Day 5 of the Write A Stupid Thing Every Day, or W.A.S.T.E.D, quarantine challenge that I’ve imposed on myself.
By: William Chandler
I’ve been spending most of my time at my significant other’s apartment due to quarantine and, sadly, that means being away from my beloved computer. My sweet, beefy baby that ensures I can play even the newest, most taxing of releases at maximum settings. While this distance certainly improves my productivity with non-gaming related ventures, it also means that any downtime I may have must be killed in a different manner. While this is generally okay because it allows me to get back into the habit of watching movies (my Criterion Channel subscription is finally seeing some use) or writing more, sometimes I just get that… that itch, you know? Sometimes you just need to play a video game. Enter the desperation of gaming on my 2016 Macbook Pro.
I scowled as I scrolled through my Steam library, once a bountiful harvest when viewed from any Windows machine, now a desolate wasteland of old games I’ve either already played or probably couldn’t run when looking at it from Mac OS. But wait, what’s that? From a far distance down the list gallops a game neither taxing nor one I’ve ever made the time to play, and yet I’ve always heard positive things about it. It’s beautiful. It’s glorious. It is The Banner Saga.
I was excited to finally experience this gem from some developers who were formerly at Bioware, a studio near and dear to my heart. The setting and story are intriguing from the jump and it’s the perfect game to play using only a trackpad since the primary gameplay loop is turn based strategy with a bit of text adventure mixed in. Alas, upon booting it up, I’m forced to reconcile with the fact that the integrated graphics in the 2016 Macbook Pro, when used in the notoriously poorly optimized for gaming Mac OS, are insufficient for even a moderately taxing task such as this. The game chugs at seeming random intervals, although mostly in the non-combat scenes, and occasionally seems content to just halt periodically before jittering to life again.
Perhaps dual booting Windows through bootcamp would help but I really am not interested in buying another Windows license so I suppose, for now I’ll just have to deal with it. I’m interested in seeing how Disco Elysium runs on a Mac so perhaps I’ll write about that in the near future. Or I’ll just play through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for like the fifth time.
Day 1 of the Write A Stupid Thing Every Day, or W.A.S.T.E.D, quarantine challenge that I’ve imposed on myself.
Some loose thoughts on Dragon: Age Origins and its expansion, Awakening.
Dragon Age: Origins is, unlike KOTOR, Jade Empire, or the Mass Effects, a slow burn of a story that really only gets better as it goes on. The beginning is a dreary, morose origin of your choosing that doesn’t skimp on the spectacle, but does cut back on the Golden Age Bioware bombast ™, at least in the plot department. In my particular case, a collegiate wizarding dropout that is forced to enlist in the military after his friend gets cancelled for not telling his GF about his blood fetish. The end of the world makes an unceremonious return to a bunch of people who know it’s there and just can’t be arsed to deal with it. There’s regular shit to do, haven’t ye heard? Fields to till and politicking to bungle. All the cards are laid out on the table after the battle at Ostagar which is roughly four hours into the game. I’ve seen the end already and know exactly the form it takes. No mystery, no suspense. This stands in stark contrast to the hushed whispers and conspiratorial end of the known universe in Mass Effect, the true nature of which presents as a third act reveal. For this reason, I think, Origins has a much less gripping early game but it only goes up from here.
Not mechanically speaking, though. The game is much the same at hour 50 as it is hour 1, with the exception of more frequent difficulty brick walls to careen into once you’ve lulled yourself into a false sense of security with the combat systems. Nay, the game truly shines in just how in control of the whole experience you feel. Decisions are laid at your feet at a regular pace from the very beginning and it’s difficult to tell that they are even decisions sometimes, much less which of them might just come back to haunt you later. The ending also changes in its fine details to reflect exactly what you have or have not done. In my first full playthrough of the game, completed last month, I realized that I didn’t care for Zevran all that much. I didn’t want him out of the story or dead or anything but he’d just be that party member in an RPG whom you mostly ignore through the end of the game unless you really need something lockpicked. I’d chat with him on occasion but his particular brand of ‘I’m a silly and horny assassin boy with a lonely backstory’ just didn’t do it for me. He betrayed me later on, like he knew exactly how I felt about him, and I had to set him on fire. Whoops. Guess I won’t see you in the sequels.
If you lack the sophistication or hand eye coordination to use mouse and keyboard properly then perhaps you’ll be happy to know that Microsoft have come through with a solution to ease your pain. The fabulously constructed Xbox One controllers may now be connected via USB to your PC and will work as long as these drivers are installed.
As someone who occasionally enjoys seeing how the other half lives, this is great news.