Music Review 102005

Coheed and Cambria - Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Vol I.
(9.2 of 10)

With Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons inspired lyrics, progressing riffs and harmonising guitars, Coheed and Cambria's third installment to their epic saga is an aural treat, especially to a music lover and a gamer like me. "Welcome Home", the 6 minute rock opera, that sounds like Led Zepellin's "Kasmir", is probably the highlight of the album. Perfectly blending their distorted and complex sounds with violins, and Claudios, Geedy Lee-like, voice never sounded so good. In addition, the well written lyrics unfolds a fantasy story that continues from their last two album. Coheed and Cambria's music has matured, and Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. I is probably the best album I've heard this year.

Avenged Sevenfold - City of Evil
(9.0 of 10)

Combining old school metal and punk, and adding a bit of their own style, Avenged Sevenfold clawed their way up from obscurity. City of Evil is, indeed, a very powerful album. Fast, hard, and heavy guitar riffs, driving bass, and unbelievably solid drumworks (especially in songs like "The Beast and The Harlot" and "Sidewinder"). The vocals are melodic with a punkish approach, and reminds me of Axl Rose, especially in the song "Seize The Day" which has a big Guns N' Roses influence to it. If you're looking for a very courageous and adventurous album, I highly recommend City of Evil.


Game Review: Fable

Fable: The Lost Chapters
(8.2 of 10)
Platform: Windows (PC)/XBOX
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios


Last year, Microsoft Game Studios and Lionhead Studios released a game, "exclusively" for XBOX, called Fable. Of course, as a PC RPG afficionado, I was disappointed knowing that I won't be seeing Fable on PC. However, a few months after its release, and a couple of bad reviews, Peter Molyneaux and Lionhead Studios decided to add more content to the game and port it to PC. I was delighted to hear the news, and I immediately bought the game on its release date.

I haven't really played the original XBOX Fable. So I can't comapre it with Fable: The Lost Chapters. Although, if Lionhead Studios did try to improve the game, I'm not sure if they went through lengths because I'm not impressed with Fable: The Lost Chapters.

A Hero in the Making
In Fable: The Lost Chapters, you don't start the game by creating a character. No gender, race, or class selection. Instead, you'll start out as a young boy who has dreams of becoming a great hero, or a terrible force of evil. As the player, you must choose between the path of good and evil through a series of quests immediately. The alignment of your character will change according through the actions you make in these quests. Defend a child from the bully and you'll become more good. Help the bully steal from the child and you'll become more evil.

Pinching butts is a very good example of an evil deed

Like in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series, your character's appearance will change in conjuction to your alignment. Do a lot of angelic deeds, your skin will become more vibrant and you'll have a halo. Go down through the road of darkness, you'll grow horns and your eyes will cast a deathly stare. People will also react on how the way you look. If you're evil looking, with the addition of a black armor, bad haircuts, and scary tattoos, people will ignore you or flee in terror. But if you have a vibrant skin, plus good clothing, haircuts, and artful tattoos, women (and even men) will start falling in love with you.

Looks can't kill, however. That's why you still need your combat skills. Combat skills are divided into three parts: Melee, Archery, and Magic. All of the skill are available to your character without any restrictions. As for my character, I always focus on building a fast melee character, I have everything under Melee Tree; Speed under Archery Tree; and Multi-Strike, Assassin's Rush, and Slow Time under the Magic Tree.

Slow Time gives you the speed to make short work of a dozen of monsters

Superficial and Aural Beauty
I love the graphics of the game. The big arms and big feet style is awesome to look at. The characters are all detailed, the lighting and the special effects from the spells are very vibrant.

Unlike in games developed in Norther America, voice actors often try hard with the brit accent. Not in Fable: The Lost Chapters though. Since it is developed by an English Studio, the accent comes naturally. The music is also very orchestrated since it is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Adventure Begins
There are a lot of things to do in Fable: The Lost Chapters, and it's quite an adventure playing it. Besides from slaying monsters, there's a lot of fun things to do in the world of Albion. Buy a rod and go fish in some brook, and if you get lucky, you might get more than just a fish. Get a shovel, find pieces of a treasure map, and your off treasure hunting; or you could just settle for gravedigging. If you feel lucky, try gambling in one of the towns. If you want to invest, buy a house, decorate it with your trophies and rent it. If you want to settle down, find a girl and marry her. If one girl is not enough, go to another town and marry another girl. The things to do never ends.

Fishing, one of the past times in Albion

Role Playing and Story
As always, the most important thing for me is the role playing aspect, and the story, of the game. Although Fable: The Lost Chapter is a fun game, it plays more like an action/adventure rather than a RPG. Of course, you can change the morality and physical appearance of your character. But he's rather lifeless and boring. He doesn't talk, and he only communicates in gestures. The same with the NPCs, they have no depth of character in them. They're just a bunch of mindless droids who are made to praise, or sneer on, your character.

As far as the story goes, I think it was well presented. The quests, sidequests, mini-games, books, and the cutscenes blends altogther to paint a beautiful story and world. The only thing is, the story was too short. I'm talking about 10 to 15 hours short. So it doesn't have that epic approach like Baldur's Gate.

Although Fable: The Lost Chapters proved to be an enjoyable game, I'm still disappointed in my quest in finding a good RPG this year. Indeed, Fable: The Lost Chapters (with its short storyline and shallow NPCs) is one of those excellent games but a bad RPG.

I recommend this game to people who liked Gothic, Gothic II, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords.


The Templar and The Detective

Last year, Playboy had a spread in one of their issues called "Gaming Gals" that featured several nude girls from computer games like Bloodrayne, Playboy: The Mansion, Darkwatch, and Leisure Suite Larry.

Just this morning, I found out that they -Playboy- featured another set of these "Gaming Gals", and released a couple of digital trading cards. Two of these hot gals are from my games wishlist: Avalon, a templar, from the game Hellgate: London; and Carla, a detective, from the game Indigo Prophecy (aka Farenheit).

...and they always say: "Stop playing video games and grow up already." It seems that we don't have to because computer gaming has grown up.


Game Review: Dungeon Siege II

Dungeon Siege II
(7.9 of 10)
Platform: Windows (PC)
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios


I've already mentioned it too many times, Dungeon Siege is, by far, one of the worst games I’ve played. That alone is my only reason to stay away from its sequel, Dungeon Siege II. However, I received an almost expired gift card (one week expiration date) on my birthday, and since there was no other game that interests me during that time; I decided to give Dungeon Siege II a shot.

Man the Ramparts, and hold the fortress. Adventure is coming!

Too my surprise, while Dungeon Siege II kept the charm of the original’s seamless engine, Gas Powered Games did a lot to improve the areas where its predecessor lacked: a strong story, and a more involved combat system.

Character Creation and Development
In any other RPG, you start the game through a character creation. Unlike most RPG though, character creation in Dungeon Siege II is less complicated and offers little choices. You can choose from four different Races: Humans, Dryads, Elves, and Half-Giants. Each Race has its own bonuses and advantages in several combat types. Humans are the most versatile, Elves are geared towards combat magic and ranged combat, Dryads are good candidates for a nature mage and ranger, and the Half-Giants are your typical, tank-type, melee combatant. After selecting your race, you can choose your gender and the appearance of your character, which doesn't affect the gameplay in any way.

Like in the original game, there is no typical class selection. Instead, you will choose and use one, or two, combat style(s) (melee, range, nature magic and combat magic) and will progress in character level with the continued use of your chosen combat style(s). Each combat style has its own “skill tree”, a new feature in the sequel, which allows you to specialize. In melee combat, you can either fight by dual-wielding weapons, use a sword and shield, or carry two-handed weapons. As a nature mage, you can focus on healing, ice magic, summoning, or enchanting. As a combat mage, death, lightning, and fire magic are at your command. The ranger can also choose between thrown weapons, crossbows and bows.

Heroic Powers, such as Waves of Power, will help you clear the battlefield of monsters.

Another new feature in the game are the Heroic Powers. Heroic Powers are powerful skills that are activated to use against your enemies, or to protect your party from harm. These powers are the result of specializing in one branch. For example, my human fighter specializes as a dual wielder. By combining a couple of skills in the dual wielding branch, I gained a power called Waves of Force, a devastating attack skill that could reduce a crowd of enemies into a pile of loot when activated.

(with your Henchmen and Pets)
You start the game with the party of two, you and your best friend, Drevin. As the game advances, and if your wealth allows, you’ll be able to buy extra slots for additional members to join you in your quest to save the land of Aranna. In Mercenary Mode, you can have a maximum of four members in your party, five in Veteran Mode, and six in Elite Mode. Your party can consist of either NPCs or Pets.

There are a handful of NPC henchmen throughout the game. There’s nothing special about playable NPCs except that you can customize each of their combat style the way you want it. They also have special quests that you can do if they are in your party.

Pets are one of the coolest things that happened in Aranna.

Pets are probably the nice addition to Dungeon Siege II. Although not as powerful as NPC henchmen, your Pet’s emanation power, an aura that boosts certain stats of the whole party, can be quite handy. There are many Pets in the game, each with different powers, and they can be acquired by purchasing one in a local pet shop. Pets starts out as babies, and they will grow into maturity if you feed them with items. They gain certain attributes if you continue to feed them with certain items. For example, if you feed them with melee weapons, they will gain strength. If you feed them with range armor they will gain dexterity and armor.

Technical Crap (Sound and Eye Candy)
In the post Source Engine era, where the characters have facial expressions, a graphics engine that is not capable to move the lips while the NPC is speaking is outdated, obsolete. The characters and models look blocky too. Though the whole world is detailed and everything is beautiful when the camera is zoomed out. Also, the lighting effects in Dungeon Siege II are quite mesmerizing to look at.

The music and sound of the game is excellent. The highly orchestrated music adds an epic feel to the game. That alone has urged me not to quit and continue playing on. Although the ambiance and music is great, the voice acting is horrible. Some NPCs have tolerable voice acting but for the most part they sound lifeless.

Storytelling and Role-Playing
What separates Dungeon Siege II from its predecessor is the better story and a richer game world. Albeit the story is mediocre at best, a typical fantasy type, in which a hero is destined to single handedly defeat an evil of great renown, it is better than none. The plot has a lot of unexpected, and yet shallow, twists and turns that somehow managed to capture my attention. The game also contains more than a handful of books, which are interesting to read, and casts a deeper hue to the world of Aranna.

The Archmage, protecting the Aegis of Life.

As a big RPG fan, I’m a sucker for good dialogue conversation that offers choices and options. Sadly, Dungeon Siege II has none of those. Although there are options in conversations to receive, or turn down a quest, but none really offered a choice that would alter the course of the game. There are no dialogue options to role-play, or change, an alignment either. He’s just one righteous hero who wants to destroy every evil that crosses his path. No dialogue options that offers a path to darkness, a path to neutrality, only a pre-determined path of being a goody two-shoes.


In the rarity of RPG these days, I admit that I gambled when I bought Dungeon Siege II, like when food is scarce and you don't have much choice but to eat what you have. I admit that I didn't expect to enjoy this game. For that, I applaud and thank Gas Powered Games for using criticism as a learning tool to improve their game. Although, I must say, the improvement wasn’t enough to meet my needs as an RPGamer. But if Gas Powered Games continues to take bad criticism in a positive manner, I’m sure Dungeon Siege III will be an awesome RPG.

I recommend this game to people who love Action RPGs such as: Diablo II, Sacred, Beyond Divinity, Divine Divinity, and Fate.


Mass Effect

Mass Effect, a new action RPG, from Bioware and Microsoft Game Studios, developed for XBOX 360. The name of the game rings true since Microsoft and XBOX 360 has this huge effect on the masses, a disease called hype.

As for Bioware, they've already released an awesome RPG for XBOX and now this new awesome action RPG for XBOX 360. Yet, their PC RPG, Dragon Age is somewhat forgotten. There's no news, no follow ups, or anything for the fans. Is BioWare leaving their PC followers, the ones who put them where they should be, in exchange for a wider, yet more moronic, console audience?