25 April 2010

Gaming Weekend

I've been plugging away at Final Fantasy XIII since it came out, and have added Dragon Age: Awakening to the playlist.

FFXIII is, sadly, one of the worst Final Fantasy games I've played. Not terrible, but it's fallen down on what is usually its strongest point: story telling. An annoying, almost contradictory plot and, though I don't hate any of the characters, I'm not strongly behind any of them either. With a weak combat system, and some issues with the power/challenge progression, I've lost interest in finishing the game, and plug away at it only occasionally.

Dragon Age: Awakening - a sequel/expansion of the excellent Origins - also suffers from a slightly flatter story, though with a much better battle system. The flatness of the story is not from the plot, which is reasonable, but from the characters. These simply do not pop and intrigue as much as the characters from Origins (many of whom it would be impossible to bring back). But, still, fun so far.

FFXIII wins hands-down in the prettiness stakes, though, and I'm itching to play FFXIV, which will probably put a major dint in my writing time when it releases later this year. But I'll be analysing the story! It's research! Honest!

19 April 2010

Ngaio Marsh: "Surfeit of Lampreys"

One of my favourites.

Alleyn is charming in himself, a completely likeable creature whose quiet intelligence and good manners fixes reader sympathies. "Surfeit of Lampreys" is a delightfully funny book, and is also macabre to the point of revolting.

Marsh sets us up to love the Lampreys by fixing our interests with Robin Grey, charming us along with her, drawing us in to her passionate devotion. Charm and humour, and then - such a horrible death.

I often wonder, at the close of this book, how many of the Lampreys made it through the war which is already a shadow on the horizon.

18 April 2010

Doctor Who: "The Victory of the Daleks" (no spoilers)

Mm - worse than last week's, feeling laboured and foolish, with far too many inconsistencies and questions. In this I think that the one-episode plots are working against the stories. And awful dissonance between the jokey 'fun' and the fact that this is set during the Blitz and that so many millions will die and the Doctor is refusing to help as if that's all a lark.

Plus the Doctor periodically appears to forget that he's a time traveller.

The over-emphasis on the season arc appearing at the end of every episode is beginning to annoy me. They should have it appear in the background at some point during the episode rather than this laboured underlining. The Master becoming Prime Minister arc in the earlier season worked so much better.

11 April 2010

Doctor Who: "The Beast Below" (no spoilers)

Fifty-fifty on this one. Britain is already a very technologically advanced nation. I found it very hard to swallow a Britain of the future which had somehow reverted in the appearance of its technology (presumably deliberately) to something out of the 1950's. But it was interesting and creepy to look at.

Liz 10 was fun - and her identity instantly apparent the second you heard her name.

The premise fell down too much for me, however. What very black and white options. What absolutes. And evidently no-one in Britain's future is a fundamental PETA member.

I also had problems with the question of what will be used as food in the future, which isn't discussed, nor is any moralising done about the fate of the 'dregs' of society previously. Let alone why they bother to 'drop chute' dumb children if they're not yet useful.

An interesting idea done badly, but prettily.

And for some reason lots of Star Wars allusions.

10 April 2010

Deadly Weapon

If ever I turn my hand to Urban Fantasy my character shall use a sledgehammer as a weapon. Most likely a sledgehammer called Gabriel, or perhaps Peter if she's being subtle.

I'm in the process of destroying our shoddy backyard bbq using just such a sledgehammer, and the ease with which the bricks go flying suggests to me that even vampires would have trouble should they happen to meet 'Gabriel'.

04 April 2010

Doctor Who: "The Eleventh Hour" (no spoilers)

Watching these new series of Who makes me wonder how different the old ones would have been if they'd had the same budget. There were many quite serious episodes in classic Who, but you'll not ever achieve quite the same gravitas with cardboard sets and bad makeup.

A good series opener, with both new Doctor and new companion giving a strong showing. Fortunately it doesn't look like the Doctor is going to be mopeylonelygod Doctor this season. Clear setup of the overarching arc with the 'cracks in the Universe', and outright statement of Moffat's vision of the Doctor as 'more fairytale'.

Male companions/repeat characters seem to be becoming a real issue in the new series, though. There seems to be a requirement that they're ineffectual and almost hen-pecked. Only Captain Jack's brief episodes stand out as an exception. Few writers seem to understand that you can have strong women without removing the strong men. [The Doctor is the major exception, of course, but his mopeyness undercuts his strength, and the tendency of the female companions to fall for him in turn undercuts them.]

I miss Donna. But looks like the new season will be fun.

Three Skips

I started accruing my book collection in my late teens.  Not too many early on, since I moved house a lot.  A couple of shelves of books.  T...