Upgraded Phone

I just received my new phone, a Samsung t619. It's too mediocre but, like I said before, I'm not really particular with phones. So I don't really need one with funky features. This phone would just do. I can take hi-res photos, it has a clear sound, it can fit into my pocket without bulging, and, more importantly, I got it for free. The only bad thing is, it really looks vulnerable. One fall might snuff out the life of this phone. I just hope it can make it to February of next year.


First Impressions: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

I finally got S.T.A.L.K.E.R. yesterday. I've been waiting for this game since 2003 but its release was cancelled plenty of times. So I thought this game won't see the light of day and I gave up on it. But here it is now and, so far, I'm unimpressed. The game crashes every 5 minutes, it's almost unplayable. Hopefully, a good tweak for this game and the current patch will fix my problems.


Game Review: Jade Empire

Jade Empire: Special Edition
(8.5 of 10)
Platform: Windows
Publisher: Take Two Interactive

Developer: BioWare


I've probably said this too many times, but there's always a platform exclusive game that made me want a console. It was X-Men: Legends and Final Fantasy X that made me wish I had a Playstation 2, and for Xbox it was Jade Empire. Luckily, I don't need to buy an Xbox in order to enjoy Jade Empire since, finally, BioWare heard the cries of their RPG deprived PC followers and decided to silence it by porting their highly praised Xbox game into Windows.

Like in most RPGs, the main character starts out simple but there's always the "great destiny" shtick that waits for them. This is also the case in Jade Empire, where the player starts out as a student, under the tutelage of a humble master, in a martial arts academy of Two Rivers, a small and quiet village located at the edge of the empire. But a bandit attack reveals that your master is more than what he seems, and soon follows his abduction and the destruction of your tiny village. With no home left, you set out on a journey to find your master, or just settle for revenge.

Flyers are one of the magnificent things that can be found in Jade Empire.

While it starts out weak and cliched, the story slowly strengthens its grip on you as it progresses. The origin of your master and his captors, and a conspiracy theory, is unveiled slowly, bit by bit, until you hunger for more. And when you think you almost figure out what's going on, the story will abruptly twist. The story is well delivered through sterlingly written dialogues. The background setting, which are presented in scrolls and through stories, also makes the unique world of Jade Empire much more colorful.

Jade Empire is an action-RPG, which means there's more action than role-playing. There isn't much to do in character creation, except to choose from seven pre-generated characters. You can still customize your characters a little bit, like adjusting their attributes and selecting their starting martial style. Character development is almost non-existent too. All of the fighting styles in the game are mostly bought, not gained through experience. Experience will only improve a learned style, should you choose to invest points in it. Some of the styles, however, are gained if you follow a certain path.

Crimson Tigress Wu unleashes the Leaping Tiger style.

In Jade Empire, like in Knights of the Old Republic, you can choose to follow a path of good (Way of the Open Palm) or evil (Way of the Closed Fist). Following a certain path will also forge different endings, and may improve, or strain, your relationship with your companions. Some quests can also be acquired if you are leaning on a certain path. And gems for your Dragon Amulet can also be worn only if you follow a specific way.

The only thing I don't really like about Jade Empire, and I think it's the feature that makes it more of an action game, is that it doesn't have an inventory system. The Dragon Amulet, which can be fitted with various gems to improve your attributes, is the only closest thing to an item in this game. You can't wear any armor or jewelries, or wield any weapons that you like. While the game has weapons, they count as styles and not items.

The different fighting styles in Jade Empire.

The fun part of this game is probably the fighting part. While the game is considered as an action-RPG, it is far from mindless hack and slash. Opponents, especially spirits and demons, are usually immune to at least one type of style. So you will always need to vary your styles and strategy. Styles are classified into groups such as martial, weapon, magic, support, etc. Each styles has its own strength and weakness. Martial is the most balanced since nobody is immune to it. Weapons are good against human opponents but ineffective against demons. Magic are weak elemental range attacks. And support usually slows or incapacitate, but does not damage, your enemies. Varying styles quickly will also perform harmonic combos, a devastating quick kill attack that leaves power ups (restores attributes such as health).

Graphics and Sounds
Jade Empire is a two-year old game, and a console game on top of that. So it's normal that the graphics won't hold a candle against today's PC games, not even if compared to Neverwinter Nights 2. The game's setting, however, is very unique. It's oriental style mixed with a bit of steampunk enriches the game's atmosphere. My only gripe about the graphics is that there are too few head models, making most NPCs look exactly the same. The player character can't don any armor as well, leaving your avatar with the same boring look from start to finish.

Stone Demon Shen appreciating the stone sculpture.

The sound isn't spectacular, albeit it is above mediocre. The voice acting for the NPCs are passable, I suppose, but none of them really stands out. The far-eastern influenced music is inspiring and grand. However, the music in combat is just drowned down in excitement during battle.

I was overly excited when I heard that BioWare was going to port Jade Empire into the PC. So I pateintly waited for it. But now that it's here, and after playing it, I don't think the game lived up to my expectations. I kept wondering why many websites gave this game a high score (including IGN which gave Jade Empire a whopping 9.9). Then I realized that, maybe, BioWare was too late in porting the game to the PC. Still, Jade Empire is a fun action-RPG game with a great story and unique setting. It just lost its golden touch during its transition to the pc, especially in a post-Neverwinter Nights 2 gaming world.



I saw Shooter today. It is a sniper film based on the novel Point of Impact, by Stephen Hunter. It is a fun action movie with lots of guns and heads blowing up, spraying crimson mists. The story isn't that bad either. But the message, which, I think, was aimed at Vice President Dick Cheney (The Iraq War and his involvement with Halliburton, and to mock his shooting skills), was too subtle.


Explosions in the Sky

I'm currently listening to "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone", a new album from Explosions in the Sky. The band sounds like Mogwai, and they are very technically impressive. I'm certain that their soundscapes will leave me "shoegazing" for quite sometime.


Tenjho Tenge

I went to FYE store earlier this day and found a DVD of the anime Tenjho Tenge on sale ($8). I don't know much about the series but I bought it anyways. The anime doesn't offer much though. But the non-stop action is really entertaining and the art is sterlingly done, especially the female characters. The story, however, is poorly written. But that's too early to say since I've only seen 4 episodes.


Phone Upgrade

I had my phone for almost 2 years now and people are taking notice of my "big" and cumbersome phone. While I'm not particular with phones, since I only care if they work or not, I do believe that I really need to upgrade. Besides, I'm already qualified for a free, or cheap, phone upgrade if I extend my contract with T-Mobile for two more years.

click image to enlarge

Above are my top 3 choices, compared side by side with my old phone. As of this time, I haven't decided of which phone to get. Samsung t619 is my first choice because it's light, sleek, and it's free -free is always good. My second choice would be the Nokia 6103 since it has a nice design and good battery life. However, I need to add $30 to get this phone. Motorola V195 would be my least choice. It's a simple phone with nice features and has a very long battery life. The downside is that this phone has the highest digital SAR rating (Cell Phone Radiation) of all my 3 choices. Additional rad exposure for me, since I will have this occupational hazard some time in the future, is not good.


Work Week

I started working last Monday (March 12 2007). Though it was only a week of orientation, ground tour, and policy briefings. Nothing hard really, except the sitting and listening to the speakers for hours. But I got paid for doing that, so it's nice.

I also spent one day at my department, to get some training, and had a chance to meet my co-workers. While I didn't like doing my job, because it's too repetitive, I think I will love going to my job. My co-workers seems friendly enough and my boss is quite laid back. Plus, most people in my department are females in my age group, and at least five of them were easy on the eyes.

Also, starting next week, I have to undergo training at morning shifts until I get my regular schedule in April. Which means I have to get up early everyday, earlier and more frequent during the time when I was in school and clinicals. But at least, I get paid this time. Plus, I get to work with fine and friendly ladies.


Character Guide: Jade Empire SE

Jade Empire: Special Edition is the game primer for me this year. However, even though it is a lot of fun, there's not much role-playing and character creation/development to it. But here it is, anyways, my character creation/development guide.

In this post, I'll feature my character Stone Demon Shen. As his name implies, he uses the White Demon martial style and the Stone Immortal magic style. His styles may be slow but he's all about damage and endurance.

Stone Demon Shen
Avatar: Tiger Shen
Alignment: Way of the Open Palm

Attribute Allocation
01. Body 3/Focus 1
02. Body 2/Focus 1
03. Balanced Distribution (1 point for each attribute)
04. Body 2/Focus 1
05. Focus 2/Body 1
06. Body 2/Focus 1
07. Balanced Distribution
08. Body 2/Focus 1
09. Balanced Distribution
10. Focus 2/Body 1

repeat from 1 at 11th level

Main Styles
White Demon (Martial)
Stone Immortal (Magic)
Tang's Vengeance (Weapon)
Spirit Thief (Unique)

Tips and Strategy
White Demon is a slow yet a powerful martial style. It will be your bread and butter from the start since nobody is safe from it (no one is immune). So, as soon as possible, try to increase its speed, and then the damage. The chi damage, you can start putting points here whenever you feel like it. Also, you may have to use Focus against fast enemies since this style is quite slow.

Stone Immortal is also the strongest magic style. It is slow, however, but its damage can make up for it. Its strong attack can also petrify enemies and, along with White Demon, can perform a harmonic combo. It's quite good when dealing with human and spirit opponents. As soon as you get to Tien's Landing, seek Mistress Vo and ask her to teach you this style. However, she'll only teach you if you follow the Way of the Open Palm and only if you beat her in combat. Once you're trained, increase everything in this style, especially the duration, since you'll be using this a lot.

Tang's Vengeance is a double axe weapon style, much like the Black Whirlwind's. It deals a great amount of damage and has a decent speed. It can easily wipe out large groups of demons, golems, and humans. You'll learn this style after defeating the Ravager, as part of the Arena quest in the Imperial City. Obtaining this style can be tricky since the Ravager, in my opinion, is the hardest opponent in the game. Once you have the style though, increase everything on it especially the speed and damage.

Spirit Thief is a unique style. It doesn't deal any damage but allows you to replenish your Chi. It is a melee style but its strong attack is range, and can paralyze an opponent for a short time as well. While this style isn't that necessary, it's quite handy to have around, it has saved me many times. So if you really want to use this, just increase its speed and duration.


Spartan Invasion

Along with Batman: Year One, 300 is probably my favorite graphic novel from Frank Miller. That's why, as I've announced a couple months ago, I was thrilled to learn that it was made into a movie. Now that it has invaded the theatres, I didn't wait any longer and went out to watch it.

Frank Miller's 300 is based on the story of the Greek historian, Herodotus, on how King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans stood against the -thousands strong- Persian army of Xerxes. While the graphic novel might be the fantasized version of the real deal, it still retains much of the history. As for the film, director Zack Snyder kept it faithful to the graphic novel. Too faithful, in fact, that the color and flow of the film are almost comic-like. The only downside is: the characters didn't have much to say because the story is narrated, much like in the graphic novel.

I wouldn't say that 300 is a good film, but it's fun and has plenty of eye candy. The non-stop, highly choreographed, and bloody action scenes will probably sate most of the audiences. If not, then I'm sure Queen Gorgo's and the Oracle's stiff nipples will definitely warm the male audiences, and the ladies will have their fill with highly defined grecian abs.


First Impressions: Jade Empire

I'm currently playing Jade Empire: Special Edition. I've been wishing -and waiting- for the PC port of this game ever since it was released, and got a lot of critical praise, on the Xbox. But now, however, I don't think I'm that impressed with it.

The game is not bad, mind you. I just don't think the game was worth my wait. The game feels like Knights of the Old Republic with its interface, dialogue, and cinematic entrances on areas; and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines for its combat and combat style development. The graphics clearly indicates that this game has aged, but that doesn't concern me. The story and setting, however, is gripping and very refreshing. That, alone, is enough for me to play this game.