Thursday, May 26, 2016

Violence in the Future

If you believe the games I've been playing lately, the future is a very violent place, and gets grimmer the further you get away from the present.

Overwatch is the closest of games I've played this week to being set in the present. It's pretty upbeat in presentation, but still shockingly violent. All these characters do is kill one another, over and over, in an endless war of attrition over a few square feet of ground. I didn't think I'd be down for this Blizzard game, but as it turns out, I was. I am. I may as well jump in with both feet; I'm going to try to play every character to some degree and enjoy myself at least well enough to get my sixty dollars' worth.

V game Vanquish is several more decades further out into the future, and really shows the beginning of the darkening of the timeline. There are moments of cheekiness and levity, mostly around our rogueish hero Sam Gideon, but also a dark harbinger of things to come, as he and his principal enemies pilot or comprise cybernetic power armor suits and renegade AI routines. Vanquish is superb. I don't know if I've played a 3rd person cover-based shooter that is as fun to play. The jet-slide mobility and bullet-time mode, decent and varied assortment of weapons, and lively pacing all come together for a very frenetic and intense game. To top it all off, it looks great, and runs like a dream on the PS3. I never noticed it dropping any frames, and it felt like a nice 60 fps the entire time I played.

And now to the far, far future, where the world is grim and dark, indeed.

Warhammer 40,000.

Regicide paints a picture for us of what war will be like in the future--turn based, and very much like Chess, but with the added deadliness of firearms and bludgeoning and ripping and tearing melee weapons. A frightful vision indeed. It makes for a fun and interesting game, though. You wouldn't think adulterating Chess with XCOM like tactical combat would be anything other than a mess, but it works, somehow.

Storm of Vengeance also represents for us future war in the abstract. It could be seen as a sort of supply lines  and logistics simulation, one supposes. It is also port of an iOS game that itself is like a rethemed Plants Vs. Zombies. Dark Angels Vs. Orks, you might call it. Not a lot of effort, relative to most games, was put into this port. It's not terrible, but you might call it bad and not be far off base. It's the type of game that doesn't do just a whole lot to justify its existence, unless you are that into the 40K theme it uses.

Dawn of War II is a recurring nightmare of a simulation of the horrors of conflict in the awful, dark future. The single mission I undertook was a horrific vision of brother Blood Raven killing brother Blood Raven to ends I could not fathom. A dark vision, indeed. More scrying will be necessary to gather more insight into what the future holds for our doomed species.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Heresy Continuing Apace

I have been fairly ripping through Horus Heresy books lately. At this rate 2016 may be the best booklog year yet.

I mentioned Vulkan Lives previously. It was a little lower-key, but did some important groundwork for later books.

I finished that one, then just devoured The Unremembered Empire, which was amazing, featuring four(!) primarchs pretty heavily, and covering some pretty momentous stuff in the Heresy timeframe, Such as the establishment of Imperium Secundus, Curze and the Lion returning to the field, and the apparent death of a second primarch.

From there, Scars rewound the overall timeline a ways to get us caught up on the White Scars and their campaign to far-flung Chondax, where Horus sent them to mop up a greenskin infestation while he did his dirty Isstvan business, kicking off the rebellion. Here we learn who the Scars are, and get an idea of what their primarch, Jaghatai Khan, is like. Space Wolves, Alpha Legion, and Death Guard all also make substantial appearances.

I'm now reading Vengeful Spirit, which is the first book since the opening trilogy to feature Horus himself and his legion as prime actors. I'm only getting started with it, but it looks like another barnstormer, and some of the Emperor's past may be revealed here, as well.

Double Shotgun Blast to the Backlog

It's been a varied and busy week. I'm not really concentrating on any one thing at the moment, just kind of playing whatever I feel like.

UFO: Afterlight - A U game. It's basically an early/mid '00s X-COM-esque game. I fiddled around with it for a while, but couldn't find a hook to keep me from disregarding it almost out of hand once I felt I had a handle on what the main thrust of the game would be, which seems like to build a presence on Mars, terraforming and advancing tech until (I'm assuming) you're able to reclaim Earth from the aliens that have conquered it and forced your relocation to the red planet. If you were there at the time, this might have been worth playing for a while.

Vanquish - A V game. PS3 release, action shooter from Platinum, directed by Shinji Mikami. It seems really cool, from the tutorial and brief first mission that I have played. More on this to come.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - The replay continues. I'm at the start of chapter 4 now. Cornell was much, much easier on the lowest difficulty setting.

Braid - Wanted to revisit this since having played a lot of The Witness. I find my patience for puzzles is very thin these days. I plowed right through this game when it released on Xbox Live 8 years ago, but felt tedium very quickly this time around.

Dark Souls II - I need a game to play while I listen to podcasts, and right now this is about the most likely thing. I made it to a new bonfire, so that's nice.

Final Doom, Doom II: Hell on Earth, and Master Levels for DOOM II - The release of the newest DOOM game, to rave reviews, inspired me to go back and play some more of the originals. They're great fun, to this day. I may have even come around to going keyboard only on these. I also have installed Doom 3 and its expansion, which I have actually never played, before.

Spelunky - I suppose it's worth mentioning that I do still play daily runs here and there.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dark Souls II: The Smattering

Over the last couple of weeks I've touched a few different things, but have spent the most time on Dark Souls II.

I felt like rolling right into it after finishing the first one, and in fact I had already at an earlier date begun the game and got as far as creating my character, who begun as one of the "Deprived" class, meaning they started with very basic clothing, no weapons, and at soul level 1, with all stats at 6.

Playing this way means playing the cards as they lie, and since I haven't been playing with a wiki thus far, it has meant a lot of slow going, diligent leveling, and making do with what I have found, as well as leading me to participate in summoning and being summoned much more than I did in Dark Souls, which I may not have even been online for the better portion of, come to think of it.

Right now my character, the Lost One, is wearing hollow soldiers' armor and using caesti on each hand; a sort of improvised version of the monk build many other RPGs feature. I've beaten one boss, the Last Giant, and am at level 35-ish. I've only begun to explore the forest of giants. There are braziers and sconces and such around the world that you can light with a torch, and light torches from, but I'm as of yet unaware of what effect they might have on the world, beyond providing more light in the environments and a place to light more torches. It seems like a great game, so far.

I'll briefly mention the other things I played, and why:

Titan Quest - Really just to add some more time to my Steam time played tracker for some reason. This game bores me, and it always has, but I've put hours into it in the past, and I wanted that dumb time tracker to record at least some of that time, for whatever reason.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - I think I'm going to do another run of this game for the Game Bytes Show as a sort of game club thing. I'll probably do it on easy, because on Knight difficulty (one above normal) it was a pretty hard game in spots, and I would prefer to kind of cruise through it this time around.

Overwatch - I was able to get into the closed Beta at one point and I played about 3 matches worth, I think entirely versus bots, before coming to the pretty solid conclusion that despite the apparent quality of the game, it just wasn't something I wanted to play. I don't tend to put a ton of time into multiplayer shooters anyway, and the prospect of shelling out $40 or $60 for one I'll likely not get much of a return on just doesn't add up for me. Especially a game like this that is so team-focused. I think I'd rather just play alone most of the time.

Heroes of the Storm - Speaking of playing alone, I did 5 practice matches with and against AIs last night, and had a good time doing them. MOBAs are pretty satisfying, especially when you tend to win a lot, and fairly easily. This game has been out for a long while now without me really giving it much of a look, but I may continue playing it some, now.