Dragon Age: Origins is the newest RPG from Bioware, makers of Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic. It’s their self titled “spiritual successor” to the beloved Baldur’s Gate, and it shows. I managed to get some hands on time with the Xbox 360 version at Comic Con and I enjoyed the time I spent with it. The character customization, the dialog, and the combat system all seemed up to par. I got some loot, which is always a video game favorite of mine. This all seems good, and it is. However, there’s just something about this game that nags at me in the back of my mind. The violence.

Here is the old logo when the game was known simply as Dragon Age:

Classy, right?

Classy, right?

And here is the logo when it became Dragon Age: Origins:

Not so much

Not so much

You’ll notice that someone wrote Origins in a blood smear beneath the original logo, and that Dragon Age became dingy and speckled with blood. But it doesn’t stop there, no sir!

Here’s the box art for the game:

I just want to rinse it off

I just want to rinse it off

That is a dragon shaped pool of blood. Even the EA logo is made out of blood.

This theme keeps going. While playing as my wood elf, I came upon some ancient ruins, and inside were some giant spiders. As soon as I killed one of the mangy beasts in hand to hand combat, my character was covered in gore from head to toe. It was especially bad when I went into a conversation with my elf buddy because it zoomed in on his blood covered face. You think these guys would bring a wet nap or something with them.

This is what I'm talking about

This is what I'm talking about

None of this makes me think this game is going to be less than fantastic. It just seems to me like Bioware knows that they already have the RPG fan in their pocket, and now they’re trying to appeal to the Halo crowd by making their game look as gritty and violent as possible. Honestly, it just feels a little weird to me. And in case you were wondering, I’ve never had a problem with violence in video games before.

Dragon Age: Origins is being released this fall on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, and is a serious conteneder for the game I buy next semester.

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There were two quotes at Comic Con that made me laugh quite a bit. The first is from Brad Guigar of Evil Inc fame. He was drawing a sketch in the Evil Inc volume 4 I had just purchased from him when Fred commented on what a good job he was doing.

Brad then replied with: “This isn’t a dime store phoney.”

Hahaha DELIGHTFUL. Number one quote of the con. When I told him this on Sunday I also mentioned how I thought he was the funniest guy on their Webcomics Weekly podcast and he thought so too, when the other guys let him get a word in edgewise. That’s when Dave Kellett of Sheldon scooted Brad out of the way, cut him off, and launched into a Sheldon sales pitch. These guys. Laugh a minute over at the Halfpixel booth.

Dave Kellett as Captain Crunch. Awesome

Dave Kellett as Captain Crunch. Awesome

The second comes from our very own Fred Pelzar while we were standing in line for the Mystery Team movie screening. I saw a movie poster for The Goods and this is what went down:

Me: “What do you think of The Goods?”

Fred: “I don’t think it looks that good.”

Wordplay folks, wordplay.

So I was going to review Bruno, and probably will later but right now I feel like giving further support to Patrick Stewart being in Harry Potter. The man’s a goddamn institution of geekdom. Bring him to Harry Potter and I don’t know what franchise there is left for him to conquer, except the ones that Christian Bale’s done.

Now, we all have seen his dramatic side (see: all of Star Trek TNG), but he’s a versatile actor. He’s capable of humor (an apparent prerequisite of Harry Potter based on this last movie) :

Educational work (ideal for a professor):

And he’s a song and dance man (not really sure how this helps but what the hey):

So clearly, clearly, Patrick Stewart is your man. Ain’t no two ways about it.

signing off//

[BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD]

Today, most role-playing games deal with heavy themes and main characters who have more problems than Windows Vista had on release (Zing!). Let’s look at a few examples.

Lost Odyssey:

Look at me brood

Look at me brood

The main character, Kaim, is an immortal. He is cursed to wander the earth forever, unable to die. Everyone he ever becomes attached to he loses. At one point he is reunited with his daughter, who he thought had died. Shortly thereafter, she proceeds to die in his arms. Depressing! Lost Odyssey also deals with the theme of identity because, surprise, surprise, the main character has amnesia and slowly pieces together the memories of his incredibly long life. Hint: They’re not happy memories.

Fianl Fantasy VII:

Amnesia is cool

Amnesia is cool

This is Cloud Strife. He’s another depressing hero with amnesia. He joins the army, but instead of becoming a super commando like he always dreamed, he fails and becomes an anonymous grunt. On a mission to his home town, his hero, Sephiroth, goes crazy and burns the town to the ground and kills everyone, including Cloud’s mother. On top of all this an evil corporation is sucking the very life out of the planet, slowly killing it. The worst part is that Sephiroth also straight up murders one of Cloud’s best friends/love interests.  Good times, right?

Eternal Sonata:

He's not taking a nap

He's not taking a nap

Meet Frédéric Chopin (yes, the Polish composer). He’s dying. This entire game takes place inside his head. The game world is some fever dream he is having on his death bed. It gets mad points for having an original set up, but it’s still depressing. None of the characters exist. They’re all figments of Chopin’s imagination. When he fianlly passes away in the real world at the end of the game, they cease to exist. Starting to see what I’m getting at?

The Wticher:

Bad ass

Bad ass

Hey, look, another brooding hero with amnesia. I wonder if he has a tortured past. You bet he does! Kidnapped as a child, and raised to slay monsters, Geralt doesn’t lead a happy life. People hate him because he’s different. Everything in his world is a shade of gray, with no clear cut right or wrong choice. “Hmmm should I murder the witch, or the corrupt towns people who hired me to murder the witch.” Keep on truckin Geralt. I’m sure things will turn out ok eventually (That’s a lie. I’m lying).

Don’t even get me started on Dragon Age: Origins and it’s “new shit” (Seriously, look at their advertising campaign). No one is happy when an evil army called the Blight rises up and starts stabbing every thing that moves right in the face. While I have only seen videos of it, the dark fantasy setting does not lead me to believe the main group of characters will be walking around in bright sunny fields while laughing about how care free they are.

So what’s up with all these games being so serious and depressing? Where are all the bright and hopeful RPGs? You know, the ones where the main character smiles at least once.

For one thing, most role-playing games are epic in scope and story. To be epic, there needs to be bad stuff going down. This bad stuff usually threatens the world in one way or another, and the end of the world is a pretty serious topic. As  a result adult themes are injected into the game to help make it more believable, and the main characters usually suffer as a result. If saving the world were fun, everyone would do it, right? Surprisingly, saving the world can be a good time.

Look how happy and pixelated he is

Peace yo

Ness is the hero in Earthbound. He fights off an alien invasion while going on a crazy adventure with his friends. His weapons include baseball bats and yo-yos. Best of all, he hasn’t forgotten about everything that has happened in his life before the game began. He’s just a kid having fun.

While I think Earthbound is one of the best examples of a “happy” RPG, it certainly isn’t the only one. Shiren the Wander is all about Shiren and his ferret questing to get to the top of Table Mountain. The game is hard as hell, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just a fun adventure. The Disgaea series are a bunch of silly strategy RPGs filled to the brim with humor and murderous  exploding penguins.

Then there’s Pokemon, another game about being a kid and going on adventures. It also happens to be one of the best selling RPG series of all time. And lets not foget how adorable some of these things are.

Look how freakin adorable I am

Look how freakin adorable I am

Role-playing games don’t need to be super serious and dark to be good. Unfortunately, most games in the industry tend to be grim and gritty, and RPGs are following that trend. Lets try not to forget that a bright and fun adventure can be just as good as its more “maturely themed” brethren.

This is me everyday

This is me everyday

Make no mistake, I’m a blogger. I’m a college student that writes about things I enjoy. My goal is to one day become a journalist in this field or take this blog and mold it into something I can do for a living.

I read an article on Kotaku that talks about the Federal Trade Commission calling out bloggers and I wanted to let you know my take and what you can expect from me in the future.

Right now, we are so under the radar that there is no way anyone in the industry would send us free stuff to review. If we ever start getting sent anything to review, I will let you, the reader, know. My opinion will never be swayed by someone giving me  free stuff. I blog because I enjoy the subject matter I’m writing about and I hope people would have fun reading what I have to say.

Secondly, all of my posts up to this point have been mostly positive. Everything on this site that has been reviewed or previewed by me is something I spent money on. Being a college student, I don’t have the time or money to review every book, movie, game, or CD. I put a lot of research into something before I purchase it because I don’t want to waste money on something I don’t like or waste my time with an awful product.

This site is simply a means for me and Fred to give you our opinion on what we like, and hopefully entertain you enough into coming back for more. Besides expecting a few laughs here and there you can expect our truthful opinion in every article we post. If you don’t agree with us on something don’t be afraid to call us out and shoot us an email or leave a comment.

That’s all for now loyal readers.

Monster Hunter is an aptly named game because it’s all about hunting monsters. It’s a huge game in Japan. HUGE. It has sold millions of copies and when the latest title was released, national productivity actually dipped. How insane is that?

Rawr

Rawr

In the west, the series has a dedicated following, but it is nothing compared to what it’s like in Japan. Why is that? Why doesn’t every God-fearing American share my love for this series? The biggest reason: no wi-fi multiplayer.

Let’s face it. These games are not as fun by yourself. Out of the box, you can only play this game ad-hoc. That might be cool in Japan where every other person owns the game and they have special conventions and gatherings just so people can get together, but that doesn’t fly in America. This is a big country and unless you have friends who are also way into Monster Hunter, then chances are you’re out of luck. The fanbase found a way around this with Xlink Kai, a program that tricks your PSP into believing it’s connected ad-hoc when really you’re using wi-fi, but the casual consumer isn’t going put up with that.

The camera in this game is another weak point. Some critics say you need a lock on button, but I disagree. Being able to lock on isn’t a viable solution because some monsters have multiple points where you can attack them. It would ruin the game if you could lock onto their individual body parts because each monster is like a puzzle. If you don’t have anything to figure out then what’s the point? The only solution is one that can’t be done. The PSP needs a second analog nub. Other games would benefit from this too, so lets hope Sony realizes this for the PSP 2.0. Getting raped by a huge dragon is no fun when it’s the cameras fault.

Needs more analog

Needs more analog!

Some of the things this game has going for it is the art style and the loot treadmill. Damn this game has some loot. Why did I play Diablo 2 for hundreds of hours? Getting that next face melting sowrd or hot piece of armor. Monster Hunter has that in spades, except you really have to work for it. When you kill a monster, your carve their corpse and get all kinds of fun ingredients. These ingredients are taken to the blacksmith, who then whips up some sweet armor and weapons. It’s a neat system where your stuff looks like it was made from what you’re killing.

I will end you

I will end you

The monsters themselves are diverse and well designed. Everything from wyverns, giant crabs, dragons, and even a few hovering squid beasts. The visual design of everything from the monsters, to the weapons and armor is all top notch. Some people might complain about this game being too hard, and it is. But you’re killing giant monsters. Half of which breath fire and death. It would be weird if this game wasn’t challenging. And because of the challenge, it is that much more rewarding when you finally take down a beast that keeps deep sixing you.

He wants to have his way with you

He wants to have his way with you

I want Monster Hunter to be a success in the West. I want all the cool merchandise like models and aprons and comic books. The problem is I just don’t see that happening with the most recent release, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. Capcom gave it more of a marketing push, and the fans gobbled it up, and maybe a few newcomers jumped on the bandwagon, but this won’t be the title that makes it big. My hope is that when/if Monster Hunter 3 is released over here, it will be the hit Capcom is looking for. It’s a Wii title so it will have droves more potential concumers, and hopefully a fearsome dragon on the cover will be enough to lure in the unsuspecting consumer. I can dream, can’t I?

Until next time Monster Hunter fans, happy hunting!

Right now I’m reading a book called Fragment by Warren Fahy. It’s about an isolated island covered in horrible monsters. Up until ten minutes ago it was awesome. I bought into the world he was creating, even if I can’t understand all the science-y talk. However, he completely took me out of  his world and what has so far been a thoroughly enjoyable book with this passage:

“Every three and a half minutes Peach nibbled a peanut M&M as he played the twenty-sixth level of Halo 5…(page 124)”

Seriously? Halo 5? Really? You have all this awesome and realistic sounding scientific jargon in a book set in modern day and you have a guy playing Halo 5. What’s wrong with the one, two, or three? You know, the ones that ACTUALLY EXIST. And I know this is just way into detail, but name dropping the twenty-sixth level too? This is borderline criminal. I had to stop reading and look up from my book and make a face. When the author goes through such lengths with the scientific side of the story in the book this just comes across as lazy.

Look for the full review of Fragment in the next week or so. (It won’t be affected by this small quibble. Everything else has been top-notch so far.)