The Finale

May. 1st, 2017 08:14 am
fereldanwench: (Mass Effect - Selene Ryder)
I finished the main story in Andromeda Saturday night. A few non-specific thoughts--Not really spoilery, but with the context of having finished the story. Read at your own risk:

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In spite of exclusionary marketing, a rocky start with dead eyes and bad animation, and areas that definitely need to be refined, I thoroughly enjoyed my first playthrough of Andromeda. I'm eagerly awaiting DLC, and I will definitely be doing more playthroughs.

Compared to a few other games:

- It feels less polished than Inquisition, but it's a lot more fun. I've decided: Andromeda > Inquisition. (And this is coming from someone who generally likes Dragon Age more than Mass Effect.)
- Similarly, although ME1 is a tighter experience, Andromeda is a lot more fun.
- ME2 is better, but ME2 in terms of story and gameplay balance is a damn near perfect game, in my opinion. The loyalty quests in Andromeda seem to take cue from ME2, which was a good call.
- I like it about the same as ME3, but I think it has more replay value because ME3 hurts my heart and I felt lighter finishing Andromeda.
fereldanwench: (Default)
Cuz ur gettin em!

NSFW under the cut. The sweet, the sexy, and the uh...

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Hot Take

Apr. 24th, 2017 02:04 pm
fereldanwench: (Mass Effect - Selene Ryder)
I'm about 60% finished with MEA, and I don't know if it's just the afterglow of alien cunnilingus talking, but I think I like Andromeda more than Inquisition.

- I still prefer smaller maps and story-focused locations, but Andromeda generally open-worlds better than Inquisition. (Havarl is like the fucking Hinterlands, though, with respawning enemies every 30 seconds LIKE FUCK ME I JUST WANT TO PICK UP SOME GODDAMN LOOT GET OFF MY ASS.)
- The codex system is awesome. I love checking up on Selene's psych profile and reading updates about the relationship development with her crew. Seeing little updates like "Jaal loves you" and "Cora values you as a leader and a friend" honestly warms my heart.
- Ryder > Inquisitor. Ryder feels more like a fully realized character, like Hawke and Shepard, rather than a watered down but voiced Warden, like the Inquisitor. And Fryda Wolff's voice is a gift. Like a warmer Jennifer Hale as FemShep. I love it.
- THE BEST CREW. And they interact with each other. They joke and fight and tease each other and share anecdotes and bond over cultural similarities and differences. The Tempest is so homey. I grew really attached to individual characters in other DA & ME games, but this is the first time I can relate to those "ALL these guys are my family" memes.
- More cutscenes! And the conversations that don't have a fully staged cutscene at least pan the camera in for a little more immersion.
- We get tough decisions that pack an emotional punch and have immediate consequences, and a good balance between light-hearted, silly quests and heart-breaking missions.
- Did I mention alien cunnilingus??

Which isn't to say the game is perfect, by any means:

- It still suffers from having no real sense of urgency as a means of giving the player freedom to explore--If BW is gonna insist on continuing with these open-world/exploration games that still have a central, save-the-world-from-doom story, they gotta find a way to balance the two. An in-game calendar with a clear deadline like in FO4, a quest-counting mechanism like what they had in ME2, something.
- Similarly, there are definitely some issues if you don't pace the story as intended, which isn't always obvious. Example: I did two main missions back-to-back and didn't talk to all my crew in between--They'll refer to the earlier mission like it just happened, then I have to exit the conversation and come back to hear their thoughts about the most recent one.
- There is definitely some problematic writing. Gil's personal story stands out to me. Having hit the climax with Jaal's romance, I think the exclusion of his male romance has as many bad implications as excluding Cullen's. Jaal is very sweet and adoring and sends beautiful, heartful messages to Ryder saying how lovely she is in body and soul; deciding to deny mlm Ryders such a tender romance and instead giving them the more dramatic, non-companion "bad boys" raises some questions.
- Ryder's goofy fucking facial animations soured what was otherwise a very sweet and sexy moment with Jaal. Screenshots later.
- Also, at least for Jaal, there's no "Can I get a kiss" option after romance. It's small, but I miss that from DAO/DAI.

But all in all, at this point, I think the game is a much more fun experience than Inquisition.
fereldanwench: (Mass Effect - Selene Ryder)
What a gift. Truly.

I saw some pre-release hype for the purple, galaxy-eyed cat man, but I was trying to avoid spoilers and too many premature expectations so I didn't investigate further. There seemed to be some overlap between Solas fans and Jaal enthusiasm, which made me think he probably was gonna be far, far, far from my type.

I was so very wrong. Quiet, thoughtful, sarcastic and deadpan but playful, and so sincere. Even early on, when he's naturally distrusting of Ryder, he's still very forthright and open about why.

I mentioned a while ago that I was looking forward to experiencing the romance element of Andromeda very organically, and this definitely fit the bill. Jaal took me completely by surprise and I am loving every second of it.
fereldanwench: (Mass Effect - Selene Ryder)
I've been taking MEA in little chunks for the past week. My morning ritual this weekend was wake up, make some coffee and breakfast, and play for about 4 hours or so. It was super nice, and I'm gonna do it again this weekend.

I find that I do really need to set a few hours aside to properly play it. I've only had about an hour of unbooked time in the afternoons this week, and it doesn't feel like enough time to make any substantial progress. It takes me like 10 minutes to get situated and remind myself of what I'm doing, and if I want to travel to any new locations, the loading time and travel animations can be really tedious. I've made it a habit of saving on the Tempest so it's a little easier for me to planet hop since I tend to decide where I want to go on a whim.

I have my settlements established on Eos and Voeld, and I just visited Havarl. Eos and Voeld are beautiful (Voeld especially after you clear the blizzard), but in essence, they're just desert and snow levels so they don't feel that innovative. Havarl has a little more character to it; it's a jungle world with incredible fauna. The colors remind me a little of the Frostback Basin from the Jaws of Hakkon DLC, which was one of my favorite areas in DAI.

On Sunday, I endured what the longest and most tedious "boss" battle of my ENTIRE LIFE with a type of enemy called an Architect. I expected it to be something similar to the dragons in DAI, but whereas the dragons were one of the few enemies that actually required any tactical thinking and were, in my opinion, a lot of fun and rewarding to fight (minus feeling like an asshole because they're beautiful, majestic bbs and like half of them aren't even bothering anyone), the Architect was like a 30-40 minute rinse-and-repeat battle with no real challenge once you figured out the pattern of attack. It wasn't a long fight because it was hard or I was bad at it; it was only a long fight because it was unimaginatively designed to force the player to only be able to hit certain weak points after fighting certain waves of attack.

I saw at least one more of these fuckers on another planet, and I'm not especially excited to do that mission because it was awful. I probably would have played more on Sunday if I hadn't done that fight, but it was just draining.

I haven't really had any more issues with animations. About 40-43 hours in with this Ryder, and it seems like the worst has passed.

One little feature I've really come to appreciate is how your journal/codex area keeps really specific details about the decisions you've made. Lexi even provides a "psych analysis" that breaks down how your responses are crafting a certain personality. It's been very helpful in me getting a feel for who my Ryder is and what I want her to be.

Also, I'm coming to really adore my companions and their relationships with one another. You know how in Inquisition all the companions and advisors felt really spread out and kind of isolated from each other? Totally not like that at all in Andromeda. The companions have their own areas on the Tempest, but they also move around on the ship and have a lot of conversations and fun banter with one another. They also talk a lot more out in the field. The overall dynamic feels a lot more homey and casual, more like Hawke and the Kirkwall crew.

Gil is a champ at poker--You get a chance to play with him at one point, and I also found a datapad with his notes about the crew and how they play. His observations were the most goddamn endearing thing I've read in a while. I seriously just wanted to group hug the entire crew after reading it. A part of me wants to see the whole crew play to witness that in real time, but another part of me just wants to hold on to what my imagination conjured up because it's beautiful.

So discoure re: Gil, Jaal, & Cora, because there is some shit in how they were handled:

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fereldanwench: (Mass Effect - Selene Ryder)
Keeping all this under a cut for romance spoilers, personal interpretation, and OC musing:

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fereldanwench: (Mass Effect - Selene Ryder)
A combination of things made me renege my "I'm not buying Andromeda" stance. Needing a release from a long week, getting my tax return, seeing everyone's Ryders, seeing Sara Ryder's trailer, fuckboys complaining about gays and women ruining their series, etc. Or in other words: I'm weak, dudes.

I think I'm at about the 10-15 hour mark. I restarted after spending about 2 hours trying to accept my first Ryder's terrible facial animations, and on Friday I was bouncing around a lot between playing and chores, so my hour tracker doesn't reflect all that. Outside of the Initiative ships (Hyperion, Nexus, and Tempest), I've seen 4 locations, and I did just get all 6 companions.

Since I'm not too far, I doubt I'll be revealing much, but I'll put the story and character stuff under a cut.

Graphics & Optimization
Minus a few things I'll touch on later, the game is really beautiful. The environments are incredible--It seems like they really built off what was crafted in Inquisition in terms of getting the most out of Frostbite. The game also seems to be well-optimized for PC players. My processor and RAM are the two things that don't meet their recommended specs, but I wanted to test my limits: I put it all the high settings right out of the gate, and when I saw how smooth it was running, I decided to see if I can push for ultra. So far, so good. The only time I've noticed any lagging is when I'm running a video recording on Fraps for too long, but that's not a big deal for me.

Character Creation
Andromeda's CC is a slightly upgraded version of what was available in the original trilogy:

  • You have the default Ryders who cannot be edited and have to be played as is, and then there are 9 other presets for each gender that you can modify.
  • There's a good spread of racial diversity across the presets, but you can only make minor adjustments to their features rather than rotating through other shape options (like in Inquisition).
  • The skin textures are also locked into the preset, as are the eyebrows since they're a part of the texture.
  • There are some really cool tattoo, scarring, and makeup options.
  • The hair is fine, although most, if not all, of the options are gender-restricted. There are lots of bobs for female Ryder, and male Ryder has some nice undercuts that I wish were available to f!Ryder. There was a tweet from a dev asking what people would like to see in the CC at a later date--It sounds like they might be patching in more options at a later date.
  • There's a ton of variety in hair color, but the really bright and light tones highlight a lo-res hair texture.
  • You can edit your twin, but not your father; Alec will generate according to your Ryder's preset (kind of like the Hawkes in Dragon Age II).
  • You can also choose to keep the default names. Dialogue will reflect that decision; sometimes Ryder will be called by their first name instead of surname or "Pathfinder."

    The CC kind of felt like a step back from Inquisition, which (excluding the weak hair options) I think is probably the best vanilla CC in a BioWare game, but an upgrade from past ME titles. It's difficult to make a really unique Ryder; after seeing all the presets, it's easy to tell who used what preset during their creation.

    Also, not all Ryders animate the same. The first Ryder I made was created with preset 9--Her resting face was true to what I made in the CC, but her animations were ridiculous. I used preset 5 for Selene Ryder (icon), and she looks fine in most scenes. (I found a video the other day that demoed all 9 presets, but I can't find the link again. Will update if I do later.)

    Currently, there is no way to edit Ryder's appearance after you exit the CC, but it looks like the devs are actively making updates to the game based on player feedback, so I wouldn't rule out a Black Emporium-type addition at a later date.

    Combat & Exploration
    THE JETPACK IS DOPE. In principle, it's a fairly basic addition to the game, but a fun one. It's not as OP as the crazy jumping in Saints Row IV, but it produces a similar effect, in my opinion. It's a lot of fun hopping up on structures (which is essential in some missions), and it can be utilized in combat in some awesome ways. Slamming down on an enemy with your omni-blade is super satisfying.

    The combat is similar to the original trilogy, but it feels a lot faster paced. Ducking behind barriers is still an essential part of combat survival, but I found myself rushing enemies a lot more. It seems like Ryder can withstand more damage than Shepard, and the shields regenerate pretty quickly.

    Rather than choosing a locked-in class like in the first games, you can select your character's history in the CC, which determines your starting abilities, and then as the game progresses, you unlock combat profiles that you can activate at any point in the game. I think all the combat profiles are the same as the classes in the trilogy; I currently have Infiltrator active, which was my favorite build for Shepard. Biotics were never super appealing to me, and I haven't used them, but from what I can see from my companions, they went through some major upgrades.

    The Nomad is Andromeda's response to the Mako, but it is definitely enhanced. The boosters are still clumsy and can result in some hilariously bad navigation, but there are a few little upgrades that give the player a lot more control. My favorite is the ability to turn on six-wheel drive to get up hills--You just hold down the left shoulder button in addition to the right trigger, and the Nomad grinds its way up. A small but immersive touch.

    The Nomad is also very much a necessity for exploring these gigantic maps. Fortunately, unlike the mounts in Inquisition, it doesn't interrupt companion chatter. It comes equipped with a mining drone, which can help gather crafting material, but if you want to pick up materials from the world (like metals or herbs a la Inquisition), you have to exit the Nomad.

    Throughout the worlds, you can establish forward stations, which are similar in function to the camps in Inquisition. They act as a means of fast traveling, calling down the Nomad, and replenishing supplies. Ryder also establishes actual settlements; I've only set up one, so I can't speak too much to how they're integrated into the gameplay, but it feels similar to a Keep in Inquisition, but with more interactive abilities. Actually, a lot of the exploratory gameplay feels like they took some of the more immersive features that were cut from Inquisition and repurposed them for Andromeda.

    The main missions so far have been very long and spread out. I've had fun doing them the first time around since it's a new experience, but I don't know that I'd want to do them in another playthrough. The one on Eos was starting to get in drudging territory by the time I wrapped it up.

    Andromeda kept the planet scanning from the original trilogy, but it's a little more compact and with some animation flourish. I also just opened up a feature that is similar to the War Table missions in Inquisition. Ryder can send out teams of scientists, soldiers, and/or merchants to gather supplies and XP. I've only done a few, but I think the amount of time they take can vary, and there's a stronger emphasis on failure and success than just different outcomes.

    They also integrated multiplayer with single player through the Strike Team feature. I don't do multiplayer so I doubt I'll see how that works, but for people who do, it seems like a cool touch.

    The one thing I really don't love is travel across the 3 space stations/ships. The Tempest is about the size of the Normandy, minus waitng times in an elevator, and it docks at the Nexus, which is about the size of the Citadel. You also have to go back to the Hyperion for Ryder family business, but there's no quick dock there, so you're always going through the Nexus to get to the tram to take you back to the Hyperion. It's a little tedious.

    Crafting & Inventory
    I've not done much crafting--It's super overwhelming. The inventory interface is set up similarly to the original trilogy, but you have an item limit like in Inquisition. The crafting is just too much for me right now. There are separate sections, research and development, that produce different types of equipment and perks, and they're further divided into Milky Way, Andromeda, and Remnant (Andromeda's response to Protheans, basically) tech. I eventually got a feel for Inquisition's crafting after being overwhelmed, so I'm sure I'll figure this out, too, but it's not been a priority.

    Although it's not crafting exactly, I do want to mention the customization for Ryder's casual wear and armor, because it's a nice touch. There are a few color wheels and patterns that can be used to put them in something other than the stark white Initiative gear.

    Story & Characters
    I'll put the rest of this under a cut since it might get into spoiler territory.

    Read more... )

    All in all, I'm enjoying the game. It does feel distinctively like a Mass Effect game, regardless of the protagonist, and I think they improved on the open-world elements that were established in Inquisition. The game is huge, and it feels kind of overwhelming as a result, but it also feels like it's big with exciting stuff to do, rather than just being big and empty; in a lot of ways, it feels more like what I expected Inquisition to be. It's so big, though, and with so much to do, that I don't really see it as something to be replayed. I think it's going to be a fun, one-time experience, and I'm totally cool with that.
  • Oxenfree

    Mar. 17th, 2017 08:21 am
    fereldanwench: (Video Games - Pitfall)
    I finished Oxenfree last week--Had been meaning to write up my thoughts about it, but various obstacles prevented that from happening. I'm currently in the mood to DAMN THE MAN and waste work time to spew some opinions on the game so here we go.

    It's rated very highly on Steam (9/10), and I believe it came up in one of my queue expeditions. I know it bought it during a Steam sale or through a Humble Bundle--I didn't pay more than $10 for it, and I don't think it's a $20 experience. I wouldn't advise paying more than $15 at most.

    The premise is interesting: you control Alex and at least one of her friends as you explore this island that has some Weird Shitâ„¢ going on (time travel, ghosts, an irradiated submarine--It's all very X-Files-esque). The game is very dialogue-heavy and puts a big emphasis on the relationships you develop with your companions; the bulk of the gameplay is selecting one of three responses, or abstaining from conversation entirely, while Alex and company try to figure out what the hell is going on. There is no explicit relationship meter, but befriending or alienating the others can produce dramatically different outcomes in the story.

    It's obvious that a lot of effort went into the voice acting, and it paid off. Everyone sounds very natural, and they sound and speak like teenagers, but without overdoing the cringy attempts at hip lingo (which bugged me a little in Life is Strange).

    The style of the game is also very charming. The environments make me think of an interactive watercolor painting with graphic design influences, and the characters have cute designs and animations. One of the frequent advancement goals is to generate these triangles that open a rift in time--I loved those visuals.

    And while I wouldn't call it a horror game per se, it did have some genuinely eerie moments. There were a few times it got a startled gasp from me.

    I have two main gripes with the game that ultimately made me decide to uninstall and not pursue additional endings and cheevos:

    1. The interface and menus are almost too minimal. I didn't get to play it for about a week and a half, and when I returned to the game, I forgot some of the controls--I had to Google them because they aren't listed anywhere in the game. That's a bad oversight, in my opinion.

    2. Although the conversations are fun to respond to and although the environments are cool to look at, walking around the island can get really tedious. There are a couple of other gameplay elements, like tuning a radio, but otherwise, it's just a lot of walking and occasionally tapping Ctrl to jump minor obstacles.

    I made the mistake of thinking I could explore the island at my own pace, but the progression is pretty linear within the confines of the story. One of the achievements was finding letters from another character--I took that as a hint to explore a little, but I was wrong. The letters don't even become available after a certain point in the story, and because there's no fast-track option on the map, I was left doing some major backtracking in total silence. The characters walk at a reasonable pace when you have to take time to respond to conversation, but when there's nothing else going on, they feel so slow.

    The 9/10 rating is a little generous from my perspective; IGN has it at 8.2/10, which is about what I'd rate it. Aside from me misreading the game's intentions and enduring unnecessary backtracking, it was an enjoyable experience, and I think it's worth about $10-$15 and at least one playthrough.
    fereldanwench: (Mood - All Out of Fucks)
    For those who've been keeping up with my tsunami of bitterness on Tumblr, this isn't news, but Friday's marketing shitshow sealed the deal: I'm absolutely not paying full price for Andromeda.

    I really made it a point to not get involved with any Mass Effect shenanigans during this whole pre-release cycle with the exception of watching official trailers. I caught little glimpses of drama and discourse of varying relevance pop up on Tumblr, but I largely ignored the community, didn't get invested in any speculation, and really had very minimal and basic expectations for the game. Unlike with Dragon Age, in which fandom contributed greatly to my frustrations with Inquisition, fandom has had little to no influence in how I feel about MEA's upcoming release. My response is almost entirely a reaction to EA and/or BioWare's bullshit, exclusionary marketing after being all cute and playful with eager, enthusiastic LGBTQ and female fans on social media and even explicitly being aware of the importance of appealing to a diverse consumer base.

    The news of one more "alternate" Sara trailer came one trailer and about 24 hours too late. God, they couldn't have even shown Scott with one of the gay romances for the second trailer? Even if that wouldn't appeal to me directly as someone who doesn't play male characters, I would still have a lot of respect for that decision. I would at least feel good about supporting a company that recognizes their LGBTQ fans on an official level.

    And let's be real: I (can) fit into what has to be the easiest demographic to market to outside of the dude bros they've decided to continue their exclusive courtship with: I'm a white woman with disposable income who, although is bisexual and would prefer to see f/f relationships get the spotlight, would be personally content with a glimpse of a f/m relationship that puts f!Ryder front and center. I don't even have any ill will towards BioWare for their ending of ME3, as a lot of people do, nor do I bear them any mistrust over DA2, another common complaint. I love my Shepard, but I'm not so attached that I don't welcome the opportunity to create a new protagonist in that universe. I even paid full price and pre-ordered DAI and all its DLC.

    In other words, I should have been a fucking shoe-in for them. And yet this publicity campaign from day one (when they released that ridiculous concept art that has f!Ryder contorting her hip so her ass is more pronounced) has left me feeling distinctly like, once again, this series is a power fantasy for straight, white men and anyone else is an afterthought.

    How do you fuck that up so badly? I wanted to buy their game (and probably associated merch). I was close to giving them $70 for the digital deluxe version. I wanted to be excited. I was looking forward to making another OC and exploring new worlds and getting to know the new squad. But I'm not rewarding this shit anymore. I'm done just trusting BioWare to do the right thing if I'm not getting any evidence that they actually are.

    One fandom opinion I am already tired of is "Well, we can't blame BioWare. Marketing is EA's fault!" Uhhh, maybe. Sorta. I don't have all the deets on who handles what directly; I would wager that advertising is more of EA's turf, but Flynn has had a big role in this, too, and he's BioWare. (Although credit where due: he has been very polite and receptive to criticism on Twitter.) I don't think it's all one or the other.

    But whatever. Ultimately, aside from targeting criticisms and complaints to the most effective channel, I don't give a damn what company or team is responsible for what: the marketing team is still asking me to trust the developing team that this is a game I will enjoy while seeing very little advertising that appeals to me. And this team doesn't have the best track record of being socially conscientious when it comes to a lot of issues that are important to me in media.

    I have no doubt that Andromeda will be a commercial success, quite possibly even another GOTY contender, so I'm sure there will be game+DLC bundles within the next year or so. It'll be hard to avoid spoilers, but I'll wait until then.

    In the meantime, however, all the nervous energy did unexpectedly spur me on to return to ME3. I'm currently playing Aria's DLC in which Shepard helps her reclaim Omega from Cerberus--I really cannot express my love for Aria enough. Bona fide, unapologetic bad ass. I adore her and I am thoroughly enjoying kicking ass at her side.

    This DLC also introduces Nyreen Kandros, who is the first female Turian to ever appear in a Mass Effect game after they resolved their "How do we woman a Turian? Make boobs? Give lipstick?" issues. She's voiced by Sumalee Montano (American Inquisitor VA) and I am absolutely delighted by her presence, too. Although I did notice that she is apparently wearing eyeliner.

    I guess in lieu of tiddies, a nice cat-eye reassures the player that she's a lady. MUCH WOMANLY. SO FEMININITY.
    fereldanwench: (Misc - Aliens II)
    I had initially planned on getting Andromeda on its release, but I think I might actually hold off for a while.

    My PC surpasses the minimum requirements, but just barely--I had anticipated it'd be around this time that I'd have to do some upgrades if I want to keep pushing for peak performances. My video card is still decent, and if I upgrade my motherboard, BF has an extra card of the same model which means I can get some SLI action going on. I also want to go ahead and upgrade from an i5 to an i7 processor. Skimming NewEgg, it looks like I should plan on somewhere between $400-$600. Frankly, I think I'd rather save the $60 on MEA and put it towards that.

    Although I've had a bit of a nostalgic urge to play ME1 one again (it was around this time in 2013 when I first played it), I'm not really feeling that much hype for MEA, to be honest. Plus I still need to finish ME3.

    I'm still not totally sure how to handle the alleged leaked info re: Liam and his sexuality. It could be bad or incomplete info, but with BW's history (especially looking at how Cassandra handles turning down a female Inquisitor), I'm inclined to err on the side of critical. I don't know what the compulsion is behind giving a gender-locked LI that specific rejection. Maybe they thought it would be a kinder letdown, in the vein of a "it's not you, it's me" explanation? Obviously didn't think that one through.

    I might cave after seeing other people get hyped about it--I didn't have plans on paying full price for Fallout 4 and did anyway--But as of right now... I think it's a soft pass.
    fereldanwench: (Default)
    I think most of this was largely addressed or reasonably assumed through some of Gaider's old tweets, but Laidlaw offered some more direct and recent tweets on why it was cancelled: Article here.
    fereldanwench: (Hawke - Ansley - Smile)
    Title: Don't Get Dead
    Characters: Ansley Hawke, Lorelei Cousland
    Type: Gen
    Words: 1826
    Notes: Because I have a weakness for ladies looking out for each other and I wanted to see what Ansley and Lorelei could be like at Ostagar. This is totally (to borrow a phrase from ren) AO1 material.
    Summary: Somewhat experienced Ansley Hawke offers a little advice and food to Lorelei Cousland during a brief encounter before the battle of Ostagar.

    The ruins at Ostagar were unlike anything Lorelei had ever seen. )


    Jan. 4th, 2017 02:40 pm
    fereldanwench: (Default)
    Does anyone in these parts use Wattpad?

    It's been around since '06, but I only recently heard about it through my ACOTAR Facebook group and a subsequent Wikipedia article.

    It looks like you have to sign in before you can use it, which kind of annoys me because I don't know if I want to commit to an account, but it piqued some curiosity.
    fereldanwench: (Mood - Daydreaming Ariel)
    I've been trying to put together a tentative list of books to read next year. I used to be such a voracious reader when I was younger, but it's really slowed down in recent years; I want to make a concentrated effort to rekindle that love. I've tried half-heartedly since 2014, but it was more like "I wish I read more" rather than... yanno. Fucking reading more.

    I've been bouncing back and forth between some chatter on A Court of Thorns and Roses/Mist and Fury Facebook group and Goodreads to get a few ideas for said list, and I've had a few disjointed thoughts about ACOTAR/MAF in general:

    • ACOMAF ended up surprising me in a good way--I was super underwhelmed with the first book, but I love where Maas took the series. It was reassuring that some of the things I didn't like about the first book were things that I don't think the reader was supposed to like. Red flags in a relationship weren't intended to be glossed over and romanticized; they were intended to be red flags. ACOMAF actually made me appreciated ACOTAR so much more.
    • I'm stoked for Wings and Ruin next year. I can't remember the last time I was counting down for a book release.
    • I tried reading Maas' other series, starting with Throne of Glass--Eh. I got through the first two books, but I am struggling something fierce with the third one. Everyone keeps saying this series radically improves with each book, and I can see why, but ultimately I'm suffering from too many POVs. I don't like having to reset my internal voice and setting with every chapter. I had the same problem with A Game of Thrones and that one Sanderson book I tried to read (The Way of Kings, I think). 2 POVs is fine, I can work with 3 if I'm really engaged, and Heir of Fire has 4. Too much to keep up with. Plus the two guys are boring me at this point. (And one is a super straight playboy named Dorian which keeps throwing me off because of DA Dorian.)
    • I feel really at odds with what I've experienced with the ACOTAR/MAF fandom... Looking through the majority of the book recs I've seen from them, I think we have a very small overlap of reading interests. I see recommendations for a lot of book I wanted throw across the room and never finished (Outlander, Halfway to the Grave) and books that after I look them up sound ridiculous to me.

    • And good god, is it super mayo. The ToG series is getting turned into a TV show and supposedly ACOTAR a movie, and you can just watch the white tears pour in anytime a main character is fancast with an actor who isn't white. "But he has red hair! He can't be black! I'm not racist--I just want book accuracy! I just don't think it would fit the character!" and so on.
    • I mean, one of the lines from a recommended series is "His spear pierced into her sanctuary." AND YES THAT WAS ABOUT SEX. Hahahahaha. No, I'm not doing that. I already had to read about a dude sucking on his female partner's tongue in Halfway to the Grave. I demand better.

    I think with the small sampling of books I've read over the past couple of years, I've come to a few conclusions:

    • I really, really want to love fantasy stories with a female protag and a solid love interest, but it is really, really hard for me to find stories with that criteria that still work for me. The Kushiel's Dart trilogy and now the ACO series are the only two in the past 10 years that I have thoroughly enjoyed. There have been a couple of other ones along the way that were fun, but not nearly as memorable. There have been many, many more that I just completely gave up on. Just bad writing, protags I cannot relate to at all, forced world-building, shitty heternormative tropes--It just seems like there's a lot of junk to weed through.
    • I generally don't like sci-fi nearly as much as fantasy. Or maybe it's just the sci-fi that I've read in recent years. I don't want to get bogged down with technology and ships and all that.
    • I've read way better porn via fanfic than through published stories.
    • I want to read less het and more f/f stories.
    • After reading Gillian Flynn's Dark Places and Sharp Objects, I want more female protags who are currently dealing with some shit and maybe not that well and probably aren't super likable because of it. I want more female anti-heroes. Especially in fantasy.
    • I love a funny memoir. Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea and Tough Shit were very enjoyable.
    • I also like some good nonfiction. My brother lent me Happy City, which has been really interesting (and helping me articulate certain things I hate about suburban life). I loved The Tipping Point and Blink. I'd like to read some more things to get me thinking.
    • I don't like reading on a tablet or phone. It's convenient and doable for shorter, less involved reads, but if I want to really get into something, I need a physical book.
    • I also need to find a good place to read. My office is strictly computer time--Art, Netflix, and video games. The living room is BF's computer domain--TV and games. The bedroom works until bedtime--We usually watch something before going to bed, and I find the ambient light and sound from the TV comforting as I doze off. Google Music has some good ambient reading music; I could use earbuds to block out the noise, but I still get distracted by moving things on a screen.

    Anyhow, I think I'll keep scouring Goodreads in search of 20 or so books to read next year. If anyone has any recommendations, particularly for something not so mainstream, I'm definitely open to them.
    fereldanwench: (Hawke - Rhiannon - Unamused)
    This was prompted by [personal profile] sarasa_cat's question on Tumblr, but I figured it'd be easier to talk about here without character limits and losing conversation amidst reblogging.

    I really don't know a whole lot about the overall world-building in the franchise, and how I've come to enjoy the game has minimized my exposure to a lot of it (which I'll elaborate on in a minute). [personal profile] theharlotofferelden brought up how a lot of the races are presented, and through my limited exposure in game and a little curious Googling, I picked up that for the available human races, it breaks down approximately like so:

  • The Imperials are sort of a nebulous Roman counterpart.
  • The Nords are like a (surprise, surprise) Nordic or Scandinavian people.
  • The Bretons are supposed to correspond with people in Celtic regions
  • The Redguards would be akin to a North African or Middle Eastern people.

    The CC will tell you a little about the defining physical characteristics of each race, like the Nords being fair-haired and the Redguards having dark complexions, but I don't think you're limited by any those, so you could feasibly make a black Nord or a pale Redguard. (I think--I have a mega CC overhaul installed, and I don't know if that changes anything.) I don't think the Breton or Imperial description mentions anything one way or another.

    The non-human races have some really overt coding, like the Khajiit (cat people) with the Romani. There are a few different variety of elves, and I read some speculation that they were supposed to be generically coded as east Asian, but I haven't encountered them enough to say for sure.

    I've only played as a Nord and an Imperial, so I don't know how much the player gets hit over the head with racism if they choose another race, but I would imagine it's pretty rough for any of the non-human races. I know dark elves in particular are treated like shit in Windhelm--They're basically sectioned off like in an alienage. But within the greater scope of Tamriel on the whole, I don't think they're subjugated all over in a similar way that elves are in DA? One of the most notable Imperial leaders is a dark elf, and when you get to Solitude, they're just as rich (and classist) as the human nobility. It seems like where ever there's a stronger Imperial influence over a Nord one, they aren't treated any differently.

    The Dragonborn storyline is intertwined with the Nords versus the Empire storyline, which essentially makes you pick a side (unless you get some mods to separate them or get rid of them entirely). It's a fucked decision either way. The Empire is basically coming in here with their soldiers and banning the Nords' religions and way of life, and I mean... It's an Empire. No good comes from that. But the leader of the Nords' rebellion, Ulfric, promotes that whole "keep Skyrim for the Nords thing" that is really blatantly racist but not really challenged. Did Bethesda even consider the implications of an Anglo group of people trying to "purify" their lands of outsider influences??? It doesn't seem like it.

    So... Yes. There is probably a lot about these dynamics that would make someone rage quit, especially if they go into it wanting to play the main storyline or if they want to play a PC who isn't an Imperial or Nord. The first Dragonborn I made did end up siding with the Stormcloaks, but I became very uncomfortable with that decision and ended up dropping her entirely after that point.

    But there are so many mods available that can drastically change the gameplay and the PC's storyline that I think it could still be very enjoyable depending on what you're looking for. There are mods that do away with the Dragonborn plot entirely and let you choose your own path completely--One of the PCs I have right now came from a group of bandits and is now weaseling her way into the Thieves Guild. The other one is desperately trying to get into the Mages College but doesn't have the skills yet. The thief might become an actual Dragonborn at some point, but right now I'm just having fun traveling the world. Neither will get involved in the war decision.

    With both I've gotten way more into the exploration of the world and the small, fetchy quests than the big, overarching plot. Mods like Campfire, iNeed, and Frostfall turn wandering Skyrim into something with purpose and consequence. Ingrid got hypothermia trying to camp in the middle of a blizzard, and her companion had to bring her to a nearby inn to recuperate--That was awesome. Having to make sure there's enough inventory space for food and drink, and making sure they get sleep once a day turns it more into a survival simulation in a fantasy setting than an open world RPG with a mediocre premise.

    And I think that approach has made it a lot more fun for me. There's definitely no way to avoid the off-handed comments from NPCs or separate the world entirely from the war that's embedded in it, but I think there are so many mods available that most people could probably find a way to tweak the game to make it more palatable to their entertainment desires.
  • fereldanwench: (Default)
    I'm not sure if DW bumps up old posts with edited time stamps, but if not, I just did a pretty substantial update to my inspo blog masterlist. Enjoy!

    I've also started using my Pinterest for inspo organizing. I wish there was a way I could better differentiate my RL shit with my fandom shit (like having different profiles without having to create a new account), but Pinterest boards might be even more relaxing to create. It's been an awesome decompressor after a pretty hectic work week. It was also very helpful in me fleshing out Ansley.

    So far for Dragon Age, I have:

    OC - Lorelei Cousland
    OC - Ansley Hawke
    OC - Daphne Caron
    OC - Melisande Trevelyan
    OC - Leda Boulet

    I also started a private, general DA board a few months ago; I'm deciding how I want to handle that. It's mostly just landscapes that inspire me.

    Also, because I've also fallen into the ACOTAR/ACOMAF dumpster hard, I have a board for that, too.

    I've been working on putting together a master page for my bbs. I still need to write Ansley's blurb on the page, and there's an Avvar OC I've been slowly conceptualizing that I'll be adding to the second tier.

    I'm thinking I might try my hand at NaNoWriMo to push out Mel's story right before she gets to the Conclave. I have all these ideas swimming in my head and I've finally solidified the major events and motivations that get her there and I want to get these words out. I've really just had a super, super hard time expressing myself the past few weeks. I think a Starbucks and laptop day are in my future, especially now that the weather is cooling off.


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