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Customer Reviews: 19
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Helpful Votes: 310

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Steven A. Smith RSS Feed (Columbus, OH)

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Dragon Age Inquisition - Standard Edition - PC
Dragon Age Inquisition - Standard Edition - PC
Offered by Affinity Goods
Price: $14.74
101 used & new from $9.93

23 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BioWare has found some of it's old magic and delivers a great experience, November 19, 2014
Having now finished the game after getting an early copy I feel I can make a worthwhile review of the game as a whole. But before I get started I should say that I absolutely loved Dragon Age:Origins but found Dragon Age 2 to be thoroughly mediocre and a big let down in comparison. I was also hugely let down by Mass Effect 3 and The Old Republic, the last 2 games from BioWare, so Inquisition was basically the "make or break" title for me as far as BioWare goes.
*I played Inquisition on the highest settings in 4K resolution, so keep that in mind when I talk about graphics.*

The story has ups and downs. It's a continuation of events started at the end of Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age 2 DLC, but you don't really need to play DA2 to get up to speed. You're thrust into the middle of a new struggle that puts you at odds with various groups and allows you to gain the aid of others. When you become the Inquisitor you will have the might and resources of The Inquisition at your disposal, to seal the Breach that ripped over the sky and allowed demons and spirits to flow from the Fade, the realm of dreams and magic, into reality. As the Inquisitor you are the only being capable of sealing the Breach and the Rifts it creates. When the Breach first appeared you were pulled into it and touched by some shining entity that left you with a burning green light in the palm of your left hand. Using the power in your hand you're able to close the Rifts and, hopefully, the Breach. Some in the Inquisition and the world at large believe you were given this power by Andraste(a Christ-like figure in the world of Dragon Age) while others believe you are a heretic or even yourself responsible for the Breach.
As the story and The Inquisition progress you will gain more allies and more resources, truly making you feel more powerful and more important. The allies you gain that become full companions each have different strong suits in battle and different personalities. If your actions as Inquisitor upset them too greatly or cause them to lose faith in you they can leave The Inquisition permanently. I mostly used Cassandra, Sera, Solas, Cole and Vivienne throughout the game. I found all of them to be mostly interesting. The other companions, Iron Bull, Blackwall, Dorian and Varric also have their moments but were less interesting and/or less useful in combat.
After a time, the villain that caused the Breach will make himself known and the Inquisition will face its first real test. This is when the game REALLY gets rolling. From this point on the tone is thrilling and I was completely engrossed. You will make new allies, some of which are returning characters from the last 2 games, and new enemies that you'll have to cut down to reach your goal.
But I don't want to get into spoiler territory so that's all I'll for the story.
All in all, a very satisfying story that left me wanting a sequel or DLC right away.

When I played it there were a few bugs that made playing as a warrior or rogue a bit clunky. I expect a patch will be out to address this shortly, but it did make combat less fun than playing as a mage. I enjoyed the crafting system, both for things like flasks of poison or bees to hurl at your enemies, and for crafting weapons and armor. Going from a decent sword you looted off some mini-boss' corpse to a sword you crafted from legendary materials is instantly noticeable in combat.
All in all, combat is fun and sometimes tricky or downright impossible if you're not properly prepared. Taking on a High Dragon at low levels is hilariously ineffective. Your entire party can be taken out with a single fireball if you try to take on the first High Dragon you find as soon as the map opens up to you.

On the highest settings the game is crisp and beautiful. I watched a few Twitch streams of people playing on Xbox One and PS4 and the game was very noticeably worse on consoles than PC. I occasionally found myself taking in views for minutes at a time, rotating the camera to admire the full vistas. This is the best looking game I've ever played, bar none.

Companions and Romances-
As I touched on earlier, the companions are a mixed bag. A few of them seem somewhat boring while others are very interesting and on par with the best companions of the franchise. In my playthrough I romanced Cassandra and I found it to be a rewarding experience that made me appreciate her character more. And gone are the "player-sexual" romances of Dragon Age 2. Each romanceable character has a set and defined sexuality. Cassandra is straight, Sera is gay, Iron Bull is bisexual, etc. You can't make any and every character fall in love with you through your sheer awesomeness. This makes characters feel more defined this time around.

So after a complete playthrough(of about 75 hours) I can honestly say that it feels like BioWare has got its groove back. Dragin Age: Inquisition is fun, engrossing, compelling and I can't wait to replay it. If I could give it 4.5 stars I would, simply because of the buggy combat, but I full expect that will be fixed so it gets 5 full stars. If you like fantasy RPGs you will enjoy this game. Period.

Mass Effect Trilogy - Playstation 3
Mass Effect Trilogy - Playstation 3
Offered by The Best Only
Price: $34.49
50 used & new from $21.99

9 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So much promise, such poor delivery, February 5, 2013
I played Mass Effect 1 when it first came out on PC and absolutely loved it. So much so that when Mass Effect 2 was about to come out I bought Mass Effect 1 again on Xbox 360 because my PC was acting up and I didn't want to have to wait until it was repaired to continue the story. Then I played Mass Effect 2 and was honestly kind of let down by it. It got amazing reviews and it seems most people say it's the best game in the trilogy, but I felt it had no weight. Then came the long wait for Mass Effect 3, which promised to wrap up all of the series-long plots and finally resolve the overarching conflict. And it was just awful. Really, really awful. But I'm going to break down each game in detail to give you an idea of the value of this set-

Mass Effect 1-
You get the sense right away that this is something amazing and engrossing as soon as you start the prologue. You play Commander Shepard, an up-and-coming star of Earth's military force, The Alliance. You're on a mission to gather intel while under the observation of a Spectre, the galactic versions of double-0 agents, to be evaluated for a position in the Spectres yourself. But right from the start this mission is going off the rails. A massive warship carrying hundreds of sentient robots is attacking and you still have a mission to complete. Before you know it, your Spectre observer is dead at the hands of a dirty Spectre called Saren and you're on your ass in your ship's medical bay because you got zapped by a piece of ancient alien technology that filled your mind with visions of death and destruction.
Now you have to explain yourself to the alien council that presides over galactic affairs and tell them why one of their own is dead and how you managed to screw up a simple intel mission. And you have to find evidence implicating Saren and figure out what he's up to to make sense of the alien visions clouding your mind.
The game quickly becomes a struggle against insurmountable odds to save the galaxy from Saren and his unstoppable warship that is much, much more than a warship.

-Great story that makes you feel like you're part of an epic struggle in a vast and fleshed out galaxy full of exotic and interesting alien life
-Your decisions effect the story in myriad ways
-Extensive character customization for your character and your squadmates
-You get your own spaceship to cruise around the galaxy!

-Combat is a bit wonky and takes getting used to
-The inventory can get unwieldy
-Side missions are repetitive

Mass Effect 1 is a great game, pure and simple. It was an amazing initiation to an amazing setting.

Mass Effect 2-
Mass Effect 2 starts with your character's death. Yup. Then you immediately get brought back to life by a shadowy organization that exists to make humans the rulers of the galaxy. They've brought you back to finish what you started in Mass Effect 1 and to investigate a series of human colony abductions. To do so you have to recruit new squadmates from across the galaxy and gain their loyalty to succeed in what becomes a suicide mission. What this becomes is doing missions to recruit people, then doing missions to make them like you, and then a little bit of actual story. There's really only 1/4 of an actual story here. You're not even fighting the bad guys established in ME1, just their lackeys. Plus, the "suicide mission" tagline they went with for marketing and constantly shove down your throat during the game is completely redundant because everything you've done as Commander Shepard has been a series of suicide missions. Luckily the characters you're recruiting and doing favors for are mostly interesting. Some of the best companion characters in gaming are in Mass Effect 1 and 2. That said, this game seriously suffers from "middle syndrome." It doesn't have the gravitas or impact of the first installment and it's just setting up the next installment.

-Combat is much improved
-The characters are mostly great
-Better graphics
-You get an even better spaceship to cruise the galaxy!

-The story is paper-thin
-In-depth customization has been removed
-Most missions are irrelevant to the story

Mass Effect 2 attempted to "streamline" the RPG elements of the first installment but forgot to write a compelling story.

Mass Effect 3-
The galactic threat is on your doorstep now and it's up to you to stop it. But right from the start this game is not good. You're forced to be an emotional wreck, have REALLY weak plot devices thrown at you left and right, and are basically on rails for the entirety of the story. Aside from a few instances the resolution to series-long plots and character relationships is handled extremely poorly, mostly making your decisions throughout the series pointless. It completely undermines the entire series in this regard, and the whole thing leads to a nonsensical ending that had to be changed because of fan-fueled backlash. But the altered ending is still awful and nonsensical. For me the ending alone makes the whole series seem pointless, it really is that bad. And there's a female robot that sports a metal cameltoe. Seriously.

-Improved combat
-More customization than ME2 offered

-Lousy story based around a lazy plot device
-Your character is no longer your character because you're forced to be a very specific kind of person
-Most of the characters we've gotten to know and love get almost no screen time
-The ending makes zero sense
-Your choices throughout the series didn't really matter

Mass Effect 3 is bad. A lot of people say the game is great until the ending but I wholeheartedly disagree. The story is lazy and not at all satisfying. Mass Effect 3 is at best poor.

My scores for each game-

Mass Effect 1- 9/10

Mass Effect 2- 7/10

Mass Effect 3- 3/10
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2013 3:26 PM PDT

Square Enix Mass Effect 3: Play Arts Kai: Commander Shepard Action Figure
Square Enix Mass Effect 3: Play Arts Kai: Commander Shepard Action Figure
Offered by eknight-media
Price: $45.98
27 used & new from $37.29

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some odd design choices hinder what could have been, December 29, 2012
Let me start by saying that I'm not new to the Play Arts/Play Arts Kai lines. I have been collecting them since they only featured Final Fantasy characters. These figures are honestly pretty hit and miss, usually because of durability. Or lack thereof. These Mass Effect figures aren't their least durable but they certainly don't feel particularly sturdy.
Now, onto the quality of the figure's sculpt. The head looks awful and the shoulders are cartoonishly broad. The face on this figure is just God awful. I don't know how the sculptor and his employers found it to be satisfactory. It's ugly, too small for the figure and looks nothing like Commander Shepard.
The paint on the figure is mostly great except for on the face. Awful paint on the face makes an awful head sculpt even worse.
The articulation is pretty great but I'm worried about breakage. The ankles and hips seem like they may snap at any moment. I would suggest picking a pose you like and not disturbing the figure again.

So all in all, a mixed bag. The head is the major detracting factor but if that doesn't bother you as much as it does me then you will like this figure.

Ultra Pro Magic the Gathering: MTG Mana Magnetic Flip Box (Deck Box / UPR86106) Tan
Ultra Pro Magic the Gathering: MTG Mana Magnetic Flip Box (Deck Box / UPR86106) Tan
Offered by ACS Pacific Supply
Price: $13.99
10 used & new from $13.49

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nice looking and sturdy deck box, but the color is a little off..., October 13, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This deck box is sturdy, well built and attractive. But the color is more cream or off-white than the pictures suggest. It's not off putting or ugly, just worth pointing out. All in all an excellent choice for a white deck. Especially if you're very anal about keeping your cards pristine like me.

MIO Fruit Punch, 1.6-Ounce (Pack of 4)
MIO Fruit Punch, 1.6-Ounce (Pack of 4)
Offered by Libros Judios
Price: $19.00
11 used & new from $16.80

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious, well designed and a good value, October 1, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've only had the fruit punch flavor of Mio, but I'm very pleased with it. The flavor is great and you don't need much to do the trick. Just a quick squirt and your glass of water tastes excellent. And while some reviews knock the strong color I like it. It's a good way to measure how much you like in your water.
The packaging is also great. It's sturdy and closes tight. You could definitely travel with it without worry of it leaking in your bag/purse/pocket.
And for the number of uses you get out of each bottle and how flavorful it is, it's a great value. It tastes better than Crystal Light in my opinion, and you get more for your money.

Artisan Black Diamond 240 Disc DVD Album with 120 Liner Notes/Title Cover Page Capacity Using Metal Ring Binder
Artisan Black Diamond 240 Disc DVD Album with 120 Liner Notes/Title Cover Page Capacity Using Metal Ring Binder
Offered by Artisan Deco Store
Price: $39.45

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High quality, attractive and large. Quite large., August 10, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a high quality product. The metal rings are tight, the pages are tough and the material of the album itself is nice. There are four sets of binder rings, so you can either keep it equally partitioned or use these sections to keep your different discs separated. I'm using one section for movies, one for cartoons/TV shows, one for X-Box 360 games, and the other for PS3 games.
One thing to note is the dimensions of the product. It's listed as 8" thick(it's actually 8.25") and while that may not seem that big, it is a large album. If you plan to travel with this you will need a large suitcase/bag. I've uploaded a picture of the album with a DVD case in front of it to give an idea of the size.
If you just have nowhere to keep your movies/TV shows/games/etc this is a great option. And if you have the room in your bags when you travel this is a great way to keep your entertainment with you. I bought this because I'm joining the military and won't have room for much and I don't foresee any problems with this album.
Comment Comment | Permalink

The Green Hornet [Blu-ray]
The Green Hornet [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Seth Rogen
Price: $9.73
139 used & new from $0.50

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I don't understand where the hate is coming from. Green Hornet is hilarious and exciting!, May 18, 2011
I watched the original show when I was younger, but I grew up way after the show was made so I didn't grow up watching it on Saturday mornings or anything. And I basically only watched it because Bruce Lee was in it. That being said, I enjoyed this movie immensely. I knew going in that it was going to put an emphasis on comedy, which some reviewers here seem to have been surprised by. It was written by and stars Seth Rogan. What were you expecting? And it's not as if the comedy is out of place in the context of the movie. It's perfectly suited for the movie since a lot of it is physical comedy(not campy style though). And the dialogue is pretty witty and just as hilarious as the physical comedy. Some lines genuinely had me cracking up.
But let's say you're not interested in the comedy. OK, the action is awesome as well. The fight scenes are all pretty original and very cool. And the Black Beauty is amazing. They did so much cool stuff with that car.
How about the story? It's extremely solid, better than most action-comedies. It centers around organized crime and corruption and does so in a pretty interesting way. Sure, you see the "bad guy" twist coming from a mile away and it meanders a bit in the second half before the climax but it's still a solid and entertaining plot.
And if you did watch the original show then you should appreciate the little nods the movie gives, like Kato making a comment about being too fast to be captured on film on television. This of course being a reference to Bruce Lee's movements being too fast for the camera film of the time of the original show, which meant he had to slow down his punches for the show. And references like that are sprinkled throughout the film.

All in all it's a really fun, really entertaining movie that does exactly what it set out to do. It's going in my collection because I wanted to watch it again as soon as it ended.

No Title Available

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very comfortable, breathable and stain/dirt resistant, April 12, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Even if you're just walking or lightly jogging these are comfortable, but when you're running they're amazing. I've had other running shoes that cost a lot more and provided much less support and/or comfort. And if you run in the rain don't be concerned about them getting waterlogged and uncomfortable or even muddy/dirty. They wipe clean with no problem. I've NEVER had a pair of running shoes this breathable that also repel water and wipe clean with a damp rag.

Dragon Age 2 - PC
Dragon Age 2 - PC
Offered by TnsDeals
Price: $14.97
31 used & new from $2.78

189 of 221 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The framed narrative adds little, and the restricted character takes away more, March 9, 2011
This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - PC (Video Game)
EDITED--I've edited this review, giving the game 3 stars instead of 2. Having played the game numerous times now I've started to find some of that old Origins charm tucked away inside Dragon Age 2. Still not a great game, but now better than 2 stars to me.

I should say that I love Dragon Age:Origins. I put hundreds of hours into it, playing all 6 origin stories, trying every specialization, experiencing every romance, making all the different choices available, etc. The strongest points of Origins were it's immense customization options, intriguing and deep characters, in-depth conversation system, and moral choices that effected the game.

Dragon Age 2 has taken away much of the character customization in favor of focusing on a specific figure, Hawke, much like Shepard in the Mass Effect series. This makes for a much more detached feeling towards your character than in Origins where you could make them anyone you wanted them to be. And since the Hawke character is much more like Shepard he or she is voiced, whereas your character in Origins was not. Some praise this decision and felt that a silent protagonist was jarring or unappealing. I did not feel that way. I feel like the silent protagonist adds depth to the role playing aspect as you can imagine your own voice for the character. You are, after all, playing the role. I also felt that the voices for both the male and female Hawkes were quite lacking in personality and range, much like the male Shepard's voice actor. As such, I never felt like I was this person, more like I was just moving them around.

The companion characters this time around are more of a mixed bag than in Origins. In Origins I only felt that Oghren was lacking depth while everyone else had depth in spades. In DA2 only a a few of your companions truly have depth.
-Varric, the game's narrator in addition to companion, has real depth and is an interesting character. I think he had more of the writing team's focus than the other companions. Probably rightfully so since he plays two roles in the game.
-Bethany, your sister, is as bland as can be. She utterly lacks personality.
-Carver, your brother, is more interesting but doesn't really have much depth. Where Bethany is supportive and loving, Carver is essentially your rival, questioning many of your decisions. But he mostly comes off as annoying.
-Merrill, a young elf, is interesting most of the time and has some great banter, but she is mostly one-dimensional. I expect she will be a popular character though, simply for the fact that she is a love interest and fantasy fanboys seem to drool over elf women.
-Anders, making a return from Dragon Age:Origins:Awakening, should have been more interesting than he turned out to. He is inhabited by the spirit of justice, Justice(...) but his hatred of the Circle of Magi, the governing body of magic that employs Templars to keep mages under control, has turned Justice in Vengeance. He has to keep Vengeance in check, lest he lose control of his body and power. Unfortunately his plot sort of fizzles out and he's mostly just there for fan service(fangirls like him. A lot.)
-Isabela, the lusty pirate. She is fan service for teenage boys incarnate. She has very large breasts, lots of cleavage, no pants, and no inhibitions. She was in Origins as a minor character whom you can have a threesome with, so it is in keeping with her character. I just really hate her oversexed design. It's so blatantly juvenile that I can't get past it. And she's a duelist, but she fights with throwing daggers. What?
-Aveline, the proud female warrior named after a powerful historic figure. She is a cool character, but not very complex. I wish I liked her more, but the writing just isn't there.
-Fenris, an elf warrior. He's already very popular with the fangirls. A handsome, brooding elf with a dark past? Cue fangirl drooling. But he is honestly pretty interesting. Unfortunately his story sort of fizzles out like Anders'.

The conversation system is essentially the Mass Effect conversation wheel with icons added to show intent. I do appreciate the icons since Shepard always ended up saying things that the abbreviated text didn't imply. But the wheel and voiced protagonist compound to give you fewer choices in dialogue. And less is not more in this case. It's just less.

The moral choices presented in DA2 are much less thought provoking than in Origins. And they really have very little impact. At least much less than they had in Origins. And unfortunately the story isn't as rich and immersive as Origins' quest to stop the Blight of Ferelden. Since DA2 takes place over 10 years the story is broken into chapters that highlight important moments. Unfortunately it just makes the game feel like a series of short episodes instead of one long journey. And the ending is just abrupt and unsatisfying.

I've left the combat for last. Origins had a focus on strategic combat, implementing a "pause and play" style with an auto-attack feature than enabled your character to keep fighting while you were issuing commands and selecting spells. It made for really great boss battles and dealing with mobs was really fun. Dragon Age 2 made pause and play all but pointless since the combat has been sped up to a frantic pace. And the console versions don't even have the auto-attack feature(even though the developer claimed it was present) so you're left with a button mashing, frantic action game that doesn't even have very fun battles. Since you can just mash the attack button and win most battles, when a hard boss battle ensues you'll be left feeling overwhelmed because they didn't optimize the battles for the button mashing style.

It seems to me that Dragon Age 2 was trying to appeal to the fan base established with Origins while also trying to bring in a new fan base of non-RPG players. In the end they turned out a game that doesn't have much appeal for either.

I'll break it down into pros and cons.

-Looks much better than Origins, graphically
-Offers a new storytelling approach for the genre

-Lackluster story
-Wonky combat
-Less than stellar companions
-Not made for the fan base established by Origins

One last thing. Not to sound like a nut, but many of the reviews out there by seemingly reputable sources seem to be less than unbiased. You need to pay attention to what the reviews say because some of them make mention of features that the game simply doesn't have, such as auto-attack on consoles, and things of that sort. I'm not going to say that these reviews were bought, but many of the websites and publications have ads for this and other EA games all over their site/magazine.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 4, 2013 12:44 PM PDT

Green Lantern Classics Black Hand Collector Figure
Green Lantern Classics Black Hand Collector Figure
Price: $35.74
12 used & new from $25.75

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Black Hand to date, and one of the best figures in the DCUC line to date, January 22, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Black Hand has found recent notoriety in the Blackest Night event, and this figure is of that appearance. He has the Black Lantern ring and more decayed look to his flesh. But what's excellent about this figure is all of the detail and articulation they've given him. He has a very unique costume so Mattel and the Four Horsemen used the opportunity to give him a completely unique sculpt. Nothing on him is re-used from other figures. And the sculpt is amazing. The details are intricate and plenty. And they're accompanied by added articulation. Black Hand sports double elbows and knees, giving him better articulation than all but one other figure in the entire line(that figure being Series 13 Blue Beetle). It really is an amazing figure. If you're a Green Lantern fan you simply must pick it up.

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