What I’m Playing: November 2011 Edition

Can’t stop playing Skyrim. So good. It has been a while since I’ve played an AAA title on the PC and been able to really push the limits of my video card. Minecraft doesn’t exactly qualify. I am still playing that, probably once a week or so. I also just picked up a wheel and pedals for Forza 4, which totally changes the game. I definitely need a TV stand or something to play it though, because my back is killing me in the current position. My coffee table is too thick for the clamp, so the wheel is constantly sliding forward. Same thing with the pedals, and my legs cramp up while I’m basically horizontal with the pedals.

Skyrim is looking to overtake all my time though. It is really, really good. I couldn’t stand Oblivion. I played it for probably 3 hours when it first came out and hated it. The world felt cold, dead, and generic. Every NPC interaction felt wooden, fake, and exactly identical to the last interaction. Skyrim has mostly fixed these problems. The world is cold still, but the location is much more fitting for that and it all just kind of works. NPC interactions feel more realistic and unique.

Combat is pretty much like Fallout 3, with most of your “skill” depending upon your character and weapon stats, plus extremely basic aiming skills. Get powerful enough in a certain skill tree and you’ll be able to CRUSH YOUR ENEMIES… until you encounter a giant who stomps your face in.

Civilization V: The Greatest Game

As my online moniker might suggest, I’ve always been a fan of the Sim City series. I wasn’t old enough to really enjoy the first game, but from Sim City 2000 on, I was hooked. But the last edition, Sim City 4, is already 7 years old and there may never be a fifth. So I’ve had to look for other games to scratch that building and planning itch. Tropico is a great series for that. I’ve also discovered the Civilization series. To be truthful, I never gave any of the first three a chance, but I’ve played the hell out of IV.

Between the vanilla game and its two expansion packs, there is so much re-playability that I’ve probably reinstalled the game four or five times. There are just so many civilizations and leaders to choose from, so many different maps and strategies to try, that almost no game feels the same. The epic nature of recreating the world is incredibly addicting. I’m ready to reinstall it right now just writing about it. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately as far as my free time is concerned), there is a new version coming out this month: Civilization V. There have been a slew of previews that have me convinced of its greatness without even trying it. If you’ve played Civ IV, you understand.

The Escapist just posted a new preview which is actually an in-character walk-through of an entire game, complete with video and narration. Definitely work checking out. Here’s a quick sample of the writing:

Crossing the mountain range to the north, I met the first civilized leader, poor Augustus Caesar. No amount of flattery or attempts at trade would crack his smile. Surrounded by finery such as he is, Augustus couldn’t open his heart and mind to the Iroquois way of life. Perhaps that is why he attacked me with his legions, unprovoked and without warning. Caesar’s armies took my great city of Grand River. Little did Caesar know that the Iroquois nation is blessed and that the first our many Golden Ages dawned soon after his treachery. It was the turn of the tide.

Now go read the rest and watch the movie, its well worth it if you’re a Civ fan. You’ll be excited, trust me. While you’re still here, check out another great video preview of the game:

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Karen and I bought the other Super Mario game and were really disappointed. It was a good enough game and really what most gamers are asking for in a return to retro. But maybe I’ve lost a step, or a finger, cause the game is just too damn hard! I think we died twice on level one alone! It only got worse from there. Every level was a bitter struggle. We must have continued 30 times. I think part of the problem is that two player sort of forces you to go slow, and that really makes things difficult. You need speed and a flow to really knock out out those difficult sections, but if one player gets too far ahead, the screen stretches out and eventually the other player gets killed. There is an ability to “bubble” allowing the second player to safely float back up to player one until they are popped, but it just makes things more complicated and again, slows down the pace.

Super Mario Galaxy on the other hand, is a masterpiece. The difficulty is just about perfect for Karen and I. She can handle most of the levels just fine, but if anything particularly difficult comes up its easy to switch controllers. The second player is involved, but not absolutely necessary and they don’t really ever get in the way.

Red Dead Redemption

Although I always enjoyed the Grand Theft Auto series and appreciated how good they were, for some reason I was never fully engrossed by any of them. I could only make it through about a third of the story before getting bored and running off to screw around in the city. Some would argue that “screwing around” is the greatest part of the series, but you can only go on so many joyrides and killing sprees before the novelty wears off. But in Red Dead Redemption, I can screw around all day long! I’m never bored.

I think the setting really makes this game totally different, despite the game mechanics being exactly the same. Combined with some much needed polish on all those GTA gimics and RDR is pretty much the perfect game to “screw around” in. All those stupid mini games that were mostly annoying in GTA are actually awesome distractions in RDR.

I’m a big fan of westerns (I wear a The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly t-shirt quite often). So unlike previous Rockstar games, I’m actually sucked into each little story. There’s something about westerns in that I can just keep watching them for hours on end and never get bored, no matter how slow they are. In fact the slower the better. Whenever I watch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I never want it to end. I finally watched Wyatt Earp recently and it was fantastic. The Assassination of Jesse James is another one that most people fall asleep through, but I love every second. I think that’s why I love every bit of Red Dead Redemption.

The scenery is fantastic. Riding between towns on horseback is just pure bliss. I think the lawlessness of the time period also really helps the game. In GTA I was always getting annoyed by cops. The only fun things to do in the game are illegal, but you’re constantly getting spotted by the police which leads to a five minute chase which sends you way out of your way. It just gets frustrating. But in RDR you can hunt wildlife, run down thieves and murderers, enter into duels, all without worrying about the man trying to gun you down. If you’re feeling particularly evil, there’s still innocent people to kill and steal from which will get the law after you if there are any witnesses, but it happens much less than in previous GTA games.

Not to mention a great soundtrack:

Time Flies

I suppose I should update this “blog”. Time flies as the saying goes, so I haven’t been keen on writing stuff down. What’s new in the life of Mr. Sim you ask? Well I have been reading financial/motivational books as of late. Namely Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The Richest Man in Babylon, and Conversations with Millionaires. If you haven’t read them yourself, I really recommend you do; great books! I am also seriously investigating cologne for the first time in my life. I’ve been playing a lot of the Settlers II, NBA 2K7, and I fell in love with Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (even though I was expecting to get Deadly Alliance; the guy gave me the wrong game, but I’m not complaining because Monks is much better than I ever expected from an MK game). New Years was actally pretty great this year. That is all.

I’m back!

Some bad people found the backdoor to my database and basically wiped it out, however thanks to daily backups by the server manager, I was able to get my site restored. It was actually fixed about a week ago, but I have been really busy with work, classes (especially Japanese), and life. When I manage to find some free time, I have been playing a great new WWII RTS, Company of Heroes. Oh and The Hidden, a mod for HL2. Check them out, I promise you won’t be dissapointed.

I talk about games.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

The newest information about the World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade expansion actually has me excited about the game again. I haven’t really played in over three weeks and I’m currently in the process of liquidating all my non-60 character’s inventories on the auction house. The upcoming patch pretty much killed any hope I had of the game becoming fun, since the promised revitalized World PvP is really just a bunch of collection quests combined with voluntary PvP in zones no one cares about. But the expansion supposedly has an entire zone devoted to outdoor PvP complete with towns that can be bombed, captured, and held. Not to mention that the two new racial mounts are a war elephant and something called a cockatrice, which I imagine to be a giant chicken. Now that seals the deal for me.

Sim 2K4

So what has Sim been up to? Well, basketball mostly. Seriously, I am somehow involved in basketball every day of the week. I am taking a once a week basketball class for one credit this semester, I signed up for a five on five rec-league, and I have been playing pick-up games to fill in the gaps. Seing as how my TV only gets a few channels, I have it on ESPN 24/7, so I watch nothing but college and professional hoops along with Around the Horn and PTI. But I did hook up my roommates TV (I had to use my cable since he doesn’t have one) to watch the All-Star festivities on TNT this weekend. To top if all off, the only game I really play on my new Xbox is ESPN Basketball.

Class only just started a couple weeks ago for me, because my school saves up all those tiny, one-day holidays and compounds them into a massive winter break. While I’m still technically a graphic design major, I’m not taking any of those classes this semester. I’m getting a little GE out of the way as well as testing out the computer science major. I like it, but I think the math will keep me out of it in the long run.

So that about sums it up. Oh yeah, I also play a lot of Call of Duty. Check out my clan.

Tiny God

After an arduous, irksome haitus, I am officially back on solid computing ground. For a mere $600, I was able to build a mean machine for college. It runs Morrowind like a dream, so I have been playing that a lot for the past couple days. On Thursday I finally broke down and bought a hub, so I am now accessing the net over a shared 56k connection. Talk about speed! Fortunately I only have to endure this for one more month, after which I will be intravenously hooked up to a sweet 10-million-bits-per-second drip.