Tuesday, January 22, 2013

P.Q.: Dark Souls, Fallout 3 DLC

As promised, I have been working on my priority queue. I included Dark Souls on there more as an afterthought for the time being, but nevertheless I spent a few hours playing it over the past couple of weeks. Previously, playing the PS3 version, I had progressed up to the Capra Demon. Now, on the PC version, I have gotten past him and down into The Depths. This meant playing through the rest of The Undead Parish and defeating the twin gargoyles at the top, which didn't turn out to be too difficult with the help of a summoned NPC to distract them. The next boss, though, the Crapra Demon himself, took quite a bit more effort. I must have tried the fight 10 times before finally slaying the beast and being able to move down into the grim sewer areas that follow. I've made it a good way through them, finding the next bonfire and another door of white mist. That is where I left off, for now.

This weekend I loaded up Fallout 3 again, and polished off the Broken Steel DLC, and played through the Operation Anchorage DLC, as well. Broken Steel was the better of the two, offering some post-game narrative content on the scouring of the Capital Wasteland of the Enclave, along with an interesting choice of whether to rain down missiles on them, or to possibly take out Megaton, the Brotherhood of Steel, Project Purity, or Rivet City, instead. I am a big fan of the Brotherhood in the Fallout world, and less so of The Enclave, so I eliminated them, as a true Paladin of the Wastes would.

Operation Anchorage was, I guess, Bethesda trying to pull of a Call of Duty mission in Fallout 3. It didn't work out all that well, if I'm honest. I felt like I was playing a pretty average PS2 game, the kind entitled something like Conflict: Desert Storm that I used to rent in college. Kind of half-assed. From a world background narrative perspective, it wasn't that interesting, either. The Chinese invaded Alaska for oil, and that presumably sparked the nuclear war that left the world in the state it currently exists in in the Fallout universe. I'm not sure that is new information. In any case, it was a simulation authored by the general in command after the fact, so its veracity is in doubt, anyway.

I guess I'll do Point Lookout next.

A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time Finished

It feels odd to have finished the Wheel of Time. I believe it was Christmas of 1996 when I was given The Eye of the World by an aunt. I was fifteen, and I had always liked reading, and reading fantasy, as a kid, but had kind of fallen out of the habit in favor of playing SNES games and Magic: The Gathering in my free time. At 814 pages in paperback, it was the biggest book I'd ever considered tackling, and half of what made me give it a whirl was just the challenge of seeing if I could finish a book that long. I never imagined it would turn out to be fourteen volumes of a similar size and heft, or that I would read many of them twice or thrice over as the years wore on, in anticipation of the next volume being released.

Well, the final book has finally come and gone. Although--unbelievably--only two years have passed for the series' characters throughout all the tumult their world and their lives seen, it's been sixteen years for me. That is fully half my lifetime thus far. So now, to be done with the story, or at least to know how it all plays out, and to have lost some of those characters I know so well to their ultimate fates, and the rest to the end of the narrative, it just feels weird. Forgive the wordplay, but it's as if I closed the book on one chapter of my life.

The characters and the world of Robert Jordan (and to some extent, Brandon Sanderson's) Wheel of Time are to me what Tolkien's works are to many people, and to the world of fantasy fiction, in general. I read Jordan--extensively--long before I ever picked up The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Growing up in parallel to, if much faster than, Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and others always made the series resonate with me more than a lot of fiction, and a small part of me is sad that I'll never get another view into how their world and their lives are coming along.

They say endings are one of the hardest things to do in fiction, and I believe it, having seen so many seem to go up in smoke, even harming for many the quality of the work prior to the ending. I am fairly satisfied with the way The Wheel of Time ended up. With the series having gone on for so long, there was almost no chance of every little matter being wrapped up in a grand and superlative way. I feel like the way it ended was mostly appropriate and fulfilling, even if I have a bone or two to pick here and there. I'm looking forward to the series' capstone encyclopedia which is due out in a couple of years, and in several years, eventually introducing The Eye of the World to my daughter. Maybe she'll enjoy it as much as I have over the years. I wouldn't rule out re-reading the series again for myself at some point, either. It wouldn't be the first time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Priority Queue

I have a lot of games that I want to finish; that is a given. There are a small handful that I feel that are a bit more urgent, and that I want to really focus on due to imminent sequels and/or sequel announcements, but also because I feel particularly behind, here. This is what I have been thinking of over the last couple of weeks as my priority queue:

Half-Life 2 and its related games Lost Coast, Episode 1, and Episode 2
Starcraft: Brood War and Starcraft II
Fallout 3 DLC and Fallout: New Vegas
Dark Souls

These are the most pressing, I feel, and followed at a little bit of a distance by the next tier of stuff including Halo 4, Red Dead Redemption, the Company of Heroes games, and others I won't start trying to pick out just yet.

I want to hone in my focus to these games to relatively quickly address each of them. Realistically speaking, I would be happy to polish off each of them by the end of the year; or by the end of summer if I am lucky.

I did just wrap up one loose end, my Inferno difficulty run of Diablo III on my now wizened (level 3 paragon!) wizard. The spirit moved me, though, and I had to create a new character, a barbarian this time, and play just a little bit of his eventual run up to level 60. Of course, I also enjoy a dip into Dota 2 (I've been playing Mirana and Slardar lately) or what have you (SpaceChem), as well, so there will always be more competing for my time.

Paramount among my leisure time activities for the moment, though, is the final volume of the Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light. I'm about 250/900s of the way in right now, and it's been very action-packed thus far, especially by the standards of this often slow series. There are a thousand and one disparate threads still needing to be woven back together before the ending, so I don't see the pace letting up much. It's a sprint to the finish line, which is nice, because for a while there during the middle of the race it felt like the runner had lain down for a nap. We've long been told that not everything will be wrapped up in a nice, neat little bow at the series' end; I just hope nothing too major is left unexplained. Open-ended is fine, but if we somehow got through the entire series not knowing just what the hell Demandred was up to, that would be quite a disappointment. It's bad enough we never saw more of the world outside of the main kingdoms and the Aiel Waste. I always wanted the story to visit Shara or the Island of the Madmen as shown in the "Big White Book" series encyclopedia released so long ago.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pariah Done

I just finished reading Dan Abnett's Pariah, the first in the Bequin trilogy, which is itself the author's third trilogy about the Warhammer 40,000 universe's Inquisition. It is billed a titanic conflict between the legendary inquisitors Gregor Eisenhorn and Gideon Ravenor, both of which have tended to go rogue and take whatever measures they deemed necessary to accomplish their goals of rooting out heretics to the Imperium.

Who is in the right thus far in this conflict is far from clear. Much of the action in Pariah is setting the stage and establishing the motivations of each Inquisitor and their respective retinues, primarily by way of introducing us to one Alizabeth Bequin, a character at once familiar but strange to readers of the Eisenhorn trilogy. Writing much more would spoil a lot of the fun. Suffice it to say, if you have read the Eisenhorn and Ravenor books, you'll want to read this one, as well.

And if you haven't read Eisenhorn and Ravenor, that's actually ok, too, for the purposes of enjoying Pariah--but take my word for it, you should go read those two preceding trilogies. They are really great sci-fi renegade detective stories, tons of fun, and exist really quite apart from the Space Marines-focused galactic war stories of the rest of the universe.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Game Of The Year & Recap

Another year has come and gone, but the world keeps turning, and players keep gaming. This year saw me grapple with two titans of gaming, logging well over 150+ hours with each, even discounting time spent AFK or spectating or browsing the in-game store or auction house. What, pray tell, could those games be?

My Game of 2012: Dota 2
Runner-Up: Diablo III

Of course, anyone reading this blog over the past year or listening to Call Of Podcast would probably have been able to guess one or the both of those. Neither should really come as much surprise, if I haven't had much to say about Diablo since putting it on a back burner in August.

The real surprise to me, personally, has been just how deep Dota 2 has gotten its hooks into me. It's about as deep as my personal life these days (full-time job, child, spouse, etc.) will allow for the sort of thing to happen. It's nothing like what it might have been like during the days when I could binge on FFXI for entirely self-destructive amounts of time; it's a more responsible admiration as opposed to an outright addiction or obsession. I also harbor no delusions of grandeur; I will never be a great player of Dota 2, but I can try to at least be decent at it, and as long as I feel like I'm doing well in-game, playing it is high in the ranks of satisfying experiences I've had with video games. So, bravo Valve, Icefrog, the Warcraft III modding community, Blizzard, and everyone else who had a hand in bringing the game to be over the years. It's heady stuff.

If not for that game, Diablo III would easily have taken the top spot. I've had a blast with it. It's not Diablo II, and it's not Diablo, either--it's something new and modernized, and for me, it works. It works very, very well.

Past years' picks, for reference:
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

And as for the progress on the backlog? Well, here are the games (liberally defined) I finished this year:
BioShock 2
Minerva's Den
Max Payne
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Legend of Grimrock
Diablo III
Diablo III (Nightmare)
Diablo III (Hell)
The Walking Dead Ep. 1
Thirty Flights of Loving
The Walking Dead Ep. 2
Moon Base Alpha
Diablo II
The Walking Dead Ep. 3
Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising
The Walking Dead Ep. 4
Fallout 3
The Walking Dead Ep. 5
Assassin's Creed III

23, all told.

Past years' totals:

The backlog is as big as its ever been, it seems. This time last year I was planning on a 2 out, 1 in completion policy. I amended that later to straight 1 out, 1 in, and then decided that books knocked off the booklog would also count as 1 out. That may be lenient, but I'll stick with it for now. There is the additional guideline of not buying a game unless I want to play it right away, which seems to have been successful, recently. Looking at the Pile o' Shame now, I'm not sure that it'll ever get back under control, or how to tackle it. I could resurrect the Resolution idea of trying something new each week, but that sounds like homework, to be honest, and not very attractive.

I don't have a New Year's Resolution of any type at the moment, really, other than the same stuff as every year--try to be fit, eat healthy, read more, write more, etc. Perhaps I'll add to that to try to play more games from the backlog. We'll see how that goes.

Oh, can't forget the Booklog! I finished one book since beginning the initiative recently:
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

There are still plenty of titles on that pile, as well.

Happy New Year, everyone, and game on!