Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Star War: The Old Republic - Impressions up to level 10.

Disclaimer: I'm going to do my best to avoid spoilers for the Imperial Agent story arc.

I used my natural 20 willpower to avoid downloading SWTOR...wait, I have no willpower and purchased SWTOR after work on Saturday.  It was a 25GB download which by the time I could actually play I was pretty drunk and I had to work the next day.  My initial impression of the game was good, I think,  like I said I was pretty drunk, I do remember having serious issues with the mouse/keyboard control.  Sunday after work though I was able to have a better experience (sober) playing.  I think I will always have problems with the mouse/keyboard set up (thirty years of console gaming compared with less than five PC gaming).  I've been having a pain in the ass trying to get a wireless 360 controller hooked up to my PC so I'm gonna switch over to a regular controller (hopefully before this weekend).  SWTOR is going to play a lot smoother for me once I get a controller mapped.  As is my movement is stop and start and combat is kind of static - which sucks because combat in SWTOR is kind of awesome.

I joked about SWTOR being to WoW what G+ is to FB.  It looks better, it's cooler, I like it more even though the controls are kind of weird, nothing is really explained so you have to learn by trial and error, and I'm usually alone except for one or two other people (I'm on a light use PvE server which might account for something).

But is SWTOR good?  Yes, and more importantly it's fun and it's a Star Wars that doesn't have suck attached to it.  I've caught myself *theatrical gasp* enjoying my gaming experience and the locations I'm playing in (another reason I want to map a controller is better camera control so I can actually look at the environs easily).  The designers did a great job of creating something new and awesome while at the same time keeping within bounds of the 'verse (see?  was that so fucking hard?).  Granted SWTOR is from the fine folks at Bioware so this level of quality was to be expected.  Here's a run down of the good, the bad, and the Hutt.
  • The best part of this game so far is that I'm actually playing a character in a MMO, with a story, a personality and...uh...wait, really?  For some reason it just kind of struck me that, in my limited experience with MMOs, I haven't really played a character.  I've just been running around gathering resources to build shit (or being sent by NPCs to do their grunt work).  There have been a couple of step'n'fetch quests but these have been minimal for the most part.  Some of the missions have been pretty cool, particularly those story based.
  • I'm also aware of playing a role as an Imperial Agent and for some reason I've been playing her a little cagier than my normal chaotic good.  Now the dialogue choices use the Bioware three responses which kind of telegraph positive, negative, neutral.  "Would you like a cheese sandwich?"
    • 1. Why yes please and thank you.
    • 2. I already ate.
    • 3. I'll fuckin have you killed!
  • I haven't really explored how companion and advanced skills work.  I like being able to send my lackey to do step'n'fetch quests without really having to do anything.  This must be what it feels like to ab a NPC, "You there, go find this thing for me while I remain in this cantina.  Move along.  Chop, chop."
  • Jo Wyatt does an excellent job as voice actress for the female Imperial Agent.  Having a voiced character with a kick ass accent?  Fuckin sweet!
  • Which leads me to the point that the voice acting in this game is astoundingly good and varied (though a couple of static background NPCs have the same dialogue which made me laugh everytime I heard the guy in a cantina trying to pick up a chick.  I just imagined him saying that to any chick who walked by).  Even dialogue for side quest NPCs is good and well-voiced.  Nicely done Bioware.  High five!
On the downside:
  • Learning the controls and what all what does has been kind of a pain in the ass.  Correction - the basic controls are the same as every other MMO but nothing is particularly explained.  For example the game advised me to check the codex for info about my companion.  Uh, where the fuck is the Codex?  It took me awhile to find it as a tab on the bottom of the quest log.  Another example is trying to figure out what the hell my companion skills were doing or will do.  These are listed in the codex but this was before I figured out where the codex was and before I had selected skills.  Then I read some stuff in the codex about the skills I selected, one of which apparently makes armor for Jedi or some shit, so then I had to figure out if I could change companion skillsFortunately I can, which is going to be something I work on after I read the codex entries.  Alternatively I could have just gone here.
  • I really hate mouse/keyboard controls for basic controls and combat.  I know that some of you hardcore PC gamers are all like controllers are for n00bs but y'know what?  Go fuck yourselves.  You probably have $300 gaming keyboards and have spent decades honing your skills.  Me?  It's like a monkey fucking a football and my fingers start to cramp from all the weird combinations of keys I need to use.  I know a lot of major releases have been mapped to a controller (e.g. Skyrim) and while a controller is shite for menu control, chat, and that type of use in combat it's a huge help for me.  At least have an in-game option to set a controller and keyboard.  What are people with arthritis supposed to do if they want to play?
Other than those two complaints I'm having a good time and will post pictures and assorted schtuff soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

While waiting for SWTOR to download

I've had quite a few cues from Williams' Star Wars scores running through my head for the past few days while I was debating about getting into Star Wars: The Old Republic.  For some reason, yesterday or the day before, my brain shifted over to Indiana Jones and I found myself whistling a mash-up of "Duel of the Fates", "Truck Chase" and "Slave Children's Crusade" (which is quite possibly my favorite whistling song).  I caught myself  -and had a laugh at myself knowing Short Run's cues - realizing that most of my early memories are scored by Williams.  Maybe Williams is in my genetic make-up, according to legend my parents went to see Jaws on their first date (I was born a few years later).

I've been a long time soap-boxer about the influence that a score plays on a film (could you imagine Lawrence of Arabia without Maurice Jarre's score?) and the connection between film/score/memory but while I wait for the newest incarnation of Star Wars to download I realize that I can't wait for the Williams brass bang that accompanies the beginning of each Star Wars movie.  Not the scrolling credits, not the wipes, but those first chords of the intro.  Williams is a master of cues and themes and really his four best scores are instantly recognizable: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Williams has a distinct sonic profile (if that's even a term) which matches the Spielberg/Lucas genre.  I know this may sound absurd but could you imagine Horner or Morricone or Kyd scoring any of these movies?

After losing my train of thought and getting caught up in rewatching Temple of Doom I guess I'll just end this post with Indiana Jones could beat the shit out of Han Solo (plus out fieldwork him).




Saturday, January 14, 2012

My planned Skyrim build

I normally don't use perk calculators on my first play through for different reason than I don't use a guide or FAQs.  I shy away from calculators because I want to avoid spoilers and the like.  However, this time around I want to min/max my character and I also know what skills I need and what I can ditch.  I found this awesome Skyrim Perk Calculator.  Here's what I'm shooting for with an 81 level cap:

  • Heavy Armor
    • Juggernaut V
    • Well Fitted
    • Fists of Steel
    • Cushioned
    • Conditioning
  • Block
    • Shield Wall I
    • Deflect Arrows
    • Elemental Protection
    • Block Runner
    • Shield Charge
  • Smithing
    • Steel
    • Arcane
    • Dwarven
    • Orcish
    • Ebony
    • Daedric
    • Dragon
  • Sneak
    • Stealth I
    • Muffled Movement
  • Lockpicking
    • Novice - Master
  • Pickpocket
    • Light Fingers
    • Night Thief
    • Extra Pockets
  • Speech
    • Haggling I
    • Allure
    • Merchant
    • Bribery
    • Persuasion
  • Alchemy
    • Alchemist V
    • Physician
    • Benefactor
  • Illusion
    • Novice - Master
    • Animage
    • Kindred
    • Quiet Casting
    • Master of the Mind
  • Destruction
    • Novice - Master
    • Augemented Flames II (+50% dmg)
  • Restoration
    • Novice - Master
    • Recovery II (Magicka regen +50%)
    • Respite (Healing spells also regen stamina)
  • Alteration
    • Novice - Master
  • Enchanting
    • Enchanter V
    • Insightful Enchanter
    • Corpus Enchanter
    • Extra Effect (two effects on each item)
This is pretty different from my current build/normal character.  I'm going to skip the melee weapons unless I am just spamming to build levels or running out of magicka - plus the melee system in Skyrim kind of sucks (it's probably awesome but I just suck at melee). 

Skyrim second playthrough: Cheats, nerfs, bugs, cheap tricks, spoilers, followers, and marriage.

NOTE: You might want to skip this post if you haven't gone through the game once.  Possible spoilers.

Yeah I know, I know.  I thought I was done with the Skyrim posts too but I started a secondary character I might have fun sticking with: a Nord mage/tank I named Panzerbjorn.  So far it's been working and it's kind of cool to be using heavy armor and shield with magic.  So here are some tricks I've learned or read about or just stumbled across along with some notes, ideas, and bugs I've come across. 
  • Right after getting out of Helgen I hauled ass down to Rivertown and took care the Sven/Faendal quest.  I recommend helping Faendal because you can have him as a companion and as such when you pay him to train archery you can just into his inventory and take your money back.  Plus Sven is just kind of a putz.
  • Once you have Faendal following you leg it over to Whiterun, pick up the carriage to Markarth, once in Morthal head Eest/Northeast toward The Lover Stone.  This stone gives a +15% bonus to learning all skills, which is pretty fucking sweet, especially as a lower level character.
  • Head back to Markarth and carriage to Riften.  Go to the Temple of Mara and pick up an Amulet of Mara (either for 200 septims or from completing the first of the Mara quest arc).  Having this amulet equipped will enable marriage to certain NPCs (but only one and if they die then tough bananas, no remarriage).
  • To avoid death of a follower/spouse I recommend power levelling to 14 and unlocking the immortal Mjoll the Lioness.  As an "essential" NPC she can't be killed which is pretty fuckin sweet, she can dish out whompins.  She'll use a two handed weapon given the chance but her skills lay with one handed melee.  Plus I like her, she makes me laugh.
  • I was looking around at other followers and oddly enough J'Zargo is supposed to be a pretty awesome mage companion who specializes in heavy armor, unarmed combat, and doesn't have a level cap. 
  • In theory, with Mjoll and by not completeing Alduin's Wall, and with Shadowmere you could have a batshit crazy crew of unkillable NPCs. 
  • An awesome thing about Shadowmere is that the beastie is nigh unkillable and won't attack you if you use him as a training dummy for combat skills.  Granted if spam bashing a daemonic horse in the face with weapons, shields, and spells isn't your idea of a good time then,well nevermind.
  • Leather bracers are absurdly simple to make en masse to power level smithing - one leather and two strips. 
  • Arniel's Endeavour is a Mage College quest that buggy as shit.  In particular if you dual wield the spell that is to be used on that quest then consider the quest null and void.  Stupid bugged quests.
  • I've been saving my perk points, which has made combat kind of difficult so far but I figure once I zip through the quests I want I'll be able to distribute them.  I really wish there was a way to redistribute perk points a la Borderlands but unfortunately there isn't, which sucks.
Thrills and chills ladies and gentlemen.  I'm really just replaying Skyrim because I have fuck all else to play right now and it's kind of fun just running around and exploiting the game.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Star Wars/Trek mashup from cracked.com forums


"What are you gonna do with your life?!?"


See more on Know Your Meme

Another Skyrim meme, thanks for nothin HYR.


The Innkeepers (2012) dir Ti West

I was able to watch an early release of The Innkeepers a few days ago and meant to write a review sooner but I having some time to think about it might have been a good thing. 

You all know how big of a fan I am of Ti West's House of the Devil and how excited I was for The Innkeepers.  Well, The Innkeepers is in no way, shape, or form as good as House of the Devil which isn't really surprising considering that HotD is one of the best American horror movies of the last ten years.  Innkeepers isn't great and I don't think most viewers are going to like it much at all.  Personally I enjoyed it though it has several problems.  On the upside:
  • The acting and dialogue was convincing and natural.  Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) have a co-worker/friend rapport that is pretty familiar.
  • Ti West edited his film really well.  There were a couple of moments where the cinematography and editing were really sharp. 
  • I now have a crush of Sara Paxton and will watch movies with her in them (not a build a shrine crush).
  • Pat Healy looks and sounds like a bizarro Josh in this movie (though he looks more like my buddy Josh instead of me Josh).
  • Kelly McGillis is still awesome.
  • West manages to create dynamic tension through out the movie (and pulls some brilliant tricks to confuse or defuse the tension) but ultimately Innkeepers stumbles once it really should turn it up to 11.  It's tough to explain without any spoilers so just watch the movie.
I am looking forward to watching this again because it was good and enjoyable (and I love Yankee haunted house/inn movies) and it was far superior to a lot of the crap I've seen over the last few years.  I'm planning a follow up review to this one when I watch Innkeepers again.

"One does not simply make a sixteen pound ham in Mordor": Part 3

After three hours in a cauldron kept at a rolling boil, Hamzilla has been transferred into a 350 oven.  Yes, I named this giant block of swine Hamzilla.  I also administered a heavy dose of crawfish boil sauce to the mix. The olfactory impact of my apartment right now is a mash-up of the end of 2001 and the opening credits of Superjail.  If it weren't for the fact I was going to share Hamzilla with normal people I might ratchet the madness up to Do Lung Bridge with the addition of my Chemical X chile paste.

"We can't stop here.  This is ham country."



*Begin transmission*

"My crew is gone, consumed by...something.  Only I am left.  It came for Strangepork first, then First Mate Piggy.  I tried to save her.  I tried to save us all.  Captain Link Hogthrob, final entry.  May God have mercy on us all.." GUNSHOT.

*End transmission*

Monday, January 09, 2012

"C'mon feel the ham!" Epic hamming Part 2

After a long day of helping friends pack and move I like to come home and unwind by cooking a 16lb ham...at 8pm on a Monday night.  Yes friends I finally have a pot big enough - almost - to cook the haunch of piggy I wrote about earlier.  After washing the pot in the bathtub - the kitchen sink wasn't big enough - and prepping the ham by bludgeoning a cave troll with it I have put it on the stove.  I'm following the recommended cooking method simmering in water and then finishing in the oven.  I didn't soak the ham as part of the prep but I don't think should matter too much - hopefully.  I also added three halved lemons, a dozen bay leaves, a can of pear juice, a whole mess of garlic, and a good slug of cider vinegar to the pot.  My plan is to simmer the ham tonight and then finish in the oven tomorrow.  Fortunately I don't have to work until 1pm tomorrow so I can stay up pretty late dealing with the ham.  Also I can run by the store and pick up a few things I need when I bake it.  Pics and further news pending.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Homosexuality in video games - idle thoughts

On December 30, 2011 Andrew Meade wrote an opinion piece on gamasutra.com (one of these best gaming sites out there) titled "Awful Lot of Heterosexuals Around Here" that posits the question, "Can you name three homosexual characters in popular video games that were NOT made by BioWare, Bethesda, or Rockstar?" which cause a mountain of responses (ranging with internet predictability from troll to thoughtful).  On the second of January Anjin Anhut wrote, "A Case For a Gay Protagonist".  I was reminded of Samantha Xu's article I linked back in January 09 about Persona 4's Kanji Tatsumi (also from gamasutra.com).  After reading and rereading these pieces and skimming comments I felt the need to write down a few thoughts and possibly (hopefully) hear what your thoughts were.

My initial response to Mr. Meade's question was Perfect Dark - which had a lesbian protagonist as a selling point.  My second response, and the comment I left with the link on FB, was more sarcastic, "Oh so the sweaty muscle bound meathead protagonists aren't as homoerotic as "Top Gun"volleyball? A "relateable" gay character is going to be as rare, if not more so, as a relatable female protagonist."  I had to laugh because I remembered playing Gears of War co-op with my wife during which she constantly made sweaty burly man-love references and joked about the lack of a smooch button (I can only imagine what she thinks of Vin Diesel's relationship). These other random thoughts appeared in not particular order:

  • In most RPGs in which I can choose my gender I play a female character.  In games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect I am pretty much a libertine.  During a second play-through I play a male character who is equally licentious - even though I play an "evil" character as a male.  I was disappointed I couldn't get into Alistair's pants as a male character (almost as much as I was that I couldn't get into Morgan's pants as a female character).
  • Part of the reason I avoid most online gaming (particularly on XBOX Live) is the constant stream of homophobic (and racist) noise pollution that is uttered by other gamers.  
  • As I jokingly posted on FB a large number of hyper-masculine protagonists in games seem to have escaped from some beefcake homoerotic bondage website or been torn from a Tom of Finland erotic comic.
  • There's also the stereotypical double standard of same-sex relations apparent in games.  Two hot chicks = oh yeah.  Two hot guys = Westboro Baptist Church response.
  • Does it really matter what the sexual proclivities of your protagonist are?  I suppose that if games are used as fantasy fulfillment then yes it might matter to an individual.  However this raises the question about a how player role plays a game like Dragon Age or Mass Effect.  How often do you or I actually play a character in a video game (especially a RPG)?  It's easy enough to pick the good or bad choices during play in most games and exploit NPCs for material gain.
  • One thing I don't understand, and this is perhaps a stupid thought, is the concept that playing a gay (or any other type) protagonist some kind of personal affront?  ZOMG my character is attracted to members of the same sex that must mean I am blah blah blah hyperbole.
I suppose that in the end the mainstream gaming market is still heavily based upon sales to heterosexual white males (in this country).  Less than a handful of games with female protagonists who aren't all T&A exist and those do well with reviewers but make shite for sales (e.g. Between Good & Evil, Hydrophobia).  Black protagonists of either gender are virtually nonexistent (unless you count Elder Scrolls  Redwalls and Borderlands  Soldier).  Personally I'd be happy to play a game that was well-written, with excellent and dynamic character development, and the ability to draw me into an experience that was new, refreshing, and challenged both my gaming abilities and my preconceived notions of what a gaming experience can be.  

More crap on netflix I watched during my week off:

I'm starting to get to the bottom of the barrel of netflix horror/thriller/suspense.  There are a lot of titles I've already seen and my queue is filled with excellent movies but every time I want to watch a movie I don't want to sit through some Godard or Bergman (as much as I love them).  My main interests over the last year or so are Spanish & French supernatural thrillers (the Spanish films are far superior) British and Australian horror/thrillers.  Some of them have been really good but most are okay, better than most of the straight-to-DVD garbage Americans crank out at least.  Here's a run down of some of what I've watched recently in particular order and not limited to horror.
  • Beneath the Dark (2010) dir Chad Feehan.  An indie "Twilight Zone"-esque thriller that's predictable but better than average with an underlying message about taking responsibility for one's actions and the long reaching consequences they can have.  It's not bad at all but don't fall over yourself to see it.
  • Vanishing on 7th Street (2011) dir Brad Anderson.  John Leguizamo = good.  Hayden "NOOOOOOOO!" Christensen = bad.  I was watching this alone and cracking myself up by making "Star Wars" references everytime Christensen was on screen.  Gong.
  • Vamp (1986) dir Richard Wenk.  Despite the suckiness of this movie it kind of fucking rocks simply because it's one of those 80s movies that just don't give a fuck.  Grace Jones goes batshit crazy in this one even though she doesn't say a word.  Gedde Watanabe cracked me up as well.  I wonder what he's doing now.  Pure schlock goodness.
  • Dead Cert (2010) dir Steven Lawson.  London hard cunts vs vampires.  Seriously, this movie wasn't great but it was actually kind of awesome.  I kind of wish it had been a Neil Marshall movie.  Worth watching for some of the performances and a drinking game based on the premise of drinking whenever you can't comprehend the argy bargy robble robble innit dialogue. 
  • Rammbock (2010) dir Marvin Kren.  A German zombie movie that turned out to be pretty good and I have little patience for zombie movies.  This falls squarely into the character driven zombie movie school in which the zombies are just a useful template.  This movie really worked for me because I liked the protagonists and their interactions.  Definitely worth seeing - especially since it was horribly dubbed like We Are the Night.
  • The Violent Kind (2010) dir Mitchell Altieri & Phil Flores.  Bikers vs undead Rockabilly...WTF.  If this movie had been made in the 80s it would been awesome but for some reason it just doesn't work.  I ended up having more fun dismembering gummi bears while watching this than actually watching the movie. 
  • Inheritance (2011) dir Robert O'Hara.  This movie took me completely off guard for several reasons.  The first was that it was a departure from the average horror movie that has a black cast.  Normally a black horror movie tends to be thugs vs monsters with a shitty Dirty South soundtrack and a production quality that is reminiscent of shitty rap videos.  Inheritance has just regular citizens in a tense situation.  Not the world's greatest horror movie and pretty damn predictable but worth a gander if you're looking for something off the beaten path.  Some of the acting was pretty solid as well.
  • Last of the Living (2008) dir Logan McMillan.  A Kiwi zom-com that was okay but not really worth the twenty minutes I watched of it.  Three dumb-asses fight zombies and make gay jokes.  Gong.
  • The Tomb (2009) dir Michael Staininger.  Once upon a time, during a magical time, Fangoria was the go to source for all our horror needs.  Now Fangoria has the same connotation as Wes Craven, that is - total fucking crap.  The hot goth-y chick bad guy didn't even get naked.  Gong.
  • Coffin Rock (2009) dir Rupert Glasson.  An Aussie stalker thriller that turned out to be a great watch.  Well paced with engaging characters and shot really well.  Worth watching but this is not an actioner or erotic thriller, it's a tense character drama.
  • To the Devil a Daughter (1976) dir Peter Sykes.  I was sold on this movie from the beginning which opens with a segment of dialogue that was sampled in White Zombie's "Super-Charger Heaven" (I still love White Zombie).  This Hammer flick stars Christopher Lee and his crazy ass eyebrows, Denholm Elliot, Richard Widmark, and Natasha Kinski and her sexy self.  I had a good time watching this and while it wasn't remotely as good as "The Omen" it was a satisfying mid-70s Satanic movie.  Plus there was one part actually creeped me out, if you've seen it you probably know the part I mean.
There were a couple of other titles I watched but turned off after a few minutes - Kill Katie Malone, for example, was laughable and I turned that off after about ten minutes.  I still have a lot of free time until school starts so expect a couple more rounds of reviews. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

"Fright Night" (2011) and "Cowboys & Aliens" (2011)

Fright Night (2011) dir Craig Gillespie - Yeah I watched it, I felt like I had to.  While I've begun to slow my ire roll towards remakes (Rob Zombie's remakes of Halloween were fuckin rad) Fright Night (2011) made a complete botch of a totally awesome 80s horror classic.  This was like bread gone wrong.  All the ingredients were there, the bread could have been awesome, and instead it's all gross and barely edible.  What was wrong with this remake?  It didn't translate/modernize well at all.  Fright Night (1985) is kind of a time capsule that, if you're of a certain age group, works primarily as a nostalgia trip.  Fright Night (2011) just face planted as a crappy vampire movie for the Superbad generation.  The saddest part about the film is that individually the actors are perfectly reasonable (except for Colin Farrell - I just don't cotton to him) but together it was one big meh.  Checked on imdb.com and Lisa Loeb was in it?  Huh?  Don't spend money on it but if you must watch it because David Tennant is in it then don't expect much.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) dir Jon Favreau.  I love Weird Westerns.  I love Daniel Craig.  I feel pretty good about Jon Favreau (except for that whole Iron Man 2 thing).  I still have feelings for Harrison Ford but his movies have been pretty much crap since the late-90s.  Seriously, after The Devil's Own (1997), Harrison Ford is in shite movies.  I wasn't expecting much from Cowboys & Aliens - just a popcorn movie.  Sadly it didn't even manage to accomplish that.  Again, all the elements were there but the end result was barely meh.  I blame this mess:
Roberto Orci (screenplay) & Alex Kurtzman (screenplay) & Damon Lindelof (screenplay) & Mark Fergus (screenplay) & Hawk Ostby (screenplay) - Mark Fergus (screen story) & Hawk Ostby (screen story) and Steve Oedekerk (screen story)
The story is cool but the script is awful, uneven at best, and wanders around aimlessly.  I can't recommend Cowboys & Aliens at all, even with the awesomeness of the climactic battle (during which aliens kick the shit out of cowboys, indians, and horses) and Harrison Ford riding a horse again and being bad-ass and not escaping atomic detonation in a fucking fridge. 

Monday, January 02, 2012

Borderlands (2009) The Adventure Continues

Back in October 09 I did a first impressions review of Gearbox Software's Borderlands.  It's been almost two years since my last post about the game and I hadn't picked up the final two DLC installments; Claptrap's New Robot Revolution (09/10) and The Secret Armory of General Knoxx (02/10).  I recently picked the game up again a little over a week ago from a friend who had it on indefinite loan.  I went over to his place for Christmas cooking and gaming and after a few hours of Portal 2 co-op madness we co-op'd Borderlands.  I had forgotten how much I loved this game and what a joyous mayhem it was to play it co-op.  The difficulty level goes up exponentially the more players you have (up to four) and the gear gets better as well.  I'm also a huge fan of the fact that enemies are based on the highest member of the group so you can't easily power level new characters with your hulking level 50+ character.  It has been a little difficult trying to rein in my urge to bulk up my new character while soloing - in order to keep apace of my friends - but truth be told it's definitely given the game some legs as I revisit areas, loot, work on achievements, and grind weapon skills on low level spawns.  I've been using my main character - the old hunter - to battle through DLC and pick up loot to give to my friends to sell.

I cannot express how impressed I am with the DLC for Borderlands.  After the fails of Fallout 3 DLC (and their game breaking gear) I've been pretty wary of DLC because I've been disappointed and pissed off when I would spend money on new DLC only for a Game of the Year (GOTY) edition to be released with all DLC for the original price point.  I understand the business model but I'd rather just wait for a company to release a complete game.  Part of the reason I don't have my normal whining about DLC with Borderlands is threefold.

  1. In the DLC you cannot send in a new character to grab all the high power goodies because enemies start at a higher level, in some cases a much higher level.
  2. The DLC story arcs are as good, and in some cases better, than the standard game.  At the same time these arcs build and expand upon the main story.  
  3. The DLC actually expands on the game as a whole, with new enemies, vehicles, mods, and combat that requires new techniques.
Sounds pretty simple but why can't Bethseda or Bioware grasp these concepts?

As far as a review of the DLC goes, I've only battled through The Secret Armory which took me a power game day (12 hours+) to get through the main story.  I have in no way shape or form completed all the side quests and frankly some of them fucking hate me.  The difficultly is almost absurd for a single player (my lvl 62 hunter on a second play through).  I'm dishing out thousands of points of damage in some cases and barely being able to hold my own.  Not only that but the DLC spawns different enemies with different strengths and weaknesses so my standard set of weapons often requires switch out (a flaw in the inventory management requires you to enter inventory and switch builds, though truth be told the pause in combat has been beneficial at times).  The secret end boss is a brutal fucker the likes of which I have not seen since Final Fantasy VII.  And I love it.  After Skyrim (as good as it is) the sheer brutality of combat is refreshing.  There's no "I can one shot a dragon" bullshit and it's that challenge that draws me in and keeps me playing.  It appeals to that part of me that's still ten and filled with rage at Zelda II.  That stubborn, vicious true grit, rabid bulldog tenacity which most games don't inspire in me any more.  Hell, when's the last time you cheered after taking down a particularly bastard of an NPC?  I know when I did, last night after I emptied my last clip into General Knoxx's corpse, just out of spite (I also might have quoted The Exorcist, "Your mother sucks cocks in Hell!").  Then feeling full of piss and vinegar I tried to tackle the secret end boss and got my dick curb stomped into the dirt.  Ah, hubris.  But I'm gonna try again (and again).

I am impressed by Borderlands and its DLC.  Normally I power game a release and belch and look for something else to play.  Co-op has definitely given this game legs as much as the DLC.  If any of you folks are looking to play I'm in for a penny.

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I've started playing the Soldier class and also spent enough time Siren to get her to lvl 20.  While I miss the loot bonuses that the Hunter class affords Soldier is a really fun class.  Kitted and skilled correctly Soldier proves not only an excellent support character (one mod allows you to give XP bonuses to team mates and one skill allows easy and rapid team healing) but allows you to exploit the flexibility combat rifles provide.  With extended clips and reduced recoil (stacked with skill and mod bonuses) even the shittiest heavy machine gun (incapable of short controlled bursts) becomes a viable combat weapon in close quarters and at mid-range.  I was lucky enough to come across a S&S with both a reduced rate of fire and recoil suppression and have been able to get more precision critical hits than with a Dahl.  Combined with a 125 ammo capacity and capability to free fire, if I do need to drop the hammer I can do that as well.  Unfortunately reload speed is shite and there have been one or two instances that I've simply swapped weapons instead of reloading.  A downside to combat rifles, is it's easy to burn through a lot of ammo unless you have a Support mod with ammo regen and/or a couple of decent weapons stowed away.  

The Soldier class has a skill (and Commando mod) which grants bonuses to shotguns but in my experience shotguns aren't particularly useful in Borderlands.  The revolver has a higher DPS and accuracy (in most cases) for your money.  Most repeater pistols aren't all that great either.  If you're looking for a high capacity, close quarters "spray and pray" weapon the SMG is a better choice though it's best suited for a Siren character (her skill tree has some awesome bonuses for the SMG).  I haven't really given Brick the melee/explosive weapons (rocket launchers, etc.) character much of a play but looking over his stats he could be a shotgun maestro if that's your style.      

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