On the Table
Lots of people say they like “old school” games, but few really like the often clunky or unrefined old timey mechanics. Almost everything is a hybrid at this point, and even straight up DoaM games like Conquest of Nerath have a few concessions to modernity. But the only thing modern about Gunship: First Strike is that it was crowdfunded. If you handed me a battered Avalon Hill box circa 1990 that had this game- and even with the artwork it has here in 2013- I’d be willing to accept that it was a game of that vintage.
It’s not a great game. It’s a little clunky and old timey in the bad ways. But there’s also nothing else like it on the market right now, and as a descendant of games like Gammarauders, Naval Battles, Attack Sub, and Road Kill…it kind of works. It’s an enthusiastic, heartfelt little game where you can tell the designer really believes in its potential as a brand name. And I can see lots of expansion material possibly turning it into a quite detailed, possibly overly complex space battle game.
In sum- it’s pretty good in 2013. In 1990, I would have taken it to school and played it at lunch every day with my friend David Green. Review is at NHS.
More Clash of Cultures. More loving it. That’s definitely one of the top games of the past several years. The design is just astonishingly well considered and yes, I think it is the ultimate expression of the whole “Civ lite” idea. Because it really does manage to include everything at a very high level of abstraction. Yet it’s so easily parsed and the structure is so simple. Marcussen pretty much wrote the stop work order for everybody working on a pirate game a couple of years ago, and he’s done it again for the “Civ lite” aspirants.
Kemet is finally on the way. Still strangely undecided about Relic.
On the Consoles Laptop
The consoles still lay silent. I’ve about decided to sell the Wii U. Everything I’m playing in terms of video games is on this dandy little hand-me-down burgundy laptop, which I just realized has an HDMI out.
Still playing ye olde Blizzard stuff, but I did get the full Starcraft II experience and I’m digging it. It’s ridiculous, I thought the machine wouldn’t run it over 14 fps or so, all I had to do was plug it into the wall and I get anywhere from 50-60 fps with decent midrange settings.
Totally loving it. The depth is unbelievable. I haven’t touched the multiplayer yet. I am scared. It's such a complete package, I don't really mind that it's not all that different than the 15 year old predecssor. When I started playing it, it was immediately familiar, comfortable, and appealing. At least until I dug into more and started seeing where the differences lie not just with new units but the way information is presented and changes in unit strategies. I'm mostly playing Terrans (because they have a freaking Transformer and siege tanks are still my favorite units). I think it's pertty meaningful that even with the RTS genre pretty much completely dead that this game carries on- it does so much that is totally best-in-class that I can't imagine another game keeping pace with it.
Now if they'd just do a new version of Rock n' Roll Racing.
I also picked up Torchlight II since Diablo III is too expensive. It’s awesome, better than the first and probably the best Diablo-like game I’ve played. I'm playing a berzerker, using a pair of nasty claws and a bunch of wolf magic. I guess she's really kind of Wolverine, but my pet is a big ol' bulldog. I love that you can send the pets back to town to sell junk AND stock up on consumables. Great game.
Not much…I’ve slacked off on my Battle of the Bulge turns. Sorry if you’re waiting for me to steamroller your line, I’ll get to it shortly.
On the Comics Rack
Still deep in the throes of Kirbymania, but I’ve taken a break from the Fourth World to read through all eight issues of OMAC, a book that has the most upsetting first issue cover I’ve ever seen. Look it up. Suffice to say that somehow Kirby made a story about sex dolls, even though they’re called “friends”.
Anyway, OMAC is awesome. He’s this nerdy dude that undergoes remote control computer hormone surgery or something like that guided by a satellite called Brother Eye. It turns him into this burly brawler with a giant ass mohawk, which is absolutely punk as fuck. The whole thing is set in the “world that’s coming” in Kirby’s goofy parlance, and a lot of the book is his prognostication about said world that’s coming. Some of it is pretty accurate, like “computer assisted dating” and “pocket phones”. What’s really surprising is that in many ways the books feel very much like an early influence on 2000AD, there’s a similar satirical tone and this kind of wacky futurism.
Apparently OMAC was the result of some Captain America in the future ideas he had while at Marvel. You can kind of see that, but Cap doesn’t have a Mohawk. And I don’t think Cap would throw a guy into a wall and say “here, have a hernia!”
Love it, want the hardcover now.
On the Screen
I’m still not done with The Hobbit. I think I have about 30 minutes left. It is the longest movie I have ever seen. I can’t seem to pay attention to it for longer than half an hour at a time.
My god, some really awful stuff in the last section I watched. The storm giant thing was Prequel bad, so was the Great Goblin. With all of the dwarves constant falling into holes or down slides going on, for some reason the film is starting to remind me of Hook. This is not a positive comment. But then there’s the part where Bilbo meets Gollum, which was everything I wanted out of a Hobbit movie.
It’s just so uneven, unsure of itself. There are really great bits, but then really awful ones too. Most of the awful ones have to do with excess and losing grip on the story, which is a function of bloating this book out to eight or nine hours worth of superfluous story. Some of the inflation isn’t that bad, like building out the meeting with Elrond a bit and bringing Saruman into it. But to take an offhand mention of storm giants and turn it into a big ten minute CGI action scene that looks awful and doesn’t fit in with anything else in the story- big mistake.
Mostly Kill ‘em All and Ride the Lightning. Listening to those records really takes me back. I got into Metallica sometime around 1985 or 1986 when these guys came to install a pool at our house. They were all these metalhead guys. They had a boombox and they were playing tapes of stuff like Megadeath, Anthrax, and of course Metallica. I kind of hung out with them even though they were like 10-15 years older than me, I thought they seemed pretty cool. And I liked their tapes. I already had an Anthrax tape that I had bought at a flea market, so I thought they would be impressed. Later on, I’d go to Turtle’s and buy Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, which means effectively that I bought two copies of the same record. At the time I thought it was the heaviest metal possible. I didn’t have “Reign in Blood” yet, I was still kind of scared to buy a Slayer record.
Years later, I watched Metallica’s first ever video for “One” and thought it was pretty cool. I bought the record and hated it. I could not for the life of me figure out how Lars Ulrich was able to perform all of “And Justice For All” unaware that someone had swapped his drumheads with pancakes.
Then there was the day that the “black” album came out. My pal David Green (see above) still really liked Metallica, so I went with him on this 13 hour public transportation debacle to go pick it up at the mall. I remember sitting in my room listening to it with him, reading comics, and he just blurted out halfway through it “this sucks!” I think we took the tape out and put in Nuclear Assault or something.