I’ve had mixed feelings about World of Warcraft over the years and I think it mainly has to do with what I get from it. You see, I’m a dreamer and a wanderer, I like being thrust in to an huge open world and given the freedom to explore. So, given the Bartle test I would almost certainly qualify as an ‘Explorer’. And if I encounter flesh-eating lizards while journeying – well, it’ll make for a more interesting trip I suppose.
Azeroth, is a beautiful place. Sure it’s a subjective point of view, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder but honestly, it really is beautiful. I’ve been sat here taking screenshot after screenshot like an Orc on holiday in the Bahamas. This is fine for landscapes but I don’t know whether you’ve ever tried to get a bunch of marauding demons who want nothing more than to eat your liver, to stop chasing you and pose for an ‘action’ shot.
Novi omnis impetum , deliqui
Which roughly translates to ‘I selected all, I charged, I failed’ and is just one of the many maxims I’ve had to learn playing real time strategy games since my first foray in to them in the early nineties. And I say ‘roughly translates’ because, yes, I did use Google translate for that one, I’m not a Latin scholar I’m afraid.
J.R.R. Tolkien never liked the idea of his books making the transition to the world of screen. You would hope then, that Peter Jackson’s trilogy would have dissuaded him from this line of thinking. It breathed life in to an already well-loved set of books and fascinatingly detailed world through the entirely different medium of film. Unfortunately Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.’s son, has apparently stated his disapproval of Jackson’s conversion of his father’s books stating “They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds.” Tolkien’s estate also took issue with profits made from the films involving an $80 million legal battle. It looks like we won’t be seeing any more of the great professor’s world on the big screen for at least a while yet.
And so here we are, despite the criticism and legal battles, experiencing one of the inevitable conversions of Tolkien’s work to an interactive medium from the success of Jackson’s films. Many have come before of course, some successful, some not so much. And as a licence, there are always the usual suspicions of cash-in opportunities, conjuring the image of greedy-faced publishers, rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of well-meaning folk dumping £29.99 in to their bottomless purses to experience permanently hitting X on their controllers in the most mind numbing way, yet perfectly content as the whole affair is wrapped around their beloved world. And yet there are always exceptions; Dune II, Goldeneye, and the recent Alien: Isolation to name but a few.
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor then did not escape my own initial suspicions, but watching the in-game footage prior to playing did give me a lot of hope. I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed either.
The announcer’s voice rings out like he’s perpetually introducing a Michael Bay film. It would have probably given me a whiff of nostalgia too if it hadn’t been used and reused so much over the years in various guises (people who make those annoying mods for Counter Strike being a prime example). Back in the days of Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament though it was – and still is in fact – a great way to be recognised for your actions. There are still few joys in this world that compare to spinning on the spot and – within a split second – bringing your Railgun to bear on an opponent in mid-air, letting off the shot and with a thrill, hearing the crack as he pops out of existence. The event is then further amplified by the disembodied voice of the announcer exclaiming “Impressive”.
With the slew of modern games mostly revolving around beating ten tonnes of shite out of something, someone or even each other, it’s refreshing to know that we do have a few alternatives. The kind of games for those off-days where we feel like slipping in to a hypnotic coma and waking up to a repetition of colourful lights and custom music.
It’s been a long time coming, but finally there is a sequel to Jagged Alliance 2. And I say sequel, when really I mean re-imagining. Jagged Alliance – Back in Action takes you back to the island of Arulco where the evil Queen Deidranna has imposed her tyrannical dictatorship on the local populace and it’s your job to take it… back.
It’s an open-ended, tactical RPG in the spirit of its predecessor. Kill the Queen in her fortress is the end goal, but accomplish this however you like. On the way, capture towns and mines for income, hire new mercenaries, buy more guns and equipment and shoot lots of people in the face.
A few weeks back a friend of mine discovered that I dabble in EVE Online. I’m reluctant to use the word ‘play’ in this regard and would much rather use ‘dabble’. It seems these days that anyone using the word ‘play’ in regards to an MMO such as EVE or World of Warcraft is instantly stereotyped as some fat, balding loner who immerses themselves in the same virtual world 16 hours a day, pissing in to a nappy and outsourcing their character to someone in China while they sleep so they can technically play TWENTY FOUR HOURS A DAY. Unfortunately, all of the above does actually apply for some people but it’s pretty much the same as saying “What?! You drink beer?! You must be an alcoholic!!”
You Will Poo Yourself
I remember as a child reading a set of Ladybird Well-Loved Tales books that all came with an accompanying audio cassette. There were plenty in the series including The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk, to name a few. There is quite a dark side to children’s fairy tales however, and the two that I found most harrowing were The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids and The Three Billy-goats Gruff. Something about the imagery in those books, the sinister plotlines and the style of painting – so different from the cutesier modern day look of children’s books – made my hair stand on end. At one point, during a car journey, I remember turning a page of The Billy-goats Gruff to be confronted with an image of a lurking Troll waiting in hiding under a small bridge to eat the goats. I was so scared I actually vomited all over the page.
One of the games I’ve recently been playing, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, is scarier.