The Backlog Rewalk Files: Pillars of Eternity (Pt. 2) & More!

Hello once again, mortals!  A very happy Memorial Day to all of you in the US, and for those not in the US…uh, I hope your Monday was not awful?  (Editor’s Note: …smooth, very smooth…)  Whatever – anyway, the point is that you’re here now, and that makes everything better, doesn’t it?  (Editor’s Note: I mean-) Shut up, you!  So, what have I been up to on this lovely extended weekend?  Well, let’s just see, shall we?

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So the big question as we left EWE and Co. last time in PoE was whether or not I would attempt to help the Lord of Gilded Vale see the error of his ways and become a better ruler for his people…or whether I would just slaughter him and make way for someone else to take a shot at it.  After not really thinking about it all that much, I massacred everyone in the throne room and left their looted corpses for the next monarch to clean up before taking the throne.  With that, I was off to see what exactly the deal is with my visions of people’s past lives – only to meet a sentient chair and a lunatic, which wound up with me inheriting a haunted castle.  Nice!  I knew I had always liked PoE, and this is reminding me of why.  But that’s not the only CRPG I’ve been diving into as of late…

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I’ll admit it – I’ve always, always had a soft spot for classic Forgotten Realms RPGS.  Baldur’s Gate (all of them, I, II, EE, Dark Alliance I & II, ALL OF THEM), Icewind Dale, and of course, NWN.  Now I will also say that going into NWN back in the day, I was simultaneously excited about the upgrade from the classic Infinity Engine to the Aurora Engine, but also hesitant about the idea of only having one hireling along with me as opposed to a full party of adventurers as I did in the Baldur’s Gate titles.  This time around, however, what first leaped out at me was that the jump to 1080p resolution has NOT helped this game at all.  Seriously, this was never the most attractive game, even in its day, but the “Enhanced Edition” is not visually enhanced at all.  Still though, it didn’t diminish the longstanding crush I’ve had on Aribeth de Tylmarande.

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I’m not too terribly far into the game yet – my paladin (Editor’s Note: HA!) ahem, has just begun looking for the cure to the Wailing Death and is currently infiltrating the Prison District.  The gameplay is still the fantastic pause-and-play real-time combat I remember, and once you accept how far graphics have come since NWN was released, it’s still a fantastic RPG.  And finally…

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My sons and I pre-ordered the Elsweyr expansion to ESO and thus received early access to it.  Now, it’s no secret that we are HUGE fans of ESO, enough to sub to it when it’s optional.  That being said, while I have almost nothing but positive remarks for it, I have to say that I didn’t realize that the Elsweyr content would consist of one, and only one, zone.  I mean, it’s a zone with quite a bit to do, and all of it is very well executed, but still…one?  Hopefully the regular content updates will possibly expand on this, but that’s pretty much my only disappointment so far.  The new Necromancer class is fantastic – and still fairly OP and in need of some balancing in PVP – and I’ve had a blast with leveling It’s Me Skeletor and Evil Wizard Esq along with my boys.

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And with that, we come to the end of another trip through the backlog.  Will I continue to terrorize the masses in Pillars of Eternity?  Will I be the worst paladin in all of Faerun in NWN EE?  Will my progeny and I carve a path of death and destruction across Tamriel in ESO?  As always…signs point to yes. – EWE

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A Trip to the Tomes

Salutations, humans!  It’s been some time since I addressed the less interactive forms of art and culture that I so enjoy, so let’s take a break from all these newfangled computery games and see what ol’ EWE has been reading lately, shall we?  Well, not everything – after all, if I’m ever NOT reading something, I start to get the shakes – and not just my normal, quaking-with-seething-rage-and-malice shakes.  And speaking of things that enrage me…

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You know, it’s kind of a shame that I read this one several months ago and am only now reflecting on it here.  I have tremendous respect for Bob Woodward as a journalist and author, and from a technical and critical standpoint he is strong again here.  The book is thoroughly researched and documented, and Woodward demonstrates as he has since Watergate why he is possibly the seminal presidential historian of the modern age.  So what, you may ask, is my problem?  Simple – none of this makes a difference.  There isn’t a whole lot in this book that wasn’t already known or suspected about the tangerine ball of yak shit occupying the White House – Woodward just backstops and adds even more authenticity to what we already realized.  And yet…nothing came of any of it.  It was in the news cycle for a hot minute, and then it was gone.  In any other era of American history, a quarter of what is in this book would have all of Washington falling over themselves to be the first to the White House with torches and pitchforks, but the con artist in chief has made the surreal into the same-old, same-old.  If you are a fan of Woodward or just feel like being even more angry at and ashamed of your country, it is a well-written book.  Just don’t hope for anything to ever change.

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As someone who has worked on both sides of a criminal courtroom, I have a complicated view of the role that law enforcement plays in the criminal justice system.  I grew up wanting to be a cop – specifically, in the FBI.  Winding up as an attorney, I first worked in a prosecutor’s office, and since have worked as a public defender.  I have absolutely nothing but respect for the job that police do – but that respect is distinct from the reverence that some blindly have for them.  Cops are first and foremost human beings – just as flawed and varying and multifaceted as all other human beings.  And just like all groups of human beings, some are subject to racist and biased tendencies – both towards the people they are supposed to be policing, as well as toward one another.  Author Matthew Horace – as a 30-year veteran of policing and as a person of color – has experienced this first-hand on both fronts.  His clear and concise assessment of the problems involving race that have plagued policing for generations is equally mixed with a strong vision for how they can do better, and why they have to do better.  It is a very enjoyable read – even for those that aren’t involved in the criminal justice system – but should be required reading for anyone that is, especially current or aspiring police officers.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates takes a wider look at race in America than merely from the perspective of policing in his collection of essays looking at the years of the Obama presidency, at first with the sense of hope and inspiration that led him to believe that perhaps a new generation in America had turned a page, if not outright closed the book on the incredibly ugly history of how black Americans have been treated since the first slave ships arrived in the 1600s.  What Horace’s experience as a police officer lent to his direct, blunt message about law enforcement, Coates’ incredible talent as a writer infuses his work with poetry and lyricism – it makes you feel intensely.  And feel you will – as the sense of hope that was the initial reaction to Obama’s election gives way to the visceral and ugly backlash of racism and white supremacy that ultimately led to the election of Donald Trump in 2016.  Still, while it truly is the titular American tragedy that it claims, some of the best works in history have been tragedies, and Coates is one of the most gifted writers I have read in some time.  Read this, and wonder at what we had, and lost, and hopefully will find again.

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So this one can’t really be called a review because I am still working on it – but it’s a seminal work on the nature and structure of evil written by a clinical and forensic psychiatrist; is there really a doubt about whether I’ll like it?  Dr. Stone first published his original scale of “categories of evil” to sort forms and types of murder in 1993 and has since updated it to include 22 categories, based on his hundreds of case studies.  My favorite part so far?  He acknowledges that this wasn’t the first attempt to create a categorization of evil – he credits that to Dante’s “Circles of Hell” in the Inferno portion of his Divine Comedy.  Now THAT is sourcing your reference material!

That’s it for tonight, fleshbags!  Now go read something! I mean, besides this. – EWE

The Backlog Rewalk Files: Pillars of Eternity

Good evening, humans!  How are…ugh, honestly, I’m too tired to care.  I’m a little…busy…at work and consequently have been too exhausted to do much of anything.  Even if you were on fire right in front of me, I couldn’t summon the effort to enjoy it (Editor’s Note: Uh, you mean to put it out) sure, whatever – regardless, no fucks to give.  So there is only one thing to do when your body is breaking down and your mind is shattering from too much stress (Editor’s Note: Rest?  Eat better?  Eat at all?) nope, spend some precious evening hours replaying the Steam backlog that got erased!  (Editor’s Note: …we’re going to die, aren’t we?)  Probably.  Though we did some focus groups on reaction to our death and the results were…less than stellar…

Let Them Die

Regardless, before total collapse, a random stab into the backlog brings us to (drumroll) Pillars of Eternity.  No, not the more recent sequel – the original Kickstarter-backed love letter to classic CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate.  So far the early game is as strong as I remember it, with a fairly robust character creation system that mixes together some standard fantasy tropes and classes along with some more original and alien options, such as the Godlike race and the Cypher class, which focuses on soul manipulation as explained in the background lore.  And boy – so much lore.  Obsidian did an amazing job crafting this fantasy world and leaving it for you to explore and find bits and pieces of, letting you have as deep an understanding of the background of the world as you are willing to invest effort in seeking out.

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Was there ever really doubt about me being a Deathtype Godlike Wizard?  Have you even been paying attention?

The early scenario for the game does a great job of introducing the classic real-time with pause party based RPG combat, although by the end of the starting dungeon, you’re going to find yourself in some need for, uh, new companions.

Not These Guys

These early hours are pretty dark too – what with your caravan party being slaughtered and you stumbling into the starting town only to be openly threatened with death by the town guardsmen basically because the Mayor is in a pissy mood.  But then again, so am I, so that leads to the big question: will I complete Act I just by setting the Mayor of Shitholetown on fire?  Tune in next time to find out, fleshbags! – EWE