Archive for November, 2014

DA Inquisition (Cover Art)It’s release day in the UK… I got my parcels at 8.15am from a very nice posting-type person. I spent a couple of minutes burrowing my way through the packaging, uploaded the DLC codes that I had (pre-order + Prima Guide ones), opened up the box, stuck the first disc in, and… then waited about 4 years for it to auto-install itself into the Xbox (360 edition). I highly suggest that (if you haven’t done it before) you take this time to go to Dragon Age Keep and set up your past deeds to Thedas. – Unfortunately, this doesn’t directly import your past two games; instead it accesses your achievements via Origins and saves the decisions that are based on them. You must then must run through the “Keep”  to check it has all the relevant details correct, then you can import them into Inquisition.

Once I was in (having spent a long time in the “Keep” sorting the relevant details out), I spent over an hour – each – creating two characters (yes, two… the first one really bugged me… I don’t know why…) but other than that I’ve done very little within the game so far. However what I have done it’s pretty cool and fun!

It plays just like a DA game on the Xbox should – yet this game is DA by way of Mass Effect,  The Witcher 2, Skyrim, Oblivion, and (a little bit of) Fable 3 (whilst on a random detour). It’s got the open worlds, lots of snow and mountains, keeps to hold, decisions to make, chests to loot, and a castle to make pretty (very Fable 3, those last two).

The hard decisions are quite Mass Effect, too, as is having everyone stuffed into one place to talk to them (Skyhold is clearly their Medieval Normandy) and taking all your stuff you found to your resident researcher (who unfortunately is not your favourite ME mad scientist, Mordin…) to have it turned into other, more useful, stuff. You have rips in the Fade to close (straight out of The Elder Scrolls’ Oblivion), and only your Inquisitor can fix them. It’s even got “Witcher” (Inquisitor?) sense for finding loot and plants (press down LS) – but you then must listen out for the change in tone when it finds something – which is far too easy to miss. Not only does it play a lot like – and rather looks like – The Witcher 2 (only rather easier), the Inventory seems to have been inspired by it, too.

Oh, and Inquisitor jumps just like Skyrim’s Dragonborn… It’s really rather fun to find all those little inspiration Easter eggs in there!

 

Good Game, Good Game…

It is a good game. Actually, it’s a pretty awesome game. It’s Dragon Age caked with all my other favourite games – what’s not to like?

Gameplay is fluid and easy to control. The UI has changed a little, the controls have changed a little (only slightly, to make them better), and the overhead battlefield view is a great extra addition. It all adds to what makes this a better game – it’s more strategic again, and less cross your fingers and hope for the best. It’s still really hard, but because you have a lot more control over your companions, it’s much more fun and interesting. To make it all the more complicated, the main fighting takes place whilst you (as the Inquistor/Herald of Andraste, and whatever else you get called along the way) are trying to close annoyingly shiny green portals that keeps spitting out more evil things at you. Learning to balance the two is difficult – it’s not really something you’ve been asked to do in Dragon Age before. Or anything else I’ve played for that matter…

They also throw you a huge Pride Demon to conquer as your first boss fight right off the bat. Something rather mean – and very DA. All I can say is for my attempts, they didn’t exactly go very well!

One key thing they’ve added is the Resuscitation element from Mass Effect 3. If you can get to a fallen comrade, you can bring them back into the fight by holding down A (on the Xbox). It might be another thing stolen from another game (at least they own it), but it’s a damn good addition and a great idea from whoever thought to bring it over.

DA Inquisition (Helmet)

One rather annoying thing, though, is that there’s no graduated or immediate recovery after fighting – you can only regain health by taking potions. On the other hand, you can craft them as much as you like (if you have the supplies for it), and you can get extra supplies from Supply Caches or use Reset at camps. Another annoying thing is that is doesn’t pause with the Xbox button – usually the Xbox button on the controller will auto-pause whatever is going on, but not in this one. The only thing that pauses the game is by opening the Menu… so you will miss those cut scenes if that’s the time doggy decides he just has to go piddles (yes, that is precisely what happened…).

It’s also has some other rather annoying issues… like slowing right down, glitching music (or disappearing altogether), graphics popping, entire dialogues disappearing from cut scenes as characters just stand frozen, dialogue glitching – out of sync or jumping within cut scenes and conversations… Having to restart it after freezing isn’t so much fun either. Teething issues are not so much fun with new games – it’s one of the reasons I generally only buy older ones. They’ve already got the 13,000 patches required ready to upload when you buy it (cheaper).

The game also has loading screens that make Skyrim’s seem like a nanosecond in length… I’m pretty sure even the Titanic movie is shorter than them. It’s a good time to catch up on your gaming magazine reading, I suppose.

I imagine a lot of these issues are because it’s pushing on the upper ends of the Xbox 360’s capabilities (since it’s also a next-gen release – I sure hope so…). It doesn’t excuse them, but at least that makes it understandable.

The graphics are beautiful, colours are gorgeous, and everything looks amazing. And whilst this is all true, I imagine most people will probably point out is that although it might look better than DA2, it doesn’t look quite as good as it maybe should, given it’s also appearing on a couple of next-gen consoles either. That it only looks new from a Dragon Age perspective…. as I said, it looks a lot like Witcher 2, which is quite a few years old now. But all this really doesn’t matter whatsoever. It doesn’t take anything away – I still think it looks beautiful, and it’s utterly awesome.

At the end of the day, it’s still Dragon Age. And I love Dragon Age. It’s really returned to the feel of Origins, and kept all the good stuff from both games. I’m not too far into it, but already I’m in love with it. It’s got its shortcomings (in terms of teething problems as mentioned earlier), but there is nothing about this game that could not let me love it.

 

Third Time’s The Charm…?

DA Inquisition (cast)They didn’t just mix Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2  to make this (although they did do that). They mixed in everything. And it works (well, technically it quite literally doesn’t sometimes, but still…). The story is good, characters are strong and diverse, and the world is back to being huge  – all of Thedas this time, as opposed to just Ferelden in Origins, and only Kirkwall in DA2.

The style of the game follows more along the lines of Origins; it’s more complex and open than DA2, and with more interesting conversations. The dialogue wheel is obviously back, and, basically, all the same rules apply as before. The dialogue glitches do put a damper on it though… You can now also move the camera about a bit within conversations (they’re not all locked cut-scenes), and characters are interesting and entertaining. Like in the Mass Effect games you can walk past and overhear conversations between NPCs… and for some reason there are a lot of people searching the ground for something or other… very strange.

The new companions for this one are so far well-written and diverse. But the best thing is seeing old friends again. It’s great when you go up that hill and then… “Varric!!” (yes, I yelled… he is my favourite!). I haven’t seen yet if there are others. But you do get to hear a little of what happened to those from DA2 from Varric, which is good.

And therein lies the main point of this game – it’s the sequel to DA2. The consequences of what Anders did. You’ve been brought in to clean up his mess… by shutting down green shiny things that spit out demons at you. It’s really no surprise as to why the “DA” part of the title was eventually refereed to as “Dammit Anders!”

Of all the differences between the two games, biggest thing I miss in this one is the mirror or Eluvian in the Black Emporium, where you can change the way your character looks. It was really useful to be able to go back in there and change hair, or makeup. Or the entire face.

I also would then not have had to make a whole new character all over again.

 #gamebreaker !!

 

DA Inquisition (Sword)

Oh yes… That I still do. I used to love my iPad… but now… Now I want to throw her out of a window. Preferably one that’s on the top floor of the Canary Wharf towers. When there’s a massive carter at the bottom for it to fall into.

There has been yet another new update released: v8.1… and despite high hopes it would fix the so many issues that it has, it… well… hasn’t. Once again, I made space, downloaded the update, and… nothing. After a weeks of barely tolerating all this, I’m now really am ready to go up to the top floor of that tower – no update has fixed anything that’s wrong with it.

It has not become any better, even after update 8.1. If anything, it may be even worse. And for this privilege I even had to give up an extra 1GB of precious space in my 16GB iPad, leaving just barely 12.5GB left. What a waste of space. Literally.

... Wanna join me?

… Wanna join me?

I even gave up a few games to make the space for this. Hearthstone was particularly difficult to let go of. I no longer have space to download my Audible books, and I there’s no space install any music from iTunes anymore, either. And for some reason, it saves my pictures twice – and I can’t even get at the Photo Stream service, nor understand why it has to save it locally twice on my hard drive. It’s supposed to be on iCloud. A server. Not local. I have no idea what they’re doing – and, frankly, I don’t think they do either. For some reason, I must endure their new brand of crazy, and now have to very carefully pick what I want to keep on my girl at any one time – and for something to stay, something now has to go. It’s like musical chairs. But with data. Data that I want to keep on her, but I’m not allowed to, because they took all my space… and also some my sanity.

I was looking at the iPod Touch range the other day on the Apple store website; just browsing the pages that were there to tell you all about them. Towards the bottom of the main page, there was a boxed out bit that advertised them with iOS 7, and I immediately thought that if I got one and it shipped with iOS 7, there was no way on earth I would ever update it. Ever.

It was  right then that I realised just how much I resented the massive difference in quality the OS brought, and how user unfriendly iOS 8 really was. My iPad has gone from something I loved using to something that was bordering on being virtually unusable. No longer fun. No longer nice. Now… now that new OS is just a nightmare.

It reminds me more and more of my Windows Vista laptop… and that was another thing I would have gladly thrown from a skyscraper and into a crater for just how abominable that system was.

 

Issues…

The difference in the way my iPad operates between now and before the update unfortunately screams instantly in anyone’s face. I would like to add, “from the moment you turn it on”… but even that part is difficult to do now. She used to wake up like a dog that’s just heard a gunshot. Now you’re lucky if she wakes up at all without freezing. Actually, you’re lucky if she does anything without freezing.

Getting the feeling this has something to do with the problem...

Apple Tech? Seems legit…

From therein on, it just gets worse. The wifi system is terrible and you’re lucky it even picks up a signal. It doesn’t even always auto-log into my home wifi… forget anywhere else. It certainly can’t hold a signal properly, or use it. Safari is a pointless nightmare that never works properly, and along with the wifi, seems hellbent on conspiring against you ever accessing the internet. Between them, it feels like you’re back in 1996 and trying to get into a dial-up connection that refuses to work no matter what.

This particularly comes screaming into your day whenever a new search in run on Safari. It won’t respond when you tap on the website you wish to go to. That’s if Safari actually brings you anything at all, of course. Quite often it will get bored halfway through a request and just never goes anywhere; it freezes. Sometimes it crashes. Sometimes even a Force Quit and reboot won’t fix the issue. Sometimes simply attempting to do anything straightforward on Safari becomes absolutely pointless, to the point of frustrating absurdity.

Occasionally, it might work, though – if you can successfully scroll up and down the results page. Then it allows you to tap the results. But almost always the touchscreen becomes completely unresponsive, and you have to do something to remedy that.

I’ve all but given up on a game that I loved, because it can’t seem to load it properly anymore, and when it does it is usually unstable and really slow. Even apps as simplistic as the BBC News or Asda Groceries apps are difficult to manage. The touchscreen will always, at some point, become entirely unresponsive of its own accord, regardless of whatever you may be doing, or which app was involved. Most apps are slow to load, and then even slower to close. Hitting the Home button in front brings everything “home” in such slow motion, I think it’s going to crash. The new system’s absolute lack of ability to manage anything is truly astounding.

Twitter and G+ apps even joined in the fun. They have apparently been harvesting a crapload of data in the background onto the local drive for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Nearly 1GB of data they stuffed into themselves. Each. When I saw that they were adding to my space problems, the iPad very nearly really did go out the window. Only deleting the app and reinstalling actually aborts the data, so that’s what I had to do. Even then, Twitter still has issues loading properly at times. I have absolutely no idea if it’s going to continue to hoard data again as I continue to use it, either, which doesn’t fill me with much confidence.

Will they ever get it right...?

Will they ever get it right…?

As well as all this, the jump to iOS 8 has screwed up my Pages app (Apple’s answer to Word – which is a pretty great software, by the way). I use this app a lot and – for some reason that is entirely unfathomable to anyone but themselves – the Pages designers decided the iOS 8 update would no longer be able to read certain format documents, rendering a good amount of my documents unusable on my iPad. The only way to fix it? Log into iCloud via the browser end, opening the document(s), and re-saving it again under the new format. You can’t even do it on the OS X app – it can only be done via the Pages Beta app on iCloud.com. Genius.

You can tell they thought all this through long and hard over all this. What makes it worse was that this, like other little niggles, wasn’t widely mentioned by Apple, or particularly specified properly in the update information; I only found out through searching through Google and Apple forums. I would have expected Apple to have offered more information and specifics, even advice for porting, regarding various changes to the system and apps than they did. The information wasn’t exactly widely available, and what was there wasn’t too easy to find… As in it wasn’t obviously there amongst the other shiny paraphernalia offered in the OS release website pages. There was a lot of posturing and pretty images on their website – everything you needed if you were a newbie purchasing a new system from scratch. Not too much for someone upgrading. Apart from how “different” it all was… and forgetting to mention how those changes were going to bugger up your systems. I have very high expectations of this company,  but… well… it seems that my high expectations of this company seems to have set the bar too high for them this time.

 

Rotten Apples…

iOS must be, without doubt, the most unstable OS I have encountered. Except Windows Vista. Vista may be worse. Maybe… And that is most certainly something I thought I would never say about an Apple product, system, or software.

I’m horrified and astounded by how unbelievably glitchy and unstable it is – even after 3 updates. They haven’t managed to stabilise it – it’s certainly not just me, if the hits on Google are anything to go by – and if anything, they may have made it worse. My iPad certainly still seems extremely unhappy to have it, and she’s not getting any better, either.

I probably need to learn how to do this...

I wish I knew how to do this…

Coupled with the almost equally-inept OS X Yosemite, it seems that Apple appears to be focused on effectively punishing anyone who doesn’t have a new model of a computer or mobile product. This new pair of operating systems seem to be entirely designed for the high-end newer products that are also brand-new out of the box. Older models who are migrated onto it seem to be having nothing but trouble. They’re clearly not optimised well enough for the older processes to manage to run them properly, and the migration itself is also flawed… well, mine was. A whole bunch of stuff doesn’t work on both platforms, and both are 2012 models; only two years old. But that may as well be lightyears.

The older models clearly aren’t able to quite manage to run these things. Certainly in the case of iOS 8, this is particularly evident. Simply put, my iPad just cannot really cope with the new operating system. She gets easily upset by anything, and not only freezes or crashes the apps, she even freezes and crashes her entire system, especially when there’s space memory for the CPU (the brain) available. I haven’t been able to open files on iOS Pages app that I created before the upgrade, and the one game I have left (whilst having to delete the others to make space) doesn’t work properly.

n the other side, as well as other irritating niggles, on reboot after the new OS X Yosemite update, it screwed up my Gmail account in the Mail centre of my Macbook, and also forced my Macbook Apple ID apps into launching under their designated default setting of my iCloud account, as opposed the Apple ID account I actually do use – leaving me wondering for while why the supposed upgrade to having everything sync wasn’t working (the iPad was set to the proper Apple ID I use). I been unable to view screenshots I created from games on my Macbook with OS X Yosemite (although other platforms or software are perfectly able to manage them). The wifi doesn’t connect or work properly (and there’s more, but they’re over here). The point being that my Macbook doesn’t work properly anymore, either.

I regret updating both of them. A lot. I feel guilty for putting my girls through it. My poor sweet things are being forced to endure such difficult working conditions, and I can’t undo them. Well… I could – but I won’t. I guess I just really hope that my faith in Apple as a good company will come through and will fix the problems.

Naive, I suppose. But until then, I will continue to still rant about it…!