A short Skyrim story

I have spent a good portion of the last two days playing Skyrim. Why? I’m on Spring Break, and I do what I want. Something something self care something, damn it.

Anyway, my character is an archer and a thief, because no matter what build you try to have in Skyrim you always end up as an archer and a thief, and apparently at some point I stole something from a certain minor character’s home. I was just attacked in broad daylight in a whole other town by a handful of thugs, all of whom were quickly dispatched via arrows to the face. Because that is how I roll.

Upon searching said thugs, I found a letter from this dude telling them that he wanted them to beat me bloody, but if I died in the process, meh.

Now, actually killing NPCs in this game is possible but can frequently be more trouble than it’s worth, as murder is one of those crimes where the guards just sort of magically know you’ve done it even if you were the only other person in the room where it happened. But sometimes you need to make exceptions, right? And this dude had sent three thugs after me, so something something self defense something, right?

Well, when I stopped by his house again, he wasn’t home, and I wasn’t about to traipse all over the damn town looking for him. Now, if you’re not familiar with this game, be aware that you can pick up damn near any object you can see. Baskets. Food. Plates. Books. Silverware. That pair of boots on the floor in the corner. If you can see it, more likely than not you can pick it up and make off with it. It actually takes a while when you start playing to curb that automatic video game urge to loot everything, because you really don’t need all those wooden plates and flagons. They just take up room in your inventory and make it harder to carry stuff you want.

But you don’t have to carry stuff far to do something fun with it.

So I took every single object in this man’s house, went outside, and dumped it all on the ground in front of his place. I thought about just selling it but there was a lot of stuff and it would have required at least two trips to my fence– you can only sell stolen goods in certain places– and frankly I thought just throwing all his dishes and baskets and eating utensils and all of his food out in the snow outside his place was funny enough.

He has a farm outside of town, too. He comes after me again, I’ll clear that out next.

Your move, Belyn Hlaalu.

Oh god what have I done

The last time I played this game, my son was an infant. In fact, his birth was the only thing that got me to stop.

I started a new run last night with the Special Edition.

It has already cost me sleep.

God help me.

#REVIEW: Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS5)

If one were to look through the “Spider-Man” tag on this site, one would see that I posted several times about the original PS4 Spider-Man game, over a period of several months. Typically my game playing is serial; I pick up a game, finish it, then move on to another one, which might be a new one or might be a playthrough of something I’ve already beaten. But I’m usually just playing one game at a time, and if I abandon something before beating it it’s very unlikely that I’m going to go back to it.

I am genuinely fascinated that my move on both of Insomiac’s Spider-Man games was to play it for a while, set it aside for months while I did something else, then come back to it and finish it. I pulled this several times on the first game and only one on Miles Morales, but Miles is a considerably shorter game. The talk is that originally it was supposed to be an expansion as opposed to a new game in its own right; I feel like I got my money’s worth out of it regardless and am not concerned with what they choose to call it.

When I wrote about the game previously I said that it was, in many ways, the exact same game as PS4 Spider-Man, with some gameplay changes to account for Miles’ bioelectric abilities, and that remains true. This is a hellaciously fun game to play, if perhaps a tiny bit too unconcerned with the rule both Spider-Men have against killing people. While there isn’t actually an achievement for it in this game, you’re gonna toss people off buildings or redirect rockets into their faces a whole lot in this game, and if that’s going to break immersion for you you’re gonna have a hard time. Boss encounters are, I think, largely better done than the original game, although there’s not nearly as many of them, since Miles doesn’t really have much of his own rogues’ gallery yet. And the game is still a tiny bit too much into beating people up and hunting down collectibles than I’d like it to be. They even hold back an entire thingy-hunting mission to the epilogue, even if they end up making it make great story sense anyway.

But yeah. That story?


Can we get these people writing comic books, please? Because both of these games had me teary at the end, and this one compounds things by a surprise dedication to Chadwick Boseman that messed me up, as well as a kind of randomly-placed statue of Stan Lee that I came across by accident at about the 2/3 mark of the game. These games get Miles and Peter better than any other incarnation of the characters I’ve ever seen other than Into the Spider-Verse, and I am including several iterations of the comic books in that as well.

I played it on the PS5, obviously, and it’s gorgeous as hell; I could stare at the textures in Miles’ various costumes all day long, and there’s even a Spider-Verse costume that lets you reset the frame rate so that the game looks more like a movie. You can’t throw bagels at people, unfortunately, but it’s still neat to play with for a little while. The music is better than the original game, and Miles’ love of hiphop plays an actual role in several different places in the game. And we finally get Ganke in a Miles-centric non-comic thing, which made me very very happy, as I love the character, even if they dial his computer nerd stuff up to about 15 to give him something to do.

So yeah, this is a great game. It’s not a reason to buy a PS5 on its own, I don’t think, but it’s available on the PS4 as well, so if you have either system and you don’t have it yet, definitely pick it up. I absolutely can’t wait for the third game, and I’ll try not to take four months to finish it when it comes out.

#Review: Immortals: Fenyx Rising (PS5)

We bought Immortals: Fenyx Rising for the boy for Christmas; one of his more recent manias is Greek mythology, and the game seemed age-appropriate and up his alley. He played it for four hours, proclaiming it the best game he’d ever played, hit a minor bug, quit and has not touched it since then.

This is the Way, for this kid; everything is the best thing ever until the next thing comes along, and then the previous thing is abandoned. Well, we still paid $60 for the Goddamned thing, and it’s on my PS5, so once I finished up Demon’s Souls I decided to give it a try real quick and see how I liked it. Sixty hours later, I have a shiny new Platinum trophy on my … does PlayStation call it a Gamertag? No, right? That’s just Xbox? Fuck it, my account, and I just put it to bed an hour or so ago so I may as well review it.

So, the quick tl;dr verdict: Solid B+, at least for the way I play video games.

The biggest problems the game has are the stupid name and its penchant for constantly fading to white all the time. The fading to white wouldn’t have been such a big deal on my previous TV, but when the New Hotness fades to white it really fucking fades to white, and I found myself literally shutting my eyes or looking away from the TV when it happened after a while. Most of my more game-centered gripes are kind of standard for open-world games such as this; this is the first time I’ve really felt that there was too much shit to do, and while the game isn’t terribly demanding on either the platforming or the puzzle department (rarely was I stumped for more than five minutes or so on anything, other than one part where I hadn’t realized a new power could do something and the game hadn’t told me) there is so much of it that if you are a completist (and I very much am a completist) you will find yourself kind of tired of it from time to time.

The combat is a little button-mashy, but there are two primary weapons plus a bow and by the end of the game you’ve got a couple dozen additional moves and powers with everything that means that you don’t have to handle every fight the same way. That said, if you just pop a defense and an offense potion and hammer away you’ll get through anything pretty quickly even if all you’re doing is hammering a single button, and you won’t find enemies with immunities or anything that will force you to adapt your strategies. Some things can fly but by the end of the game you’re adept enough at aerial combat that it barely matters, and you can always throw rocks at them. There’s even an ability that hurts enemies when they damage you, and it does enough damage that smaller enemies could literally kill themselves by attacking you.

Graphics are cartoony but solid, and the draw distance is amazing– anytime you get up high you can see the entire damn map, which is required to uncover locations of the various challenges and such, and you can even see some of the enemies wandering around on the ground from a distance. Sound is acceptable (but see the bit on voice acting later) although Fenyx’s combat grunts and yells can get really repetitive. Fenyx can be male or female and you can change her (make her a girl) appearance anytime you want. For some reason I really got into that in this game, when it’s not something I usually care about, but my Fenyx changed her hair after every major boss fight. Dunno why, but it was fun. And while you can’t get away from the combo of sword-axe-bow, and your armor is basically a helmet and a body set, each piece of kit comes with its own extra bonuses or abilities and you can effectively apply any unlocked bonus to any weapon or armor, so you can pick the pieces you think look the best and still keep the abilities you want. You also get an actual phoenix that follows you around after a while, and horses.

Amazing, amazing gay horses.

No, seriously.

I discovered the pink unicorn first, and thought it was impressively flamboyant, and that was before any of the three rainbow horses, one apparently inspired by Adventure Time, the purple reindeer, or the zebra. Yes, zebras are gay. All of them. There are like 25 different mounts in the game, all of which must be found and tamed. Some of them run around in herds and some of them are literally a single animal in a tucked-away corner of the map. Then there are probably a couple hundred chests, dozens of challenges, dozens of Tartarus levels that are basically giant puzzle rooms, 25 or so “lieutenants” which are basically free-roaming boss battles that you could encounter at any time, and probably some stuff that I’m forgetting.

It’s a lot.

Ultimately, what you’re getting here is what would happen if Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the Assassin’s Creed series had a gameplay baby (there are minor stealth elements; you won’t do a lot of sneaking around, and it’s never part of a mission, but you can creep up on enemies and sneak-attack them) and then dropped a Greek mythology skin on it. The whole story is told in retrospect by Prometheus, and there are some fun unreliable-narrator moments as well as an amazing quantity of semen and sex jokes from what is ostensibly a game pitched at younger gamers. Like, are you familiar with Aphrodite’s origin myth? There’s a mission that riffs on that, where you’re pushing a, um, “pearl” into the ocean, and it’s made real clear that it’s a damn euphemism, and … like, Kenny wouldn’t have gotten the innuendo? But holy shit, game. The voice acting isn’t wonderful (the pseudo-Greek accent everyone uses is kind of annoying) but the story is great and I felt like the actors were all having a great time with it. Zeus and Ares in particular are standouts. This won’t be Game of the Year or anything, but for a launch title, it’s impressively solid, and I think it was well worth the money even if the boy abandoned it.

Reviewlets and updates

There’s a whole lot of Opinions rattling around in my head right now, and if it’s okay with everybody (LOL, it’s not up to you) I’m going to dump all of them into one post. Woo-hoo reviewlet city let’s goooooooo!

I read a fair amount of YA, but until now I’ve not really dipped my toes into middle grade novels, which is a genre I haven’t really touched since I was a Language Arts teacher back in Chicago. The honest truth is that I picked up Matt Wallace’s Bump less because I was interested in it specifically than because I like Matt’s other work a lot and want to support him as an author. And it worked out, as these sorts of reading decisions often do: Bump is about a third young-girl-coming-of-age story, a third of a nonfiction book about professional wrestling, and a third honest-to-goodness Scooby-Doo episode without the supernatural bent, right down to the villain literally having a mask torn off in one of the final scenes.

And it’s delightful. It’s a touch more predictable than I want from my books, but I’m going to let that slide since it’s middle grade and a touch of what comes off as predictability to adults is actually helpful with young readers, and it’s very clear that Matt has kind of been bursting at the scenes to tell a story about wrestling and wrestlers, but I’ve yet to find a book that I thought was hurt by the author’s enthusiasm. This is a much sweeter, more grounded story than anything I’ve ever seen from him before– not a trace of the magic or swords or demons or alternate planes of existence that are all over his other work– and I’m really glad I grabbed it. There’s a lot of Spanish in it but it’s well-contextualized, and I may put it in my son’s hands and see what he does with it.

Plus, that cover. C’mon. How can you see that cover and not want to read this?

I have now read three of Akwaeke Emezi’s books, and I am pretty certain that their The Death of Vivek Oji is their best book yet, although it’s one of those books that is really difficult to talk about very much without spoiling details that ought not to be spoiled. I can say this much: it’s a family story set, as all of Emezi’s books have been, in Nigeria (and how much do I love that I have multiple books by Nigerian authors on my shelf right now? Nigerian literature is the shit right now, y’all, get in on this) and the title character is already dead as the book begins, and the whole story is centered upon finding out what happened to Vivek and learning about his life. Emezi’s writing is as beautiful as it ever was. I had spent most of January thinking that it was going to turn out to be a bit below-par in terms of the quality of the books I was reading, so I’m glad to finish off strong with this and Bump.

The chair continues to work out quite well. I have precisely two gripes about it and they’re both very minor: one, that because the armrests are so adjustable (they can be moved up and down, inward and outward, and can also be set at angles) they tend to feel a little loose, and while the fabric that the chair is upholstered in feels great to the touch and looks like it’s going to be durable (and doesn’t seem to attract cat hair, which I was a bit worried about) I’m used to a slidier leather seat, and I find myself not as able to quickly reposition myself as I was in a leather chair when I feel the need to do that.

Yeah, that’s the bet I’ve got on gripes: the armrests are a little wobbly and my fat ass doesn’t slide across the seat the way I’m used to. It’s a good chair. I’m glad I bought it.

These are the last six albums I’ve purchased, and I’m not sure what it says about me:

I have discovered that I didn’t give the Black Crowes enough credit when I was in high school. That album is magnificent.

The boy is deeply into Greek mythology right now, and we bought him Immortals: Fenyx Rising for the PS5 for Christmas. He ended up not being terribly enthralled with it, but I’ve picked it up recently and … well, I’m having fun with it, I suppose, but it’s going to end up being a 7/10 game or so, and it’s mostly because Ubisoft is such a terrible Goddamned publisher. The game is clearly ported from the PC and still retains tons of PC-centric UI and interface decisions, which is annoying, and Ubisoft has slathered all of their usual “Hey! Want to spend more money?” microtransaction bullshit all over the game, as well as their stupid membership thing that I refuse to sign up for. They do this with every one of their games and I think I’m done buying stuff with their logo on it, because they always manage to make their games shittier in the exact same way. I didn’t spend sixty or seventy bucks on your game so that you can ask me to spend more money every time I turn around.

Also, and this isn’t the game’s fault, it’s a PS5 thing: the damn touchpad in the middle is too sensitive and is too close to the square button. Hitting the touchpad in this game brings up the menus, and because it and the square button are so close together I am constantly bringing up the damn menu in the middle of tense fights, because the square button is dodge and that button tends to come up a bit in combat. Now the good news is that this does pause the action, so it’s not getting me killed, but it’s insanely annoying and now that I think about it I probably can blame the game because there has to be a programming way around this and I can’t believe it didn’t come up in play testing. I kept accidentally throwing myself into photo mode, too, which requires clicking the thumbsticks– never ever map anything that can fuck up combat to clicking the thumbsticks, game— and nah never mind I can totally blame the programmers for this. Photo mode, at least, can be turned off, and the thumbstick thing has been the bane of my existence for years, but I can’t be the only guy with fingers big enough that they’re scraping the edge of the touchpad when hitting square.

I feel like I had something else when I started this, so if I remember what it was I’ll put it here.