Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Words from the East

Most from as east as the UK, some about the Far East.

The Red Path - This story sees Kharn being sent an emissary from Abaddon. The Warmaster of Chaos apparently wants the Betrayer's help in his upcoming 13th Black Crusade. Kharn has no desire to follow the will of anyone but the Blood God, however, so Abaddon is forced to confront him in person, which goes about as well as you might imagine. It turns out, though, the for a time, the will of Khorne is aligning with the rest of the Chaos Gods through Abaddon. The Red Path will see Kharn act in concert with the Black Legion in the campaign to come.

Shroud of Night - This is mainly the story of an Alpha Legion warband, a harrow, in the newly split galaxy after the eruption of the Cicatrix Maledictum, the great rift of warp space to have spilt forth after Cadia fell to Abaddon in his 13th Black Crusade. They have been hired, in a way, by an Emperor's Children captain, sent to the world of Tsadrekha to corrupt the beacon there, a telepath witch the ability to act in a limited way like the Astronomican. However, a Khorne berzerker lord is also laying siege to the planet, and Kharn himself is in the mix, as well. This was a cool book, also featuring Primaris Imperial Fists, Sisters of Battle, and the Living Saint Celestine.

Born of Flame - Book 50 of the Horus Heresy. This is a compilation, though, of stories about the Salamanders legion before and during the galactic civil war. It's three novellas and a couple of short stories all by Nick Kyme, who has also written a trio of novels within the larger series around the legion and their primarch, Vulkan. I'm partway through this collection at the moment.

A History of Japan to 1334 - Just what the title says. I have only just begun this tome, but it's interesting so far. I know a decent amount about Japan's history from the Sengoku period through the Edo period, but not a ton outside of those.

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Quickest of Hits

I've had a pretty crazy week, touching on a lot of different games, but basically all just because the whim struck.

Grand Theft Auto III - How many years has it been? I wanted to hear the soundtrack again, and just see what the game felt like after so much water under the bridge.

The Elder Scrolls Online - Revisiting the Orc paladin-analog I created here. Zenimax Online's dedication to the game has made me consider playing it more.

God of War II - Hype around the PS4 reboot made me want to go back and play this one that I never got to, previously. The first 45 minutes or so were pretty impressive.

Team Fortress 2 - I've been on a bit of a shooter kick lately. What really is the greatest of all time?

For Honor - I do like melee combat systems in games. This one seems good and crunchy so far.

Magic: The Gathering Arena - Maybe I do like this better than Hearthstone, after all?

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon - It was the game going when I turned on the Switch. Still very cool, of course.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Shooter McWeekend

I was bitten by the shooter bug this weekend.

I woke up Saturday and played a little Quake: Champions, and I would return to it late Sunday night after podcasting. Champions has the unparalleled feel of the original Quake game, and is a pretty casual and accessible shooter, being the basics of the genre as it emerged, and nothing like a lot of the more modern games which feature things such as cover, destructible environments, vehicles, and even reloading. I've had a good time playing the game so far, and I think I'll continue to do so. I've somehow managed to be the top scorer on my team in two of the four matches I've played. Matches seem to either go 10 minutes or until one team gets 75 kills. The mode I have been playing so far is four-on-four. I have one character unlocked aside from the Slipgate Marine, an alien warlord called Scalebearer, whose active ability and starting armor value I prefer, I think.

On Sunday morning, I thought I would check in on Call of Duty mutliplayer. However, no one is playing Call of Duty 2 online these days, so instead I decided to check out the campaign mode. I played the first 3-4 missions as a Russian in Stalingrad, and it was good fun, if a very simple game at its core. I don't think I'll bother going back to it, when there are so many other Call of Duty games to choose from. I have World at War still sitting untouched, and I would bet there are still people playing the first Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare online, as well.

Later Sunday, before going out for the day, I thought I would knock another off my backlog: Quake Mission Pack 2: Dissolution of Eternity. I played the first mission of the first episode, and it was cool. This may be a little more in line with the original game than the first mission pack, Scourge of Armagon.

Finally, Sunday afternoon, as a reward for finishing my chores for the day, I let myself try out Fortnite Battle Royale (now just Fortnite) for the Switch. I really like the game on that platform, maybe even more than on the PC. It's much less of a pain to run endless distances with an analog stick than by holding down W, and it seems easier to quickly swap to build mode, as well. I think it's a good fit for the system, but what's not? The only drawback I see is that the Switch requires Wi-Fi, and unfortunately does not use LTE, and so it's portable playability is hampered. I'll play more of the game this way.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Grim 'n' Gothic, Furturistic 'n' Medieval

Quake Champions - I have been curious to try this out, and it was free on Steam, so I thought I would give it a shot. It's much the same arena deathmach style of multiplayer FPS as Quake III or Quake Live were. It plays fast and smooth, with a focus on older values like knowing the power-ups, and raw reaction timing and aiming skills. It mixes these with the modern conventions of free-to-play games, including earnable loot boxes containing cosmetic rewards for your characters, and an overall player profile XP level. I want to play more. It's pretty effortless enjoyment.

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin - I never made it very far into the vanilla release of Dark Souls II, but I had heard this was the better version to play for a number of reasons, so I picked it up on the cheap some time ago. I'm in a spot now where I want something to play while I can listen to some podcasts, and Souls games are almost perfect for this use. There is very little in the way of spoken or written narrative to concentrate on; its mostly crunchy combat and character building concerns, which I find go really well with spoken word audio.

At the moment I am building a melee-focused warrior, with an aim fight with a great axe or great club. I may try to get away from the sword and shield approach I used for a lot of the first Dark Souls.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Black Legion and Kharn

I've just come home from a week away on business, and I took the opportunity to dig deeper into Chaos Space Marines in 40K:

Black Legion - sequel to The Talon of Horus, and second book in the series of the same name. This one was all about the up and coming Black Legion breaking out of the Eye of Terror for the first time and starting their Long War on the Imperium. Rival traitor marine warbands in the Eye are a big threat, as are Sigismund and his Black Templars chapter keeping vigil over the Cadian Gate, awaiting the return of the traitor legions. Aaron Dembski-Bowden does not disappoint. And given the events of The Master of Mankind, I'm very much looking forward to the next book in this series, which it seems like will be about Abbadon claiming the demon blade Drach'nyen.

Kharn: Eater of Worlds - More than anything I was kind of shocked at how many beats this book shares with The Talon of Horus. In both books, the return of the legions former second in command is the centerpiece the whole thing swings around, in both the Emperor's Children are the main antagonists, in both a voidship is cast down as a projectile onto one of their cities, and both books are mostly focused on one warrior's point of view of the leader figure they are attempting to find or resurrect. From the looks of things both books must have been being written around the same time, as well, which is interesting. As for the Kharn book, it seems to have ended right at the climax. It's like it's missing a third of the book. What's here is pretty good, it just kind of ends, and there's no follow-up as far as I know. I would like to see what comes next at Skalathrax.

I didn't realize it until just now, but the short The Weakness of Others is from the POV of Kharn, and it is during the action on Skalathrax that earned him the moniker of Betrayer. It's just a short, though. A proper window into that event would have been nice, to see why it happened that way. It would still be possible, especially if told from the POV of the other characters in Kharn: Eater of Worlds.

One other short I read, Enyalius, In Memorium was about another onetime World Eater, dedicating the death of a massive Ultramarines voidship to a fallen brother Khorne berserker.

I still have a couple of Kharn/Chaos Space Marines books plotted out ahead of me, so I'll give an update on those when I finish them.

V Week, and Visitations

I wanted to check out Valkyria Chronicles for V week on the backlog. It made a really positive first impression. I'm definitely looking forward to playing more. I was a little surprised to find that the girl wearing the neckerchief in her hair is one of the military leaders at the outset of the game, Alicia. It seems to have a cool tactical battle system, though.

I played some of the newest single player content in Hearthstone, the Witchwood monster hunting stuff. In this mode you basically build a deck as you go, choosing passive abilities and cards to incorporate into your deck as you fight through a gauntlet of 8 bosses. I've made it as far as the seventh or either encounter, thus far, before hitting a seemingly totally insurmountable wall of a boss.

I have also spent some more time tooling around Skyrim in the past few days, not knowing what else to play so soon after coming home from a long business trip. I'm just checking things off the quest log in that game. I can't commit to any one storyline or character growth area for long, though I do like melee/ranged over anything at all magical.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Victory and a Ticker-tape Parade

I finally polished off my campaign of Final Fantasy Tactics using only generic soldiers and the job system. It wasn't easy, and I resorted to the use of save states sometimes, effectively creating my own version of the Chariot Tarot from Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. It was pretty satisfying, though, even if I did lock myself out of a lot of side content by removing Mustadio from my party early on. Turns out you need him to get half of the side quests and other special characters later on in the game.

Victory would have been much more difficult to achieve if not for one of my Orators having convinced a Tiamat hydra to join us in one of the final battles. That thing was invaluable in the fight against Ultima, the reborn high seraph. It was a lot of fun to revisit this old favorite of mine. I still feel like it's one of my favorite games of all time, even seeing some of its shortcomings in a fresh new light this time around.

For lack of knowing what to play next, I have spent the past few days frittering away free time in Skyrim, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm.

I may have found a way to come to peace with Hearthstone. After having seen what a real Magic: The Gathering looks like in this format (hardcore and demanding of an attentive and dedicated player), Blizzard's dumb, bright, and capricious take might be more my speed after all.

I like playing Heroes of the Storm with and against a full load of bots. I don't want the pressure to perform or unwanted social interactions of opponents in... any game, really. I enjoy HotS and other games like it for the push and pull mechanics, comfortable in the knowledge that I have aged out of actually playing these against other people. I should probably just focus on single-player RTS games, but no one does progression and ongoing development like Blizzard.

There's not too much to say about my time in Skyrim over the weekend, other than that I decided to focus on some quests in a small area of the map, and decided to use fast travel sparingly on this character, to facilitate the completion of quests in a timely manner so the narratives aren't all hacked up, similar to how the medium of film uses jump cuts.

Talon of Horus, The

I've just finished Aaron Dembski-Bowden's 40K novel exploring the beginnings of the Black Legion, and the first in the series of the same name, entitled The Talon of Horus.

The book is set some indeterminate number of centuries after, but within a millennium of, the Horus Heresy. By this time the traitor legions defeated at Terra have all retreated into the Eye of Terror, and the Imperium has mostly forgotten about them and become accustomed to living under their undead god-emperor, now entombed on the Golden Throne.

It is told via the point of view of a onetime legionnaire of the Thousand Sons, Iskander Khayon, and has him laying out the story as a framing device to the Holy Inquisition on Terra, to whom he has willingly surrendured himself. Khayon begins the account with a short explanation of the state of the Nine Legions in the Eye, the ongoing Legion Wars, which pit them all against one another, for old grievances or for the glory of their respective Chaos gods, in some cases. We're introduced to Khayon's retinue, and before long he forms a loose band of other traitor space marines to go on a hunt for a weapon to foil the Emperor's Children and their plan to dominate the rest of the Nine Legions by cloning Horus, whose body has been kept by his former legion, until only recently having been taken in a raid by the Emperor's Children.

Over the course of the story, Khayon and crew come to meet Ezekyle Abbadon, former first captain of the Sons of Horus and right hand of the man himself, who goes on to be the main frontman of Chaos Space Marines in the 41st millennium, and the rest is fake history.

It was a pretty entertaining book for one somewhat versed in the overall lore of the setting, but I don't think I would recommend it as a place to begin for neophytes to 40K. Also, the Abbadon we see here is a wholly different person than the one present in the Horus Heresy series. Fair enough, it's eons later, and the man has been through some momentous things in the intervening years, but the only real explanation we have other than the obvious fact that time passes and things evolve and change is that at some point he went on a pilgrimage of worlds in the Eye, and through overcoming various trials basically reforged his personality, taking a lot of the edge off, while retaining and even bolstering his natural charisma and leadership abilities. He is able to compel loyalty and subordination here in a way not unlike how Horus and the other primarchs are described to so in their day.

Next up on my agenda is the next book in the series, simply called Black Legion.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Iron Hand, Medusa's Gorgon Explained

Well, perhaps not fully explained. The Primarchs novel Ferrus Manus: Gorgon of Medusa explores a little of Ferrus' mindset in the later stages of the Great Crusade, as the Emperor mulls over deciding on someone to take command when he wants to retire to Terra for his next grand project.

Ferrus of course thinks it should be him given the honor and responsibility. At least, going into the Gardinaal compliance campaign, he does. By the end you get the sense that he doesn't really want to bother with command of more than one legion, and all the coordination and patience that goes with that kind of role.

Despite being a book centered around the primarch, there are a ton of other characters present here, several of which are from other legions, with a lot being Emperor's Children legionaries. We even get the rare POV of the enemy force, in this instance a not-yet-compliant branch of recently rediscovered humanity that has mastered it's own local star system, but nothing further. They are recalcitrant to join the Imperium, and are in general a real trial of Ferrus' temper.

It was a pretty decent story, but perhaps the least focused on its title character of the bunch so far, or perhaps sharing that distinction with the Guilliman book. These two are as much about the character of the legions present or the events of the campaign they take place during.

Next up, having come completely current with all of the released full numbered volumes of both the Horus Heresy and Primarchs series, I'm going to take a diversion over to 40K to read the two books currently released in the Black Legion series by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, who is without a doubt a top-tier author in 30K. I'm excited for these.

Omnibus Sessions

I made good on getting Samurai to 75 in FFXI this year. I'm done with the game this time around, though I am set on trying out FFXIV soon.

I've also made some pretty good progress with my ongoing FFT campaign. I'm ready to begin the last several story battles, having trained up my crew of generics to a pretty high degree across their many classes.

I should briefly mention Mario Kart 8 Deluxe just because I loaded up my Switch for another purpose and found a race set in progress that I wanted to finish. May as well get all of the trophies in the 50 cc class, I figure.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a throwback to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, and was created to fulfill a backer stretch goal for the Kickstarter of Bloodstaned: Ritual of the Night, which is a throwback to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Curse of the Moon seems very good, so far. It has multiple characters and pathways through the levels, looks and sounds like its inspiration, and has a friendly casual mode that grants infinite lives and removes knockback on enemy contact. I wasn't really aware this was coming, but it's been a pleasant surprise.

I've also been playing the beta versions of Magic: the Gathering: Arena, and Dauntless, though I think I'll put some more time into each before giving my thoughts on them.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fantasies, Never Final

Final Fantasy XI is celebrating it's 16th anniversary, and so it is free to returning players during this period. I had such a good time revisiting the game last year that I thought I would check in again this time. It's nice to be able to visit that world that I used to spend so much meaningful time in. This time I do begin to feel like I am limited in being able to enjoy it by it's outdated interfaces and systems and paradigms, though.

I got a lot of revisiting the world out of my system last year in leveling up Samurai from 1-64. This time I've taken that further, up to 72 at the moment, and really only spent time revisiting the endgame Sky and Sea zones, as well as some of the Aht Urghan zones, in trying to do missions and gain XP.

Unfortunately I've hit a couple of mission progress blocks. In the Aht Urghan mission chain I have reached a burning circle notorious monster (BCNM) boss fight that I'm not quite strong enough for, being not yet at 75, and having only a party of 5, since I can only summon 4 Trust companions at the moment. In the Rhapsodies mission chain, which I am pursuing to unlock that final Trust slot, I have to kill a popped NM, Siren, that seems entirely out of my league for the time being.

I am now thinking the logical thing to do, especially in light of the fact that the free period is wrapping up in a few days, is to find a good hunting ground and focus on hitting level 75 on Samurai, and maybe call it good there, at least for this year. I'm really excited to play some FFXIV, if I'm honest. I'm planning to get into that soon.

In Final Fantasy Tactics campaigning, my progress has slowed, but I am well into the latter part of the game, now. I have finished Chapter III: The Valiant, and am working on Chapter IV: Someone to Love. I need to go and do all of the Errands around the world and level up some, since I want to tackle the optional dungeon in addition to finishing the story campaign. I have all of the character classes unlocked that I want now, I'm just trying to get the most out of them. I'm afraid the Arithmetician (Calculator) may be too slow to be of much use as things currently stand. Equipping him for speed might help with that.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Wolfsbane

I just finished Guy Haley's Wolfsbane, book 49 of The Horus Heresy.

The great galactic civil war is drawing toward a conclusion. This is the story of how, late in the war, Space Wolves Primarch Leman Russ takes his legion from the defense of Terra and strikes out on a doomed attempt to kill the archtraitor, the Warmaster Horus Lupercal himself, before he can lead his forces to an assault on the Sol system.

We know going in that he is not able to kill Horus of course, and that the attempt destroys a large portion of the Space Wolves legion. These are future historical facts, after all. The tale is in the telling, though, and Haley spins a fast-moving one covering a lot of ground and featuring a lot of important characters and momentous events in what felt like a pretty tightly wound novel.

Coming out of Wolfsbane, we know that the surviving Space Wolves are bound for Yarant, pursued by a joint-traitor legions force led by Horus' right hand, Ezekyle Abbadon, and that Horus himself is rounding up the rest of his forces to move on Beta-Garmon, which is a big and important strategic location on the way to Terra. I understand a major battle takes place there. That may be addressed in the next book to move the overall story forward, which should be book 51, Slaves to Darkness.

Book 50, titled Born of Flame, is an anthology of to this point uncollected novellas and short stories around the Salamanders. Also coming up on the release list are the Primarchs books for Jaghatai Khan and Vulkan. Up next for me is a Horus Heresy short story I have not yet read but own from a recent humble bundle, and the Primarchs book on Ferrus Manus. I haven't settled on what's after that one yet.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Introversion's Uplink

It was U week in the backlog bum's rush this week, so I thought I would check out the hacking roleplaying game Uplink.

It casts you in the role of a hacker mercenary taking jobs gathered up by the titular organization. The game is played through a Hollywood movie-esque PC GUI purpose built for hacking into remote systems and accessing the files there. If you can steal or destroy whatever it is the client needs you to without being traced or found out, then you are rewarded with credits you can use to upgrade your hacking hardware and software.

It's a clever take on an ancient formula of character progression, and it's done very well from a presentation standpoint. I liked it. I don't know how much more I might play of it, but I did enjoy testing it out.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Tale of a Genre Not For Me

It was T week in the backlog blitz, and I thought I'd try out Tales of Monkey Island, a Telltale adventure game. Monkey Island started out at Lucas Arts much earlier; this game was a revival of the series. 

I gather it was well regarded, but once again this genre just does nothing for me. I tend to dislike comedy in games anyway, and the play mechanics, if you can call them that, are so tedious that I can hardly bear to play these games. I end up forcing myself to stick it out for half an hour or forty-five minutes just to push past the intro and into the meat of what it's going to be. 

Boring, is what it's going to be. The stories are sometimes more interesting, and sometimes less. Blade Runner, or the Blackwood games, or Pendulo's Yesterday all had more interesting themes and narratives, but even those failed to keep me, through their obtuse, repetitive puzzles that only serve to stand in the way of those narratives.

Maybe that is the core problem of this and other some other genres--an imperfect union of story and mechanics. The two mesh together for me in a lot of other contexts, but not so much, here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Primarchs: The Second Batch

I'm finishing up the second trio of books I elected to read in the Horus Heresy: Primarchs series. These shorter length novels are pretty quick reads, and I get the sense they would be really adaptable to the screen, if anyone ever wanted to do such a thing, because of their generally smaller scope as compared to one of the Horus Heresy novels proper.

Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar - An interesting look into Guilliman's philosophy of war and legion building. We get to see the Ultramarines waging war against orks while trying to preserve the remnants of a long extinguished human civilization on the same planet. Some of the themes here are of the integration of the Terrans and Ultramarians in the legion, and when and where certain types of warfare are appropriate.

Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero - Magnus and Perturabo are sent to a compliant world in order to evacuate the population to save them from a natural disaster. All is not as it seems, of course, and the people may not be savable, after all. Magnus's thirst for knowledge and Perturabo's ends-justify-the-means pragmatism are both on display here.

Fulgrim: The Palatine Phoenix - It is early in the Great Crusade, and Fulgrim is just getting his legion up to its fighting strength, and getting out on his own with the 28th Expedition fleet. For his first compliance, he wants a quick, efficient, and bloodless settlement, if at all possible. To add a bit of flair to the challenge, he takes only a small handful of legionaries to the world, and sets himself a deadline of a single month to bring the world to heel. This book shows an interesting side of the Phoenician as he is yet to really fill out into his role as an arrogant perfectionist and aesthete.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Is Nothing Sacred 2?

Actually, many many many things are Sacred, or rather, Sacred is just like a million other games out there. A good portion of those do everything here better, as well.

It's almost a shame to get into a game and be kind of digging what its doing, only for that experience to be hampered by something like a cumbersome camera or the fact that the game is just plain old and many other things since have covered this ground with much more panache.

All these things and more are a drag on Sacred 2: Fallen Angel in 2018. It's my fault of course; I should have played this when it was new, probably nearing on a decade ago. However, all I can think playing it now is how much nicer it would be to be playing Path of Exile or Diablo III or Skyrim or Dark Souls 2 or...

I will say the UI isn't terrible, and the skill and character development systems seemed well thought out and allowing for a lot of crunchy customization.

Well, that's another off the backlog. I'm coming to realize it's better not to buy games if I'm not going to immediately sit down and play them.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Middle-campaign

I wanted to briefly mention that I did reinstall and pick up Shadow of Mordor once more. I have been kind of rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy lately, and wanted to play some in that world. Maybe I will eventually find what others have in that game.

In Final Fantasy Tactics, I have made it up to the beginning of Chapter III: The Valiant. I'm currently grinding out random battles to get my force to the jobs I want them to be going forward. I'm also roaming the land doing errands out of the various towns. I don't recall if anything important comes out of these, but they're fun to do all the same. I have Ramza as dragoon now. I'm not sure where he will end up. Maybe as a samurai, or perhaps even as a Mime. I have yet to unlock either samurai or ninja, or summoner or mediator on the magic track.

The campaigns continue.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Rocketbirds: What the Hell is This?

I wanted to knock something off the backlog, so I decided on Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken, which was a kind of uneven experience.

It's hard to really see what the developers were going for with this game due to how the themes of the plot, the art design, characters, and music all come together so disjointedly. It's not a great action-platformer to begin with, but the mixture of mid-aughts emo rock with cartoonish bird humanoid creatures and themes of total war versus an evil regime only serve to confuse. Were these supposed to be jokes?

On it's face, it's a bland 2D action game. There's shooting, and a little bit of navigation puzzling, but nothing even so complicated as in the original Metroid. A mechanic introduced a few levels in lets you mind-control enemies which is OK for setting up some slightly more interesting puzzles. One level I thought was kind of cool was set up as a jetpack dogfight in the sky outside the penguin regime's zeppelin. It played kind of like a twin-stick shooter but that you could only shoot in the direction you were flying in.

I got about halfway through the game, I am led to believe by the chapter count, but I don't think I'll ever be back to it. It's just not my kind of thing.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Lion War for Ivalice

I've played almost nothing but Final Fantasy Tactics in the last week. In that time, I have progressed through Chapter I: The Meagre to the early part of Chapter II: The Manipulator and the Subservient.

Chapter II begins with a bang, the first movement, back to the merchant city Dorter from Orbonne Monastery, results in the band of Ovelia's protectors (led by Agrias at this point) being ambushed by mercenaries and having to fend them off. An unknown malefactor from the princess's kidnappers has hired a crew to waylay Ramza et al to put them off the trail. Just who is behind Ovelia's kidnapping is unkown at this point. The band will move from here toward a meeting with Cardinal Delecroix of the Church of Glabados, though, in hopes he can somehow protect the kidnapped Ovelia.

For this playthrough, I decided to eschew the use of overpowered characters like Agrias and Mustadio and T.G. Cid where possible, to instead rely on training up generics through the job system. I'm not certain how to proceed at the moment, though. Do I keep knights and archers in those jobs, or level characters through those jobs on to more advanced ones? I am leaning toward the former, where in the past I think I mostly did the latter. I may only need a single party member as a given class, too, since the battle party size is only a max of 5 in this game.

At the moment, I have Ramza as knight, along with two generics in that class as well. I also have three squires in training along with two or three chemists, two archers, and combination black/white mage. I'm running the mage and a chemist in battles now, along with a mix of knights, squires, and archers as leveling dictates. Squire and chemist not only compliment each other perfectly, but are also the cornerstone of every good fighter- or mage-derived class available in the game. I think it's probably wise to go ahead and have every party member master one or the other (using the other as their sub-job) before taking another class as their main. To that end I should probably get my current chemists up to white and black mage status and then allow my current black mage to go back and master chemist. Chemists are always good to have around, especially later in the game when they get access to guns. Same goes for squires; they have a really good set of abilities and thus can always be useful.

So then, my new plan of development will be to always be rotating through the party of battle at least one squire and chemist, while also pulling from the other classes whatever is needed, be it knight, archer, dragoon, monk, or any various mage type. I'm looking forward to applying this new strategy already.

I'd like to progress through the story and into the 100-floor dungeon this time through the game, as well. We'll see how that goes.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The War for Valeria

I finally managed to wrap up my campaign of Tactics Ogre last night. That is to say I finished the lawful route of the main story. There is still a huge amount of game there to explore in the form of sidequests, a hundred floor dungeon, alternate chaotic and neutral paths through the story, and a postgame coda section of further missions.

I'm not sure what I want to do next in the game, but I definitely want to play more of it. I wonder though if I should take a break from it and come back at a later date. I suppose I can play a little more now and kind of gradually segue away from it to something else. Or maybe I'll just dive into my optimized version of FFT.

Tactics Ogre is great, though. It's a real masterpiece and by itself justification for owning a PSP, Vita, and/or Playstation Vita TV microconsole. The story didn't impact me as much at 37 as FFT did at 17, but it is no less well realized, and is certainly better localized than FFT originally was. I also finally came to appreciate the larger (up to 12) force sizes, appreciating the fact that I could double or triple up on classes I liked to really get the job done.

And that surprise ending! Now I see where the Delita/Ovelia epilogue scene from FFT was delineated from.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Burden of Loyalty

Book 48 of The Horus Heresy is another anthology. They stories are all loosely collected by the theme the title encapsulates -  that it's not easy being on the loyalist side in this war, for a number of reasons. They are mostly tales of sacrifice of one type or another in the name of Primarch, Emperor, and Imperium.

The Thirteenth Wolf features a group of Space Wolves who follow some wily Thousand Sons into warp portals as they are escaping the massacre at Prospero. I believe these are the ones who emerge much later on, changed, just before Guilliman returns in the 40K period.

Into Exile, Cybernetica, and The Binary Succession all deal with the split in the Martian Mechanicum during the war, and the eventual establishment of the Adeptus Mechanicus in the power structure of the Imperium.

Ordo Sinister features a powerful Psi-Titan that has been called upon to help out in the war in the webway, where the Emperor himself has busied himself and the Adeptus Custodes after Magnus the Red breached the portal connecting it to the chamber containing the Golden Throne.

The Heart of the Pharos sets up the novel Pharos with the mystery of what's in the mountain of the same name on the agri-world Sotha.

Wolf King is the story of the Space Wolves being waylaid by the Alpha Legion after their actions against the Thousand Sons at Prospero. They have to fight for their existence in the Alaxxes nebula, and Russ has to learn a lesson about who he is and who he pretends to be.

Perpetual catches us up with the location of Oll Persson and crew after their flight from Calth, and on their way to Terra. They are still in transit, here, pursued by Alpha Legion operatives, seemingly.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The End for These

Every now and then I revisit a game that put me off previously, or that I'm kind of on the fence on, and decide that it really just is not for me. I had around of these over the weekend:

Hearthstone - I thought to go back and give it another shot after a long time away, but it does definitely still turn me away with the nature of how random and haphazardly balanced many of the game mechanics and card abilities feel. I also really don't want to put in the time it would take to learn all the cards and combos I would need to get good, or to go about acquiring all of the cards to use, either. I am looking for something like a deck building card game to fit into my life, but this is not it.

Destiny 2 - I thought I might like to spend some more time in this game after recent updates, but just tooling around it a little the other night was enough to make me certain I had no interest in continuing to try to enjoy Bungie's latest, beyond completing the base campaign. At least not now. I might have been hasty to uninstall, but really I do think it's for the best. This game is nothing but a treadmill in the end.

Fortnite Battle Royale - I've had a fun enough time playing about 30 rounds of it, but I don't feel any drive to play to win, and I don't really care for the moment-to-moment gameplay now that I've seen most of the map. I get why people like the game, if not quite why it's hit such a critical mass lately. I just don't personally want to play it anymore. I'm really hoping for this mode to be dropped into another game I like and for it to be paired with some kind of interesting strategic progression or something I could sink my teeth into.

On a separate note, I my have a new beginning for an old favorite, Final Fantasy Tactics. I found a fan patch that would take the PSX version of the game, which is technically superior to the PSP port, and inject into it the new and far superior translation from said PSP port. Through the magic of emulation, this best-of-both-worlds amalgamation is playable on my PC. I would no doubt already be deep into the game once more, but for the fact that I am trying to finish off Tactics Ogre at the moment, as well. I do look forward to eventually playing through the game again in this theoretically optimal incarnation.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Very Much Timely, Very Much Not

The hottest new thing in the gaming zeitgeist at the moment is Fortnite Battle Royale. Epic announced Fortnite what must have been 5 or 7 years ago, and it languished in development hell for ages until Player Unknown's Battlegrounds found huge success last year, when Fortnite quickly bit off that same idea and recreated it within their game. It's been a massive success. They even got me to give it a shot, which is nothing short of miraculous, being that I had to download Epic's own separate game client to give it a shot.

In short, I think Fortnite Battle Royale is a pretty solid and fun multiplayer game mode. It's a very good fit for me, particularly because of the solo mode where the game is everyone-for-themself. That said, there's a lot of downtime in the game as I have played it thus far. I have been electing to drop into various areas around the map, usually away from others, in order to scrounge materials and an arsenal before making my way to wherever the shrinking circle is. I'm usually careful to keep a low profile until I have seen someone I can get the drop on. This means a lot of running behind cover and scouting out a location before venturing in. Sometimes a match can be 10 or 15 minutes of this before ending in just few short seconds of a firefight, or being sniped from afar with no warning whatsoever.
It's been fun to play some, and I'll keep dipping in for now, but it's hard to say how long it might hold my attention. I've made it into the top 10 a few times, as high as 5th place once.

I wanted to knock a game off of my backlog, and I was up to Q in the rotation, so I went with Quake Mission Pack 1: Scourge of Armagon. I'm on to the third level now, I believe. I keep hopping back and forth between this, the main game, and DOPA, the mission pack Machine Games put out a couple of years ago to celebrate Quake's 20th anniversary. I absolutely love Quake. These new missions feel pretty good for the most part, as well. They have added some environmental puzzles and elements to the game, and a few new weapons and enemies as well. I don't really have much of anything to complain about with what I have seen. Quake is great, and more of it is always a good thing, as far as I can tell. At some point maybe I'll get around to playing other games in the weird series.

I have also continued to make some progress through Tactics Ogre. I have taken Denam and his band up to chapter 4 in the campaign now. It appears he and his sister Catiua are secretly the heirs to some title somewhere or something. I don't quite follow the story, but then this campaign has been in progress since around 2010. My plan from here is to go find the next story mission and then grind if need be to finish it. Once my characters are closer to level 20, I can go to the pirate island in the southwest to do the optional mission there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Transition Point for Gregor Eisenhorn

The Magos & The Definitive Case Files of Gregor Eisenhorn was released last month, and I have just finished it. The first half of the book, the definitive case files part, is a collection of just about every short story written featuring Eisenhorn or his protege, Gideon Ravenor, with some that don't feature either, but end up relating to the new novel, The Magos, in a different way.

Of the collected stories, a few were new to me: Pestilence, The Curiosity, Gardens of Tycho, and The Curious Demise of Titus Endor. A couple of these introduce the new character of Magos Biologis Valentenin Drusher, who figures heavily into The Magos in the latter half of the volume. Not included, that I know of, is a short, very short, story called Born To Us, which features Eisenhorn and longtime associate Harlon Nayl stumbling upon a Necron king.

The Magos is the first Eisenhorn novel not written from his own first-person perspective, which is in interesting choice made necessary by how the story is told, and the nature of the story being told. From this point in Eisenhorn's career and on (and previously in Master Imus' Transgression and Thorn Wishes Talon), we only get him in the third-person. We're not privy to what's going on in his head, because he is very literally no longer the protagonist and figuratively may even be an antagonist, especially going forward after The Magos, in Pariah, and the other books in the Bequin trilogy to follow.

The Magos, in plot terms, is much more like one of Eisenhorn's short stories than one of his novels. It's set in one place as opposed to across many planets, and much more about one particular lead in the quest he has taken upon himself--to defeat and destroy the Cognitae order, who serve the Ruinous Powers against the Imperium. By the end of the new novel, we wonder if he still has that goal in mind, or if another has taken its place as his prime motive, and we also have reason to doubt his mental health. Has old Gregor finally crossed that line into becoming the radical he always denied he had become?

It's enough to make me want to go back and reread Pariah, but I think I'll wait until author Dan Abnett is at least done writing the next in the series.

Stepping Out of the Light and Into the Dark Ages

I did manage to finish of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In the end I feel it was pretty so-so like I mentioned before. Playing the Director's Cut edition meant that I got to play the Missing Link DLC section in line with the rest of the game, and that part was mostly pretty good, I'll admit, if a little heavy on the backtracking. I appreciated that at the end of the DLC section there was not just another poor boss fight, but a scenario that you could resolve in ways Deus Ex does better.

The final boss encounter of the game was also pretty weak, I felt, and then the pick-an-ending-any-ending thing at the very end was also kind of lame. Maybe if one or two options were closed off to Jensen based on his actions throughout the game leading up to that point, then it would have some kind of impact. Overall, I'm feeling underwhelmed.

Out of morbid curiosity I also went and played a little more of Deus Ex: Invisible War after finishing Human Revolution. It might have been an OK game, but I will never suffer through the way that engine constantly goes back to the desktop during loads and resets your desktop resolution to some archaic trash from 2003. Also, who has time for games that are merely OK these days? Ignore the fact I just soldiered through DX:HR for no apparent reason.

I also managed to sneak in some Tactics Ogre on the Vita last week. Miraculously, I brute forced my way through a battle that had given me trouble in the past. Come to find out, I made it harder on myself by attacking a bunch of neutral dragons in the map that I need not have fought with. Ah well, live and learn. I think I'll continue on a bit further in TO now that I got past that progress blocker. I ordered a PS Vita TV as well, so with luck I'll have it up on the big screen soon. Finally finishing off Tactics Ogre after all this time would be a hell of a thing.