Friday, 19 April 2019

The Three-Inch Fool part 1

One of the Shakespeare plays that ages the worst is The Taming of the Shrew, the central message of which is that the key to a happy marriage is for a husband to psychologically crush his wife until she’s mindlessly obedient to him.

It does, however, have some cracking jests, perhaps my favourite of which is “Away, you three-inch fool!”

I’ve used that as the basis for a daft character name in Skyrim, and edited some videos into short episodes (I’ve got more in progress). It’s vanilla gameplay footage plus the internal monologue [via text] of The Three-Inch Fool, a morally dubious Argonian with a fondness for cheese and murder.

Anyway, if you enjoy Sir Edric’s internal monologues and self-absorbed comedic style, you might like this. I have limited experience editing, so any insightful feedback is welcome (is the volume fine, captions up too long/not long enough etc).


Thursday, 18 April 2019

XCOM 2 DLC Review (PS4)

I hardly ever buy DLC, but I really liked XCOM 2 and happened to see there was quite the sale on (the original three pieces of DLC reduced by 50% and War of the Chosen, the later, larger, expansion reduced by 62%). For the record, I played on an old, fat PS4.

The bundle of three include some new cosmetic options for customising your cannon fodder, ahem, beloved soldiers, the Shen DLC that adds the Spark class, and the Bradford DLC that adds some swanky one-off weapons and three tough bosses (I did a playthrough of the original XCOM 2 base game plus these DLC, and almost my only losses [I played on normal difficulty] were due to these bosses).

DLC Bundle of Three

The cosmetic options offer a nice range, but, despite how splendid midriffs are, this isn’t something I’d buy by itself. The Shen/Bradford DLC each includes an extra mission with some story background I won’t spoil (both refer back to characters from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the previous entry in the series.

The Shen DLC adds the Spark class (think Johnny-5 meets Terminator). I quite like the class, as it comes preloaded with the very useful shred ability, and overdrive, allowing multiple moves/shots in one turn.

The Bradford DLC has some unique weapons you acquire through scanning, and three bosses that have multiple turns, (the normal one and reactions to everything your soldiers do, even reloading). The multiple turns appear toned down a bit in War of the Chosen. These bosses are variants of the usual enemies, and come with a bucketload of hp and a penchant for running away (which is handy, to be honest, as they’re pretty damned tough).

These are good additions to the base game, which blend in seamlessly and add a little more variety. They’re nice to have without being fantastic.

War of the Chosen

There are a huge number of additions, some large, some small, with the War of the Chosen DLC. A quick summary of my view is that I like it a lot.

The Chosen are three high-powered individuals that you may randomly encounter when you perform missions in their territory. There’s an Assassin, a Hunter, and a Warlock, each with specific strengths and weaknesses. Taking them down is challenging (they’re easier than the bosses from Bradford’s DLC but effectively immortal and thus come back unless you complete the story missions to kill them permanently) and if they show up during a tricky mission they can make it a lot harder.

There are also three semi-independent new resistance factions who co-operate with XCOM: Skirmishers, who are ex-Advent, Reapers, who are sneaky scouts, and Templars, who are slightly nutty psionic enthusiasts. Each one provides a soldier for XCOM with unique skills (personally, I like Mox, the Skirmisher who can fire twice in a turn, and has a voice a bit like Todd from Stargate Atlantis). The factions also offer missions via the Ring facility, which involves sending off soldiers to act outside your control (although if they’re ambushed you’ll get an extraction mission). Each faction can also fulfil orders which offer you bonuses for a month (like recruits who go through training becoming sergeants rather than squaddies).

Pairs of soldiers can now form bonds that offer bonuses when they’re on the same mission, with this can be levelled up to increase the advantages. Propaganda posters are automatically generated and can also be manually created to celebrate promotions, victorious missions, or midriffs.

Some facilities are new, and with the right one you can select extra abilities outside the usual class options for soldiers (from options randomised for each soldier). This is very useful, perhaps to the point of being a little excessive.

There’s also the Lost. The Lost are effectively a horde of zombies (independent of alien control so they’ll attack the aliens almost as much as you). They’re very weak but there are tons of them. Killing them with ranged weaponry refunds your actions and their attacks are weak. I’m less fond of the Lost than other new aspects of the game as their whole shtick is high numbers, which can make missions something of a lengthy meatgrinder. (One time I had almost my whole squad in a great, elevated position, but it still took me forty odd minutes to effortlessly slay the shambling fools).

Research has two additions: breakthroughs and inspirations. One means research takes far less time for a particular subject, the other offers a rare (some can be acquired through faction missions as well/instead) new bonus like cut-price facility construction or extra damage to a specific weapon type but only if the research is conducted immediately.

A word on the older DLC Bundle: that’s included here. As mentioned above, the bosses are mildly nerfed, but that’s fair enough as they were perhaps overpowered in the original version. Neither Shen nor Bradford get their story mission, though, as the bosses have been repurposed as facility guards rather than appearing randomly, as that would coincide with the Chosen and open up the possibility of encountering both in a single mission, which might be too much (although it does sound quite cool).

I like the War of the Chosen expansion a lot. But there is at least one downside. I had two crashes, both around the end (one just before, one just after) a long mission involving the Lost. It was quite frustrating, especially as the first one cost me a soldier’s promotion which I needed to complete a certain action.

I don’t buy DLC often, but I’ve got to say I enjoyed this extra content. Would I recommend it at full price? Only if you’re Captain Moneybags. At a discount, give it a look, particularly War of the Chosen.


Monday, 15 April 2019

Review: Oathbringer (Stormlight Archive book 3), by Brandon Sanderson

This has been out a little while but I only recently got my hands on it (literally, unlike the first two entries which I read as e-books).

Like its predecessors, this book is enormous, a little over 1,200 pages, and is just part 3 of a planned 10 or so in the series. (I know some are wary of taking on unfinished mega-series, but Brandon Sanderson does write pretty quickly).

The story resumes shortly after the events of Words of Radiance, and, though it may be obvious, I have to warn of spoilers from this point forth (major for previous entries, any spoilers for Oathbringer will be kept to the minimal possible level, focusing on premise).

The Everstorm, a new phenomenon heading in the opposite direction to the expected highstorm, batters the world, wrecking ships, destroying buildings, and catching most people off-guard. Just as the kingdoms are struggling to recover, some of them are in for a military confrontation.

The forces of Odium are gathering, but things are more complicated than they first seem. It’s nice to see ‘the enemy’ portrayed in a somewhat sympathetic light, rather than purely as fodder. Likewise, we learn some more background, to plot-twisting effect, of the old Knights Radiant and the Heralds, which alters things quite significantly.

Dalinar’s storyline (the central plot) is the attempt to create a grand coalition to fight back against the forces of Odium, a task made quite tricky when his nation (Alethkar) is renowned for its conquering tendencies, and he’s best known as a talented general. There’s a good portrayal of the varying national outlooks (bureaucratic Azish types, the moneyed naval Thaylen people etc) which both makes the world feel more real, and slots in nicely with the challenge Dalinar and those around him face when it comes to forging an alliance.

Shallan’s story arc is intriguing, and I liked the way her splitting personality was portrayed. I can’t go into much more detail than that without spoilers, but it suited the story and herself.

Adolin has plenty of action, but less character development than other major protagonists. Kaladin is miles away from the others at the book’s opening, trying to find his family.

Besides the big names we have occasional smaller POVs, sometimes as interludes, and these work nicely as little breaks in the enormo-book as well as fleshing out the world even more.

An interesting difference, for me, was having an actual physical copy. It made the artwork better, particularly the map early on, which I referred back to several times during the story. Otherwise, it’s just nice to have a tangible book, although it does take up infinitely more space than an e-book, so swings and roundabouts.

Overall, I enjoyed the book a lot. I like the author’s world-building style and lore, and there’s a number of significant plot twists. Pace later on is faster, perhaps a little could’ve been cut from the first half, but maybe I’m just nitpicking. I have no idea when the fourth entry in the Stormlight Archive will be out, but I’m looking forward to reading it.