Finally remembered my password to the hosting control panel. So the site is now accessible from just http://www.charty.co.uk/.
Anyway, for content… let’s see.
Media I have been consuming and what I think
In an attempt to rekindle some creative thought I’ve been spending some time watching TV shows and playing video games. Most people would try to pass this off as “recharging their batteries” (as I have done above) but really it’s just procrastination. Anyway, in the interests of having some sort of content here so that when I show this site to people it doesn’t just seem like an absent minded fancy I quickly abandoned, here’s some things I’ve been watching, playing and reading and what I think:
GRAND THEFT AUTO SAN ANDREAS
I heard they’re making a new GTA apparently. There’s not been too much hype about it so I revisited the original Los Santos adventure to remind myself of all the jolly words gangsters use when referring to each other in a friendly context. After initially fiddling with the configuration in an attempt to get the game to play flawlessly on my Xbox 360 pad, I gave up and settled on Mouse and Keyboard. After about ten minutes of play I was blasting fools and singing along to N.W.A with the best of them.
The game really does remind you how utterly low key and straight faced GTA IV was by comparison. In San Andreas you’re murdering random people at the behest of an idiotic rapper who works in a rubbish burger bar, rolling up on a seemingly endless supply of enemy gangsters and popping off caps indiscriminately. It feels much more callous and blunt in its humour but that’s definitely part of the appeal and it’s clear the game is meant to be a big farce. I’ve also been playing GTA IV, which is certainly more subtle and restrained in its mayhem. That’s not to say that GTA IV wasn’t fun or funny, but it was much darker and brooding. We’ll see if GTA V continues the trend next month or if it lightens up some.
Recently I finished the main story of Dishonored, it’s certainly a unique game but it’s far from perfect. On the whole it left a very big impression and I’d certainly love to see more of the game (currently playing the DLC offerings which are just as impressive).
The games strengths lie in its fluid controls, wonderful and meticulous setting and interesting levels filled with secrets. The games weakness is that due to an excessive amount of handholding, most people skip that and burn through the game. The game has “Bethesda” syndrome, in that it gives you a rich and interesting world to explore, and through a series of floating icons and excessive hints, means that you never fully explore it in an organic way. The main protagonist, Corvo, is insanely over powered which means that any failure in stealth is remedied by just gunning and slashing your way out. When I found myself alerting the guards there was this sinking feeling in my stomach and the lure of the game was broken because the guards were so easily dispatched it made me wonder why I was bothering with stealth in the first place. You could probably make a beeline to the objective and complete the game in about four hours, which was one of the criticisms on release. Playing as I did it took about ten, which is to say I spent time soaking things in and playing with the games ecosystem. I think one day I’ll give it a shot on hard mode, turning off all the “little helper” UI elements and limiting the powers I get. I’m worried that, like with the awful Hitman Absolution, the game is designed around these prompts and systems and that turning from them only leads to frustrating and confusing gameplay, but I hope that Arkane are a better group of developers than that.
It’s worth writing a bit about the games fantastic setting though, which was a huge breath of fresh air from the usual unimaginative crap that most developers spew out. Set in a late Victorian style world with some anachronistic high-Tesla style tech and mysticism and magic underpinning the story like a skulking shadow at the back of events; the game employs everything I love about good world building. The settings are familiar but extrapolated to the point of interest, filled with mystery and horror. The city of Dunwall is utterly compelling and evokes Lovecraft and Poe in a very tactful way; mysterious markings and shrines to secret Gods are found in the homes of the desperate, the industrial march of an empire clearly built on the bones of old magic draws what it can from the mysterious Whales that inhabit the ocean and deep in the depths of the city, witches and weepers skulk around. It’s wonderfully rich, full of books to read, imagery to take in and people to talk to. It actually feels like the sort of world wasted on a video game alone, and I’d love to see a comic series or even a tabletop RPG game built around this world. All in all I’d recommend Dishonored based on the strength of it’s world alone, set yourself some limits (don’t kill anyone and try to explore the levels in full) and you’ll have a blast.
I’ve not been reading the issues as they are released due to spacial concerns and because I love plunging into a nice thick trade paperback. So I’ve only read the first two collections of Saga, a funny, frank and brilliantly creative space opera from Brian K. Vaughan. Set against a galaxy consuming war between the technologically apt people of Landfall and the magical society of its moon Wreath; Saga follows two new parents as they try and get their daughter away from the chaos. The catch is the two lovers are from opposite sides of the war, both of which would rather they were dead. The writing style aims for a natural tone and it works really well, painting the increasingly abstract and fanciful world with a smattering of believability. If the characters were walking around talking some quasi Shakespearean English or some Saturday morning cartoon dialogue it wouldn’t work at all, thankfully they don’t and it does. The characters are all interesting enough and faceted and the way their reaction to combat or horror is juxtaposed with their natural banter and the struggles of newborn care to great effect. There’s also a brilliant supporting cast of antagonists, most notably The Will who, along with his Lying Cat (a cat that can detect lies), quickly becomes a favourite.
The art is nice and loose, portraying the organic and magical world with a deftness and style that compliments the kinetic script in keeping the pace of the story on track. There’s plenty to like about Fiona Staples’ art and the imagination which is put into some of the creatures and world design present here. The best part is the clear cultural differences in the various alien races. Many science fiction comics suffer from a reliance on derivative design (even mine). The “bad guys” have the organic dark ships with the neon lights that look like insects and the good guys have the Ralph McQuarrie design rejects. Not so in Saga, where the worlds have a definite organic flair to them.
Yeah, I’ve written loads. Read it. It’s good.
Malcolm in the Middle
So this show is just as good when you’re an adult! Who knew?
Creative wise, as well as pushing on with my comic, I had time to shoot out a quick video with my brother. It’s about Dark Souls needing a controller.