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Drew Zambroski's blog

2:14 AM on 07.08.2011

Review: L.A. Noire

Hey internet, itís July 7th, 2011, and I have a digitalized collection of opinionated written pieces.

For this fine evening, I want to write on something completely new and complex. An entirely unique venture for interactive gaming entertainment. It doesnít really do the game justice to call it an open world game, perhaps even a game. In some ways itís just a television show where you lead the plot twists and choices of the main character. In other ways itís one of the best videogame experiences to date, albeit a very unorthodox videogame, hence my previous statements. This is a game called L.A. Noire, and this is a review of L.A. Noire.

True to the name, Rockstarís triple A crime drama takes place in America during the golden age of the 50s. As youíd probably read on the back of the case, the 1950s was a big boom on many levels, including industry, fashion, art, and most importantly, film, which sets a shining stage for the gameís story and characters. The game heavily centers on a retro genre of movies and style directly out of the 50s, with a Film Noire personality. There is mystery, sexuality, and of course, illegal shenanigans wrapped up in absolutely lovely acting from the main cast, excellently pinning down 1950s stereotypes as well as truly believable people.

The realism and feel in the story and characters stems from the motion capture technology, which most of us will know about considering itís a huge selling point for the game. Rockstar invested a lot of time and cash into extraordinary animation, taking in every little emotion and facial movement into lovingly crafted graphics that drive the story and the gameplay. There were several times during interrogation sequences where I truly felt in the game. At least, while looking at the characterís faces. Clothing textures tend to be hit or miss in comparison to the MoCapping, but thatís really a miniscule thing.
Of course, itís not just some love letter to film noire in the 50s. There is an original story, as you control a LAPD detective as he rises in the ranks and solves cases. It sounds pretty basic, but itís not until you play the game that you realize how every case is gripping and special(save for a series of serial-killing cases that got predictable, but still fun). Action sequences like car chases, sneaking around, fist fights, and shootouts are sprinkled everywhere in the cases, hitting you at just the right moment. They never get old, nor do you ever start missing them. The pacing is absolutely perfect, and I have yet to even mention how the unique case stories are just as engaging. Youíll find clues, investigate leads, and engage in some interrogations(all of which Iíll touch on later).

All behind these small case stories is the main plot surrounding said Detective you play as, a war veteran named Cole Phelps. His own life takes interesting twists and turns that really distance you from him. I wonít spoil it, but the game basically makes sure you know that you arenít him, and he isnít you. I donít know exactly how I feel about this. Again, I try not to spoil, but Phelps makes some certain choices I donít like, not to mention a very regretful career in WWII. This disconnection between player and avatar certainly makes for a great story however, and while the plot and setting, as well as Phelps himself, take some new turns, the gameplay stays completely true to the investigation routine, as well as evenly keeping in the action sequences perfectly. The story is just damn good on its own, too.

As for the actual gameplay, all the action sequences are usually great fun. Itís top grade stuff, as you can expect from Rockstar. I did get frustrated on a few missions where you tail a suspect on foot, or where you have to take down a ton of enemies(The Arson desk and the Vice desk really love doing this)with a shooting system that is sometimes too realistic for its own good. But otherwise, itís all addictive. I especially love the driving sequences. While I did get messed up on some parts due to the fact that the city is extremely realistic(traffic is populated and hard to avoid, while you will also be penalized for destruction, as a member of the LAPD.), it was very satisfying to take down a runaway suspect, bumping into them and having my partner shoot out wheels until they came to a rolling stop.
The investigation sequences have their own problems, and itís really where the game starts to distance from actually being a videogame and it starts being an interactive show. It starts with gathering clues, and the main problem there is that itís pretty easy. Itís only in so many cases where evidence is hiding far in the corner, or behind a tough puzzle. Otherwise, itís a simple sequence of running around a crime scene until you hit a musical clue, then pressing A. Sometimes you have to press A again, or look at the clue in a certain way, both of which are easy tasks that the game practically tells you to do, rather than subtly hinting at it so only good detectives will find the extra information hidden behind the scenes. Donít get me wrong, itís all very fun to discover clues. Itís just not much of a challenge, or rather, one Iíd expect from a videogame. I was hoping for much more of a mind puzzle, instead itís just quick entertainment like something out of a HBO crime show set in the 50s. Itís not a bad thing at all. Itís just so very different, and you should consider it before making a purchase.

While the clues maintained actual entertainment while still being a little too easy, Interrogations are a real hit and miss. As it was said in the Dtoid official review of the game, itís entirely based on the extreme realism in the facial animations. Itís up to your own human instinct to truly see if someone is lying or withholding info. If theyíre avoiding eye contact, or if theyíre acting uncomfortable, or if theyíre upright telling you something that conflicts with the evidence, than theyíre doing one of the two aforementioned things. Itís absolutely amazing how they did this. Itís just not an absolutely amazing videogame experience. While itís all fun to watch, as well as very satisfying to get right, it can be very frustrating and very easy to get wrong. The problem is again in the player-game disconnection. There are only three responses in interrogation. Truth, Doubt, and Lie, the last of which requires substantial evidence to prove that the suspect is fibbing. All three options are very variable. Sometimes Doubt could be outright anger, or pushing a suspect to doesnít really understand that all information they know is very important, rather than curiously questioning something that seems like a lie. Better yet, selecting Lie will most of the time result in Phelps accusing the suspect of something almost very irrelevant to the statement you are responding to, and the evidence you have to select to prove a lie isnít always very easy to see. Sometimes, you could prove a lie with several items of evidence(in real life)but the game decides that only one is right. Itís extremely frustrating, especially since replay value is low in that you canít skip cut scenes or dialogue.

Itís a bit of a cop out on the part of the developers in my opinion, there could have been a much deeper interrogation system with options like Ďpush topic,í Ďquestion statement,í Ďask for more infoí, and so on. Itís horribly hit or miss. It doesnít entirely ruin the game, and perhaps I am exaggerating. None the less, it feels like it could have been a lot better. Also, Iím so damn tired of Phelps saying things that I didnít intend.

As clues start to become easy to find and interrogations only seem to do you right half the time, the experience becomes assimilated into watching your character solve mysteries, with the odd action sequence and choice of following a lead. Again, itís not necessarily bad. Itís just so unique, itís something that I honestly thing everyone needs to experience, maybe only for the reality bending graphics or perhaps the stupendous story and pacing. Itís unlike any game before it, at least, any game Iíve played before. I love it, even if it sometimes it betrays me in the interrogations and the story, or even if itís a bit too easy. Itís so enormous as well. 1950s L.A. is stunningly recreated with real landmarks and a huge amount of collectibles like film reels and hidden cars. Not everyone will like it. But everyone needs to try it. I canít possibly give the game a score, either. Itís a yes or no, really. I say yes, but again, not everyone will. Despite that, the game easily deserves a look by every nerd worth his salt. Hell, it might be really fun for casual players too, considering the wavering difficulty. So, for like, the third time, you really really really need to check out L.A. Noire. Itís not always a great game but itís a REALLY good experience.

On a side note, get the Rockstar Pass for all the DLC. The extra cases are worth it, they are fun and fit in seamlessly into the game, which is to be expected from Rockstarís high level of quality. I also recommend that you rent the game. As I said, the replay value gets low within the gameís heavy focus on story. However, Rockstar is clearly working on consistently providing DLC content, with a new case out just next week, so if you loved the game just as much as I did when you first got into it, and you are willing to invest some more bones, itís fully worth your cash.

As always, Iím bad at conclusions. See you next time internet.   read

10:48 PM on 06.14.2011

I'm over Kinect.(6/14/11)

Happy tuesday internet, I'm Drew and I have a blog.

Motion controls originally hit the larger scene with Nintendoís (at the time) next big console, the Nintendo Wii. Everyone with an attention span has certainly acknowledged at this point the huge push in the industry. While the Wii used to be the only thing tearing us apart between theseí coreí and Ďcasualí demographics, Sony and Microsoft hopped on the bandwagon quickly and absolved the game industry further to appeal to a mass market.

(The original motion control device)

To Sonyís merit, they have created a precise motion control system while aiming at both the Ďcoreí and Ďcasual,í that much is undeniable with the large amount of core games with Move support and the smaller push of motion control shovel ware, if barely any (I havenít seen nor heard of a single minigame motion control fest for the PS3, but let me know if one exists). Sony quietly integrated the PS Move while respecting those who didnít like the motion controls, save for the odd press conference where theyíd feature it heavily. Nintendo continued their support of magic wand-waving, to the annoyance of some, while most of us had long since gotten over it. Their douche ad campaigns and copious amounts of nonsensical crap games allowed on the console is a problem, but itís managed to die down (with the exception of those 3DS ads) over the years into what I interpret is Nintendoís acknowledgement that motion controlling isnít to everyoneís liking, and isnít some sort of pretentious future of video games, in the same way as Sony.

Neither company could resist the casual/motion control market but theyíve gained a nice principal about it that approaches the core gaming audience with under hand opened palms, allowing us to give a chance to the power and potential fun of the technology before we shut it out from the annoying, corny ad campaigns or stream of insipid games.

Gamers and their community are built like an Ďall American hamburgerí from that nice little diner down the street. Itís not five star by any long shot but damn if it tastes good and presents this wholesome feel to the entire experience of eating out. But then all of a sudden that family diner is taken out by some mediocre restaurant chain that you never really understood the popularity of. Iím not trying to compare motion controls to corporate evil and greed like a rebellious teenager who thinks heís really damn hardcore despite never touching a console before 2006. (Thatís kinda how I used to be as a dumb tween.)But imagine the idea of it. The diner that felt retro and had a little something for everyone was stolen away by this big shot lunch hotspot that not everyone likes, with this assuming little attitude that they were irresistibly the best around the neighborhood while the most attraction they got was from the occasional family looking for a quick fix to satisfy hungry tykes in the car, with a few Ďcoreí eaters getting attracted to a unique dish.

(Try and tell me with a straight face that you haven't seen a family like this in almost every casual game ad)

Perhaps Iím overthinking it and becoming a bit pretentious myself, or maybe even wrongly stating the feeling Iím trying to articulate. If itís not apparent at this point, Iím basically saying that the motion control concept revolutionized the industry and exploded on to the mainstream in this super family friendly approach that could only make a self-respecting nerd cringe just a little bit.
As said, Sony and Nintendo have died down with this feeling, at least from my perspective as a middle class teenager with a surrounding family devoid my own encyclopedic videogame mind. Microsoft, however, has yet to stop blasting off their product into the unsuspecting mainstream masses, and theyíre doing it more furiously than any company before it. Before I start whining, the Kinect is actually an amazing machine. But again, the ideology, approach and principal of this motion control genre are the most important things. Like the difference between sexual assault and consensual intercourse, pardon my crudeness. Itís a revolution without a cause besides this idea of progressing forward into a more Ďimmersiveí style of sitting on your butt and playing games(or rather standing up and dancing like an idiot with Kinect)that not everyone is going to like. If youíre coming on to the gaming industry with a big new toy, like the Kinect, you canít come at it like something that everyone will love, especially if youíre directly targeting the mass market and the generic middle class American family looking for an entertainment device.

This cheeky FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY perspective is what earns items like the Kinect or the Wii or the Play Station Move a bad rep among the Ďhardcoreí crowd, as well as those rebellious teenagers I spoke of, who sadly exist and sadly hate Nintendo for little reason outside of what the Wii did to the industry back during its release, rather than itís decline back into core appeal (while always sustaining this casual appeal) and remembering the companyís legendary games. Not only that, but itís simply god damn annoying, taking away soul left in the industry(obviously)and replacing it with corny advertising campaigns that feel as if they were specifically made to alienate this hardcore gaming crowd. If I havenít made it easy enough to see at this point, I find the Hardcore Ė Casual distinction kind of silly but also an inconvenient truth.

Itís Microsoft, still trudging behind and beating the dead horse in this attempt at churning out whatís left of the core gamer and making Kinect the next big medium, a godly gift from the dirty bowels of heaven. Honestly, it makes me sick to watch these awkward press conferences where the big M rocks the motion control genre like a washed up hooker rocks worn out sex appeal. Iím not saying Kinect is done or over. Again, itís a wonderful machine. But Microsoft needs to grow out of this hump where all they can think about is the mainstream sales as they froth at the mouth and crock up more wacky tech demos and uses of the machine that would put any core gamer to sleep, from boredom and exertion. Thereís a few novel ideas hidden among the aforementioned problem-children but it always is going to leave a naughty taste in anyoneís mouth who isnít that middle aged mom or child that the Kinect is clearly marketed towards.

(Enough said)

It certainly leaves a dreadful taste in my mouth. Summing up my little rant with E3 commentary brings me to really just laugh at Microsoft. At this point, that dead horse they are beating has dried up to itís bones. Of course Iím being cruel, but itís nothingís going to change if we donít play ball Jim Sterling style. Microsoft needs to get their shart together, pardon my French. In fact playing ball anyway will probably be useless, that normal nongaming family will always be attracted to the casual advertising specifically made for them. What the company needs to do is approach it like the two other big publishers, Nintendo and Sony.

Respect the core gamer, approach motion controls subtlely, and donít you dare forget core games for the core audience. Microsoft was devoid this year at E3, discluding Kinect stuff, a few third party multiplatform games/exclusives, and of course, Halo 4. This is a problem. I donít know how much more of a wakeup call they need, after the thrashing given by core gamers for the last few E3s proved ineffective. And also, get on the bandwagon and have a big first party Kinect shooter. That would no doubt draw in the core community.

As always, I suck at endings. See you next week, internet.   read

8:53 PM on 06.13.2011

Where I've been, and Stuff and Things(6/13/11)

Hey Internet, this is a blog.

Well, yeah, Iíve been on a hiatus obviously. To come clean, I had been wrapped up in actual life stuff and at the time I didnít really have much to write about nor much to do with the Ďstipend; Iíve been receiving as motivation to more so pursue my interests and such. Thatís not to say I donít enjoy writing and Iím only in this for cash. The cash is very nice, thatís the honest truth. But writing and expressing my opinions that would otherwise be wasted on videogame-deaf ears, is certainly fun. As I was saying, I really just suffered from writerís block, which might just happen again. If it does, Iíll soldier on, because now I have a consistent goal; A 3DS. When I get it, Iíll probably even have more to write about, making an endless cycle. I also want this really mint, 40something inch replica of Neroís sword from Devil May Cry.

Hot damn

But why do I crave this 3DS so? Several reasons, some of which are probably obvious to those of you seeking/owning and enjoying your own pumped up Nintendo portables. The launch library of games is weak and limited to a few gems hidden among tech demos, minigames and such, but there is an UNDENIABLEY remarkable list of titles coming out this month, this summer, or in the very near future, much in thanks to the bombshell that usually is Nintendoís E3 conference. Specific titles Iím looking out for include Resident Evil Revelations, which appears to be a legit cross between RE1 and RE5(or 4), the latter of which I enjoyed very much and the former of which I never actually played but did laugh at some hilarious voice acting, and of course Mega Man Legends 3. I only need to drop the name of that game to get you hyped up. If it isnít apparent at this point, Iím a big Capcom fan, and I have thought about writing a little love letter blog just for them.

On another E3 note, I was originally going to address the enormous and embarrassing E3 Kinect push from Microsoft for this blog, but since Iím on Destructoid, I honestly expect you guys to have long since gotten there before me. Dtoidís full of the rebels, the golden oldies and the hardcore. Iíd just be redundant, as much as I would really, really, really love to trash the Kinect. And Peter Molyneux, I hate that guy with a burning passion and how he hypes up mediocre content like itís the next Titanic, in videogame form or something.

So instead, Iíll tap on what Iíve been playing in the pastÖ four months Iíve been gone. Brink is one of the big ones, a shooter I tried really hard to love. As said in the official Dtoid review, the game was clunky with chokepoints that completely locked down the match. As long as the enemy team was competent and more organized than your team, you would be utterly crushed on the right map while on the right team. Objectives became frustrating, and some classes proved annoyingly similar to each other until you unlock further upgrades, while the Engineer was actually pretty darn strong from the get go. The trials were an interesting idea mainly because of how they explained some parts of the game and immediately unlocked all the gun attachments for you, but with only four of them and a pretty steep difficulty on some of them, it felt like a waste of time for learning elements of the game that would otherwise be basic.

The heavy class in action. Personally I find the restriction of movement, which isn't all that useful in the first place, in exchange for more health and guns, makes the class a little overpowered.

On the other hand of Brink, the running and gunning was fun, character customization was great(however the character models were real ugly in my humble opinion)up until the disappointing level 20 cap, and multiplayer, when it wasnít impossible for one team, was an absolute blast. But enough of that, cuz I basically agree with Dtioid on the whole and that means I'm being redundant.

I also tried out Dragon Age 2, of which I was actually writing a review for before I dropped the blogging. The game was a snore, mixing up a few good things out of Mass Effect 2, and taking out a lot of great things from Dragon Age: Origins. I donít even have to mention the environments and how they never changed from dungeon to dungeon. Rather, Iíd like to bitch about the story, how (spoilers) Anders served no other purpose besides setting up a pointless climactic battle that could have completely been avoided, how Hawke was hyped up for being able to display a number of unique emotions in dialogue but ultimately came down to ĎParagon, Renegade, or Sarcastic,í the last of which trying desperately to appeal to those who loved the clever and subtle script in DA:O.

That dwarf always gave me nightmares.

Of course there was also button mashing, a pointless inventory(why would I get all this armor not usable my class when my teammates canít equip any of it!?), predictable characters that were marketed as SUPER COOL UNIQUE UNPREDICTABLE NOT-STEREOTYPES(though I will admit Merrill had a great conflict), and an okay character creation system. It felt rushed overall. With Biowareís advertisement pushing of the game as if it was an epic masterpiece and big pre-order bonuses, it felt like the big RPG developer had fallen off the wagon into cartoon style corporate greediness. This whole feeling has only been increased during E3. I wasnít impressed with The Old Republic, I never have been.

And last but absolutely not least was Portal 2. Hands down the best game Iíve ever played, or one of the best, since I can never decide on a favorite. That was only until the Co-Op got boring with puzzles Iíve solved a bazillion times. Though you couldnít really blame that on Valve, and I still loved it for how it was. Iím hotly anticipating the DLC. Iíd love to gush about it, but Iím sure if youíre a self-respecting gamer youíve already tasted the delicious pie that is Portal. I loved Wheatley.

Well anyway, in games less worth mentioning I have been having a heyday with game fly, which I have to mention is an amazing service, not that Iím trying to advertise. I played a ton of Dead Rising 2, which I loved to pieces, I picked up good old Lost Planet 2 again, which I enjoyed for a while, I tested the waters in Marvel VS Capcom 3 but ended up getting frustrated as I do with all fighting games(I have no idea why I love fighting games so much when I suck at it horribly), I bought Moon Diver on the Xbox marketplace and enjoyed the retro 2D beat-em-up stuff, and lastly I got Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. I tried really hard to love that game, but honestly I ended up hating it. Combat was slow, over-cinematic, repetitive, while climbing sessions and puzzles were easy and boring. I enjoyed the story and the conflicting relationship between the two main characters, but I ended up stopping about 2/3 through the game, and returned it to run through Resident Evil 5 with a friend.

Complete Global Saturation

And thatís about it. Oh, I also saw Super 8, which I extremely enjoyed and is where I got 'mint' from. Another blog will be coming this week, one with an actual structure and topic. So yeahÖ Iím Drew, I have a blog, and I suck at endings.   read

9:37 PM on 02.27.2011

Monday Night Combat Review(360): 2/27/2011

Hello internet, I am Drew, it's the twenty-seventh of Febuary, 2011, and I have a blog.

To shove it out of the way, I am indeed late to the scene with this game, released back last year. Despite, I'm working pushing out weekly content for this blog, including a review a week. If it so requires I review a game years old, I might just do it. Besides, MNC made a more quiet splash into the industry as far as I could tell. My feeds, at the very least, were not buzzing, discluding the odd preview, review, or release date news bits.

Also, with the revelation that more family and friends are reading this up than I thought, I felt obligated to make an intro for this week's game for those who are less geek-inclined, or who have just never heard of MNC. If you ARE geek inclined, skip down a paragraph or two!
Monday Night Combat is just about exactly how it sounds; a full-blown stadium combat affair, satirizing the idea of a sports dome filled to the brim with goofy characters, mascots, attractive trophy-women, and product placement, to hilarious and awesome effects. It's a class based shooter, meaning, you can select up to six different characters to play, all unique in their own abilities, weapons, personalities, and play-styles, and then shoot it out against or with other players in a stradegic(in this game's case, mildly stradegic)showdown. The basics of the game revolve around the Moneyball, a spherical ball of... money, that you'll need to protect from enemy players, enemy bots, or both if you're playing a certain mode.

It depends on the mode you've chosen from, which can be either Blitz, a survival mode where you'l be protecting one Moneyball from opposing hordes of robots with the help of your pals, or Crossfire, a variant that sees players and their team-designated robots squaring off against another team of players and bots, each trying to destroy the other's Moneyball. But in either mode, you'll hold off waves of enemies and/or get in the face of the opposing team if you so choose to play like that with your (somewhat)customizable class. There is more depth to it, but considering that my main audience is already familiar, I'll leave it off here.

First off, Monday Night Combat is NOT a Team Fortress 2 clone. The latter game was ALSO an objective, class-based shooter, and during MNC's fifteen minutes of fame, there was some talk of it's similarities. Both games do have cartoony, colorful graphic and visual effects, both games do have a bunch of unique characters for classes, and both do revolve around good Teamwork, but MNC vastly differentiates itself in the tasty satire, goofy jokes, and all around addicting gameplay that really cannot compare to TF2.

Enough of that, I felt it was something to get out of the way. In the actual gameplay, I found it to be simply fun. There isn't a lot of elaboration to put into it, but I'll give it a go; MNC is a delightful combination of tower defense stradegy games and action, class based shooters. Most of all it's a pretty game, with enemy robots exploding upon death in an array of parts, rewarding cash, and flames, of course. Surrounding your battle are a display of shiny (fake)product placement signs and other fancy effects, and of course during the battle, characters will bounce with personality, style, and plain coolness when you perfectly execute an ability and light up the battlefeild.

Along the lines of tower-defense games, where you normally maintain and upgrade turrets to defend against enemies, the game seamlessly puts it next to the standard Team-Deathmatch or Survival modes we've come to expected, if a bit overpowered in the Crossfire mode. You'll upgrade and build turrets to fight along side you. You'll also periodically upgrade your own abilities, to which I have another gripe with in Crossfire mode. A fully upgraded offensive class can be absolutley destructive. Arguable it costs quite a lot of the game's currency of cash to beef up a character, but the result was certainly devestating in my experiences. Though it works perfectly fine in Blitz mode and it's sliding upwards difficulty.

As I said, there is little much else to say. It is simply fun to shoot up robots, upgrade your special abilities and stats with awesome affects, and try each and every play style the six unique classes have. You could be a versatile battle-medic, or maybe a turret enhancing engineer as the Support Class, and you could get up in the face of enemies as the Assassin, or stick true to her name and sneak behind for a devestating hit. Most of all I especially love holding off robots on the last wave, the four of me and my team working our hardest in synchronized, robot-killing beauty. The Crossfire mode, as you may have picked up in this little essay, was iffy at best for me. Though your experience might vary, I'm certainly no master at multiplayer shooters and I imagine if I could get my butt handed to me so hard, you might have the power to... hand people's butts to them as well. Or maybe I just suck really bad.

As always, I'm bad at conclusions, and I was never a fan of number scores or lettering scores in reviews. If you really like the sound of the game from my review, and you at all trust my opinion, you'll simply give Monday Night Combat a try for 1200 measly points, or fifteen measly bucks. If it still sounds iffy, give the demo a try, it's a very nice introduction to the game, and I can promise you quite a lot of replayability in the game.

Goodnight internet, I'm drew, and I have a blog.   read

12:09 AM on 02.25.2011

My First Blog, and Dragon Age 2: 2/24/11

Hello internet, I am Drew, it's Febuary 25th, 2011 and I have a blog.

I've always been bad at introductions, so allow me to skip a little bit ahead to whatever it is I feel like talking about. Yep, this is indeed my first blog on Dtoid and I'm very happy to be getting into it after reading and following the site for years now. I was long encouraged by friends and family to start writing about all my intrests in geekitude, so here goes.

Today, I'd love to express my opinion on the recently released demo of Dragon Age 2.(Like I said, bad with intros.)I know what you're thinking, what do you care of some opinion's teen on a popular demo for popular game that was released over a few days ago? Well, you clicked the link, so you might as well finish the job. I've been hotly anticipating this game, as a fan of the original and someone who usually chomps up anything labelled with Bioware. With American Role playing games, I'm really in for the Story, the choices, the dialouge as pictured below, and the character creation. You know, the classic day dreamer's concept of "being someone I could never be."

The gameplay could either prove to be an added bonus, or a hinderance to my enjoyment. The recent Mass Effect 2, for example, had a big bonus in gameplay. As someone who entered the gaming scene in action-shooters, discluding my nostalgic childhood with platforming games, I felt right at home in the over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder third person camera. In Dragon Age Origins, it tended to be a bit of a chore, to carry me along to the next chunk of dialouge and choices. Infact, a lot of the post-action and pre-action moves WERE a chore, like looting enemies, checking traps, setting traps, and so on.... It was fun making stradegies, levelling up characters, creating equipment, the USUAL RPG stuff, but the actual in-game experience was nothing short of tasteless. Perhaps I had been playing the game wrong, without the right tactic or stradegic approach in a tactic heavy game. I can't say I feel that way when plenty of the 'tactics' proved to be useless compared to simple approaches.

Of all the things I could say about the DA2 demo in the start of this little essay, is that it fixes this problem with flying colors, something you've probably heard from all the press releases and early impressions. Even Mages and Archer-Rouges, though not in 'the center of the action' as was advertised, pull off flashy manuvers at the tap of a button. Speaking of which, button-mashing the A button is now a part of this game, rather than pressing it once to continuously attack an enemy. This will sour some of your tastes, but for simple minded me, it actually put me a lot more into the action, if a little repeditive or tiring at times.

As well as normal attacks are what I find to be vastly improved special commands. They're not just more flashy as usual, hence a move where a Rouge can literally roundhouse an explosive jug of liquid into the face of the enemy(which I personally find to be hilariously ridiculous), they're also much more useful. In the original game I found several abilities useless or providing the same effects, especially a large amount of the status inflictions a Mage could use. Once again this could probably just be me playing the game wrong, but in my experience I never used half of my arsenal of attacks. Now, each move has a more specific result, and they're pretty much ALL effective in the right situation. With quicker recharge times and easier use of mana/stamina as well, they are much more quickly there for you to use.

This may all sound like it presents more repedetiveness, but with much more effective, different moves and more chances to use them, you can actually get into a lot more tactics than before. At least, that was my experience. Archers can be particularly stradegic with moves like 'Hall of Arrows,' that, as the name reccomends, rains down an entire hall of arrows on a large group of enemies. Combine this with any of a Warrior's knock-down shockwaves or a Mage's area of effect attacks, you can have deadly combos.

Enough about all that, what about the actual demo? You'll play as the main protagonist, Hawke, on an introductory mission as they escape their home town, and a bit of an extra mission to introduce two of your first companions, Isabela and Varric. You'll chomp through waves of enemies, and if this demo is any representation of the actual game, I feel as though they have the pacing and amount of enemies down. Like I said, it was a chore at times to fight in DA:O, especially with the large dungeons and sprawling amounts of enemies. With the more immersive combat and the perfect balance of targets, there is a lot less repedetiveness. Though fighting the same Hurlock monster over and over does get boring, I'd appreciate some variety in the enemy designs.

During the demo you aren't able to customize Hawke's appearance or even their inventory, which is little racking for me, the guy who's in it for the story and role-playing. It'd be fun to mess with the character creation system as a part of the demo, especially when in pretty much any recent bioware game where you can alter your face, you'll look different in-game than you will in the C. Creation menus. Not only that but you recieve quite a lot of equipment you'd think you should be able to equip and mess around with, especially when you only have one chance to switch weapon styles in the demo, save for Mages who are still stuck with staffs and whatnot.

You'll also be introduced to some of your squadmates for the duration of the fullgame, such as your sister Bethany and your brother Carver, who are interchangable in the story depending on Hawke's class. Personally I find Beth adorable and Carver kind of a lughead, so I have yet to play the Mage route where Beth gets her brain knocked out by an ogre in place of Carver. There is Varric, an archer Dwarf, and Isabela, a rouge swashbuckler, as well, but you don't actually see very much of them in the second part of the demo, save for Varric's intro in the cutscenes. They seem like fun enough characters, though what bugs me about Varric is that it seems like his VA is trying very hard to have a cool, sexy voice. I suppose it is kind of cool and sexy, but not as award winningly drenched in cool, like what he seems to be going for.

Here's something that bugs me though; We were promised a much more vast array of emotional options in the dialouge choices, such as 'sarcastic' or 'flirty,' but, at least in the areas covered in the demo, all you really have is the stereotypical 'paragon' good guy options, the 'renegade' bad guy options, and the default 'sarcastic' options, which isn't as vast as I was hoping and also kind of adds to my fear that this game will be what Mass Effect 2 was to Mass Effect 1. Meaning, trying too hard to be edgy, cool, and blowing up the title into a big name franchise. We all remember what Bioware once said regarding ME2, that they were trying to make it like a PG-13 movie, with action and adventure and complete lack of homosexuality, and what not. DA2 nails the latter at the least, with any gender of Hawke being able to flirt up with Isabela in the demo, but I'm no less worried that Dragon Age will turn from a very innovate, retro and fun, if a bit generic, adventure into Medieval fantasy, and into a SUPER DARK and EDGY, SEXY ACTION romp.

In conclusion, being bad at introductions makes you bad at conclusions as well. I really enjoyed the DA2 demo, I loved playing it through multiple times and picking it apart. But at the same time I wasn't so happy we couldn't chum around and pre-create our characters before the actual game comes out, like a 'practice' round at building a pretty face, and I was a bit disapointed with some of the things that were promised. As rebels always say, don't believe the hype.... But hey, Dragon Age 2 has damn good hype.

That's all for now internet. I'm Drew, and I have a blog.   read

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