Rephlex Records 10th Anniversary vid

This is a very interesting (and sometimes tedious) interview with Rephlex records from many years ago. I’d never seen it as it was on German televisions. It’s amazing that Wagonchrist, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, and Mu-Siq were all on this label when they just were starting out. The video many of good tracks that may take you down memory lane and lots of crazy-ass videos.

Go Go Godzilla!

I took the kids to see the new Godzilla movie (and matt and scooter went to) Thursday and it was quite the show. I knew it was going to be a big throw down from the trailer that depicted King Ghidorah and it did not disappoint in that regard. However I can see the complaint raised against the film that it was far too crammed with plot and scenes for a single one-sitting movie. In addition to Ghidorah and Godzilla, it’s got Mothra and Rhodan in major parts of the film.

I really liked the 2014 Godzilla movie– it had just the right amount of seriousness and fun mixed together, doing an excellent job of portraying the ‘holy shit’ factor when the humans see/experience Godzilla for the first time in modern CGI. Yet it wasn’t like Cloverfield or the Host, Godzilla was only partly this horror/menace, it also fights another giant monster in the film, something I did not expect at all walking in.

The 2019 film has similar themes and must have the largest casualty count in any Godzilla film I’ve ever seen. Yet it retains the fun of a Kaiju movie with an additional twist on what fans of the series think is going to happen (Alien invasion).

From the various Godzilla film series, we see a pattern of films that complete a story arc for that series.

First there’s a stand alone godzilla movie

Next is a godzilla vs some other monster, usually 2-3 of these films. One of these is Godzilla vs some aliens that use the other monsters to take over the earth

Next is Godzilla vs Mecha-godzilla that usually involves aliens

Finally there is the large alien invasion plot that inevitably involves King Ghidorah and all the other monsters (the original King of the Monsters, 2004’s Godzilla Final Wars).

When I walked into the film, I expected aliens to use Ghidorah to try to take over the earth in this one, but it wasn’t that, yet it didn’t recon the earlier set up that Ghidorah was an alien monster–which was quite clever. This is definitely an homage film, even throwing in the air-eater bomb that was used in the very first Godzilla film.

How does this compare to SHIN Godzilla (which won best picture in Japan). SHIN is a political film more like the very first Godzilla where Godzilla is a representation of nuclear/environmental disaster in monster form. While godzilla is in the film, and his scenes are horrifying and awesome, the real story is in the board and meeting rooms with the human characters rather than it being any sort of normal kaiju movie. Godzilla King of the Monsters tries to give us both the character development and politics as well as being a massive kaiju battle movie. While crammed to the brim, I feel it succeeds in both.

Finished the Dark Souls 2!

Well four years after starting, I finally finished Dark Souls 2, my second victory over the requirement of getting gud to beat one of the Souls game. I got invaded, I sunbro’d, I used a hint guide I got when I got the game on launch day (which was totally inaccurate most of the time!) I used help whenever I could just to get through it as quickly as possible.

Given that this is a Souls game, and considered the worst of the three, this game still blows nearly all other video games out of the water. It’s so brilliant about showing you early what you are going to go up against, teasing you into thinking your are getting the hang of it, and then throwing you into something totally different from what you faced before in order to test your character build, skills and intuition. The game trolls the player constantly and despite what appears to be an entirely bleak and unforgiving game– there are threads of humor throughout the game of the blackest sort.

Oh fuck….

The story in this one felt a bit more disjointed than the first. Not that this will be spoilers but again you have several cities and areas that have fallen to the curse of undeath, and to reverse the curse (on yourself) you have to kill a ton of stuff. This one has giants, dragons, undeads and a lot of these Ogre things that you can’t help but shoot in the ass with fire arrows.

My favorite areas in the game were probably the Iron Keep (think of a citadel sinking into lava) and No-Man’s Wharf which was both Spanish and Viking… pirates? There was a part like Blightown from the first game, which was not quite as annoying: again, the developers are trolling you so they have to put in some vertical madness or it just wouldn’t be a Souls game.

Boss wise, I really liked the Undead Chariot, despite it being fucking super annoying. The Mirror Knight was really cool (but and easy fight for the most part). The most intriguing boss was the Demon of Song, that got all these undead chicks to sing constantly to draw victims to it, sort of like sirens but they were all tricked into doing it.

HOW CAN YOU RELAX AT A TIME LIKE THIS???

It’s also amazing to me how the Souls game still retain tropes that are super common in fantasy games, but it just isn’t fucking cheesy. You DO fight a shit load of dragons and you DO rescue a princess from a tower. How plebian can you get? But this is SOULS, so the pain and anguish you had to endure to get there makes none of it cheeese at all. In fact I would say the only thing cheese in the game was my fucking build!

I did a classic tank and spank, with the Gyrm Great Shield (good against fire and physical damage also giving mega poise too) and the black knight greatsword (added damage with strength and faith). I used magic for the first time in a Souls game with heal and greater heal.

So there are some of you that don’t try these games because they are hard. YES. To solo a Dark Souls game you need to really ante up. However, the multiplayer in this game really really makes the game more playable if you don’t want to be super hardcore. Most of the bosses are very difficult vs just you– but if you bring a friend or rando in there you can waltz through all but the most difficult bosses (Smelter Demon). What I’m saying is that you can do it and don’t be shy about becoming human and summoning if you need to. Also, if you are sitting on a shitload of souls and don’t want to die at a boss– lay down your summoning sign and give help to others to practice fighting the boss before you go in there in your own game. It really helps.

be a (sun) bro!

Well, there’s a lot people have said and written about these games, and while I liked DS1 better (most of it anyway), DS2 is still an absolute classic that you should push through at least once. It totally stands the test of time graphically and gameplay wise, much like the first one. There will always be a place where you just feel so frustrated you have to stop for awhile, and the game absolutely demands that you learn a ton about how the weapons work, how to upgrade your shit properly, as well as how to execute on the gamepad, so it’s not for the casul Devil May Cry/ Bayonetta types (both great games). My next challenge is the (tons more difficult) Bloodborne and then it’s on to Dark Souls 3 (in 2-3 years….).

that’s a lot of souls…

Bloodborne board game and your game group

For those of you that like dungeon crawls and like SOLO dungeon crawls, Bloodborne is probably a ticket to dungeon crawl heaven. Frankly though, there are a fuckload of these types of games, almost a new one like this every month from various manufacturers. From CMON alone, if you’ve already got Zombicide of some sort, The Others, Rise of Moloch or the excellent and insane diablo-esque crawl Massive Darkness why would you even look at this one? Also take into account Games Workshops excellent forays into the dungeon crawl realm as well as tons of others (including Dungeon Degenerates!) I think BB is CMON’s answer to Kingdom Death, you probably love Bloodborne, and look at those miniatures (as always from CMON).

You have to ask yourself, as I have, what to do with all these big ass boxed games and all the miniatures. I picked up The Others, Massive Darkness and HATE and can attest that the first two are excellent but holy shit does the Others take up a lot of shelf space, Hate isn’t all that bad which is odd because of all the miniatures it has in the box (which are CMON’s best so far, even if the game doesn’t have mass appeal).

Given that you have the means and board game addiction to pick up some of these big ass games– what do you do with them? You play them of course, but how many times? These are similar to games we played in the 90’s and early 2000’s that took years to acquire (or even get released) miniatures of this amount. For Necromunda or Bloodbowl, you could build up your teams over time rather than this huge blast these games require even with their base sets.

I think one solution is to have a community of gamers buy these together or share them, play through the campaigns in each and then sell them off or keep them if there is absolute love. Many of these dungeon crawls especially do not have reasons to play through them multiple times as it’s always the same missions, path, etc. Sure it’s fun to try a different character but if you are the judge/Overlord and you have to run people through the same missions again… ZZzzzzz… So these are big games, take up a lot of space and have limited replay value. Yet the games themselves are worth playing and in some cases, owning if they are really important for you to keep.

Lots of times with gamers in a group that all have the fever for board game collecting will duplicate the SHIT out of each other’s collections: most of the time for no reason at all. For example, we all love Eclipse. When the new kickstarter came out, we had 3-4 people (out of about 8-9 gamers total) who bought into it…why did we do this? One or two people could have picked it up and that would be fine for many plays.

When I was in college, and very, very poor, I had Talisman 2nd edition at school, along with Jyhad and some MTG and at home I had basically Cosmic Encounter and a few other games like Saga or Awful Green Things. If you wanted to play, say, Wizard’s Quest, you went over to the guy’s house that had that shit– you didn’t go out and buy the fucking thing at the store!

While it’s tough to imagine as a collector and I have my weak spot for some of these games (anything Adrian Smith is involved in for instance), it’s best if one person in a group picks up these big ass fucking games– for sure go ‘all in’ so you aren’t scrambling for that expansion you missed in the kickstarter that you really want later–make the investment knowing that your group has committed to play, that you will sleeve that shit so it stays in good shape (print the rulebook rather than using the one that comes with the game– that will get fucked up for sure) for later sale and then the next big ass game like this that comes along– which it WILL–have someone ELSE buy that, you guys play it and then ditch it when you are done. Otherwise you are just chasing the dragon alone– maybe don’t.

Here’s the Bloodborne gameplay video of interest. Note he is playing SOLO:

And the fuckall of miniatures included….

Give me the Rage 2!

I really liked Farcry 3 (4 is good too) and I really liked Saints Row 4 (3 was good too). If there’s a game that I will love instantly it’s something that combines these two together and that looks just like RAGE 2. Superpowers, tons of guns, insane openworld chases, strange cars and trucks, massive and dare I say GREASY explosions to steal a phrase from Baldtree.

Maurice!Bastard says that he doesn’t want to get his hopes up or set the bar too high for Rage 2 and wants to be emotionally cautious. I played Rage 1 and while it had some flaws, the game had definite moments of absolute brilliance. This is going to be all that brilliance all the way through.

Very long preview which is pretty enthralling all the way through.

The core thing is bringing creativity to the play of this type of game, setting up strange effects, unplanned destruction and all the physics interplay that super powers, vehicles, area and building destruction bring. I rarely say this, but this is one to pick up launch day.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review

This is going to be a hellaciously long post because I have many thoughts on this game from both a mechanical perspective and a historical one.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a Skyrim-style first person RPG set in the early 1400’s in Czechoslovakia. The game is heavily political, unapologetic about it’s historical depiction, has a ‘git gud’ combat system/mechanics… and no magic. I asked myself many times while playing: how the hell did this get made?

Games have to appeal to the mass of gamers, especially open world type games that take millions upon millions of dollars to make, so how did a game set in a country that most Americans can’t even find on a map, about a local political situation that most American’s have never even heard of, with a steep learning curve and extremely historically accurate setting get this popular?

Well, it’s real good. Since most of you have played the new Zelda or Skyrim or one of the other open world RPG’s, I’m not going to go into what that type of game is much except to say that Kingdom Come, despite is core story line and despite it’s long story/tutorial/rails in the beginning, is an open world RPG, and one that should be reckoned with!

The Story

You play a specific character named Henry. You can’t alter his sex or appearance or voice or skin color at all. He is the son of a blacksmith in a small village next to a lord’s keep. None of this can be altered at all and this was a bit shocking to me until I got a bit into the story and realized these constraints were fantastic for the immersion and the quality of the narrative throughout the game. You have a ton of leeway how you play Henry, but you are him in this game and that’s that. In addition to looks, what you fight, what you want to swive, your lineage and how Henry is warped and weaved into the story is set, but how you go about doing everything else is up to you.

No spoilers, but things go very wrong for Henry, and like most good stories, Henry’s story is a story of revenge and the hero’s journey from country bumkin who can do jack and shit, to someone who hits like a sledgehammer, can sneak up on people and slit their throat in broad daylight and who has swived more whores than most holy roman emperors of the time.

Overall, the arc of the story is long, broken up into very interesting sections with lots of time in between most to jag around. You will learn a LOT about Czech, German and Holy Roman history and politics in this game and while this may seem tiresome, I was extremely impressed with the game’s lack of shyness around discussion of politics in cut scenes. What’s more they do not hold back on medieval brutality, rape, and slaughter of unarmed peasants. Yet the scenes of carnage and rape are made much more poignant because they seem wholly an anomaly in the verdant and peaceful villages and castles that make up most of the game. In addition to the revenge story which is an obvious driver, you also gain an affinity to the working way of life (even of the bandits and thieves) which is horrifically disrupted by events in the game.

The map to the game seems small at first, but there is a lot of detail. I felt completely lost many times in the woods, always looking back at the overhead map to see where to go. Even though the game feels populated, out in the wilds the forests go on and on without seeing anything of interest– so travel feels like it’s travel rather than the get to the fast travel spot and then fast travel back to where you came. There’s a lot to see and destroy and have sex with in the game.

Women in this game, it being the 1400’s, have traditional roles. You won’t see a transexual cyborg spouting a bunch of made up pronouns or taking on a male role in society. Nor did they sneak in some female-combat savant for the sake of inclusion (certainly, this existed with women pretending to be men in order to fight).

Lastly, the NPC’s are very well done even if it gets a little cheesy at the end with sort of a Kelley’s Heroes type of vibe.

Mechanics

I’m going to go through Combat, Stealth, Alchemy and the fast travel system. I’m not going to go into the haggle and social parts of the game just for the sake of brevity.

Combat is a bitch in this game and you will be glad if you put your lead shoes on in Dark Souls or Bloodborne before playing Kingdom Come. Those games teach you one thing that will help the most and that’s patience. Every fight has the potential to damage you if you are not careful and patient. Getting in fights with multiple opponents, unless you are heavily armored and experienced, will get Henry dead like very quickly. Combat is split into Sword work, Mace work, Axe work, and unarmed. Each of them follow the base combat system which is attack, parry and instant parry/counter attack and grapple. Your attacks can be combo-ed if you follow a rhythm of attacking and generate another attack the moment the first attack actually connects. This can be challenging for players who haven’t experienced say, Witcher 1, which has a similar rhythm combo system. You also have to control where your weapon is: either up, down or in the middle of the body. You can start an attack high and then switch to low or mid level during the attack which is quite fun. Henry has health and stamina and can also be damaged in various parts of his body, which causes problems regardless of your level of health/stamina.

Like Dark Souls, you use stamina to run and make attacks and block. If you get hit blocking with no stamina, you take damage and can get staggered, which is no fun at all. Fights without armor but with sharp weapons go rather quickly.

Unarmed combat, while it doesn’t happen often, is my favorite of the combat systems. You start fist fights early in the game during the tutorial when Henry is a fucking creamed puff extraordinaire, but later you get into many fist fights, sometimes protecting the women, sometimes fighting with friends, sometimes just to prove yourself and it’s awesome. Range, movement and timing are all critical components to good fisticuffs which really raised my cockles. I knew I had arrived wen I punched an armored knight out in a fight in a barn (his weapons were too slow and I was able to constantly hit-stun him until crushing his skull underfoot).

mincing fuck!

Sword work is typically used against the unarmored peasantry who are easy to slice open with a blade compared to the armored folks. Swords have the most attack combos and I can see them being very attractive for people that want to combo up. You also look cool with a big bastard sword, but for me, instead of a sword, I went for a mace.

Maces have very few attack combos, but do tons of damaged to armored foes, and still do enough damage to unarmored to warrant using them all the time. Henry can also get a perk where he can possibly knock anyone out with a headshot after which they can be killed via a coup de grace.

Axes I did not use much in my playthrough, so cannot comment, but they seem to fall between the sword and the mace.

Archery is VERY difficult in this game as you have to aim as you would in real life: down the bow and arrow without a reticle to help know exactly where you are aiming. Drawing back and shooting an arrow is also very slow, so in a fight or in just practice shooting, I had a lot of problems with archery in general throughout the game. However, it does help in mass-combat fights and to get at other archers. You can run away and shoot, hoping to take out a few of the peasant bandits or vs slower armored opponents, whittle them down. Overall though, except at close range, Archery is not something you can rely upon. You will need to learn it to some extent for the main plot.

While there is a lot of fighting, stealth (and lockpicking) are critical skills for Henry in the game. Your ability to sneak around effectively will make things a lot easier throughout. Early on, Henry is so clumsy that you have no hope at all of sneaking up on anyone, which can be very frustrating to new players who expect it to at least work some of the time based on other stealth games. Remember that Henry, from the outset, explicitly sucks ass at everything. You do get Henry better with practice, and eventually you are sneaking around in broad daylight. Getting caught in normal circumstances gets you laughed at or asked if you are taking a shit by bath maids. Getting caught in a place you’re not supposed to be can lead to a lot of problems.

Locking picking is essential and I can only say for new players: get your lockpicking skill as high as possible as soon as you can. There is a long part of the game where it’s essential. If you have played Skyrim, the lockpicking is familiar enough.

Alchemy is excellent, but fucking tedious. You need to actually craft the items on an alchemist bench and I don’t mean how skyrim does it where you pick your stuff and it makes a roll to see if it worked– nope: you have to physically guide Henry through the steps in the recipes you find in the game. For example, you will need to grab ingredients, put them in a pot of boiling water or spirits, and then cook them up for a specific amount of time tracked with an hourglass that you must manually turn. I ignored it for much of the game, but there’s a part where you must do it so just learn it.

Fast travel in the game is excellent. Instead of just appearing where you want to end up, your little avatar moves across the map and can encounter various things on the way which can drop you back into real time. Most of these are bandit ambushes. So it’s never guaranteed that you are just going to show up where you want to without being harassed, but it still functions as quite a time saver, especially later in the game when you’ve seen everything along a particular route many times.

Tits

Despite our differences on everything else, every race, gender and sexual orientation can agree on one thing: TITS. If you are going to play some of the romantic bits in Kingdom Come, note that there are tits and Henry gets down to fucking in the game. It’s not gratuitous, but enough to bring out the horny gamers for sure. Just make sure kids aren’t around when you are wooing or going to the bathhouse. There’s only one part of the main plot where you get greased up and fuck– the other nudie parts are optional and you will know when you are getting close to seeing tits in those. One of the side missions tits will sneak up on you during, so watch it if you are playing in front of your grand ma on the big TV in the living room.

Bottom Line

Kingdom Come is an unbelievably immersive gaming experience, unrelenting in it’s depiction of life as a Czech during this time period. Some of it stands in stark contrast to modern existence and some of it is eerily similar. While the combat has a steep learning curve, coupled with Henry’s trash skills make it even more frustrating, pushing through so you can take out multiple enemies at once is very satisfying after taking such a beating for so long.

The writing is superb and the arc of the story, while nothing new, is well worth giving this bad boy a play through.

MOLES, BITCH!

I couldn’t help myself and printed out the PnP of the The Great Dutchy of the Moles from the new Root kickstarter and we got in a couple games with them plus the base four factions (Cats, Alliance, Vag, Eyrie). Here’s my view of the Moles so people can see if they fit their play style.

The Moles start with a single tunnel on the board that connects to their off-board ‘cave’ where the moles swarm from. The mole cave connects to ALL the mole tunnels, so the more tunnels you have out on the board, the easier you can move your guys around. Moles have a terrible action economy at the beginning of the game with only two actions to take (cats have three in contrast). Their actions are similar to the Cats: Move, battle, recruit, build (factories or citadels), dig (add a tunnel) so if you are familiar with the Marquise, you will easily pick up how to play the Moles.

Despite their weak and slow start, the Moles can elect members of their underground species to parliament by revealing matching sets of cards (2, 3 and 4 depending how far you are up the parliamentary track), which begins to increase their action economy. This is a bit like the bird’s decrees… and is also fairly unstable. Once officers are placed in parliament, you can take their action every single turn. Most are Move or Recruit, draw cards, etc., but three of them score points off the buildings on the board, which is the main mechanism for scoring for the moles. Other than crafting and destroying stuff, the Moles get points for electing officers and using officer actions to score points. Unfortunately if you lose buildings due to battle, you also lose officers permanently (much like the Riverfolk’s trading posts).

The Moles need to control areas to build buildings, keep lots of cards in their hands (and not use them!) in order to get parliament filled up as well as watching their scoring to not alarm the other players…

Like the Cats and the Birds, the Moles are useful to police the forest against the non-area control factions (Vag, Lizards, Riverfolk and Alliance), so you need to stake your claims on the board and then kick the crap out of those little bastards if they come around. You will need to likely make an alliance with one of the other police factions or you’ll both end up losing badly.

The Moles are an interesting design, basically a new take on the Marquise de Cat but with a little of the Alliance and Eyrie mixed in. I’ve played twice with them so far, and in one the Cats pulled out the win in the end, with the Dutchy in second place, the second place (5 player game) the moles ended up lagging mid game and in 3rd place. They are very much about take-and-hold with them being pretty useless scattered around the board since they really really need to protect their buildings once they start scoring points.

Netrunner continues!

It was pretty shocking when FF cancelled the excellent Netrunner LCG, I’m sure mostly to hardcore fans and not passive fans like myself. I played it as a youth in the mid 90’s for a few months hardcore but then stopped (no $$ for that and Jyhad and Shadowfist and RAGE). The new set I didn’t get into from a $$ perspective too much, just a few expansions and a couple copies of the core box, but I played quite a few times and was glad it was back out. Fans have apparently taken up the torch and will continue to release expansions, much like On the Edge.

http://nisei.net/products/Downfall

If you follow that link and see what they are doing it indicates print on demand: usually something impossible to do since the card quality of print on demand is usually quite bad. This is neat because it’s possible for fans to get together to print some of the old ccg game sets if they have access to the proof sheets. Who knows, we may see Shadowfist or Jyhad going this route in the future, which would be pretty awesome (200 card set for 50$?!).