Friday, January 19, 2018

Though This Battle Is Lost, We Will Fight On, Brothers!

It's time to pour one out for Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. The multiplayer third-person shooter with aspirations to the Battlefield-like genre blend of open conflict both on foot and in vehicles, and with a long-promised-but-never-realized open world component, seems to be basically dead. I fired it up last night looking for a game I was never able to match into, and coincidentally also yesterday the developers posted a blog entry that amounted to them issuing and apology, lamenting their low numbers, and promising to do more. I can't see the game pulling out of this tailspin, to be honest. Games are a rough business at the best of times, and in the current environment a game like this that was released far to early to Early Access, that eternal curse, with no fanfare, is as good as dead, and no doubt destined to be as forgotten as any lost civilization in the darkness of Old Night.

I will hug my Relic 40K games close and support them as much as I can going forward.

The 4X bug came back to bite me over the weekend, and after reinstalling both of Amplitude's Endless Legend and Endless Space, I finished off suspended campaigns in both. I was able to pull out a win in Legend, as the Drakken, taking a diplomatic victory. I think this game must have been in progress for two years or more, but it's done now. In Space, however, I wasn't able to salvage the setup I'd found myself in. Somehow I had two games set up as myself playing the Pilgrims against a single other faction, the Hissho. I'm not sure how that happened, other than maybe they both started out as the same game in the base game, and I then completed it there in addition to in the expanded version of the game. In either case, I ended up conceding, unable to do any real damage to the other faction's fleets in war. I was inspired to start a new campaign, though, as the hostile Cravers, which exist only to consume and expand, and in fact cannot take part in diplomacy. It's early on in that campaign yet; I'm still expanding to fill my starting area and having to tech up to the point where I can get further out to start warring on other species.

I've been doing daily sessions of Spelunky, too. I'm still trying to get good again. I've never been great at the game, but I do hope to finish it someday, still. I think if I just keep at it regularly it'll begin to happen eventually.

Every time I play The Witcher 3, I'm convinced again that it is one of the best games out there. I'm pretty invested into playing Gwent within the game, as well. I still only have cards for the Northern Realms deck, but I may be on my way to getting the right cards for the Scoia'tel deck, as well. As goes the main thrust of the quest to find Ciri, I'm currently trying to track down Dandelion, who may have seen her recently. That involves talking to other people in the area who he's had contact with, to get a clue on where he might be, since the tavern he runs with Zoltan Chivay was left abandoned. I can hardly wait to play more.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Is this Ninja Theory?

I was in the mood to try something new last night, so I grabbed my copy of the early PS3 game Heavenly Sword, the first prominent character action game from Ninja Theory, who have gone on to make some well regarded games in the genre since. To be honest, I expected more to like here. It seems pretty derivative of God of War in some ways, and perhaps just emblematic of where games were back in 2007 in others. I can see glimmers of what the developer would come to be known for here, but there's not enough to make me interested in playing through the whole game, especially after a taste of the awful Sixaxis use on display in the game's "aftertouch" system. That can be turned off, thankfully, but then you're still left with a game with a bad frame rate and a ridiculously dressed lingerie model heroine (and her whole village who sleep in full battle regalia out in the cold, snowy open on flagstones with no fires or blankets, weirdly), with a story I am not invested in. Everything this game attempts has been done better in the decade since, if not previously, so though it seems cold and dispassionate, the calculus in my head points to it being a waste of my leisure time to continue playing Heavenly Sword when there are so many other more interesting things to spend it with.

Among those more interesting things are Spelunky, and Mark of the Ninja, both of which I have dipped into this week. They're both good to have on hand for quick fixes of action, I think. Mark of the Ninja seems to have some encouragement of returning to past levels to find secrets and things, as well has having a new game+ mode, I noticed. I'll play some more of that one, for sure.

I'm also continuing to delve into Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon. I'm starting to get more familiar with its mechanics and workings, which I have stated before are just enough to make for a good tactical wargame without being to overwhelming. I like it. I've done around a third of the campaign scenarios at this point, I believe.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Caught up to Horus on the Way to the Siege of Terra

For probably the first time ever, I am current as goes the main numbered series of Horus Heresy novels, 47 books in! I know you're thinking that now I might go and read something unrelated, and while I still may, I do have all five of the currently released Primarchs series novels to read, as well. It's not clear how that series will evolve as time goes on, but it does already contain offshoot short stories and audio dramas in addition to the main novels which each, to this point, seem to focus directly on one of the space marine primarchs. Out now are the ones for Roboute Guilliman, Leman Russ, Magnus the Red, Perturabo, and Lorgar. I may begin one of those very soon.

Impressions on the last few main series novels are below. Beware spoilers, if you are reading the series, as well.

The Crimson King - Magnus and the Thousand Sons' first book since very early in the series. The book centers around Ahriman and his crew's attempt to track down the pieces of Magnus' shattered psyche/soul. A few remembrancers from Prospero, a Knight Errant, Yasu Nagasena, and a Space Wolves watch pack also star.

Tallarn - The collection of a few short stories and a novella set on Tallarn during the Iron Warriors' invasion. Perturabo is looking for something before being eventually called away by Horus to lay siege to Terra. The stories are mostly told from the point of view of Imperial army personnel, though the novella Ironclad also features an Officio Assassinorum clade operative, Alpha Legion operatives, and one key Iron Warriors battle brother encased in a Dreadnought's sarcophagus.

Ruinstorm - Sanguinius, Guilliman, and the Lion leave Macragge after the dissolution of Imperium Secundus and make their way through the titular warp disturbance toward Terra. Curze is in tow, as well, and each primarch faces a personal trial before their paths are made clear. Ruinstorm has direct ties back to David Annandale's previous book in the series The Damnation of Pythos, as well as Fear to Tread, The Unremembered Empire, and Angels of Caliban.

Old Earth - The main story here is Vulkan's journey from his resurrection at Mount Deathfire on Nocturne to The Emperor's side by the Golden Throne on Terra. The book also sees an end to the stories of Shadrak Meduson and the Shattered Legions agglomeration forged in the wake of the Dropsite Massacre on Isstvan V. Another subplot sees the Eldar Farseer Eldrad Ulthran work in concert with Barthusa Narek, errant Word Bearer, to help Vulkan on his journey, permanently ending the lives of many seemingly immortal members of the Cabal along the way, sparing John Grammaticus and Alivia Sureka, notably.

Book 48 is slated to release next month, another collection of novellas and short stories, but there's no word yet of 49. I'm guessing that one may be the same. Book 50 will likely be pretty important. Yarant or Beta-Garmon, maybe. Or even the kick-off to the Siege of Terra.

Blasting in the New Year

I caught a bit of the DICE bug over the weekend, and decided to crack into both Battlefield 1 and Star Wars: Battlefront for the first times. I had some good fun with both of them, the only real sour note was when a player on the other team logged on with unsavory ideological messages conveyed in his player emblem.

I was impressed with the graphics of both games; the Frostbite engine is really something. Both games were fun and had a good feel to what I played. I get the impression that Battlefront may be a little more casual and arcade game-like, and Battlefield 1 a little more geared toward the classic hardcore shooter. I'd like to play more of both, but it's hard to say whether I'll put too much time into them. It would probably behoove me to get Battlefront II, instead, so maybe I'll lean toward Battlefield 1 more if I do want to play a game like this.

I played a little Rocket League, as well. That game is as smooth and fun as ever. It's really smartly designed and presented. Again, I should play more of this.

Mark of the Ninja is another new one for me. I chose this one to knock off of the backlog both because I was kind of feeling like a 2D action game and because it starts with M. It's much less the platformer I was kind of craving and much more of a hardcore stealth game pulled off nearly flawlessly in two dimensions. It's a joy to play. Everything feels crisp and intentional, and there's very little room to fumble your actions in the control scheme. The levels branch nicely and offer alternate pathways through the spaces, which is impressive for 2D environments. It's like Klei wanted to bring over all the best parts of immersive sim stealth into 2D, and it really works. I played a solid 2 hours in my first session.

I also finally got around to trying out Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon. It's a hex-based, turn-based war game, as I anticipated, but not quite so hardcore and forbidding as I had thought it might be. It's maybe not even much more complex than Battle of Tallarn; indeed it lacks the import that game puts on unit facing on the battlefield. I'm not sure it is more complex at all, come to think of it. It offers more units, sure, and they're upgradable, but I'm not sure there is that much more to it. And it doesn't quite raise the production values bar as high as I'd like above Tallarn, either. It is better presented, to be sure, but not that much better presented.

Regardless, I'm having a good time with it, and the campaign seems pretty long and involved, with a lot of scenarios. I'm definitely going to keep playing this one, and I'm sure I'll have more impressions as I delve further in.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 Book of the Year

Book of the Year: The Master of Mankind
Honorable Mention: Angels of Caliban/Praetorian of Dorn

I'm completely unable to decide between the two runners-up, but the BOTY has to go to Aaron Dembski-Bowden's examination of The Emperor and his closest confidants in the war in the webway during the great heresy war. It was illuminating.

This year in reading has been almost entirely about Warhammer 40,000 and its forebear, the Horus Heresy. I finished 20 whole books this year, which must be a record.

Tallarn
The Crimson King
Shattered Legions
Warhammer 40,000: 8th Edition
Dark Imperium
Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch
Gathering Storm: Fracture of Biel-Tan
Gathering Storm: Fall of Cadia
War Zone Fenris: Wrath of Magnus
Garro
The Master of Mankind
Corax
Praetorian of Dorn
Angels of Caliban
The Silent War
The Path of Heaven
Eye of Terra
The Ninja
Pharos
War Without End

Previous years' tallies:

2016:20ish
2015:4ish
2014:18
2013:9

I'm hoping to draw up to being current with the Heresy series this year, and read more 40K fiction in addition to other fiction and non-fiction. I'm trying to lean more into reading, since my booklog is pretty extensive, as well.

2017 Wrap-up with GOTY!

This has been a good year in games. The Switch was released with a killer couple of entries in the Zelda and Mario series, as well as a number of other good to great Nintendo first party releases, and the other platforms saw a bunch of other huge AAA releases as per usual. My picks for honors this year will probably seem contrarian or unconventional, but of course this is one man's point of view, and intensely personally focused.

My 2017 Game of the Year: Mass Effect Andromeda
Honorable Mention: Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer

There you have them. I was more into the newest Mass Effect for its duration than any other game released this year. I know the wider response to the game has been negative, and I count myself lucky that I was able to look over whatever the collective complaints were to the entertainment beyond. I wish Bioware was able to follow through on whatever the DLC plans had been and with the logical subsequent series entries, but sadly it looks like Mass Effect my be being mothballed instead. My message for anyone thinking of playing the game is to go for it, and enjoy. It's got the best combat and world of the series, a good cast of supporting characters and villains, and a very cool speculative sci-fi premise.

Rise of the Necromancer brought a whole new game to Diablo III, just like every new class is a new way to play. This was basically more of one of my all-time favorite games, and if I take into account how it brought me back to the game for a good month and a half this year, there's no denying it deserves this runner-up spot in my game of the year consideration.

There was a real wealth of other things I played this year that were very good, like the aforementioned Zelda and Mario games, as well as Mario Kart, Opus Magnum, Destiny 2, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, Dawn of War III, and many others I think I'll love but have yet to get around to, like Prey, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Nier: Automata, Hollow Knight, Battle Brothers, and more.

As for game achievements and backlog progress this year, here's the Pile of Skulls:

Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity: Dead Kings
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Crimson Shroud
Democracy 3
Destiny 2
Diablo III Anniversary Event
Diablo III: Necromancer 70
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (Necromancer)
Dishonored 2 (Emily, Low Chaos)
Dungeon of the Endless
FFXI: Samurai Artifact
Hexcells
Hexcells Infinite
Hexcells Infinite (60 Down)
Hexcells Plus
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Spec Ops: The Line
Super Mario Odyssey
The Horus Heresy: Battle of Tallarn Apocalypse Campaign (Loyalists)
The Horus Heresy: Battle of Tallarn Apocalypse Campaign (Traitors)
The Horus Heresy: Battle of Tallarn Resurrection Campaign (Loyalists)
Titanfall 2

I count 23 this year, the same as last year, coincidentally:

2017:23
2017:23
2015:26
2014:32
2013:33
2012:23
2011:21
2010:23
2009:19
2008:26
2007:15

I also tally a total of 21 additions to the backlog this year, though I don't really keep track of how many it was reduced by in the same time. Suffice it to say it doesn't look much smaller, though I know I knocked a few things off. Maybe I'll manage more in 2018.

I don't have much in the way of new year's resolutions other than my usual desire to play more strategy games and RPGs. I'll also add character action games this year--Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, et al. Even if I have to play them on easy. If there's one thing I want done and dusted this year, it's The Witcher 3. I don't know why I deprive myself of it like I do, honestly. It's very good.

2018 releases I'm looking forward to include Bayonetta 3, and maybe more on Cyberpunk 2077. I can't think of anything else at the moment.

Closing Out 2017

I've been off for about 10 days for the holidays, and I've been trying to get in some good game time. In this span I have made some good progress through Opus Magnum, finished the main game content in Super Mario Odyssey, played my fill of Battle of Tallarn, and returned to the Hyrule of Breath of the Wild to do some pretty serious shrine hunting.

I'll just single out Battle of Tallarn here. I think the game is pretty good for a mobile port. It lands squarely in that range where I could just keep playing it until I've exhausted it of content, but will instead forgo spending any more time doing just that and instead look to other games that I suspect will be better. Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon, namely, but also others in general.

I'll also just mention that in the last few days since Christmas I have been back into Zelda in a big way. I've spent much more time than anticipated each session hunting for that last shrine or wanting to quickly investigate something off in the distance. I even thought about reordering my game of the year rankings, but in the end I think it'll just miss being named there. That post is to follow.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Tallarn and Temeria

Progress continues little by little in both Opus Magnum and Super Mario Odyssey.

The real meat masticated in my gaming jaws lately has been with The Horus Heresy: Battle of Tallarn and The Witcher 3.

Tallarn takes the largest military engagement of the fictional galactic civil war that kicked off the Warhammer 40,000 setting and envisions it as a hex-based tactical war game. On one side is the traitorous Space Marine legion the Iron Warriors, and on the other is the ragtag planetary defense made up mostly of idle Imperial Guard on the world when it was killed from orbit by the opposition. Battles play out on small hex grids covered in a virus bomb miasma that doubles as fog of war, with small squadrons of tanks and other armored vehicles of various types including flying transports and the gigantic bipedal war machines known as Titans, and their cousins, the slightly smaller Knights.

Tallarn is very clearly a pretty quick port from iOS, but with a few key rebindings, I was able to make it feel pretty good on PC despite the big dopey UI. Scenarios can be played relatively quickly and simply, which is a plus for a player with my level of sophistication and dedication to games like this. I have completed the Apocalypse campaign from both sides so far, one of four or five in the game. As a very fervent fan of setting and especially the novel series that to a large part defines it, I have been enjoying this relatively simple war game. I'm actually reading the collected stories around this particular theater alongside playing the game, and it's harmonizing nicely. I might even recommend the game to non-setting fans, but the developer HexWar has about 20 other games that I'm guessing are similar enough that are set in other, real-world historical, settings that are probably worth looking at as well.

In The Witcher 3, I've gone back to flip flopping between control devices and settings for play. Last night I put in a good hour or two on the TV with the pad again. I think the sweet spot may actually end up being at the PC with the pad. There's no doubt the game looks better on my PC monitor, and the 360 pad control scheme, for all its own oddness, may just edge out the mouse and keyboard scheme due to some iffy menu design choices. It seems like they tried to come up with something that worked both ways, when they probably would have been better off coming up with two separate menu systems dedicated each way. I'm sure there are a lot of reasons why doing that would suck for the development of the game, but it would have been nice. There are too many little rough edges on either scheme for me to be completely comfortable just yet, but with some refinement I may be able to get to that point, and it might as well be with the pad, for the same reason I play Bethesda's RPGs that way; it gets really tiresome holding down W for hours at a time with my middle finger, and that's just not a problem using an analog stick for movement.

Progression-wise, I have now made it to Noveria and met up with Triss Merigold. Apparently she and Geralt fell out about six months previous to this, which does a bit to explain how he could begin the game once again apparently an item with Yennifer of Vengerberg. I don't know if there will be more to explore to that story, or whether the player is meant to respect their privacy on the matter and decide for Geralt who he is more interested in romantically going forward. As a player of the previous games, I feel like I know who Triss is. I'm interested in learning more about Yen before committing to anyone, if I do. I've read the first couple of books in the Witcher series, but I don't remember if there was enough in them to know much of anything about Yen from those. It's been a good long time since I read those. It was before The Witcher 2 came out. Now most or all of the rest of the series has been released, and I own some of them, so at some point I'll actually delve deeper in.

Apart from meeting up with Triss, I'm still following leads toward Ciri. I helped to awake the dream-scryer Corinne Tully in a "haunted" house, last. I want to follow the main thread to the next large piece or event, but I also don't want the rest of the game to get away from me. I don't want to outlevel any quests or contracts or potentially great witcher gear out there. I'm still settling in to how this game flows, nearly 50 hours in, now. Granted, I was away from it for two and a half years between hours 35 and 36, but the point still stands.

Today is my last day of work for 2017. I'm hoping to get in some real solid game time over the break, along with a good bit of reading, as well. I'll have my GOTY/BOTY posts in the next week or so, as well. I have already declared a GOTY and two runner ups on the GameBytes Show podcast, but I do reserve the right to change these up through the 31st!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Going with Geralt

I mentioned last entry that I was experimenting with how to return to The Witcher 3, and I have settled for now on at my PC, using mouse and keyboard. I may hop over to the TV through the Steam Link from time to time, but I haven't been able to shake the feeling that the PC experience is the best one. I went and met the Bloody Baron and did his questline, and at the moment I'm knocking out a few sidequests and contracts that I have found myself having outleveled. Experience seems kind of hard to come by, so I'm sure it'll pay to be thorough, aside from exploring the cool narratives of the world. The next big plot point I'm sure is waiting in Novigrad. I'm to go there to meet Triss Merigold, whom Geralt has been an item with during the last couple of games, and also to hunt for signs of Ciri. I have a couple of other errands to run first, though.

I'm also playing some Spelunky here and there, still. I don't know if I'll ever finish that game. Oh well, I'll be all over Spelunky 2 as soon as that comes out, either way.

The end of Super Mario Odyssey also can't be far away now. I'm in the Luncheon Kingdom now, and I have just found the painting that lets you warp to the Mushroom Kingdom, or at least a small part of it.

Progress also continues apace in Opus Magnum. The critical path puzzles are nice and doable, which I appreciate. It's always cool to see the finished process, as well.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Ready to Proceed

Last Booklog entry, I mentioned heading back to the Horus Heresy series after catching up on the Warhammer 40,000 proper timeline. As it turns out, I decided to read through all of the lore of the tabletop game's 8th edition first. There's a lot of interesting info on the current state of the galaxy in there, along with a cursory glance at all of the relevant factions. I still don't really know much to speak of of the T'au or Genestealer Cults. Are the latter a part of the Tyranid race or not? If so, how are they different? I'll have to delve into some more 40K fiction at some point to find out.

In the meantime, I have returned to the Heresy timeline, finishing off book 43, Shattered Legions. It's a collection of short stories and a novella featuring Iron Hands Warleader Shadrak Meduson and other key players in the remains of the three loyalist legions smashed at the Dropsite Massacre. Meduson becomes a type of guerrilla leader for this asymmetrical war effort to confound and delay Horus's return to Terra. There is a lot of exploration of themes like survivor's guild, betrayal, the desire for vengeance, justice, and the righting of wrongs, as well as integrating disparate parts into a new alloyed whole and modifying the organizational structure of a fighting force to adapt to a wildly different set of circumstances than it was originally built for. It's a kind of underexplored area in stories of Space Marines, since the Shattered Legions are much more of a handicapped and underdog faction than most in the fiction.

The next book in sequence is The Crimson King, which will be the first time we've seen much of Magnus and the Thousand Sons since the razing of Prospero much earlier in the series.

Ready to Rejoin the Rivian Roamer

I am ready to return to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt!

I wrapped up my playthrough of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night last night, coming up to a total of 200.5% of the game explored. I believe the last .1% could be gained by going into the final room and then using a library card to warp out of it before saving the game again. I also seem to remember some kind of glitch in the castle towers using the sword familiar maybe to somehow get outside the castle walls. That might make it possible to add a few more percentage points to the tally, but I don't recall exactly. I'm ready to another Richter playthrough at some point, too. I did that once, in college, I think. If I recall, you can get to most but not all places in the game and actually finish it. I'd like to explore some of the other ways to play at some point, as well, including as an Axe Armor (which I remember being very limited) and with your luck stat to the max but others lowered, which could be another fun spin on the game.

Opus Magnum also continues to captivate me. I've been playing a lot of its sub-game Sigmar's Garden, which is a kind of Shanghai variant played with the marbles used in the main game. It's diverting and goes well with a podcast. I want to get to 100 wins for the achievement and to see whatever story dialog goes along with doing so.

I have to work out exactly how I'm going to go forward with The Witcher 3. I briefly considered restarting the game, but being 35 hours in, I think I'd probably rather just continue on. I'm sure the game will end up over 100 hours in all, maybe 150, even. I think I remember the essentials, even though I might like to rewatch a few cutscenes. I also need to decide whether I'll play at my PC with mouse and keyboard, or on the Steam Link with a controller, or maybe even at my PC with a controller. I may re-familiarize myself with the game at the PC, then move over to the TV. Or, maybe it's better to just re-acquaint myself with the game using the pad from the jump. Content on screen isn't really a worry, since I'll mostly play when the kids are asleep, though at times I may want to play on the PC while they use the TV. Still, The Witcher isn't usually overly adult, it's only that way at certain times.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Link to the Path

I'm still on track back to the Witcher 3. I'm drawing nearer to completion of this run of Symphony of the Night, with only about 4 sections of the inverted castle remaining to conquer before taking on Shaft and Dracula.

Something I've noticed this time around is that for as well as the castle inversion works for the game, there are some rough edges that prevent the second leg of the game from being quite so effortless as the first. It's easy to go the wrong way and find yourself under-leveled or under-geared for a section of the inverted castle, since there can be no mobility-based progression gating once you have acquired all of the motive skills and abilities from the first castle. Instead there is old-fashioned enemy toughness gating. This can still be gotten around, though, with some creative play and knowing when to mist by rougher sections on the way to gear upgrades or more beatable enemies to farm XP and upgrades on.

Elsewhere, I've done some podcast listening to Titan Quest and Spelunky while going for progression in those titles. I've also added some hardware to my setup, both a terabyte hard disk to the PC, and a Steam Link to the TV. The former allowed me to go and re-download some games that I plan to revisit, and the latter was cheap enough ($1) that I couldn't resist.

I toyed around with Skyrim and XCOM: Enemy Unknown a bit while trying out the Link. I decided to start a new non-Ironman campaign in XCOM just to see if I can't eventually actually win a campaign of that game. I'll need to focus on it at some point to make that a possibility.

The biggest addition to the rotation lately has been Opus Magnum, the new puzzle game from Zachtronics. I have long been a big fan of one of their previous games, SpaceChem. Opus Magnum is in some ways a lot like that one, though I haven't yet encountered its kind of insane difficulty here. Opus Magnum is a real looker, as well. It's got a great posh steampunk style and the alchemy machine works animate really well in a believably mechanical fashion. You play a newly graduated alchemist brought into a great house and tasked with combining base alchemical elements to do things like transmute mundane metals into gold or manufacture talcum power analogues, propulsion fuel, or even just hair product for your noble masters.

You're given a set of inputs and told what the required outputs are, and you have a selection of tools to use to assemble a machine to take care of the process that you have to envision and execute by programming grabber arms that can rotate or extend or move along tracks to deliver elements to various stations where they are transmuted or bonded or split in various ways so that you eventually end up with the finished product and deliver it to the output receptacle. It's a pretty basic concept, elaborated on in a huge variety of ways to create a very interesting and challenging and expressive puzzle game. Your creations only need to get the job done, but once finished they are evaluated against those of other players, so if you like you can chase efficiency on a few axes to enjoy refining your base creations, as well. I'm really enjoying the game so far.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

One Does Not Simply Play Through Mordor

I've given up on Shadow of Mordor. The game has never managed to click with me. I did feel like I finally got a good grip on it this last session, but in the end I still felt like it was an overall pretty mediocre game made up of component parts done better elsewhere. Assassin's Creed, the Batman Arkham series, Hitman, and others, cover all these bases sufficiently. I'm considering this one done.

Which, along with my completion of the Destiny 2 campaign and beginning of the upside-down castle in Symphony of the Night, puts me well on my way back toward playing The Witcher 3 again.

I'm still making my way through Super Mario Odyssey, too. I'm just past New Donk City and in the Seaside Kingdom, now. I like how this game lets you bypass a lot of things if you like, and come back to them later if you wish.

I'm also continuing to practice running Spelunky, hoping for an eventual victory. I still don't reliably make it to the Jungle stages, though.

I did manage to finally finish off Hexcells Infinite, getting that achievement for doing 60 procedurally generated puzzles. That is definitely a low-stress way to play that game, though less interesting accordingly.

Finally, Titan Quest has received an unexpected expansion some 11 years after release. Its called Ragnarok and adds a fifth act as well as some other improvements. I've never made it much past the first act, but curiosity and wanting to encourage such rashness from THQ Nordic overtook me, and I bought in. Maybe this will do the trick, finally.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

On the Road Back

I'm sticking to the plan I laid out last week.

I've polished off the Destiny 2 campaign. Overall verdict: better than the first game, not as good as any of Bungie's Halo games. I question the need for a campaign at all. Perhaps Destiny should cut straight to the gear chase. I've set the game aside for the time being.

In it's place I've been concentrating on my Symphony of the Night save. As of this writing just prior to a trip out of town, I have 100% of the initial upright castle completed, and I'm ready to tackle the inverted castle. So, pretty decent progress, so far.

I'm unsure of whether I'll end up clicking with Shadow of Mordor and finishing it. I've struggled to, but then I don't think I've actually focused my efforts to do so on it to this point. Every fight I get into, it still seems like I'm being overwhelmed by too many orcs, and too many of them want to get in my face and start a Nemesis system action. I don't know if this is just how the game will always be, or if at some point I am supposed to be able to slay them 10 at a time and be able to fight 50 of them off without breaking a sweat. Something just feels off about the balance to me. I think I may need to just really start trying to grind out some ability and skill points on lower level nemeses in order to be able to tackle tougher orcs and larger groups of them.

I'm at I think 52/60 Hexcells proc gen puzzles done, and I've been brushing up on my Spelunky skills, trying to get back in the swing of things. These may be what I play tonight, if I have any free time.

This will all be put on hold, though, since we're headed out of town for 5 days. I'll take the Switch, but I'm not sure what else. Perhaps the DSs or SNES Classic? I'm leaning away from the Vita, though, and the PS3 and PC are obviously not coming along. I'll probably do more reading than gaming, but we'll see.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Catching Up to the 40K Timeline

I took some time away from the Horus Heresy series to read about recent developments at the end of the timeline, in the 40K era. A friend into the tabletop Warhammer 40,000 game sent me a bunch of the latest campaign books that ushered in the 8th edition of the game: Wrath of Magnus, and the Gathering Storm trilogy of Fall of Cadia, Fracture of Biel-Tan, and Rise of the Primarch.

These are all very matter-of-factly written, in a dramatic historical style. They don't read like the novels at all. They're drier, but still kind of interesting. Things that would be momentous in a novel are at times glossed over or related with little to no fanfare. I think they are meant to serve more as background lore ("fluff" in Warhammer terms) for players of the wargame than as a successful dramatic narrative, which the Horus Heresy books hew more toward.

It was interesting being introduced to some of the successor factions 10,000 years after the era that I am most familiar with. Previously there were no loyalist primarchs around in M41, or M42 now, I suppose. Roboute Guilliman has been awoken from stasis as of the current events, though, and led the forces of the Imperium of Man on a century's crusade to reclaim worlds lost to the forces of the Warp after the opening of the Cicatrix Maledictum, the great galaxy-spanning Warp rift dividing the Imperium in two.

I followed up these campaign books, which dealt with events leading up to Guilliman's resurrection from stasis, with the first new era 40K novel, Dark Imperium. Here Guilliman ends the Indomitus Crusade to go back to Ultramar and free it from an incursion of Chaos forces from the plague god Nurgle, led in part by the traitor daemon primarch Mortation, Guilliman's erstwhile brother in a previous era. The novel also introduces some Primaris Marines characters and delves into how they're fitting into the newly reconstituted Space Marine chapters since the newest Ultima founding that Guilliman undertook after his return to the Imperium. The novel leaves off with the primarch, now Imperial Regent and overall military commander in chief, setting of on a lead after Mortarion to hunt him down and kill him. I understand from the Lexicanum wiki that in the campaign to follow, the Ultramarines defeat and drive away the Death Guard, but that Mortarion escapes, and the Nurgle forces have to contend with advances from the other gods of Chaos into some of their newest territorial gains. I'm not sure any more has been written after this point in the timeline. Presumably Guilliman will circle back to Terra to do some of his non-military duties as Imperial Regent, leaving the newly bolstered ranks of Primaris and Adeptus Astartes to the work of war going forward, at least until its time to confront another of his brothers. He's already encountered both Magnus and Mortarion, and been taunted by Fulgrim, as well. Maybe that's the next showdown, or maybe Angron or Perturabo or Lorgar, if he's still out there, will appear to challenge the returned primarch.

My hope, though, is that we next hear from another of the several loyalist primarchs long disappeared. Maybe they come back as contra-Chaos, but also not aligned to the Imperium. That would be a likely role for many of them. It could be Vulkan, Jaghatai Khan, The Lion, Rogal Dorn, Leman Russ, or Corvus Corax. None of these are certainly dead, as far as I know. Dorn or Vulkan could be, I guess, but in the case of the latter, I doubt it. The rest I've heard have either disappeared or are kept in stasis (The Lion).

It'll be back to the Heresy time period next. I'm still in the middle of book 43, a short story collection. There have been 3-4 other books released in the meantime. There is other material in the universe outside of the Heresy that I want to read, though, The Beast Arises and the Black Legion series, in particular.