Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bite-Sized Chunks

That has been my modus operandi the past three weeks, as I've been playing almost nothing but Baldur's Gate and Destiny. I did sneak in a little bit of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on my Vita yesterday, sating an acute yearning to play one of my all time classics for the first time in a long while after reading a recently translated interview with some of the Japanese production staff from back in 1997. That is one of the absolute best, most satisfying games to sit down and play in all my experience.

I'm closing in on 50 hours with Baldur's Gate, now. I'm in the titular city investigating the activities of the Iron Throne trade consortium. They're up to no good in one way or another. They are definitely behind all the assassination attempts aimed at my player character, and I will make them pay. Apparently I am one of the children or otherwise inheritors of Bhaal, the sort of god of death in the D&D setting of Faerun. I'm not really supposed to know that just yet, only that I have some mysterious history in my blood, but this game is 16 years old now, and had leeched into the well that is gaming lore, some of which I have drunk. I get the feeling there will be blood in my character's future.

Destiny is growing on me a little more day by day. Now that I've basically discarded the possibility of caring about the theme, focusing on the mechanics is a mostly pretty positive experience. That said, I only now have reached level 15 and unlocked my Warlock subclass, Sunsinger. That seems to mean having to gain a bunch of XP to relearn things like how to throw a grenade, how to glide through the air, how to use a special ability, et cetera. Still, the game is petty fun to play, and even when it's humdrum, it's the sort of thing you can just do and accomplish just the slightest little thing and listen to a podcast with. I find that a valuable sort of activity.

I've basically committed myself to finishing both Baldur's Gate and Destiny before moving on to anything else on the PC or PS3. Destiny I'll never actually finish, of course, just the story missions. I'll level up to 20 and see just how feasible it is to get much further than that. On the PC side, I don't have just a whole hell of a lot of options but to see out Baldur's Gate, since my 560 ti is on the fritz, and the replacement 970 I've ordered is out of stock everywhere, for the time being. Perhaps I'll confine my roaming dalliances to the Vita and 3DS in the meantime. I've got a few games relatively if not absolutely untouched between the two.

Monday, September 22, 2014

In With The Old, No Matter What You're Told

I've got over 30 hours on Baldur's Gate now. I'm getting more familiar and accustomed to the D&D 2nd edition rules. I had some more experienced players explain a few things like dual- and multi-classing, read up on a few game systems such as party alignment and reputation, and have learned a few other things just by experience, such as the situational utility of spells that do things like boost resistance to petrification and abilities like Find Traps or Turn Undead. Learn by doing works, to some degree.

I've more or less settled on a party setup I like, with three melee fighters, my PC who is a Wizard Slayer (fighter kit), Minsc the Ranger dual-wielding maces, Dorn the Blackguard with a 2-handed sword, and three ranged characters, Imoen the Thief on Bow, Dynaheir the Invoker with offensive magic, and Viconia the Cleric handling crowd control, buffs and debuffs, healing, and slinging bullets. As long as I keep my party's reputation in the mid-range, 9 to 12, everyone seems happy enough.

I haven't made a huge amount of progress through the story just yet. I'm hunting down a base of operations for the raiders that have been terrorizing trade routes from Amn (which I gather is to the south) to the city of Baldur's Gate at the north end of the Sword Coast. It's somewhere in the Cloakwood, but I don't have the foggiest idea where the Cloakwood is. It's not marked on my map, which is odd. I really feel like one of my 6-person party should know where it is. Oh well, the hunt for it has taken me on a few interesting adventures already, and every bit of experience helps. My party members are all 5th level now. I don't just go online and look up the location of the Cloakwood because I'm sure I'll find it eventually, and the roleplaying is interesting. I keep expecting it to appear on my map once I get near. We'll see.

Destiny. Well, I've been playing it most days since release, but never for more than about 45 minutes. I'm still on the Moon missions, only level 11 with my Warlock. It's good, and fun, but I get worn out on it pretty quickly each session. I don't think the campaign is all that interesting so far. The locations have none of the spectacle of Halo's levels, and there are no characters to speak of. I think this game was trying to go immediately from first to fifth gear, starting off in a mode that makes it lend itself to play like you would with Diablo III on your fourth character solely in adventure mode. I think that's fine in some respects, but it can also just put you that much closer to feeling like you've exhausted the worthwhile content if you are not completely head-over-heels in love with the game.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Baldur's Gate and Destiny

I've put about 8 hours into Baldur's Gate so far, and I'm really enjoying it, so far. I've recruited up to a full 6-man party, and we're venturing into some mines to root out whatever foul presence is despoiling them and their ore. I created my character as Neutral Good, since that's generally how I tend to come down on things, I think, but a couple of my favorite and most useful members to this point are Neutral Evil, and I'm wondering how long this can last. Will I be forced to deviate from my alignment so much that it causes problems? Can that happen? I don't know.

As far as my level of comfort with D&D systems and mechanics, I think I'm doing ok grasping the high level stuff, but so far combat has been a pretty simple affair of auto-attacking and deploying one or two abilities here and there. I'm guessing things will get more complex and difficult as the game progresses. I just wonder how situational a lot of the spells and abilities are, and whether I should ready something like Detect Evil, or how often I should have my thief looking for traps. All the time? Again, I don't know. But I'm hoping to learn.

I was able to get Destiny on day one from Game Trader, the local independent shop, but so far I've only played about half an hour every night. Which is fine by me; I'm in no rush to cap out or complete the story, which seems completely generic and uninteresting. I do like the game for what it is, and can even respect it for holding back emphasis on plot and lore, which are obviously not Bungie's strong suits. I'll be playing this one for a while, like a Blizzard game, I think.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Green-Eyed Devil Barbarian

Booklog be damned, I'm proceeding onto my sixth book in a row that is a re-read.

I've finished up all the Song of Ice and Fire material available, finishing off A Dance with Dragons last week. How long until book 6 is out? Too long. And even then there will still be the wait for book 7, and maybe even 8? Who knows.

In the meantime, I was reminded of a Tai-Pan reread I'd begun about a year and a half ago (how does the time fly so fast?). It was suitably long ago, and only about an hour's work, so I just restarted fresh again. I love James Clavell's work. Some are better than others, and even the best are beyond cheesey, but all of is Asian Saga of historical fiction novels are worth a read, and respectful of the cultures he explores.

I reread Shogun a few years ago, as well, these two probably being Clavell's best, though Noble House is also a real page-turner, and Whirlwind is interesting. Gai-Jin I thought was not so great, and I didn't really like King Rat all that much, either.

There's no one like Dirk Struan, though, save for perhaps John Blackthorne when he's not having to be schooled on proper etiquette. The Tai-Pan is real man's man.

RPGs, the 3DS, and a Couple of Other Things

We stand here on the eve of one of the most momentous days in all of our collective history. Tomorrow, Destiny is releaased, and with it the new order of science fiction first-person shooting and loot collecting for the new generation of game console systems. After tomorrow, everything will be different. Now is the time to take stock of recent events, before all is washed away in the coming deluge.

I have Destiny on pre-order at my local independent game store, but they're pretty slow about getting new games, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to pick it up. Hopefully this week, sometime. I am looking forward to playing it. Not wildly and with total abandon, but maybe like I have been Diablo III since patch 2.1, a little bit here and there--no rush.

I played all the way through and finished a game in two days last week--Evoland, which is something of an homage and deconstruction and examination of the RPG and adventure genre beginning with the NES era all the way up through Diablo III, though it mostly seems to focus on the Final Fantasy and Zelda series. It begins with very rudimentary, almost Game Boy-esque graphics and no sound to speak of. As you go along, you open chests that do things like supply sound and music, enhance the graphics, unlock new features and systems such as Active Time Battle, 3D polygonal overworld graphics, Pre-rendered backgrounds, etc. It was a decent stroll down memory lane for me, and just the right length. The only part I thought dragged a bit was during the 32-bit/FFVII homage areas. And the end came pretty abruptly, as well. I might have moved one of the dungeons from the former bit to the part leading up to the final battle. The whole thing took less than three hours, well spent, on the whole, I think.

I dug out my S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky save and progressed that some, following on from finishing Half-Life 2. I find the open world shooter to be so much more of an interesting and compelling experience than the linear, corridor-confined variety. Stalker, as I'll call it, is such a rich experience. It's one of my favorite PC-exclusive series, and without a doubt justifies maintaining the platform, even if that is all you ever play on it. I'm so glad I've still got half of this game and then Call of Pripyat to play through, as well. At the rate I go, they'll keep me in dour Russian post-apocalyptic free-form shooting adventure for a while.

I can't quit playing Hearthstone, even though I'm not "progressing" toward anything when I play it, other than perhaps a full collection of every card. It's just too easy to jump into for a few minutes here and there, and somehow remains fun even when it certain games are rage-inducing. I need to stop playing it, at least beyond the minimum each month to unlock more card backs. I have better uses of my time.

Psychonauts is one of those games whose reputation preceeds it. It's known to be a mechanically frustrating and well-written comedic 3D platformer, and I'd say that's about accurate from the hour or so I put into it. I see what they were going for, but I've never liked 3D platforming, or its garish Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic. The writing seemed good, I'll give it that. Otherwise, no sir, I don't like it.

Something made me pick up my 3DS a few days ago, and I've been playing a bit of my library for that system:

Crimson Shroud - Definitely a Yasumi Matsuno game (writing, art, presentation). This one is sort of board game like, in that you move from space to space on a map and roll dice a lot, and characters are little statue pieces (maquettes, they might be called). Seems cool, but I wish it had a better UI for equipping items and skills and stuff. This is the same one as Tactics Ogre, and it's cumbersome, I find. Still, there is a lot to like, here.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures - I believe this was free at one point or another on the eshop. I messed around with it for a bit, single-player. Yawn. All the tedium I remember of the 16-bit era, and none of the real fun. Maybe that je ne sais quoi is impossible to catch now that I'm not allowed in Narnia anymore.

Steel Diver: Sub Wars - More fun than a boring game has any right to be. I'm mystified as to how this came out of Nintendo as a first-party release. There must be one rogue designer who is a big submarine warfare nerd. Fine, Takeda, we'll do your stupid submarine game, not like we have anything else for the 3DS Launch.

Super Mario 3D Land - My daughter knows who Mario is, and wants to see this game everytime she sees the 3DS. I finished a level because I was sick of looking at it.

To wrap things up, I am beginning Baldur's Gate, the recent Enhanced Edition by Beamdog. I've never played Baldur's Gate, though I have played Planescape: Torment, and some small amount of The Temple of Elemental Evil and miniscule amount of Icewind Dale. I fumbled my way through Planescape because it was magical experience, but I'm going to have to really master D&D 2nd edition to play this. I'm in that kind of mood now, and I've learned to strike while the iron is hot. Here goes!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Finally Done With City 17

I've had this campaign run through of Half-Life 2 going for probably two and a half years, but now, at long last, it is done. It is just such a long game, and I could never really play it for more than maybe an hour at a time before I'd had my fill for the time being. The thing is, it's a really great game, in the playing. I just think it has some length and pacing issues, perhaps. The ending sections, inside the Citadel, with the super gravity gun, are a riot. That was a nice way to cap off the whole thing, to be sure.

The plot, though, really leaves a lot to the imagination. On one hand, I like that. Being a part of the world, being shown rather than told, is great for a sense of place. On the other, it does very little to pull you forward to the game's conclusion, which might be why it has taken me so long to reach it.

Time has probably worn off the sheen of awe many saw on the game, but it's underlying quality does still show through. I'm curious what the episodes will bring; the way the game closed felt like that was probably it for City 17 and Alyx and that whole crew, but plainly it is not. We'll just have to see where the G Man brings us out next.

No promises on when I'll play any other other entries, though.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book 5

In Dance, A Song of Ice and Fire has widened its scope as far as it has ever been, with action taking place everywhere from The Wall to the Free Cities to Valyria to Slaver's Bay in the east, with a good amount of new characters and locations in view. Later in the book, we even get back to King's Landing and Dorne. Many of the POV characters are, or have been to this point, relatively minor, but seeing the world from their eyes does a lot to flesh out the happenings in Westeros and Essos.

It feels like much of the Essos action is converging on Daenerys, as Westeros continues to tear itself apart. It's obvious the purpose of the Ironborn in the books is to give Dany a fleet back to bring her host home. Tyrion will be her Hand or spymaster or the like. Aegon will win Dorne away from King Tommen, and I suppose Stannis dies heroically while mopping up the Boltons with the help of the wildlings, hill people, Manderly, and the crannogmen of the Neck. The Freys and the Lannisters will fall to Arya as a Faceless Man, and Dany will take the Iron Throne and then ride dragons with her nephews Jon Snow (himself a son of Rhaegar Targaryen) and Aegon (Jon's slightly younger brother of the same father) to the heart of the lands of winter to kill the dark god up there with Bran's help. Rickon comes out of the woods to rebuild and hold Winterfell, the hardiest Stark ever seen in the North. Sansa kills Gregor Clegane in the Eerie and holds it as Warden of the East, Jaime kills Cersei after Myrcella and Tommen both die because of her. Stoneheart kills Jaime, is reunited with Arya. Varys and Littlefinger duel at Cyvasse in Pentos. Fin.

This and That Before Diablo III 2.1

The last week has been fairly uneventful. I've played just a little of several different things, as seems to be my modus operandi, of late. Patch 2.1 for Diablo III is out today, and I'll be headed back to that game to begin a Witch Doctor as soon as Seasons are live. But in the meantime:

Hearthstone - I finished up all of the normal Naxxramas matches, as well as the class challenges, and have played a little conventional and arena. I have no real reason to continue playing this except that it's easy to dip into and out of, and mostly pretty fun. It would be nice to collect all of the cards, I guess, but I have no wish to climb the ranks of competitive play.

Analogue: A Hate Story - I only briefly checked this out, because my daughter saw the anime girl in the screenshot on Steam an wanted to "play" it. It turns out to be a very text-heavy research and interaction game. It seems pretty cool, with a very Korean-focused starship setting, presumably a generational ship. I really want to see more of this when I can focus on it.

Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming - You're welcome, Esteban. It seems kinda cool, but I find that parody wears thin very quickly, for me. I'd love to see a more straight take on this game type, but I have zero idea of what that would look like. I guess comedy serves in this case. It is a very absurd premise.

Shadowgate - I kickstarted this remake of the game that originally intrigued me on the NES. The art looks nice enough, but I don't care for the UI presentation or the Item Verb Item mechanics, and the puzzles are as abtuse as ever, which might not be a good thing. I'm feeling pretty lukewarm on this one.

Wasteland - Yeah, the original. I feel like I'm starting to get a grip on what this game is, after a few false starts. I should play more before I play the sequel, which is officially out next month.

Goat Simulator - Mia likes to mess around with it, and it is pretty entertaining. More toy than game.

Half-Life 2 - Yes, yes, I am finally getting toward the end of this epic. I've just arrived at the Citadel, or rather a tunnel leading into or perhaps under the Citadel, opened by Alyx's robot, Dog. I've taken down striders in City 17, what could be next?

Borderlands 2 - I've done handful of quests and fought a boss, advancing into the next zone. I'm feeling pretty ambivalent on the game, so far. It feels like empty calories. Again, parody does next to nothing for me. Handsome Jack is fairly entertaining so far, though. It's something to play, and better than a lot, so I guess I'll keep going with it from time to time.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book 4

I'm still trotting along at a brisk pace on my aSoIaF reread. I'm well into A Feast for Crows, now. This is where the structure of the tale changes and gets interesting from a logistical perspective. In Book 4, we're short POV chapters from several of our favorite characters, including Jon, Dany, and Tyrion. Instead, we have POVs in the south of Westeros, centering around King's Landing, the riverlands, and Dorne, as well as the Iron Islands. We get Cersei's point of view, and see her incompetence and flaws as a ruler first-hand. We get Brienne's story, which I'm not sure the purpose of, remembering how it plays out. We get Arya in Braavos, which is cool.We get Sansa and Littlefinger in the Vale, and we get action in Dorne and among the Ironborn, which is also cool. I'd forgotten that Victarion was a POV character in Feast. I remember his chapters from Dance being entertaining.

All in all, book 4 really seems like the beginning of the second grand movement in the series. The war of five kings has for the most part wrapped up, and the remaining players are turning their focus elsewhere, to the north and the Others, to the east and its dragons, or inward, with the case of the Lannisters and King's Landing. Sansa, Arya, Tyrion, Samwell, Jon, Jaime and others have had major character-defining turning points both internally and geographically, setting the stage for further action on down the road. It's an exciting time in Westeros, even if this book and the next are light on major shakeups in comparison to book 3, especially.

Mid-August 2014 Playlog

It's hard to find a theme in these large collections of games I play for less than an hour at a time, for the most part. To review:

Talisman - I picked up both the solo adventure and full 4-player digital board games on Steam in a Games Workshop sale. While very, even completely, dependent on luck of the die roll, the game is decently fun. I found the variety of abilities and characteristics each playable character had offered up some interesting in-game ramifications. I played 2-3 complete games, which can be fairly long, before deciding my time was better used elsewhere. It was a satisfyingly fun experience, though.

Mount & Blade - I began my campaign and was immediately overtaken by bandits and taken captive, only to escape sometime later minus my followers and much of my wealth and possessions. This happened over and over, until I was left with no one, not even a horse, and next to nothing. The only choice left was between going full-rogue to probably die alone and reviled and taking up arms in the arena, winning gold and glory and, and hopefully parlaying that into followers. That's what I'm in the midst of, now.

X-Com: Enemy Unknown - I advanced my campaign through a couple of battles, finally taking captive a couple of the aliens and beginning to get a handle on managing my forces. This is another game I don't know why I don't just play all the time.

Half-Life 2 - I played though about 20 to 30 minutes of stuff up to a point where I'm making my way up through a warehouse area from subterranean tunnels, and there are all these Combine soldiers fast-roping down onto catwalks above me and they keep killing me. They'll get theirs, eventually.

Colin McRae Rally - this really is a very bare-bones experience. It's good for a quick race here and there, though. For $7, it's really not too bad.

Hearthstone - I figured it was no more random than Talisman, takes only a fraction of the time to play, has much better production values, actual people to play against, interesting solo content, and all the might of one of the biggest and best game studios in the world backing it up, I might as well invest my time further into this as any other digital card or board game. I've actually been enjoying the hell out of the single-player Naxxramus "boss battles," which are just duels against players with unique abilities and traits. They're almost puzzle-like in that they require a certain approach to win. While nothing like them, they remind me of the puzzles I used to do in The Duelist magazine about 20 years ago, when I was big into Magic: The Gathering.

Final Fantasy III (DS remake) - I finally knocked a few minutes into playing this, before taking it and all my other DS games and trading them all in. Not much to say, other than it's FF, and why the hell isn't the action ever on the top screen? Total loss on this, by the way. I bought it new in Japan, and even had the cool strategy guide to go with it, which I gave up for a mere buck alongside the game. Oh well, not like I was ever going to use it, anyway.

Kurohyou: Ryu Ga Gotoku Shinshou (Yakuza spinoff for PSP) - This was also a quick try-out before trade-in job. It's a Yakuza game, that much is certain. I thought it looked nice enough on the PSP. Series diehards or PSP gamers not already tired of the series should take interest. It's only available in Japan, however, and these games are heavy and deep with the sort of high-level and macho- slang Japanese that many non-native speakers will have trouble understanding (from my own experience).

Wipeout 2048 - I thought I'd played this one before, but I suppose not. It was only for about 20 minutes late at night when I was practically falling asleep, but I was pretty impressed by how well it looked and felt. I did a handful of races and placed decently among my friends, and I'm looking forward to playing more.

Borderlands 2 - I have merely begun, playing Maya the Siren, and having just beat the first boss, a sasquatch type thing in the ice that was bothering a claptrap. I've got to play more to rally form up an impression.

Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition - A gift from Esteban. I haven't really played SF since HD Remix, and that only casually. Before that the last one I really played much of was Super SFII on the SNES. Wow, it's a nice looking game, and it runs flawlessly on the PC. What really pushed me over the edge in wanting to play it (and now wanting to play more), was hearing of the feasibility of playing with a keyboard. It's not something I'd ever considered, but taken logically, there's no reason it should not work, and in practice I found it shockingly easy to pull off special moves, if not completely second-nature in the way that playing with a pad is. I think the keyboard layout is fundamentally better suited to the game than the average 4-button control pad, simply due to the six-button layout possible on the NumPad (4-7, with other keys for button combos), but also due to the ability to use A,S,D, and space directions (space being up/jump). It sounds ridiculous at first, but in practice, wow. It works. With some practice and getting used to, there's no reason at all this control scheme should not be competetive with, or even superior to, other input methods.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book 3

Reading-wise, I finished up book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire, and am into book 3 now on my reread. It's hard to tell due to the way all four of the first books are packed together on this kindle bundle, but I am guessing I must be about halfway through A Storm of Swords. There are three weddings in this book, and one has come and gone, the least remarkable of the three. A character has been maimed, two large cities sacked, and a cloak once turned, turned back. I'm really looking forward to books 4 and 5 again, since watching the show through season 4 was a good refresher on the first three books, the next two are much more shrouded in the mists of forgetfulness.

Strategy Potpurri & Et Cetera

I'm taking a break from Hearthstone. That game pisses me off. It feels like too much hinges on the luck of the draw. It's like the decks aren't big enough to mitigate it through card variety and multiple strategies per deck. Also the fact that you can only play as a single class and use a pool of neutral cards. Multi-classing would be an interesting thing to see added.

I've kind of been bitten by the strategy bug lately. A friend of the podcast sent me a Steam coupon for 90% off a game called Conquest of Elysium 3, which turned out to be a cool 4X-style game pared down to the raw essentials. The production values are nil, but the core of the game is quite cool. The thing is, every time I quit out of the game, it would glitch up my Steam client, necessitating a trip to the task manager to kill the whole thing and restart. Not cool. I wouldn't mind seeing a better-done version of that game, though.

I also played the beginning stages of a Civ V game as Shaka of the Zulu. I didn't like how things were headed, though, so I killed that game. I wanted to try out Endless Space, since it looked cool and I had heard good things and I already owned it. It certainly looks nice and seems playable enough, but again I wasn't satisfied with my ability to understand an play the game, so I gave up and moved on. On to Crusader Kings II, which I still don't know that I quite understand. I sort of played around with it for a couple of hours as a middle-tier lord, of Luxemburg. I managed to find a wife and produce a few children, so that was good. An ill-fated war effort followed, and then me wondering what I should be doing aside from just letting the game play itself out over the years, me making the odd decision here and there. If that's how the game is played, I may prefer a more hands-on game. I guess I'll try again with EU IV at some point.

Also on the tactics/strategy tip, I tried out Guardians of Middle Earth an Defense Grid: The Awakening. The former is a console-adapted MOBA that no one plays anymore, and the latter is a well done tower defense game, probably the best I've seen, actually. I might play more of it, or check out the sequel.

Revisiting Half-Life 2 yet again, I made some substantial progress, getting all the way through Nova Prospekt and back to City 17, where I am now on my way the Citadel. Along the way were a couple of challenging encounters around turret-placement and enemy wave defense. It's a great game, with a great feel.

A couple of new ones on the playlist that I plan to re-visit are Mount and Blade (I'm just getting started, here), and Colin McRae Rally, which I had time to mess around with for a few minutes, but that's all, so far.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book 2

I tore through A Game of Thrones in just over a week, and now I'm well into A Clash of Kings, as well. I see no reason not to continue right on through all five books, while the notion has taken hold of me so tightly. It helps that I can read on my breaks at work or while waiting at the DMV or such places, using the kindle app on my phone. I am still reading every day, but not at quite the breakneck speed I had for the first book. Books 2 and 3 are quite long, so I'm trying to maintain a good pace, but not overdo it. There's not much else I'd rather be reading than this series, right now.

Words Are Wind

Despite my best intentions, I never get around to playing what I think I'll play. Zero minutes of Mass Effect 3 played since last I wrote here. I have dabbled in several things, but committed to nothing. To recount:

Dota 2 - The International 4 happened over the past couple of weeks. I thought I might watch some, and play some, turns out I had only time for one game in either category. I want to play more, because Dota is a ton of fun. It's discouraging, though, to know that I'll never be better than more than about 3 in 10 players. I feel this way about most multi-player games, these days. Kids and the childless and the underemployed have it so nice, with ample time to get good.

Vlad the Impaler - A cool text adventure game with a gothic horror motif, set in Istanbul during the time of Vlad Tepes. It's like someone made this just for me. There are different choices to make in character creation and in your investigations that drive the narrative forward, and different outcomes to the whole thing. It's good.

A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda - very obviously heavily derivative of Mega Man games, but with some new twists, including analog 360-degree firing and the ability to construct consumables and upgrades from scrap dropped by enemies. It seemed cool if that's the type of thing you were looking for, games which are in short supply in this day and age, and native to the PC. This was part of my knock-em-off-the-backlog initiative.

Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny - I'd played Wolf 3D before, but not a hell of a lot of it. I picked it up the other day in the Quake-Con related Steam sale, along with the expansion and Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Boy, are these games tough to return to. Having to hold down a key in order to strafe is a deal-breaker. This and the older Doom games both are better in retrospect than to actually sit down and try to play with a modern control scheme. Unmodded, their mouse implementations are so foreign to modern conventions that it is debilitating. Quake fares much better, with a little tweaking of the options--and Quake is a better game, as well, much as I love the Dooms.

Goat Simulator - I guess we broke this out again, not too long ago. It's fun to fly around with the controllable jetpack mutator installed. I wish there were more areas to the game, but it is just a dumb toy, after all.

Hearthstone - I'm not sure what happened here, but apparently I am back to grinding out daily quests in order to collect more cards to build a good Shaman deck. I think that's my favorite class, for now at least. The Naxxramus expansions comes out today, or the first part of it does, at least. That will be interesting to check out.

Minecraft - Because there's just nothing like it for getting into a world and going exploring. Cube World is cool, too, but I kind of felt more like wandering and less like fighting.

Destiny beta - On the PS3, even. I like it. It's Halo crossed with Diablo but without Borderlands' questionable sensibilities. I wonder how much actual content there is, here. Every mission I've been on save the multi-player modes have been on the same big map. It is fun, though maybe only just engaging enough. How the story stuff plays out and how much of the rest of the solar system we get to see and how varied the play can be with only three character classes and limited amounts of enemies all remains to be seen. I'm keeping my PS3 pre-order, content with how it performs (freely online, I might add), though I am still hoping for a PC version.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Revisiting an Old Favorite

On reading, I've really upped my intensity, lately. I've been reading every day, I'm proud to say.

I finished Nemesis, the latest novel of the Horus Heresy I was reading. It was a pretty cool story of two star-crossed and doomed assassination missions targeting Horus Lupercal and The Emperor himself. Pulpy, and none too consequential to the overall Heresy arc, but fun.

I'm reading through The Ninja, the (mostly) non-fiction historical account of Japan's famous secretive and independent feudal warrior groups based in the Iga and Koga regions. It's kind of hit-or-miss for me, so far, with maybe a little too much about the philosophy of ninpo, or ninjutsu, but interesting, if probably, in some cases, apocryphal historical accounts of Daimyo such as Tokugawa Ieyasu employing the shinobi no mono.

Over the last few weeks I watched seasons 3 and 4 of HBO's Game of Thrones, and that made me want to go back and reread the books, since it has been a decade or more ago that I read the first four. I'm well into A Game of Thrones now, and I think I'll make it through this first book, at least. The meat that I really want to get to is a reread of books 4 and 5--the parts of the story where the HBO series has strayed, or at least not advanced far enough to cover, yet. There have been a time or two that I sat down with this first book and half-heartedly began a reread, making it perhaps a hundred pages in before setting it aside. I must be a good third of the way in, now, though. I think it's going to stick this time. It's been long enough, but at the same time I have my familarity with the TV show's material to check and compare versus the content of the books, which makes the reread pretty interesting. Seeing Littlefinger setting up Ned and Catelyn so early on in the first book, for instance. Seeing Tyrion and Jon's kinship. The early signs of what a monster Joffrey becomes. Not only getting all the ancient history characters talk about, but at the same time understanding how it underpins their actions thus far and the ones they will take in the future. It's good stuff.