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Gilthalas's blog

10:29 AM on 04.06.2011

Aaamazing: Don't you die on me!

Fire Emblem is a pretty big series and has iterations across a variety of platforms. Whilst the graphics, story and characters may change, the gameplay rarely shifts from its main style. Whilst similar to other tactical games, Fire Emblem always stood out to me for one aspect I'm sure many are familiar with and that is when a character dies in Fire Emblem, they die for good. There's no fainting, fleeing, reviving or any thing else you can do to bring someone back. If you lose a unit in Fire Emblem, you better hope you didn't like them.

As I said, this is a common feature in Fire Emblem games and I've played all of them from the Game Boy Advance generation upwards but for the sake of this blog, I'll focus on my favourite: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.

One of the reasons I loved Path of Radiance was the in-between mission hub. In past games, if you wanted to have conversations, you had to place units next to each other in battle. This could always be fatal and when units aren't expendable, it becomes a real chore, especially if you want the A grade. Lucky for me, they eliminated this in Path of Radiance and now, I could enjoy conversations between missions at my own leisure. More often than not, Fire Emblem games have a select few characters who have a constant place in cutscenes but the addition of these between mission chats added real depth to characters I might have alternatively looked over.

Another feature I was quite fond of was the individuality of each character model. Whilst in more portable versions of Fire Emblem, aside from Lord's and bosses, the only thing differentiating a lot of characters was their colour but in Path of Radiance, everyone has a slightly unique feature. Boyd has a fur trimming, Volke's special move made him stumble backwards and then dash forward for a KO and the list goes on.

All in all, there wasn't much I didn't love about Path of Radiance but the good times couldn't last forever. Before I carry on, I need to introduce some people.

Soren is a mage and a major character in Path of Radiance. Statistically, he's the strongest mage in the game by far. Other characters see him as insensitive and negative (both of which he is) but he is also incredibly realistic. His advice was always worth hearing and valued highly due to his objective viewpoint. He was with me from the very earliest missions and is probably Ike's most loyal friend.

We also have Zihark, an eventual swordmaster who joins you to help battle against the oppression of another species. Loyal, honourable, brave, dashing and all placed in the body of a calmly confident charmer. Just about everything I like in a character.

Finally, we have Lethe and Oscar. Lethe has ostanding stats and is incredibly passionate about...well, everything. She seemed cold at first but she definitely grew on me as time passed and became a major figure in Team Gilthalas. Oscar, much like Soren had been with me since the start and takes care of his two younger brothers. Always happy and incredibly optimistic, he is someone that could be relied upon at all times.

Now the introductions are complete, I'll just set the scene a bit. All four of these characters were integral to my squad. I rarely (if ever) went in to a fight without all four. Also, as I do with all games that can have some sort of repercussion, there is no restarting to save a character or make a different decision. Once it's happened, I have to deal with it.

I was approaching the final few chapters of the game and upon reflection, I fear I may have become slightly careless. My units were so effective, I felt I could throw them in to anything and they'd probably survive. It was this false confidence that led to disaster.

In one mission, I sent Oscar ahead. I had a copious amount of paladin's in my team and always sent them ahead to block off or kill certain enemies. I'd moved Oscar within near range of a few small ground troops who I assumed wouldn't bother him but I was sadly mistaken. If I'd actually bothered checking their inventory like I should have, I'd have noticed they had Horseslayer's. It only took four attacks for Oscar to fall and from then on I was in a moment of crisis. I ploughed through the rest of the mission in some sort of a daze and I had Kieran, another paladin waiting to move in to his spot once the mission was over but it just wasn't the same. Oscar had been with me from the start. He'd been so integral to my team and had done so many great things for us. Little did I know that losing him was barely even the start of worse to come.

A few missions later and I'd become more cautious. I was pushing quite effectively through the next mission and was confident I could end it soon so sent a lot of my units rushing ahead. Lethe wasn't in 'Beast mode' at the time making her worthless so I brought her to the edge of the map so she could be avoided. Zihark was one of my men leading the charge and his luck and speed stats were so good, I knew I didn't have to worry about him.

Moments later, enemy reinforcements started to appear and of all the places they could have chosen, next to Lethe was one of them. I moved her as far as I could but it wasn't far enough and next turn, they completely annihilated her. When I lost Oscar, I was shocked by own complacency but the loss of Lethe was rage inducing. There was no way I could've predicted that happening. It was completely out of my control and was so frustrating. The only thing that could've made it worse was a critical hit on Zihark with a 'Killer Edge' just I came to the end of the mission.

So after Zihark died in the aforementioned way, I ended the mission and turned my GameCube off to sulk for a while. Three units gone in the space of a couple of hours and I almost didn't feel like finishing the game. After spending so long with specific units, it feels like they almost become important to you. I wasn't going to cry or miss school because of it but nevertheless, it was incredibly irritating. I replaced them all with like-for-like units but for the most part, I didn't care. Stefan? No way near as cool as Zihark and I hardly knew him. Muarim? Silent strong type. Great fun. Kieran? What a tool.

Eventually, I made it to the final mission. I'd mourned the loss of Lethe, Zihark and Oscar, adapted to my new team and it was finally time for my to complete the game. As a mage, Soren is defensively hopeless and if he ends up isolated, he's pretty much a dead man. Cue a few dud moves from me and suddenly, I'd opened up a channel right to him. The second I realised my mistake, I probably threw my hands on my head and just watched the carnage unravel, praying for someone to miss. After this, I went on to complete the game and despite winning a great battle, it didn't feel that great. I'd lost four of my favourite characters along the way as well as others I hadn't mentioned. It was certainly victory but it felt very hollow.

This experience was at least five years ago now but is still quite vividly with me. I've played plenty of games since then but there are few videogaming experiences that can be as distressing as the loss of a unit in any Fire Emblem game. The level of focus on character development in Path of Radiance was absolutely fantastic and for that alone, I'd almost be willing to consider it amazing but the effect it had on me whenever I lost someone is probably why I chose Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for this months musing.   read

7:37 AM on 10.02.2010

Changes: Thanks Mum!

When I was a kid, I didn't really have much of an opinion when it came to decent videogames. My collection of games were largely hand-me-downs from my Uncle and whatever my parents deemed as suitable for a 10 year old to be playing. Hopping 8 years in to the past, we were set to go on a boating holiday with some family friends and as a result, my mother didn't want me complaining about boredom every nautical mile so decided to treat me to a new game.

My choice was pretty easy. I saw that Crash Bandicoot had a game out on the Gameboy now and considering how much I enjoyed it on my Playstation, I'd surely enjoy it on the Gameboy. Besides, it was called "The HUGE Adventure" so it sounded pretty intense.

Crash Bandicoot: The HUGE Adventure was actually a pretty solid platformer and I enjoyed it. The only problem I had is it was too short and a little bit too easy. Once again, I'd fallen for the juvenile mistake of picking something because it looked cool without really thinking about it and whilst I had a game that could offer me instant gratification, it was also repetitive and didn't offer much replay value.

Fortunately for me, Crash Bandicoot went missing after a few days on the boat and I'm not pointing fingers (yes I am) but I'm fairly confident (as was everyone else) that the son of my mother's friend threw it in the river in some sort of temper tantrum. It was a pretty awkward thing to discuss or imply on an otherwise pleasant family holiday so everyone let it slide but at the end of the day, I was still missing a brand new game and had to spend the rest of my holiday trying to get enjoyment from X-Men: The Reign of Apocalypse.

After a few weeks of sulking and generally being a little shit, my mother finally took pity and decided to buy me a replacement game. As we were looking through the games, I made a few suggestions which my mother denied and eventually she said something along the lines of, "Tim, why don't you try this game? I know it might not sound very exciting but the back has dragons on it and it's about warriors or something."

Back in the present, Golden Sun is still one of my favourite games of all time and I frequently replay it. I also think back to other games she bought for me like Breath of Fire IV, Legend of Dragoon and Fire Emblem. I never asked for any of these games nor showed a marked interest in them but my mother seemed to know me better than I knew myself and as a result, I ended up playing some of my favourite games of all time.

As a child, I never really appreciated my mother's opinion when it came to gaming but now I'm older, I've come to realise the significance of her input. My mother taught me not to judge games by the title and box art which sounds obvious but so often as a child, I would buy something because it looked cool and it ended up being a pretty weak game. She also fostered my interest in games with roleplaying elements and decent storytelling where I actually had to work to get satisfaction.

So in conclusion, thanks mum for helping me become the patient and well educated gamer that I am today. Without your guidance, I'd probably be playing Kane & Lynch 2 right now and feeling pretty stupid for it.   read

11:12 PM on 08.14.2010

"What? No, I'm saving it for later..."

So I reach the final boss of Fantasy Hero IV or some other RPG, right? I'm like a level 50 elven templar or something and I've got this Sword of Light that comes with a totally sweet effect. My character has really high stats and the optimum build for dishing out some serious damage. My allied units are also maxed out and ready to take on this final boss.

I start the fight, die about thirty times and just can't seem to do it but eventually, I power through and finally beat the boss. Feeling pretty chuffed with myself,I decide to go and brag to a friend and the conversation goes something like this:

Me: Hey man! I just beat the Demon of Death on Fantasy Hero IV!
Him: Niceee. How hard was it?
Me: Dude, you have no idea. It took me like thirty attempts.
Him: What? Weren't you healing or something? You should've had loads of revival kits from the King's treasury.
Me: Yeah man! I had like a hundred of those things but I didn't want to waste them. I was saving them for later, you know?
Him: It's the end of the game so no, I don't know.

And suddenly I realised the error of my ways. I was so eager to be prepared for anything difficult that I was actually under prepared. Here are three instances in the past week where I realised the error of my collecting ways.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Fire Emblem is a pretty straight forward game. Equip a unit with a weapon and send them to attack another unit. The game is pretty generous with rare items as most bosses drop a good quality weapon and each map has plenty of villages and chests. However, I never wanted to waste these precious items, so I just stored them away on the convoy and [-]suddenly[-] (actually, it wasn't very sudden at all), I realise in Chapter 27 that everyone in my team is using rubbish E grade weapons whilst all my A graders are collecting dust with a fat merchant. Even if I start using them now (which I didn't...just incase), 90% of them would still be with me when I finished

Dragon Age: Origins

After hours of playing, I had finally gathered my army and headed off to Denerim to take on the final boss, The Archdemon. One of the bonuses of amassing the army was that I could call them for help should I be struggling and let me assure you, I struggled a lot. Every district took me countless deaths before I finally cleared them and all the while, I refused to call my allies incase it was difficult later on and I needed them. I finally reach The Archdemon and thought to myself "Alright, time to put my allies to good use!"

I lost 47 dwarves in total. A tragic loss for the dwarven community but on the upside, all the elves, humans and mages got to celebrate living through the war!

Pokemon HeartGold

Elite Four defeated? Check.
All 16 gym badges? Check.
Every legendary pokemon caught, including the three dogs? Check.
Did I use my Masterball? Che-Oh, wait. It's still there. Well...I caught everything else worth catching (after hours of patience with those damn dogs) but I guess it's a good thing I saved this masterball for erm...Sweet, a graveler!

By now you're probably thinking "Cool story, Gil. What's your point?" so here it is. I'm sure I'm not the only person to do this and that's because it almost makes sense. I don't want to end up finally hitting a stage in the game where I'm not prepared because I used all of a certain item.

However, there is also a point where it becomes counter-productive. I get angry with games sometime and upon reflection, most of these previous irritations could have been countered by just spending some money or using a certain item to make it a little easier. I constantly have to retry certain parts of a game because I was too stubborn to just help myself. I'm not trying to make the game difficult but in my own stupidity, I force myself to struggle through. It's pretty ridiculous and that just about sums it up I think.

Use your items people. If not for your self, do it for me.   read

6:56 PM on 08.02.2010

Teh Bias: The Five Stages of Bias

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. These are the five stages of something that I like to call the 'Gilthalas model' (more commonly known as 'The Five Stages of Bias').

Whilst I now tend to consider myself too mature for bias (or alternatively, too apathetic), for the sake of this blog, I'll be using Call of Duty to illustrate my points as there was once a time when I would leap to it's defence immediately if someone dared to point out one of its glaring faults. It all starts with...

1. Denial

No one wants to admit they're biased. It's a hideous thing to be branded as and not something you take pride in. The second it becomes apparent you're biased, people will likely start to disregard you. This is why we have phrases such as, "I'm not being biased but...". For example:

"Hey, I'm not being biased but everyone knowns Call of Duty is better than Medal of Honor because blahblahblah."

Unfortunately, you brand yourself as being biased from the start by trying to deny it. It's a bit like saying "I don't mean to be rude but you're the fattest man I've ever seen." That sentence is nothing but rude and the tacked on attempt at softening the blow doesn't make it any pleasanter. However, this denial eventually fades away which can only lead to...

2. Anger

This is when you start to lose control of your previous composure. Where you once carefully denied your bias, due to trolling, the harsh words of a 12-year-old and your own realisation that what some people say about your favourite franchise might be true, there is only one option left. RAGE. For example:


In all honesty, everyone enjoys some quality anger but it does unfortunately lead to a heavy loss of respect. The only way to possibly win over the masses now is...

3. Bargaining

Having burnt out most of your anger, you quickly come to realise how foolish you had been. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar afterall! You still believe in your convictions but convincing an avid Counterstrike fan that he's playing the wrong series is still not easy. A change in tone might just be what you need. Something like:

"Alright guys, we clearly have different opinions but maybe you should just try Call of Duty again. You might like it more this time."

It sounds calm and collected but whilst you may stick to your beliefs, so will everyone else and no amount of bargaining will change that. Inevitably, after your constant failure, this can only lead to...

4. Depression

"Yo Gilthalas, no one gives a crap about your opinion any more. You're clearly biased and aren't being very open minded yourself. Everyone is pretty sick of your trolling and no one wants to play Modern Warfare with you."

You finally realise how futile your attempts have been. No matter how pure and honest your intentions are, everyone eventually grows tired of hearing that same broken record. Everyone can have an opinion but mayhap you were a little bit too vocal. After months of spouting your infallable logic about your superior choice in console/genre/game, you finally lose the will to care anymore. As you write emo poems about your suffering and all that, you have a revelation. This finally leads to...

5. Acceptance

The final and most significant stage. After all the painstaking effort you put in to supporting your favourite franchise on the internet, you finally think to yourself...Who cares? Certainly not you, that's who. It suddenly occurs to you that no two people are identical and the chances of everyone sharing the same taste in video games as you is highly unlikely. More importantly, you don't need other people to approve of what you enjoy, as long as you actually enjoy it your self.

But hey, did you guys check out Starcraft II yet? I'm not being biased but RTS is clearly superior to FPS.   read

11:38 PM on 07.05.2010

Alternate Reality: The Curse of Medium Sized Walls

It is Wednesday. The time is 10 PM. Little Jimmy has an exam at 9 AM the next morning and will be taking no chances when it comes to sleeping through his alarm due to exhaustion. He sets his alarm, hits the pillow and when he finally comes around it's-OH GOD HE SLEPT THROUGH HIS ALARM IT'S 8:50 AM.

Rushing out of bed, Little Jimmy throws something on that he thinks is his uniform and hurries out the door with a pen in hand. Jimmy is now presented with two options:

Option #1: Little Jimmy can follow his regular route to school that involves him going all the way down to the bottom of his street just to come back down the otherside. This will take him 11 precious minutes.

Option #2: He could just slip down the alleyway behind his house that leads straight in to the school.

Needless to say, our trepid adventurer doesn't feel like taking any chances and dashes down the alleyway. Sprinting as fast as he can, Jimmy thinks he can see the opening on to the school grounds but there appears to be something blocking the way and suddenly, our protagonist realises his folly. How could I have been so stupid!, he cries to himself. Of all the things Jimmy had considered happening, this was not one of them. Jimmy had encountered,

The Medium Sized Wall

What just happened to Little Jimmy is a device seen in almost every videogame I can think of. The medium sized wall (whilst on occasion is a very literal wall) often presents itself as other inanimate objects such as doors and rocks too. Any time some completely inane object is blocking the path of the main character for no realistic and (in most cases) physical reason, the player has encountered one of these unpassable barriers.

For example, let us look at Pokemon. The protagonist is an eventual Pokemon Master who in his/her adventures catches Legendary Pokemon never before seen. Despite being a child, s/he takes on giant evil corporations singlehandedly with ease. Why is it then, that such a prodigal child can be stopped by a tiny little tree growing in his path? When it comes to trees, I'm no expert but one thing I do know is that I can walk around them.

And how is it that after battling a myriad of foes in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, when I finally arrive at a new town and attempt to enter a building somewhere, I find that the door I am trying to go through won't move. Despite my physical prowess and previous ability to shoot giant balls of fire, apparently wood is far sturdier a substance than I once thought and the only man with the key is hiding away in a haunted forest no doubt.

Imagine living in a world where these restrictions were real. My theory is that over time, humanity would fall in to a state of reclusiveness as the ability to move becomes impossible. People caught inside when these new laws of physics arose would find themselves shut off from the outside world. No one would be able to get to work or school and those poor souls already there would likely never be able to get out. The whole of society would collapse. Those outside would have a better chance at survival but for how long? The laws of the "medium sized wall" have no boundaries and materialise in all kinds of different ways. A pile of rubble here, a fallen tree there. God forbid that you live here:

To put it in to a personal context, assuming that I could leave my house, who would I go visit and how? I guess I could go knock for Dave but due to a fence somewhere, I'd have to add hours to my journey. Oh, nevermind, I bumped in to a gate anyway. According to the man on the other side (equally stuck, I imagine) only 'The Lock Master' obtains the one key to get through here and he's somewhere inconvenient like Iceland and crossing water is just another problem. Suddenly I remember that I never really valued Dave much as a friend anyway and saunter home to live the rest of my life as a hermit.

In conclusion, the only way that humanity would survive such a dreadful time is if one person took it upon themselves to find a way for us to surpass these barriers. His quest would be tedious and likely drive him insane but his heroism would never be forgotten. Lets be real though, the biggest problem would be finding someone like that. Life isn't a videogame afterall.   read

11:26 AM on 04.25.2010

E for Effort: "The Number One Free Multiplayer Game"


You have taken your first steps in to a bold new world. It won't be easy and you may struggle at first but before long, you will be slaying dragons, demons and the minions of ancient God's. Your abilities will increase and with that, you will become a better player. You will be able to wield the most powerful weapons and cast lethal spells that encase your enemies in a block of ice.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to Runescape - The Guiness World Record acknowledged "Number One Free Multiplayer Game".

What!? I don't want to read about some lame web-based multiplayer game! They all suck!

Maybe so, dear reader but at the same time, does that not raise the question of how a game that started off looking like this:

Has led to the creation of a game that has obtained over one million subscribers as of 2007?

To justify my argument, I must explain how I became one of those million subscribers many years ago. As a child/young teenager, I was fairly unknowledgable when it came to technology and videogaming, as were my parents. I wouldn't say I lived a sheltered life but I had never really experienced much beyond my Gameboy Pocket and the second-hand PlayStation I inherited from a kindly Uncle. Needless to say, I was far from being a gamer and I didn't really have the resources at my disposal to let my interested in them develop. That was until a conversation I had with a friend from school around the age of 13.

Him: Hey man, have you ever played Runescape? I think you'd like it.
Me: Nah, never heard of it. Besides, my computer totally sucks, bro. You know I can't run anything on that pile o' crap.
Him: Dude, no worries. It's just this internet game and it's completely free. You get to make your own character and shit. It's pretty awesome.
Me: Well...Ok, I guess I'll check it out.

Long story short, I soon found myself engulfed in the greatest game I had ever played in my life. I was the creator of my own destiny and found myself completely lost in a fascinating world. My only ambition was to come home and play this game every day. I wanted to be the best player that the world had ever seen. It even got to a stage where I'd shun socialising with friends in person to play what is effectively a web-based Java game.

However, Eden could only last so long and much like Adam and Eve, I soon found myself cursed for my time in paradise.

After years of playing, I finally began to lose my interest in the most worthless game I had ever played in my life. I was no longer the creator of my own destiny. All that was left of me was a sexually frustrated teenage boy who's pent up hormones were being wasted on fruitless clicking. That's all there is to Runescape.

More clicking.
Did I mention clicking yet?

The days of shunning real friends for web friends became news of old and I finally tore myself away from the hell I now know as "Run Escape!" It truly is the most monotonous game I have ever played in my life. So why is it that I still respect it and why do millions of people still find pleasure in it?

The answer is simple; This is where I, and many others, started our proper venture in to videogames. Through Runescape, I developed a love for the exploration of fictional videogame worlds and the people within it. Before long, I was on Ebay buying old games like Breath of Fire 4 and Final Fantasy 9 for my obsolete PlayStation, until I finally asked my parents for a GameCube one fateful Christmas.

Also, the word 'Community' bears a lot of significance in the game. Whilst the gameplay is completely devoid of any fun, the people I met online are some of the greatest people I've ever met and to this day, I remain in contact with a lot of them. If it hadn't been for Runescape creating a platform for me to meet these people, I might be a completely different person to how I am today. Infact, if it hadn't been for Runescape, I probably would've never been bold enough to try and join such a large community as Destructoid's.

In conclusion, if someone were to ask me, "Would you take back all those years that you wasted away playing a low-spec, monotonous, browser based MMO if you were given the chance?" I think my answer would be clear.

Hell no.   read

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