Sword Art Online II: 19-22

Well, good joSILLY.NOT-BADb, SAO2, at achieving some level of substance. After wasting three episodes on half-assed Viking-esque shit nobody cared about, this past arc has explored and touched on some of the more practical sides of virtual MMOs, namely their assistance in treating the handicapped or the terminally ill. We find out Yuuki is the victim of a botched blood transfusion through which she contracted HIV, and she’s been using a virtual interface to ease her way through what little time she has left. This did not really surprise me, as the anime has been telegraphing some sort of tragic ending for a while now, but I do have to hand it to the show for pulling itself out of its ass and returning to more grounded territory before it takes its bow. At this point, the show really should just end here on this sort of bittersweet note. I doubt something like that will happen in the fantastic land of Japan, where milking a cash cow is something akin to a sacred art. You never know, though. Maybe God will smile on us.

Some other good things about this arc. Don’t be shocked at what they are:

  • Little to no Kirito. Thank God the show pushed Kirito Sue the Magnificent out of the limelight for a bit and remembered it had an actual female lead once upon a time.
  • Actual character development for Asuna. While Sinon has fallen off the face of the earth yet again, Asuna has taken center-stage and had her character tapered down into something more well-rounded. Most of the scenes we’ve encountered so far should have happened a season ago, but there’s a hymn about counting your blessings I remember learning somewhere as a kid.
  • Asuna’s mom being a total bitch who still has a reasonable thing to say or two. Asuna’s mom might be a controlling monster, but she is right that Asuna is several years behind her peers and can’t spend the rest of her days living in a fantasy world with Kirito and Co. Kirito at the very least has shown some practical drive to learn job skills and focus on real life for once. Asuna has been floundering about in an annoying bout of self-imposed depression. Asuna’s mom just has no idea how to approach her child about this, so she comes off as a giant cunt. Granted, she is a giant cunt and would get a hell of a lot of mileage if she took the time to try to understand her child’s point of view, but, you know, people tend to suck in this department.

Bad things about this arc. Oh boy.

  • Laughable game design. I mean, seriously now: all MMOs use the concept of instancing. The scenario presented in this past arc with Yuuki’s guild was ridiculous and showed just how blatantly ignorant SAO’s author is about modern MMO game design. Yes, there are world bosses and such, but world bosses are meant for mass consumption and to encourage that kind of tagging thing. They aren’t actually meant to push the boundaries of the players to much, as the added factor of an open-world precludes you from utilizing some of the key fundamentals of boss/encounter design.
  • Kirito still being OP. No one cares. Kirito, instead of spending time in video games where you’re a living god, go give Asuna some head. You’re her girlfriend. Treat her as such. Learn some real skills, for God’s sake.
  • Asuna’s absent father. Really? We went with this shitty stereotype here? OK. Thanks, SAO2. Thanks for taking the lazy way out. Again.

Next week is the penultimate episode. Then we can finally forget this show ever happened, except I’ll keep seeing a billion people in LoL and other games with shitty SAO-related character names. Because humanity. Sigh.

Sigh…

An Update

SpSILLY.AHH-YEAHoilers ahead, ye denizens of the Internet.

Dragon Age: Inquisition has been beaten. It took me about 100 hours to complete the game, which is amazing for an RPG. I think both Origins and DA2 came in at about 50 hours each. Loved the game. The story was mediocre, but the lore and surrounding characterization more than made up for it. The combat system, though better than Origins’, was not as good as DA2’s for me. The PC interface took a long time to get used to and was the most significant minus and source of frustration for me. Overall I rate the game about 8.5/10, if that scale makes sense. I’ll write up a lore post going over my thoughts on the deeper lore elements revealed in DA:I soon.

On the anime front, I’m caught up on Sword Art Online II and Unlimited Blade Works. Combined blog posts incoming sooner rather than later, hopefully. The latter anime was more decent than I expected, so that’s a plus. UBW continues to be beautiful and elicit the question what the everliving fuck is the budget for this thing? The pain of Zankyou no Terror is properly fading, thank God.

Now I have to balance my time between writing, Super Smash Bros, other playthroughs of DA:I, WoW PVP, and League of Legends as the new season comes on the horizon (LOL LUCIAN NERFS APPEARED ON THE PTR TODAY. SO HAPPY…even though they might have gone too far.). One thing’s for sure: we’re not in a drought anymore in video game land.

Wish I could say the same for California, though. :/

Warlords of Draenor – the DK Report

While I count down the last few agonizing hours that stand between me and Dragon Age: Inquisition, I’ve taken up the new World of Warcraft expansion. I had a great time at Blizzcon, and it really made me want to hang out with my guildmates more often. My schedule precludes me from raiding, probably forever, but I can at least be in the game and do stuff with them. So I dragged my good ol’ Death Knight out, dusted him off, and charged through Draenor to see what all the hullabaloo about PVP and Ashran was. My general impression so far:

SILLY.MCKAYLA

Times a billion.

Disclaimer: I know the expansion has been out for less than a week; I know the metagame has yet to stabilize; I know a lot of people are busy getting gear for PVE and such; I know most people haven’t gotten their PVP gear yet; I know 25% resilience is still in the game; I know damage will start outscaling healing as the seasons progress. All that being said, PVP in WoW is only slightly improved from when I left it two years ago and is still as infuriating as ever, especially as a Death Knight.

Let’s start off with the much-hyped Ashran. This zone is a fucking disappointment if there ever was one. I would likely be much angrier had I gone in with any expectations for it. Going in blind probably prevented me from frothing at the mouth with how angry I’d be at Blizzard right now for fucking PVP over yet again at the basic level. Ashran is a concept–in theory–for bringing back the feel of the old Alterac Valley. If Ashran is working as intended, then let me just say this right now: fuck the old Alterac Valley. Fuck all you silver-haired PVP veterans who have kept lusting after your retarded nostalgia fantasies for the past seven years without remembering all the crippling flaws they came with. I never experienced the old Alterac Valley, and now I’m glad I didn’t. It sounds like a chore. Surprise: Ashran is a chore. It presumes a large, balanced server population that’s interested in PVP. I can only imagine how small a minority of servers in WoW fit that description. Well, good job: you have a never-ending, pointless seesaw battle that gets you tiny amounts of honor and no artifacts because you have to take them off of other players’ bodies. For some reason, Holinka thought it would be a good idea to have you lose Artifacts if you die or release your spirit, which will happen very often in a mass PVP situation. Moreover, the only significant reward for your time in Ashran is earned by killing the enemy boss in the opposing faction’s base, which is nearly impossible, as all the NPCs can one- or two-shot you and the giant NPC you can summon to help you has the worst AI this side of the Twisting Nether. If Ashran is going to work, it needs some massive tweaking and rebalancing, starting with non-tagged looting for artifacts, significantly increased honor rewards so you get something out of it more reliably, and mechanics to compensate for faction imbalance. Otherwise, I’m only going to Ashran for dailies, idle time in between battleground queues, or to buy some gear. The zone needs serious attention to be anything but another repeat of Tol Barad.

Now, onto the PVP meta itself. The following picture describes how it feels to be a Death Knight in WoD:

SILLY.MOLASSES

Now with teleports added for everyone except you.

Holy-fuck-my-stars-God, Holinka. You fucked up so bad. Every other fucking class in the game has insane mobility except DKs. Trying to stay on your target or keep up with anyone is a never-ending nightmare. Druids have blink, Mages have blink, Monks have blink, Hunters have disengage and constant mobility, Warlocks have their portal, recall, and a fucking knockback, Shaman have Ghost Wolf and etc, Warriors still have a billion stuns and charges, on and on and on and on it goes. What do DKs have? Chains of Ice and the Death and Decay Glyph. Aaaand Death Grip on a 20 second CD. Oh, that’s totally enough, right? At one point, long long ago, I thought Desecration needed to be removed. Now I don’t. I never thought I’d see the day when I thought Descration needed to be returned, but explain why all nine other classes are bouncing around every BG I find while I’m spending half my resources just to keep them snared so I might be able to hit them with my sword once in a while. Meanwhile, my damage still sucks, and our Level 100 talents are horrible. They’re massive CC breakers that don’t do anything. Necrotic Plague is worthless in PVP; Breath of Sindragosa takes too much RP and too much setup; Defile is the least bad choice among them. Given the fact that DK DPS has gotten almost no significant changes in two expansions, I’m confident in saying the designers have given up on the class in PVP. The amount of effort spent on DK ability design is pitiful, and it shows. They don’t give a shit.

Neither do they care about DPS in general, apparently. I don’t know what the design goals for PVP in WoD were besides cutting CC down to size a bit, but it seems like they put all their effort budget into that one idea. Healing is out of control. Healers alone can still put people back to full in an instant with instant casts, but now Ret Paladins and other hybrid healers can do that too. Killing people is absurdly difficult; one healer can negate half a battleground’s worth of DPS, if that. I’m honestly thinking of just finishing gearing my DK up for PVP in blues and leveling my Priest so I can feel like I have more of an impact, though I’ll probably run into just as many annoyances and nightmares as I’ve found with my DK. Sigh.

If my guild weren’t filled with such wonderful people, I’d shelve this game forever and go back to LoL. No matter how frustrated I get in LoL, it’s nothing compared to the sheer rage WoW PVP inflicts upon the soul.

I leave you with Snape, smoldering.

SILLY.SNAPE

Classy smoldering.

Sword Art Online II – 18

I’m confused. SILLY.WATDid I just witness some character development in Sword Art Online II? Who let that happen? I guess Kawahara Reki must have remembered that Asuna exists and might stand to have a little bit of time dedicated to her character that wasn’t entirely demeaning and misogynist. The material isn’t too much, to be sure: the storyline is telegraphing some arranged marriage proposal that Asuna, like an idiot, naturally won’t tell anyone about until the most inconvenient time, creating some emotional drama and no doubt requiring some shenanigans in ALO-land to rectify because the evil, lecherous man with rapey-eyes will just happen to play ALO hardcore. Or something like that. They could just play a children’s card game and save some time, you know. What’s nice is that Asuna stopped being the neglected trophy wife for an episode and was depicted as something resembling an actual human being, even though she’s still not fucking Kirito every second they’re alone together like a repressed rich girl would. Here we saw a little bit of refreshing criticism, as paltry as it was, toward Japanese culture and its treatment of women. Asuna had the gall to say that dressing up in kimonos and play the part of a rich girl sucked, even though none of her friends took her seriously despite all the obvious red flags she was waving. You guys are terrible friends, by the way. Can’t you take a hint? Sinon didn’t even see Shinkawa coming, and that shit was color-coded with neon lights and blaring trumpets.

Kirito, of course, is over there not noticing any of this because he’s a moron. I don’t hold this against him, though, since it serves to make him less of a Mary Sue. The guy is really only good for defying computer code in contrived life-or-death situations. When it comes to the normal grind of everyday life, he’s just another Joe Schmoe. Moreover, he’s always sucked ass at reading people or paying attention to the emotional needs of the friends/creepy admirers he’s surrounded himself with. It’s not like we had an entire half of a season to watch this character flaw unfold in slow motion. Oh wait, we did.

So Asuna is going to fight this Zekken guy and probably win, leading to her getting a badass Original Sword Skill. That would be nice. It would be nicer if Kirito had nothing to do with her success in this particular venture and this arc focused on her doing things her own way. Am I holding my breath? You know the answer, but still, this was the first SAO2 episode in a while that didn’t rub me the wrong way. There is some balm in Gilead after all.

Back from Blizzcon

Had a wonderful trip. One of the best of my life. Met many of my guildmates and other awesome people. I’ll write up some impressions later on, maybe.

I will be streaming tomorrow. Don’t know what exactly, though. Season 4 in LoL ends tomorrow, so maybe I’ll do some practice matches on the new Summoner’s Rift update. Who knows.

The normal anime posts are incoming as well.

Dragon Age: Inquisition – The Beginning of the End

Unlike my previous post, this is meant to be a more serious take on Dragon Age: Inquisition. Fair warning: it is pretty nerdy. Feel free to skip over it if you don’t have a significant interest in the lore of the Dragon Age franchise and such. If you proceed, know that I never pull punches with spoilers.

Continue reading

Dragon Age II: A Study in Insanity

We have fifteen days (HOLY CRAP JUST FIFTEEN DAYS) before Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out and I lose all contact with the outside world. In order to hype myself up a bit more–to the point where I think I’m losing my mind with how obsessed I am with this universe–I’ve been replaying Dragon Age II. Before I get castrated by the shitzillion fucktards who always come out of the woodwork whenever Dragon Age II is mentioned, no, I didn’t hate the game. I’m near the 400-hour mark on Dragon Age II. I love this game so much, and sometimes I don’t know why. I’ve been of the entirely unorthodox opinion that Dragon Age: Origins was overhyped from the beginning, and while I enjoyed that game too, I didn’t get involved in it like I have DA2. To this day I still don’t understand why everyone likes DA:O so much. Sure, the game is polished like no other, but apart from the fascinating world it presents, the content within is pretty unremarkable. The graphics style always bothered me–it came across as both bland and unrealistic. By that I mean it just doesn’t feel real; it’s more like you’re watching a storybook unfold. Maybe that was the point, but it just doesn’t feel like something positive to me. The ways he characters move, look and behave feels so stilted, somehow lacking in emotion. Then you actually get into combat and you want to kill yourself: oh look, another twenty seconds of auto-attacking while your rogue takes ten of those seconds just to get across the battlefield to the enemy. Wait, why did I even bring a rogue? Oh, for traps. That’s it. Otherwise I’d just bring three mages and a tank and kill everything with one hand tied behind my back. Then I’ll go wade through the generic storyline with a cadre of characters I barely care about. I’ve concluded that DA:O is an object lesson in how execution and polish can cover a multitude of sins, while DA2 is an object lesson in how good fundamentals can’t necessarily do the same.

SILLY.DA2-THE-CRITICS

This dragon respawns every time someone says “DA2” on the internet.

At its core, DA2 was a better game than DA:O. Storyline, characterization, combat, thematic coherence, etc., everything was conceived much better from the ground up. More than anything else, Hawke’s adventures put the “role” back into “role-playing game.” It did this better than Mass Effect, I think, which is high praise indeed. The story excelled at putting you in Hawke’s shoes, at making you feel like this refugee building their way up from nothing and becoming important, with all the consequences that has. Act 1 has you poor and weak, running around Kirkwall doing menial tasks as befitting a noble whose house has fallen from grace. The characters you met along the way got swept up in that story and became crucial parts of the tapestry you were building. Aveline, Fenris, Varric, Isabela, Merrill, Bethany, Carver (who?), and even Anders (hiss) all felt like real people you had a deep connection with. Some of Bioware’s best characters and moments ever come from this game, particularly Aveline and Varric. Then combat in DA2 proved far more interactive and engaging, with each class becoming much better defined with strengths and weaknesses you could appreciate and build a party around. Something people also fail to appreciate is that Bioware took a risk with DA2. While EA might have thought otherwise, it’s clear DA2 was a conscious departure from its predecessor. Bioware wanted to try something different: they wanted to work with a narrative structure they hadn’t really done before. They could have just made a money-grabbing sequel-copy to DA:O and the fanboys would have bought it up so long as they polished it right and checked off all the boxes, but they didn’t. Anyway, all in all, DA2 was a good game. So why wasn’t it a great game?

Well, DA2 got rushed out the door, and it shows. We all know about the One True Cave. I’ll first remark that Skyrim had One True Cave too: it just took twenty million copies sold for people to realize it. That’s why I go back to the lesson in polish and execution: DA2 only had the One True Cave and crammed every second quest into it: combined with the constrained scope of Kirkwall and the world you were set in, you caught on pretty quickly, so unless were already taken in by the game’s events and other systems, like I was, you’d get frustrated and bored in no time. Contrarily, Skyrim had a larger world that maintained the illusion of novelty, so your mind didn’t really notice or care it was wandering through the exact same cavern a billion times on random side-quests. A few years removed, people suddenly realized that the Skyrim released at launch sucked and that all the hype surrounding it was dumb. Hey, too late now, idiots: Bethesda has all your money, and I’m pretty sure your critical credibility just flew out the window as well. You really don’t care if companies milk games; you only care if it’s a game you don’t like. People rag on EA for releasing Madden every year and milking the shit out of it, but there are some legitimate reasons for that, such as roster changes and the ever-changing world of American football that six billion people don’t understand. Meanwhile, Bethesda has released the exact same game three times in a row, and people worship them. Apart from graphical fidelity and some minor changes to stats and talents, Morrowind and Skyrim, two games released almost ten years apart from each other, are indistinguishable. Same bland talking heads all voiced by the same dozen people, same horrible melee combat, same unexpected messiah narrative structure, same sidequest system, same musical themes, even the same goddamn opening. If I have to sit through one more sequence where I’m a prisoner of the Empire being dragged off somewhere…

Wait, what was the original point of this post? Oh yeah, I’m playing through Dragon Age II again. It’s been a little while, but this sums up my reaction to everything that happens:

SILLY.CRAZY

Hawke has way better hair, though.

More particularly, I’m focusing on the Templars and how the Circle of Magi is utterly broken. Seriously, it’s so dumb how everything within this system operates. “We’re afraid of mages, so we’ll lock them up and have them watched over by drug-addicted zealots with no effective oversight or recourse, all while teaching them their charges are one step away from killing everyone. What could possibly go wrong?” An excellent question, my lovelies. In the first Act, the Grand Cleric, who possesses ultimate authority over the mages and the Templars alike, says to Hawke with a straight face: “It is not my role to form judgments on her [Knight-Commander Meredith’s] character.” Um, what did you just say? Because that’s wrong, you cow: that is exactly your role. You are supposed to be overseeing what the Templars are doing, otherwise this system cannot function. Don’t you realize the kind of people the Templars are? They’re brutal sociopaths at best. You need people smarter than them to make sure–oh, fuck it. You die in two more acts, Elthina, and it’s your own damn fault. Anyway, it seems like everything the Templars do is hilarious. Cullen says he’ll let a recruit, who was captured by crazy mages with some stupid plan to forcibly possess some Templars with demons, be promoted to full knighthood if he doesn’t show any signs of possession after ten years. Ten fucking years? Really? You’re going to condemn this poor guy to a life of poverty and menial labor just like that? Are you stupid? Let’s presume he is possessed, even though it’s clear Hawke arrived in time before the crazy mages managed to do anything to him. Hey, Cullen: spirits and demons don’t exactly have a concept of time, probably because they exist in a realm where there is no concept of time. If this recruit really has a demon om-nom-noming on his soul right now, all it’ll do is just wait until you no longer suspect his host. Boom: party time, baby. Do you not study the basic principles of magic and demons? If you don’t, why are you in charge of overseeing mages in the first place? Isn’t basic education on this stuff kind of important for you to ensure you’re doing your job correctly? Do you even care? No, of course not. Every second Templar is either an obvious rapist or a clueless fucktard that couldn’t care less about things.

This extends not only to DA2 itself, but all the books and such we see beyond it. In Dragon Age: Asunder, Lord Seeker Lambert is a hopeless douchebag who wants to kill every mage he sees, and this is the guy in charge of the organization that’s theoretically in place to step in when the Templars don’t do their jobs? How does that sound like a good idea? Why were the Seekers even brought in to begin with? Oh yeah, we haven’t even talked about Madame Psychopathy Herself, Knight-Commander Meredith, who gets the 9:37 Dragon Award for Leader of the Year. How this fucking moron managed to acquire such a position of authority is beyond me. She should have been removed the moment she started making mages Tranquil because reasons, which is the most flagrant violation of Chantry law ever. Mages who have passed their Harrowing cannot be made Tranquil. Oh, and she denies mages appearances at court, locks them up in their rooms, and immediately suspects anyone who runs away from her nightmarish prison-state a practitioner of blood magic. In Act 3, you hunt down some mages, two of them who do turn out to be blood mages, and you find out that they both resorted to blood magic because the fucking Templars treated them like shit. Meredith even suspects the third mage, some hopeless virgin who just wants to get laid, and casually decides if he’ll keep his life or not. Fuck you. Finally she just goes into batshit mode and orders the execution of every mage in the city after Anders blows up the Kirkwall Chantry, even though the terrorist responsible for it is right there in front of themof all and admits to acting entirely on his own with no help or support from the Circle whatsoever. Her justification? “The people of Kirkwall will want retribution for this.” Mmkay. I believe you, Knight-Commander, if “people of Kirkwall” means “me, Meredith Coocoopants.” Pretty sure the people of Kirkwall don’t even know what the fuck just happened, as you let all but three seconds pass between the explosion and your casual decision to commit mass murder. It’s almost as if you were just waiting for an excuse to kill all these mages anyway. The mages even offer her complete and unconditional surrender, but NOPE. She’s just gonna kill everyone. Hey, Cullen: you might want to stop her. Are you going to do something, man? Gonna, you know, point out how weird it is she’s lost her fucking mind? I dunno. Anything would work at this point.

SILLY.MUST-BLOOD-MAGIC

Or 4chan. Same difference.

What’s most annoying, though, is that everyone treats the problem of mages as some unsolvable dilemma of the ages, when it’s really just a simple matter of civil rights and secular oversight. As it is in Thedas, mages live within a system of slavery. They’re locked up in the Circles their whole lives and are only dragged out when the Chantry needs them to fry some Qunari or darkspawn. The social contract between them and the rest of civilization is completely one-sided, with society asking everything of them while giving them nothing in return except the nominal right to existence. Oh yeah, that’ll keep them happy. Sure. The first thing you could do is not have them watched over by religious zealots. Bioware has even glossed over the obvious sins of the Templar Order, much to my chagrin. I can’t imagine just how much rape and abuse has gone on within it for nearly a thousand years. We’re still dealing with the issue of widespread rape and sexual harassment within our militaries even in the twenty-first century. On the other hand, mages will always need some system of oversight over them. To me, this is the most fascinating element of the Dragon Age setting: the question of what to do with people who are naturally separate from the rest of society. The innate potential of mages far exceeds that of their fellow men. How do you balance the desire to use this potential for the betterment of mankind against the threat of them using it against everyone else? It’s a captivating question for me, and one that opens up some interesting paths to explore. I really hope Bioware doesn’t drop the ball with Inquisition. Everything seems like it’ll be great, but then again, so did Mass Effect 3, and we all remember how that turned out.

SILLY.ME3-ENDINGS

Choose the Instagram filter you’ll use to watch everyone you ever loved die horribly.

We’ll find out in fifteen days. In the meantime, I’ll go knife Anders and Meredith again. Unlike the One True Cave, that shit never gets old.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 3/4

Missed last week’s po63a8f57f-414f-4e56-a5ce-a2a92ac134d51st for Fate/stay night, probably because I was still recovering from the visual orgy. I do love anime when it has no budget restrictions. Watching Berserker and Saber clash in a foggy courtyard and Rin/Ilya duel was a sight to behold. I’ll be honest: I was afraid the writers would try to be lazy and copy the first few episodes of the original Fate/stay night, but I’ve been happy to see they didn’t fall into that trap. We’ve met Lancer as follows, but I seem to recall that they encountered Rider next and did not go straight to Ryuudou Temple. Caster didn’t even play a part in the original anime until the very end of the series. Still, that just gives us more opportunity for beautiful animation, and it keeps the plot from losing its luster so quickly.

Alas, what goes up must come down (Spider-man is wrong here), and even if you don’t have budget restrictions, you will inevitably spend less time and effort on some areas than others. In anime, this typically follows immediately after a full-budget episode, so episode 4 was pretty quiet and, frankly, the worst episode of the anime so far. It wasn’t particularly bad in anyway, just dull when compared to the last few weeks. Not much happened except at the very end, where Rin got to show off her power again. She needs to shout more German. That’s fun.

I eagerly await next week.

Sword Art Online II – 17

*snore*SILLY.WHY2

 

Oh, huh? Did something happen?

….

What. The. Fuck?

That was it?

That was fucking it?

That arc lasted, like, what, three episodes? And they made an opening sequence just for that? This anime isn’t even trying anymore. This episode was both tedious filler and incredibly boring. Thrym went down like this was LFR mode or something. Freyja transformed into Thor for…some reason. And then the quest was over. Kirito Sue the Magnificent pulled Excalibur out of the pedestal, still not bothering to explain why some old English legend is playing a huge part in a scenario based entirely around Nordic mythology, and woo hoo everything went back to normal Idontgiveafuckville.

Jesus Christ, what are they going to do for the next seven episodes? Hopefully it’ll be a romantic comedy in which Asuna goes and cheats on Kirito with some glorious hunk of a man. Or woman. Or something. I dunno. Just give me a reason to watch this tripe that isn’t masochism. I said I’d watch this through to the end and I will, but goddamn it if A1 isn’t trying to make it as arduous as possible.