Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Finally Done With City 17

I've had this campaign run through of Half-Life 2 going for probably two and a half years, but now, at long last, it is done. It is just such a long game, and I could never really play it for more than maybe an hour at a time before I'd had my fill for the time being. The thing is, it's a really great game, in the playing. I just think it has some length and pacing issues, perhaps. The ending sections, inside the Citadel, with the super gravity gun, are a riot. That was a nice way to cap off the whole thing, to be sure.

The plot, though, really leaves a lot to the imagination. On one hand, I like that. Being a part of the world, being shown rather than told, is great for a sense of place. On the other, it does very little to pull you forward to the game's conclusion, which might be why it has taken me so long to reach it.

Time has probably worn off the sheen of awe many saw on the game, but it's underlying quality does still show through. I'm curious what the episodes will bring; the way the game closed felt like that was probably it for City 17 and Alyx and that whole crew, but plainly it is not. We'll just have to see where the G Man brings us out next.

No promises on when I'll play any other other entries, though.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book 5

In Dance, A Song of Ice and Fire has widened its scope as far as it has ever been, with action taking place everywhere from The Wall to the Free Cities to Valyria to Slaver's Bay in the east, with a good amount of new characters and locations in view. Later in the book, we even get back to King's Landing and Dorne. Many of the POV characters are, or have been to this point, relatively minor, but seeing the world from their eyes does a lot to flesh out the happenings in Westeros and Essos.

It feels like much of the Essos action is converging on Daenerys, as Westeros continues to tear itself apart. It's obvious the purpose of the Ironborn in the books is to give Dany a fleet back to bring her host home. Tyrion will be her Hand or spymaster or the like. Aegon will win Dorne away from King Tommen, and I suppose Stannis dies heroically while mopping up the Boltons with the help of the wildlings, hill people, Manderly, and the crannogmen of the Neck. The Freys and the Lannisters will fall to Arya as a Faceless Man, and Dany will take the Iron Throne and then ride dragons with her nephews Jon Snow (himself a son of Rhaegar Targaryen) and Aegon (Jon's slightly younger brother of the same father) to the heart of the lands of winter to kill the dark god up there with Bran's help. Rickon comes out of the woods to rebuild and hold Winterfell, the hardiest Stark ever seen in the North. Sansa kills Gregor Clegane in the Eerie and holds it as Warden of the East, Jaime kills Cersei after Myrcella and Tommen both die because of her. Stoneheart kills Jaime, is reunited with Arya. Varys and Littlefinger duel at Cyvasse in Pentos. Fin.

This and That Before Diablo III 2.1

The last week has been fairly uneventful. I've played just a little of several different things, as seems to be my modus operandi, of late. Patch 2.1 for Diablo III is out today, and I'll be headed back to that game to begin a Witch Doctor as soon as Seasons are live. But in the meantime:

Hearthstone - I finished up all of the normal Naxxramas matches, as well as the class challenges, and have played a little conventional and arena. I have no real reason to continue playing this except that it's easy to dip into and out of, and mostly pretty fun. It would be nice to collect all of the cards, I guess, but I have no wish to climb the ranks of competitive play.

Analogue: A Hate Story - I only briefly checked this out, because my daughter saw the anime girl in the screenshot on Steam an wanted to "play" it. It turns out to be a very text-heavy research and interaction game. It seems pretty cool, with a very Korean-focused starship setting, presumably a generational ship. I really want to see more of this when I can focus on it.

Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming - You're welcome, Esteban. It seems kinda cool, but I find that parody wears thin very quickly, for me. I'd love to see a more straight take on this game type, but I have zero idea of what that would look like. I guess comedy serves in this case. It is a very absurd premise.

Shadowgate - I kickstarted this remake of the game that originally intrigued me on the NES. The art looks nice enough, but I don't care for the UI presentation or the Item Verb Item mechanics, and the puzzles are as abtuse as ever, which might not be a good thing. I'm feeling pretty lukewarm on this one.

Wasteland - Yeah, the original. I feel like I'm starting to get a grip on what this game is, after a few false starts. I should play more before I play the sequel, which is officially out next month.

Goat Simulator - Mia likes to mess around with it, and it is pretty entertaining. More toy than game.

Half-Life 2 - Yes, yes, I am finally getting toward the end of this epic. I've just arrived at the Citadel, or rather a tunnel leading into or perhaps under the Citadel, opened by Alyx's robot, Dog. I've taken down striders in City 17, what could be next?

Borderlands 2 - I've done handful of quests and fought a boss, advancing into the next zone. I'm feeling pretty ambivalent on the game, so far. It feels like empty calories. Again, parody does next to nothing for me. Handsome Jack is fairly entertaining so far, though. It's something to play, and better than a lot, so I guess I'll keep going with it from time to time.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book 4

I'm still trotting along at a brisk pace on my aSoIaF reread. I'm well into A Feast for Crows, now. This is where the structure of the tale changes and gets interesting from a logistical perspective. In Book 4, we're short POV chapters from several of our favorite characters, including Jon, Dany, and Tyrion. Instead, we have POVs in the south of Westeros, centering around King's Landing, the riverlands, and Dorne, as well as the Iron Islands. We get Cersei's point of view, and see her incompetence and flaws as a ruler first-hand. We get Brienne's story, which I'm not sure the purpose of, remembering how it plays out. We get Arya in Braavos, which is cool.We get Sansa and Littlefinger in the Vale, and we get action in Dorne and among the Ironborn, which is also cool. I'd forgotten that Victarion was a POV character in Feast. I remember his chapters from Dance being entertaining.

All in all, book 4 really seems like the beginning of the second grand movement in the series. The war of five kings has for the most part wrapped up, and the remaining players are turning their focus elsewhere, to the north and the Others, to the east and its dragons, or inward, with the case of the Lannisters and King's Landing. Sansa, Arya, Tyrion, Samwell, Jon, Jaime and others have had major character-defining turning points both internally and geographically, setting the stage for further action on down the road. It's an exciting time in Westeros, even if this book and the next are light on major shakeups in comparison to book 3, especially.

Mid-August 2014 Playlog

It's hard to find a theme in these large collections of games I play for less than an hour at a time, for the most part. To review:

Talisman - I picked up both the solo adventure and full 4-player digital board games on Steam in a Games Workshop sale. While very, even completely, dependent on luck of the die roll, the game is decently fun. I found the variety of abilities and characteristics each playable character had offered up some interesting in-game ramifications. I played 2-3 complete games, which can be fairly long, before deciding my time was better used elsewhere. It was a satisfyingly fun experience, though.

Mount & Blade - I began my campaign and was immediately overtaken by bandits and taken captive, only to escape sometime later minus my followers and much of my wealth and possessions. This happened over and over, until I was left with no one, not even a horse, and next to nothing. The only choice left was between going full-rogue to probably die alone and reviled and taking up arms in the arena, winning gold and glory and, and hopefully parlaying that into followers. That's what I'm in the midst of, now.

X-Com: Enemy Unknown - I advanced my campaign through a couple of battles, finally taking captive a couple of the aliens and beginning to get a handle on managing my forces. This is another game I don't know why I don't just play all the time.

Half-Life 2 - I played though about 20 to 30 minutes of stuff up to a point where I'm making my way up through a warehouse area from subterranean tunnels, and there are all these Combine soldiers fast-roping down onto catwalks above me and they keep killing me. They'll get theirs, eventually.

Colin McRae Rally - this really is a very bare-bones experience. It's good for a quick race here and there, though. For $7, it's really not too bad.

Hearthstone - I figured it was no more random than Talisman, takes only a fraction of the time to play, has much better production values, actual people to play against, interesting solo content, and all the might of one of the biggest and best game studios in the world backing it up, I might as well invest my time further into this as any other digital card or board game. I've actually been enjoying the hell out of the single-player Naxxramus "boss battles," which are just duels against players with unique abilities and traits. They're almost puzzle-like in that they require a certain approach to win. While nothing like them, they remind me of the puzzles I used to do in The Duelist magazine about 20 years ago, when I was big into Magic: The Gathering.

Final Fantasy III (DS remake) - I finally knocked a few minutes into playing this, before taking it and all my other DS games and trading them all in. Not much to say, other than it's FF, and why the hell isn't the action ever on the top screen? Total loss on this, by the way. I bought it new in Japan, and even had the cool strategy guide to go with it, which I gave up for a mere buck alongside the game. Oh well, not like I was ever going to use it, anyway.

Kurohyou: Ryu Ga Gotoku Shinshou (Yakuza spinoff for PSP) - This was also a quick try-out before trade-in job. It's a Yakuza game, that much is certain. I thought it looked nice enough on the PSP. Series diehards or PSP gamers not already tired of the series should take interest. It's only available in Japan, however, and these games are heavy and deep with the sort of high-level and macho- slang Japanese that many non-native speakers will have trouble understanding (from my own experience).

Wipeout 2048 - I thought I'd played this one before, but I suppose not. It was only for about 20 minutes late at night when I was practically falling asleep, but I was pretty impressed by how well it looked and felt. I did a handful of races and placed decently among my friends, and I'm looking forward to playing more.

Borderlands 2 - I have merely begun, playing Maya the Siren, and having just beat the first boss, a sasquatch type thing in the ice that was bothering a claptrap. I've got to play more to rally form up an impression.

Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition - A gift from Esteban. I haven't really played SF since HD Remix, and that only casually. Before that the last one I really played much of was Super SFII on the SNES. Wow, it's a nice looking game, and it runs flawlessly on the PC. What really pushed me over the edge in wanting to play it (and now wanting to play more), was hearing of the feasibility of playing with a keyboard. It's not something I'd ever considered, but taken logically, there's no reason it should not work, and in practice I found it shockingly easy to pull off special moves, if not completely second-nature in the way that playing with a pad is. I think the keyboard layout is fundamentally better suited to the game than the average 4-button control pad, simply due to the six-button layout possible on the NumPad (4-7, with other keys for button combos), but also due to the ability to use A,S,D, and space directions (space being up/jump). It sounds ridiculous at first, but in practice, wow. It works. With some practice and getting used to, there's no reason at all this control scheme should not be competetive with, or even superior to, other input methods.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book 3

Reading-wise, I finished up book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire, and am into book 3 now on my reread. It's hard to tell due to the way all four of the first books are packed together on this kindle bundle, but I am guessing I must be about halfway through A Storm of Swords. There are three weddings in this book, and one has come and gone, the least remarkable of the three. A character has been maimed, two large cities sacked, and a cloak once turned, turned back. I'm really looking forward to books 4 and 5 again, since watching the show through season 4 was a good refresher on the first three books, the next two are much more shrouded in the mists of forgetfulness.

Strategy Potpurri & Et Cetera

I'm taking a break from Hearthstone. That game pisses me off. It feels like too much hinges on the luck of the draw. It's like the decks aren't big enough to mitigate it through card variety and multiple strategies per deck. Also the fact that you can only play as a single class and use a pool of neutral cards. Multi-classing would be an interesting thing to see added.

I've kind of been bitten by the strategy bug lately. A friend of the podcast sent me a Steam coupon for 90% off a game called Conquest of Elysium 3, which turned out to be a cool 4X-style game pared down to the raw essentials. The production values are nil, but the core of the game is quite cool. The thing is, every time I quit out of the game, it would glitch up my Steam client, necessitating a trip to the task manager to kill the whole thing and restart. Not cool. I wouldn't mind seeing a better-done version of that game, though.

I also played the beginning stages of a Civ V game as Shaka of the Zulu. I didn't like how things were headed, though, so I killed that game. I wanted to try out Endless Space, since it looked cool and I had heard good things and I already owned it. It certainly looks nice and seems playable enough, but again I wasn't satisfied with my ability to understand an play the game, so I gave up and moved on. On to Crusader Kings II, which I still don't know that I quite understand. I sort of played around with it for a couple of hours as a middle-tier lord, of Luxemburg. I managed to find a wife and produce a few children, so that was good. An ill-fated war effort followed, and then me wondering what I should be doing aside from just letting the game play itself out over the years, me making the odd decision here and there. If that's how the game is played, I may prefer a more hands-on game. I guess I'll try again with EU IV at some point.

Also on the tactics/strategy tip, I tried out Guardians of Middle Earth an Defense Grid: The Awakening. The former is a console-adapted MOBA that no one plays anymore, and the latter is a well done tower defense game, probably the best I've seen, actually. I might play more of it, or check out the sequel.

Revisiting Half-Life 2 yet again, I made some substantial progress, getting all the way through Nova Prospekt and back to City 17, where I am now on my way the Citadel. Along the way were a couple of challenging encounters around turret-placement and enemy wave defense. It's a great game, with a great feel.

A couple of new ones on the playlist that I plan to re-visit are Mount and Blade (I'm just getting started, here), and Colin McRae Rally, which I had time to mess around with for a few minutes, but that's all, so far.

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.

Detours

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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Final Leg of the Sheep Drive

Put a cap in Borderlands, is more like it. I went back to my years-old game save and finished up all the DLC, I care to, which equates to all the campaign-y stuff, General Knoxx, Dr. Ned, and Claptrap's add-ons. The Mad Moxxi thing is nothing more than an arena-based horde mode type of thing that is best played with friends. However, Borderlands no longer supports online play (thanks, GameSpy!), only LAN, so to hell with that. I have to admit that I had fun finishing this game off, even though I was rushing right through everything, seldom straying at all from the critical path. Look, I got shit to do.

I played a little bit of Half-Life 2 the other day, as I am wont to do every several months. That is a great game. That I can't seem to finish.

I also looked into Euro Truck Simulator 2 a little bit. It's pretty cool, but I'm a little disappointed by the lack of fidelity to the bits of Germany I am actually familiar with. It cuts out a lot of the anciliary countryside and urban areas to focus instead on the intersections--the interesting decisions, as it were. You'll seldom drive more than a few minutes down any one road before taking a ramp to another or turn off somewhere. Still, it's a neat idea, relaxing, and actually difficult in spots. Backing into a loading dock, especially. I'm not sure how much more I'll play, but I did enjoy myself with it for a couple of hours.

Summer is here, baby Juno is here, E3 is gone, and there is a bit of a lull before the busy all gaming season begins. It is time to play Mass Effect 3, finally. All the furor around its release is now water under the bridge, and I bought it for $5 or $10 at some point several months ago, and I am finally ready to guide Shepard to the end of her journey, for better or worse. The fixed ending is live, all DLC available on Origin (thank fuck, after the mess of ME2's DLC marketplace), some of which I may buy, and enough time has passed that neither is much of a sore spot anymore. If Shepard can make peace with the Alliance leadership for the greater good, so can I with EA/BioWare/Origin on these matters. We don't have to like it, but working together is the only way we'll get through this to the end.

That said, I imported my Caroline Shepard, created in ME1, continued through all of ME2, into ME3 last night, and got the ball rolling. Earth is being attacked by the Reapers, folks are dying, and Shepard has been reinstated as commander of the Normandy and sent to gain the aid of the Citadel. First stop are some Martian archives where it sounds like she may encounter long-time friend and comrade Liara, now a galactic shadow power broker. So far, so good. It feels like Mass Effect, and combat-wise maybe even the best of the bunch, though it is still early to really tell. I'm looking forward to more.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Shooting From the Hip

I still haven't put away Diablo III, not completely. I have slowed down on it, considerably. All my characters are now Torment II capable, and each with some pretty cool rare legendary items that offer unique effects. There's no game as good for playing while listening to a podcast.

I may segue that habit over into Borderlands, now, though. I'm getting a little more back into it in the last couple of days. I'd like to put a cap on this game once and for all, and maybe peek into the sequel some, too. On the shooter topic, I had a weird hankering to play some Doom the other day, so I jumped in and messed around with that a bit. I should probably stick with some of the more modern fare that I have untouched, though. It's tough to go back that far.

I was able to complete a couple of games recently, one a tiny, ponderous sci-fi adventure called Stranded, which finds the player crash-landed on an alien world and having to survive and figure out the mysteries of the surrounding alien ruins. I enjoyed that. I also finished off Assassin's Creed Liberation, which was pretty mediocre all the way through. I don't regret playing it, though. Aveline's story was interesting enough.

Monday, May 19, 2014

From the Visitation to the Violation

Reading, lately, I finished up the rather short Roadside Picnic, though it took me a month or more, such is my pathetic, contemptible reading volume these days. That was a really interesting read. What S.T.A.L.K.E.R. took from it in tone and inspiration far outweighs the superficial differences in the settings, which I suppose make it a fairly successful adaptation. Book to game; who would have thought?

For my next feat of literary dullness and sloth, I retreat back into the arcane lore of the Horus Heresy, with James Swallow's Nemesis. This seems to be a story of competing beureaus of assassins, one gunning for Horus Lupercal, and one for The Emperor of Man, or just The Emperor, for short.

I'm alternating Horus Heresy stuff with non-HH stuff in a wierd sort of literary palate cleansing. I'm defining where the Horus Heresy sits in terms of literature by figuring out where other things are in relation to it.

Putting Hell the Hell Away

I'm going to have to force myself to stop playing Diablo III. I got my Demon Hunter, Isam--after a similarly haunted Wheel of Time character--to 70, and then promptly switched back over to Orda--after the Khan--to gear him up a little more for Torment level Nephelam Rifts. I've been having fun wrecking stuff and finding game-changing legendary items with him, such as ground-melting boots, a monster-charming helmet, and a demon-summoning greatsword. This game is so good! It's even better now after the expansion and extensive patching than it was at launch--far, far better, as a matter of fact. It's high time to shelve it for a while, though, and when this 7-day period of increased Legendary Item drop rate and double Rift Fragment Bounties ends, I'll do just that. I have half of the classes at the level cap, now, and while it may not be the most efficient, each of them can get along in Torment mode with reasonable comfort. I want to play a Witch Doctor next, but I don't have it in me now. It makes more sense to wait until whenever Blizzard introduces Seasons to the game, where players will compete on leaderboards as to who can start with a new character and level up the fastsest, the most, with the best gear, or whatever it turns out to be. That will be fun. I will not be able to compete to much of any extent, but it will be fun.

I've also been playing some Assassin's Creed: Liberation. It really is pretty mediocre, which is a shame. Not that the even the greatest entries in the series stand up as shining examples of the form, but this is even lacking in their charms. You can tell that the developers were ambitious with their design; it mainly just feels like there was a shortfall of funding and time to make the game great. It probably also has to do with the constraints that attempting to shoeorn an AC game onto the Vita placed on the whole endeavor. I can see in Liberation the many things I like about this series, I just have to look harder. I wish the production values were higher--particularly the voice acting, which is pretty bad. I wish the plot was more coherent and had more connective tissue, because it's hard to decipher, as is. I wish the game just had a better feel to it--it's pretty janky. To be fair, jank is nothing new to AC. Maybe the frequency with which we see these come down the pike is finally starting to wear on me. Maybe I needed more time to put 80 hours of Black Flag and DLC behind me. I will soldier on through, this, though, and await with anticipation this fall's Assassin's Creed: Unity, and the rumored Comet, to a lesser extent. Maybe Liberation will pick up, who knows?

I felt like monkeying around with Dawn of War II: Retribution's The Last Stand mode last night, wondering if I could seque my routine from Diablo III into that, soon. I'm not so sure. Instead, maybe I'll go back (again) to Borderlands--the first--to try out all the DLC before finally, ultimately canning that game for real this time. I need to play Borderlands 2 sometime, after all. I'm undecided whether the Pre-Sequel (not developed by Gearbox) is something to be excited about. I'm leaning toward no, but again, who knows?