Posts Tagged ‘ review ’

Fallout: New Vegas-A Review (WITH SPOILERS!!!)

So I finished Fallout: New Vegas.

My verdict?

It’s okay.

Not great, at least by the standards of what came before, but it does the job.

For this installment Bethesda takes the players back to the West Coast or at least as close as they dare without retreading the steps of the Vault Dweller (Fallout) and The Chosen One (Fallout 2).

The Good: The wasteland is far more colorful, the characters are more engaging and even if your not playing in hardcore mode, it’s will remain challenging for most players through out. And for fans of the franchise (I’m taking Fallout and Fallout 2 devotees), the call backs and references to earlier games abound.

The Interesting: You have faction based reputation, so as you play you build up your reputation (good or bad) with a vast variety of factions. Towns, governments, gangs and movements all form an opinion of you depending on how your actions affect them. Like I said above the Mojave Wasteland is far more colorful, with red rock lined canyons, actual trees and even snow caped mountains.  And there is more variety of critters as well, which makes for more interesting combat.

The Bad: (HERE BE SPOILERS!) Here is where things take a downturn, especially if your a fan of Fallout 3. The storyline fails to immerse you the way past games did. While the story in Fallout 3 literally kicked you out of the womb here you wake up after being shot in head. Fine you want to get revenge on the SOB who did it, but besides that, what happens in the wasteland is of little concern to you. In Fallout 3, the world seemed to revolve on your every move, your actions either sung or vilified by Three Dog on the radio.  Not so in this game. In fact, it seems that whatever you do, you have very little real impact on the game.

Not only that, but you will see the twist a mile away.  It suffers from the inevitable sandbox shrinkage far to early in the game (when you realize that the game world is not as big as you thought it was). The reputation system is a bit broken as well, as doing things that are beneficial for some factions will still garner you a loss of karma/reputation with them. It even has the annoying feature of telling you you failed quests you didn’t even knew you were a part off. And you suffer from ending fatigue (as I did while playing Morrowind) because while you know how the game is going to end, you have to run around and do a bunch of quests that simply streech the game play further.

This game is then an adequate continuation of the Fallout franchise, but one I consider could have been delivered via DLC rather than packaging in an entire new game. Lets see how New Vegas own DLC packs deal with the flaws above, and I hope that Bethesda has not abandoned the East Coast completel

Next on my reading list

That is, what  book do I buy next?

Do I go the U/F route with the new release of Kelly Meding’s As I Lie Dead?

I recently read Changes and it was good, as was Meding’s first book, Three Days to Dead. Maybe it will kick start the stalled Revision/Revising on my on U/F tittle.

On the other hand I pulled an all-nighter just to finish Sanderson’s second book of the Mistborn trilogy, The Well of Ascension, I haven’t done that in years which should tell you how good the book is (review to be posted soon on SuD) so getting The Hero of Ages should cure my epic fantasy itch.

And last but not least there is David Weber’s Honor Harrington series.  A Short Victorious War would certainly put me in a space warfare kind of mood which is the perfect mood to be in when you’re writing the outline(s) for your own space sci-fi trilogy (yes, my head is that big, I’m not surprised you noticed).

Any suggestions?

——

Talking epic sci-fi as well as media premiere’s (Kelly’s book as well as the subject of the clip below debut today!) I leave you with this video from Starcraft 2-Wings of Liberty.

Awesom Sauce!

Book Review: The Honor of the Queen

The Honor of the Queen is the second book in the Honor Harrington series. It carries the tradition of strong narrative with a great main character at the center of the action. Fresh from her victory in Basilisk Station, Honor is sent to escort a diplomatic delegation from the Kingdom of Maticore to the planet Grayson.

One problem, Honor is a woman.

Grayson is a heaven for misogynistic Mormon-Expys.

And the population of are considered social moderates compared to their exiled brethren from Masasa, whose sole mission in life is to bring the “apostates” to heal by any means necessary (they have used nukes in the past, yeah they are that kind of folks) including allying themselves with the Republic of Heaven, Manticore’s sworn enemy so they can get the necessary tech to beat the Graysonites to submission.

This is a typical “Cold War” scenario where in two great powers, on the verge of war, manipulate local politics to their advantage.  In essence is a repeat of the plot of the first book, On Basilisk Station, but with less infodumps and some new wrinkles that keep the situation fresh enough to be enjoyable.

But certain problems crop up:

  • Orientalism: I get that these cultures don’t measure up to the standards of either Heaven or Manticore (their extreme misogyny being a key point of contention between each side and their would be allies), and while Grayson comes of the better with their intention to learn and change their ways (to match their new Heaven protectors) they still need pried open by through Honor’s near heroic sacrifice. Then and only then (and with their Axe Crazy/Religious Fanatic enemies) at their door will they support whatever the Manticorians offer (in good faith of course). Of course the Massadans, well….
  • Complete Monsters: The Masadans are the epitome of religious fanaticism. Use of extreme measures like nuking a planet-check, torture of prisoners in the most vile way possible-check, no deviation (with screening, frothing at the mouth and crazy fascist speech thrown in for good measure) from their divinely ordained mission even though they would be better off letting their neighbors live in peace-check.  Except for one sane man among them, all are complete bastards with no redeeming qualities, which leads me to my third and final point…..
  • Strawman Political: And how! Anyone that skews to one side of the political divide or another is seen as either a fool or a dangerous extremist. Only those who agree with Honor’s point of view are safe from this. Particularly bad with the character of Houseman, who while making some good points in the beginning, but his utter cowardice later on undercuts him completely and even leads to a near-no holds bar beat down from our resident Amazon/Tactical Genius.  Not that people like that don’t exists, but it seems that the character exists only for the author to prove a point, mainly that college educated liberals are sissies.

These things might annoy some readers enough to make them walk away from the books, but the action is so fast and intense, the main character so likable, and the situation so desperate, that it you can blow through these. In his defense, the Havenites do not come off as complete idiots or inhumane and the Manticorians are not perfect, even if they are the chosen good guys, so it seems that the author is aware of issues.

Overall, the book is entertaining, engrossing and well worth it.

——

And now for some music:

My Game Review: Munchkin The Card Game

The online Urban Dictionary defines Munchkin as:

3) The most annoying roleplayers you’ll ever have to deal with, who characteristically max out their stats, mostly without reprecations (sp?), play to mindlessly kill anything in their paths and boss the rest of your players around, and get as many dots or levels as possible. Most don’t really develop their characters’ personalities.

It also defines the theme of the game of the same name. The goal of the game is to reach level 10 by any means (both foul and fair), as befits its namesake. The game comes with two stacks of cards: Doors and Treasures. The players start with four cards (two of each) and play in a clockwise sequence from whomever rolled the highest number. Then game starts:

1. Pick a Door Card: If it’s a monster you must fight it or run away. You win if your total score (Level + Item bonuses) exceeds the creatures level. If you loose or choose not to fight the monster then you must run away. You successfully run away on a roll of 5-6 on a d6.  Failure means that Bad Stuff happens to you (each monster has a short description on the bottom telling you what that is). Success means you gain a level (or more if the monster says so) and you take it’s treasure.

2. Look for Trouble: If there was no monster, but you have a monster you can play it then, so you can fight it and try to gain levels and treasure.

3. Loot the room: If you successfully defeated a monster then you get to draw a number of treasure card from the Treasure card pile. You can play then right there or save them.

Fighting monsters is not the only way to gain levels. For every 1,000gp worth of equipment you sell (discard) you gain a level, and other cards give you level raises. The thing is that you can only win (reach level 10) by killing a monster or (if they are clerics) by a card called Divine Intervention.

Races and Classes come from the Door pack, and players can choose to be any class or race (and even have more than one with the right card). It may seem like winning this game is easy, but other players can ruin your game by boosting enemies, throwing down curses, stealing treasures or backstabing (last two abilities belong to the thief). Also you can draw curses from the stack which can wipe out your items or even take you down back to the lowest average level among the players. Cooperation is also encourage by the promise of sharing loot (only the player that drew a monster can gain a level) and in the case of Elves, by assisting other players in combat (only one player can assist another, but everyone else can dump on them if they want).

The cards are illustrated by John Kovalic (of Dork Tower fame, well fame among the RPG playing set that is) and are rife with gamer humor such as: Duck of Doom (curse), Lawyer (monster, won’t attack thieves out of professional courtesy), Gazebo (monster), Sex Change (curse), Pantyhose Of Power (+3 item not usable by Fighters) and many others. It is a fast paced game for 2-6 players and with a galaxy of expansions and sets (Munkchin in Space, Superheroes, Horror and Pirates) it won’t get boring anytime soon.

——

And no for some more gamer induced humor I present The Gamers:

On Basilisk Station-A Review

On Basilisk Station is the first novel in David Weber’s Honor Harrignton series. I dove right in after finishing Elantris. This is military sci-fi with a strong flavor of Horatio Hornblower (the similarity to C.S. Forrester character is not accidental). It has a strong combination of modern military fiction while crafting a universe with a nice mix of hard sci-fi and technobable that enables for the kind of manuvers and combat not seen since the age of sail.  The pace is quick, if not downright brutal and the tension (and stakes) remains high through out the story.

Weber writes with a strong self-assured voice that allows the reader to accept the technical parts of the story with ease.  You don’t get reams of world building exposition until the very end, and by that time you are so deep into the story, it hardly deters you from finishing it. He also uses the third person omniscient POV which  comes up as a bit jumpy for someone who (like me)i s used to either 1st person or 3rd person close. It also means that there are few surprises, but Weber doesn’t hang his narrative on ephemeral twists instead concentrating on outcomes.

You also can’t help but feel passionately about most of the cast, which explodes exponentially as the story goes. It can be a bit bewildering to be confronted with so many characters, but the action still rotates around Honor and her crew for the most part, so it is not much of a problem. In fact it reminded me off my days reading techno-thrillers with their mirad of characters.

Two things that bug me a little about this otherwise excellent book; the fast cut away from one scene to the next and the ways the “natives” are treated.  With so many characters to juggle and an omniscient 3rd person POV the action seems to bounce from one situation to the next with a bit of choppiness which can be confusing.

As for the aliens (Medusans/Stilties) Weber avoids most of the sci-fi cliches surrounding alien species such as the rubber forehead aliens, the humanoid alien or sentient animal species, we don’t see any part of the story though their eyes which smacks a bit of cultural imperialism. Then again, the human characters either treat the Medusans as primitives to be condescendingly protected from outside influence (in the noble savage kind of way) or as a resources to be exploited. Then again this might be more of a reflection of the human characters (however well meaning) than the aliens themselves. It also mirror current and past attitudes (especially during the 17th-early 20th century) by Imperial/Western governments about aborigines societies, so it may not be a total loss. Having said that, the only other alien in the books, Nimitz (Honor’s treecat or in this case Honor is Nimitz human) gets far more attention than the Medusans, probably because of its close relationship with the main character.

Overall, this is a well written, tightly crafted and fast paced book. A must for any fan of military science fiction.

Flash Fiction Friday: A Day Late and a Apocalypse Short

Haven’t done one of these in awhile and yes I am a day late (or several weeks, even a month or two if you’re into counting such things). However, I was writing a short story background for my latest RPG character and I decided to share it without you. Make of it what you will.

———-

The City fumed, screeched and stank as it always did. Winter had come early this year and with it an edge. Bill felt it in the air. He had one more package to deliver before turning in for the day. He parked his bike on an alleyway, away from the prying eyes of the MetroPol officers in the corner.

Fascist pigs.

They carried body armor and heavy assault rifles. They treated Mid-Town as if were some god forsaken occupied Third World country.  Bill”s boss was tired of covering his parking tickets and he didn’t want to give him a reason to fire him or the cops a reason to arrest him. He knocked on the metal door, “Quick Time Delivery! Package for Mr. Tom Harris!” He checked the address on the box again. Right place.

Screw this.

He left the small box on front step and turned to leave when he heard the door open but before he could say anything shock hit him in the back and everything went dark.

He opened his eyes but could not focus them, his arms and legs in metal restrains. A hooded figure stepped from the darkness into the light of a single light bulb over head. A familiar voice emanated from under the hood, “I’m sorry that I have to do this to you.”  A syringe pierced his arm, “and yes this is going to hurt.”

Fire course through Bill’s veins until the pain overwhelmed him. When he opened his eyes, he heard the same voice pushing him out of the room, “You got to get out of here, take this.” He gave Bill a  bag now loaded with something heavy and rectangular. “Run, I’ll cover you.”

“Whaaa….”

An explosion shook the building followed by flashes of light and gunfire. Bill stumbled away through a door and into the alley. He pulled the hood of his jacket over his head to ward off the cold blast of air. Heavily armed police and soldiers swarmed the building. Explosions echoed through the urban canyons. He looked up. A military helicopter hovered over the street. A second later, a large piece of concrete hit it. It maneuvered away, only to crash a block down. The street shook from the impact.

Bill ran for the safety of his apartment. There a pounding headache drove him to take a fistful of aspirin and go to sleep.

The next morning the news anchor talked about an anti-terrorist operation gone wrong, with several casualties, but no exact numbers. The network cycled handful of shaky images shot by bystanders on cellphones and digital videocams. His phone beeped. A few messages from Evelyn asking where the Hell he was, but none from his jerkass boss. He still had his job. Then he remembered his bag.

Inside he found a laptop. Once it loaded, a video came on screen. The same hooded figure from yesterday spoke directly to the camera.

“Bill, I’m sorry for what happened. I wish there had been another way. But I had no time, literally. By this time, the injections worked and you should be feeling the effects soon. I’ll explain what that means, exactly later, but for now you need to find the others. Things are deteriorating, fast. And by you,” the man in the screen pulled his hood back, “I mean me.”

Bill saw himself on screen.

Oh shit!

———

Confused?

That’s the idea.

Seen it all before?

This might give you a clue (click on the link for a hilarious review of the same):

Straight from the DVD: The Sky Crawlers

I picked this DVD up in my local video store. Had won multiple awards and came from the Mamoru Oshii stable of films so I gave it a try.

It was not what I was expecting. And that was not a good thing.

Coming from the man that brought Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor to the big screen. It certainly has his style but the story….

It’s not really there.

Gorgeous CGI, realistic air combat sequences (if some of the maneuvers where a bit much for the aircraft involved) and beautiful scenery, but the story….

In a nutshell the story centers around a young pilot who is a “Kildren” who is stuck in adolescence. All of the pilots of the “corporate” squadrons are stunted youths. That much is clear. Everything else, including the locations, and the relationship between the characters is left unclear.

Somehow the “Kildren” never really die, except in combat, although they appear again days later with no memory of who they where (and with a different name).

According some material I found on the net, the war is fought for “entertainment” which would explain why non of the combatants use modern weaponry, although their aircraft seem to be advance propeller driven aircraft.  Yet the reaction of the people around the pilots doesn’t seem to suggest that it is a form of entertainment as the news people take it very seriously, then again considering recent events and modern “infotaiment” is hard to tell what is deemed serious by media moguls.

To me, the real problem is that as a viewer don’t get enough information. Nothing is really explained about the Kildren who I guessed were clones of some kind, maybe. Nor do we see the real impact of this war. We see some blood, maybe a body covered in a tarp, but that is it. A sharper contrast between the attitudes of the people not directly involved with the “war” and the realities of the war itself might have helped.

Add an alternate Earth of sorts (it looks like the English countryside but the few maps point to it being in mainland Europe as do the snippets of news) where the characters speak Japanese on the ground (and read Japanese language newspapers), English in the air and sometimes English with the locals and you end up scratching your head from beginning to end.

The one thing I will say is that the English title is accurate. It crawled from one barely noticeable plot point to the next.

This movie was not for me or for anyone else expecting furious air combat and a gripping story.

This is an animated art house film.

It certainly has the awards to prove it.