Thursday, 25 May 2017

Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger – episode 2 out now!

Liu and Guan return in the second action-packed episode of Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger.

In The Demon Attacks, the outlaws go their separate ways, Liu Shanshan and Guan Shi heading to Xuzhou to stay ahead of Ximen’s lackeys. But it’s hard to relax when there’s a demon on your tail…






The third episode, The Tiger and The Demon, is up for pre-order and comes out a week from now.


Thaddeus

Friday, 19 May 2017

Skyrim PS4 mods – thoughts and recommendations

It’s been a little while since they came out, but mods for the PS4 edition of Skyrim are an interesting addition to an already immense game. However, as is known, there are limitations compared to not only the PC but the Xbox One (which has a clear advantage), namely total file size (only 1GB) and the total absence of new assets. There’s also a 100 mod limit.

So, given all that, are mods still worth bothering with if you’re on the PS4?

In a word: yes.

As well as nice little additions, some offer substantially changed weather effects, tweaks to gameplay, or even a full-blown overhaul (more on that later). The file size isn’t a problem because the absence of new assets (including scripts) means that you’re almost certain to never reach the limit.

So, are there any downsides to mods? Well, sometimes they conflict, although this will often be obvious. I’ve had a few more crashes (not loads, maybe one every 10 hours or so) when playing as The Red Panther. And the greyface bug is irksome (new NPCs can have freaky faces). But they add a lot to the game, so if you’ve sunk a lot of time into Skyrim and want something a little different, mods can really add to the experience.

Below is a list of mods I’ve particularly enjoyed. Do remember (I keep forgetting...) to like/rate mods that improve your game. These are all free, remember.

Darkness Falls, by Grumpy-Gazz

Since Dragon’s Dogma introduced totally black nights (save for your lantern’s limited light) I’ve really liked this approach. Nights are miles darker, practically impossible to see unless you’ve got a torch, magical light or are Khajiit. The only downside is this is incompatible with Dolomite Weathers (see below). It dovetails very nicely with the two mods bracketed together below.


Lanterns/Lampposts of Skyrim, by MannyGT and Micahghost (respectively)

The first of these mods adds little lanterns to settlements. In the newly darkened world, these really help make the villages and cities a spot of illuminated civilisation in the middle of the wilderness. The lampposts work much the same, providing lighting for the roads. Neither overdoes it, instead managing to get the balance of light just right. They work perfectly with Darkness Falls, and also fit the darker (although not as dark) nights of Dolomite Weathers.


Simple Survival, by Worlds

Now, I’ve only played with this a little bit because it’s not compatible with the Great Realism Overhaul, and when I made two new characters to see which I preferred I went for the latter. That said, this simple survival mod seemed to work very nicely. It adds a requirement to eat, drink and sleep regularly. Fail to do so and you take penalties, including your health, magic or stamina (or multiple) not regenerating. The mod’s author increased the frequency of finding salt to enable more cooking. I liked this a lot, and the only reason I didn’t stick with it is because I liked the other mod even more.


The Great Realism Overhaul, by Simtar123

This mod changes a colossal amount. The perks, especially those for warriors, have been reworked massively, and mostly for the better. One-handed, for example, has various multi-tiered perks to improve your skills with daggers, swords, axes or maces. Backstabbing perks are now located in one-handed, for daggers, and archery, for bows. Crafting replaces smithing and includes perks to improve cooking (curtailed options initially), create pottery as well as the armour/weapons you’d expect (tip: to improve rapidly, focus on arrows).

Combat is utterly reworked. On the recommended Legendary setting, damage both dealt and received is x2 normal, and you can’t shift mid-swing. So, enemies can be side-stepped and whacked, wolves are suddenly a bit dangerous (early on), and fighting multiple enemies is much harder. Correspondingly, a good follower is worth a lot, and summon spells are much more powerful. Stealth is also more valuable because of the enhanced damage, balanced out by enemies searching for you for much longer.

Carry weight has been utterly nerfed (100 initially) and fast travel is verboten, so this will put off some players, and I completely understand that. It’s particularly irksome when you kill a dragon (which is much harder than it was) only to find its valuable bones and scales weigh so much you can barely carry any of it. Travel by carriage is a lot more useful, but you can’t use it when you’re over-encumbered. Perks to make your armour (when worn) weigh less are also really helpful.

One discrepancy I found (I briefly played with a Breton mage to see how magic worked) is that my Khajiit, The Red Panther, had more or less the starting skill numbers I’d expect whereas my Breton, Laura de Mirgnac, had 1 for everything. Incidentally, the Breton starting spell (conjure familiar) is actually of some use.

It also has two supplementary mods for enemies and looting I recommend getting.

The Great Realism Overhaul really does change an awful lot. For me, it’s reinvigorated a game I’ve already (on the PS3) sunk hundreds of hours into.


All Armour Lootable and Wearable, by Bear

A great little mod that does what it says on the tin. If you get attacked by a Dark Brotherhood minion, why shouldn’t you be able to steal his snazzy masked cowl? Also good for getting a load of cash from selling looted stuff. Not compatible with the Great Realism Overhaul (but you wouldn’t be able to carry all the extra armour in any case).


Dolomite Weathers, by Megaloblast

An all-in-one weather mod (there are a few varieties, I just went for the original) which improves things a lot. In particular the higher intensity and sound effects of rain gave me goosebumps, it’s very good. Fog is denser, and the sky (clouds, aurora) just seems a lot better. I think that the distance you can see has been dramatically increased, although before this I was using the weather mods below so I can’t swear to it. Nights are darker, although not as black as Darkness Falls. The only downside is that the aforementioned mod is incompatible with Dolomite Weathers, but, generally, this is really good.


Supreme Storms, by MannyGT

A weather mod that turns rain showers into torrential downpours. It’s even more intense than the Dolomite version, and works very well (obviously incompatible with Dolomite, though).


Supreme and Volumetric Fog, by MannyGT

Similarly, dense fog for those who don’t want to go down the Dolomite route. Before I had the all-in-one mod, I used this, Supreme Storms and Darkness Falls, which all meshed nicely together.


Master the Summit, by SpaceGoats

We’ve all been there. Heading for Ivarstead. Discovering you’ve got to go all round the houses. Master the Summit adds bridges, steps and so forth to various places in Skyrim, making it easier to get around on foot. Especially useful for those going without fast travel, and fits in perfectly with the game.


Rich Merchants, by Jason069

Pretty simple. Stops merchants running out of money when you want to flog them stuff. Straightforward and very useful.


Smooth Human Female Faces, by FiNwolf

At the risk of sounding shallow, wrinkly foreheads don’t do it for me. This simple mod gives them (particularly Bretons) smooth foreheads so you can have a character who isn’t looking inexplicably old.


Phenderix Magic World DLC, by Phenderix

I’ve not played extensively as a mage, but had to include this mod. It includes several new locations (not visited them) and hundreds of new spells, some of which I’ve messed around with. There’s a vastly increased range of summons, and the destruction magic is improved with new spells too. New bosses, followers, loading screens and the mod bundles together a number of previously released, smaller mods. If you’re playing as a mage or part-time magic user, this is well worth a look.


Immersive Patrols, by Ameermohamedtt

Adds patrols from the various factions (Imperials, Stormcloaks, Thalmor etc) throughout the roads. These can, and will, encounter one another. They can also be very handy if a dragon shows up. I happened upon a fort that’s usually bandit-held (in the vanilla game) and instead found a massive Imperial-Stormcloak battle, which was pretty cool. It’s a nice touch that makes the world feel more alive.


Immersive and Levelled Items, by Gehirnmutant

There’s a problem with finding cool items early, which is that you get lumbered with a basic level of enchantment. However, this nifty mod means you can then level it up to improved versions, if you have the right material. So, if you get Chillrend early on, you’re not stuck with the n00blet level effect forever. Pretty simple, and a nice addition.


Late addition:
Fix: Restore Vanilla Settings, by DylanJames

After writing the above, I wanted to check to make sure I wasn’t over-egging the cake with certain things (particularly to see whether I was misremembering how far you can see the landscape without mods). So I started a new save, without mods. However, my character had far lower skills (1 for most) than she should’ve. Lakraz Ogre-Killer was not amused. I tried making another new save, but Gryzelda also had the same problem. Mostly, this didn’t change a lot, but I couldn’t actually sharpen the iron dagger in Riverwood because I lacked the skill (my smithing was only about 6 or 7).

Happily, the above mod fixed things, although I did have to make a new character.


This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but there’s a fair range of good mods that players both hardcore and casual might enjoy.


Thaddeus

Monday, 15 May 2017

Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger – episode 1 out now (free)!

Fast, fun and free, the first episode of new fantasy serial Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger is out now.

It’s very much Robin Hood meets Ancient China, as the story follows the adventures of the feisty and irascible Wandering Phoenix, and wise and experienced Roaming Tiger, as well as featuring their loyal friends and implacable foes. Lots of action and dramatic plot twists abound, with a minimum of flim-flam, so it’s perfect for some fantastical escapism.

The first episode is less than half the size of the next two, a nice bite-sized snack to see if you like the style and characters. Episodes 2 and 3 should be up shortly (plan on submitting episode 2 later today for pre-order). So, give it a look and if you like it the next two episodes will be available soon, and, if not, you’ve lost nothing.







Thaddeus

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger cover reveal

Here it is, the cover for the first run of my new serial, Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger:



Many thanks to Jamie Glover for the cover art, which really captures the Far Eastern feel of the story. 

Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger is akin to Robin Hood meets Ancient China, featuring the two title characters and their friends as they fight injustice and face treachery, oppressive noblemen and fearsome warriors along the way.

I’m hoping to get the first episode released within a week, and will put up a new blog when that’s the case. Once Episode One is price-matched (for zero) on Amazon, I’ll put up Episodes Two and Three for pre-order.

Being free, the first episode is quite dinky and will be an easy way to find out if the serial’s for you. It’s fast, action-packed, high on drama and adventure. If you’ve read Outlaws of the Marsh or Three Kingdoms, it may well appeal to you especially.

So, keep your eyes peeled. Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger will be on the loose soon!


Thaddeus