Weekly: Springtime for Uncle Ho

My wonderful adventure in the post-nuclear Boston was suddenly interrupted by the sound of UH-1 helicopters blasting Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. That’s right, I entered April and the spring surrounded by burning napalm. Fire, walk with me.

 

Battlefield Vietnam

Source: fluxy.net

 

When doing some spring cleaning at my parents’ house during the Easter holidays, I found an unexpected treasure at the bottom of my old wardrobe. Lo and behold! A forgotten copy of Battlefield Vietnam. Since both I and my little brother used to be dedicated fans of the game, without much thinking I asked him if he’d like to revive the good old times and throw a mini-LAN party. His answer was more than enthusiastic.

After two evening sessions, each two or three hours long, I can tell that it’s an absolute classic. Obviously, the visual side looks very outdated 14 years after the game’s release, but the rest is still as great as I remember it. One of my favourite things about BF:V is that it finally fives some screen time to the South Vietnamese army and treats them fairly – something that I wish would happen more often in Western media tackling the subject of Vietnam War.

Now, the most important thing. Since it’s spring now, the temperatures are constantly rising and the concrete jungle I live in will feel like being in Saigon. Therefore, I officially announce that I’m opening the Vietnam War video games season. We’ll see whether I go back to classics like Vietcong or Men of Valor, or maybe try out something new like the strategy game Vietnam’65. In any case, I’ll surely write more about that.

 

 

I barely watch any TV shows these times, but I’ll definitely make an exception for The Terror recently released by AMC. I didn’t read the novel by Dan Simmons it’s based on, supposedly a bestseller, but it seems the closest thing we have to a film adaptation of Sunless Sea, a game I spent more than 700 delightful hours with. Sure, the show is not set in an alternative Victorian era where London was kidnapped by pointy-eared eldritch abominations, but it has Royal Navy exploring the northern wastes in search of another passage to the Pacific Ocean. Their adventures involve cold, darkness, cannibalism and a bit of supernatural, so it feels close enough. I deliberately won’t read anything about the historical events which served Mr Simmons as the background for the book’s plot. All I’ll do is to watch a few episodes, compare them with my (very rich) memories from the Neath, and maybe write a few words about it.

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Weekly: Family Matters

The greatest advantage of owning an Early Access version of a game is watching it slowly grow like a plant in your garden, and being pleasantly surprised every time you log into your Steam account and see that new content is ready for downloading.

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To new patch for Sunless Skies adds a few important things like item storage or character creator, but the Legacy system seems to be most important. I’ve always liked the roguelite idea of inheriting talents and worldly possessions from previous Captains in Sunless Sea, not only because it made plaing in permadeath mode a tad easier, but also because it gave the game an additional depth. There was something appealing in thinking not just about reaching one of the game’s ending, but also leaving something for the future generations. However, this time inheriting works in a different way since you’re not required to have a child in-game and you don’t just get stat bonuses, but instead create a new character with the experience level the previous one had before they met their end. This sounds more like reincarnation than inheritance and I’m really curious whether it will have some implications when the game is further expanded.

 

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For God, Emperor and Country (official promo image from Steam)

 

Not all is quiet on the Eastern Front! Another Early Access game I’d really like to play is Tannenberg, recently released by the makers of my favourite multiplayer FPS Verdun. Basically, it’s just an add-on to the main game which takes the players to a new theatre, Central and Eastern Europe, and adds the not-so-mighty Russian Army as a playable faction. Beside new weapons, uniforms and maps, there’s a new game mode too which supposedly reflects the less static type of warfare which was common in the East. Sure, I’m more than eager to give it a try and write about it in a First Hour post, but…

…let’s face the truth, I’m a bad, casual player, mainly because Verdun was my first online shooter since the times of the original Counterstrike. To put it simply, I’ve played it only sporadically for the last few months because I was just too embarraseed by my poor performance. Still, the perspective of visiting war-torn Eastern Europe and fighting for the Tsar is so tempting… Oh, the hard choices we vidya fans have to make 😉

Goals: Finish one draft and publish it before Monday.

Monthly: Burnout

New month, new hope, new struggle. There’s a couple of games I’m very close to finishing but, as always when I reach the final stage, it’s hard to find motivation.

Sometimes I imagine playing a game is similar to sailing ocean. It’s all fun and danger on the way, but eventually you must reach you destination, right? That’s why this month my main goal will be to finish the three games I abandoned.

Space Marine – alright, maybe I finished it two times on highest difficulty, but it’s not enough until I get all single-player achievements. After all, it’s a WH40k game and I treat playing it (almost literally) religiously.

Volgarr the Viking – there’s just one boss between me and Valhalla, and I really want to see that rainbow bridge; besides, Heimdall is an old buddy of mine from the Amiga days.

Sunless Sea – 700 hours of playing seems to be more than enough, and I really want to focus on Sunless Skies.

But wait, just watching the end credits rolling on my screen is not enough. I’m a serious blogger, after all. Let’s mark the secondary target: publish at least two texts about the games I already finished. The said posts are still dwelling in form of sketches in my blog’s little pocket limbo and it’s time to give them salvation.

And then there’s the question of aesthetics. Let’s be honest, my little WordPress corner looks simply ugly. This time I should find a nice skin for it, hopefully matching the blog’s theme.

First Hour: Sunless Skies

Time for a new idea for this blog: spending exactly one hour with a new game and trying to describe the experience. Today is an excellent opportunity to try it, because the Early Access version of Sunless Skies has just been released by the Failbetter Games.

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Although it appears that the residents of Fallen London are not able to return to the surface, their Queen managed to find a new way to expand her dominion by reaching into the stars. Fittingly for the setting, the explorers use clunky steam locomotives to travel between settlements and outposts. Obviously, both hazards and opportunities can be found in the High Wilderness. On the one hand, the Londoners can find plenty of new goods here, with time itself becoming a strategic resource, but as it was to be expected, there are void-faring monsters and even worse horrors lurking out there. Of course, the protagonist is a commander of such a locomotive.

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Sunless Skies is a direct sequel to Sunless Sea and comparisons are inevitable. The first glance reveals that the graphic artists did a really good job. The locations are depicted in tiny details, the background has several layers and the sense of space is breathtaking at moments, even if currently there’s no chance to move in three directions — not even a ‘dive’ option like in the Zubmariner add-on. Character portraits and images illustrating the ports you’re visiting are excellent, especially when you remember the clumsy graphics from the browser game which were later recycled in SunSea. Even the interface looks pleasant to the eye, which hits my soft spot (interface aesthetic was one of the reasons why I loved the Silmarils’ games so much as a kid). My favourite addition are the short pieces of text slowly appearing after our space engine reaches a new location.

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Flying the steampunk cousin of Apollo 13 isn’t much different from sailing on the Unterzee, but some important changes happened. First of all, it seems to be faster even with a basic engine, but also more inert, so it’s quite difficult to change direction and avoid collision. Fortunately, our locomotive is far less fragile than the vessels from the previous game and suffers damage from hitting obstacles only at high speed. The other significant change is the possibility of strafing which becomes very useful in space fight. This time there are no turrets and gunnery officers to speak of, instead we are required to target manually by moving the ship and shooting two types of weapon. After a moment of confusion, I emerge victorious from my first scuffle with an unidentified foe.

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This reminds me that I’m playing an early beta version. Unlike Sunless Sea, I’m not able to see the name of my enemy and their health. Is this a bug or a feature? Maybe I need to have special equipment or gain knowledge to see who is attacking me? I’ll have to check that later.

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Another novelty is the new system of character progression. Instead of enlisting an officer and asking him for training, now we are able to determine the past of our supposed hero. The ascension to Level 2 required me to answer whether my alter ego was happy with their prole life. I’m really curious what happens next. Anyway, this was a very pleasant surprise, because I love character creation and role-playing.

There’s not much more to add after a mere hour of playing. All I can say that I’m excited to see more and really glad that I’m playing in Early Access. Waiting for new updates and watching the game develop sounds very promising. Of course, I will mention the changes in my weekly reports.

Meanwhile, I have a dead settler on board, the hull is damaged and fuel is running out. Damn, I love you, Failbetter Games.

 

 

Weekly (IV)

Do you want to hear a comparison my vidya experience last week? The closest think is playing Verdun for the first time. You’re crawling in the No Man’s Land wearing a gas mask choking you and obscuring your sight, slowly making progress and stopping at the bottom of each shell crater, only to get caught by barbed wire right in front of the enemy trench and slowly bleed to death.

Yeah, that’s how it felt like. At least I had a sweet short trip back into the innocent past.

Sudden nostalgia attacks usually happen to me on Sunday afternoons when I sit over a cup of coffee. This time it was a game which definitely has nothing to do with typical Sunday mood.

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Long time ago in my teen years, I spent many hours leading my ragtag army in a desperate struggle against the Fallen Lords and almost finished it. This time I spend just two hours playing the first three battles and slowly begin to realise that I’m too old for it. Not that I mind the outdated graphics, but crazy camera control and sluggish movement of my troops are a bit too much for me (at least the zombies have an excuse). Still, the story, the amazing soundtrack and voice acting… maybe if my backlog wasn’t insanely long, I’d spend more replaying Myth. Anyway, thanks for the memories.

This Week: We’re going to the stars and watch them die! That is, the sequel to Sunless Sea is to be released on Thursday. The main goal is to download it from Steam as soon as possible and write down my first impressions. Ideally, I should finish my Final Captain’s quest for immortality in SunSea first, but somehow I feel it’s not going to happen.

Daily Gamer: Long-Distance Captain

This Sunday, I’m celebrating. You may call me a Seasoned Zeewolf now.

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To be honest, I’m really surprised with myself. The main reason for creating this blog was an ugly flaw of character: it’s very difficult for me to finish a game. All too often, I abandon a playthrough not just because I’m bored or don’t enjoy it anymore, but rather because I lose my focus. After all, there are always so many new exciting titles on the horizon, and a few classics I’d like to return to. This is not the case with Sunless Sea, however, because it appears that I’ve finally found a game which was made just for me. Everything — lore, graphics, musics, mechanics, dialogue, characters — seems perfectly tailored to my taste.

When I think about it now, maybe I really should sit down for a while, have a moment of introspection, and write down all the reasons why Sunless Sea is my current Number One. Let’s hope that I’ll be able to make a whole post about it.

Shards of Glim: Red Flag Rising

‘Another dashing explorer devoured by the Neath!’ – headline in 20 October 1899 edition of the Imperial Courier.

Before leaving the capital of the fallen Empire, The Tenth Captain was a moderately succesful poet of the Sensualist school, driven by an insatiable lust for new experiences. This flaw of character didn’t leave im on the Unterzee and made him take enormous risks in order to reach further and further during his journeys. Alas, it eventually lead to his demise when his crew succumbed to madness after a succesful expedition into the heart of Frostfound.

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The Eleventh Captain has inherited the toxic self-hatred of one of his forefathers and also intends to take revenge on Fallen London. This incarnation, however, is less selfish that previously. As an Anarchist fully dedicated to the Cause, he will attempt to bring the Liberation of Night into completion and put a red banner on the top of the Shuttered Palace. Then, possibly, he will seek refuge far beyond the know waters, knowing too well that the Revolution, like the Greek god, is a harsh parent.

(which means that I’m trying to steal the monkey ship again, this time without ruining it by a missclick.)