Friday, October 24, 2014

Filling Out Twenty-Fourteen

The end of the year is rapidly approaching, and I like to come to some kind of annual conclusion on what my game of the year is, so I am now trying to revisit or look into some of the more notable releases of the year, to my sensibilities, anyway.

I also jumped sooner on at least one game, Shadow of Mordor, after hearing a lot of talk about its interesting Nemesis system. I've only played it for about an hour so far, but it seems pretty slick, with solid (Batman) combat, Assassin's Creed climbing, and multiple systems of unlocks for new abilities. It's a pretty good looking game, as well, especially powered by my new 970 GTX.

Civilization: Beyond Earth has also just come out, and I am most itching to get in and play it some more. I also have only spent about an hour with this one, so far, but I've spent 70+ with Civ V. While I am far, far from anything approaching good or expert at the game, I do really like it, and I see a lot, at least on the surface, of Civ V in Beyond Earth. I think I prefer the exoplanet colonization theme, too, as great as the historical cultures of the world theme, is. Both are very cool.

Legend of Grimrock II is out! I haven't had much time to put into this one yet, either, but so far so good. I really loved the first game, and this seems like more, and more robust, and nice outdoor environments, too.

The Banner Saga is on my short list of GOTY contenders, but it had been several long months since I last played (and never completed) it, so I'm trying to pick it up again. I played for about half an hour last night, and was given a healthy reminder on what is so grand about the game. The art is stellar, the writing is also great, and it even has a cool tactical combat system, though this may be its Achilles' heel, so to speak. It seems easy to play yourself into an untenable state. That may just be it's razor's edge balance speaking, but often the battles in this game have me feeling really stretched thin. I'll have to see how it further pans out. I don't really have any sense as to how deep into the game I am, other than an hour count (6).

Elsewhere, I've dipped into both Borderlands 2 and Diablo III for a bit of click and loot, I'm continuing playing Baldur's Gate (on ipad now) as a solo sorcerer, and I even played the first hour of Final Fantasy VII the other day just in the interest of refreshing my memories (and opinions) on what it seems is finally no longer the undisputed masterpiece of everything ever. While far from my favorite of the series, it is also far from my least favorite, and I think I would like to revisit it, in limited chunks, here and there.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Martian

I just finished Andy Weir's hard sci-fi story about an astronaut stranded alone on Mars after a freak accident and extenuating circumstances. It's very good and goes into a hellacious amount of detail in relating how a man could possibly survive such a situation. The research that must have gone into writing this book is staggering to think about, and seeing just how the main character MacGuyvers through each and every problem he's presented with is really interesting.

The problem with the book is mainly in the dialog between others back on Earth or the Hermes crew (on their way back to Earth after evacuating Mars and leaving behind our protagonist). It's terrible. It reads like awful sitcom-esque TV dreck. It's so bad it is distracting from the rest of the well-written parts of the book. It's not a huge part of the book, and far from the most important part of it, thankfully.

Overall, I did enjoy The Martian, and would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in the nitty gritty of spacefaring in the present and very near-term future. Almost nothing at all in here is beyond our current capabilities.

Blazed Based Baldur's Gate

I went and finished off Baldur's Gate, including all of the Tales of the Sword Coast content. There is some very challenging content in there, moreso than with the base game. The Greater Wolfwere, the Demon Knight, and Aec'Letec were all very tricky fights, and each more difficult than the final story confrontation with Sarevok.

I've had a blast with Baldur's Gate, and am definitely looking forward to more not only with the sequel, but the additional content in the Enhanced Editions as well as the upcoming Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition and numerous other D&D computer RPGs I already own.

For now, though, I'm going to play a number of things, starting with Legend of Grimrock II. It looks to be a refined, expanded, and enhanced sequel to the excellent first Grimrock, and I'm excited to delve in. So far I've created a group and explored a little of the beach you are washed up on after being shipwrecked.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

There Can Be Only One

I'm almost done with Baldur's Gate, I think. I actually finished the game completely unawares the other night. It turns out that Sarevok in the Undercity's Temple of Bhaal is the final encounter. I guess I should have realized that before killing him and seeing the message that my savegame was ready for export to Baldur's Gate II.

I re-loaded to a save just outside that fight and now I'm going around cleaning up all the sidequests and doing the expansion content. I would guess I have another 5-10 hours left with the game. The only things remaining to be done that I am aware of are a quest to get some sea charts and then find the shipwreck of Balduran, the founder of the city of Baldur's Gate, and then to delve into Durlag's Tower, which I think is the hardest dungeon in the game. I guess I could be surprised by a huge new quest chain that pops out of either of those, who can tell.

I've done every other major sidequest, as far as I know. I even have a few maguffins in my inventory whose proper owners I don't know where to find. I'll get through all of the aforementioned real content and then consult a wiki on these few odds and ends before going back to kill Sarevok--on the record, this time.

I'm not sure what I'll play after Baldur's Gate. I think I'll need a bit of a palate cleanser before moving on to the sequel. I did just get a new GTX 970 video card, as well, and I'll want to put it through its paces.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Done With Destiny (1.0.2)

I'm finished with Destiny for the time being. I completed the story missions, ran all of the matchmade strike missions, and got to level 21 out of curiosity for how the light leveling system works. It's a neat idea, but to play much more right now is just a waste of time. There is no way I'd be able to fit the raid into my life right now, especially not having to make it an appointment.

I'll wait for the next big patch or expansion that makes the game more friendly to solo play and interesting--more content, above all else. In the mean time, I'll concentrate on Baldur's Gate, which I am still enjoying immensely. I haven't played anything else on Steam in over a month.

Monday, October 6, 2014


I today polished off a reread of James Clavell's Tai-Pan, one of his best novels. I'd recommend it, Shogun, and Noble House to just about anyone, and the rest of his books, Gai-Jin, King Rat, and Whirlwind to those interested in reading more of his after that seminal trio. All but Shogun and King Rat pretty prominently feature the company Struan's, born out of Tai-Pan protagonist Dirk Struan's trading proclivities that (in the fiction) culminated in the establishment of the British colony of Hong Kong.

Struan's is actually based on a real company that is still around, called Jardine Matheson Holdings, a fact I've only just learned about today.

I love this book. I love the Tai-Pan, and how he deftly and competently handles every matter that pops up, how he is the consumate seaman, trader, and natural born leader of men, and possesed of a singular acceptance and understanding of the native culture of China, where he has been building an empire for twenty-odd years. He is very much an aspirational sort of character, if not wholly believable. Shogun's John Blackthorne is much the same, though a little more human. Struan, is, if you believe the talk, half-devil.

It's a hell of a tale, and has a great ending, but don't read any farther along in Clavell's Asian Saga timeline unless you want to be disappointed in how things turn out for Dirk's immediate successor as Tai-Pan. Joss, as the man would say.