A Dance with Dragon Age (Part 3)

Finally! It’s the big one. Dragon Age Inquisition (DA:I), the behemoth; multiple Game of the Year award winner. By jove, did it live up to expectations. I’m 24 hours into my second play through and around 80 hours overall; the most fun I’ve ever had.
First things first, the musical score is one the best ever in video game history and will probably become instantly recognizable in the future. The sense of impending doom with a hint of hope. Trevor Morris has made a masterpiece. With his previous history of working in period dramas like The Tudors and The Borgias, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise and yet it steals the show. I urge you to listen to the cover of the main theme by Lindsey Starling over on YouTube, a wonderfully directed video and a beautiful rendition of the theme.
So, before I get side tracked further, let’s jump into the gameplay. The races are back! You now have more options, you can be a human, a elf, a dwarf or a Qunari. Customization options are a plenty and there almost nothing you can’t change. It’s a cold open, where your character rises in front of a rift after you’ve chosen the race and class, you can then modify him/her and dive straight into the action.
First thing you notice once you finalize your character and the prologue (which is quite big) is the size of the maps. The first place you visit (The Hinterlands) is almost as big as the entire map in Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II. It’s just massive. The quests are fun, ranging from gathering stuff, to finding lost stuff; basic rpg fodder really. Act 2 of the game really turns it into a different beast. You’re in Orlais in a party and you’ve to lie, steal and learn secrets with very little killing involved and it’s a fascinating change in pace and one that’s well received by most.
The inclusion of a mount (horse) is a good idea but the mechanics are a bit clunky so you’re not as tempted to use it as say in Skyrim or Witcher. But some the quests get boring, especially the one of collecting shards in a place, where they’re in tough to reach places, just so you’ll increase playing time by failing to get it.
Dragons though! There are 10 dragons available to kill and some of them just loom fabulous and these battles can take up to half and hour but are worth it just to finally see it lay prone on the ground.
The War Table is a really nice touch and if you’re one who reads everything in an rpg, you’ll see a thread the Inquisition is weaving through Thedas. Some quests which your people complete are exciting and would have been a great inclusion in the game.
Speaking of you people, let’s talk about companions. You have 3 advisors, Leliana (the Nightingale is back), Cullen and Josephine. Your option part members are fan favourite Varric, Cassandra (a warrior), the mage Solas, the Qunari Iron Bull, the black Warden Blackwell, the enchanter Vivienne, the Tevinter Dorian, the elf rouge Sara and the spirit Cole. We have lot of options but somehow I couldn’t connect to most of them. I usually ended up taking Varric, Cassandra and Iron Bull in my mage play through. The back stories for these characters are quite good and yet something is left wanting. This is made worse by the guest appearances of Alistair (if you let him live), Hawke (your character from the second game), Leliana as I’ve already mentioned and Morrigan. It was lovely to see Morrigan again but they made her too important. At the end I was left with the feeling of being used by Morrigan and Leliana and being part of something bigger rather than my character shaping his destiny. It felt a bit like fan service as well and so I was left with the feeling of let down at the end.
Speaking of the end, the villain is a bit of a let down. Along with the rest of the story. Corephyeus returns after our tryst with him in the Moment of Legacy DLC of Dragon Age II. It just feels sudden and a bit rushed. It was better than Dragon Age II but not as good as Origins. The villains motivations are well put, but the story on how he’s trying to achiever what he is seems a bit convoluted. It’s a fine story in isolation, but just a tad below expectations.
However, none of this should make you not try this game. It’s quite a wonderfully crafted game with tons of lore to go through and a really rich world. Have a go and you might be left in a state of daze where you’re left wondering which quest to complete next while you’re at work. Cheers guys, till later.

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A Dance with Dragon Age (Part 2)

So welcome to part two of the Dragon Age reviews. This is going to be dealing with the second game and it’s downloadable contents (dlcs). Dragon Age 2 is the sequel to the hugely successful and critically acclaimed Dragon Age Origins.
The biggest drawback straight in is the lack of diversity in race options. You’re restricted to male or female humans. One of the best features of the preceding game was the wealth of choices and the unique back story for each race. Anyway, once you select you’re class and gender you’re thrust straight into the action.
The story picks up in the middle of the Darkspawn attack at Lothering; the small town that your Grey Warden visits first in the DA:O. You’re trying to escape the Lothering in any which way. Long story short, you end up at Kirkwall and try to make your way up the social ladder.
The story is a rags to riches one. You’re indebted at first and as good as slaves to either smugglers or thieves. Then you meet Varric Theras; probably the best character across the Dragon Age series. The whole story is in the form of a flashback as he tells it to Cassandra. Varric is the saving grace of the game. His humor and dialogues help elevate a less than stellar game. You end up going on an expedition with him before some weird things happen. I won’t go into detail as it’ll be too spoilerific.
Aside from Varric, the companions are a bit underwhelming. You have Isabela, Aveline, Merril, Anders and Fenris. Merril and Aveline especially as characters are a bit underdeveloped. You have a go by the rules hard woman who lost her husband and a rebel mage Dalish. Fenris does have quite a good build up. However most companions are just extreme in what they feel. So most aren’t exactly likeable (to each his own however, and you may love these characters, this is just my personal opinion). Except Varric none are in the league of Alistair or Morrigan however.
The negatives of the game are many and I’ll go through them one by one.  Firstly, the story, it is definitely sold short, the ending is not in the sane scale as DA:O nor as much fun. The impact isn’t that great and emotionally not at the same level as the previous game. Though the ending is world changing for Thedas, the build up in 3 acts is not that great an experience. I trust David Gaider however, and the psych from EA definitely hurt the story a lot.
Next, the environments. It was just lazy, you had so many repeated textures. Every building, every cave looked the same. The only thing different were the areas you could explore. I know that the game was rushed but it made for a terrible experience. Exploring is a huge part of Dragon Age and you’re left with an incomplete feeling.
A huge problem with the game however is the lack of tactial planning during fights. This works more as an action RPG and is much worse for it.
The background score was decent but not as good as the preceding one. The voice acting was quite good and one of the saving graces of the game.
The DLCs which gave you Sebastian as a companion and some other trinkets were good. Moment of the past tees up Dragon Age Inquisition and a must play in terms of the story. The best DLC of the lot however is Mark of the Assassin. A new companion by the name of Tallis, voiced and motion captured by the wonderful Felicia Day is a welcome addition. The story also moves away from Ferelden and you see Orlais for the first time. The mission is a really great change of pace from the all action fare, with sneaking, stealing and talking you’re way through. This DLC is  definitely worth the price.
Overall, it’s a decent game and moves the story forward a little but isn’t as good as the predecessor which sets the standard so high. Still worth giving it a god however. It’s a smaller game and one that can be completed within 25-30 hours.
Cheers.

A Dance with Dragon Age (Part 1)

Hey guys. I’ve been busy playing Dragon Age Inquisition right now, it is the third installment of Bioware’s excellent role playing game (rpg) series Dragon Age. So I thought I’d give my own take on the series game by game. Please be warned that there will be a few minor spoilers along the way.
So starting off with Dragon Age : Origins (DAO). My favourite game of the series. Beautifully written and wonderfully complex world that is highly immersive. I picked this game up on a free on Origin a month before the launch of Dragon Age Inquisition (DAI). I didn’t play it till November last year, but the moment I started I was hooked.
It was my first experience of a role playing game and boy was it amazing. The script written by David Gaider (who, incidentally is working on Bioware’s new intellectual property now having left the Dragon Age team) and is marvellous with a number of twists and turns and an emotional rollercoaster. The ending is one of the best scripted things I’ve seen in video games and worth every penny.
The choices are what makes the game so special. From the start, you’re offered the choice of race (elf, dwarf, human) and class (warrior, mage and rogue). The races have choices within it as well. You can be a dwarf commoner or a dwarf noble, a city elf or a Dalish elf. Each of these starting points provides a unique origin story that helps you connect to your character. You have 6 origin types and it just increases the replayability of the game.
Aside from these choices, comes the choices that you’ll have in conversations with non playing characters (npc). This helps you build up a credible personalty for your player. Are you a ruthless dictator or a compassionate helper kind. All this helps in increasing the immersive nature of the game.
The supporting cast is a fun mix, from a mysterious witch, a drunk dwarf to a Qunari killer. They all have their unique characters and their response at times at what you decide to do makes the game all the more fun. For example, Morrigan sniping at you if you accept any quest which is based on feeling sand relationships. Then apart from this, some of the conversations the party has while moving through dungeons (party banter for the win!) is marvellous. The voice acting from the cast is top notch and helps bring through the characters. Keeping the protagonist silent is a nice touch, somehow helps the gameplay where you’re left with imaging what your character sounds like rather than having a generic voice.
Gameplay is fun where you have a choice on how you want to play it. You can play it as an old school isometric rpg, pausing to set up your next attack or as an action rpg where you just control your character. The battle controls are easy to use, and pulling off combos feels immensely satisfying. The quests are quite varied, from fetching stuff to killing stuff. Most of them leave the player with options on what or how they want to pursue it. Aside from a few quests important to the story, all are optional and even after several playthroughs, you might find something you missed.
I can ramble on for even more, but to I’ll try to end it here. As a summary, it has a wonderful story, great characters, tons of choices, impeccable voice acting and fun gameplay. All in all one of the best game you’ll play and definitely worth trying out just for the story even if you aren’t into rpgs. It has tons of lore to get through but it is all worth it. The Dragon Age world is huge and worth living in multiple times. Till later then. Cheers.

The fear of rejection (graduate student special edition)

Every grad student has the same epiphany at some point; “What am I doing? I’m not good enough for this. I must have been chosen by accident.” It’s like your teen years all over again. You begin to question your existence, every single flaw you see in yourself is amplified, you don’t think peers understand you, and most importantly, you’re crippled with fear and self loathing.
Right about now, you may be wondering what the title of rejection has to do with anything I’ve written above. Bear with me, it’s a bit of a convoluted path.
Ask anyone who has ever applied for a PhD, more often than not it’ll start off with a rejection from some university. This is what, in my humble opinion starts off the cascade of reactions that ends up with one doubting oneself.
PhD is often compared to a marriage, and it kinda is. More so, it’s kind of polygamous. You’re tied to your advisor, your thesis committee and your work; the last of which almost nobody understands.
However, the marriage seems like utopia when compared to courtship process. It goes kind of the same way as you would pursue a romantic love interest. You tell them that they’re great, that you’re really interested, exchange a few messages, maybe even call once in a while. But in the end all you get is an acknowledgment saying something like “nothing to do with your academic capabilities”, read “it’s not you, it’s me”. You’re left sitting alone heartbroken in front of a computer after yet another rejection, looking back at old times.
Though maybe you’re the stubborn kind and go back and apply again. It’s like drunk texting an ex telling them that you still love them, leaving you to wallow in self pity, misery, and probably hating yourself the next morning.
It is a horrible feeling an one your mind knows it wants to avoid and yet you chase after it.
Having personally been through this, I can safely say that it readies you for rejection more than anything in life. But to look at the tiny silver lining, if you get to know the profile of the chosen person, more often than not you’re left with the feeling of realization that they probably did deserve it more than you. If you have achieved that state, then you have reached a state of zen and ready for graduate school in a weird way.
All I can say in the end is that, even though it is a horrible feeling, don’t give up. Your mind tells you to avoid it and yet you’ll probably chase after it. If you’re geared up to try your hand at graduate studies, then this will be in good step. It’ll help increase patience and the frustration you have to deal with when working in the lab.

FRIENDS (I’ll be there for you redux)

Wouldn’t you just know it. First post on the blog and it’s not even on topic. To start it all off, I should tell you that this post isn’t about F.R..I.E.N.D.S., so if you’re expecting that, note that you have been warned. So back on point then. We’re so well-connected nowadays. Anyone you might wanna talk to is about as far as wherever your phone is. In this day and age that one cherished friendship where either of you might not talk to each other often, but do meet personally is a bit of an achievement. These are the kind of friends that no matter the time, or place will want to hear what you say on inane topics. Those that won’t ever judge you for your choices, always support you and guide you. The instant gratification of connection with 100’s of Facebook friends is really diminished when you have one person like this in your life.

The reason I’ve drifted from the main point of this blog is for two such people. Pillars of my life and there’s nothing I would exchange for either of them. So, these two are leaving the country in the next couple of days for a wonderful life opportunity, and it has brought me to an epiphany. There will still be a lot of people left who’ll I’ll call “friends” but no one would probably mean as much as those two. They’re listeners, therapists, foils and minions for my plans for world domination doing good for the world. In a world with with talkers, you don’t find people like these easily. Someone who’ll be measured against whatever stupid thing you might throw at them.

But it’s at this point the cognitive dissonance kicks in. I want them to be happy and succeed but the selfish part within me wants them here, beside me. It elates me that they’re going on to bigger and better things, and yet there is a twang of pain somewhere. It’s the kind of the dull throbbing kind which you try to ignore and keep bulldozing on, but whatever you do it’ll still be there.

This is just my way of saying thank you to these awesome people. I know I’ll meet them again and we’ll be constantly in touch and yet it feels different. We’ve shared so many moments which shall be etched in my mind forever. These are our most prized possessions. I could list a lot of stuff here, but that wouldn’t be in any way useful without the context, so I digress.

I’m terrible at this stuff, so do excuse the rambling. But I couldn’t be happier for these two and I just want to wish them the very best for their future and hope it’s as bright and as fulfilling as they hope for. To both of you, just a thousand times thank you. You’re special and I’ll really really miss you guys.

Cheers.

Starting a new life

I think I need to introduce my self first so, I’m whovian browncoat, as you can guess, a huge doctor who and firefly fan. An aspiring biotechnologist, video gaming enthusiast and a devout Arsenal fan since the last 13 years. 
So, here I am. After months of contemplating, I’ve finally started my blog. I’ve been trying to decide what my blog will be about. There are wonderful blogs on almost every blog imaginable. So I decided I’ll just blog about what I love, and that is the Geek and Nerd culture.
I’m a sports loving, scientist who loves video games, sci-fi, and fantasy. I obsesses over this stuff and look into weird facts about it. My aim will be to share these weird wacky facts, talk about new stuff that deals with pop culture, sports (mainly soccer) and science.
I’ll be most probably be updating the site every other day. Hope you guys enjoy the blogs and I’d love to hear from you.
Cheers.