Tuesday, March 13, 2018

I Guess I Asked For This

I've been playing a lot of Deus Ex: Human Revolution over the last week or so. I thought about returning to it to play something stealthy and because it was keeping with the theme of cybernetic augmentation present in XCOM: Enemy Within.

I'm not sure it's quite as good as I had expected or hoped, though. The options for navigating through the world are varied enough that you are not usually forced down a single path, but instead are given two or three routes to get to your prescribed destination, one of which is usually through some vents. I am thinking a lot of players and critics may have been taken in by the illusion of choice in this game. Next to Dishonored, the options appear very limited indeed.

I also question how varied it is possible to develop your Adam Jensen over the course of the game. There are only so many abilities you can use skill points to buy, and the game seems long enough that by the end you will accrue enough points to buy about every ability available.

One thing I like is that there is a shotgun-analog among the non-lethal weapon types. This allows you to knock out 2-3 guards at once whenever you accidentally raise an alarm, meaning you have more options than just quickloading when things go awry. Of course the most fun toys like the minigun and rocket launcher only do lethal damage, but even they come in handy when you are subjected to mandatory lethal boss fights, which is another iffy design decision at hand here.

Of course, the art is nice and very cohesive. It's not a terrible game, but in a lot of respects I feel like I'm constantly seeing the artifice that went into creating it. I'm sure its not just that the game is 7 years old now, and that everyone was a little naive when it first came out. Dishonored was released only the following year and I feel like it is a much better and more realized immersive sim. I'll keep playing it for now. I must be about two thirds through the game at this point.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Xenos Downed

I wrapped up my Enemy Within campaign, and my time with the 2012 XCOM series revival, this weekend. I ended up losing 4 nations from the council before stabilizing. I incorporated a MEC trooper into my permanent squad formation in place of one of the Assaults I had used previously, taking one of all 5 squad roles (MEC being the 5th), and a second Support.

Things started to turn around for this campaign as I got up more satellites, and was finally able to progress the main story by building the alien containment facility, capture some live aliens, and mount an attack on their base, while also fending off EXALT raids through covert operations. Eventually I both raided and destroyed both enemy factions' hideouts, and was raided in turn by the aliens, who lost grievously versus my well armed and experienced squaddies and a bunch of rookies. From there it was just a matter of encountering Etherials, researching psionics, and getting the last bit of research and tech-ing up done that was needed before I boarded the aliens' temple ship. The mission went off without a hitch.

After it was done I played another session to try and mop up a few achievements within reach. There are still others I could go for, but I feel like I've reached a stopping point. I'm planning to pick up XCOM 2 the next time I get a craving for the game. It's been a great time going at it intensively over the last few weeks.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Enemy Within

I've been away from gaming at large for a week or so, having to schedule a quick trip to my hometown due to my dad's death. I'm back home now and back more or less to normal, now.

During my time away I only briefly played some New Super Mario Bros. 2. I finished out the World 2 of that game. It plays like a New Super Mario Bros. game, by and large. It's solid.

I did manage to finish my campaign in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It was my first victory. My first soldier with psionic abilities was absolutely clutch in the final mission. At one point he smoked two fresh Sectopods with a single critical psi storm ability. I believe he was a heavy, with the ability to double all damage to robotic enemies. They took 17 points each, and were insta-fried.

I'm now working on a campaign of Enemy Within, which so far seems a little bit overwhelming with new features. I've probably gone a little too far into cybernetic upgrades so far, not realizing my soldiers would lose their former classes in doing so. Now I am down to only a single assault and support trooper, while I have entirely too many heavies and snipers. I will need to get in some new recruits to hopefully get a couple more of each class I need, to ensure there is always one available and not wounded and recovering. I haven't delved into the genetic modding side of the expansion yet, but I am on my first covert operative recovery mention against the Exalt faction.

This new campaign is off to a somewhat rocky start, having lost 2 countries from the initiative so far,and being slow to accomplish priority tasks. I have built a stunner, but have yet to construct a live alien containment facility yet. I also have several nations at mid-to-high tier panic, so I'm worried about losing continent bonuses or even losing too many nations to continue, period. If this campaign fails, I'll have to be smarter about satellite coverage next time. I may be able to stabilize, though.

XCOM has finally hooked me in the way I knew it should have when I bought it over 5 years ago, now. I hope to finish a campaign of Enemy Within and then move on to XCOM 2.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Blasting and Backlogging

While I'm deep in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I've been trying to play something new each week from the backlog.

Offspring Fling! - This must have come from an indie bundle at some point. It's a puzzle game where you play a forest creature who must navigate puzzle/platform levels while finding and ushering her offspring through them to the exit. One of the main things you can do to that end is to pick them up and hurl them across the level in a straight line. They will continue on all the way across without dropping at all until they hit something that obstructs their path, and then drop straight down. The levels couple this fact and the fact that the offspring are stacked on your character's head, increasing her height, and necessitating tunnels with a higher clearance, to come up with navigation and dexterity challenges. From the outset, there are 100 levels, mostly confined to a single screen, at least through the first 49 that I saw. It's a kind of cool little game, with a decent challenge curve as you get into it. After about an hour I had had enough, though. It's more than I can say for a lot of games, though.

Pokemon Picross - Picross is almost its own genre of puzzle game as far as I know. You have a grid of squares, most puzzles being 10x10, it seems, and you have to shade some of them in, based on numeric hints as to the number in the row or column to be shaded in each before there is an unshaded square or squares. When the puzzle is complete, the shaded squares make up an image of some sort. Pokemon Picross adds the wrinkle of a Pokemon theme, Pokemon bonuses at the outset or in the middle of each puzzle (reveal a few squares' true natures, etc.), and the F2P staple "energy" mechanic, which is just a progress gate that can be passed by paying a little money or by coming back after a timer has counted down. You also need to earn gems to move on to the next puzzle. It strikes me as Nintendo or The Pokemon Company's first foray into the mobile/F2P games paradigm, though this was a (free) 3DS game. The Pokemon and F2P trappings only serve to put me off, but I don't really know if I find Picross itself very interesting, either. It's not entirely dissimilar to Hexcells, but for some reason doesn't click with me at all in the way that game does.

Mostly, I have been laser-focused on XCOM in the last week or so. I finally managed to win a raid on the aliens' base, and now have my squad all up to colonel or major rank, all with titan armor and plasma weapons, and now I'm beginning to create advanced fighter aircraft to shoot down UFOs with weapons that will minimize damage to the alien craft. My satellite coverage is almost complete, though two nations have pulled out of the project. The next big task is to build the base facility for psionics and delve into that. I think I'll also get a couple of suits of the final armor types that offer stealth/flight/psi abilities and bonuses, as well. With luck I'll also be able to research and develop everything in one campaign. This one should prove winnable, now, I'm confident, especially considering that I can save scum if I need to. It's just a matter of time, I think, but I do need to be diligent in accomplishing the council's goals.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Primarchs: The First Batch

Between books of the Horus Heresy series proper, I've been dipping into the parallel Primarchs sub-series. It's six books strong as of now, with more coming out just about monthly, with audio dramas and short stories in tow as well, unfolding in the same manner as The Horus Heresy, Warhammer 40,000 fiction as a whole, and just about everything Black Library deals in these days.

Leman Russ: The Great Wolf - A tale of early on in the Great Crusade, with an episode after the siege of Terra, set within the framing device of an older Leman Russ telling a tale to the first Space Wolf to be raised, after the second founding, to the chapter of the same name rather than the legion. It's an interesting look into some internal dynamics of the legion, including how they view themselves in contrast to their cousins of the other legions. The Lion and the Dark Angels appear here too, and the storied duel of the primarchs is part of the tale.

Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia - The origin story of Perturabo couched within the story of the Iron Warrors' grueling campaign against the alien Hrud and their return to Perturabo's home world to put down it's rebellion against the Imperium. This is where Perturabo breaks, and everything that comes after begins to make more sense having read this narrative.

Lorgar: Bearer of the Word - The intertwined stories of the emergence of Lorgar and Kor Phaeron, who, at least for a time, was closely associated with the primarch of the Word Bearers legion. We see how Lorgar, Aurelian, the Urizen, came to be the spiritual leader of the world of Colchis, and get some insight into what drives him to keep looking for truth in the galaxy and in the warp, even after being sanctioned by The Emperor for his habit of worship, which is contra to the Imperial Truth.

Book 48 of the main series is out now, and I'm going to read that next.

Monday, February 5, 2018

New? Video Games

I noticed a theme among the games I've been playing in the last week. New Super Mario Bros. 2, Geometry Wars 2, Spelunky, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown are all newer takes of previous games or series.

Geometry Wars 2 is the sequel to Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, which was an HD realization of the bonus mini-game Geometry Wars, which I believe was playable in Project Gotham Racing on the original Xbox. This is one of my favorites of my time with the Xbox 360, and I was able to play it for a little while via a friend's Xbox One's backward compatibility over the weekend, which was cool. It's one of the best arcade-style games I've ever played.

Spelunky is really also known as Spelunky HD, and it's the fully realized version of an older freeware game, I think. I've heard there are some play differences, and that it's not just a visual remake, but having never played the original, I don't know what those are. I still have yet to best Olmec, but I keep trying.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is of course the modern revival of a very ancient and venerable series known variously as UFO: Enemy Unknown or X-COM: UFO Defense. It's a fantastic game that delivers on nearly everything the original also succeeded at, but greatly modernized and streamlined. I'm at the point in my current campaign, which is going much more smoothly than any previous, where I can assault an alien base. I should probably do that soon, but I want to continue to tech up at least to the point where I can use some improved body armor before I try that mission.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the sequel to New Super Mario Bros., itself a reinvention of the Mario franchise in 2D. It seems to stick mostly to the beats established by its predecessor, but with an increased emphasis on coin collecting. I'm not sure how much of an impact that has on the game as a whole quite yet, though, having only just made it to the second world.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Plugging Away/Revisiting

I mentioned appreciating my good Warhammer 40,000 games in my last entry. Space Marine is one such game. Always good for a quick taste of the power and majesty of what it is like to blast some orks as one of Primarch Guilliman's finest, the Ultramarines. I wanted to see if anyone was playing the multiplayer mode of this still, in light of Eternal Crusade seeming dead. No luck, at least not at that time. I may try again sometime, but even if no one is playing, the campaign is still pretty cool.

Another game I jumped into for a little bit on a whim was Just Cause 2. It's just a big open-world playground where the object of the game is literally just to go in and cause chaos around the countryside to somehow whip up enough anti-government sentiment to topple it. It's ludicrous, but the game world is a gorgeous tropical paradise where everything can be flown or driven, and the character has a great grapple-arm and parachute combination to make the most of doing daring stunts.

I accidentally clicked on Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin Edition in my library the other day, but I might have carried on playing it had my save from the original version of the game been usable. Alas, it was not, so at some point I will have to restart the game in this version. That will be fun, when the time comes.

I have made record progress through Spelunky. I managed to get the Tunnel Man everything he needed to open up a permanent shortcut to the temple zone, and I've been running nothing but that zone ever since, trying to familiarize myself with its traps and denizens. It is by far the most ruthless set of stages yet. I've made it through to Olmec several times, but have yet to manage to beat him and win the game. That is my next goal. Eventually I would like to be able to go from the entrance of the caves through Olmec, and even on to the hell zone. Who knows if I'll ever be able to pull that off, though.

I also continue to make progress through The Witcher 3. I am to the point now where I am ready to rescue Dandelion from his captors. I have seen Triss and the other mages off from Novigrad with the help of the former Redanian spymaster, Sigi I think he's called. Next I'm going to pay a visit to the sorceress Philippa Eilhart at the request of the Redanian King Radovan. I think I'm getting these names right. I've also been going around Velen doing low level quests, trying to catch up my quest log to my character level. There's a lot in this game.

I've also found myself playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within again lately. I'm allowing myself to reload after bad moves this time, and things are shaping up well for the very early stages of this campaign. I've just finished the first month and have already captured a live Sectoid for research and I'm working on unlocking beam weapons, now. This is such a cool game.

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.

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
The Master of Mankind
Praetorian of Dorn
Angels of Caliban
The Silent War
The Path of Heaven
Eye of Terra
The Ninja
War Without End

Previous years' tallies:


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 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:


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!