First things first. Time to get a little self-promotion out of the way. I recently opened a Cafepress store online. The plan is to put up some merchandise related to my books so that you can express your love and devotion, which would be greatly appreciated. Right now, there’s only an Emperor Mollusk logo and slogan on mugs and shirts, but more stuff will be coming soon, I promise. And while I’ll still like you if you only buy the books, it still might be worth checking out.
I think this is very promising stuff, and while I’ve always been a somewhat talented amateur artist, I happened to marry a woman who is a professional graphic artist with all the training that goes with that, so she takes my talented amateur stuff and turns it into professional level stuff. Don’t ask me how she does it. Some sort of magic, I assume. Regardless, it’s worked out very well for me, so I won’t question my great luck.
So what else do I have on my mind other than the power of merchandising?
Have I mentioned that The Automatic Detective has been nominated for an Audie Award in the fantasy category? Because it has. And that’s a big deal. So I’m very happy about that. It’s an honor to just be nominated. But I’m not going to lie. Winning would be awesome. I’ll keep you updated.
Meanwhile, I’ve been playing a couple of cool video games. How about some short reviews?
Monday Night Combat is an Xbox Live Arcade game that plays like Team Fortress, but with a more organized feel. It’s premise is that in the future, clones are pitted against each other in a combat sport. The object of the game is to support your robots as they push into the enemy territory, knock down the shields on the other team’s moneyball (a big glowing disco ball kind of thing), and then be the first to destroy that moneyball to win. That’s the game, and from a simple premise, they built a great game.
Like any game of this sort, there are different roles a player might select, and they tend to fit the expected niches. There’s the agile Assault, the slow-and-steady Tank, the deadly Sniper, the sneaky Assassin, the vicious Gunner, and the reliable Support. Each role plays to its own strengths and weaknesses, and a team can have any variety or concentration without too much worry.
Because I’m not very good at these types of games, I tend to pick the guys with a lot of health and armor to balance out my rather clumsy nature. So I’m best with Tank, though I’m decent with Gunner and Assault and can be Support in a pinch. Assassin and Sniper, I might as well just stand around and let the other team kill me all day. But, hey, that’s what makes the game work. There’s something for everyone.
I think Monday Night Combat wins me over for a couple of reasons. It’s third person, and I like being able to see my character. Not just because I’m old school, but because it gives a wider view of my surroundings. With first person games, I always feel like I’m staring down a tunnel. And when playing against other people, it’s frustrating to get gunned down by someone just two feet to your left you didn’t see. But in MNC, while I’ll still get ambushed plenty, it usually feels more like they got the drop on me rather than I have no peripheral vision.
I also like that it has a very sly and goofy attitude. One of the reasons I’m not into a lot of tradtional FPS games is that it feels too “real” sometimes. Although it’s never really that real. Still, when I’m playing a soldier shooting other soldiers, it can feel brutal and unpleasant. MNC isn’t any of that because it strives to be ridiculous. Like Team Fortress, it looks and acts like a cartoon. And I generally prefer cartoonish games to more realistic ones (graphically) because I feel they have more personality.
But what I enjoy most about MNC is that it isn’t just about achieving a body count. Because the game has an objective beyond that, it’s less about slaughtering the enemy team as controlling vital points and pushing forward. To be sure, a body count helps, and if one team is dominating the other in terms of kills, it usually means they’re winning. But not always. When I play Tank, I primarily concern myself with enemy robots and advancing my own bots. And a team might have a superior body count tally, but can still lose the game.
Overall, it’s a solid game that I’ve enjoyed for several months now and continue to enjoy. Once in a while, you might run across the obnoxious Xbox jock, but that’s what mute is for. And for a price of around 20 bucks, I have gotten my money’s worth out of it.
The other game I’ve been playing is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Or is that KoA: Reckoning? Or Reckoning: KoA? However they want you to refer to it, it’s a fine game. The world is huge and the enemies varied. And there’s some sort of grand storyline going on, though I’m not entirely sure what it is at this point. But where it shines is that it is fun as all get out to hack, slash, and fireball your way across the land.
Reckoning put a lot of work into its combat and it shows. You have plenty of customization options available to great the kind of warrior / rogue / sorcerer (or combo of those archetypes) at your disposal. My first character was something of an agile sorcerer, armed with daggers and flying razor sharp discs, coupled with the ability to teleport, set enemies on fire, and throw dirt in their eyes. She was a lot of fun, but I decided to start a new one. This one started out as a pure warrior, but over time has become something of an assassin type. She carries a sword and daggers and is a deadly up close fighter who can take a hit if necessary.
These are just some of the options available. It wouldn’t be hard to create a powerhouse brawler, a skilled archer, a fireball and lightning spitting wizard, or any of a dozen other possibilities. While I’ve only explored two characters (and haven’t even risen very high in their ranks yet), the two I have played have both been different enough and rewarding that I could see playing the game two or three more times just to see what kind of character I could make.
The world itself is beautiful, colorful, and has a lot of background. You can do alchemy, blacksmithing, sagecrafting. There are tons of quests to do, bad guys to kill, and areas to explore. And it’s all solid. But I’ll admit that I’m mostly there to kill rock trolls and bring bandits to bladed justice. And on that alone, I could recommend this game.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,