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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

No Work Update Below….

Posted by captainbeaky on April 25, 2008

….as there is no significant change, so its just going to be a recap on non-work related stuff that ive been up to. The weather has been fantastic here over the past week, despite the fact that its the end of September, in northern hemisphere terms. Its been almost consistently 23/24 degrees, each day with the sun going down about 5.30, so it IS in fact close to UK sunrise/sunset times. But Ive been making the most of it, going along to St Kilda pier most afternoons, taking my book with me then having a cake and a cuppa at the cafe at its end. On Thursday, we even saw one of the often mentioned/never seen St Kilda penguins, that nest in the breakwater. I always thought that there were penguins there ONCE, but with the influx of tourists, they’d gone elsewhere. However, we’ve seen them now with our own eyes – it was great!

For the second day on the run, we’ve gone for a bit of a drive in my new car, roof down, soaking up the sun. Today we took a drive down to Sandringham, and had a quick look about. Its a very affluent area, with lots of posh cars and big houses and a huge, deserted beach. I have no idea why folks chose not to spend time here, as it was lovely – you couldnt hear anything other than the waves lapping against the shore. Ive added a few photos to my Photoshop Express page, which Ive put a permanent link to on the right……here——->

In other news (videogame haters, skip the next couple of paragraphs) Ive had a rethink on Mass Effect and got right stuck into it, with overall positive results, but with a small number of reservations. First the good points. The story line and character development is top notch, with me actually getting attached to certain members of my squad, having my favourites to accompany me on missions, based on nothing more than if I liked them or not as people! It sounds messed up but Bioware really did a great job of making these people actually seem real, with coherent individual agendas, without going down the cliched videogame route of hideously over-egged stereotypes. the games environment too deserves a mention, with it actually feeling like you were engaging in a large space opera spanning multiple systems, with each story mission having a distinct feel to it. However, there are down points, specifically to do with the environments too. The side quests arent too hot, with most of them being identikit versions of the last, the only difference being this ones on a snow planet, this ones on a desert planet, etc…. Right down to the space ships and buildings, all of them are the same, with just different crates inside. This really ruins the brilliant job that Bioware did with the rest of the games universe, as it takes you out of the realms of fantasy and the shoddy game design pokes through and ruins the illusion. The other area that Mass Effect isnt too good at is with the purchase/managing of weapons and items. I dont think I bought one single thing in the whole game, rendering the entire money system useless. You get far more powerful stuff by searching through enemy lockers and crates, but this has its own negative consequence. Your inventory can only hold 150 items, which include all your weapons, your armour, grenades and biotic amp, each of which have up to 3 upgrades on each item, making managing what you have a lengthy procedure. None of which is helped by there being no “convert all” button, and when you DO select an item from the list to get rid of, it resets the list and puts you back at the top. It really does sound like Im picking flies, but when you have to do as much inventory juggling as you do in ME, then it really does start to annoy. Other larger scale niggles include the games length. Im on the last mission now, and it didnt take me long to get there. I now this game is the first of a trilogy, but thats no excuse to shorten it deliberately. Compared to Oblivion, both in terms of game size and amount hours invested, ME is minuscule. It also sometimes feels like it holds your hand too much, telling you exactly where to go, what to do and what your next step is. A more open ended approach may have been better. However, thats not to say I didnt enjoy, I did. Im on the last mission now, as well as mopping up a few side quests and its been hugely enjoyable. The story really does hook you, especially me being a sci-fi nerd, and having just recently finished a great book (more later) I found I just couldnt put the controller down. I had to see what happened next. So far, the game gets a solid 8/10.

In other game type news, Im going to have a bit of a clear out. Out goes Assassins Creed (ace game but Ive done everything I wanted to do with it), Sega Tennis (again, god game, but multiplayer is borked and single player gets ridiculously difficult on the last “bonus stage”, and Frontlines (crap singleplayer, but brilliant multiplayer, ruined by lack of support and not many folks playing – plus Battlefield and Quake Wars are nearly out, both being similar and being part of already established franchises). In comes Rainbow 6 Vegas 2 (got it cheap off Ebay) and GTA 4, which Im really looking forward to now. The more I read about it, the more impressed I am with it. Opinions to come on Tuesday.

Enough with the games, and onto books, which is pretty rare for me! I finished Iain M Banks new book, Matter recently (thanks to my St Kilda pier adventures!) and I was impressed with it. The last book I read of his was Inversions, which was too dull for my liking, and I missed The Algebraist, which seemed good, but not much to do with the Culture universe of its predecessors. However, Matter is right back into the Culture setting, but through clever use of technology, intertwines the fantastic futuristic setting, with a more medieval story line, which I initially was sceptical of, but the more I read it, the less of an issue it became, and eventually, both storylines meet and continue as one. Its typical Banks, with sprawling galaxies, battles, many distinct and interesting characters and all with his trademark attention to detail and descriptive nature. My only complaints are the books loss of purpose in its middle section, with it getting bogged down in the journeys of both sets of protagonists, and its abrupt ending, right when its hit its stride. On the strength of this, I started up Mass Effect (above) which isnt to dissimilar to Banks writing, and Ive got a Peter Hamilton book to get into now. This is a 1000 pager though, AND part of a trilogy so no reports anytime soon of how THIS book is!

Well, Im sorry for the long post, but I didnt think it woudl go on for this long. Future plans include going to an out of town shopping centre tomorrow, and then for a few drinks with a work colleauge. Oh, and probably nothing else too strenuous as Crooks coming down with a cold. Better not give it to me! Anyway, Im going to end this now before it gets any longer.

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