Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Trolltooth Wars Graphic Novel

Front cover, by Gavin MitchellI bought 'The Trolltooth Wars' novel back when it was first published and enjoyed it immensely. The adventures of Chadda Darkmane were fun and exciting and I got to explore Fighting Fantasy's world of Titan even more.

This graphic novel is going to be produced by writer PJ Montgomery (Stiffs, Dynamite, The Pride Adventures), and artist Gavin Mitchell (Santa Claus Vs The Nazis, The Samurai Slasher, Stiffs, The Pride), and has the full backing of Steve Jackson.

This is still on Kickstarter and, as of this blog post, still has four days to go so get on board and back this today!

From the Kickstarter page:

The novel tells the story of a war between two evil sorcerers, Balthus Dire and Zharradan Marr. With the peaceful kingdom of Salamonis threatened by the escalating conflict, King Salamon dispatches Chadda Darkmane to find a way of either ending the war, or turning it to Salamonis's advantage.

Page 1, by Gavin Mitchell

The novel was successful enough to spawn two sequels, Demonstealer and Shadowmaster, featuring the continuing adventures of Darkmane and the good wizard, Gereth Yaztromo, which were in turn followed by the four part Zagor Chronicles series.

Pages 2 and 3, by Gavin Mitchell

This graphic novel is going right back to the beginning, adapting The Trolltooth Wars to bring the story to life in a brand new medium. We're sticking closely to the story established by Steve Jackson, with some minor changes for space and pacing reasons (something you get whenever any story is adapted into a new format).

Page 4, by Gavin Mitchell

The comic will bring Allansia to life like never before. Printed in softback, and featuring over one-hundred and thirty full colour story pages, in which you'll meet popular characters like Balthus Dire, Zharradan Marr, Gereth Yaztromo and the Warlock of Firetop Mountain himself, Zagor. Fans will also find a few Easter eggs scattered throughout the book, plus extras at the back.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Conan RPG - Major Writers & Artists Announced!


There's nothing better than getting news about an upcoming game that you're really excited about. So, when I received the below press release from Modiphius, well... there was much rejoicing. This is a heck of a lineup, and the prospect of getting my hands on the new game has just put the whole thing at the top of my to-get list.

'We can now announce that we've added legendary Conan artist Ken Kelly (Robert E. Howard covers for Berkley and Tor, Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella for Warren magazines) and Dark Horse regular Tomas Giorello (Conan The Cimmerian, King Conan, 2013 Robert E. Howard Foundation Award for Artistic Achievement) to the team who'll be creating the stunning covers for the Conan books. 

They join other greats including Sanjulian, Carl Critchlow, Mark Schultz, Tim Truman, Phroilan Gardner, Alex Horley with more still to be announced!

The writing team is also growing with long time TSR stalwart  Thomas M Reid (Dragon Mountain, Tales of the Comet, Forgotten Realms, Planescape, Ravenloft, Temple of Elemental Evil novel), Monical Valentinelli (Firefly RPG Lead developer & writer, Tomorrow's Precious Lambs), Kevin Ross (Masks of Nyarlathotep, Cthulhu by Gaslight, Colonial Lovecraft Country, Down Darker Trails), Lou Agresta (Snows Of An Early Winter, Slave Pits of Absalom, Freebooters Guide to the Razor Coast) and Scott Oden (Best-selling author of the historical fiction novels Men of Bronze, Memnon, and The Lion of Cairo) 

You may also have missed our update that Vincent Darlage (Conan d20, Member of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association) has joined the games design team alongside Mark Finn (Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, The Barbaric Triumph, The Dark Man: The Journal of REH Studies).

Finally, two other major names join the team: 

Patrice Louinet, well known for his expertise and seal of approval for the Conan board game by Monolith, will be working alongside Jeffrey Shanks to ensure the Conan roleplaying game is of the highest standard. Patrice was Editor of the definitive, three-volume Conan series (from Del Rey Books (US), Wandering Star (UK) and Bragelonne (France). Awarded Lifetime Achievement award from the Howard Foundation (USA, 2014) and the Special Award from the Imaginales (France, 2012)). 

Sally Christensen (Cortex Hackers Guide, Firefly RPG, Leverage Companions, Marvel Heroic) steps up as Line Editor with support from Thomas M Reid, to keep the rabble writing proper. 

These all join the existing team of Timothy Brown, Jason Durall and Chris Lites led by Jeff Shanks

Remember to tell friends to sign up at http://www.modiphius.com/conan.html to get the first news of the Conan roleplaying game launch and be invited to the playtesting. 


Thunderbirds Co-Operative Board Game by Matt Leacock 
If you didn't know we have been funding our first board game: Thunderbirds (by Pandemic designer Matt Leacock) on Kickstarter Check it out - there's some beautiful models and we unlock four fantastic expansions with just three days to go (finishing 8pm GMT on Sunday).'

Book Review - Dark Detectives: An Anthology of Supernatural Mysteries

Inline image 1Edited by Stephen Jones
Published by: Titan Books

Review by Richard Williams

Dark Detectives is an anthology based around detectives dealing with the supernatural. Mostly. There are a couple of stories where there are odd things afoot but which turn out to be trickery on the part of evil-doers, much in the vein of a Scooby-Doo story.I don't have a problem with this, in fact it adds a different dimension to proceedings and helps to keep things fresh. The problem I have with this book is the same problem that plagues any anthology. By which I mean the fact that the stories are written by different authors and therefore the quality can vary dramatically. It's a rare anthology where all of the stories are stand-out impressive and this book, unfortunately, isn't one of them. Even the stories written by authors I particularly admire, such as Neil Gaiman, left me feeling as though they had not tried particularly hard but had merely dashed out something that would fit the bill.

That isn't to say that it's not worth a read and lovers of occult mysteries and weird tales will no doubt find the book far more engaging than I did (I enjoy a good detective story but can take it without the dark arts). I merely feel that the stories are either fairly simple, without any great surprises or any gripping element, or convoluted and populated with the kind of characters that require a whole book, rather than a snapshot of what they have to offer.

Throughout this book there is a seven part story that unfolds at a rate of roughly one part every other story. This running adventure could probably have been the sole purpose of this book and filled out the nearly 500 pages nicely.

With all of that said I can only conclude by saying that these stories are hit and miss but readers who have a passion for the subject matter will likely feel their money was well spent.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Review - D&D 5th Edition DM’s Screen


It’s difficult to write a review of any length or content when the product in question simply does not have much about it to talk about. When the D&D 5th Edition DM’s Screen landed on my doorstep I was pretty excited - any decent tabletop roleplaying game needs a decent DM’s screen, and I’ve got a few in my collection. I find them handy for two reasons - guarding against the prying eyes of the players and having handy charts and tables that will aid in the flow of an evening’s play.

The D&D 5th Edition DM’s Screen gets it at least half right.

You get exactly what you pay for - a screen of sturdy card with an inspiring piece of art on the player’s side and some charts on the DM’s side. And that’s it - there’s no handy handbook of extra tables or references, no adventure or campaign details, nothing at all. There’s a nice poster on the reverse side of the cover sleeve for the D&D Adventurers League saying ‘WE WANT YOU AT YOUR NEAREST GAMING STORE’ which looks nice on my wall, but it’s a reused image from the cover of the DM’s Guide and is quirky but, frankly, useless in a game.

The landscape format is excellent; the majority of my screens are portrait and stand quite tall, so this is better as you can lean over the screen without having to really stretch or walk around it. It doesn’t dominate the table, and the artwork is inspiring and action-packed. This also makes it long so you can get plenty of secret notes and books behind it. In this it does exactly what it’s designed to do.

But, I like to have handy charts on the DM’s side of the screen that I can easily reference and I can honestly say that the charts included would have definitely not been my first choice. The charts for NPC characteristics, ideals, bonds, flaws and the random name generator seems superfluous and isn’t something I’d be looking to use during a session – I’d have put tables like that in a booklet that came with the screen. This takes up an entire panel, with space wasted on artwork.

The next panel is a bit more useful, with rules covering certain conditions that might arise such as being blinded, charmed and grappled, but again there is wasted space with unrequired artwork.

Panels three and four then give us helpful tables and references, such as setting a DC and rules for cover and skills, and then there’s some travel and distance charts which are useful but, again, it isn’t something that would crop up regularly in a session, let alone an encounter. There’s the same trouble with the wasted space again, but finally there’s a ‘Something Happens!’ chart, with twenty things that might happen at random with a D20 roll, such as ‘1 – A door opens’, or ’11 – Someone gets angry’. I simply do not see the benefit of this as this indicates that the evening’s play is going to be totally on the fly. Like a lot of the charts it’s a waste of space and other much more useful encounter-orientated tables, which is what you need when you don’t want to stall the action to search out rules or charts in a rulebook, would have been much more suitable.

All in all the D&D 5th Edition DM’s screen is a little disappointing. It’s functional and a great size, and I’ll be using it at my gaming table for sure, but the lack of useful charts and the fact that there is simply nothing else in the product to help DMs out, especially DMs new to the hobby, makes this feel like a somewhat missed opportunity.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Privateer Press 'Iron Kingdoms' RPG session report

I've had my eye on the Iron Kingdoms RPG for a while now, and thanks to this session report from GMorts Chaotica I get the feeling I'm going to be visiting this place very soon.

'It is a land like no other, a place where steam power and gunpowder meet sword and sorcery.

The Iron Kingdoms possess a rich history—and a tumultuous future—full of unique monsters, deities, heroes, and villains. Immerse yourself in the detailed world of gritty conflict and sorcery with the Iron Kingdoms RPG. Unleash the power of mechanika, the fusion of magic and machine. Take on the persona of unique character classes, like the gun mage who combines powerful magic with a deadly acumen for firearms or the steamjack-commanding warcaster. Travel through a fantastic world that takes classic fantasy concepts and gives them a new twist with a high-octane rush of steam power and industrial engineering.

Prepare yourself for an experience like no other.

The world of the Iron Kingdoms awaits!'

I'm a newbie when it comes to the steampunk genre - I've dabbled in it, grokked the setup but never really connected with it. I had a couple of games of Warmachine, the miniatures game, when it was first released and enjoyed it, but I like a bit more depth and involvement in my tabletop gaming and so when an RPG was announced I followed it's progress. Since it's release I've heard good things but never had a chance to really get to know the game, but now that GMorts Chaotica has written a session report I get the  feeling that I'm going to be gravitating towards this game - that is, if I can squeeze it in between my other campaigns. The session sounds like they had a blast, and this makes me think I might have to make the time for it.

Click here and have a read of the first session. It sounds like fun, and I'm looking forward to hearing more about the travels and trials of this group.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Interview - Chris Birch of Modiphius

PicturePlease welcome to Farsight Blogger Chris Birch, the founder and publisher of Modiphius. I spoke to Chris about a year ago about the wonderful Mutant Chronicles RPG and this time around I've got a few questions about something I'm incredibly excited about; the pending Conan game!


Well – you’ve got your hands on the Conan licence and you’re bringing the Hyborian Age back to the gaming table. Exciting times! How great did it feel to get hold of such a thing?

It took a long year of negotiation but it was great to finally sign. Conan has such enormous untapped potential in the RPG field. I believe it can be one of the major choices in sword & sorcery gaming. We had to hold of announcing for various reasons so it was fantastic to finally unveil our team!

Conan has been through a lot of different incarnations since Robert E Howard unleashed him on the world, from the interpretations of other writers to movies to comics to games, all of varying quality and accuracy. What will you be using as source material and inspiration?

We will only be using the original authentic Howard stories for the books. We have Howard scholar Jeffrey Shanks on board to help guide the team and approve the content. Of course RPG's need campaigns and fleshed out material, so where we need to create new content, Jeff will be helping ensure it's written in the same vein as Howard and that it stays true to how he would have written it.

Will you be bringing anything new into the mix, or are you sticking close to what has come before?

Well previous games have delved in to the pastiche material whilst we will be solely focused on the authentic writings. It actually simplifies things as we don't have vast amounts of sometimes conflicting material (by other writers not Howard), to sift through and make sense of the world.

Picture

The list of writers and artists you’ve bought on board is impressive and promises much. Just how big do you intend the initial rulebook to be? Huge on rules and setting?

The core book will be around 350 pages - about 150 of setting to get you going, and 150-200 rules. The supplements will properly expand the setting though not in super detailed form, more a slice of life, plots, mysteries and so on during that particular time of Conan.

You’re using the 2D20 rules, which we’ve already seen put to good use in the Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition game. Those rules are suited for cinematic action so are you looking for something similar for the Conan RPG or are you taking it another direction? 

The rules will help us deliver the truly pulp adventure of Howard's Conan stories. We will be making melee combat more intense and magic will be much more dangerous and costly for those who want to tread it's path, (though many sorcerers were also just good at convincing others they could cast a spell!)

You say that Kickstarter will be used to fund to ‘a larger range of roleplaying supplements, campaigns, and accessories to follow the core book’. What can we expect see?

there will be supplements offering a slice of drama and action from the regions that Conan visited and tied in to specific experiences - themed around Conan the Thief, the Reaver, the King and so on. There will be big campaigns including following the adventures of Conan and his friends and we'll be offering pre-gens of all the major characters. You can expect cool gaming tiles to use with the various Conan miniatures, custom dice and much more!

You’re also working in conjunction with Monolith Board Games (of the Conan boardgame) and Funcom (of the Age of Conan MMO). That sounds interesting - what have you got planned, and how will the three gaming styles fit together?

We're planning cross-overs with both - an Age of Conan supplement offering the creatures, places and stories from the video game, and a campaign book that incorporate both RPG adventures and boardgame scenarios alongside each other so you can use both games to tell the full story.

Picture

Give us a quick lowdown on what’s happening with Modiphius at the moment; what’s out and what’s coming. 

Well the Thunderbirds Kickstarter is currently going insane raising over £120,000 in just four days, and we're also in the middle of the playtest for the INFINITY sci-fi RPG.

Of course we're in the final stage of completing the two main campaigns Assault on the Mountains of Madness and Shadows of Atlantis for Achtung! Cthulhu and we're about to unveil the final Mutant Chronicles core book, whilst DUST Adventures goes to print soon. We're lucky to be to surrounded by so many talented and passionate people that love their games as much as we do so that we can have all these projects being developed

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Review - 'Of Bone and Thunder' by Chris Evans

Inline image 1Publisher: Titan Books

Reviewed by Richard Williams

'Of Bone and Thunder' was recommended to me with the words "it's like Lord of the Rings meets Full Metal Jacket". That's a recommendation that I can't very well ignore and so it was with many high expectations that I read this book. And, despite my doubts, it largely managed to live up to those expectations.

Firstly, let me just dispel the notion that this is at all like Lord of the Rings. It simply isn't. Not in tone, style, level of high fantasy or in scope. Not that I hold this against the author since, as far as I know, he isn't the one that made the comparison. Also, let's be honest, when was the last time you heard that so-and-so was the new Tolkien and actually found that to be the case? pretty much never. Nonetheless this is a well written, engaging and enjoyable book.

As to the second part, being like Full Metal Jacket, this one is right on the money. Or, at least, the comparison to a movie about the Vietnam war. This is not accidental but entirely the author's intention and I have to say that it works really well and he has done a fantastic job of finding fantasy equivalents for well known elements of that terrible conflict. There is the close intensity of jungle warfare where you never see your enemy unless you're lucky enough to kill them, the drug addiction, problems of racial integration, the assassination of the nation's leader, a wonderful take on napalm in the form of dragon fire and even manages to include the dark machinations of a powerful covert government agency called the Dark Rangers (read: CIA). Readers who know their history will enjoying spotting the references but even those who think they might, maybe, have heard of the Vietnam war will still enjoy this entertaining tale of war at it's most pointless and harrowing.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed was the characterisation, especially the way Chris Evans managed to really capture the lingo of the soldiers. Their own way of cursing, nicknames for the enemy and the terrain and they reflexive way they respond to certain words or phrases that only the initiated would understand. Having said that I do feel that some of the characters came across as a bit two dimensional, although that could well because there are a lot of them. Even some who had really juicy character hooks, such as one with a drug habit, seemed to have their problems solved a little too easily, almost inconsequentially.

There's a lot of action in this book and a few unexpected deaths, which always adds a decent bit of suspense, and the use of magic as a military weapon is nicely handled.

Overall I found this to be a highly enjoyable, well paced and nicely imagined story and I hope the author sets more stories in this universe. After all, the Vietnam war went on a long time, so there's no reason why this couldn't.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Review - The Art Of Total War

by Martin Robinson
Inline image 1Publisher: Titan Books

Review by Richard Williams

Some art books are overly wordy and I'm not a fan of that. When I buy an art book I want to see art and any words on the page had better be brief and to the point. A little something about what the picture is about, maybe what the artist was striving for and whether they felt they pulled it off. So when I opened The Art of Total War and saw several pages of writing I considered just giving it a miss. But I'm glad I didn't because it transpired to be a fairly succinct history of the Total War franchise that was actually quite interesting. Something that was mentioned that I particularly latched on to (aside from a mention that they are working on Total War: Warhammer) was a thought on how games have come along graphically and now any game looking to gain an audience had better make sure it looks good. Back when Total War began the armies were just a cluster of pixels darting around the screen, now the battles are comprised of thousands of individuals, near enough, that need to be clearly discernible when a player zooms in to see his samurai take on gun toting soldiers.

The result is a need for the artwork you find in this book. Much as first person shooters now need to have a movie style art department to plan out their every 'scene', so too the makers of real time strategy games. What is interesting about this development is the direction that Creative Assembly have taken towards their concept art. There are a lot of very nice 'mood pieces' in this book which wouldn't look out of place on a gallery wall. These pieces don't represent anything that actually happens in the game, no specific event or action, but are merely designed to convey a certain point, such as the scale of a battle or the lighting. Such pieces can be found throughout the book and they are a treat.

Other work includes the designs for soldiers, their armour and general appearance, as well as buildings. The games loading screens now show artwork and those pieces that are used can be found here too. In the case of Shogun 2 and Empire the art is really of a very high quality and is nice to sit and appreciate.

The book is organised into sections by game title and its sequel. So chapter one is all about Shogun 1&2 but the art is almost exclusively from the second game due to the state of concept art at the time that the first Shogun game was created. This applies to the chapter on Medieval 1&2 with most of the earlier games art being CG renders that were, at the time, cutting edge but which now look painfully dated. There isn't a lot of that stuff, just a few pieces to show how things have come along. Rome and all it's expansions gets good coverage as do the Empire games with a good amount of the key art pieces that were used for marketing purposes.

There is more CG work, from the modern games, than I like. I'm very much a 2D art fan but I know others feel differently on that score so I can't hold it against Titan Books for featuring it so heavily. What I do mind, however, is that on a several occasions some of the best art pieces have been printed at the size of thumbnails and crammed onto a single page. Had they done this with the CG material then I wouldn't be so bothered but I can see that most of the pictures are very nice and frankly I want to see them in all their glory. Bit of a misstep in my opinion, but there we are.

It would have been nice to see some artwork from Spartan: Total Warrior, which gets a mention in the history of Total War at the start, but there is nothing from that game. There is, however, art from the upcoming Total War Battles: Kingdoms, another game designed for tablets and other mobile devices in the same vein as Total War Battles. Total War Arena, the pending game focusing on multiplayer skirmishes, also gets a brief showing.

In conclusion I would say that this book has a good selection of art with a nice emphasis on key art and mood pieces. True, I would have preferred less CG work and lots more sketches but on the whole this is a very nice book which conforms to Titan Books very capable way of putting these things together. The descriptive text could have been a little better on most of the pages but, as I said before, if it's a case of having words or art then I choose the art. I also only saw a handful of references to the artists that produced the work and, as I've mentioned before, I personally like to know who is responsible for the art I'm enjoying. All in all I highly recommend The Art of Total War to collectors of concept art books but for others who are less enthusiastic about such things I would say it's not such a necessary purchase and suggest holding off until you've had a chance to flick through it first.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Review - Battlefield 4 (Xbox 360)

Inline image 2Battlefield 4 - Standard Edition

Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Dice
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Reviewed by Richard Williams

So I finally got around to playing Battlefield 4. I saw it going cheap in a shop and I fancied playing a mindless shooter for a bit. Because you do, sometimes, don't you. Sometimes you just want something that's no more taxing than 'shoot the bad guys as they pop up', like one of those arcade games that people old enough to remember them love so much. I saw the price and thought to myself "oh, that's cheap" and bought it.

All I can say now is 'thank God for trade-ins'. Because despite the low price I still managed to pay too much for this game which is, in my humble opinion, playable. And that's about as nice a comment I can make about it. It works. Mostly. There was a very annoying instance when I died because a wall I tried to hide behind didn't really seem to exist. I could walk right through it and, just for giggles, the enemy could see right through it and shoot me. And there was the aggravating instance of my Jeep in the first level blowing up and killing me, for no reason whatsoever, repeatedly. Reloading the checkpoint took me to the moment about ten seconds before the explosion (so I know I wasn't just being an idiot and making the same mistake over and over again) so after a half a dozen checkpoint reloads I had to restart the whole level. Which, given that it was level one, meant restarting the whole game and going through the intro cut scene again.

NOTE TO DEVELOPERS: stop putting in cut scenes and end credits which can't be skipped. Just stop it, god damn you. In fact anything which isn't gameplay should, by law, have an option to skip it. Assassin's Creed Rogue, I'm not only looking at you but glaring with an intensity that should make you blush with shame. Seriously, if you don't know what I mean, ask anyone who has played the game to completion. Credits that run for about 20 minutes, which can not be skipped, and if you think 'oh yeah? Well I'll just turn it off and restart' then think again, because the save point is right before the credits roll and you've just got to start from scratch all over again.

Wait, what am I reviewing again? oh, yeah, Battlefield 4, right.

So what's wrong with it? Firstly I would say the overall story. It's uninspired and, frankly, kinda stupid. Also, it never really takes the time to explain itself so I'm still not entirely sure what I was fighting for. Basically you start the game running hell-for-leather out of Baku with some vital intel which absolutely has to be got back to the US because the Chinese and Russians are up to some naughty stuff. OK, it's just a shooter so what the heck, it doesn't have to be Shakespeare. It's just that the game then seems to run a course that has just about nothing to do with anything. Suddenly you're getting a VIP out of China then attacks happen and then you're defending a ship and then you're going behind enemy lines for something I don't even remember then you're getting captured and sent to some remote mountain place, because why the feck not, I guess, and by the end of the game you're defending a ship in the Suez canal because, hey, you've got to end it somewhere I guess. It seemed to me that, much as I thought about Call of Duty Ghosts, there wasn't really a story behind the game. The creators just wanted to make a whole load of interesting multiplayer levels and then tried to string together a story that connects the locations. Except I don't think Battlefield 4 levels would be much fun in multiplayer. I don't know, I don't really do multiplayer because I'm old (32, so ancient, really) and there's only so many times I can be shot dead by kids dotted all over the world who have dedicated their lives to the mastery of a fast trigger finger.

So yeah, the story is pretty dodgy. But not only is it a dodgy story, it's told in a dodgy way. I got the strong impression from this game that it wanted to be a movie. Again, welcome to the modern world of video games. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare spawned a whole new approach to FPS games that resulted in some fantastic cinematic game play and stories. I don't have a problem with games being cinematic. But just as you have good films and bad films, you now have good cinematic games and bad cinematic games. And Battlefield 4 is a Michael Bay kind of game. Which, depending on whether you're old enough to have hair on your balls, is either a great thing or a terrible thing. Speaking as a venerable ancient I say it sucks the aforementioned hairy balls. You get the feeling that nobody enjoys a Michael Bay movie more than Michael Bay. And I'm going to stop myself there before I go off on yet another tangent. Suffice to say that this game feels like it's trying to be a bad movie.

Another couple of quick negatives. While it's not on a par with Metal Gear Solid for standing around watching people talking this game does, nonetheless, have you standing around while some scripted piece of whatever goes ahead. I got so bored of this that whenever it started to happen I would start doing laps of whatever room/space I happened to be in.

NOTE TO DEVELOPERS: Let the gamers play the GOD DAMNED GAME!

Sorry, I'll try to stop doing that. I'm not Angry Joe.

What makes this problem even worse is that your character is supposed to be in charge of the team but all you end up doing is watching everyone else talk about what to do and making decisions. Call of Duty got around this quite nicely by either having you play a mission solo or, as perfectly demonstrated in the ghillie suit mission in Modern Warfare 1, having a superior officer there with you calling the shots and telling you what to do. In Battlefield 4 I just feel like a really bad NCO who is happy to watch his troops scream obscenities at each other and do what they feel like. This problem is even highlighted in the game when one of the characters is talking about another behind his back about how wrong it was to make a call because 'that was your call sarge'. Well shit, I would have made it had there been a way of doing so built into the game. But there isn't so I guess I'll just go run some more laps while you all play out your scripted BS.

Also the characters are all just a bit too over the top and while I'm not a member of the US navy I've got a strong suspicion that captains of aircraft carriers don't freely toss around the F word with their crew. I don't know but I've been led to believe that you have to demonstrate quite a high degree of professionalism and restraint before they let you have that kind of authority. But I could well be wrong about that. Worse than over the top, the characters are also quite thoroughly clich├ęd. The Chinese woman who had to endure her village being burnt to the ground by government forces, the US soldier with a nickname which is slowly explained over several conversations (by which time I solidly do not give a toss), the two team members who don't trust each other and are at each others throats every five seconds but who eventually become bestest buds, the CO who bravely sacrifices himself in just about the most stoic, heroic and god damned square jawed way possible. Ok, that last one was kind of cool and I wished they'd kept that guy around because a) he seemed like a decent character and b) I wouldn't have felt like a waste of space sergeant who might as well have stood around with his thumb up his ass while everyone else decided the course of the mission.

On which note I also want to point out that, having decided what to do for me, the characters then feel the need to constantly shout at me what to do. This is annoying, especially when nine times out of ten the instruction is incredibly vague such as "DO IT! DO IT NOW!". Sometimes it's fairly obvious what they're talking about but other times I'm standing around (and sometimes getting killed in the process) thinking 'do what?!'.

The following paragraph contains a spoiler:
Not long after starting the game I looked at the achievements list to see if there's anything I should be looking out for. I noticed that there were a couple of different achievements based on which character you choose to sacrifice at the end of the game. At the time I had only met the one character but, since the other name was female, and I like to think of myself as a bit of a gent, I said to my team mate (AKA the television) "sorry chap, looks like you don't make it". By the end of the game, and the big decision, my only regret was that I couldn't sacrifice both characters. Plus, screw you game creators. The one choice I do actually get to make and it's which person gets to die? Because I'm supposed to care for these characters now? I chose the one I happened to be looking at after they got through their 'it's got to be me' 'no it's got to be me' 'no, I won't let you sacrifice yourself' etc etc I don't care let me kill one of you and go make a cup of tea.

On top of all these quite specific problems there is the fact that the action manages to only be kind of gripping, the sections where you control a vehicle mostly left me wanting to just walk it (and indeed I did go into a tank battle on foot with some RPGs as a preference) and the level designs felt deeply uninspired. While I'm sure this game must look very impressive on the Xbox One on the 360 it... well... didn't. It was OK. Had some nice detail.

Right... something nice to say to end the review. Hmmm... let me see. Oh, yeah! Did I mention that I didn't pay a lot of money for it? That was good.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Review - Kick-Ass 3

Inline image 1By Mark Millar (Author) and John Romita Jr. (artist)

Released by Titan Books

Review by Richard Williams

I firstly want to echo the words of Jeff Wadlow when he said in his introduction to Kick-Ass 3: "The end of KICK-ASS?!?! What kind of demon-semen are those two ass clowns mainlining? Why would they end KICK-ASS?"

Because this sadly is the end of Kick-Ass and I too am something of a fan (I even liked the movies). But what an ending. Full of all the usual high-octane blood-splattery, sharp wit and outright profanity that the readers of Mark Millar have come to expect, this is the send-off that Kick-Ass needed. But is it a perfect send-off?

Not exactly. Kick-Ass, frankly, should have died a half a dozen times during the course of this third installation to the series. When will bad guys, especially super tough, hard as nails, mean as a starved dog, killers, learn to just shoot people when they catch them? This consideration goes double when talking about Hit-Girl. They know she is a near unstoppable killing machine that delights in taking on impossible odds and staggering numbers of villains yet they don't just kill her when they have the (several) opportunities to do so. This isn't a major complaint, just something that I wish wouldn't come up so often.

There's also the fact that there are a handful of interesting characters introduced in this book, with the potential to have a real impact on the direction of the storyline, but who are very much underused. They are introduced, throw a minor spanner in the works, then just seem to tail off.

Also, and it has to be said, the direction sometimes feels a little wayward. I don't want to give too much away but sometimes the heroes still just come across as pathetic. By this point in the story you hope for something a little more spectacular.

But that's about all that bugged me. What did KICK-ASS 3 get right? well, just about everything else. Hit-Girl in particular is a treat and we get to see more about her back story and get to see just how damaged she is. While Hit-Girl is undoubtedly the toughest character here (and possibly in comics ever) I can't help but feel that she is really a very tragic character and I'm left feeling sorry for her. When she's not maiming all holy-hell out of mobsters, bent cops and perverts in general, that is. If Hit-Girl went to Gotham they could close Arkham and all sleep safer.

As for Kick-Ass himself? His character story is nicely rounded out. It might not be the ending you expect, but it should be an ending you like. We get to see him mature, despite having all manner of violence done to him, and become something like normal.

The art style retains the cartoonish look, not surprisingly since it's still John Romita Jr. doing the honours, which was something that I took a while to get used to but which I've come to like. I still think some of the characters look as though they've had extreme facial reconstruction which has left the skin pulled taught back towards the base of the skull but overall it's a good solid look.

Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable and engaging read and I think that fans of the other books in the series will feel their beloved characters have been treated well. Recommended.


Unless you hate violence, nudity, swearing and scenes of a sexual nature. Yeah, there's a lot of that.

- Richard Williams