SHORT REVIEW THE FIRST: Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee. Funny story about this book: it’s the second in a series that is going to run at least three books– I think the third one was just formally announced– but it was the first one I bought because occasionally I’m an idiot. One of the disadvantages of ordering damn near everything I read from Amazon is that once in a very long while I order a sequel to a book I haven’t read without realizing it.
So, anyway: the first book? I three-starred it, once I ordered and read it, mostly because I couldn’t wrap my head around the technology in the book to save my damn life (all of the tech in the book depends on a common understanding of the calendar, except fifty times more complicated and weird and unique than that sounds) and as a result I didn’t get the book all that well. It was one of those things where I didn’t blame the book– it’s not the book’s fault that it’s smarter than me– but I wasn’t looking forward to the sequel.
Well, despite still not really being able to wrap my head around the technology, I’m either used to it or it’s backgrounded a bit more in this book, because I’ve blazed through it and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. I’m not quite done, so I suppose things could still go to hell– but I’m liking Book Two enough that I’ll probably revisit the whole series once Book Three comes out, and I think you should start with Ninefox Gambit and go from there.
SHORT REVIEW THE SECOND: I’ve talked about The Witness a bit here already, but now I’ve beaten it, or at least played it to the point where it does something that is so bullshit that I decided I wasn’t playing it any longer. It ends poorly, but the hundreds of puzzles that lead up to that poor ending are of generally entertaining and challenging caliber, with most of them proving a level of difficulty and feeling of achievement that keep me moving and playing. There were definitely a few that I cheated on (I don’t have ego about this shit any longer) but for the most part it’s one of the most solid puzzle games I’ve played in quite a while. The ending is bullshit, but the game saves itself right before it pulls the bullshit on you, so if you’re of the type to be able to wait once you know the game is beaten, do that and go solve all the other puzzles that aren’t in the main, objective-based walkthrough. Not a 10/10, but you should still try it out.
SHORT REVIEW THE THIRD: Now this one is a 10/10. Despite the stupid name, Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of the best games of this generation. I got it at a stupid-deep discount for only $20, but I’d gladly have paid full price. The premise is laid out pretty clearly on the cover there: you’re fighting robot dinosaurs with a bow and arrow. If you don’t reply “I’m in!” after reading that, you and I really can’t be friends. The combat took a little getting used to but gets really interesting and deep after a while (any game that can have me regularly using five or six different weapons at different points of a big fight is a game with a good combat system) and literally my only complaint about it is that some of the animations are a little janky. I never did get used to watching Aloy walk anywhere; they probably should have cleaned up that basic animation a bit. The plot itself is dense and multilayered and fun, post-apocalyptic pre-apocalyptic done right, and they managed to remember that people of color will survive along with the white folk. Extra points for Aloy herself, who is as compelling a character as I’ve played in a video game in quite some time– probably since Joel in The Last of Us. This game is worth getting a PS4 for if you don’t have one, guys. That good.