Initial Impressions: BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition

First off, please note this is only an initial impressions post – expect a full review of the game to come. I’ve already logged about 12 hours into this game and I think I’ve only done about 7% of the story and I’ve barely touched the collectables/side quests options. This game is freaking MASSIVE, especially when compared to the incredibly linear nature of Dragon Age 2.

This game is a wonderful blend between the free roaming nature of Skryim and BioWare’s vision for story. Now, many have been critiquing the overall plot of the game (I am waiting to judge until I finish) but I do think the dialogue/character writing is fabulous. The characters I have met thus far are delightful and I’ve enjoyed crafting my own hero’s persona throughout the time I’ve been playing. Thankfully, BioWare has moved away from the Mass Effect/DA2 dialogue wheels that clearly delineated the “good” and “bad” choices. This “moral-less” compass lets you craft a more complex player character and you feel less confined story-wise.

The combat mechanics have returned to a strategic format, similar to that of Dragon Age: Origins. I think BioWare has found a good balance between allowing players to totally micro-manage combat and facilitating a more streamlined “button mashing” option for gamers who might not be as inclined to plot out every action. The ability to turn the tactics mode on/off with just a button push is great – for more complex fights I can plan each character’s movement but for little skirmishes I can just lay waste by mindlessly spamming awesome magic powers. I call that a win.

Graphics wise, I am also incredibly pleased. The game looks good on my PS4, with crisp colors and diverse area designs. This is not the brown, muddy and flat design of Kirkwall from DA2. It certainly holds it’s own to the other next-gen titles that have released in the last year. This game looks better than Destiny, in my opinion (at least there’s more creativity in the design) and so far, the engine has been running smoothly for me.

As I said, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. The game is huge, so expect a full, detailed review in a few weeks!

- E.B.

Wednesday Cosplay – Sachie’s Vlog

One of Geek and Sundry’s featured vloggers, Sachie, runs an excellent series that helps out both new and seasoned cosplayers. She features great cosplays constructions of her own and step-by-step guides for creating things like armor, weapons, etc.

For example, here’s her most recent video, a Worbla (a thin plastic-like material) armor tutorial:

What I like about Sachie’s videos is that they are short, concise and cover a whole host of subjects pertaining to cosplaying. Her vlog provides great advice on working in the cosplay community as well as how to make very cool stuff. I really recommend you check out her content if you are even remotely interested in cosplay!

Here’s one of my favorite videos:

- E.B.

NerdAtlas Holiday Buy-Guide: Medieval Maniacs

Popular franchises like Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings subscribe to “high fantasy” type environments. These settings are often heavily dependent on Western European medieval history and aesthetics. However, any legitimate medieval history nerd can tell you there are a lot of inaccuracies and liberties taken in these scenarios (which makes sense, since it is fantasy.)

Anyways, I decided to make a special list of Christmas ideas for the medieval buff that doesn’t just lump in high fantasy hoop-de-walla. This is the buy list for that person who actually can tell you the lineage of the Kings & Queens of England and know the difference between a broadsword and a claymore…

Medieval Chess Set

Easily one of the most popular games in medieval times, this hand painted set features carved polystone and a walnut playing board. Perfect for any aspiring master tactician.

$160 and includes free shipping: http://www.chesshouse.com/Medieval_Chess_Set_p/we5516.htm

The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi De Charny

Don’t let the lackluster cover fool you. If you have a wannabe knight in your midst, this is the seminal work from the time period outlining the most important of a knight’s virtues: chivalry.

$14: http://tinyurl.com/q8968kt

 Knitted Knight’s Helm
This knitted helmet will keep your head and face warm in the winter – no promises about protection from errant blades however.
LEGO King’s Castle
While perhaps not the most historically accurate depiction of medieval life/warfare, the LEGO Castle series offers some fun sets. This King’s Castle is one of the best, perfect for lords and ladies both young and old.

Functional Armor

These armor sets can be bought piece by piece or in a full collection. Each article of equipment is functional, thus intended to be worn and, theoretically, used in fighting. Great for theater, faires, cosplay, etc.

Price varies: http://www.medievalcollectibles.com/c-5-functional-armour.aspx

Coat of Arms

If the special medieval nerd in your life has ancestry of European decent, you can purchase a print of his/her coat of arms. Orders can also include a brief synopsis of the family history and there’s the option to order it in a variety of styles.

Price varies: http://www.heraldryandcrests.com/category-s/134.htm

Happy shopping!

- E.B.

Featured Art(ist) – Dave Dorman

This week’s featured art(ist) is Dave Dorman.

Famous for his illustration work, particularly concerning the Star Wars franchise, Dorman is a professional who’s work any bonafide nerd is sure to recognize. He has done a number of book covers for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, including the covers for one of my favorite (and most influential) Star Wars book series, the Young Jedi Knights.

However, he is by no means only a Star Wars artist. He has done illustration work for Marvel, Batman, Magic: The Gathering and his personal project, The Wasted Lands (see above). There’s a fun retro vibe in his artwork due to his killer oil-painting techniques. This guy designs it old school.

He has a great portfolio that’s worth looking at – you’ll be surprised what images you might recognize!

- E.B.

Dice Game Review: Rolling Japan

This week’s review is of the dice rollin’ game, Rolling Japan.

Created and designed in Japan, this is a light and easy multi-player dice game. Based on a variant of the the mathematical principle of the Four Color Theorem – players are asked to fill in a map of Japan that’s divided into the 47 prefectures, grouped together into six differently colored areas.

To start a turn, a player randomly draws two regular six-sided dice from a bag and rolls them. There is a die for each color prefecture, as well as a wild die that can be used for any color. All players must then write down the two number results in their matching prefectures. If the wild die is rolled, that number can be placed in any prefecture.

Sounds easy right? Here’s the catch, all neighboring prefectures — including those in different colored areas connected by shared edges and/or indicator lines — can’t have numbers with a difference larger than 1. For example, if you have a 5 and a 4 in green next to each other, you cannot place a green 3 in a spot that borders the both the 4 and 5, even if it is only 1 down from the 4.

Yeah, have fun with that. If you can’t place a number, then you must place an X in the prefecture and it counts against your score.

After six dice are rolled, the round is marked complete and all dice return to the bag. The game can last to a total of 8 rounds, and the player with the fewest X’s is the winner.

The game DOES allow you to “change” the color of a die, allowing you to place the die result in a prefecture of your choice. You get this ability three times total per game.

It’s a mind bending puzzle type game, easy to learn but very very very difficult to master. We just play tested it with my weekly board gaming group, and we had fun. I doubt I could play it for hours, but it’s a quick and easy game to play between longer play sessions. There’s a logic to placement that certainly favors those with more “left-brained” thinking though, ha.

Personally, if I had to pick between fast and easy dice games, Rolling Japan would not be my first choice. I’d be more inclined to pick Dragon Slayer (which has stronger gamer interaction) or Zombie Dice (faster and fun flavor). However, I think this game certainly has its audience and it’s a fun twist on math. That deserves some credit.

- E.B.

Wednesday Cosplay – The Bride

This week’s featured cosplay is Issse‘s The Bride from Kill Bill.

The uncanny resemblance between Issse and Uma Thurman in the photo above is what initially caught my eye. There are many Beatrix Kiddo (aka “The Bride”) cosplays from Tarantino’s famous Kill Bill movies, but most are half-baked attempts. It’s hard to make a custom yellow motorcycle track suit, let alone look good in it (We all can’t be Uma.)

However, I think Issse did a great job with her ensemble. The outfit color and design is a spot-on match to the movie – even her hair is the appropriate length and cut for the famous House of Blue Leaves fight scene.

Compared to other popular cosplay characters, this is a relatively simple cosplay. However, it is executed very professionally – as I said before it’s probably one of the best Kill Bill cosplays I have seen. Issse is an accomplished cosplayer, with a larger number of great characters in her gallery that are worth a look.

- E.B.