Friday, 14 December 2018
Dave's and Jamie's Christmas party
Every year at this time, Jamie and I get together for a marathon gaming session at his computer, which is nicknamed "the Beast" either because it's the real McCoy or because it's heavy enough to use in a smash-&-grab raid on a cash machine. This is our opportunity to catch up on some computer games we've missed, so we download a bunch and work our way through until we find one worth sticking with. It has to be said that usually the best games are the indies: Inside, Papers Please, This War of Mine, Pathologic -- though we have been known to binge on hours and hours of The Witcher too.
This year our serendipitous find was What Remains of Edith Finch. We thought we were getting a horror game, but it's much more intriguing than that. There are elements of horror, but also black comedy, tragedy, innocence, loss, grief, identity, madness, pastiche, and the awareness of the precious fragility of life. It's superbly written and voice-acted and you can play the whole thing in a few hours. We really enjoyed it.
Also on the theme of madness was Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. We gave that an hour and then lost interest. Unaccountably it was about a 1st century BC Celt wandering around an 8th century AD Norse underworld -- called in the game not Niflhel, Hel or even Niflheim, but "Helheim", suggesting that historical research went no further than leafing through a heavy metal magazine. Still, you might like it if your paradigm of a game is a twenty-hour, one-note cutscene interspersed with occasional fights and arcade-style match-the-symbol tasks. Almost the opposite of Edith Finch in every respect, that.
And we finished off with Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a monumental CRPG set in the Holy Roman Empire during the reign of Wenceslas IV (most definitely not the one in the carol). It's so thoroughly researched that you could use the source material text to run a tabletop campaign, and in fact the absence of magic/fantasy reminded me of a purist Legend campaign. The writing and acting are excellent, and if I had a spare one hundred hours I'd throw myself into it with gusto.
Other recommendations if you're looking for last-minute Christmas presents are Gregor's Vuga's gem of a roleplaying game Sagas of the Icelanders, David Nicholls' miniseries Patrick Melrose (the best thing on TV this year), and Posy Simmonds' long-awaited new graphic novel Cassandra Darke (surely soon to be "a major motion picture" with Gemma Arterton).
And if it didn't have a price tag in the stratosphere I'd have treated myself to the White Album, my old vinyl copy being scratched to acoustic fuzz by too much use over the years. If you've never listened to it, don't dip in track by track like some pill-popping Megacity juve perp with ADHD. Put on each side in turn and just sit back. People say it's not a concept album, but ninety minutes later you'll think differently. Good night, good night, everybody.