Thursday, August 18, 2016

All These Worlds Are Mine

Several weeks ago a trip to my hometown kicked off a spate of retro game revisiting. I returned home to Oregon with my gaming systems from my adolescence in tow: NES, SNES, N64, and PSX, with a brace of games for each. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get my NES to work, so I traded that and all my games in to the local retro games store. The N64 and its games I just plain didn't want, so those too were traded in. The PSX and a copy of Tomb Raider were redundant, and so also got traded in. I won't miss the NES, and even if I did, Nintendo is putting out the NES Classic 30 games in 1 system later this year, anyway. I do plan on getting one of those.

The only system I kept was my SNES, and since I have a Super Famicom cart adapter, I used most of my trade-in credit on imported SFC games, including Brandish, Super Puyo Puyo, Nobunaga's Ambition, Star Ocean, Street Fighter II, and a Super Robot Taisen game. I also picked up the rare and much lauded Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, as well as Super Mario All-Stars, which I had had as a kid, but traded in sometime in the past. My SNES/SFC collection also includes Final Fantasy II (US), Final Fantasy V (SFC import), Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Super Castlevania IV, and I may be forgetting something. I thought I still had The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Final Fantasy III (US), but apparently I did not.

I've been playing some of the first 4-5 Super Mario games, namely everything on the SNES Super Mario All-Stars and Super Mario World. What great games. Certainly not news to anyone reading this blog, but it should be stated, still. They're genius. My older daughter is just beginning to cut her teeth on these and other games, and they still make a great entry point to the hobby. Not that I'd push her into it or anything, but she naturally wants to try things she sees me do (for now; she's only five). It'd probably be for the best if she never got into gaming, at least not to the extent I have.

Anyway, Super Mario Bros. I have to say, I really prefer the 16-bit 're-masters' of the NES games. I like that there are backgrounds to SMB and The Lost Levels. Mia seems to like SMB3 for the world map, along with Super Mario World.

I am still playing World of Warcraft, though I haven't much over the last week or so, since I've been busy with the games to follow. I've decided to go for the exploration achievements, and already have them for base Azeroth, Outland, and Northrend, and I'm working on the Cataclysm zones while queuing for Cataclysm dungeons. I'm still level 86, and I hope to get through the rest of the Cataclysm Heroic dungeons before leveling out of them (if that happens; I'm still not sure).

Eisenhorn: Xenos came out last week, and is a video game adaptation of the novel, which I did greatly enjoy reading several years ago. Gregor Eisenhorn lives in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and is an Inquisitor, which makes him a sort of government sanctioned Witcher. The game does a pretty good job at adapting the plot and atmosphere of the book, but falters at character development, especially outside of Eisenhorn himself, and unfortunately, having compelling play. What there is mostly consists of Devil May Cry-ish combat in which you use a combination of sword and pistol attacks and combos to kill bad guys. It's merely adequate; and kind of makes one wonder if interactive entertainment is the best target medium for an adaptation of the novel.

I'd always wanted a Mass Effect style adaptation, personally. I still think that would work better. Best, though, would be a 'further adventures of' game, similar to what CDPR did with The Witcher, which of course was also a beloved character taken from a
series of books. His games are not adapting the novels though; they're taking them as water under the bridge, and running from there, and giving the player agency in the story they tell. Eisenhorn: Xenos is ultimately a failure in this regard, though I applaud the effort. I wouldn't mind seeing the rest of the trilogy adapted as well, hopefully with the developer gaining expertise along the way. Maybe then we could eventually get the Witcher treatment for Eisenhorn.

Finally, No Man's Sky. I can't think of another game this year with so much hype behind it. I also can't think of another game that came out to such an apparently baffled audience (perhaps The Witness or Stephen's Sausage Roll counts). Even I was surprised at how NMS went wild of my expectations. I was expecting Elite: Dangerous for casuals. Instead, it's Minecraft in space for casuals who want less to do, and wish to fiddle around with a constrained inventory for hours. Maybe that sounds harsh. That's how I see it, though, and I happen to like the game. Well enough, anyhow. I'm twenty-something jumps into my journey, headed to my fourth Atlas Interface system. It's got a good, solid, if repetitive play loop. I find it pretty chill to play, and I'm enjoying the pulp sci-fi styling and ambient prog rock soundscape. I'm looking forward to getting better ships with more storage, and exploring worlds with more interesting features. I hear they get more wild as you near the center of the galaxy. I don't know if I'm headed that way or not, though.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Worlds Fantastic and Gothic

I made it once through the entire alphabet in my backlog culling!

The Z game this time around was Zeno Clash, a Source engine first-person brawler in an outlandish fantasy setting that you might describe as iron age punk and tribal. It was surprisingly engrossing until the point where I hit an encounter that had multiple phases and lost it. I didn't want to repeat it. Brawlers have always been fleeting in terms of enjoyment.

I'll restart at the top of the alphabet soon.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclsia arrived in the mail recently. This may be the last DS game I ever buy. I only played a short portion of it so far, but I was surprised at how much higher the production values seemed than what I remember of the other handheld SotN-like Castlevanias of the GBA and DS libraries. I'll be popping into this game now and again whenever the bug strikes.

World of Warcraft wise, I've settled back into my Frost specialization after a brief stint as a Blood Death Knight, tanking. I wasn't prepared for the pressure of tanking the first time I'd set foot into many of these dungeons. I'd much rather take it easy and just be along for the ride as DPS. I'm at level 84, now, and running around the Cataclysm zones, and soon to move off to Pandaria after I hit 85. The content keeps getting better as I move from expansion to expansion, if not in enormous leaps and bounds. WoW is a fun RPG.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Big Level 75!

WoW - I hit the big landmark level 75 with the Death Knight, Phoenixian, last night. In FFXI, that would actually be a big thing. WoW, however, will soon have a level cap of 110, so in fact I'm still just a no-name schlub working my way through Northrend quest by quest, zone by zone, dungeon by dungeon. I still find the problem of not needing all this runway to achieve my takeoff. I'm not even fully through two zones and I'm halfway through the Wrath leveling curve.

I guess I shouldn't complain; but if there's all this world out there to explore, and most of it is rapidly becoming rather pointless to do so in, I'd prefer to have some kind of guidance about what the best parts of it are. Maybe instead of just following the quest breadcrumbs around from place to place I should actually hoof it around the zones finding the most interesting or attractive locales, and then choosing to do the quest chains in those areas. It's not like I need to pay any attention to what the gear rewards are at this level. And anyway, running dungeons will keep me outfitted as well as I need to be.

This week saw the release of the big pre-Legion patch 7.0.3, which streamlined a lot of stuff including character attributes, specializations, and talents. The big impact for my Frost spec Death Knight is the loss of a few talents now siloed into the Blood and Unholy specs, the gain of a few new ones for Frost, and being forced into dual-wielding for as long as I remain thusly specialized.

I have no real end goal in mind for this game, other than perhaps getting to 100. At that point maybe I would go ahead and buy the expansion and carry on up to 110. I am still enjoying the game, though, so I suppose I'll continue on for now. I can see myself wrapping up Wrath content, or at least hitting 80 and moving on from it, at the very least.

Xenonauts - I decided to get back to the backlog thinning mission by playing a game whose title begins with an X. Xenonauts was a Kickstarter-funded game, one that I backed several years ago. It was an X-Com remake before Firaxis remade X-Com, and hews much, much closer to the original game than the official reboot. It's good, and well executed, but I think I prefer the more modern take. Even that one, though, doesn't hook me like it does other people. I put a couple of hours into this game before deciding that I'd seen enough. At least it's there in case I ever decide I do want to go back and play the original X-Com, but made more modern and user-friendly. It does stand well apart from the official reboot.

King of Dragon Pass - I'll mention this game because even though I play the iPad version, it does have a PC version which is pretty much the exact same game, as I understand it. KODP is a role-playing game in which you lead a tribe or clan of settlers newly relocated to the titular geographical area. You are a leader, and have to administer your people's hunting, farming, diplomacy, warmaking, religious practices, and so on. The object of the game is to survive and thrive for ten years and be made king. It plays out like a text adventure or Twine game, just menu after menu, choice after choice. It's interesting, and you can kind of pick it up or leave it at any point, like many Civ or grand strategy titles, with little or no commitment to the actual victory conditions.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Out-leveling Outland

I've only played more World of Warcraft over the last week. It's nice and relaxing, which feels good in this relatively hectic time for me.

I've managed to hit level 67, only progressing very far into two zones of Outland so far, Hellfire Peninsula and Terrokar Forest. I finally had to ditch quests in the latter zone so I could move on and see more zones before over-leveling my character. I'm going to Nagrand next, which looks like a pretty nice place to grind out some XP.

I've been using the dungeon finder a lot, too, which is a pretty great addition to the game. Through its magic I'm able to see more places and more of Blizzard's encounter designs in the game with very little effort. A plus, in my book, and another factor contributing to making the game a relatively frictionless joy to play. I'm not too concerned with my gear, especially while leveling, but I have a few pieces found in dungeons that I wouldn't, otherwise.

I'm more interested in specializing my Death Knight appropriately. Frost is probably the spec most suited to my path-of-least-resistance play style, but I think I may want to change to Unholy going forward, which is probably more in keeping with my character Phoenixian's inspiration, the Phoenician, Fulgrim, Primarch of the III Legion Emperor's Children in the Horus Heresy. Then again, the Blood spec might align more with Fulgrim, and Unholy with Mortarion, Primarch of the XIV Legion Death Guard. Maybe I should go Blood; I'm not quite sure, yet.

How much longer with this tour through Azeroth last? I don't know!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Blizzard of Id

Most of the last week I've been playing WoW, questing my Death Knight through Hellfire Peninsula, and using the group finder to run dungeons. Dungeons seem like the way to go for quick advancement in terms of XP, gold, and loot, but they can take a while to do and be repetitive, in addition to being potentially challenging for a loosely organized ad hoc group full of players of questionable skill and experience, like myself. It's nice to see the content, though, and have a shot at better loot. I'll probably continue run them as I quest my way through the levels.

I'm still just learning what the Death Knight class is for and how best to use its skills and properly outfit it. I also had a flying mount I was unaware of until I went to buy what I thought would be my first. I could have been using one for a couple of levels now, but no big deal. Re-familiarizing myself with this game is a gradual process. It would be really cool to level up to the cap and play the next expansion while it's current, though!

Speaking of playing games while they're current, I am still playing Overwatch, some. My enthusiasm has cooled a little on it, but only because my leisure time is a zero sum game, and I'm presently more excited to play other things.

Last week was the 20th anniversary of the release of Quake, one of several id Software masterpieces. Machine Games, the studio behind Wolfenstein: The New Order, released their own episode of Quake levels to commemorate the fact. The mod goes by the file name "dopa" which, it's anyone's guess what that means, but the levels I've seen so far (the first three) are very well done, and very much reflect the best of the original game, while adding new surprises, as well. I absolutely love Quake, and so this is a welcome freebie. I was thinking of purchasing the official expansion packs for the game through Steam, as well, but maybe those can wait.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Return to Azeroth

Aside from a little Overwatch, of which my consumption has dropped a good deal since the first couple of weeks, it's been all Warcraft universe games since finishing up Dawn of War II: Retribution.

I'm most of the way through the Undead Scourge campaign, the second of 4 in the base game of Warcraft III. Arthas is now a Death Knight, and serving multiple masters to bring the demons of the Burning Legion into Azeroth. One is the Lich King, one is Tichondrius, a demon himself serving Kil'Jaeden, and then there is also Kel'Thuzad, a necromancer he's working with to bring Archimonde into Azeroth. See, Archimonde and Kil'Jaeden are second only to Sergeras in the history of bad guys in the Warcraft universe.

Warcraft III has actually been fair in terms of difficulty to this point. It's not to the level of intensity that StarCraft, or especially Brood War, got to. Not yet, anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if that came later, particularly in the Frozen Throne expansion. I'm planning to finish the Undead campaign soon, though I may hold off on proceeding further until I clear a few other things off my plate.

Being immersed in Warcraft stuff lately put an odd notion in my head, namely that I should go get back into WoW, at least briefly, to see how that game is these days, and to soak up a little more of the series' essence. I reluctantly subscribed, again, to the game. I have no real idea how long I will play it this time.

I first went back to my Orc Warrior, but quickly remembered what a mistake it was to have created him on a PVP server when, out of nowhere, someone materialzed behind me and one-shotted me, leaving me in the dust. He might have been a Rogue. Either way, this was outside the Horde settlement on the shores of Northrend, and I was minding my own business about to turn in a random quest. To hell with PVP.

I resolved to create a new character on a non-PVP server, not wanting to pay the $25 to move an existing character over on top of the $15 I am paying for at least one month to play the game. I thought it would be interesting to try a Death Knight, considering the section of Warcraft III I had been playing concurrently, so I created one--a human formerly (and to be once more) of the Alliance.

The Death Knight intro segment is interesting. You start out at level 55, indicating that your character really did have a past as a heroic member of your faction, now resurrected in the service of Arthas, himself now merged with the Lich King. The Scourge under Arthas is laying siege to the Scarlet Crusade-held lands of eastern Lordaeron, and you have a number of quests that familiarize you with the way the class works while furthering the Lich King's goals in the area. One of which, it turns out, is to draw out one of his enemies from the kingdom of Stormwind. Our hapless protagonist eventually is used as a sacrificial lamb, basically, alongside a bunch of other Death Knights and lieutenants of Arthas, who then rebel at such treatment, and are welcomed back into the fold, whether Alliance of Horde. I made a trip to Stormwind and met with king Varian Wrynn to make it official, then decided to put myself to use in Outland, where the Burning Crusade content awaits.

I thought it was a neat little self-contained episode. Having been through Outland once already, I'm not sure I want to do it again, unless the difference of faction and the intervening years of game development come together to make it more interesting than the first time around. I'll give it a go, and if the questing seems dull then maybe I'll try running dungeons. It would be nice to make it on to the real content beyond.

Diversifying the Stack

Coming off of about 8 Horus Heresy novels in pretty quick succession, I'm going to hit a few other things before going back for books 31 and on.

The last one I finished in this spate was The Damnation of Pythos, which while interesting, wasn't incredibly, or really at all, relevant to the main preceding of the Heresy. It was about a group of "shattered legions" space marines that happen upon a warp anomaly that allows them first get the drop on some traitorous Emperor's Children, but then ultimately leads to daemonic manifestation and the eventual doom of the planet, Pythos, and everyone on it, presumably, save perhaps the daemons now present. It was more of a side story.

I read some Amnesia: The Dark Descent fiction, since I had the pdf on my kindle. It was a short story, or rather short anthology of shorter stories, featuring characters and background to the story of the game. It had a sort of 1700-1800s gothic horror feel to it, sort of like Lovecraft's stories.

I also read up on a lot of the lore of the Warcraft series of games (and films, now, I suppose) through some light wiki reading, but mostly through the manuals for Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. It was background info I wanted to know, but told in the most dry, dull way imaginable. Perhaps actual novels would be more interesting, but overall I think the universe of Warcraft is just kind of boring. It serves the games as a dusting of flavor over the real draw, which is the play. I wouldn't put aside Warhammer 40,000 for it, though.

I've also just begun Altered Carbon, which comes doubly or triply recommended. So far it seems like edgy cyberpunk, but is there any other kind?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Say It Now, Before The Cleansing Begins

The title is one of my favorite barks uttered by a unit in Dawn of War II.

I did follow through on my endeavor of finishing Retribution, with 8.7 hours played over the last week, per Steam tracking. I raced through the Space Marines campaign, which it seems is the canonical one for how the story plays out. I also played the first mission of the Chaos campaign, which features you killing a major character from the Blood Ravens, so I'm guessing that one is not canon. Not that it matters.

I had a grand old time with Dawn of War II, all the way back to the base game, through Chaos Rising, and finally with Retribution, both the campaign and the Last Stand mode, which is very cool despite being sort of bolted on. Hopefully it gets a fully-fleshed realization in Dawn of War III, which was recently announced. That should be a good time. I wonder if it'll continue on the campaigning of the Blood Ravens. Probably.

I want to go back and play the original Dawn of War at some point, but my next RTS is roughly 70 missions of Warcraft III. This brings me to my 2016 play prospectus:

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 don't think I'm doing too bad. Figure in victory over Dark Souls finally, and some of the other stuff I've been playing, and I'm pretty proud of the progress I've made so far. X-Com getting the strikethrough here is debatable, but I did give it another run up, even if the jump wasn't long enough to make it to the other side. I'm not sure I intend to play it again, at least not anytime soon. Skyrim had some decent time put into it, but I still intend to circle back to that one. Same with Dragon Age II. I don't know that I'll get to Wasteland 2 or Baldur's Gate II this year; they're not high on my list at the moment. KOTOR II would probably come before either, but after the RPGs already on the list. StarCraft II is going to be a post-Warcraft III thing, so also not likely in 2016. I do need to get on with the Walking Dead's second season, though.

Otherwise, I've just been playing more Overwatch. Nothing more to add on that game, really, other than I am still having fun rotating through the roster and playing every character.

Right now, I need to continue further into my Castlevania: Lords of Shadow replay. I also want to play more Overwatch, and possibly jump right back into Warcraft III while the RTS mood lingers. I know I have plenty of that game ahead of me.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Overwatch--It's Not Just A Game, It's Also An Important Tactical Status

Yes, I have been continuing to play a whole lot of Blizzard's team-based FPS Overwatch. This weekend I played enough to get my profile up to level 18, and I've put somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes of game time into each and every character. They're all pretty good to play; I would have a tough time trying to decide on a favorite. The ones I tend to play less are the sniper and builder types, Hanzo, Widowmaker, Bastion, Torbjorn, and Symmetra to some degree. I like playing attackers where appropriate, and I'll go for a tank or support character anytime one is needed, as well. It's a ton of fun, even with a pretty blasé progression and unlock system. Of everything it's possible to unlock, only the skins really do anything at all for me. Sprays, barks, poses? Meh. I almost wonder why Blizzard thought they mattered to anyone.

Also on Overwatch the last several days, were the terminators of the Blood Angels chapter of the Adeptus Astartes as they delved into the space hulk Sin of Damnation. After setting aside Regicide, I was still kind of in the mood for tactical 40K, and this filled the role quite nicely. I'd played it some previously, but got into it to a greater degree over the weekend. It's a very cool game, if somewhat basic as video games go, since it's a very faithful adaptation of the board game of the same name.

I played through about 5 scenarios before deciding I was satisfied. I really want and need to hunker down and finish Dawn of War II: Retribution, so I have resolved not to play any other Warhammer games until that one is finished, first. Knocking that one out will also set me up to go back and play more Warcraft III, which is starting to sound like a bit of a Roadmap to Success. For the Emperor!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

MIddle Tier Middle-Earth

I made an interesting find in the local independent game store this weekend: a used copy of the now out-of-print PC game Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring. It must have been the last game made using the book licenses before the huge blitz of movie-licensed ones in the early '00s. It was only ten bucks, and the novelty and curiosity of the item, and it's good condition, complete in box and all, sold me on it.

War of the Ring is a 3D RTS very much in the style of Warcraft III. Very much in that style. You begin the campaign with two missions where you're playing an army of dwarves led by Gimli, son of Gloin. From there, you have the option to play as the forces of Gondor (if I'm not mistaken) led by Boromir, or take on another mission to track down Gollum. I didn't try that one, so I'm not sure who the player faction is.

I only made it as far as completing the tutorial missions and a few of the main campaign as the forces of good, because for some reason I was unable to get game saves to work in Windows 7. I did some quick searching online, and the suggested fixes for Vista had no effect. Compatibility mode also, no dice. My player profile would save, recording what mission I was on, but there was no mid-mission or quicksave ability, which is frustrating in an RTS, where missions can sometimes go beyond an hour, and a single mis-click can wreck your whole strategy.

In the end, while I thought War of the Ring was interesting, I still have something like 70 missions of Warcraft III that I've never played between the rest of the main game and expansion, and as dumb as Warcraft lore is, Blizzard are the kings of play and feel, and at least I'm less familiar with that game's lore than that of LotR. Going forward, I'll continue my play through more of Warcraft III.

On the subject of Blizzard games, Overwatch has really convinced me of its worth. It's an undeniably great game. You could make a case for it being nothing more than three game types on a handful of maps, but even so, there are 21 highly differentiated characters that all feel great and are enjoyable to play, and somehow there is even some modicum of balance in how they all check and are checked in terms of power by multiple others. It's team-based arena FPS action with the character design of a fighting game. The matches aren't overlong, and even though the 'progression' and extrinsic rewards for play are limited, it's hard not to jump right back into another after viewing the after action report. It's a real fun time.

I'm continuing to play more Regicide, as well. I'm in the middle of the middle of three "campaigns" of 10 scenarios as the Blood Angles. If it doesn't get too difficult, I'll probably finish them all and maybe even the two Ork campaigns, as well. The combination of Chess, XCOM, and 40K is just what I crave, apparently.

Regicide update: On reflection, the AI is pretty dumb sometimes, moving itself into check, which really shouldn't be allowed. Neat game, but even so, I think I'm going to move on.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Violence in the Future

If you believe the games I've been playing lately, the future is a very violent place, and gets grimmer the further you get away from the present.

Overwatch is the closest of games I've played this week to being set in the present. It's pretty upbeat in presentation, but still shockingly violent. All these characters do is kill one another, over and over, in an endless war of attrition over a few square feet of ground. I didn't think I'd be down for this Blizzard game, but as it turns out, I was. I am. I may as well jump in with both feet; I'm going to try to play every character to some degree and enjoy myself at least well enough to get my sixty dollars' worth.

V game Vanquish is several more decades further out into the future, and really shows the beginning of the darkening of the timeline. There are moments of cheekiness and levity, mostly around our rogueish hero Sam Gideon, but also a dark harbinger of things to come, as he and his principal enemies pilot or comprise cybernetic power armor suits and renegade AI routines. Vanquish is superb. I don't know if I've played a 3rd person cover-based shooter that is as fun to play. The jet-slide mobility and bullet-time mode, decent and varied assortment of weapons, and lively pacing all come together for a very frenetic and intense game. To top it all off, it looks great, and runs like a dream on the PS3. I never noticed it dropping any frames, and it felt like a nice 60 fps the entire time I played.

And now to the far, far future, where the world is grim and dark, indeed.

Warhammer 40,000.

Regicide paints a picture for us of what war will be like in the future--turn based, and very much like Chess, but with the added deadliness of firearms and bludgeoning and ripping and tearing melee weapons. A frightful vision indeed. It makes for a fun and interesting game, though. You wouldn't think adulterating Chess with XCOM like tactical combat would be anything other than a mess, but it works, somehow.

Storm of Vengeance also represents for us future war in the abstract. It could be seen as a sort of supply lines  and logistics simulation, one supposes. It is also port of an iOS game that itself is like a rethemed Plants Vs. Zombies. Dark Angels Vs. Orks, you might call it. Not a lot of effort, relative to most games, was put into this port. It's not terrible, but you might call it bad and not be far off base. It's the type of game that doesn't do just a whole lot to justify its existence, unless you are that into the 40K theme it uses.

Dawn of War II is a recurring nightmare of a simulation of the horrors of conflict in the awful, dark future. The single mission I undertook was a horrific vision of brother Blood Raven killing brother Blood Raven to ends I could not fathom. A dark vision, indeed. More scrying will be necessary to gather more insight into what the future holds for our doomed species.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Heresy Continuing Apace

I have been fairly ripping through Horus Heresy books lately. At this rate 2016 may be the best booklog year yet.

I mentioned Vulkan Lives previously. It was a little lower-key, but did some important groundwork for later books.

I finished that one, then just devoured The Unremembered Empire, which was amazing, featuring four(!) primarchs pretty heavily, and covering some pretty momentous stuff in the Heresy timeframe, Such as the establishment of Imperium Secundus, Curze and the Lion returning to the field, and the apparent death of a second primarch.

From there, Scars rewound the overall timeline a ways to get us caught up on the White Scars and their campaign to far-flung Chondax, where Horus sent them to mop up a greenskin infestation while he did his dirty Isstvan business, kicking off the rebellion. Here we learn who the Scars are, and get an idea of what their primarch, Jaghatai Khan, is like. Space Wolves, Alpha Legion, and Death Guard all also make substantial appearances.

I'm now reading Vengeful Spirit, which is the first book since the opening trilogy to feature Horus himself and his legion as prime actors. I'm only getting started with it, but it looks like another barnstormer, and some of the Emperor's past may be revealed here, as well.

Double Shotgun Blast to the Backlog

It's been a varied and busy week. I'm not really concentrating on any one thing at the moment, just kind of playing whatever I feel like.

UFO: Afterlight - A U game. It's basically an early/mid '00s X-COM-esque game. I fiddled around with it for a while, but couldn't find a hook to keep me from disregarding it almost out of hand once I felt I had a handle on what the main thrust of the game would be, which seems like to build a presence on Mars, terraforming and advancing tech until (I'm assuming) you're able to reclaim Earth from the aliens that have conquered it and forced your relocation to the red planet. If you were there at the time, this might have been worth playing for a while.

Vanquish - A V game. PS3 release, action shooter from Platinum, directed by Shinji Mikami. It seems really cool, from the tutorial and brief first mission that I have played. More on this to come.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - The replay continues. I'm at the start of chapter 4 now. Cornell was much, much easier on the lowest difficulty setting.

Braid - Wanted to revisit this since having played a lot of The Witness. I find my patience for puzzles is very thin these days. I plowed right through this game when it released on Xbox Live 8 years ago, but felt tedium very quickly this time around.

Dark Souls II - I need a game to play while I listen to podcasts, and right now this is about the most likely thing. I made it to a new bonfire, so that's nice.

Final Doom, Doom II: Hell on Earth, and Master Levels for DOOM II - The release of the newest DOOM game, to rave reviews, inspired me to go back and play some more of the originals. They're great fun, to this day. I may have even come around to going keyboard only on these. I also have installed Doom 3 and its expansion, which I have actually never played, before.

Spelunky - I suppose it's worth mentioning that I do still play daily runs here and there.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dark Souls II: The Smattering

Over the last couple of weeks I've touched a few different things, but have spent the most time on Dark Souls II.

I felt like rolling right into it after finishing the first one, and in fact I had already at an earlier date begun the game and got as far as creating my character, who begun as one of the "Deprived" class, meaning they started with very basic clothing, no weapons, and at soul level 1, with all stats at 6.

Playing this way means playing the cards as they lie, and since I haven't been playing with a wiki thus far, it has meant a lot of slow going, diligent leveling, and making do with what I have found, as well as leading me to participate in summoning and being summoned much more than I did in Dark Souls, which I may not have even been online for the better portion of, come to think of it.

Right now my character, the Lost One, is wearing hollow soldiers' armor and using caesti on each hand; a sort of improvised version of the monk build many other RPGs feature. I've beaten one boss, the Last Giant, and am at level 35-ish. I've only begun to explore the forest of giants. There are braziers and sconces and such around the world that you can light with a torch, and light torches from, but I'm as of yet unaware of what effect they might have on the world, beyond providing more light in the environments and a place to light more torches. It seems like a great game, so far.

I'll briefly mention the other things I played, and why:

Titan Quest - Really just to add some more time to my Steam time played tracker for some reason. This game bores me, and it always has, but I've put hours into it in the past, and I wanted that dumb time tracker to record at least some of that time, for whatever reason.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - I think I'm going to do another run of this game for the Game Bytes Show as a sort of game club thing. I'll probably do it on easy, because on Knight difficulty (one above normal) it was a pretty hard game in spots, and I would prefer to kind of cruise through it this time around.

Overwatch - I was able to get into the closed Beta at one point and I played about 3 matches worth, I think entirely versus bots, before coming to the pretty solid conclusion that despite the apparent quality of the game, it just wasn't something I wanted to play. I don't tend to put a ton of time into multiplayer shooters anyway, and the prospect of shelling out $40 or $60 for one I'll likely not get much of a return on just doesn't add up for me. Especially a game like this that is so team-focused. I think I'd rather just play alone most of the time.

Heroes of the Storm - Speaking of playing alone, I did 5 practice matches with and against AIs last night, and had a good time doing them. MOBAs are pretty satisfying, especially when you tend to win a lot, and fairly easily. This game has been out for a long while now without me really giving it much of a look, but I may continue playing it some, now.

Friday, April 29, 2016

New True Lord of the Dark

Look out, Lordran, there's a new big man on the scene. That's right, the chosen undead, Fridge, just kept plugging away at the baddies until he was able to reach soul level 103 and gear up with fully maxed out giant's armor and a demon's greataxe. Now all the lord souls have been found, history set right in Oolacile, and the lord of cinder deposed. In league with Kaathe and Frampt, the great serpents, Fridge has begun a new reign of darkness over this blighted and forgotten land. There goes the neighborhood.

For the last week and a half or so, I've played practically nothing but Dark Souls. Previously I had made it to the point of having one of the four lord souls and venturing into the painting in Anor Londo. I finished that painting area, then promptly moved Seath, the Four Kings, and the Bed of Chaos, finalizing my gear and taking a detour into the Artorias DLC before taking out Gwynn for the ending. I'm proud of my accomplishment--beating the game at its own game. Fridge was an unstoppable juggernaut by the end of the game, and that felt pretty great in a game like Dark Souls.

I'm looking forward to replicating this success in Dark Souls II, just as I did with Demon's Souls previously.

I hadn't considered Dark Souls as a game I might return to and finish in 2016, but I'm very glad that I did. There was unfinished business there, now neatly tied off.