Pillars of Eternity: The Elf isn’t worth it

Maybe this is the summer of the CRPG for me. I’m progressing in two right now, Fallout 4 and Pillars of Eternity, and in both games I’ve made it further than I did in previous attempts. They both offer very different RPG experiences, not to mention perspectives.

I like Pillars of Eternity because it’s one of the smoothest RPGs in terms of design that I’ve handled over the past few years. I can get my head around these systems and am very familiar with it due to the heavy attempt to make this game a lot like the old Infinity titles. It’s not too difficult to figure out where to go or what to do, there are tons of sidequests, companions talk to each other, and there’s a ton of party combat. It’s a great pick-up-and-put-down experience for when I’m in the mood.

I’ve only had two quibbles with the game so far. The first is that the snooty noble Elf companion you pick up early on is the worst. Seriously, the worst. Sure, he’s a mage and has all sorts of powerful magic, but he dies when a fly smacks into his nose and the enemies seem to make a beeline right for him. By far, he’s died more than any other member of the party. The only reason I kept him around for as long as I did was that he was one of those voiced characters with a backstory and sidequests, but eventually I had enough and booted him so that I could bring in a Druid to help out. She’s doing great so far, by the way.

The other quibble is that several hours into the game, you arrive at a big city, and that always bogs me down. I just can’t warm up to urban exploration and questing in MMOs or CRPGs, and it’s the same here. I feel like it’s this wall I have to bash through, and it’s only by setting smaller goals (explore two sections of this larger area) that I’ve been able to make progress.

That said, everything else has been fantastic. Great stories, surprisingly engrossing lore, challenging but not impossible combat, and I get to design a character with two rapiers who is lightning fast and hard to hit.

Part of the appeal of this is that there’s a lot of content ahead: Pillars of Eternity has expansions, and when those are done, there’s always the sequel. I’d love to be able to import my character and continue her journeys in this world.

Anyone else carrying a torch for Pillars of Eternity or even playing it right now?

DDO: The Wizard of Wines

With our regular Dungeons and Dragons Online group out of commission the other week, I turned back to my Artificer’s journey through Mists of VampireLoft. On this week’s episode, a bunch of sober monks are angry at the lack of a wine shipment from the “Wizard of Wines,” and I’m the only one sober AND driven enough to go see why.

Short answer: Druids. Long answer: See everything that follows.

For once, part of this quest involves a trip through the actual outdoors. I come across a Frankenstein stand-in who’s being accosted by a very timid mob with actual torches. And pitchforks. But I’m asked to do the killing, which I do gladly. I’m genial that way!

This quest is basically Die Hard — if you replace “terrorists” with “tree-hugging druids” and “Nakatomi Tower” with “a winery.” So the druids have taken over and they’re even going so far to poison the wine! In a country where it’s so depressing that the only way the populace can survive is by getting drunk, this




Enter one trigger happy Artificer, always delighted to lend a hand!

The druidic forces have some interesting-looking models, including Thorny here. He does not look that happy at the hand that life has dealt him. Can you imagine trying to get comfortable enough to sleep at night?

It was also the mimic event, which I forgot about up until a chest started trying to eat me.

Druids aren’t just content to come in and take over your pad, they have to mess it up with their vines and shrubs everywhere. This is what you get when hippies go too far.


In addition to stealing the three sacred crystals that helped to make the magical wine (seriously), the druids are also working on poisoning the last vat. That will not stand, either. The whole quest, which is actually pretty short, involves coming up with an antidote and also figuring out some way to mask the flavor of the antidote.

One of the druids does some interpretive dance for me. Much appreciated, pal.

This all leads me up to the epic climax of the quest, which is scraping brown mold off of a cavern floor. You have heroes like Captain America and Batman, and then you have me, Mold-Man.

The final boss fight comes predictably enough against the chief druidess, and I die. It’s not that it was a particularly hard fight, but two things happened that tilted fate against me:

  1. I had totally forgotten to activate a healing henchman at the start of the quest
  2. I was trying too hard to get the above screenshot, which meant that I, yes, stepped into the fire

Even though I saved the quest, the winery still can’t make the really good stuff, nor is the owner going to ship out any of the remaining good stuff to the people. So why’d I do all of that? That seems like a letdown. Maybe I should bring the druids back, if that’s how you’re going to “appreciate” me.

My recent GOG and Steam sale purchases

Believe it or not, I really haven’t spent a lot of money this year on games (or in games) at all. So I took some of my birthday money and splurged on a few titles in the recent GOG and Steam sales. And as Blogger Law dictates, I must now publicly brag about what I bought and why.


  • Dark Sun D&D 2-pack – These were pretty cheap and I had them on my wish list, mostly because I thought they’d make an interesting retro series one of these days. Plus, two for one!
  • Silent Service/Silent Service 2 – Only bought this for the second game, which was one of my absolute favorite sims when I was in high school.
  • Privateer 2 – The next time I touch a Wing Commander game for a retro series, it’s going to be one of the Privateer titles. I really wish I had owned these back in the day.
  • The 7th Guest – Spooky horror adventure game!
  • Ziggurat – The freebie that GOG threw our way


  • Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture – Wasn’t on sale but I’ve wanted to play this for a while, so I picked it up while I was buying. I’d rather spend more to get a game that I do want and will play versus buying cheap stuff that I won’t ever touch.
  • Telltale Games’ Guardians of the Galaxy – I’m really behind on all of my Telltale Games, but I think I’d like to do a marathon. Plus, I heard good things about this title!
  • Staxel – Bree and I got a little seduced by this charming multiplayer sandbox. Looks like it was potential, so why not?

Battle Bards Episode 123: Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire

With eagerness in their hearts, the Battle Bards rush toward another Guild Wars 2 soundtrack, ready to bask in the aural glory of this MMO that’s known for its incredible music. But hark! What is this Path of Fire? Join us for a listen through a soundtrack that one unnamed soundtrack reviewer has termed “bland and generic.” If that isn’t a back-of-the-box quote, we don’t know what is!

Episode 123 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “On the Banks of the Elon,” “Highland Hares,” and “Undead of Elona”)
  • “Main Theme”
  • “Sands of the Djinn”
  • “The Bounty Hunter”
  • “Legendary Ascent”
  • “Pricklepath Hollow”
  • “Welcome to Amnoon”
  • “Sands of Chaos (Percussion Version)”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener Notes: Minimalistway
  • Jukebox Picks: “Main Theme” from Pharaoh, “Great Bustle” from Lost Sphear, and “Green Hill Zone Act 1” from Sonic Mania
  • Outro (“Veins of the Dragon”)

I’m cooling on the idea of World of Warcraft Classic

Blizzard’s been really quiet about World of Warcraft: Classic since last November’s BlizzCon — at least until recently, when the studio posted a dev blog to talk about where it’s at with the project. The big news is that the team has decided on Patch 1.12 to be the foundation for Classic, which was a major question among the community. It went on to discuss the challenges and decisions to make the game work and bring its backend up to spec.

I read it, interested for the news but also finding myself feeling rather cool toward the whole project. I mean, I’m glad it’s being done. I think there’s definitely an audience for a classic server, and it will no doubt bolster the game’s population and create an interesting sub-community of WoW players. But I’m pretty sure it’s not for me at all.

Oh, I’ll try it. It’ll make for an interesting diversion and a blog post or two. That will put me in the crowd of tourists curious how the game used to function but not really in it for the long haul. But will I stick around? It’s doubtful.

First of all, while vanilla World of Warcraft gave me so many wonderful memories, it’s not an era that I was ever eager to return to. I don’t idolize that experience, because so much of it was poorly designed and not as user friendly as I think a lot of modern players imagine it being. I don’t want to run around for 40 levels. I don’t want vanilla’s endgame to be the only endgame with very few options for non-raiders. I can’t imagine playing without features like transmog, or flight paths that don’t stop at every point, or linked auction houses, or what have you. World of Warcraft’s additions and changes haven’t always been to my taste, but it’s hard to debate the fact that the game’s gotten a LOT more user friendly and accessible over the years.

My limited gaming time is getting more precious to me the older I get, and all of those hours I could pour into the game back in 2004 when I wasn’t even married yet are hours that I would rather put into other experiences.

And I just genuinely enjoy most of where World of Warcraft is at now. I’d rather be playing modern WoW than a classic WoW on any given night, and I know I’ll be making faster progress with the former.

Probably the only thing that would draw me to WoW Classic is if Blizzard promised or even indicated that characters on that server would be able, at some point, to progress through expansions. I’d love to see progression servers or the ability to transfer between dedicated expansion servers that are set in time, but right now there is not hint of that.

Fallout 4: Wasteland Justice

Always thought that Red Rocket was one of the most iconic and evocative location designs in the game — and they use it almost immediately.

Anyway, adventures are continuing apace in Fallout 4 as I press further into this CRPG than I ever have before. Mostly I’ve been sweeping through the early locations, clearing out areas of bad guys, looting, leveling up, and enjoying the environmental storytelling. I do need to get back to doing regular quests, but I wanted to get established first.

“Been waiting here long? HAHA”

My favorite instances in this game are ones where the devs put in a lot of extra effort to make the locations themselves a lot of fun to explore and see. The museum of the Revolution here is one such place, complete with cheesy themed rooms and narration.

In Fallout’s timeline, America’s astronauts went to the moon ARMED. (‘murica!)

The pregnant girl who ran away from her home and died in this cabin continues to be one of the sadder stories of the game, especially since we’re left a voice recording of her plight.

I love getting high up in this game because it offers a much-needed perspective shift on the surrounding countryside.

I’m sure I’ve whined about this before, but one of my pet peeves about RPGs is whenever a game makes me spend a lot of time in a city. I don’t like exploring them, fighting in them, or trying to map them out. And Fallout 4’s in-game map is really basic (and, for some reason, there’s no mapping of interior spaces).

While I’m complaining, I absolutely, unreservedly hate Bethesda’s approach to inventory in the Fallout/Elder Scrolls games. I hate that it’s dumbed down to this extremely messy version just for console users. So yeah, I really need to get an inventory mod going here.

How does she know that I’m married, huh? Anyway, the Covenant storyline was new to me this time around, and while I don’t regret how it went down, I wasn’t exactly happy at the sheer bloodshed that followed. The best thing out of all of this is that I splurged on a named shotgun, Justice, from Penny here. Let me tell you, it was worth every cap I spent. I love that shotgun so very, very much, especially because it has a high chance of knocking enemies back. Seeing super mutants stagger as I pump round after round into them is all I live for now.

Justice was the last thing that Boomer ever saw.

Also, I’ve been getting into mix-and-matching armor pieces lately, especially now that I’m getting star-rated drops from legendary mobs. I look ugly as sin, but at least I’m surviving firefights much better now.

You know what’s fun? Basking in the radioactive heat of disposed uranium.

Speaking of radioactive, I thought that this cabin in the midst of some waste looked so pretty it seemed like concept art.

Alone in the Dark: Dance of death

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1992’s Alone in the Dark. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Naturally, escape from the mansion is not easily achieved by waltzing back through the front door. An interdimensional worm now lives there and will suck me into its maw if I am audacious enough to try to leave.

Everything in this house wants to kill me, but it keeps doing so in such inventive ways that I can’t help but be impressed with the effort. One room has a haunted cigar that will suffocate me with smoke unless I douse it with water. This painting of a frontiersman starts chucking tomahawks at me. His mortal weakness? An old Indian blanket, of course.

Across the hall, his Native American counterpart painting starts firing arrows at me. This is where naughty Hogwarts pictures come to live!

As I talked about before, the monsters in this game are extremely limited in polygons. While this can make them more frightening at times with their movements and whatnot, most often they just come off as ridiculous. I missed out on taking a picture of the ghost in the library, but honestly, it looked like the purple Grimace. Don’t really know what they were going for there.

And why not, one of the rooms has a pirate waiting to slash me in two! Feel bad for this guy, spending years cooped up in a room without any company or his old parrot. Probably dreams of the sea. Oh well. Now you must die. A sword fight between us ensues, and it’s easily the most fun I’ve had in the game so far. Wasn’t too tough, either.

Other than the attic, the ballroom is the one place that I always remembered from playing this back when I was a kid. You can only get the item from behind the ghosts if you put on the right record — Danse Macabre, of course — and then make your way through them to grab it. I’ve always associated that piece of music with this game ever since. Stupid games, teaching me about classical music!

With all of that done, I think I’m finished with the main house! I descend down into the basement, which is substantially larger than I would have thought. I guess if you’re going to build a house, might as well situate it over a font of unspeakable evil? Lovecraft is applauding your decision.


Once the game hits this underground cavern section, I’m much less interested in what it has to offer. There’s little in the way of story or things to explore; mostly it’s just some weird platforming and action sequences while you try very hard not to die. I never did like it when developers ran out of time toward the end of their game and felt like they had to stretch it out with bland and tedious elements.

You know what would be a great idea to include in a game where your character functions like a drunk, scared baby? Platforming! Yes, let’s jump with a character that can barely walk. This will end well for all involved. I am not joking here when I say that I had to save after every single jump in this room, because falling is way, way too easy.

The books in Alone in the Dark are the primary vehicle to deliver the backstory, but honestly, I’ve been avoiding most of them due to the really atrocious voice acting. All you need know is that a pirate named Ezechiel got involved with Cthulu and stuff and now he’s merged with a tree underground and is perpetuating horrors while trying to possess people who come into the house.

This, by the way, is the worst room in the game. It’s a maze that’s pitch black, and even with your lamp, you can only see a very small part of it. Oh, and if you’ve run out of oil or matches, well then, you might as well start the game over again. Good luck! Fortunately, I had plenty of oil left, so I used the tried-and-true right-hand rule to keep following the right wall of the maze until I found the door out.

So here’s the final tree-boss in all his terrifying glory. I feel a bit bad for him, being stuck in a tree for hundreds of years with only a single monster nearby and the ability to shoot fireballs. Has to be boring. Welp, time to light him on fire!

With the pirate-tree turned into a flaming mini-volcano (?), all that’s left is to make my way out of the house. That takes a bit of time, but at least all of the enemies are now gone. Fresh daylight! Good has triumphed!

And this is where the game really got me all those years ago, because it was such a relief to know that I beat the game and got out of the house. Sunshine is beaming down, the music changes to this cheery little tune, and I flag down a car…

…only to have this cackling skeleton-zombie-thing turn around and FREAK ME THE HECK OUT. I freely admit it: I screamed so loud that my parents upstairs called down, sure that I hurt myself. The skeleton doesn’t do anything other than laugh and then drive you away, but still, that was totally unfair, game. Unfair.

And that’s it, Alone in the Dark finished in two relatively short play sessions! It’s a really quick game if you know what you’re doing, and while the polygons are pretty laughable today, there’s still an effectively creepy vibe that the house and its sounds delivers.