Posted by Gravecat at 6:59 pm under Book Reviews. Comment?
‘I was there,’ he would say afterwards, until afterwards became a time quite devoid of laughter. ‘I was there, the day Horus slew the Emperor.’
Many people familiar with science fiction will have heard of Warhammer 40,000, a tabletop wargame created by Games Workshop which features a universe so rich and deep, it’s expanded into its own series of novels, video games, and even an animated movie. Of all the factions and races in the 40K universe, the Astartes — more commonly known as Space Marines — are by far the most well-known and iconic; genetically-enhanced warriors clad in powered plate-armour, wielding weapons of mass destruction and subjugating anything and everything in their path in the name of mankind and their near-dead God-Emperor. Nearly unstoppable and quite literally fearless, the Space Marines are the only thing standing between humanity’s survival and a galaxy filled with a myriad of indescribable horrors.
In the universe of the 41st millennium, the Emperor was a figure of almost mythical power who rose up to unite the splintered factions of humanity across the galaxy under a single banner, with the aid of the Primarchs — genetically-engineered super-warriors created in his image — and the legions of Space Marines under their command. Something went horribly wrong, however, and the forces of Chaos — malevolent, demonic entities existing on a plane just outside of our normal universe — worked to twist the noble Space Marines to their foul and unholy ways, resulting in a series of events known as the Horus Heresy, where many of the Primarchs and their associated chapters of Marines betrayed the Emperor and became something entirely less than human.
The Horus Heresy series goes back to the beginning to tell this tale from its origins, during the early years of the Emperor’s so-caled Great Crusade. The first book in the series — Horus Rising – follows the exploits of the Luna Wolves, a chapter of Space Marines under the command of the Warmaster Horus, most trusted and beloved of all the Emperor’s children. Still very much alive yet occupied with other duties, the Emperor has tasked the Warmaster with the lofty mantle of commanding his crusade from the front lines, forcing each splintered group of humans on distant worlds to submit to the Emperor’s rule or be subjugated by force.
Far from the bloodthirsty warmonger one might suspect Horus to be (as did I before reading this book!), he is instead portrayed as a well-liked and charismatic leader, gifted equally in the arts of war and diplomacy, and every bit as much a brilliant tactician as one in his position should be. The majority of the book, however, is told from the viewpoint of Garviel Loken, Captain of the Luna Wolves 10th Company, a particularly dry and humourless Marine utterly loyal to his brothers-in-arms and his Emperor — a character who I found was initially quite difficult to like, but eventually grew on me. Other parts of the book allow a somewhat more human perspective when told through the eyes of the remembrancers — artists, poets, musicians, writers, painters and the like, who have been sent to document and draw inspiration from the Great Crusade as it happens.
The book spans several planets and the events between, and while all seems well on the surface, the seeds of corruption have already been sown and through seemingly minor events and actions (usually remarked upon by Loken or others for the benefit of the reader — pride, jealousy, hatred, secret meetings and fellowships) the very beginnings of the downfall can be observed, as well as a brief glimpse of Chaos’ dreadful power first-hand. It’s a slow and subtle approach, yet the book manages to be quite gripping nonetheless with its variety of settings and events, including some disastrous twists that none could foresee. While a little slow in parts, overall the story manages to hold together well and seems a good length, not too long nor too short.
Dan Abnett’s usual “everyone dies” approach is thankfully toned quite far down, though plenty of bloodshed and death lies within, so overall I’d heartily recommend this book to fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, as well as being a fairly decent introduction to the series for those who are unfamiliar with it.
Posted by Gravecat at 5:05 am under Gaming, Retrogaming. Comments (6)
I’ve got a confession to make: While I’m an ardent fan of the Castlevania series, I never actually owned any of the NES games when I was younger, and didn’t really get into the series at all until being coerced into trying Symphony of the Night many years later. My dabblings in the realm of the original classic series — which is to say, the trio of offerings available on the NES — had been limited at best, and I’d taken special care to avoid Simon’s Quest, the much-hated second game in the series. This game was the worst by far, according to many, an atrocity that scarce deserved to bear the Castlevania name. If everyone hated it so much, it must be pretty terrible, so who was I to doubt the wisdom of the masses?
Cut forward to yesterday. With a few minutes to kill while waiting for a projector to be set up in the other room, I decided to fire up some old NES games on an emulator, knowing I’d have little patience to last long on them. Among others, I tried Simon’s Quest more for humour value than anything, though I’ve long been a fan of the game’s tinny soundtrack. Through part morbid curiosity and part determination to prove to myself that I still had the skills to play 8-bit classics, I forged ahead and in spite of myself ended up getting quite hooked on this odd little game. It helped immensely that I had knowledge of its more esoteric parts, largely from videos and other mentions of the game citing its obscure puzzles and confusing layout, but it mattered not — I was hooked, and while it took me until the last few hours of today (and a walkthrough to help with the more confusing parts) to muster the patience, I’ve managed to beat the game and lay Dracula to rest once again.
The crazy part is, I kinda liked it.
Okay, so some of the puzzles are frankly absurd — the Blue Crystal’s use to reveal hidden passages in the lakes is a stretch and the Red Crystal’s cyclone-summoning is nigh-incomprehensible — and the world layout can be confusing at the best of times with many areas looking extremely similar save for minor adjustments or palette swaps. Beyond that (and let’s face it, there are many NES games guilty of confusing layouts and esoteric puzzles) I’m really not sure why gamers seem to have such a deep-seated loathing of the game, as if it somehow exists on the same level as the Atari 2600′s infamous E.T.
The graphics are charming and as varied as one could expect from an 8-bit title, the soundtrack is one of the best of the series with some truly memorable tunes, the back-and-forth gameplay involving the acquisition of various optional and essential equipment closely mirrors more modern and far more highly-acclaimed games such as the above-mentioned Symphony of the Night and its descendants on the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS, and overall the game feels far more like a prototype — albeit one that showcases a number of poor design decisions — of the later brethren in the franchise. Okay, so the currency-farming was a little tedious at times, the boatman’s dual destinations confused the hell out of me, and I managed to skip Death’s mansion entirely by mistake until finally realizing that I was missing something — but was any of the above truly game-breaking? No, not really.
So tell me, gamers: why the hate? Is Simon’s Quest truly such a bad game, or is it simply vilified for trying something a little different?
Posted by Gravecat at 5:28 pm under Gaming, Site News. Comments (1)
While those of you who are interested will likely have noticed already, just a quick post to let you guys know that I’ve been updating the wargear lists for Dawn of War II’s Last Stand gameplay mode, with details of the new Tau Shas’O Commander and a few other updates to the other sections here and there.
While an overview of the Tau Commander’s gear (including achievement-locked gear) is known, I’m working on levelling him up in order to get the appropriate icons and full, detailed stats for each piece of equipment. In the meantime, placeholder graphics and descriptions taken from elsewhere should hopefully prove at least somewhat useful. :)
Posted by Gravecat at 3:18 pm under Cooking, Rambling, Tales of Fail. Comments (1)
I’ll admit, I’ve been known to be impulsive and make poor decisions at times. When returning home from a shopping trip with bags full of pretzels, I sometimes get a twinge of regret, as if some part of me knows that I’ve done a very foolish thing. Nothing, however, measures up to the sheer, soul-crushing remorse I feel after cooking up a batch of Tesco Macaroni Cheese Pasta. In my defense, I was really hungry — not just the regular sort of hungry; the kind where I’d gladly eat stale pizza, cold leftovers, anything with enough nutritional value to kick-start my digestive system. The kind of hunger experienced when one realizes that half the day has been frittered away without so much as a breakfast.
I like to think I was justified in my decision.
The first warning should have come when I opened not one, but two packets of the vile stuff — largely due to its seemingly small size, and my hunger which can only be described as “immense”. The whiff of the artificial cheese-like powder assaulted my nostrils like a legion of tiny trebuchets, the kind of vile stale-cheddar aroma that is reserved only for the most cheaply-made of cheesesque foodstuffs. Driven on by my terrible urge to feed, in went both packets to the requisite combination of milk, water and butter, in to the churning abyss which — while at once fairly tranquil — soon resembled a boiling pit of sulphur, threatening (and occasionally succeeding) to spill over and forever taint the surface of my oven. The aroma surrounding the pan was one I won’t soon forget, a sickening stench of stale cheddar, the vivid yellow colour — my phone camera hardly doing it justice — merely adding to the experience.
The real tragedy of the story is that a large portion of this disgusting maelstrom has ended up squarely in my stomach, through equal parts desperate hunger and a desire to avoid wasting money. The flavour is every bit as bad as I’d imagined, punctuated by the occasional, tiny nugget of dry cheese powder which managed to escape the moisture by hiding within one of the tiny pasta tubes, an experience not unlike realizing that raisin you just bit down on is actually a spider. While perhaps not my most harrowing mealtime experience, it ranks up in the top twenty or so.
And so, I must ask you all, for your own safety and mental wellbeing: don’t make the mistake I did. Don’t buy this terrible, terrible mixture. Please.
From the archives of yonder years, I’ve dug out a horror that I’d created back in 2002. My one and only attempt at making techno music resulted in a determined effort to make the single most godawful piece of utter crap I possibly could. My logic was that if I didn’t have the talent to make something good, I’d use my skills to make something mind-numbingly terrible.
I’m going to call that mission a resounding success.
I seem to recall masquerading the atrocity as some apparently bootleg Nine Inch Nails demo track, and uploaded it to a multitude of Usenet sites (this was the days before the prevalence of BitTorrent). Whether or not anyone was fooled into downloading it is anyone’s guess, but I like to think that at least one NIN fan out there was left disappointed by my shenanigans.