The Ever Expanding Evil Empire

You may recall, humans, that I had recently mentioned some changes that were possibly in the works here at the Ominous Dark Tower (TM) and that details would be forthcoming.  Well, that day has come!  After consulting with my hordes of darkness (Editor’s Note: meaning me, which probably doesn’t count, his sons, and Malevolent Moogle) HORDES OF DARKNESS, I have decided that you all have not been graced with enough of me only posting here.  As such, I have decided to expand my empire: in addition to getting back to posting more Game Night videos, I will be live streaming more on Twitch and posting some Let’s Play videos on YouTube.  I’m also in the early planning stages, along with my boys, of writing and recording a periodic podcast focused primarily on gaming, comedy, and wrestling (although they rejected my naming it “GCW” and doing a loop of wrestling fans chanting “G-C-DUB!  G-C-DUB”) with the occasional tangent when I feel the need to rant off-topic.

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First suggestion from the oldest son? A video series through the Witcher franchise.

Further details and links will be coming soon, but to give you an idea how excited I am to do this, I cancelled my Netflix and subscribed to Game Pass just to give me more material to work with and fewer excuses not to work on it.  I hope you enjoy what we have coming soon as much as you’ve enjoyed my ramblings here thus far.  Because I’m going to need help and input to make this work…as I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.  Talk to you more soon, mortals! – EWE

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The Backlog Rewalk Files: Pillars of Eternity: The White March (I & II)

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Hope you like snow and ice!

Welcome back, humans!  I hope life has been treating you better than “President” and “guy you wouldn’t buy a used car off of” Trump has been treating poor people trying to flee to a better life in America.  Though I suppose given just how abysmal the treatment of them is, that’s a pretty low bar that life has to clear to treat you better.

Anyway, as you may recall, I’ve been strolling through the overgrown jungle that is my game backlog since I needed to replace my computer’s HDD and as a result lost a significant portion of my save data in many games.  I began this little journey in earnest with Pillars of Eternity, and decided I would give it a strong push through all of the expansion content – The White March Parts I & II – and then complete the game.  So how did it go?  (Editor’s Note: Some SPOILERS AHEAD for Pillars of Eternity and The White March.)

 

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Oh there was something behind the waterfall, alright…

The White March expansion was released by Obsidian in two parts, and unlike many expansion packs for RPGs, it is integrated seamlessly into the main story path of the base game.  Part I is accessible once you reach Act II of the main story, and Part II is accessible upon reaching Act III.  Your quest journal has a nice touch that keeps separate track of main quests for the base game, WM I, and WM II – though this doesn’t extend to the sidequests and “tasks” – those are all lumped together regardless of which part of the game they originate in.  Nonetheless, Obsidian deserves a TON of credit for making the new areas, NPCs, and quests feel like they were always a part of the world to begin with.  The base game itself was already one of more well-written fantasy worlds in gaming, and WM did nothing but drive that point home.  Most notably, your choice of companion characters escalated from sometimes-funny to batshit crazy hilarious!

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Evil Wizard? Check. Foul-mouthed, possibly cannibalistic druid? Check. Robotic serial killer rogue? Check. Former war criminal barbarian? Check. Elderly masochistic hallucinogenic-addicted monk? Check. Um…one fairly well-adjusted hunter? Also check.

The character backstories and personal quests for the three new playable party members in WM are absolutely fantastic – some of the best, most genre-aware and yet not-total-parody fantasy character writing I’ve seen in video gaming, period.  My only complaint is that there wasn’t more of it – the personal quests for these three felt very short compared to the quests for the base game characters.  But as complaints go, that one doubles as a compliment – always leave your readers/players wanting more!  And it was the characters that sealed my desire to play the next game in the series – once I’ve got more time and funds.  But lets not discount the fantastic real-time-with-pause combat mechanics, either.

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Yeah, that’s right – nobody screws with this crew of cutthroats.

Every class in the game is functionally useful in different combat situations – to the point that you will find yourself regularly journeying back to your fortress of Caed Nua to switch out party members for different bosses and challenges.  And boy do I mean it when I say challenges – while you can reach a point where most regular encounters won’t give you much trouble, several of the optional bosses in the game are absolutely brutal and require close attention to party positioning and skill management.  For example…

EWE and Editor Cave

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Editor’s Note: See, there WAS a cave behind the waterfall! HA! It never fails! Now we can just grab whatever bonus loot Obsidian tucked away in here and…
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Editor’s Note: …oh. Oh dear. (EWE’s Note: Yeah, there’s your fucking treasure, asshat!)

So after THAT little mishap, I also discovered that not all of WM takes place in a frozen wasteland – some of the quests do take you to new zones in the more temperate zones of the main game.  For example, after you take care of an archmage who had decided that lichdom sounded better than death (Editor’s Note: and who’s reanimated head you kept floating behind the party as a pet…) you end up being summoned by one of the other archmages to a meeting.  Sadly, a village full of cultists decides to get in your way and must be…dealt with…but then you can have intelligent conversation with one of your intellectual peers…

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OH COME ON!

So, let me share a little life advice: do not attempt to send melee fighters against a dragon.  Just…don’t.  (Editor’s Note: I said I was sorry, and you only got set on fire a few times.)  But all’s well that ends well, yes?  And here is how THEY ended:

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What can I say, humans…I’m very good at what I do, but what I do isn’t very nice.  What IS nice though is that I got to play through this gem of a game.  It is a definite love letter to games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, but with enough subtle modern improvements that it doesn’t feel dated.  If you haven’t played it yet, what are you doing?  Stop reading and go play it! – EWE

 

 

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

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

An Inspirational Bolt of Lightning(Ellen)

Humans, your technology is many things. It is sometimes novel, sometimes mundane, sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes infuriating. But there is one thing that it always, ALWAYS is…

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And so it is that I recently decided to upgrade the storage in my laptop to allow me to stop having to choose what I wanted to delete every time I got a new game. Unfortunately, while the upgrade process was simple enough, some other unforeseen technical issues prevented me from being able to clone my old drive, and thus, all of my old save games for every game I play on my PC are now gone. Now, normally you would think this would be the beginning of a profanity-laced rant in which I threaten to end the world (Editor’s Note: in fairness, this is your typical reaction to…almost everything, really) yes, I’m aware, now shut up. As I was saying, I actually saved myself from a blood-pressure-spiking rage by taking a queue from my good friend and fellow blogger, the estimable “Lightning” Ellen, of both Livid Lightning and The Well-Red Mage fame.

My gaming backlog now consists of…everything.

Yes, I will now begin each game anew, and you gullible suckers (Editor’s Note: I think you mean WONDERFUL READERS) yeah, sure, whatever – you humans get to come along for the ride. I’m not necessarily saying I’ll give full blow-by-blow playthroughs of EVERYTHING – but I’ll be restarting them all, from Skyrim to the games I got for free in a Humble Bundle and didn’t even realize I had. Now you may be asking, “EWE, what is your plan for tackling such a huge task?” Well, fleshbag, I should think my answer, by now, is obvious.

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So join me, won’t you, as we answer such questions as “who thought this was a good idea?” “wonder if I should fight that dragon?” and mostly “why the fuck am I doing this to myself again?” – EWE

If You Voted Trump, You Are Not Going To Like This Post

As you know, humans, I like to try and keep it pretty light here (Editor’s Note: well, relatively speaking…) shut it you, I am NOT in the fucking mood right now. (Editor’s Note: yeah, I know.) I like to talk about my boys, I like to talk about my cats, I like to talk about my games – hell, I’ll even admit what a pathetic personal life I tend to have. Sure, I take the occasional shot at the flaming dumpster full of dog shit that occupies the White House currently, but I try to keep it to a minimum…for me.

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Please come back. Please. I will literally sacrifice as many lives as it takes.

But then after two years in the making, Robert Mueller delivered his report on the Trump election. Now, I know some might say “EWE, you’re just a salty liberal angry that Mueller exonerated the Presi- ARRRRGGGGHHHH!” And after I was done setting them on fire, I would respond to their writhing, screaming form that no, that is not the case. You see, I don’t know that Mueller exonerated Trump. I know that Mueller prosecuted and convicted a whole bunch of Trump’s circle of a whole lot of shit. But I don’t know anything about what Mueller concluded in his report, and neither does anyone reading this because the only thing we’ve gotten is A FUCKING FOUR PAGE SUMMARY FROM TRUMP’S HAND-PICKED CRONY AG!

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Clearly an innocent man.

Let me try to put this into perspective. I have read Darwin’s Origin of Species. If you were to ask me “what did Darwin conclude in Origin of Species?” and I were to respond with a note card that said “Darwin said that humans are just shaved apes” then you would not, in fact, know what Darwin had fucking concluded. You would just know what I told you. And to make this EVEN MORE FUCKING RIDICULOUS, Barr has now also said that he will not release the Mueller report until the White House has had a chance to make edits to it. Well why the fuck haven’t I thought of that before?! Attention courts: going forward, I’m afraid that we won’t be able to introduce any evidence into trials until myself and my client have been able to fucking edit it in order to remove anything that might make us look bad. And in order to even BE attorney general, Barr has to be, ostensibly, an attorney – so he fucking knows better, he just doesn’t care! (Editor’s Note: calm down, your blood pressure is going up.) You know, for once you’re right…I think I need some music or something to help me relax.

Whew…that is so much better. Now, what were we talking – oh fuck, that’s right. Listen, fleshbags…I have tried very, VERY hard to be patient with you. I have, against my better judgment on more than one occasion, refrained from summoning an army of hellspawn to just depopulate your species from the earth. But SOME of you – probably the ones that have not read this far – are making a quite compelling argument for me to stop holding myself back. So if you have some of those in your life, just remember – there are 6 billion of you on the planet. It won’t miss a few here and there. Because this…

And while Richard – and I – may not care whose side we’re on…you meatbags will. – EWE