freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Last night's fun discovery in Mass Effect: Andromeda: if you are buggering around poking things in the fancy new outpost you've just set up on a planet you've just carefully won over in the teeth of extreme resistance (Kadara, and may I add, Reyes, you bastard!) and you accidentally hang around for too long on the bit of platform you didn't realise was a landing pad for shuttles, a large, enthusiastic shuttle piloted by your own Initiative people will arrive at speed out of nowhere and land on top of you, squashing you terminally flat and causing the fateful "! MISSION FAILURE" screen to flash up over your recumbent corpse.

I find this a particularly pleasing piece of essentially random verisimilitude, it made me giggle madly. It also caused me to mentally construct micro flash fanfic depicting the probable reaction of the poor benighted shuttle pilot who thus accidentally took out their own Pathfinder, who is the colonisation trailblazer, terraforming on-switch operative and the Milky Way travellers' only hope for survival. "Embarrassed" doesn't even begin to cover it. Probably a quick header into the nearest sulphuric acid lake would be the only decent response.

We have one of South Africa's merry conglomerate public holiday clusters coming up, Thursday for Freedom Day and Monday for Workers' Day, and I have taken Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday off with a sensation of palpable relief. I have had the same bloody sinus headache for several weeks now, it drifts in and out randomly, and I am conscious of a deep-seated need to do nothing for a week or so and bond with my new kitten. Next week is the ten-day vac, so it's also even possible that not too many students will actually explode in my absence. And if they do, someone else can deal with them. At this point in the proceedings I am astonishingly unmoved at the prospect.

My subject line is Hillaire Belloc, the dreadful story of Rebecca who slams doors, and meets her Inevitably Gruesome End at the hands (shoulders?) of a bust of Abraham. The poem has been circling my cerebellum gently since the Andromeda Incident.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
In my defence, my absence from Teh Intahwebs over the last couple of weeks has only partially been because of Mass Effect: Andromeda, although quite a lot of it has, indeed, been the result of kicking happily around another galaxy making dubious romance choices and taking out nasty alien fascists with elan, vindictive efficiency and a sniper rifle. The rest has been because the current bone-deep exhaustion which is still afflicting me after the worst registration season I've ever experienced, morphed into a sinus infection which laid me low for most of last week. I'm still a bit wan and floaty, drifting around in an exhausted disconnect which leaves me feeling as though my feet are not quite touching the floor, and with neither the energy nor the brain for Being Entertaining On The Internet. Patience, I tell myself. Soon, soon, I will have sufficient ducks in a row to quit the hell out of this job and find something that doesn't require me to ritually sacrifice myself on an ongoing basis. After which I may once again be something resembling a person.

Several days at home with a sinus infection did, on the upside, allow me to play significant quantities of Andromeda, which I am apparently 57% of the way through after just under a hundred hours of play. (I'm an extremely completist player). Initial impressions as follows:
  • Hell, it's pretty. The planetary landscapes and cool spacescapes are beautiful in the extreme. The Obligatory Ancient Departed Civilisation, known as the Remnant, have left the landscape littered with incredible subterranean vaults which are all black marble and weird shapes and gravity wells and giant, shadowy spaces stretching down and away. They're breathtaking.
  • They have given us jumpjets! A significant proportion of my gaming time is spent going "sproing!" and "whee!". Also the Nomad, which is an update of the old Mako, which means you can drive around planets at insane speeds while your party bickers, and which is ridiculously enjoyable.
  • All the old familiar races have followed us to a new galaxy, which weirdly presents only two new ones, one of which is the bad guys. The others are the Angara, who are sort of cuddly, collectivist, blue-and-purple lion-lizards who are extremely endearing.
  • The combat and skill and crafting structures are a maddening combination of limited and opaquely complicated. You can do some cool stuff. Eventually. To some extent.
  • The scenario and worldbuilding are... interesting, but, as Penny Arcade noted, a bit in the arena of a young and foolish vintage. This is clearly a comparatively inexperienced writing team, which is the result of them sectioning off Mass Effect to another Bioware location and leaving the experienced writers in Edomonton with Dragon Age. It shows - the writing is generally a bit patchy, plot and characterisation largely unexciting despite some good moments. I'm rather attached to the female Ryder, who's written as a bit wry and deadpan, but a lot of that is her voice, with which I am seriously enamoured: slightly alto with a throaty catch. The NPCs are almost all a bit bland. I'm finding myself making dubious romance choices because not even my Lawful Good can stomach the oatmeal of the "nice" characters. (On the upside, one of the dubious choices is voiced by Natalie Dormer, which may or may not be implicated in the selection process).
  • The fandom is dissing the animation all over the internet, and they have a point. There is a lot of the laziness and superficial glitz which characterised DA2: the game has, for example, made all the NPCs in each non-human race the same face, with vaguely different face-paint. This is, to say the least, disconcerting, and causes brief moments of paranoid conspiracy as you try to work out non-existent connections, but it's not nearly as disconcerting as the facial animations, which manage, in a burst of rare genius, to be of regressively awful quality which puts them back somewhere before ME itself. The original ME didn't try to get fancy and thus avoided the uncanny valley issue into which MEA consistently and with pin-point accuracy tumbles. Characters in this game have some really weird lip movements.
  • I am, probably as a result of contextual imprinting over the last couple of decades, extremely uneasy about this game's colonial agenda and its ecological implications. To date they're not being thoughtfully dealt with.

Also, you have an AI, whose voice alerts you to environmental hazards and resource gathering opportunities and input requirements to an extent which swings wildly between being useful and being repetitively redundant to the point of infuriation. Hence my subject line. It is probably a tribute to the actual good parts of the game that I'm still invested and enjoying it despite hearing the above in a clipped British alto twenty or thirty times in a half-hour burst of driving madly around sand dunes.

this is just to say...

Thursday, 23 March 2017 08:02 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
... that it has taken every ounce of willpower, Calvinist work ethic guilt and basic Lawful Good that I possess to be actually present at work today, instead of calling in sick in order to stay at home playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, which has been peaceably downloading for the last three days and which unlocked at 1am this morning, and towards the playing of which I have just dedicated, with remarkable absence of aforesaid Calvinist guilt, a stonkload of money in order to upgrade my system to the optimal spec.

This is possibly also just to say, by way of public service announcement, that the last six weeks of being basically antisocial because of work exhaustion will probably give way to at least a couple of weeks being antisocial because I am playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, which is, all things considered, a far better (or at least more enjoyable) reason to be antisocial.

Because at this point? I have damned well earned it.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
At this point 2016 can officially fuck right off and die. Seriously. I do not want this 2016, it is skraaatched. In my personal iconage, it has taken from us David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Sheri S. Tepper. It has given us Brexit, Donald Trump, destructive student protests and cancer in my cat. It and all its works can take a long fiery hike straight into the sun. Today it's the death of Leonard Cohen, who is not quite a personal icon but is still a Significant Good. It feels like adding insult to injury. Also, people keep posting covers of "Hallelujah", which infallibly makes me cry even in circumstances when significant portions of America haven't just lost the collective moral and political plot.

On the upside, Tumblr is circulating relevant post-election Cohen lyrics, namely from "Everybody Knows", which is a favourite of mine and also satisfyingly and appropriately despairing.
everybody knows that the dice are loaded
everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
everybody knows that the war is over
everybody knows the good guys lost
everybody knows the fight was fixed
the poor stay poor, the rich get rich
that’s how it goes
and everybody knows
In this dark time in American politics, I re-recommend you copperbadge's unabashedly fantasy wish-fulfilment political AU with the Avengers taking the White House. Leader of the Free World. Balm to the political soul.

Further in the Department of Frivolous Escapism With Which I Propose To Distract Myself, I hear really positive buzz about Mass Effect: Andromeda, whose release date has been delayed to next year, which is a Good Thing because if they released it in 2016, 2016 would infallibly fuck it up beyond redemption. Interesting details on the game's developments here; I like what they have apparently done to tweak the combat system, and I am really excited about the increased emphasis on character interactions, because as you all know I am a mad and desperate fangirl for Bioware character interactions. The statement "The squadmate with the least amount of lines in Andromeda has more lines than the squadmate with the most amount of lines in ME3" made me go "squeee!", although not quite as ear-splittingly as if they'd replaced "ME3" with "Inquisition". I shall set aside a two-week leave period around Andromeda's release date, upgrade my computer, and permit 2017 to establish its bona fides appropriately while waving two fingers in 2016's general direction. Because really.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's remotely possible that being a total and irredeemable geek is my Seekrit Weapon, curriculum-advice-wise. If nothing else it gives me innocent joy to assist a student with a tangled curriculum and then spend 20 minutes, as I did a month or two back, dissecting Fallout 4 and our respective experiences over multiple play-throughs. (You were quite correct, Fallout-playing-student. Survival mode, while extremely tricky at lower levels and ultimately requiring minor modding to saves to make it non-frustrating enough for sustained play, is a deeply satisfying thing, I'm so happy you persuaded me to try it. I hope you have a tiny, untraumatic curriculum problem soon so I can tell you all about it).

Today's one was a rather beautiful inner arm tattoo which made me go "oooh, is that Tengwar?!" in girlish excitement. The student got this sort of soul's-awakening look - momentary shuttered expression, you could see him gathering himself to explain the context to a tragically unhip middle-aged administrator, followed by dawning realisation as my actual comment penetrated and he identified against all likelihood a fellow geek who didn't just recognise Tolkien, but the actual script. I wish I could have taken the hat-trick by translating, but alas, my Tengwar is beyond rusty. ("The crownless again shall be king", apparently. Somewhat classic.) At least I could respond, when he said in some relief, "Oh, you're a Tolkien fan!" by pointing wordlessly to Lúthien Tinúviel dancing on my wall.

It's a tiny subset of geeky students to whom I can appeal, but it does help to feel that moment of actual connection. Some things do cross the generation gap.

I fear that geeky consolations are necessary at the moment, as the university landscape is a bit doom-laden. It's all quiet; once again, too quiet. Lectures are suspended for the term, but students are able to access the library and labs, and the buses are running, so technically they are all finishing the semester's work and preparing for exams, which start next week. But it's entirely likely that the protesters are imitating the action of the rake in the grass and will erupt into life as soon as we incautiously step on their tines by trying to actually congregate students for examination purposes. At which point it'll all go to hell in a handbasket. However, I should note for posterity that "tines" is a lovely word. So specific. Precision in language is a very particular pleasure.

Quick Hobbit update: he's still OKish. He didn't respond at all well to the scheduled reduction of his cortizone dose after a week, his condition took a sharp dive, so we had to up it again. This means that the time left on his personal feline clock is probably measured in weeks rather than months; the cancer must be far enough advanced to resist the low doses already. Increasing the dose is giving him a bit of an appetite, at least, although in true feline and hobbitish fashion he is milking this for all it's worth by turning his nose up at expensive kidney-improving kibble. He only becomes truly enthusiastic about food if I hand-feed him bits of cooked chicken from my plate, at which point he snatches them somewhat impolitely and bolts them. I don't feed my cats people-food under any circumstances, usually, but right now I will feed him the blood of the living if that's what it takes. Let's hope it doesn't get that far. (Also, he infallibly bites me when I pill him, so he's getting a reasonable daily dose of blood anyway).

(My subject line quotes "Beren and Luthien", because that level of poignant loss seems vaguely appropriate on a number of levels).

spiders from Mars

Monday, 13 June 2016 12:36 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
When I left to do some shopping early on Saturday there was a small flock of hadeda ibises (ibi?) posed dramatically along the roof-tree of my house, against the morning sky. Rather like a boy-band album cover, in fact: studied poses, all carefully differentiated, positions and distances calculated to hint at relationships. A deliberate construction of unity and individuality. I'm still kicking myself that I didn't take a photo, if only as documentary evidence so I can pick the right bird out of the line-up for punitive purposes. Because in retrospect that was a sinister little flock loitering with intent.

During the course of Saturday, while I was in my study innocently ambling through the Shivering Isles1 one or more nameless hadedaean perpetrators spent several hours wreaking wanton destruction in the back courtyard2. My container garden has a terribly tendency to cutworm, who drowned in droves in the heavy rain last week, and the Hadeda Boy Band obviously had a field day noshing the little surface-floated squishy corpses. Which is fine, and would cause me fist-pumps of vindictive satisfaction, except that hadedas are large birds who (a) trampled several plants nearly to death, and (b) half dug up others - the soil in the pots is basically harrowed and drilled by the multiple stabbings of hadeda beaks. Have you seen the beaks on those things? like bloody ice-picks. And, crowning insult, they crapped (c) all over the back courtyard, with that excessive bowel enthusiasm characteristic of their kind, and (d) all over the kitchen, because I leave the courtyard door open for ventilation during the day, and they clearly wandered in like they owned the place. I basically had to hose down and disinfect the whole room. I'm not sure the cutworm decimation is worth it. Seriously, One Direction would definitely do less damage, or at least damage that was somewhat less scatological. Probably.

I'm feeling a little besieged, is all. The neighbourhood tomcat who beats up Hobbit is still prone to coming into the house at night to beat up Hobbit, play with his cat-toys, steal the catfood and spray all over the passage. (Where the hadedas crapped. I'm sensing a theme.) I'm sleeping with the bathroom window closed, which means my cats trying to get out or the tomcat trying to get in have to go through my bedroom window and over my recumbent form. This does seem to be excluding the tomcat quite usefully, hooray, even if it does necessitate 2am wake-ups as Hobbit launches heavily from my midriff. But clearly any open window is an invitation. Last night I was lying in bed playing Avengers Academy on my phone3, and I happened to look up at the curtain because my eye caught a slight movement of something dark against the dark green. And a massive spider, must have been 8-10cm across, came moseying out from behind it and across it like the hot contender in the World's Most Nonchalant Arachnoid heats.

This is, quite frankly, rude. Because one's body does that complete muscular lock-down thing, frozen in horror and with faint echoes of Dragon Age dialogue drifting across one's cerebellum4. During this involuntary play-dead manoeuvre the spider ambled unhurriedly on a dead level path across the curtain, and disappeared behind it. Then I lay there for the next hour, staring into the dark with eyes like the third dog from the tinderbox fairy tale, every fibre of my being tense, while scenarios play out endlessly: spider has fallen on the floor and is climbing up the bed leg and under the blankets. Spider has fallen on the floor and is climbing up the mosquito net to drop on me. Spider is climbing up the wall so it can fall on me from the ceiling. It's lurking on the curtain so it can fall on me when I forget about it and open the curtain in the morning. It's fallen on the floor and will run up my leg when I get out of bed. It's moseyed on out into the courtyard and I can go to sleep now. Really. Really. I can sleep now. Any time.

I eventually did, and it didn't leap out at me at any point during the night, but I find the fact of its complete disappearance suspicious. With any luck the nice cleaning lady will find it and chase it out into the courtyard, where a hadeda will eat it. Because apparently I have an ecosystem.



1 Oblivion re-play while waiting for Fallout 4 to download. The Shivering Isles are perfectly demented, but I'd forgotten how pretty they are.

2 Which in retrospect does explain why the cats spent the day attached to my ankles, lily-livered beasts.

3 This is a deliberate attempt to try and connect me more with my phone, which I forget to check or charge or bring half the time, and which would be long since dead if it were a tamagotchi. Judicious experimentation suggests that being able to make teen superheroes dance or fly or take selfies does indeed foster attachment. Go figure.

4 Cole: "Too many legs!". Dorian: "Just once, we should see normal-sized spiders!"

cold tired fingers

Monday, 4 April 2016 03:11 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Gawsh, this blog thing, I'd forgotten. It has been a Somewhat Medical couple of weeks, with the minor op for the Weird Finger Bump followed by a lurgi and a doozy of a glandular resurgence, which means I've been flattened and faintly choked for about ten days. Seriously, minor sinus/throat infection thingy and it feels as though a horde of inept vampires have been chewing on my neck, enthusiastically but without much actual skill. They are too fumbling to break the skin, but my current levels of flattenedness suggest they're draining blood by some sort of vampiric osmosis. I'm still somewhat exhausted, despite two full weeks featuring exactly two days of work. It really hasn't been an easy six months on campus, I think we're all feeling the tension.

On the upside, the Weird Finger Bump turns out to be a cartilage tumour, which is a benign/non-invasive thingy known technically as an enchondroma, which is a lovely word that bears repetition just for the monk-like chanting effect. Also, I'm associating it vaguely with camels, or possibly the inner wibbly bits of plant cells. I have a neat 3cm slash in my finger, which meekly dissolved its four stitches in a week and is otherwise inoffensive, although it was bloody and rather painful for the first week and large tracts of it were blue and yellow from bruising from the local. The hand, it transpires, is unduly full of nerve endings. On the upside this kind of tumour has a very low chance of recurrence. It has also been headed off at the pass from its purportedly characteristic party trick, which is to grow gently into the bone until it's exerting enough pressure to fracture it. Foiled! Foiled, I say!

I have, regrettably, been a complete and total hermit for the last two weeks, because exhaustion, and my apologies to all the lovely people I haven't seen much of. On the upside, I have played entirely through Knights of the Old Republic and about two thirds of the way through the sequel, which has contented the Star Wars jonesing more than somewhat, and has incidentally revealed the following:
  1. Narrative clearly trumps graphics any day, these are really old games with really clunky visuals, and I'm still absorbed. I have also recently played Bioshock 3 and Dishonoured, both of which are really pretty, and neither of which I have finished because bored and railroaded. Or, in the case of Dishonoured, undue up-front fridging.
  2. I am at a level of expertise with these games where I recognise the actors' voices (because Bioware really has recurring favourites they keep using from game to game) within about half a sentence. Since they have cunningly seeded the love interests with the voices of, respectively, Kaidan and Cullen, my two go-to romances from ME and DA, I'm basically doomed, romancing anyone else feels like infidelity. On the upside: Carth.
  3. Dear sweet whistling Chadra-Fan, but the plot of KOTOR2 is a hot mess. It really has too much plot, insufficiently controlled, and its quest structures bugged way beyond hell and gone. Not a quality construction, although productive of a certain player curiosity which propels one through the high levels of wtf in sheer curiosity as to how this whole insane edifice is ultimately going to shamble, clanking and groaning, to a conclusion. My prediction: bits will fall off.
  4. Lightsabers. LIGHTSABERS!!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)


I've been playing this as background music for the last couple of days, while doing anything except actually, you know, videogaming... and it's excessively lovely, a perfect confluence of two of my passions, gaming and classical music. These are full-on orchestral suites, beautifully arranged. As I type, Legend of Zelda is making me cry. They have an actual ocarina. I'd forgotten how much of that game allowed you to use a musical ear to short-cut the puzzles. Also, note to self, if they ever ported Zelda to PC I'd probably lose several years to playing the entire back catalogue.

The interesting thing, though, is how emotive I'm finding it even when I haven't played a lot of the games - in fact, Zelda is the first one in this sequence that I've actually played. But I still loved the other suites, Assassin's Creed, The Last Of Us, Journey and the Mario mix and all. I think this is an index of how game music is written - to be stirring, emotional, to figure the hero's journey, whether introspective or martial or whimsical, to embody the frequently beautiful landscapes of the gameworld. Like gaming itself, videogame music has to distil reality into an essentialised version of itself. Which means it packs a punch, to say the least.

The subject line is from "Beauty and the Beast", because I had to have something from the Heroes album.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Hooray, I appear to have mostly kicked this ridiculous bug, although it had some slightly excessive death throes yesterday, in that I spent the day with a thundering sinus headache and nausea. Felt like a hangover, actually, although I don't think I drank enough at dinner on Saturday night to merit an actual requires-hair-of-dog scenario. (Dinner on Saturday night was lovely, usual excellent food at Frere's, and Claire's New Man has been duly met and subjected to rigorous scrutiny. She's allowed to keep him, although we reserve the right to suppression in the Carrollian sense if he keeps on inspiring stv to new depths of awful pun.)

The weekend was rendered slightly surreal partly by the need to spend most of Sunday horizontal and not moving much (which the cats loved), and partly because I'm suffering Mass Effect romance angst (ME2, narked all over again by Kaidan dumping me, but can't work out if I want to romance Garrus or Thane in the resulting fit of pique1) but mostly by the fact that I upgraded my home computer to Windows 10 via their spanky and slightly pushy auto-update download thingy, and liked it. I am not generally a Windows fangirl, but the update process was ridiculously smooth and took under an hour to download, reinstall and update, all quietly to itself and with minimal intervention from me. And I really like the look and feel, it's clean and spare in a way that grooves my personal aesthetic ploons no end, and word on the street is that it's less of a resource hog than earlier versions, although admittedly that's not saying much because bloatware. Also, its boot-up chime is way cuter.

There was, of course, the inevitable moment of microhomicidal rage when the install initialised with a range of tickyboxes all defaulting to "send Windows all the deeply personal information all the time including shoe size, favourite brand of tea and fanfic kink preferences as well as everything else ever", but there's a certain vindictive satisfaction in unticking the whole damned lot of them. I do realise that it's probably still reporting on my cat-macro preferences, celebrity crushes and typing speed quietly in the background, but Windows. And the penalty of being an uncharacteristically early adopter (Robbi made me do it) is that Chrome is bugged for Win10, although I have cunningly circumvented its complete refusal to load by accidentally clicking on "open new window", upon which it loads normally like a lamb. *jazz hands* Computers!

In other news, it's Monday, but I have brightened the morning by typing up a beautifully concise, pointed and slightly bitey rebuke to a more than usually flaky student who's been attending courses blithely all semester without actually being registered for them. Apparently she expected the actual admin realities to gradually coalesce out of the air and settle on her, like dandruff. In addition to the administrative satisfaction inherent in booting her off campus, it's calm and quiet and rainy after way too much sun and heat this weekend, and I have Earl Grey and a slice of coffee walnut cake, and a new coat my mother made for me, and I'm almost not snuffling at all any more. Also, this epic Twitterquest was still open in a tab from last week, and it made me laugh all over again. I'll take it.

(My subject line is a more than usually convolutedly related Inquisition reference which I shall leave in beautiful obscurity because I am Mysterious, or possibly too lazy to explain the multiple layered points of tangential semi-logic.)

1I'm very fond of Thane, but have a sneaking suspicion that going for the doomed tragic assassin is possibly a little self-destructive. Although at least it's not Jack. Or Morinth. In other news from The Department Of Computer Gaming As Therapy, I expect to grow as a person any moment now.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I spent the weekend, as threatened, playing the latest Inquisition DLC, with rather more swearing than usual. This was because (a) I've been playing Mass Effect for the last month, and all my finger-twitches are habituated to big guns and biotics and using the space bar to interact rather than pause, and (b) because the latest Inquisition DLC is hardcore. It's all Deep Roads, caverns and underground cities and what have you, and you spend the first half of it being beaten up by hordes of Darkspawn, and the second half being beaten up by hordes of <spoilers> who have particularly nasty abilities in terms of <spoiler> and <spoiler>.

There was an especially bad set of curses at the point where the nasty, lengthy combat chipping away at the two rather ferociously indestructible <spoilers> ended with one of them, down to the last tiny fragment of health bar, falling through a glitchy bit of wall and getting stuck behind it so I couldn't finish them off, and I had to reload the damned combat and replay it four times before I managed to circumnavigate the glitch. (By dint of equipping my two tanks with the hook and chain thingy, gradually dragging the two bad guys out of the area and holding them away from the walls with static cage while we hacked at them. I confess to a certain vindictive satisfaction when the second one finally fell.) But it was at this point that I also realised why a moderately demanding DLC was ending up with me or my party down several times a combat and utterly out of healing potions: because (a) I was playing with the difficulty level at Hard rather than Normal or Casual, and (b) because this was my pacifist Inquisitor.

My difficulty level has been set at Hard for the last two games, despite my general lack of interest in heavy combat, because after the mumbleteenth replay of the same game I am so damned good at the tactics that combat was neither challenging nor enjoyable. And the pacifist Inquisitor is a combination of genuine roleplaying interest with sheer bloody-mindedness. I'm playing a human mage, which means a Circle origin - i.e. I've spent my life locked up in a mage tower learning magic while Templars breathe down my neck to make sure I'm not summoning demons. Magic in this world is heavily controlled, and I found myself wondering how likely it was that a mage would emerge from the Circle with any experience at all of combat magic. Because Dangerous and Bad and Templars wouldn't approve, surely? The most likely character trend would be towards academic geekiness and abstract or practical rather than combat spells. So my mental commentary at the start of the game constructed my Inquisitor as being horrified by the combat and somewhat violated at the idea of using magic - which is a very internal, personal sort of energy, I'd think - to kill stuff. And I developed her as far as possible without combat spells.

This was tricky, but possible - lots of support (barriers, resurrection, dispel, the whole spirit hog) and containment rather than damage (static cage, ice mine, etc.) I went ice rather than fire or electricity, as being less violently energetic, and eventually, and slightly counter-intuitively, developed her as a necromancer - i.e. animating already-dead corpses and scaring people off with Horror rather than destroying them directly. I also, in sheer self-defence, because you really can't be non-combat entirely in this sort of game, made the assumption that using a staff was a reasonable distancing mechanism, killing with a weapon rather than with your own life-force. The upshot being that she's fairly good at support but hopeless if anything gets close, hence the frequent dying. It was an interesting play-through, particularly in the demanding DLC setting, and interesting to see that it is possible to angle the game towards specific and slightly more coherent role-playing choices.

Of course, to play a demanding, combat-oriented DLC with a pacifist Inquisitor on Hard difficulty is sheer cussedness. I cop to the sheer cussedness. Possibly with pride.

My subject line is Death Cab for Cutie, a song which is a bizarre and idiosyncratic mix of sappy romantic with morbid. Fairly appropriately: if I have to spend a weekend following things into the dark while dying frequently, I have to say that this DLC is simply beautiful, especially in the lower levels where it's all dark blue shot through with lyrium veins, and in the final area which is <spoiler> and <spoiler> and generally exquisite.

freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I'm not quite sure what it suggests, that we (or at least Jo) are apparently on hugging terms with the maître-d of Overture, which is the very nice five-star restaurant on the Hidden Valley wine estate in Stellenbosch. I mean, we know the staff because we go there at least once a year, and they always say welcome back and nice to see you again with a degree of enthusiasm which says they're either genuinely happy to see us or are very well trained - possibly both. They know us well enough to bring extra bread so we can mop up the sauces (that delectable parmesan thing on the oxtail crêpe, for example). And while they no longer do the wine pairing which was hitherto such a marvellous feature of their menus, the nice maîitre-d is always very happy to suggest suitable wines for our various choices, and the single "carafe" we ordered of that lovely chenin was suspiciously free-flowing for far longer than it really should have been, I think he nipped out back and refilled it while we weren't looking. Also, note to self, the Hidden Valley shiraz blend is ace, obtain more. Hidden Secret, I think. Yum.

Overture is a favourite hang-out because it's always a really good experience, and any food they serve can be ranked on the scale of very good, really damned good, amazingly good and wow my tastebuds just exploded in a good way. And damn the expense. It's worth it. Also, I have discovered that my superhero ability appears to be "reliably order the best thing on the menu", putting me mostly at the head of the field in our informal fork-sharing comparisons. That vanilla souffle, mmmmm. Also, while it sounds unlikely, the gnocci with roasted mushrooms and smoked aubergine pâté. I don't know what they did to the mushrooms - portabellini which I think were slow-roasted so they were slightly dried and a concentrated mushroom taste explosion of note. Must try at home.

Today's lunchtime jaunt was additionally pleasant because it was a weekday, stv and I both took a day off work just because, and I at least was sitting in the winelands imbibing quality food and booze instead of wrestling through the thickets of HR-speak which have characterised large tracts of my week. (My Cherished Institution's HR department has the bit severely between its teeth in the performance-review area and is burying everyone in labyrinths of over-documented, overly positivist HR jargon of the worst description. SMART measures. Aspirational career goals. Objective-centred self-evaluation. My boss called my role "student-facing" in cold blood yesterday. While carefully stashing the term towards my ongoing efforts in linguistically role-playing, with some verve, the kind of person who actually takes this shit seriously, I nearly bit her.)

It's probably a good thing, all things considered, that I solved one minor mystery just before jo&stv came to collect us for the Overture jaunt. I lost Pandora this morning. She's settled in very happily and seems to be an entirely self-confident and autocratic bundle of affection nicely balanced with demand (preferred affection mode: headbutt me violently in chin, or preferably in mug of tea), but for about half an hour this morning she redefined herself as an intermittent and disembodied meeping. I could not find her. I thought she might have been stuck on the roof or something, because I opened every cupboard I could think of to check if I'd shut her inside, and nope.

Eventually, careful triangulation led to the kitchen, where she'd managed to get herself shut in the spice cupboard, which I hadn't checked because there's simply no space for her. It has three shelves which pull out with the door, and they're stacked with jars and boxes and what have you, and completely fill the cupboard when the door's closed; she must have climbed into the space behind the shelves when I opened the cupboard to refill the salt, and I have no idea how she folded herself up small enough to fit when I madly closed it again without noticing her. Possibly the usual feline pocket dimension. The one which allows them to walk through walls. Except, apparently, cupboard walls. I'm a bit tetchy on the cat subject because poor Hobbit was badly beaten up last night by the beastly neighbourhood tom, and is all subdued and sporting a notch on his ear, having left a swathe of orange fur on the pavement outside the front door. If I'd accidentally bent, bont and splugged Pandora by leaving her stuck in the cupboard for four hours while we made merry, I would have felt considerably worse than terrible, and inclined to doubt my cat-parenting skills on all fronts.

Anyway. You were warned about the flow of consciousness. My subject line is of course Omar Khayyam, not for the first time. Overture was lovely, Hobbit is much less subdued, and Pandora seems to have entirely forgiven me. I have just downloaded the new Inquisition DLC and propose to spend most of the weekend hacking my way joyously through the Deep Roads. (With a pacifist Inquisitor, which will be interesting, apparently it's fairly intense fighting). Today was OK. I'll take it.

medium armour rating

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:24 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I had supper with jo&stv the other night, and Jo had recently acquired a cuddly and slightly Cubist blue velvet elephant approximately the size of an actual toddler, i.e. large enough for its trunk to curl lovingly around your neck when you hug it. Apparently I give off a "needs hugs" vibe, because after I'd spent the entirety of watching Interstellar ferociously embracing said elephant, she insisted on donating it to me wholesale. Now I have a blue velvet elephant. My lovely cleaning lady Margaret, who also works for the aforementioned jo&stv, appears to be somewhat taken with said blue velvet elephant, to the point where she invariably and meticulously centres it on my bed after she's made it, regardless of the fact that I habitually cluster it with my plush Cthulhu and fluffy snowy owl on the chest in the corner. (I'm really not a stuffed toy person. Those I retain have particular and specific meaning and have been given to me by particular and specific people, and their function is more memorial than adorable. They thus don't generally merit bed-space, even supposing I actually were an actual teenage girl.)

Jo and I theorise that Margaret is familiar with said blue velvet elephant from its initial days in their house, and is merely externalising her sense of its multi-household significance.



I have christened him Dorian, via an entirely logical if somewhat opaque process which will only make sense to anyone who plays Inquisition and shares my aesthetic, crafting and party composition proclivities to a reasonable extent. He really is the exact colour and texture of ring velvet. Presumably his Tier 2 additions to attack, willpower and electrical resistance will be of use when I need to apply hugs to my insomnia in the small hours of the morning.

I should add, for posterity, that the current Eskom incompetences manifested as load shedding, are particularly maddening to one whose current leisure hours are whiled away by computer gaming. Even though they're predictable under the fairly well-run load shedding schedules, the blackouts are putting a serious crimp in my gaming, and causing me to retreat into reading somewhat grumpishly. On the upside, I've read a lot recently. Reviews to follow.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Mostly my movie-watching life has been on hold lately, because Inquisition. Turns out there is no contest between gaming and watching DVDs: gaming wins. However, apparently the grip of the game loosens a bit when I'm on my, what, seventh or eighth play-through? So I have both gone to the movies, and watched some of the Pile of Unwatched Reproach, which is probably twenty DVDs high, in between navigating a Qunari mage through a by now incredibly familiar Thedas. Leading to a scorecard which looks something like this:

Big Hero 6. Disney animated thing with cute bulbous robot. It's a cute bulbous superhero film which I thoroughly enjoyed, because it's both cute and science-positive. Also, its deliberate rip-offs of Iron Man, among other films, are hilarious. Bonus cool swarms of evil microbots, cool nerd stereotypes and cool affirmations of non-violence. A-, because fluffy, but relegated to "probable comfort re-watch" pile.

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies. Um. Martin Freeman is still a tiny hobbitoid acting god. Bard wants to be Aragorn when he grows up, and probably could be. Thorin's downward spiral wasn't as heart-rending as I expected it to be, possibly I'm becoming old and cynical. Peter Jackson still suffers from irredeemably self-indulgent narrative bloat and completely inexplicable plot choices, and IMNSHO he stuffed up the actual battle something 'orrible. Wasted Fili and Kili's sacrifice, weird relocation of Thorin's confrontation to unnecessary and rather lame towers rather than the battlefield, and it made absolutely no tactical sense whatsoever. Did he run out of budget for background fighting? Also, no Bilbo shouting "The eagles are coming!", rotten swizz. B-, visually cool but overall strangely uncompelling, Martin Freeman notwithstanding.

Basil the Great Mouse Detective. This was, weirdly, teaching research, on account of how I'm teaching Sherlock again this year and am becoming unduly fascinated by the endurance of the Holmes/Watson mythic archetype across different iterations. This one has a classic Watson and a rather annoying Sherlock who has surprisingly large numbers of points in common with the current BBC one. Amazing how the tall&thin vs short&solid visual image is retained in so many versions. Entirely predicable Disney film in the slightly less accomplished pre-Aladdin mode. C, but will will show clips in class because the parallels are interesting.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Saw this on Sunday morning (about 10 people in the 9am showing, score!) in sheer self-defence because my Tumblr feed is trying to spoil me. I am entirely unable to say whether it's a good movie or not because my ships and personal headcanons have been so thoroughly Jossed that I'm all quivering with outrage, injury and sulk. I've read a lot of Avengers fanfic, and it turns out I'm really invested in the Avengers as they currently stand, and I want to keep on thinking of them like that, living together forever in Avengers Tower and fighting crime, not with the new team make-up going in the new direction. It was certainly a fun film, visually exciting, good character interaction, amazing fight choreography, but bleah. I decline to assign it a score on the grounds that I'm not reasonable about it. I spent most of Sunday unconscionably depressed and killing things in Inquisition with more than the usual levels of vindictive satisfaction. Phooey.

On the upside, they also gave us the new Star Wars trailer in big-screen 3-D, and it made me weepy. Apparently I'm imprinted on that universe, but also the new images are correctly gritty and feel like Star Wars in a way the prequels-we-do-not-mention did not. A new hope!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Apparently you can take the girl out of the SCA, but... If you don't read Mallory Ortberg, on The Toast or on Twitter, you should, she offers an extremely high class of batshit lateral. The latest of hers to do the rounds, Two Medieval Monks Invent Bestiaries, is a particularly fine specimen. The traditional Earl Grey was snorted through the traditional nasal appendage.

I am still at home with bronchitis and a lovely, hacking cough which causes Hobbit to dash terrified from the room at frequent intervals. My nice doctor has torn her hair slightly, prescribed an asthma pump, and booked me off for the whole week. I am playing an awful lot of Inquisition. Random investigation (occasioned by a weird game corruption which Teh Internets seem to think is the result of having too many different saved games) suggests that I am not, in fact, powering my way through a fourth playthrough (Qunari mage, female, romancing Josie), it's actually my seventh1. I appear have spent a certain proportion of the last few months playing Inquisition in a fugue state. Also, I am now good enough at the damned thing that I'm wandering through on an elevated difficulty visiting areas in the wrong order so I fight things a good 6 or 7 levels higher than I am, and I'm still cremating them with some efficiency.

Finally, this blew my mind. Metallica cover, plunging me straight back into my Honours year, aargh nostalgia. All-girl band. Aged 9 to 14. Watch the drummer in particular, she's bloody good and she rocks.



1 Human rogue (dual wield), female, Cullen; Elven mage (rift mage), female, Solas; Human mage (knight enchanter), famale, Cullen; Elven warrior (sword/shield), male, Dorian; Elven rogue (archer), female, Cullen; Human mage (knight enchanter), male, Dorian. I am not, apparently, compelled to monogamy as much as I am in other iterations of Bioware games, although there's a certain Cullen and Dorian theme emerging. This is because Inquisition is beautifully written, far more so than earlier DAs, and I genuinely like and respect a much higher proportion of these people. (Dorian is entirely endearing, and Cullen's character arc over three games is very nicely drawn; both achieve the balance of damaged/conflicted with likeable which earlier DAs have largely flubbed). Next up, Dwarven rogue, female, (dual wield, still my favourite class), probably Sera. Blackwall annoys me and Iron Bull is frankly terrifying.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Possibly all the Madness in the car is appropriate. Today I have to do early registration for 40 rugby players, who are all haring off on some sort of mad university-sanctioned rugby spree for which they need to be Official Students. Occasionally this job is surreal.

On the subject of surreal, have the utterly wonderful compilation which is Ursula Vernon live-tweeting her play through bizarre Japanese dating sims with post-apocalyptic genetically modified pigeons. No, really. I may have to look into dating sims, or at least this dating sim. Particularly since my Inquisition love interest has just ditched me rudely about two-thirds of the way through my third playthrough, and I'm feeling grumpy and rejected.

Yes, it is entirely possible I become too heavily invested in these games. One needs some sort of mental insulation from registering rugby players.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Oh, dear, board schedule season. I spent large chunks of the last four days going through a 2-cm thick wodge of student records, 700-odd students, all Social Science second-years, which is a technical term meaning they're not first-years and not about to graduate, so in practice could be in year 2, 3 or 4 of their studies. Purpose: to count up their courses and, indexing same against number of years of study according to a complicated table of my own devising based on the faculty rules, decide if they're allowed to continue their studies or not. This is a vital process which is carried out in multiple redundancy by a team of three academics and an admin person for each board schedule, and we compare notes and make a final decision.

Long-time readers of this blog will be sighing and thinking, oh gods, is it that time of year again? Because my annual rant on the subject of board schedule checking, how inelegant the system is, how bad academics are at it despite my best efforts to train them, how the WHOLE DAMNED THING SHOULD BE DONE BY A PROPERLY-PROGRAMMED COMPUTER, DAMMIT!, is something of a tradition. And all of the above still applies, please take the rant as read, or, for added verisimilitude, dig back through the blog for examples. (last year and 2010 are fairly entertaining.)

But something has shifted this year, possibly as a result of all this therapy. I'd estimate that about 10 hours of my life went into this year's schedule, and I'm very tired and not very well, but the truth is I didn't actually hate it while I was doing it. There's an analytic interest to it, seeing how these student did, spotting trends, conceptualising individual lives from the spread of marks over the years. Student records are surprisingly revealing, not just in their course choices and overall degree strategies, but in the way one can pinpoint turning points - here someone discovered a new major they loved and their results took off, here something awful happened and they fell off the map, this trailing degeneration is probably depression. And there's a certain pleasure in feeling my own command of the system, my ability to use it elegantly and with precision. Possibly I am becoming reconciled to this job, more willing to adopt it as an identity rather than as a thing I do reluctantly and solely to keep Hobbit in the style to which he is accustomed.

The this-wasn't-terrible was in spite of the fact that I'm also still bloody sick, sigh, suggesting that the weekend before last was a precursor - Wednesday last week was a dead loss, some sort of viral thingy which flattened me with nausea and one of those damned headaches which simply won't quite regardless of how many painkillers you throw at it. I'm still very tired and very glandular and drifting into nausea and headache at add intervals, which suggests that whatever virus it was has prodded the glandular fever with a stick and it's up and prowling. (The ten minutes I spent reading through my board schedule rants for the last few years has also revealed that I seem to be headachy and unwell with suspicious predictability at this time of year. It's the end of the year, I'm tired, I'm stressed, I suppose it's inevitable.)

Fortunately there's Inquisition with which to while away my evenings while all of the above enacts itself upon my hapless form. Inquisition is HUGE! Andraste's knickers, there's a lot of it. That initial 15 hours of so of play are really the introductory first act, things really get going in the second act. It's still beautiful, and varied, and lovingly detailed, and the not-quite-open-world only drives me demented occasionally. I don't seem to respond too well to being told, via unclimbable cliffs or sulphur swamps, that You Shall Not Pass. But the character interactions have stepped up, and I'm finding these people interesting, likeable and frequently poignant - I don't think it's just my generally lowered state which is responsible for the fact that the companion interactions occasionally make me cry. And the sexual politics so far has managed to be surprisingly enlightened and sensitive. They can be taught, apparently.

(Still ambling through Eurythmics in the car. "Love Is A Stranger" is probably my favourite track of theirs for all time.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Well, that was lateral. Apparently last week's continual student demands + a three-hour session training curriculum advisors had a sneak build-up exhaustion effect, because I was completely wiped out this weekend. Saturday morning was fine, pottered around, talked to the cat, played some Inquisition, went out to do some shopping, hit Saturday crowds, and the wheels fell off. I can't handle crowds when I'm tired. I get shaky, and wibbly, and headachy, and want to crawl under my bed and never come out. I ended up cancelling both social engagements this weekend (sorry, nice people, I'm feeble) and actually napping on the sofa for a couple of hours on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, much to the delight of Hobbit. (Recumbent human forms are clearly designed expressly as Hobbit-cushions, and induce sprawling and purring to excessive levels. Also biting, although somewhat lovingly). I never sleep in the afternoons unless I'm ill, but actually I think I'm a bit ill. Apparently this is a glandular resurgence, judging by the state of my neck (the Blunt-Toothed Vampire Nibbling effect). Phooey.

I also played much less Inquisition than I would otherwise have, because it's new and quite demanding and requires concentration which I don't really have right now. However, sufficient Inquisition was played that I can report the following:
  1. Inquisition still pretty. Ye gods, it's beautiful. The texturing and detail and the vividness of the different settings are quite something, I'm becoming wonderfully lost in these lovely landscapes. And it's huge. The whisper flies across social media somewhat repetitively - a lot of players are slightly intimidated by the scale. The sections sprawl in beautiful open-world profusion, although with possibly excessive levels of mini-quest grinding.
  2. Inquisition varied. The designers have apparently taken to heart the consistent player crit of Dragon Age II, which was the insultingly repetitive nature of the settings: rather than being all the same dungeon/bit of shoreline/house, they are all madly different and individual. And pretty. I approve. (Played bits of the Deep Roads yesterday - exquisite).
  3. The open-worldness is coupled with a completely marvellous and happy-making innovation, which is that structures and caves are not separate areas, you wander from one into the other without a loading screen, in one giant, open world. I cannot sufficiently express how wonderful this is. It suddenly and weirdly ups the realness factor in spades. (Which is just as well, as generally the wretched thing takes ages to load).
  4. Inquisition has ripped off its initial theme music wholesalely and unabashedly from that Billy Boyd song he sings to Denethor in Two Towers. Honestly: the first two and a half bars are pretty much identical. This seems to be a theme in video games - Skyrim steals theirs from Pirates of the Caribbean. I suspect this is a deliberate ploy to bolster recognition and identification.
  5. Inquisition all bloody wonderful, but not entirely Dragon Age: currently it feels like a rather more politically detailed and better voice-acted version of Skyrim. (And not just because the crafting is interesting). Companions feel a bit perfunctory, with to date no detailed mini-quests through which they join the party - they're just kinda there as a fait accompli. I haven't met any new ones yet, either. And so far they don't have huge amounts of personality. Reserving judgement a bit on this one, maybe it's just a slow start, but I right now it feels as if they've put even less effort into the companions than they did in DAII. Which is sad.

The Great Car Music Trek has catapulted me with alphabetical insouciance from early Eurythmics (Be Yourself Tonight) to late (Peace), which is entertaining because the first song on Peace is "17 Again", which is a direct engagement by an older, wiser and more cynical Eurythmics with their brash early days. I have completely ear-wormed myself with "I Saved The World Today", which is ridiculous catchy and causes outbreaks of singing in the corridors. Subject line accordingly. I'm a bit dead this morning.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Some early impressions of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I have played for about six hours today, with a break in the middle to go and upgrade my computer. (New graphics card, more RAM, now it doesn't give everyone plastic hair and the graphics have stopped with the momentary freezing. The fact that I am in a stage of life where I can randomly and wantonly go and spend a couple of thousand rand on an essentially inessential upgrade just because I feel like it, still fills me with wonder.)

  1. Inquisition pretty. And far more open-world, hooray.
  2. Story interesting, world-building ditto. Thedas politics is always pleasingly chewy.
  3. Combat seriously unpleasant. They've done away with auto-attack and click to move, which means you have to button-mash horribly. In my case, particularly horribly, because I suck at it.
  4. ALL CODICES AND JOURNAL ENTRIES ARE IN ALL CAPS IT'S DRIVING ME COMPLETELY ROUND THE TWIST!
  5. I have played for six hours and just finished the intro section. I'm not sure what this bodes, but it definitely bodes.

In a completely characteristic attack of the Cosmic Wossnames, my weekend is filled with social commitments. Notwithstanding this minor impediment, I should imagine that further dispatches from the inquisitorial front will almost certainly follow.

(My car music has moved on to the Eurythmics, which is appropriate given my fondness for her kick-butt contralto and my inevitable gaming tendency to play kick-butt women. Hence subject line.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I had an outbreak of Summer on Tuesday and madly encouraged the nice hairdresser man to chop my hair short, in the interests of getting it the hell off the back of my neck. It's now a shortish bob, which as per usual I will defiantly refuse to blow-dry at any price, and which will thus never look quite as sleek and grown-up as it does when I leave the salon. I've noticed a bizarre thing, though. Yesterday and today have been filled with colleagues being ridiculously and uncharacteristically chatty at me. They bounce into my office to discuss minor points, they engage me in conversation while I'm swearing gently at the photocopier, they laugh at my involuntary word-play in meetings. (I am incapable of professional meeting language. There will be play, and often metaphor, high-coloured, for the use of. Mostly people just look blank.)

I am driven to the conclusion that this haircut is possibly (shudder) ... cute. At any rate, it seems to make me more approachable. I'm toying with the idea of seeing what black-rimmed hipster spectacles do to the effect.

A quick public service announcement: the PC version of Dragon Age: Inquisition is released tomorrow. I pre-ordered it from Origin, on the grounds that it was half the price of the disc version on Loot for the deluxe edition and comes with Cool Bonus Stuff. They opened it for preload on Monday, and, the cardboard-and-string internets of our beloved country being what they are, I have been gently downloading it in the background (and swearing at the resulting slow loads of Tumblr gifs) ever since. We were at about 82% this morning. The gods willing and the geeks don't rise (or the damned cat doesn't climb on the keyboard in my absence and accidentally halt the download again), it should be finished just in time for official scratch-off tomorrow. I shall thereafter vanish into obsessive Dragon Age companion-flirting with a muffled squeak, probably for the next few weeks. Or months. Posts, and actual human interaction, may be a little thin on the ground, and unduly dragon-flavoured. Don't take it personally. With any luck they won't fumble the dismount as badly as they did in Mass Effect 3...

The car music system is still with the Death Cab. We're now in Transatlanticism, which I think is the last album I have on this player. I must acquire more Death Cab, I only have about three of them, and You Can Play These Songs With Chords is worth it for the title alone. For the record, my subject line is from "Expo '86".

pity the child

Thursday, 18 September 2014 11:17 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out at the end of November, and in the twitchy, anticipatory interim, having played Origins and II obsessively for a few months, I need something to fill the void. This has led to some slightly experimental gaming, most recently: Gone Home, and Papo & Yo.

Gone_Home

Gone Home was a tip from Jo: it isn't really a game so much as it's an interactive narrative that requires you to construct the story, bit by bit, from the information you find. You're returning to visit your family, but when you arrive, no-one's there. You wander around the house looking at things, and the pattern of events emerges gradually from the information you're given. It's not hugely sophisticated, but the sense of agency you have in building up the narrative is satisfying, and it plays very nicely with narrative expectation and trope. You continually skirt markers of horror or tragedy or melodrama, and then skitter away again; I kept thinking I knew what was going on, only to realise that it wasn't doing the clichéd thing I'd thought it was. Also, it's a period piece, deliberately pre-cell-phones or internet; it's frankly amazing to realise the nostalgic emotional charge behind a mix tape. This was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours of not-quite-gaming. Recommended.

PaPo-Yo

I picked up Papo & Yo from a mention on Anna Sarkesian's excellent Tropes vs Women series, where she deconstructs the nastier misogynies of computer games; this was a counter-example. Papo & Yo is a puzzle game with minor platformer elements, although fortunately the bits where you have to jump between floating things are minimal and only gave me a few minutes of annoyance. (I'm incredibly bad at jumping between floating things, or pillars, or anything where you have to land neatly on a small area and then take off again. I think my real-life klutz tendencies give me Issues).

The game follows a young Brazilian boy as he negotiates a dreamlike urban setting made up of slum-like shacks but largely devoid of people, and curiously pastel and beautiful; his companion, a giant monster, is alternately oblivious and monstrous, and operates as a deliberate, poignant and extremely effective metaphor for child abuse by an alcoholic father-figure. The monster is both the challenge and part of the problem; you occasionally negotiate the puzzles by manipulating the monster so you can use his weight to trigger pressure plates, or bounce off his stomach, but he becomes a flaming, rampaging, horrible thing under the influence of the alcohol-metaphor. It's a fascinating playing experience because the occasional violence is entirely non-instrumental in game terms - you are thrown around and trampled but damage is not recorded in any formal way - yet is somehow infinitely more awful and disturbing than the more concrete and conventional kind which whittles down your hit-points.

Despite this, the game utterly charmed me. Its puzzles are entertaining and frequently whimsical, with glowing bits of string pulling buildings around and houses randomly growing legs or wings; its mood is gentle and full of a child-like delight and wonder at its own environment; and its conclusion, the exact antithesis of a boss-battle, is thoughtful and genuine enough to have moved me to tears. I loved this. Loved, loved, loved it. Play it if you're into puzzle games and haven't already; the PC version is on Steam. [livejournal.com profile] wolverine_nun, I'm probably looking at you.

(I am horrified to note, from my subject line, that the musical Chess appears to have imprinted me in early teenagerhood and cannot be eradicated. Stupid ridiculously catchy Abba writers.)

Tags

Page generated Thursday, 27 April 2017 05:08 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit