Thursday, 24 September 2015

Warhammer Quest Mobile Game Review

Warhammer Quest by Rodeo games, Creators of Carnage and Space Wolf, is a faithful recreation of the revered board game RPG produced by Games Workshop in the 90's. And when I mean faithful I mean faithful, with even the rooms in the game being taken straight from the tiles in the box. In fact the production values practically scream Old World and mid 90's GW's charm which made me both nostalgic and sad at the same time. Fear not, i'm sure an Age of Sigmar game will be announced in due course.

Priced at £4.00 (though i paid half this in a launch sale) Warhammer Quest is not the cheapest of games out there (though if i recall Carnage was around the same amount) but i think it is well worth the money. Of course the content doesn't last forever and that is where the extra payments come in, we will get there in a moment.

The presentation behind the game really is excellent. The core game comes with one province of the Empire encompassing seven towns each with a bespoke quest (some have two) increasing in difficulty. There are also hidden quests dotted around the map which is quite nice. Each of these is faithful in tone to the original quests in the board game, though i don't recall off hand if they are the exact same quests. after leaving each settlement you will be presented with either the bespoke narrative quest or a number of alternative short quests perfect for grinding and leveling up your characters.

Once you enter the dungeon it is pure WHQ goodness. You move and you attack, its all gridded and the whole thing plays as a faithful adaptation of the game with random encounters in corridors and enemies to defeat in every room. The rules are straight out of the game and even the abilities are the same as you level up. Once you have moved all your warriors and attacked it is the monster phase so tactical nous will be required to make sure you get the most out of your turn. For example, once you have attacked you cannot move, but Spells can be used before or after moving. Monsters encountered include Spiders, Bats and Greenskins, No Undead (they are DLC) but there are different variants of each and they are quite tough, a vicious Troll (replacing the Minotaurs from the box) is quite the challenge to defeat.

The random element of the game is also well captured although no dice are seen. This can sometimes be frustrating as your Dwarf  fails to hit his target three times in a row but lets face it, we have all had a bad run of dice rolls from time to time! Overall, it's not too bad but a nasty run of luck can see you struggle as you lose a warrior due to a crucial moment of failure. I found it OK though, failing a few quests but no massive problems once I had leveled up a few times. My time with the game was a great deal of fun. Problem is that time has come to an end. It was a fun 20 hours but i have leveled everybody to 6 or higher (7 is the cap) and completed all the quests in this region.

So what other options do I have? Well, I could try it at the harder difficulty, where warriors stay dead. Problem is there I would really need to purchase extra character packs and at over £2 a pop they would sure stack up quickly if I have to replace characters all the time. Might try it a little later as there are one or two I like the look of. The other option is to purchase additional content. Two other areas of the Empire are available at the princely sum of £4.00 each. One has Savage Orcs and the other Skaven. I lumped for the Skaven one even though it is a little shorter. So far it's more of the same mainly though the quests are a little different. I'm about half way through it and tbh fatigue is starting to kick in, without an antagonist or end game to work towards i'm not sure I can muster the enthusiasm to continue, although there is slightly more of a narrative this time round. Once i get to the end of it i'll have to once again make a  decision regarding the game. Do i abandon it? Restart it? Or fork out once again for an extended fix? Bear in mind that if you pay for all the DLC in the game it will cost  more than most full price console games and about the same as FFGs WHQ contemporary boardgame
Descent which seems like a much more sensible investment.

With high production values and gripping addictive game play there is a LOT to recommend about WHQ. It is authentic and well made with none of the game crashing bugs that plague Space Wolf.
It is easily playable on a phone due to its simple interface and your first few dozen hours with the game will be some of the most fun you have had for some time. It is an all too short lived affair though and although you could play the generic missions ad infiniatum,  i'm sure you would lose interest. To get your fix you will have to pay more. That said the game is in no way Pay to Win in format and I haven't had to purchase additional resources to get through the game. Overall I recommend Warhammer Quest, it is well worth your time, however long that time is.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Horus Heresy Novella Review: Scorched Earth by Nick Kyme

You know it's not often I head into a review with such a cast iron perspective of the subject I am reviewing. More often than not I actually construct the review as I rethink points in my head ruminating and considering various aspects and elements so as to ensure the review is balanced and free of any bias that might arise from a skewed first impression. Often I can find my view on the subject more malleable than first thought, and can often find myself at conflict with my initial perspective and I can find that my final assessment varies slightly over the course of the review.

Not so with Scorched Earth, I bloody well love this book, I really do. The funny thing is it isn't really all that spectacular (or original for that matter)just one of the most enjoyable reads i have had of late. 

When thinking of the myriad of novellas that have been released Scorched Earth is actually one that had slipped my mind. Indeed it seems to have been released only to coincide with with the latest full length novel Deathfire, from the same author. 

And I'll freely admit that I approached Scorched Earth with a certain amount of trepidation upon seeing the authors name. Not that i particularly dislike Nick Kyme's work (I still have the Salamanders Omnibus sitting on my shelf to read) but I did find Vulkan Lives a particularly frustrating read for reasons that you will find here (be warned, the very nature of my beef with Vulkan Lives means that it is one of the few reviews I have done that is NOT spoiler free) So the prospect of reading what is essentially a prequel to that book wasn't exactly a tantalising one. 

Set, as much of the recent Heresy material has been, in the wake of the Dropsite Massacre of Istvaan V, this is the first book that i have read that has been set solely on the devastated planet itself. Nick does an excellent job of establishing just how dead Istvaan is, a desolate wasteland, completely inimical and hostile.

The story itself revolves around a select few characters, all survivors of the Dropsite Massacre, being hunted down by traitor legions kill teams. The reader is left under no illusion that this is anything other than a desperate last stand. No grand resistance, just a shattered defiance against the inevitable. 

And they are indeed shattered. The characters that Nick has created are flawed and deeply wounded. Broken versions of Astartes, falling back upon training and instinct to survive. In fact the strong characterization is one of the major highlights of the book, with the characters being memorable yet identifiable, pleasingly human yet still Astartes albeit crippled versions of their former selves. 

Nick doesn't really venture that far from the established legion tropes, there is no need to. Instead he strips those tropes down to their elements to make his characters more vulnerable. The Iron Hands, rendered fatherless, seek strength as always. Be it from their augments, acceptance of Ferrus Manus's demise and the hatred derived from it, or a stubborn refusal of the same fact. The Raven Guard are as dogged and pragmatic as you would expect, dangerous like a wounded animal. Ever vigilant though few in number, and using their hit and run tactics best as they can in the face of vastly superior forces. The Salamanders are in the position of not having any idea what has become of their primarch, stoically clinging to the mantra 'Vulkan Lives'. of course Scorched Earth was bought out subsequent to Vulkan Lives meaning the reader is quite aware of Vulkan's fate. 

Still, the Salamanders are not privy to the events of Vulkan Lives and are making frequent forays away from the relative safety of their base of operations to deploy sensor beacons in the hope of locating Vulkan's ship whilst avoiding the attentions of the roving traitor kill squads. This includes the main two characters in the book, Ra'stan and Usabius who decide that rather than waiting to die they will venture out into the wastes of Istvaan to try to find out what has happened to their primarch. 

So begins (albeit more than half way into the book) a buddy story of sorts as the marines encounter all sorts of trials in their quest, This gives Nick an excellent opportunity to work on the camaraderie  between the two marines and also embellish upon the base nature of the traitor forces as the true extent of their depravity is laid bare.

The rest of the book covers the sojourn across the surface of Istvaan on their quest. This is where all the action takes place such as it it. The actual ending itself is somewhat undercooked and revolves around one clever idea.Very well implemented it will certainly cause you to flick back through a few choice pages. It's not original although it is done with a twist but the SKILL with which Nick has pulled it off is considerable. Certainly i was very impressed.

But then i was already impressed. Impressed by the masterful characters that Nick created and the way he has simultaneously portrayed them as strong yet damaged and wounded. We have not really seen Astartes portrayed this way before and i found it a breath of fresh air. It is not the most action packed book but in my opinion it in no way suffers for it. Nick seems to be in his element writing these smaller length novellas and i have certainly enjoyed his short stories as well. It seems only when he is attempting something much larger that he comes unstuck. Still, maybe that track record will change with Deathfire which i hope to have in a few weeks.

In the meantime I thoroughly recommend this book, it really is that good. Though not spectacular or a game changer it is written with real skill and is one of the more fun reads I have had recently. The ending, although pulled off with finesse is secondary to the exceptional character work within and I look forward to seeing if he can continue that strong characterisation in the future, now i'm off to read the Salamanders Omnibus

Book Review: The Unforgiven by Gav Thorpe.

It seems some writers have become synonymous with certain marine chapters. Nick Kyme has the Salamanders, Graham McNeil, the Iron Warriors, ADB took the Night Lords as his own some time ago and Gav Thorpe will always be linked with the Dark Angels.

And whilst we wait for Gav to make his first full length Dark Angels Heresy entry with Angels of Caliban, we have had his Legacy of Caliban series, a continuation of the story he started in Angels of Darkness. I have already reviewed Ravenwing and Master of Sanctity and now it is time for the third and final book. The Unforgiven, the book that should tie up and finish the arc begun so long ago.

One has to wonder how Gav views Angels of Darkness. A firm fan favourite, the book is regarded very highly and at the time added significantly to the fluff of the Dark Angels with some truly shocking revelations. Like many artists who have produced a magnum opus Gav has been judged by it ever since. Living up to a previous high point is notoriously tough and one can tell that Gav has been trying his best to do justice to Angels of Darkness with the Legacy of Caliban. Sadly thus far he doesn't seem to have quite managed it (though i did enjoy Ravenwing a great deal). Perhaps The Unforgiven will prove third time lucky.

The first of the legacy of Caliban and the best

The Unforgiven picks up the exact second after Master of Sanctity ends. The Dark Angels, as always, are on the hunt for one of the Fallen. This time they have been guided by one of the Fallen themselves and this has led to Cypher, who surrenders himself. Having apprehended Cypher the Dark Angels return to The Rock in order to find out more about him and his agenda and how it all keys into the Fallen's plans and indeed the Dark Angels very destiny.

The Unforgiven is the first book to feature Azrael in a primary role. Ravenwing established the characters we will discuss in a moment and Master of Sanctity focused on Asmodai and Sapphon. Now it is time for the Grand Master of the Dark Angels. Overall The Unforgiven actually features more characters than any of the other books and Gav is to be commended for the job he does of cramming them all in. obviously this means that some characters have a vastly reduced presence this time round, most notably Asmodai and Sapphon, this is a shame as the interplay between these two characters was one of the highlights of the last book.

Worth it for the tension between Asmodai and Sapphon

Still this is the final book in the series so Gav rightly has to make concessions as he still needs to get to a suitably climatic conclusion. We do find out a fair bit more about the Inner Circle and with Azrael being featured the Watchers in the Dark also make an appearance. Though nothing too earth shattering is revealed there are some tidbits here and there. Gav even manages to work some of his Horus Heresy work into the convoluted narrative and one has to wonder if this was his intention all along. Certainly i'm expecting more of the same with his yet to come Horus Heresy novel.

The main part of the book is taken up with the interrogation of Cypher and another infamous Fallen and inner machinations of the Dark Angels as they attempt to unravel the Fallen's plans. As mentioned Gav also brings the characters in Ravenwing's arcs to a close. Telemenus continues his woefully unsatisfying story. I find it difficult to believe that such an inept individual could survive in the ranks of ANY marine chapter for so long. Made Deathwing purely by the virtue of having seen one of the Fallen, he has since bumbled his way through his career as an elite Dark Angel, His eventual fate (no spoilers) will likely come as a surprise to none that have read thus far but makes an utter mockery of Dark Angel progression and resources. His hallucinations of the Emperor in no way endeared his character to me either. Gav has a go at justifying it all but i was left less than convinced.

So too i had problems with Annael's continuing tale. The Ravenwing Black Knight goes against orders to search for his comrade and ends up doing penance. In itself not an issue but he at this point becomes one of the most annoying and detestable characters i have ever read. Churlish, sulky, self doubting and whiny it is a poor poor example of an Astartes, especially one of advanced rank. I'd have written him off and shot him in the head personally. I have frequently championed Gavs ability to write well rounded and believable characters, but here as with his Eldar books what he has created is wholly unlikable. With the Eldar books it was understandable, after all as a race they are meant to be aloof and arrogant, so to write them as total dicks (and they were) kind of made sense.

Republished to co incide with the rest of the Legacy of Caliban and probably better than all of it. 

But to write Space Marines as whining, self pitying and self doubting oafs does them no justice at all. In particular it makes the Dark Angels come off really quite badly (man they got ISSUES) and combined with all the internal strife its all just a little odd. It's likely that id not be judging it quite so harshly and might be a little more forgiving had I not just read Scorched Earth. Gav could really do with taking some notes from that book on how to portray Marines as vulnerable and damaged yet still Astartes and retain their integrity.

Alongside all this soap opera the actual pain plot grinds to its conclusion. Sadly this element of the book is less realised than the afore mentioned character story arcs, Fairly convoluted and awkward it nonetheless builds towards a suitably epic if somewhat overreaching action packed climax as the Forces of Chaos mount an all out attack on The Rock. Here we actually get the battle scenes that so much of the saga has cried out for and it does make for a satisfying end to the book. Finally showing the Dark Angels at their best. As for the VERY end of the book, well it is audacious and bombastic and a potential game changer. I'm sure it will prove very divisive. The only way I can really describe it is 40K meets Star Trek but that really is the best I can do without spoiling it totally. If taken as canon (and i see no reason why it wouldn't be it is a pretty big deal and something that will echo throughout the background of the 40K universe.

And so to a close comes the Legacy of Caliban Trilogy/Saga, the official continuation and indeed conclusion of the narrative started in Angels of Darkness. I do not think that Gav has equaled that book, the series is too awkward and inconsistent. However, i do personally think that Gav has already written books better than Angels of Darkness so as far as i am concerned he has nothing to prove anyway. That is not to say that this series is without merit, I genuinely enjoyed Ravenwing a great deal, i thought it was a very promising start to a series and that it offered something not previously seen. Master of Sanctity had it's charms too, mainly the interplay between the titular character and Asmodai. However it was a book betrayed by it's own concept and Gav failed to really sell the concept to me. What seemed plausible in Angels of Darkness was rapidly becoming more and more far fetched and making the 1st legion look like a chapter of fools. The Unforgiven doesn't really delvier the end we deserve. The Fallen's plan seems somewhat poorly thought out and the plot seemingly exists as a secondary consideration to some truly exasperating character writing. The poor characters stand out against the lackluster overall narrative which is buried under masses of indulgence and hastily contrived ideas. The overall climax is pretty 'out there' and doesn't really feel '40K' .

Overall I just don't think the books are a good representation of the Dark Angels, I much prefer Gav's work thus far in the Horus Heresy. Angels of Darkness did a great deal for the Dark Angels within a very limited page count. The Legacy of Caliban does rather less despite being more than triple the size. Still, I look forward to Gav's Heresy novel, Angels of Caliban with great interest. I still think he is the man for the job, I just hope he reins in the characters a little as in this book I was really rooting for the Fallen and that probably wasn't his aim...