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Jeanne d’Arc for PSP ~ Game Review

April 27, 2011 2 comments

Hi guys! It’s been a little while, and a lot of my most recent posts have been video game related, but I can’t help it — that’s just what I do in my free time. Obviously, I’ve been playing more than I’ve been posting here, anyway 🙂

One of the games that has really caught my attention isn’t new, it’s from 2007, and it’s called Jeanne d’Arc. The new thing about it for me is that we just recently added a PSP to our gaming platform collection, making it pretty dang complete now. (Xbox 360, PS3, DS, DSi, Wii and PSP, what else do I really need to buy?…) Anyway. Jeanne d'Arc for PSP is well worth exploring for RPG and strategy fans.

So everyone in the household has been trying out various new and old games on the PSP, and Jeanne d’Arc is among the most awesome I’ve come across so far. It’s a hybrid of a strategy and RPG game, and I probably don’t need to tell you who the heroine & main character is. In case you for some reason have not heard of Joan of Arc (as we Americans usually say), well. I can’t think of a good reason why you wouldn’t have.

Moving on. After an English attack on Jeanne’s French village, she rallies together a group of would-be warriors against the English (who are ruled by a demonic-child King Henry VI, and his evil sorcerer adviser). You lead the party as Jeanne, and it’s pretty typical party-style play, with an interesting element of strategy when it comes to who to position where during an attack. Some party members’ motions are limited, as are some actions, like healing, where you have to be within a square of the person you’re healing. One team member, armed with a lance, can throw it ahead farther than a sword fighter can attack, which reminded me just a little of a chess game.

So what could have turned out to be a standard RPG gets that extra layer of battle strategy and just drives the game forward with continued challenges. The fighting would have been too easy without the strategic elements, and too boring without the RPG interactions. Together, it’s a great little game that can easily keep you up too late as you forge ahead to the next encounter with demons led by English officers.

Jeanne d’Arc was made by Level-5 Games (better known for their Professor Layton games for the DS) and apparently was their first RPG as well as their first PSP game, which is downright impressive. The only thing I don’t quite get about the game is the useless chirping frog that tags along with the party in between battles. Still, I am holding out hope it has some purpose, since I haven’t finished the game yet.

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Dragon Age 2 review

March 18, 2011 Leave a comment

We don’t play through games as fast as we used to — the demands of work and family make it hard to devote a ton of time to the latest game. But last night, we finally made it through Dragon Age 2, using a warrior character and importing decisions made in one of Sam’s Dragon Age Origins playthroughs.

I should take a minute to explain: I’m saying “we” because with games that we both like, such as Dragon Age, Fable, Mass Effect, Oblivion, etc., Sam & I have our own tag-team method of getting through a playthrough. He does the majority of the fighting, while I do the majority of the conversations, treasure spotting, upgrading characters and comparing equipment, and running around to all the stores. Works for us.

Anyway, we made it to the end, and it feels oddly incomplete. There have been two previous Dragon Age games, Origins and Awakening. The first was pretty stand-alone, while the second was a continuation along the same timeline from the first, and could almost be considered an expansion. The decisions you made in Origins mattered in Awakening, and you could use the same character in both, if you didn’t die as part of the plot.

In this one, you have an entirely different character and setting, although you start out involved in the same events that shaped Origins. Instead of hanging around Ferelden, you cross the seas to the city of Kirkwall as a refugee, and climb your way up to the status of champion of the city. As the game goes on, years pass, and the events of Origins in Ferelden (if you played it and choose to include that information in the DA2 story) indirectly influence Kirkwall. Some of the characters from Origins and Awakening also can be found along the way.

The fighting seemed less challenging this time, although in some ways, more fun. The ability to use various items across classes was really helpful, as that was no fun in Origins. The facial and detail rendering on the characters also was vastly improved and quite realistic. I don’t think I saw a single graphics glitch, as opposed to Origins and Awakening, which sometimes had weapons sticking through hair strangely, or rough edges showing in cutscenes. On the other hand, they changed some faces of familiar characters so much they didn’t even look the same, like the mage Anders and the Qunari people.

Most of the world in DA2 was good, with interesting new settings and plenty of cultural depth to explore in the optional codex entries. The gameplay was really similar to the other two, so hardly bears mentioning. One change I wasn’t sure about, however, was armor for companions. The outfits they played in were unchangeable except for upgrades you can acquire that give specific abilities, like rune slots or defense bonuses. All the armor you find in the game is strictly for the main character, Hawke, so you end up not using most of it. But, for all I know, that was the key to the awesome graphics, since they didn’t have to be drawn out in a hundred different armor sets.

The strange thing about Dragon Age 2, when you’re done, is that it leaves the story ending so wide open. It feels a lot like the middle book in a trilogy; nothing major is resolved, and the future possibilities for the characters, even whole countries, are left with more questions than answers.

The champion of Kirkwall turns out to be a major instigator of social upheaval, at least with the decisions we made while playing, and maybe that’s why it feels so unfinished. We went from one chaotic setting to another. I guess there’s one thing for certain to be said: We’ll be looking forward to playing Dragon Age 3 when it arrives, and carries the story onward.

For now, I’m planning to replay DA2 with my favorite class, the rogue, and trying out a few different story decisions to see how the game changes.

Categories: Games Tags: , ,

Back to my gaming roots

March 8, 2011 1 comment

So it’s been a good decade since I did much PC gaming. College and my subsequent low-income years as a reporter didn’t allow me to maintain the kind of computer you need to play real PC games.

The closest I had to a functional PC was my 2002-school-issued laptop, which was decidedly underpowered and could barely run the last generation of PC games, let alone the gorgeous creations on the shelves now. At home, I’ve run Mac desktops mostly, and limped along with the laptop for work.

Instead of the PC games I played when first getting into the gaming world, I made the switch over to various consoles, with a few second-hand Xboxes, Playstations, then the 360 and the PS3 that we have now. And I love console gaming as much, if not more, than I ever did computer gaming. Still, I have a special attachment to the old games that first drew me into gamerdom, like Alpha Centauri or Myst.

You can imagine, then, my out-of-my-head, little-kid excitement when I got an actual modern-day, dual processor laptop this week, and Civilization V to go along with it.

I should probably explain to those who have no history of PC gaming — the Civilization games are turn-based strategy games that have been around since the 1990s, and each iteration of the game has been successively prettier, fuller-featured, and more gamer-friendly. I’ve played each one and loved each one… until Civ V.

When it came out last year, the aforementioned lack of a computer able to run the massive new game was just something I had to resign myself to. I consoled myself with Civilization: Revolution on the Xbox, but it just wasn’t the same.

I longed for the complicated menus and tech trees, the minute attention to detail that Civ demands, the complex interactions between cultures. It’s one of those games for me that I can spend days straight, eyes fixed on the screen, fueled by energy drinks and not much else. Of course, life is different now, and I’ll have to restrain myself to playing until it’s time to pick up the kiddo from school today. (They frown upon leaving them there…)

But for a few hours I’ll be blissfully back in the Civilization world, ruler of all I survey. Excuse me, but I think the opening movie’s starting! See you later, much later!

Oh, the (in)humanity!

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t usually read the news too much anymore. First and foremost, the bias that is on every single major media outlet’s website is blatantly clear. Second, I find some of the topics their writers choose to be weak, at best, and other times simply a cry for attention from sympathetic readers.

Omar Gallaga fell into both categories today when I took a moment to scan CNN.com. His article, Why I can’t Get behind ‘Dead Island’, was basically a whine-fest about the video game trailer that has been getting rave reviews from bloggers and gamers alike. The reason Gallaga can’t throw his support behind the game? Well, there’s violence happening to a child. If you haven’t seen the trailer, then check it out. Read more…

A dear friend heads toward the red rings at the end of the tunnel

April 14, 2010 3 comments

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...

It finally happened. I’m not happy about it, I’m not mad about it and there was nothing I could do about it. The Red Rings of Death appeared on my Xbox 360 last night.

We were watching Netflix and the screen froze. Annoying, yes, but easily fixed with a reset. We start it up, get Netflix rolling and the screen freezes. At this point, I figure it’s got to be Netflix.

Wrong.

A second reset equaled the RROD. A third did, too.

My Xbox was manufactured in June 2007. It has been a loyal companion of mine, sporting a 120-gig hard drive and all the bells and whistles, since then. It has traveled the country with me, taking my first flight with me and hanging out in hotels with me. It was even there that night in Texas… never mind. Read more…

Check out my Dragon Age Awakening review…

April 13, 2010 Leave a comment
Dragon Age: Origins
Image via Wikipedia

It’s over at Geek Girl on the Street, here. It’s my first post for them, and, I guess, my first paid blog post. Can’t complain about my job, hey? Anyway, reading this post reminds me I have more Dragon Age to play… I still want to find out the reaction from my Origins character, who is one of the Couslands, when she meets Nathaniel Howe in her dungeon. Should be good.

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Multitasking: Not just for non-iPhone users anymore!

April 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I doubt any of you are aware, or even care, but I’m an iPhone user. So is Kim, actually.

When these devices first came out, I really didn’t have a second thought about them. No one really needs a phone that is capable of doing so many things, right?

The dark, dark (side) future of the iPhone. Steve Jobs, I am your uncle...

Time went by and AT&T (and my super beautiful friend, Sarah Maki) lured me into buying one. I’ve been hooked ever since. The iPhone has become the perfect phone for my use, keeping me in touch with my freelance clients, available to speak to and email even when I’m out ice fishing and keeping me connected to the streams of data I so readily rely upon. In addition, the iPhone has replaced my MP3 player, has become a solid back-up camera when I come across something that just begs for photo attention and even has been turned into an entertainment device when boredom strikes.

In short, I love the iPhone. I am just hoping it’s not giving me a brain tumor.

One aspect of the phone that has been so frustrating, however, has been the inability to run more than one application (known simply as apps to those purists) at the same time. It’s tough when you’re in the middle of a game or reviewing a client email when someone texts you and you are forced to either ignore the text or read the text and lose your place in the game or whatever it is you’re working on.

Enter OS 4.0, which will be available this summer. According to Steve Jobs, who of course presented the new system, OS 4.0 will allow iPhone users to be able to run multiple applications at once. Multitasking will now be possible. Hallelujah.

There is a potential downside, however, The OS is going to be “ad friendly,” allowing Jobs and the Apple Dumpling Gang to send advertisements to iPhones and iPod Touches across the globe. In his presentation, Jobs indicated there will be over 1,000,000 (yes, 1 million… I just don’t get to write it out often) iPhone and iPod Touches in use by this summer. He said with 10 ad impressions to each phone, he can create a daily marketing stream that involves 1,000,000,000 (yes, 1 billion!) ad impressions each day. Read more…