Game Review of Destiny on PS4

Destiny PS4

I don’t normally review games. In fact my only blog post on games was about the story for the Agent class in Starwars Galaxies (SWG). I had planned on writing a similar post about Destiny as I knew it was going to be worthwhile but my love of this game has got in the way.

My initial plan was to do nothing else other than go through the story arc on my own and then explore the rest of the game. I started playing on my own as was instantly immersed in the story. The tutorial if you can call it that starts with you running and quickly moves in to shooting and punching just to survive. It was quite intense. I’m now lvl 25 and parts of the game are still intense. There was a level of this game that involves no player interaction at all. Just a long scene. It sounds crap and it shouldn’t have worked but it did. There was a point to every cut-scene. The dialogue and the voice acting were of a quality that impelled you to watch and listen. The only negative for me is that so far the story dialogue does not alter if the player starts again with another class and so running through for the third time may get a little tiresome.

Visually this game was breathtaking. I created a second character just so I could watch the opening sequence again. Yes I know that was sad but I enjoyed it just as much. This has been my first next-gen game and if this has been any kind of indicator then there are great things to come. The soundtrack played an important role in my enjoyment of this game. As you approach a boss the music score ramps up the tension and I could feel my heart beating faster. These things combined to make this a truly enjoyable gaming experience.

As I said earlier I started out planning to run through the story. Then I started exploring. I ran around the open-world doing little Patrol missions just to get a feel for the worlds and then I spent way too much time in the team player versus player (PvP) games. Like Halo before it there is an Unreal Tournament feel to the PvP. This is a good thing. I’m too old for twitch gaming so I had to rely on cunning to get any kind of a decent score. I’m love to see an instant kill fusion rifle only mode harking back to the Insta-gib days. The jump and glide system is similar to Halo and gives a three dimensional feel to some of the levels. Death from above is really satisfying.

Destiny is not without a few niggling issues though. It is a hybrid first-person shooter and MMO. That means things like item farming and drop rates are always going to be an issue. Personally I’m all for rare stuff being genuinely rare and hard to get hold of. It was frustrating to have five legendary drops in a row all become rare items but it made that time a legendary pop seem all that more special. According to the next patch notes this will be tweaked this week. Even the patch notes for this game have been well done. The author of the final copy is obviously a gamer and has added a little humour to help us empathize with the developers. More importantly though they are clear and easy to read patch notes.

There is a lot of open-world but there is not a complete planet to traverse. I have wandered off the map a few times. There will be more content. There are rumours that Destiny has a ten year story arc. How many games that will cover is not clear but there are at least two sets of downloadable content (DLC) to purchase already. Personally I’d like to see a more detailed list of contents for these before I pay out nearly the cost of another game (but I probably will). The public events are an interesting idea that reminds me of the early days in Ultima Online (UO). Although the ones I’ve seen have only been small there is the potential for these to become epic battles that little the surface with piles of Fallen (pun intended).

Overall I’d say that this game has more in common with SWG than it does with Halo. I’d rather play this hybrid than either of the other two. Destiny is a well thought out game that will only mature and develop over the next year or two. I certainly don’t expect to be trading my copy in any time soon.

You Are The Hero by Jonathan Green

You Are The Hero by Jonathan Green

As soon as I heard about the Kickstarter project to create this book I was on-board instantly. For me this is a validation of my youth. A way to explain how I became the person I am today. I imagine my face was a little like those of the first monks to see a Gutenberg bible. I’ve seen one and regardless of what you think about the content they are amazing.

This book was supposed to be a paperback. Having received my stunning hardback I can’t imagine it having been printed any other way. The quality of this book started with the cover and continued throughout. I love the cover and how it took me back to my childhood grabbing the latest book from the library. Before reading this book I took half an hour or so just flicking through the pictures. OK so I have done the same thing two or three times since then.

The importance of the Fighting Fantasy series has been underplayed for a long while. Reading this book made me consider not just the impact they had on me but on the entertainment industry. When I was young and reading these books I was also a gamer. Back then whether it was a book or a game everything was linear. Every single story led game had one clear route. Then came Fighting Fantasy. Other kids like me (but more talented) took their experiences and love of choices to make games with multiple routes and a split narrative. Would we have had games like Fable 3 without Fighting Fantasy? Maybe but in my opinion it would probably have been a few years later. For me these books were an important part of my self-discovery and will always hold a special place in my heart.

I have always had trouble explaining the books to people that have never played them. Now though I can lend them my weighty tome so that they can learn for themselves. I hadn’t realized how much I didn’t know about the series until I read this. I might have to see if I can get hold of some to go through with my youngest.

This book was obviously a labour of love and Jonathan Green’s efforts have resulted in an outstanding book. It may not be cheap but it is worth every penny.

Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story by Vanessa Gebbie

Short Circuit by Vanessa Gebbie

A lot of books about the art and craft of writing have very uninspiring covers. From bearded academics to meaningless out of focus shots. This cover makes a refreshing change. At first glance if it just a head with cogs grinding away. The more you look at it the more symbolism pops out of you. It helps that this is a nice sized book that really shows off the cover art.

I love short stories. A great one is a perfectly formed effortless read. They look so simple, so easy. Surely anybody could write a decent one with a minimum of effort. It turned out that writing short fiction that flows is a damn sight harder than it looks. This was the position from which I bought this book.

First things first. This book is not going to explicitly state a definitive way to do anything. You will not become a best selling author just from reading this book. What this book does give you are some extra tools. One of the key lessons that gets repeated is that reading is key. Targeted reading if possible. Each contributor to this book has put a selection of their favourite short stories at the end.  I have put together a list based on recommendations in this book for further reading. That was instant win for me.

For me the structure of this book worked really well. There are discreet sections by the various contributors. Each section starts with an informative and easy to follow description that succinctly demonstrates the title of the section. Some books would stop and be happy with that, but this one goes further. At the end of each section there are exercises that help build on the points made. Some are as simple as getting you to think of a situation and twisting it in a certain direction. They are simple and yet highly effective in getting the reader to think and imagine something they had not thought of before. The bits I wasn’t so sure about I could look at the recommended list of short stories by the author of that section and get a better idea of what they were talking about.

Although I read this story from cover to cover I think the most benefit can be gained from dipping in and out of it as needed. I found this to be an inspiring read and already have post-it notes adorning several pages.

Interview With Joan De La Haye

Joan De La Haye

I haven’t had an interview on my blog for a while. It is too much like interacting with real people for me. On the other hand I usually enjoy author interviews. My curiosity won out. Joan De La Haye is a really interesting writer. I love the slight cultural differences that I pick up reading her books but most importantly I really enjoy her storytelling. Requiem in E Sharp in particular is well worth a read. I hope you enjoy Joan’s answers as much as I did.

Q. How would you describe your writing and who does it appeal to (other than me)?

A. I guess I would describe it as being dark and a bit twisted. I tackle difficult subject matters and my books don’t tend to be for the faint of heart. So I think my books would probably appeal to people who like to be pushed out of their comfort zones.

Q. I was surprised to see a South African writer using Wicca in a story. I’d assumed it was mainly a British and American thing (shows what I know). You commented on my review that there is Wicca in South Africa. How does it fit in with more traditional South African tribal culture?

A. South Africa has so many different cultures. We have eleven official languages. And, surprisingly, Wicca has a few similarities with traditional African witchcraft. And some wicca covens do incorporate some of those traditions, while others stick to more Gardnarian traditions. You’d be surprised by how many wicca covens you’d find here in South Africa. While I was in my early twenties I spent a couple years with one in Johannesburg. Was an interesting time for me.

Q. Cover Art. I love wrap-around covers and I think the Tarot cards on Burning work really well. The cover to Requiem in E Sharp was a perfect Kindle screensaver and I had it on mine for a while. How much input do you have in to the cover art and what do you like to see in a cover?

A. I’m so glad you like my covers! Adele Wearing, my awesome publisher, actually gives me quite a lot of say in my covers. Dave Johnson, who did the cover for Burning and Shadows, actually reads my books and comes up with a whole bunch of concepts which Adele and I get to choose from. Adele and I have a discussion on what we’re both looking for and what we prefer, then whittle it down to one or two cover ideas. If we have trouble choosing between them we get Dave to wade into the discussion. He then does the final cover, which always manages to blow our minds.

Q. It is shameless plug time. Why should we read your latest book Burning?

A. Because it’s awesome!
And there’s sex and witches …
And things on fire literally and figuratively …
What more could you ask for?

Q. What goodies do you have in the wings for the near future?

A. I’m busy working on a novel called Fury. A young girl is brutally murdered and comes back to take revenge on those responsible. Should be fun to write.
And there’s Tales of the Mouse and Minotaur and The Monster Book coming out soonish … I think … from Fox Spirit Books with short stories from me in them. I’m rather looking forward to those being out and about.
I’ve also got a story in 221 Baker Streets which is being released by Abaddon in October.

Q. If you could put on a skin mask and be somebody for a day who would you choose and why?

A. To be honest I’m quite attached to my own skin and don’t feel the need to try anybody else’s on for size. Other people’s lives may look good from the outside, but I think the moment you put their skin on, you realise that everybody has their own crap to deal with and I’d rather deal with mine than somebody else’s.

Q. You’re stuck on a desert island and you only have five books to read. Which five would you choose and why?

A. This is a tough one. There are so many amazing books out there, but that being said …
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Misery by Stephen King
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A Games of Thrones by George R R Martin (I’d probably sneak the rest of the books in the series onto the island when you weren’t looking)
These are probably my favourite books and I think everybody should read them at least once in their lives.

Thanks for answering my questions Joan and good luck with Burning.

Wake Up, Time To Die by Chris Rhatigan

Wake Up, Time To Die by Chris Rhatigan

Some book covers have spectacular covers and some are just terrible. This one is neither. I call this a Ronseal cover. It does what it says on the tin. Or in this case the cover gave me a good idea of the twisted and bloody crime noir contained inside.

I like hard-hitting stories, especially the kind that has an odd slant to it. These stories are seriously weird. Most elements of these stories are perfectly normal and expected within the genre and that is the rub. Everything seems as it should until you get slapped in the face with a wet kipper. There were several points where I exclaimed in public places whilst reading this book. Bill Gates holding up convenience stores for the adrenaline rush stunned me but nowhere near as much as the was that The Boss ends the story. Yes you did just read that. Bill Blinking Gates is a gun-toting nutcase in that story.

This collection shouldn’t work as noir. It should come across as too silly. I’ve read most of the stories twice and I still can’t understand how the author managed to maintain the gravitas I’d expect in this kind of book. I found myself thinking about the stories and the writing for several days after I finished this book. It is well worth a read and a great example of subject being less important than the quality and voice of the storyteller.

Locke & Key welcome To Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke & KeyI saw this cover from half way across the shop and made a bee-line towards it. A flashing neon sign saying buy me would have been less likely to draw me in. A creepy looking house with an interesting looking key what wasn’t to love? Having Welcome To Lovecraft in the title makes it pretty clear what kind of story lies inside.

For me the mark of a good Lovecraftian tale has always been the way that normal horrors are blended with paranormal ones. For large parts of this story it was easy to forget that there was any supernatural elements involved. I got lost in the story and characters. So much so that I barely even noticed how long I was just staring at some of the stunning artwork. There is one page in particular where the young Bode draws his school holiday. It is perfectly rendered. Every aspect is how I have seen similar things from my kids. The obvious differences being the lack of horrific murders and out of body experiences. Even if you don’t want to read this book I’d recommend looking at that page. The rest of the artwork was also enthralling. After I finished reading this book I went back through it ignoring the words and just looking at the pictures.

This story was dripping with pain and anguish. The deeper story was only hinted at but I just have to find out more.

I have to buy the second part of this story. It has really tickled my fancy.

Breed by K. T. Davies

Breed by K. T. DaviesThis cover is rather underwhelming. I textured physical cover like the limited edition Salamanders book that Black Library put out would work amazingly on this book. Somehow the cover works. There is something about the simplicity that draws the eye and make the bright orange scales really pop. What I really like though is the attention to detail. Rather than a quote attributed to a modern author it credits Voltaire. That made me chuckle and instantly want to open the book.

]Of course opening the book was never going to be an issue for me. I am yet to read anything by K. T. Davies that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. No pressure then. I was a little confused during part of this book as I thought I’d read it before. There is a very similar scene regarding the demon in another book by the same publisher. That scene aside these are very different books but both enjoyable.

At first glance this is a very simple book with not a lot of though process required. It wasn’t until I finished reading the book that I realized that I didn’t have a clue as to the gender of the main character Breed. Just Breed. The half-breed. The outcast. That’s how I viewed the character all the way through. That made me stop and pause for a while. I’ve not thought about mixed heritage characters for ages. That made me reflect Tanis Half-Elven the first mixed race character I ever really thought about in that way. Anything that makes me think of my first fantasy obsession is a good thing.

This story is really easy to read and is easy to relate to. There were moments where I laughed out loud. The cursing is at times highly creative. I had to look-up what scut meant. We live and learn. If you want an easy to read and enjoy fantasy story that manages to think about the world we live in without impacting your enjoyment this is a great read. I will be looking out for more gems from this author.