Saturday, May 26, 2007

Crossroads of Destiny

Today, I finally finished watching through my Avatar: The Last Airbender DVDs, wrapping up Books 1 and 2 quite nicely. Season 2 (or the Book of Earth, as the show calls it) ended on a rather The-Empire-Strikes-Back-esque manner, with the fall of the City of Ba Sing Se, the Earth Kingdom capital that has never fallen in the hundred years since the Fire Nation started their insane war.

With two more seasons to go (the Books of Fire and of Air), Avatar is really set up to go down in history as one of the greatest animated epics ever to come out of the US. Paramount is even capitalizing on it right now, having signed on M. Night Shaymalan himself to direct a series of films, the first covering events chronicled in the Book of Water. It's a great time to be an Avatar fan.

Now all Avatar needs is a pen-and-paper RPG adaptation. Hmm. Big Eyes, Small Mouth would be a nice fit, but my system of choice right now is Savage Worlds. Maybe I'll savage Avatar when I get free time...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Of Whalesharks and Gaming

My friends and I went to Donsol, Sorsogon last May 16 to 18, a literally "sleepy" town where the only thing you can do is basically go diving for gigantic whalesharks. I almost drowned the first time I leaped into the seawater. Lifevests are good. Will post pics later (promise!).

Last Monday (May 14), I finished the NWN Hordes of the Underdark campaign. It was great fun using Mephisto's True Name to command him to die. All in all, a very epic ending to the NWN official campaigns.

I've also got all of Bioware's Premium NWN Modules installed, but after playing a bit through each, I'm seriously reconsidering their worth.

For starters, Witch's Wake, apparently their attempt at a "story-oriented" module, is unbalanced and sleep-inducing. Damn killer rats. Being "story-oriented" doesn't mean combat needs to be deadly!

Infinite Dungeons, on the other hand, suffers from too much combat, and has Monty Haul treasures as well. Sure, it took some pretty l33+ scripting sk1llz to pull off ID's random dungeon and item generators, but they didn't have to go overboard and make each and every monster carry a multi-function magical item!

I thought Pirates of the Sword Coast would be a bit better. I mean, how could anyone go wrong with pirates? But I was wrong: one of the very first fights (with those damn gangbangers at the Neverwinter Docks) are a bit impossible to win. And I was really looking forward to this module.

My only hope: Wyvern Crown of Cormyr, Kingmaker, and Shadow Guard. I'm not holding my breath on the last two: I hear they're both a bit short. In any case, there's some awesome fan-designed modules, and I'm looking to start the Shadowlords arc as soon as the fancy strikes me. For now, I think I've had my fill of Neverwinter Nights.

Yesterday, I installed Beyond Good & Evil, as an alternative to NWN. Haven't gotten far into the game beyond the starting sequence though.

On the handheld gaming front, the DS Lite finally got a real RPG: Etrian Odyssey, a turn-based dungeon crawl through a massive "forest" dungeon. The game features balanced character classes, an awesome stylus-based mapping system, and lots of quests and items. Looks like I'm gonna be hooked to my DS for quite some time. Thank you, Atlus!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Late to the Party: NWN Hordes of the Underdark

A couple of days ago, I finished the campaign included with the first Neverwinter Nights expansion, Shadows of Undrentide (SoU). At first, though, it was a bit disappointing because this campaign assumes you start fresh; porting over my level 16 character from the previous campaign was possible but hardly logical, as SoU has you starting as an "apprentice" adventurer.

After four artifacts were stolen from your master's home (a dwarven wizard who's apparently also a Harper) by kobolds, you're tasked to track down and get the artifacts back. This brings you into conflict with the white dragon that rules the kobolds as well as its accomplice, a (Drow?) sorceress that keeps the gnolls in thrall. Caught in between is one of the most interesting NPCs ever created for NWN, Deekin, who'll soon join you as a Kobold Bard. After recovering the artifacts, you find out that one of them (the Tower Statue) was more than it seemed: inside was a mysterious jewel whose true powers can only be identified by journeying across the Anauroch to find your master's archeologist friend. And from there, you end up in the sunken city of Undrentide which the "big boss" wanted to raise up. Undrentide was apparently one of the flying cities of Netheril, an ancient empire which wielded powerful magic compared to present-day standards. The climactic final battle takes place in the highest tower of the city, as the city floats above the desert.

SoU's adventure was a bit shorter than the first campaign's "plague in Neverwinter" storyline, but noticeably better designed. For starters, it was less of a Monty Haul than the previous campaign, and there were really a couple of times (okay, maybe more like a handful) that I had to reload and rethink my strategy in order to continue. The final "boss" fight was also more epic: as I went around smashing the mythallars that gave the medusa sorceress nigh invulnerability, pieces of masonry were starting to float up into the air in a Dragonball-Z-esque way!

Still high from finishing the adventure, I immediately set off on the 2nd expansion's adventure, Hordes of the Underdark. Hordes of the Underdark (HotU) is a direct sequel to the previous expansion, SoU. The hero is assumed to be the same one from SoU, as evidenced by the copy of a book titled Shadows of Undrentide, written by one Deekin. Also, this expansion's teleporting/respawn mechanic, the Relic of the Reaper, is said to have come into the hero's possession during his "brief stay in the Plane of Shadow." People who played SoU would remember that at SoU's end, as Undrentide crashed back to the desert, the hero used the Portable Door (one of the artifacts you gain in the endgame) to flee to the Plane of Shadow.

Deekin also makes a reapperance as your first henchman. Also, some of the henchmen who were available in the first NWN adventure (i.e. the plague in Neverwinter), make their appearance here as a party of adventurers which you would probably need to save at some point in the story.

This time around, it's off to Waterdeep and the mysterious mega-dungeon that lies beneath the city, Undermountain. This time, the City of Splendors faces an attack from the Hordes of the Underdark which apparently is making their way through Undermountain, something that has not happened before. They need a hero to take the fight to them and you are one of those who heeded the call.

So I loaded up Laire Random, my Rouge 6/Fighter 6/Weapon Master 1 character from Shadows of Undrentide, and started the adventure (HotU actually allows you to start out as a fresh Level 15 character but I wanted to play the actual character I went through SoU with). The very first event that happened divested Laire of his gear from SoU. Wah. I've read somewhere that you have a chance to recover them later in the story though. Right now, I'm running around Waterdeep--the small section you're allowed to explore at least; the City's closed a la Neverwinter in the first adventure--trying to get adequately equipped before descending into Undermountain.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Out of Town Trip: Subic Beach!

Went to the beach in Subic with the Mez Barkada (basically, batchmates who have stayed in one way or another here in Los BaƱos). I think it was my first time going out of town with friends, and it was surprisingly fun. The food was great, from the initial snacks on the trip (especially Cel's tuna sandwiches) to the potluck lunch (Paeng and I brought the salted eggs and tomatoes, which got sliced and turned into salad--yum!) to the fantastic dinner (pork liempo plus porkchops plus assorted seafood!).

Didn't do much swimming because I couldn't swim.

I almost won the Texas Hold 'Em Poker match that night. Made it to the final four before becoming bored and wagering off my winnings (largely because of my luck with the river that night) loosely.

The next day, before driving off home, we had lunch at a very nice (but a bit expensive!) place called Meat Plus, a steakhouse, where I had a well-done tenderloin that really hit the spot.

From there, we stopped for an hour at the Subic Duty-Free mall (forgot what it was called) but I was disappointed, both by the selection and the prices. Still, I got some sort of scented crystals for ashtrays, since they were selling them for about $1 each.

I'm waiting for my friends to post the pics of the outing.

And I do hope we do it again. Go out of town and have fun, that is.