Dragon Age II


I like Dragon Age’s flavor: It’s high fantasy, but it has a small twist. Dwarves aren’t your run of the mill tolkienesque dwarves (I mean, some of them lack beards!) and the elves as a whole aren’t your standard tall graceful mystically superior race. It has a slightly unique feel not usually found in fantasy genres and I like that. But that said, most people have been fairly divisive regarding Dragon Age II to say the least. Honestly, I don’t think that it is as good as it’s predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins, but it’s still a good game. So if you are passing it up because of the negative reception, you are missing out on a good RPG.

BioWare’s saving grace has always been the quality of their writing and acting; Dragon Age II is no exceptions. They once again present to us, a fascinating tale of political intrigue. It is different though and feels less epic than its predecessor Dragon Age: Origins. DA II is a character based story. The plot isn’t about saving the world, it’s about one man (or woman), his life, the lives he touches and the impact that he has on a touchy sociopolitical situation. I really like character pieces so I appreciate Dragon Age II for what it is. But that said, for the a character based game, there are grossly fewer character interaction opportunities in comparison to Origins and character development suffers because of this. My favorite quests were the character stories, I would have loved more of those.

Overall pacing feels off as well. The first act is too drawn out, it takes way too drawn out; It takes too long to get into the meat of the story. Until you acquire enough capital to move to the next part of Act I, it’s just random quest after random quest. the acts also do not seem to piece together all that well. Much of the story feels disjointed, especially the Qunari storyline, which was neat but I’m not 100% certain how it meshes in with the overall plot. Is there an overall plot besides the life and times of Hawke?

The entire game for better of for worse occurs within one, albeit large city, so the number of locations that you are able to visit are pretty limited. Kirkwall is an interesting location and an appropriate one given the context of the story but if you are expecting a tale spanning continents, you will probably be disappointed. Also,the city of Kirkwall doesn’t really change all that much between the three acts. It’s somewhat awkward watching Hawke seemingly change, but the background remaining exactly the same. I could have really done without the cut-and-paste scenery though. Really BioWare? Literally every single cave and every single building interior looks exactly the same, down to the layout and everything.

Yes, the combat pacing has been sped up. I’m not sure what so many people have been criticizing it so much, it feels fine to me. My only real gripe is that the camera is very restrictive this time around. You can’t place it into a full birds-eye view, which makes dragging and repositioning party members around or just getting a general tactical view of unit positioning a pain in the ass. I am also not a huge fan of the random waves of random enemies popping in at semi-predictable locations (big empty area with crates = random battle time). Can we do away with this sort of thing BioWare? It’s been in everyone on of your games…

For all of its faults, and there were quite a few this time around, Dragon Age II is a compelling story and a blast to play. It’s worth buying, or at least waiting until it’s on sale on Steam.

Minecraft: Log Cabin

We constructed a nice living room on the second floor of base 3 last night (overlooking the library). The original intention was to make it a bedroom, but the space we dug out was awkwardly large. Also, I really wanted to tile in a nice wooden floor with a red throw rug underneath the double bed. Unfortunately, because of the way the first and second floor are laid out, that is an awkward thing to do unless I want a multi-color ceiling above my wheat farm.

So, I built a log cabin up top instead. Dave fenced off the top area; We still need to level out the dirt but as of now, there’s a nice grassy plateau with a wooden cabin, a natural pond and some trees. The spiders can still jump over certain areas of the fence and the creepers will explode if you get too close, regardless of what side of the fence you are on. I may just carpet the entire area with torches for safety or at least shovel off more dirt below the fence line. We have already had a few….setbacks. The cabin’s interior decorating isn’t entirely original: I found a great thread last night with awesome decorating ideas. I really liked the kitchen ideas in that thread.

Here’s a picture of the back of the cabin, which is more interesting than the front (which is little more than a wooden wall with a door). The cabin is a studio bedroom with a small kitchen and a loft. I’m not sure I like how some of the roof turned out. It looks odd in my opinion, but I can fix that later.

The ladder on the left leads up to the loft. If you go past that, there’s a staircase around the corner leading down into the second story of the base (note to self: post pictures later). The bed is sitting on a 3×3 red wool carpet. For some reason it took a while to find the rest of the roses that I needed to dye the wool. There are a lot of yellow flowers in the area but not red. At some point I would love to add a fireplace on the left wall, but don’t want to burn down our cabin.

This is the view from the other side near the ladder.

Here is the kitchen. I had originally built a bread dispenser (dispenser + bread + button) in the store room, but moved it up to the cabin. Hadn’t considered that it would make a decent looking fridge in combination with an iron block. The counter-tops are made up of a log with signpost paneling and stone buttons for granite counters.

And here is the loft. I don’t really know what to place up here. Another bedroom? Bookcases? Chests? We will decide later.

Musings: Minecraft & the DA2 Demo


I’m unsure what exactly the Beta 1.3 Minecraft server client did to my poor server, but it didn’t weather the new update too well. In fact it kind of imploded, or rather, was inundated with java errors every time I would start the Minecraft process. I finally got around to fixing it this weekend (was a simple error on my part lol), so huzzah, back to building we go! I’m not sure if it’s because I dropped Craftbukkit (white list feature eliminated my need for a mod wrapper) or because of the new save format, but since the update, server CPU usage is down by approximately 25% to 30%.

Not being able to get on the SMP server on the patch release day wasn’t so bad (in addition to server problems, Minecraft.net was having authentication issues….). Tuesday by coincidence, was also the release day for the Dragon Age II demo. Combat is much faster for better of for worse; It is much more engaging, but at the same time I have a sneeky feeling that a large portion of the tactical combat aspects have been compromised in favor of the new pacing. I loved having to pause DA:O in order to seriously think about my combat strategy and am hoping that DA II a similar level of difficulty.

Out of curiosity, was BioWare really going to deny us content if the demo didn’t reach 1 million downloads? Also, Dragon Age seems like a kind of odd game to release a demo for given that it is one of the most anticipated games of the year and also given that RPGs (or any long complex game for that matter) don’t demo that well in my opinion. I wonder how many more purchases they got out of it. But regardless, I am sure that I will have fun and am greatly looking forward to Dragon Age II. I have always been impressed by the writing and presentation that BioWare places on their games.

Oh, Shadowfang keep finally popped on my heroic daily. Yay achievement!