Sep 172012
 

Initially, life as the only dovakin is fun and filled with adventure, but sadly there is a point where it plateaus. After you’ve vanquished Alduin, crushed the Stormcloak rebellion, ascended to the helm of the College of Winterhold, the Thieves Guild, and the Dark Brotherhood there is really little else to do. Unfortunately, you can’t yet tame a herd of dragons and ride them in the skies, raining fiery destruction down upon the masses of Tamriel, so what else is there for a battle-worn adventurer to do except hang up their sword and shield, and settle down? You may have the finest pre-fabricated mansion money can buy, but now with the new Hearthfire DLC pack, you can customize the home of your dreams and even fill it with a couple of adopted kids.

The Good
After your Hearthfire download completes and you’ve loaded a save file, simply walking outside will set things into motion. After a few moments, a courier should approach you with a couple of letters. This first is from Constance Michael (or maybe from Gerlod the Kind if you didn’t kill her) at the Honorhall Orphanage of Riften, and it is preaching the virtues of adopting one of Skyrim’s many orphans. If you are anything like me, you will feel a slight pang of guilt upon reading this letter, because there is a good chance you have killed at least one of these poor ragamuffin’s parents during your adventures. The second letter you will receive from the steward of one of the cities you own property in, and it will let you know of the availability of a children’s bedroom set available for your city home. However, it is doubtful you paid five dollars for DLC only to adopt children, so you might as well build a fresh home to expand your family in.

I never saw a letter like this, but here’s proof it exists!

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to build your new home (you may build in Falkreath, The Pale, or Hjaalmarch) and plopped down the 5000 gold for the land and starting materials, simply head to your plot where you will find a chest of building materials, an anvil, a drafting table, and a carpenter’s work bench. First pick what aspect of the house you’d like to build on the drafting table, and then scoot over to the carpenter’s work bench to begin construction. Building the individual elements of your new dwelling happens much like any other crafting activity in the game, so it is a relatively quick and painless process.

You will have roughly enough materials to build the basic house, but to build the main hall you will need to do some searching. Some of the materials you need; such as clay, iron ore, and quarried stone; are readily available in seemingly infinite quantities at your plot. Other materials, like sawed logs, will be more difficult to obtain. Thankfully, if you are Thane of a city and have a house carl in your employ, you can ask them to follow you to your new homestead which will open up dialogue options for you to offer them a new job as steward of your plot. Once they’ve accepted, you may buy certain materials directly through them. Your steward will also tell you the nearest place to buy the things they can’t get for you. It was nice to have a use for the infamous Lydia, besides her usual role as a pack mule and chronic complainer. All in all, the process of gathering materials and building the complete shell of your home will take an hour or so, but that’s when you get to move inside and use the various workbenches to furnish and decorate your abode as you see fit. All of these interior elements require more gathering and purchasing, so expect to spend quite a bit of time tweaking things until they are to your liking.

The drafting table is where you’ll decide what to build next.

The Bad
It seems that there is absolutely no direction in-game as to how you should go about building your dream home. Where do you get the plot of land? How much does it cost? What about materials? Actually, there doesn’t seem to be any mention in the game of the fact that you can build your own home. A simple nudge from any NPC in the game would have been helpful, but in the end an Internet search was the only way to find an answer. As mentioned before, there are only three areas available for you to build within, and much like buying one of the pre-made homes, you need to be on the Jarl’s good side in order to open up the option to purchase land. If you don’t already have good standing with the Jarl of the area you’d like to reside in, just chat with him and complete any quests he offers. At this point in the game, most characters will be so highly leveled that these tasks will be simple and take only minutes to complete.

The quest tracker lacks any intelligence when it comes to directing you through the steps of building your home as well. Once I was out of lumber, I was directed to go to Half Moon Mill to purchase more. Unfortunately, I had already completed a quest to slay the vampire inhabitants of the mill, so with no one there I was unable to purchase any wood. I traveled to every other mill in Skyrim and was either unable to find the owner, or they wanted me to complete some awful and menial task to open up the option of buying lumber. Ultimately, Lydia was the only one able buy wood, so it is recommended to not even bother with the mills.

Adopting children offered similar frustrations in regards to lack of guidance. I spoke to Constance Michael at the orphanage in Riften, thinking my lovely lakeside manor was perfect for a child. I had several beds, tables, shelves, trunks, a garden, and a stable. However, Constance only kept telling me to come back when I had a house with a room suitable for children. I went back to the manor, looked through all the available furniture I could build again, and realized there was a specific “Child’s Bed”, so I built two of those. Back to the orphanage I went, only to find out my home was still unsuitable. Why was it still unsuitable? How could she even tell all the way from Riften? These were the questions that plagued me as I stared at the loading screens while fast traveling back and forth.

Finally, I relented and searched the Internet again. I found you your children need either a chest or a dresser to store their belongings in. Why couldn’t Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I built two children’s chests and the only dresser I could find in the main entryway. This seemed to make my sprawling manor finally suitable for Constance, so I grabbed two orphans to take home with me.

Home sweet home!

If you are an adventurer who has sucked every last drop of goodness from Skyrim, then spending five bucks on Hearthfire may be a good idea for you. You are sure to get a few more hours of playtime out of the add-on, and if you are the type of gamer that likes sims, then you will go hog wild over the idea of building and customizing your own home. Adoption doesn’t really add too much to the game, but the little brats give you goodies like potions now and then so it’s worth the effort. If you aren’t above going outside the confines of the game for direction on how to complete the tasks needed to play Hearthfire to its fullest potential, then it’s time to dig out the tome of your dragonborn’s story and add in a chapter about him settling down in the (usually) peaceful countryside, with our without a family – at least until a cooler expansion comes out, like one allowing dragon mounts.

Skyrim: Hearthfire

ProsGood amount of added play time for the price, watching the house form as you craft its various elements is fun, sad orphan babies give you loot occasionally
ConsSome factors of this DLC pack seem a little glitchy, and there is little to no natural direction given in-game, causing gamers to look elsewhere for help.
VerdictIt's hard not to feel ripped off when something doesn't seem to work quite as it's supposed to, but it's also hard to get mad over five dollars spent to squeeze a little more fun out of a great game like Skyrim.
Rating
60%
May 302012
 

Bethesda Softworks announced today that they will be bringing the classic FPS franchise Doom to current consoles in a big way. Doom 3: BFG Edition, bring a remastered version of Doom 3 to consoles (as well as PC) with enhanced visuals, controls, additional content, and support for 3D displays. Along with all the Doom 3 fanciness, BFG Edition will also include both Doom 1 and 2, so players will have the whole series in one place.

May 092012
 

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It’s been twenty years since one of the original first person shooters came into existence. To celebrate, Bethesda is letting fans play the legendary game for free via web browser. If you’re interested in going retro and killing Nazis, head over to Wolfenstien 3D .

Feb 142012
 

Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition is the newest iteration of the post-apocalyptic simulator from Bethesda.  This New Vegas is the same one we’ve been playing since 2010, but with all of the DLC and small packs rolled in.  Too bad Bethesda also included their signature quirks.

We're scientists. We know how to print money.

Clamoring from the recent success of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda’s been silently preparing content for their latest endeavor.  As most companies love to do at some point, they put more ink in their money-printing machine in the meantime and released New Vegas with all of the DLC together.  Usually this marks the end of the particular title’s updates.  The adventures of the main character, the courier, are as fleshed out as they’re going to get now.  Those of you with an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 can head to your disk vendor of choice and get everything in one magical case and call it a day.  PC gamers, on the other hand, have another task they have to overcome: themselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong; the game is downright fun… once you get it to run.  The PC version has a myriad of issues with it, ranging from game-breaking glitches to can’t-even-start-the-game glitches like the ones that I encountered.  My Google-Fu is strong, but even after deleting .ini files, editing configurations, replacing DirectX files and drivers, deleting the whole game to download again from Steam (a glorious 16GB download, I might add), verifying the integrity of the files with Steam to find corrupt files that Steam won’t replace, trying to replace all of the game’s files with a backup, same problem, deleting the whole New Vegas folder from the hard drive and doing it all again…

 

I love this game!

What was the problem?  My monitor’s settings.  The same settings I use for Crysis, Team Fortress 2, Minecraft, and Batman: Arkham City will bring New Vegas to its tiny, buggy knees?  People have literally been assassinated over less.  Seriously.  It took me three days to get it working.  The salt in the wound is that the game worked before!  I updated it with the Ultimate Edition additions, and suddenly it was like I had made a new enemy.  Disabling the DLC did nothing.  It was a frustrating experience, for sure.  I deeply considered heading to the store and just getting a console version so I wouldn’t have to face this anymore.  It was that bad.

However, I’m persistent and overcame.  And I’m thankful I did.  What kept me going?  Mods.  Beautiful, extensive mods.  Mods are the only reason to consider the PC version.  We’ll get back to that soon.

Fallout: New Vegas starts you out talking to Doc Mitchell after a nasty case of “bullet to the head.”  This is the initial shaping of your character’s looks and stats, which will ultimately decide how you proceed through the game.  Will you be a charismatic thief, or maybe a socially-inept brute?  For future reference, I definitely chose the latter.

Isn't that right, doc?

Those of you used to the world of New Vegas will appreciate the subtle additions around the world in the form of gateways to new worlds (and a half-ass way to transition into all of that delicious DLC).  However, not everyone has experienced a nuclear wasteland in a timeline where the transistor was never invented.  There are no Pentium processors, there are no LCD screens, and there certainly are no iPhones.  The only guaranteed working technology are your fingers and the gun in your hand… and even then, those aren’t even guaranteed.

And those. Bethesda made a point to add lots of those.

Fallout: New Vegas plays a lot like any other first-person shooter, in that you aim and shoot.  Aside from that, the similarities end there.  New Vegas is an RPG at its roots.  Everything is decided by a point-value in some regard.  Will your bullet hit your enemy?  Depends.  How many points did you put into your Gun skill?  The different perks, skills, abilities, and basic character stats will force you into a different play style every time you step into the shoes of a new courier.

The newest (and realistically final) DLC that was released is Lonesome Road, the story of the courier who was meant to carry the package that got you in this hot mess.  It’s suggested that this storyline be tackled after you reach level 25.  For the sake of comedy, fair chances, and for you the reader, I enter at level 1.

And I came out... A MAN.

Never mind that I look like a starved Ronald McDonald.  At this point, I was just glad to have the game running.  I won’t go into too much detail about the added DLC since there’s spoilers abound, but they are definitely hefty in content and beautiful in how intertwined they become with you and the rest of the world.

Like this. This is a spoiler.

Once you play through all of the new additions and finally take over the world, what do you do now?  You can certainly play through at least a dozen times and have a different experience at every turn as you try and discover new potent combinations of abilities and weapons.

So you play through a couple dozen times.  You’ve seen the desert.  You’ve fought the radscorpions.  You’ve dominated the Legion and the NCR.  What now?  If you have a console version of the game, you can take the disk and wear it like a necklace on a beautiful chain.  We PC gamers, however, have a plethora of content we can inject.

Quite possibly the single greatest addition you can find to any game.

After the release of Fallout 3, gamers took issues into their own hands and began producing expansions and fixes on their own accord.  Some of the top-rated downloads from the New Vegas Nexus are just bug-fixing issues; less crashing to desktop, less broken scripting, smoother transitions, better menus… the list goes on.  Maybe my situation with the inability to play is unique.  I’d like to think so.  But why would they offer fixes en masse if they weren’t called for?  I don’t understand the dedication to a particular title enough to fix it for the developer, especially as one as well-known and currently still circulating copies of the game.  However, if you’re looking to spice up your game, there’s a bevy of add-ons and cool new trinkets you can throw in.  You can basically take the world of the Mojave desert and sculpt it in your own hands.  Prostitutes?  Check.  Bounties?  Done.  New radio stations?  Skip to the loo, my darling.  This is where the PC version really shines.  This is what PC gaming is about.

Fallout: New Vegas is expansive as it is innovative on its own.  Hardcore Mode gives you the option of traveling through the sands, fighting for food and scavenging for ammo in every corner you come across.  Reloading spent shells and striving for friendship with different factions adds an interesting twist to the age-old “kill people, make people mad” motif of yesteryear.

But even the best things have to come to an end...

The game has a lot of merit, but I really feel like PC gamers ultimately get the short end of the stick because the game is hard to get running if it doesn’t work the first time (and it stops working sometimes eventually for others as well).  When it works, you can smell the “game of the year” potential that leaked from its digital pores when it initially came out.  When your saves no longer load, though, you need to look for a new venue.

Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition

ProsGreat gameplay, unlimited expansion from the community...
Cons...IF YOU CAN GET IT TO RUN CORRECTLY.
VerdictA forgivable fallacy; Fallout still rocks.
Rating
88%

Aug 122011
 

Rage has become the most recent game to implement measures to dissuade consumers from purchasing a used copy. According to the game’s creative director, Tim Willtis, the upcoming shooter will prevent gamers who bought the game secondhand from experiencing certain missions in the single-player campaign.

Throughout the game, players will come across sewers that give them access to new missions that are not central to the main story. If you buy the game used, you won’t be able to partake in these parts of the game

This move doesn’t seem as drastic as limiting gamers to one save file that can’t be erased, as  Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D did earlier this year, making it senseless to buy a used game, but it can make the thought of picking up a cheaper, pre-owned disc a lot less appealing for those who want access to everything the game has to offer.

Jul 202011
 

Just over two weeks away from the largest video game festival, Bethesda® has announced it’s lineup for this year’s QuakeCon®.  The megalithic video game company and QuakeCon® benefactor will feature presentations on their upcoming titles Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Prey 2.

Continue reading »

Jun 292011
 

You know, I don’t get angry very often, but when I do I tend to ROBORAGE. There are two things bothering me right now, so lets quit wasting time and get pissed.

Hackers

These blasted hackers are terrible people. You might think it’s funny and madcap, or that Sony deserved it because they had some issues with their security, but wait just a moment. Ok, yes. Sony kind of dropped the ball with their security, but ultimately who really paid the price? The gamers did. That’s right, because of these hackers, the Sony Online network went down and hundreds of thousands of gamers (if not more) were unable to enjoy their hobby to the fullest. These people think they are making some grand display, perhaps showing the faults of the Sony security or some stupid BS. Well congrats, but now I can’t freaking play my damned games! You know, you could have just contacted Sony and said “Hey guys, there’s an issue with your network.” I mean, ultimately we got some free stuff out of the deal, but really you just made us gamers angry. Obviously you hackers are nerds like us, except without souls. Then you try and attack other companies like Bethesda and Sega? Come on guys, shut the EFF up. If you wanna hack the government or some chick’s facebook to steal her pics, go for it, have fun, post that shit on 4chan, but DO NOT EFF with the gamers.

MMO Players

This is how I feel when I interact with the typical Douche bag MMO player.

I am an MMO player, as many of our readers may have gathered. I’d like to think, however, that I am not your typical MMO player. I think what separates me from the pack is that I try not to be a total douche-bag. It really became clear to me how douchy MMO players could be when I was listening to a certain podcast. They were talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic and their commendations system for the warzones. This feature is one in which at the end of the battle, players vote on who they think was the MVP of the match and that person gets extra rewards. The hosts of the podcast were crying about how there was no incentive for the people to vote because they dont get anything for it. WHAT? Is it so hard to be cool to each other? If someone deserves some props, give them props. Why does every little action in an MMO have to have some kind of validation with it? Why not just feel good because you kicked butt? And then, if this guy helped us a lot, good job! This is obviously just my opinion, but I see actions such as this way too often. What happened to just running past someone who’s fighting something and throwing a quick heal on them, just because? I did that once in Rift and got a confusing tell asking me why I would do such a thing. When i explained that I was just being nice he said “LOL I’ve never seen that b4, whatever.” I can remember another instance where my girlfriend was playing WoW and she spotted someone fighting something pretty tough and decided to throw a few shots at it to help out. She was then sent an insulting tell explaining that she wouldn’t get credit for helping kill it and to never, ever do that again. Really? So the person was mad because she got some help? It’s not like she was kill stealing or anything. And then, you get into a pickup dungeon group and everyone is so on edge, ready to vote-kick you for the slightest thing. No one wants to just sit back and have fun with it. It’s a wonder that I enjoy MMOs as much as I do with the way these people act, all take take take. It’s not just MMOs, either. Even in everyday situations, no one is willing to help unless there is something in it for them.

Jun 132011
 

Bethesda Softworks, the video game development company behind the Elder Scrolls series and Fallout, announced that a hacking group by the name of “Lulzsec” successfully breached security on its web site and have had access from a couple of months ago. Apparently these guys have been responsable for many other gaming hacks as of late and even have their own website to publish their doings.

The people at Bethesda said that “hackers may have gained access to some user names, email addresses, and/or passwords.”They are instructing users to change their passwords immediately as a precautionary measure.

The entry from the official Bethesda Blog:

Over the past weekend, a hacker group attempted an unlawful intrusion of our websites to gain access to data. We believe we have taken appropriate action to protect our data against these attacks. While no personal financial information or credit card data was obtained, the hackers may have gained access to some user names, email addresses, and/or passwords. As a precaution, we recommend that all our fans immediately change passwords on all our sites — including our community forums and the statistics site we maintain for Brink players.

If your username/email address/password is similar to what you use on other sites, we recommend changing the password at those sites as well. As we don’t know what further plans the hackers may have, we suggest that you keep an eye out for suspicious emails and account activity.

We regret any inconvenience that these attacks on us cause for you. These attacks will be evaluated to determine if there are any additional protections we might take that would be prudent.”

The guys at Bethesda never announced the party behind the breach, but Lulzsec proclaims it was behind the effort in their Twitter feed. Honestly, I don´t know why these guys have the urge to constantly remind the world that they have absolutely nothing to do than dick around.

(Left) How they imagine themselves, (Right) The actual Lulzsec

Lulzsec also tweeted two demands for what Bethesda must do if it does not want the hacking group to release the data it obtained. The group said it would release the user database unless Bethesda released more info on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and would omit admin configurations from the leak if the publisher included “an official LulzSec top hat” in the game.

If Bethesda complies, this might start a new trend of hackings with the purpose of adding references to Hacking groups within games. That would fucking suck as not all demands might be so harmless and could ruin an otherwise great video game. We can just hope for the best for now.

Jun 082011
 

My first appointment of the day was with Bethesda Softworks for a viewing of their upcoming action RPG Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim releasing on November 11th, 2011. It’s been over 5 years since Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released for the XBOX 360. Anyone who played and enjoyed that game will remember hours of their life having literally been stolen by the cruel and nefarious folks at Bethesda.

Now Bethesda is up to their shenanigans again with Skyrim and it’s bodaciously bountiful bonanza of badical things to do. Seriously – Skyrim is that good.

The demo starts out shortly after the character creation process. Unfortunately Bethesda was not ready to reveal alot of details about the character creation process just yet so the game loaded up just outside the starting area of Skyrim – a Northern territory of the world of Tamriel. The terrain looks absolutely beautiful and the host explains to us that Skyrim utilized the Havok game engine and that much of the detail you see in the world is dynamically generated.

A quick note about character creation before we continue – Bethesda explains that your character starts out in mostly the same way as far as skills and profession are concerned and that the character you form will evolve over time rather than starting out as, say, a warrior or mage.

Combat is similar to the other games in the series although perhaps a bit more complex than before. What’s more is there are highly visceral kill animations. A particular favorite being the sword through the top of the shoulder. It just looks brutal thrusting a sword down into your foe and the reaction from the crowd as the Bethesda rep puts a road bandit down hard is inspiring. Duel wielding is also possible now be it two short swords or a combination of spells and melee weaponry. Or you could have a spell equipped in each hand for some serious magic combinations. Also – shields can double as weapons as well to bash your enemies which really serves to mix up what’s possible in Skyrim’s combat system.

One thing to note that really impressed the crowd was the in game map which pulls up and away from the character and shows the entire Skyrim realm rendered from high above. It sounds simple in words but when you see it for yourself it’s really quite impressive.

Furthering the obvious attention to detail in Skyrim is the abscense of spreadsheet like character stat sheets. Spending skill points is done by looking up at the heavens to pick stars in constellations that represent specific abilities you can unlock for your character. Again – just one of those things you have to see but it’s a very entertaining and natural aspect of the character management process.

Also the menu system is very functional and fast to access allowing you to quickly change your weapons, spells, armors, and items on the fly without having to load a cumbersome menu each time you need to make a chage. Again – it’s the little details that shine through.

The first town you come to, Riverwood, is a small village that thrives on logging as it’s primary industry. The village looks like a genuine alpine community and it’s plainly obvious that logging is their trade. Nestled in the foothills of the Throat of the World – Skyrim’s tallest mountain, the whole world just drips with incredible design. It’s hard to stop talking about just how impressed I was with the world that Bethesda has crafted.

The enemy AI in Skyrim is pretty interesting. In one particular segment the player used a spell to enrage one bandit who proceeded to stab and throw his companion bandit out of a window and off a cliff.

Bleak Falls Barrow is an ancient nordic ruin which serves as one of the over 150 dungeons that have been crafted in Skyrim and as the player approaches this dark and mysterious ruin a giant dragon comes swooping down over the players head. Bethesda claims that this is not in fact a scripted event but that the enemy just sort of decides what it wants to do on it’s own accord.

In the 30 minute demo we were shown so many different types of fightable creatures including wraiths,  giants, mammoths, undead warriors, and numerous kinds of dragons. This is a creature index seemingly lifted out of the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual.

As with all Elder Scrolls games loot collecting is a big staple and that hasn’t changed. Everything from rusty swords to ancient magical relics are scattered across Skyrim for the player to find. As you change out your weapons and armor this is reflected in your character and changing from 1st person to 3rd person camera will let you see how you look in your new digs.

Audio in Skyrim is so… freakin… sweet! For this game you’re going to want to have a good sound system with some bass or some really kick ass headphones to wear while you’re playing. At one point during the game a frost dragon landed right next to us and the thunderous heavy thump that ensued when that scaly beast landed had me feeling nervous for the player character and I wanted to shout to the Bethesda rep, “RUN FOR YOUR FUCKING LIFE!”

Skyrim as with Oblivion is destined to be a tremendous success if what we were allowed to see was just a sampling of the rest of the game and not just a polished demo. If you intend to pick this one up (and you’d be crazy not to when it releases, again, 11-11-11) you had better hope you’ve cleared room on your gaming plate for this. In fact – if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend you may as well just break up with them now because this game is going to absolutely consume your life.