Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book 2

I tore through A Game of Thrones in just over a week, and now I'm well into A Clash of Kings, as well. I see no reason not to continue right on through all five books, while the notion has taken hold of me so tightly. It helps that I can read on my breaks at work or while waiting at the DMV or such places, using the kindle app on my phone. I am still reading every day, but not at quite the breakneck speed I had for the first book. Books 2 and 3 are quite long, so I'm trying to maintain a good pace, but not overdo it. There's not much else I'd rather be reading than this series, right now.

Words Are Wind

Despite my best intentions, I never get around to playing what I think I'll play. Zero minutes of Mass Effect 3 played since last I wrote here. I have dabbled in several things, but committed to nothing. To recount:

Dota 2 - The International 4 happened over the past couple of weeks. I thought I might watch some, and play some, turns out I had only time for one game in either category. I want to play more, because Dota is a ton of fun. It's discouraging, though, to know that I'll never be better than more than about 3 in 10 players. I feel this way about most multi-player games, these days. Kids and the childless and the underemployed have it so nice, with ample time to get good.

Vlad the Impaler - A cool text adventure game with a gothic horror motif, set in Istanbul during the time of Vlad Tepes. It's like someone made this just for me. There are different choices to make in character creation and in your investigations that drive the narrative forward, and different outcomes to the whole thing. It's good.

A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda - very obviously heavily derivative of Mega Man games, but with some new twists, including analog 360-degree firing and the ability to construct consumables and upgrades from scrap dropped by enemies. It seemed cool if that's the type of thing you were looking for, games which are in short supply in this day and age, and native to the PC. This was part of my knock-em-off-the-backlog initiative.

Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny - I'd played Wolf 3D before, but not a hell of a lot of it. I picked it up the other day in the Quake-Con related Steam sale, along with the expansion and Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Boy, are these games tough to return to. Having to hold down a key in order to strafe is a deal-breaker. This and the older Doom games both are better in retrospect than to actually sit down and try to play with a modern control scheme. Unmodded, their mouse implementations are so foreign to modern conventions that it is debilitating. Quake fares much better, with a little tweaking of the options--and Quake is a better game, as well, much as I love the Dooms.

Goat Simulator - I guess we broke this out again, not too long ago. It's fun to fly around with the controllable jetpack mutator installed. I wish there were more areas to the game, but it is just a dumb toy, after all.

Hearthstone - I'm not sure what happened here, but apparently I am back to grinding out daily quests in order to collect more cards to build a good Shaman deck. I think that's my favorite class, for now at least. The Naxxramus expansions comes out today, or the first part of it does, at least. That will be interesting to check out.

Minecraft - Because there's just nothing like it for getting into a world and going exploring. Cube World is cool, too, but I kind of felt more like wandering and less like fighting.

Destiny beta - On the PS3, even. I like it. It's Halo crossed with Diablo but without Borderlands' questionable sensibilities. I wonder how much actual content there is, here. Every mission I've been on save the multi-player modes have been on the same big map. It is fun, though maybe only just engaging enough. How the story stuff plays out and how much of the rest of the solar system we get to see and how varied the play can be with only three character classes and limited amounts of enemies all remains to be seen. I'm keeping my PS3 pre-order, content with how it performs (freely online, I might add), though I am still hoping for a PC version.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Revisiting an Old Favorite

On reading, I've really upped my intensity, lately. I've been reading every day, I'm proud to say.

I finished Nemesis, the latest novel of the Horus Heresy I was reading. It was a pretty cool story of two star-crossed and doomed assassination missions targeting Horus Lupercal and The Emperor himself. Pulpy, and none too consequential to the overall Heresy arc, but fun.

I'm reading through The Ninja, the (mostly) non-fiction historical account of Japan's famous secretive and independent feudal warrior groups based in the Iga and Koga regions. It's kind of hit-or-miss for me, so far, with maybe a little too much about the philosophy of ninpo, or ninjutsu, but interesting, if probably, in some cases, apocryphal historical accounts of Daimyo such as Tokugawa Ieyasu employing the shinobi no mono.

Over the last few weeks I watched seasons 3 and 4 of HBO's Game of Thrones, and that made me want to go back and reread the books, since it has been a decade or more ago that I read the first four. I'm well into A Game of Thrones now, and I think I'll make it through this first book, at least. The meat that I really want to get to is a reread of books 4 and 5--the parts of the story where the HBO series has strayed, or at least not advanced far enough to cover, yet. There have been a time or two that I sat down with this first book and half-heartedly began a reread, making it perhaps a hundred pages in before setting it aside. I must be a good third of the way in, now, though. I think it's going to stick this time. It's been long enough, but at the same time I have my familarity with the TV show's material to check and compare versus the content of the books, which makes the reread pretty interesting. Seeing Littlefinger setting up Ned and Catelyn so early on in the first book, for instance. Seeing Tyrion and Jon's kinship. The early signs of what a monster Joffrey becomes. Not only getting all the ancient history characters talk about, but at the same time understanding how it underpins their actions thus far and the ones they will take in the future. It's good stuff.


I have been making some good progress through Mass Effect 3, but it is also true that my attention has been diverted in a number of different directions, in the meantime. I am planning on paring that back down some and continuing on Shepard's quest very soon.

The Steam summer sale happened recently, and with that my backlog swelled again to even greater volume. I have knocked a few off the pile, though. Quickly and dirty reviews:

Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior - fun and fairly unique melee-focused combat featuring a number of historical warrior types. Did I uninstall this? What was I thinking? I want to go play more right now. The downside is that there doesn't seem to be much balance. Samurai appear to be the best class overall, by historical rankings in the leaderboards. Pirates look to be bringing up the rear. Cool game, but I'm not sure how much potential there is for a serious competitive scene.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - a great platformer with a gorgeous presentation, and quite difficult, too. There don't seem to be a huge amount of stages, but the ones I saw--up through the first boss fight--are large and feature a number of secrets. There is also the fact that each exists in two states, happy fairy land and dead Halloween land. You play as two girls, one at a time, shifting back and forth from girl and world to girl and world. Recommended for platformer fans.

Garry's Mod - I don't get it. I guess it's kind of a meta-Minecraft in which you can construct not only worlds, but game types, as well. I messed around a bit with dropping objects into the world, and I saw that there were a ton of people playing original game types on various servers, but I didn't join any. I tried to get onto something running some sort of Fallout: New Vegas roleplaying thing, but it was taking forever to connect, so I cancelled and quit out. This seems like a deep, deep hole, and I don't know that I want to jump down it.

Goat Simulator - Finally a game that Mia appreciates. She's three years old, today.

Wizorb - it's 8-bit-esque JRPG Arkanoid.

I also returned to a number of games for a bit more, and even finished off the Bioshock franchise, as it exists now, with the second part of Infinite's Burial at Sea expansion. It was good, and did a decent job of elaborating on the events of Infinite and connecting them to those of the original Bioshock. Not that that was really necessary, but it was a nice touch, I thought.

I let Mia check out some World of Goo, Peggle, and Hearthstone while sitting on my lap. She seems think they're variously OK for up to about 5 minutes before bombing off to do something else.

I made a tiny bit more progress through Half-Life 2. At this pace I'll finish itup sometime in 2016, making this one of the more extended contiguous (to my definition) playthroughs I've ever done. It's a great, great game, though. It feels great to play. Maybe I just don't want it to end.

I've kind of reached a multiplayer FPS crisis. That is, I don't know if there is a game for me in this genre. Battlefield has evolved to something I don't really care for. Call of Duty has never been my thing. Counter-Strike seems like the best game out there, but after about 15 or 20 minutes, I feel like I'm done for the day. Matches seem to last longer than that. Plus, Counter-Strike is extremely skill-intensive, and I'll never be that good. I need something more casual, I think. Maybe Borderlands or the upcoming Destiny or another co-op game, like the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, is more my speed these days. I've tried the Left 4 Dead games, but they just don't seem to take, either. They're incredibly intense and repetitive, and like with CS, I want to bail out after just a short time. The aforementioned multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 is pretty good, maybe I'll stick with that for the time being, while I'm playing the campaign, anyway. I should also play the Payday series, which I do own.

Going forward, I guess I'll try to focus on ME3, though I am awaiting Diablo III's 2.1 patch and the Destiny beta. We'll see how that goes.