New Space Wolves Codex: Initial Thoughts

lobos vs orkos

Huzzah! After five years of playing Space Wolves, I finally get to experience what it’s like to have a codex totally change the army!

I mean, I’ve seen people go through this. The inevitable fingernail biting moments, like the missing Looted Wagon in the Orks codex (that was later hurried into White Dwarf so fast they didn’t even proofread it properly), the glee upon the faces of those seeing a brand new Monstrous Creature added to their collection (Eldar/Tau) or the outright rage expressed upon seeing units removed (Tyranids). But this is the first time I’ve had those feelings of worry, joy, anger and confusion over some of the changes.

First of all, a side note. The sudden switch to the crazy release schedule GW has going is ravaging the rumour mills. Normally they’d drip through, most would be broadly reliable but taken with salt, before a sudden storm of pictures, rules and posts would appear about two weeks before release. Now, you’re lucky if any of the rumours are even vaguely reliable until one week before the release.

This was the case with the new Codex: Space Wolves. Many of the rumours, even days before the codex went out, were contradictory, either due to hurried translation or just bad posting. This has been a GOOD thing. With no idea what to expect, I was DESPERATE to get the codex. Up until the Orks release you had a broad idea of what was coming in the next codex. With Space Wolves, no one really did.

So, my initial thoughts thus far, broken down by unit type, are as follows:

Vortigan Codex
My Wolf Lord in Terminator Armour.

HQ

Wolf Lord – Biggest change is the addition of a 4+ save by default. Can take awesome relics, such as an axe that gives +3 attacks when outnumbered and a Frost Blade with Rending. Will probably still be the mainstay Warlord of my army. Storm Shield is also super cheap, but no longer a requirement as the 4+ Invulnerable save is a good save.

Wolf Priest – More expensive, but gets FNP 6+. Still a good choice, I’ve thought up ways to take advantage of that extra staying power that would have been a waste previous edition. Still great with Blood or Skyclaws. Also good on a bike, but still can’t take one on a ThunderWolf, clearly for no other reason than that Fearless ThunderWolves that re-rolled hits would probably be broken.

Rune Priest – Easily the biggest changes in HQ go on this guy. Nearly halved in cost, cheap level 2 upgrade, Adamantium Will for him and his unit by default. As the standard SW Force Org lets you take 6 HQ’s you could feasibly take 6 of these guys and I wouldn’t blame you, especially with the Psychic Phase in 7th.

Wolf Guard Battle Leader – Was useful last edition because of Saga of the Wolf and Outflanking shenanigans for cheap. As that’s gone, he’s a good choice for the additional HQ slots above, especially leading Blood Claws, as he’s even cheaper. Then again, the characters in the other parts of the codex are better, so you’re unlikely to see this guy methinks.

Special Characters – Most now have a relic that is better than a weapon of the equivalent type. Most got a points decrease. Njal can re-roll Deny the Witch and has a Psychic Hood. Ragnar is probably the biggest disappointment, both because his model wasn’t updated and he’s one of the most expensive characters despite a lack of Eternal Warrior or high toughness. I want to take him, but can’t really justify the cost. Harald DeathWolf is basically the opposite, an awesome model and stat line, better invulnerable save, combined with the ability to outflank with ThunderWolves by default makes him worth every penny, and he’s cheaper than Ragnar. And he’s immune to flamers and Pyromancy, which is cool (pun intended) if very contextual. Bjorn is much cheaper, but still very expensive compared to Murderfang, and still doesn’t have 4 Hull Points. Perhaps the weirdest one here is Canis Wolfborn, who has the same points cost and similar abilities to the previous codex. Like Murderfang he can get 10 attacks on the charge if lucky with Rampage. No invulnerable save makes him a risk though.

Troops:

Blood Claws – Cheaper, lost Headstrong, gained a flying transport and will outflank half the time if taken in the Force Org chart in the book. That’s a combination that makes the initiates go from being the runt of the previous codex to being the phoenix of this one. Probably the biggest switch in terms of power at first glance. Equipment didn’t get cheaper, but fifteen power armoured guys for the same price as 30 Orks is more in line with where they should have been last edition, considering the lower WS and BS.

Grey Hunters – Arguably more expensive, dropped by one point but lost their close combat weapon. Again, a big switch in terms of overall power here. Previously they were an absolute no brainer, now I’d argue they’re actually less useful at first glance than Blood Claws, as outflanking for them is less useful and the new Force Org chart encourages using troops for this purpose (4+ for outflanking, rather than 6+ if not troops)

Lukas the Trickster – Once a troll, always a troll. In terms of a single model drop in points he has the biggest at 60. Was never worth it, despite the lulz, in the previous codex, but is now an independent character and thus counts when determining which units can outflank in the new Force Org chart. Is cheaper than a Wolf Lord, much better than a Wolf Guard Battle Leader and can still take his challenger (rather than just any model in base to base) with him using his stasis heart. Pelt of the Doppelgangrel reduces enemy weapon skill now, meaning he’ll face anything short of an Archon at a higher WS. Possibly the most efficient use of points in the codex now.

Elites

Iron Priest – Space Wolf armies tend to have better options than vehicles in various slots. They also have better choices in the elites section. However, has the potential to be a nasty Alpha strike unit if combined with cheap multi-melta equipped servitors in a drop pod. Is probably not my first choice for this section though.

Wolf Scouts – Lost the ability to ambush from behind enemy lines. This is probably the biggest “What? Why?” change in this codex. That was their “thing” it was what made Wolf Scouts a very cool unit, even if they weren’t that survivable they could come in, wreck a plan and get shot. Did get cheaper, and can now take camo-cloaks. Put them in a set of ruins with Sniper Rifles and they’re a good unit, as they hit on 3+ and are about as expensive as last edition, but with better cover saves.

Lone Wolf – Still silly, but lost the troll factor with the removal of the previous rules for “A Glorious Death”. As they give away potentially both a kill point and an easy First Blood opportunity, I would avoid them like the plague. They are also never scoring units, in an edition where objectives have become increasingly important.

Dreadnought – Cheaper, start with a Multi-Melta rather than an Assault Cannon, can take a Great Wolf Claw, which is a Dreadnought CC Weapon that re-rolls to wound (so, you should really kill something if you hit it) for very low cost. In short, is MUCH better, as 6th edition was making Dreadnoughts disappear very quickly considering their high cost. Can also take the new Helfrost Cannon, a lovely piece of kit that is basically a missile launcher +1 and can kill multi-wound models with a bit of luck. The Venerable Dreadnought can take a Great Axe and Blizzard Shield. The Shield counts as a melee weapon (so it adds +1 attack) and gives a 3+ save from the front armour and the axe is a Master Crafted Dread CC Weapon. Tis a big investment at 50 points though.

Murderfang – The beastliest beast of all beastliness. This guy is mental, properly mental. While confusion reigns over whether or not Furious charge affects his weapons (it really should, but meh) it doesn’t matter massively. He gets +3 attacks on the charge and has Rampage. He is a Dreadnought, so will be outnumbered nearly all the time. So yeah, he’s insane, put him in a drop pod and watch havoc unfold. Other than Lukas, this guy is probably the next character I’m likely to buy.

Wolf Guard (Not Terminator) – Still an ok, but not great choice. Main reason you might take them is that if you put them on bikes or give them jump packs they are a good quick unit that doesn’t suffer from the WS and BS deficit of Blood Claws. Otherwise, better stuff around me thinks.

Wolf Guard Terminators – Better than before in almost every way, and they weren’t bad to begin with. Cheaper weaponry across the board, can get a flying transport and can now teleport on the battlefield in units of 10. Love them, glad I’ve got tons of them and can’t wait to use them more.

Arjac Rockfist – Got a drop in points close to Lukas. Like Lukas, in that he is an independent character now who is only not as a good as a Wolf Lord by virtue of his lower wounds count. Had his fluff changed so that he didn’t fight off krakens. Instead killed a Wraithknight single handed. Given that Krakens are now the size of hive cities judging by the art, that is at least slightly more believable if less awesome (though not by much). Again, given the change to the Force Org chart, this guy can be a nasty surprise if he comes in from the side of the field. Can still throw his hammer, and his shield gives him Eternal Warrior. Like Lukas, went from silly fun but not competitive, to being a totally viable competitive choice.

Fast Attack

Swiftclaws – Cheaper, but given the other choices in Fast Attack also got much cheaper this is kind of a moot point. They make a great assault choice, as they get lots of attacks but lack being a Troops choice so are unlikely to outflank. Expensive when compared to other units in the codex, but they are VERY fast, so probably a good choice against fast moving armies that you just need to pin down.

Rhino/Razorback/Drop Pod – SHENANIGANS! They got added to the Fast Attack slot, meaning you no longer have to take them attached to a unit. Creates horrific potential for allying with Space Marines or Imperial Forces (Deep Striking Ogryns/Grav Centurions anyone?) as they can start in them. Otherwise, the Razorbacks base cost went up but it’s upgrades went down, so just taking one costs more, but taking one with a Twin-Linked Lascannon will cost the same as it did in the last codex. This is probably the biggest shake-up element of the codex, and allows you to take back up vehicles in case the outflanking doesn’t work on your troops.

StormWolf – Love the model, love the StormWolf. It can transport Blood Claws PLUS an Independent character AND can be a troops choice as it’s a dedicated transport. It has a good chance of outflanking and causing havoc with it’s smaller but still powerful mounted Hellfrost turret. Can Skyfire in an army that lacks anti-air and overall is a great addition to the codex. Also the silhouette looks like a puppy and is therefore automatically awesome.

ThunderWolves – My favourite unit of the whole of 5th decided that it had clearly had enough of the jokes and got cheaper and more ridiculous than ever. Can take up to 6 in a unit now, can take Storm Shields for HALF what they used to and gain a character to issue challenges. In short, to take a unit of five without Storm Shields in 5th costs the same as it does to take them WITH them now. That’s a massive change in terms of their overall survivability against armies like the Eldar and the Tau, the armies I’ve have the most difficulties with in the past. Combine with Harald for awesome outflanking fun times.

Fenrisian Wolves – Nope. Still seem terrible, even at 8 points each they’ll get wrecked by anything short of Gretchin. Avoid except as wargear, where they act as ablative wounds.

Skyclaws – Got cheaper, makeup for their lack of outflanking potential by being able to deep strike anyway. Looking like a great CC unit that is brilliant when combined with a Wolf Priest. Was the best way to take Blood Claws last edition, and is a good way to take them now.

Land Speeders – Never a bad choice, Land Speeders are great at being that really annoying bastard that can wreck well-made plans in seconds. 3 Multi-Melta Land Speeders are similar cost to 10 Swiftclaws, and I’d probably take the Land Speeders. Good mainstay of many Space Wolf armies, and still a good unit.

Heavy Support

StormFang Gunship – Not as good as the StormWolf, but still good. Can dish out a metric butt-ton of firepower, loads of anti-vehicle and anti-troop options and a small transport capacity that might actually make an Iron Priest a useful choice to pop inside. Want to put down the S6 AP3 Large Blast template down on a unit of Space Marines and watch them weep frozen tears.

Long Fangs – Possibly the one unit that was bound to be disappointing following last editions utter craziness. Long Fangs didn’t go up in points, but missile launchers obviously did. Still the best Heavy Support choice in the codex. Want to combine them with a Wolf Priest and Quad Gun Defence Line. 6+ FNP, Preferred Enemy against a unit type of my choice, 4 lascannons and a guaranteed 4+ Save = one heck of a solid back line that re-rolls hits against the toughest stuff on the board. Can only fire at a separate unit with one model (as they got the Split Fire USR), but thats not too big a deal.

Vindicator/Whirlwind/Predator – All good, Predator went up in cost base, same as the Razorback, but equipment cost went down. I’m guessing this is to stop possible ridiculousness in unbound lists made up of cheap auto-cannon and heavy bolter equipped Predators. All good choices, though not as good perhaps as other things. The Vindicator is never, ever a bad choice though.

Land Raider/Crusader/Redeemer – As the Blood Claws are better, the Crusader is as well. Can very reliably transport the eager initiates to the front line with an independent character where they can wreak face without the enemy getting any more than overwatch shots at them. Redeemer is great if it gets outflank, I used to use it with Wolf Guard Terminators and a Wolf Priest with Saga of the Wolf this way and it stood me in good stead in 6th. The normal Land Raider is kinda meh in comparison. Still good though, and a great way to keep Grey Hunters or Blood Claws safe without sacrificing anti-tank potential.

Lords Of War

Logan Grimnar – I GOTS ME A CHARIOT YOU DRUNKEN BASTARDS!!! Seriously though I cannot see a reason to take Logan at all in the new codex beyond his sheer badassery and fluff. He costs a crap ton of points, has lost the two abilities that made him powerful in the last codex, and Stormrider is either going to make you laugh with glee as it spears across the battlefield or cry out in agony when a unit of Loota’s or something of with similar weight of fire takes it out in one round of shooting. I love you Logan, I really do, but for more points than 3 Wolf Lords base, you need to be better, even with your chariot of Wolfy awesomeness.

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The Fluff

Honestly, this is the one place the codex loses out. The Space Wolves still have everything that made them the archetypal space vikings, the ale, brawls and braided hair but lack… well the “flair” of the previous codex. Everything feels sterilised, as though things couldn’t possibly be THAT awesome or THAT crazy about them. In a similar way to how many parts of the Ork codex feel as though the silliness has been toned down (though not by much, and mostly thanks to the removal of Wazdakka) the Space Wolves codex feels like someone replaced the badassery with the same tales of battle that we’re used to in the normal Space Marine codex. Nothing about it feels “special”, Arjac is a good example. He goes from fighting off swarms of giant sea beasts to a Wraithknight. Sure, beating up a Wraithknight is no mean feat, but there’s something much more awesome (and unique) about seeing him throwing his hammer around at dozens of massive krakens. Also, large parts of the unit descriptions appear to have been nearly copy-pasted from the previous book, and while they haven’t changed the units THAT much they did need a little work on some of the stuff.

But the biggest disappointment is to do with the lack of fluff attention given the flaw of the Canis Helix. Mark of the Wulfen is gone, leaving only Murderfang with the Wulfen curse in the codex. The Wolf Brothers are called “ill-fated” and mentioned in a single sentence. They are mentioned briefly in the Rites of Initiation and as part of a Relic, but it’s as though the Wulfen, one of the most characterful and defining elements of the Space Wolves, was something GW wanted to hide away and remove from the codex. That did make me feel sad, it must be said and I’m sure I’m not the only one, as giving a chapter a big defining weakness is a great way to add to their background and development (Blood Angels have the Black Rage, Dark Angels their Fall etc).

Print Codex vs Interactive iPad Codex

I bought the Interactive iPad Codex for this release, partly because the special edition was ridiculously expensive and I wanted something a bit different from my peers, and partly because it had an “Army Requisition” feature, essentially an Army Builder built into the codex. Initially, the download didn’t work on the day of the release, making the pre-order pointless and so I was put off from pre-ordering such a thing again. But that’s a separate issue.

The interactive codex is awesome. It really genuinely is, especially if you enjoy just flicking through the book occasionally at your leisure. It’s little things, Ragnar for example has a page dedicated just to him where pressing on different parts of his armour will bring up information as to where he gets his name, his sword and so on. The Grand Annulus does a similar thing, as pressing on individual stones will bring up information on that company.

It also has the 360 degree pictures of the models that you can find on the GW website, as well as zoomable pictures of pretty every model in the codex. It also contains links to the website in the unit info, which is very dangerous to ones wallet.

The Army builder…. is still buggy. Everything adds up right from what I can see, but some of the functionality means I wouldn’t trust someone using it to be sure that it was right. It also, in rather hilarious fashion, once loaded up a Grey Knights Army Builder. Well, at least we know what’s coming next….

Overall, loving the new codex. Want to see more on the Wulfen though so get on a Thirteenth company supplement GW!

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My Wolf Lord, converted from Krom Dragongaze

My 10 favourite Video Game Characters Part 2

WARNING: IN THIS POST ARE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ANALOGUE A HATE STORY!

Number #9: Hyun-AeAnalogue A Hate Story

I feel like I need to add more context to this character than to Bindo in my previous post. Hyun-Ae is an AI, the first you meet, aboard a ship called the Mugunghwa which has been floating in space for around 600 hundred years, with all life aboard extinguished. Hyun-Ae is therefore not a human being, and it’s important to note that in Analogue: A Hate Story, the only way to communicate with her is by answering her questions with Yes or No answers. Sometimes there is a third option, but that happens very rarely. So it makes it even more impressive that she reaches so far up my list, given that the only method of communication is to show her random articles of information (Most of Analogue is contained within the letters and records of those aboard. How you work your way through the story is dependent entirely on your own interpretation of events), hope she knows about them, and then answer her questions about you and your motives.

At the beginning of Analogue, you need to find the Admin password to the ships computers in order to download the ships records to your own ship. Initially, all you can do is talk to Hyun-Ae, who is human in all but form at this point. She gets angry when she sees you asking about relationships between people she dislikes, she pesters you a bit about Earth, what it’s like whether it’s beautiful and so on, and then asks what you think of her on multiple occasions. Remember, you get two choices for most of these, often the difference between “I like you” and “I don’t like you”. Unless you’re finding her really annoying, generally the responses are sort of just friendly or unfriendly. So I responded with friendly answers on each question.

A typical example of a question in A:AHS
A typical example of a question in A:AHS

This quickly started to backfire on me. There’s a point just before you reach the admin password where she reveals who the people in the articles are talking about (The Pale Bride). This makes you start feeling uncomfortable, since the Pale Bride is nothing like Hyun-Ae but the two are the same person. After she probes for your opinion on the matter, she gives you the option relating to whether you pity the Pale Bride, admire her for being silent and subservient, or don’t care. I replied that I pitied her, which felt like the littlest of three evils. Hyun-Ae just looked disappointed on the screen. And I could understand why, knowing what you know. Women were not respected on this ship at all; Hyun-Ae was a victim of a horrible patriarchy that saw women as objects and servants. In their letters, the men aren’t demeaning to the women, often making it clear that they love them, but they do not see them as equals. At this point Hyun-Ae reveals the article that hides the password.

Then, after about 45 minutes of gameplay, drops a horrible question on your lap. “Were you talking to me just to get the admin password?”. That’s nasty, a question that makes you want to type in the games code and change the answers to read “Yes, but…” or “At first yeah, but…”. Instead the answers are Yes or No. And at that point I stopped. I didn’t know, I liked talking to her, I genuinely did, the writing in this game is good enough to warrant saying that I had nearly forgotten about the password. I said no. Hyun-Ae smiled and the game continued.
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You access the download…. And hiding in it is another AI called *Mute. Mute is, initially at least, the opposite to Hyun-Ae in almost every way. Brash, forward, totally unashamed in her attacks on both Hyun-Ae and the society in which she lived. She reveals Hyun-Ae is the cause of the deaths on the ship, as she killed herself and everyone else in the real-world by shutting down life-support after creating her AI persona. Going back to confront her results in a tense confrontation, before you’re interrupted by the ships reactor going nuclear. You are then left with the choice of saving either *Mute or Hyun-Ae. I chose Hyun-Ae the first time; I wanted to know more about why she felt compelled to do what she did. You save the ship, but not both the AI, leaving you to discuss things with Hyun-Ae while going through and downloading the remaining documents.

Eventually, after many conversations, you realize why she did what she did. She wasn’t from that society, her father had kept her alive in stasis while a cure could for found for a disease she had. Instead, the society devolved on the ship, and eventually she was broken out of stasis a thousand years later in the belief that she would reverse a family’s fortunes. Instead, her views on female equality and refusal to back down in her beliefs or confrontational attitude resulted in one of the most horrible things I think I ever had to force myself to read.

They ripped her tongue out; Hyun-Ae records most of the grisly detail in the entry and upon asking her about it, she explains that eventually, after years of trying to get over that horrible day, she couldn’t take it anymore. She knew how the systems worked in a way that the devolved society no longer did, so she took control, built an AI program and killed everyone board, including herself. She asks you what you think of her, with the three pronged response of “I understand, You’re a monster, I don’t care much” and at that point you realized you’ve played a game for 4 hours without ever really doing much beyond reading. But it’s your conversations with Hyun-Ae, the way the words on the page are written, and the whole situation that makes you realize you’ve had a great and revealing experience. I replied “I understand”, she reacts with joy that someone might, and asks if you’ll take her back to Earth, either as a friend or as a romantic partner. Either one is fine; rejecting her romantic advances does not diminish her clear love for you while the “I love you too” response is perhaps a little too stereotypical of the Japanese visual novel genre. But you do feel something for her, which is amazing considering she is nothing but coded expression.

Over a relatively short period of time Hyun-Ae goes from being the subject of curiosity, to like, to a feeling of betrayal over her inability to tell you about what she did, to curiosity again, to liking and eventually to understanding her. Christine Love did a fantastic job writing her character and I have no hesitation in putting her in my top 10. Mute is in my top 20, but her story is one for another time I feel.

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My Ten Favourite Video Game Characters. Part 1

Before I begin this list, which will be completed over the next 10 days, I want to clarify this is entirely subjective. I don’t/didn’t play Nintendo or Sega consoles for example and I know that a large number of people will consider that total sacrilege. I also didn’t start gaming properly until the late 1990’s, so my views do not include games prior to around 1997. In fact a good point to see as the beginning of my gaming career is Final Fantasy 7. And no, none of my 10 favourites come from that game. 

There is also a massive skew towards RPG’s, primarily because character depth is more important to me than badassery or sentimental attachment to a particular set of games. So Dante from DMC, for example, is not in the list though he gets an honourable mention in the introduction as the example of course. That’s not to say there aren’t characters from other genre’s coming up, there are, but I want people to know my biases before we begin because, frankly, I can refer back to if people disagree.

There will also be spoilers for all of the characters, in all of the posts. I’ll repeat this warning at the start of each post so that it’s clear.

Character #10: Jolee Bindo. Knights of the Old Republic

Jolee Bindo's character icon in Knights of the Old Republic

So, to begin a character that I enjoy primarily because he breaks a mould in a traditionally distinct power struggle between good and evil. Jolee Bindo is a Jedi, and thus had training in the tenets of the Light Side of the force, primarily that emotions such as anger, passion and hatred lead to the dark side and thus are bad for you. But Jolee ends up falling in love, generally seen as a sign of misplaced passion and thus heavily discouraged if not outright banned in Jedi circles depending on the academy or your Master. In the end he marries the woman he loves and leaves the Jedi, and thus begins a life outside the core worlds.“Pulling a Bindo” in the sequel to Knights of the Old Republic, is mentioned when the subject of Jedi marrying is raised in reference to this backstory.
Bindo’s wife is revealed to have turned to the Dark Side during her time with him, after he trains her in the use of the Force. He duelled and defeated her, but let her go. She killed many Jedi before being finally beaten again, and Bindo feels immense guilt for his failure to keep her away from the temptations of the Dark Side.

When you meet him in the game, Jolee is on Kashyyk, the Wookie home world, and is detached from galactic politics and the general difficulties of the Jedi and the power of the Sith. Having seen the rigid and inflexible side of the Jedi, Bindo is skeptical to their beliefs and systems and no longer considers himself a “Jedi” in the strictest sense. He’s most commonly described as a “Grey” Jedi, in that he broadly supports ideas such as justice, charity, helping others and peaceful resolutions to conflicts but refuses to be locked into doctrine that dictates when this should be applied, preferring to let his emotions tell him when it is right to do so. This is in contradiction to the Jedi code, which states “There is no passion, only serenity” but also contradicts the first line of the Sith Code that “Peace is a lie, there is only passion”. His story through the game allows him to challenge both of the views of the Jedi and the Sith as he travels with Revan, but also reinforces the reasons why he stays out of the conflict between them. He increasingly, whether you go light side or dark side in the game, comes to the conclusion that one or the other will cause harm, but that only the Sith accept and even embrace the harm they do, which causes further damage.

This is why Jolee appears as the first entrant of this list. He challenges the player to think beyond traditional meanings of “good” and “evil”, particularly in a universe like that of Star Wars which was built upon the Jedi/Sith dichotomy, notably in the prequels. He also attacks the selfish or one-sided views of the companions in the party. Notably he does not see the Republic necessarily as a force for good, unlike the Jedi or Carth Onasi during the game. He views it in the same way that many cynical about modern politics view their governments, that in the end they serve a very small section of people, while the rest suffer. He still prefers this to the xenophobia and martial law the Sith would bring, however. He simply doesn’t see the Republic as important to the galaxy as a whole, believing individuals within it are more important than the organisation. He also speaks in riddles that leave interpretations open to the player at several points, which adds to how different players will react to him. He is also one of the few party members, the others being Bastilla and HK-47, to know Revans identity from the beginning of KOTOR, but upon meeting you he says nothing, believing it his not his place to reveal that information.

 

But I think the main reason I like Jolee is that he shows how difficult it is to be good in a world where your emotions drive your actions. We are not Jedi, and while many may aspire to the idea of a perfect system of people knowing when to act or not, this creates further strife when they debate what best to do. Acting on impulse is dangerous, unadvised even, but Jolee does so out of a genuine desire to do good now, rather than waiting for people to suffer while the best option is decided upon. This is a topic that is regularly brought up during Knights of the Old Republic, in the first and second game, and it does the series great credit that it didn’t just focus on a good vs evil story and instead examined the process behind each sides reasons for entering the Mandalorian Wars, and later the Jedi Civil War.

So to conclude, Jolee Bindo is a character that is deliberately designed to challenge the player. He does so in a very subtle, but important way, and is given an excellent backstory to compliment his personality and current motives. He’s also one of the few light sided Jedi who is said to actively use “dark” force powers such as lightning, since they feed off emotions. This makes him pretty damn awesome by any standards.

Dear Esther….

There are a few things I like more than Midweek Madness on Steam. It allows many of us to try new things that seem too expensive for what they offer at first. This was the case for Dear Esther to pretty much everyone I know who had heard about the game. They knew it only lasted a short while, that it was basically a tech demo of what the Source Engine is capable of. But they were also fascinated by it’s ideas. At least I know I was…

So when it came up on M.W.M I went “Hey, why not?” and downloaded it in earnest. Perhaps I chose the best time to play it (at midnight) because from the moment I started it up, the music felt eerie and the hairs began to rise on the back of my neck. I started from the first chapter (since starting from any other felt silly) and began the game.

This blog goes through half of the game. Therefore I shall say, right now, that some of my screenshots WILL contain *SPOILERS*.

You start off on a jetty, directly outside a lighthouse that gives its namesake to the first chapter. The narrator begins the first of many “Dear Esther” letters and you are able to move into a small building next to the lighthouse, filled with various discarded items and the debris of the lighthouse staircase. It was a that point that I realised something…

The game is utterly gorgeous. There is literally nothing that I can think of, not even Skyrim modded to extremes, that is so beautifully designed and rendered in 3D. I was able to run this game on the highest possible graphics settings available, and I’m so glad of that.Image

It is only after quite a bit of walking around the shore that the narrator continues. It will take a little time to get used to him, but the letters feel like they came right out of a poets mouth. They are as polished as the graphics, and the voiceover work is brilliant. Soon you start to hear him talk about a car crash and a drunk driver. As if on cue I found some discarded car wreckage at the bottom of a cliff. Strange noises fill the air.

The game does this the whole way through. Noises will build up to a crescendo and make you want to hurry along to the next part of the game, lest something catches you. It feels something like survival horror, and once you get to the second chapter it begins to look like one too. You’ll see the wreckage of a cargo ship on the beach, you’ll inevitably walk down to investigate. And then, if your like me anyway, you’ll spot movement out of the corner of your eye. 

An etheral figure seems to wander along the cliff above you, just as the narrator begins to explain how he found medical supplies aboard a cargo ship. You go up to investigate, finding the shade has disappeared, but has lead you to a cliffside path. You follow it and find yourself outside an abandoned house at the top of a hill. The narrator continues, explaining some of the history between himself and a man named Doherty, and another called Jacobson, who apparently lived on the island beforehand with natives. Since the island is now deserted, this makes the atmosphere tense up incredibly, as you feel like the cliffs are somehow watching you. After seeing the shade before, you feel like there must still be someone on this island. And then you walk to the next cliff edge.Image
A small light burns in the cave opposite and you see the shade again. You move on, desperately trying to find the source of the light and in the process go round several more cliff faces, finding more evidence of recent occupation
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And this is where I’ll leave you. There are some seriously creepy moments in this game (Writing the blog has felt like the start of a “creepypasta” in some regards), but the immersion level for me was like reading a brilliant book. The narration is at just the right pace, you walk at just the right pace to feel like you should be moving faster while also giving you time to investigate the world around you (which you really have to do to appreciate the whole story), which gives a lovely feeling of semi-urgency. You want, you hunger, to find out more and questions just keep popping up in your head as you play, which makes you want to explore every nook and crevice as possible. And perhaps the best thing about it is the slow, but sure, realisation that will begin to worm its way to the front of your mind that there is more to the whole game than meets the eye….

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The Premier League: Who I’ll be supporting next season

This may sound like a bit of an odd title for a blog. Traditionally your supposed to support the same team through thick and thin right?

Trouble is I used to live in Somerset. This meant I supported my mums team, namely West Ham United. They got relegated last season, and while I was happy to support them in the Championship, I always felt like I wanted to support a team in the Premier League. So I chose Wolves, I team I liked for three reasons. I like Mick McCarthy, they only just avoided relegation (and therefore needed the support) and I like wolves. Yeah the third reason is kinda silly, but it helped choose between them and Blackburn.

But they have now been relegated, and I need to choose a new team to support should West Ham not make it back up to the Premier League. In my view I have three options: Choose a team that was nearly relegated again, choose a team that have been absolutely outstanding this season, going above and beyond what people expected or choose a team in my new home city of London. This leaves me, realistically, with 2 definitive candidates and two possibles depending on which way the relegation battle goes in the next few weeks.

First up the two definitive candidates are Newcastle and Arsenal. Newcastle for being just downright pleasing to watch and outstanding this season and Arsenal because they recovered from the start of the season to launch themselves into third and prove that they are the best team in London at the moment. I like both Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger, Pardew in particular because his time at West Ham was also successful, nearly winning them the FA Cup. At the end of the day though, I am living in London, and location is all important for support. So Arsenal probably win out here, though when they play Newcastle I will not complain if they lose.

The other two possibles are Wigan and Bolton. Both Owen Coyle and Roberto Martinez are great managers and neither team deserves to go down this season. Martinez brought Wigan back from the brink again this season, putting them in with a real chance of staying out of the relegation zone. Coyle has just been unlucky. Bolton played fantastically last season and it’s a real shame that they’ve been stuck in a relegation battle. If both get relegated I’ll be very surprised and very disappointed. Both have had a tough season for different reasons. Wigan always hold on by the skin of their teeth but Bolton have a trying time too in recent weeks following the near death of Fabrice Muamba, a situation that Bolton and the whole of football generally dealt with in a very dignified way. It made football look good for a short while, until diving and referee decisions became issues again.

So in short, I will probably support Arsenal or Bolton next season, though if West Ham make it up into the Premier League I’ll support them there… 

Aside

Wow… It’s been ages since I last blogged here. So much has happened in that time, including me getting a new job, that I won’t bother updating my life status. Instead I’ll rant about an issue that has come to a head in the last few weeks. Whether or not Britain is a Christian country.

Historically you’d have to say yes. Norfolk alone has more churches in it per square mile than anywhere else in the world, according to Bill Brysons “At Home”, so it’s difficult to argue that Britain doesn’t have a lot of Christian heritage. Equally though, Britain has a much more tolerant history than most other countries, with philosophers like David Hume, a self-confessed atheist during a time that belief in a God was paramount, and of course Charles Darwin, who was a devout Catholic but believed that his finds were too important not to publish. So we were never fundamental Christians, or at least we don’t sound like it.

So why is it that when the law seems to prohibit traditional Christian beliefs, such as Sunday being a day of rest or the belief that homosexuality is immoral, do people then complain that they thought this was a “Christian country”? To be honest I hate the term “X Country” regardless, since it implies a very generalised view that is very rarely right. The current government is guilty of it as well, claiming that Britain was built upon traditional Christian values. Modern Britain was built up in the totally opposite way, with a mishmash of different cultures scattered all of the place. True the foundations may be Christian, but you don’t look at a house’s foundations when you buy it, you look a the structure on top of them. We could have the best values in the world, but it makes no difference if we don’t follow them up with actions.

My view is that the real world takes precedent over the spiritual. I don’t believe in a God, but I equally believe science will not be able to truly explain everything. Instead I just choose to stay in the here and now, which seems to mostly revolve around money (bills, rent, student loans etc). So if, for instance, a business wants you to work Sundays but you refuse based upon your belief in the Sabbath then the business should have the right to replace you. People sometimes forget that faith is a choice and that businesses can choose who they hire. If you don’t meet their criteria then don’t expect to work for them. Make sure your employers are aware of your core beliefs before they hire you. I don’t want people fired, or not hired, because they’re religious, but I do think people who expect religion to permeate into the plans of businesses need to look at the real world.

I firmly believe the law should be representative of the realities of modern living, particularly when jobs are at a premium. There are some great examples of people who, despite not working Sundays, have done great things with their life. Dan Walker, the BBC’s sport correspondent and face of Football Focus, worked bloody hard to make up the time he lost by not working on the Sabbath. What you shouldn’t do is assume that businesses have to respect some kind of right to religious freedom regardless. There is nothing wrong with faith, there is a lot wrong with forcing that faith on others…

Wow… It’s be…

To Veto or not to Veto….

So David Cameron used his veto huh? Well I have to say I wasn’t expecting that, and it seems most of the other commentators based here and else ware in Europe weren’t either.

But then why should we be surprised? The Conservatives have always been the Eurosceptic party in the House of Commons and this is the first time since the Euro formed that there has been such a major crisis within it. And, as one of the French newspapers put it, “Cameron went in with one goal, and one goal alone. And that was to protect British interests.”

So, personally, I think he did the right thing. Whether this damages our relations within the European Union or not, there are actually bigger problems out there than the Eurozone. While it is essential that the Eurozone recovers, the 17 countries that use it could not also take liberties with the power wielded by the Union, something that would always be damaging to Britain, as it would make it impossible to have a say on anything. Cameron had to draw a line on the tax issue because he knew that giving more money to Europe would be deeply unpopular here.

Interestingly, one of points raised by the Maltese media (of all people) was that Cameron was “doing the right thing for all European people, not like our puppet Maltese prime minister.” And this is the important point. I’m not really concentrating on the first part of that sentence, it’s nonsense that he did the right thing for the other 26 countries, it is whether or not he did the right thing for people of Britain. And, in terms of whether or not the British people want it, the answer is no. Anti-European sentiment has only grown since the birth of the Euro, culminating in the most popular elements of the British media riding this wave of discontent and further fuelling the fires. If we do eventually leave the European Union, it will not be because our government said no, it will be because the electorate said no. No party is saying they will leave the EU without a referendum first (though a victory for UKIP or the BNP essentially assures a “No” vote, as xenophobia must be bloody rife for that to happen)

So, really, we should view this as a victory, not for the Eurosceptic Tories, but for the Eurosceptic Electorate of Britain. If the comments on any given media site, (BBC, Guardian, Mail, Sun etc) are anything to go by, there is far more leaning towards supporting this more Eurosceptic view. Facebook and Twitter however are attacking it relentlessly, so the demographics of each are pitted against each other somewhat and it makes it difficult to tell immediately which side of the argument the majority of the electorate are on. We need a poll soon me thinks….

But everyone is aware that being Eurosceptic in this country is nothing new. I’m very Eurosceptic in terms of a legislative Europe because of the massive cultural divides between each country (not least us, the tolerant British and the homophobic Serbians for instance), but agree that the EEA is a very good thing, as it increases trade. But that’s separate from the EU, and Norway is an example of how to meet in the middle, being part of the EEA, but not the EU.

That’s probably the route that the Eurosceptics love the idea of. Free trade and no interference from other countries in terms of legislature or taxes. It’s a route I’d want to go down. And it doesn’t necessarily mean damaging relations with other countries, Norway again is evidence of this. Indeed the French and German media couldn’t wait to find an excuse to finally attack the British, so maybe we should just bugger off and leave ‘em to it. Sometimes, your best friends aren’t those closest to you geographically, and I suspect thats why Cameron has been trying hard to improve trade agreements in Asia and else ware. And of course, we’ll have the commonwealth countries, which the Tories will always want to support.

And if the Euro does collapse, we won’t be so reliant on it because he improved relations else ware. Those countries within the EU will try and either huddle together further or break apart. But we won’t have to worry, because we’ll have better trade agreements else ware. Thats the hope anyway….

Only time will tell I guess…