Monday, April 18, 2016

Vacation Download

I've done a fair amount of reading and gaming over the last 3 weeks or so of being abroad in Japan. Mostly, though, I took the opportunity to catch up on some TV and movies, though they're beyond the purview of this blog, like games on mobile platforms (which I do play, sometimes, but have decided not to write about here).

A booklog update first, then. I finished Mark of Calth, a Horus Heresy short story collection about the ongoing war on Calth after the Word Bearers' sneak attack on the Ultramarines there, which occurred in Know No Fear. I also began reading Vulkan Lives, about the titular Primarch of the XVIII legion, Salamanders, and their background and place in the widening conflict of Horus' treachery, still widening as it is in this, the 26th book on the subject. I do love them, though.

I almost hesitate to mention it, but I've gotten into some comics lately. I've been reading The Walking Dead regularly for years, but only recently, in the wake of The Force Awakens, have picked up three new ongoing Star Wars books, as well, Darth Vader first, and over my vacation, Star Wars proper as well as the newest one, Poe Dameron's ongoing series. The first two take place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and the Poe book, of which there is only one issue at the moment, is set before The Force Awakens. These are all pretty good, and are part of the new canon, as well. I also read a random All New X-Men trade a friend had given me a digital copy of, and that was interesting, as someone who hasn't read an X-Men comic more or less since the mid '90s.

Games, though. I had access to my brother-in-law's PS4 while staying at his house, so I had a chance to play both Tom Clancy's The Division and Bloodborne.

The Division - solid cover shooter, decent amount of fun. Could not care any less about the setting or looting of parkas and other winter gear. Server woes put me off it after reaching about level 7, I think, and nothing pulled me back.

Bloodborne - To be honest it mostly just strikes me as another Souls game, though I admittedly did not get very far in. I killed the Cleric Beast and was working on Father Gascoine before we had to leave. I don't remember what class I was, but I was using the trick cane whip weapon, which was cool. I bought a Japanese copy of this game, so I still have it in my possession, but it's all in Japanese, which makes getting the lore difficult, since this is written at a level higher than my proficiency. I'd need to a) buy a PS4 b) bone up on the kanji and vocabulary to delve any deeper.

I also got in some good time on my Vita.

Tactics Ogre - I'm stuck at a part where I need to do some grinding. It's my fault; I was foolishly trying to level up too many different classes at once, and experience points were being divvied up over too many categories as a result, and now my classes are all somewhat behind the curve for critical path battles, the next of which happens to feature a bunch of dragons that no one in my party can seem to do much damage to, for the moment. I've fixed the classing issue, and just need to do the grinding now, to move forward.

Spelunky - I ran the daily when I thought to do so, and also ran a some practice runs, as well. I'm still not good, though.

Being back from vacation now, I'm not sure what I'll pick up, next. I do need to make progress with my RPGs and RTSs, but I may also ease back into Dark Souls with an eye at eventually finishing that game sometime.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

All Playing All Preparing

I guess it slipped my mind just how many games I've played over the last week or so since the last update. I went to update thinking I didn't have much to write about, but in making the list discovered otherwise.

First up, the T game in my alphabetical backlog tour: Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers. You're thinking, what the fuck is this? I was too. I'm guessing this made it into my library as part of an indie game bundle at some point. It's a 3D platformer with physics puzzles and a snazzy graphical and musical style. The plot, if you can call it that, is nonsensical, but that's not the real star here, anyway. Tiny and Big is about navigation and manipulation of the environment. You have 3 primary tools in addition to your jump, a cutter for slicing and parting objects in the environment, a grapple to pull them, and an attachable rocket to propel them. Combined with large and malleable levels, it makes for a pretty fun and interesting game. I finished the tutorial and 2-3 levels.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is another Diablo clone I had in my library, and the mood struck, so I gave it a go. It's very well executed, if overwhelming at first with the amount of decisions it wants you to make about how to spec your character very early in the game. I found it to be completely competent, but not very interesting, otherwise. I've always loved Castlevania, Diablo, Dracula, and that sort of classic gothic horror, but the variant on offer here doesn't resonate enough to keep me playing and essentially duplicating to no end effort that could go into one of my D3 characters to more of a substantial sense of progression. Neocore Games, the folks behind this, are now working on Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor - Martyr, which I think I would like to partake in, when that appears.

Spelunky - I continue to run dailies to little avail.

Castlevania SOTN - Just a few minutes for that tactile flavor.

Dark Souls - Reinstalled the game and DSfix. I'd like to actually finish it at some point.

Dragon Age II - Ran a couple of quests, getting the ball rolling to continue and finish later.

Dawn of War II: Retribution - Playing The Last Stand here and there.

SF2 Turbo HD Remix - Got completely dominated by a normal AI DeeJay repeatedly. I've never been good, but this is ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Well, I finally did it. I finally put the cap on the Mass Effect trilogy. Overall, I was pretty satisfied with how things wrapped up for me. If I have any real regrets, it's that rushing through ME3 to some extent locked me out of a few quests, and caused the death of Miranda when I would really have liked to see her live. The other, from earlier in the saga, might choosing Morinth over Samara in ME2, though that certainly made for an interesting decision.

I had a pretty simple play style, as an Infiltrator with a single-shot, high-powered sniper rifle. Stealth up, headshot an enemy, duck back into cover, reload, and repeat. It was really satisfying, though. Most things died in a single hit, and I usually took Liara (biotic) and either Javik, James, or Ashley (assault) with me to round out the squad. I almost never used Garrus in ME3, just because he and I seemed to overlap too much in skillsets.

Here's looking forward to Andromeda.

That makes two titles off my prospectus altogether, and I'm making progress in a few others, as well. After finishing ME3, I immediately reinstalled Dragon Age II, and hopped back into that for a little bit to see if I could pick up where I left off. I don't think it'll be a problem to see that game through to the end, as well, sometime this year.

Mass Effect 3
The Witcher 3
The Walking Dead Season 2
Dawn of War II: Retribution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
X-Com: Enemy Unknown
Warcraft III
StarCraft II
Dragon Age II
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Wasteland 2
Baldur's Gate II

I'm also maintaining the Spelunky daily challenge, as I mentioned before. I'm not back to the level of skill and proficiency with the game I used to have, but hopefully I'll get there.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Focus Fire!

I've been concentrating on Mass Effect 3 lately. There's a lot of stuff in this game. I've finished most of the base game now, maybe 80% if I had to guess, as well as the Leviathan post-release DLC module, and am currently in the middle of another, Omega. After that there is the final DLC, Citadel, to do, along with progressing through to the end of the campaign against the Reapers.

I've been mostly sticking to the renegade option, but going with the paragon one with Shepard's close friends when that seemed appropriate. Garrus, Liara, Ashley, and Tali from past games have all joined the crew, along with EDI, Javik, and James. Mordin, Thane, and Legion all gave their lives to the struggle, while Jack, Jacob, Grunt, Wrex, Miranda, Morinth, Kasumi, and Zaeed are all out there doing various things, as far as I know.

Elsewhere, I've been running the Spelunky daily challenge again, looking forward to wasting some time on that during my upcoming Japan trip. I also played around with Super Crate Box on the PC for a bit. I'd played the un-controllable iOS version before, but it was awful to grapple with sans buttons. With a proper man-machine interface, though, it's good fun.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Old, Old, Favorites

A few games of the past have been popping up recently.

I want to finish off Mass Effect 3 before my upcoming trip to Japan, and I'm working on that. I just put down an attempted coup on the Citadel by the human councilor Udina, and I think that puts me at about the halfway mark.

It was in thinking about the upcoming trip though, that I caught myself charging up my Vita and jumping back into a couple of games on that platform, Spelunky, enough of which I have already written about here, but also Tactics Ogre. TO is a game I began way back in, it must have been 2010. I've spent about 35 hours or so on my save, and I'm still, or rather, once again, working through that game. I couldn't tell you what the plot is about, at this point, but I still remember how to play it, and you can go back and watch all of the cutscenes anytime. You can, in fact, at some point, go back to the various forks in the game's path and explore the other branches, as well. I'd like to be that thorough with it at some point.

I also continue to play Devil Daggers and enjoy Talisman: The Horus Heresy, and I choose those words carefully.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

New Arrivals Appear On The Scene

Two new contenders for GOTY have appeared this week! Devil Daggers and Talisman: The Horus Heresy. Here are my top 4 2016 releases thus far, in no particular order:

The Witness
Devil Daggers
Talisman: The Horus Heresy

Just so I don't forget what actually came out this year that I have played. It is paramount that I have a definitive, rigorously considered GOTY each year, of course.

What I have been playing lately:

Rocket League - a few matches the other night. There really is something great about a 5 minute round of something as a palate cleanser or itch scratcher. This game is really lots of unadulterated fun, too. The production values are nice and crisp--Rocket League is just a great package all around.

Elite - I'm back to long-range exploration as my main modus operandi. I took a trip our to the Merope system in the Pleides nebula the other day to get a first-hand look at the "barnacles" that have been found out there. Getting to the system was a cinch in my exploration-optimized Asp, but getting to the specified coordinates on the planet was a real bear. It was a very cool thing to do, though. After that I returned to civilization to top off my hull repair, sell data, and dove back into the abyss. I'm working on a roundabout way toward VY Canis Majoris, this trip. I should mention that I also made a trip to Betelgeuse before going to Merope. Betelgeuse is very near the settled bubble, and an impressively large star. Unfortunately, like an idiot, within just a few light-seconds of a dock to sell that data, I decided to check out a Distress Call instance. Never again. I was torn apart by multiple assailants with no provocation and before I could even get my FSD more than a third of the way charged. And this was with 5D shields! Live and learn, and that was at least a million credits down the drain, figuring in re-buy costs.

Mass Effect 3 - I cured the Genophage, and won the support of both the Krogan and Turians in my galaxy-spanning war on the Reapers. It sounds like a real feat, but it only took less than a couple of hours. I have a lot of side quests to be doing, and I'm going to have to mediate a conflict between the Quarians and the Geth at some point, I know. There's still a lot of game left here. I should finish it before going to Japan for a few weeks in about a month's time.

Devil Daggers - This game came out of nowhere, as far as I'm concerned. I first saw a screenshot of the title screen on twitter, and then it was everywhere. It's Geometry Wars but in Quake, in a nutshell. The single round, one hit death, survive as long as you can play of the former in the perspective and motif of the former. The object of the game is primarily just to survive as long as possible, and presumably also to collect as many red gems as possible, which are dropped by certain enemy types. I'm guessing collecting enough will trigger some sort of power up. This game is very difficult, and very addicting. It is also very, very intense. It's a blast, as I love the feel and look of it. I'm currently at the top of my friends' leaderboard, though there is only one other person on it, with a time of 62-some-odd seconds.

Talisman: The Horus Heresy - It's Talisman Digital themed in my favorite Warhammer setting and characters. I was naturally going to pick this up, loving the license and liking the game well enough. I've played 4 games so far, trying out different characters, who all have unique traits. There is a very heavy luck component to any game of Talisman, this one being no exception. In my last game as Konrad Curze, I wandered around the periphery of the board barely accruing any strength or resources at all, where my partner Angron (this version is team-based, rather than a free-for-all) snowballed early and rolled right through all comers to slay The Emperor very quickly and win the game for us. It's only lightly interactive, and mostly dependent on dice rolls and card draws, so strategy is less emphasized, but I enjoy a game of Talisman here and there, and as an unrepentant Horus Heresy enthusiast, I'll be playing this game quite a bit in the future, I think.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Play Salad

I've been into a ton of different things in the past few days:

Firewatch - I finished it. It was alright, overall, but I didn't end up liking it as much as I anticipated. Maybe I was just not in the mindspace for this type of thing. The high points are the style of the game's art and believable characters on display, though I don't quite buy that it is set in the mid '80s when the characters speak the way they do. Something about it just seemed off. Hiking around the nature areas was nice, but got old kind of quickly, and I was soon dashing everywhere, and dashing through to the end of the game.

Torchlight II - I'm not sure why, now, but something made me want to go back to revisit this game, as I felt like we had unfinished business. I feel like I'm finished with it now, though. I realized while playing it for a while that I wasn't particularly in love with either the play or the world in this game, and my time would be better spent elsewhere.

Borderlands 2 - Same story here as above. I haven't been able to get into Borderlands 2 for whatever reason, after a couple of tries. I played all the way through the first and all the DLC for it, and while I do enjoy the combat in these games, the randomly generated guns don't really do all that much for me, and I don't particularly like the world they've built here, unique though it is. I could play any number of other shooters and probably eventually find one that clicks in a way that this one doesn't.

Tomb Raider II - Another game not really on my backlog, since I did play all the way through it back at release on the original PlayStation, but that I did want to revisit. I bought the entire collection of Tomb Raider games on Steam a while back, and I want to try each of them out, for a while at least. I never played past the second when these were contemporary, nor ever played Legend, Anniversary, or Underworld in later years. The next TR game I played after II was actually the 2013 reboot. I still really like these original games in the series. No other game has done quite this sort of 3D world navigation puzzle with a very well defined move set and a collection of levels planned out so exactly. I hypothesize that the advent of the analog stick cut short this evolutionary path in gaming.

Rocket League - It continues to be a great game to dip into for a few minutes at a time as a break here and there during the day, or in the evening as a warm-up for more serious fare.

The Witness - The more serious fare, often. I've made some really good progress lately. I'm up past 250 puzzles solved now, I think, with 5 or 6 laser beams activated. I really like this game.

X-COM Enemy Unknown - My campaign continues. I'm at a stage where I have to infiltrate an alien base, and I'm just trying to build up resources and prepare my squad before doing that. I don't know if it's time sensitive or not, but it probably is, at least in the sense that alien activity is going to keep happening, and I can never address all instances of it. Eventually everyone will just pull out of the whole X-COM project. One nation already has, Russia, if memory serves.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - I have a game in progress that I am half-serious about completing, and that I keep going back to when I feel like a quick hit of action play and the PS3 is on, usually because Mia and Juno have been watching something.

Elite Dangerous - I finally made it back to civilized space with my tons of exploration data, and sold it, making about 8 million credits, which was enough to bankroll the best FSD available for my Asp, as well as other improvements, and now I'm off out into the black for another run. I don't know where I'm headed, other than to the bottom of the galaxy, and rimward of the bubble of settled systems. One of the new toys I want to test out is my SRV, the rover that can be deployed to drive around the surfaces of planets (rocky and non-atmospheric, for the time being). I need to do more and longer expeditions if I'm going to make enough money to buy an Anaconda or other large ship, and if I'm going to rank up to Elite in exploration. These are long, long, long term goals. I can play CQC mode in between bouts of jump, scan, jump, scan, jump, scan, and so on.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Steady As She Goes

The Ship is an older entry in my Steam library. As I recall, everyone who purchased the game ended up with a few free copies to give away to others. They were as common as dirt for a while, it seemed. I finally decided to try the game out, since it began with S, and I could at once knock out three separate entries in my unplayed Steam list (The Ship, The Ship Tutorial, and The Ship Single Player). It's a mainly multiplayer game of the type where every player is given one other player to kill, while avoiding being killed by whomever is hunting them. At the same time, your character has various needs that need to be met, such as having to eat, drink, sleep, shower, urinate, socialize, read, et cetera. The game is a balancing act of hunting, evasion, and character upkeep on a Titanic-era ship on the high seas. It's a good idea, and seems to have been executed competently. It's a shame then, that several years on, there are no players on the servers. It does have a functional bunch of bots you can play against, at least to get a sense of how the game is supposed to play, and the single player mode is a sort of campaign-tutorial mélange that seemed to mean well, but lacked a quick save, meaning lots of repetition. No, thank you.

Horizons, the first major expansion to Elite: Dangerous was on sale recently, so I added that to my game and was able to make my first planetary landing on a random body in a random system still several hundred LY outside of civilized space. I don't have a rover yet, so landing is really all I can do, but it was still cool.  When I get the feeling, I'll make my way back to civilization and hopefully be able to make some money from my exploration data to then afford one of the rovers. They look like a lot of fun!

Progressing through some of my 2016 planned gaming syllabus, I have been working on both XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Dawn of War II: Retribution. I suppose the XCOM2 hype and rave reviews have influenced me some, but I've gained some ground on my Normal Ironman campaign. I still feel overwhelmed and lack satellite coverage, but I may be able to claw my way to success with some luck. I've never made it even this far in a campaign, though, so who can say? I ran one mission in Retribution last week, but it's got me wanting to run more. I'm playing it through as the Blood Raven Space Marine squad this first time, at least. It might be interesting to try some of the other factions, too.

A quick update on The Witness: I keep returning to this game and managing to figure out a little bit, and make a little bit of progress before being stumped and putting it down. Figuring out the rules that govern a set of puzzles is a really nice feeling, though. It makes me want to go back and keep trying until I figure it all out.

Firewatch has just come out, the walk and talk first person exploration and drama game from the new studio Campo Santo, made up of people formerly of Telltale Games, Double Fine, Irrational, Klei, and others, I'm sure, as well as members of the popular Idle Thumbs video games podcast. It features art by artist Olly Moss, whose style is very full of visual wordplay. You play one of those people that goes and spends the summer in a giant watchtower out in the wilderness and watches for brushfires and acts as a sort of deputy park ranger. Henry (his name) has some personal issues and he is in contact with Delilah, another firewatcher, and they talk a lot on the radio while interesting things occur in the parklands. I'm investigating a bit of a mystery at the point I'm at, now.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Witness The Turn

I'm at a pivot point.

I finally finished Knights of the Old Republic, as a Jedi Revan. I even managed to win Bastila back to the light side after she had been turned by Darth Malak while in his hands. Malak was killed, undone by his own hubris and the weaknesses of the dark side in the end. Isn't that always the way? It felt good to finally conclude the business between myself and this game after such a long time. I'm really looking forward to the Obsidian Studios-developed sequel which I'll play at some point.

For backlog diligence this week, I tried out Rage, the id Software shooter from 2011. Megatextures. It's got a great look, technically, and if it weren't for Borderlands already doing something similar, and more recently Mad Max itself entering gaming, Rage would also have a niche, artistically. Which would be nice, because mechanically there is nothing special about this game from the first couple of hours. It's by id, so the shooting is solid. There's also ATV and buggy driving, which seems fine, and faux-open world trappings and light RPG systems. I had a decent time in the first few missions, but I see no reason to play more, what with all the other potentially and actually better games at my fingertips.

A while back I played through Warhammer 40:000 Kill Team on PS3. It was not great by any means, but the PC version was very cheap recently so I picked it up on Steam for another go at greater fidelity. It's a very stupid game, and roughly made, like a bad old arcade game or something from the PS1 or N64 generation. I wanted to kill a few moments with it, though, so there you have it.

I'm keeping at The Witness, as well. I've activated two lasers, for what that's worth. One was in and under the desert, and the other the colored glass greenhouse elevator area. I wish I had some idea of what I'm supposed to do at the vaguely Asian temple area, with the diamond shaped puzzles on the garden wall, or the glass puzzle near the harbor with the twin lines. I did the apples-in-the-trees puzzle set last night, and I guess I'll roam the island for some more low hanging fruit when next I load up the game.

And I'm still leaning toward some Dawn of War II: Retribution soon.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hit and Miss

Sometimes even good games can miss the mark for us personally, for whatever reason.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown has never really clicked with me, despite how plainly well designed and executed everything about it is. I certainly admire the game, and enjoy sessions of it, but it's one I have to make myself play. Even some of the best games require pushing through at times, but for whatever reason XCOM is always an uphill battle for me. I reached a mission last week that requires me to board an alien ship, and came across my first of the floating disc aliens, which promptly ended the runs of my entire squad. Now I am left with a bunch of rookies to face the same gauntlet, and I fear for the future of the XCOM initiative, and the world.

I checked out Payday: The Heist (yes, even though Payday 2 has been out for years at this point) as my P game for my mini backlog project. It was surprisingly fun playing alone with bots filling out the rest of my crew. I did the bank robbery heist, and thought seriously about going back to play more, probably trying the street battle scenario a la Heat, but then decided that was OK, I'd actually had enough. I should check out the sequel sometime.

This weekend saw some real leaps of progress in KOTOR. I started out just having arrived on Kashyyyk looking for the third piece of the star map, progressed through that and the scenario that followed which involved escaping Darth Malak's starship and the grand revelation that I was Darth Revan (before my turn as the light side boy scout I am now playing), and finally through the Korriban section of the game and acquiring the final piece of the map to the Stellar Forge. I think I must be pretty close to the end, now. Bastila is apparently being held by Malak, who is apparently also on the way to the Stellar Forge for some reason. I've heard Bastila can be turned to the dark side, but I'm unaware of whether it is a certainty or not. Perhaps it depends on what path the player character has taken. I'm squeaky clean, since for the most part the dark side options to me seem a little too moustache-twirling for me to roll with in this game. I've read that KOTOR II deals much more in shades of gray. I may play a bit more of a conflicted character in that game when the time comes.

Another very well done game that I'm not sure is really doing it for me is The Witness. I've never been the biggest fan of puzzles for puzzles' sake, but I do like a nice immersive world with enigmas spread about, and the game definitely has that. I'm not sure what portion of the puzzles I've done thus far, but I'd guess it's somewhere around 20%, probably. I've been wandering from place to place, abandoning areas as soon as they get a little too head-scratchingly obtuse. It's a neat game, to be sure, and I'll certainly keep plugging away at it, I just don't know if I'll ever figure it all out. I don't even know the totality of what there is to figure out, at this point.

For the next week or so, I'm really looking forward to finishing KOTOR. I'm not sure where to go from there, but perhaps back to Dawn of War II?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reading Ramp-Up

I haven't really written a book round-up post since finishing Moby Dick last year. It's mostly been Horus Heresy stuff since:

Fear To Tread - The story of the Blood Angels legion being led into a trap early in the heresy timeline. Sanguinius' sons are attacked by previously unknown daemon forces from the warp in an attempt to remove them from the greater battle soon to happen elsewhere. This one was alright. It's always good fun to read about a legion without much background in the story thus far. Not incredibly memorable, though.

Shadows of Treachery - a collection of novellas and short stories mostly about the Imperial Fists and Night Lords legions. Very entertaining, especially the ones featuring Curze.

Angel Exterminatus - Fulgrim leads Perturabo into the Eye of Terror, attempting to kill him as an offering to Slaanesh. Perturabo escapes, but Fulgrim is still able to attain his daemon form, and the Emperor's Children vanish. The Iron Warriors go deeper into the warp maelstrom. I really enjoyed this one. It was good to learn something about Perturabo and his legion, and to see Fulgrim reach his apotheosis.

Betrayer - Lorgar and Angron rampage across Ultramar feeding the warp storms that isolate it and the Ultramarines from the greater heresy. I'm only about halfway through this one, but am really, really liking it. I had no idea the World Eaters could be fleshed out so compellingly, and it's so good to have Argel Tal and Lorgar back after the events of The First Heretic.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions - NOT a Horus Heresy novel, though some of the worlds it describes do seem pretty dystopic. It's an interesting blend of 1880's Britain social satire and geometric thought experiments. It was pretty short, and a nice palate cleanser between a couple of the aforementioned romps.

Focus Leads to Completion, Completion Leads to Progress

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - Someone slandered the revered name of this game recently, claiming another, more recent game could be better. I checked, and no, no game is better.

Rocket League - Had a quick game the other day, scored a goal. Very fun!

Orion: Dino Beatdown/Dino Horde/Prelude - Dumb Sci-Fi Battlefield-like with universally hostile dinosaurs in the environments. Seemed alright, but few players were on the servers, and the production values just aren't where they need to be in a game like this.

KOTOR update - This is where I've been spending most of my gaming time. I must be around a third or more of the way in, now. I am probably getting near the end of the Manaan section, the first planet I am visiting on my quest for the Star Map. There are three others after this one, and probably one or two more endgame locations to hit after that. I still lack two companions, the fan favorite HK-47 being one, the other unknown to me. Unless it's potentially Malak? I'm definitely enjoying this game. I believe I'm further in now than I ever managed to get before, but I don't recall exactly where it was I left off, previously.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Roleplaying in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

I've been on a real Elder Scrolls kick lately. I've mentioned previously spending some time with Skyrim and Morrowind lately; the latter has given me the slip once again, I'm here to report. Or maybe I'd just rather spend time with its younger, prettier, and more friendly cousins. I think I'll get back around to Skyrim eventually, for the long haul, but in the throes of my recent fascination with the series, I had to check out Daggerfall, the only one of the games I had not played.

It didn't go over so well. I had a better time playing Arena for a short while, as a matter of fact. That's partly on me, though. I didn't RTFM like I knew I should have, and so I completely missed the fact you can look up and down in the game world, and also easily rebind keys. These follies as well as the game's inherent bugginess--my first character spawned knee-deep in the floor, unable to ascend stairs--put me off it sooner than was probably merited. That's OK, though. I have a history of coming back around to this series.

Last, and probably least, I picked up The Elder Scrolls Online in the recent Steam sale. Never was a game less necessary, but that said, there is something compulsive to it's playability. I liken it to junk food, the type of air-injected, sodium-laced carbohydrate empty calorie crap we all know is no good, but can't keep ourselves form engaging with all the same. It's all too easy to just jump right in and grind out some mindless quests and experience points in a bland, non-challenging setting and circumstance, as compared to challenging myself to progress in something requiring thought. I have an Orc Templar who is level 7 or 8, focused on heavy armor and two-handed weapons and healing skills. I guess I'm trying to be a tank, if I ever happen to play with other humans in this game. Since it's subscription-free, I guess that's not entirely implausible.

Jumping into our space ship and engaging our FTL drive, let's get galactic. I'm circling back around to Elite: Dangerous. I've had some podcast listening time free lately, and I still have a long way left to traverse back to inhabited space to unload this wealth of exploration data I've been carrying. I'll have been away so long the game will have shifted around me in my absence. I hope this data is still worth something. There's a new arcade mode to the game called CQC, which they somehow reconcile with your in-galaxy persona via your pilot ranking. I may check that mode out in the next week.

Finally, back to roleplaying, but remaining in the space variety, I'm playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic again. I've never made it more than maybe a third of the way into the game thanks to bugs and attrition, but this attempt is going well, so far.

I'm playing a light side Revan (of course I know the twist), though I have made a mistake or two, most notably proceeding with breaking the law in order to duel to the death with Bendak Starkiller. I was under the impression that killing him was OK, as it was to fulfill a government ordered bounty, but I got dark side points anyway, either due to participating in bloodsport to accomplish the end, or simply for the fact I killed him in cold blood--though wouldn't a hot blooded kill also be giving into the dark side? If killing itself is of the dark side, then why don't I suffer a penalty for all the trash mobs I take down wandering the world? Is it because they are hostile to me before I am to them? Perhaps that's the rationale. Either way, Bendak's blaster is apparently the best in the game, so I'm proceeding with this mistake as part of my character's background. After all, it's the least of black marks in his history.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Wrap-Up GOTY and BOTY

Twenty-fifteen. It was a heck of a year for video games. Here are my picks, the absolute cream of the crop.

My Game of the Year: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Honorable Mention: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

There were a number of other great games this year, such as Fallout 4, Invisible, Inc., Her Story, and more, many more, I haven't even played. Games as a hobby just keeps getting better.

Past years:
2014: Elite: Dangerous/The Banner Saga
2013: Spelunky/Hearthstone
2012: Dota 2/Diablo III
2011: The Witcher 2/SpaceChem
2010: Mass Effect 2/Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
2009: Demon's Souls/Red Faction: Guerilla
2008: Metal Gear Solid 4/Gears of War 2
2007: BioShock/Halo 3

Backlog-wise, I added fewer by far titles to my list than in any other recent year, having (probably) shrunken the list along the right side of this web page over the last year, at least by a few titles.

I didn't complete a whole hell of a lot of games this year, rather focusing on discrete goals within a smaller pool of at times very large games. Here is my list of 26 accomplishments, in reverse chronological order:

Game of Thrones (Episode 6)
Fallout 4 (Institute)
Game of Thrones (Episode 5)
Game of Thrones (Episode 4)
Game of Thrones (Episode 3)
Game of Thrones (Episode 2)
Game of Thrones (Episode 1)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Chapter 2)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Chapter 1)
The Taken King (Destiny)
House of Wolves (Destiny)
The Dark Below (Destiny)
Old World Blues (Fallout: New Vegas)
Dead Money (Fallout: New Vegas)
Her Story
Lonesome Road (Fallout: New Vegas)
The Price of Neutrality (The Witcher)
Monk to 70 (Diablo III)
Side Effects (The Witcher)
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China
Damn Those Swamps! (The Witcher)
Crusader to 70 (Diablo III)
Assassin's Creed Rogue
Warcraft III (Humans)
Witch Doctor to 70 (Diablo III)

Past years' totals:

I have a prospective list of 2016 plays worked up, in a post below. We'll see how that plays out, of course. I have already played some Skyrim and KOTOR, for what that's worth.

Reading-wise, 2015 was a pretty dismal year. I spent nine or ten months not reading Moby Dick before finally buckling down and getting through it, and enjoying it, after all. Otherwise it was just a year of Warhammer 40K fiction, mostly Horus Heresy books. The list:

Deathwatch: Xenos Hunters
Moby Dick; or The White While
Fear to Tread
Shadows of Treachery

I'll finish Angel Exterminatus (another Horus Heresy novel) soon, and then go for something a little more... literate, I suppose is the word. My 2016 reading goal is merely to feel better at the end of the year about what I read than I do this year.

Book of the Year: Moby Dick
Honorable Mention: Shadows of Treachery

Monday, December 21, 2015

RPG Bingo Bango Bongo

I'm not sure what it is about me and ricocheting between roleplaying games at the moment, but I'm having a good time.

I got to thinking about Morrowind for some reason, perhaps in reflection about the recent bouts of Skyrim and Arena I've played. It's always been the one that got away from me. I've taken multiple runs at it, but something always causes them to be aborted. Most recently, on a modded install, I got a good way down the Thieves' Guild quest line before something caused the install to be corrupted, which I guess took the save files with it.

This time, I'm playing vanilla, without even having hacked the resolution. There's something pure about doing so. I created a Redguard Knight, and I'm roleplaying appropriately chivalrously, so far down the main story path. I would love to complete the game at some point, but who knows if that will ever happen?

UnderRail, a post-apocalyptic roleplaying game--one heavily influenced by the first couple of Fallout games--just recently came out of Early Access on Steam. I bit, firstly out of genuine interest, and secondly as a gag to talk about it in place of another game with a similar sounding title on the Game Bytes podcast.

It feels like a not-that-distant cousin of Fallout. It has a very similar isometric point of view, combat uses the same turn-based action point system, and much of the game is presented in a similar fashion. I'm not far enough in to really speak for the writing, but the setup seems interesting thus far. That I'd describe as Metro 2033. So, Fallout 1/2 mechanics and play meet Metro's setting, though it's not apparent where on Earth (if it is Earth) the game is set, at least to this point.

The one very interesting innovation I've seen so far is in it's optional (you can choose a more traditional variant at the game's outset) experience system, called the oddity experience system. Under these rules, experience points are awarded not for combat, but for discovering odd artifacts and effects throughout the world. I only need 4 xp to level up to level 2, and I have three now, one from completing an early quest and two from finding interesting objects in seemingly random locations. Both objects were written documents providing further background on the world's factions, which is also an interesting choice. It seems like a cool idea with potential to heighten the roleplaying experience.