I didn’t know it did THAT! Kingwin 120mm PC Case Fan

K450-2545_vmain01x_er_mn_8139571The Green Machine’s been making a lot of racket lately. After pulling a few plugs inside my PC’s case, I narrowed it down to the 120mm exhaust fan. While I had gotten in the habit of thumping it in just the right spot on the back every 30 minutes to shut it up, the chore was getting a bit old. It was time to replace that sucker.

A quick trip out to my local TigerDirect store left me in a bit of a conundrum. They didn’t have any green LED fans. I sure as heck wasn’t putting in a red one and blue LEDs are SO blah. Then I saw it: The Kingwin 120mm Multi-Color LED Case Fan. I was suddenly struck by the most rational thought any PC pimper could have: “Why would I have just one color when I could have ALL THE COLORS!!!”. While the packaging showed the fan lit up with one color in each corner, nothing could have prepared me for the psychedelic lightshow this thing would put out upon being fed some power!

Ravetastic! Ya know, I think the 80mm fan on the top of my case is starting to make a little noise too Winking smile

Chasing GOTY: The Almost Games of the Year for 2014

While 2014 will almost certainly be remembered as the year when the video games market began finally normalizing again after the boom ushered in with Nintendo's Wii, there was one group of gamers who had plenty of new stuff to play all year ‘round: Computer RPG fans. I gotta tell ya, in a year slim on releases it’s a great irony that choosing GUO’s 2014 GOTY was the most difficult on record. It was only the rock-solid presentation and lack of technical issues that led to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor being chosen over one other, equally Earth-shattering title: Divinity: Original Sin.

It was perhaps a little suspect when established developer Larian Studios took to Kickstarter in order to fund their fourth Divinity game. Their justification? They knew they could make one of the greatest RPGs off all time. They’ve been trying, and coming close, for over 10 years. Larian stated that in order to finally succeed and create the game they always dreamed of they would have to go it alone, free from the influence of bean-counting marketing executives. The results speak to the wisdom of Larian’s vision.

At first blush, Divinity: Original Sin is a step back into the second golden age of CRPGs heralded by Baldur’s Gate. One glance at the screenshots is enough to make old farts pine for the times when store shelves were lined with isometric, party based adventures like Icewind Dale, Arcanum, and Torment. I know my first few moments with Divinity were spent with a goofy smile on my face and the phrase “They sure don’t make ‘em like this anymore,” on my lips.

I hadn’t even finished the tutorial dungeon by the time this thought was proven incorrect.

Growing Up Otaku Game of the Year 2014: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

It’s been quite a while since Monolith shook the world and, frankly, it didn’t seem like they had the chops to ever do it again. The studio that once excelled at creating new worlds (Blood, Shogo, No One Lives Forever, F.E.A.R, and Condemned) has languished of late with back-to-back licensed yawns in 2012 (Gotham City Imposters & Guardians of Middle-earth). Who woulda thunk that their second foray into the well-worn world of Tolkien would meet with any more success than the first one? Especially when the game bears such obvious signs of ‘inspiration’ (to put it kindly) from two other well-worn franchises: The Batman-Arkham and Assassin’s Creed games.

Shadow of Mordor (SoM) reportedly began life as another Batman game and it shows. The combat favors rhythmic, well timed buttons presses with random button-mashing frequently resulting in failure. One wrinkle SoM introduces to the combat is that you are very much behind enemy lines. Uruks are wandering around everywhere and a protracted battle can lead to more attention than you originally bargained for, both from the enemy minions as well as some particularly monstrous wildlife. This is a title where discretion will get you a good deal farther than valor. Fortunately, the stealth system works admirably and the toys in your arsenal cater equally well to both stealthy and aggressive approaches.

The environments are large and chunky with an obsessive amount of detail lavished on character models. Much like Arkham City, the game world feels a bit small at first blush, but turns out to be quite adequate for providing plenty of room for your open-world hijinks. Lacking Batman’s grappling hook, our hero has instead been blessed with an Assassin’s mobility. It requires all the same skill (That is to say, hold one button to clamber up darn near anything), but continues to look and feel awesome. A bevy of special skills and gadgets ranging from a ghostly bow, to rideable monsters, to a teleporting sneak attack provides players with a good range of tactical options for both locomotion and combat prowess.

Still, for everything SoM borrows from games that have come before, it also concocts some welcome twists to alleviate the more tedious or aggravating problems associated with these types of games. A fall/stumble move that actually speeds you up? Why, thank you! A short QTE to avoid the final killing blow of an enemy? Beats a load screen! How ‘bout a crouched stealth run? Where have you been all my life!

Bolt on an utterly forgettable plot (The main character’s name is… Talion, I think. He’s possessed by some long dead elf because… Reasons.) complete with several horribly forced Gollum cameos, sprinkle in some unremarkable collect-a-thon items, and you’ve got a title that would have been a polished, fun, if unremarkable, game. So how does it end up as our pick for Game of the Year?