Game: Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2Finished Dragon Age 2 … and it is a disappointment. Well, it is a good game. But compared to Dragon Age: Origins, it’s, it’s, … ah … a mutation into something based on Dragon Age plus World of Warcraft and Windows 8 Icons. I felt bored and distracted. 

Story: the story is the strong part of the game. It is not uninteresting. And to describe it like this suits it well. It is not epic nor does it in any way fascinate. No. There are basically three substories (Deep Roads, Qunari and Mages against Templars) which are pretty loosely coupled. The link between them is pretty trying. In fact: there are three stories and none ever occupies ones attention. Plus: a lot of tiny sidequests, which in turn are pretty made up and do provide a share of twists and turns. Those are real nice. Okay: I spared myself the Mine Massacre quest in Act 3, fighting with the High Dragon. This is a very stupid fight, since the High Dragon always sends it Minions and is very hard to kill. For pretty uninteresting items (see below). In the end you have 3 mediocre stories with nice subplots which render to an overall “ok”. Whereas Dragon Age: Origins has been “epic-cool”.

Setting: the worst. At first exploring Kirkwall is fun! But visiting the same places over and over again, and over and over again, and over and over again, and over and over again, and over and over again is slightly bullshit. WTF! You get used to a pretty dull and dump world. This is not fun, this is hard work.

Role-Playing: is totally minimized. Which is very, very sad. In the end, I lost interest in equipping my character. I didn’t fell any great impact of the abilities I choose. And there are 0 (zero, null) riddles to solve. Each quest is solved by running from point A to point B to point C. Yes, there are some decisions to make, but they don’t bother you much. Further more: I am only allowed to equip my character fully but not my companions. Why? This was a very cool thing in DA:O. Now I’m covered in meaningless junk. At the end, I fully lost interesting in the items found. It was all trash to me. Useless.

The interface: is “cleaned up”. Thank you. I now play a Windows 8 version of Dragon Age. I don’t like this look and feel. All things are iconic: weapons, armor, abilities, … ah, they should rename the game to Dragon Age: Metro. But then this is more subjective.

The combat-system: is dull. I played a dual-weapon “thief” plus Varric (crossbow) plus Merill and Anders (Mages). As soon I faced opponents I pressed the H-button (“Hold”) for not letting my companions do stupid things, like Merill always trying to run into the middle of the foes. And then cover the enemies with bolts and magic. My warrior only has to keep opponents at bay not to let them get too close to my mages and ranger. I repeated this tactic from beginning to end. Successfully. No headache. Yes: you get explosions and special effects like Disney Land on LSD and you can’t zoom out like in DA:O for a more tactical overview. Nope. And yes, at first this is fun. But, uhm, … no. Please do not repeat this! Give the DA:O combat style back!

On the good side are the conversations between the companions. Like Varric and Merill. These are always good for a laugh.

I deeply hope, Bioware deals with DA 2 as in “Uuups! That went wrong. Good we learned something in how not to do it.”.

What a pity. This is a weak and cumbersome shadow of Dragon Age: Origins. Though it does have some good points, one simply expects MUCH more from a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins. Not this, this, this … ah … pretty but meaningless Hack and Slay.

For the records: I sided with the mages and let Anders live.

6/10: 6 out of 10

Game: The Witcher 2

The Witcher 2 - Assassin of KingsWow! What a great game! The universe of The Witcher is stunning. It is very adult in terms of sex and violence. The plot is great and full of twists and turns. CD Project did a very excellent job here in bringing this setting onto the computers. Delving into the lands and lore of the North Temeria, Aerdin, Kaedwin and other places, encountering rude dwarfs and outlawed elves. Plus the ever tangling fear of the dictator state of Nilfgard to the south, clearly resembling Nazi Germany. This is great! 

The rating of 18+ is clearly obvious. It is not that they exalt violence or portrait pornography, no. It just happens. Think of the Middle Ages. In the witcher game you see hanging and torturing (e.g. eyes been plugged out) plus brothels with whores and hookers on the streets. And yes, you can interact with them. All the people are full of superstitious and prejudice, be it humans, dwarfes or elves. It is dirty. It is cruel.

Actually it is a fairy tale. But the Fairies are very adult. Puh! This is a must have for any RPG collection.

So why not 5 stars? Because as great the storyline, the plot, the environment and all these are, the catastrophic are the controls and the combat system. Gee! This nearly ruins it! The controls simply suck. First you tell Geralt what to do. Then he performs the action with great animations. Next you issue another command and Geralt fulfills this. However, the next command is only accepted when the first finished. This results into the fact, that if you decide an action and then decide right another one, the second one wont be noticed until the first one completed. E.g. the line is: role left – stop – jump backwards. This ain’t no matter until you are in an intensive fight. Then time is precious and any wrong command to Geralt will be punished, since the actions Geralt does are accompanied by (great) animations.

So, watching Geralt fight is great: jumping, swinging, rolling etc. *Playing* Geralt fighting is worse, since even on normal mode, any wrong decision is deadly: the system doesn’t give you second chance. Things would be different, when the commands could be stacked up e.g. this: while Geralt roles to the left, the player noticed, that an opponent throws a dagger onto Geralt at the exact place, Geralt roles to. During rolling the player might choose to jump backwards immediately and issues the command to the Geralt figure right aways. Currently this command is dropped, since Geralt is still rolling and only accepted when Geralt comes to his feet again. This results in a tiny timespan where Geralt just stands there and does nothing … eventually been hit by the dagger.

This is the reason I switched back to easy mode. In normal mode, a single failure against a more potent opponent leads certainly to death. Fighting the Keyran in the first chapter was quite hard. I had not a single chance against Letho soon afterwards.

But then “easy” mode is a piece of cake! I spent all my talents in Swordsmanship and this let me pass by the whole game inclusive the final battle with a laugh! Boy, this game is pretty unbalanced! Please, CD Project, think of it the next time.

And, while I’m on it, a) create a better world interaction system: I was not able to pick up some crates along the way even if I stood right in front of it with no obstacle in between and b) what the heck is that touching of the witcher amulet to get hot spots in the game? I mean, seriously, the amulet needs to recharge to do this again. This results in walking, touching the amulet, grab all things of interest, wait until amulet recharge and restart. Why not simply add a hotkey for this thing to lighten up all things the player can interact with? This “wait for the amulet to recharge” is just stupid.

Finally some quests and hints were rather misleading. E.g. Geralt states “I’ve got to burn this nest.” in the Nekkar quest in chapter 1. However the bomb which actually burn things is “Dragon Dream”, which is the wrong one. You have to use another bomb which works with shrapnels.

Or this one: in the last chapter you encounter rooms with glooming runes you have to touch in the correct order. There is no single hint, that you might get a book about the runes at the local bookstore … ah … why not let Geralt state something like “I’ve to get knowledge about these runes somewhere” or something like this.

So, besides these glitches: applause! An excellent great game!

For the records: I went with Iorveth, saved Prince Stennis from the Mob, chose Triss, spared the dragon and killed Letho.

9/10: 9 out of 10

Obligations

While waiting for my backup job of my working laptop to finish – the harddisk is very likely to crash soon – I read the recent Amnesty International Journal of September 2012, Austrian Edition. There is an essay about Pussy Riot by Elfriede Jelinek. Pussy Riot demonstrated in a Moscow church against de-facto dictator Putin with singing, dancing, shouting. They were arrested and some of these brave women have been sentenced to years of compulsory labor. What a shame for a modern state of the 21st century. It is so sad. Russia, you pity me.

Now Elfriede Jelinek wrote this sentence:

“Jeder Protest, der sich gegen die Gefährdung von Grundrechten richtet, ist Pflicht, nicht Recht.” (Jelinek, 2012)

Translation:

“Any protest, aimed against the threat of fundamental rights is a duty, not a right.” (Jelinek, 2012)

WoW! Breathtaking! No further words necessary.

Bioshock under Linux/Wine: better than Windows! OMG!

Yesterday I found myself in the mood to play a game again. So I turned up my Windows 7 partition and tried to play Bioshock. But: there was no in-game sound. After the very first cut-scenes (the airplane crash) you float in the middle of burning water but mute. No sound, no beep.

So I googled around to fix that issue and discovered there is a ton of people suffering from the same problem. I followed several recommendations but nothing changed. There is even a YouTube video for the very dumb with several tips, but none (none!) enabled the sound. It took me about 1 hour along with several reboots and changing Windows 7 core components. Finally I gave up, frustrated. And I’m not alone with that. It seems that Bioshock under Windows 7 (or Vista) is a No-Go.

Today I tried the same game under Linux and within 5 minutes going for the mouse fix I had it up and running! With full sound enabled!

OMG!

I can’t believe that applications made for Windows do not run under Windows but under a Windows Emulation on Linux. This is crazy. One should expect that applications should run better or at least with equal performance on both operating systems. But having Linux being superior to Windows on Windows own playground … is this yet another sign of dying M$ technology?

So, everyone wanting to play Bioshock but is suffering from the sound problem: get yourself a Linux installment! I guess any will do. Bioshock does run on your machine – but not under this operating system.

Copy 20GB to a remote server: no luck.

On my laptop my harddisk has started to fail. =(

So I wanted to backup my crypt file holding all my valuable files. This crypt file has 20GB. I tried to copy this file at once on our server. No luck.

Tried within KDE (4.9.0), no luck.
Tried in bash with

$ cp crypt-file smb/server/home

(I use to mount Samba shares in ~/smb/SERVER/SHARE)
No luck.

Tried with scp: no luck.

The effect: at a certain point of time the transmission starts to either abort or – in the case of scp – is stalled. That is when I got around 11GB on the server. So scp got stalled and I tried it with the -l option:

$ scp -l 8192 crypt-file user@server:

But this takes an eternity for 20GB! And there is no guarantee of success either.
No luck.

Next, I dropped the TCP SACK ability, which occasionally causes scp to get stalled:

# echo 0 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_sack
$ scp crypt-file user@server:

No luck.

*sigh*

Finally I mounted the crypt and went for rsync

$ rsync -avuz crypt/ user@server:backup

and encrypted there by using gpg the tarball of credentials holding passwords.

*sigh*

So rsync is the salvation. But then it is put there in plain on the server. I admit: this *has* some advantages but the drawback is: that you have to go and find all your precious files which ought to be protected and find yet another way to encrypt them. With the help of $ gpg -e FILE this is ok but cumbersome.

phpBB3 multiboard + VirtualServer

… simply doesn’t work at all. Investigated to much time for this (some hours) without any results but this: it’s totally broken. What a pity. OTOH the phpBB3 devs do not support multiboard on VirtualHost in the first at all. So the Debian people tried hard but failed to find a convenient way to do this.

What a pity.

To have a multiboard running on the machine it is best to kick the update possibilities offered by apt (*sigh*) and go for the plain, manually install into the VirtualHost’s folders. Each with an unique phpBB3 installment. Yes, this works, but leaves the user with the nightmare in upgrading each board in separate, which is very, very cumbersome.

I hope the phpBB3 devs some day realize that multiboard and/or VirtualHost support is needed right out-of-the-box.

Theming and FTP of WordPress

I decided to go for “Grey Opaque 1.8.1” Theme: it’s mighty, elegant and really mets me (well, ok, I modified some parts of the CSS …) During installation and browsing several themes I noticed that WordPress tries to get a grip on my FTP account to “automatically” install the themes … huh?

No, are you serious?

Found a way to bypass that by adding:

/** sets up 'direct' method for wordpress, auto update without FTP */
define('FS_METHOD','direct');

In my /etc/wordpress/config-dyle.org.php wordpress installment of my Debian Squeeze 6.0.5.

… and this work’s like charm! No passwords, credentials, setup of FTP, no nothing. You just click “Install Now!” and WordPress does all the work without any need for any secrets. This works because WordPress now downloads all stuff into the /usr/share/wordpress/wp-content folder directly.

Didn’t know WordPress is that easy to manage and expand. I must confess: I’m pretty much impressed.

Game: Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2Finished Dead Space 2. Compared to the previous Prince of Persia _this_ game is gory. And brutal. And everything. The game experience itself is great: always looking over the shoulder in a 3rd person manner, dark and always there is something crawling and lurking right out of sight. It’s a great game with just some minor defects.  

First, the game suffers from the US definition of horror: gore. Not very subtle. At this the game can’t match the No. 1 horror game ever: Silent Hill II. The later had all ingredients without all the gallons of blood (though a good share of it). It defined tension not by the number of limbs cut off, but by the fact that you just do not know what is going on and the overall creepiness. However Dead Space II is quite good in delivering a portion of suspense.

Second, the game stresses the gore factor unnecessarily to a questionable extend: the “Eye-scene” and the “Execution” in the very last chapter: WTF! There is really no single reason found in the story-line to justify this. I believe it’s just there to give US teenagers a good kick to topple the game over other survival-horror shooters.

Third, I f**king hate opponents and enemies which you can’t kill. In the last chapter, there’s a special sort of monster which puts itself back together and rises again. So, you can’t kill it. Ammunition and health packages are rare, enemies are crawling all over the place and this undying thing start to hunt you. Next to the stress to find the exit you now have to make it very fast. This was the reason I switched in the game from “Normal” to “Easy” in the last chapter, because this invincible thing was nothing but pure annoying.

Forth, the story is … uhm … confusing at best. Most of the time the radio speak of Nicole/Marker is very hard to understand to get the full picture. And what Nicole/Marker is doing with Isaac’s mind is totally unknown to me. Also there ain’t any background to anything but Unitology, which is clearly a parody of Scientology. Besides the Marker and this religious movement the Dead Space universe is quite, well, “dead”. There is pretty nothing of interest in it. Dead Space universe history and environment seem to fit on a single page of paper.

I assign the game 4 out of 5 stars. On the pro side: one of the hardest horror yet seen in games(18+ is right) though way too splattery. The sidekick at Unitology = Scientology is pretty obvious and nice. On the con side: the four points mentioned above: too much emphasis on the unsubtle gore part of the definition of “horror”, which is sad, exaggerated gore scenes in the end, which do nothing to the story and seem quite out of place, invincible opponents and completely confusing story within a pretty dead universe.

7/10: 7 out of 10

Game: Prince of Persia – Warrior Within

Prince of Persia - Warrior Within 

Finished Prince of Persia – Warrior Within. This is the second installment of the famous Prince of Persia series. It has been released in 2004 and received quite good receptions. The game is quite gory so rating it as 16+ is quite low for european standards.

 

I assign the game 4 out of 5 stars. On the pro side: it features the best game soundtrack ever! Combining this with the dark, martial ambient gives the prince a very adult, cool aspect. This Prince rocks! On the con side: the player is forced to visit the places over and over again. This gets boring sooner or later. And finally the difficulty: even on the easiest level the game is very, very hard to solve. Enemies are tough and often one has to figure out which move to use in the correct second. Not to mention for a huge stress level when you are chased by the Dahaka! The frustration levels raises constantly if one needs 15 or more runs to get by a boss fight. Funny thing: I managed to get all live upgrades and received the Water Sword, which lets me kill the Dahaka in the end. This fight is a laugh comparing it to the Empress boss fight earlier!

 

7/10: 7 out of 10