Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quintessence - The Blighted Venom Review

When it comes to freeware games online, it's hard to grab my interest for long, take the MARDEK RPG series i talked about a few weeks ago, i still think very highly of it, but i kinda lost interest, thats just how i'am, if a game doesn't "hook me" very hard, i'll eventually grow bored and move on, so it comes as a big surprise that a freeware video game caught my interest, held it long enough for me to see the game from start to finish and then left me wanting more, with that said, i've decided to do a sorta "mini-review" of this game.

For the purposes of this review, i'm going to prove a link to the game for anyone that might be interested in downloading it (assuming anyone ever cares to read anything i write here, if someone does read this, POST SOMETHING FOR PETE'S SAKE!!!

Anyways...*ahem*, Download Linky:
If you do not play this amazing video game, i'll personally go and shove it down your throat :P

Ok, ok, enough with the aimless banter....REVIEW TIME!!!


Note: This review covers Quintessence - The Blighted Venom Chapters I - XI, the Author i believe has planned a total of 14 episodes, once an update is published, this review will probably become obsolete as the total content of the game will change and with that, opinions and thoughts.

Quintessence - The Blighted Venom (reffered to as QTBV from here on out) is a retro-style RPG at first glance, but you couldn't be farther from the truth if thats the impression you recieve, but i don't blame you, thats what i thought as well. You mention RPG to a video gamer and the first thing that'll probably pop into his or her mind is Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Grandia or many of the other big name RPG franchises out there. Well, guess what? QTBV has VERY LITTLE to do with any of those games or ANY of the current RPGs out in the market for that matter. Instead, QTBV is more of an "interactive story with some very mild RPG elements thrown in".

The story is the big focus here, if for some reason you don't like the story, move along, your not going to find much to like here. The game takes place in an unnamed world (i'll refer to it as "the world" from here on out), there's the continent that the game's cast reside in, it's an unnamed country thats home to two nations, Aeria and Prion, these two nations were at war until very recently and there's still tension among them. Then there's the "land to the east". The story starts out in what is seemingly a peaceful existence for the few folk that live in the small village of Korbin. Reivier is a hunter that lives in Korbin along with his Wife, Serai, best friend and Lumberjack of the village, Vikon, his wife and Serai's sister, Salory, Kardian, a mysterious man thats knowledgable in Medicine along with his sister, Kaire, both of whom were taken into the village when Reivier found them in the forest, Kaire having suffered fom Frostbite along with a few other folks that live in the village. Life for Reivier is peaceful for the most part, that is, until he starts noticing that his Wife, Serai is acting strangely, eventually discovers that the Serai living with him is not the Serai he knew, but instead an Aerian woman disguised as Serai that was sent from Aeria as a spy to find out if Prion was mobilizing an Army to attack Aeria. With that, the game takes off on what at first glance seems like a typical "save the damsel in distress" plot, but eventually expands into much more. There's alot of history, plot and backstory to learn, pay close attention and you'll eventually grasp the plot (somewhat) but plot twists are frequent. The cast of characters are simply charming and the most likable i've encountered in quite some time, there's the relationship that Reivier and the Aerian Woman (her name is Lunair) develop over the course of the game, Vikon and his Wife (their relationship is "coloful", i'll simply leave it at that), Kardian and his Sister Kaire and obviously the many people they meet throughout their journey.

Gameplay revolves around guiding the character you are currently given control of from point A to point B, occasionally talking to NPCs and fighting enemies every now and then. If you want action, this is not the game for you, 80% of the game will be spent reading dialogue, 10% exploring the field screen and the remaining 10% fighting enemies. Battles are Real Time (yeah, i was surprised too) and very simple, you can win most fights simply using the normal attack against enemies, but depending on the character you are controlling, you have other special abilities, for example, Reivier has access to a bear trap that can slow enemies that step on it and Lunair has an Area of Effect (AoE) magic attack that damages all enemies within a certain distance of her, she can also transform into certain animals later in the game which grants her special abilities. The Battle System is simple and since the game's highlight is the Story, it doesn't impact the game that much, but it's still worth noting that it does have it's few flaws, primarily the control scheme (i'll get to that in a little bit) and enemies sometimes get stuck in the scenery allowing you some very easy kills. There are also a few minigames scattered about throughout, for the most part they do a nice job of breaking up the pace, but i could personally have done without them.

Graphically the game doesn't look bad, the character portraits are Anime Style and they each have a set of mood styles (i.e Happy, Sad, Brooding, etc) and the author uses close-ups of the portraits that help to portray the story better. The game's graphic style is retro...if you ever played any 2D RPGs on the SNES, you more or less already have an idea of how this game looks, with that said, it looks vibrant and the color pallate is good, the game can easily throw at you a Misty Forest, a Sunny Village, a Dark Cave or a Creepy Dungeon among a few others. The Author even throws in some kinda convincing blood splatters where appropriate and finally, the character sprites are all very well animated, character's cape and hair flow with the breeze, character look to the sides, hug each motion, it looks great and it's silky smooth and natural looking. I've played many commercial games where the character sprites didn't have even half the animations these have. My only complaint in this aspect is the few scenes where the characters are on just looked plain wierd, however you view it, the characters seem to be on an oversized horse and even give the impression that their STANDING on the house instead of sitting on the saddle.

The Music is perhaps my favorite topic next to the story, ALL the music is original by the Author of the game, Kan Gao and James Q. Zhang, they've created an AMAZING soundtrack for this game and it's certainly a refreshing take since alot of freeware RPG games re-use the soundtrack from popular titles like Final Fantasy and some others and while thats cool, the Author and James deserve an extra special thanks for going the extra mile here. The tracks suit each and every occasion just great and they are easily able to convey Happiness, Silliness, Sadness and more. It's an amazing soundtrack that i'ld buy it on CD if it were available.

The Controls...what can i say? if it were a commercial game, i wouldn't even bring this up since most allow you to reconfigure them (to some extent at minimum) but since this game we're stuck with the Author's decision, it's a subject i have to bring up. Movement is mapped to the UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT arrow keys (you can use the the 8, 2, 4 and 6 number keys on the Num Pad if you disable Num Lock too), Interaction (i.e Talk, Example, Advance Dialogue, etc) is mapped to the SPACEBAR and ENTER keys and Battles primarily use Q, W, A, Z and finally, some minigames use other keys. The main problem here is i don't know about the rest of the populace out there, but i'm used to movement in PC Games being with the W, A, S, D keys and having to use my right hand to move my character in-game felt like if i was being forced to become a lefty (i'm right-handed) and this was even worse in battles, i could never properly get the hand of using my left hand to access the attack buttons and for that, i thank the video game gods (if there even exists one) that the Author of this game didn't make Battle the main focus.

Closing Comments:
The game is certainly not perfect, it's been in development for like over 4 years i think and it's still not 100% Completed and the Author has, since then, worked on 2 other finished projects and there's one more currently in the works. There's also that Minigame late in the game that is supposedly "coming soon" but never came. Some of the minigames can be frustrating (the underwater minigame is an example) and the controls could use with being re-mapped. Like i mentioned earlier, if you don't like games where the Story is central or want alot of action, then this is not the game for you, but if you can get past the very few nitpicks i threw out in the open and like a good story, then you'll find a very good game here that'll take up around 12hrs of your time.

Must-Play IMHO :)


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Can Video Games Convey Emotions Like Movies?

Video Games are similar to movies, even more so today, with the current capability of the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC to render photo-realistic graphics. Take games like Halo Reach, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Gears of War 2 and the many others that litter the market today and with each passing day, an even more realistic looking game comes out.

Video Games, like movies, can convey emotions. I know that not every single person on this planet thinks that Titanic was simply a movie of epic proportions, well, news flash, i'm in the crowd that thinks it was an EPIC movie and not only epic, but one that hit your emotions like a battering ram hits the gates of a castle. No, i'm not going to act all manly and say that this movie didn't stir my emotions, because it did and probably would if i watched it again. Right when the ship starts flooding and you see the old couple in their room, resigned to their fate without even trying to make it to higher ground, as their cabin floods or right near the end when Jack remains in the freezing water so that Rose can save herself and eventually, he dies from the cold...yes, that brought my near to crying and no matter how many times i watch that movie, i will always hope for a different ending, even knowing that thats impossible, i will hope and my emotions will be stirred in the end again, despite the fact that i know exactly how the movie will end.

And so, this brings me to the subject at hand today, can video games really convey emotions like movies can? Lets explore the subject a little bit more and  in the process, look at a few video games that have this potential. Word of warning though, if you've never played the games i mention, stop reading as spoilers are sure to follow.

First off, for a video game to be able to convey emotions, it has to have 2 very important things. 1) Likable Characters and 2) A good story, lets face it, one without the other is as useless as a bad story and unlikable characters. Likable characters are interwoven into the story, they become likable because you grow to like them, share their emotions, reasons for their journey and in general you feel saddened when they are sad, happy when they are happy and you laugh when they crack a smart-ass joke in the face of danger. A good story in-turn requires likable characters, stories don't tell themselves, stories are told through the characters in the video game, throughout their journey their trials, their battles and so on. By now your probably asking yourself "WTH is wrong with this idiot? he forgot PHOTO-REALISTIC GRAPHICS!!!". Well, news flash for you, my dear reader, no, i did not forget graphics, they simply do not fit into this subject, likable characters and a good story DO NOT need Photo-Realistic Graphics or even Good Graphics, a good story with likable characters can easily be told using 8-Bit Sprites, actually...wait, scrape that, you DO NOT need ANY graphics at all to tell a good story with likable characters, you'll agree with me hear if you've ever picked up a Science Fiction Novel.

Now, what exactly makes for a "Good Story with Likable Characters"? Well, thats hard to say, even for me because we Human Beings are very different from one another, our emotions can be stirred by many different things, but what stirs one person's emotions might not neccessarily stir another's. But to briefly summazrize some an example, a Good Story with Likable Characters requires a Story that we actually care about, a story thats beyond simply "killing the bad guys and then going home". Why are we killing these bad guys? ok, you got that down, now why are these bad guys being bad? ok, ok now why do we have a bunch of characters that are trying to be heroes? are they somehow connected to this story somehow? or are they simply in it for the fame and glory? do we like or hate these characters? do they generally act like complete and total jerks (Squall from Final Fantasy VIII and most recently, Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII come to mind...) or are they kind, compassionate and caring for whats going on in their surroundings?
Again, like i said, it's hard to say and everyone is probably going to have his or her own opinion.

Now let me share a few games with you here and i'll go ahead wand warn you again, if you have not played the games i mention, there will most likely be major spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.

Anyways, in no particular order:

Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360):
This is a good candidate, when you reach the moment in the story-like where Dom finds Maria (his wife) and she's dead, that simply shocks the player (at least it did to me). Ever since the first game, you know why Dom's in the fight and who his looking for, now he finds her and she's dead. Thats simply a "WTF man, thats not right..." moment.

The Legend of Dragoon (PS1):
Over the course of the first chapter in the game (Disc 1) Dart meets Lavitz, a Knight from the Kingdom of Basil and even though before they each know the other's intentions they cross swords while Dart is in search of his childhood friend, Shana and Lavitz is escaping from the prison their in, they immediately become very close friends. Then near the end of the first chapter, Lavitz is killed in combat while trying to save the King Albert of Basil (and good friend), that....thats one of the most emotional scenes in video game history for me and yes, the very first time i saw it, i cried. You have these 2 guys, they quickly become best friends and share their burden throughout their journey, they fight together, they laugh together and they protect each other's back and then all of a sudden, when you least expect it, he is killed. Words don't do it justice, just go watch this cutscene:

Then later on, near the end of the game the party meet Lavitz again, whom through the aid of an evil spirit was able to remain in this world, the party is forced to fight Lavitz while  he is possessed, but Dart refuses to defeat him and instead dodges his attacks until he finally drops his sword and screams Lavitz's name, this finally gets through to Lavitz and in his moment of clarity, he impales himself with his own spear and kills the spirit that was possessing him, again, words can't do this scene justice, you simply have to see it:

The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion (PSP):
Now i'm going to talk about my favorite game as far as this subject goes.
The story ultimately revolves around two Gods, Bardus The God of Light and Octum The God of Darkness, in ages past, these two gods battled and Bardus won, but Bardus being Light and Octum Darkness, one could not exist without the other and thus, Bardus died along with Octum and his body pieces (Head, Torso, Legs and Arms) were entrusted for safekeeping to Durga, The Goddess of The Earth. Many years later, in the present day of the game exists the Bardus Church and almost everyone worships Bardus and then there are the Octum's Apostles, a group of people intent on ressurecting Octum and re-creating the world in their own vision of the perfect utopia, to do this, they need Durga's Daughter, whenever a "Durga's Daughter" dies, another one is born shortly after.

Now there's Avin and Eimelle, two orphaned children (brother and sister) that lost their parents, ever since they have depended on one another to get through life, now they are 8 and 7 respectively and living on Cathedral when one day Octum's Apostles invade Cathedral in search of Durga's Daughter who turns out to be Eimelle, after the attack, they are seperated from one another. Avin is taken by Lemuras to Ourt Village where he settles in to live, in the hopes of reuniting with Eimelle one day. With the pain is getting seperated from Eimelle, Avil in very bitter and as such  lashes out and takes out his anger and frustration at Mile, the only other kid around his age in Ourt Village, but with Mile's persistence, they soon become best friends and time quickly passes. 10 Years later, both Avin and Mile are 18 and they set out in search of Avin's sister, Eimelle, they pass through many places and meet many people throughout their journey and share their many experiences and even manage to catch up with Eimelle, but sadly, their reunion is short lived, for while on their way to Valkd, the city where the Church Headquarters are, they are ambushed by the Octum's Apostles, both Avin and Eimelle are knocked cold and Mile tries to defend them, but is overpowered when he, along with Rutice, an enemy turned ally, attempt to defeat one of the Octum's Apostles, Rutice is spared, but unfortunately Mile doesn't share the same fate and is subsequently killed, but later resurrected.

Near the end of the game, Avin is confronted by Mile who is being controlled by the Octum's Apostles, Mile is completely incapacitated and nothing can get through to him and the party is forced to fight him. However, Avin refuses to believe that his friend is gone, Mile batters Avin, almost killing him, yet he refuses to defend himself, instead only yelling at Mile in the vain attempt of trying to wake him up and then finally, Mile deals an almost fatal blow at Avin which launches him through the air to hit a wall, during which a set of bells (given to Mile by his father before he left Ourt Village with Avin and subsequently found by Avin in a pool of blood thought to be Mile's) falls out of Avin's pocket to clang on the floor, this manages to get through to Mile and he manages to break the spell that was allowing Octum's Apostles to control him. However, at the end of the game after defeating Octum, it is revealed that the only thing keeping Mile alive was the spell Octum's Apostles had cast on him and that after he had broken out of it, he would die. Avin is distraught with sadness at losing his friend for a second time after saving him and he prays to Bardus, asks him to give Mile another chance and suddenly a portal opens up before Avin leading to the Underworld, seemingly, the only way to save Mile is to retrieve his spirit, which Avin jumps in and does without giving it a second of thought.

Here are two videos, unfortunately the last one cuts out before the scene finishes, but it's the next best thing to actually playing the game.

I would have liked to link better videos, including a video of Mile's death described above, but unfortunately this game is so obsucre, that not many people know about and those that do, are easily won over into thinking that it's a shoddy game and honestly? without the characters and story, it's crap. But still, the story is, in my book, top notch despite all the typos from the horrendous translation.

So, are games capable of conveying emotion? yes, they most definetly are.

Now post your thoughts, i'm personally eager to hear what others think of the subject.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When too much Perkiness and Cuteness turns Ridiculous.

Among the games i picked up on Black Friday was Final Fantasy XIII, for $17.99, it was worth picking up, i had heard alot of stuff about it, stuff that made me question myself on whether i should buy the game or not. While i'm not one of those diehard Final Fantasy VII fans that go like "FFVII is the BEST FF EVER" i do think that FFIV, FFVII, FFVIII and FFIX were THE best FF titles (i don't mention V and VI because i have yet to play those....CMON Square Enix, do a remake for the DS already!!!). FFX was "Ok, it's not bad", FFX-2 was "huzzah for the fans of FFX!!!", FFXI was "WTF?!?!" and FFXII was "Ok, this is different, but at least it's not FFXI and it actually doesn't suck, but it's still different..." but FFXIII is simply "WTF?!?! are you SURE this is a FF game???". Yes, it changes everything around THAT much.

Now FF games have always had the cute and perky girls in em FFVIII had Selphie, FFIX had Eiko, FFX had Rikku (my personal favorite) and FFXII had Penelo. Their roles in the storyline were obviously different and you could probably say that one is cuter then the other or more perkier then the rest. But FFXIII's Vanille definetly takes it not one step further, but 10 WHOLE steps further. She is definetly cute, but thats as far as she goes, everything else is taken so far, is so exxagerated, that she instantly becomes annoying. Watch her running and an image is instantly glued to your mind of an obnoxious school girl happily strolling through a flower field singing "Laa-La-La-La-Laa" (ok, maybe that didn't come out quite right, but if anyone reads this, they'll probably at least half understand what i'm trying to get at). Trust me, it's just plain ridiculous, get the game and as soon as you get to the part where you gain control of her, i'll bet ANYTHING that you first reaction will be "WTF? are you serious?".

I'll be back later with my thoughts on God of War and in a few days, my thoughts on FFXIII :)

Re-visiting Dark Cloud

It's been almost a month since i started replaying Dark Cloud (PS2) and i have the strange feeling that i might not be done in time for New Year just yet. If this was any other game, i'ld have gotten bored and labeled the game as "repetetive" but i don't quite understand yet why i keep playing. The story is definetly interesting, but is that enough incentive to keep playing? what about the extensive weapon customization system i described on an early entry on this blog? Or maybe a combination of the Gameplay? whatever it is, the game remains just as fun and addicting as the first time i played it.

The game is certainly fun, i can give it that, fighting through dungeon after dungeon, finding new runes and jewels to slap on your weapons and upgrade them and eventually transform them into a new weapon alltogether and finding new monsters that require a different tactic to kill is great, so is finding atla and retrieving the homes, shops and stuff that go with each of the aforementioned to rebuild each of the 4 villages in the game (the 5th isn't really a village, thats why i don't mention it). But is that really addicting? I'm not sure to be honest, but the truth is, i'm lovin every minute with this game.

Thats not to say it doesn't have it's flaws and that sometimes it plain makes you want to tear your hair out. I peronally feel that there are too many playable character, variety is usually good, but not here. You can comfortably level up 2 or 3 character's weapons, but definetly not more and since finding runes, gems and weapons themselves is pretty much random (runes and gems also being hard until you reach Queens where you can buy as many "keys" to access the back levels of dungeons as you can afford) it's not easy to keep every character with weapons in top shape and that leads to further frustration when you encounter a dungeon where you are limited to a single character and can't change, if said character has shoddy, underpowered weapons, you either wade through the muck and hope for the best or retreat and go try and level up your weapon. End Dungeon bosses for the most part require a few bouts of trial and error, the end boss in Queens for example requires that you disable her magical shield with toan (i believe it had to be fire element?) and then switch to Ruby and use her magic shots to actually hurt her and i did this once the first time i faced her and i didn't get it that ONLY Ruby's attacks hurt her, i thought it was some other combination of attacks of something, why doesn't the game simply give a hint as to how you have to hit the boss to actually hurt it?

Right now last night (early this morning? it was past 2AM afterall :D ) i left off at the 5th level of the Sun&Moon Temple, hopefully tonight i can make it to the 10th level, or at least close enough, i guess we'll see. I'll probably be back with my final thought on the game in a few weeks.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Of Dragon Quests and Dragon Warriors

Ever since i first heard of Dragon Quest IX, i know i wanted to buy it ASAP, i admit, i was a bit disappointed, i was expecting a release on the Xbox 360, PS3 or even on the Wii, but it was announced for the Nintendo DS and thats the platform we got on. When i started reading more about it, i gradually became more excited, i have never been been too obssessed with multiplayer on either the DS or PSP, but this game got me interested, i'm really big on co-op games and a game where you can play the entire single player mode in co-op with up to 3 other players....thats was simply awesome. However, the game came out a few months ago and i wasn't able to pick it up just yet because other games took priority or i was simply short on cash, afterall, owning ALL major platforms isn't very easy, there's always a game here or there that your looking forward to and you can only buy so many before you realize you have to cut back.

However, among the stuff i picked up yesterday on Black Friday was Dragon Quest IX and guess what? I'M LOVING IT!!!

I consider myself a Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior fan even though i only own Dragon Warrior VII (PS1), Dragon Warrior VIII (PS2) which i've barely played, Dragon Quest IV on the DS that i've also barely played and now Dragon Quest IX. However, the games, in their own way, are always charming and fun, i still remember very fondly buying DWVII at Target with my saved allowance money and a 10% discount i had back in early 2002 and then playing the sacred meatballs (does such a thing actually exisit? LOL!) out of it, i eventually got stuck and boy, i spent HOURS, no...DAYS looking for one of those cursed map tablets which i never found until last year i poured in ANOTHER 40+hrs (i want to say 80+...but i'm not exactly sure, i should go look up the save game on my PS1 memory card) into it and even beat the game, it took me almost 2 weeks of playing that game and ONLY that game, but i did ir and i'm very happy, the game was genuinely fun, except that i had to grind for levels alot, especially near the end and even then, i only beat the boss by sheer luck (i only had one character alive and one more hit and he'ld have died).

Anyways, enough about the past, lets go back to the present, to Dragon Quest IX.

The game starts out with a very cool cutscene right before the main menu (check it out here if your curious), once you choose to start a new game, you are taken to a screen where you can create your character and customize how he/she looks by selecting from several choices of Height, Faces, Eyes, Hair Styles and so on. The range of options aren't as broad as i'ld have liked, but thats compensated later on by the amount of equipment pieces (i.e Armor, Weapons, Boots, Gloves, etc) that you can find or buy in the game that when equipped, affect the player character model directly. Once you make your character and name him, the game starts out and you'll be introduced to the story, the first 30 - 45mins (may take longer depending on your play style) and the basics of gameplay, after that your dropped into the game proper and you'll start your adventure.

Gameplay is pretty much the same as in DWVII and DWVIII, except with a few new features and alterations. You go around exploring towns, fields and dungeons all in the attempt of advancing the story. Battles are much more visually appealing then in past DW/DQ games, gone is the restriction of being limited to a first-person view point during battles, on DQIX, the top screen plays out the battle while the bottom screen is used to issue commands to your characters. Depending on your character (and his or her class), you can choose among regular attacks, spells, skills and abilities (the latter three which are earned as you level up and acquire skill points to put into skills that are dependant on your character's class) and meanwhile, everything plays out in semi-real time on the top screen, character move around in the battlefield and attack as commands are issued and are attacked themselves by the enemies. Also new to the series are quests that you can get from NPCs in the game and complete for rewards and like i was mentioning earlier, everything equipped on your characters is visually represented in the character model in-game, so it's always cool to find that newpiece of equipment to give your character and then see it on him in real time. All that and more that i haven't even experienced it great, but perhaps the biggest new feature to the DQ/DW series is Online Play, knowing how handhelds work, it's probably limited to local wireless, or in other words, only people that are near each other and each with a DS and copy of the game, but i have not tried it out yet (been having trouble setting up a wi-fi connecting on my DS), but it should be awesome and if you can somehow go online properly and play with say....people accross the country or even overseas, that'ld be EPIC. The other thing that has me excited to try it out is Canvassing for Inn Guests, once you get to a certain point in the game, you can set-up to gather other player's characters to an Inn in your game while you go about your daily life, so say i could go out to the library, the store and then back home and i might have recruited characters from other people i passed by that had a DS with DQIX set to Canvass Mode, i'm not sure what all the benefits of this are, but the biggest one i know of is Treasure Maps which can be gathered from Inn Guests that were recruited by Canvassing, of course, it depends on the players, maybe the people i encounter didn't have their character set to share a treasure map, because this is optional. I still haven't gotten to this point yet, but i can't wait, i'm really excited to get there and then pop my DS in my pocket when i go out and see if i recruit any characters, i hear this is all the rage in Japan, but thats Japan and this is the US, so we'll see...or maybe DQ/DW is not very big in my city in Florida, but maybe the game sold like hotcakes yesterday and quite a few people got it (or at least get it by Xmas!).

Graphically, the game looks great and it's definetly better then DQIV (there's DQV, but i still haven't picked that up yet) but textures are detailed and character models look great in 3D, of course, it's not the best looking game out there, this is the DS we're talking about afterall, but it's easily one of the best looking games i've come across yet and thats saying alot since i found Final Fantasy IV to be an awesome game, graphics-wise, on the DS, but that game is over 2 years old and this game is barely a few months old. There are also new character models, this actually comes as a surprise as Square Enix (aka Enix in the PS1 era before it was acquired by Square Soft) reuse the character models/sprites ALOT in this series, but it definetly does alot to the game visually, you can only see the SAME character models so many times before they become an eyesore, no matter how great they look.

The music is also cool, there are many remixed tunes from past DQ/DW games as well as new ones, but the important ones are still there and recognizable, to be specific the Overture that players with the intro i linked to at the beginning of this post, the main menu music and the tune that plays when you Confess at the Church (Save your game).

So far, i'm enjoing the game alot and i have the strange sensation that i'll be enjoing it for a lot of days to come. Now i'm really ready for if a disaster strikes, no electricity? no prob, as long as i can charge my DS i'm good to go :D

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Project: Expand TESIV: Oblivion

So you read my previous blog entry and decided to tackle the Project(s) huh? Well, lets get to it then, shall we?

Important Note: You can do just one or all of these projects, if you only care for improving the graphics, you can just do that and vice versa.


  • Time: I'ld suggest 1 - 2 days, it's easy to screw up and you probably will.
  • Computer Proficiency: If your good with computers, your good to go, otherwise move on to something else, trust me, you'll only frustrate yourself.
  • Copy of TESIV: Oblivion + Shivering Isles Expansion + Any/All Official Add-Ons/DLC. If you only have plain Oblivion, that should be fine too and so should the Game of The Year edition, however if you bought a digital copy or from Steam, forget it, you'ld best look elsewhere for information as to how to get all these mods running together, this procedure requires a retail copy of the game, it doesn't work with digital versions to the best of my knowledge.
  • Internet: Your going to be downloading a couple gigabytes worth of mods, so the faster your internet, the better, but as long as it's a DSL line, you should be fine.
  • Good Luck: Trust me, your going to need it, i know i did :)

First off, print the First-Time User Install Guide, this will be your single guide for installing this project and download the Wrye Bash Pictorial Guide for Newbies. You can feel free to print the latter, but it's not worth doing so, you'll just waste ink.

List of Downloads:

Here i'm going to list EVERYTHING you need to download, download EACH and EVERY mod as well as patch i indicate, but DO NOT install anything yet.

Below starts the entire list of patches and mods you'll be downloading, they'll be in numerical order, this order indicates the order that they MUST be installed in.

Important Note: I'm going to try and highlight as best i can the Patches and downloads that you need to download or skip depending on whether you have just plain Oblivion or Oblivion + SI Expansion.

Python 2.5.2.
Wrye Bash.
Better Oblivion Sorting Software.
Official Oblivion/Shivering Isles Patch: If you scroll the page down, you'll find the patch for Oblivion. If you ONLY have Oblivion installed on your PC, download the Oblivion patch, if you have Oblivion + Shivering Isles Expansion, then download the Shivering Isles patch.
Unofficial Oblivion Patch.
Unofficial Shivering Isles Patch: ONLY install this patch IF you have the Shivering Isles expansion.
Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul: Scroll down to the list of downloads and download OOO_133_complet...tup.exe AND OOO_134_beta_5_patch.7z. That the order they have to be installed in as well.
Martigen's Monster Mod. Scroll down to the list of downloads and download MartsMonsterMod37b3.7z AND MMM373BSA.7z.
MMM Invisible Lich Patch.
Francesco's Leveled Creatures/Items Mod: Download BOTH files. When installing, the one that says OPTIONAL goes AFTER the other one, or in other words, the smallest download is installed first followed by the bigger one.
Oblivion WarCry.
Oblivion WarCry Patch.
Bob's Armory.
FCOM: Convergence: NOTE: There is a newer version of FCOM, unfortunately i completely missed that fact and installed the one i linked to and as such, thats what i'm using with this guide. But if your feeling up to it, here's a link to the newest version, it's the download thats under "Main Files" in the files tab. However, if it messed something up or something, i can't really help.

The reason i compiled this list of downloads is that i messed up the FCOM install once because i used outdated mods, these are ALL the exact mods i have and if you set it all up correctly, it will work with no issues whatsoever. One thing i suggest and i can't stress enough about is to READ the instructions and ReadMe's of each and every mod and program we use for this project, ESPECIALLY for Wrye Bash. Wrye Bash makes installing mods a cinch, but it's not easy to get the hang of, once you figure out how it works, it's quick and VERY efficient. If you run into any trouble, go on over to the Oblivion Forums and post your problem, like with everything in life, your likely to run into an asshole or two, but someone will definetly help or at least point you in the right direction.

I'm planning to write my own tutorial on how to install this entire project, but for the time being, use the guide we printed earlier, i don't know if and when it'll be done, so don't sit and wait for it.

Good Luck!

Project Expand & Beautify TESIV: Oblivion.

When i mentioned about a week ago that i was working on installing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (just Oblivion for short from here on), a friend expressed his interest in doing the same and while i doubt he'll do it (i swear, all he does is WoW, Halo or CoD...) i decided to go ahead and post about it here on my blog, hopefully it'll help someone, somewhere and if not, well, hell, i had fun typing it out.

Anyways, the project is comprised of two parts, EXPAND and BEAUTIFY. Expand means just what the word means, to expand the game world, add to it (i.e new monsters, new gameplay mechanics, new features, etc) and beautify means to "pretty up" or make the game less ugly, in other words, make it graphically more detailed.

Now before you start getting ready to mod Oblivion, a few words of warning, this is a BIG undertaking and while you won't have to make any mods yourself, installing what you will have to download won't be easy, especially if you've never messed around with installing mods on this game. It's possible that one wrong step will mess up everything and you'll end up having to re-install the game and start from scratch and yes, this undertaking takes TIME and LOTS of it, so don't expect to have everything setup within a couple of hours.

First things first, lets go over the basic mods we'll be installing, there's always the chance that you won't care one bit about the changes these mods will make to your game, so browse them over, read what they do and then decide if you want to install them or not.
Note: DO NOT download anything from the following links yet.

Project: Expand.

Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul.
Martigen's Monster Mod.
Francesco's Leveled Creatures-Items.
Oblivion WarCry.
Bob's Armory.
FCOM: Convergence.

Project: Beautify.
WARNING: Verify that you have a good graphics card before considering the next project. I have an ATI 3870 (512 VRAM), anything like that should work, but it's recommended that you have a graphics card with AT LEAST 512MBs VRAM.

Qarl's Texture Pack 3 - Redimized.
Bomret's Texture Pack for Shivering Isles. <------------This is optional, entirely depends on whether your using the SI expansion, if you are not, then skip ahead.
Improved Doors & Flora.
Improved Trees & Flora 1.
Improved Trees & Flora 2.
Improved Signs.
Improved Fruits, Vegetables and Meats.

Project: Misc.
These are some personal mod choices that i have, but are not in any way related to the main projects, nevertheless, i HIGHLY recommend them. Feel free to browse them over and pick as many or as few as you'ld like.

Initial Glow.
Oblivion Stereo Sound Overhaul.
More Immersive Sound.
Atmospheric Oblivion.
Audia Arcanum 2.0.
Symphony of Violence.
Battle Music Pack.
Dungeon Music Pack.
Explore Music Pack 1.
Explore Music Pack 2.
Public Music Pack.
DarNified UI.

I'll go ahead and warn you again, DO NOT download ANYTHING from the above links, many of those mods are OUTDATED, read, learn and then come back once your ready to tackle the projects.

I'll be back soon with some tips for getting all this working together in harmony as well as links to very helpful tutorials.