Month: February 2017

Year of the Console: January-February Review. Ark: Survival Evolved & Far Cry: Primal

I am beyond excited about The Year of Console Gaming that we are having on TLYW, which is actually going to involve 14 games in 14 months, extended from 12, so that I could fit everything in.

As you know, we are following a trajectory through history this year, in terms of the period in which these games are set. I now know the timetable! January and February are (were) pre-history. March is Antiquity. April is the Middle Ages. May is the Enlightenment. In June we enter the 20th century. WW1 in July. 1940s in August. September brings us into the 1990s. October is the 2000s. November and December are the present decade, January 2018 is the future (how appropriate) and February 2018 is fantasy. There will be a mix of retro games and newer releases, with a total of 9 games on the PS4 and 5 on the Xbox 360. A year from now, I will be a far more skilled and knowledgeable console gamer than I was two months ago. We finally return to PC gaming in March 2018 and I already know what I am playing on that date. All will be revealed!

Today marks the end of February, which means I’ve just come to the end of my month with Ark: Survival Evolved. As I approached the end of the month and realised I was running out of time, I became much bolder with my gameplay. I stopped worrying about building a secure base and rounding up escaped dodos and went exploring instead. I built a raft, sailed around on it and got lost. I visited an island that I’d previously only viewed from a distance. I killed various dinosaurs and even managed to tame a couple and ride around on them. Finally, I tamed a pteranodon and used it to fly all the way up the map, from the luxurious south beach to the snowy mountains in the north. When I arrived, I killed a T rex and a bear, started to build a little house, got caught in a snowstorm and froze to death. The scenery was spectacular and most of your game time is outdoors, so it was right up my street. Final souvenir photos:

Notes to myself, so that I can remember what I thought of these games when I want to come back to them.


Far Cry: Primal, Ubisoft (2016), PS4. A single-player, open-world action-adventure game set in pre-history.

Plot and setting: Early humans run around mountains and valleys, spearing rhinos and firing arrows at members of rival tribes.

General remarks: A gentle introduction to console gaming. I was able to take my time learning the handset and controls while still making in-game progress. I brought the game almost to completion within a month, eventually tiring of the final boss fight.

Thumbs up: Lots of time outdoors in attractive scenery. I was guided through various well-structured quests and the story was quite involving.

Thumbs down: I spent too much time viewing the attractive scenery using hunter vision, which makes everything grey and yellow. At times the story felt a bit constraining and I wanted more freedom to decide what to do next.

Return to? Probably not as I more or less finished it, but I would play other games in the Far Cry series.


Ark: Survival Evolved, Studio Wildcard (2017), PS4. I played on single-player mode, but there’s a multi-player option. An open-world, action-adventure, survival game set in pre-history.

Plot and setting: Humans co-exist with dinosaurs, are attacked by T Rexes and fly around on pteranodons while building elaborate houses and inventing firearms.

General remarks: A pleasure. Very restful. I say this despite the horrendous and constant dinosaur attacks in the central and north parts of the country. The southern beaches are lovely and you can sail around in your boat relatively undisturbed.

Thumbs up: Lots of time outdoors in attractive scenery. Complete freedom to do what I want, at my own pace. Genuinely open-world, lots of exploring with an amount of combat to suit the individual player. Sophisticated options for tweaking the gameplay settings on single-player mode.

Thumbs down: This is a new release that will benefit from a few patches. My two biggest gripes were the near-impossibility of placing or sometimes even seeing fence foundations and the magical ability of dinosaurs of all sizes to intersect walls, rather defeating the point of the wall. Minor bugs resulted in things like my character getting stuck on top of ladders.

Return to? Definitely. In a year from now, hopefully some patches and bug fixes will have resolved some issues.


Stay tuned! Tomorrow we’ll begin a new game, as it is 1 March.

Trainspotting 2

Whew, I’m almost caught up on the blogging. The last thing I need to tell you about right now is that I went to the cinema! I hardly ever do this unless it is something special. I went to see Trainspotting 2, here’s the trailer.

It was really amazing. The original Trainspotting was in 1996 and I went to see it when it came out. It goes without saying that it was a huge landmark in British and Scottish cinema. Coincidentally, in 1996, I was the same age as both the characters and the actors. It is a film about many things: drugs, poverty, music, despair and, most of all, being young. Then twenty years elapsed. Danny Boyle reassembled his cast and simply picked up the story of their lives, 20 years later. In the meantime, I’d been busy getting on with my own life. The actors aged up. The characters aged up. And then there they all were. Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, Francis Begbie. Large as life and completely themselves, just 20 years older, just like me. It was really emotional! There were lots of references to the original film, of course. Remember when Tommy died? Me too!! I remember it like it was yesterday. Oh god. It really packed an emotional punch. Begbie has been in prison for 20 years. Spud is still on the skag. Sick Boy is a pinch-faced pimp, extortionist and pub landlord. Renton is getting a divorce.

Even if you didn’t see the first film when it came out and aren’t going to have this amazing experience of greeting people – your friends, your youth – who you haven’t seen in 20 years, it is still a completely wonderful film. Danny Boyle has gone from strength to strength. The directing is incredibly visual and creative, the soundtrack is moving, the story is nail-biting.

I loved it. I wanted to cry. How we grow old. My date had seen the original Trainspotting but only quite recently. He couldn’t go and see it when it came out because he was four.

Rigoletto

So apparently I’m an opera buff now. I have discovered that the English National Opera has its own YouTube channel, which is excellent news, because it means I can show you some clips of the actual production that I attended. The ENO sings in English, which is super helpful if you are trying to follow the story, and who doesn’t want to do that. It was an amazing production, set in 1950s Manhattan (the original opera was first performed in 1851 and was originally set in the 16th century). Here it is! It was one of the best things I’ve ever been to.

It’s on for two more days! You might still be able to get a ticket!

Blog Updates

Do you talk to yourself? I do. I think it is something that kicks in when you’ve been living alone for a long time. I might be doing stuff around the house and sometimes I comment out loud on how it is going. I say things like ‘right, then’ and ‘ffs’ and quite often ‘I’m not having a very good time’. Today I was happy. Everything seemed to be coming together. I am free from the world’s worst job. Business is doing okay. I have recovered from a 10-day sinus infection. I am popular with boys and lots of people want to date me. I’ve been seeing art and culcha around London. I said out loud, a propos of nothing, ‘I am having a good time!’ It was a rare moment of genuine and complete happiness. Of course, I was tempting fate by saying this and I stupidly returned a phone call to receive news of a family member who is one long, perpetual, expensive, time-consuming problem and a bad news generator. Fuck me for being happy for five minutes. By the end of the phone call, I’d started smoking again.

Anyway. I planned to update the blog today and that’s what I’m doing. It’s even more important to keep updating the blog when your patience is being tested and so I shall attempt to restore my previously good mood.

I’ve decided to start collecting Achievement Points and Brownie Badges again and have updated the blog pages. Also, we used to have themed seasons here on TLYW and now I finally have a more normal life, I am reinstating them. Here are the two major ones.

Classical Music, Yo

classical

I have developed a sudden taste for classical music. I don’t know where that came from, I am usually all about house, hip hop and reggae. As you know, I’ve recently been to two performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and then I went to The Pirates of Penzance by the English National Opera, which I have already blogged about. Then I went to see Verdi’s Rigoletto, which I will blog about separately. I’m going back to the London Phil next week for some Stravinsky and before I forget, we have these magical things coming up in London over the next few months:

I am just going to ride this wave for as long as it lasts. It’s educational and uplifting.

Year of the Console: 12 Games in 12 Months

console

As you know, I take gaming very seriously and this year I am expanding my repertoire by taking up console gaming. There are so many things that I want to at least try, so I am ambitiously going to play 12 games in 12 months. Just the other day I was overcome with a stroke of genius. I could have played 12 games in no particular order, or played them in order of the date of publication but instead I am going to play them in order of the historical period in which they are set. This is going to be great, it will prevent the gaming from becoming too repetitive, will give a theme and sense of progression to the gaming  year and will encourage me to play things I’ve never considered or tried before, which is what Console Year is all about.

January and February are both pre-history. If I’d had this idea earlier I would have played Ark: Survival Evolved (dinosaurs) in January and Far Cry: Primal (Cro-Magnons) in February but instead I did them the wrong way around. But I won’t remember this in a few months.

Far Cry Primal. Screenshots of my actual game play! Finally figured out to get photos off the Playstation.

Ark: Survival Evolved. It took me a while to figure out how to not get killed all the time. Now I’m really into it but February is going to end on Tuesday so I have to play as much as I can in the next 36 hours.

It’s almost March and so my history theme suggests that I need to play something set in either Ancient Greece or the Roman Empire. This isn’t going to be easy as there was a rash of games set in antiquity 10-15 years ago and barely anything since. Also most of the Roman Empire games were for the PC. But I will find something. After that we will zoom through the Middle Ages, slaying dragons along the way. Then some 18th century piracy. A spot of Victorian steampunk. World Wars 1 and 2. I expect to hit the present day around September and we will be playing futuristic sci-fi by Xmas.

Audrey Rose

While being ill for a week I managed to catch up on some classic literature. I like horror and take quite an interest in it, across different media. It was inevitable, then, that Audrey Rose would eventually show up on my radar.

The novel was published in 1975. It is by Frank De Felitta and what you need to know about Frank, who sadly died in 2016, is that he was a writer, screenwriter, director and producer. Audrey Rose sold 2.5m copies and there was a film adaptation within two years, in 1977, with Frank as screenwriter and producer. It stars a young Anthony Hopkins as the disturbed Mr Hoover.

The other work that Frank De Felitta is best known for is The Entity, which immediately followed Audrey Rose, in the form of a book in 1978 and film adaptation with screenplay by Frank in 1982. What a productive guy.

I’ve just read the novel Audrey Rose. It’s about this affluent young married couple and their ten-year-old daughter. The parents, Janice and Bill Templeton, are set up as having this perfect life until their daughter Ivy starts re-living a grisly car accident that she experienced in a previous life. These episodes are triggered by the proximity of mysterious Mr Hoover who claims to be the father of a dead child, Audrey, who is inhabiting Ivy’s body.

The best bits, in my view, are the descriptions of the Templetons’ perfect marriage and life. Bill works in a swank advertising agency. Janice wears loud plaid trouser suits because she is a cool chick and it is 1975.

plaid

They both drink whisky and martinis at the slightest provocation, all day, including and especially when at work or when at home in the mornings, doing domestic chores or perhaps caring for a sick child. They are regularly drunk and then hung over. It’s normal for Bill to arrive home from work in such a drunken condition that he has to go to bed for an hour before he can carry on drinking with his friends into the evening.

1970s-martini

They are a very cultured couple, you can tell this because they listen to opera. They are friends with this other couple who live in the same apartment building. The men compete over who has the best opera record collection, even though they are all so drunk that you wonder how much of it they are taking in. They play bridge together in the evenings and the book states quite clearly that every time they do this, the evening ends with this other couple losing their tempers, which is hilarious. Stop inviting them over, then. And maybe serve less alcohol.

Even though Janice is the slightly more sober one out of her and Bill, she is really submissive towards him. She really looks up to him. She’ll be walking along the street and the thoughts in her head concern how he has wisely and benevolently guided her towards something, or shown her how to do something, even though he is a macho knucklehead who couldn’t even stay sober for his daughter’s court case.

belongs

Oh yeah, so there’s a court case. This occupies the entire second half of the book and involves the Templetons trying make Mr Hoover go away, while Mr Hoover attempts to prove that Ivy really is the reincarnation of his daughter Audrey. The judge decides to have Ivy subjected to some completely unethical hypnotic experiments and she dies while having a fit, thus proving Mr Hoover right all along.

That’s it, really. I watched about half the film while writing this book review and I mainly want to say that in the film version there is less drinking and the fashions are less flamboyant, also there isn’t as much sex, so you should read the book instead. That said, it translates well to the big screen, as it was destined to do, and makes a competent psychological thriller with lots of suspense and not too much gore.

The Pirates of Penzance

I managed about 2 hours of work yesterday and then the headache and sinus pressure kicked in again and I went back to bed and slept until 1pm today, Saturday.

I’d only been awake for about half an hour when I suddenly realised that there was one final thing remaining in this week’s desecrated and cancelled diary. It was The Pirates of Penzance, at the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera. It is playing until 25 March, so you have plenty of time to go and see it.

penzance

I did not have plenty of time as it was 1.30 already and my ticket was for the show starting at three. I took 2 minutes to debate whether I felt well enough, then I sprayed around some deodorant, pulled on some clothes and went out.

As all readers know, Pirates is an 1897 comic opera. I will attempt to describe the story to you, and you will see how lightly comical it is.

Frederic is a young man who has spent his entire life as an indentured servant, that is, a slave. To some pirates. At age 21, he sees an opportunity to leave them. Throughout all these years, just one person has been a comfort to him and this is his former nanny and ship’s maid, Ruth, who is now 47. She proposes to escape the pirates with him and perhaps they can get married.

He treats her absolutely appallingly, shows no trace of loyalty or affection and tells her that’s she’s an ugly old woman with grey hair. She cries. He is unmoved.

Then Frederic spots a group of young women in the distance, and the band of pirates spots them too. Frederic immediately falls in love with one of them because he has the emotional depth of a saucer of milk. All the pirates are very excited at the sight of a dozen young girls because they represent an opportunity to ‘get married’, so they grab these screaming young woman and attempt to carry them off, apparently ‘get married’ means abduction and rape.

Then the girls’ father appears and he is some military bigwig who manages to persuade the pirates to release the girls. THEN it turns out that these pirates aren’t from the low genetic stock of ‘the common throng’. In fact, they are ‘noblemen’ which means they are titled, rich and posh. At this the military bigwig willingly hands over all his daughters like livestock because human trafficking is okay if it’s the aristocracy. The end.

Hmm. Anyway, it was a delightful production. My favourite character was the Pirate King, sung and acted by Ashley Riches. The obvious thing to do when portraying a pirate king would be to swagger and stamp about, probably waving a cutlass, right? But no. Ashley Riches fully takes to heart the underlying plot point that these pirates are actually pampered noblemen in disguise, and so his Pirate King is as camp as a row of tents. He minces up and down the stage, twitching his frilly coat and what is essentially a dress.

Photos of the theatre:

The performance I saw today was directed by British superstar Mike Leigh. Here are a couple of tiny clips.

Cold, Day 8. In which I go back to work.

Terrible. My sinuses are still thoroughly and unremittingly blocked but today is the first day that I don’t feel like I was kicked in the head by a donkey. So I can go back to work. I can’t go to meetings right away but I can deal with my emails, task manager and diary. I should think. I had to cancel my Sunday date with the hot model because I am not going to have an unblocked nose by then.

While this week has been a bit shit, we like to look on the bright side here at TLYW. So when I wasn’t asleep I managed to do some reading and video gaming, both very important.

I am reading a famous horror novel from the 1970s, which I will blog about separately when I have finished it. It is hilarious. I cannot believe how much people used to drink in the 1970s. The main characters are this affluent, respectable, young married couple who live in Manhattan and have a tasteful apartment and respectable jobs. And they are absolutely sozzled all the time. They both drink Scotch and Martinis at any hour of the day, even in the morning, they don’t question why they have hangovers, and the husband is even drunk in the courtroom while a case is in progress concerning his child. His wife notices and thinks nothing of it. Anyway, I will review this important book another time.

On the video gaming front – I am more or less attempting to make 2017 The Year of Gaming, which coincides with my transition from PC to PS4 and Xbox platforms. January was about Far Cry: Primal which was about running around in prehistoric times, wearing a bear skin while spearing woolly mammoths and clubbing members of rival tribes.

For a while my diary was so full that I feared there wouldn’t be a game for February. But now there is one, thanks to my cold. I liked the sunshine and outdoorsy scenery of Far Cry: Primal so I stuck with the prehistoric theme and started playing ARK: Survival Evolved. I will give this a review nearer the end of the month. It has beaches, forests and sunshine, all of which are nice. It has dinosaurs. A raptor attacked my house. If you look on Google images  you will see that players of this game have managed to build huge, glittering palaces, a bit like Minecraft. I have not built a glittering palace. I have managed to build a rickety wooden tower with a drunken-looking fence awkwardly surrounding it. Shut up. It was dark and I had a cold.