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Topics - Cain

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OK then.

So, as I've previously mentioned, I'd been considering doing a Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 playthrough, with the twist of user feedback driving the main in-game decisions.

For those of you who don't know, DAO is a game published in 2009 by Bioware.  It was billed as a "spritual successor" to the extremely popular and critically acclaimed Baldur's Gate series, which made Bioware's name as the creator of stories with multiple, branching endings and convincing, engaging characters.

Bioware chafed a little under the IP restrictions which the owners of Dungeons&Dragons put them under for that series, and so sought to develop their own intellectual property which they could then take in the direction they wanted.  After 5 years(!) in development, Dragon Age: Origins was the result. 

I won't give too much of the story away, but suffice to say, whicever Origin is chosen, the main character gets drafted into the Grey Wardens, a Templar-esque transnational order of warriors, whose main purpose is to defend against the Blight - periodic invasions by creatures called darkspawn - by any means necessary.  And then things get all complicated.  There's more than a hint of influence from certain modern fantasy stories too, such as George RR Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and (more in the second game) Steven Erikson's Malazan setting.

Just so you are aware, the choice of Origin does have an in-game impact, and can change the possible choices of how the game ends.  The event which causes your drafting will have repurcussions later on in the game, though even if you chose another origin, some of those events will still have happened (the elves in Denerim riot regardless, a power struggle breaks out in Orzammar, Arl Howe kills the Couslands).  It can, however, make certain confrontations and story lines have a bit more resonance.

And if you ask me personally, I like either the Human Noble or City Elf (Female) storylines the best, for that resonance.

Gender primarily influences who you can romance in the game. There are always two hetrosexual and one homosexual romance option for each gender.  It can also have an influence on the ending, depending on in-game choices and origin story.

There are three classes in the game: Warrior, Rogue and Mage.  As per usual, warriors are the heavy hitters and the tanks, who can wear the heaviest armour and use the heaviest weapons, deal out and take the most damage.  Rogues are the agile burst DPS specialists - if you really need that one character dead, right now, they're your best friend.  Mages are the distance based, crowd control specialists.  Blowing things up, setting things on fire, boiling people's blood while its still inside know the drill.  They can also heal, however, in a slight departure from standard RPG fare.  Don't go crying to a priest if you cut yourself, unless you just want a sermon.

Each class has 4 specializations, which give certain stat bonuses and open up a new talent tree.  Rogues get Assassins, Duellists, Rangers and Bards, Warriors get Templars, Champions, Reavers and Beserkers and Mages get Arcane Warrior, Spirit Healer, Shapechanger and Blood Mage.  Since they fall under character build and, in some cases, require specialised builds to properly utilise, they will be down to my discretion, though again popular demand may influence me in certain ways.

I've showcased each different type of fighting style in each playthrough.  As I intend to keep control of the build for whatever character you select, that doesn't really matter much, but I may take into consideration preferences on the subject.  So for warriors, there is sword and shield style, which primarily helps defend the character, there is two-handed weapons which is primarily offensive in nature, there is two-weapons style and archery as well. 

Two-weapons and archery are mostly intended for rogues, though they can work on the warrior as well.  Two weapons is, of course, up close dual-wielding, and archery involves hanging back and using precision strikes to take down the enemy.  And mages are entirely different.

You may also be wondering why my characters are starting off with some high level, powerful gear.  These are the result of completing certain achievements for DLC in the game.  For instance, the Battledress of the Provocateur involves finding the six scraps of leather in Leliana's Song, and the Dragonbone Cleaver is obtained by defeating the Varterral on Hard difficulty in Witch Hunt.  They are extremely powerful...but they come with restrictions like all the game items, and since they are high-tier, some of those restrictions mean it can take quite a bit of levelling up before those items are available for the classes they are intended.

In terms of DLC I intend to play...I only think Awakening, Witch Hunt and Leliana's Song have any story impact or are of enough quality to do, besides those which are integrated into the game itself.  Golems of Amgarrak is a slogfest, and after the last time, I refuse to do it on Nightmare again, which I know you sadists would otherwise make me do.  Though it is delightfully creepy, I wont deny.  But no-one wants to sit through 500 reloads of "Cain trying to defeat the Reaper and getting frustrated at everything."

Each playthrough was done on Hard difficulty, which the developers consider the "baseline" difficulty for the intended DAO experience (why is this not the Normal setting?  People whining, most likely).

I have modded the game...slightly.  All my mods fall into three basic categories: bugfixes, graphics and lore. 

Bugfixes are simple.  When the game shipped, a lot of things didn't work properly.  Spells didn't draw threat, archery and two-handed weapon talents didn't work as described or intended, DoT damage for certain talents didn't work...all a mess.  A lot of this was patched, but Bioware have limited resources and cannot do everything.  Some rewards were also not given.

Graphics are also simple.  The game came out 4 years ago.  I think the graphics are fairly decent, but they weren't top-notch even back then, and so have suffered in the interim.  Some HD textures, tint changes and minor facelifts bring a new clarity to the game. 

Lore may be a bit more debateable.  One mod replaces the Cousland armory, to give weapons and armor a bit more suited to one of the most ancient noble houses of Ferelden.  Steel tier armor, to be exact, with a Silverite blade.  The blade has the normal strength restrictions, meaning it wont be used until mid-game at least, but it does come with a minor enchantment and two rune slots.  The armor is normal steel armor, but restricted to the main character alone.  It also adds a little bit more gold and some jewels to the Cousland treasury.

Another improves Warden's Oath, the necklace you are given when joining the Wardens.  It makes it a bit more competitive for end-of-game play, and with an enchantment that makes sense.

A third installs stamina potions, which are included in the expansion pack, but were apparently an oversight for the main game.

Finally, a mod is installed which means skill and talent points are not automatically assigned to the character on creation, allowing a bit more freedom when starting out.

So no godlike weapons, invincibility or nudity mods.  Sorry to disappoint.

To start with, we'll have three polls.  One poll for origin, race and gender, and one for class.  Please note, dwarves do not get to be mages, so don't vote for the dwarf origins, then that.  The mage origin is the same regardless of race. 

I missed the first half of the Human Noble origin because fraps crashed, but the story is essentially: you are the second child of the noble Cousland family.  Your father and brother intend to ride south and join the King at Ostagar, where Ferelden forces are planning to confront the darkspawn.  Arl Howe, an old friend of your father, intends to ride south with your father and brother, but his forces have been delayed.  And Duncan, a Grey Warden, is at your castle to see Ser Gilmore, in regards to recruiting him to the Wardens.  During the night, Arl Howe's men launch a surprise attack on the keep, which is where the action starts.

You may also like to know that Arl Howe is voiced by Tim Curry, who is a great choice.  In fact, great voice acting abounds in this game, with some very well known people voicing certain parts.

Human Noble (Warrior, Sword and Shield) playthrough
City Elf (Rogue, Dual-wield) playthrough
Dalish Elf (Rogue, Archery) playthrough
Circle of Magi (Human Male) playthrough
Dwarf Commoner (Rogue, Dual-wield) playthrough
Dwarf Noble (Warrior, 2-handed) playthrough

The final part of the Dwarf playthrough is uploaded, it just isn't yet processed.  It should be within the next 24 hours, however, so maybe watch that one last.

And as for the polls

Race, Gender and Origin
Class poll
Difficulty poll

And just one more question...when commentating, do you want me to read out the character's answer before selecting it?  No voice actor voices the main character in this game, as you'll notice.  And while on the topic, do you want the Codex entries reading out?  Some of the lore is quite interesting, and certain adds to the feeling of the game, but there is a fair bit of it as well.  It's up to you guys.

Once an origin is decided, I'll put up another poll with choices relating to that origin.

Read it here:

Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.

The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP.

So it's kinda important.

Called it


    Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief has said the kingdom will make a "major shift" in dealings with the US in protest at perceived American inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

    The source said that Prince Bandar bin Sultan had told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed a 2011 anti-government revolt.

    It was not immediately clear whether Prince Bandar's reported statements had the full backing of King Abdullah.

    In an unprecedented move last week, Saudi Arabia rejected its first offer of a seat on the UN security council and denounced the UN for failing to resolve world conflicts. The move appeared largely directed at the US.

    "The shift away from the US is a major one," the source said on Tuesday. "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.

    "Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the US. This happened after the US failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine.

    "Relations with the US have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the US is growing closer with Iran and the US also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising."

Bandar is butthurt over Syria, and that the US wont give SA carte blance to bloodily suppress every Arab Spring uprising that doesn't come with a "House of Saud" seal of approval.

Still, this is a pretty ballsy move.  IMO, Saudi Arabia needs the US more than the other way around.  Sure, if the Kingdom went full on economic oil blockade of the USA, things would go badly, but that's an act of war, and, well...on the level below that, the US gives a certain large amount of patronage and protection to Saudi Arabia.  Or, at least, it did...the US was obviously not keen on protecting Saudi Arabia from the consequences of their own stupidity should they militarily intervene in Syria, as recently leaked war plans show.

Maybe this is just a play to panic the US diplomatic corps.  Or maybe it's as serious as they say.  Worth keeping an eye on, this

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