Monday, March 18, 2019

First Quarter Book Review

I have continued to spend time this quarter reading Warhammer 40,000 material, and I have gotten through a large brace of it. I love this stuff.

I read the second and third volumes in the 7th Edition core book set, Dark Millennium and The Rules. The first is an exploration of the lore of the setting, where the second is exactly what it sounds like. The game is in 8th Edition at the moment, but a lot of the rules remain the same, and the differences are interesting.

I have also subscribed to the all-things-Games-Workshop magazine White Dwarf, and I am reading my second issue of that. They are now running new short stories in each issue, the first of which was called The Herald of Doom, and showed the Black Legion beginning to arrive at the planet of Vigilus, which was already under siege by both Orks and Genestealer Cults.

There was a Black Library Celebration week in February, during which they released the Horus Heresy stories Lantern's Light, Bringer of Sorrow, and Ghost of Nuceria. These were centered around Mortarion, Arkhan Land, and Angron, respectively.

I read the novel Vulkan: Lord of Drakes in a couple of days one week, and The Buried Dagger the next, which was the story of the fall of the Death Guard to Nurgle, and the beginnings of the Grey Knights chapter of Space Marines, out of the latter part of the Horus Heresy.

There had also been a Black Library exclusive anthology of Primarchs short stories called Scions of the Emperor which I bought and read and then quickly sold on again on eBay, since it cost me approximately four times what it should have. It was well worth it, though. The stories contained therein:

Canticle - Ferrus Manus in his earliest days on Medusa
The Verdict of the Scythe - Mortarion tries an alternate path in the Great Crusade
A Game of Opposites - The Khan foils Iron Warriors late in the Heresy
Better Angels - Sanguinius mentors one legion warrior artisan
The Conqueror's Truth - Konrad Curze shows his legion's truth to a remembrancer
The Sinew of War - Guilliman becomes the defacto leader of Macragge
The Chamber at the End of Memory - Dorn stumbles upon forbidden lore of the lost legions
First Legion - Late in the Great Crusade, The Alpha Legion approach The Lion with an offer to ensure he is made Warmaster

Foiled by Black Library's past collector's editions of books and their exclusive stories, I found alternate means to read a few of them.:

The Wonderworker, set between the first two books of the Black Legion series, about Khayon's recruitment of a fellow Thousand Sons sorcerer to Abaddon's ranks,

A Flash of Silver Among the Corroded Ghosts, set after the second book in the Black Legion series, about Khayon's first encounter with the Grey Knights,

and In the Grim Darkness, a companion piece to Guy Haley's Dark Imperium, about Decimus Felix, and the interesting treatment he received from Belisarius Cawl after being selected to become one of the first Primaris Space Marines.

At the moment I am reading Chains of Golgotha, a novella from the anthology Legends of the Dark Millennium: Astra Militarum, about the ongoing rivalry of Commissar Yarrick and Gazghull Mag Uruk Thraka, the canny Ork warboss, as well as February's White Dwarf.

Resident Evil 5

I've been having a good time lately playing Resident Evil 5, and that's not something I ever really thought might happen.

I played some of the demo on the Xbox 360 back when the game first came out, and fairly quickly wrote it off, or so I thought, due to how the controls felt in the new era of Gears of War and whatnot.

Shawn Elliott's words on the game on the old GFW Radio podcast stuck with me, though, and at some point much later I heard about the DLC expansion Lost In Nightmare that sounded interesting, in that it brought back Jill Valentine and the Mansion from the first RE. I bought the game for a low price on Steam in a sale, and it's sat on the backlog from that point on until just recently when talk of the now newly released Resident Evil 2 remake make me think back on how much I liked that game in its initial incarnation 20+ years ago now.

I felt like playing some RE. Which is maybe not completely unheard of, given the fact that I went back and played a little RE4 on PC sometime last year.

RE5 feels a whole heck of a lot like RE4, only with a co-op buddy along for the ride. I dislike multiplayer, and doubt anyone would be able to or want to play, so I am going through the game solo, but Sheva is a big help and no hindrance at all, so far.

The game's methodical pace and different take on combat from most shooters, which it's tempting to think of RE5 as--it's less that than survival horror--makes for a more laid-back and chill time, even when you are under attack from tens of infected townspeople. They move pretty slowly most of the time, and you are given enough time to run away and regroup a little bit if need be.

I'm not sure if I am making the most effective use of my bullets, though. It seems like the thing to do is to shoot to stagger, then knife where the opportunity presents itself, or punch if possible, though I haven't figured out the rhythm of making that an option yet.

I'm less focused on gaming as a whole these days, which might have the odd effect of making it easier to focus play on one title. I'd like to play through this game and the aforementioned Lost In Nightmare DLC. It's good fun so far.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Fairly Light Februrary

Video gaming has been thin around my house lately. My daughters have probably spent more time playing Just Dance 2019, Mario Kart, and Smash Bros. on Switch, and Minecraft on PC, than I have playing altogether. I've spent a lot of time on painting and playing and reading about Warhammer, but that's another subject.

I have played some of a Warhammer 40,000 video game, though. I've continued through the Armageddon campaign, finding the game more comprehensible the more I have become familiar with the units of the Imperial Guard over the past couple of months. I have actually gotten to the point in the campaign where the Space Marines have decided to show up and help fight off the Orks. I'm excited to test out some of their units in the next missions.

I have also revisited the old favorite, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. I am running a long-term game club for the game through the GameBytes Show discord and podcast. I plan to complete the series this way. At the moment, I'm halfway through Chapter 4 of the first game. I'm playing on an easier difficulty this time through, and it's keeping it nice and light and enjoyable, since I'm mainly along for the story anyway.

Z week came up for the backlog blitz, and I went with Zeno Clash II. I may have to skip Z next rotation, having used both Zeno Clash games, now. The second seems like more of the original, but refined. The graphics seem better, if still in that very strange and very original fantasy style that I kind of hate and kind of appreciate at the same time. Otherwise, its still first-person brawling. There are probably improvements and added mechanics, but I didn't play enough of the first game to really be able to say.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Shoot-a-thon

I've been experimenting with some of the more popular shooters out there these days, to see which, if any, I prefer, and would like to keep playing:

Anthem: Bioware's take on Destiny seems OK, but I dislike the hub area and writing. Pluses are flight and the potential of the story to end up something interesting despite the weak beginning.

Warframe: Has an endearing B-grade feel to it, fun mobility and melee combat. Long running, well supported. Not sure the shooting is great.

Destiny 2 Forsaken: Feels about the same as ever.

Of the three here, I think I like Warframe best at the moment, but all in all I don't feel like I love the genre. It really is just Diablo from a different perspective when you boil it down, and I honestly think it's inferior for the first/third person perspective and over-reliance on ranged combat.

Another new shooter on the block is Apex Legends, the free-to-play battle royale game from Respawn Entertainment that is set in the Titanfall universe. I like this one well enough, though it does seem a little bare bones here at the beginning of its life. It takes the PUBG idea also coopted by Fortnite, but then borrows the idea of unique characters who slot into character archetypes for play like those in Overwatch. It seems like a good mix, but for me I still find myself spending loads more time scrounging weapons than engaging in combat. I might spend some time trying to get better.

I've also played a couple more stages of The Messenger, which is fun enough. I may have had enough of that, though.

Lastly, I thought I would check out an interesting mod I had heard about called Dota Auto Chess, which is played within Dota 2. This is an odd beast. 8 players are selected for a match in which each plays a "chess" game against either CPU controlled creeps or the selected heroes of one of the other players. The battling is all done automatically, and the players only have control of which heroes they buy and select to put onto the chessboard. Heroes bought three times over can combine into a higher tier of that hero on the board, and the object is to have the best team win the most skirmishes so that you are the last player standing. A player's avatar, who wanders around the chessboards like a courier, but who is unable to interfere with battles, takes damage from the enemy team after ever loss, and eventually is eliminated. It's interesting. I'd like to see it made separate from the Dota 2 client, though, where it can have all the UI and mechanics tailor-made for the experience it is going for.

Monday, January 28, 2019

BATTLETECH

I have come to really like this game. You may have read that I considered it my game of 2018. It's great. It's got just about everything I love about tactical games like Final Fantasy Tactics, XCOM: Enemy Unkown, and the like.

On top of that, it's introduced me to a very cool new fictional universe adjacent to some of the stuff I like about Warhammer 40,000. I've been loving getting to know all the battlemechs and their various weapons and how best to apply them to the enemy.

I also love that the game puts you in the role of a mercenary company commander, so that you are not only issuing battle orders, but also managing your stable of mechs and pilots between missions. You have to be smart about which contracts to take up, looking both to your finances and potential for victory. I am presently in a tough spot in the game, having taken on a contract and found that it's too much for my lance of mechs to handle. I am waffling on whether to just keep bashing my head against the wall until I can break through, or to grasp the bare minimum of the objectives and withdraw with less than a full completion. The latter may be the way forward in this case, but it'll likely put me behind where I had hoped to be in terms of budget going forward.

I also love the terrain maps in the game, which offer a lot of different ways to break line of sight and take cover or take advantage of bodies of water to bleed off excess heat in your mechs. It's just a damn good tactics game overall.

I have had some complaints, like the spiky nature of the difficulty curve, technical hiccups, and the plodding pace of the game (which I have become used to, but at times can still frustrate). Overall, though, this is a fantastic game, and I think everyone should give it a shot. It'd be cool to see it get a console release. I want Harebrained Schemes to see as much success as possible with this and also the Shadowrun revival games they did previously. They are a great studio that seem to be punching well above their weight.

The Yawhg

It was Y game time a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to check out Yawhg, The. It's short and sweet. It's really just a series of choices and seeing how they play out, in a Twine-like game structure.

There's a medieval city that every so often is devastated by a giant hurricane-like storm called the Yawhg, and you choose the developmental actions of a couple of characters leading up to the coming disaster. Depending on what you have your characters do around town, they may be more or less prepared for the rebuilding effort in the aftermath of the Yawhg. There is no right or wrong approach, and no fail state that I saw in a couple of playthroughs, only decision making and taking a thoughtful approach to character development.

It's got a nice art style and decent writing, and it seems like it is meant for play with 2-4 people, talking through the choices you make as you go. I played it solo, but still found it engaging for a couple of times through it to see a decent amount of the events and scenarios.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018 Books of the Year

I did a whole lot of reading in 2018. Nearly all of it was Warhammer related, though there were a few other books sprinkled in, some of which remain unfinished as yet.

Book of the Year: Slaves to Darkness
Honorable Mention: The Talon of Horus/Black Legion

I picked two Honorable Mentions last year, so why not. Aaron Dembski-Bowden's exploration of the emblematic Heretic Astartes faction is fantastic. I only had to give the BOTY nod to Slaves to Darkness for just how epic and primarch-studded it was.

This is a list of works I finished, including novels, short stories, and non-fiction books, with no real regard to how long any of them were, only that they were discrete purchases or documents. It makes a modicum of sense to me, at least.

There are 61 titles here in all:

Warhammer 40,000 7th Ed. A Galaxy of War
A Rose Watered With Blood
Getting Started With Warhammer 40,000
The Last Council
Child of Chaos
Champion of Oaths
The Atonement of Fire
A Lesson in Iron
Abyssal
Old Wounds, New Scars
Two Metaphysical Blades
Prologue to Nikaea
Warhammer 40,000 Campaign: Crusade of Fire
Restorer
Grandfather's Gift
Sons of the Emperor
Spear of Ultramar
Dreadwing
Heralds of the Siege
Dark Imperium: Plague War
Spelunky
Heroes of the Space Marines
The Armour of Fate
Warhammer 40,000 Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch
Warhammer 40,000 Codex Chaos Space Marines 2002
Warhammer 40,000 Codex Assassins 1999
Warhammer 40,000 Codex Space Marines 1998
The Last Son of Prospero
Treacheries of the Space Marines
Soft & Cuddly
Kingdom Hearts II
Jaghatai Khan: Warhawk of Chogoris
Slaves to Darkness
Sons of the Hydra
Unearthed
Truth Is My Weapon
We Are One
Hunted
Abaddon: Chosen of Chaos
Extinction
Born of Flame
Shroud of Night
The Red Path
Kharn: Eater of Worlds
The Weakness of Others
Enyalius, In Memoriam
Black Legion
The Talon of Horus
Ferrus Manus: Gorgon of Medusa
Wolfsbane
The Painted Count
Fulgrim: The Palatine Phoenix
Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero
Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar
The Burden of Loyalty
The Magos & The Definitive Casebook of Gregor Eisenhorn
Lorgar: Bearer of the Word
Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia
Leman Russ: The Great Wolf
Old Earth
Ruinstorm

37 whole books dusted off. If you compile all the short stories and other titles, 24 in all, I would put it near to 40 in all. Quite a bit more than usual, for me. Past years' totals follow.

2018: 40ish
2017: 20
2016: 20ish
2015: 4ish
2014: 18
2013: 9

I have a ton of books lined up to continue reading, as well. I don't know if I'll hit 2018 numbers again, but I will be turning pages for some time to come.

2018 GOTY Wrap-Up

This year, gaming has taken a backseat to reading for me, especially anything Horus Heresy or Warhammer 40,000 related.

I have also been modeling and painting (hobbying, as they call it) quite a bit more this year, having finished up several projects. I don't really care to blog about that, though. Not as such. I post to twitter with pics of those things. Maybe I will do a photo round-up sometime to show those off here.

I am also trying a new approach to my writing here about games; fewer catch-all playlogs, more single-topic posts about individual games. For a long time I have tried to record everything I played here, but so many little sessions are completely inconsequential. There's not really a need to document my 500th run of Spelunky or Diablo III, or that I spent a few minutes in Super Mario Odyssey with my children. I do like to post at least once about every new title, though. I need proof that I played them to remove them from the backlog, of course.

My Game of the Year: Battletech
Honorable Mention: Hitman 2

I came to the end of the year without a real candidate for GOTY, but in December finally made myself check out Battletech and Hitman 2, and you have seen the results. I have yet to actually post about Battletech, but there will be one coming on the game eventually. Just know for now that it is outstanding. Hitman 2 is excellent as well. I am a real fan of what they have done with this release, and as a longtime enjoyer of the series, it makes me glad to see its potential so well realized.

Past choices, for record:

2017: Mass Effect Andromeda/Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer
2016: World of Warcraft: Legion/Overwatch
2015: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain/The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
2014: Elite Dangerous/The Banner Saga
2013: Spelunky/Hearthstone
2012: Dota 2/Diablo III
2011: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings/SpaceChem
2010: Mass Effect 2/Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
2009: Demon's Souls/Red Faction: Guerilla
2008: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots/Gears of War 2
2007: Bioshock/Halo 3

I have only a very meager offering to Khorne this year, for the pile of skulls:

Red Dead Redemption
Witch Doctor 70 (Diablo III Switch)
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Final Fantasy Tactics (all generics)
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director's Cut
XCOM: Enemy Within (Normal)
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Normal)
Endless Legend (Drakken, diplomacy)

Just those 9, where past years totals were:

2017:23
2016:23
2015:26
2014:32
2013:33
2012:23
2011:21
2010:23
2009:19
2008:26
2007:15

The game backlog has continued to balloon, mostly due to freebies picked up from various places. I'm not stressed about it. I couldn't even tell you how many titles were added or removed in 2018, but it does look big as ever.

As for 2019, I'm not sure what it has in store in terms of releases, or my plans for games to play. Right now I want to continue with Battletech and Hitman. I would like to catch up with Assassin's Creed and The Witcher, as well. Beyond that, I suppose just knocking more games off the backlog will do.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Year-End Reads 2018

To close out the year I am working through some of the 40K source books I have been collecting over the last few months. I read through the introductory magazine Getting Started with Warhammer 40,000, which came with a free Primaris Intercessor miniature. It was nice and informative of basics of the universe, game, and hobby, which is nice for a completist like myself who even after all this exposure could use some shoring up of the basics. I have then moved into the 7th edition set of basic books for the game, the first of which is entitled A Galaxy of War, and serves mostly as a showcase for beautifully painted armies meant to represent the hobby, with some bits of lore behind their creation. The second volume in this set is the one I am reading now, Dark Millennium, which is a much deeper dive into the fundamentals of the lore of the 40K setting, for people wanting to add a bit of role playing to their hobby, or just to fill out background lore of the universe for those reading the novels. I am of course a real lorehound in any fictional universe I really buy into, and the grim, dark future is one I find very compelling indeed.

I also read the final Horus Heresy short story from the Black Library advent calendar, one called A Rose Watered with Blood, about the shipsmistress of the World Eaters legion flagship, The Conqueror, Lotara Sarrin. She is a real gem of a character in the Heresy setting, or even 40K at large.

Since finishing up all the loose Heresy shorts, I have started into the newest novel, book 53, Titandeath. I'm only a few chapters in though, having been busy with other stuff lately.

A Few Things for Year-End

I wanted to try out The Messenger, which is a game I got for free from the twitch.tv client somehow, for a potential mention during Game of the Year podcasting. It's pretty good as throwback action platformers go, but I just didn't make it far enough in to come to a conclusion. I may still go back and play more, though. I understand the game takes a turn after a few hours to reveal its true nature, and I haven't gotten that far yet. I will call out the humorous, self-aware, meta-layer aspects of the game's writing, though. I don't like them. I could always do without that sort of sneer.

Valve recently added a battle royale style mode to CS: GO, and I thought I'd give that a shot. It seems OK, but as usual Counter-Strike just isn't my speed. I am nowhere near devoted enough to multi-player FPS for it to make sense for me.

Lastly, my daughters were exposed to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and decided they wanted a copy for themselves. This is the first experience I have ever had with the series, aside from watching a friend play the Gamecube entry in the series. It's unintelligible at first, but it seems to be fairly simple to control, and so even my four-year-old is able to have a good time playing it. I hear the adventure mode is good in this one, so I'll have them check that out sometime.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Heresy Short Story Wranglin'

I have been going and collecting all of the various Horus Heresy and Primarchs short stories unavailable in anthologies lately, and reading those. The final novel of the Heresy series proper is coming up soon, and it's unclear whether or when Black Library themselves might gather these all up and publish them that way, so I elected to track them down piecemeal to catch myself up on the series before it transitions into the Siege of Terra sub-series to end the whole thing. Or at least wind it down to a dull roar.

Some of these have been Summer of Reading or Advent Calendar releases, from this year and last, and some have only seen light in Black Library event-exclusive anthologies, like Sons of the Emperor. 

I really would liked to have gotten Sons of the Emperor at the same time I was able to pick up this and last years' event anthologies, that is when a friend visited Warhammer World in Nottingham, but unfortunately they were sold out. I stumbled on another method of reading the stories contained therein, though. They were great. All of these were, in fact:

The Passing of Angels
The Abyssal Edge
Mercy of the Dragon
Shadow of the Past
The Emperor's Architect
Prince of Blood
The Ancient Awaits
Misbegotten
Grandfather's Gift
Restorer
Prologue to Nikaea
Two Metaphysical Blades
Old Wounds, New Scars
Abyssal
A Lesson in Iron
The Atonement of Fire
Champion of Oaths
Child of Chaos
The Last Council

I also read through one of the Tabletop 40K gaming books I bought recently:

Warhammer 40,000 Campaign - Crusade of Fire

This book was full of cool background and pictures of armies on tables as the GW team played through a long campaign made up of many separate battles, telling the story of one solar system being consumed by war. This kind of thing is more interesting as I get deeper into miniature painting.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Hitman 2

I am playing Hitman 2 inasmuch as I am playing the levels from the 2016 Hitman game recreated within the new game's shell. It's a cool thing that they did, making this possible. I never played more than a couple of levels of the game in 2016, but heard no end of praise for it across many podcasts.

Being a fan of the series since the first Hitman 2, Silent Assassin, it was only a matter of time before Hitman (2016) clicked with me. I'm glad it could be within the sequel, with whatever added modernization and features were added in making more levels for the base game. It's nice because all of the progress I make through the levels of the game from a couple of years ago will be tracked alongside that of the levels of the new game.

There looks to be enough content here to keep me busy for a good long while, and that is before figuring in any of the limited-time elusive contracts or any future content additions that might come about.

I like how divorced from a plotted narrative the focus of this game is. It's all about the varied play of the systems in the environments presented. There is an over-arching story, but it's demphasized, which I think is preferable in a game like this. I really wouldn't mind games like Dishonored taking this approach rather than the series of sequential missions that you must do in the order presented to you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Better Red Dead Late than Red Dead Never

I finally finished the first Red Dead Redemption last night, after nearly two months. I had focused pretty much entirely on the missions, not caring enough for the way the game plays to do anything optional.

My final impression of the game is that the better writing at the end of the game really sticks out in people's minds, and makes them willing to overlook some of the other hack-level stuff through the middle of the game, and the awful, kludgey way that the game feels to play.

That, and it's a pretty nice and big open world to ride around on your horse. I'm not incredibly eager to play the sequel, but I probably will at some point.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Diablo III Again

Blizzard went and re-released Diablo III on the Switch this time, and I had to pick it up. It's a pretty near flawless port of the PC experience, re-tooled for enjoyment using a controller. I have been having a great time playing it, already having reached level 70 with a Witch Doctor, and having now moved on to Paragon levels and working on the challenges for the current limited-time season event.

I'm not sure there is much more to add, other than the game continues to be great. It's really cemented itself in my all-time favorite and most played lists over the last 6 years or more. I still have yet to delve much into Hardcore mode, though. It just seems like a waste. I do want to get one character to max level that way, though, eventually.

Heresy Winding Down

I've been reading through the most recent Horus Heresy releases, the anthology Heralds of the Siege, and the two novellas Dreadwing and Spear of Ultramar. A common theme to all of these tales is the wrapping up of loose and hanging threads in the overall saga, as the remaining works in the series will focus on the climactic Siege of Terra.

Heralds of the Siege was full of short stories acting as catch-up or parting shots for many disparate factions throughout the galaxy, and then toward the end a lot of preparation and vigilance from the parties on Terra awaiting the coming of the Warmaster and his legions. A couple of these stories literally end with Horus' fleet having appeared on the edge of the Solar system.

Dreadwing and Spear of Ultramar show the Dark Angels and Ultramarines legions, respectively, after the events of the novel Ruinstorm, and explain why it is that neither legion was to be on Terra for the big final act of the war. The Lion was convinced he would be too late anyway, and wanted to burn as much of what he presumed was now Horus's galaxy as he could on the way to the Throneworld. Guilliman, it appears (I have only begun Spear), will be delayed due to the stalwart last stand of a small band of Iron Warriors determined to bloody and occupy him even to their own eventual deaths at Perturabo's order.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Plague War

Guy Haley's follow-up to the book that launched the new era of Warhammer 40,000, Dark Imperium, entitled Plague War, is out, and I have finished it.

It is definitely the middle part of a trilogy. While Guilliman has a face-off with his fallen brother Mortarion at the end of the book, and interesting barbs are traded, they are prevented from coming to blows, with the promise of a meeting on the planet Iax to come in the final book. Elsewhere a Primaris marine comes to finally feel at home in his new chapter, the Novamarines, who lose their chapter master in single combat with Typhus aboard the star fort Galatan. The Death Guard aboard are routed, though, allowing the massive space bastion to fire down on the remaining forces of Nurgle on the surface of Parmenio, and forcing a retreat and handing victory to the forces of the Imperium.

Here we also see Guilliman railing against the Imperial Cult as he has before, but eventually deciding that dismissing it out of hand again would be repeating his worst mistake from the age before the Horus Heresy, and resolving to read his wayard brother Lorgar's earlier work, the Lectitio Divinitatus.

I am very excited to see where the story goes from here, and how the Primarch and Imperial Regent manages to synthesize the warring ideologies of the secular Imperium and the cult of the God-Emperor.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Into Mexico

I have played very little in the last few weeks, and only Red Dead Redemption to speak of.

I have made it through the first portion of the game and through the sequence that everyone raves about, the ride into Mexico, where a song (not the score) plays. Apparently that really did something for most of the people who remember the game, but I found it extremely underwhelming. Maybe it's that I was expecting something great, or maybe it's just that it's not all that special of an event on its face, and its just that it is memorable for how singular a moment it is in the game, which is usually pretty understated in the way the world is presented when it's just the world on display, and not presenting you with some broad approximation of a tired Western movie trope.

I'm fairly underwhelmed with the whole of what is on offer in Red Dead Redemption, but its world is pretty impressive. By which I mean the environment exclusively. The denizens are your typical Rockstar hackery, and the play mechanics your typical Rockstar garbage fire. I think I'll keep playing it for the time being, though. Until something breaks the camel's back or I finish it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A New MOBA Appears

I have picked up a game called Arena of Valor on the Switch. It's from the huge Chinese game company Tencent, and it's basically a League of Legends clone meant for mobile phones, but now ported to the Switch, and so playable with a controller. It's a lot of fun, actually, and distills a lot of what makes games like LoL and Dota so much fun, which effectively makes it more accessible. You don't have to think much about skills or gear you buy, and matches rarely seem to go to twenty minutes, even. I could do with some improvements to the UI and UX, but this is a very good start.

This past weekend I also made a little progress in Shovel Knight, defeating one of the mini-boss guys on the map, and buying some new armor at an armorer.

I also played a couple of matches of Fortnite, also on Switch, just to see what was up with how the map has changed lately.

I continue to practice my Spelunky runs, and to make progress through Red Dead Redemption, as well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Breaking from Eorzea, to the Old West

I finished up the main story quests of FFXIV: A Realm Reborn. I had a pretty good time doing so, as well. However, I have decided to pause my sub to the game for a while. I don't like the mental pressure I feel to get the most from a game subscription, at least not while I have hundreds of games on the backlog, still. And many of those that I do actually want to play.

To that end, I have begun Red Dead Redemption, only about 8 years too late to be a part of the conversation, by my recollection. I'm impressed so far, even knowing the game's reputation as the greatest game of the last console generation. One thing that has struck me about it so far is the feeling of being in a vast open world, especially in contrast to FFXIV, which feels very theme-park-shrunken-kingdom. I'm not so sure about the voice acting. Some of it is really good, like the marshall in Armadillo. Some is pretty shaky, though, like Bonnie or John Marston, the player character himself. I had a pretty good time with a longer mission last night involving a firefight through a canyon as a part of a small posse. I also like that you can hunt wildlife and gather herbs and such. There's also just something nice about being in big sky country, shooting bandits and carrying on in that manner. I think I'm going to stick with it. I'm curious to see how the plot develops.

Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon is deceptively quick and easy to play and to jump in and out of, for a turn-based hex-based tactical war game.

And of course, I continue to play Spelunky each day, hoping to gradually get better at the game and to be able to finish it, and push beyond even that.

Codexes Warhammer and Other Another Game Book

I'm halfway through Heroes of the Space Marines at the moment, taking a diversion into Warhammer tabletop game Codexes, to both get the broad strokes of the lore behind major factions, and to check out how the lore has evolved over the years.

I went to ebay and bought a bunch of old 40K Codexes from past editions of the game. Most of the background here will still be applicable, but some has definitely been contradicted elsewhere, if not blatantly retconned. The nature of the setting is such that whether these changes are one or the other is up to interpretation. I prefer to think of the Codexes as being written (when it comes to the lore at least) from an in-universe perspective, and thus subject to mis- and dis-information, as well as the mundane twisting effect that the passage of time has on historical narrative.

So far I have read the Space Marines and Assassins Codexes, and have gotten into the Chaos Space Marines one. That leaves several more, including Necrons, Orks, Eldar, Tyranids, Eye of Terror, Space Wolves, and Imperial Guard. Many more remain that I haven't bought yet, and that's before I start trying to address the different editions of these books, or other campaign books, like the Gathering Storm set I read previously. If I continue to find them in the neighborhood of $5, shipped, then I likely won't hesitate. I just can't get enough Warhammer 40,000.

I am also continuing to read Derek Yu's Spelunky book, which is a pretty interesting window into the development mind of the creator of one of my favorite games.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Making the Aliens Pay in the Near Future and the Far

For my next backlog removal task, I was due for a game with a title beginning with an X. As it happened, I also had XCOM 2 installed on my PC and ready to go, following a long period earlier in the year in which I was engrossed in the previous game and its expansion.

XCOM 2, thus far, seems like a smart evolution of the first game, featuring a lot of the same systems and mechanics as Enemy Unknown, with some new twists and additions, as well. The theme of the game this time out is guerilla-like resistance to an entrenched and oppresive alien regime, and a lot of the machanics flow logically out from that. This time, most missions begin with your squad in a concealed state, and you are able to move around and get into position before springing your ambush on the unsuspecting Advent soldiers. The game also hits the ground running in terms of difficulty, being much harder right off the bat. It seems to almost be picking up from where the first previous game left off. I'm doing well so far, a handful of missions in.

I have also picked up my campaign of Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon. Returning to the game, I am more interested in figuring out how all the myriad tanks and infantry units differ from one another, and in making it to some of the missions where Space Marines and Titans come into play.

I keep playing Spelunky in futile hopes that I am getting better at the game, and may one day be able to finish Olmec at least, if not make it through hell to the extra hard part.

I'm also chipping away at the final parts of FFXIV: A Realm Reborn. I went to play a little last night, but it was down for patch day, so no dice. I need to find some better gear to get my item level up so that I can go into the next story dungeon duty. Quests in this game are called duties.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Years Later, No Ordinary Headache Solved

I played a little SpaceChem for the first time in forever this weekend, what's more, I finally worked out a solution to the toughest mission I had yet seen, entitled No Ordinary Headache. This one involved splitting molecules in one reactor, sending their constituent parts to another reactor, waste atoms to a recycler, and assembling the end product. It was very tricky, and I'm not sure my solution would work indefinitely, but it was good enough to get the 40 units of the final product I needed to move on. I may never solve the next puzzle, though.

While reading Derek Yu's Spelunky book, I am also playing the game again most days. I don't have any progress to report, though it will be a happy day when I do finally manage to defeat Olmec. I have started to try to speedrun the game, though. It is possible to make it through some levels in under fifteen seconds, I have discovered. To get the Speedlunky achievement, I think you have to finish the Temple in 7 or 8 minutes, all in. It sounds insane if you are familiar with the game, but I know for a fact it's doable. Can I do it? Maybe with everything breaking in my favor? Doubtful, though.

I'm getting near the end of A Realm Reborn in Final Fantasy XIV. I really like this game, but so far not at all for the same reasons that I love FFXI. It's just a different thing, even for all the shared elements.

Books! Check 'em Out!

I'm in the middle of  several different books at the moment. I wound up reading the entirety of Boss Fight Books' Soft and Cuddly, which was damned entertaining, actually. I learned a lot about Sinclair computers of the 80s in the UK. For instance, they used cassette tapes as storage, and a fifteen-year-old could shake the foundations of the UK video game scene in that day, which a hacked together shock horror maso-core game inspired by Alice Cooper.

I have since moved on to Derek Yu's book about Spelunky in the same series. This one is much more about the development of the game, being by the game's creator rather than a third party. Spelunky is one of my favorite games, so the book is pretty interesting.

As a political dissident and leftist by American standards, I have had a good time listening to the Chapo Trap House podcast, and so I thought I would pick up their book. I can hear the podcasters' voices as I read through it, but I'm not sure the entirety of that raucus schtick plays as well in the medium of print. Sarcasm and bite come through much more clearly when spoken aloud, but the same statements just appear odd in print, minus the tone, inflection, and other context clues you get from a spoken statement. I think it's still worth a read, though.

With regards to the 41st millennium, I picked up a set of four anthologies of stories about Space Marines. I finished Treacheries of the Space Marines already, and have begun Heroes of the Space Marines. I have read comparatively few stories about Space Marines set in 40K as opposed to 30K. It's interesting to see how, for instance, the Night Lords or Iron Warriors have changed in 10,000 years, and the ways in which they have not. September has nothing new that I am interested in releasing from Black Library, but there are several things coming in October I want to get, so between now and then I want to get through as many of these ...Of the Space Marines anthologies as I can.

Friday, August 31, 2018

More Twaddling

On the reading front, which has really come to the fore this year, I have come to the end of my 30K supply, and for a while I will be reading 40K. That will, however, be somewhat backgrounded because of the fact that I'll be reading paperback anthologies, rather than on my Kindle phone app.

What I'll be reading there will instead be a bunch of non-fiction. For my first couple, I have decided to look in on the Boss Fight Books collection I picked up a while ago. I started with the two I thought I might never read, Kingdom Hearts II, and one about a game I had never heard of before, called Soft and Cuddly.

The Kingdom Hearts II book was a personal analysis of a game I could not care less about if I tried. The parts where the author described her experience playing the game and how that fit into her personal life were nice, but the parts where she summarized the game plot and characters were pretty dull, I must admit. I skimmed through a lot of that.

Soft and Cuddly, and I'm only a chapter in, seems to be about placing the game of the same name in time and context. It seems to have been an accidental inflection point in the interactions between UK games and politics. I'm eager to learn more of this game I know next to nothing of and will never play.

When it comes to games, I've kept waffling back and forth between things lately. At first I thought I was kind of in the mood for some Mega Man X, but rather than hook up my SNES Classic to play that, I thought I would reinstall A.R.E.S. Exctinction Agenda and play a little more of game very much inspired by the old Mega Man games. There are some differences, of course. Ares doesn't seem to come together as nicely. Polygonal 2D games pretty much always look awful, and this is no real exception.

Next, I thought I could maybe actually get into La-Mulana in a real way, but that game continues to elude me. I admire it a lot, but it turns out I'd rather play Spelunky, after all. So I did just that.

Waking Mars I tried out because it begins with W. It seems OK, but I'm not sure I'll play any further past the 25% mark that my save has me at. It plays with jetpacking around subterranian Mars, and encouraging native plant life to grow, but something about it just wasn't quite hooking me.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is free for new players at the moment, and so the multiplayer mode is experiencing a bit of a revival, which is nice. The last time I tried to play, no one else was. And that's a shame, because this is the best 40K action game out there. I got in a few rounds last night, and I'll continue checking in for as long as the audience holds out this time. It may be the last time the game is really playable online.

I have also begun a subscription to FFXIV. I haven't made much progress in the last couple of weeks, but I am committed to seeing it through to the endgame. Going into Labor Day weekend 2018, this is what I am most focused on.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Khan in the Great Crusade

I read the eighth book in the Horus Heresy Primarchs series, Jaghatai Khan: Warhawk of Chogoris.

Like most in the sub-series, it explores the role of the titular primarch and his legion during the period of Imperial expansion before Horus fell, a period called the Great Crusade. The Khan was the fifteenth primarch to be found and reunited with the legion bred from his geneseed, the Star Hunters, which soon would be known as the White Scars, that moniker itself apparently a mis-hearing of their own term for themselves, Talskars.

Jaghatai and the Scars were always a group apart from the rest, preferring the wild and ragged edges of the Imperium, where they could be mostly left to themselves and their ways, some of which would come into conflict with those of their cousins in other legions. Chief among those was their use of Stormseers, those legionaries who were gifted and worked with psychic powers.

A good portion of the book deals with the early formation of the Librarius, a kind of joint venture between Jaghatai, Sanguinius, and Magnus the Red, to safeguard a place for psykers among the legions, which were scorned by some, Mortarion, Perturabo, and Leman Russ, especially. The Khan had been trying to sway Horus to their way of thinking on the matter, but the future Warmaster could not afford to take a side in the matter, maneuvering as he was for the promotion he knew was in the offing for one of the primarchs sooner or later.

The book also does a lot to set up the Khan's dilemma after the wider Heresy conflict has broken out--who to trust, the brother he admires and feels a tight kinship with, or the father he disagrees with but owes everything to? Who to side with?

Chris Wraight does a great job writing this one. He's quietly turned out some very good books and stories in the series, almost completely owning the White Scars, and doing a good amount of Space Wolves, as well.