Category Archives: Games

#amgaming: Review of Aveyond 2: Ean’s Quest

I play a lot of computer games, but I love RPGs more than any other. This is because the storylines and characters are given as much attention as the action and the fighting.  I’m especially fond of the Aveyond series of games, which are produced by Aveyond Studios, a small indie company formerly known as Amaranth Games or Aveyond Kingdom.

Amanda Fitch was the first developer to popularize RPG Maker as a commercial tool in 2006. It looks like she is currently heavily involved in building and promoting HeroKit, a new RPG game making program which is supposed to launch soon.

Ean’s Quest is one of their early games made with RPG Maker, but for whatever reason, I had never played it. As everyone knows, I love nothing better than a good fantasy. This little indie produced game is a great fantasy with a certain amount of snark and romance and some intriguing and difficult puzzles.

The version of Ean’s Quest I am reviewing is version 2—I never bought version 1, so I can’t say how it compares or where it differs.

But first, THE BLURB:

Snow has fallen on a magical vale where it has never snowed before. A beautiful young elf is missing, and no one remembers her existence. That is, no one except for her best friend, Ean.

To solve the mystery of his lost friend, Ean leaves the vale and travels to the dangerous Land of Man. Ean’s adventure takes him through dark forests, arid deserts, and finally to a great mountain of ice where the answers to all of his questions await. And that is just the beginning…

Solve dozens of adventure puzzles and explore an enchanting world. Aveyond 2 is packed with monsters, magic, and humor. Stop an evil queen from turning the world into ice, capture a dragon and ride the winds to ancient lands, unite the kingdoms and discover your destiny.

MY REVIEW:

First of all, this was a fun game. I played it through twice and got two different endings, which kept me entertained and out of trouble. The keyboard instructions are simple, and if you prefer, you can use the mouse for most functions. The story gets going right away, with our elf, Ean, thrown into a strange world with only the knife in his hand and his ingenuity to save him. Soon after landing in the Land of Man he finds Iya, but their escape from the Snow Queen is fraught with danger and unpleasant surprises.

The playable characters besides Ean and his missing girlfriend, Iya, are fun and have solid personalities. Rye is a ranger and a good fighter with no magic. He’s one of the better fighters and his ongoing “courtship” of Emma, the lady’s maid turned sword swinger, is hilarious.

Nicolas Pendragon is a snotty, privileged prince who is a good healer. He is Arrogant with a capitol A and even after he begins to humble up a little, still refuses to be in your party if Gavin,  the warlock, is allowed. Both Nicolas and Gavin have heavy interactions with Ava One Eye, the pirate captain. Both story lines are hilarious, but you only can do one or the other, which is why I played the game straight through twice.

Ava One Eye is surly, a pirate queen who kicks butt and takes no prisoners. Her interactions, once Ean buys the farm, are entertaining.

A holdover from Aveyond 1: Rhen’s Quest is Jack the Thief, who has been turned into a statue for two hundred years. He is absolutely necessary for opening blue chests and other locks, and has some comical quips but is pretty useless in battle, so I didn’t keep him the active party, and never wasted money on equipping him with more than minimal cast off armor.

The quests are all really fun, but my favorite was in Bogwood, where you have the opportunity to really give Nicolas a kick in the pants and also to set Ava up with Gavin. Your choices in Bogwood determine how the rest of the game will go.

The monsters are tough but doable throughout the game. In certain places, you can really build up exp and collect enough gold that you don’t have to worry about keeping enough healing elixirs and aquifoliums for replenishing magic on hand.  This means that choosing to go with Gavin rather than the spoiled prince isn’t an issue. At times, the clues about what you should do next are a little obscure, which is why I went out and found the walk through, but for the most part, you don’t have to follow it.

The graphics are really awesome, which is one reason I love the games produced by Aveyond Studios in all their incarnations. A free walkthough is available on the Aveyond Studios website at this link, so I suggest you bookmark that link if you are a person who prefers to have a guide to follow.

Aaron Walz returned to produce the soundtrack to this game. As always, the music is well orchestrated with deep themes. While the battle music can be repetitious when you get into certain areas where you are fighting enemy after enemy (a hazard in any RPG), generally speaking, the music is beautiful and lyrical, a pleasant and appropriate soundtrack to the adventure.

I give Aveyond 2: Ean’s Quest five stars. It is a highly entertaining game and is an excellent way to while away a few hours in the evening when you just want a little “getaway.” I spent about 24 hours over the course of three weeks playing it in the evenings the first time through, and 19 hours over two weeks the second time. The second time through was just as engrossing as the first because the storyline was different, and based on what I already knew, I was able to make better use of my characters individual abilities.

I play a lot of games on my PC, simply because I need to unwind and love solving puzzles, and don’t have time to get lost in a long Final Fantasy-style console game anymore.  Aveyond 2: Ean’s Quest is available from the designers’ website: Aveyond 2: Ean’s Quest. You can also find it at Big Fish Games if you want to use your tokens to lower the cost.

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#amgaming: Review of Stargazer, by Amaranth/John Wizard

Stargazer screen shot 3I spend a certain amount of time playing computer games, especially when I am trying to avoid doing any serious writing. And just like the books I read when dodging work, I love to talk about whatever game I’m playing. Today I am reviewing Stargazer, which was published in 2015.

I love old-school, indie-built, computer Japanese-style RPGs, and Stargazer, created by John Wizard in association with Amaranth, is one of the best games I’ve played in years. I’ve played it through four times over the last year, setting Aura’s magic up differently each time, and have not run across any glitches or bugs. Yay for that!!!

Magic no longer exists in the world, but Zach, stargazer and dreamer, doesn’t really believe that. The game begins when a meteor falls from the sky, and Zach goes to investigate it. He manages to avoid the Chancellor’s goons and discovers a girl who is suffering from amnesia. She thinks her name is Aura. There is an instant attraction there, and Zach is smitten. Their adventures begin, and they meet Scarbeck (a detective) Thyme (a healer) Grayson (a noble, but scary, knight), Kala, (has magic and rides a Firewing bird) and Amelia Mae (a 14-year-old genius).

Their romance is sweet, but not without stumbling blocks. There is no doubt how Zach and Aura feel about each other, but as for Thyme and Grayson…it’s a rocky road to the altar. And, in true Amaranth fashion, unless all the right criteria are met throughout the game, you won’t gain attraction points, and there will be no weddings.

The story line is a good fantasy story with a great quest, and the dialogue is hilarious, rife with snark and sarcasm.The art and graphics are excellent, colorful and highly detailed. Each setting is fun to roam around in. If I have any complaint, it’s the amount of walking back and forth over the same ground that one has to do to complete the many tasks, but that’s a minor irritation–the story keeps it interesting.

Stargazer screen shot 2The dungeons are difficult but not impossible, and the puzzles are challenging. The creatures are fun, and some are hard to beat, but you do gain strength, so nothing is impossible. You do have to be careful with the gold in order to get the best armor and weapons, as there are no goodie caves or secret weapons/armor stashes, although you can gain some good armor and weaponry in treasure chests.

Shybeard’s ship and Mala (the Firewing Bird) are delightfully hokey in an enlarged SNES Super Mario kind of way. Hawkeye is the lone graphic that is pretty much indecipherable.

The final battle is fun, and if you have met all the right criteria and gained enough attraction points for the two marriageable couples, you will get two weddings at the end. Or not, but either way, it’s a great game.

This is a terrific way to spend 25 or so hours, as there are over 200 puzzles and side quests to complete, all of which advance the story.

Amaranth and John Wizard are my 2 favorite indie RPG game makers, and they have lately collaborated with each other on several other games. Built using RPG Maker, their games are reminiscent of the old Enix/Square Soft games, for the Super Nintendo with strong story lines and fun side quests. They are as much fun as The Legend of Zelda, or Chrono Trigger or any early Final Fantasy game ever was.

Stargazer screen shotStargazer is available from John Wizard, or Aldorlea, or on SteamThis game is not for sale on the Aveyond.com website, which is what Google queries for Amaranthia redirect to. Amaranth has undergone some serious changes over the last year and their website is no longer the fun place it was, although gamers and indie game creators can still meet and discuss gaming and game creation in some limited forums.

I am not sure what to make of that—even though the John Wizard site redirects Stargazer questions to Aveyond, there are no forums there to discuss Stargazer, and the game does not appear on their website.

Regardless of that mystery, I give Stargazer 5 full stars, with no reservations whatsoever—I love this game.

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Book signing events, the art of Paul Cornoyer, and inspiration

From left to right, Sechin Tower, Lindsay Schopfer and Connie J. Jasperson at Forever Knight Games 5-16-2015

From left to right, Sechin Tower, Lindsay Schopfer and Connie J. Jasperson at Forever Knight Games 5-16-2015

The signing at Forever Knight Games in Olympia went well. I met several wonderful authors I hadn’t had a chance to meet in person: Sechin Tower, Jolene Loraine, Rachel E. Robinson (Maquel A. Jacob), and Erik Kort. We were joined my my good friends, authors Lee French, Lindsay Schopfer, and Jeffrey Cook. These wonderful people write great books, and I was privileged to be counted among them!

We had a great time, and it was a good first event at that venue. I want to thank all my friends for coming out and meeting my favorite local authors. Tower of Bones was my big seller–which makes me happy.

paul cornoyer rainy day in madison square

Rainy Day in Madison Square, Paul Cornoyer

But then, after the big party was over (and it was a party–believe me) I had to drag myself back to reality. As I said the other day, sometimes my head isn’t in the right place for reading. At the event this last weekend, a friend asked me how that inability to read without the editor in my head making noise affects my ability to write. I had to answer that it does affect it to a certain extent.

The reason being in an editing frame of mind affects my writing is that while I am creative, it is like my creativity has to go through a maze to get to the ends of my fingers and into written form.

It’s a sloooooow process.

Paul Cornoyer Winter twilight along Central Park

Winter Twilight Along Central Park, Paul Cornoyer

I do a lot of things to jumpstart that creativity. I  clean things I don’t really care about under normal circumstances.  Something about a really orderly environment gets my mind relaxed enough to work properly.

Sometimes I write flash-fiction, 100 to 1000 word short stories.

I find great art that really makes my mind click–Wikimedia Commons is awesome for that.  Today I came across a download of a picture that, two years ago, sparked a 250 word flash-fiction. That  image, which I will get to later, was painted around the year 1910 by an American artist, Paul Cornoyer.

Paul Cornoyer -Gloucester

Glouster, Paul Cornoyer

His work is quite intriguing, and much of is done in an impressionistic style.

According to the Fount of all Knowledge, Wikipedia, Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement. Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

The thing about the impressionists that so inspires my writing is that they don’t give you all the details–they give you what they saw including the mood of the piece.

Paul_Cornoyer_-_The_Plaza_After_Rain

The Plaza After Rain, Paul Cornoyer

In so many ways, good literature is like good art–all the important things are there, everything the eye needs to have a perfect vision of the mood, the setting, and characters–everything is there within the piece, but with economy. When you limit yourself to expressing the complete idea of the story in less than 300 words, you discover just how well (or how badly you can write.)

This last picture is the piece that inspired one of my better, short pieces of Flash Fiction, which will be featured later this month on Edgewise Words Inn. I will post links to that here when it goes up

It is called The Plaza After Rain. I love it because, even though it depicts New York City in a different time, it shows the way rain is in the springtime. The sky is dark, but the trees are just beginning to leaf out. The streets are wet with rain, but a hint of blue is showing through the dark sky. When you see this painting, you feel like sunshine could happen any minute.

That is what we try to convey in flash fiction, and that is why it’s so important to practice writing in short, complete bursts. You never know when one will become a longer tale, so you will have a backlog of  fodder to fuel your creativity when you need a good story idea. Being able to create an entire story in 3 paragraphs is an art. Sometimes I can do well at that, and sometimes not so much.

 

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Final Fantasy XV and Unremembered Things

225px-Ff12castI’m just going to come out and say it–I play console-based RPG video games, and I love it. I am still playing Final Fantasy XII, and finding new things to love about it.

I’m not a huge fan of first-person-shooter games, because I prefer swords and magic,  although I do like a good story-line with well-developed characters. That’s why I am a true Final Fantasy Fanatic–the stories are intricate and compelling, and the characters are multifaceted and strike a chord in the player’s psyche.

So I am quite intrigued by the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV. Off the top, it looks a bit reminiscent of Final Fantasy VIII in that there are many elements of the first-person shooter in it, and the characters appear to be more real-world.

One of the things that interests me about this upcoming game is the dynamic weather system, with transient effects such as rain affecting things such as the characters’ clothing. In Final Fantasy XII, the  changing weather is an integral part of the game, and the type of creatures encountered changes when the weather does.

FF_XV_screenshotAnother element that intrigues me is Time: a day-and-night time system will affect the appearance of monsters on the world map. One in-game day equates to one hour real-time, and characters who do not sleep have decreased combat ability. Just like in the watershed RPG Final Fantasy VI, camping during the night is necessary for characters to maintain combat performance and level up. The cool thing here is that experience points earned in battle during the day are converted into new levels during camping periods. Camps form a safe haven during exploration, and cooking in them using ingredients from both towns and the wilds grants character bonuses. I expect that no time will be wasted by actually cooking, but I like the notion that the characters must adhere to real-world constraints, or become sickly.

The gamers’ website, VG24-7 released some screen-shots of the action on their  Monday, Jan . 26, 2015 blogpost , and I like the look of this thing. It will be released for PlayStation 4, which I currently do not own, and it may push me to get one.

5squallAs you can imagine, I normally go more for sword and sorcery games, but I adored Final Fantasy VIII, in which the main character, Squall Leonhart, used a gun-sword, and the characters were set in a more real-world type of society. You have to admit, that is an awesome concept for a weapon. Even I would never have thought that one up!

>>>—<<<

Since we are talking about new releases, and my other passion is books, Rachel Tsoumbakos has a new book that will be coming out soon, and it looks as awesome as her previous books. It’s called Unremembered Things, and I must admit that title has me quite intrigued. For an excerpt and a chance to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway of some pretty awesome prizes, check out  Carlie M.A. Cullen‘s blog today! But wow! What a cover:

unremembered_things_cover_for_kindle

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