Sid Meier’s Civilization II is one of my favorite games of all time. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent playing this strategy game, even years after its release. The spinoff, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, is another favorite that I still own. And despite them not being my favorites, Civ III, IV, and even V are all in my player chest. As a lifelong fan, I am usually pretty enthused when a new entry comes along.
So when Beyond Earth was announced, I began paying attention. Similar to what Alpha Centauri did, the game follows an off-world expedition as it tries to establish a human settlement on a distant planet. As a victory condition in all the previous games, this sort of spinoff is a natural extension of the Civilization universe. Much like in the regular games, you establish settlements, research technologies, and compete with other factions for dominance.
But what I especially like about these versions is the speculative nature of it all. As a future faction that is far removed from Earth, you have to deal with alien ecology and biology, research technologies that do not yet exist, unlock some of the fundamental mysteries of the universe, and even experience the technological and/or existential singularity. It’s way cool!
As the commercial description reads:
Sid Meier’s Civilization®: Beyond Earth™ is a new science-fiction-themed entry into the award-winning Civilization series. As part of an expedition sent to find a home beyond Earth, lead your people into a new frontier, explore and colonize an alien planet and create a new civilization in space. A New Beginning for Mankind is coming Fall/Autumn 2014.
According to Steam, the official release date is October 24th 2014. Check out the Announce Trailer below:
It was bound to happen sooner or later, what with Season Four of GOT coming to an end and the current popular obsession with mash-ups. In this video, Vimeo user Brady Wold mashed up the fantasy game Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim with the intro theme from Game of the Thrones to create something very watchable and fun. Using locations within the realm of Tamriel, the animation sweeps across the lands of Skyrim and watches cities like Whiterun, Riften, and others assemble themselves from the ground up.
Ever since it’s release in 2011, this RPG has been renowned for featuring elements that are quite similar to the HBO series and the fictional A Song of Ice and Fire universe on which it is based. This includes sword and sorcery, medieval history and clothing, dragons, epic fantasy, and an a common sense of aesthetics. And if that’s not enough for you, there’s a ton of GOT mods that can be uploaded to the game to add content and items from the series.
For instance, I myself experimented by adding weapons like Ice (Eddard Stark’s huge ass sword), Longclaw (Jon Snow’s bastard sword) and Needle (Arya Stark’s pigsticker) into the game with the “GOT Weapons Pack”. You can also download an “Arya Stark Follower” mod that has a version of this young character follow you around and assist you, and there are numerous others that allow for you to integrate livery and standards from the GOT universe into the game.
And there’s even a mod that makes it so whenever you fire up Skyrim, instead of seeing the opening Bethesda logo, this video animation plays. New ones emerge every week, including ones from the LOTR franchise and other fantasy universes. It kind of makes you wonder why the studios even bother making games anymore! Couldn’t an army of moderators simply build MMORPGs online from now on that would cut out the video game makers altogether?
I should keep my voice down, don’t want to encourage said folks. Some of the mods they created are already on the border between and bad taste. Lord only knows what kind of stuff they’d allow for if they had total freedom! In the meantime, enjoy the video:
The news has been percolating through the internets about this MMORPG for some time. And it seems I’ve finally gotten in the know. While I’ve never considered myself to be much of a gamer, I loved The Elders Scrolls IV: Oblivion and the latest installment Skyrim with abandon. And I never got in on World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Battlestar Galactica or any other of the many online RPGs that have come out over the years, and kind of regretted that.
And the way I figure it, a massive-online gaming universe where you get to play against real people, and which is set in a fantasy realm that’s one part mythos, one part LOTR, two parts medieval warfare, and all parts kick-ass, is sure to be way fun! And given the fact that its parameters are way larger than a conventional installment in the game, I’m guessing that you get to play in the franchise’s expanded universe, rather than in any one setting.
And I’m growing rather tired of playing COD: Modern Warfare 3 online. Two many idiots, homophobes and members of the Aryan nation for me. And waaaaay too many pros who’s favorite saying in the world is “You Mad Bro?” Anyway, check out the trailer for the game below. I’m off to set up an account!
I came across this trailer recently for the latest installment in the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG. It’s called Galactic Strongholds, an expansion that gives players the ability to create their own bastions and fortresses as they take part in the ongoing war between the Sith Empire and the Republic. In addition to waging large-scale battles in space, you get to create custom bases (complete with decorations, trophies and furniture) and live on multiple worlds in the Star Wars universe.
It seems I’m always behind on these things! Yesterday, I came across this video entirely by accident, and realized it was one of the many movie shorts that certain parties had used to create a fan trailer for the upcoming Star Wars VII movie. Basically, its the intro movie for the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, and is a whole lot of eye-popping action porn!
A trailer which included all three SWTOR movies – The Return, Hope, and Deceived – it has all the Star Wars action staples. These include Jedis and Sith battling it out with lighstabers, the smuggler with a Corellian ship, droids and armored soldiers fighting it out with blasters and detonators, and space-borne dogfights. And of course, the entire thing takes place to a classic John Williams score. Enjoy the movie!
Back with another video game review. And picking up where I left off last time (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) I’ve decided to follow up with its sequel – Skyrim! I was a bit late to the game with this one, having purchased it a few short months ago. But I’ve certainly had it long enough to appreciate it. All told, I’ve played it through twice, and bought all three expansion packs.
And let me tell you, its pretty damn awesome! In fact, I would even go as far to say that it is a big improvement on Oblivion. And since I loved that game and got endless hours of gaming enjoyment out of it, that’s hardly faint praise. But its true. In terms of the games interface, graphics, gameplay, storyline, quests, abilities, items, and detailed environments, everything looked, felt, and played better than the last one.
And as usual, the latest installment in the Elder Scrolls series takes place in a new province of Tamriel. As the name would suggest, the setting for this game is Skyrim, the cold, mountainous climate that is home to the Nords and the birthplace of the Empire. As always, the game is a platform for some serious worldbuilding, and the game makers spared no expense or effort to give Skyrim a realistic look, feel, culture and backstory.
And another major difference between Skyrim and Oblivion is the fact that this time around, there is not one but two main quests that are closely intertwined. Of course, there are countless secondary and additional missions that you can do, but the main plot lines have to do with the civil war that has engulfed Skyrim, and the return of the Dragons, an event foretold in the Elder Scrolls which signals the end of the world.
However, the focus is undeniably on the return of the Dragons, as well as the “Dragonborn” who’s return was also foretold. Basically, a Dragonborn is a person of Tiber Septim’s line who has dragonblood, and hence can speak the dragon language. Words in this language are known as “Word of Power” since to speak them is to unleash destructive and other magical powers.
As the main character, you are Dragonborn, and have the option of learning and unlocking Words of Power as the game goes on. This is intrinsic to winning the game, since these words not only convey power, but are necessary in helping you to defeat the dragons.
Plot Synopsis: The story opens some two hundred years after the events of Oblivion where the Imperial Septim line ended, and Mehrunes Dagon was defeated. However, the Empire now finds itself in dire straights after being defeated in the Great War by the Altmeri Dominion. As you come to learn, this powerful faction – which was founded by the Thalmor (a group of High Elves) – declared war on the Empire over the worship of Talos (aka. Tiber Septim).
After losing the war some thirty years prior, the Empire formally signed a peace treaty known as the White-Gold Concordat which, amongst other things, forbade the worship of Talos within the Empire. This decision led to many Nords feeling like they had been abandoned by the Empire, and eventually led a Nord named Ulfric Stormcloak to mount a rebellion. This began when Ulfric killed High King Torygg, thus plunging the realm into civil war.
The game begins much as the last one does, with you being prisoner by Imperial Forces. As you quickly realize, you are being take alongside a group of Stormcloak rebels and their leader – Ulfric – to the nearby town of Helgen for sentencing. Though you were taken by mistake, the Legion decide to send you to the chopping block anyway. However, your beheading is interrupted when out of nowhere, a massive dragon shows up and begins laying waste to the town.
The dragon, you learn, is none other than Alduin, the mythic beast that was defeated in the First Age and who’s return to “eat the world” was foretold by the Elder Scrolls. Helgen and its defenders are quickly killed, but you manage to escape with either the help of a Legionnaire named Hadvor or a Stormcloak named Ralof. This choice will likely influence the main characters choice of which side to win in the war.
After escaping Helgen, you and your companion travel to the nearby town of Riverwood where you are asked to go to Whiterun – capitol of the Hold – and request aid from the Jarl. Jarl Balgruuf’s agrees, but asks for you assistance in retrieving the Dragonstone – an ancient tablet that marks the burial sites of all the old dragons. Apparently, the dragons have been rising from their graves to take on living form again, and it is happening all over Skyrim.
The stone resides inside Bleak Falls Barrow, and is protected by Draugr – a race reanimated mummified Nords. After fighting your way to the stone, you come upon a Dragon Word Wall, where you learn your first Word of Power. After returning to Whiterun, word reaches the Jarl that a dragon is attacking nearby, and you are asked to go and help. After defeating the dragon, the player absorbs its soul, and everyone realizes you are Dovahkiin – aka. Dragonborn.
After returning to Whiterun, the Jarl names you Thane of the Hold and gives you a Housecarl (bodyguard) and the right to buy property. Afterwards, you hear a Dragon Shout calling from on top of The Throat of the World – Skyrim’s tallest mountain. This is a summons from the Greybeards, an order of monks who live in seclusion in their temple High Hrothgar near the summit. Once you travel there, the Greybeards begin teaching you the “”Way of the Voice”.
This includes teaching you words of power and enhancing your Thu’um (your voice), as well as sharing the prophecy of Alduin’s return and how a Dragborn would emerge to do battle with him. As a further test, the Greybeards ask yo to retrieve the legendary Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. However, the player discovers the Horn has been stolen by another, who wishes to meet with the Dragonborn at Riverwood.
The thief reveals herself as Delphine, Riverwood’s innkeeper and one of the last surviving members of the Blades. She indicates that the Blades were once the guardians of the land against the Dragons, and she wishes to help in your quest. Together, you and Delphine travel to a Dragon burial mound where you witness Alduin reviving a Dragon, and must defeat him.
Afterwards, Delphine informs you that she thinks the Thalmor are behind the return of the Dragons. Not only have the Thalmor been hunting her and all other remaining Blades for some time, it stands to reason that they would stand to gain the most by helping the Dragons wreak havoc all over Skyrim and the Empire, as a prelude to renewed war.
Together, you hatch a plan to infiltrate the Thalmor embassy near Solitude and find proof of this. This consists of posing as a guest as a diplomatic party, and then sneaking off to search the embassy. After finding a series of diplomatic recrods, you learn that they are not behind the Dragon threat, but are searching for a man named Esbern, an archivist of the Blades Order.
Delphine then instructs the player to locate Esbern, who is known to be hiding in the sewers and ratways of Riften. This town is located on the opposite side of Skyrim, and is home to the notorious Black Briar family and the last known stronghold of the Thieves Guild. Together, the three of you then seek out Alduin’s Wall at Sky Haven Temple, where the prophecy of Alduin was originally written.
While the Blades set up in the temple, Esbern reveals that the ancient Nords used a special Thu’um against Alduin called “Dragonrend”, representing mankind’s comprehensive hatred for the Dragons, to cripple his ability to fly so they could engage him. To gain more information, you meets with the Greybeards again and they decide it’s time for you to speak with their leader, Paarthurnax.
Paarthurnax, as it turns out, is an ancient dragon who was once one of Alduin’s most feared generals. He reveals that Alduin was not truly defeated in the past, but was sent forward to an unspecified point in time by the use of an Elder Scroll in the hopes that he would get lost. Paarthurnax tells you you will need that Elder Scroll so you can peer into the past and learn the Dragonrend shout to defeat Alduin.
This latest mission takes you to the College of Winterhold, where you are forced to join to get information. You are then shown to Urag gro-Shub, an orc who runs the Arcanaeum – the College library. He directs you to Septimus Signus, a hermit who was driven mad by reading the Scrolls and who now lives in a outpost in an iceberg located on the nearby coast.
In his outpost, Septimus is working on a Dwemer Box, a massive combination box that contains a Dwemer artifact. He tells you that you must travel to the ruins of Blackreach, one of many ruins left behind by the highly advanced Dwemer civilization in Skyrim. He gives you the Attunement Sphere and the Blank Lexicon, which you will need to reach the Scroll once you reach the heart of the ruin.
This journey takes you deep underground, into a world of bioluminescent plants and terrifying Falmer creatures. Once you find your way to the heart of the ruin, you come upon a Dwemer Sphere, a massive combination structure that you must adjust a series of focal lenses in order to unlock. Once this is done, the Scroll is removed from the Sphere and given to you.
Taking the Scroll to the Throat of the World, you glimpse into the past and witness the heroes of the First Age engage and defeat Alduin using the Elder Scroll and the Dragonrend shout. With this knowledge, you then summon Alduin to do battle, and with the help of Paarthurnax, you defeat him and send him fleeing to Sovengarde – the Nordic afterlife. You are told that you must go to face him there so that he can be defeated for all time.
The only way for you to travel after him is to trap a dragon and force them to bring you to Alduin’s lair, from which you may travel to Sovegarde to face him. This involves asking the Jarl of Whiterun to use his great hall – the Dragonsreach – which was originally constructed to trap a dragon. The Jarl is reluctant to do this while the war rages on, which either requires that end the war first, or ask the Greybeards to mediate a temporary cease fire in the war.
In between all of this, there is the second major quest, which involves taking sides in the civil war. As Hadvor tells you at the beginning, the best way to contend with the returning Dragons is to join the Legion and use their resources. But Ralof will urge you to join the Stormcloaks as a “true son of Skyrim”. Depending on which side you choose, you are either required to travel to the capitol of Solitude, or to the Stormcloaks seat of power in Windhelm to sign on.
Once you’ve taken a side, battle is joined, and your first mission is either to lead the defense of, or assault, Whiterun. As Thane of the city, this will either mean upholding your oath of office, or betraying it in service of your new liege lord, Ulfric. In either case, this is the first of many battles, which are followed by missions to various forts to seize strategic passes, culminating on a siege of the enemy’s stronghold.
As you progress, you are given higher and higher ranks in the army and entrusted with tasks of increasing importance. At the end of the Imperial campaign, you and General Tullius and Legate Rikke lead the assault into Windhelm and fight your way into Ulfric’s palace. After defeating him and his bodyguard, he asks that you – the Dragonborn – be the one to take off his head, as he thinks this will be more appropriate.
In the Stormcloak campaign, the war culminates in the siege of Solitude, where you, Ulfric, and Galmar Stone-Fist fight your way through the streets and to the Legion barracks and force the surrender of General Tullius and Rikke before executing them both. Ulfric then declares victory in the civil war and declares himself High King of an independent Skyrim.
With the civil war complete, the plot to trap a dragon in Dragons Reach takes succeeds and you manage to secure a dragon named Odahviing. He agrees to help you since many dragons are disenchanted with Alduin’s rule, and agrees to fly you to the portal to Sovengarde, which is located high in the mountains at an ancient fort called Skuldafn. Once there, you battle your way through Draugr and lesser dragons and enter.
Upon your arrival, you find your way to Ysgramor, the legendary Nord who, along with his Five Hundred Companions, drove the Elves out of Skyrim. Ysgramor informs the player that Alduin has placed a “soul snare” in Sovngarde, allowing him to gain strength by devouring the souls of deceased Nords. The player meets up with the three heroes of Nordic legend who defeated Alduin and, with their help, destroys the soul snare and defeats Alduin in combat.
The player then returns to the summit of the Throat of the World in which Paarthurnax and the other Dragons wait. Paarthurnax explains that even though Alduin is defeated, they are in no condition to celebrate for he was once their ally and is still one of their kin. Having asserted his authority over many Dragons, Paarthurnax convinces those loyal to him to leave Tamriel.
However, there is an alternate ending which takes place if the player obliged the Blades earlier in the game and killed Paarthurnax as punishment for his crimes while serving under Alduin. In this version, the player returns to the Throat of the World and speaks to Odahviing, who tells you that you have inherited Alduin’s position and that he will serve at your pleasure from now on.
Expansions: In this regard, Skyrim kicks the crap out of its predecessor. Whereas Oblivion had expansion packs which seemed good, but not great, Skyrim’s three packs really impressed the hell out of me! These included Dragonborn, Dawngaurd, and Hearthfire, each of which offers additional quests, items, and abilities; and not in the tack-on, lower-quality types offered by the last game.
In the Dragonborn expansion, you are tasked with traveling to Solstheim, an island off the eastern coast of Tamriel inhabited by Nords and Dark Elves. Once here, you learn that the last Dragon Priest and one-time ruler of the island, a man named Miraak, is attempting to take it over. Naturally, he sees your emergence as the latest Dragonborn as a threat, and you must do battle with him.
In order to do this, you must learn from the Skaal people of the island who possess specialized magic. It also requires you cut a deal with the Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of forbidden knowledge and Miraak’s apprentice. In exchange for getting the Skaal to surrendering their secrets to him, he gives you the ability to travel to the realm of Apocrypha and fight MIraak. In the end, Mora betrays him and offers you the chance to become his new apprentice.
Additional items offered in this package include Nordic weapons and armor, which are of superior quality to most offered in the game thus far. In addition, you also gain the abilities to create armor and weapons out of Stalhrim (an ice-blue mineral), Chiton, or bones- which includes dragon bones and dragon scales. These are pretty deadly and pretty frightening to behold! I should know, I know have a full suit and arsenal of them!
And then there is the Dawngaurd plug-in, where an ancient vampire clan is returning to Skyrim. As usual, this has to do with a prophecy foretold in the Elder Scrolls that tells of the coming of eternal darkness. The vampires that belong to Clan Volkihar, led by Lord Harkon, seek to actuate the prophecy by performing a ritual involving a mythic bow and a blood sacrifice.
After recruiting Harkon’s own daughter (Serana) to your side, you manage to obtain several more Elder Scrolls, the bow itself, and are then forced to travel to another mythic realm, and eventually confront Lord Harkon and his clan at Castle Volkihar off the north-western coast of Skyrim. Once complete, the Dawnguard returns to its old glory and you and Serana are made permanent members.
And last, but not least, is Hearthfire, where things get a little different. Instead of offering additional quests that have to do with other prophecies, Hearthfire gives you the ability to purchase land in Skyrim and build your own tailor-made houses on them. This requires you to amass building materials – such as quarried stone, wood, clay, and various iron components.
With these secured, you are then able to build a home from the ground up, adding different wings and special sections – which include a Great Hall, a Kitchen, an Alchemist Tower, Trophy Room, Storage, Cellar, Bedrooms, and Entrance Foyer. You can augment these further with furniture, furnishings, a stable, a carriage, a bard, a smelter, a forge, a shrine, and about a hundred other options.
Between Windstad Manor, in the salt marshes in Hjaalmarch, Lakeview Manor in the forests of Falkreath, and Heljarchen Hall in the Pale, you have the option to build three manors. And of course, you need a Housecarl to look after them and have your pick of three. And what’s also cool is that the expansion gives you the option to adopt two children, and you have your choice of four possible ones.
Having played them all, I can tell you that I enjoyed them all, particularly the first and third. If you happen to buy Skyrim, splurge and get the expansion packs!
Summary: As I said already, this game was absolute awesomeness! Much like Oblivion, the production value was extremely high, and it features the voices of several well-known actors. This includes actress Joan Allen who does the voice of Delphine, Max von Sydow as Esbern, and Christopher Plummer as Master Arngeir of the Greybeards. All of this goes real well with all the world-building and detailed environments.
What’s more, I liked how the two main quests were intertwined, the one very much dependent upon the other. This gives you a chance to engage in some immersive medieval-style warfare, and also provides an opportunity to fight it out with beasts several times your size. I was especially impressed with this last aspect, which is something you don’t see in the gaming world often.
In addition to dragons, there are also giants, mammoths, and giant anthropomorphic robots that defend the Dwemer ruins. In most games, going up against larger-scaled enemies can look and feel awkward. But here, it both looked and felt natural, and was mighty fun to play at. And of course, there were countless other enemies that were just as cool to fight.
But what I especially loved about Skyrim was the way they managed to once again create a realistic setting, with a world that contained a highly interactive environment, wind-blown snow, rustling trees and bushes, and people who looked and moved in realistic ways. And as always, the cultural aspects of the game, which included food, drink, literature, ingredients, and items that are peculiar to Skyrim’s culture, but also includes items from other provinces.
And like the last game, you have quests which are connected to the guilds. In this case, this includes the College of Winterhold, which is the holdover from the Mages Guild in Skyrim, and the Companions, which is the local version of the Fighter’s Guild. Joining them means taking on quests which will allow you to climb the ranks and take on their enemies, ultimately earning the position of leader. There are innumerable other quests, plus the ability to amass abilities and bonuses based on amassed experience.
And of course, you can amass property, money, and personal possessions galore. But unlike Oblivion, you also have the option of getting married. This can be to any central character from the story, and can even be same-sex, if you’re so inclined. Combined with the Hearthfire ability to adopt and build your own home, you have the ability to create an entire family in this game. Kind of like Second Life, only set in Tamriel. Way better!
Of course, I could go on and find more to praise about the game, but some things you just need to check out for yourself. Consider this my long-winded wringing endorsement! And just for fun, I thought I’d post the trailer since it was pretty impressive too:
It’s been awhile since I did any video game reviews, and since my purchase of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I’ve been to do one. But before I could cover the latest fantasy installment from Bethesda studios, I figured I should build up to it. After all, its predecessor was a big hit with me in its time, and I got countless hours of gaming enjoyment from it for many years before I retired it.
Such is the nature of these games, they are the gift to yourself that keeps on giving! In any case, Oblivion was the first Elder Scrolls that I ever played. Prior to it, I didn’t even know about the series and didn’t have the slightest idea of what it was about. My thanks to my friend Doug for introducing me to this, and others like it!
Background: As the fourth game in the series, Oblivion takes place within the fantasy universe known as Tamriel. In previous games, players were introduced to several different provinces in the realm, and were treated to snippets of the ongoing history behind it all. It would be no exaggeration at all to say that universe is as vast as anything envisioned by Tolkien or Martin, and was most likely inspired by one or both.
The realm of Tamriel is made up of nine provinces – Cyrodiil, Morrowind, High Rock, the Summerset Isles, Hammerfell, Black Marsh, Skyrim, Valenwood, and Elsweyr. Each serves as the home of a specific faction in the series, such as the Dunmer (Dark Elves) of Morrowind, Orsimer (Orcs) in High Rock, Altmer (High Elves) in the Summerset Isles, Argonians (reptile people) in Black Marsh, Bosmer (Wood Elves) in Valenwood, and Khajit (feline people) in Elsweyr.
There are also several factions of “Men”, which include the Bretons of High Rock, the Redguards of Hammerfell, the Nords of Skyrim, and the Imperials of Cyrodil. At some point in the series’ history, the Mede Empire was formed by uniting the provinces of Men with the Khajit, Argonians and Orcs, either through conquest or alliances, and the Imperial City established as the administrative center of Cyrodil.
Beyond the Mede Empire, which is made up of Cyrodiil, Morrowind, High Rock and Skyrim, there lies the recently-independent Hammerfell. In addition, there is the competing and often hostile Aldmeri Dominion (comprised of the other four provinces) which is ruled over by the Altmer (High Elves).
At one time, it is indicated, High Elves ruled over much of Tamriel as the Ayleids, an empire which has since fallen into ruin. Another extinct civilization is the Dwemer, a highly-advanced society of Dwarves who were masters of machinery and automation, and who apparently knew much of the Elder Scrolls. Throughout the various games, these civilizations ruins provide all kinds of treasures and the keys to ancient mysteries.
Within the realm, the established religion is the worship of The Nine (echoes of the Seven in GOT), gods that represent various virtues and powers. But of course, other faiths exist as well, such as the Nords faith involving dragons, mythical beasts which are apparently extinct at this point. But the other major faith is the worship of the Daedra, gods of “First Causes” that predate the Nine and are both good and evil.
The Daedra and their intervention serve as a major motivating force in the game, contributing to both the main storyline and missions of lesser import. At many points in the series, the coming of a Daedra lord to the mortal realm is the main plot line of the story, usually as a fulfillment of some major and ancient prophecy.
At the center of it all however, are the Elder Scrolls themselves. These are rarely ever featured in the game, but serve as a plot framing device, where the events in the game “were foretold in the Elder Scrolls,” basically. These objects, which were apparently forged by the gods themselves, contain incredible power and are often incomprehensible to mortals.
Game Summary: The story opens with an intro movie showing the last Emperor, Uriel Septim (voiced by Patrick Stewart), talking about how since the dawn of time, the Tamriel has been shut off from Oblivion – the hellish realm where the Daedra rule. However, he is haunted by dreams that the gates are about to open again, fulfilling an ancient prophecy that also foretold of the death of the Septim dynasty.
The game then begins with character selection, where you are required to specify your race, gender, class, etc., before things proceed. Once that is complete, you find yourself in the Imperial City dungeons, having been imprisoned for reasons you don’t fully understand. Believing the guards are coming for you, you are then surprised to see members of the Blades – the royal guard/secret police of the Empire – come to your cell with the Emperor himself.
You then overhear them saying that the royal heirs have been murdered, and they are apparently looking to smuggle the Emperor out through a secret tunnel that runs underneath the dungeons. You cell, which was supposed to be vacant, holds an entrance. After telling you to stand back, the Blades let the Emperor in, and he spots you and tells you he has seen you in his nightmares. After this introduction, he asks you to come with them.
In the tunnels, you are beset by a number of agents that belong to a sect known as the Mythic Dawn. You are also able to learn from Uriel what is going on. He says that the Dragon Fires, a holy beacon which keep the planes of Oblivion and Tamriel separate, have gone out. They need to be relighted if Tamriel is to survive, but agents are pouring over the city trying to kill him and his sons.
Thus, the Blades are trying to get him to safety. After defeating the last of the Dawn agents in the tunnel, the Blades take off down a separate tunnel and leave you behind. However, you are able to follow them indirectly by passing through a series of side tunnels that are occupied by Goblins. This gives you a chance to collect gear and bolster your skills, and eventually you rejoin the main party.
You are soon cornered, at which point Uriel hands you the Amulet of Kings, the very thing that keeps the doors between Tamriel and Oblivion shut and can only be worn by someone of the Septim line. He tells you that their is one remaining heir, orders you to take the Amulet to a man named Joffrey who knows where to find him, and that only you and he can “close shut the doors of Oblivion”.
The Emperor is then killed, and you are forced to find your way out of the sewers with the Amulet in hand. Once you’re out, you find yourself just outside the Imperial City and must then travel to Weynon Priory in the west. Inside, you meet Jauffre, a monk who is also a member of the Blades, and tell him what happened. He reveals that the secret heir alluded to by Uriel is a man named Martin who is serves at the Temple in Kvatch.
Ergo, that’s where your headed next. But when you arrive, you find the city is in ruins, with a refugee camp at the base of the hill and the guards camped beyond the gates and trying to hold the line against an open Oblivion gate. The guard captain tells you that a patrol was lost inside, and he and his men cannot retake the city so long as it is open. Battling through the hellish environment against Scamps, you find the last remaining patrol soldier and make it to the tower where you remove the Sigil Stone, thus collapsing the gate.
Back outside, you and the guards enter the city gates and begin retaking the place from the Daedra. After clearing the front courtyard, you find Martin (voiced by Sean Bean) inside the Temple with a group of refugees. You tell him your story, and his secret, and he agrees to come with you as soon as the city is clear and the refugees can be evacuated. Fighting your way further, you clear out the rest of the city and the main castle, where you find the Lord dead.
With Martin, you report back to Weynon Priory, which is under attack. Between you two and Jauffre, you manage to kill the enemy, but discover that they have stolen the Amulet of Kings. Once again, it appears the enemy are one step ahead. But with Martin alive, the three of you report to Cloud Ruler Temple, the Blade Stronghold in the north of Cyrodil, where Martin will be safe.
Once there, he takes charge of the Blades and you are given the option of joining them. With that complete, you are told to report to the nearby town of Bruma where enemy spies have been spotted. Once you kill them, you discover one of them is a resident in the town and search their house. Upon finding a letter, you learn they are part of a cult known as the Mythic Dawn who worship the Daedra lord of Mehrunes Dagon, Lord of Destruction.
Their plan is to open the gate of Oblivion so Dagon can reclaim Tamriel, and they intend to kill the Septim line since it is their blood that has been keeping the gate closed for ages. Intrinsic to this is opening a major gate outside of Bruma, destroying Cloud Ruler Temple, and now killing Martin. They are led by a Dark Elf named Mankor Camoran, a mage who has apparently been alive for centuries.
Your next mission is to the Imperial City where you meet Baurus, one of the agents that was there when the Emperor was killed. He tells you that the enemy’s lair is somewhere in Tamriel and you must find it. The key appears to lie in Mankor Camoran’s volumes known as The Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes – a series of books about a tome of ancient power.
Already, you have found two while searching the spy’s house in Bruma, and the third is apparently on special order at the city’s book store. Meeting with the man who ordered it, you compel him to cooperate and hand it over. He tells you he had a date to meet with Mythic Dawn representatives to get a copy of the fourth and final volume.
Posing as this man, Baurus meets with Camoran’s son and daughter while you keep watch. His cover is blown when their escorts spot you and you are forced to fight it out. After killing them, you manage to retrieve the fourth and final copy and go to the Mage’s Guild and ask them for help discerning its clues. You realize that a secret message is inside the book that tells you to go to the city’s cemetery at noon when the sun will be above the White-Gold tower.
When you do this, you see a map on the mausoleum wall that shows you the location of the Mythic Dawn’s lair. After arriving there, posing as another applicant, you come to see Mankor Cameron himself, who is wearing the Amulet of Kings. After giving his people a speech, he opens a portal to “Paradise” and leaves, taking the Amulet with him. Grabbing the Mysterium Xarxes, which he left behind, you fight your way out of the cave and head back to Cloud Ruler Temple.
Once there, Martin tells you that he may be able to open the portal to Camoran’s Paradise so you can retrieve the Amulet finally. He begins reading the Xarxes to discern what he would need to do this. In the meantime, you are told to report to Bruma where another gate has opened. Alongside the city guards, you go in and shut it again, but know that this is a temporary victory.
Given that the Dawn’s long-term plan is to open a major gate outside of the city and lay waste to Bruma and Cloud Ruler Temple, you know that time is limited. You are thus given two main missions. The first is to collect the items needed to open the gate to Camoran’s Paradise, the second is to go to every other city in Cyrodil and convince the local lord to free up soldiers to send to the defense of Bruma.
The first mission requires you to go to several locations, securing a Daedric artifact, the blood of Tiber Septim (the first Septim Emperor), and an Ayleid crystal. The second requires you to travel to all the major cities – Anvil, Chorrol, Skingrad, Cheydinhal, Bravil and Leyawiin – and close the gates outside of these cities. This gives you a chance to see each town and learn of their particular makeup and issues, as well as pick up additional side-missions.
With all of this complete, Martin tells you that there is only one other thing that he needs – a major Sigil Stone. This requires that you allow the Mythic Dawn to open a major portal outside of Bruma, and for the soldiers to hold the line while you go in and grab hold of the stone. A major battle ensues, and you are forced to grab the stone before the Daedra are able to bring out a massive siege engine and lay waste to Bruma, as they did Kvatch.
With the final item secured, Martin opens the portal to Camoran’s paradise inside the Temple, and you go through. Once there, you see a Edenic like environment, where Camoran’s followers live, but are forced to endure constant death as Daedric creatures hunt them and they are resurrected. They tell you how to make your way to Camoran’s seat of power – Palace Carac Agaialor.
Once there, you confront Camoran’s and his two children – Ruma and Raven – and do battle. Once they are killed, you retrieve the Amulet, and Paradise collapses. You are returned to Cloud Ruler Temple where Martin takes the Amulet, as Emperor, and you plan to return to the Imperial City to light the Dragon Fires and seal the gates between Tamriel and Oblivion once and for all.
At the palace, you are greeted by High Chancellor Ocato – leader of the Elder Council – but the meeting is cut short when the guards announce the city is under attack. It seems that Oblivion gates are opening all over the city and Daedra are pouring through. With no time to lose, you head for the Temple District so Martin can light the fires, but once there, you see Mehrunes Dagon, who has passed into your world, laying waste to the district.
Martin believes all hope is lost, but a last minute suggestion from you that the Amulet might be able to help gives him an idea. Asking you to escort him inside the temple, which is dangerous considering it involves getting around Dagon’s massive figure, he goes to the center and breaks the Amulet, combining the kings and dragon’s blood with his own. He then transforms into a massive avatar Akatosh, the principle diety of the Nine, and does battle with Dagon.
Dagon was defeated after the avatar of Akatosh – a massive fiery dragon – chomped his neck and sent him back to Oblivion. The avatar then turned into stone, signalling that it too had departed Tamriel and Martin was now dead. However, his sacrifice had won the day, and permanently sealed the doors between Oblivion and Tamriel shut forever. The Oblivion Crisis, as it would come to be known, was over, and a new age begun
Having taken part in the final battle and see the victory of Imperial forces over the Daedra, you are named Champion of Cyrodil and given a special suit of Dragon Armor. In addition to being named Hero of Kvatch and Hero of Bruma, you now hold a rank reserved for a very select few. With the game now over, you are free to roam and pick up any additional quests.
Additional Quests: Outside of the Oblivion Crisis, gamers have the option of participating in numerous quests, most of which revolve around joining a Guild. These include the Fighters Guild, the Mages Guild, the Thieves Guild, and the Dark Brotherhood (an assassin’s guild). Membership in each allows you to go on additional quests, earn ranks, rewards, learn new abilities, and take part in other adventures.
The Fighter Guild quest culminates in you taking on a rival mercenary organization – the Blackwood Company – when it becomes revealed that they are abusing a narcotic known as Hist Sap that makes them bloodthirsty and unpredictable. The Mages Guild quest culminates in your facing a group of Necromancers led by the “Worm KIng”, an evil mage determined to destroy the Imperial Mages.
Joining the Thieves Guild makes you an agent of the Gray Fox, a recurring figure in the game, who provides protection for all of Cyrodil’s beggars and uses them as his eyes and ears. After participating in a number of lucrative thefts, you meet the Gray Fox and assist him in his scheme to recover his lost identity – Count of Anvil. As payment, you get to keep his magic cowl, the very thing that deprived him of it in the first place.
Finally, the Dark Brotherhood is an order that you can join the moment you murder someone in cold blood. A visitor then comes to you while you sleep and extends an invitation. Once you join, you are given the task of assassinating anyone who been named in a Black Sacrament – a dark ritual that marks people for death. In time, you have the option of becoming a vampire, and gain the favor of the Night Mother – their patron goddess.
And of course, there are many, many side missions where you have the option of performing tasks for various Daedra. Depending on the lord in question, these can be beneficial, harmful, or just plain mischievous, and all lead to certain benefits and rewards. And of course, there are plenty of missions to be had simply by adventuring around and helping people out.
Add-Ons: There are also additional quests which I have played – Knights of the Nine, The Shivering Isles – but I really didn’t like them too much. In the case of Knights, you are tasked with resurrecting the order of the Knights of the Nine, collect sacred weapons, armor, and artifacts, and fight against an Aylied deity that is returning to Tamriel.
However, the production value on this game was really not as goo as the main one, and the storyline seemed awful… Christiany. I mean really, the armor and finery you wear make you look exactly like a Crusader, and by the time you are finished with the main campaign, yet another quest involving a resurrected evil seems tired and played out.
In the case of the Shivering Isles, the storyline is a bit more weird, and much more psychedelic. Here, you enter into the realm of the Daedric lord Sheogorath – Prince of Madness and ruler of the Shivering Isles – to battle with him and become the new master of the Isles. Here too, found the production values weak, the quest kind of pointless, and the story and setting really odd.
My advice, stick to the main quests and save your money when it comes to these expansion packs. Sure, curiosity might get the better of you, but why pay extra when what’s added is not up to snuff?
Summary: I guess it goes without saying that this game is incredibly dense and detailed. And of course, the back story is lengthy and intricate, but as long as you do your due diligence, it’s not that hard to follow. And though it does have its fair share of fantasy cliches, it’s a very inspired piece of work with plenty of historical and cultural allusions.
Many times over, I was reminded of LOTR and other prominent genres, and combined with the depth and density of it, it was little wonder why I got so many hours of enjoyment out of it. Between all the spells, weapons, abilities, upgrades, and opportunities to learn about the Elder Scrolls universe, its a truly immersive and entertaining game.
Between the main quest, secondary quests, and the hundreds – if not thousands – of additional quests, it really seems like the game has enough material to keep going indefinitely. But eventually, you are likely to map out every corner of Cyrodil, obtain the very best items, and get to the point where no enemy can possibly best you. And chances are, you’ll lose interest before then anyway, so it all works out.
And it was my experience with this game that led me to finally get around to buying The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim not that long ago. Here too, I’ve received endless hours and enjoyment, and will be reviewing it soon enough!
Morning folks, and welcome to my second installment for Movie Trailer Monday. Today, it’s not so much a trailer as it is a fan-made teaser for the upcoming Star Wars VII. Given that Disney is still in contract talks with cast members and they haven’t even begun to shoot, no trailer could be feasible at this point. But that won’t stop fandom from making special videos presentations of what they hope to see.
And this one contains quite the eclectic bit of source material, splicing video game scenes from Knights of the Republic and Force Unleashed II, with some footage from Serenity and other movies. And in what I can only assume was a nod to Abram’s other works, there were also some scenes from Star Trek and the voice-over from the upcoming sequel, Into Darkness.
It seems that fan-made videos are begging better all the time, which just goes to show you how far software and computing have come. Soon, we may not even need Disney, Lucasarts, or any of the major studios at all! But until such time, I guess we’ll have to be content to rely on them to shoot all the cool footage so we can steal it and make our own shorts. Enjoy the show!
Not exactly a wide range of choices is it? But that pretty much tells you what I think about this game doesn’t it? Freespace came along at a time when I was pretty much losing interest in flight simulators. Civilization II was growing stale, Unreal had yet to come out, and the Star Wars franchise was still busy producing Rebellion.
What’s more, Descent: Freespace and its sequel were two of the most awesomely conceived, inspired and original flight simulators I ever played. It presented some truly classic and hard science fiction, combined with just enough commercial appeal, and some genuinely fun fight and flight sequences to keep me entertained for months!
And it’s sequel was equally awesome, adding to the mix with more missions, more story, more ships, and more storyline. Like most gamers, my only disappointment came in the form of their not being a third and final chapter. Because of this, fans have taken it upon themselves of maintaining and enhancing the game engine until a third game does come out. But more on that later…
First up, Descent: Freespace, the game that started it all!
Descent: Freespace – The Great War: The game takes place in the distant future, where humanity has spread into the cosmos thanks to the discovery of subspace travel and formed the Galactic Terran Alliance (GTA). As the game opens, we learn that the GTA is at war with an alien species known as the Vasudans. The war is in its fourteenth year and you, a green pilot, have just joined the Galactic Terran Defense Forces (GTDF) and been assigned to the GTD (Galactic Terran Destroyer) Galatea.
The game also begins with an intro movie which prologues the story. In it, a Terran installation is destroyed by an unidentified alien force that jump into the Ross 128 system and obliterates everything in sight. Before your first mission, the subject of this “phantom attack” is addressed and dismissed, with Command claiming that the Vasudans were responsible.
What follows is a series of missions against the Vasudan armada. However, this ends when a new type of ship arrives and begins attacking you and the Vasudans indiscriminately. After a series of such attacks, Command names this new threat the “Shivans” (after Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction) and arranges a ceasefire with the Vasudan government. Henceforth, all efforts are dedicated to finding out what this new species is and where they come from.
The next few missions involve extensive intelligence gathering, as it is clear that the Shivans are immensely superior in terms of weaponry and technology. Not only are their ships shielded and virtually impervious to your weapons, their systems make them incredibly difficult to track. But after a series of recon and capture missions, Terran and Vasudan scientists begin to incorporate their technology into our own.
Matters are also complicated somewhat when a new death cult emerges known as the Hammer of Light. Made up of Vasudans who believe that the Shivans are a race of holy destroyers foretold in prophecy, this group begins assisting the Shivans by attacking anyone who resists them. Henceforth, they too must be fended off while you and your Vasudan allies continue in your efforts to study the enemy. The next step in undertaking is the capture of the Shivan Destroyer Taranis.
After you and your squad disable it, the ship is towed back to Terran space, where a landing team goes in and gets first hand look at the Shivan species. They appear to be a race of large, quadruped creatures with a claw-like appendage that have weaponry embedded in their faces. However, no one can be sure if this is the actual species, some form of robotic avatar, or cybernetic war machines. In any case, the landing crew is killed very quickly.
Shortly thereafter, a new ship appears, dubbed the Lucifer, which destroys the Taranis and the Terran station nearby. The ship begins to make appearances all along the front, destroying ships with its two giant beam emitters, and eventually destroys the Galatea. In time, the Lucifer makes its way to the Vasudan homeworld, lays waste to it, and appears to be headed for Earth next. All attempts to stop it fail, as the ship appears protected by impenetrable shields.
Throughout the game, monologues are told which begin to provide some deep back story to the game. After several cut scenes, it becomes clear that the narrator is a member of an extinct species known as the Ancients, which were wiped out by the Shivans millenia ago. This informs the player that the Shivans are very ancient themselves, foreshadows the destruction they will bring, and also hints at what the Shivans weakness is.
The Vasudans stumble upon all this information when a group of refugees land on a world once inhabited by the Ancients. Within a vast alien archive, they discover the records which are shown in the cut scenes and discover that the Shivan’s shields do not work in subspace. After being reassigned to the GTD Bastion, a plan is mounted to track the Shivan vessel as it makes the jump for Earth and disable its jump engines while it is in transit.
A pitch battle takes place after you and your squad race to intercept the ship as it jumps, which is almost thwarted by the last-minute arrival of a Hammer of Light destroyer. You and yours barely make it into the node, pursue the Lucifer into subspace, and engage it and its fighter squads until you can take out its jump engines. The jump node then collapses and the Shivan vessel is destroyed.
The game then ends with a monologue by the main character, who explains that Earth is now cut off from the rest of space and safe for the time being. He also says that the Shivans, in being destroyers were actually preservers, in that they destroyed the Ancients who would otherwise have been too poweful to beat once humanity and the Vasudans encountered them. It is also said that the Shivans will be returning, though not within the narrators lifetime, a bit of knowledge which he describes as “bliss”.
Summary: In case it wasn’t already obvious, I loved this game. In fact, I even consider it to be one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to writing science fiction. The gameplay was fun, realistic, and structured in such a way as to make it all engrossing and suspenseful. Add to that a sense of genuine realism, and you can see why this franchise became so popular. It was the kind of science fiction game that was made by hard sci-fi fans for hard sci-fi fans.
Starting with the gameplay, the fighters and spacecraft are very much realistic, not looking at all like airplanes or ships. None of this aerodynamic crap or old-world paradigm stuff; all vessels looked like they were designed for space only. And the weapons and combat sequences are nothing short of cool! Not only do you shoot things up, you are required to take out ship’s subsystems using EMP’s, scan things using your close-range sensors, and even resupply and repair yourself with support ships. And the display is a very realistic looking HUD that is very well laid out and practical.
You also have a cool command interface with your ships, being able to order them in and out of the fight, to attack various targets, and/or cover you when you’re under fire. Ah, and those explosions… when you light up an enemy capitol ship, it not only blows up. It goes nova! Check it out below. Though it might seem a bit tried by modern standards, it was certainly groundbreaking for its time!
The aliens were also created with some genuine attention to detail, and avoided all the Star Trek-like mistakes which are so common to science fiction. For one, the aliens don’t speak English or have crazy names that are just strings of consonants. The language they speak is gibberish as far as we are concerned and requires a translation matrix. And with the exception of the name Vasudan, the aliens are given designations or equivalencies in English which approximate their meaning in alien languages.
For example, since the Vasudans live on a predominantly desert planet, they are all given names from ancient Egyptian culture. The Vasudans approve of this, as they are a culture that respects longevity, spiritualism, and ancient wisdom. The Shivans, consistently, are all named in accordance with mythological references to destroyers and hostile forces – i.e. Shivans, Lucifer, Sathanas, Cain, etc. They do not speak to us, since we have no basis for cultural exchange, or use their real names.
And another realistic feature: even by game’s end, virtually nothing is known about the Shivans aside from that which is gleamed from their captured technology. And though hints are dropped as to their nature and history, no clear answers are even given. For example, its clear the Shivans have advanced subspace technologies and seem solely concerned with controlling nodes and destroying other sentients. At the same time, subspace is where they are most vulnerable. From this, we are led to believe that perhaps they are from another dimension, and are left wanting more…
Oh yes, and another aspect of this game which I attracted me to it was the similarities it had with Babylon 5, my favorite show at the time and one of the best sci-fi series ever! One of the aspects of the back story to B5 was the war which takes place between humanity and the race known as the Mimbari. The war went very badly for humanity, due to the fact that the Mimbari were more advanced and Earth’s ships couldn’t lock on to them due to some kind of stealth technology.
All of these elements seemed to inform the concept of the Shivans. Not only are their weapons more powerful than yours – at least initially – their ships also possess shields are impossible to track until you gather the intel on how they work. So for the first few missions you see them, they appear as squiggling dots on your radar, are virtually immune to your gunfire, and cannot be tracked by missiles. Much like in the B5, you are told early on that a victory, any victory, is needed against the enemy to bolster morale.
Ultimately, people other than myself were left demanding more and got it almost right away. Not only was there an expansion that followed on the heels of this game, it was also followed by a much-anticipated and muchly awesome sequel (more on that later). On top of that, the game also featured a series of campaign missions that were user-designed and contributed, making Freespace one of the most fan-friendly simulators of all time.
That tradition has continued well into the franchise quasi-retirement, thanks to the creation of the Freespace 2 Source Code Project – a group of programmers currently maintaining and enhancing the game engine since 2002. This engine has been used for games based on Babylon 5 and the relaunched Battlestar Galactica franchise. So in addition to keeping this fan-favorite game alive, the F2SCP also helps other cult favorites come to life in space simulator form.
Stay tuned for more on the Descent: Freespace front, continuing with the aforementioned sequel!
Here we have a video game concept that was proposed by Studio Gigante for the Xbox gaming system. Merging Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter style fights with Star Wars characters and lightsaber moves, the idea never made it to the production line. In fact, until the other day, no one outside of those who worked on it knew this proposed Star Wars combat game even existed.
But thanks to a recent tweet by Josh Tsui, currently of Robomodo and co-founder of the studio that made it, the demonstration video is now making the rounds. As the demo shows, it was a game that was meant to incorporate lightsaber duels, Force moves and some limited hand to hand fighting. You played as your favorite character within various Star Wars settings and, presumably, made you way up to the boss (smart money said it was either the Emperor or Yoda, depending on whether your character was good or evil).
Why he chose to do it on Valentines Day is anybody’s guess, but I’m thinking that might just be coincidental. Nothing says love like a simulated lightsaber in your gut!