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8th May 2020: Experimenting On The League

After more than a year of prep-work, and waiting for enough time to get stuck in, I've finally started my Blood Bowl Experimental Rules League. Not sure whether anything will come of this, but for now I'm just changing and chopping rules from the old LRB6, trying to make the game a bit faster and a bit more fun.

The games I've played definitely seem to make the game faster, that's for sure, with less players on the pitch and less turns. But the first few games saw the teams struggling to score. That seems to have changed with my first little mini-update to the rules, which gave the players a little more speed, and made it a bit easier to injure opponents. My first little effort with these rules saw the Rotting Chimps undead team win 3-0 against the amazonian Heat Wave.

I'll try and keep it up, as these new rules have promise. Here's a few images from the games so far:

The lineups for the first E.R.L. game

The lineups for the first E.R.L. game

A well-placed bomb foils Heat Wave's touchdown plans

A well-placed bomb foils Heat Wave's touchdown plans

The high elves face off against their undead opponents

The high elves face off against their undead opponents

Highwind sends a pass into the waiting hands of Valentine

Highwind sends a pass into the waiting hands of Valentine

Goulash breaks through for his first touchdown

Goulash breaks through for his first touchdown

Gaia Light fumbles her passing opportunity

Gaia Light fumbles her passing opportunity

After months of waiting, time off work and some good weather finally allowed me to go crazy with the varnish and get all my big bugs tabletop ready at last. Now, the thing is, getting them all out of and back into their cases was an absolute pain in the ass because of all their spiky bits. I don't think I'm going to like doing that very often when we game, especially as the Nidz are a bit weak rules-wise right now.

Maybe I need to paint up my Guard or Tau real quick...

Bugs get proper sprayed

Bugs get proper sprayed

Also got around to doing something I thought of a while back, which was to re-paint an old fish tank decoration Scoob and I bought years ago. I was never particularly happy with the quick and ready paint job I gave it first time around, but I'm much happier now.

Freshened up terrain

Freshened up terrain

26th April 2020: Living In A Fantasy World

It's been many, many years since I last bought a brand new game. In fact, the Batman games, Arkham City and Arkham Origins, were the last ones I grabbed which were even slightly new, at 4 and 3 months old respectively. I usually don't find games, especially console games, worth the massive price tag. I've also got such a massive backlog of old unplayed games that I'm never really in a rush to play new ones.

That general rule however, did not apply to this one. I had to grab this as soon as I could. For it is a modern remake of very probably my favourite game of all time: Final Fantasy VII.

Fans had wanted a remake of this 1997 game for years, and it took until 2015 for Square to finally crumble to pressure and announce they were making it. And so, nearly five years later, the wait is over and the game is out.
So, in my pointless opinion, was it all worth it?

The original is such an important game for so many people, including me, and I would imagine, the developers themselves. And it very much shows. There is no doubt that they poured their hearts and souls into making this thing.

It is because of the story, world and characters that I've always thought so fondly of the old game, and they are even better than ever here (well, except for the end, which I won't go into here). While the remake only recreates the first few hours of the original game, the part set in the city of Midgar, it does so in a massively expanded way, taking the play time from maybe 5-6 hours up to around 40-50. Most of this extra time is spent on fairly awesome, and sometimes very sweet, character moments, made all the better by decent writing and very good voice acting. The actors for Cloud, Tifa and Aerith in particular really suit their characters and do a phenomenal job.

I'm pretty sure I would struggle playing the original game these days due to its mechanics, so I was interested to try the new and updated take on combat within this version of the game's world. The way combat is performed in this game makes it an interesting beast indeed. On the surface, it's a fairly standard 3rd person hack 'n' slash with dodge and parry mechanics, but it also adds in the ATB gauge from the classic Final Fantasy games which you need to use in order to perform abilities and skills like magic and other fancy attacks. It's like you're playing two games in one. You can also take personal control of any of the members of your party, not just Cloud (Final Fantasy XIII this ain't!), and when there are a lot of enemies involved in the battle, things can get very hectic and tense as you try and keep track of it all.

The music is also very good, and a lot of the old tracks are here in new and updated versions. However, there are collectible songs in the game that you can play on jukeboxes scattered throughout the city, but for some reason these versions of the songs are all really weird, and I just never bothered taking the time to look for them all.

Yes I grabbed a screenshot of it. So what?

Yes I grabbed a screenshot of it. So what?

Hmm, this looks familiar

Hmm, this looks familiar

Ifrit wailing on some fools

Ifrit wailing on some fools

Tifa kicks the airbuster in the face

Tifa kicks the airbuster in the face

Chocobos ride to battle against the Hell House

Chocobos ride to battle against the Hell House

Things somehow get weirder than the original ever did. Seriously. You don't know the half of it.

Things somehow get weirder than the original ever did. Seriously. You don't know the half of it.

While there is a great deal of good about this game, it is certainly far from perfect. Some of the things I didn't like were fairly mild annoyances, like there were times when the controls during particular segments were a bit janky, or times when control of the camera was completely taken away from me for no reason at all, and I had to either wait or slowly walk to a certain spot to get control of it back.

But more importantly, especially for further playthroughs, my biggest problem was with all the slow filler that has been shoved into the game in order to make it last longer. Sure, a lot of this was the game giving the characters time to get to know each other better, which wasn't really there in the original. But if I ever play the game again, will I really want to spend 15 minutes picking flowers, or hunting for a little girl's cat? There were just segments where absolutely nothing seemed to happen, for ages. Even in fairly tense and hectic story moments, when the characters were in a rush to get somewhere, they would constantly stop to talk to each other and say things like "Our friends are in trouble! We really need to hurry up!", and then proceed to stand there for another 10 seconds staring into the distance before starting to move again.
All the time I was just bouncing up and down in my chair desperately wanting them to get on with it. I'd got bad guys to beat up after all.

I really do think a lot of fat could have been trimmed, for a shorter game at a slightly lower price. It would certainly have made the game feel a lot tighter and more enjoyable, especially for replays.

The new combat also frustrated me at times. This was partly due to the camera, and how awkward it is to look around during a fight when using a controller compared to a mouse, especially when backed up against a wall.
But mostly it was the combat mechanics themselves. Or more specifically, it was how easy it was for the enemies to interrupt your characters as they prepared their next attack, which happened so many times in some of the more intense fights. I thought I was going to start raging at some points, I really did. My old and tired brain just couldn't keep up with it all.
I also found it quite unfair how, unlike the original, the enemies do not have to abide by the same rules that the player characters do. What I mean by this is, in the old one, all of the characters had to wait for their ATB bar to fill before they could act, and spend MP to do it. Whereas in this one, your characters have to wait and spend MP, but the enemies can just continue to throw out special attack after special attack with no ATB or MP cost at all. Sucks, especially when the ATB bars fill so slowly if you are on the defensive, which some fights dictate.

Also included in this game, which does the combat no favours, is something I hated in FF XIII and continue to hate here. This is the dreaded stagger mechanic. Fucking hell that thing is a ball ache and a half. At least here it's not as bad as it was in XIII, as this game does not include that game's paradigm shifting. Because let's face it, those two things together was a combo akin to someone making you eat a shit sandwich, then forcing you to wash it down with a drink of piss.

How awesome can a cast of characters be?

How awesome can a cast of characters be?

Cloud duels with Abzu

Cloud duels with Abzu

Not the way most people try to pick up Tifa

Not the way most people try to pick up Tifa

Barrett letting rip

Barrett letting rip

Nanaki just hanging around

Nanaki just hanging around

Yay, they did the thing

Yay, they did the thing

So then, was it all worth it after all? Does it stand up to the legacy of the original?

To be honest, I'm very torn. In chunks, I was madly in love with the game, but at other times I was a little frustrated by what the game was forcing me to do. Then, in terms of story, there was a great deal here to appreciate, but by the end, I was quite concerned, maybe even disappointed.

Yet definitely fascinated.

I don't think I'm in any great rush to play it again, even though there are still plenty of other things for me to try and do in the game. Part of that is because I've done my share of rushing this week, madly trying to get through the game so I can watch an online discussion about it tonight.
But a big chunk of it is because I don't think there's much of a replay factor here, due to most of the new stuff being slower, story and character based content. I may in the future drop it to easy to go through it again, or use the unlocked chapter select to go back through certain chapters again. I certainly won't be pushing on to the hard mode. That sounds like hell on toast.

Overall, I'm really glad the game exists, and I'm glad I played it. But I wish I'd waited a while, and not been in such a rush to finish it myself as to not hear or read anyone else's opinions on it beforehand. It wasn't really worth the worry and energy.

18th April 2020: Computer Games Update

So far, 2020 has been incredibly slow on the computer game front. In fact, I've not really been all that motivated to play, or even try, many games since Scoob and I went through Dying Light back in 2018.

With the current worldwide situation, it looks like I'm going to be having some time off over the next few months. I imagine most of it will be spent sorting out more tabletop goodness, but I do at least want to have a damn good bash at getting some games of the digital variety ticked off the list also.

I've found some time over the last fortnight or so to start playing Horizon Zero Dawn. This game's been out a few years now and is widely regarded to be one of the best PS4 games ever made. The game is set in the far future, many years after the collapse of civilisation as we know it, and humanity has again become tribal and superstitious.
You play as Aloy, a woman who has been cast out of her tribe, who then finds her life taking an interesting turn when she stumbles upon some ancient technology in some ruins.

Trying out a KX

Trying out a KX

Wow, I really want to like this, but there are two enormous problems that are keeping me from really getting into it. The first one, is how I've got to use a controller in a shooter game. This is a problem I've always had, and it's never going to change. I just hate controllers for these types of games. I've gotten away with it in other games like Ghostbusters, but in this, the combat is so fast paced, and the machines give my aging brain and spaghetti thumbs so little time to aim, that it really spoils my enjoyment.

Of course, I foresaw this issue, so decided to buy something called a KX adapter. This little gadget lets you plug in a keyboard and mouse and make the console think you are using a controller. There's no way to rebind the keys, which was a stumbling block, but I got around that somewhat using the PS4's own button allocations. However, I've still had to go back to using the controller, as using the mouse to emulate the right stick turned out to be unplayable. It wasn't as bad as when I tried something similar in Dirge Of Cerberus, but it was still pretty bad.
Oh well.

The other problem is all the stealth. Pretty much every fight, other than the ones against more simple enemies, is set up to be a big stealth set piece.

Other than that, I like what the game has to offer. I like its story so far, and the characters are pretty cool. I also like the world, and there's a shit ton of things to do beyond the main story.

The other cool thing I like is the photo mode. I'm always thinking about screenshots when I'm playing games, so it was nice to find this little bit of kit to help me out, and I've managed to grab a few pics to use as backdrops for the forseeable future.

Here's a few screenies so far:

My first attempt using photo mode

My first attempt using photo mode

This dance looks like one Dave and I would have made up in the late 90s

This dance looks like one Dave and I would have made up in the late 90s

Photo mode is cool

Photo mode is cool

An epic duel in the dark

An epic duel in the dark

Preparing to fire

Preparing to fire

Get off my metal horse John

Get off my metal horse John

Pitting the Sawtooths against each other

Pitting the Sawtooths against each other

It's up in the air whether I'll come back to this. I just hate having to use a controller to aim with so much.

Not that I'm really thinking about HZD much right now, when this beast is currently installing...

Time to see what some old friends are up to...

Time to see what some old friends are up to...

Pretty much all last year I've had several games installed on my PC just waiting for me to get around to playing them. First and foremost is Resident Evil 4, which even after the recent remakes of 2 and 3 still seems to be considered by many to be the best in the series. However, my attempts to play through Horizon have pretty much convinced me that I would not like to play it, as once again I'd be forced into using a controller in a shooting game.
But who knows, I may get around to at least trying it.

Of the half-a-dozen or so other games I've got installed, the only one I've played is Bioshock, which I played for a couple of hours back in Feb, and really need to get back to.

So as you can tell, even if I end up with weeks and weeks off work, I've got plenty of things to push on with in the computer gaming department.

30th March 2020: The Ruinous Powers

It's been a long time since I last made any wargaming terrain, so just recently I've taken a break from painting epic scale Nidz to finally get around to working on the MDF terrain I bought more than a year ago.
I know a year is a long time, but at least I've actually done it at last. That's more than what could be said for most things I start in this hobby.

Not everything went to plan during this process, but they've turned out fairly acceptable for my fairly mediocre standards.

For a start, after the first drybrush, I thought the ruins looked really good. But then when I washed them using a wash of my own design, they went really dark, so I ended up drybrushing them again quite a lot to dry and bring them back up.

Also, the bases warped a bit when I glued and painted them, something which did not happen last time I used this kind of wood for bases back in 2010. Maybe this time I just used way too much paint and glue.

And finally, no matter how I tried, I could not seem to get a nice even finish of static grass. Some of the areas on the bases are still quite thin, where it's still possible to see the undercoat, even though they've had three applications of grass. I just don't get it.

Nevermind. At least they're ready for some action.

The pieces punched and ready

The pieces punched and ready

Everything glued together

Everything glued together

After damaging the top of the walls

After damaging the top of the walls

Painting on the textured paint

Painting on the textured paint

After drybrushing and washing

After drybrushing and washing

Working on the paint for the other included terrain pieces

Working on the paint for the other included terrain pieces

Finishing the bases

Finishing the bases

The Storm Tigers and Hive Fleet Odium fight it out in the new ruins

The Storm Tigers and Hive Fleet Odium fight it out in the new ruins

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