Category: Video Games

My Xbone Year in Review 2018

I know it’s an exercise in analytics and even after the fiasco of Cambridge Analytica, one doesn’t learn, but…

Microsoft are offering your year in review in terms of game play in exchange for harvesting the data in order to try and sell more goods and services. I decided to sell my soul (I’m sure that’s in the fine print) to see my stats.

Headline data:

Most played game – Fallout 4 (then GTA V, Battlefront 2, Fallout New Vegas & Resident Evil 7)

1017 hours played (I have no life…)

242 multiplayer hours played (Battlefront 2 & GTA online mostly)

Increased gamer score by 7% to 43966 (as at time of writing)

I may do this again on 31/12. Just in case Fallout 76 (yes, I succumbed) changes that.


Yeah, I succumbed to 7 Wonders on iPad the picosecond I found out about it and about one game later, snapped up the Leaders and Cities expansion packs. We 7 Wonders fans have been waiting for this on mobile media for AGES and it’s really fantastic now that it’s here. 

For the n00bz, 7 Wonders is a turn based card game where you have to develop your city into the best metropolis known to antiquity by erecting buildings, developing an army and even constructing a Wonder of the World.  Play goes forward by taking a card from the hand in front of you and then passing the hand to the next player, then repeating. This happens three times, over three ages. Each card will bestow a particular bonus and the groups of cards play to different strengths.

The Leaders expansion gives a group of leaders to each player at the start of the game who have their own bonuses whilst the Cities expansion adds black market cards; these provide a range of bonuses and the selection is different each time which adds to the variety.  The game is played between three and seven participants.

In terms of the video game:  Very bland introductory screen – a picture of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  Dull stuff.  But you go into the game and you’re given a dashboard of options.  This menu screen is a simple enough affair to navigate, change options and set up a local or internet game. 

The game itself; I was very impressed by the UI which appears a little busy at first but once you play a couple of games, it’s very easy to absorb all the relevant information about what’s going on.  You get all the relevant information from your immediate neighbours as well as yourself (essential stuff) and you can zoom into other players to see how they are getting on.  Your cards are grouped according to colour and holding down on a card will provide an explanation about what’s going on.

Graphics are smooth and the transitional animations between Ages (and Leaders) are smooth.  All static images rather than having animations but I’d rather a faster game than a sexier one.  Sounds are standard music from the Mediterranean with effects for certain cards like the tinkling of coins for money and the clash of swords on shields for military.  It’s not very intrusive and you can easily play on mute without it detracting from the game experience.

Playing against other people works ok with little noticeable lag and a simple chat screen though to my frustration, human players take a lot longer than I to choose cards and play a game.  An AI game, even with seven players can be over in five minutes whereas a three-player human game might take as long as fifteen.  Irritating.  But there’s usually a pool of would-be players ready to do battle.

A generally favourable review aside, I feel that the app is only 80% of the final product and a few tweaks could up the ante.  First of all, I was surprised to see that the Wonder Board pack wasn’t included in the initial run or as DLC.  It wouldn’t take _that_ much more coding to add.  I also thought that on the transitional screens, hints and tips about the game (which can be disabled) should be shown to help new players or could be background information on the wonders of the world.  I’d have liked tunes relevant to each Wonder rather than one generic soundtrack, just to customise the experience.   Some sound effects were “missing” like the cooing of a dove for peace and maybe a fanfare when a Wonder Stage is completed.

What’s really missing is an ability to record your scores, possibly merging the results with the 7 Wonders companion app where you can record game results.  I’d also like the ability to upload scores to Boardgame Geek.

Nice to haves – animations.  Combat animations would have been pretty funky.  Also, the ability to see your “city” with each of the buildings in a city layout + the wonder.  Like you used to be able to see in Civilization, Civ 2 & Civ 3. Now I accept that this ask would really hog more memory and the novelty would wear off fast enough but with (potentially) more expansion packs to come, there are hundreds, if not thousands of city combinations (and Leaders).

All in all, a very worthwhile purchase which can provide hours of fun of which I’ve yet to tire, two months later.  I hope, sincerely hope, that this is the beginning of the 7 Wonders journey and further expansion packs can add to the experience.

And as a final FYI – the above screenshots are not of the same game so please don’t rush to point that out.

Q2.5 – 2018

Three months later…

Yup, I’m getting worse.  Again, I’ve had a few odds and sods in development but not progressed to a finished article.  However, I’ve some clear space to get a few jottings down.

What’s the headline news?  My 40th birthday.  No, that’s not quite yet – I’m still choosing to call myself 39½ –  but I’ve been planning like mad for the birthday.  It’s all arranged, now I just need to show up.  I won’t commit to telling the world what it is just yet but I think it’ll make for some good reading.  I’ve been considering some vlogging as I’ve never done that before and I’m fairly good at making stuff up on the hoof.  I can work the video edit software on my iPad so will see.  

Since August/the last blog entry – Griffin Games has recommenced but at the Owl & the Hitchhiker in Holloway.  Bigger pub, nice food but lousy lighting.  As for the Griffin – its deterioration continues.  The former ruby lounge has been turned into a pool room with the ceiling being decorated with fake ivy…ugh.  My quiz team have been going to the Southwark Tavern where they haven’t won yet but have come second a bunch of times.

Gaming news – I’ve added a few more titles to my collection (and haven’t weeded out some of the rubbish): Super Mario, Star Trek TNG Fluxx, a couple of room escape board games and a couple of micro-expansions to Munchkin.  On the console front, I’ve bought Jackbox 5, Far Cry 4, Jedi Academy (now that original Xbox titles are on the console) and downloaded most of the Games with Gold titles on offer.  Still quagmired in Fallout 4’s survival mode with the game becoming increasingly unstable and prone to repeated crashing.  Whilst the no-save feature is challenging, it means that you can lose a great deal of progress if the Xbone has a fit and dies.  I wondered if the Xbone X might run the game more smoothly but I’m not shelling out all that money on a new console just to finish that damn game.  That said, Black Friday is coming up…

Oh, and my favourite piece of news is that I saw an app version of 7 Wonders has been released so naturally I snapped up a copy together with the Leaders and Cities Expansion packs. More on that soon.

The bathroom – in late September/early October, the bathroom was refurbished and it looks pretty snazzy.  I’d offer a photo but do you really want to look at the porcelain wot I sit on and defile?  The two weeks of the work were quite an ordeal to get through.  The sheer amount of dust kicked up by the project was ever omnipresent and forced me to keep all the internal doors closed.  This reduced the amount of light in the flat as well as impeded air flow.  Also, I really should have put up dust sheets, especially over the electronics.  Dunno how much contamination seemed into the TV, Xbone et al through the heat vents.  Anyway, as the lounge and kitchen were contaminated, I felt compelled to retreat to my bedroom as that was a relatively dust-free environment for the two weeks.  It was amazing how this “retreat” affected my mood as I just felt like hiding away from the world until the works were done.  Once the flat was back to normal – or whatever passes for being normal – first thing I did was to get out the house and have a day of indulgence.

Travel – I’ve been to Swansea twice in the past few months, and to Southampton (for the first time ever) to try a new driving test simulator we’re funding.  Although I crashed the car a bunch of times (note that I’ve never, ever driven an actual vehicle), I didn’t roll it unlike la Ringsell.  I’ve a week off next week and was thinking about a couple of days out the office but nothing is springing to mind.  Not essential though.

And to bookend this blog post with the last one – t’other week was the last London Video Gaming Market for 2018 (back on St Patrick’s Day 2019) and I convinced Darren to come along for this one.  Bought the below, this is cross stitch rather than bead art.

I know it’s been way too long since my last blog post.  I’m mentally in one of those places where there are other things going on and maintaining a blog is way, way down on my priority list.  To be honest, board gaming has ceased ever since the onset of the global heatwave beginning in June and video gaming has been sporadic.  I do have three half-finished board game reviews in my drafts folder but little impetus to finish them, not least as there are no pictures (as yet) to accompany them.

Catch-up on my activities: sun dodging and seeking refuge behind fans for the most part.  There’s been very little of note going on, more a case of “same old, same old”.  Weeks at work, weekends spent trying to chill/cool off with the odd foray to places like Borough Market, Camden Market et al.  I have been buying a few canvas prints of video game art from Camden.

And on 15 July, I did attend the London Gaming Market at the Royal National Hotel (that concrete monstrosity just off Russell Square) which was a nice change of pace.  I’m not a photographer so please forgive the lousy snaps coming up.

The market was in a room…I’d say 300 square metres or so, lots of stalls selling second hand games but also some selling board games, fan art and general merchandise (some bespoke, some official).  My aim – if it can be called that – was to try and track down a copy of Silent Hill for PS1.  Only one of the vendors had a copy and the joker’s were wanting £30 for it.  Nuts to that.  Nobody seemed to be buying games although a couple of stalls were buyers as well as vendors; separate arrangements needed.  I got a good lead for when I finally get around to pricing up my games.

I did buy a piece of art – bead art I guess you’d call it.  Again, lousy photography.

Next Market is 21 October.  Also bought a copy of Widows Walk Expansion for Betrayal at the House on the Hill.

Anything else significant?  Can’t really think of anything.  Saw Heathers at the Prince Charles Cinema on Monday with Paul and KKOB, planning out my 40th birthday next year with a cross-Europe trip to some of my favourite places + the States and the Consolecation.  Um…yeah, that’s it.  I’ll try and finish off at least one of the board game blog posts I’ve got in draft.  Soon – week off next week so will have more time on my hands.

Gaming Catch-Up

I keep trotting out this phrase – and its variants – but post move, I’m starting to rejoin my life.  And catch up with gaming, of course.  So this blog post will be a brief catch up on games, both video and board.

First on the list: the Doomsday Heist on GTA Online.  Essentially, James Bond is in the world of GTA online.  First of all, you need to buy a “facility”, an underground bunker not entirely unlike one used by a supervillain.  But relax, you’re not the supervillain.  Once you buy the facility, you’ll be contacted by Lester who has an opportunity for you…

I won’t ruin the story should you not have indulged, it’s a pretty good one, as these things go.  There are three parts to the heist and each part has a number of missions, both a set-up and the mission itself.  Set-ups typically involved undertaking an activity on a lobby map so other players can interrupt you and make your life miserable.  Missions are undertaken independently of the main lobby.  Anyone in your organisation or motorcycle gang (you need to be a CEO or Chapter Leader) can help in the set-ups and a minimum of two players are required to do the heists missions and finale.

Sales aside, the cost of purchasing a facility is several million dollars which is a significant in-game investment but the pay offs after each part of the overall heist are very much worth it.  But perhaps the key part of the Doomsday Heist update are the new vehicles available, including (and I’m not using the in-game names) the flying DeLorean with missiles (aka Flying Troll Car), Lotus Submersible, the Jet-Pack and others.  There’s also the Avenger – a mobile flying base like the big-rig introduced in part two of the Heist.  Lots of stuff for players to indulge in.

Each Facility can be pimped out, has storage for a number of cars and has a few optional extras.  These include strike teams to target other players, a receptionist to hand out free snacks & Pegasus Concierge services and perhaps the most interesting feature, the orbital cannon.  Instadeath on another player – it costs a lot to fire but can be satisfying to get back at trolls.  There’s also the usual deathmatches and other lesser vehicles in the update but most people don’t care about them.

Next on the list: Star Trek Timelines.  Version 4 of the game was released t’other week, the main updates were around rewards in the cryovault for immortalising specific groups of characters (races, traits etc) and more options for organising your crew, making it easier to compare, see who needs upgrading etc.  For those of us playing over two years, collecting the rewards for immortalising characters was amazingly rewarding.

Nothing new with Animation Throwdown except the addition of a new category of card: animal.  Been getting back into Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus after a long hiatus.  Managed to get past the Roswell base and into the Uberkommando assassination missions.  Still refused to change from “normal” difficulty into easy although shouting at the Xbone is more the rule rather than the exception.

And in board games: I bought myself Ticket To Ride: France/Old West edition for my birthday as well as Eldritch Horror: Masks of Nyarlathoep expansion.  And P&D gave me a copy of Unstable Unicorns with the rude expansion pack. Haven’t tested any of them out though.  Gave away Scotland Yard to a work colleague and need to start putting my other games on eBay soon.  At KKOB’s yesterday, I played Power Grid for the first time and Small World with a number of expansion packs (except the Pirate one).



From where I sit, I’ve no idea when this blog was last updated but I’m sure it’s at least a month ago. My inability to be a good correspondent continues unabated – but don’t feel too left out folks, I’m neglecting others as well. I have a free hour in which to compose something for posterity so here we go.

Core Themes: Video Gaming, Board Gaming. In board gaming, my latest acquisitions are Sushi Go Party and a new one by Repos Games called Secrets, both of which were bought in the Swansea board game shop, The Gamers Emporium. Secrets is a hidden identity game, not unlike Avalon or Resistance but players score points and their identities can change in the course of the game. It provides a fresh take on the hidden identity game and is well worth checking out. I’ve also tracked down the 7 Wonders promo cards and a copy of the Catan Wonder for my collection which are on order.

In video gaming, there hasn’t been much outside my regular games. Star Trek Timelines have introduced the Starbase feature. When missions are completed, they drop components for upgrading Starbase rooms and you have to work together in fleets for perma-bonuses for your characters or to raise the Chroniton cap. Animation throwdown is about to have its one-year anniversary next week with gifts for players and our guild is doing pretty well at the moment. GTA Online launched the Smugglers Run update (basically huge planes that drop bombs) which I’m resisting for now – when there’s a “sale” on, then I’ll move into that feature, otherwise I’ll stick with the gun running type missions.

August wasn’t a bad month, for the most part. The weather turned ugly, much to the joy of a lot of people. After a really muggy, sweaty summer, having the temperatures hover around 21-22 degrees was a welcome respite. I had a little time off of work, kept things manageably quiet for the most part and finally got around to having a clear out of surplus and broken stuff. Two rubbish sacks of clothes got the chop, my small suitcase which had two old Sky decoders and my two broken 3DS XL consoles, one rubbish sack full of recycling (papers etc), one rubbish sack of just stuff destined for landfill/incinerator. My Xbox360 is going to go to CEX once I wipe the memory and I might take my old 3DS & DS games to be sold at the same time. That said – I haven’t decided if I’m definitely getting the Xbox One X when released in November.

Oh, we topped the Vauxhall Griffin Season 23 competiton ; god knows how. 

Stressful week – other people in hospital with serious stuff. No further details but hard times indeed.

Once again folks, there’s been another blog gap. I’ve not had much impetus to complete an entry – there have been several false starts but after getting to a second or third paragraph, I realise that my scribings are utter drivel and just cannot bring myself to inflict them on the public. But today, I wanted to catch up re E3, GTA Online’s latest update and of course to whine about the summer. 

So in that order – E3. IMHO, Nintendo were the winners although the new Super Mario is basically a rip-off of the Amiga game Putty. Or Kirby. Still, they got people excited and talking by just announcing stuff without actually committing to anything. For yours truly, what I’m looking forward to most has to be Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. I watched the trailer and have to say, I bought that recording of “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton so every time I hear it, I can mentally picture BJ running through the USA blasting apart Nazis.

As for the new Xbone, looks good, upscaling might be a very nice feature to have but the biggest drawback as far as I could see, is that the console only comes in a 1TB HD model. Surely a 4K game is going to be bigger than a regular HD one and the internal HD won’t cope. However, my concerns aside, I think the better news has to be the fact that backwards compatibility is going to extend to the original Xbox console. With any luck, that’ll mean Battlefront 2 (as in the original game) will be re-released! I mean, I enjoy the occasional killing spree on my laptop but I seldom switch it on these days, not least as the dining table is horrible to sit at.

GTA Online – last Tuesday saw the release of the latest addition to the online world: gun running. It starts off by using your in-game funds to acquire a bunker where Agent 14 (aka the contact from the Prison Break and Humane Labs heist) inducts you into the world of weapons development. You can also acquire a truck to act as a mobile operations centre (which clearly underscores somebody’s affinity with Knight Rider – first KITT, now the FLAG Mobile Unit) as well as a much welcome anti-aircraft gun to swat Hydras from the sky.

The point of the base is that you can either manufacture weapons, develop new weapons (not available at Ammu-nation) or do both. All the bases are located in Sandy Shores, Paleto bay or other isolated spots in the north of the map thus further addressing one of my long-held bugbears, that players tended to spend huge amounts of time driving around LS itself whilst neglecting Blaine County. And you can access your base whilst being a CEO or heading up your local MC so both options are available to the player.

I’ve not really immersed myself into the game too much – other things going on. That said, I did manage to rack up a few hours. My in-game bank balance of $5M has crashed to $1M by just buying the base and the add-ons which _were_ optional but still… Still don’t have enough for the truck, not without buying in-game currency or grinding horribly. That said, my car warehouse is full of vehicles that are begging to be sold. Anyway, I’ve taken care of a few resupply missions and they’re actually pretty challenging on the main map and a great deal of fun as armoured vehicles are de rigeur. Driving halfway across the map to drop off a tank whilst blasting apart army jeeps – great fun.

My last post was about a month ago so I haven’t really commented on the election. One of my abortive posts which I still have the draft of read:

“Speaking of the election, in Vauxhall the Liberal Democrats are really going all out to see Kate Hoey (current Labour MP) dumped, principally on her pro-EU exit stance. I’ve had correspondence and flyers every day this week, stickers are appearing all over the borough – on lamp posts, on telephone exchanges and the like. Given as Lambeth recorded the highest pro-Remain vote (Gibraltar aside), it’s not looking too good for the incumbent.”

Alas, that didn’t become manifest. I did see the candidate on polling day, with child strapped to his chest in one of those baby carrier things but no sign of Labour’s electoral machine. Ah well, I think that she’ll be dumped ahead of the next election. Correction – I hope that she’ll be dumped ahead of the next election.

Oh, and I wanted to post the following about the Griffin:

The refurbished Vauxhall Griffin has opened under new management. The new landlords have gone for an idiosyncratic look, kinda like the old place but there’s a smash-up of two very different styles (possibly three) which I have a hard time seeing it blending together. I don’t know if they’ve deliberately gone for eclectic (or post-modern) deliberately – it’s just…odd. The two feature walls: one is red brick, the other is recovered (and painted wood). The bar area is white ceramic, the furniture is contemporary, the light fittings are quite nice (hi-tec lanterns), the toilets are a vast improvement but the upstairs function room hasn’t been touched other than a clear out of the art (so far). It’s definitely lost something but I’m at a genuine loss as to say whether anything has been gained. The landlords seem nice enough. So all things considered, I don’t hate the place – I don’t ‘like’ it – I guess cautiously neutral for now. If nothing else, at least I still have Zeitgeist (although I still object to the sneaking in of Adnams behind the bar for the real-ale twats).

S’all for now.


Les Jeux Nouveaus

Most of my gaming purchases in recent months have been of the board variety and as a consequence, I’ve been replaying a lot of my existing content. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you spent between £20 and £50 on a new Xbone game for example, you want a lot of replay out of it. Even so, I have been hankering after something new to do for a while.

It started with Animation Throwdown – I’ve seen the adverts through Star Trek Timelines and decided to download a copy to my iPad. The goal of the game: trading card battles! It features the shows Family Guy, Futurama, Bob’s Burgers and King of the Hill and each of the shows has character, item or location trading cards with which to do battle. Trading cards can be fused in-battle to produce more powerful weapons with which to fight your opponent and come in varying degrees of availability when it comes to card drops (hint – lots of DLC for purchase)

The game itself has several modes: a quest mode, an arena mode where players do battle but not in real-time (decks are pre-loaded and the computer fights on your behalf), several time-restricted events for rewards and the ability to research new card fusions. In terms of gameplay activity, there’s far less than something like Timelines but the number of cards available (about 400 at time of writing) and the combinations possible keep things novel and interesting. Plus the actual card fights are over fairly quickly so you’re not sucked into a vortex of time when playing. It’s a nice acquisition, lots of fun had and the number of adverts you can watch for rewards (as opposed to spending extortionate amounts of money) help players who don’t necessarily want to or cannot pay-to-win. Unless you’re on a strict data-plan, of course. What I will say is that Animation Throwdown is a massive battery guzzler. If I play for thirty minutes, my iPad’s power will drop by almost 15% compared with similar applications which might drop by 5%.

Game number 2: Fallout Shelter. I only downloaded (for free) this because I wanted the Fallout stickers for iMessage. But I thought I’d give the game a bash and I have been enjoying it. Premise: build your own Vault-Tec vault, stuff it full of settlers and help them deal with the trials and tribulations of the Wasteland. You start each new Vault with a number of settlers and can recruit more either by building a radio station to lure them in, by breeding male/female couples together or from Vault Tec lunch box rewards. They can be trained in each of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats to increase their abilities either farming resources or constructing items more quickly. And they can be sent on quests, either to collect stuff in the Wasteland or to undertake missions for rewards – and there are any number of missions that one can send settlers on.

I’ve been enjoying this for two weeks now and the missions are my favourite part. DLC is much lighter but naturally it is there (no adverts). It’s not really game-breaking DLC, you can buy pets to further enhance stats of settlers, Vault-Tec Lunchboxes for random drops and Mr Handy units who auto-collect resources when assigned to floors. And the sticker pack for iMessage is a cute addition too.

Game 3: Season Pass for Batman: the Telltale Series. So I downloaded Episode 1 for free (this is how they get you) and have to say that the story writing and different take on the Dark Knight was of high calibre. It’s an interactive story book, kinda like a choose-your-own-adventure where you play the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman and interact with a five-part story. Each decision the player makes will have an impact on the storyline and subsequent player choices lead to different results. I would say that compared with the Walking Dead Telltale Series, there’s a lot more action in this game, particularly in the combat scenes. It also helped influence me that the season pass was half price in the Xbone Easter sale.

Game 4: Season Pass for Batman: Arkham Knight. Not played yet but I’ve wanted this for a while. Unlike Fallout 4, I only wanted to buy this in a sale but I’m looking forward to the extra story modes with Robin, Batgirl and Nightwing. The skins and different Batmobiles…meh, can take or leave. I am still in early days of my second Arkham Knight playthrough, will be interesting to muck about with the skins if nowt else.

Game 5: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. An old Xbox 360 game, I was looking for something in the same vein as Wolfenstein: The New Order a while back and thought that this might fill the gap quite nicely. Sorta puts you in the mind of a rail shooter in some ways given the way the game is animated but is more FPS. Cruder than Gun or Red Dead Redemption, it has some RPG type elements but is mostly a shooter through and through. Good voice acting, crude controls – excellent mindless fare. Totally worth playing.


Back to Arkham

Dontcha just love it when you spend too much money, panic about it and then realise you actually had more cash than you realised so actually the overall impact of your reckless abandon is negligible? That was pretty much the sum total of my Saturday. 

There was only one thing on my mind Saturday morning; pretzels. This after having slept for nine hours btw and still feeling ¾ dead so naturally, my first thought was something arcane. As my last blog post indicated, I was toying with the idea of Borough Market but I knew that if I went, I’d just spend a load of cash in Utobeer. In my groggy state, I vaguely formulated a plan of starting in Camden so that I might go to Melissa’s bakery (at least) and working my way south through central London. Like many of my spontaneous plans, it went totally organic and I ended up…doing something completely different.

Starbucks have dropped the Cheese and Marmite rolls – most disappointing. Another post EU-exit casualty (given the hysteria over price rises for the yeast extract product)? But that’s where I started my day, looking at all those about to go to and come back from the gym judging from all the tatty sports bags on display. Why they thought I’d need four sachets of HP to go with my breakfast roll I don’t know. Meh, whatever. Hopped on the tube and considered where I might change to get to Camden. But for some reason, I just didn’t feel like changing trains at Warren Street or Euston. So instead went to King’s Cross and decided to walk through my old stomping grounds. Glad I did because I hadn’t appreciated the changes that the last couple of years have wrought. Former building sites are now fully fledged apartments or offices, shops have gone, new ones are in their place. Not much has changed of Barker Drive though; this was pleasing and I felt a hint of nostalgia as I passed by the old flat.

First stop on the tour was Game. Actually no, the first stop was the bank, then to Game. I made up my mind that I was going to splash out on a copy of Return to Arkham even though it’s only an HD remastered version of Arkham Asylum & Arkham City albeit with all former DLC bundled in. But it’s been a while since I last acquired a new Xbone Game, the last being Zombi which has barely been touched. Game were selling it at £40 which I point-blank refused to pay, not least as Sainsburys’ were retailing it for £32. So instead went to Cex up the High Street and found a second hand copy (not unexpected) for £30. Sold!

After buying the aforementioned pretzels at Melissa’s, I decided to harass Xian and bullied him into a visit and for tea. He had what looked to be an impressive hangover but we caught up. It’s been ages since I “dropped in” on anyone, these days visiting friends tends to be done by appointment only (not least so you can pretty-up the homestead). So was nice to be a little different.

Forbidden Planet next stop – I’m weaning myself off of comics and about the only titles I’m still buying are Back to the Future, Simpsons and Futurama (whenever you can find the damn things) and Batman DKR 3: The Master Race. Star Wars I stopped after Lucas sold out to evil, Star Trek (or at least the Kelvin-verse) has come to a natural end with the destruction of the Enterprise in the last film so I’m quitting those. He-Man finished ages ago and I haven’t seen Munchkin for a while. Anyway, picked up BTTF and Part 6 of DKR3 as well as an expansion pack to Resistance (the “Avalon” pack – it was the only one in the store) and some more card protectors. Ran into Dr Do(o)m and the girls in the comic section though I’d actually walked right next to them earlier and they completely failed to spot me.

Late lunch in Herman ze German (delicious), birthday present for Brendan in Hotel Chocolat, then stuck in traffic on the bus home because of the wretched Million Mask March. And I’d noticed that FP had unsubtly put the Guy Fawkes masks in prominent display… kinda think that takes the P-One Fifty-Five (sometimes I’ll swear, sometimes I’ll be oblique and cute). After waiting thirty minutes in traffic, I got off and went to Embankment to get the tube home although I detest changing at Kennington just to go one stop. Why didn’t I walk? Goddam ankle AGAIN. At least I’ve finally registered for a GP, just need to book the appointment when I confirm I’m not a spambot or whatever. Then fired up Batman and settled in for the evening.

So Batman: Return to Arkham. Only played Asylum thus far (as of last night, I’m about to start the Killer Croc lair section). The HD graphics look wonderful; a great deal of detail on the characters and the lighting is really good – you can see so much detail on the background scenery. When you’re going from the Batcave to the surface in that section where you can’t use the Batgrapple (is that its name?), the difference is stunning. I can’t wait to see Wonder City in the next game, I’m sure it’ll be spectacular. The first Scarecrow interlude was also wonderfully eerie. I didn’t notice much different from the sounds or v/o. 

I noticed that Joker is now a playable character in the challenges (I’m sure he wasn’t before, or not on the 360 but I could be mistaken). But have stuck to the main game for the most part. On the downside, a couple of the cutscenes still have ropey animations, almost as if they were Claymation (I’m thinking of the Harley Quinn/Electric Floor interlude). But that really is the only downside. More when I get around to Arkham City.

Sunday: mostly chores, a little obscenity in the evening. Monday: work, home, sleep. Nowt worth reporting.

High Priest of Babylon


I had a blog entry written on Friday ready for posting but it – in part – was overtaken by events and was not exactly Shakespeare in its quality. Wasn’t exactly Janet and John either, they’re more coherent. So I’ve erased it and decided to put some different thoughts on the screen.

Quick lowdown from the weekend then. 2/10 – could have been way better. Thanks to Spanish quince jelly leaking all over the fridge (not mine, I add), my Saturday afternoon was spent attending to that mess, then just deep cleaned the wretched thing. It sapped my will to do anything else, particularly as I stank of bleach and mysterious fridge scents. Tried to get in on some GTA fun but had a tantrum at some really, really bad luck on a mission where everything that could have gone wrong, did. So resigned myself to more cleaning, Fallout 4 and making a huge bowl of chilli.

Speaking of that horribly immersive, addictive game, I finally tried the Vault-Tec Workshop add-on by making my way down to Vault 88. I have enjoyed building up settlements (even if they end up kinda homogenous) but trying to build up a vault is horribly time consuming and it’s difficult to measure how much I’m actually going to bother doing it properly. There’s no tutorial (except for a couple of lesser features) which is needed when it comes to connecting the Vault together, especially multiple floors/levels. There’s no labelling as to the various bits and pieces of the Vault and how they might work which again a tutorial might cover but the in-game descriptive text is lacking. Whilst the additional odds and sods that come with the workshop are fun, the execution of the main idea is weak and flawed. Side comment – was the ghoul in charge of the Vault voiced by the same actress who voiced Tavion in Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy? Because that’s all I could hear when I played. 

Sunday…started with such promise but descended into the usual quagmire. The extra hour in bed was welcome and I think that was the highlight of the day. I was on a promise y’see, something really good but because fate was in the power of other human beings, BIG FAT LETDOWN. Was still fuming on Monday. After a miserable in the orifice [sic], I went home with the specific goal of trying to feel better; other priorities rescinded. I remembered the pack of Belgian Waffles I had so bought some Ice Cream, Whipped Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce and just indulged in a calorie fest. Certainly it was more fattening than my actual dinner (Wild Mushroom Ravioli from Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Range @ 357 calories). And I have to admit, it did work. Well that and stupidjerkfacegirl having her last day in our team. Good riddance. 

Changing tack – occasionally, I might watch the WhatCultureGaming vlogs on YouTube. There was one about the hardest achievements to get in video games and the mission from the original GTA mission where you have to assassinate the US President was on the list. Something in the commentary about you’re guaranteed to fail. I admit it is a doozy but I’ve beaten it at least twice. Unlike the modern incarnations where player characters can soak up bullets like raindrops, the original GTA was a “one shot and you’re dead” type game although if you found body armour, you could absorb three bullets before the one fatal one took you down. That said, bullets could be dodged as their trajectory was rather slow.

Why is that relevant? The mission in GTA is for the Rastas in Vice City where they say that the High Priest of Babylon is in the city and you’re to take him out. It’s only when you approach the motorcade when you realise it’s the President surrounded by several of his machine gun toting secret service agents. As soon as you get near, all weapons fire and unless you have an inkling of what’s going on. And failed missions (unless you saved) cannot be attempted a second time so revisiting this is rather difficult as well as time consuming.

As I recall, the trick is rocket launchers and flame throwers. The former to hit the motorcade, the latter to mop up the agents. Because bullets and missiles move slowly to give players a sporting chance to avoid them, I found the best way was to approach from the south, line up to where you know the motorcade is, fire the rocket launcher and chase it. By the time you’re detected, the missile will explode against the motorcade and get the President, hopefully taking out agents in the splash damage. Then leg it away, quickly switching to the flamethrower and firing backwards indiscriminately. Agents are wearing body armour too but it’s useless against the flame thrower. You get paid…a lot of money for that mission (so having as many multipliers on as possible is highly advisable). If successful, is often enough to give you the cash to finish the level and the game.