Friday, 30 March 2018

The Wayfarer’s Rest – New Blog Announcement

Hey, everyone.

As you’ll know, this personal blog of mine is a rambly affair that meanders like a drunk seeking a kebab shop. I’ve been wondering about writing a blog that was a bit more focused, more regularly updated with fantasy/sci-fi and history/science stuff.

Thaddeus the Sixth isn’t going anywhere. I shall still be rambling inanely on esoteric subjects, as well as putting up Tales of Knights and Nitwits here.

The Wayfarer’s Rest will seek to inform, educate and entertain, like a SFF BBC, only with one person working on it, and without the £3bn guaranteed income (alas). For the most part, the content of the two blogs won’t directly overlap, although I may dual post or repost odd bits and pieces (such as my writing about the Fermi Paradox here).

I did consider simply transmogrifying Thaddeus the Sixth into what The Wayfarer’s Rest will be, but decided against it. For a start, I like having a place I can ramble about anything I like without worrying if anyone will actually read it.

On that note, a new blog about a few coins I have which are weird shapes will be up next week.


Thursday, 29 March 2018

Tales of Knights and Nitwits: Episode 9

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Will our intrepid trio of reprobates (and Freya) manage to find the Complete Works of Shakespeare? Will Temujin survive his perilous quest? What colour is Lord Grimshag's helmet? Find out [only the last one] in the latest exciting episode of Tales of Knights and Nitwits!


Monday, 26 March 2018

Review: Kingdom Come Deliverance (PS4)

As the title indicates, I played this on the PS4 (an old, fat one). At the time of finishing the game, the 1.3 patch had not released, and I played the game to completion once.


The premise of the story is thus: King Wenceslas has been kidnapped by his half-brother Sigismund, King of Hungary, who has rolled up in Bohemia 1403 to stir up trouble. As Henry, the son of a blacksmith, you find yourself embroiled in the turmoil that’s turning your kingdom upside down.

The story has a very adult tone, with plenty of violence and strong swearing (not one for the kiddiwinks) and a small amount of sex. The twists and turns of the story fit together nicely, and also offer the opportunity for a variety of gameplay (at differing times being easier or harder depending on whether you’re focusing on eloquence, stealth, or being hard as nails). Characters are three-dimensional, with some figures being both likeable yet also somewhat dickish.


In many areas, the gameplay is a significant deviation from what I’m used to. Combat and lockpicking are drastically different to other RPGs I’ve played, although horses and speech mostly works along established lines. There’s also an embedded (you can’t toggle it off) survival element requiring Henry to be adequately fed and rested, but this isn’t onerous (it’s much easier to handle than Fallout 4’s survival mode). It also plays into the feature of saving upon sleeping in a bed (after much, entirely correct, griping from players the game has had an exit save feature patched in).

Combat includes fisticuffs as well as armed (with a variety of weapons). A nice touch is that weapon stats can suit different play styles. I’m quite a stabby fellow, and there was one sword I had that was a bit flimsy but had great piercing power, so it suited my approach rather well.

There are five areas to aim cuts for, plus a stab option. Enemy attacks can be parried, and your own strokes can be chained together (combos are attainable via perks). Enemy skill can vary quite a bit. In the mid- and late-game being attacked by bandits was quite fun, because I was armoured like a tank yet being attacked by two scruffy blokes armed with sticks. It did not end well for them. The very different combat style did take me a while to get used to. Likewise the bow, for which there is no targeting reticule at all. At first I was atrocious (and a disgrace to the memory of English archers), but through a certain quest I fathomed out by practice the way to do it. In the end, I enjoyed the combat a lot.

Lockpicking was something I never got to grips with (this was patched, though I haven’t tried it with the update). As per most people, I could knock off a lock in Skyrim with ease, but I never picked a single lock in KCD (you have to rotate the mechanism with one analogue stick and keep the lockpick in the same relative position by moving the other analogue stick). Mind you, I was also playing as a virtuous hero, so it didn’t come up often either.

Moving to more familiar approaches, horses work very similarly to The Witcher 3. You can buy/loot swankier gear (more saddlebags means your horse can take on more gear, which is very useful when looting corpses that have valuable amour), and holding down the right button ensures they follow the road. You can also enswankify your steed with colourful caparisons, which is a nice cosmetic touch. Whilst you can buy (or steal) new horses, I stuck with my faithful Pebbles throughout the game. Like Roach in The Witcher 3, Pebbles is a demonic central European horse that can be magically summoned (indeed, some people believe the two games are part of an unofficial series about demon horses saving the world whilst transporting self-absorbed human ‘heroes’, but that’s clearly silly...).

Speech checks happen in three ways, based on eloquence, dignity (how fancy your clothes etc are), and intimidation. The eloquence check is used most frequently but all three are legitimate approaches and (playing a nice and articulate first game) I often made quite a bit of headway just speaking well.

A really nice feature is that you can’t just ignore an urgent quest and expect no consequence (sorry, wounded people. I just never got around to healing you and, er, most of you died as a result). It’s entirely possible to fail quests because you’re too busy dicking around elsewhere.


The overall graphical quality is so-so. I’m not fussy about graphics, and they did the job well enough, though they could be better.

I really like the consistent medieval art style. The map is obviously a stand out feature, but everything from item labels to the menu has that historical feel to it.

Textures often took a long time to decide they wanted to show up. There was some clipping, although with a layered armour system I think some degree of leeway for that is reasonable. Pop-in did happen sometimes, and could be horrendous upon fast travelling (the monastery at Sasau appearing out of nowhere was vaguely comical).


In line with the graphics approach, there’s a pleasing ring of authenticity to the sound (and who doesn’t like the sound of hooves clopping over a wooden bridge?).

Music felt like it fit into the time period (although not being 620 years old I can’t swear to that) and helped reinforce the sense of historical realism. Sound effects were well done.

Voice-acting varied a bit, but the main characters were well done and Hans Capon’s voice actor in particular did a cracking job. I was mostly terribly nice, but on rare occasions I had Henry be a thug, and the protagonist’s voice actor had a great range.

Longevity and replayability

I’ve heard estimates the main story is 35 hours, with 70 hours total if you do all the side quests. That sounds broadly right, as I’d guess I put about 50 hours into it. Actions can have serious consequences and most quests of significance had varying routes to the objective (not all of which are flagged up, the game rewards player initiative). Not sure if I’ll replay immediately, but I do think a second game as a sneaky, murderous git could be fun.

Bugs and Other Issues

With modern games this is always tricky because there can be many patches. I completed the game before the 1.03 patch came out (believe it’s 1.05 on the PS4) which fixed various issues and also made lockpicking easier.

I encountered a fair few bugs. Most of these were comical (I once got thrown twenty or thirty feet in the air during a fight, and suffered no fall damage) but a few were irksome. One main quest didn’t start (it worked upon a later attempt) and another time a significant quest line didn’t work because for some reason I couldn’t question a certain man (I could, however, murder him). The multiple paths through quests enabled me to get around this, but it was less than ideal.

During the time I played the game, I suffered one crash.

Importantly, the game includes a minor character voiced by Brian Blessed. Sadly, he never once shouted “Chiswick, fresh horses!” or “Gordon’s alive?!”. I hope this can be corrected in future games (as sequels seem eminently possible).


The meat of Kingdom Come Deliverance is delicious and original, yet the crockery is chipped and some of the sauce has been spilled. Bugs and some clunkiness (waiting for graphics to load) do take the shine off a little. However, the core of the game, the story and gameplay, are great. I’m into history, so this particularly appeals to me, and the attention to detail and historical realism are a fantastic new approach to videogames. At the time of writing, it’s still £44 on Amazon, so if you haven’t bought it yet you may be better off waiting for the price to drop (giving more time for patches too). But when you do play it, you’ll find a great game waiting for you. I hope there’s a sequel, as hinted by the ending, and that KCD helps inspire more historical videogames.

It’s also the only videogame whose promotion led me to win a Hungarian silver denar, which is nice (more rambling on it here).


PS Apologies for the lack of a bug/blooper video. I did make one but discovered I can't upload a video exceeding 100MB (I could create a whole Youtube channel for that, but for a single vid that's excessive faffery).

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Sir Edric and the Plague - out now!

Sir Edric's latest litany of drunken escapades has been released for general consumption. In the newest volume of his biography, the knight finds himself infected with pestilence and forced to seek out the fabled Tears of Shal-Marrikash to cure himself (and a city full of elves, although that's very much number two on his priority list).

Dreadful monsters, heroic deeds, and treacherous elves all lay ahead, but will the knight find he has finally bitten off more than he can chew?

Sir Edric and the Plague is just 99p, for now, with the price rising on Monday. It's currently available at Amazon and Smashwords, and will materialise elsewhere shortly.



Thursday, 15 March 2018

Tales of Knights and Nitwits: Episode 8

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As I mentioned before, episode 9 is due in a fortnight. And if you enjoy this style of comedy, do give The Adventures of Sir Edric, by me, a look. And a buy. 


Friday, 9 March 2018

Review: Angel’s Knight, by AJ Grimmelhaus

Angel’s Knight is the third book in the Angelwar Trilogy. Naturally, there will be some spoilers for the preceding books (reviews here for book 1 and here for book 2).

The story follows immediately on from the events of the preceding book, with Tol and Stetch in hot pursuit of the captive Katarina. Elsewhere, a traitor from within the Seven is picking off its knights, and Tol is uncertain just who he can trust.

The writing style is, as you would expect, similar to the other books. Fast-paced, some nice lines to add a sense of realism/humanity, although there were a small number of errors which I hadn’t seen in the earlier books (nothing huge).

I have mixed views about the plot twists. One felt less weighty than it should have because those involved had had relatively little time, particularly in the last book. Another was out of the blue but I felt it worked for that reason (and the nature of the surprise fit well).

I did like the ending, which I shan’t spoil. The ending itself capped both the book and the trilogy nicely.


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Review: Discourses on Livy, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Think Machiavelli and immediately the mind jumps to The Prince. And why not? It’s a damned good book, despite the outrage generated when he had the temerity to be honest about how political reality worked.

However, he also wrote a number of other books, including Discourses on Livy. It’s larger than The Prince’s slender proportions, similar in terms of including advice on governance but differing in the general preference for a republic over a principality.

The Prince was written [in a rush] for a specific individual, Lorenzo de Medici, at a specific time, when it seemed the Medici family might be able to form a solid Italian state and rescue it from what Machiavelli saw as perpetual infighting, leading to weakness and making Italy ripe for foreign invasion.

Discourses on Livy took longer to write, and was not aimed at a specific individual who might give Machiavelli a job and spare him from drudgery. It’s also, as the same suggests, more focused on commentaries about Livy’s (surviving) writing and comparing ancient Rome to modern Italy. There are some other historical and contemporary comparisons, but that’s the heart of it.

You do not not need to have read anything by Livy to get the references, which are explained both by Machiavelli himself and the very helpful notes (as an aside, I still hate endnotes and this edition, by Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella, uses endnotes).

Machiavelli’s commentaries are a mix of domestic governance and military advice, and whilst I don’t agree with everything he says, he does back everything up with his own reasoning and historical/contemporary examples.

The hero-worship of Rome does lead to some questionable conclusions. For example, he praises Hannibal’s skill unstintingly but nevertheless describes the Carthaginian general as treacherous and cruel. The first is a charge made by Romans who thought battle tactics amounted to cheating (specifically cited was his provoking Flaminius into chasing him to Lake Trasimene, which didn’t end terribly well for the Romans), and the second is a shade rich given Livy himself praised his ancestors for wiping out so many adult males from a rival. (Hannibal also never committed genocide, unlike Alexander or Julius Caesar).

However, for the most part Discourses on Livy is an interesting blend of history, politics, and human nature. Unlike many at the time, Machiavelli is ready and willing to face up to the fact that people are capable of acting horrendously in their own self-interest, and that those at the top of politics have their actions governed more by expedience than morality (more recently termed ‘reasons of state’).

The main flaw, endnotes aside, is the Animal Farm problem. Like 1984 to Animal Farm, Discourses suffers a bit by way of comparison with the slimmer and similar ‘other book’. I’d probably suggest buying The Prince, and, if you like it, then giving Discourses on Livy a look.


Thursday, 1 March 2018

Tales of Knights and Nitwits: Episode 7

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Apologies for the slight delay with this episode, beyond the expected wait. The art for episodes 8 and 9 is done and I plan on putting them up something like a fortnight apart. Thanks to those who partook in the recent Twitter naming poll. There will likely be another one, again for a minor character, in the nearish future.