Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: Fable II

Lately, I have lots of free time, which I obviously don’t spend blogging. Instead I turn on my 600 watt transformer (why the hell don’t Xboxes convert the voltage themselves like every other piece of technology?) and play Xbox until my eyes bleed. Fortunately for you, I ran out of good games, and can’t buy any here unless I let someone do stuff that the guy in the shop wasn’t able to explain in English to my Xbox. Until I’m emotionally ready to let that happen, I’m stuck with Fable II (or something I’ve already beaten).

Fortunately for you, that (It’s not a very good game) means I can pull myself away from my Xbox long enough to write some reviews of the games that occupied my time for the last month. Since the title “REVIEW: Fable II, Beowulf: The Game (not to be confused with the epic poem), Warhammer 40K: Space Marine and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood” is long, confusing, and violates the legal limit for colon usage, I’ll just do one for now.

     I’ll start with the worst. Fable II is really disappointing me. A lot. I played the first one quite a bit and had a pretty good time with it. I tried Fable II a while back, and switched to something else (back when I had choices). I’ve restarted and it’s playable (if you’re desperate).

     I do like the addition of the dog. Having a dog generally makes everything better, and I’ll admit they even did a good job of making him useful, rather than a burden (anyone ever try to make it through Fallout with Dogmeat still alive?). He can find treasure and growls at or occasionally kills bad-guys. You can also interact with him like you do with every other NPC in the game (Well, not exactly like other NPCs. Bestiality is not an option). You do get to name it, though due to some designer’s sloppiness, the name is almost never mentioned. It seems as though it would be easy to have the name you enter replace every instance of “your dog.” Nintendo games could do that. This is despite the fact that you can assign nicknames to EVERY OTHER NPC in the game.

     This sort of sloppiness seems common throughout the game. The menu is beast that requires a lot of up/down scrolling and clicking through sub-menus to do anything (they don’t seem to make use of the fact that an Xbox controller has eight buttons, two joy sticks and a D-pad). Multi-directional menus (like in Bethesda’s RPGs) could make a big difference, as Fable II isn’t that complex (compared to Oblivion or Fallout 3).

     They’ve also added mini-games, which I don’t think they had in the first one. You can gamble now, though it’s the Xbox equivalent of slot machines. They took the time to make a variety of different ones, with all the wacky rules and combinations of ways to win, but clearly never considered making the game involve any skill. Regardless of all the rules, every time you spin you either win some amount of money, or you lose. The only interaction other than pressing “A” to spin is selecting the amount of your bet. It’s nothing like gambling in Red Dead Redemption, where you actually play hold ‘em, blackjack or liar’s dice (my personal favorite). It’s just a matter of pushing “A” and seeing if you get money. It’s totally pointless, not unlike the jobs you can do in the game. These seemed nice at first, but are really, really tedious (especially if you’re the sort of person who likes to max out skills). Getting five stars in something like woodcutting or blacksmithing requires at least an hour spent tapping/releasing “A” at the appropriate time. The bounty hunter jobs aren’t too bad at least.

     Though they require combat...which is the next thing I want to complain about (I mean review). The very best thing about Fable (aside from kicking chickens, which you can still do) was one’s ability to zoom in with the bow and decapitate someone with a single arrow. That was pretty sweet. It brought joy to many. Now your ranged weapons just auto-aim and you shoot. That’s it. The melee fighting is okay, but the magic is nearly useless. The menu is just too clunky for any of the spells to be much help in combat (and I like smacking things with a big hammer anyway).

     I can’t say much about the story since I’m not that far into it, and it didn’t seem worth paying attention. I used to turn my music down and my TV up during the dialogue parts, but quickly realized it wasn’t worth the effort and gave up. Overall, I’m still unimpressed. That’s it for now (unless of course I am still unable to sleep, in which case, I’ll be writing the next review shortly).



Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New Country

Happy New Year! Yeah, it’s late. It turns out I’m just as effective at procrastinating when I don’t have a massive hangover. Who could have guessed? (Aside from people who know me, obviously) It’s been awhile, so this is mostly an update on things. I’m in Turkey now (for those of you didn’t know). I’ve got a job teaching ESL at Hasdil, a British Council school, in Konya. It’s pretty much in the dead center of Turkey, so if you point to Turkey on a map, you’re probably pointing at Konya (and also everything in a 100 or so mile radius, depending on the scale).

When I first got here, I almost immediately found that the fan in my laptop had died. I struggled through the process of ordering one (I had to set up a Turkish PayPal account, in Turkish, despite the fact that I couldn’t speak a word of Turkish... It took a while). The fan then took three weeks to get here, so that’s my excuse for not posting anything for a month and a half (I know that didn't add up). So, yeah, now I’m back. Also future posts will be the usual sort, rather the unfocused babbling you’re reading now (they’ll be slightly more focused babbling).

Aside from teaching, writing and eating Adana kebabs, I’m also studying Turkish. It’s a fascinating language (note to self: add teaching and languages to list of blog topics). It’s actually read exactly as it’s written (and rarely uses diphthongs), unlike certain western languages I can think of (Okay, mostly just English). Like most languages that do that, they have more vowels (Thai has 18). They use a, e, i, o, u, (but they each only make one sound) along with Ӧ, ϋ and I (I without a dot is a different vowel than i with a dot). The Ӧ makes a “e” sound, like at the end of “hooker.” The ϋ makes a long “u” sound like at the end of “prostitute,” while the I makes an “ah” sound like at the beginning of “prostitute.”

Turkish also uses the same consonants with a few variations. C and S both also exist with a little swishy thing underneath them (I’m too lazy to scroll through a bunch of symbols again). These make the “Ch” and “Sh” sounds, respectively (Pneumonic device to remember that: Chimpanzee Shit). C inexplicably makes a J sound, and I don’t think they have a J (so if someone asks if you want “to spark up a C” you know what they mean). G comes in both standard form, and with a little curvy thingy over it. That one is silent, but extends the vowel sound. It’s a bit like the silent “gh” in English. They also don’t have a W (as in whore).

In terms of how it works, it’s basically a cross between Japanese, Latin, English and Arabic (Simple, right?). The sentence structure is pretty much the opposite of English. Objects go first, and verbs go last, and everything gets interspersed with particles (usually these particles are suffixes). This is similar to Japanese (according to Karen, who also works here, and speaks Japanese). In Turkish, the particles are usually suffixes, and can change the sentence to a question, make it negative, and probably do other stuff. Prepositions are also suffixes, and get stuck on the object. The subject technically goes before the verb, but it’s often dropped because the verbs are conjugated like in Latinate languages so the subject is often given by the verb ending, so actually saying it is superfluous.

The other tricky bit involves the suffixes (I mentioned those, right?). As in Spanish (and presumably other Latinate languages), the verb ending is partially dependent on the vowel ending with the verb. In Spanish that means -ir, -ar or (this is a word, and not a possible verb ending) -er. In Turkish, a verb can use any vowel, and each changes it to one of four possible endings. Vowel harmony (that's what one website called it) doesn't stop with verbs though. It is also applied to other suffixes, with two possible endings for prepositions. On top of that, any time you modify anything consonants may (USUALLY) change. Fortunately, lots of these are only noticable if you screw up in writing. Turkish is also a bit like English in that some tenses are normally conjugated, (I only know two, so I’m assuming a bit here), while others are just stuck with some form of the verb “to be.” In Turkish this verb is (like most things in Turkish) a suffix. In English we do that for present continuous. In Turkish, they do it with present simple.

According to one of my students (ϋmar) Turkish was originally written with Arabic writing (but spoken the same as it is now), but they switched over to their modern characters later on (This probably explains why their alphabet is so reasonable). They also retained some words from Arabic like “merhaba” (hello) and “portakal” (orange). I can’t really speak Turkish much yet, but I’m learning more and more words from my students, and I’m starting to figure out the grammar. I occasionally catch myself conjugating recreationally (that sounds dirty). I also have my iPad keyboard setup so that I can switch between English and Turkish. Oddly enough, auto-correct is actually useful for a new language. Who knew it was anything other than a scourge on humanity? I have to admit though, if you type a sentance in English on the Turkish keyboard (or vis-versa), auto-correct severely mangles it.

Thanks in part to my Turkish keyboard, I was able to acomplish a task that is a significant milestone for anyone learning a new language: I ordered a pizza (Yes, I did it online, and yes, it took me longer to order it than it took to arrive). If I keep up my current rate of improvement, I should be able to have the language mastered in just 10-12 years (ok, maybe less). So that’s all I'm saying about Turkish for now. Feel free to comment (actually, feel as though you’ve been begged for your comment). The next post will be more timely and all around better (inshalla).