Eidolon Review

How did I end up spending more than twenty hours in a walking simulator? I guess a large part of it can be attributed to the mystery. Eidolon is a game that doesn’t spoon-feed you anything at all.

You’re dropped into the massive forests modeled after Western Washington, USA, with no equipment or directions of any kind. Soon enough you’ll find some rudimentary survival gear and some documents left behind by people that came before. These documents, which range from personal letters to posters and diaries, detail the happenings of the area spanning an era of hundreds of years.

And that’s basically Eidolon – One document leads to another, that one to yet another, or maybe to a completely different story strand. There are about twenty different stories containing well more than a hundred pages total to find, all adding their distinctive perspective to the overall picture. How much of it will be uncovered is left to the player – as far as I can see, Eidolon doesn’t really reach any kind of a conclusion, even though all of the individual stories eventually will.

Without revealing too much, Eidolon deals with subjects like posthumanism, transhumanism, mortality and what it means to be a human in the first place. The stories are well written and quite thought-provoking, as they should be, since they’re the sole force propelling the player forwards through the vast stretches of wilderness.

Eidolon requires a rare kind of patience. “Vast” only begins to describe the distances required to be crossed in search for the next scrap of history. It isn’t just that the play area is absolutely huge, it’s the lack of reliable maps and the presence of large, uncrossable bodies of water that will frequently require you to take the long way around and sometimes even backtrack several hours worth of wandering.

Whether it’s all worth it depends on the player. There’s really not much actual gameplay in Eidolon – you need to occasionally scavenge, fish & hunt to keep yourself nourished, but the game isn’t actively out to get you unless you get foolhardy. I found myself doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching while trekking, pondering about more than just the lives of the people on the paper. Eidolon evokes a profound sense of isolation, loneliness and melancholy that lingers.

The game’s atmosphere is further cemented by the excellent post-rock/ambient soundtrack that I count among the very best in gaming. Graphics are extremely simplified and minimalist yet frequently beautiful, unless you look at things up close. Technically the game does have some problems, ranging from flickering polygons and hitches while loading terrain to more serious issues like getting stuck and falling through the world geometry. Despite these issues, I found the narrative strong enough to keep on exploring.

It’s clear that Eidolon is a product of a singular vision with no input from focus groups or marketing forces. It demands a lot of your time – maybe too much for most – but for people like me with too much time on their hands anyway and a penchant for self-reflection, Eidolon can prove to be a very fulfilling experience. One of my favorite games of 2014.

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Argumentative essay topics from SnappyEssays

Argumentative essay topics

You may not like it, but an argumentative essay is probably the most common academic paper students are assigned to write in college. This task is not an easy one for a variety of reasons. After all, you need to conduct effective research, gather credible evidence to support your point of view, write a convincing refutation of the opposition’s arguments, and do many other things that require much time and effort. Good argumentative papers are really hard to write, especially if you don’t even know where to start. Well, you should start from choosing the best topic for your argumentative essay, as it is the only way to set the right course for the rest of the assignment. Let https://snappyessays.com/ give you some ideas on where you can look for inspiration!

Choosing the best argumentative essay topic

To choose an interesting and fresh topic is the first thing you should do once you are assigned to write an argumentative essay. Luckily, there are numerous Top 10 and even Top 500 lists of possible topics on the Internet so that you are sure to find something to your liking. However, you can go further and look for topic ideas in other places, for example:

  • news – to find the most popular topics for discussion;
  • literature – to find topics that have been argued about for centuries;
  • social networks – to find the most controversial topics;
  • public gatherings – to find the most interesting topics discussed by people face-to-face.

Finally, when choosing a topic for your argumentative essay, try to find the one you are passionate about. After all, the right topic is a huge advantage, so make every effort to find it!

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Gaming favorites from 2011

Played lots of games again this year. Star Wars: The Old Republic is still to be released, but I think pretty much everything else worthwhile is already out. Thus it’s time to list my favorites from 2011:

  1. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)
  2. Portal 2 (PC)
  3. L.A. Noire (Xbox)
  4. Battlefield 3 (PC)
  5. Dead Space 2 (Xbox)
  6. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)
  7. DiRT 3 (PC)
  8. Bulletstorm (PC)
  9. Rage (PC)
  10. Uncharted 3 (PS3)

And why not do an Indie Top 5 while we’re at it:

  1. Hector: Badge of Carnage – Episode 1 (PC)
  2. Binding of Isaac (PC)
  3. Anomaly: Warzone Earth (PC)
  4. Hard Reset (PC)
  5. Trine 2 (PC)

Lots of good stuff outside Top 10 as well, I did enjoy Batman: Arkham City (Xbox), Dead Island (PC) and Shadows of the Damned (PS3). Games that didn’t grab me even I thought they would were Witcher 2 (PC, I need to try this one again), 999 (NDS) and Dark Souls (Xbox). Disappointments were Dragon Age 2 (PC) and Brink (PC).

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Gaming favorites from 2010

Nope, I didn’t play all games that I wanted to in 2010 (especially Fallout: New Vegas being one of the games I haven’t really even properly started yet), but I think I came close enough to make a list. Here goes…

  1. Mass Effect 2 (PC)
  2. Red Dead Redemption (Xbox)
  3. Heavy Rain (PS3)
  4. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PC)
  5. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)
  6. Limbo (Xbox)
  7. Alan Wake (Xbox)
  8. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Xbox)
  9. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
  10. Bayonetta (Xbox)

Completed all of the games above, the singleplayer campaign in BFBC2 being the only exception – played multiplayer pretty much exclusively on that one.

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Dragon Age Origins: Witch Hunt DLC

Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age both got their own DLC missions released this week. As is the case with ME2, I’ve also been diligently playing through most of the Dragon Age DLC released so far, only skipping the ones I thought seemed to consist of nothing but combat.

While the new Mass Effect 2 DLC was very good, unfortunately the same thing cannot be said for Witch Hunt. Touted as the final Dragon Age DLC before part two next year, I was hoping for an especially nice bookend for the saga of my warden, but no. Funnily almost everything that was done right in the ME2 DLC is done wrong in Witch Hunt — it really is a tired rehash of recycled assets posing as a new story.

I mean, I can understand Bioware being unable to provide you with your original group because of voice actor availability and cost effectiveness, but the people that are forcibly shoved into your lap this time are just bare cardboard cutouts with not much personality at all. It’s concerning when you cannot attribute even a single personality trait to your elvish party member after adventuring with her for a couple of hours. Just give me my old group, even though you’d have to make them mutes like in ME2 DLC, damn it!

The story in Witch Hunt is nothing special and tries way too hard to keep the scenarios changing, which only results in unfocused sprints through whatever RPG staple (elven ruins/dwarven caverns/mage towers) the game wants you to see next. Even Morrigan, who the DLC is really all about, only shows up at the very end, and the answers she provides only work to make the player even more confused about the situation than before. I can only hope it’s some kind of a veiled setup for stuff that’ll happen in Dragon Age 2, since it’s definitely not trying to tie the loose ends together at all.

I really don’t see even the most hardcore Morrigan fans walking away from this jumble feeling satisfied. While Leliana’s Song was by no means a great DLC, it was still miles ahead of Witch Hunt and enough to keep me content (although I have to confess I’m a hardcore Leliana fan and very easy to please in that aspect).

I am, however, a bit curious about how differently the ending in Witch Hunt could play out depending on the choices the player has made before. I basically threw Morrigan out of my party in Origins immediately after she started whining, so I never really managed to get any kind of bonding going on with her. Not curious enough to get another playthrough going, though.

Farewell, warden. We had some great times — this DLC just wasn’t among them.

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Mass Effect 2 DLC: Lair of the Shadow Broker

I think Mass Effect 2 has pretty much had the best Downloadable Content available for any game so far. The missions (Kasumi’s Stolen Memory, Overlord & Shadow Broker) are not just cheap rehashes of pre-existing assets but actually introduce an impressive amount of genuinely new stuff into the game.

I’m not talking about fancy new guns or abilities; equipment or skills rarely pique my interest in RPG’s. They’re just a means to progress the story and see new areas. I’m an old school adventure game player that was gradually forced into RPG’s during mid-nineties when “real” adventure games started to disappear, and while I’ve learned to like the combat aspects, it’s the story and the sense of wonder that drives my Mass Effect experience.

It’s a good thing then that Lair of the Shadow Broker, much like Overlord before it, definitely does not skimp on cool-looking new areas and impressive vistas. The cinematics are top notch, voicework solid, and there’s a spaceship with an engine that has to be seen to be believed.

While I still consider Overlord my favorite ME2 DLC, Lair of the Shadow Broker is not far behind. The story is rather simple one, yes, but it provided enough motivation and intrigue to keep me interested for the 2-3 hour duration, and the post-mission options provided some more fun diversions that were totally unexpected.

The only downside in Lair of the Shadow broker is the boring boss fight syndrome that really permeates the entire Mass Effect series. I guess it’s partially caused by the fact that the game is designed for consoles and pad controllers first and mouse+keyboard combo on PC just allows you to go surgical on bosses’ weak points, but I always walk away from these fights underwhelmed. I probably shouldn’t be expecting World of Warcraft style raid boss encounters in a game like this, but a little more imagination wouldn’t hurt.

Anyhow, this is another great DLC for Mass Effect 2 and shouldn’t be missed.

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Thoughts on Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I finished the game just moments ago and wanted to get some immediate impressions up. I’ve been a fan of Frictional Games’ output since the original Penumbra Tech Demo, and really only been disappointed once with Penumbra Requiem. Amnesia is another quality indie horror by the guys from Sweden, but I don’t think it tops Penumbra Overture or the Black Plague in my book.

Sure, it’s a way more polished game than Penumbra in every way, but it feels slightly flat on its two key gameplay concepts: puzzles and the atmosphere of tension. Most of the puzzles in Amnesia felt like retreads from Penumbra series and thus were quite simple and straightforward to solve. I’d also have liked more physics and environmental puzzles rather than the usual gather this/combine that mechnanics.

About the atmosphere of tension: Don’t get me wrong, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a very atmospheric game with a few dabs of really intense stuff sprinkled here and there. It’s nowhere near as tense as Penumbra 1-2, however. This can probably be partially attributed to me just getting too familiar with the HPL engine, but I think the main reason is that the game just felt too easy.

Enemies seemed to just plain vanish after hiding for a while, and there was never a need to survey patrol routes or generally do anything else than hide in a cupboard for a few moments. In Amnesia, enemies are just a minor annoyance, as opposed to the nerve-wracking, terror-inducing dogs in Penumbra Overture or the torchlight-wielding mutants in Black Plague. An enemy popping through the door just to shamble away and completely disappear soon after just didn’t feel that scary.

Anyhow, despite my criticisms the game is well worth the asking price and hopefully will introduce a slew of new people to Frictional Games. It just isn’t “the scariest game ever” or the masterpiece some people hoped it would be.

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Overhaul complete

At least for now, that is. I stashed all the old stuff out of sight and revamped the Aphex Face page to be a part of the site structure. Furthermore, the old Aphex Face URL now redirects to the correct blog page, so people coming in from Google searches should see the page as per usual.

I also removed the outward links to Discogs and Mobygames, since I’ve not been updating them as much as needed lately (ie. they’re badly out of date). Still need to add an email link somewhere…

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Time for an overhaul

My webspace provider is updating the underlying php engine from php4 to php5, which is all nice and dandy — except for the fact that it completely breaks the XSLT wizardry on the current pages. Probably a good thing, though — it’s about time to get on with the times and upgrade to a proper CMS.

So here it is, a new look for bastwood.com, powered by WordPress. Maybe now I’ll actually have the motivation to update stuff more often, given that it’s dead easy to do all kinds of stuff with WP. I’m kinda not happy with the page appearance at the moment, but I’m probably too lazy to actually make my own theme. If I find something that looks better, I’ll switch.

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