Yup, it’s true. 2004/11/16 was the day. I still have every damn sound of this game in my head.

Poor Gamlen! I always thought Hawke and the mother were total douchebags, to stay in his house and whatnot when they needed to, but left him behind once they could move back into this freaking huge mansion. Of course they should have invited him to come along (especially after the event with the mother, he should have been asked) and if the game would have offered this option, I most certainly would have.
Sure, for some reason the game is trying to portray Gamlen as a total dick, but the fact of the matter is, that he made it possible for Hawke (and family) to earn a way into the city, he could have told them to fuck off just as well – he didn’t. Not to mention that he allowed all of them to stay in his house free of charge, although the mom/his sister never did anything to contribute and only constantly complained on top of it all. This always bothered me.

Today Origin received an update, that (I was quite astonished to learn that this wasn’t how it worked in the first place) added the ability to its verify/repair game option, to actually include all the DLC and not just work on the original/non-DLC game files.
To try it out and because my Mass Effect 3 installation is 2.5 years old at this point, I thought it might not hurt to test it before starting to play a few ME3MP matches (yes, I’m still playing this, don’t laugh). It indeed showed that it was including all the DLC packs in this process and happy with this, I finally started playing MP. Now, I have 2.5 years of experience with this game, I’m extremely familiar with almost every characteristic, so I noticed right away something was off when the game now started to sometimes freeze for a second during gameplay (lags due to a bad connection are different). Part of the reason why I still play this game, is this super-smooth flow that seemingly starts to happen after a while (supported by the fact that my PC always delivered 60+ FPS without the slightest twitch), even before charging from one point of the map to the next (I usually play one of the Vanguard characters).
Obviously unpredictable freezes every now and then completely take me out of the game. I repeated the verify, due to a lack of better ideas, but of course this didn’t change anything. “Hitting” something twice to restore the original state only works in movies. I only noticed that this new lag/freeze, that was introduced by using the “repair game” option today, also/even happens in the menu, outside of actual gameplay. Perfect.
My sole hope is now, that maybe Origin will receive yet another update that might improve… something, but sadly I don’t feel optimistic enough to hold my breath.

PS: Alt-Tab doesn’t work anymore when Mass Effect 3 is running…

PPS: I’ve found some other people who have this problem as well, even with other games such as Battlefield, so I’m suspecting maybe something like the overlay is responsible after all (sadly only EA knows for sure if they changed the overlay in this Origin version) and not the verify. The next time I play ME3, I’ll try it without the overlay and see if the problem persists.

//Update

Okay I just verified it. The cause of this is the Origin-overlay. They somehow fucked it up in this latest Origin client update. If the overlay / Origin in-game is disabled, the game works again completely normal. No problems whatsoever, like before. No freezes, alt-tab works again. That’s really shitty regardless, they could at least play a game with a client update before releasing it.

I have a lot of shadows here AND I'm in Mordor, what more do you want?!?

If someone is into Lord of the Rings at all or into action games like Batman Arkham Something, this is the right game to get. If someone is into both, this is REALLY the game to get. :P
Its basic gameplay mechanics are taken with minor tweaks from the Arkham games and put to work in an open world like the ones in the… Arkham games. :D But it’s not like this is already the third game of the exact same kind.
Players should be familiar with this MO by now though, some main story missions are offered, surrounded by several side activities and then minor secrets are hidden throughout the world. This might not read as very euphoric at first glance, but everyone who has ever played an Arkham title and really enjoyed its flawless combat system, knows only all too well how much fun this is. Nothing less happens here.
Some of the main story missions feature powerful LotR content like sneaking with Gollum through an ork camp, while he sings something he probably considers to be a total smash hit. It doesn’t get better than this and it’s this stuff that doesn’t make it feel as if the license was wasted here.
All this talk and I haven’t even covered the most revolutionary feature of this game, which, of course, is the Nemesis system. It actually does a lot of things very well. The army of Sauron consists out of captains (more powerful orks), and those themselves are commanded by 5 even more powerful war chiefs (who sometimes use normal captains as bodyguards). The Nemesis system creates all these captains randomly, meaning no game has the identical enemies. Their looks, names, strengths and weaknesses are always custom. As if this wasn’t already cool enough, it also makes these captains fight each other (these struggles can be influenced by the player but also take place if they are ignored) which makes them more powerful if they succeed. If a captain kills the player, this captain will be promoted and so on, shifting/changing the power struggles inside the army. On rare occasions one of the captains might survive a battle against Talion, although he seemed defeated. This hostile will then come back with scars and wounds of the battle, often swearing revenge. This concept resulted in the situation, that the most interesting and memorable foe I faced in the whole game, was such a random character who was entirely made up by this system and who I will never encounter again, even if I would replay Shadow of Mordor. Of course this system has some minor weaknesses too, often the so called motivations of the orks are ridiculous (seriously, they could have come up with better stuff here :D), but for the most part it’s very solid, it’s not some beta gamble, although this is the first game it was used in.
I expect this and similar systems to pop up in many games from now on. In fact I hope this is going to happen. Just imagine an XCOM game with the Nemesis system (although they would surely give it a different name then :D). In fact, Firaxis should start working on a DLC righting this wrong RIGHT NOW. DON’T LEAVE US HANGING!

Can you spot Wonkers?

In preparation for Dreamfall Chapters, I rewatched Dreamfall. That seemed like a good idea, given how long it had been. I could have replayed it myself, but… At least this way I got to skip all these tedious combat sequences, which were the sole bad thing about it. I didn’t replay/rewatch The Longest Journey (I wish that game would be remade like Monkey Island 2), because considering how April Ryan was sidelined and ultimately removed, its story seemed no longer relevant to what’s going on now in Chapters (except for the rubber ducky still being at large).
I must admit I was really impressed by this game. The graphics, the music… all a lot better than I expected it to be. The game creates a mood that really agrees with me and so far it looks like the combat encounters from Dreamfall are nothing but a bad memory. :D
That’s not necessarily something to hold against Chapters, but it sometimes seems like they played Telltale games like TWD a little bit too much, when the game starts stating info of the type “x will remember y”, but that’s still easy to forgive, I mean the Telltale stuff sells after all…
The story seems alright so far, it certainly offers a nice re-entry into the world of Dreamfall (they managed to keep the tone of the previous game surprisingly well and I liked a lot how it continues exactly where the story stopped) and I don’t think it’s possible to say a lot more about it, after only experiencing 1/5 of it.
I’m a little bit torn about “decisions” in games like this, because they too often either offer little difference and/or it’s not possible to make an informed decision on what to choose, given the way such options are usually presented. What I mean by that, is that often the already mentioned “x will remember y” message pops up at the top of the screen, when I didn’t even realize that my actions would be counted as a choice. An example for this is a scene, in which a character known to Zoe is threatened by some thugs and if the player walks towards them, he has made the choice to intervene. So the other option obviously would have been to not move at all, or even walk into another direction, but the problem is that in many other, typical scenarios in the game nothing happens when walking towards anyone, not unless the appropriate action button to talk to them is pressed. How is the player supposed to know, that in this single instance, just walking without doing anything else, is the choice? In my opinion it’s not possible for the player to know that, unless someone has already played the game before. That might branch the game somewhat, but it’s still not a consciously made choice.
There are more problems with the “choices” in the game, I remember a scene in which a normal dialog option prompted the ominous “he will remember that” message. I don’t want to sound too negative about it, it’s great that they are really trying to do something here, but considering how this gameplay mechanic is implemented or works sometimes, I often feel confused or even angry, when I selected something I never recognized as such a choice beforehand and I’m certainly detached from all of it, when I have to choose between options that I absolutely can’t make an informed decision about. In these instances, I only end up selecting SOMETHING simply to proceed… Sure, sometimes in life you have to make choices without being able to know their outcome, but I still can’t imagine this was always the intent in such a game.
So far the patch support has been great, they managed to roll out some significant improvements in only a short amount of time and I hope they can keep it up in the future, should this be necessary.
There are now only 2 more Kickstarter games I backed and haven’t gotten yet. I’m almost shocked how, so far, none of them have disappointed me/couldn’t fulfill their promise. I always hear these KS horror stories, but so far I’ve been completely spared.
I’m definitely going to replay Book One to benefit from the latest patches.

+Fixed issue with cleaned appartment and removed some cable shaking.
+Added more Trip and turnstile lines and unknown Occult item infos.
+Corrected Obfuscator aura and one missing halo for tutorial wolves.
+Restored missing Ocean House newspaper and made photos look sepia.
+Added quest state for warehouse bonus and fixed minor text details.
+Restored generators to Leopold Society and improved warehouse one.
+Added toiletries to Skyeline haven and fixed SM victim standing up.
+Changed library boss teleport behaviour and fixed his cover nodes.
+Moved Braid Talisman into the Hallowbrook atrium and removed blade.
+Restored Copper Masquerade violation and added a line about Nines.
+Added Combat to feat names, restored Soak and called Social Public.
Repaired dialogues of Knox, Heather, Therese, Vandal and Dane cop.
Fixed some dirt floating inside of holes and more minor map issues.
Made only Chunk use the Gallery Noir entrance to hide during rain.
Repaired popping Ocean House sounds and getting stuck with witness.
Hid Ocean House and Grout’s mansion blocks and a downtown texture.
Doubled distance in which detail models fade away, thanks to QUAKE.
Fixed Skyeline elevator issue and VPK packing, thanks vladdmaster.
Added updated fileutil.py into Python 2.7.2 folder, thanks Hasimir.
Fixed Jack not replying due to Python vamputil.py, thanks Hasimir.

http://www.patches-scrolls.de/patch/4647/64038/64039/description

Still less lensflares than in JarJar's Star Trek movies!

Contrast is a nice “little” game that somehow reminded me a bit of Brothers. It’s proof that smaller budgets can (let’s say) inspire (:D) ideas that large(r) budgets would have crushed. This game uses a really nice style, in which only silhouettes are shown for most characters instead of typical 3D models. The practical reason behind this was, that it would have buried this company to do full models for everyone, but it then helped to shape the whole tone and story of the game. They still managed to get the most out of it. When I played it, I never thought that anything was missing and I was very happy with their execution.
The only thing that really could have needed some more elaboration is the ending, but sadly this is almost normal in the gaming realm. Most of them are about the journey and not an awesome resolution at the end.
I got the edition including the soundtrack, which was the right call. The music is as memorable as the game. I’m hoping a sequel is out there lingering in the shadows (I apologize for this) and will come out into the light as soon as possible.

Maybe they will get it right in the movie!

DXHR was one of the most memorable titles of the last years for me. Some places, especially the Detroit hub reminded me a lot of Vampire Bloodlines (even the music in the background), which was maybe the only game that I finished like 7 times. So it’s no wonder DXHR is exactly my cup of tea. I bought and played the game right when it first came out and later got The Missing Link. I didn’t immediately buy the director’s cut when it came out, because there didn’t seem to be much incentive for me to do so, even as a fan. There was also the part, that the added value seemed to be around the corner of game additions that other companies dole out for free. If not below that. But with me wanting to replay the game and never having played the director’s cut, it suddenly started making much more sense to get the DC for this playthrough.
Back when the DC was brand new, I heard a lot of talk about the boss fights being reworked, because those got a lot of criticisms (not necessarily from me, I think it’s kinda normal that boss fights work differently from the rest of the game). Now I’m thinking all of that must have been unofficial gossip by people who never touched the DC. All of that stuff is identical to the original game and the sole difference in the DC I could find, is the added commentary. If DXHR wasn’t such a good game and if I would have had any expectations towards this edition of the game, this would have really bothered me. I understand that not everyone can develop “enhanced editions” or whatever, like for example CD Projekt Red keeps making them, but still. So, owners of the previous content buy this DC solely for the commentary. That’s it! Oh wait, there’s also “New Game+”, but…
There is only one thing wrong with the implementation of the commentary, during cutscenes the audio of the game and the commentary is always played simultaneously, which makes it hard to listen to either. The game doesn’t pause or offers any possibility to still follow the story – so activating commentary is really only for people who have already played it before. During normal gameplay it’s much much better and it’s no problem to place Jensen somewhere safe and listen to the commentary in peace.
So I’m happy to report that at least the commentary, as the sole really new feature, delivers. The devs who speak their piece are great folks who have interesting info to share. It’s exactly what I, as a player, want to hear when I’m accessing such an option. Hearing all these nice little tales, it became even less of a mystery to me, why I like this game so much. If they™ ever were to make a movie (and yes, I understand that it was only their mantra-like joke), these people should be included.

I think it is a lot better than I hoped it would be aka they strengthened the core experience of the game while cutting some flavor where optional stuff is concerned.

I was worried before the game was released, because I read previous games (okay I guess there is only Moebius [and Cognition]) from Phoenix Online had (so far I didn’t have the pleasure to play it, so I don’t have any first-hand experience), for one, horrible wooden animations for all characters and the like and I really didn’t want that for Gabriel Knight, I rather would have had no remake. I wanted this remake to be the remake a classic (and personal all-time favorite of mine) like Gabriel Knight deserved.
It was later stated that they used MoCap for GK, but my fears were only put to rest when I started playing it. The animations are actually quite good. Characters can pick up all kinds of objects or even hand them to another character and it looks at least as good as it does in other current adventure games (think e.g. Broken Sword 5). Definitely nothing someone could complain about (okay, this is the Internet so I guess I only have to give it some time :D). I also never had this glitch, where Gabriel putting on his coat is a clipping nightmare (some tester demonstrated this before the game’s release), it works flawless on my PC, so I’m thinking they clearly improved the game since the preview builds.

Another possible letdown for me was, that I’m a huge fan of the original voice cast (I later learned there are people who actually hate Tim Curry’s work… WTH?), I thought it was mostly brilliant and hard to top and I also don’t like it when such things are changed. So I knew right away that different voices were another point that might be hard to swallow for me, but I survived that as well. It’s impossible to overhear how much they tried to get voices which would sound at least similar to the originals (and they do) and that just shows how much work was put into it. It’s professional, no doubt about it. One of the voices (“Desk Sergeant Frick”) is so close to the original cast, you could almost believe it’s the same guy.

I’m “only” on Day 7 (actually I’m done now but the comment remains true), so I haven’t seen everything yet, but so far they really nailed all the art. The locations are pretty and other than in the original, they are also animated now. Candles will produce smoke, stuff like that. It’s great. Places like the Voodoo Museum look so much better because of it. I especially like the way the bookstore looks now, which was a very good call, because this is probably the central location of the game the player will see more often. Some of the places have a more sterile, cold 2D rendered look (the cemetery) I don’t like that much, but even that is no big problem. It’s still okay and looks as detailed as those high res screens can.

Next on my list was, that the original had all these commands like look, open/close, move, use… and lots of them didn’t work most of the time of course, BUT they still prompted Gabriel or the narrator to state funny/unique things. With the “easier” interfaces all new adventure games have, I thought they might remove those parts that really added flavor to the game, most others of this type have always lacked. To my delight they didn’t, most of these lines are still in. In these cases there are most of these extra options shown that don’t really make sense, but were solely kept to not remove the funny lines.

A new feature I like a lot, is that you can now access interviews, concept art […] for pretty much every location. Also for both the original and the remake. Honestly, they could have added a lot more commentary than they did. There is a 2 part voice interview with Jane Jensen and I would have liked commentary for each screen and maybe even from other people who worked on the project. They should have tried harder to include anyone who had anything interesting to say about this game. Both original and remake. But that is only a very minor regret for me and absolutely irrelevant for everyone who doesn’t listen to such commentaries anyway.
For some reason though, the bonus content isn’t sorted and shown elements often have no connection with the room the player is in, it can be completely random, what is available. There’s also no possibility to zoom or scroll, which sometimes produces smaller problems.

There are some minor changes to some puzzles and I ended up liking them all, so far every change I noticed made the game better, they really thought about that stuff and it’s now even more palpable. For example there’s this scene with the priest’s collar and in the remake there’s actually a nice little puzzle involved in getting it, instead of just taking it from an otherwise empty room, which was how the original handled it. Another good example for an improved scene is how they gave the player now a reason to visit the tomb of Gabriel’s family. In the original the player could just skip this part altogether, when he is supposed to face this. It feels like it already should have been this way in the original. The changes have been made in very good taste (excluding some of the new fullscreen puzzles, not so sure about those).

So all in all, pretty much nothing I feared might suck in this remake actually does. It’s overall a lot better than I thought it would be and I’m very happy playing it. It’s so good that I’m not sure I will fire up the original again, whenever I want to replay Gabriel Knight.

I don’t think anyone is going to have a problem with this game, unless they are so in love with the original voice work, that they absolutely can’t accept other (similar sounding) voices even though the rest of the game is good.

Oh, the Gabriel Knight comic is now a part of the game too and can be read directly from the main menu. Such elements should be merged.

[1] “My honest first thought as a fan of the series was, “oh man, they couldn’t get Tim Curry,”” Victor said. “ newjerseyhills.com

[2] First patch is out http://www.postudios.com/blog/forum/index.php?topic=14170.0

[3] Gabriel no longer hugs his grandmother when he visits her. http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/10/15/wot-i-think-gabriel-knight-20th-anniversary/

[4] We ended up raising, I think it was around $435,000, after everybody takes their cut, we had about $390,000. http://www.joystiq.com/2014/10/22/gabriel-knight-and-starvation-wages-at-pinkerton-road/

[5] Classic adventure game hero Gabriel Knight returns for remake http://boingboing.net/2014/10/25/classic-adventure-game-hero-ga.html

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