FTL: Faster Than Light

I keep meaning to post about this game. Even though I purchased FTL some time ago and have since set it down for the most part, it’s one of the more fun titles that I have played in recent memory. I’ve actually known about it for quite some time; It was a Kickstarter if I recall correctly. In addition to a huge chunk of my Steam friends constantly playing FTL, I am pretty sure that I read or heard about it on most of the gaming sites, podcasts, and streams that I follow. And yet, I still managed to blow this game off completely until it went on sale a month or two (or three) ago.


FTL is a rogue-ish resource management strategy game set in space. You are tasked with delivering a critical message to the Federation fleet, which will take you across 8 sectors. Each sector contains a number of star systems to jump to; All the while the nefarious rebels are nipping at your heels. Ignore the fact that graphically, FTL looks like it probably belongs on phone or something, that really is not important. While it isn’t exactly the prettiest plate on the shelf, it’s one of those games that is hard to put down. Game content is largely based on randomization. What each sector contains, what you get from each encounter and what each store has in supply is pretty much up to the RNG.

FTL is hard proof that losing can be fun and it better be because you will lose quite a bit in this title. It’s well worth picking up and probably one of the best deals in terms of play time per dollar.

Games I Enjoyed This Year: Dishonored

2012 wasn’t a huge gaming year for me. Unless I am forgetting titles, which I probably am, I don’t think I even bought too many AAA PC titles. Interestingly enough, most of the games that I have been really enjoying lately are either indie titles or iPhone games. Of the AAA titles that I did purchase, Dishonored comes out on top or close to being on top. I really really enjoy playing stealth games, particularly first-person stealth games to the point where I would easily consider that genre to be my favorite (such a shame that they are so rare). Needless to say, I purchased Dishonored off of Steam shortly after it came out back in early October and had enjoyed not quite a bit. Furthermore, not only is Dishonored a FPS stealth game but also brand new IP, which seems even rarer nowadays.


The gameplay is where Dishonored really shines. It has a good rhythm: Blink to a ledge, sneak around a corner, pause to avoid a patrol, look down, drop assassinate a guard, slow time, blink behind guard number two, kill, end slow time, summon rats to ‘hide’ the corpses, blink away. The spells are fun and I feel that blinking is a good solution to the age old FPS platforming problem. I also enjoy having the option to complete a game with a completely non-lethal playthrough. Though it is easy enough to kill everyone in the entire level, the lethal options are particularly fun. I found Dishonored’s binary moraility system (ala Bioshock) to be a bit odd: Even though the lethal options are often the most fun (lol rats), using them will pretty much guarantee that you do not get the ‘good’ endings whether you are detected or not. This mechanic feels oddly contradictory but doesn’t detract from the game a whole lot I suppose.


The levels are designed to perfectly compliment Dishonored’s gameplay and as such are very well done. The levels are open and contain multiple objective paths without feeling too linear and forced (eg the conspicuous Deus Ex Human Revolution human-sized vents). If there is a building with a roof, it’s likely that you can climb on it. Most buildings also have an open window or perhaps a grate to climb through. Otherwise, there may be a way to obtain a key, etcetera. Along similar lines, the setting and art style are fantastic: A richly detailed, cell-shaded, dilapidated, Victorian flavored city interlaced with steel. If Dunwall looks vaguely familiar it is probably because the art direction and visual design direction were done by Viktor Antonov and Sebastien Mitton respectively (of HL2 fame). It feels a lot like a steampunk City 17. Overall the characters and story were fairly average. Plotwise, I wouldn’t say that anything too remarkable happened for good or for bad.

Overall, Dishonored was an extremely elegant and polished experience (also may still be on sale on Steam now).

Black Mesa

Part of last week’s pre-panda gaming time was spent playing Black Mesa. I can’t believe that it’s actually out. To be honest, I had always assumed that it was the type of game that would just vanish into oblivion. I remember being really excited about it over 5 years ago and then really disappointed when I realized the project was most likely vaporware. Needless to say, I am very pleased to be wrong. To those who live under a rock: Black Mesa is a third-party Half-Life 2 total conversion modification that faithfully recreates both the experience and spirit of Half-Life 1.

Black Mesa isn’t just a cheap half-assed remake. The fact that a fan mod is effectively being treated as a ‘normal’ game is a testament to just how much care was put into recreating almost every single magical moment. Black Mesa also accurately captures the original aesthetic for better or for worse. On one hand, I don’t think that fans would have it any other way. On the other, staying this true to the original design serves to highlight outdated level design techniques (mostly the lack of reasonable proportions in certain areas). Then again, the whole point of the project to understanding was to repolish not completely remake every aspect of the game. Regardless, it’s amazing how fun Half-Life still is, especially considering its age. There really aren’t many games of that age, particularly first-person shooters, that are even playable nowadays.

I was impressed with the quality of most the voice acting. Though to be honest: I most more pleased that the voice acting wasn’t outright terrible like virtually all projects of this sort. The added dialogue is also decent and for the most art blends in with the original content. The music is fantastic, even though the mixing is a bit off. One annoying thing: I really don’t remember if the original game was like this but for whatever reason the vertical jumping speed in Black Mesa is set really low to the point where you have to literally crouch jump over almost everything. If this also bothers you, it can be changed by editing a config file.

If you are looking for a nostalgia run or if you’ve never had the pleasure of playing the original half life, now is your chance.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The original Deus Ex is legendary, it represents a turning point in gaming, offering a depth of gameplay, a scope of vision and a story telling method not seen in a medium of this type until that point in time. It is widely considered to be one of the best games ever made by myself and many other players. To say that Deus Ex Human Revolution has a lot to live up to is an understatement; I mean, how do you live up to the greatest game of all time? TL;DR: This game is a lot of fun (I’d say in my top three for this year: Portal 2, Witcher 2 and Human Revolution). It is single handedly responsible for me going to bed past 2am for an entire week, thus doubling my caffeine intake.

Deus Ex’s “flavor” has always been that of variety and Human Revolution is no exception. The gameplay is fantastic and pretty much, exactly what I had wanted from this title. I really love games that offer a flexible range of experiences, particularly if there is a strong stealthing (straight up shooters are a dime a dozen, but stealth, not so much). I liked the first/third person hybrid gameplay. Though initially awkward to use, it worked out well in my opinion. Holding the right mouse button while behind cover will switch to a 3rd person view of Adam. Tapping and holding the space bar allows you to respectively roll to a new cover spot and round corners. You also have the option of blind firing. It is a good solution to common cover problems and works a hell of a lot better than repeatedly leaning to peek around corners in first person view.


As expected, Human Revolution provides a multitude of options for different gameplay styles. Players with a more subtle touch won’t be forced to kill people if they do not want to. Similarly, if you aren’t into hacking and sneaking, brute force works as well. Just about every single point in the game offers an alternative route for all play styles; All of which feel rewarding in their own way. I never really felt like the game was punishing me if I chose one method of advancement over another, and that’s important. There’s also fair room for more creative solutions. So if you want to cheese an area by spending an hour stacking crates or methodically collecting turrets, nothing is really stopping you.

The shooter aspect of Human Revolution feels fairly average and the mouse controls were reported as being laggy for some folks (the patch corrected that issue for me). Also, I didn’t really like the take down animations. They were somewhat repetitive and awkward in the sense that, the game switches camera views every single time certain abilities were performed. It kind of broke fluidity. Otherwise, the normal flow of the game has a good rhythm.

There are a wide variety of augmentations available supporting the many styles of gameplay as mentioned above. As you play through the game you acquire experience for doing certain activities (killing, hacking, tranquilizing, etc etc). When you acquire enough experience, you level up and are rewarded with one Praxis Point to be used towards the redemption of various augmentations. Praxis Points may also be purchased for 5k credits from LIMB clinics. The Praxis Points really aren’t that widely available, so you have to pick and choose carefully between upgrades as you progress through the story.


This point is kind of a nitpick but: Many of the augmentations felt a bit oddly placed to me. It is really easy to minmax out certain skills relatively early on in the game, trivializing certain challenges. Also, the energy bar upgrades were fairly useless seeing as how you can only naturally regenerate one bar. Since the candy bars were relatively rare I was reluctant to use them. Overall, the extra energy bars were only used at very few points in the game.

The hacking minigame, for once, was actually pretty fun. Though to be honest, it got a little old by the end of the game seeing as how I obsessively hacked just about every single door and every single computer in the game. The fact that the game does not pause when you hack adds a bit of urgency. You have to be quick or thorough enough to make sure that all of the guards along that pathing route have been accounted for (vending machine fort worked pretty well lol). Otherwise, you will be caught and shot at.

On top of that, it’s a game of risk versus reward. Without going into a long-ass explanation as to how the hacking actually works (just watch a YouTube video or something), most of the hacking screens have optional datacores that will yield extra credits, sensitive information or hacking goodies (stop worms and nuke viruses). Attempting to grab the datacores greatly increases the risk of you getting caught and also takes a bit more time.


Human Revolution has two main weak points: One, the boss fights and two, the cut scenes. Both elements to say the least feel like relics from the past. It’s also worth noting that the load times, though GREATLY improved after a patch are still plentiful and fairly annoying (especially for quick save abusers). But combined, these issues interrupt the game’s rhythm.

I will just outright say it: The cutscenes are god awful and distracting. What was the point of doing that and what was the point of pre-rendering them? The clips are short, about 30 to 60 seconds on average and usually occur towards the beginning or the end of a main quest sequence. In otherwords, you get a crap ass movie at every single pivotal point in the game. To top it off, not only does the game steal control away from you during these critical moments, but it completely abandons the game engine in favor of cheesy looking poorly rendered video

There are good boss fights and then there are bad boss fights. As I see it, boss encounters should feel like a natural climax to a storyline or a chapter; It should be meaningful to the game’s storyline or at the very least, original in terms of gameplay. The problem with many many boss fights is that they feel artificial and detached from the main narrative. They feel like an arbitrary and somewhat irrelevant end level challenge for the sake of having an end level challenge and not because they really belong there. That is my real issue with boss fights.

The boss fights were an interesting choice for Human Revolution, especially for someone who chose to play most of the game as a 100% stealth run (most lol). And especially since, if I recall correctly, the first Deus Ex offered non-lethal options or ways of avoiding boss encounters (I could be wrong, it has been over 10 years since my last playthrough). On one hand, they offered a change in pacing. On the other, I didn’t really like being forced into lethal action, though that my have been the point. It would have been awesome if the encounters offered a stealth objective or something more creative than running and gunning. It was particularly awkward seeing as how I had skilled most of my points into stealth and hacking.


I really liked Human Revolution’s graphics from a design standpoint. It is a stylized game, as in, not meant to be photorealistic like Crysis. The limited color palette keenly depicts a cold and narrow world. Frequent use of gold and black contrasts and accents important parts of the game (along with read and white serving as highlights). The colors  also tie the game together as a central theme: Gold represents the golden age of cybernetic research whereas black represents its dystopic side. Revolutionary advances in biotechnology stifled by socioeconomic strife.

Some people don’t like limited color palettes (another “brown game), but in this case its fitting and represents good use of the intentional color palette limitation. After all, it’s not as if the dystopian near future is going to be painted with happy rainbow colors. From a technical standpoint, Human Revolution has several problems. First of all, as detailed as the game is, some of the texturing and shadowing do not look very good at higher definition. The overall city scenes, interiors and overall designs look quite nice, but some of the details, not so much.

Also, many of the character models look sub-par (screenshot comparison). For example: Compare anyone from the main cast (Adam, Sarif, etc) with less important characters. Some kind of don’t look too good to a distracting degree. The facial engines or lack thereof are notably rudimentary. Most of the soldiers, civilians and other non-main characters are grossly reused. It wouldn’t have hurt to include a bit more variety. Overall, nitpicks and what not aside, I was happy with Human Revolution’s art direction and style. It’s an overall very slick looking and well designed game.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the choice system. The Witcher 2 had spoiled me so I set my bar rather high. Along the sliding scale of choice systems, Human Revolution feels like it lays somewhere between The Witcher 2 and Mass Effect. It’s not bad or anything, but I really wanted the ending of the game to feel like the culmination of all of the choices that I had made throughout the game. I did not feel that was achieved. But that said, I was comparing game stories with several folks and was very very surprised at exactly how different each person’s game experiences were. May mission outcomes and game reactions are a direct result of your choices and actions.

(First mission spoiler). I didn’t realize that the hostages in the factory could be saved because I was never presented with that objective. So lo-and-behond, post action everyone in Sarif was pissed at me and I did not understand why. I mean, sure I didn’t save the secretary, but she had a gun pointed to her head. I did the best that I could given the urgent situation! You all are dicks! I did not realize that if you dick around headquarters for long enough, the hostages would be executed. I had been so damned focused on rummaging through emails and stealing shit that I had kind of blown off David Sarif’s irate message. My bad. Actually, to best honest, I had assumed that the hostages were scripted deaths. I made a point of saving everyone the second time around.

Bastion (XBLA)

I was itching for a cheap new game a couple of weeks ago and turned to Steam to satisfy my need. Bastion was at the top of one of the store lists, but unfortunately wasn’t out yet for the PC so I bought it off of XBLA instead. I don’t know how the PC version compares, but I assume that it is of the same/better quality as the console version since it has received fairly high marks all around. Bastion is a fantastic isometric action-RPG. At heart it is a fairly basic game both as both the gameplay as well as the story or more-or-less standard fair for an action RPG. Just about everything about it though works out very well. It’s polished, the mechanics are tightly controlled and it’s fun. The graphics and sound are both a treat.

In short, the world was destroyed during an event known as “The Calamity”. It is up to you, The Kid to rebuild it. Action RPGs are a dime a dozen; So what separates Bastion from the rest? For one, the excellent narration. The entire story is live narrated by a gruff old wise-man known as Rucks. By live narrated I mean, everything down to minute actions are beautifully narrated. It adds a lot of depth and flavor to each section of the game.

There are a good range of weapons and upgrades. You are permitted to equip a total of two weapons and one special attack. There’s a weapon that will cater to just about every play style. As you level, you unlock slots that can be filled with various potions that will add passive modifiers to your abilities. I do wish that the enemies were a little more varied. As you progress through the game, higher difficulty usually equates to either more enemies or more AoE attacks. It works, but it’s a little uncreative to say the least.

It’s a fairly short game at around 8 hours of gameplay for a single playthrough. After you complete the game, a new game plus mode is unlocked, allowing you to retain all of your weapons from your original playthrough. Bastion isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it sticks to it’s roots and presents a neatly package, extremely polished game. There’s a demo of Bastion up on Steam by the way.

Impression: World of Tanks

Not really a review, but just a blurb on something that I have been playing on-and off lately. World of Tanks has been brought up in casual conversation every so often over the past couple of months or so, but I have always dismissed or forgotten about it. I finally had a chance to take a closer look at it while I was on vacation last month. So for those who don’t already know what it is, World of Tanks is a fun free-to-play (freemium) PvP MMO about well, tanks.

You start with a small selection of WWII tanks (3 total: US, USSR and German). Choose one and fight in a team of 15 against another team of 15 tanks. If you die, you can exit the battle and start another match with another tank while the other match finishes. Each match yields a certain amount of experience and credits depending on how well you do. Experience points can be used to unlock different tank upgrades in which you use credits to buy. Each upgrade is specific to that particular tank. It’s a bit grindy to say the least. The catch, at least from what I can tell is that the later upgrades take a fuckton of time to grind out, less-so if you purchase some of the premium content with real-life cash. But, it’s something that I can easily pick up and set down with very little investment.

The UI and controls are fairly straightforward. There’s not that much of a learning curve; I mean for the most part, you move around, shoot things and/or die. Dying seems to be something that you end up doing a lot early in the game. Graphically, it is fairly nice looking. I mean, it’s not Crysis, but I was impressed with how polished and nice looking it was. For some reason, I was under the impression that WoT was some schlocky looking freebie game. I’m not sure if it’s really my thing, but it’s free and something that I can play with friends.

Oh, the starter tanks suck. The game is more fun once you get a tank that can actually aim and move more efficiently than a potato.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

The Witcher series feels a bit like an unpolished jewel. There is just so much that I like about it; The setting, the mythology, the story, the characters, the atmosphere, the art direction – but at the same time, there is so much that can be improved in terms of gameplay and design.  For what it is worth, you don’t really have to play the first game in order to enjoy the Witcher 2 (per se), though I would definitely recommend doing so. The prologue does a fair job at introducing the characters and overall setting, but not being familiar with the world and its players will put you at a disadvantage, especially since your saved data from The Witcher can be imported.

Even so, my only real complaint about The Witcher 2’s overall story is that, I get the distinct feeling that I am missing out on something by not having read and really, not being at all familiar with the book series (sadly, not all of them have been translated into English *extreme sad face*). There are more than a couple of name drops and “who is that” moments that I am pretty sure were explained in the novels. It’s such a shame because from what I understand, the books are exceptional and describe a richly detailed world.

[SPOILER BEGIN] By the way, this is just my speculation. Yennefer is a good example main example: She was strongly alluded to but never explained in the first game. In the second game, she is an important character that was never introduced and inadequately explained. It’s like, who the hell is Yennefer? Ooooh she’s only one of the most important figures from Geralt’s past life. That would have been good to know. She adds an entirely new perspective to Geralt and Geralt’s sexual relationships: The implied sexual tension between Triss and Geralt’s past lover. [SPOILER END]


Knowing and not knowing Geralt’s past creates almost creates two different games. On one hand, for people who have read the books, much if the story seems to play on the contrast between what the audience knows and what Gerald does not. On the other, for people like me, it’s about both the audience and the main character discovering who he is as the game progresses. I suppose the latter is more conducive to player immersion, but I still feel as if I am missing out on a significant amount of depth by not having already been familiar with the world as a whole; and apparently I am.

Like The Witcher, major game decisions are completely up to you. This time, they are all on a short timer of about 10 seconds, forcing you to choose on the stop (otherwise the game will choose for you). Nothing destroys immersion quite like being able to tab out and read the wiki page in the middle of a turning point in the plot. It adds a healthy level of tension to plot decisions, especially since like its predecessor, the consequences of your actions are not immediately apparent. In fact, your choices impact the game to the point where the story will completely diverge after the first chapter. I mean, even Geralt’s personal goals are up to you. Is this a story about personal vengeance? Is it about loyalty? Is it a story about self discovery? That choice is yours. Geralt is a well-defined character that is crafted by the player. It’s a balance seldom found in any game.


The voice acting has significantly improved in The Witcher 2 and the dialogue is well-delivered and well-articulated as a whole. The English translation is solid, though as a couple of people have pointed out, still retains a flavor of awkwardness and unnaturalness found in virtually every single translated piece. I mean, it’s not bad in any sense it’s just hard to place my finger on. The dialogue doesn’t feel butchered in any way (like I swear, 80% of all JRPGs), but it does feel like it was translated.

Also just a a fair warning, the dialogue at times is vulgar to an eye-rolling degree. I do not know exactly how many “whoresons” were “ploughed” during the course of Geralt’s adventures, but I am sure that the number hovers around many. For what its worth, The sex has been toned down. If you want to be a perv, you have to work at it a bit and the scenes are more rewarding than the silly YAR YAR HUMP HUMP *card flash* bit from the first game.

The Witcher 2’s combat system is fun once you get used to it. The gameplay tutorial in the prologue is to be honest crap-ass and insufficient, especially given that not too many of The Witcher’s game mechanics carry over; the combat system is fairly different. I recommend actually reading the manual or at least skimming a basic FAQ outlining combat and the interface to get started. It just seems like adding a couple of more tooltips and popup notifications would trivially make the tutorial adequate. But, oh well. So here you all go: A game that refuses to coddle and handhold its players (if you are from that camp of gamers). On the other hand, I am of the opinion that a good “hardcore” game should be difficult to master but not difficult to get into. Including a fairly non-standard combat system and then doing dick to introduce it is kind of lame.


That rant aside: Just remember that though Geralt can easily take anyone in a 1v1 fight, he is squishy against multiple opponents, which will be the bulk of your fighting experience. His greatest strength in this game seems to be speed rather than strength. Take advantage of that and learn to dodge, parry etc. You will be doing that a lot. Witchers are clever fighters with many resources to pull from; bombs, traps, spells, potions, etc. Use everything at your disposal to distract enemies and separate pulls. Saving items is fairly pointless since consumables aren’t that expensive to make and are designed to be used. Once you learn how to utilize all that Geralt has at hand, it is not an incredibly difficult game on normal, it just has a steep self-inflicted learning curve. The control responses though are unacceptably slow to respond without making a couple of tweaks. You will also find yourself waiting for relatively long dodge and attack animations to complete. Frustrating.

Loading times have drastically improved as has the level of tedium. There is still quite a bit of running about between interest points, but effectively not having any loading screens makes questing much much much much more of an enjoyable experience. The interface visually looks a lot nicer, but it is still clunky and somewhat inadequate in respect to being able to manage your inventory. I can honestly say that inventory management is notably bad. Also, it would have been nice to be able to view and change keybindings within the game client. In fact, the ability to change the keybindings was only JUST added in patch 1.2. Before that, you had to edit the .ini file. You do however, at least have the option to toggle irritating quick time events on and off. Gee I wish all QTE games had this option.


I liked The Witcher 1’s alchemy and potion system a lot better. I really wish that the toxicity side effects and combat drinking were included in TW2. Alchemy feels dumbed down and because I could only drink while meditating, I ended up almost never drinking any potions at all. The only thing that toxicity does is limit the number of potions that you are allowed to consume. Potion duration also vanishes upon meditation. So effectively, you can only have about 3 or 4 potions active at any one time and cannot drink again until you meditate toxicity off. Which is fine I guess, but it doesn’t feel nearly as useful. Besides, I liked running around mid-fight chugging potions and weighing dying at the blade of my foe or by potion poisoning.

Oh also: This game is damn nice looking both in terms of graphics and level design. So pretty. Such a nice presentation. I hope that you all have decent computers lol. As was the case with the first game, the soundtrack is awesome. Some will enjoy this game and some won’t. General internet opinions seem to be rather polar. If the drawbacks don’t annoy you too much, The Witcher 2 is worth picking up.

The Witcher

The Witcher is just one of those games that I have heard of but more-or-less ignored and never bothered playing up until this point. I really don’t know why that is, given my massive soft spot for any fantasy RPG. I suspect that the named had originally turned it off; I must have figured that it was a dumb game about witches or something. Anyways, I was wrong: The Witcher is an absolutely gripping, though flawed dark fantasy action RPG.  Despite interface and gameplay flaws that were quite frankly, more than a little irritating, I really really enjoyed this game and played it at an almost obsessive level (sorry for vanishing off of the internet guildies, real-life friends, etc lol).

The Witcher is based off of a popular Polish book series of the same name by Andrzej Sapkowski. Atmospherically, I think that one of the elements that sets The Witcher aside from most other fantasy games is that it is not set in a stereotypical happy cheerful fantasy world. The game world is a wonderfully detailed land riddled with despair, plague, religious fanaticism and bleakness. It is actually a more contemporary story than you would expect from a fantasy game, which gives it a little bit more of a unique flavor. At heart, it is very much a tale about racism, greed, terrorism and gray shades of morality instead of the standard heroic deeds and good vs evil fantasy fair.


It reminds of me the Dragon Age and Song of Ice and Fire series in that respect: Dark fantasy with threaded with political and social conflict. Also, like Dragon Age and most other BioWare games, story progression in The Witcher is based off of a choice and morality system. Most of the time, choosing which path isn’t a matter of saint, neutral or asshole. There’s no visible karma system and the weight of your decisions isn’t immediately apparent, giving the game a more realistic feel (versus quicksaving and repeatedly reloading after seeing the results of every single conversation). The game’s dialogue is generally well written though peppered with cheesy quips and some points of not so great translation. Voice acting though, seems to be inconsistent.

I really enjoyed how alive Vizima felt. Citizens walk the streets, mingle with each other and go about their daily routines. But even so, there’s a surprisingly limited number of NPC models available in the game, even among many plot relevant named characters. Literally every single merchant and old man looks exactly the same as every other merchant and old man, which broke immersion and was a little confusing to say the least.

This is a tedious game, so much running back and forth; which would not be as bad if there weren’t so many loading screens. At one point, a quest had Geralt shuttling between a location out in a field and a ma in and Inn: Exit inn, load screen, exit zone, load screen, run through field, get sent back to an even further zone or back to the inn, repeat. Painfully tedious.

The interface is pretty awkward and to top it off, not all of the interface elements are accessible in some of the camera views. For example, I would usually play in F3 (controls are similar to an FPS). In order to find out how much time I had left on a potion, I would have to toggle to the F2 view, mouse over the potion, then toggle back. There’s also no Journal hotkey, which was annoying since it was used so much to track various quests. The inventory system is fairly clunky and micromanage heavy. So all of this in combination with the many many loading screens made The Witcher even more of a tedious experience. It’s not too bad of a game mechanically though. I found myself liking the combat system a lot more once I got used to it. It’s actually pretty fun, though the combat timing bit feels a little stupid. I wish that combat operated a little bit more on the tactical side and less on the “randomly click on shit” side.


There are three aspects to the combat system: Melee, alchemy and signs. The signs are castable spells. Melee works as follows: You have two weapons: A silvers sword that is effective against monsters and a steel sword that is effective against humanoids. Each weapon has three difference attack stances: Fast, strong and group for different situations and enemy types. You attack with your mouse and can chain attacks by clicking when your cursor changes to a flaming sword icon. Switching between multiple weapons and multiple stances is cumbersome, but it works, even though at times it feels like an ultra dumbed down version of click DDR. I wonder if The Witcher would play better with a controller.

I really liked the alchemy system and wish that the toxicity effects as well as the ability to drink potions in combat carried through in The Witcher 2 (but that’s for another post). Basically, you can collect herbs and ingredients from various sources in the game. These ingredients in combination with recipes (bought or found) are used to brew potions which can be used both in and out of combat to heal, increase stats, see in the dark, etc. There were a couple of things that felt unbalanced: The Igni sign for example, at higher levels pretty much overpowered all but 2 enemies. It was also trivial to drink a crapton of potions, meditate your toxicity level away before a difficult encounter.  I am also glad that setting people on fire and then kiting them around repeatedly is still a staple of third person RPG combat. It never fails.

Despite the drawbacks, the fact that I fawned over this game at the exclusion of most other things as much as I did is a testament in itself to how much I enjoyed it. If a game bores me I’ll just set it down into my stack of half-finished games. I don’t though, really blame anyone for giving this game a low score. As mentioned above it is pretty tedious; The game’s pacing and overall flow could have been better to ay the least. If you can look past and tolerate The Witchers flaws, and there are quite a few, it’s well worth playing. It has a rich story, Geralt is a great character and the fights are reasonably fun.

PS: For a game with a surprisingly mature narrative, The Witcher has some awesomely perverted sex humor. I mean, what’s with all of the sex cards, lmao? Being a witcher apparently gets you more pussy than your local city cat shelter. Damn. It’s like Pokemon I guess, gotta catch ’em all?

PPS: Save a lot. This game has a tendency to crash every so often….

The Cyborg R.A.T 7 Gaming Mouse


My old gaming mouse was starting to circle the drain a couple of weeks ago, leading to a somewhat urgent need for a replacement. Now to be honest, I probably could have done more to verify that the issue was not a driver issue or something like that but basically: Marginally busted hardware + sufficient mad money = new toy. After a period of careful deliberation, I settled on the Cyborg R.A.T 7.

The R.A.T 7 is actually very comfortable to use over long periods of time, which is nice considering that ergonomics and extreme customizability were key marketing points. This peripheral is one solid feeling mouse, as in, it has a metal frame instead of one constructed from cheap plastic. On the other hand, The R.A.T 7’s solid construction makes it fairly heavy even with all of the additional weights removed. Keep that in mind if weight is of a concern to you. In any case, here are a couple of observations about the hardware that weren’t really stated in any of the reviews that I read. TL;DR: It’s a good mouse, I am very happy with it, though it may not suite your ergonomic needs. It’s like a pair of pants, try it first if you can.


For how adjustable this mouse is, the palm rest isn’t all that big and does not extend out as far as I figured that it would; Which is fine for me, being a claw-gripper with average sized chick hands, but probably not so much of you are a large handed individual. Several male cohorts have confirmed this fact. Also, when the palm rest is extended out all the way, it jiggles a bit.

The buttons are fairly wide and seem to be designed for people who prefer to use three fingers to click (middle finger being on the scroll wheel). The width is perfect for me, since most other mice are too narrow to comfortable fit three fingers. If you don’t have sausage fingers or prefer to use a mouse with a standard two fingers grip, the R.A.T 7 is probably going to be uncomfortably wide. I also like the sniper button, though I wish it were located further back on the thumb piece so that I do not have to modify my grip to press it down. The profile switch buttons is angled in such a way that it makes it hard to see. I wish it also changed the LED colors of the sensitivity bar as well.

I really like the R.A.T 7’s scroll wheel: It is flat, wider than average, clicky, textured and loose. The scroll wheel was my primary point of contention with many of Logitech’s gaming mice: Some of the scroll wheels were either too “pointy”, way way too stiff or hard to press down without accidentally activating the side-scroll feature. The R.A.T 7 is absolutely perfect.


Earlier versions of the mouse had some z-tracking issue that was fixed by adding a filter on newer versions of the hardware (or something like that, I don’t have the link anymore). I haven’t had any sensor or any performance issues at all, so I am assuming that the issue is fixed. Also, despite being fairly complex, I found the adjustments straightforward and easy to perform without having to dig through instructions.

We will see how durable and finicky it is. In my experience, many issues don’t crop up until at least several months to a year of regular abuse. I’ve had issues with finicky laser mice in the past (which seemed to be related to an unclean mouse surface >_>).  Performance wise, it’s smooth accurate and everything that I would expect from gaming caliber mouse.

Musings on the EVE Online Trial


EVE Online’s meta-game has always fascinated me, though I have always had the sneaky feeling that EVE is just going to be one of those games that is more fun to read about than to actually play, to me at least. So, out of curiosity (and boredom) I registered for the 14 day trial earlier this week. Just as a preface: I have not in all honestly, had much of a chance to play the EVE Online trial for all that long. I am sure that it is an absolute blast once you get past the steep learning curve as well as the awful interface, and that I should really give it more of a chance before passing my final judgement, but it just feels so unrewarding at the moment.

Perhaps it is because I have played WoW, as well as a smattering of other similar MMOs for nearly a decade; Or perhaps it is because ultimately, EVE isn’t what I want from a multi-player game at the time. Either way, my initial impression is not all that positive. Then again, I am unsure that I am willing or really have the time to invest myself in another “long term gaming project.” I appreciate EVE for what it is: A truly different MMORPG, but it seems to be different in a manner that does not interest me. The heart of the issue for is that EVE is a cost vs reward problem: If I spend enough playing this game, I’m sure I will find something enjoyable about it, but why would I want to? Why would I ever want to spend that much time playing a game before getting any sort of reward about it. Perhaps this is a petty issue but, I expect some instant gratification in all of the games that I play. If a game isn’t fun then it is a waste of my time.

I will say one thing though: Holy Jesus taco, EVE Online has an absolutely abhorrent user interface. What a horrible clusterfuck of windows with the most unintuitive work flow ever. It’s like Windows 3.1 in spaaaaace. Also, what’s with the font size? Is there a way to increase EVE’s text size without reducing my screen resolution within the game? I know that you can modify the font within the game options but it isn’t good enough. I seriously cannot read most of the text without leaning into the computer screen. It would be awesome of there was a font size slider or a way to unlock the UI scale from screen resolution (kind of like the WoW option).

EVE is a fantastic looking game graphically, but past that I don’t think it gives new players a good first impression. The tutorial feels largely incomplete as well as poorly laid out. For example: One of the first items that you learn is how to outfit your ship with a  repair module. The problem is that, installing the module requires 1 skill in Hull Repair, which was also a part of the tutorial a bit earlier. Unless you took an extraordinarily long amount of time on the previous tutorial step, odds are that you are going to have to sit and do nothing at the space dock for about 5 to 10 minutes while that skill finishes training. Also the tutorial missions: Spend a couple of minutes flying to a location, spend 30 seconds clicking on something, spend a couple of more minutes flying back. Awkward pacing. Please don’t tell me that the entire game is like this?

There is little to no guidance in terms of which skills would be favorable to train and why. I mean, it’s easy enough to just Google but still, some guidance would be appreciated. The tutorial missions do an okay job at introducing the bare basics of the game, but I don’t feel like it even attempted to capture my interest or tease me of the awesome things to come. Space is apparently a large and beautiful place with a long and boring commute. Poop covered cake is still covered with poop.

PS: EVE has one of the best character creation systems that I have seen in any game.