Quote of the Day

“Nobody suffers like the poor.”

Charles Bukowski.

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Ye Olde Typewriter Keyboard

Birmo blogged about it first:

http://cheeseburgergothic.com/show/6079

But I couldn’t help sharing this awesomely conceived (and by the looks of it, executed) piece of nostalgia-driven tech goodness:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

http://www.qwerkywriter.com/

Needless to say, I want one. Don’t know if I’ll be able to afford one, but a man can dream.

A man can dream…

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In Case You’ve Been Living Under A Rock…

The “Avengers: Age of Ultron” trailer has been trending like a mofo (can I say that?), ‘natch.

Looks like it is slated for release on 1 May, 2015. Clear your calendars, people…

P.S. Sorry for using the term ‘trending’ – if it’s any consolation, I now hate myself just a little bit…

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Crusader Kings II – Review

“The game that keeps on giving…”

Crusader_Kings_II_box_artI missed the initial release of Paradox Interactive’s (now) acclaimed grand-strategy game Crusader Kings II back in 2012. Much like my experience with Total War: Rome II (http://ethanreilly.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/total-war-rome-ii-review/) I came to it only after it had been patched and after the release of multiple DLC (Downloadable Content) expansions. Unlike the Creative Assembly’s effort though, Crusader Kings II seems to have been a beloved addition to gamers’ libraries from the very beginning. And unlike Rome II, I had no pre-conceived notions of what CK2 (as it is referred to) would be like. I knew it only by reputation…

A reputation, I’m glad to say, it thoroughly lives up to.

Set initially during the period 1066AD – 1453AD (initially extended by the ‘Old Gods’ and now ‘Charlemagne’ DLCs to include prior periods, starting from 769AD), Crusader Kings II is unusual for historical PC strategy games in that you control a dynasty of characters, rather than a single historical figure or nation. In this way, it has rightly been described as a “dynasty simulator”.

For example, a traditional start to the game would have you beginning as William the Conqueror, controlling him through the invasion of Anglo-Saxon England and the remainder of his life; then after his death, his eldest child; and after that character’s death, his grandchild; and so on, until the end date of the game or the extinction of his dynasty, whichever comes first. During that span of time you could conquer and lose kingdoms; scheme, plot and murder your way to greater heights of power and glory; or fall on hard times, see your lands and titles stripped away, and watch helplessly as your friends and allies desert your family to its fate.

Almost any avenue of war, diplomacy and deception is open to you; and the game mechanics mean that seemingly random events and outcomes will keep you surprised at every turn.

It’s a brilliant premise for a grand-strategy title, with a brilliant execution. The depth of the game is almost unbelievable, with any historical figure between the ranks of count and emperor being playable across a span of 700 years; in a geographical setting that encompasses Europe, North Africa, Asia and India (thanks to the ‘Rajas of India’ DLC). Where true historical accounts did not provide the Paradox team with enough information regarding rulers throughout the Middle Ages, every effort has been made to make the invented characters as historically plausible as possible.

This means that Crusader Kings II is both a historical and counter-historical experience. As soon as you start making decisions in the game, events diverge from the historical starting point; and many of your decisions, coupled with the unpredictable game mechanics mentioned earlier, mean that things can end very differently to what we might expect.

It’s not unusual to see the Holy Roman Empire expand and overtake Western Europe, or the Mongol Ilkhanate with its capital in Britain; or even, thanks to the ‘Sunset Invasion’ DLC, an Aztec Empire in Africa and Spain.

Anything can (and will) happen. And I think that’s the secret of CK2’s enduring success. Despite being over 2 years old at this point (a lifetime in gaming terms), Crusader Kings II continues to enthral long-term and first-time players alike.

The question now becomes, will Paradox continue to invest in this, one of their flagship titles? Or will ‘Charlemagne’ be the last major update we see?

Will we soon all be talking about CK3?

I don’t know. Mostly, I hope it’s the former – because I love Crusader Kings II for its complexity, intensity and historical accuracy (as much as any video can be historically accurate); and I see a lot more potential there.

But only time will tell…

Verdict: Many Were Called, Few Were Chosen.

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Quote of the Day

“It is the brave man’s part to live with glory, or with glory die.”

Sophocles.

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100 Followers!

How did that happen?

Well, it’s been nineteen months, one-hundred and forty-six posts (in fourteen categories, with one-thousand one-hundred and forty-six separate tags) in the making. And I have to say, despite the occasional hiccup, it’s been a lot of fun!

Even though I don’t post as often as many other bloggers (or as often as I’d like to, thanks to the time pressures associated with modern living) I want to thank all those who take the time to read my blog. I hope you continue to enjoy it into the future, as I intend to keep writing content for it as long as I can.

It’s a rare week when I don’t at least get something up, so stay tuned…

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Quote of the Day

“Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.”

Socrates.

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Total War: Attila – Announcement Trailer

So, this happened…

We won’t get to see this latest instalment in the Creative Assembly’s Total War series until next year, but I’m excited anyway. Hopefully, a lot of lessons have been learned from the production of Total War: Rome II; and with this game moving into an era that I’m particularly interested in (namely, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, and the subsequent survival of the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire), it’s safe to say that I’ll be eagerly awaiting more news as we move inexorably towards the (as yet unannounced) release date.

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Total War: Rome II – Review

12483312094_8159cc6e8a_zI meant to do this a long time ago. And I’m not sure why I didn’t.

I suppose it’s because, like many others, my experience with Total War: Rome II, the 2013 turn-based strategy/real-time tactics video game from Creative Assembly (published by SEGA), has been mixed.

I don’t tell a lot of people this, but my interest in history began around the same time that I discovered Rome: Total War, the predecessor to this title, back in 2004.

I loved it. It fuelled my initial forays into the worlds of Plutarch, Thucydides and Xenophon; all the Classical world opened up to me, and I discovered a deeper understanding of everything that was around me because I suddenly could see how everything had been.

Q4uWBykSo, when the sequel was announced a couple of years ago, I was excited. As were a lot of other gamers with fond memories.

Unfortunately, when the game released in September last year, the results were…well, underwhelming for a lot of the people.

I didn’t play the game when it first came out, so I can’t speak to just how “broken” it was at the outset. I only came to the party after it had been significantly patched, and with a few DLCs under its belt (‘Hannibal at the Gates’ and ‘Caesar in Gaul’). It wasn’t for lack of enthusiasm that I stayed away for so long; rather, I needed time to upgrade my PC (and pay for said upgrade!), since the system requirements were rather hefty (which turned out to be one of the more common complaints about the game).

Even so, my first impressions were not great. There were four other Total War titles between Rome and Rome II (Medieval II, Empire, Napoleon, Shogun II), so it’s only natural that things would have evolved, changed, and hopefully, improved.

But the game I discovered was not the same as the game I had loved. And it has taken some time for this new experience to win me over.

It has done so now. But that’s not to say Total War: Rome II is perfect. There are lot of features that have grown on me though, and part of my new-found appreciation has to do with the newly released ‘Emperor Edition’, the supposed definitive version of the game that includes the new campaign scenario ‘Imperator Augustus’.

There are still weird bugs and glitches – but even Rome: Total War had those. And Total War: Rome II is many times more complicated than its predecessor. But the complexity begins to look more and more like depth, once you master the basics.

At the end of the day, it’s the sense of immersion the game produces that wins the day for me – feeling like you’re in charge of an army on some ancient battlefield, facing impossible odds, with only you and the men (and women, now that the ‘Daughters of Mars’ DLC is out) under your command standing between the enemy and the destruction of your civilisation…

That’s what I paid for.

And despite everything, that’s what I got.

Verdict: Roma Victor!

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Northlanders: Volume 1 – Sven the Returned

In 2007 comic book writer Brian Wood embarked on a new project for DC’s Vertigo Imprint – something of a passion project, from what I can tell.

Northlanders ran for 50 issues before it was cancelled in 2012.

northlanders-comics-volume-1-tpb-hardcover-cartonnee-28775Set during the Viking Age (for the most part) between 793AD and 1066AD, the series was broken into several major arcs, with each following an independent set of characters in a variety of different settings.

The first arc is called ‘Sven the Returned’, and as the name suggests, it focusses on Sven, a Northman (Viking) from the Islands of Orkney (just north of mainland Scotland) that has been away from home for much of his adult life, and at the beginning of the first issue, is serving in the Varangian Guard in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

After learning that his father, the Lord of Grimness (the settlement where Sven was born and raised) has been killed during a raid on a neighbouring kingdom, and that his uncle Gorm has claimed the title, lands and wealth that should be his, Sven determines to return home and claim what he’s lost. He has less interest in the lordship though, than he does in what he refers to as “his money”…

untitledDisdainful of the culture and beliefs of his own people, Sven believes himself superior thanks to his time spent away from the Northlands. But when he finally arrives in Grimness, he discovers that it’ll take more than his fearsome demeanour to oust Gorm. Moreover, as he prosecutes a one-man war against his uncle’s enforcers, he begins to discover something to love in the bleak, frozen lands of his birth.

To tell you more would be to ruin this well-written, and beautifully illustrated (by Davide Gianfelice) omnibus edition. I’ve yet to read the other editions (numbering 2 to 7), but I’m looking forward to it.

What Brian Wood has done here is one the best examples of Viking-themed fiction I have ever come across. Despite the occasional (and inevitable) historical inaccuracy, the feeling of authenticity doesn’t waver. And the ending, while not what many would be expecting, is both poignant and appropriately grim.

Verdict: 5 stars (out of 5).

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