The Witcher III - DLC

I just don't understand how CD Projekt Red can be such masters at world building and quest design, but are completely inept at everything that involves Geralt drawing a sword or throwing igni. I almost gave up on Hearts of Stone because the beginning of its main quest just put me into a controller-throwing rage.

Geralt is tasked with killing a mysterious sewer monster who has been killing women who go into the sewer hoping to find a toad who can be turned into a prince with a kiss. One of The Witcher III's long-standing annoyances for me is that it makes such a big deal about Geralt being so analytical that he prepares for every monster hunt with potions and so forth, but whenever a quest boss comes along, the game decides to just throw the player in with no chance to prepare. This quest provided no opportunity to investigate to learn what the toad monster is or what its weaknesses might be. When you hit an arbitrary point in the sewer, the game triggers a cutscene that just throws Geralt into the boss arena, so you can't re-equip yourself, respec, or otherwise prepare.

To make matters worse, the game checkpoints you inside the boss fight, instead of prior to the cutscene. If you die, you have to wait for the game's god-damned-bloody long-ass load times before having to go through the trouble of resetting your equipped potions or any other preparatory activities, only to survive for thirty seconds before the fracking toad kills you again and you have to sit through another two minutes of load screen before having to start it all over again. Just unacceptable, CD Projekt Red; absolutely unacceptable.

In order to beat the damn thing, I had to reload from an autosave earlier in the quest (fortunately, I didn't lose much progress) and use the Potion of Clearance to respec Geralt to take points out of my [currently useless] support skills and put them into abilities that buffed my attack, defense, and the two spells that are actually useful for this fight.

The Witcher III: Hearts of Stone - toad boss
The boss fights in Hearts of Stone seem to break the game's rules, and frustrated me to no end.

To add insult to injury, this boss fight ends with a cutscene, and the next playable, non-dialogue sequence is another boss fight, this time a mage with an entourage of soldiers. Without any of my support or crowd-control spells, I ended up having to replay this fight several times as well (it didn't help that the mage seemed to have a one-hit kill area-of-effect tornado attack). At the end, I thought I would be able to respec my character back to the way I had him, but apparently that potion is only a one-time use. I had to fast travel around to several merchants to try to find someone who would sell another copy to me (because Kiera disappears after you finish the main story, so I couldn't buy it from her). It cost 1,000 gold! Then, after finding my way back to the original quest-giver, I got stuck in yet another obnoxious boss fight.

All three of these boss fights seemed to break the game's established rules. The first one kept hitting me with poison, so I tried using a potion that was supposed to allow me to heal from exposure to poison. Except the potion didn't work. Neither of the other two bosses were vulnerable to Yrden or to dimeritium bombs to block or negate their magic abilities. This all was incredibly frustrating, as one of my biggest pet peeves with video games is when the developers give bosses immunity to all the fancy support items and spells that the player has, which you've been saving up for just such an occasion - a boss being the one place where such tools are actually useful or necessary. On top of that, all three fights are needlessly long endurance matches that quickly devolve to repeating the same few actions a hundred times in a row. Absolutely, unforgivably terrible boss fights, the whole lot of them! Needless to say, this DLC did not get off on the right foot with me - much like the base game didn't.

But I grit my teeth and played through the base game, only to find some of the most outstanding quest design and characters that gaming has to offer. So I would do the same with the Hearts of Stone DLC. And once again, I was rewarded for my patience with a quality storyline....

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Civilization V - Napoleon of France

Now that I've finished my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's new civilizations, I want to take some time to look into some of the legacy civs that have received updates since Brave New World. France received a major revision in Brave New World out of the box, having its national trait completely redesigned, and one of its unique units was replaced with a powerful new unique improvement.

Humans have been occupying the land of France for at least 1.8 million years. The caves of Lascaux are a famous paleontological / archaeological site, as its cave paintings are some of the earliest and best-preserved examples of early human art and culture. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region was split up between numerous Germanic tribes. One Germanic group, the Franks, eventually came to control most of the region, and this is where the term "France" was eventually derived. They set up the first French Kingdoms, which gained strength during the medieval periods despite threats from the Vikings and English. The European Enlightenment can trace many of its roots to the intellectual circles of France, which eventually culminated in the French Revolution that deposed and executed King Louis XVI and established a fledgling Republic.

Civilization V: Brave New World - Napoleon

Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of this young Republic in 1799, eventually declaring himself the Emperor of France. He was a military genius of the time and an expert in the use of artillery. He conquered much of Europe from Spain all the way to Russia, and even fought campaigns in Africa (although these campaigns were not successful). His conquests helped to spread French culture, ideals, and reforms around the world, including widespread adoption of the metric system, new military traditions, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. His armies eventually fell victim to the harsh Russian winters, which halted Napoleon's aggressions and forced a withdrawl. His reign eventually culminated in a devastating defeat at Waterloo (then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands). He was forced into exile on the island of Saint Helena, where he eventually died of stomach cancer in 1821.

One of Napoleon's nephews, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon III), launched an enormous public works program in Paris in the mid 1800's in order to build hundreds of kilometers of wide boulevards and streets, replace the sewer system, construct parks, and be the first city in the world to install artificial lighting (originally oil-lit lanterns). This made Paris into the world's first "City of Light", allowing people to work and engage in recreational activities around the city during the night, eventually establishing a 24-hour culture and the urban nightlife.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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'Sid Meier's Civilization V' ditches empire-building in favor of tactical board game strategy'Sid Meier's Civilization V' ditches empire-building in favor of tactical board game strategy06/23/2013 This review was originally published 10/17/2010 on Game Observer (now defunct as of 05/13/2014). In anticipation of the soon-to-be-released Brave New World expansion pack, the review has been republished here for archival purposes. For better or worse, I probably won’t be able to go back to Civilization IV after playing this....