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.

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.

You will not often see me writing up reviews of video games for the simple fact that I am of that breed of casual gamers whose last video game related purchase was the second super smash brothers (brawl? royale? gangbang? mosh pit? the game cube one.) I generally just play video games when with other people in a social setting. So I leave such opinions to my far more qualified colleague.

But at Comic Con I was able to play video games that have not yet been released and as such I will offer up what thoughts I have based on the less than five minutes of game play I was afforded by the sweaty, throbbing mass of body parts that is San Diego once a year.

Dante’s Inferno

Okay, so this was the game that I had the most fun playing. I was a fan of the original Devil May Cry back in the day, and this game reminded me of DMC on acid. In the tiny part that I played, I used a giant scythe to cut down skeletons, then performed a combo on a dude riding a three-story minotaur so I could use the minotaur to rip the head off of the skeleton barge that I was using to fly through whatever God-forsaken part of hell that I was in (yeah, at no given point did I really understand why I was doing what I was doing, not that it mattered). The action was crisp and the attacks, thanks to the scythe, were new and interesting. It was easily accessible and, if I still bought video games, I would probably be waiting for this one to come out.

Dead Space: Extraction

I have never been a fan of rail shooters, whether it was Time Cops 2 at Chucky Cheese’s or this Wii bullshit they’re pulling out now. We have the technology, allow me to move on my own accord. The fact that there is a co-op for DS:E at least means that I could see myself having fun playing this with somebody else. But that’s the only context.

Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves

Man, I don’t even know the last time I tried shooting something with a playstation controller that didn’t involve materia and at least one talking animal. While it had smooth gameplay when watching other people play, I was sort of spastic with the whole thing. Still, there seemed to be smooth transition from shooting to hand-to-hand combat when in close with the enemies, including from-behind spine breaks, always a crowd pleaser. Got to play this alongside a guy dressed like Francis from Left 4 Dead who couldn’t figure out until the round was over that he was on the same side as the other players and supposed to be shooting the NPCs.

Left 4 Dead: 2

Really, what else do you need to know about this besides the title? The only new hand weapon I got to play with was what looked like a cricket paddle (?) in a Louisiana swamp, and it had the same sort of awkwardness as when you’re carrying around fire-extinguisher or gas cannister in preperation for when you might need it. But the new guns were fun, and it was nice to have a completely fresh map where you have no clue where you need to go or what the fuck might jump at you when. And we were either playing very easy or else both the tank and the witch have been made much easier to kill.

And that is a summation of my VG experience. There will probably a recap of the webcomics people I hit up soon, and another two-man wolfpack review in honor of Mystery Team, which we also got to see at Comic-Con (Spoiler: It’s goddamn hilarious).

signing off//

I mean seriously, look at the size of that thing

I mean seriously, look at the size of that thing

He look, it’s another game I got some hands on time with at Comic Con! This time we’re lookin at Darksiders and the lookin is good.

In Darksiders, you play as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I’m not really sure what the story for this game is since i skipped the opening cut scene. There was a line behind me and I couldn’t really hear what they were saying anyway. Not the optimal conditions for a preview.

Anyway, Darksiders is an action platformer. You kill things with sword combos, and traverse the environment with jumping and climbing and even a tad bit of shimmying. For the most part I was combating apocalypse zombies, and they didn’t stand a chance against my big ass sword and the occasional punch thrown in there for good measure. Combat is easy and fun, with some pretty devastating combos. War does work.

A mini-boss reared its ugly head and I killed him too. It was some kind of bigger than me demon that I dispatched without too much effort, and once I wore its health down enough I was rewarded with a brutal quick time even a la God of War.

At this point I had been playing for about ten minutes and decided it was time to give someone else a turn with the game. I had fun with it. I feel like this game does a better job of separating itself from God of War than the similar Dante’s Inferno. The sword felt very different from Kratos’ signature Blades of Chaos, and the art style was flashier and more brightly colored (always a plus in these grim and gritty times). It still had quick time events, but at least the only time I had to do one was to stab a giant demon in the face, as opposed to opening a door.

Even though I had fun with this game, I’m still on the fence about buying it. There are a lot of good games coming out this fall (Brutal Legend, Left 4 Dead 2, Alpha Protocol) and I’m unsure whether this game will rise above to earn my purchase. That’s not to say I think it will be bad, other releases just have more of my attention. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as it comes closer to its January release.

I'll do this to you if you bitch about this game

I'll do this to you if you bitch about this game

People have been complaining about Left 4 Dead 2. They spout nonsense such as “too soon” and “why isn’t this an update for the first game” and worst of all “lets start a petition and not buy this”. I despise these people. Give Valve the benefit of the doubt because if you liked the first game, you’ll enjoy this just as much.

I jumped on the opportunity to play one of the segments of the newly revealed swamp level over the weekend at Comic Con. Fred, myself, and two other strangers put up a valiant fight and only one of the people I didn’t know died. It felt good after how badly Dead Space: Extraction hurt me.

If you’ve played the first game, you know what this is all about. Killin zombies. Luckily, there are enough differences to set this apart from the first game. The new weapons are awesome. I tried my hand at the new sniper rifle, the AK-47, and the cricket bat. The sniper rifle was miles better than the one in the first game. It uses a clip instead of a bolt action, so i could squeeze several shots off in quick succession. Awesome. The AK was a typical machine gun and didn’t really light my world on fire (speaking of fire, the new incendiary rounds are quite nice). And lastly the cricket bat was decent, but let’s be honest, I don’t want to be that close to the infected if I don’t have to be, so I stuck with the sniper rifle most of the time.

The new infected help mix things up a bit. The spitter reminds me of Gollum, crawling around on all fours being annoying. His little spit gobs hurt and splatter on the screen. I hate him. The charger is really good at slamming me into the ground. I hate him too. (Because they’re good at messing me up, not because they’re bad ideas.) All of your other favorite special infected made appearances too, so don’t worry about them being side lined by the new kids on the block.

Hate these things. HATE

Hate these things. HATE

I didn’t notice any of the ‘uncommon common infected’ but the regular infected have gone through a major change: limb damage. That’s right, you can now shoot off arms and legs, making Left 4 Dead 2 even more violent than the first game. Sweet.

The level itself was set at night in a swamp. No rainbows and sunshine here folks. Most of the time we were wading around in water and it was quite spooky. At one point we came across a crashed air plane and had to open the emergency hatch to get past it, alerting a hoard. The action is just as frantic and exciting as before. Unfortunately we didn’t come across any moments that forced us to keep moving, as opposed to the old holing up and weathering the storm strategy.

After my hands on time with this game I’m confident that Valve will make it worth the sixty-dollar price point. It looks like more zombie killing fun with enough changes to justify the sequel status. Bring on the zombie rush Valve, I’m ready.

can't make fun of this

can't make fun of a title this cool

I loved the original Dead Space. I bought all of the comics, preordered the game so I could get the art book, and beat the entire game in two days. It was my game of the year 2008 and was better than even Resident Evil 5 in my mind. Imagine my excitement to get some hands on time with the Wii prequel, Dead Space: Extraction.

That excitement didn’t last long however as Extraction quickly and repeatedly kicked me in the crotch. The demo starts off with you opening a door. On the other side of the door is a room covered in the Necromorph organic creep and five or six necromorphs quickly show up to kick my ass. The gun I had (not even sure what it was) only had five shots in it and did not reload fast enough. I quickly died twice. Demonstrating the game’s pop-in multiplayer, Fred jumped on to help me. We barely made it through the first fight to be quickly and handily dispatched in the next encounter. Then when we loaded up again we died in the first fight. =(

Extraction doesn’t seem like a bad game, someone just picked a bad place to start the demo. We had no time to familiarize ourselves with the controls and were immediately thrown to the wolves. The hungry undead space zombie wolves with spikes for hands. The game looks good and controls well from the ten minutes we had with it. I didn’t have too much trouble targeting limbs and ‘strategically dismembering’ them. I’m looking forward to playing through the entire game when it is released this fall.

You won't see this scene in Extraction

You won't see this scene in Extraction

Talking with Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins about their Penny Arcade video game on Sunday, I learned that the third episode is in limbo right now. The game simply took up too much of their time and they felt the comic suffered because of it. Right now, they don’t know if the game will ever be released, but if it isn’t, I was assured they would find a way to wrap up the story.

Hopefully this one will see the light of day because I love me some Lovecraftian Steampunk Adventures.

And then he killed me

And then he killed me