Monday, January 18, 2016

Reading Ramp-Up

I haven't really written a book round-up post since finishing Moby Dick last year. It's mostly been Horus Heresy stuff since:

Fear To Tread - The story of the Blood Angels legion being led into a trap early in the heresy timeline. Sanguinius' sons are attacked by previously unknown daemon forces from the warp in an attempt to remove them from the greater battle soon to happen elsewhere. This one was alright. It's always good fun to read about a legion without much background in the story thus far. Not incredibly memorable, though.

Shadows of Treachery - a collection of novellas and short stories mostly about the Imperial Fists and Night Lords legions. Very entertaining, especially the ones featuring Curze.

Angel Exterminatus - Fulgrim leads Perturabo into the Eye of Terror, attempting to kill him as an offering to Slaanesh. Perturabo escapes, but Fulgrim is still able to attain his daemon form, and the Emperor's Children vanish. The Iron Warriors go deeper into the warp maelstrom. I really enjoyed this one. It was good to learn something about Perturabo and his legion, and to see Fulgrim reach his apotheosis.

Betrayer - Lorgar and Angron rampage across Ultramar feeding the warp storms that isolate it and the Ultramarines from the greater heresy. I'm only about halfway through this one, but am really, really liking it. I had no idea the World Eaters could be fleshed out so compellingly, and it's so good to have Argel Tal and Lorgar back after the events of The First Heretic.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions - NOT a Horus Heresy novel, though some of the worlds it describes do seem pretty dystopic. It's an interesting blend of 1880's Britain social satire and geometric thought experiments. It was pretty short, and a nice palate cleanser between a couple of the aforementioned romps.

Focus Leads to Completion, Completion Leads to Progress

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - Someone slandered the revered name of this game recently, claiming another, more recent game could be better. I checked, and no, no game is better.

Rocket League - Had a quick game the other day, scored a goal. Very fun!

Orion: Dino Beatdown/Dino Horde/Prelude - Dumb Sci-Fi Battlefield-like with universally hostile dinosaurs in the environments. Seemed alright, but few players were on the servers, and the production values just aren't where they need to be in a game like this.

KOTOR update - This is where I've been spending most of my gaming time. I must be around a third or more of the way in, now. I am probably getting near the end of the Manaan section, the first planet I am visiting on my quest for the Star Map. There are three others after this one, and probably one or two more endgame locations to hit after that. I still lack two companions, the fan favorite HK-47 being one, the other unknown to me. Unless it's potentially Malak? I'm definitely enjoying this game. I believe I'm further in now than I ever managed to get before, but I don't recall exactly where it was I left off, previously.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Roleplaying in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

I've been on a real Elder Scrolls kick lately. I've mentioned previously spending some time with Skyrim and Morrowind lately; the latter has given me the slip once again, I'm here to report. Or maybe I'd just rather spend time with its younger, prettier, and more friendly cousins. I think I'll get back around to Skyrim eventually, for the long haul, but in the throes of my recent fascination with the series, I had to check out Daggerfall, the only one of the games I had not played.

It didn't go over so well. I had a better time playing Arena for a short while, as a matter of fact. That's partly on me, though. I didn't RTFM like I knew I should have, and so I completely missed the fact you can look up and down in the game world, and also easily rebind keys. These follies as well as the game's inherent bugginess--my first character spawned knee-deep in the floor, unable to ascend stairs--put me off it sooner than was probably merited. That's OK, though. I have a history of coming back around to this series.

Last, and probably least, I picked up The Elder Scrolls Online in the recent Steam sale. Never was a game less necessary, but that said, there is something compulsive to it's playability. I liken it to junk food, the type of air-injected, sodium-laced carbohydrate empty calorie crap we all know is no good, but can't keep ourselves form engaging with all the same. It's all too easy to just jump right in and grind out some mindless quests and experience points in a bland, non-challenging setting and circumstance, as compared to challenging myself to progress in something requiring thought. I have an Orc Templar who is level 7 or 8, focused on heavy armor and two-handed weapons and healing skills. I guess I'm trying to be a tank, if I ever happen to play with other humans in this game. Since it's subscription-free, I guess that's not entirely implausible.

Jumping into our space ship and engaging our FTL drive, let's get galactic. I'm circling back around to Elite: Dangerous. I've had some podcast listening time free lately, and I still have a long way left to traverse back to inhabited space to unload this wealth of exploration data I've been carrying. I'll have been away so long the game will have shifted around me in my absence. I hope this data is still worth something. There's a new arcade mode to the game called CQC, which they somehow reconcile with your in-galaxy persona via your pilot ranking. I may check that mode out in the next week.

Finally, back to roleplaying, but remaining in the space variety, I'm playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic again. I've never made it more than maybe a third of the way into the game thanks to bugs and attrition, but this attempt is going well, so far.

I'm playing a light side Revan (of course I know the twist), though I have made a mistake or two, most notably proceeding with breaking the law in order to duel to the death with Bendak Starkiller. I was under the impression that killing him was OK, as it was to fulfill a government ordered bounty, but I got dark side points anyway, either due to participating in bloodsport to accomplish the end, or simply for the fact I killed him in cold blood--though wouldn't a hot blooded kill also be giving into the dark side? If killing itself is of the dark side, then why don't I suffer a penalty for all the trash mobs I take down wandering the world? Is it because they are hostile to me before I am to them? Perhaps that's the rationale. Either way, Bendak's blaster is apparently the best in the game, so I'm proceeding with this mistake as part of my character's background. After all, it's the least of black marks in his history.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Wrap-Up GOTY and BOTY

Twenty-fifteen. It was a heck of a year for video games. Here are my picks, the absolute cream of the crop.

My Game of the Year: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Honorable Mention: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

There were a number of other great games this year, such as Fallout 4, Invisible, Inc., Her Story, and more, many more, I haven't even played. Games as a hobby just keeps getting better.

Past years:
2014: Elite: Dangerous/The Banner Saga
2013: Spelunky/Hearthstone
2012: Dota 2/Diablo III
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

Backlog-wise, I added fewer by far titles to my list than in any other recent year, having (probably) shrunken the list along the right side of this web page over the last year, at least by a few titles.

I didn't complete a whole hell of a lot of games this year, rather focusing on discrete goals within a smaller pool of at times very large games. Here is my list of 26 accomplishments, in reverse chronological order:

Game of Thrones (Episode 6)
Fallout 4 (Institute)
Game of Thrones (Episode 5)
Game of Thrones (Episode 4)
Game of Thrones (Episode 3)
Game of Thrones (Episode 2)
Game of Thrones (Episode 1)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Chapter 2)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Chapter 1)
The Taken King (Destiny)
House of Wolves (Destiny)
The Dark Below (Destiny)
Old World Blues (Fallout: New Vegas)
Dead Money (Fallout: New Vegas)
Her Story
Lonesome Road (Fallout: New Vegas)
The Price of Neutrality (The Witcher)
Monk to 70 (Diablo III)
Side Effects (The Witcher)
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China
Damn Those Swamps! (The Witcher)
Crusader to 70 (Diablo III)
Assassin's Creed Rogue
Warcraft III (Humans)
Witch Doctor to 70 (Diablo III)

Past years' totals:

I have a prospective list of 2016 plays worked up, in a post below. We'll see how that plays out, of course. I have already played some Skyrim and KOTOR, for what that's worth.

Reading-wise, 2015 was a pretty dismal year. I spent nine or ten months not reading Moby Dick before finally buckling down and getting through it, and enjoying it, after all. Otherwise it was just a year of Warhammer 40K fiction, mostly Horus Heresy books. The list:

Deathwatch: Xenos Hunters
Moby Dick; or The White While
Fear to Tread
Shadows of Treachery

I'll finish Angel Exterminatus (another Horus Heresy novel) soon, and then go for something a little more... literate, I suppose is the word. My 2016 reading goal is merely to feel better at the end of the year about what I read than I do this year.

Book of the Year: Moby Dick
Honorable Mention: Shadows of Treachery