Backlog: South by Southwest edition

Holy crap, you guys. I can't believe I'm still standing.

Not only did I just complete my second week at my new job, but I also subjected myself to two straight weeks of going out at night for music, food and drinks. I nearly overdosed on culture, having taken in a movie premiere, a dozen bands and a variety of Texas beers (not one of them held a candle to the Northwest's best, for the record) and I'm proud to be able to sit here and tell the tale.

Of course, now that SXSW is coming to a close, it'll be business as usual around here. Aaron's up to his ankles in Dragon Age II's trademark bloody, hypersexualized fantasy schtick, Doug's digging deep into his gaming reserves, and I'm reluctantly easing back into the real world.

Aaron:

The past two weeks have been a blur. Suffice it to say, I'm playing so many games right now that I can barely keep it all together. What I do know is that I'm face-deep in the massive cleavage that is Dragon Age II. To say I've been "motorboating" that game would be an understatement, and anyone who has spent 10 minutes as Hawke would understand that all of my breast-frences (re: breast references) are justified.

I mean really: If BioWare was a person, it'd be the horniest 15-year-old art class T.A. whose creepy uncle gave him a stack of Playboys and Vampirella comics. And while the fantasy genre established its penchant for exaggerating the reproductive organs of women both human and elfin -- and dwarven...unfortunately (Ugh -Ed.) -- long before the Canadians took their stab at putting on a robe and wizard's hat, it's kinda straight-up weird that the same top-heavy body model is repeatedly copy-and-pasted onto the majority of female NPCs. To be honest I find it in bad taste. But then again, no one was applauding Dragon Age: Origins for its realism. Most people were just laughing at its horrendous sex scenes. And just like its forebear, DA2 fails when it comes to lovemaking (no pun intended).

Digital flesh aside, the game is very hard to define. I want to wait until I've finished the campaign to pen all of my thoughts on record, yet I'm beginning to wonder if I was wrong about my "most improved sequel" hype I wrote in the last Backlog. Whether or not I ever leave the god damn city of Kirkwall remains to be seen in my now-seventh year of being there.

So far I feel like I'm playing the Sims, improving my little "town" and going to work each day as the years tick by. If Dragon Age II was a Sims expansion it'd be called The Sims: Uh Oh, It's Magic!, and it would have annoying relationships, blathering conversations and, well, decapitations. Oh wait, it doesn't have to be a Sims game to have all of that stuff.

However, DA2 does have one thing going for it: Fenris. That guy is fly. But I'm simply horrified to think about all of the fan art that's going to be made of him in the darkest depths of the Internet.

Doug:

Oh, god. Where was I? Oh yeah, playing games. So after my brief excursion going sideways in Forza 3, I put in Pro Evo Soccer 2010.

I think I've broken the 200 hour mark in that game. I am not proud. I've won my fourth straight Italian league title and my AS Roma squad is indestructible. That challenge conquered, I've jumped into building up my favorite team, Arsenal, and...oh god. This has to stop. I've poured far too much time into a two-year-old soccer game. I need an intervention. Beyond playing that a little with one of my friends, I'm putting that on the shelf for now.

Seeing as the Formula 1 season is a week away, it's time to work on season three in F1 2010 in my attempts to take over the racing world and win more world titles than any American ever has. To compensate for jumping into the best car in the game, I've turned the AI difficulty up to the hardest level, which made for a stern challenge. Especially when I screwed up in the Australian Grand Prix, forgot how to drive in the rain during qualifying, started from the last position on the grid, and climbed up to sixth in the final order. That was good times.

I'm also spending a lot of time tracking down and playing older games for our Retrospective Overload, but that's kind of SECRETS for right now. Rest assured, I have some of our best agents on the case, and I am personally tracking down things with sprites. Also checking prices on Amazon and being surprised by how some things retain value. Kind of shocking, really.

Lastly, I've been playing a decent amount of a web-based multiplayer game. Nah, it's nothing like the Quake or Battlefield games that've been made for browsers. It's something much, much simpler than that. You ever play the card game Apples to Apples? Of course you have. Match up a noun to an adjective; it's a very high-brow game with the potential to be quite hilarious as some cards in the game are, for example, Adolf Hitler, Helen Keller, and Puppies. So there you go.

Well, there's a web-based version made called Nutsy Bolts that is Apples to Apples with a chat client. Obviously, hilarity ensues. Especially if your friends have jacked-up senses of humor.

Nick:

Thanks to the ubiquity of social media and the insane challenge of finding cool (and cheap) things to do in Austin during SXSW, I've been playing something of an alternate-reality game for the last couple weeks. By keeping up with a few hashtags on Twitter and making ample use of the Places function on Facebook, I've been socializing like crazy -- and considering that I'm an introvert by nature, you can probably imagine just how exhausting that's been.

But things are settling down, so that means more time for gaming. I sank a few hours into Dragon Age: Origins -- Awakening (the single-worst punctuated game title in recent memory) and inched up past the 35-hour mark in Fallout: New Vegas, perhaps the laziest sequel to a game that was already kind of a lazy iteration over Oblivion.

But given my current lack of furniture and relatively little free time, I've been having a lot of fun with portable games recently. I blazed through an old, obscure Game Boy Advance game called Gunstar Super Heroes, the sequel to the tried-and-true Genesis classic from Treasure. It's kind of incredible just how trite the game's story is, though that's not much of a surprise considering its source material. The action is what matters, though, and this game delivers. The only major downside is that it borrows far too heavily from the original, down to the exact same mission structure and even some identical boss battles. Of course, I realize I'm writing about a game that nobody reading this site will probably ever play, so...let's move on.

Next up on the docket of obscure portable games: Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. I bought it years and years ago after hearing some great buzz for it, but for some reason it never stuck. I'm hoping I'll be charmed this time around.

And for those of you who're asking: No, I'm not playing FarmVille, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.