Monday, 30 September 2013

First Screenshots of Warhammer 40,000 Armageddon

One of a trio of upcoming titles set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe Armageddon is a much anticipated return to turn based combat. While titles used to be relatively common within the genre, with XCOM clone Chaos Gate among others, the success of Dawn of War made RTS releases more commonplace. How well Slitherine handles Armageddon and its success could see a true return to the genre with full armies, and today we've been given our first glimpse of the game.

Uploaded onto Talk Wargaming, a photograph of a screen displaying an ongoing battle within the game was among two images taken from Games Day, a major convention for the hobby. Within it was featured two of the Imperium's forces, the Blood Angels space marines and Imperial Guard, facing off against hordes of orks:

There's little to really be said about the image beyond what is on the screen. The lack of any HUD can likely be put down to development or it just being a promotional piece, but it looks like the game is moving in the right direction. Featuring both a fairly obvious movement grid despite a lack of outlines and a style reminiscent of older titles. Let's just hope the end result is more Final Liberation and less Rites of War.

Armageddon is slated for release in early 2014.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Horus Heresy: Scars: Episode VIII (Ebook Review)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.

MECHWARRIOR ONLINE Developer Attempts to Censor then Hide Negative Press

Read the article in full on this is simply a preview.

In a follow-up story involving Piranha Games Inc., it seems the developer took an adverse reaction to negative press. Attempting to first rename the article on their forums then censor it, and finally hide it from anyone outside the community. Worse still, this has been alleged to not be an isolated incident.

This specific case began when members noticed that the thread title, copied almost directly from the previously linked article, had been re-worded to list “Starburst: MWO Faces False Accusations Of Widespread Advertising”. When it was realised this had taken place, the following posts were made:

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Dark Heresy: 18/09/2013 - Conscription

So here we are once more. Rolling dice as we have a small band of semi-insane figures rampage throughout a setting, usually resulting in explosions and mass deaths. After we were done with Seattle, wrecking large chunks of it on our way out, our group opted to return to Dark Heresy once more. After all, the ending to our last campaign had ended with us fighting a giant daemon bird in a gunship and fighting pro-mutant cultists. Give one guy a bolter and we would have been fighting in the Emperor's name.

Rather than just copying across our Shadowrun characters, though bringing Fraggins through was seriously considered, we opted for a fresh start with a duo somewhat unlike before.

Serving as our muscle this time was Jarr Bardason. Allegedly an aging native of Fenris who had ended up in the Imperial Guard somehow. Armed with bow, longlas, a silenced autogun and a couple of mono weapons, he was to serve as the groups muscle. Unfortunately for us, despite a staggering number of common knowledge skills and strength of 40, he was not the most accurate of individuals. His equivalent of sharpshooting appeared to be "Hold down the trigger until you see blood."

Next up we had Ishmael Guilliman. Yes, really. Ishmael's generation was more amusing than it was anything else, as rolling the name Guilliman ended up being hilariously appropriate. Following rolling dyed skin and opting for blue, the character's white hair managed to turn him into the closest we could get to being an actual Smurf. He also ended up with the name Ishmael after his player rolled "Grendel" so many times he was barred from using the Archaic list of names. Apparently he didn't want to have to deal with a PC potentially using God-Mode.
Anyway, Ishmael was to be our groups psyker as he'd stroll around killing people with his force staff and mind bullets. Also floating psyblades as he was a member of the Templar Calix. We kept joking Jarr was probably only recruited to shoot him in the head if he accidentally summoned a bloodletter.

You can guess how well things would end up with these guys working for an Inquisitor.

Opting to start with a prequel, explaining how we met the Inquisitor in the first place, we were involved in fighting on the world of 47 Kapella. With a number of local secessionists having up-risen in a massed force, the Imperial Guard has been called in to put down any resistance and restore order. Having been on the world for sometime, Bardason was eventually called into the camp of his regiment's Imperial Commodore: Smoker.

Promptly saluting the Commissar outside, just avoiding a bullet to the head by leaving his weapons at the edge of the tent, he marched in and saluted again. That seemed to be his approach to a lot of things: Don't ask questions and just salute a lot.
Inside was the Commander himself and an unknown figure in an extremely official looking uniform, his voice disguised by a device which sat over his mouth. Either a re-breather or vocal scrambler of some kind, it was hard to tell. Introduced as Lord Commander Van Graff, he informed the guardsman that he had need of his services. A recent push on another front had temporarily drawn troops from an instillation they needed to investigate for some unknown reason. Bardason had been recruited for the job as a large force would draw too much attention.

As Smoker left, as did the Commissar outside, Van Graff promptly sat down and helped himself to whisky. No, I don't know how he got it past the mask either. After a few seconds, we were joined by a figure completely clothed in light grey material who bowed before the Lord Commander. Guilliman had arrived.
Outlining some of our mission objectives it was made clear what our route would be: Part of it could be made via Rhino to reach the outskirts of the facility, but following that they would need to make it on foot. Reasons were not made clear, only that Capricon Umbra Neophex Tyrate was of great importance to the Imperium. Yes, our GM's humour could be occasionally that crude.

Informing the two that they would be leaving at 01500 (AKA twenty minutes) they were permitted time to prepare for the upcoming mission and dismissed. Talking a bit less formally outside, Bardason gathered his gear just as Guilliman grabbed his stafff from outside. This was the first real confirmation the man was a psyker prompting an "Oh, that explains a bit" from the guardsman. After a short amount of "preperation" AKA grabbing two bottles of moonshine from a figure of questionable standing in exchange for a Commissar's cigar case, they headed off.

Unfortunately for us the first major roll of the game was a horrendous botch.

Rolling 77 to drive the Rhino (his AG was 44) Bardason proceeded to careen across the land like an unholy cross between Frank Drebin and Elwood Blues. After about an hour of driving, trying to follow a non-existent road, the Rhino ended up ditched right outside of a group of rebels waiting in ambush for Imperials. As Bardason tried to reverse the Rhino back out the ditch, it promptly got one of its tracks shot off bu an RPG and had bullets start hammering against the hull.

Giving the order "Deal with this" from the Lord Commander the two broke into action. Dropping the rear access ramp, Guilliman stormed out the back as (dodging a couple of bullets) Badason manned the pintle mounted bolter.

As Bardason began using the gun for suppressing fire, Guilliman cast precognative dodge. Casually walking around the few bullets which were sent his way. Briefly turning his attention to specific targets, blowing off the ear of one cultist and splattering another nearby one with gore.

Nearing the rebels' hiding place, a rock formation just to be clear, Guilliman drew the full attention of a duo of rebels while a third leaped out of cover to bash him over the head with a rifle. The former two fail, one so bad he managed to jam his gun, with the one entering melee fairing far better. Smacking Guilliman over the head he caused 2 damage, making him stagger back slightly. Unfortunately the one with the working gun fired again, promptly killing the man seconds after his initial success.

Deciding he'd had enough, Bardason opened fire on everything which wasn't on his side with the storm bolter eventually succeeding making five hits and using one fate point. All of the enemy fail to dodge the incoming storm of bolt rounds and things go horribly wrong. The previously wounded guy is promptly "blown to bloody goblets by the attack" as his ammo explodes, wounding the person next to him. Another fell, VERY, VERY dead with HIS ammo exploding as well and showing the nearby area with flesh and blood. This causes one of the two remaining guys to fail a willpower test and curl up in a gibbering mess. Getting Righteous Fury off, there was nothing left of the last buy besides a smoking pair of boots. Guilliman promptly mercy killed the survivor.

As he was walking back it was at this point Bardason saw Guilliman's forehead symbol for the first time, barely managing to stop himself laughing. In revenge for the characters skin being blue, the GM (who asks to be referred to as Von Diego from now on) made him unable to see his own reflection, and gave him something obscene as his mark distinguishing him as a psyker.
Returning victoriously to the immobilised Rhino, we found the Lord Commander asleep, waiting for us to finish.

With the first session over we were victorious in our initial skirmish. But stuck with a non-operational tank in the middle of nowhere and behind enemy lines.

<< #1       Return To Index       #2 >>

Horus Heresy: Scars: Episode VII (Ebook Review)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Tallarn: Executioner (Novella Preview)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.

The problem with trying to judge Tallarn: Executioner at this stage is there’s so little to actually go on. With only nine pages to cover showing the novel’s very beginning it’s hard to comment how effective an introduction this is. While there are certain elements there which can be praised and criticised we simply don’t have the full story to compare it to. As such consider this an early look more than an actual review, commenting upon the writing style and effectiveness of what is on the pages.

Depicting the opening attack which began to ravage the world, the preview we were given for Tallarn: Executioner spent time introducing two very different sets of characters. First the head of a city state, one of the most prosperous on the planet, then an Imperial Army regiment stranded on the world since the rest of their force moved on. While the latter are most likely the group people will be interested in the most, the former does give some insight into the story’s direction and the impact of the war. Better yet, some idea of what the world was like prior to the wasteland it returned to being following the attack. Not much but enough of a hint to keep things interesting.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope (Book Review)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mechwarrior Online (Video Game Review)

So after many months of beta both open and closed, Mechwarrior Online is to finally to be launched in proper to the public. Displaying far more of the supposedly first person combat aspect than Mechwarrior Tactics, it’s the title fans of the video games will be most drawn to. Having undergone many changes and tweaks over an extended beta, how is the released product?

The story here is set several years prior to the Clan invasion, relatively early on in Battletech’s timeline. With multiple houses in a state of continual war against one another, massive battlemechs scavenged from the technology of old are sent against one another to take worlds or rob their foes of talented warriors. Beyond a few factual points however, the story barely comes into this.

The game’s big draw is naturally building towering mechs and proceeding to fight others with it. Selecting the one best suited to your skills tooling it up to carry the weapons you can use best and fragging people with them. These it definitely gets right with the sheer variety of weapons and mechs to take.

There are a large number of mechs divided into various weight classes, each capable of carrying out their own set role with different set ups and weapons slots. For example most versions of the Catapult are missile slot heavy, making them perfect for support roles while the Dragons are more varied in their layouts. There’s a good deal of flexibility with each one as each slot doesn’t designate a specific weight or class of weapon, only their type. For example, a laser slot could go for anything from a small laser, effective only at close range and very weak, to a Particle Projection Cannon AKA the “I just blew your arms of at 800 meters” gun. This has led to many kinds of customisations, such as huge AC/20s being mounted on light Raven mechs for sudden ambushes.

The only real limitation with what you can give a mech are two things: Heat and weight. Heat efficiency is judged by a counter to the right in the mech bay and shows how many times your mech can fire continuously before it shuts down. At that point you’re left exposed, unable to move or fight back for several seconds. The higher your efficiency, the more times you can fire continuously so you need to add as many heat sinks as you can to stay in the fight.

Weight is the obvious one, but everything has a weight value along with a maximum load each mech can take. So long as you don’t exceed that limit you can carry as many big guns as you have slots. More or less all the internal components save for essentials or those in a fixed position can also be shifted around. Storing ammo in a place less likely to cause harm if it explodes is one use of this and even points of armour can be removed to save weight or shunted to one specific place.

Much of the above is basic stuff, present throughout most games set in this universe, but Piranha Games Inc. are sticking with what works in this respect. Further allowing customisation can be made with bonus add-ons like the ability to cap bases faster or consumables like calling in air strikes. Admittedly the latter example isn’t worth the cash though.

The actual fighting environments are well varied and designed. While by no means the most complex of maps, the variation between urban, frozen and volcano locations is decent as is their size. In some brawlers will have a clear advantage while others are so vast that anyone who can pick off people with a gauss rifle will be taking heads. You can’t choose between them specifically and the map you turn up in is completely randomised, which is definitely a good way to force strangers to adapt and work as a unit. Well, sometimes anyway.

The map variety is only further improved by the two game modes of Assault and Conquest, the former emphasising upon combat while the latter relies upon racking up points via capturing various bases. This has gone a long way to solving the cap rushes which once plagued the game and it adds some very welcome additions to the title.

The combat itself is definitely solid on the whole. As each mech has segmented areas to fire upon and specialisations, meaning you can have your arm shot off and keep fighting, but will lose anything you had in that arm. Some are harder than others thanks to higher armour values, others are essential to remaining operational (head, centre torso, at least one leg), but it allows you to stay in the game with horrendous amounts of damage. It also forces you to be tactical with where you are shooting and opt where to hit the hardest in extended fights. A mechanic which never fails to make firefights feel far more enjoyable than the common FPS problem of killing someone with one bullet by shooting him in the foot. With the addition of various capabilities such as the now thankfully balanced ECM, jump jets for additional manoeuvrability and flexibility with all mech designs the most advertised points are definitely very strong.

The unfortunate thing is that the design, planning and good ideas in combat is almost ruined by the matchmaking system. Online runs on an ELO rating system for planning matches and selecting players, which only works in theory and is a very strange choice for a team based game. Originally designed for one on one matches, it’s fine with teams who’ve banded together but just doesn’t work with individual players. Oh it’s been modified to supposedly account for this, but it honestly just doesn’t work and can’t account for team balance, weight balance or the possibility of greater co-ordination between other players. In fact, the system itself seems to have an adverse reaction to victories.

After you’ve been PUGing for a while here’s the sort of trend you’re going to fall into: You end up being completely steamrolled by the enemy for a good number of matches. Over time this eventually becomes less and less until you’re losing, but your side takes out almost as much of the opposing force as they do of you. Then you win a couple of matches, two or three at most, and the system promptly throws a fit. It suddenly thinks you’re a god among players and you end up being thrown against players far above your skill, and the cycle starts again. Others might have different experiences, but for myself and those I’ve spoken to playing individually, this always happens. It ends up just removing a lot of the fun from matches as they become predictable with you losing a good 85% of the time.

Unfortunately for the Mechwarrior Online, its problems don’t stop with matchmaking.

While the core basics of the game are solid, there are a few elements which work against it and other things which need to be accounted for. As it’s an MMO this is namely its friendliness to new players and future developments.

New players are thrown in at the deep end and tend to have an even harder time than other people due to the mechs they have available. Rather than models which have been bought by people and then customised to their needs, players are stuck with stock designs. These tend to have multiple weapon groups already set up, poor heat management and a good number seem to be built to try and be “Jack of all trades, master of none”. As such you tend to overheat much more, can’t specialise in what you want to do, and have a weapons set up which the tutorials don’t explain very well. The first two points do have their exceptions, mechs designs are cycled every few months to new models, but you’re almost never not going to be fighting an uphill battle with them.

Having stock, ready built mechs would be fine if you were only in games facing people with these pre-built designs but you’re not. Instead you’re thrown into matches where people will turn up with their own tweaked designs intended to rip everyone to bits, like Hero Cataphracts with three Gauss rifles. You’re just going to die a lot, even ignoring the poorly implemented matchmaking.

Even if you loathe light mechs I’d still recommend buying one just to have a fighting chance, as the few bonuses are meant to give an edge to new players don’t work. Hell, the implemented gameplay choices intended to make it easier to learn do nothing and often teach the wrong thing. Third person perspective only seems to encourage solo-play rather than co-ordinating as a group as it removes all need for spotters. Not to mention it makes jump sniping tediously easy. Throttle decay is a hindrance more than a help as it feels as if it’s taking control away from you. The only useful one is Arm-Lock for beginners as that helps getting used to aiming, but removes the ability to make precise shots meaning you’re going to want to turn it off after only a short while.

Besides that there’s the tutorials which effectively just explain the bare basics of the game. You know the barely interactive walls of text which try to ram information down your throat a-la Final Fantasy? It’s just a step about that. You’re faced with pop-up screen after pop-up screen with paragraphs of text at a time telling you what to do, then occasionally allowing you to actually act out what is stated. They feel unintuitive and you’d honestly have a better experience learning through trial and error on the testing grounds.

All of this could have been overlooked were it not for one thing: The developer. PGI seems utterly rudderless when it comes to having a focused direction, improving upon problems and above all actually catering to the audience it already has. The problems with trial mechs compared to bought ones is something which has remained unchanged throughout the entire beta. The few additions feel like steps back and when they do follow suggestions like with the tutorials it feels like a bare bones inclusion.

Many problems and balance issues go unfixed for months it seems and are often only solved via making something else unbalanced. Just for example, the Jenner was infamous for being the ubermech during months of the beta. It could cut the other two lights at the time to ribbons, had seemingly no weaknesses and thanks to lag-shielding could merrily take multiple mechs on at a time without much risk of being taken out. The only way to accurately take it out it seemed was thanks to Streak SRMS which could lock on and always hit the centre “torso” armour. This weakness was going to be removed by giving it ECM until a forum wide poll widely opposed this decision. As a result Jenners began to have some actual competition with the other light mechs, but only because they were armed with the new game breaking item ECM.

ECM turned into an “I win” button as it prevented target locks, made the mech and any allies nearby invisible, and effectively switched off enemy radar once in range. It turned the game from a tactical MOBA into a borderline Call of Duty rush-brawler as no one took LRM missiles, and light mechs couldn’t be hit by anything. Worse still, for some reason they refused to fix this game breaking problem for months. PGI only agreeing to give very minor tweaks to power and ability before eventually bringing it down to something remotely balanced.

While this isn’t how every patch, inclusion and update has gone, it’s how too many have gone and continue to go. There’s no clear direction to each decision and it feels more like the group is making things up on whims at times than following any concise plan for a finished product. Or it is taking the Star Wars: Galaxies route of ignoring its current community in a desperate attempt to draw in some new unknown audience. This has been an accusation repeatedly seen for some time, and has only gotten worse since the inclusion of a third person perspective.

PGI has repeatedly gone back on its word time and time again to the point of completely contradicting the basic outline of Mechwarrior Online when it was released, even outright lying to its players. This needs an entire article to itself to really examine, but if you’re interested in the problems on the developer side look here, and see an analysis of their response to their latest PR disaster here. For the sake of space: They are unreliable and cannot be trusted in the slightest by its own customers.

Mechwarrior Online is a good game at first glance, but the longer you look and the more you play it, the more problems become evident. For all the issues weapons currently have, fighting against mechs is the most balanced it has been in a long time and can be genuinely fun. Building and customising your down designs is definitely a fun point even given the grinding, as actively fighting other people makes it much more fun. At least when you’re getting between 80-100K per match anyway. Despite that however, there are just way too many problems in the game’s current form to properly recommend.

If you have friends who all play it or join an active House/Clan/Merc Corp then you might be able to have some fun with this one. The game is designed for teamwork and it really is the only way to properly play the title while having fun (or at least occasionally winning). Otherwise, give it a miss until PGI includes more features they promised or start to address its bigger problems.

Monday, 16 September 2013

PLANETSIDE 2's 'Operation - Make Faster Game' is a Go!

Read the article in full on this is simply a preview.

Planetside 2 News

Over the months we have seen major attempts from the developer of Planetside 2 to improve the MMO’s experience. From the addition of new areas to a borderline crusade against aimbotting, Sony Online Entertainment has actively tried to make the game better one aspect at a time. Today sees the next big push with the effort to speed up the title’s overall performance. 

 Announced on Planetside 2’s forums, technical director Ryan Elam created a thread announcing their next big effort to increase the game’s framerate and overall speed for players involved. This follows two years of monitoring and reviewing game elements which were working slow, repairing those they could, but Elam says that now is the time they wish to make a major push towards improvements.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (Video Game Review)

If you had to pick a game which blended horror and atmosphere to the point of near perfection, you could certainly do far worse than Amnesia: The Dark Descent. With creepy hallways, hauntings and Outer God incursions into reality; it took its ideas and proceeded to take them to near pitch perfection. Suffering only from largely unavoidable issues of enemies outstaying their welcome, and billions of screaming youtubers trying to make money off of it. Now we have a sequel subtitled A Machine For Pigs, with The Chinese Room partnering up to create a dark, petrifying, nightmarish experience worthy of Steven King’s bad dreams.

The results were decidedly mixed.

Set in another disturbingly dark building with another memory lapsing main character, A Machine For Pigs follows the tale of industrialist Oswald Mandus. Recovering from a fever he awakens with months of his life gone and the voices of his twin children calling him. Nothing is quite as it seems however, and as Mandus begins to encounter other figures patrolling the depths of the building it becomes clear something unnatural has been unleashed. Something unnatural, barely contained and ready to continue its machinations against the population of Earth…

Unlike the usual reviews, this is going to focus on the negatives first and then the positives. Why? Because to be clear right out of the starting gate, many of the game’s problems can easily be put down to one thing: The Chinese Room’s involvement. Anyone who has played their previous titles like Dear Esther will know they’re beautiful to look at, wonderfully atmospheric and with interesting mysteries, but lack interactivity. Often seeming more like the player is on railroad tracks with the story told to them than experiencing it for themselves. That unfortunately sums up a lot of points within Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs. A great story, great atmosphere, but not much in the way of gameplay.

Many mechanics which were crucial to making The Dark Descent such an engaging and fearful experience had unfortunately been removed. Chief among these is the necessity to hunt down fuel for your lamp and the item inventory. A great deal of the fear of the original was managing what resources you had on hand while trying not to attract the attention of the monsters, and choosing when to light an area. An act which could get you killed but was necessity for maintaining your sanity meter. Speaking of which, you can say goodbye to that as well. Far too many mechanics have been removed wholesale and as a result the game feels like it’s pulling its punches, not with you facing down a dozen threats from every direction.

The removal of such micromanaging does make the game somewhat more streamlined, but it’s not for the right reasons. Rather than tweaking something so it wasn’t so intrusive or problematic to the game’s pace, removing so many wholesale just makes the game feel less threatening. Not to mention less involved, as you have far less to do than stroll about the place doing a few things to stay alive but mostly sticking on track to follow the story. Overall it simply feels far less like a video game and more like a very well made “virtual experience” like some new version of an interactive film. Don’t get the wrong impression, you still play this game but it’s just not as involving as before.

This is the massive black mark against an otherwise spectacular game as everything else here is brilliant.
Many details and aspects of A Machine For Pigs feels like a proper extension of what came before. Improving upon graphics, atmosphere, style and story to present a familiar yet very different experience from the last game. One similar enough to be recognisable, but different enough to stand out on its own.

The big visual shift comes in two specific areas: The greater level of technology present throughout the game as you find deeper layers of insanity to confront, and the Orientalist fascination within the games themes. Both of these themes comment and reflect upon the specific year in which the game is set, 1899, and play upon the overall themes of the story right to its very core. You won’t know it until you see where the story is actually going, lending to more visual subtlety than the previous title featured.

More prominently is the step up in characterisation and voice acting. The story is much more personal than the original and driven by the inner demons of those involved, feeling much tighter and better driven than what came before. Just for starters, the protagonist feels as if he has much more of a presence within the tale beyond a silent figure for the player to project themselves into and greater involvement. This is again a detail which does diminish much of the personal scares and horror for obvious reasons, but it does lengths to make the narrative far more engaging. What definitely assists in this manner is the choice of voice acting as well. While The Dark Descent was definitely no slouch in the voice acting department, the involvement of Toby Longthworth and Mark Roper ups the quality to the next level. Both giving a level of conviction which helps to press upon the player the importance of the story.

The monsters themselves are also a well-designed and interesting addition to the title, once more serving as visual metaphors and working towards a final point. The problem is that while they’re interesting, they’re far from scary as they will likely only kill you if you’re forced into a corner.

Ultimately that’s the biggest problem of the story: It’s more interesting than it is scary. Whereas The Dark Descent was a truly terrifying experience, A Machine For Pigs evokes more a feeling of “huh, that’s interestingly disturbing.” Many parts are well made, there’s no doubt about that, but much of it simply feels toothless and empty far too much of the time. It really is a game of extremes, on the one hand so many elements truly are expertly implemented and designed, but on the other it lacks so much of what the original made great.

If you are looking purely for story or were scared away from the original Amnesia by all means take a look at A Machine For Pigs. Otherwise, if you’re actually looking for a good game with better immersion and interactive design, stick with the original. It holds up just as well now as it did upon release, perhaps even better than before now it has a sequel to compare itself with.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Kickstarter Spotlight: Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters

Between IDW getting hold of the Godzilla licence, and Pacific Rim obviously, the kaiju genre has seen something of a resurgence in recent years. Despite the costs which come with creating a film about giant monsters, authors and creators have found other media to keep creating stories about them, as have the group we’re looking at today.

Under the newly formed Ragnarok Publications, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters is set to be an anthology of tales by different authors surrounding monsters attacking cities. Each is putting their own spin on the giant monster genre, each with their own area of interest outlined in their sections of the kickstarter page. More than a few are there purely because they “enthusiastically endorse Kaiju monsters smashing stuff.” Others meanwhile are there to try and put a different spin on things, such as considering if they should write a “mindless reptilian engine of destruction” or a more Cloverfield approach of a kind of victim. Whatever the case though, there are more than enough authors to cover many angles of writing a monster story, and certainly some interesting choices among them.

The actual authors who are on-board with writing for the anthology range from the well-known and well recognised, to the less so, and at least one outright infamous for his work. Those best known are Edward Erdelac, Weird West author, James Lovegrove, Writer of The Age of Ra, and Erin Hoffman, writer of the Chaos Knight books. A well-known one in not quite the same light is Mike Maclean, writer of Sharktopus among other SyFy films. The ones which will likely draw the most attention to frequenters of this site are Black Library authors C.L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, writer of two upcoming Time of Legends books, and David Annandale. The latter might have has serious problems with The Death of Antagonis, but can definitely write city destroying titans when he puts his mind to it.

While definitely not as well known or acclaimed a group of authors as we saw in our last Spotlight, most of these people can definitely pen a book well and those who are not can at least write fun stories with enough destruction. As the main attraction to supporting the book, it’s good to know it’s in good hands.

Another area of talent is also the artists involved, Dan Howard, known for working on a good number of prominent video game titles from Final Fantasy to Mega Man. While you should never judge a book by its cover, the series definitely has some truly fantastic covers done in a style reminiscent of some of the older kaiju monster films. This is something which will only improve with the stretch goals.

The stretch goals are perhaps the most frustrating part of this page as they give little to no actual information. The first stretch goal beyond the target, getting two additional artists to work on the book and draw the monsters is good. It shows examples of their work, cites who they are and the total number of pieces they will be contributing. The same goes with the later stretch goals with art where people can look up the names of those on offer and see why they would want to have them working on the book.

Beyond artists there’s unfortunately very little to encourage people to donate further cash. Every single last stretch goal informs us that a new author will be joining the book, but doesn’t even offer hints about who they are and as such there’s no real incentive to see them completed. People don’t know if the additional money will get them an author of high calibre, someone relatively unknown or an author disliked among science fiction circles. The people behind this don’t seem to realise that there needs to be some kind of hint or suggestion of who will be involved even if they don’t want to outright say who is involved. A complete mystery just doesn’t work.

The rewards in question range from a basic wallpaper to being used as a character within one of the novels. Nearly all of the rewards beyond the first tier are worth looking into as they offer a free ebook of Paul Genesse’s first Iron Dragons novel, access to all writing updates, a special thanks on the publishing website and proceed to dramatically improve from there. More of the higher tier options range from being an aforementioned redshirt in a book and choosing which city a story is set in, to more uniquely interesting additions such as a pewter coin with the anthology’s symbol. I try to avoid suggesting how much people should spend, but this is one you should look to at least donate $13.00 to if you’re interested in donating at all, if only for the rewards. Though whether some of the top tier rewards are worth the cost will likely vary from person to person.

The real problems here, beyond the aforementioned issue with the mystery stretch goals, is the potential for authors to drop out. This is listed under the Risks and Challenges section but it does highlight the fact that if a backer is after a story by one author they run the risk of potentially not getting them involved. Furthermore, the actual section seems to be extremely short and doesn’t cite many of the printing and delivering problems which other projects have gone into detail about. It might be basic stuff but explaining exactly how and why certain problems might arise shows that those behind the project are at least aware of them. Simply stating “delays in editing and/or production are always a possibility” isn’t quite enough to encourage confidence in the people behind this.

Ultimately Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters is worth it if you like big monsters, go here and take a look but just make sure you read the whole thing before you choose to back it. There’s more risk and uncertainties involved in this one than others we have covered so consider how much you want to give carefully before you do donate. The book is currently just under three quarters the way towards its goal and has 22 days still to go.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Horus Heresy: Scars: Episode VI (Ebook Review)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.