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By otakuman5000 On 28 Feb, 2014 At 05:13 AM | Categorized As Conventions, Editorials, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarThe winter this year in New York has been particularly harsh on everyone, both mentally and physically. The Vikings even thought Ragnarok, the Viking Apocalypse was scheduled for this weekend.

{cue Led Zeppelin – Immigrant song here}

So it was no surprise to me, that when I looked at my significant other last week during dinner and casually asked “So… what do you want to do this weekend?” that they sighed, returning with nothing but a non-committal shrug. Then, through a series of strange events, we found ourselves with our car packed to the hilt (it’s normal to need eight tiaras for a weekend…right?), on the road to New Jersey for Jeff Mach’s Wicked Faire, which turned out to be the perfect cure for the winter blues.

I SPIT FIRE AT YOU, WINTER

What exactly IS Wicked Faire? The more accurate question is what ISN’T Wicked Faire? It is part convention, part renaissance festival, part music festival, but 100% stress-free fun, as I quickly found out. The following is taken from the About section of the Wicked Faire website, and I would absolutely agree that this is an accurate assessment:

“The Wicked Winter Renaissance Faire is a miniature explosion of entertainment and activity, wrapped up in a fresh-baked Renaissance Faire exterior, filled to the brim with big tasty chunks of well-seasoned festival, spiced with a bit of convention, then dipped in a sauce of non-convention, and served at a terribly low price during one fantastic frenetic weekend every year. There are so many madly diverse fun things going on at any one time that, in general, if you come looking to find a good time, you are damn likely to find one.”

(Read more here: Wicked Faire: About )

Wicked Faire is an extravagant, fascinating, enthralling, all-you-can-experience buffet of entertainment, shows, interactions and fun. It is devoted to creating a weekend of acceptance, and creating a space where any non-normative person can express themselves; be it through geek, steampunk, kink, sexuality, renaissance, cosplay, burlesque et cetera. You can be as dressed up or as dressed down as you like – I wore cocktail dresses all weekend while a friend I was with wore jeans and a geeky T-shirt and we both still garnered an equal amount of positive attention. There were a variety of things to do, people to see and musicians to watch. There was a secondary festival going on at the same time, Voltaire’s Necrocomiccon, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to check that event out (though I really wanted to!)

We had gotten to New Jersey on Friday at about 10 PM, after a few GPS mishaps and a quick Taco Bell break. We checked in at the Doubletree Somerset, and received room keys, which apparently also came with free chocolate chip cookies. Free cookies are always a great start to a convention.

FREE COOKIES

After a quick costume change and some light social interaction, we went party hopping within the hotel, which was fun in and of itself. I woke up at 11 AM on Saturday and decided to check out the dealers rooms. The vendors themselves were incredibly varied, from leather armour to teas, steampunk hats, knives, gourmet dipping sauces, and hair flowers. I spent a good three hours inside the rooms (that’s a long time when you’re hungover), talking to all of the vendors. We all laughed about my state of hangover, and one of them even gave me aspirin. All of the goods being sold were of high quality with an emphasis on homemade, and the fact that the vendors actually took the time to talk to me in depth about their products despite only buying a few small things, shows that they care about their consumer base.

I have provided links to a few of the vendors I personally talked to over the weekend with a glimpse of some of my favorite products of theirs:

– Gorgeous handcrafted wire elf and dragon ears jewellery with precious stones: Belethil, Jewelry by Alanya Divine

I love this so much. What’s great about these is you can wear them to LARPs, or as standalone jewellery.

– Handcrafted steampunk and leather hats, goggles and other accessories: The Blonde Swan

I love red, I love lace, and I love hats… so naturally I love this.

– Hand blended artisan teas that are inspired by music, works of literature and fantasy art. Gluten free and vegan friendly! Dryad Tea:

TEA DELICIOUS TEA

– Infused oils, dips, kitchen wares and cookbooks with a pagan touch: Cucina Aurora 

I cannot stress how delicious this infused oil was enough.

– Handcrafted hair flowers, sticks and fascinators: Pyraara

I love the combo of hair flower + feather.

Saturday afternoon I caught a cello performance by The Wandering Cellist. I had played cello all throughout secondary school, and the technical skill displayed was astounding. It should also be noted that Mike covered “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica on cello. I REALLY wish I had caught it on video, but I felt my cell phone recording wouldn’t do it justice. You can find more cello music here: The Wandering Cellist 

Saturday evening we caught Busts & Trunks Burlesque show. They are a division of the Ocelot on a Leash Theater Company, and are from Philadelphia. The Busts and Trunks division caters specifically to geek culture, and the show they had put on Saturday night was entirely Doctor Who themed. They were incredibly awesome and varied in their performances, and my favorite performance was an Amy & Rory burlesque number to Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” closely followed by a second favorite of a Captain Jack Harkness boylesque number.

Busts & Trucks Burlesque

Our Sunday was a bit more relaxed. Though we wanted to do more, we only went to a couple of other things, an awesome pastie-making workshop by the girls of Busts & Trunks, and another burlesque show, this time by The White Elephant Burlesque Society, who hail from New Jersey. I’m pretty sure I lost my voice from cheering so hard between the two shows. This show was a bit less nerd oriented, but still just as entertaining, with a variety in content; there was ballet, traditional Hawaiian dancing, chair and fan dancing were all used in their acts. One member of their troupe, Holly Ween, ate cookies like Cookie Monster while dancing to Lady Gaga. It was incredible.

Delicious, delicious cookies…

The weekend setlist for WEBS can be found here

All in all, I would have to say as a first time attendee, that Wicked Faire was a LOT of fun for everyone, regardless of what subculture you’re into, and I would definitely go back! I’ve also made tentative plans to attend Steampunk’s World Faire, which runs Friday, May 16th – Sunday, May 18th, 2014 in Piscataway, NJ and is also run by Jeff Mach events. You, dear reader, should come along too.

Until next time, this is Sofie Sohan signing out! 

No Gravatar3c501b705d2399bdf420eb3107e91534

Today, Eidos Montreal announced their new game “Deus Ex: The Fall”. Gamers were extremely excited upon the first teaser trailer, hoping for a new console game possibly even a next generation title. It has been confirmed as a mobile and tablet game and not a new console installment, but the premise looks promising, following on from one of the Deus Ex novels “The Icarus Effect”. Hopefully this will give gamers the fill of Deus Ex story and action they’ve been waiting for, making the wait for a new installment in the series a little easier.

The official Synopsis is as follows;

“We are back in 2027 — a golden era for science, technology and human augmentation, but also a time of great social divide and global conspiracy. Ben Saxon, a former British SAS Mercenary who underwent physical augmentation, is desperate for the truth behind the drug conspiracy. Betrayed by his private military employers, the Tyrants, not only is his own life at risk, but for all augmented humans, time is running out…”

The game will be playable at the Square Enix booth at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in the South Hall.

Watch the official reveal trailer below, it explores some of what we can expect to see when the game launches “soon”.

No GravatarThe mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist…” – Rosalind Lutece, Barriers to Trans-Dimensional Travel, 1889

Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt. As you soar into the floating city of Columbia for the first time you see exactly where Irrational Games’ ambitions lie; Amongst the clouds with this incredible city. The game manages to achieve all of it’s ambitions and more, with a story the likes of which we haven’t seen since the original Bioshock, varied and new first person gameplay and a stunning, truly realised world for the player to explore. This game does what it’s predecessor did in 2007; it changes and challenges the gameplay and story of this console generation and reinvents them to become a truly incredible experience.

The game world is in almost direct contrast to that of Irrational Games’ original Bioshock, we see a rich and colourful city in the prime of it’s existence  whilst also involving the player in Columbia’s breathtaking descent. Columbia has it’s own set of rules, it is a fully realised world with a vibrant cast of characters that really make the world feel real. People walk around, reacting both to the player and surrounding events, with clever and involving conversations that reflect the world around them. The game is set in alternate reality 1912 and shows off the views and values of an America steeped in religious rule, patriotism and severe xenophobia. The content in game is quite harsh in contrast to the vibrant city and challenges the player to look at society today with reference to the game. Every area of the game feels different and diverse, from the squalid Shantytown to the opulence of the streets above and then into the skies of Columbia aboard the many airships and floating platforms, never ceasing to pull the extraordinary narrative along with each detailed environment.

The streets of Columbia

The streets of Columbia

As the player enters Columbia they are introduced to the basic gameplay elements of Vigors (akin to the original Bioshock’s Plasmids) and the variety of weapons through a carnival, set up as part of the celebrations for Comstock, the game’s antagonist. In your first hour you will experience combat with some basic guns, vigors and the transport method doubling as a melee weapon; the skyhook. The skyhook allows for some incredible firefights and a new mobility unseen in gaming. Just hop aboard a skyline and you can drop behind enemies, into cover or zip around the area quickly all the while returning fire from attackers. The game’s AI is also quite clever, with enemies and “Hard Hitters” (different, more tough enemies such as the handyman and motorized patriots) able to use the skylines and move around like the player. Then the game takes it up a notch, in story, gameplay and emotion with the introduction of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth. This one character serves as the core of the story and gameplay. From the moment you meet her she barely leaves your side, constantly adding to the game. In combat she will help you by finding health, salts and ammo and also cash outside of combat. She also has the ability to open ‘tears’ in the environment, pulling items from other worlds and reality into being in the locale. She also adds real emotion to the gameplay. You begin to rely on her and think about combat situations with her abilities in mind. In the few short absences she has from the player you genuinely miss the character. Her powers and dialogue always make the player feel more invested in the story, her presence never once takes anything away from the experience. Her AI is also incredibly well done, she will explore and interact with the environment, once again bringing areas of the game to life and you will want to sit in one spot and see all the animations and dialogue the developers have crammed into each of the game’s areas.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

I have talked about the story a lot so far, the narrative really pulls the whole experience together. The story crafted by Irrational Games masterfully weaves the setting, values and original story together into a story that will keep the player invested in the game’s fifteen plus hours of gameplay. Without revealing too much, the story centres around the protagonist, Booker Dewitt, tasked with travelling to Columbia to rescue Elizabeth to pay off his gambling debt. The city is ruled by “The Prophet” Comstock, who has kept Elizabeth locked away for years. Bring in the Vox Populi, a resistance movement of the lower classes and racial outcasts, fighting against Comstock’s extremely one sided rule.  The story has the occasional lull in sections, but they always followed by something amazing soon after, only increasing the effect of the succeeding event. Once you dive into the narrative the tale morphs and evolves at a cracking pace up to the jaw dropping finale, where players will be left thinking long after the credits roll.

Overall the game is an amazing experience. Irrational Games have done an amazing job of bringing the world of Columbia to life. The story, gameplay and above all the work that went into Elizabeth help this game to exceed all expectations and in turn reinvent the FPS genre amongst it’s many more stale counterparts. The game is incredible in scope and story, well worthy of any gamers time, earning it’s well deserved place amongst some of the finest games of the generation.

In my mind, this game deserves no other score than, Go and Buy it NOW!

By Charles On 2 Sep, 2011 At 04:27 AM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Games You Slept On, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarThis title is so great to us, it has to be put in to categories, Best Game Ever and Games You Slept On.

Luffy only wishes he had girls like this following him around.

During its brief lifespan, the Sega Dreamcast was hardly known as a system for RPG enthusiasts. And yet, it managed to bring to the table one of the most satisfying RPG experiences of the era, a mix of solid gameplay, colorful characters, harmonious music and pirates. The game in question: Skies of Arcadia. And while it never achieved the status of super-hit, it did influence a generation of gamers and games who continue to recall it with fond memories (and the occasional cosplay).

Skies of Arcadia was something of a dark horse game on a dark horse system. It was one of only three “real” RPGs on the Dreamcast (the other being the grind-fest “Evolution” and the landmark “Grandia II”).  And yet, it managed to set itself apart from the others through a series of twists and turns that were unique at the time, but which would lay the groundwork for many subsequent games.

The story revolved around three characters: Sky-Pirate Vyse; his best friend, the bubbly Aika; and mysterious magical girl Fina. Their relationship was developed strongly over the 40 plus hours of gameplay. It never went down the romance path (at least not as much as many other games would have), and was focused more on the idea that three people could save the world if they tried hard enough.

Drachma. Fun fact: his name means "money" in Greek.

Well, more like four people. During the course of the game, the fourth character slot revolved between two more colorful folk: the grizzled “sea captain” Drachma and the urbane Prince Enrique, of the Valua Empire. Unlike the “main three,” these two additions were more cookie cutter: Drachma, a cross between Ahab and Cid Highwind, “swore” a lot and obsessed over a whale he needed to hunt, while Enrique was the stereotypical disillusioned son of a despotic tyrant who joined the Pirates because he loved the freedom, and hated the hypocrisy. While both played roles in the story, and indeed were necessary for progressing forward, they never exactly enjoyed the same amount of exposition as the “big three.”

The plot focused on the efforts of the Valuan Empire to revive these things known as “Gigas,” which were collossi of the ancient world that had great destructive power, yada yada yada. Fina was the last survivor of an ancient race sworn to protect the gigas from being used by vile…etc, etc etc. You’ve heard it before. Evil empire seeks great power, small band of rebels resist them. The small band has the “heart” to succeed, and they topple their foe, save the world, get the girl, happily ever after. The story itself was fairly straightforward, with few side quests, and was nothing really new. What made Skies of Arcadia such a wonderful game was what you could DO in the world while you were progressing along the main story. The world was a character, and it made the experience so much more validating in the end.

First off, it should be noted that Skies of Arcadia was one of the most beautiful RPGs ever made (and not just at the time). The developers put painstaking attention in crafting a flawless, visually stunning world that almost leapt off the screen at the player. Vivid colors, subtle sounds, intricately designed dungeons and towns, these all contributed to making the game lovely to look at. The “bestiary” was just as unique and varied, with nary a copy of anything to be found. Enemies were unique to their own worlds, and reflected the designs therein. The Pirates of the Blue Rogues were colorful and rough, the empire was silver, stoic and sharp. Despite being technologically “inferior” to the Playstation 2, the graphics on the Dreamcast were among the best gaming had to offer. Skies put to shame just about any game the Playstation had out from a visual standpoint. Just witness the first scene of the Gigas rising out of the forest, and you will see how much attention was paid to detail and execution.

Go for the legs, it's you only chance of stopping it!

But graphics are only part of the picture. Where Skies of Arcadia shone even more was in the gameplay. It was, in a word, simple. Simple, but also refined to a point where simplicity didn’t mean easy. Skies could best be described as very “stripped down” mechanics wise. No tactical placement needed, magic consumed only 1 MP each cast (2 if it was a powerful spell), combat was a seamless platform of attack, defend, item, retreat. But it also required the player to think. Blitzing all out for the victory might work sometimes, but at others, strategic uses of defense would ultimately make more sense. Each character had “charge” attacks that required the accumulation of turns building up a meter that could then be unleashed to devastating effect. Later in the game, this also allowed for full party special attacks that could end combat in a turn, provided the player was willing (or able) to endure turn after turn of pounding before the combo could be unleashed.

And combat was a big part of the game. Skies had such a high rate of random encounter that it was feasible to enter battle every 4-5 steps. Yes, steps. Fortunately, the Dreamcast gave us a bit of warning, in the form of the disc suddenly stopping, then speeding up rapidly, announcing that we were about to get into it yet again. This high rate of battle was a bit annoying in dungeons, especially if time was a factor, but it also led to a lot of XP, money and drops that would benefit the players later on.

In addition to complex dungeons and unique zones, Skies of Arcadia also showed us that the sky truly was the limit. The world the game takes place on was more a collection of floating islands, joined together by sky ships that were necessary to traverse the immense expanse. Flying through the world, both above and below the clouds, introduced two wonderful new features to the game: exploration and sky battles.

Sky battles were one of the ways Skies managed to distinguish itself from other RPGs of similar style. You would encounter a ship while flying across the expanse, and suddenly it was on, with cannons firing, harpoons launching and magic being throw from bow to stern. These battles were a good deal more technical than the ground fights. Maneuvering was an issue, you had to keep within range or risk missing your shot. And since the ship’s weapons were so powerful, missing a shot then being hit in turn was a devastating blow, especially early on. Of course, you could just harpoon the enemy ship and drag it close, but then it turned into a battle of attrition, with each side punishing the other until one sank.

But sky battles were often necessary to upgrade your ship, earn gold and weapons, and prepare for battles later against bigger, more powerful craft. And of course, against the Gigas. Every single Gigas battle in the game was ship combat, with the first being downright scary to behold. They required you to think instead of blitz, and the careful execution of strategy would be rewarded in the end. All this led up to the final battle against…well, no spoiling here, but the first half of the fight was a giant sky battle that tested every skill the player had acquired up to that point.

The other joy of flying the “Skies” came in the form of exploring for hidden relics and monuments. While I can’t list all of them here, they represented “bragging” rights both in and out of game, and helped you recruit more members for your Pirate crew. Fly above the clouds, fly below them, scan the islands that appeared empty, who knows what you might find. And these discoveries even had an impact on gameplay: certain potential crew members required you to have found certain things or they wouldn’t join with you. Oh did, I not mention you get a pirate crew? Hmmm, perhaps I should rectify…

Over the course of the game, you obtain a small island of your own, which eventually turns into your base. At first, its little more than a lake, cave and some wood for building a house. But remember how I said you get a crew? Well, as you add more and more crew members to your ship, your little island gets bigger and bigger, with more buildings, shops and other facilities that you can use to further enhance your party. The joy of getting more crew parallels the joy of finding more relics, and by the end of the game…well, let’s just say a large crew can inflict a lot of damage in certain situations, where they might be called on to save their captain’s skin.

Uh, can I trade Aika for the girl with the purple hair?

While this game came and went on the short-lived Dreamcast, it was also one of the few that managed to get a second life on the Gamecube a few years later. Skies of Arcadia Legends, a full port of the original game, managed to “correct” a few of the “flaws” in the original game, through a stripping down of the random encounter rate, additions of even more crew and monuments, and wanted battles, which tested your resolve with extremely challenging fights against wicked pirates, imperial spies…and yourselves. That’s right, at one point you get to fight your own  “clones” in a knock down, drag out brawl that ends with you being rewarded with…a fish? Yes, it was indeed a fish. But one hell of a fish.

Seeing that both the Dreamcast and Gamecube have faded away into the sunset, finding a copy of this game might be a slight challenge, but it is a worthy addition to the collections of any RPG enthusiast. In an era when Final Fantasy was the standard bearer for what an RPG should be, Skies of Arcadia was something fresh and new, not a copy of what had come before. With freedom to explore, a colorful cast and varied encounters, it gave an experience that has yet to be matched by any contemporary game.