Vendetta Day

A few weeks ago, I've posted that I received an advance screening ticket for V for Vendetta. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go because of my busy schedule. Today, however, I've finally managed to take my time off from my clincals, and was able to watch V for Vendetta.

As I expected, the Wachowski brothers tweaked a couple of things from the graphic novel -which was written in the 80's- to adjust it to present time and include modern day problems (i.e. the bird flu) that wasn't in the novel. However, there were some unnecessary tweaks and the background setting -the decaying atmosphere in the graphic novel- wasn't painted well enough in the film.

Natalie Portman, the one true reason that I watched this film.

The actors did an exemplary job on this film. Hugo Weaving gave life to V, and perfectly nailed V's introduction. Natalie Portman -a true artist who's willing to shave her head for the film's sake- did tremendously on delivering different emotions throughout the film. Although, sometimes, her British accent was a bit distracting. John Hurt also did a sterling job as the Chancellor Adam Sutler. But some parts -the political rants- were dragging and slows the momentum of the movie.

As a film, I really enjoyed V for Vendetta -although not as much as the graphic novel. The tweaks and adjusment were mostly necessary but the background setting wasn't evident enough to display a decaying nation. The political speeches were, for the most part, boring. However, the actors did an excellent work in bringing the characters -in the comics- to life. The rhetoric and ideas of the graphic novel is not lost in this movie either, and the ideas of the comic is what's really important, especially in these days.


Stand and Deliver

Nothing's really new today, except that I got my guitar out from the closet and bought a stand for it. Now that it's out, I hope that I'll give a little bit of my time reintroduce myself to the guitar. Then maybe, just maybe, I'll get an amplifier and some effects once I start working.


Game Review: Space Rangers 2

I wrote a review of Space Rangers 2 (UK version) a couple months ago and posted it at Pinoy PC but wasn't able to put it here. But I'll post it now to celebrate the release of the North American version.

Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators
(8.7 of 10)
Platform: Windows (PC)
Developer: Elemental Games
Publisher: Cinemaware Marquee


Space Rangers 2: The Dominators is probably the most obscure game of 2005. I’ve never come across any previews about it on any gaming website before. I’ve only learned about it when some Russian guy, apparently struggling with his English, started a thread on some forum that had a topic: “Space Rangers 2, English version out now, great game”.

As a cynic, I doubted his every word. Nevertheless, I searched the web to learn more about the game. It turns out that the game is an open-ended 2D space strategy with strong RPG elements. Just think Pirates! meets the X series, with tons of additional features, and you’ll get the picture.

After 200 years of peace since the Klissan War (from the first game), the galaxy of the five races is now threatened by the Dominators, a race of intelligent machines hell-bent on the destruction of all organic life-forms in the galaxy.

The vast galaxy of Space Rangers 2

The Space Rangers, a corps of pilots that was dismantled after the Klissan War, has been reformed in the hopes of protecting the galaxy and pushing back the advancing Dominators.

As the player, you will take on the mantle of a Space Ranger and help protect the galaxy from the terrorizing grasp of the Dominators.

The World of Rangers
You start the game by choosing one from five races and five occupations. The races and occupations will not give you any bonuses, or special ablities, but will rather determine the type of your starting ship, the amount of wealth, and your relation with other races. You will also get to choose two from six different skills (Accuracy, Maneuverability, Technical, Trading, Leadership, and Charisma), and two starting equipment.

The character creation screen.

After you created your character you’ll be thrown in a randomly generated galaxy map that consists of 60 star systems, each with its own revolving planets and space stations. At first, only a few star systems are accessible to your character. But you can purchase star maps on some planets to open up new sectors of the galaxy for you to explore. Planets also offer ships and equipments, repairs and refueling, buying and selling trade goods, and government missions. There are also different kinds of Space Stations. They also offer trade goods and equipment but each kind of station have a special purpose.

Jump into the Hyperspace
Making your way through the galaxy depends entirely on your approach, whether you seek fame, wealth, or glory.

Trading illegal goods can lower your reputation in some planets.

Trading, by far, is the most common and least dangerous way of earning money. When a good profit becomes difficult to earn, Business Centers, a space station that can be found on several star systems, can provide you with a list of good trades. Sometimes, a fellow trader will be helpful enough to provide you with tips. Intergalactic news, that is accessible when you dock in planets, will also provide you with reports regarding business.

A nasty Dominator fleet can easily wipe out an ill-equipped Ranger.

Helping with the war against the Dominators is a good way to earn ranks, gain experience, and sometimes money, but it is no easy task for the ill equipped. Nonetheless, there are methods in defeating the Dominators. For a price, Military space stations will send a fleet of battleships and fighters, on your account, to liberate a system under the Dominators. Intergalactic news will also report on which system needs to be liberated by the military, and all you have to do is jump in and help. Science facilities will also pay a high price for any Dominator junk you have to use on their anti-Dominator research programs.

Taking missions from a Faeyan Government.

Doing planetary missions is the most enjoyable part for me. Each mission is different and can vary from pirate hunting to delivering a toothbrush, and from real-time planetary battles to persuading a “Maloq” prince to visit one planet. Hunting and delivering missions are timed, and with you on your ship out on the space jumping from system to system. It’s not hard at all if your ship have the speed or power to do the mission on time. Some missions are text-based, “Choose Your Own Adventure”, type, which reminds me of the games I played many moons ago. These missions are fun and challenging, and more than half of it requires logic and math to accomplish. There's even one mission that sent me digging for my old geometry book from the garage.

Entering the Fray!
There are three variations of combat in Space Rangers 2.

The Infocom can be used to threaten pirates...or not.

For the most part of the game, you’ll be engaging in Space Combat. It’s a turn-based combat in which one combat action and movement takes one day at a time. You can assign all of your weapons to take down one target within the reach of your weapon’s radius or you can divide your weapons to target everything inside your radius.

The Arcade Battle is like a Pac-Man/Galaga Hybrid.

Arcade Battles are only available if you enter Black Holes. It is always in real-time combat and requires the use of keyboards, and the controls are really awkward. Inside the Black Hole you will be in a maze-like universe (ala Pac-Man) with opponents and all sorts of bonuses (life, power up, etc.). Sadly, I don’t know much about the Arcade Battles, since the badly translated manual offers less information about it. I only tried it once and did so again just for this review’s sake.


This is probably the least encountered type of combat in the game. Ground battles, another variation of planetary missions, are real-time strategy combat. Your mission is to capture all Dominator bases on the planet. You’ll assemble and command a battalion of robots. Each robot can be outfitted to fit your strategy. Make a fast and suicidal robot armed with grenade launchers; or rather make a slow but well armored robot with plasma blasters. There’s also an option to manually control a robot, to give you a third-person over the shoulder view.

Paint and Hum of the Hyperdrive
The interface is perfect. Everything in this game is only a push of a button away. From trading to targeting, each has its own respective buttons. Even mapping out your hyper jump route couldn’t be any easier. Intergalactic news provides you with current events happening throughout the galaxy, and if some report caught your attention (like a planet that sells cheap luxuries or an important event), just pressing the “I” button will automatically transfer that report to your navigation panel like a digital “post-it”. The interface also provides you with a useful search function that will allow you to find equipments and other valuable information.

The Intergalactic News provides useful information.

The graphics of Space Rangers 2 is not intended for graphic mongers who play games just to get the most of their 7800s or X850s. However, the old school 2D artwork is beautiful (especially the planet views) and the 3D characters blend well with the background. Although the ships and weapon effects looks nothing more but glorified pixels from “Galaga”.

The planet views are the most stunning artwork in the game.

The soundtrack is remarkable, and varies from ambient to techno which depends on where you are at. Unfortunately, the sound effects such as engine sounds and weapon effects are really dull. In addition, there is no voice acting (even if the characters are opening their mouths) in the game save for a really bad one in the intro movie.

Space Rangers 2 is rather bug free and well-polished game. I've never encountered any problems while playing the game. However, the manual is badly translated, and so's the in-game texts. Sometimes, it's a pain to understand the instructions of a very complicated puzzle because of poor translation.

Docking in planets is the most uneventful part of the game.

Space Rangers 2: The Dominators is the biggest surprise for me this year. I mean an open-ended space simulation that has strong RPG elements, and has tons of features like text-based adventure and RTS planetary battles. Who can pass that? Not me. I wish I had more time to include all of the smaller cool things in this review. But sadly, it’s impossible to do so. My last advice, go grab Space Rangers 2, you won't regret it.


The Fallen Land

It dawned on me just this morning that I never heard any news about The Fall and Golden Land for quite some time now. I've been following the development of these European RPGs since 2-4 years ago, back when there was a huge "PC RPG drought" in North America, and when the European invasion began.

The Fall: Last Days of Gaia is a RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world, and heavily inspired by Fallout. European developers are not only fond of RPGs but they are also fond of Fallout. As a result, we have RPGs coming out that aren't based on medieval fantasy. Two other games that are set in a sci-fi/post-apocalyptic world are Resitricted Area and Metalhearts. Both games were buggy, crappy, and cheesy (like most European developed games). Though I, and other gamers, hope that The Fall wouldn't be anything like those two. Unfortunately, the latest news I heard about the Fall was last Novermber 2005. It was a good news as well, stating that the US game engine is done. So maybe they're close to publishing it? I don't know.

Golden Land is a turn-based fantasy RPG that boasts 100 hours of gameplay. 4 years ago, this game really looked amazing. But now, with its 800x600 resolution, it wouldn't cut in the market. Still, its RPG system will probably be a whole lot better than most RPGs these days. Worst than The Fall, I never heard any news about this game for 2 years. Although, its publisher, Strategy First has a page about this game.

I'm not positive if these games were cancelled due to the sudden influx of RPGs in North America. Sure, most of European games are crappy when it comes to production value, translations, and voice over. But most of them have enjoyable gameplay. So I hope that they will publish The Fall and Golden Land here in NA because the dry spell for RPGamers isn't over yet, no matter what they -Bethesda Fanboys and IGN- say.


Oblivion: The Greatest RPG

I found a forum post at RPG Codex that implies: "Why Oblivion will be the greatest RPG, based on facts." Based on facts, I found this post rather imbecelic. Here's a few highlights from the post.

" To contrast your viewpoints against mine, I got one of my friends 'in the know' to get me in on an Oblivion preview stint. After playing it for 4 hours, I can safely say that Oblivion will be the greatest RPG, if not one of the greatest games, ever made and totally blows your favorites right out of the water.

Let's run down the facts and cram cold and hard truth down your gullets:

Graphics -
Without a doubt, graphics are the most important element of games today. Sure, you can have all sorts of fun little minigames and dice rolls, but they wont even exsist if nothing is there to represent them on the screen. The better the graphics, the stronger their presence in the game."--rfrants

It's true that you need graphics for computer games, and I personally love good graphics too. But graphics is NOT the most important part of the game. Because 10 years from now, Oblivion's great graphics would look abysmal. Great graphics don't make classics. It's the gameplay and the story. Why do you think people still Wasteland, Darklands, and Ultima IV from time to time? They have bad graphics now.

Voice Acting is another core component of RPGs and video-games in general. How can you enjoy a game if all you hear is a bunch of faceless nobodies hacking out forgettable lines? Isn't the point of games to be enjoyable? Exactly. Exceptional Voice Acting improves the game considerably. "--rfrants

This is fun. Now, when did voice acting became a core component of video games? Because you can still play a game even without voices. Sure it's nice to have good voice acting. But would you dig Oblivion from your garage 10 years from now just to listen to Patrick Stewart's and Sean Bean's voices?

"Trying to see it from your view point, I went out and purchased some games that people around here were praising in various threads (such as the Greatest Games You've Never Played thread) and spent about 30 minutes with them, to get a rough idea of your tastes. I played Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 (I heard ALOT of praise for BG2), Fallout: Tactics (I couldn't find the originals and from all the praise the lacklustre Jagged Alliance 2 got, I figured this would be even more popular among you) and got the demo for Ultima 9: Armageddon. "--rfrants

Well, it's true. Oblivion will have the upper hand if it's compared to Ultima 9, Fallout: Tactics, and Baldur's Gate: Alliance 2. Those are horrible games. Why not compare Oblivion to Fallout, Baldur's Gate 2, and Ultima IV?


Deus Ex Machinas: God from the Machines

My schedule's viselike grip is starting to put pressure on me, and finding time to relax -before I crack like an egg- is no easier. I can't play lengthy games anymore, it takes me more than a month to finish a book, and I can't find the time to see movies. It seems the only thing I can start doing -and actually finishing it- is reading a graphic novel.

So last Friday, there was a sale on an independent bookstore (3 books, on select items, for $25) near my train station. Luckily, I found 3 graphic novels that seemed interesting enough for me. Coincidentally, all graphic novels are about individuals who can control machines.

Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days

Former civil engineer-turned super hero, Mitchell Hundred, has the abilty to talk and command machines. The interesting twist, after realizing that he also caused damage as a hero, he stopped using his powers to become mayor of New York City. Ex Machina is a stupendous graphic novel that mixes city politics with heroic powers to add a sense of realism in the world of tradional comic book heroes.

Ghost in the Shell Vol.1 & 2

I've read both of these Manga, twice this weekend, and I still don't understand it. There's a lot of unnecessary tech dialogue that strays the reader. But even without that, the story is still complex with all the ideas of an artificial intelligence fusing with human spirituality, psychology, and religion. While it's a hard read, there's not doubt that Shirow Masamune's lewd and sterling artwork is very appealing to me.


Game Review: Dungeon Lords CE

Dungeon Lords Collector's Edition

(8.2 of 10)
Platform: Windows (PC)
Developer: Heuristic Park
Publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive


Dungeon Lords was one of my most anticipated games from last year (2005). Fortunately, I was broke during the time of its release and was able to avert myself from buying this bug plagued and catastrophic game. This time, however, on its second release, I can’t find enough reasons to avoid it.

Since I haven’t played the original Dungeon Lords, I can’t make comparisons between the initial version and the collector’s edition.

Brewing Your Hero
Creating a character in Dungeon Lords is no different from other RPGs. You get to select and create your character from seven races (and gender for Humans or Elves, and each gender has its own advantages and disadvantages), four 1st tier classes, five Heraldries (offers bonuses), and distribute points to attributes and skills.

The character creation offers a lot of choices.

Advancing a character, however, is quite unique. Besides from the 1st tier class you chose from the character creation, you can also add four different classes (another 1st tier class, two 2nd tier classes, and a 3rd tier class) by joining guilds. There are fifteen 2nd tier classes and fourteen 3rd tier classes to choose from. You also have the ability to distribute your experience points without waiting for a level up.

The Story: A Fantasy Cliché
The story might look like a well-worn fantasy formula that had been used in decades, in which an evil wizard is trying to gather the relics of power to gain supremacy throughout the land, but there are some nice additions and twists that makes it more colorful than what you would expect it to be.

I'm not really fond of the "wiki" style dialogue system.

The dialogue system is the same of Morrowind, Ultima, and Wizardry series, in which you would pick a topic and the NPC will try to narrate it for you. Albeit I don’t like this type of “wiki” dialogue system, it presented the story -of Dungeon Lords- very well.

A World of Dungeons
The world of Dungeon Lords is tremendous ( smaller than Morrowind, and larger than Gothic) and beautiful. You can travel in any parts of the map with minor restrictions. Traveling can also be done by foot or through moon bridges. But in the beginning of the game you’ll do a lot of running, which can be very tedious. The only map you have available is a small automap on your screen. You don’t have an overview of the world map. Instead, they’ve included a paper map in the package.

The shadow ruins is my favorite dungeon in the game.

Dungeon Lords lives up to its name –it’s because all the dungeons in this game are well designed. Every dungeon is different, but all are littered with traps, puzzles, and confusing mazes. My favorite would be The Shadow Ruins.

Hacking and Slashing.
Besides the dungeons, combat is probably another highlight of this game. Combat works like Gothic -in which you’re in total control of you character, and not by some die. So the combat system is fun but it takes time to get used to. The enemies also have different attack types. It’s also good that they don’t attack you in singles, they come in packs, and even the weakest of opponents can overwhelm you.

I thought the red mushrooms will make you grow?

Unlocking chests are also fun since it challenges your perception and quickness but it’s also tied to your character’s skill level.

Disarming traps and picklocking is fun and challenging.

Sights and Sounds

The graphics is also well done in this game. It’s not the best but is certainly better than most. The trees and grass are well detailed and moves with the wind. Combat movement is almost realistic, and the spell animations are scintillating. However, some buildings are still barely decorated (where in the original Dungeon Lords there are no furniture), and the towns are almost lifeless.

The dense forest near Fargrove.

The sound is the worst part of the game. The voice acting is horrible and sounds like it was done by a Chinese, who is trying very hard with a British accent. But it doesn’t matter anyways since the voices are drowned down and almost inaudible. The music…what music?

I haven’t played the initial version of Dungeon Lords but I heard a lot of bad things about it. Unfurnished interiors, lacking skills, and show-stopping bugs, are just a few problems, making the game unplayable. Though I think it’s an insult to all the gamers that bought the initial release, I’m still glad that DreamCatcher decided to salvage this game, fix it, and re-released it to the public, because it’s a fun action RPG.


Do You Squidoo?

Did you ever wonder what would the results be if the wikipedia and blogging had sex? Well, my answer is that their child would look like a squid. Squidoo, a wikipedia/blogging client, is another one of those internet websites that allows the socially deprived to build up their self esteem by flaunting their knowledge and expertise to the world. If you don't do the Squidoo, I inivte you to join. It is fun and time consuming -I wasted two days building and beautifying two of my Lenses.

Check out the Lenses I've made:

An Array of Books
How to build a Neverwinter Nights module.


Age of Pirates Preview

Game Chronicles has previewed Age of Pirates, which is one of my anticipated games this 2006. Here's some interesting highlights from the preview:

"This game offers no overall story. Instead it offers a slew of side mission while you generate your own story[...]It’s a great looking game that plays out a lot like Grand Theft Auto with its leaner mission structure."

It's another game with freeform gameplay, in which you have the world as an empty canvas so you could paint your own story. I kinda like that, but why does it have to play like Grand Theft Auto? GTA is not a role-playing game, and I didn't like that game.


IGN's Top Spawn Toys

I found an article at IGN comics that features the top 15 Spawn toys of all time. As a collector myself, I don't agree with some of their choices, especially Bloodaxe Spawn and Pirate Spawn making it on the list while Spawn i.88 and Medieval Spawn II didn't. But at least 2 of my toys are on the list: Spawn i.43 and Spawn V are on the list. Although, Spawn V should have been the number 1 instead of ,the plastic looking, Spawn I.


V for IMAX

Last Tuesday (3.07.06), I joined a contest to get free advance screening tickets for V for Vendetta on IMAX theatre. Today, I received the tickets. This is going to be a blast. The only problem is, I don't have ride to get there.


RPG Codex interviews Chris Avellone

RPG Codex did a rather interesting interview with Obsidianite Chris Avellone, about RPGs, that can be found here and here.

Here's Chris' definition of RPG:

"What the hell is the "core role-playing game formula?" Here’s my take on it:

You role-play. You are given the choice of putting yourself into a role and the game allows you to act out that role, and ideally, gives you the means and game mechanics to do so - if you want to be evil, you can, and it has repercussions. If you want to Mr. Stealthy, there is a stealth skill, and it allows you to do cool things." -- Chris Avellone

Well, I think people nowadays thinks a role-playing game is something with soil erosion, swords, and monsters-turns-to-loot skills.


Who Wrote V?

When I went to school this morning, I noticed that they changed the poster in the shed where I usually wait for the bus. The new poster was a movie ad of V for Vendetta. I've read the graphic novel and it is one of my favorites. That's why I'm excited about the movie (Natalie Portman is in it too). But I was a bit surprised, and exasperated, when I read the bottom tagline:

"An uncompromising vision of the future from the creators of the Matrix trilogy"

The Wachowski brothers have the gall to proclaim that V for Vendetta is their vision of the future when two guys, named Alan Moore and David Lloyd, wrote and created V. I don't know why they're doing this? Did I just misunderstood them, or are they doing these for some reason?


Loathe and Love: Bethesda Softworks

There's two reasons for me to loath and love Bethesda Softworks this month.

Loath: Oblivion

This hyped and sugar coated game is the reason why I loath Bethsoft. Yes, it has spectacular graphics, as shown in screenshots. But with all their time devoted creating wonderful eye candies, it seems that they forgot to make a role-playing game. That's why I'm gonna avoid it, and here's five of my reasons:

1. No tradional RPG dialogue - "
...but conversation trees progress, unlike in games like Knights of the Old Republic, without your answer. In each conversation you have a list of topics from which to choose, but your replies and questions aren't written out. This is a design choice held over from Morrowind." -- 1up.com

2. High system requirements -
"Recommended System: * ATI X800 series, Nvidia GeForce 6800 series, or higher video card" -- Oblivion FAQ

3. Bad character creation system - "I wasn’t thrilled by the character creation system[...]It never really made me feel like I was really customizing my character, more that I was just tweaking a preset base." -- Gamers with Jobs

4. Buggy? - "Morrowind was known to have loading issues of this sort but they seem to be even more of hassle in Oblivion than in the previous game, mostly due to the fact that while on horseback loading sections are encountered like every eight seconds." -- Gamers Mark

5. I'm broke - "I believe in the saying: What is important is invisible. Because I've never seen money for three weeks now." -- Skron

Love: Call of Cthulhu

Yes, Bethsoft finally confirmed that the PC version of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth will hit the stores this month. This will be my first purchase from my 2006 wishlist. As a fan of Lovecraftian horror, I can't wait to play this game!


Music Release 030705

This is going to be good week for music. Mogwai are back with their new album, and so's the punk band The Lawrence Arms. Indie/Alternative newcomer Mellowdrone also shows a lot of promise. Here's couple MP3s from noteworthy artists that will be releasing their material this week:

"Folk Death 95" (MP3)
From the album Mr. Beast

The Lawrence Arms
"The Devil's Takin' Names" (MP3)
From the album Oh Calcutta!

"Fashionably Uninvited" (MP3)
From the album Box

The Killing Moon
"Subject A" (MP3)
From the album The Killing Moon

So They Say
"Antidote For Irony" (MP3)
From the album Antidote For Irony


Borders Rewards

Today, I joined the Borders Rewards program. The benefits are not as good as Best Buy's Reward Zone but it's free. Program benefits includes:

  • 5% of what you spend in the store goes into your redeemable Holiday Savings Account.
  • Member exclusive discounts and offers.
  • 10% off on all your purchase for one day if you spend $50 in a month.

Upon signing, I also activated a 25% off discount for new members. So I got myself two books: The Art of War: The Denma Translation and The 47 Ronin Story.

The Art of War: The Denma Translation

I've read the first edition of Sun Tzu's Art of War. But, to no avail, never fully understood it. The Denma Translation, however, includes commentaries and essays that will, hopefully, help me to understand this book.

The 47 Ronin Story

When I read The Fifth Profession, there was an introduction about the nature of ronins, or the masterless samurais. The book also contained a short story of the 47 ronin. I was intrigued with their story ever since. Now, I found a book about them, and bought it.