Comments- Temeraire

I won’t lie and tell you I’ve actually read these books;  I have, however, been listening to the unabridged audio and am currently on Book 4.  Written by Naomi Novik the Temeraire books (His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, and Empire of Ivory) follow the exploits of a young dragon in service to Britain during the Napoleon Wars.  Rife with military jargon and excellent action Novik does a splendid job not only of integrating the use of dragons in aerial service but also in expressing the deep beyond between humans and dragons that is the linchpin of the whole series.  Readers looking for a “high fantasy” adventure would do well to look elsewhere as the book is couched in more naturalist terms with dragons described and explained in a very scientific manner.  Indeed the book is saturated with a very practical integration of dragons and the real world that sets it markedly apart from other series.

Fans of historical and military fantasy could do little better than giving these books a whirl.  Even fans of the Napoleonic Era might enjoy a look at this “alternate” take and get a serious kick out of seeing familiar faces from Lord Nelson to the Marshals of France.   A rather unconventional hero, a nearly 40 year old naval captain turned aviator, makes for an interesting contrast to the young, inexperienced teens and twenty-somethings so typical in today’s fantasy and end a certain unique quality to the proceedings.  If you don’t want to read the books the unabridged audiobooks are absolutely splendid and come alive thanks to the talents of veteran narrator Simon Vance.   They are also conveniently available via iTunes (make sure you read the comments for book 2, lest you get screwed like I did) and a worthwhile investment either to enjoy during a nice run (in our 60+ degree “winter” weather) or your morning commute.

For some info check out Novik’s own website or this wikipedia entry (**Beware Spoilers**).

Pellet Review: Shadowbred, by Paul S Kemp

Shadowbred

EDIT:  Apparently its taken about five months to realize that I mislabeled this as the wrong book.  Oops.

Shadowbred

Paul S. Kemp

Wizards of the Coast, 2006

Drizzt who?  I haven’t read a “shared world” story in a while so it was a fun distraction jumping back into the realms again.  Kemp should not be surprised in finding himself catapulted amongst the “holy trinity” of realms authors (Cunningham, Salvatore, and Greenwood).  Indeed Kemp’s writing ability and handle on what it takes to make a story truly “epic,” in my opinion, far outclasses any of the other realms author’s I’ve read.  Erevis Cale is an interesting character that oozes cool found in a book rife with political and theological manipulation set before a background of grand scale.  Interesting villains, great action, and a fast paced quagmire of a plot make this the best Realms book I’ve read since The Halfling’s Gem.  Highly recommended for fans of both the Forgotten Realms and fantasy at large.

Portal, Episode 1, KUF Demo

I hate platformers.

I hate puzzle games.

I loved Portal.

There is some sort of inherent contradiction in those three statements, but there it is none-the-less.  Valve, with their games, have seemingly mastered the art of the first-person narrative giving players a level of immersion that other developers have only recently begun to embrace with more frequency.  Portalis a testament that ability and the strength of the world they built and the character they created (the computer) are great enough to overcome a gameplay mechanic that, in a straight up puzzle game, I would have nothing to do with.

 Indeed, while some of the pure puzzle levels (chambers 1 through 18) were both challenging and, in some cases, entertaining, it isn’t until the final level that the game really took off for me.   Enough so that I was sad when it ended and excited about more to come.

Also, the Portal song rocks.  All in all a good time.

I also started HL2 Episode 1 over gain.  I think the beginning of the game is terrible (see the first two sentences of this post).  The part on the elevator was especially annoying, more-so on console than on PC, and the novelty of manipulating the game’s physics wears thin after a while (at least in absence of other options).  Overall weapon placement is crap (taking on the black spiders with only a pistol and a shotgun is not fun) and I wasn’t a fan of the “no lights” idea in the beginning either.

Alex’s classic “zombine” comment was worth it though, and the extension of the narrative is so far worthwhile.  Maybe things will improve gameplay wise once I’m above ground but so far this installment is weak sauce compared to HL2 itself.  Needless to say I’ll get through it eventually, and Episode 2, if only to find out what happens to the Free Man.

A friend also recommended I check out demo for the new KUF game.  I’ve heard some mutterings from Kingdom Under Fire fans about the shift to an action RPG but, as I’ve never played any of the previous Kingdom Under Fire games, that doesn’t affect me much.  Gameplay wise it walks a middle road between (my favorite) Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance games and the Lord of the Rings games.  It lacks the robust combo system of theLotR games and the simplicity of the DA games (game you Interplay/Black Isle for going away).  Give the nature of previous games it also bears a striking similarity to Koei’s Warriors games, but on a smaller scale.

Lacing into a horde of enemies is fun.  The graphics are good.  The character designs are all interesting.  Yet something about the game just doesn’t completely click with me.  I don’t know if the game was developed stateside or not but the plot seemed completely absent (what little of it there was made no sense to me) and the bit of voice acting in the demo wasn’t very good.  I know I sound critical but I did have a good amount of mindless fun hacking up enemies and scooping up loot.  The inventory system is passable, nowhere near the travesty from the Sony developed inventory management Champions of Norrath games, and hints at interesting options (something called synthesizing that is never explained and a boatload of “enchantments”).  The allure of online co-op is strong.  Unfortunately I’m not sure I’m willing to buy the game.  In my rough hour or so with the demo I never felt challenged by the game, my health hit 50% only once, and the “quests” used to unlock abilities seemed to me ridiculously unnecessary.   Overall this seems to be more of rent than a buy.

I can still hope for Dark Alliance 3, despite the companies responsible being out of business, right?  Right!?