You’ve awoken to the end of the world. Something happened that wiped out nearly every person on this mystical planet swords, magic and guns.
Your character is the nameless, strong silent type, hacking and slashing his way through the wilderness while trying to reassemble a broken planet.
Bastion is all style. The world is beautiful, and this game looks very unique. Another cool feature is that as you’re walking through the world, the world actually builds up around you block by block. It’s a neat effect, and it makes your presence in the game feel all the more important.
In a first (as far as I know), Bastion has live in-game narration. That means that there is a voice telling the story of your adventure as you’re playing, and adapting based on exactly what you are doing in the game. The execution is superb, and I found the narrator’s voice quite soothing.
The mostly guitar driven music is crazy good. The acoustic In Case of Trouble at the beginning of the game sets the mood magnificently.
Later in the game, there is a swampy electric guitar track named Spike in a Rail that added a lot to the beautiful environment.
If I could buy this soundtrack I would. (Update: It turns our you can buy the soundtrack)
Sense of humor
The narrator is funny, but what really made me laugh were the names of the enemies. A few that come to mind are windbags, scumbags and peckers.
A lot of RPGs don’t let you undo or change weapon and power upgrades once you make them. Bastion lets you freely adjust your upgrades without penalty. This is a little detail, but I appreciated it a ton.
At first the game feels very different, but once you settle into the world it becomes predictable. It’s not horrible, but I wasn’t particularly riveted by the end.
No boss battles
There weren’t any boss battles, and it would have benefitted from them greatly.
I found myself disappointed at the end of the game when there wasn’t something gigantic to smack around.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
It’s fun, innovative, and affordable; at $15.00 this game is a steal for 10 – 15 hours of gameplay.
If you can’t wait for Diablo III, this game can help you get your action RPG fix.
Let Santafest 2010 begin, try not to get maimed in a Black Friday stampede.
Here are some gift ideas for that special geek in your life:
HP Envy 14 - If I was buying a PC, it would be this guy.
11 inch MacBook Air – The compact, aesthetically pleasing notebook packs it’s fair share of power. If I have to buy a new notebook this year, it will be an Air.
Kinect – Microsoft’s motion gaming hardware turns your whole body into a controller. This is leaps and bounds more interesting that anything that Nintendo or Sony have going on. Microsoft’s motion technology represents the biggest leap in gaming technology since the Wii, and it will change a whole lot more than just gaming.
Halo Reach – The latest installment in the Halo series plays like a best-of game. It take the best elements of what came before it, and the result is a wonderful FPS.
Heavy Rain – This very adult murder mystery changed the way I think of video games. It’s not a long game, but it will stay with you long after you finish it.
3D Dot Game Hero – A modern-ish love-letter to the early Zelda games. This is a must play for old-school gamers.
God of War III - The journey of Kratos comes to a bloody conclusion. This is probably the best hack & slash/ puzzler made to date.
Xbox 360 & PS3
Mass Effect 2 – My favorite game of 2010. The science-fantasy story is so immersive that I didn’t want to stop playing. Every time they release new DLC, I go back for more.
Rock Band 3 - This is by far the best music game ever made. The pro mode actually teaches you to play a keyboard or guitar. I am waiting to buy it when the real guitar controller is released in March.
DVD / Blu-ray
Netflix – Don’t bother buying DVDs this year, a Netflix subscription will go a lot further.
Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 – This year’s guitar festival hosted by Eric Clapton will amaze. The talent assembled is a rare sight to see, and will be truly special for any fan of the instrument.
Ex Machina – Ten volumes of brilliant dialoge and intrigue. It’s a story of politics and super-heroics. Think The West Wing meets The Matrix, but still very grounded.
Daemon & Freedom™ - These two books by Daniel Suarez take a very interesting and entertaining look at the state of the world, and the influence of technology. They are both geek and non-geek friendly.
Ever notice how expensive HDMI cables, or just about any other cable is in a major retail chain are?
They price-gouge the hell out of cables, and it’s wrong.
These expensive Monster Cables do not give you a better digital signal, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar (more on the truth about these cables in a moment).
These retails take advantage of a few things to squeeze more money out of you wallet before you go home to enjoy your new device:
- Misinformation & misunderstanding – They say these cables are better, and consumers don’t know any better
- Nothing else available – Some stores don’t carry anything but Monster Cables, so if you want to use your new TV today, you need to cough up some more cash (or they keep the cheap ones out of sight… kind of like the Kennedy’s did with Rosemary)
- Price = Value – This is often true, but it isn’t an absolute… When you buy Monster, you are paying for a pretty cable and a brand name
So, here’s an infographic from The Rip that breaks down the facts and fictions of cables:
Don’t get sucked into buying unnecessarily expensive cables. Buy your cables from MonoPrice, it’s the place where every self-respecting geek buys their cables (and I have absolutely no affiliation with them, it’s the truth).
Between watching Olympic Curling, and playing Mass Effect 2, I haven’t had a ton of personal time two blog. Fortunately that should change now that both are pretty much finished.
There is so much good that I’m going to have to break this into subsections.
Can’t stop playing!
I haven’t been this hooked on a game in years. The characters, story, and universe were so compelling that I just wanted to experience more. I can’t remember the last time I actually lost track of hours while playing a video game.
In the middle of the night after playing four hours, I frequently found myself exhausted and hungry, yet thinking, “I’ll just play one more mission…” then I’d play three.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
If you played Mass Effect 1, the decisions you made in that game shape the story of Mass Effect 2 in significant ways. I didn’t, so I played a default game. I never felt lost or confused.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the decisions you make in Mass Effect 2, will reportedly have a dramatic impact on Mass Effect 3, and after playing through I believe it.
Throughout the game, you feel the weight of the decisions you are making. You can see the potential long-term ramifications, and they aren’t always easy. Some moral decisions actually stressed me out a bit; a first in my long gaming career. You are put in the position where you have the fate of cities, or even entire species in your hands. Reading that in a review might seem abstract and funny, but the universe that you play in feels so real that those decisions become personal, even after you’ve turned off the game.
A ship full of characters
Each and every character (and there are a lot of them) are worth the time to get to know. They all have unique stories, and as you play out the character loyalty missions, you really get to know them in meaningful ways. Each of the characters in Mass Effect 2 could be a main character in a movie or game of their own.
My favorites are the surprisingly peaceful assassin Thane Talos; the psychopathic Jack; the pragmatic-to-a-fault Dr. Mordin Solus, and Legion. I would love to talk about Legion at length, but saying anything specific would spoil some great moments.
If you really get to know the characters, there are some pretty funny moments.
On the flip-side, I loathed Zaeed Massani. He was a very useful character, but the more I learned about his, the more I wanted to kill him… and I came really really close to killing him. Looking back, I actually regret letting the son of a bitch live. I’ve never wanted to kill a character on my own squad in a video game before. The fact that the games creators achieve that has left me deeply impressed.
Speaking of killing characters, there is no guarantee that all of your squad members will survive the last mission. I managed to keep my whole squad alive, but I lost a lot of my ship’s crew in a very gruesome manner. I’m still a little sad about it.
I can hear voices
Not only does the game look pretty, but the voice acting is superb. Martin Sheen plays your mysterious benefactor; the Illusive Man. As a die-hard West Wing fan, Sheen’s voice is a voice that I feel programed to trust. The fact that his character isn’t necessarily trustworthy made it so hard for me to distrust him, but I did. The rest of the voices whether they were performed by voice actors, or movie stars were spot-on.
The Cerberus Network
Free downloadable content for people who didn’t buy the game used, or bought access for $15. It’s a very gentle way of ensuring that the makers of the game actually earn a profit. The downloadable content consists of a free character (the aforementioned SOB Zaeed Massani; a useful suit of armor; an additional level; and more good stuff is yet to come.
If you aren’t hooked up to the Cerberus Network, you aren’t playing Mass Effect 2 properly.
BioWare developed Mass Effect 2, and they have been the company behind most of my favorite RPGs dating back to the late 90′s with Baldur’s Gate. Not only do the folks at BioWare know how to craft brilliant characters, they know how to make a game feel epic, and the player feel like they are the only thing holding the universe together. The scale of the game, the decisions, the events are just massive, and the last mission… oh the last mission.
The Not So Good
The combat system works pretty well, and it did grow on me, but it was far from perfect. The controls were a bit clunky.
I really wish there were more weapons. Everything was so plentiful in this game, except for the variety of guns and armor. Weak.
A number of the loyalty missions were very predictable. On quite a few occasions I would start a mission and realize how it would end 30 minutes before I finished it. The mission was still fun, but I would have liked a little more unpredictability.
(Image pulled from here)
Twice during combat I backed into a wall, and then got stuck on it. Both times I had to load my last save point. It never happened in a convenient place. Bugs like this are not acceptable.
Scanning planets for resources gets really old really fast, then it becomes annoying… but it’s still necessary.
The load times are painfully long and far too common. I recommend doing push-ups or sit-ups while new areas load.
If you don’t play this game, you are missing out on an exceptional experience. It took me 42 hours to complete, but I did absolutely everything. If you go at it more cavalierly, or don’t care how many of your teammates survive, you could do it in half the time.
As I finished it, I saw visions of a potential Firefly game. I’ll have to do a post on that vision soon.
This game is worth your time. Play it.
Web Seer is a tool that allows you to type in two partial or full search queries. Then it outputs and compares Google’s suggested search terms (the ones that pop up as you’re typing). Those suggested terms are based on common search phrases that people are actually typing into Google.
I ran a few innocuous search terms such as “Xbox 360″ & “PS3,” then I ran some relationship based ones like, “How can I get my boyfriend” & “How can I get my girlfriend.” The results are interesting in both cases, however the boyfriend/ girlfriend ones made my soul vomit.
Brace yourself for the next one…
I did a number of different variations of this, and every single one made me sad.
One last though.
If you are one of those people who is looking to push your significant other into breaking up with you, grow the hell up and end things yourself.
Go and give the Web Seer a try. It’s a lot of fun until it makes you jaded.
The card game Magic the Gathering holds a special place in my heart (You can skip to the point at the bottom of the post if you don’t care about the important role that this beloved game played in my life).
When I was six years-old I got onto the bus for my first day of Summer camp, and five minutes later it stopped at another home. This kid named Jason hopped onto the bus, and I instantly hated his guts.
He annoyed the shit out of me. Each Summer I would get on the bus and look at the bus counselor’s roster, praying that Jason wouldn’t be on it… But he always was. Every year we were on the same bus, and usually in the same camp group.
When we were 12 some kids in our group taught me to play Magic. I bought some cards and started playing against the other kids; it was pretty much universally played at camp regardless of social group. Inevitably I found myself playing Jason, and we finally found some common ground.
Over the years he became one of my closest friends. He helped me with my Boy Scout Eagle project, we started a computer services business (and did pretty well for ourselves), he is an occasional contributor on this site (TheLisnakFactor), and he has been one of the most reliable friends I have ever known.
It all started over a game of Magic the Gathering.
Playing the card game can get pretty pricey. The packs aren’t cheap, and the secondary market is very pricey.
The solution is Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Plainswalkers on Xbox Live. I downloaded the game a few months ago and really enjoyed it. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, it’s got a limited card selection, and you play against the computer. It’s not the “real thing,” but it doesn’t cost much, and it really brought me back.
If you ever enjoyed Magic the Gathering, don’t miss out on Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Plainswalkers.