Meet Mr. Crabby

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(This post, like a few others, was written in the Dominican Republic and not posted because Jonas drowned the USB stick.)

Yesterday we met this charming young fellow at the beach. His name is Mr. Crabby. Mr. Crabby lives in a narrow, deep tunnel on the beach, just under the tideline. His tunnel has a charming sea view and runnning warm saltwater twice a day. He spends his time sitting just outside his hole and occasionally darting down the beach to nibble at an interesting piece of driftwood. When questioned he refused to state what he was doing during the night. I wonder what Mrs. Crabby would have to say to that.

In the beginning I was afraid that these rather frequent holes would be snake dwellings which would mean that our hotel has been built in a rather shabby neighborhood, but Mr. Crabby has put my mind to rest on that count. Charming young man, really.

Divinity II: Ego Draconis (Part 2) or I Was Going to Give This Game a Positive Review but…

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… then I finished playing it.

(BTW: this review is going to be so spoiler heavy that it is in danger of turning into a neutron star, so maybe, like, consider not reading it if you don’t like spoilers.)

Anyway, I was really going to give this game a good review. Scout’s honour. Cross my heart and hope to die. Honest. I was absolutely sure that I would give it a good review up until about five minutes before I finished playing.

To be quite frank, it’s not as if the game doesn’t give you enough things to complain about before you reach the final cut scene.

The fighting system is a little bland and being able to target specific enemies would be real swell. While the system certainly works, and you even get the feeling that archery is equal to fighting with a sword, which is rare, the game fails at giving it a sense of reality. Yes, I know, it’s a friggin computergame. Nothing real about it. Still, games like Oblivion (and I am really reluctant to praise the fighting in Oblivion, all I can say to that is level 72 Spider Deadra) manage to make the fighting, especially the archery, more immersive. I guess being able to define the strength of your pull by how long you press the mouse button makes a big difference there. Plus points to the fighting system include that Divinity II is one of those rare games were summoning a creature, especially The Creature, to help you in the fighting really makes a difference. In the end the beastie sometimes did all the fighting while we were standing nearby filing our nails (a note to those who haven’t read my previous Divinity II review: I was playing the game together with my husband. That’s a lot better for people with epically challenged hand-eye-coordination like me.)

Besides the fighting there are other problems. For one there are a lot of puzzles. Specifically the kind of puzzle were you have to jump from platform to moving platform to falling platform and pull levers without having the slightest clue as to what they will do (and while, as the husband rightly pointed out, those are not compulsory in order to finish the main plot and thus kind of alright, I still find this sort of silliness annoying. If I wanted to behave like a grasshopper on a hotplate I’d play Tomb Raider. But I don’t, so I won’t, once is enough.) Doing this kind of jumping challenge once is okay. Twice is still kind of okay-ish. Three times is okay-ish-y if the rest of the game is fun. Four times, when there is instant death lava underneath the platforms and you have no clue as to where all of this is going, is not okay.

The biggest problem for me, besides the last cut scene, was the fact that the game kind of seemed to run out of steam once you have conquered the dragon tower. Sure, it is of fun after that for a while, because there are the Orobas Fjords which you are finally feeling strong enough to explore and because the tower has so many nice little knick-knacks that await your pleasure (and I don’t mean Sassan and her ridiculous … ehm… bra?). But after that you quickly realise that the best levels of your life are over. You’ve met most types of enemies, you’ve seen one flying fortress (and if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all), gone are the nice enemies that give you one or two thousand XP in one go (at least for the most part, there are exceptions) and most annoyingly of all: gone are the interesting quests. Yes, there is still some good stuff, but with a lot of them I was either dissatisfied with the choices that are presented to the player, like with the one were you are supposed to kill the gobin chief for Aurelius, or the quests kind of stopped when I expected them to go on for a bit. Those quests feel as if the developers were running out of time at the end, like many a quest in Two Worlds.

But enough complaining about the minutiae of gameplay. Up until the end Divinity II still was a lot more fun than Oblivion, or Gothic III (sorry if you’re one of these people who get aneurysms when they hear or read that name, I should have warned you. It took me long months of psychological counseling until I could type it without going into seizures). There is still nothing I can say to refute that fact. The game has witty writing that is to this day only topped by Gothic I & II and the early Fallout games. It has lots of sidequests. Diverse sidequests, which pleasantly sets it apart from Oblivion or fetch-me-these-seventeen-polkadot-shrubberies-Gothic-III. You can even find peaceful solutions to some of these (big plus, says Verena the pacifist). Last but not least: Man, is flying fun or what? (Yeah, man, it is!)

But now comes the crux. My biggest point of contention. The denouement. The goddamn final cutscene.

Divinity II had already, before reaching those thrice-damned three minutes of video at the end, demonstrated that futility is the name of the game. After you spend the first 10+ hours of gameplay caring and fighting for the people of the area where you start out (no idea how it’s called in English) they all get wiped out because the evil head-honcho wants to slap your wrist. Tough luck. Want to save that goblin tribe (name also unkown) near the champion harbour (ditto on name) from extinction? Let’s just say that you shouldn’t make a lunch date for the next day with any of them. How about the people on your island? The one with the dragon tower on top? Like them? Well, try not to get too attached. What I am meaning to say that Divinity seems to be rather intent on burning the bridges after you. Big, merry fires. It only serves to emphasize the linear nature of the gameworld. Areas get closed off the second you are ready to enter the next one.

But the biggest, meanest and, not to make too fine a point of this, abruptest thing that the game pulls on you is the last cut scene.

Because, you see, Ygerna wants to be resurrected. Damian wants Ygerna resurrected, although he doesn’t know he does. You, on the other hand, don’t want Ygerna-baby to be resurrected. You want her to continue to rot in hell, especially since the alternative seems to be having to watch her make out with Damian, not an image  I wanted to see.

For some time before the end I had been thinking that Telana (for those of you who have either nor played the game or haven’t played the game far enough: She’s the broad that hitches a ride in your subconscious about five hours into Divinity II) sounds a bit too mean and sarcastic to be one of the good guys. Being dead also disqualifies her from being the love interest, so laying on the raunchiness extra thick was also a little confusing (also this would have made Divinity II the first RPG where the main love interest is a porn star). So, I thought, what’s up with you, Telana?

Not Telana at all. That’s what’s up. She’s Ygerna, incognito. And as the final cut scene will tell you she has just used you to bring about the destruction of what little is left of the gameworld at this point.

Why do I need to write a 1500 words review about this, you may ask. After all Dark Messiah of Might and Magic did pretty much pretty damn exactly the same and that game was by all accounts awesome.

Well, for one thing because Dark Messiah gave you some nice fat hints as to what was going on. And then it gave you a nice fat moral choice at the end. Ditch the bitch or be a daddy’s boy. Whatever you chose, the point is that you could choose. Divinity doesn’t give you that luxury. After investing fifty or sixty hours into the game, and in our case quite coming to like its witty protagonist, you get thrown into a crystal prison with that wet drip from the first game as your only conversational partner and have to watch the world end. Well, okay, be demolished by Damian. I have no doubt that the gameworld will go on after a fashion. Why set up a sequel if it were otherwise?

It’s the inevitability that enrages me so. If there were any chance at all of having the game end otherwise, let’s say by reaching level fifty (probably not possible) or by making only the most pristinely good moral decisions throughout the game (like we did), it would have been okay. But it doesn’t, so it isn’t.

As it is, I guess we’ll have to be content with playing the sequel. Maybe we will get to play Damian and make him command his hordes of imps and goblins in Divinity III: Flying Fortress Keeper or maybe we’ll get to play the dude from Divine Divinity and our dude in co-op mode in Divinity III: Double Dragon. Who knows? All I know is that I do not appreciate getting tricked into believing that I can make a difference in a game when all the developers are out to do is set up a nice cushy sequel.

Rain in the Wardrobe

Kaputt, is okay.

That’s what the man said.

Erm… Who is  the man and why did he say that?

Well… You see, we were on this thing, what-do-you-call-it?

The Dominican Republic?

Yes! I mean no. Yes, we were there too. No, not what I meant.

An island?

No. I mean yes. Argh.

Honeymoon?

Yes, that’s it. And we were in this nice hotel. Food not too bad. Gorgeous beach. Lizards all around. Glorious sunsets. Dripping bathroom ceilings. Happy…

Wait. Surely one of these doesn’t belong in that list.

Drippy bathroom ceiling?

Yep, that’s the one. So, what’s up with that?

Well. The hotel was nice, as I said. Only the bathroom had one tiny little problem. The ceiling was dripping. At first only a little, and then it got worse with each passing minute. Only it’s kinda above the shower, so that wasn’t a problem really, after all the idea is that water is coming down from above in a shower.

Dude, that’s gross. You don’t know where that water’s been.

Good point.

So?

So we complained. And they fixed it. Pretty promptly. Although the repair man didn’t take off his shoes and we had muddy footprints all over the bathroom ceiling after that.

Don’t you mean floor?

Pardon?

Well, I don’t think the ceiling repair man walked on the ceiling. Wouldn’t that be counter-productive, like?

Oh, yes. Muddy footprints all over the floor then.

And he said that thing about kaputt and okay? Right?

No, no he didn’t. That came much later.

Go on.

Okay. Honeymoon continues. Breakfast. Beach. Humidity. Lunch. Feeding turtles. More beach. Dinner. Evening walk. Sunset. Breakfast. Beach. Humidity… I’ll just fast forward a bit here…  Beach. Humidity. Lunch. Feeding Turtles. Rainstorm of Biblical proportions.

Oh…

Well, they get them there around that time of the year. That’s why they call it the rainy season.

Aha…

Anyway. After the storm the ceiling is dripping again. Only worse. And we got a daytrip on the next day. Oversleep, barely make the trip and forget to tell anyone about the ceiling. After we get back from the trip the ceiling is stil dripping and we almost have to wade through the bathroom.

Ouch!

Oh, yes, ouch indeed. And as a bonus the drippiness has extended to the hallway and the wardrobe. So we kind of go to the lobby first thing next morning and complain. Politely.

Good for you!

Yes. No need to be a jerk, I guess. And after a few hours, we’re sitting in our room and enjoying the comforts of air conditioning at this point, a guy comes by to look at the ceiling. Jonas opens the door.  Says hola. Points at ceiling. That’s all our Spanish is good for. Guy looks up. Smiles like a loon.

“Is kaputt,” he says.

“Yeah, funny, but we kind of figured that one out ourselves,” we think.

“Is okay,” he says. Smiles some more and goes away.

We are left staring at the empty hallway.

So, what happened then?

Well. The ceiling did stop dripping after that. And the hotel staff took to checking if our fridge and/or TV-set was still okay every single day from then on. Just to be safe, I guess. Can’t be too careful with people who keep complaining about kaputt ceilings.

The Green Grasshopper

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This was lying in front of our hotel room the other week. I shudder to think of what they look like when they are jumping towards your face on the beach. Yes, you guessed right, it is the Bright Green Grasshoper From Hell. And yes, it is as big as it looks, ten centimeters I’d say. That’s about three inches for all our friends out there who have not yet embraced the comforts of the metric system.

For me, metric system or not, that is about four magnitudes of yucky too much.

Later we also saw a live one. I even gathered enough guts to take a picture (holding the camera very far away from me, resisting the temptation of tying it to a long stick).

Sometimes I am happy to be living in a country that has no specimens of insectoid megafauna on special offer. But only sometimes. Like when the Bright Green Grasshoper From Hell is on a collision course with my nose.

My Yellow Slave Markings

My yellow AI wristband chilling on the beach

My yellow AI wristband chilling on the beach

Here they are. They look almost pretty on the picture, don’t they? Innocent. Alluring. Put me on, they whisper. Very quietly, soothingly, waves sing in the background. We are harmless. Just a yellow wristband. Pretty yellow. Nice yellow. We will provide food and shelter.

The truth is that more than my green hat they proclaim me to be a tourist. One of the worst kind, I suspect. An AI-tourist. Just one step above a colonial overlord returned to the island to once again subjugate the peaceful natives.
As a punishement I have to wear these yellow markings. They mark me as a victim for all to see, a victim with a fat purse ripe for the money harvest. The bracelet says: Offer her cigarettes, day trips, your granny in a wheelchair, her granny in a wheelchair, it doesn’t matter, she will buy.

There is a secret language to these markings. Yellow means German. Red means French. White and green American, I think. Green? Spanish? It has gotten to the point were we try to speak to shopkeepers in English and they answer back in German. Jonas has no discernible accent. How do they know? The yellow whispers to them, that is how they know.

The overall effect is that the two of us dive for cover whenever we see a native come towards us with that friendly talking-to-the-tourist-grin. Surely that is not the intended effect.

Signs

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I am fascinated by the profusion of “caution: wet floor” signs that litter the grounds of the hotel. One can hardly take two steps without falling over one of them. Now that’s what I call a safety hazard.

One of my law teachers at university once patiently explained to the class that supermarkets, hotels and the like often put these signs up just in case. If anything happens, anything at all, banana peel, bird shit, alien invasion, the institution in question can always blame the customer.

“What? You saw a Martian war cruiser and slipped? Didn’t you see the sign? It’s really not our fault if your continent has been incinerated, you didn’t pay attention to the sign.”

Charming. But I can’t help but think that it is a bit silly to keep them in the hotel hallways at any time of day. They can only pretend to clean the floors so often, after all. I’m still waiting for the night when I leave our room to go to the imaginary ice dispenser at the end of the hall at three in the morning and see an underpaid maid scrubbing away at an already immaculate tile off in the far hazy distance…