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Dragon Age: Origins
Reviewed By: Zerebus (12/6/2009 5:39:30 PM)
Overall Rating: 5.00 Bloody Skulls
Graphics: Story: Controls/  
Sound:  Atmosphere: Camera: 
Customization: Immersion:  Difficulty: 
Review: BioWare returns to the Dark Fantasy genre in Dragon Age: Origins. Players take control of a customized human, elf, or dwarf who is then thrust into a midieval land struggling against the onslaught of the demonic Darkspawn.

Dragon Age: Origins utilizes tried and true fantasy elements such as elves, dwarves, and dragons, but each element is spun in a new, creative way. For example, elves largely live in poverty, the dwarves are a haughty race overly concerned with lineage, and the orcs are called Darkspawn. See? Originality!

The game story is epic. And by that I mean to say that the game story is EPIC. You should not attempt to finish this game in one sitting, nor even should you attempt to play this game as a rental. Entering into the Dragon Age and taking up the mantle of the Grey Wardens is a serious time commitment. It is entirely possible to play this game for 50 hours straight and still not have the end in sight, and that's WITHOUT downloading the extra content that Bioware offers in their online store.

But enough with lauding the best RPG game of the 2009 Christmas shopping season. This review is for the Xbox 360 version of Dragon Age and as such I must take a moment to speak of the bugs.

First, there are the little graphical bugs. Hair that passes through solid objects, solid objects that pass through solid objects, and otherwise epic scenery marred by poorly rendered elements like, say, trees. Individually, every graphical bug is forgivable. However, after seeing your companions fold their arms and stick their hands directly into their forearm bones for the hundredth time, the little bugs start to become annoying. Of course perfect rendering would likely have come at the price of game speed and fluidity, but for a game that appears to be running on the same graphics engine as Mass Effect we are allowed to expect better.

Next, there are the minor story bugs. That's right, if you go out of your way then you can create situations where the game demands that a certain NPC be present where none exists (and vice versa). And then what happens? People start talking to ghosts! In short, the possibility tree is missing a few leaves, which can be annoying to completionists.

Lastly, there are the serious bugs. I was witness to a 50+ hour game profile becoming corrupted. The save files were suddenly rendered unreadable and my uber mage was consigned to the void. Oh how I wept. As far as I have read online, this bug is unique to the Xbox 360 version of the game, so consider yourself warned. Fortunately, a bug like this is typically among the first to be corrected in a patch. Now if only BioWare would get around to making one...

Now after all that talk about bugs, one might wonder why I give Dragon Age: Origins a rating of 4.7 / 5 Bloody Skulls.

The Answer: DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS IS AWESOME!!! No, seriously. This game is the most immersive, detailed, and breathtakingly beautiful game I have seen in a long, long time, and I've seen a lot.

Parental Advisory: contains vast amounts of blood, sexual references, and both implied and oddly rendered sex scenes (there is no true nudity in this game - at the most, characters strip down to their underoos).

Playing Advice: The difficulty level of this game is highly variable. Players who are not ready to jump from character to character, rapidly issuing menu specific commands after every few seconds of battle should probably stick to the Normal or Casual difficulty levels.

The Returner
Reviewed By: Zerebus (10/17/2009 7:48:36 PM)
Rating: 3.00 Engrish Muffins
Genre: Science Fiction
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki
Plot: The Returner is a Japanese science fiction movie that unabashedly rips off numerous Hollywood films. With elements from The Terminator, Transformers, The Matrix, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind mashed up against Japanese cultural stereotypes and she's-too-young-for-this-to-be-right male-female relationships, the Returner is a surprisingly entertaining movie about a time traveling resistance member who must recruit a Japanese Keanu Reeves to stop a war with the not-Decepticons. Look out for hilarious Engrish sequences, lots of wire fu, and a heavy dose of forced disbelief suspension.

I have yet to finish watching this movie. I have tried five times to finish watching this movie. I just can't do it. You see, I have this condition wherein I have to breathe in order to survive. Allow me to explain the problem: About half way through the movie, there is a flash-back-forward sequence (how does one categorize a flash back of the future?) to a secret rebel stronghold filled with mostly American actors. These people clearly know how to speak English. Unfortunately, they are being paid to speak lines that don't quite match up with proper English grammar. Hearing "Our heaviest flyboy is no good!" being used to describe a rifle's ineffectiveness against the not-Decepticons is apparently more than I can take. Simply put, this sequence has repeatedly left me in a state of catatonic laughter so severe that I have to stop the movie. Attempts to restart the movie or jumping ahead to anything short of the credits will resume my affliction.

Ah well. This is also why I'll never be able to finish the last (extra!) episode of Excel Saga, either. Man. Needing to breathe sucks.

Overall, the Returner is a fun movie. I give it two and a half Engrish Muffins out of five, because that's about how far into the film I ever seem to get.

Viewing Advice: Viewers are advised not to be drinking or eating during the Air Force mountain base attack sequence. You engage in such activities at the peril of your surroundings.