billy, but the postage is too much, they only made them in ‘large’ apparently. They were great engineers though – some of their steam engines are still running after hundreds of years of unattended operation.

The natives are kind of dense. I found some jewels for one lady, and she is still standing where I left her four weeks later. I went back when it was raining (no, not just to see her in a wet doublet) and she was still there. Poor thing – all those jewels, and no home to go to. But most of them are like that – they stand around in one place, or want you to escort them someplace else, or want you to deliver something for them. Nice folks, but bone idle.

I have been having a bit of trouble sleeping. Every time I nod off, these guys in black PJs pop out from behind a bush yelling ‘you are mortally wounded’ and throw themselves on my sword. I’ve got an embarrassingly large pile of black PJs and Daedric weapons now .. as I mentioned, none of the locals can afford to buy them. I’d send some back, but I don’t think it’s allowed. One of them actually assaulted me in the mages guild – did my fellow mages leap to my assistance? Did they hell .. they just stood around watching the fight and placing bets on the outcome. Any more of that and I shan’t be renewing my subs, come year end.

The other problem is these things called ‘Golden Saints’, who don’t act a bit like the Saints I was told about in church. Given the way they keep going for me for no reason, I’m really not looking forward to meeting the local ‘Golden devils’, who are presumably even worse. The last one that attacked me took nearly 15 seconds to dispatch, and I accidentally killed two Cliff Racers and a Guar while flailing around with my axe.

Ah well, must stop now, it’s time for my Acrobatics lesson. I found some interesting scrolls of Icarian flight, that let me jump high enough to almost see home, but getting back down is really hard on my knees, especially when I forget to cast ‘feather’, so I’ll just have to imagine you all instead.

Lots of love to all the family,
    Your Obedient Son, Ethelbert.

 

So my little wood elf archer finally got around to fighting Dagoth Ur.

Talk about a disappointing encounter.

  — He’s a Daedroth wearing a gold mask. I mean, this guy is at the center of the main plot, he’s the source of ultimate evil in Vvardenfell, his machinations might affect the entire Empire, and he’s a cheesy recycled 3D model. Granted, the Daedroth was a cool model, but I’ve seen hundreds of them by now.

  — He sounds like a slightly drunk version of Donald Sutherland, and he keeps repeating himself.

  — He can’t walk without falling into a pool of lava. I figured I would see what Dagoth Ur is made of, so I went toe-to-toe with him for awhile. I couldn’t figure out how to prevent him from falling into the lava lake under the walkway. Don’t these people have workplace safety policies, for chrissake?

  Dagoth Ur: By Molag Bal’s beard, I’ve fallen into the lava again. Well, I’m an immortal and invincible god, no problem there. It sure smarts, though. Hey, Dreamers! Lower a rope and hoist me out of here!

  Dreamer: In lava’s light, our lord awakes. His might shall strip the flesh from the n’wah, and bring his minions to glory.

  Dagoth Ur: Look, just lower the rope, OK? I’m already regenerating my legs from charcoal here.

  Dreamer: Accursed foreigners steal our fruit loops. Follow the twisted soul of the syncopated turtle. AWAKE!

  Dagoth Ur: THROW ME A FRICKING ROPE FOR CHRISSAKES!

  — There was no final battle! Once I pincushioned the Heart of Lorkhan (which is easy, because Dagoth Ur can’t shoot his little fire beams very well), he just collapsed! I looted his body, but I couldn’t even loot the fricking gold mask as a trophy. I couldn’t soultrap him either, so I can’t complete my set of Dagoth soul gems.

In summary: Cheesy 3D model, dumb voice, keeps hurling himself into lava for no reason, and incredibly easy to kill with no cool mask to steal.

Almalexia was a much better opponent.

 

Dungeon Lords

This game had promise, but it’s very obviously unfinished – even more so than a MMOG on its first day!  There are virtually no incidental NPCs in the world, large buildings that were obviously meant to house thriving towns just look lonely and empty, and the town leaders or kings look rather lonely standing by themselves in a room.  Unfortunately the storyline is very cliche as well – this time you are a prophecied unknown person that must save the world from evil.  While it was entertaining, it’s definitely nothing to rave about and in the end, it’s an unfinished game being marketed as something fully complete.

In the gameplay, there were flashes of brilliance – some of the dungeons were well constructed and original with some rather cunning puzzles to work through but the frequency of “random encounters” where you’d clear a section of dungeon only to have it refill with random spawns that sneak up from behind.  I don’t care, but it really suspends disbelief to have cleared a single room and walk around a corner to find mobs coming back from that room with no other entrances save the one you’re in.

Mildly interesting, but really not worth running out and buying.

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