Forgot password?  |  Register  |    
User Name:     Password:    
Nerds Without Pants   

Nerds Without Pants Episode 36: Black and Blue Friday

Too many games!

After not one, but two special format shows with guests, it's high time for the main NWP crew to get together and talk some games. Like, a lot of games. Like, too many games.

Since we haven't done Consumption Junction in over six weeks, we all have a lot to talk about. Of course, we can't help but kick things off with PS4 talk, as both Patrick and Julian have been playing the new Sony box since launch day. They highlight some of their favorite interface features and talk about FIFA, Assassin's Creed IV, Knack, and Killzone: Shadowfall.

Angelo has been enjoying his PS3, Julian misses his Pooh bear, and Final Fantasy IX looks like garbage on an HD display. Julian has some choice words for Batman: Arkham Origins, and Patrick is neck deep in comic books.We all spent money we didn't need to at Black Friday.

Beyond that, we have a lot of general geekery for you this week. Let your mouth water as we talk sushi, be amazed at Angelo's train adventures, and weigh in on which Paranormal Activity movie is your favorite. All this and more await you in the latest Nerds Without Pants!

Featured Music:

"Weird" Al Yankovic- Lasagne

Batman Theme Song ('66)

Kenny Loggins- Return to Pooh Corner




12/13/2013 at 05:06 PM

I bought Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen recently and have put several hours into it, so I could give you all some insight into what I've found so far. I've been slowly falling in love with the game in a few ways, but this game is full of caveats and contrast, it's a weird game, it's weird this thing exists. Maybe it's not weird it exists, but it's a weird piece of work and I can only hope that I can articulate effectively why it's so weird and in some ways outright rotten, but is making me love it anyways.

So, negatives. The first hour of the game makes a terrible impression. The first thing I noticed is that this isn't a very good looking game on the technical side, especially when you're in cities (and you start the game in a town). Many of the textures are pretty rotten even with the "HD texture pack" and playing it on an acceptable 1080p 60hz HDTV like the one I have. NPCs look awful just like you'd expect from the old RPG tropes. Lighting is head scratchingly bad in cities. Darkness itself is a big part of the game and a fundamental part of the design when you go out into the countryside at night and things are more dangerous, but none of those dangers apply when you're in a city so I really think they should've done good lighting in the towns so you can actually see things. The textures are ugly so maybe they're doing you a favor making everything so shadowed, but whatever. Bad lighting. I was trying to think like an artist and wrestled with the idea that maybe they wanted things to be dark for the purpose of medieval realism, everybody had only candles and lanterns and light doesn't carry terribly far from either of those sources, but if that was the case they still failed, it looks pretty poor.

On the positive side, Dragons Dogma gets much prettier when you go out into the country. The blues and especially the plentiful greens are bright. Draw distance is nice, so looking out to a distant mountain, forest, or castle isn't particularly sharp since this game doesn't have great texture work, but it's still quite colorful and appealing to me. The game can certainly still touch that part of your brain that says, "That vista is real pretty, I want to go to there." Also, the player character looks pretty great as it should. The character creator is the most customizable I've seen in an RPG and I was pretty easily able to generate a real attractive character that I'd be happy with for dozens of hours. Particle effects on spells and fire arrows look alright, there's still some artistically pleasing things to see in the game despite the ugliness in many places.

Scripting of quests is rotten and the game poorly communicates with the player. When there's updates it's often too noisy on screen with things in every corner trying to catch your eye before they all disappear together. The autosave icon spins and flickers, the quest update box is a little too rich and there's decals that district the eye from the actual text, there's a an XP counter, a Rift Crystal counter, and God help you if you have Pawn subtitles on during the game (turn those off as soon as possible), all at the same time. You'll have to do a lot of digging into the quest journal to get a clue of what you're doing, and even then the description might be vague and if your quest marker is an NPC the location will change depending on time of day. Simply doing quests can often feel longer or more confusing that it would in other games. When you finish a quest it prioritizes whatever is next on the list, not whatever is the next main quest or whatever is relevant in your chain of quests, so you have to check that journal all the time and prioritize it yourself.

On the positive side regarding the UI and menus, the bartering menus are slick. Buying, Selling, and Enhancing things at a shop is a fast experience and the menus are responsive and kinda pretty. It takes one or two inputs too long to equip new armor and weapons, and they don't explain to you the difference between clothing and armor, so there's caveats to that too. The macromanaging is pretty quick, but when you want to micromanage and compare individual pieces of equipment the functionality isn't there and you have to work around it. The system only compares how the item your looking at will affect your cumulative DP and resistance ratings.

The language and diction is awful in a way that's not funny because the game takes itself very seriously, it's the worst try at a type of medieval English I've seen since Two Worlds. In this game people use the word "aught" in almost every line, and in some sentences it doesn't work in the context they're using it. It pulls you out of the world every time and hangs you up with its cheesy uses of "aught" and "mayhap" among other things. It gets even worse when they try to do the diction of low born characters that use less sophisticated language, phrases, and shortened phrases.

Now the reason I'm starting to love this game aside from the pretty vistas and bright greens is the combat and the Pawn system itself. I have a Ranger class woman that only uses daggers and longbows and I've found it to be super fun when I have a full party of Pawns with me doing the other work strategically. I kill from a distance, cut down anybody that gets too close, and I create a party of mage and warrior classes to take care of tanking and healing. The third person combat is great both ranged and melee, it's quick and responsive, and the animations and sound are satisfying. It's the kind of real time combat I think could work great in a Dragon Age if you could also pause combat and give orders (which you can't in this game). Combat feels great, getting stronger weapons and armor feels great, it has those great RPG loops on the combat and loot side. There's a lot of challenge to find as well, it feels good to see characters that previously dominated you can now be hacked down with confidence as you get stronger, then a new bigger enemy puts you in your place again and gives you something to aspire to.

The Pawn system really appeals to me because you can customize your party and search for Pawns with specific skills and traits via a filter that's been fairly effective. You can spend Rift Crystals to hire Pawns that are higher level than yourself, but I've simply been hiring people who are equal level to me, which is free. Once you get a crew together you can go do a couple quests and level up once or twice, and then go find new Pawns because only your Main Pawn levels up with you and the other two need to be replaced often. It sounds like a time consuming hassle but it feels pretty good. Going on a couple quests takes a little while so you have time to bond with the Pawns you have, but by the end you're ready for a new group with stronger skills and an equal level to yourself. It's actually satisfying finding the "right ones" and then heading off into the wilderness together.

The world also isn't nearly as big as an Elder Scrolls game, so I think you guys will be able to digest it easier. It's a tiny bit like Twilight Princess or another 3D Zelda where the world is pretty big but it's not a whole filled out country like Skyrim is, but instead it's structured into big areas connected by paths. Kinda like Fable 2 without the loading screens, and if the paths in between major areas were populated with a few places and things to do along the way.

So Dragon's Dogma has a lot of caveats and some plainly rotten aspects that you may or may not be able to get used to or tolerate, but based on what I've done so far I can vouch that there's some pretty awesome stuff to redeem it enough to pull you in. Keep in mind I haven't even seen the big battles yet with griffins and other monsters. The first several hours have been mostly small potatoes in terms of enemies I've seen, so I might come back in a little while saying, "This game is even more awesome that I thought."

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/18/2013 at 01:27 PM

What platform did you play this on? I remember someone talking about serious framerate issues, but they never specified which they were using. I'll probably end up getting it for PS3.


12/18/2013 at 01:45 PM

I'm playing on 360. It's framey from time to time out in the wilderness, but it's never dropped low enough to be unplayable. The combat still feels fast and sharp. The bigger technical issue is pop-in, you have to wait on NPCs in town to pop up especially if you're running around, and out in the wilds enemies will often show up from thin air if you're running about.


12/17/2013 at 10:35 PM

Well, I do rather like my PS4, but the current selection of games is a little disappointing.  I may look over at the Xbox One and be a little jealous, but over the next year I know that I will have a far superior collection of exclusives.  Also, I have put the remote play function to gods use, even if I have been using it with the wrong type of game, CoD.

Black Friday is one of those days that I tend to stay around the house until about 3 pm and then go to Best Buy out of shear boredom.  I rarely ever bother with the sales, I just like getting a bit if "fresh" air.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

12/18/2013 at 07:49 PM

Yeah, I think that, while the XBO will have some great exclusives that I'll be missing for sure (farewell, Fable and Alan Wake), time will find a more unique stable of games on the PS4. Beyond that, there are plenty of series that I just feel more at home with on the PlayStation format, such as Metal Gear, Silent Hill, and of course Final Fantasy.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/18/2013 at 12:43 PM

Julian, I find your use of Weird Al's Lasagne to be offensive to my herratige. I'm suing both of you.  Tongue Out

Julian Titus Senior Editor

12/18/2013 at 07:47 PM

You cannot sue Weird Al. He is the nicest man in the world.

Log in to your PixlBit account in the bar above or join the site to leave a comment.