Sunday, May 30, 2010

Video Game Assessment: Red Dead Redemption (2010)

Red Dead Redemption is an open-world sandbox game developed by Rockstar Games, known for their wonderful Grand Theft Auto series which I have never played and have no desire to play. Red Dead Redemption is a game set in the final years (around 1911) of the wild west of gunslingers and cowboys. The railroad is coming in and nothing can stop the road to modernity that comes from the railroads. This game sets a record for two things for me. The first is enjoyment. I've never played a game set in the wild west that was as fun as this game and I really liked playing Red Dead Revolver and GUN. The game is a spiritual successor to Red Dead Revolver, pretty much better in every way than it, and more like GUN in content, except that GUN only lasts five hours if you're lucky and has a pretty good storyline, whereas Red Dead Redemption lasts at least 20-25 hours, and has a bit of a weak story. The second is that this game gave me so many headaches, I can't even begin to count them. I'm not sure if it was the realistic environments, something always happening, or the lack of a truly coherent storyline, but this game was headache central for me.

Let me say the the plot to this game is pretty weak all around. John Marston (the player character)starts off the game getting on a train and going to a little crapsack town called Armadillo. He then goes almost directly to confront an old friend of his and is shot for the trouble. The rest of the game goes to show how John Marston has gotten in the middle of a government man and the outlaws of the Old West. The government man wants to pave the road of modernity over the "wild" west, and the outlaws like it just the way it is, lawless and harsh. The game encompasses a lot of areas, from a generic west setting that shows gangs harassing a noble ranch, to the Mexican Revolution and all the psychotics in Mexico at the time, to the mountainous west that seems much tamer in its people, but also much wilder in its climate. The plot is fairly weak, but the characters you meet in the first part of the game at least, come off as the best part of the main plot. Each one of the characters seem to have their own personalities and it's fun to see the quirky west done in a video game medium. The latter two-thirds of the game really holds little interest for me. There are some neat characters and settings, but the feeling doesn't quite live up to what one would desire it to be. The Mexico campaign especially feels more like a political statement (Although I'm not sure what they're trying to say.) than an actual main story plot. It comes off as silly and a little contrived, which doesn't make the game better in my opinion.

Since once the story is done, all the other main characters disappear and die, the game has a very empty feeling to it in the end. It's a sandbox with nobody to talk to and nothing to really do but kill a town or two, kill some buffalo, kill some bunnies, and throw yourself off of a cliff.

Maybe it's just me, but I really have an issue with these sandbox games full of a lot of nothing. I'd rather have good characters and plots than a fully opened game that gives me a headache. Now that I've gotten that off of my chest, I actually did have fun riding around the realistic landscape on my horse for long periods of time. It was fun to just ride and shoot things that got in my way. But it also got old pretty quickly.

Anyway, I did like the game. I thought it was fun for the most part, but I kind of wished the plot was stronger and the characters existed out of the main plot, but those are little gripes to a genuinely good wild west game that will keep you entertained for hours.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Animal Contemplation: Pangolin

So, now I've gone off the deep end with my analyses and have chosen to analyze a very strange animal by the name of Pangolin with the categorization of Animalia Chordata Mammalia Pholidota Manidae Manis tetradactyla... commonly referred to as the "Long-Tailed Pangolin".

Now, you may be asking yourself: "What is wrong with Saquarry? Has he gone mad or something? I thought he reviewed legitimate stuff." Well, of course I review legitimate "stuff"... but all stuff is legitimate, is it not? And pangolins are a type of stuff, are they not? So, giving a review of a pangolin is in many ways just as legitimate as giving a review of a crappy movie or a good video game.

Pangolins are an odd species... kind of like a cross between an anteater and an armadillo, except instead of armadillo armor, they have plates... almost like some kind of plate-mail. Incidentally there is plate-mail made from Pangolin armor. You don't believe me? Check this out: Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, the pangolin is such a neat animal. It happens to be one of my favorite animals just for its sheer oddity. I mean, how many other animals looks as cool as a pangolin? I mean just look at this cute little guy: Tell me you wouldn't want to take him home. That's right. You can't say it because you'd be lying. Pangolins are awesome and now you know it.

Sure, this review might seem a tad silly to those less cultured and not as cool as I or the pangolins are, but to those that appreciate the fine art of the graceful and wondrous pangolin, your hearts will be open to their mighty nature and awesome form... and you won't die in the pangolin apocalypse which, you should know, is just around the corner.

I want to name a band "Pangolin Apocalypse" now.

EDIT: Well, since this page has become incredibly popular despite being nothing more than a filler review and a bit of a joke, I will provide actual information beyond naming my band "Pangolin Apocalypse" even if that is the coolest thing in the entire world ever.

So, let's start with some scientific stuff: Pangolins are also known as scaly anteaters or Trenggilings (I have no idea what that word actually means, but it exists as a name to this strange creature. The name, pangolin, which we usually use to name this creature is a bastardization of the Malay word penggulling meaning "something that rolls up." Pangolins are also nocturnal creatures and insectivores, well, kind of obviously with the anteater reference in one of their names.

Their taxology is hard to place on any chart. Some scientists place them alongside of armadillos, anteaters, and sloths, but their DNA suggests a closer relationship with the order Carnivora, although even that is suspect. These animals also can emit a stink like that of a skunk, which makes them even stranger. How did they animals come to pass!?

The Pangolin Apocalypse, that's how.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Video Game Assessment: Dragon Age: Origins (2009)

Dragon Age: Origins is an RPG video game (obviously) by Bioware, the makers of games such as the Baldur's Gate series, KotOR, and Mass Effect. Dragon Age: Origins is a game that came out not too long ago (I think November or so) and became an instant classic to the gaming world. Sure, it may not be the best RPG ever made, but with it's stunning visuals, great gameplay, and memorable characters this is a game that should not be missed.

I guess my mind was made up in my first playthrough. I thought this game was awesome. The characters stuck out in my mind the most, being the best part of the entire game. Characters like Morrigan the swamp witch with a cynical attitude and Oghren the drunken dwarf who loves to flirt with anything even remotely female became not only amazing characters in this game, but some of the best characters I have ever seen anywhere. Even the characters who turn out to be a bit less in the powerhouse character department are still excellent. And this is where the game absolutely shines. These characters help create a world that is not only believable, but as cynical and snarky as our own world and the people in it. Different characters have different likes or dislikes obviously but the characters never feel one-dimensional or one-sided. They all feel real within the confines of the story. Each is complex in his or her own right and you will find yourself liking some characters as friends and confidants and disliking other characters whose personalities rub you the wrong way.

The gameplay is fun, but can get tiring after a while, especially whilst playing on the X-Box 360 (which is how I've played it). It seems to be a game made to be played on the PC, but it does play well on the 360, just, I believe, not as well as it plays on the PC. The difficulty can be painful as well. Painful and demanding. There was one point in the game that I ran into some bounty hunters. No matter what I did I could not get past those bounty hunters. They weren't even named. They certainly didn't seem important... and yet, those damn bounty hunters had me stymied. I had to lower the difficulty to get passed them, which I almost never do in games unless I'm playing at the highest difficulty, and I wasn't in this game. I was playing on Normal difficulty. Dragon Age: Origins is unforgiving in its difficulty. If you take your eyes from the battle just once or use characters in the wrong way, you're going to pay for it.

As for the settings, they were mostly very well done. I thought visually that the Deep Roads (think Moria from Lord of the Rings) and the Fade (a kind of dream world) were absolutely beautiful. They also seemed to be some of the longest areas, probably because they were so stunning in terms of how they looked and the feeling they gave off. Some of the other settings were perfectly fine, but none were as gorgeous as those two were. None of the others had the weight and beauty of those two areas. Their realism and grittiness surprised me and caused me to want to see even more of those areas.

As for the plot, it was fine, but not great. The plot is not why you're playing the game though. The Darkspawn (the main enemies) and their threat is interesting, but just not the holding point of the story. I was much more interested in the storyline with the Landsmeet and Loghain. It made much more sense and was much more emotionally fulfilling. The Darkspawn threat just seemed more like, "Oh, these orcs are evil and they must die." and then I would hack them to pieces and get bored. I guess an "evil" species is just not as interesting as the evil that men do even whilst they call it "good". My point is that most of the game is more about the Landsmeet and Loghain. It isn't until the very end that the Darkspawn really become an important issue to take care of. And the Arch-Demon (the main baddie) just didn't feel satisfying to kill... actually the whole end battle and even the ending just kind of disappointed me, feeling more tacked on than meaningful. Overall the story is very good, but it does seem to fall apart as the game gets past the human evil and get into the creature evil.

The real staying point is the characters though. I can't stress that enough. The characters are wonderfully done. My personal favorite, Morrigan, had such a deep personality that she felt like a real person. Her story, as well as the stories of other characters, became the highlight of the game for me, and the game is worth it just for those character's stories.

Well, I think I got down all the stuff I wanted to say. The low point of the game is the the Blight storyline (the main story), but the high point is certainly the characters. I did enjoy this game quite a lot. It has a great amount of replayability (although you can only play it so many times before the gameplay gets kind of old), but the choices given to you in game with each character makes the game worth playing multiple times. The game becomes very different depending on how you play it and what you do or even what kind of character you are. There are six origin stories all with the two different genders and three different races (elf, man, dwarf), all of which are unique and different and create a character worthy of the Grey Wardens in different ways.

Overall I think it's a solid game, better than most, but has some fundamental flaws in its execution, gameplay, and plot. It is one of my favorite games on the 360, but that's not saying much as most of the games seem intent on being for douche-bags. My point is that Dragon Age holds up against the 360 games admirably and even holds it own against other RPGs quite well. It is a solid game and definitely worth your time.

(Edit: Did an updated version of my first review here."

Raison d'être

Hello, all that may or may not be reading this! I am known as Saquarry and I shall be reviewing pretty much anything that comes into my mind, from simple reviews like movies, television, video games, and the like, to more complicated reviews of books, philosophies, ideas, and other stranger thins concerning life. I'm pretty much into posting anything about anything, but I'm going to focus on the things I enjoy to snark about or things I am particularly willing to talk about at the moment.

My whole reason for doing this is twofold: Primarily I just want to talk about stuff in general, feeling that it's a pretty awesome feeling to give my own opinion on whatever thing I'm giving my opinion on, and secondarily, my opinion is usually in the minority. Most people do not think like I do or have remotely similar thoughts or ideas. It makes it easier for me to be kind of unique whilst talking about all the different things I could talk about.

I'll try to get at least one review up every week, posting whenever I get the chance. Hopefully you who read this also enjoy it.

My first review will be posted very soon. Good day to you all.