Thursday, 12 October 2017

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (Video Game Review)

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War symbolises everything wrong with this industry. Oh, it’s far from bad, in many respects it’s even spectacular. It offers an engaging story, great new mechanics for your armies, and even a refined system of battle mechanics and orders. By all rights this is a spectacular release, and yet all of that is buried beneath a constant push to grab more money from the player. 

Following directly on from where Shadows of Mordor left off, the game follows Talion’s efforts to raise and brainwash an orc army into rebelling against Sauron. While driven by revenge, his cause sees him travelling down an ever-darker road in the name of attaining power. The Nemesis system is what truly made Shadows of War famous, as it offered a level of enemy manipulation and espionage the likes of Assassin’s Creed never offered. 

Bumping off enemy commanders, replacing them with your toadies and earning an increasingly powerful rival worked towards making the world feel alive and reacting to your presence. Shadow of War takes this a step further, by shifting the focus into near open war. Rather than simply murdering leaders and slaughtering their troops, you have the option to lead armies into open sieges and liberate massed fortifications for yourself. This is accomplished as much by sheer numbers as the likes of siege graugs, and sappers add some much-needed variety and a few ways to vary your tactics. Furthermore, as you advance deeper into enemy territory, a few familiar and very threatening faces start to appear, such as the Ringwraiths and certain very big monsters. All of who provide infinitely more entertaining fights than the prior game’s bosses. Yet, every single point, every single advantage you can find here, is hamstrung by microtransactions, lootboxes and a cash market. 

Take the story for starters. While certain decisions surrounding the lore are bad enough to make Tolkien spin in his grave, it is internally consistent and well developed. So, naturally, multiple storylines are chopped off to be sold as a $100 pre-purchase addition, and the true ending is hidden away behind a carefully crafted series of gates. The sort which, one way or another, you can only unlock with your credit card. Limiting your quest would be bad enough on its own merits, and yet this blight afflicts the essential gameplay as well. 

Despite starting off well enough for the first few hours, thanks to several excellent cutscenes and exciting sieges, you quickly start to see the gaps in the gameplay. As each of your orcs are customisable, you need scrolls to upgrade their abilities and boost their stats. While at first most of these seem to be accessible in the open world, many are limited to lootboxes, with the likes of Archer Recruitment (which gives you extra units of archers) or even Mount Training Legendary (giving you an extra Graug) locked away behind virtual gambling. Worse still, the game has elements woven into its very core encouraging you to fork over cash. 

Not only does it have a Dragon Age: Origins style “Buy this to see the rest of the story!” moment, but the very first thing you see upon logging in is an advertisement for lootboxes. Now, that alone would be bad enough, but it keeps stacking elements atop of this. The sheer grind of relentless sieges towards the last third of the game becomes tedious to the point of boredom, and has seemingly been designed to push you into paying a bit more to make it easier. A problem to be sure, but atop of this you can end up with other players relentlessly attacking your bases and murdering your troops while you are offline. So, you could have a legion ready for the final boss ready one day, and come back to find everything in ruins on the very next. 

Shadow of War had the potential to be one of the greats of 2017. If the price gouging mechanics, the sheer Everest-esque grind in the final part, and the constant push to grab more of your money had been removed, this would have been a near-perfect sequel. It would have been game of the year material, and with twice this ending score. Instead, we’re just left with monument to how a publisher’s greed can wreck a masterpiece. Save buying this one until the asking price is at least slashed in half, folks, as you’re going to need the rest just to get the orcs you need. 

Verdict: 4 out of 10

Monday, 9 October 2017

Blackshields: The False War by Josh Reynolds (Horus Heresy Audio Drama)

Upon reflection, the Blackshields were porbably one of the most obvious things to add to 30K. Given the popularity of loyalists among the traitor legions, the scattered numbered of units, and the subject of possible defectors from each side, it opened many doors. It's the sort of thing the books have gone back to time and time again after all, with Scars introducing a massed attempt by the White Scars to join Horus. So, having a general group of renegades, pirates, fanatics and vengeful warriors opened the door for players and authors alike without the need for more convoluted elements at this late stage in the story.

As the first tale to truly focus upon this group, Blackshields: The False War follows the example set by the Forgeworld rulebooks, but shows things from a more personal level. How well it works out might be up to the listener more than you would think though.


The story here follows the attempt by the forge of  Xana-Tisiphone to defect to Horus' side. Having failed to convince them to remain loyal, Rogal Dorn's response has been to crush all resistance there and bring them to heel. Yet, as the war between two battlefleets rages over the world, another force is at work. A group of black clad renegades seek to claim something from the planet for themselves, and turn the ongoing conflict to their advantage...

The Good

Given how recent a concept the Blackshields are, the characters here seem to have been structured to explore the basics of what can be done with such a unit. Their tactics, how they approach a seemingly impossible target such as Xana for a raid, and what drives them are all core to the story's main themes. Furthermore, the audio drama tries to prevent them simply being outright "good guys" like Garro, Varren or others. They might not have opted to side with Horus, but that hardly means that they will side with the Emperor either. This point is clear with their leader, the former World Eater, Endryd Haar who seems to be on the verge of utterly losing it at every turn. He is presented as insane, driven by little more than a cold rage and hunger for revenge, but that is simply directed against Horus. As he says himself in the story, he prefers to fight traitors, but will turn on loyalists if they get in his way.

Even the seemingly more upstanding examples of Haar's unit are not necessarily better, even if they might be more sane. Most simply want to follow their own path without siding with either side, and the most morally upstanding among them simply wants to try and weather the storm until one side eventually wins. It's an interesting contrast to the tales we have seen up to this point, and it helps to give a broad identity to this group. Both in terms of better humanizing them (especially as most astartes seemed to be that much more human in their behaviour prior to the Codex's implementation - just read Horus Rising again) but also giving fans more of a basis to create their own Blackshield groups. 

The story is self-contained and extremely well presented, but there's enough additional elements to help inspire the fandom to be that much more creative with what they make. Whether this was Reynolds intent or not, that's something I personally feel is always praiseworthy in such tales. Hell, the simple fact that we finally have solid confirmation of a World Eater marine who refused the Nails and lived (something it needed after the Garro book muddled the subject surrounding Varren) or an unusual take on former Death Guard adds more for people to think about.

Sticking to more of the story's main concepts however, what's impressive is how it forgoes a few expected tropes. You will not even realise just what direction the tale is taking first or how it has been structured. Given all we know is that Blackshields were involved in fighting the the forge's forces, the story takes a few liberties to present them at another angle. So, rather than an assault mission, spec-ops infiltration effort or assassination attempt on the forge's leader, it's presented as more of a heist at first. One where you do not know the full details of the plan at first, but it unfolds as things move along. It's certainly an interesting angle to take, and the greater freedom this allows permits the story to take much more time in fleshing out the Blackshields themselves or their motivations over out and out combat. 

Over the entire story, and ignoring the space battle taking place elsewhere, there are perhaps only five or six shots loosed in total. The building tension and risk factor involved as things start to go wrong is less Ocean's Eleven and more Inglourious Basterds in terms of its presentation. The sheer unpredictability of the tale, and several curve-balls which emerge during the final act, assists the story in keeping the reader guessing until the end. You might predict the eventual choice Haar will make, but not what motivates him or the actions he will take to secure it.

The use of older legion traits to define certain characters or the behaviour of the Blackshields themselves also significantly assists making them stand out from their contemporaries. While it's hardly a one-to-one translation, many ideologies and attitudes which governed the Dusk Riders and War Hounds show up here, especially the latter group in terms of how Haar leads his warband. Given how much exposure both legions have seen of late, it's another element which allows the story to remain fresh to casual readers, but adds points of interest to avid lore fanatics. It's especially jarring when you see the lengths Horus himself will go to in order to secure Xana's loyalty, and the weapons it offers.

Finally however, and most pressingly, is how the take manages to handle the long range battle. As most of the action here is a backdrop to the story and little more than a pressing timer for the Blackshields, it could have had little effect upon the tale. Instead, the ruler of the Forge is constantly witnessing events through data, updates and ongoing information, inserted between the negotiations and displays of the war engines being handed over to Horus' side. This is conveyed as much through MIU data as it is the sound effects of surface to orbit batteries activating, the quiet reactions of the characters and general data. While it might not be wholly obvious at first, the surprisingly subtlety and effectiveness of both the sound effects and vocal direction offers another layer of atmosphere and realism to the story which prior outings have usually lacked. This isn't to say that the previous ones were bad, simply that this new depiction definitely has an edge.

So, what are the problems then?

The Bad

While this might sound as if it is immediately going back on what was previously said, the Blackshields themselves unfortunately lack some depth as characters. Now, this isn't to say that they're badly written or even that they lack personality, but all too often it seems that they are an amalgamation of background ideas or in a few cases exist primarily to create conflict. Haar himself is the exception to this, but once you get beyond him there is little to truly work with. Many of the background Death Guard unfortunately end up being relatively interchangeable, and most of their lines serve to reflect upon Haar's character.

The same is true even of the main "villain" of the piece, as Gilim Raijan seems too much of a toady to be a real threat. He's excellently voice acted, and well written in his own right, but his role seems to be that of a secondary antagonist or a minion over a true villain. This unfortunately leaves parts of the story without some innate direction, and it does blunt some of the threat of the Blackshields being found out when the closest thing they have to a true foe is almost being played for a joke.

Another definite problem is how the story also seems to have trouble doing more than telling the audience of certain events. Many points here and there are conveyed only through dialogue between the characters or reflections, which is definitely a strength of audio dramas on the whole, but it rarely seems to pause to offer much in the way of direct descriptions. We get a few remarks upon certain war engines, a nice opening discussing the industrial nature or the world and Raijan's grossly mechanical features, but this falls away as it moves on. So, things like the bloody price the Blackshields will be paying or some of the threats they face lack impact because you simply have a character thinking back to them or saying "Oh, that's there as well."

However, the most pressing problem surrounds the battle itself. As mentioned previously, the actual space battle is little more than a backdrop to events and it works for the heist itself. However, the constant updates, details and twists always gives the impression it is building towards something. We eventually get that exact payoff, and see the surprise turn come into play as the tables are turned on the traitors. Then, quite abruptly, the story ends. This makes the tale seem like the first act of a bigger event, and it's stopping right before it gets to the meat of the action. As a result, the depiction can seem underwhelming in how it leads up to a conflict but fails to resolve it or even offer true closure for the Blackshields themselves in this endeavor. As a result, it seems as if it seriously needed another ten minutes to properly wrap things up.

The Verdict

Blackshields: The False War is decent overall, but definitely flawed in a few places. While it is strongly recommended to fans of this group or people looking for a few more side stories to the war, it needed a little more to work with in my opinion. As a result, we get parts of a great tale, but just not something which feels like a whole one.

With that being said, if the intent was for this to lead into an ongoing series of audio dramas, it would be a solid start for such an effort. Flawed to be sure, but the same could be said of the Garro tales before it delivered two excellent works after Oath of Moment. Perhaps we'll get lucky and see more of them as time goes by.

Verdict: 6.5 out of 10

Friday, 6 October 2017

Metroid: Samus Returns (Video Game Review)

Samus doesn't speak, there are no minutes long cutscenes, Adam isn't ordering your into lava zones unarmoured, and there's no mention of "the baby" every five seconds. For anyone who suffered through Other M, consider that the short review saying that, yes, this is back to the Metroid we know and love. For everyone else, this is a remake in the best way possible.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Ark: Survival Evolved (Video Game Review)

ARK: Survival Evolved is a rare beast indeed. As one of many games jumping on the open world survival bandwagon, it would not have been a surprise to see it joining the likes of Rust in Early Access purgatory. Yet, here we are, three years down the line and we have a finished product. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to see that it needed a few months more work before its final release.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Kingsblade by Andy Clark (Warhammer 40,000 Book Review)

So, we have a rather large backlog of Warhammer novels to get through from the past couple of months. Perhaps it's time to start resolving that at long last.

The best possible way to sum up Kingsblade would be to call it the Star Trek: Voyager of Warhammer 40,000 novels. The mid-to-late Voyager specifically, where you have a few solid concepts being played around with, one or two highlights and likable characters. The problem is that, while what you get is reasonably entertaining, it never pushes into taking full advantage of the concepts it has on hand. As such, you enjoy what you're given, but it's hard not to wonder why it couldn't take full advantage of the creative elements or freedom it had on hand.


The story here is set on one of the myriad of war-torn worlds which makes up the Imperium of Man. Chaos has reared its head, striking down all in its path and despoiling anything too valuable to simply kill. However, the Imperium responds in force, with Cadian Shock Troopers, Mechanicus forces and several Houses of Imperial Knights leading the charge. The bloody street-by-street fighting proves to be vicious but the Imperium soon gains the upper hand, or so it seems. The Word Bearers have yet to play their trump card, one which will push a pair of untested knights into a trial by fire few expect them to survive...

The Good:

For a writer with only a few short stories to his name within Black Library, it can't be said that Clark doesn't put some thought into how his forces work. Often these books should serve as an expression of what certain forces are like, how they can be explored or even depicting the finer details which are all too often left out of codices. While Codex: Imperial Knights itself was highly detailed, Kingsblade capitalizes on it with some interesting new additions. How the Knights themselves are repaired, re-armed and reinforced while constantly on the move is a major part of the story, as is their creeds and traditions. 

Taking Warhammer's more knightly aspects to an extreme, as chivalry, personal heraldry and succession each becomes a core part of the ongoing tale. There's a distinct spin on each theme here to where, despite often being repeated elsewhere or by other armies, such as their glory seeking ways. Most knights there, especially their elder members, live for the moments which adds another chapter to their saga. From winning close honour duels to overcoming insurmountable odds, it could have easily pushed them down the old Klingon route of honour ruling everything. However, it's always held back in some manner or another, and they are bound to ultimately respect the decisions of their king above all else. It's enough that it's a characterful problem and a key issue of their culture, but you can still see the strength behind that and just how it is kept in check. It's these minor moments here and there which helps to make this feel like a crusade without devolving into the usual mix of out-and-out cliches.

Another definite point in the book's favour is how it often tries to work in more elements than merely the Knights themselves. While this might sound more than a little odd, we have all seen how Games Workshop backed releases will often skew events in favour of their big cash cows, and the mini-titans were a big hit. Yet, while they were ultimately crucial to the overall victory, other elements were always in play. The Cadians were repeatedly cited to be a very effective fighting force, and we see this time and time again throughout the book, while other successes only come about thanks to the intervention of other forces. One late event is only made possible thanks to a massed assault by Imperial allied aircraft, for one thing.

While it doesn't cut away to massed details or information as often or effectively as Abnett would, the story here nevertheless manages to use it well. It retains a tight focus upon a few key characters and only one or two locations at the most, and then uses these to bolster the events of the war. It doesn't dramatically increase its scope, but they are used in order to help it overcome stumbling blocks or fluff which might slow down the story. There are more obvious and less subtle moments littered throughout the book, as the scene in the command center during the initial invasion quickly establishes who is who along with foreshadowing the book's big twist. This allows it to remain easy to breeze through, get to grips with and move on without ever feeling as if things are dragging on.

The few moments when the book does truly stop exists only to emphasise the action of mecha combat. What we have here is less the tank-on-legs approach often favoured with Titans and more of a direct basic merger between pilot and machine spirit. There is a constant emphasis placed upon the difficulty in managing information, news and the memories of old pilots, and calling forth their ghosts as advisers to guide the pilot's actions. It's less Evengelion (thank the Emperor) than it is Big O, with half-remembered thoughts and blended concepts driving the character onward. It's not obvious at first how connected and detailed some actions by the protagonists are to their past legacy, but it becomes infinitely more obvious as they adapt to their weapons of war. This adds a degree of benefit to re-reading the book, as you do pick up on a few smaller things in the early chapters which become more obvious later on.

Of course, you're probably here for the fights. Do they deliver? Yes, but perhaps not in the same way you might expect. While the size and nature of battles from a knight is always made evident, it's depicted less through a Battletech viewpoint and more via that of an Arthurian saga. Moments like one major character's last stand on a bridge against insurmountable odds or the massed assault into a city, or the duels between pilots are all highlights within the book. Yet, in these moments Clark seems to dial back on some of the more hefty machine-like details to focus more upon the pilot and machine as one being. It allows the book to more aptly focus upon the knightly themes in its descriptions and presentation without going nuts and as a result it helps the book stand out more in terms of these factors. When it discards these for bigger scale battles or even the aftermath of a fight, there's a very smooth transition back and forth between these depictions.

So, that's what the book gets right. What about its mistakes though?

The Bad

The characters are unremarkable. It's as simple as that really, as the central cast of five figures fall into the roles of unwilling and untested but brilliant young leader, superior sibling overshadowing them, best friend anti-traitor and mentor very easily. They're all tropes you know in one form or another and, to be blunt, Kingsblade seems to heavily rely upon the archetypes over the characters themselves. While the book did a decent job at giving each one a basic character arc, you could tell from the very start where it was going and how it would end. Right from the opening battle to the ending chapter, there's no moment where you're genuinely wondering where the story is going or you cannot think of just what might happen next. It is admittedly well written and, in some ways, this could have assisted with its knightly themes, but it never quite hit the sort of exaggerated niche of storytelling needed for that.

The overall predictability of the tale is also a major issue throughout the story when it keeps trying to raise the stakes. Even without focusing upon it, you can quickly pick out or think up exactly where things are going, and what developments will befall the heroes next. This sadly even extends to the villains, and seriously hurts them as it tries to depict them as scheming geniuses. Unfortunately, rather than offering a 40,000-ified Victor von Doom, they come across as your common or garden dark lords. The Word Bearers in particular seem to only exist as a means to an end, while the true villains of the piece do very little to help them stand out. In fact, when they do truly act and try to enforce their power, all they accomplish is giving the heroes the opening they need to win.

This is another issue within the story: Things simply fall into place. It's another factor which ties into this predictability aspect, but all too often the moment there is some serious tension, it opts for a rapid resolution. An entire character arc is abruptly ended in one chapter and resolved for the rest of the book, while several obstacles are pushed out the way by secondary figures within the story. As a result, the heroes do not feel as if they have accomplished a true victory so much as capitalising upon circumstances or outright stupidity at points.

Another definite issue which keeps coming up is identity. You see, the book does a decent job of depicting the knights as a whole, when it comes to their roles, attitudes, traditions and even a few unique titles. That's all well and good, but there are multiple houses operating alongside one another in this book, yet you are rarely given a chance to see any distinction between them. This might sound cruel but, when you have two space marine chapters working alongside one another, the author will usually quickly an effectively set up a few distinct cultural clashes. Here though, we get very little. It means that the book seems as if it is lacking the sort of realism and dimensions which could have helped the story to seriously stand out. It's just left to some characters and titles to fill out, and that's unfortunately not enough.

Finally though, and perhaps the worst crime, we never learn much about the world itself. We see little of its people, of its monuments or even its general importance. As a result, there's a disconnect in terms of what is actually being fought over here, and it can make the war itself seem superfluous. Even more of a general history of the place, or a more emotive description of how the war came to be could have helped, but it just lacks that. It can make the early chapters remarkably insubstantial as a result, and causes no end of issues for the later ones.

The Verdict

This one is middling. Kingsblade certainly has some fun moments, ideas and concepts, but it only manages to be decent rather than noteworthy. For all the problems here, it's a tale I would recommend to a beginner within the hobby or someone who wished to know more of the Imperial Knights from a novel format. It's easy to get to grips with, breeze through and comprehend the actions at play, but there should have been something more. Give it a look if you're at all interested, but don't expect something which can stand up to the likes of Mechanicum.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Total War: Warhammer II (Video Game Review)

This really was a rare perfect match. On the one side you have the minds behind Total War, and on the other a fantasy world of ratmen, elves and humanoid dinosaurs.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Divinity: Original Sin II (Video Game Review)

Divinity: Original Sin II can be best summerized as "Old thoughts, new ideas". You have the freedom, harshness and difficult decision making worthy of an Ultima game, bereft of the grinding and mechanical frustrations of old. Plus you have a fantastic story to back that all up.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Eight Lamentations: Spear of Shadows by Josh Reynolds (Age of Sigmar Book Review)

There are many differences between Warhammer Fantasy and Age of Sigmar no matter how you look at them. One was grimy apocalyptic Renaissance fantasy warfare while the other is high fantasy crusades among the stars. It's a Dungeons and Dragons vs Spelljammer situation at its core. This has led many people to argue one way or another in terms of their overall strengths, but one area Fantasy has always won out in was in its stories. 

While Age of Sigmar has featured ongoing series and dramatic tales, there was no Gotrek and Felix to them, no Chronicles of Malus Darkblade or Vampire Geneviève to give it real distinction. The novels and short stories we had sometimes featured good tales, but they often required either prior engagement in the setting or lacked the diverse characters needed to give a saga a real meaning. Eight Lamentations seems set to fix that, as it serves as both a solid jumping on point for many older fans still unfamiliar with the older lore while also broadening the setting to offer a truly distinct and unique saga among the tales.

The Synopsis

Like many elements of the existing tales, the story here links closely to ideas and relics from past ages. In this case it focuses upon a dark power forgotten by many until now. Weapons forged in the name of an ancient war have emerged once more, each worth more to a king than an entire legion of immortal warriors. While thought lost for ages, they have unexpectedly returned, and with them possible damnation for all involved in the ongoing war. Should the Ruinous Powers claim the first of these weapons for themselves, the Spear of Shadows, the lands would flow with an unending tide of blood. To halt this catastrophe, a band of mortal heroes have been assembled to recover the weapon and return it to its true owner: The smith-god Grungni.

The Good

Compared to many other works within this setting, it honestly seems as if this is a concerted effort by Age of Sigmar to step back and establish more ground for writers to work on. That is meant in the most literal of senses as, rather than demi-gods, ancient warriors or stormborn crusaders, the heroes we follow are very much mortal. They retain more than a few links back to the Old World in more ways than one, and with such a diverse cast of humans, dwarves duardin, skaven and even the odd vampire, the book is able to explore a multitude of aspects at once. We see more of how certain cultures have survived and adapted to their new home, how some races have even thrived in this hellish realm while others cling to the tatters of their old lives. It's certainly an interesting choice, as it helps to give more context to the figures on every side without making the book feel overburdened or reliant upon nostalgia for the forgotten world.

Another factor which definitely works in this book's favour is how it manages to still give many characters a unique face despite being used as a representation of their culture. More than a few times on this site reviews have been forced to point out how characters lean more towards being certain archetypes or examples of their faction than individuals. While this is partially true in one or two cases, you never lose sight of how they remain strong individuals. Volker, for example, does fit a few of the more commonly human traits of asking audience questions or serving as the outsider. At the same time, the story does push to set up a few details thanks to his role as a survivor, and his history with a few of the other races. Just because he needs to act as the audience surrogate doesn't stop him from being a solid primary character after all, and the likes of Roggen work well against them due to their contrasting natures. Much of that is down to their origins (one a knight, the other a gunsmith born in Sigmar's realm) but the book utilises them well.

The fact the heroes are mortal also helps significantly in terms of the book's tone. There's a very Conan-esque feel to the events thanks to the individuals, scope and figures involved. Not so much the cheesy if fun Schwarzenegger film but more the original novels, where you had heroes wandering through the towers or sorcerers or stumbling upon eldritch horrors. A place where much of the world was still uncharted, still wild and untamed, but built-up enough to feature a few hubs of civilisation, where people have adapted as best they can to life there. This is established early on with Grungni, standing over a forge made from the hissing molten form of a daemon and using its power to craft new weapons and each others his trade. It's the sort of thing Fantasy could rarely get away with, but the shift in setting and the ability to more actively depict such figures works in its favour when given to the right writer.

The actual world building on display is fantastic here, with some incredibly creative, surreal and generally fantastical details which truly hooks you in very early on. While previous works seemed set to largely leave the Mortal Realms as a craggy corrupted wasteland ruled by Chaos, Reynolds seemed to ask "How has life there changed?" As a result of this, the reader is granted environments such as a forest of spiders which makes Mirkwood seem tame, a duardin city in the sky, a city built upon a leviathan worm and a real population to work with. Scavenging demigryph riders, airship riding prospectors and the evolution of the Slayer cult (sort of) all show up here, and this is the real strength of the work. You're given a real sense of the scale of the conflict. Rather than being just a waste being fought over, the location has settings, people, histories and details to really work with. We know about the factions now, but this book gives us a real look into the actual battlefield itself.

If you don't quite understand how important this is, consider the following: When anyone brings up the Old World, you immediately have several key images come to mind. Cities, cultures, people and even historical events. The Mortal Realms have lacked that, and in trying to flesh out the factions and their homes, it seems that this was often overlooked. As was how it might have adapted over time. After all, the Fallout games were all set in lethal wastelands, but that didn't stop some people recovering and starting to rebuild in some places.

While this could have easily devolved into a sight seeing tour, many of the key events are thankfully mostly handled without it losing sight of the narrative. There's always a clear race against time involved, and even when it takes a moment to shift gears to move onto an Overseer city, it's always towards a clear end goal. It's in much the same way that - to bring up Middle-Earth again - the Fellowship of the Ring might have stopped at Rivendell and Edoras, but it was always to serve a purpose and an important goal. The scenes of the world offered thanks to it were always in service to that greater saga, with the villains never falling out of focus.

This being said, there are definitely a few problems despite these positives.

The Bad

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this book is how mixed the fight scenes really are. For someone as talented and well versed in Warhammer as Josh Reynolds, a few fights distinctly lacked the sort of punch and detail which truly benefits the brutal nature of melee battles. There are some truly great ones to be sure, but more often than not those emerged towards the end of the first act onward and often benefited more from the unique settings. A conflict against sky-sharks or the brawl against the skaven in a forgotten place stand out thanks to use of the setting or their sheer scale. These broader descriptions or more poetic elements tend to work in Reynolds' favour, and it's what helps him to truly give the setting such a distinct feel of uniqueness. Without them however, some conflicts lack the sort of grounding and impact that they truly need. Were this taking place quite late on it would be one thing, but because one such event emerges within the early chapters, it makes it difficult to initially get into.

The introduction to the story also lacks some of the establishment and slower pace which benefited works such as his Fabius Bile novel. While the opening chapter focusing upon Grungni is a fantastic start, the introduction of the villains seems disconnected. It doesn't stick with one place for long enough to truly allow you to get to grips with some of the scenes and elements, and the fact that we jump right from the "big good" of the book standing over a forge to the evildoer doing the same seems oddly repetitive. It could have been used to easily flow from one scene to the next or even to strike up beneficial contrasts, but the presentation and set-up lacks more than a few of the elements which would have helped in this regard. Instead it makes it seem as if the novel is jumping around from one scene to the next at a rapid pace without fully establishing a primary character to follow, and can throw you through a loop to start with.

Another issue which does crop up is how the novel only offers a few key moments for certain characters. Bits to truly slow down and let them shine, or even conversations to better reflect upon their world views. This does benefit the novel's brisk pacing, and what we get is still great, but in regards to some more recent works it's hard not to say that there should have been more. While it might be unfair to directly compare this with the Black Legion, a few slower paced moments or longer conversations to give them a bit more life. The fact that Grungni is granted the most such moments is what helps him to stand out above all others (and yes, this is a rare moment where meeting a god and showing him physically truly worked out for the best) but it can leave you just wishing to see more of him over the others present.

Perhaps the final point above all else is how this book feels a lot like the start of a greater story, rather than an individual chapter of a bigger work. It is very effective in laying down the ground work for future tales and serving as an introduction to a larger event, but it rarely seems to be its own story. While it certainly has a self-contained tale and three distinct acts, a great deal is left to carry over to future works or be ironed out later on. As such, it can leave you feeling as if there should have been more at the end. Even without just cutting the end or closing on blatant sequel bait to lead directly into the next story a-la Lords of Mars, it lacks the sort of pause for closure which can make a read satisfying.

The Verdict:

Honestly, most of the problems found here are more general flaws than definite scars that stick out in the narrative. Were it not for the fact that Spear of Shadows front loads several ones at once into its opening chapters, they would largely be unworthy of mentioning. Unfortunately, because it does, it can make the book difficult to really get into, and it can be problematic to absorb so much scattered information and details before it finds its footing. Despite that however, this is a definite success, and it is one of the strongest stories to come out of the Age of Sigmar line to date. 

This is the sort of book I would hand to any fan - old or new - to make them want to get involved in the game and learn more about the world. It gives so many wonderful details and new ideas that it's hard to give any solid reason not to recommend unless you are adamantly disinterested in the whole franchise. Seeing how the world has changed, what some people have been forced to do in order to survive, and offering shout outs to Fantasy without remaining completely beholden to the Old World makes this truly entertaining. Top this off with one of the most surprising (and hilarious) mentions of what appears to be Malaki Makaisson's creations, and it's difficult not to enjoy once it gets going. Mark this one down as a worthy purchase, and keep an eye out for future Eight Lamentations works in the months to come.

Verdict: 6.8 out of 10

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Embuggerance Continues

So, my PC just died. Just when we finally get the ball rolling and working on frequent articles again, it seems that life found a new way to kick the legs out from under me. How long this is going to take will depend heavily upon the damage in question - as it simply refused to switch on this morning - and when I can manage to set the time aside to actually speak with someone.

In the meantime, some articles will continue. I have a small stockpile I have been building up of Black Library releases (and Star Wars: Crimson Empire II) which will be sent out over the coming weeks. With luck this shouldn't disrupt the schedule too much, but I want it to be clear that these are going up on a timer - I won't be able to approve comments or reply to people in that time unless an alternative method can be found. So, if your comment doesn't appear for a while or you're still waiting for me to answer you, I am sorry, but it might just take a little longer to get around to it.

Here's hoping things finally take a turn for the better soon.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Sunless Skies (Early Access Video Game Review)

Combining the freedom of Wing Commander: Privateer with a setting that might as well be described as “Discworld as envisioned by Alan Moore”, Sunless Sea proved to be one of the surprise hits of 2015. While Failbetter’s success with Fallen London could never be denied, the shift in gears to a more mechanically heavy game was nevertheless a welcome surprise, offering a surprising level of narrative depth and freedom. Shifting away from the sea and towards the stars, Sunless Skies is set to expand upon this fantastic world further, with a few surprising changes.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

No Plans For Future Batman: Arkham Games, Claims Kevin Conroy

Above all others, the Batman: Arkham series has been the benchmark for superhero games. Even counting the buggy Arkham Origins and mechanically troubled mess of Arkham Knight, the series nevertheless left a mark upon the gaming world. While fans have speculated about its return more than once, unfortunately, it looks as if Knight will be the end to this saga.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Black Legion by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Warhammer 40,000 Book Review)

Do I really need to say anything? Really, just look at who is writing it. By this point, even on his worst day Aaron Dembski-Bowden is still offering B+ and A- level material to read. Even when you wholeheartedly disagree with his views of the setting or depiction of events, the character drama and execution of many key ideas makes it a stellar story. The Black Legion is no exception here and, honestly, it's another extremely strong outing from this author. 

Building upon what we were offered last time, this second book in the series offers up more than enough twists, introspective thoughts and historic conflicts to keep any fan happy. That said, it isn't without a few key flaws.

The Synopsis

Set years after the events which brought Abaddon to prominence once more, the Black Legion has incorporated multiple warbands into its forces. Gathering together the displaced sons of every primarch, it is slowly turning itself into the dominant force within the Eye. Yet, while he continues to build and expand upon his personal domain, Abaddon isn't without rivals. Another potential Warmaster, one who does not spurn the gifts of the Chaos Gods, stands in his way. At every turn Daravek, the Lord of Hosts, opposes him and seeks to claim the role of Chaos' right hand as his own destiny. Yet, as each of these warriors prepares to face one another in war, other minds are at work. As the Ruinous Powers attempt to force the two into a direct conflict, an oracle offering them a way to truly cement their power and claim dominance over the traitor legions.

That destiny awaited beyond them, outside the Eye of Terror, where a warrior king awaits the the traitor who escaped his justice centuries ago...

The Good

While Talon of Horus laid the foundations for the Black Legion to come into existence, we only see them acting as a true force within this book. While there is something of a time skip to have allowed them to go from a small force of depleted warbands to the largest united group in the Eye of Terror, you hardly feel as if you have missed a thing. The novel quickly catches you up on changes, new ranks and alterations (along with the new dynamic among the marines) but oddly enough without telling you too much about the past. While what is conveyed is enough, this leaves room for future stories to fill out the past and a much needed air of mystery to the legion for all that is depicted here. It's one of those odd events where we see everything and yet at the same time the book shows you so little that you still have many questions. Yet, somehow, it still manages to be satisfying.

The book handles many ideas, concepts and subjects in this oddly off-handed way, but it often serves to underline a number of points. For example, an early chapter features Iskandar Khayon commenting upon how the Black Legion celebrates its victories. This is in contrast to its more restrained loyalist counterparts, but also to offer a more distinct link to the older legions. Furthermore however, it also examines and displays how they react to failure, while at the same time building upon re-establishing the sense of brotherhood which was core to the previous book. There's rarely a point where it fully spells out anything, but even when it does, it's to more deeply examine the world in as few words as possible.

Khayon's commentary, as you might expect, remains a definite high point throughout the book. His opening monologue about the Ruinous Powers and his views on them quickly re-establish his typically grandiose,thoughtful and surprisingly human nature, which continues throughout the story. Often, especially during the quieter moments, his narration will paused to fully reflect upon how life has changed them in one way or another and of the state of the Eye. Unlike before a few of these aspects serve more directly as criticisms of the Black Legion directly, and yet for every time it does this he often comes back with an even greater strength to overshadow it. It helps to make him distinct now he has been offered the greater purpose he previously sought, while also allowing the tale to explore the Legion as it fully forms into the spearhead of the Black Crusades.

Interestingly enough however, Khayon's own direction and story here proves to be just as important as the major events he finds himself surrounded by. As you would expect from Aaron Dembski-Bowden, the character dynamics and personal stories take priority over the big events. The actual crusade itself is essential to the story, and the horrifically bloody battles you would hope for are there. However, as it's seen through Khayon's eyes, the story uses him to explore why the Black Legion remained standing. After all, the previous book established why it was formed and how Abaddon could so easily bring so many astartes together. This one then shows the sort of focus and drive which would keep them going again and again, waging their Long War to finally over throw Terra and claim the galaxy for themselves.

The actual character arc itself is largely defined through a few key scenes, but each is brilliantly handled. You can see it adjusting stage by stage, but you only truly realise its impact at the same moment Khayon does. This permits the story a great deal of legroom to add in a great many fascinating moments and environmental details (including a truly inspired moment involving Sangiunius) without it ever seeming to be truly broken up or disjointed. What's more however, it also allows you to re-read the book and pick out a few characters who came to the same revelation Khayon did well before his time. It's an interesting twist upon the usual story details we get, and it further helps to emphasize just why Abaddon is such an influential and keystone figure within the Legion.

Abaddon himself also remains a major part of the story. He is there from the very start this time, and we are offered many more scenes of him truly as Warmaster leading his crusade. As a leader, tactician and minister, he is given the same treatment as Yarrick in David Annandale's series - Building him up as a true legend and imposing figure of power. Unlike there however, Dembski-Bowden manages to fit in a few more humanizing moments without compromising this, which is a true skill unto itself. The story builds him up like a primarch but it manages to simultaneously display the man and the legend at the same time, until you can barely differentiate the two. The story even plays upon this quality a few times, especially towards the end. What's more, Abaddon himself even acts in a manner more akin to the Horus of old in this book,which adds another interesting layer to his character given the questions surrounding him.

Obviously every Warhammer 40,000 tale needs a big battle or three thrown in, and we get just that. Several times over in fact. However, the narrative goes out of its way to give a distinct flavour to the fighting on each occasion. This isn't simply a matter of a duel contrasting to a big army clashing either, as the opening fight proves to be one of the most creatively terrifying uses of telepathy in the setting to date. The others, meanwhile, vary in nature several times over, from viewing events through the eyes of a dead man to watching a full scale fleet battle play out. Interestingly however, like the points cited above, some of the strongest moments stem from how much it doesn't tell you. There are hints constantly used here, suggestions to allow your mind to build a bigger and better picture of events alongside the descriptions, and manages to often work out for the better. You see, while we do get some of the moments which do emphasize the sheer scale of vast forces engaging one another, the book doesn't bog itself down with them. Instead, it offers just enough to get the message across, before letting the reader's mind do the rest of the work.

This is even used in the final duel the blurb advertises, with Abaddon finally clashing with Sigismund. We are only granted brief moments of the battle, enough to show off each warrior's skill and establish events over several pages. Yet, much of the fight is passed over at several points to focus upon the larger conflict at hand. While at first this might come across as cheap, skipping out on the fight it advertises, the story makes up for it with Abaddon's later comments and flashbacks to the final blow. It's certainly a very unconventional take on this sort of storytelling, but it actually manages to work out for the best here.

So, that's the positives, now onto a few of the problems of the book.

The Bad

Oddly enough, a few of the "bad" elements which worked in Talon of Horus' favour are still at play here. The narration is still very unreliable but is carefully used to show the author's take on the setting and excuse a few questionable points. This might have been dialed back somewhat to give a more flawed (if still more optimistic) view of Chaos, but it is still present. With that being said however, the bad stems largely from how the book unfortunately steps back from a few key strengths of its predecessor.

Talon of Horus itself focused largely upon the very seed of what would become the Black Legion. It was extremely character driven, and much of the engagement with the book stemmed primarily from seeing those characters interact. It gave a look into what life was like within the Eye, how it had adapted, evolved and certain groups had progressed. It showed how so many clashing individuals could be used to forge a true brotherhood again, despite some extreme differences. Plus, and it has to be said, while Khayon might have been the protagonist, his counterparts remained key to the story, with remarkably well fleshed out backgrounds.

The reason I am making such a key point of this is that, for the most part, the book pushes them away. In order to focus much more upon the bigger scale conflicts, events and Abaddon himself, this is heavily dialed back. Lheor, for example, has only half the impact he and presence he offered in the previous book, while Telemachon and Ashur-Kai lack the same connection to Khayon we had previously. This is hardly to say that their moments are badly written, but there's and odd distance and fleeing nature to their scenes I would not have expected from this tale. Much of this is certainly done to also make room for the secondary characters being established here, but in this early stage there isn't enough to offer a real opinion on them. While I might have criticized Betrayer for turning the World Eaters into the "joke legion" people pass off as a useless non-threatening entity, Dembski-Bowden nevertheless did an excellent job fleshing each of them out. No matter who had only a few pages or paragraphs to them, they offered a strong and often fascinating insight into their nature. Here, that's sadly not the case.

Now, this isn't to say that I do not want to learn more about the new characters, far from it. The likes of Moriana and Vortigern in particular are figures which hold serious promise for future tales thanks to their presentation and a few very strong moments. That said, many others seem to be little more than window dressing, Telemachon's second in command offers little to the story beyond perhaps one argument with Lheor while many others perhaps only have a single page or two where they really start to stand out. It's clear that the book is starting to set them up for bigger things, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still feel like a step down from its predecessor.

This same feeling unfortunately carries over to the main villain as well. Daravek is set up to be this counter or dark mirror to Abaddon, and he is clearly a definite threat. That said, we end up seeing so little of him, and his life is ended so abruptly, that he lacks the impact you would expect of such a figure. As a result, he comes across as a cunning and skilled Chaos Lord, not someone who could have been a figure to launch the endless Black Crusades against the Imperium. 

Perhaps more so than anything else however, there is this clear sense of the book failing to reincorporate or use what is initially set up. Like everything else here, this is likely being done to set up for things later on down the line, but it's hard not to note how a number of secondary elements seem to lead to nothing or are left largely undeveloped. The characters are the most obvious ones here of course, but you also several major game-changing elements which simply show up and then disappear within one or two chapters. Perhaps the best example of this is Faylech, a former member of the Death Guard, who is noted to have a history with Daravek. There is initially one brief conversation between the two to suggest they have a history (and it features one of the book's funniest lines) but rather than fleshing out either character it's simply forgotten within pages of it coming up. As a result, rather than being anything truly substantial, these become more something to help build upon Khayon's commentary and serve as a entertaining secondary detail.

The Verdict

The Black Legion was always going to face an uphill battle to live up to its predecessor's expectations. This was always going to be the second blow to reinforce the series' potential and start truly expanding upon some of the Legion's own mythos. It does indeed accomplish this, and many of the concepts it deals with in terms of what drives the Black Legion and the hardships earned in setting themselves up as a dominant force do pay off. It's largely the fact that it was forced to abandon several key elements which made Talon of Horus such a spectacular work which brings the score down a few pegs.

However, this is still an extremely strong story which expands upon a keystone event in the universe's timeline, and it offers great insight into certain key questions. The story plays with the old lore and even keeps a few rumours alive, it sets the groundwork for new tales to follow and best of all it offers a fascinating (and brilliantly unreliable) look into Chaos. Any Warhammer fan should definitely give this one a look and, if you have yet to pick it up, Talon of Horus as well.

Verdict: 8.7 out of 10

Friday, 15 September 2017

Inquisitor: How to Ruin a Campaign in 40 Minutes

A few times on here we have discussed various horror stories, with games going incredibly wrong. Those listed so far have been largely unpleasant, thanks to a few unfortunate individuals being involved. This isn't the case here though. What we have here is a trainwreck of the best sort, where things went disastrously wrong on turn one. This is the sort of game where it all blew up in our faces, but in the single most spectacularly glorious manner possible.

Also, this was my introduction to roleplaying in general. Looking back on Shadowrun and the games which followed it, I think it left an impression.

Back in the early days of 2005, Fantasy Flight had yet to spark up interest with Dark Heresy. Specialist Games were still largely supported by Games Workshop, or at least tolerated, so long as we were buying their parts. Well, after one too many kill-team games, a few friends and myself decided to experiment with some of their more devoted skirmish outings. It was nothing truly long standing, a few games of Blood Bowl (thank god they brought that back) and Necromunda (expect a full review of that game upon release) campaign there; each was just enough to spark our interest before moving on. However, while for one reason or another each game was cut short, each of us was always interested in the in-depth narrative. Upgrading your players, building your army and truly customizing a small squad had always been fun. Inquisitor offered to take that to the next level. So, when someone brought it up and hinted at a highly in-depth campaign they had in mind, everyone was on board and quite excited.

There was just one slight problem. Everyone was excited, but as we were to later learn, not everyone quite understood how to approach the game.

After two weeks of character building, discussions, arguments and blind attempts and painting, everyone showed up with two or three figures for their warband. As we were intended to build upon these as time went by, this was mostly intended to be a decent start to experiment with the rules and an opportunity to make any early alterations. In addition, to help build up the atmosphere and introduce the drama aspect, we were to begin undercover. The local Imperial governor had suspected of trading xenos technology, which had led several Inquisitors to take great interest in his affairs. While he was hosting an ball for those of noble blood, several such agents of the Emperor's Hallowed KGB took the opportunity to sneak inside.

These consisted of:

Inquisitor Varrick Taldyran of the Ordo Hereticus, a talented witch hunter and expert investigator.

Inquisitor Alanah Hoth also of the Ordo Hereticus, a noble born powerful psyker and skilled swordsman.

Inquisitor Davian Lerod of the Ordo Xenos, an expert infiltrator and professional gunman.

And Inquisitor Tyrael of the Ordo Malleus, a figure with close ties to the Mechanicus and a near totally cybernetic body.

As the game opened up, each of us was given the opportunity to outline just how we had gotten into this place and our general approach. Everyone had a different mentality after all, and it was a chance to set up just how we were going to play these characters. Unsurprisingly, Lerod opted to sneak in through the back door while Tyrael used his connections to ensure he was on the guest list under the persona of a Magos. Hoth meanwhile opted to go for the full undercover treatment after taking the place of a lesser noble of questionable repute, while Taldyran passed himself off as a rogue trader and just waltzed inside. 

On the whole it was a good start, with a few challenges, decent opening roles and opportunities to decide just where to begin. Depending upon when and how we showed up, our characters were given different placements and opportunities. So, Hoth and Taldyran could get info by mingling with other folk, Tyrael used the security systems to his advantage and Lerod was given full access to the back rooms thanks to using the air vent trick. That last one proved to be a big mistake. 

You see, we were all new to this. Without a local D&D fanatic to learn from, the closest thing we had to a reference on how to act was a few Black Library novels and Necromunda. To most of us this meant an infiltration mission was an infiltration mission. To Lerod's player, it was a chance to get the first shot in. We had all entered with the Mission Impossible theme in our minds. He had X Gon' Give It to Ya echoing about his skull.

Once the rest of us were done mingling with the folks and actually investigating the place, Lerod promptly drew two pistols and shot all the chefs. Moments later, as the rest of his retinue swung into the building via hookshots (smashing several priceless glass mosaiques on their way in) and aimed guns at the partygoers, Lerod kicked his way into the room.

Everyone involved was given a brief glimpse of a wild eyed man in full leather with enough autopistols to arm a full squad. He then screamed the high Gothic equivalent of "This is the fuz! You're surrounded by armed bastards!" and promptly shot the governor. By shot, I of course mean he opened up on full auto with both weapons and then threw a grenade at him. We would later learn that Lerod felt that this was the fastest way to resolve things. He was right in more ways than he might expect.

As the rest of the governor's bodyguards were preoccupied keeping the crowd away from him, no one was in the right place to dive in front of those shots. Of all the threats present there, no one expected the catering staff to go nuts and attack their employer after all, or use explosives. So, the governor looked on in horror at the barrage of deadly firepower heading his way, and then just grinned. There was an eldritch pop, and the governor disappeared. In his place was a very tall, very spiky looking, daemon prince of Slaanesh. We would later learn that its presence here was supposed to be a big twist in the planned story. One of several which were rapidly ruined as the turns drew on.

As the giant thing-which-should-not-be soaked up the bullets and began striding towards the alarmed Lerod, the world went to hell. Most of the servants promptly began screaming praises to the ruinous powers as the bodyguards disrobed themselves, unveiling disturbing tattoos and a variety of bone-blade mutations. Yes, including the one you are thinking of, those whose minds are in the gutter. Apparently with the jig up, every cultist in the building decided they were just going to have some fun with us instead.

While most of us had gone in lightly armed to ensure our disguises, no good Inquisitor was ever without a few good weapons. So, while Tyrael activated a set of twin Optimus Prime style power swords and laid into the nearest cultist, Taldyran pulled an inferno pistol out of his rear and began roasting the daemon worshiping BDSM maniacs. Seemingly determined to keep a few of her newfound contacts alive, Hoth blew two of the mutating waiters to bits with biomancy before using the Will to try and force everyone towards the exit. A good plan, but it proved to be a remarkably bad move on her part. 

No sooner did she attempt it than the local Ecclesiarch - no, I don't know why a priest would be permitted inside in this sort of place either - looked at her in outrage. Oh, not at the use of her powers, just that a foul mon-keigh dared to try and use them on him. Dropping his own illusions, suddenly we were left with an Eldar Farseer in the room along with a small cadre of Aspect Warriors. Deciding that their mission - whatever it might have been - was not worth this, they decided it would be their best policy to kill any nearby witnesses. Namely us. 

As this entirely new and desperate fight broke out, Lerod was legging it for all he was worth. With a sword wielding being of hell bearing down upon him, he promptly started Errol Flynning it, swinging off of the chandeliers and across the room to stay one step ahead of it. Giving the code "Epsiolnia" to his comrades, they began blowing up to the support beams to the room via melta weapons. Yes, they brought melta weapons to an infiltration mission. Who wouldn't?

Tyrael meanwhile had apparently activated beast mode at this point, using his bionics to his every advantage. Leading a group of eight cultists up a flight of stairs in a running series of parries and strikes, he suddenly dived forwards and activated his jump pack. Most of those in front of him were quickly reduced to a red smear, and the few who were unlucky enough to live, he promptly turned into projectile weapons against the eldar. Said eldar were rapidly being swamped by Chaos followers and a rather angry Hoth. 

With the Farseer having fired off several mind bullets at her, the Inquisitor was fighting back with everything she had. Unfortunately, for all her fury, Hoth was losing badly and being quite badly smacked around by the much more powerful mind. Unfortunately for the Farseer, Hoth wasn't above cheating to win. Using her telekinesis, and several very successful rolls, she promptly collapsed the floor beneath the Farseer sending him tumbling down into the room below us. Several cultists promptly piled in after him, and six frag grenades later, Hoth had dispatched about half of our opponents. 

During this Taldyran was having one hell of a time. Despite being the least inclined towards combat, his player had opted to buff out his hand to hand capabilities. So, while most of us were fighting with psychic lightning and robot swords, he was turning this into the church scene from the Kingsman if it were directed by John Woo. Machine gun punching one cultist until his spine was almost blown free of his body, he somersaulted over another's head (snapping his neck along the way!), before bisecting another with a stolen power sword. Then, after punching a grenade into the hole, he kicked the corpse backwards, killing three others.

Yes, apparently everyone but Tyrael had brought grenades as well. We were all remarkably well armed for this sort of mission, even if Lerod was quickly taking the cake.

While a few nobles had managed to scarper free from the building, most were being caught in the crossfire and quickly culled. The GM's exact words were a "running waterfall of red" as the blood began to flood through the hole Hoth had created. Unfortunately for us, while this did not spawn a Bloodthirster, the sheer excess of pain was powering up the daemon prince. Shrugging off everything the Inquisitor was throwing at him - even after he switched to expanders and dum dum rounds - it was promptly tormenting the man with its powers. Sapping away his will and tormenting him, it was gleefully stripping away his sanity, toying with him before it went in for the killing blow. In fact, the reason most of us were likely alive was due to its fixation with him. This was working for the most part, right up to the point where most of the roof collapsed in atop of the daemon prince, smashing it to the floor.

Rising quickly, it stumbled about, only to come face to face with a henchman wielding an autocannon. Yes, he brought a fucking autocannon to a social mission. And guess what, it worked out for the best! As the daemon prince turned towards the others, it was hit full in the face with several melta weapon blasts and auto cannon rounds. Chipping away at his massive HP stat, the henchmen loosed enough firepower to level the entire building, but succeeded in only making him stagger backwards. Towards a window. At this point I should probably mention that we were at the top of an Imperial spire, right across from a second adjacent spire.

Seeing his opportunity, Tyrael sprinted forwards, activated his jump pack, and promptly slammed into the daemon prince with all his might. So, the group was briefly granted the glorious sight of a gothpunk Robocop unleashing a jet-propelled flying clothesline on Diablo-lite, smashing them through a priceless window. Tussling through the air, the two traded blows for several moments. The daemon almost killed Tyrael with one good hit, before he kicked clear of the monstrosity. With another blaze of fire from his back, he smashed through the window of the opposing spire, leaving the daemon prince to plummet to its demise. 

At this point, the original ball room was quickly being evacuated for obvious reasons. Between daemonic infestation, a large three way battle and blowing up its supports, the entire thing was ready to collapse in upon itself. So, making a brief truce, the surviving Inquisitors promptly legged it to the launch pad on the roof. One large bribe and loud threat to the pilot later, and they escaped the slowly collapsing building in the governor's gun cutter.

Within an hour, the starting groups had managed to single-handedly kill all the villains (including a few nobles we didn't even know were important), destroy their armies, and blow up their base of operations. Had he not been busy laughing at weeks of work going up in smoke, the DM would probably have attempted to strangle us at that point.

Suffice to say, we never did attempt another Inquisitor game on that same scale. Most of those we tried were usually one-shots or two or three session games from then on. Believe it or not though, a few of those were even more insane than this one.