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Arcanum (2001)

When it comes to RPGs, I have long considered myself to have a preference for long games, presumably stemming from my teenage days, when Bioware and Black Isle offered rich fantasy experiences to anyone with enough leisure time to spend (like a high schooler). I fell out of the habit of gaming while I went to college, but kept following the industry news, full of disdain for companies that took a casual, less time-intensive approach to their games. Over the past few years, as I’ve rediscovered video games, my attitudes seem to have shifted a bit. Arcanum has the bad luck to be the game that crystallized that change, through no real fault of its own.

I first heard of Arcanum when it was previewed for the gaming press, and while I thought its mix of fantasy and steampunk sounded intriguing, I never bought and eventually forgot about it. Years later, it was part of an offer on GOG, and the blast of nostalgia caused me to purchase it for some unspecified holiday period, which finally came around in August of 2014.

My first impressions were definitely positive. The character creation dialogue is the most detailed and option-full of any RPG I’ve seen, greatly encouraging real role-playing and making up a unique player character. I eventually opted for an arrogant and vain gnome with a racially atypical interest in wizardry. And the game responded quite admirably to my choices. For example, a background story I picked gave me more Willpower points (an advantage for a mage), but also restricted the number of points I could spend on my Charisma stat, limiting my ability to gain followers. NPCs treated me differently as a gnome than they would have as a dwarf or elf. Continue reading


The Blackwell Epiphany (2014)

Three-and-a-half years after the release of the last instalment, and two years after my corresponding review, Dave Gilbert has now released the newest episode of the Blackwell series. He can be excused for the long wait time, having been busy growing his family, adapting to changing times by preparing mobile versions of his games, and building his studio, Wadjet Eye, into a well-respected and trusted indie publisher. So trusted that I pre-ordered their last two games (this one and Primordia, 2012) without consideration to any reviews and will likely do so with the next one when it becomes available on GOG. Not that the early reviews would have dissuaded me, which were pretty glowing, promising the longest and most emotional series instalment.

As far as I can recall (unfortunately, The Blackwell Epiphany does not offer any kind of previously-on recap, perhaps so as not to bore people playing all five games in close succession), the ending to part 4 suggested the advent of a larger, more epic world. The main characters, medium Rosa Blackwell and her ghost sidekick Joey, were confronted with a shadowy conspiracy they intended to take down. There were also continued hints that Joey was withholding important information about his demise from Rosa, grounds for a future falling-out. The latter thread doesn’t really materialise: We do learn a few things about Joey’s past and how he was connected to previous game characters (whom I didn’t really remember, to be honest), and there’s an achievement promising “The hows and whys of Joey”, which however, I did not manage to get. But there’s nothing relationship-threatening there. I wonder whether this was something Gilbert planned but dropped, or whether I simply misinterpreted some dialogue two years ago. Continue reading

Frozen (2013)

Before I go into my review of the newest Disney feature, let me talk a bit about Tangled (2010), its predecessor in the fairy tale genre. As a long-time Disney fan, I followed its arduous production fairly closely, and that process didn’t yield a great amount of optimism for the finished product: Numerous story retoolings, scale-backs of the visual style, the replacement of animation legend Glen Keane in the director’s chair (twice, basically), and an unnecessary title change later, the bad vibes climaxed with a horrid trailer that made the film look like a not very good Shrek-esque parody and a desperate appeal for boys and teenagers.


When I actually saw the film in December 2010, compelled by a release of the catchy soundtrack, good reviews and some slightly less loathsome trailers, I wasn’t just very pleasantly surprised. I absolutely adored Tangled. It had a thin veneer of modern “hipness”, sure, but what lay underneath was a really very traditional fairy tale plot with solid situational and character-based humour and a distinct lack of pop-culture references or insufferable pop songs. It wasn’t a radical shift at all, but a minor evolution of a formula Disney mastered in the early 1990s (and then kinda ran into the ground, sure, but never to the degree critics like to claim). If it was a rejection of anything, then of the Disney company’s previous attempts to break out of a perceived fairy tale ghetto.
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