Sunday, August 24, 2014

late game discussion - Dishonored

Dishonored came out in October 2012, which feels like yesterday for me because I live under a rock when it comes to video games. Dishonore immediiately jumps to fourth on a list of the most recent games I own behind Last of Us, GTA:V and Assassin's Creed IV, All of which I received with my PS3 last Christmas because again, under a rock.

Back on topic, Dishonored.
The PS3 version from which I shall chronicle my experience was in a pre-owned bin of EB Games near where I live and set me back 30something AUD. Which is just about perfect for the game play I got out of it in my single play through.
You play as Corvo, he has a surname too but it doesn't come up so I wouldn't worry about it. He's a bodyguard of sorts attached to the Empress of Dunwall, the monarch of an industrial age city state marinating in equal parts steam punk styling and human suffering and flavored with a heavy pinch of unexplained and scarcely explored mysticism. You wouldn't plan a holiday there.
As Corvo returns to Dunwall from travels abroad on Imperial business things predictably go pear shaped and Corvo is on the hook for the Murder of the Empress and the abduction of Princess Emily ( voiced by Chloe "Hit-Girl" Grace Moretz, because why the hell not put your voice talent budget into a bit parts. This isn't even the worst example, but I'll get to that later). Corvo is painted as having slightly more than a professional protective relationship with in a brief and rather cheap optional objective in the opening mission. The role of Corvo as Emily's protector isn't developed particularly well and I got the impression that the audience is expected to care about the relationship between the two simply because it's a little girl in a video game, and we're told to.

The broader narrative plays out as one might expect it to with resistances fighting tyranny and oppression and Corvo goes from protector to assassin and murders his way through the city's upper classes in fun and interesting ways. The main narrative thread of the game, while a little pedestrian, is far from the worst I've ever experienced. The true strength of Dishonored is in the world it has built. Which is both a real strength and a great disappointment. There is a breadth and depth to the city of Dunwall that warrants far greater exploration. A lot of work has gone into crafting a deep and intriguing world of characters and history that just scrolls past the windows as you pilot your assassin through his hit list. At one point around 80% of the way through the campaign I remember thinking to myself that Dunwall would make an excellent location for an Elder scrolls style RPG.

As far as playing the game itself, the control set up is great. The bulk of what little gaming experience I have behind me is on the Xbox and I've frequently had issues translating to the dual shock controller, but no such issues arose in my time with Dishonored. This won't be an issue for most other people, because I am at best, a spaz with a gamepad in hand, but I'm going to put this down as a point in the games favor.

There was one particular mechanic I wanted to point out. In a traditional FPS, when you approach a ledge and jump you either clear the ledge and make it up onto the next level or you don't and that's it, you find a step or you look somewhere else. In Dishonored you jump, hold the jump button down and Corvo grabs the ledge and climbs up. I haven't seen this anywhere else, and it stopped me dead. I had a 'Peter Griffin at the stem cell clinic' moment. It's such a small touch, but I enjoyed it immensely as a step forward in FPS design. One that likely shows my familiarity with the genre and/or games in general.

Corvo's powers, bestowed upon him by a vague chap called 'the outsider' are, unsurprisingly, quite helpful. I had the most use out of the 'Blink' ability which let's you zap about, effectively extending your reach and allowing you to get to those hard to reach spots nice and quickly. The Shadow Kill power disintegrates the corpses of your victims, which comes in handy for avoiding rat swarms and patrolling guards. Time bend was useful for taking out multiple enemies in close proximity as well as facilitating an escape and breaking line of sight allowing you to scurry back into the shadows.

I had seen and heard some complaints about the visual styling of the game, which I can understand to an extent. During game play it's fine, but when you're in cut scenes of conversations with characters I really started to notice some irksome features of the aesthetic. For instance, most characters looked like they could crush a melon with their freaking enormous hands. Which is handy because it didn't look like they'd be able to pick up that melon with their spindly little arms and almost inconsequential shoulder, and then their heads are too small compared to their Torso's. I had an easier time suspending my disbelief that Rayman could exist, much less function, than I could watching the people of Dunwall's ever so slightly not right proportions. That aside, the design for the game is fairly solid and everything looks like it fits together in the world they've crafted.

As I mentioned towards the top of page, Chloe Grace Moretz of 'Kick ass' fame is one of a few bafflingly well known talents to lend their voices to the game. most notably:
John Slattery, Iron Man 2's Howard Stark, 30Rock's Steven Austin, Mad Men's Roger Sterling showed up to voice Admiral Havelock, the leader of the resistance.
Lena Headey, Dredd's Ma-Ma,300's Queen Gorgo and Cerci 'Brotherf***ing' Lannister voiced Callista Curnow. I think she was a maid or something, I genuinely never noticed.
Carrie Fisher does a spot of P.A. announcing in there too.
Worst of all Susan Sarandon, from everything ever made, voiced Granny Rags. An insane street dweller I came across twice in the game.
Moretz had all of a page worth of lines in my play-through. It baffles me no end why on earth they would bother getting names like this for what are essentially supporting and peripheral characters. Slattery to a lesser extent sure, but Susan Sarandon, really guys...

On the external interface side of things, there appears to be no method to track your progress or completion level, be it in game inventory or pause menu's or in the loading screens. You get a hit list of collectibles at the conclusion of each mission but unless you jot that stuff down on paper or something that's it. The absence of a 'new game plus' option is disappointing, and again, baffling consideering what year the game was released.

On the whole, despite my focus on the missing and confusing aspects of the game, I enjoyed my time with Dishonored.
I won't give it a score, because I think that's kind of dumb.
I will recommend you go grab a copy if you haven't played it yet.



Sunday, July 27, 2014

HALO metallic series drop pod figure (Red) : Quick look



Acquired for $5.50 AUD at a local chain store, this fairly barebones minifig comes with the  advantage of not being a blind bag, instead he comes in a funky drop pod case which is cool, but has some issues that I'll get into later.




Once assembled his limbs go this far out laterally ( centre ), and bend at the knee and elbow like so ( right). The pieces take a bit of effort to plug together but once assembled he's not likely to fall apart unprovoked. Nothing new here as far as how the figure works.



Bumpy ride...
Points lost for the dismount...
The one main thought I had about this guy was that they've gone to the effort of manufacturing a hard plastic drop pod thing, and they've failed to take the half a minutes worth of thought it would have taken to figure out how to make a step, or a peg or something to anchor the figure on it's baseblock inside the drop pod. I don't imagine they're aiming at the fanatical collector market with these guys but, you've already  done half the work, do the other half. He wil physically fit in there but if you do the unthinkable and want to display your minifigure in the cool drop pod they give you with it you end up with the pic in the right... c'mon guys.


The Metallic series ODST drop pod guys come in a quartet of colors and likely available in any good toy store near you.
Megabloks.com

Project Firestarter (Malifaux) : Part 1.

After playing a few games with mixed success using the Firestarter (proxied using a Fire Gamin) I've decided to move on from the stopgap proxy and get a dedicated figure for the character. As yet, no official figure from Wyrd exists so I went and picked up the 'Ignis, Fire Demon' figure from Anima tactics.



Ignis comes as a blister in 6 metal pieces with a 40mm base, which I've swapped out for an orange 30mm, as the firestarter character is a 30mm base model. The pieces are rather fine and quite detailed making pinning a risky, and in my estimation unnecessary venture. Here are a few of his parts held together with equal parts Cyanoacrylate and Hope.

 
Phone camera, with added blur!
The figures legs, hips and spine come as a single piece (3rd from right) onto which the tail piece (2nd from right) attaches as seen below.
Tail attached to legs.
Front. Primed.
Back. Primed.


The Torso piece includes the chest, right arm and hand and the hand less left arm. the left hand is a giant claw that is vastly out of proportion to the right hand, which is likely an intentional design but it bugged me, just on a logical basis when everything else is symmetrical, the hands should be too. Two rather large pieces of sculpted flame attach to the torso above the shoulders and make up for about a third or more of the figures total height. I let the glue set overnight and primed him using a white brush on Gesso primer.

He's quite a tall figure so I'm definitely going to need to add some mass into the back portion of his base to ensure stability on the tabletop.
After priming I added a smokey ink wash to pick the highlights but it ended up looking like the hybrid Xenomorph from Aliens Resurrection so I went ahead and base coated him with a Citadel Foundation 'Mechrite red' more or less rendering the preshade pointless. I'm smart like that.

I'm going to attempt to get a red snakeskin finish on his flesh, not to the extent of having scales or anything insane like that. I'm going to try and get it to be a marbled red and black.


We'll see how that goes in part two, where I'll also start picking out the details in the figure; fangs, claws and other bony portions as well as getting a start on the flames.
Drop a comment below and leave any hints or useful links that could help out, cheers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ni No Kuni: Thoughts from 10 hours in.



 Ni No Kuni from Level-5 and Studio Ghibli was released for PlayStation 3 in the west in January 2013, So naturally I am only just now getting to play it....



As the title indicates I'm around 10 hours in, Which was a surprise when I checked because I thought I was maybe 6 or 7. Nope, 10 hours. Which is a significant chunk of game time for me and to do it within four days of acquiring the game is... unusual.
In itself this is a good sign. I am enjoying the game quite a lot, so here are a revolver's worth of bullet point thoughts I've had in my time with the game.

"Why would you do that to your face?"

1: 

Character names. The game gets a hard Fail. Whatever the approval process for the character names is, it is clearly insufficient. The main character "Oliver" is not a good name. Shortening it to "Ollie" doesn't help. It isn't the worst offense however. The facilitator and lead expositor in the game is a fairy called 'Mr Drippy' which... just... What the hell... his character design is also questionable in that he's got an extreme (albeit, useful under the right circumstances I suppose) piece of body modification in the form of a lantern swinging from a loop though the end of his nose. We are not furnished with a reason or motivation why he's had this genuinely unique piercing ( yet... to be fair ). I get that you're bound to run into issues translating a game from one language to another but is Oliver really the best they could do?
 
Ollie the mighty Wizard...

2:

The delivery of exposition through dialog chops and changes between voiced in game render and blocks of text, with no apparent structure for which bits get voices and which don't. One passage had a single spoken sentence between large sections of text dialog. I don't have an issue with reading, that isn't the problem. jumping from one medium to the other is jarring and puts a nice big dent in the immersion of the game. I get the feeling it may have been a disk space issue and they had to take a machete to the voiced sequences in order to cram it all onto the disk, which if true, betrays a lack or care or thought and planning in that step of the process.

Drippy has a very Welsh accent so the text dialog isn't all bad...

3:

The combat system is basically Poke'mon goes Final Fantasy. Which, depending on your tastes, is either awesome or terrible. Despite some small complaints I'm enjoying it so far. The utilization of 'familiars' to do your fighting takes the 'summon' feature from Final Fantasy and put it centre stage, allowing you to capture, develop and equip the little critters you encounter in the parallel world.
Your familiars have many stats that you can upgrade in many ways.

4:

This game is frigging gorgeous. The simplicity of the visual design is deceptively rich and full of warmth. They've managed to successfully balance simple aesthetics and color selection that does not always work well with cell shaded style animation. Avoiding strong black lining was a solid move.

5:

The soundtrack is outstanding.  Performed by the Tokyo philharmonic orchestra, the audio matches the gorgeous visuals for warmth and amplifies the atmosphere magnificently.

World map

6:

On the world map creatures roam about and if they spot you will chase after you and you'll go into combat mode. After a little while of levelling up weaker enemies will spot you and run away, which I thought was cool. I am an amazingly impatient gamer and having to suffer through random encounters where the victory screen and EXP summaries last twice as long as the combat is not a fun time.
You can name this guy, like all familiars, whatever you want.


Despite my minor gripes with a few trivial elements of the game I'm enjoying it immensely, and look forward to hitting 20 hours with the game, at which point we'll come back for Part 2. For now, on to hour 11....

Malifaux Batrep : Kaeris vs the Victorias.

I squared off against a buddy of mine the other day, here is a completely objective and unbiased long form account of what went down.



"We" decided on a 40 'stone crew list game, which is to say Pete said 40 stone game, which was handy really because that's what I played last so I still had my crew written down in my trusty notebook.
My crew shaped up like so:
Kaeris with Arcane reservoir ( allowing me to take an additional card in my hand as long as this character lives) . Joss ( proxied in using the 'Johan' figure ) . 2 gunslingers. 2 Union miners. 1 fire gamin. Leaving me with a 6 stone cache.

My buddy, Pete ran his Viktorias crew which looked like this:
Viktorias. Killjoy. 2 trappers. 1 Friekorpsman, who upon entering to the word processing app on my phone auto-corrected to Fireworks man, which I am going to stick with from here on out.

The set up went like so:

 1 200 square board, 8 varied terrain pieces that looked like this:

Deployment: Standard.
Strategy: Turf war.
Schemes: Line in the sand. Assassination. Bodyguard. Plant evidence. Murder protege.

The schemes I chose were Assassination and Plant evidence, and announced neither, removing the possibility of additional VP.
Pete announced Murder Protege on Joss.

I win deploy flip 11-3, and chose to deploy on the bottom edge of the photo above.
I stashed Kaeris and the Gamin behind cover, wisely it would later turn out, as you can see on the left below. That's a trapper on high ground in the top left of frame there... 






Pete deploys on the top edge of the table with killjoy buried and both trappers utilize shenanigans (From the Shadows) to get excellent line of sight straight out of the gate, see above right...
And that just about sets the tone for the game.

Turn 1.

Pete wins the initiative flip 11-8, and elects to go first, blood lust positively luminous in his eyes...
He activates Trapper#1, the guy perched up on a rock in the left hand photo above. He uses a Focus action and Shoots at Joss, hoping to get rolling on his Murder Protege Scheme, but misses.
Keen to avoid that scenario, I activate Joss and bid him to bravely run away, using a double move to scoot behind some cover on the right hand side of the board, somehow convincing myself he was going to go fulfill the Plant Evidence Scheme. Pete then activates Trapper #2 who also uses a Focus action and then Shoots at Gunsmith #2 dealing 3 damage. I double move Miner #2 toward the Turf War marker at the centre of the field.
Pete: Activates his fireworks man and copies my brilliant stratagem of moving the expendables toward the strategy marker. I replicate the double movement maneuver with Miner #1
Pete activated Vikki of Ash who moves toward the Turf war marker and pulls Vikki of Blood with the 'Sisters in Spirit' upgrade, essentially allowing him to move both characters up the board during either ones activation. He then moves Blood Vikki again with his final AP for the activation.

I activate Gunsmith #2, injured as she is, and move her up the field and take a shot at Pete's Fireworks man without success.
Pete activates Vikki of Ash, takes a defensive stance and passes. I activate Gunsmith#1, moving him up the board and then take a shot at Vikki of Ash, inflicting 2 damage. At this stage Pete is out of activations, as Killjoy is buried until he loses another member of his crew, So I activate my Gamin and run him up the board toward the Turf war marker and then fly Kaeris up the left hand flank of the table to finish the turn.

Turn 2.

Pete won the initiative flip 11-1.
Pete activates Vicki of Ash and moves her toward My miners, pops 'sisters in spirit' again, dragging Vicki of Blood with her and using his last AP to move again. Then, Pete uses a Zero action to hunker down and gain +1 Def. He then, through the power of chicanery and shenanigans, utilizes 'Accomplice' on Vicki of Blood, allowing him to activate her immediately.
Blood Vicki moves, activates Melee expert and deals 3 damage to Miner 1, which triggers whirlwind. Which goes like this:
  Attack miner 2. Miss.
  Attack gunsmith 2 dealing 4 damage. She Dies.
  Attack gunsmith 1 deals 4 damage.
  Zero action. Attack gunsmith 1. Miss.
An hour later It's my turn again. I activate Miner #2 and utilise improvised weapon to render 1 damage to Vicki of Ash. Because that's all miners are good for, Annoying your opponent....

Pete activates his fireworks man who shoots at Kaeris for 1 damage, triggering Reposition. He uses his second AP to hit replay and Shoots Kaeris again for 1 damage, triggering Reposition.
I activate my Fire gamin. He move up the board and Spits magma at fireworks man dealing 2 damage and imparting the Burning 1 condition, so at the end of turn, that 2 damage becomes 3, aw yeah.
Pete turn again, he activates Trapper#1 and shoots may gamin dealing 6 damage and triggering critical strike on the flip. The Gamin, predictably, dies. With his second AP, trapper shoots at Kaeris but misses.
I activate Gunsmith 1. Move and then Shoot Trapper 2 dealing 3 damage. Said trapper activates and shoots back dealing 4 damage, which would have killed him, but he's Hard to kill, so he survives on 1 wound. Naturally, Trapper shoots again, hits and flips the Red Joker on the damage flip dealing 7 damage. The Gunsmith dies and the Trapper triggers Reposition.

I activate Miner #1 who takes his improvised weapon to Vicki of Ash twice and Misses each time. Pete is out of activations so I round out the turn by moving Joss twice and then moving Kaeris, dropping a scheme marker and then moving her again.That brings us to the end of turn 2, at which point we earn 1VP each for having 2 guys in range of the Turf War marker.

Turn 3.

I burn a Soul stone for cards, because I drew a handful of garbage. My gambit scarcely pays off, netting an additional 11 of tomes and a 9 of crows.
I win the initiative flip 13-8, So I activate Joss who moves into bas contact with the standing stone near Pete's board edge and drops a scheme marker.
Pete activates blood Vicki who Zero action's for +1 melee. He burns a Soul stone for mask suit and  triggers whirlwind as he attacks miner #1. the attack deals 4 damage killing the Miner. Vicki heals and then attacks miner #2. 4 damage, Attacks again. 3 damage. Miner Dies. Vicki heals again.
Digging deep to overcome the loss of my useless goddamn miner, I activate Kaeris who moves twice to drop a scheme marker. This signals the end of my activations, as I've gone from a position of numerical strength to being outnumbered.
Pete activates Trapper #2, who Shoots at Kaeris and Red jokers to hit... 6 damage. Armor 1 knocks it down to 5. Trapper shoots again, 3 damage reduced to 2. He then activates and double moves Trapper #1. Next up Fireworks man moves and decides to shoot Kaeris but misses.
Blood Vicki moves into contact with the Turf war marker and passes ending the game turn.
Pete earns a further 1 VP for Turf War.

Turn 4.

Pete wins the initiative flip 10-6. He activates Trapper#2 who moves up to Joss and ties him up in Melee, without actually attacking. Yes, I realised why at the time, but It was pretty obvious victory was not a possibility. I activate Joss and use Pneumatic fist on trapper #2 dealing 8 damage. Trapper goes splat. Killjoy joins the game.
Pete activates Killjoy, punching Joss for 5 damage, but thanks to Armor 2, is reduced to 3. Killjoy Attacks again triggering onslaught and dealing 7 damage, and then 4 damage and Joss dies fulfilling Kill Protege.

With only 1 piece left on the board my options are somewhat limited. I activate Kaeris and move her into range of Pete's fireworks man and cast Flaming Halo. It succeeds and imparts the Burning 2 condition. with my 3rd and final AP for the activation Kaeris casts Immolation on  fireworks man dealing 5 damage.
Pete activates Trapper #1 and shoots at Kaeris. I respond by burning a Soul stone to prevent damage. He misses. Trapper shoots again and also misses. Next up Vicki of Ash uses 'Sisters in Spirit' to pull Vicki of Blood into base contact and then moves into melee with Kaeris. Activating his Zero action 'Setting Sun' before utilizing Accomplice to activate Vicki of Blood who Zero action's 'Falling star' the charge at Kaeris causing 3 damage, reduced to 2 by armor. On the second attack Pete Red jokers for damage causing 9 wounds. Kaeris explodes into a cloud of bloody chunks and metal feathers....
Fulfilling his unannounced Assassinate scheme.

Game over.


I gained 3 VP from plant evidence and 1 from turf war for a total of 4.
Pete gains 2 VP from turf war, 3 from kill protege and 3 from assassinate for a total of 8.
Pete takes the game.

Conclusion:

On the whole the game played out much as I expected it might. things look OK for me for a turn or two and then the hammer drops. In this case the hammer being my opponents superior knowledge of his own troops, schemes strategies and the game in general coupled with my own complete lack of the previously mentioned areas of understanding.
I think I'll go for a shorter format recount next game where I whittle out the highlights of each turn and get some more images involved. Drop a comment and leave your thought on the format and any tips for playing Kaeris if you've got them, because I could sure as hell use them...



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

House Vyre Heavy Myrmidon - Retribution of Scyrah Warmachine quick Unbox and thoughts



House Vyre Myrmidon


1 of 2 options for Heavy myrmidon kits for the Retribution of Scyrah faction, this chap has all the requisite components to assemble and field one of 3 possible variants. the Sphinx, the Banshee and the Daemon. I have played none of these, so any insight into their field utility is going to be entirely baseless, so let's not waste anyones time.


 


I gutted the box and displayed innards. Standard Privateer Press set up, components are clipped from sprue and baggied up in no discernable order or association. The trio of stat cards for each of the variants means you could theoretically magnetise the kit and be able to field the most suitable Myrmidon for that game's matchup. I am not that person... I will likely assemble the 'Banshee' version and be done with it. As I mentioned earlier, I'll open up the components and have a closer look soon.

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