Category Archives: Lists

Gaming To-Do List

This is my 4th post for Blaugust.

Izlain came up with the writing prompt to create a gaming to-do list. I’m a big fan of lists, I’m making them all the time, so this seemed like a good blog topic to take on. In no particular order, here are the gaming things I want to get done.

  1. Post at least 1 video a week. I’ve actually been fairly consistent with videos, and have certainly posted an average of at least 1/week, but I occasionally miss a number of days and then catch up by posting 3 in a week. Further to this, I want to make sure I’m posting a retro review at least once every 2 weeks.
  2. Get back to my “Doing it Right” series. Games are full of not so great representations of women and a lack of racial and sexual diversity, but rather than always dwelling on the bad, I like to point out the good examples too. The problem is, they’re not always easy to find. I’ve got a video about XCOM floating around in my head, but need more. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
  3. Play some PC games. Between retro games and Witcher 3, PC games have sort of fallen off my radar (other than HotS). After the last summer sale my number of unplayed Steam games has been creeping up to an uncomfortable number. Yesterday I started Dead State, which unfortunately didn’t impress me much, but I’d like to finish at least 1 PC game this month and take a look at a few more.
  4. Finish The Witcher 3. One day.
  5. Get to rank 18 in HotS. Why 18? I dunno, seems like a good number and a realistic goal. For far rank 20 is the best I’ve done.
  6. Find an assassin hero I like in HotS. Right now, it’s basically Valla or nothing, and I’d like to be more adaptable when it comes to the ranked draft.
  7. Find a tank I like in HotS. I do like some warriors, but I don’t like being the tank. Somehow I’ve gotten away with never being forced to do it in ranked, but I’d like to be prepared.
  8. Figure out how to capture game footage from retro consoles. I have a Roxxio and a Hauppage, but so far have only used them with consoles that I can conenct with HDMI. There are a lot of games I’d really like to review on PS1/PS2 and Sage CD, but I haven’t figured out how to record them yet.
  9. Finish my unfinished games. Or make the decision that I’m done with them forever. Mirror’s Edge, which has sort of outstayed its welcome. Persona 3, which I played for about an hour (JRPGs start so sloooowly). Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Invisible, Inc., Hand of Fate, Lone Survivor.
  10. Play Journey. It’s finally out on PS4. Time to play.

The Best Game Trailers

Fallout 4 was announced today and a teaser trailer was released. The Internet (myself included) is hyped. However, I didn’t find the trailer that great. I’m mostly just excited by the idea of the game. Trailers are just a marketing tool, but some of them are exceptionally well done. Whether or not the game lives up to the trailer is another matter entirely, though. Here are the game trailers I consider the best and most memorable.

Since we’re on the topic, may as well start with this one.

Fallout 3

Back in 2007 there were a lot of rumors of a new Fallout game, but nothing concrete until this trailer was released. I remember seeing it for the first time, thinking “Is this Fallout?! It looks like Fallout. Oh my god, there’s the power armor, it’s Fallout!!!”The Fallout 3 teaser trailer didn’t tell us much, but it confirmed that there would in fact be a game, and it would be set in Washington DC. No gameplay was shown (and considering Bethesda’s ugly game engine, that’s really for the best) but the visuals brought back memories of the original, isometric Fallout games and the pull back shots were used very well to slowly reveal the expanse of the Wasteland. It was set to the haunting melody of the Ink Spots and featured Ron Perlman’s iconic line: War. War never changes. This trailer gave me goosebumps.

Bioshock

This trailer had me hooked from the very first shot. First, it had Bobby Darin (yeah, I like old music). Second, at the 2 second mark, there’s this brilliant frame of a man, underwater and this amazing, illuminated city far beneath him. There’s a brief moment of serenity as we see the art deco design of this underwater world, and then it gets right into the action. Guns, magic, metal monsters, and creepy little girls raised a hundred questions and made me want to know more.

Bioshock Infinite

Yup, more Bioshock. Say what you want about the games, but they sure do make great trailers. By the time the third game rolled around, we knew what they were about. We knew about Rapture, and expected the same dark, underwater world to explore (and shoot the fuck out of). The Infinite trailer came along and gave something completely new. I love the way it teased expectations by having that first underwater view end up being the inside of an aquarium. Instead of Rapture, the trailer showed a gorgeous, bright, city in the sky. Beautiful, but clearly no less dangerous. I also really liked that instead of playing up the power fantasy aspect of the game (which is the direction the TV commercial took), the reveal trailer gave us a view where we were completely helpless.

Dead Island

This one is a tear jerker. Zombie games had a tendency to be more mindless action than emotion (this was released before TWD S1), and this trailer showed us that they could be something else. Could being the important part. From what I’ve heard (I’ve not played it), this trailer has absolutely nothing to do with the actual game. It’s unfortunate that it’s so misleading, but taken on its own this is still a really good cinematic. The way it shows a scene both forwards and in reverse until they come together in the middle is really well done.

Parasite Eve

I remember seeing this way back in 1998 and thinking – this is a video game?! It looks great and has some of the most memorable music of any of the games I’ve played. It features a female protagonist and antagonist. And dinosaur monsters. Final Fantasy got me into RPGs, but this game offered an RPG with more horror and sci-fi elements. I remember getting this game for Christmas. There were people over and I couldn’t play it right away, so instead I kept this opening cinematic looping ALL day.

Witcher 2

I loved first Witcher game, so I was excited when the trailers for Witcher 2 started surfacing. This trailer doesn’t even feature the game’s protagonist, but does give an idea of what the game will be about – killing kings (in case the title didn’t give it away). Really, this is just one of the most impressive cinematics I’ve seen for a game. Though notice how they’ve specifically went out of their way to not have to animate any hair?

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade

When I think back to my many years playing WoW, Burning Crusade is the era I look back on most fondly. This expansion was the height of my excitement for the game. I had started playing near the tail end of vanilla, and was just getting into raiding as this came out. This trailer really captured the feel of the Outlands and gave us a big bad to look forward to, who would be looming over our heads until we got to Black Temple. “You are not prepared” is probably the most memorable bit of dialogue from all of WoW and this trailer brings back nothing but fond memories.


How about you? What are some of your favourite game trailers?

The 10 Best Games Ever (according to me)

Today I stumbled across a post on I Hate Loading Screens about her top 10 games, and thought it was a great idea for a blog post.

So here is my list of the 10 best games I’ve ever played.

Planescape Torment

1. Planescape Torment – I talk about this game a lot. And there’s a reason for that – it’s fucking amazing. I’ve always been a fan of isometric RPGs and Torment is the best of the bunch by far. The story is great. The characters have backstories and personalities and feel as real as video game characters can get. The game is full of lore, every object you pick up can have it’s own story that sends your imagination on a joy ride. It’s text heavy and the text is beautifully written. Gameplay is also strong, and allows you to master different classes and switch between them. It also allows you to choose how to approach situations, with brains, brawn, or subterfuge.

If, by some chance, you like RPGs and have not played this, I can probably hook you up with a GoG code. Comment/message me if you want one.

Pandora Directive box art

2. Pandora Directive – Of all the adventure games I’ve played over the years, this one is the one I’d call the best.  Pandora Directive puts Sam Spade-inspired PI Tex Murphy on a missing person’s case that soon unearths a vast conspiracy. The gameplay combines point and click mechanics with first-person exploration to great effect. During the course of the investigation Tex solves puzzles, makes contacts, and shares wisecracks about everything. Pandora Directive has sharp, funny writing and allows the player to shape Tex’s character through branching dialogue trees (way before Bioware made this popular), which can lead to a number of different endings. All the Tex Murphy games are great, but this one is the best. The combination of noir setting with humour really works for me.

Beyond Good and Evil

3. Beyond Good and Evil – Besides having one of my favourite protagonists of all time, Beyond Good and Evil has an interesting story and really solid, fun gameplay. As Jade, you need to take on the DomZ, aliens who are enslaving humans. The game world of Hillys features a really cool combination of sci-fi and fantasy elements and features stylish visuals and a really cool soundtrack. Gameplay is diverse, featuring action, combat, stealth, platforming, puzzle solving, and hovercraft racing. All of these elements are done really well. It also features a photography mechanic which is used both to gather evidence about the conspiracy going on and to catalogue all the species of Hillys. I’m a sucker for photography in games when it’s well done.

Shadow of the Colossus

4. Shadow of the Colossus – There’s a certain beauty to exploring a vast and empty land and having a story that isn’t really spelled out for you. Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most moving gaming experiences I’ve had. It’s technically an action game, but the action is confined to one very specific thing – battling colossi. Each battle is a puzzle, where you need to find the beast’s weakness in order to defeat it. As the game progresses these fights become no less exhilarating, but take on an aspect of sadness and you start to wonder why you’re killing these magnificent creatures.

XCOM Enemy Within

5. XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within – Set during a global alien invasion, XCOM puts you in the commander’s chair of an elite organization that represents humanity’s last hope against the invaders. It expertly combines tactical turn-based combat with resource management and strategy. Managing your base is a balancing act of researching alien tech so you can adapt it for your own use, building items and facilities which aid in combat, and reducing worldwide panic by deploying satellite coverage and shooting down enemy UFOs. Everything about this game is compelling, and while I generally play through games like this once then declare “I won,” XCOM is a game that I’ve played through multiple times. Just turning on Ironman mode makes this an entirely new experience.

Shadow Hearts: Covenant box art

6. Shadow Hearts: Covenant – The PS2 was an amazing console for JRPGs and of all of them, Shadow Hearts: Covenant is the one that won my heart. Set during WW1, Covenant takes an unlikely group of protagonists across the globe in order to stop a group of sorcerers intent on world domination. Admittedly, it’s not the most unique story, but it’s the game’s execution that makes it special. Shadow Hearts introduces some really likable characters and puts them in some seriously goofy situations. It’s the humour that really sets this JRPG apart, and there’s a lot of it. It also gives some unique character abilities, from having a character who uses tarot cards and aromatherapy in combat, to a puppetmaster whose doll gains abilities from new outfits, to a vampire who changes forms from golden bat to muscle-bound pro wrestler. From a gameplay perspective, one of the best things about the game is the Judgement Ring, which turns turn-based combat into something much more active and interesting.

Star_Ocean_Second_Story

7. Star Ocean: Second Story – Another amazing  JRPG. Like many JRPGs, the story is a bit of a save the world cliche (though it does add a lot of sci-fi elements to the usual fantasy tropes), but it’s the details that make this game great. First, you get to pick your main character. You can be the attractive, broody, sword-wielding young man with spike hair OR you can play as the naive young woman with magical abilities. Okay, I’m doing a bad job selling this. Your choice of character makes subtle changes to the story, including which other characters you can recruit, and changes some of the story that you get to see, so that’s cool. Second, crafting. You can write, you can blacksmith, you can cook, or compose music or create art. It’s a really robust crafting system that lets you create a ton of usable and special items. If you get good enough at cooking you can even compete in an Iron Chef-like tournament, which is amazing. I’m not generally a fan of crafting in games, but in Star Ocean it is so much fun. Third, the combat is really interesting. Rather than turn-based, combat is more active with you controlling movement and actions on the battlefield. Also, 4 characters participate in each battle, and 4 is better than 3. There’s also an emphasis on building relationships with the other characters in your party and Private Actions let you talk to each character individually.

Mass Effect - Commander Shepard

8. Mass Effect – I refuse to pick one game, Mass Effect is best looked at as a series. Why is Mass Effect awesome? Well, primarily because of Commander Shepard and Jennifer Hale. Shepard is an amazingly kick-ass space action hero and Mass Effect is one of the few games where I enjoy both the Paragon and Renegade character development track. In a lot of games the renegade/dark/evil options just make your character into an asshole, but Mass Effect gives options that are pragmatic and direct rather than just being jerky. Character development is great, relationships in the game get into your head and never let go, choices are hard. Mass Effect features some really memorable characters and the trilogy as a whole is an experience that covers not only the thrills and dangers of saving the entire galaxy but also has a ton of smaller, quieter moments that make the games special. Also, it’s a very solid 3rd person shooter.

Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines

9. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines – Set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness, VtMB and is an atmospheric and immersive RPG. As a freshly sired vampire you need to navigate through an eternally dark Los Angeles, making friends and enemies, feeding on mortals, fighting foes, and surviving vampire politics. The game is not without flaws, there are some pretty nasty bugs, but the story and interactions in the game more than make up for them. The lore of the game is deep, each vampire clan has its own strengths and motivations. You can choose whether to abide by the rules of the Masquerade and what clans to align yourself with. The writing and voice acting in the game is top notch, and there are some truly creepy moments.

Final Fantasy x-2

10. Final Fantasy x-2 – Final Fantasy X was a great game, and X-2 leveraged the great world and characters it had set up and added some amazingly fun new gameplay. Yuna becomes the heroine and teams up with Rikku and new character Paine to spread girl power throughout the land (and save the world, obviously). Though there are some cringey bits (I find serious musical numbers in games to be immensely uncomfortable), the sheer amount of fun this game offers more than makes up for it. Combat has evolved past that of FFX. It’s faster, it’s slicker. Characters can use numerous different dresspheres which offer completely different sets of abilities and a snazzy new outfits. The mini-games like Sphere Break and Gunner’s Gauntlet are amusing diversions and the quest-focused story works really well.

Well, that’s my 10 (right now). I seem to have a thing for RPGs. And here’s a video where I share some more thoughts on what makes a game good enough to be called favourite.

What are your top 10 games?

The Everyone Wins Game Awards

I posted my top 6 games of 2014 yesterday, but felt remiss for not at least giving mentions to all of the other great (or not so great) games I’ve played that come out this year. So here are the awards I felt best suited to each of them.

Game I expected to be much funnier than it was
Broken Age
– I expected Tim Schafer’s newest game to be hilarious, but suspiciously few laughs were had. An exception is the vomiting tree, that was funny.

Best 14th installment in a franchise
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
– The best Call of Duty I’ve ever played. The only Call of Duty I’ve ever played.

Most avant gaaaaarde
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
– A game designed for the Kinect and released right after MS announced it was no longer needed. It involves a cat girl, a fashion designer who is in love with a mannequin, a time travelling detective with a bullet lodged in his brain, and food. Lots and lots of food.

Most pointless gear grind
Destiny
– Honestly, I’ve got nothing amusing to say, this game is just a bore that keeps people playing for better gear despite not actually enjoying most of the time they spend doing it.

Most puzzling use of rock, paper, scissors
Divinity: Original Sin
– In D:OS you get to play as two main characters, each with their own personalities. They may not always agree on your chosen course of action and settle disputes by playing rock, paper, scissors. It’s always fun to lose to yourself in an argument. If I were being less snarky, I’d also give this best old-school rpg of the year.

Best game that I didn’t actually like for the first 20 hours
Dragon Age: Inquisition
– Okay, I’m really done talking about The Hinterlands now.

Game that excels at making people curse angrily at their computers
Hearthstone
– Making a clutch move or getting the perfect draw is great. Except when it happens to your opponent. I actually quit Hearthstone in the summer when I realized it was making me curse more than smile.

Let’s adventure like it’s 1992
Heroine’s Quest
– This game looks and plays exactly like Quest for Glory 1, except with Norse mythology and a female lead. Do you want to be a hero?

The next generation remaster that got outshone by its own DLC
The Last of Us

– TLoU was good, but Left Behind was perfect.

Best party game
Mario Kart 8
– It’s fast (or slow, if you prefer), fun, and you get to sabotage your friends with red shells. What more could you want? Oh, I know what more I could want. A new Mario Party that doesn’t use any motion controls at all!

Worst game of the year
Moebius: Empire Rising
– Horrific character animations, stupid puzzle solutions, and an insulting 50 screen maze that only exists to bloat the playing time. This is not a good game.

Most likely to turn you into a newt
Murdered: Soul Suspect
– Did I say newt? I meant ghost. The way Murdered killed you right at the start and let you solve your own murder was a pretty cool idea.

An hour of my life I want back
Only If
– In the words of Steam user Dorgarr: “By no means is this a Puzzle Game, unless you like to play puzzles in the dark, with half of the pieces from five different jigsaws mixed into one, while a drunken philosophy dropout reads Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” backwards, in a room slowly filling with carbon monoxide.”

Most confounding way to beat a game
PT
– Beating PT is difficult, and I give major props to the people who figured it out themselves. Walk exactly 10 steps at midnight. Stop moving completely as your controller freaks the fuck out. Talk into the microphone (Leeeeeesaaaa). Hopefully babies will laugh. Hopefully the phone will ring.

Most innovative combat system
Revolution 60
– Part DDR, part QTE, Rev60 combined timing and slick visuals to create a touch-based combat system that was fast-paced and fun.

Don’t forget the Dramamine
Sunset Overdrive
– Sunset Overdrive is like the illegitimate love child of Tony Hawk, Frank West, and a 96-pack of Crayolas that you accidentally put in the clothes dryer. It’s bright and fun, but the constant spinning, sliding, jumping, and gliding does start messing with your equilibrium after a while.

Game that made me hate Wii controllers even more
Super Smash Brothers 
– I didn’t think it was possible, but this game takes everything I dislike about each of the WiiU controllers and magnifies them.

Most satisfying hit of nostalgia
The Tesla Effect
– I love the Tex Murphy series of games and though this Kickstarted game was a bit uneven in places, that good old Tex Murphy charm, humour, and puzzle solving made me feel like a teenager again. But in a good way.

Most disappointing ultimate weapon
Tomb Raider
– Lemme get this straight… my final bow upgrade is a sighted compound bow? Sure, compounds are more powerful, but in terms of visual badassery, they miss the mark. In what world is a (cheating) sighted compound bow cooler than an awesome recurve? Not my world.

Best voices
Transistor
– Between sword boyfriend and Ashley Barret’s haunting vocals over an already exceptional soundtrack, Transistor is even more enjoyable to listen to than it is to play.

Best use of Brahms
Valiant Hearts
– The car chase sequences were a highlight of Valiant Hearts, and all the speeding and swerving were set perfectly to Hungarian Dance No. 5.

Most beautiful location
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
– The visuals in this game put most others to shame. I’d love to take a walk around Red Creek Valley (minus all the murder).

Most disappointing sequel
The Walking Dead: Season 2
– After S1, I had high expectations, and unfortunately this game fell short. Though it was fun to play as Clementine, bad writing and character development in the last episodes of the game left me cold.

Best (only?) use of a Teddy Ruxpin doll
Wasteland 2
– Wasteland 2 is full of easter eggs and inside jokes to those who grew up in the 80s. I had one of those talking Teddy Ruxpin dolls, but I could never find a Grubby that worked.

And, a couple more special awards…

Comeback genre
Isometric RPG
– Thanks in large part to Kickstarter, 2014 saw a number of great Isometric RPGs released – Divinity, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall. It looks like the genre will still be going strong in the next couple years as well with Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera in development.

Thing that needs to go away
Game titles with colons
– If you need a 12 world title with a colon and subtitle, maybe you should just start making new games, rather than new installments of old ones.

Trope that needs a leave of absence for 2015
The dead wife/daughter/sister/family
– Let’s try some new ideas to give your protagonist emotional baggage. Many things can cause emotional trauma, I promise.

What games need more of in 2015
Diversity!
– Give me new characters, from different places, with different backgrounds. Give me stories I haven’t heard too many times before.

*For more Listmas2104, go to United We Game*

Best Games of 2014

It’s that time of year when everyone writes about the best games of the year, and thought I’d add my 2 cents. This list feels a bit disingenuous since I currently own or want a number of 2014 releases that I just haven’t had time to get to yet, but I can only play so many games in a single year!

I think 2014 has gotten a lot of flack, as many consider it a weak year for gaming. I disagree. The beginning of the year was a bit weak – the PS4 and XBox One had just come out, and there are always growing pains and a lack of games to play on brand new systems. Also, a number of games that came out this year were remasters of games that had come out over the last couple years as well. But as we got closer to the middle and end of the year, a number of real heavy hitters started getting released, and I think the year ended on a good note.

So here are my top 6 games released in 2014.

Tomb Raider

I struggled with giving a best of 2014 award to a game that actually came out in 2013 and only got a remaster in 2014, but Tomb Raider was so much fun that I just can’t resist. Crystal Dynamics rebooted the Tomb Raider franchise with aplomb. We got a Lara Croft origin story that was thrilling and Lara herself got her best makeover ever. I’ve written about all the things I felt Tomb Raider did right from a feminist perspective but, when it comes down to it, Tomb Raider takes one of the top spots because it was just so much fun to play. Set pieces and quick time events sent my heart racing. I flinched each time Lara took a blow. Gameplay was fast and smooth with super slick controls. Taking out enemies with my bow, traversing rock faces, swinging down ziplines, all felt so natural. The controls  were so impeccable they actually ruined a number of other PS4 action-adventure games for me. I just couldn’t get into AC: Black Flag and Infamous: Second Son – where the characters moved oddly in comparison. I had to fight the controls to get Edward or Delsin to do what I wanted, whereas Tomb Raider made Lara feel like an extension of myself.

Valiant Hearts: the Great War

2014 was not a great year for Ubisoft’s big releases. However, in June Ubisoft Mountpellier put out a lovely puzzle adventure about love, survival, and sacrifice during World War One. The game puts you in the shoes of four different characters whose lives have been intertwined in strange and sometimes heartbreaking ways by the war. Though the game contains no dialogue, I always knew what each character was feeling, in part due to the excellent animation and music. Games often put us into the role of soldiers, but not many do it like this. Valiant Hearts is not a power fantasy, but a history lesson and an experience that makes us question war from an emotional and philosophical standpoint. It was really refreshing to see war from from a non-American view, as the whole game takes place in the period before America joined the war effort. It did make me tear up a few times, most notably during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Valiant Hearts - The Great WarMechanically the game is very enjoyable as well. Gameplay is quite varied, yet still manages to fit into the context of the story. It covers everything from operating machinery to turn off chlorine gas pipes, timing-based movement to sneak between enemy patrols, rhythm based medical procedures, and car chases set to amazing orchestral music. A number of the puzzles involve Walt, a casualty dog, who can help to fetch items from tight places and find injured soldiers. And who doesn’t love games with dogs?

Valiant Hearts is one of those rare games that combine both fun gameplay and a meaningful story to give a great gaming experience.

The Last of Us: Left Behind

Left Behind is not really a game on its own, but DLC for The Last of Us. Regardless of this, it’s an amazing experience that deserves a place on game of the year lists. It was great to step into Ellie’s shoes and see her past, as well as expand upon the Winter chapter of The Last of Us. Left Behind is a perfect 2-hour gaming experience that did everything the main game did, but did it better. The pacing is perfect, the dialogue is endearing and on point. It’s not as action-heavy, but it wastes no time – every scene matters. My emotions ran the gamut while playing this, from pure joy to absolute heartache.

PT

I don’t play a lot of horror games, but PT showed me how great they can be. Though it’s really just a playable demo for the new Silent Hills game, it was one of my best gaming experiences of the year. PT created a taut, terrifying experience that delivered not just jump scares, but a truly unsettling environment and disturbing audio and visuals and wormed their way into my psyche. Perhaps it was partly the context of playing the game (I was with great company and a couple bottles of bubbly), but PT managed to keep me so engrossed and curious for more that I played it 3 times in a row. The fact that each playthrough was subtly different was just the icing on the horribly creepy cake.

PT hallwayI think PT was more successful as its own game than it was as a trailer. While PT was exceptional, I don’t have a lot of faith that a horror game can be 12 hours long with more involved gameplay and still be as compelling as this was.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

This was one of the few games whose development I followed closely before it was released, and I’m glad to say it did not disappoint. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand, and is a refreshing take on the weird horror genre. It’s also one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played, with photorealistic environments that put many AAA games to shame, and a gorgeous and moody soundtrack. Ethan Carter is a murder mystery that hints towards a greater darkness. It lets you explore the beautiful world and solve puzzles at your own pace, while still managing to maintain tension throughout its whole 4-5 hour playtime.

Dragon Age: INQUISITION

Four of the previous games on this list are there at least in part due to their short playtimes, which created a tight and well-paced experience. Dragon Age: Inquisition is the complete opposite of those. To be honest, the pacing of the game’s first 10-20 hours was complete shit. However, the game more than makes up for it with its huge, deep, engaging story, wonderfully written dialogue, and sheer enormity of the world. While the size of the game can be a bit overwhelming, this installment of Dragon Age had a sense of place and a real, living world like no other. Once I hit a certain part in the story (which I could have reached way earlier if I had just left the fracking Hinterlands), I was completely enthralled and immersed in the world. The characters, from those in my party, to my advisers, to the people hanging around Skyhold all felt like real people, who I wanted to talk to and learn about. The addition of the War Table made me feel like I was the actual head of an army, who had to make decisions and delegate, rather than a lone adventurer who needed to personally slay every demon and settle every petty dispute myself. I sunk a good 200 hours into this game, and besides those initial 10 or so, I loved every minute of it.


 

Those are my games of the year, what are yours?

 

Creepiest Moments in Games

It’s October, and time for all things scary and disturbing. No I’m not talking about GamerGate (ba dum pssh), I’m talking about scary games. I can be pretty wimpy when it comes to on-screen scares, but I’ve still played my share of horror games. The thing that tends to get to me most in horror games is the sounds. I can handle jump scares or gore, but too many scary noises and I’ll likely need to turn it off and take a break.

Here are some of the creepiest moments from games I’ve played.

Silent Hill – Radio

SH was one of the first horror games I ever played. It was the first horror game I quit after barely an hour because I was too creeped out to go on. Watching the beginning of this video, with less than impressive PS1 graphics and wooden voice acting, it may be hard to believe that this game could be really scary, but it was. That radio sound… /shudder. And it wasn’t just an awful sound, it mean that something was coming.

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly – Laughter

Fatal Frame 2 takes the cake for scariest game I’ve played. Creepy twins, ghosts, a combination of both jump scares and intensely creepy situations. Plus there was a scene with a well, and those have been traumatizing since The Ring. The malevolent, maniacal laugher in this scene was the worst.

Slender – The whole damn thing

This game is intense. I will admit that I’ve never actually played this game myself, but I’ve watched over the shoulders of a couple other people playing it. Well, trying to play it. They both quit before they found all 8 pages. The game environment is very sparse, but that adds to the terror. The worst part is the sound  the game is filled with the sounds of your footsteps, ragged breath, and pumping heart. As you find pages, things get even worse as the camera starts to shake and the creepy sounds go into overdrive.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines – Ocean House Hotel

VtMB isn’t really a horror game (though some of the bugs and character models can be quite horrifying), but it’s definitely filled with creepy moments. The haunted Ocean House Hotel is the scariest part. You’re sent to find something that will exorcise the spirits from the house and you discover the story of a man who went crazy and killed his family (it’s very Shining-like). While you’re going through this, you encounter ghostly apparitions, poltergeists who send objects flying at you, and doors that open on their own.

 Alan Wake – Chapter 1 Nightmare

I just started Alan Wake recently because I figured I should play something scary before Halloween. I’m not finished yet, but so far it’s a lot of fun. It’s very cinematic and no too scary, but the combo of maniacal laughter and being trapped in this scene (about midway through the video) right near the beginning of the game really creeped me out.

 What games creep you out?

My Favourite Blogs and Websites

This is Day 10 of the 20 Days of WoW Blogging Challenge.

(What happened to day 9? Shh…)

I think I’ve talked about my favourite WoW blogs enough. And most of them are in my blogroll, so you can see them there. So instead I will talk about the non-WoW sites and blogs that spend the most time reading.

First, I love to cook and eat, so I frequent a lot of food blogs.

Tiny Urban Kitchen is probably my favorite food blog. Jen does such amazing restaurant reviews that make me envious of all the great restaurants she gets to go to. I love her series of Las Vegas reviews (I <3 Vegas!), and all the reviews she’s done of her hometown of Boston makes that once of the places I really want to travel to.

 Joy the Baker has amazing recipes with great pictures to go along with them that have me salivating at my computer every time she posts a new one. Pickle friesrosemary lime cocktailssalted caramel cheesecake pie. Yum. Beware of reading this site on an empty stomach.

The Pioneer Woman‘s cooking section is amazing. So many great recipes that overuse ingredients like butter and heavy cream…mmm. This site is what first convinced me to make my own crème brûlée, for which I am forever thankful (though my own recipe is better than hers). In addition to making me hungry, this site makes me green with envy. This woman lives on a ranch full of horses and cowboys, she spends her days cooking, taking pictures and blogging. Can I have her life please? (minus the 4 kids).

Other sites I really like:

Television Without Pity – I have a confession to make. I am absolutely terrible at spoiling tv shows. If I PVR something to watch later (which is what I almost always do), I will look up spoilers for the episode before I watch it. I can’t help myself. TWOP is where I go for my spoilers and as a bonus the episode synopses are full of snark. I’ve ruined many a surprise for myself on this site.

Listverse – New lists every day! The lists are sometimes a bit hit-and-miss, but I particularly enjoy the ones about arts and entertainment. Best X-Files episodes, creepiest movie characters, most disturbing novels, doomed cinema romances…there’s a list for everything.

Script Shadow – This site reviews movie scripts and I can’t really explain why I like it so much. I’m not a writer, much less a screenwriter. I have no plans to write a screenplay at any time, but for some reason I really like reading script reviews and writing tips. Maybe it’s just a reflection on my love of movies. One of my favorite series of articles was about the Start Wars movies – it broke down exactly why Empire Strikes Back was completely awesome and Attack of the Clones was complete shit (and looked at the other movies as well).

What are your favourite sites? Have any recommendations for me?