Gimme Shelter

Fallout 3 and New Vegas were great games. I think. It’s been a while, and my memory isn’t what it was. At least I don’t think it is, I don’t really remember. Fortunately I can stick ‘fallout’ into the search box here to double check what past-me really thought, and he’s confirmed that I was a big fan. It’s a good system, I should start recording more stuff on this blog, like where I put my keys, and what shopping I need to get. Note to future self: pick up a couple of pints of milk and a loaf of bread. Although… what if I didn’t really write those posts? Maybe I never played Fallout 3 at all, someone could have hacked this blog and posted favourable things about it, and I’ve just assumed it was me… maybe I’m not writing this at all, I don’t even need milk or bread, it’s all an evil plot by the Milk Marketing Board and whoever their bread-based equivalent are (I’d guess the Bread Marketing Board, but maybe it’s a broader Bakery Marketing Board that covers pastry-based foodstuffs too). The fact that the Milk Marketing Board ceased to exist in 2002 suggests that’s unlikely, but I just looked that up on Wikipedia, and if they’re smart enough to hack this blog then changing a Wikipedia entry is hardly out of the question.

Anyway, Fallout. I haven’t finished the main story of an Elder Scrolls game since Daggerfall (as far as I remember, but let’s not go there again); I always end up meandering around, joining a bunch of different guilds n’ stuff, trying to progress in all of them at the same time, and drifting away from the game. I did finish both Fallout 3 and New Vegas, though (with a goodly amount of meandering in the process), as well as most of their DLC packs. I’m not sure if it’s a preference for gun-based combat over swords and spells, or perhaps a slightly tighter story focus in the Fallout series. Either way, I was happy to see Fallout 4 announced a while back, and the Fallout Shelter mobile spin-off sounded fun, but I didn’t have an iOS device at the time.

Having recently acquired an iPad, I’d forgotten about Fallout Shelter until there was a bit of buzz for the release of the Android version last week, so I thought I’d give it a try, and it’s rather diverting. Not terribly deep, a bit reminiscent of something like CivClicker, gathering resources to build stuff to gather more resources, but it looks good, and making numbers go up is always a valuable and rewarding endeavour. Or an exploit of an underlying psychological weakness, I forget which. It’s worth a look, though. As is: milk! Mmm, lovely milk. Don’t forget to drink a cool, refreshing glass of milk today! And why not have a slice of bread as well?

This has been a post by the Milk Marketing Board with support from the Primarily Bread But Also Other Baked Goods Too Board. Wait, I mean Zoso! Yes, Zoso wrote this. Definitely him. I mean me.

Troy of the Trovers

Lacking any particular gaming inspiration, I was meandering around the Steam store the other day and noticed Trove, a voxel-y Minecraft-esque MMO-ish sort of thing from Trion Worlds that launched last week. I picked up Space Engineers in the recent sale, but that has a rather forbidding interface. I’m sure it allows for deep and complex space construction, but I haven’t managed to summon up the enthusiasm to watch a ten minute tutorial video yet. Something nice and simple with bright colours seemed more suited to my usually addled state of an evening, so I thought I’d take a look at Trove.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one with that idea, with a queue of 1000+ people waiting to join the server and an estimated time of an hour or so, but fortunately the marvellous Only Connect was back on BBC Four, and by the time that had finished I was at the head of the Trove queue, ready to pick a class.

From subsequent thorough in-depth research (briefly glancing at the Wikipedia article), it seems Trove has been in testing/early access for a while, but it’s slipped under my MMO-radar until now. That’s not terribly surprising, as my MMO-radar is rather obsolescent and would scarcely register news of World of Warcraft shutting down these days, but it can be fun to go into a new game completely cold. Having no idea what any of the classes particularly do, I picked Pirate for the following logical and well thought-out reason:

Q: Why are Pirates the best class?
A: Because they ARRRRRRRRRRRe!

Q: What do pirates drive?
A: A cARRRRRRRRRRRR!

Q: Why did the pirate film have a disjointed narrative?
A: Because it was nonlineARRRRRRRRRRR!

Q: Are you just googling “words that end in ‘ar'” and constructing so-called pirate jokes around them?
A: Yes

Q: Pardon?
A: I mean ARRRRRRRRRfirmative!

Q: That doesn’t even work…
A: Yeah, well, there aren’t any synonyms for ‘yes’ that include ‘ar’, ARRRRRRe there?

Q: That question was a statement and that answer was a question, the whole structure of this section is failing, quick, let’s do another pirate joke so nobody will notice: which of the Merry Men was a pirate?
A: FriARRRRRRRRR! Tuck

Q: What about Pirate Will Scarletbeard, Pirate Terror of the High Seas and Pirate?
A: Him too

(If you’ve enjoyed these hilarious jokes, you might also like: a pack of 24 ballpoint pens, some flip-flops, or Mr Biffo’s excellent Digitiser 2000)

Anyway. Trove itself seems to be exactly what you’d expect from a voxel-y Minecraft-esque MMO-ish sort of thing: adventuring and defeating mobs for loot in a MMO-ish manner, then upon pressing Tab switching to a harvesting/building mode where you can (temporarily) demolish the landscape and use the resulting blocks to build and craft things in a Minecraft-esque fashion (on a small plot of land of your own). Five or six years ago, it would have been staggering; today, it’s perfectly good, but with such an array of building, crafting and adventuring games out there I’m not sure it’s something I’ll particularly stick with. Still, you never know, it has a lot of nice touches. The Pirate class has a rather cute pet parrot, and seems to have some similarities with Engineer-type classes in other games such as a deployable turret ability. Rather than some automated system, though, the turret is a cannon manned (parroted?) by your companion:

Admiral the Hon. Polly von Featherington Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, ready for battle

Admiral the Hon. Polly von Featherington Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, ready for battle

Overall, then, positive first impressions; dusting off the old Second Wilson Cabinet Rating Mechanism, I would award Trove a highly creditable Reginald Prentice.

Chalke Valley History Festival 2015

Since discovering the Chalke Valley History Festival a couple of years back, it’s become a highlight of the calendar; a packed schedule of talks and presentations, together with living history encampments and demonstrations from groups covering the Romans through to World War II, and aircraft giving displays through the weekend. This year’s programme posed quite a dilemma: on one day Wing Commander Tom Neil and a display from the only airworthy Bristol Blenheim, on the other seven veterans of Bomber Command. Having seen Geoff Wellum last year, I opted for the Bomber Boys this year.

The veterans covered the seven heavy bomber crew positions: pilot, flight engineer, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, mid-upper gunner and tail gunner. Six had flown on Lancasters, the other a Halifax. We could’ve listened to each of them for hours; though unfair to single any one out in particular, George “Johnnie” Johnson, the last surviving British dambuster, relating the attack on the Sorpe damn from an altitude of 30 feet was quite gripping.

After the presentation, the rest of the festival was as good as ever. A bit of a downpour during the first flying visitor, a Spitfire PR XI, put a slight dampener on things, fortunately the weather cleared up after that to merely overcast, good old British summer (though some of the more heavily armoured participants probably appreciated it). Danes and Anglo-Saxons formed shield walls, medieval knights fought in a tourney, ballistae flanked a Roman camp, a Sherman tank kicked up the grass, soldiers of all periods and nations wandered around; echoes of The War Games were reinforced by the TARDIS outside the BBC tent. In the skies, a Bücker Bü 131 gave a superb aerobatic display, and a majestic Consolidated Catalina made several low passes. What a great day; roll on July 2nd 2016!

Spitfire PR XI

Spitfire PR XI

Form shield wall!

Form shield wall!

En garde!

En garde!

Fallschirmjäger? I hardly know 'er!

Fallschirmjäger? I hardly know ‘er!

Whatever happens they have got The Maxim gun and we have not

Whatever happens they have got
The Maxim gun and we have not

James Holland expounds on the Spitfire

James Holland expounds on the Spitfire

Fantastic!

Fantastic!

Consolidated Canso (Catalina)

Consolidated Canso (Catalina)

Look out there’s a monster coming

“Summer’s here”, as Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Martha Reeves and quite possibly one or more Vandellas sang, “and the time is right for computer games offered for purchase on the Steam store to be discounted in the street”. For the last few years, the actual sale bit of the Steam summer sale has been the least interesting aspect, the novelty having faded with constant offers, discounts, bundles and the like. I did pick up Space Engineers this year, thanks to Tim and Jon’s intergalactic adventures, to add to the list of stuff that I really must get around to sometime, but that’s been about it.

More interesting, for fans of making meaningless numbers go up, are the bits and pieces that Steam puts in around the sale, events, trading cards, contests and what-not. This year, it’s an incremental game, essentially “click on monsters lots!” It’s quite fun, for what it is; I did get into CivClicker a while back (the textual interface doesn’t obviously look like a game, if, hypothetically, you’re after something to do on your lunch break at work), incremental games can be quite diverting. Naturally a meta-game soon evolved around Steam as people first started using various means to automatically click, then poked a bit more deeply into the mechanisms of the game to produce browser scripts to automatically execute the optimal strategy, finally reaching level ONE! HUNDRED! MEEEEEELEEEEON! today, which appears to be the upper limit.

More interesting still, for sufficiently small values of “interesting”, is the monetisation around the game this year: there isn’t any. You get trading cards just for joining in, a Steam badge based on the level you reach, and that’s about it. It’s quite a contrast to last year, when everyone was arbitrarily assigned to one of five teams, and granted points for crafting badges n’ stuff. Items were available to increase points, switch teams and suchlike, and these could be bought and sold in the Community Market for actual money. It must have been a fascinating psychological and economic experiment; there were prizes, the (rather small) chance of winning games from your wishlist, but as this year’s event shows people hardly need an incentive to make numbers go up, and as last year’s event showed at least a few don’t mind spending actual money to do so. I’m not sure if I should glad that Valve just made a fun little diversion this year with no marketplace silliness, or worried that I’m glad that merely not creating an ethically dubious event seems like a positive move.

Mind you, conspiracy theorists have come up with a plausible explanation: as the game involves clicking your mouse button as much as possible, it’s a cunning ploy to cause users to break their mice, and thus order a new Steam Controller to use when playing games. Hmm, tempting…

We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty

With no single game demanding all-consuming focus at the moment, I find myself drifting around playing in 10-20 minute chunks, discrete matches/battles/quests in various offerings. Sometimes the chunks link together into more substantial gaming sessions, often not; maybe it’s something to do with the summer. I recall writing a similar post before, digging around, it turned out to be from June 2012 when chunks included Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and World of Tanks.

I wrapped up the main story of Dragon Age: Inquisition a little while back; it was all perfectly solid, without leaving a particularly lasting impression. As with ME3, the co-op multiplayer is proving to have slightly surprising longevity, I’m often dropping back in for the weekend events; it’s not something for long sessions, after two or three rounds of rampaging through hordes of evil I’m generally ready for a break, but the mechanics hold up well, it’s interesting to try the different styles of combat. A fairly big update added three new playable characters including the Duelist, Isabela from Dragon Age 2, making a very welcome return. Each multiplayer character has a few lines of dialogue to liven up quiet moments, which was rather tedious at the beginning when most people had only the default classes and you’d hear the same lines several times every round (“Would anyone like to go for a drink at the tavern? That’s what friends do, right?”) With a good mix of characters it’s a lot more fun now, and Victoria Kruger’s marvellous voice work for Isabela is a particular highlight: “Every time we find gold, I think to myself ‘imagine the hats you could buy with this Isabela'”.

On the “World of…” front, World of Warships is picking up steam as the testing stokers frantically shovel coal into the beta boilers. I got in towards the end of closed beta, and have been rather enjoying it. At first I focused on working towards battleships, lured in by the prospect of massive guns (I like big boats and I cannot lie), but in trying out the other types of ship I became more fond of first aircraft carriers (who have a very different style of play, despatching squadrons to attack targets more like an RTS), and more recently nimble destroyers, nipping in to launch volleys of torpedoes before beating a hasty retreat under the cover of smoke. World of Warplanes seems to have crashed and burned, at least compared to the stunning success of World of Tanks, but it looks like Wargaming are back on form with World of Warships.

One of the major obstacles that World of Warplanes faced was the competition from War Thunder, and though I believe War Thunder ultimately aims to include player-controlled ships, the combined arms approach that it takes (as opposed to the completely separate World of… titles) is going to be pretty challenging for naval combat, especially if they include more realistic gameplay alongside quick arcade action. It looks like Gaijin have put ships on the back burner for a while, probably a wise decision, giving World of Warships clear water for a while at least.

I’m still flying out at least once a day with War Thunder’s planes; the most recent big update added a new set of British planes of the Fleet Air Arm, including the Fairey Firefly with beautifully modelled Youngman flaps (matron). I wrote a couple of short pieces, about the new aircraft and a brief history of the Fleet Air Airm, in Issue 5 of the War Thunder Community Magazine, if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat. Or indeed flies your aeroplane.

Checking back, it looks like I’ve been playing War Thunder for two and a half years now, pretty impressive longevity. It also turns out that the first screenshot I posted was a Hurricane bedecked with “the fighting cock” decal, quite a good Time To Cock score. In other Cock News, via Zen Of Design a developer tweeted about the impossibility of creating a dong detection tool for LEGO Universe and resultant need for a human penis sweep for every player creation. I imagine the offices were awash with cheery cockney penis sweeps doing elaborate song and dance routines (with animated penguins) about how there’s no happier job than looking for LEGO dongs, probably why the game was unsustainable in the end. It reinforces what we heard when the game originally shut down; fingers crossed LEGO Worlds, just going into Early Access on Steam now, can avoid similar issues.

You wait all year for a spiky post-apocalyptic bus, then two turn up at the same time

Any RPG fan from the 1980s could tell you the most important thing to do after a catastrophic world-wide disaster: get hold of a car, and stick a bunch of guns and spikes on it. I think I first learnt this from Freeway Fighter, the 13th Fighting Fantasy gamebook; seeing the gleaming red car on the front prompted several weeks of pocket money saving until I could afford it. Other gamebooks followed like Fuel’s Gold from the Car Wars universe, and Joe Dever’s Freeway Warrior series, not so much vehicular combat, more character-oriented; they felt very grown up at the time.

The usual teen gaming path in Britain went from Fighting Fantasy books to White Dwarf magazine, and, not long after I’d started to pick up the odd issue, Games Workshop launched their own vehicle combat game, Dark Future. It looked great, sleek Sanctioned Op cars, spiky gang buggies, Gatling guns for everybody, but it was a bit pricey, especially with Warhammer 40,000, Adeptus Titanicus, Space Hulk and the like around as well; I never did play it at the time.

Things went a bit quiet on the spiky-cars-with-guns front for a while; I vaguely recall seeing the box of the PC game Interstate ’76, but never picked it up. MMO-wise there was Auto Assault, which I had rather a soft spot for; I think it might have been the first MMO I beta tested, and the vehicle combat was rather fun, though not fun enough to keep up a subscription after a couple of months. It closed down with little ceremony in 2007.

Perhaps not unconnected with the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, post-apocalyptic cars look to be back in fashion with two announcements this week. Gaijin Entertainment, developers of War Thunder, are going to be publishing Crossout, a post-apocalyptic vehicle action game promising extensive customisation. Details are sketchy at the moment, but it could be rather fun, one to keep an eye on.

Dark Future is also getting a reboot in the form of Dark Future: Blood Red States, a turn-based strategy game. From a bit of Googling around, it seems that Kim Newman wrote a series of Dark Future books as Jack Yeovil back in the 80s, blending various genre elements into an alternate history where Prime Minister Ian Paisley is replaced by Jeffrey Archer; a lot of the references would probably have gone over my head at the time, but as a fan of Newman’s Anno Dracula series I’m rather keen to pick them up now, they sound magnificently bonkers.

Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job

There’s a General Election here in the UK tomorrow, and after decades dominated by two-party politics it seems as if the political landscape is fragmenting. For the benefit of anyone familiar with MMOs but confused by this situation, who doesn’t have access to Wikipedia, or the internet (apart from, because of some plot, this site), or books, or newspapers, or a telephone, or a vaguely knowledgeable friend, or a sufficient number of typewriter-equipped monkeys, we present the KiaSA Guide To UK Political Parties:

The Conservatives are in favour of hard working raiders getting just rewards, with strict performance checks and a full and detailed DKP system to appropriately grant loot to those who put the work in. They’re appalled by low-effort epic items handed out to all and sundry just for logging in or other trivial tasks. Some people think that’s a bit rich when many of them have inherited super-extra-deluxe Platinum With Strontium Edging Founder’s Packs, granting them exclusive gear, massive bonuses to XP, in-game currency and the like.

Labour used to have a natural constituency when 40-man raids required large guilds, collective bargaining power being a key factor in securing fair participation and loot for all, distributed via Loot Council, though the system was rather cumbersome. With heavy raiding being broken up and more small-group and individual content they had to reinvent themselves, initially with some success, but some are still angry about an ill-considered foray onto a PvP server under previous leadership. Very keen on Healers.

The Liberal Democrats try and invest individuals with the power to make their own decisions of whether to raid, roleplay, engage in PvP, run small instances or just solo, but they’re a bit ineffectual and don’t have enough members to properly form groups. Promised to abolish consumable requirements for new raiders, but started hanging around with the Conservatives to fill raid groups and abandoned the idea.

UKIP were perfectly happy back in the good old days when everyone got into raids, unless you were a Warlock, but that was fine because everyone hates Warlocks and you could say that in those days, not like now, and you could leave your guild bank unlocked and nobody would nick anything, back before the dungeon finder started including players from other servers, and they came over here and rolled on our loot and tanked in instances so that local tanks on the local server couldn’t get a place, not that there were enough local tanks because nobody wanted to tank but that’s not the point. Many are hardcore PvPers who demand full, unfettered always-on PvP with no namby-pamby interference or wishy-washy safe areas, until someone kills them, at which point they demand Kent police investigate.

The SNP really want to be playing a different MMO, but were narrowly outvoted, so they’re grudgingly tagging along, mumbling about how much better the other game would be and lobbying the devs to make the rules more like it. Plaid Cymru are much the same, with more daffodils. The Greens aren’t at all keen on all the nasty fighting that goes on, and would rather everyone focuses on crafting as long as the resources are gathered from renewable sources, which fortunately turns out to be everything in an MMO.

There is one politician with no MMO analogue, though, Independent candidate for Salisbury Arthur Uther Pendragon. I mean, some bloke in robes waving a sword around? That’s just silly.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one

With the massive popularity of Minecraft producing a generation of budding geologists, Geoscience Australia have released a poster pointing out that not all the game mechanics translate directly to real life. “Gold” for example “is very soft, nearly as soft as fingernails, and so is not useful for pickaxes or armour.” Furthermore “Putting cobblestone into a furnace will not create stone. It would, in fact, achieve nothing but a very warm rock.”

This seems like a fine way of introducing real subjects and clearing up misconceptions, and there must be other opportunities out there. The Army, for example, could mention to keen fans of the Gears of War series thinking of enlisting that “Not all gunfights happen in areas conveniently provided with numerous bullet proof chest-high obstacles.” Meanwhile the General Medical Council, in response to Every FPS Ever, may like to remind people that “Gunshot wounds require dedicated medical treatment, simply standing on an unopened first aid kit is not sufficient. You’ll only squash the tube of Savlon.” Over on mobile devices, the Meat and Livestock Comission could clarify for Angry Birds players that “Pigs are foraging animals, primarily eating leaves, grasses, roots, fruits, and flowers. They rarely band together to steal bird eggs. Furthermore the primary defensive mechanisms of birds are flapping or pecking, rather than firing birds from a catapult that break up into smaller birds, knocking down wooden structures causing heavy objects to fall upon pigs in the process.”

The National Association of Tanners and Leatherworkers may be the busiest, though, thanks to the crafting system of Far Cry 3. They’d need an extra large poster to cover everything: “Producing usable leather from an animal carcass is a more involved process than sort of waving a knife around for a few seconds.” “A pouch made from Komodo Dragon Skin can hold any item small enough to fit inside it, not just grenades.” “The amount of money you can fit into a wallet is a function of the size of the wallet and the denominations of banknotes in question, not whether the wallet is made of Cassowary Leather or Shark Skin.” “Even we, a bunch of people who turn dead animals into useful stuff, think it’s a bit nuts to slaughter every living thing within a seven mile radius just to carry ammunition in bizarrely specific containers. What’s wrong with a nice nylon rucksack, for heaven’s sake?”

Can’t you see I’m easily bothered by persistence?

After last year’s Giant Snail Attack, Gaijin added a couple of events to War Thunder on April 1st this year. Firstly “Unrealistic Battles”, with everyone flolloping around in tanks reminiscent of the inflatable decoy vehicles used in World War II, gun barrels bouncing in a mildly disturbing manner. Instead of firing dangerous explosive shells the tanks lobbed vegetables at each other, able to load potatoes or carrots; in a not-so-subtle dig at World of Tanks they also had health bars.

I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like

I’ve got a bike, you can ride it if you like

A fun gag, but a couple of battles were enough to get the joke, it wasn’t a mode I’d spend a great deal of time playing. The modellers have a commendable eye for detail, though; activating the X-ray style module viewer uncovered the bicycle powerplant of the vehicles, and close inspection revealed the gunner standing in the turret with a slingshot and a bucket of potatoes as his ammunition supply.

The second item, “March to Victory”, was teased beforehand with a mysterious silhouette on the War Thunder Facebook page. A Development Diary blog post fleshed out the (alternate) history of the ST-1 walking tank:

He do the song about the sweet lovin' woman, he do the song about the knife

He do the song about the sweet lovin’ woman, he do the song about the knife

In the game itself, a special event gave players a line-up of regular tanks and planes plus the ST-1 (or, for the Germans and Americans, the captured/evaluation version, the former thankfully not called “wanzers“). Using a point-based system everyone had to start out in tanks, but by securing objectives and getting kills then enough points could be earned to spawn a walker:

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds

The walkers were fantastic, very dieselpunk/Weird War II, garnering considerable interest in more permanent availability. I’d certainly love to see them put in another appearance, perhaps even (in the distant future) as the basis of a whole spin-off game, but just opening up the March to Victory event now and again or allowing players to set it up as a custom battle would be good.

All the old paintings on the tombs they do the sand dance, don't you know?

All the old paintings on the tombs they do the sand dance, don’t you know?

Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind

Fantasy RPGs are like buses, you wait two and a half years then three turn up at the same time, though technically one has been around for a year already but just dropped its subscription fee, and another one came out last year but I still haven’t finished it, and none of them are replacements for train services due to ongoing engineering works enhancing passenger accessibility, we apologise for the inconvenience. With hindsight the entire Fantasy RPG/bus comparison was fundamentally flawed from the start, but there seems to be a vacancy for a presenter on Top Gear so I’m trying to work in more automotive content, just go with it.

Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian’s Kickstarted spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale & co., was released last week; I even saw an actual boxed copy in GAME, after wandering past the shop and performing the traditional Inspection of the Shrinking PC Section (down to two shelf units now, one entirely devoted to game cards for F2P titles). PoE is universally acclaimed on Metacritic, and certainly filled me with the warm glow of nostalgia (much like the electrically heated front seat option on the new Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 1.4i) during character creation. It looks fantastic, but upon finishing the prologue (or possibly just the introduction to the prologue) I decided that before embarking on a new big old epic fantasy RPG, I really ought to finish off Dragon Age: Inquisition, the slightly older big old epic fantasy RPG I haven’t quite got around to completing yet.

DA:I has a strong start, but bogs down a little if you spend too long doing simple box-ticking quests in The Hinterlands, picking up again as the story moves on after that. Being something of a completionist I was thoroughly investigating every zone, and got rather bogged down again (if only I’d opted for the Subaru Forester 2.0D XC with symmetrical all wheel drive and Lineartronic CVT). I was popping in most weekends for the multiplayer events, but as The Inquisitor couldn’t really be arsed to go and close more rifts or tidy up other MMO-esque busywork. Pillars of Eternity has given me the kick I needed to just get on and finish the story (I seem to be closing in on the final act) while I still have a fighting chance of remembering what’s going on; if I leave it too long, I fear the dramatic tension of the climactic confrontation could be slightly undercut as I nudge my companion and whisper “Who’s that again? And why does he want to kill us? And whose pig is this? Also are we an item, or was that in a different save game? Ow! Ow! Don’t be like that, of course I love you. I think. I could’ve sworn I picked the elf… Oh, you *are* the elf! Sorry, couldn’t tell with the helmet on. Ow! Ow! Look, can we talk about this later, this gentleman/sorcerer/demon is presumably trying to take over the world. Or destroy it. We’ve got to stop him, anyway. Or help him. Oh come on, someone must have been keeping notes…”

Completing the triumvirate, with The Elder Scrolls Online newly subscriptionless I thought I’d take another look at it; I say “another” look, my first glance on release didn’t even make it through the pre-order head start before I got distracted by something else. The introduction didn’t entirely grip me; there seemed to be good dollops of what Mark Kermode would call “hobbity tosh“; “… actors saying things like ‘The Narf is coming out of the tree followed by the Scrunt, but the Iggledy-Piggledy is hiding in the Biddly-Bong'”. Obviously a certain amount of that comes with the fantasy RPG territory, but for some reason it stuck out a bit more in TESO, possibly due to one of the key Basil Exposition figures being voiced by Michael Gambon (possibly driving a reasonably priced car). Once out in the main world I adopted my standard Elder Scrolls character, The Adventurer With A Five Second Attention Span. “I should investigate that temple? Of course, I shall go there immediately, straight to the tem… hello Mr Farmer. What’s that, you’ve lost your tools? Fear not, I can go and retrieve them from this… whoah, a spectral figure! Demonic books, you say? Crikey, I’d better hunt them down, I’ll just… yes, we should destroy those wards with all speed, lead on and… oh, wait, my backpack’s full of iron ore and insect parts and flowers and four identical iron swords and some cutlery and bread and a set of portraits of the Emperors of the Septim Dynasty, I’d better get back to town and find a shop, I really need a vehicle with exceptional boot space like the Mercedes E-class Estate.” I don’t think I’ve completed the main plot in an Elder Scrolls game yet (apart from possibly Daggerfall, I can’t remember how far I got there), I’m not sure I’ll get very much further in TESO. At least until I finish Dragon Age: Inquisition. And Pillars of Eternity. And, all being well, Series 23 of Top Gear.