New Year’s News: Alfheim Hiatus, Revolutionary Reading and MYFAROG

Today may be the last day for the next few months to snag a free ebook of City at the Top of the World.

I spent too much of a busy weekend finishing up collecting Riddler trophies in Arkham City. Considering that he feels like the big bad of the game, I really wish there was more that happens once you get all his stupid trophies and kick his ass. I feel like you almost deserve a second special credits roll or something. I screwed around a bit with some of the challenges, but, like with Asylum, I think I’m not going to bother with doing them with any level of thoroughness. Probably after I finish Harley’s Revenge, I’ll be taking a break for a bit. I need to get more reading done and (maybe) work on Alfheim, which will be on hold until after a few sessions of Pockets (unless people revolt and demand we finish my game, which I hope doesn’t happen, as it could split up our group).

I’m a little over halfway through the bio of Talleyrand I’ve been reading; it’s interesting given how little attention was paid to Talleyrand’s role in the Revolution in the history by Abbott (presumably because of his Napoleonophilic tendencies) to now read a very detailed account of his involvement with both the Revolution and the Empire, in which he is portrayed, while incredibly corrupt and inscrupulous, as the only sane man in Napoleon’s otherwise useless political machine. All in all, it’s made me really want to revisit my childhood and play L’Empereur. Maybe I can find an emulated dosbox version somewhere.

Reading about the Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary period shoots some holes in the meme of women’s role in history or their absence from it. While the role they played was certainly different, it was incredibly significant nonetheless. It was through the various influential society ladies that the key players networked and it was in their parlors that they planned and schemed, and when caught by the opposition, women joined their husbands and lovers on the gallows of the Revolution. Much of what we know about the Revolutionary period and the political intrigue at home during the Napoleonic Wars comes from the writings and correspondence of these great ladies who put pen to paper their thoughts on the events of the day and the men who played their parts as the ladies played theirs. It’s made me consider coming up with some sort of variant on Coup or Resistance in which all of the players represent aristocratic women in Paris in whose salons the the acts of treason for and against the Bourbons are planned and betrayed.

While I’ve been slower than I’d like in reading MYFAROG, I’ve been coming up with a few ideas which will hopefully be useful to players. When I get around to it, I plan on making print & play Role cards for the various roles in MYFAROG for use with MYFAROG as quick reference or for adapting MYFAROG roles into a role-based pocket system such as Altars & Archetypes. I’ve run this idea by one of the players in my group and they sound interested.

Arkham City

Over the┬áChristmas holiday, I ‘finished’ Arkham City. And by Finished, I mean I got through the basic story mode which gave me 51% completion. Haven’t finished the Catwoman stuff and haven’t started they Harley stuff.

Arkham City left me with a lot of strange mixed feelings. I’ll go ahead right off and say that I enjoyed it a lot. There were some things I was a bit ‘eh’ about, a few things I was all ‘huh?’ about, but plenty I was ‘yeah!’ about.

-Interspersing the Catwoman content with the main game would’ve been more effective if it weren’t so stacked toward the backend. I realize that this is important for story purposes, but it was strange to start the game as Catwoman for one fight, play as Batman through the prologue, do a Catwoman mission, then play almost the entire rest of the story as Batman before doing another Catwoman mission. According to the game stats, after the main story ends and you start playing as Catwoman again, her story is only about 20% complete. So, we’ll see.

-Mixed feelings about the Riddler stuff. I didn’t mind the Riddler stuff in Arkham Asylum, and eventually even got 100% completion, though it did feel like a tacked on element. The Riddler is much better integrated into Arkham City, and he legitimately feels like the most powerful and dangerous Batman villain because of his shear ability to have crap everywhere; he has the rest of the inmates pretty terrified, too. I like, to an extent, that getting Riddler trophies is a bit more of a challenge than simply waiting until you had the right bit of equipment, but at the same time, you’re still waiting until you have that right bit of equipment, AND you’re looking for more trophies in a MUCH larger and less open area. And some of the traps really ARE so mind-boggling that you’re left thinking “I must not have the right item yet”, put it off, and the next thing you know, the game is over. Riddler’s puzzles, while more rewarding are also much more daunting, and hunting them all down feels like the wearying chore that Riddler intends them to be.

-The augmented reality missions probably need to be done much earlier than I tried to do them. Preferably before everyone and their dog has a gun. I didn’t finish these, and they were pretty annoying. Very Superman 64.

-While it’s not quite a “thrill is gone” kind of thing, the atmosphere is different; Arkham City is creepy but in a different, urban decay sort of way, while Arkham Asylum is creepy in the haunted mental hospital sort of way. As terrible as Arkham City appears on the surface, in a way, that’s kind of how I imagine most of Gotham looking. It’s still a stealth game; gameplay wise, aside from the rooftops thing, it plays like the same game as Arkham Asylum, but the difference is that Arkham Asylum felt like a horror game. I spent the first half of Arkham Asylum (especially the platform puzzle in the caverns) just wondering when Killer Croc was going to pop out of somewhere and eat me. I never felt that sort of anticipation in Arkham City. And the Mad Hatter side mission, while amusing, didn’t come close to that first encounter with Scarecrow in the morgue.

-Two-Face felt like a tease. Sure, he has a faction of thugs sandwiched between Penguin and Joker’s territory, but other than the prologue, he’s fairly irrelevant to the story, which is surprising considering all of the foreshadowing in Arkham Asylum that he might be a major player in a sequel.

-Screw Ra’s al Ghul’s flight challenges. I probably died on these more times than in that big brawl with Joker near the end.

-I feel bad for Penguin that his Iceberg Lounge and natural history museum happened to be in the part of Gotham that got converted into Arkham City. But it’s great for players. The Cobblepot Museum is by far one of my favorite parts of the game. Damn shame that the whole place has fallen into ruins, but Penguin’s really made the best of things with it. I do wonder where Jay, Raven and Lark were. (it got blown up in Gates of Gotham, which I got for Christmas, too!)

-The ruins of “Old Gotham” and Wonderland Park had kind of a silly feel to them and reminded me a bit of Bioshock. It was fun fighting the league of shadows there, though. My opinions on Ra’s and the League have softened over the years, in no small part due to Liam Niason; Arkham City makes this work.

-The concept behind Hugo Strange’s Arkham City makes sense. His big secret plan that he’s carrying out for the real big-bad makes less sense. Poor Warden Sharp. You just know that he was hoping that he could’ve been the villain this go round, but alas, it was not to be.

-Some fairly big name Rogues die ultra grisly deaths, which was kind of a surprise. Lazarus Pits, though, mean that death is certainly not the end.

-Like with Arkham Asylum, Batman’s character model reflects, over the course of the game, the beating he’s taken and the damage to the Bat-suit. By the end, Batman looks like hell, and everyone who sees him is all “Holy, crap, what happened?”

-The first few hours of the game almost trolled me into complaining “Where’s Oracle?”

-Combat continues to be ace.

-Changing up the boss-fights was a big improvement over the original Arkham. Plus, getting to go head to head against more of Batman’s Rogue Gallery was pretty rewarding (Two-Face letdown aside).

-Hooray for the gun disruptor!

-The inevitable-villain-betrayal syndrome is a bit comical, though really I’m pretty sure it’s played for laughs. I couldn’t help but chuckle at Bane’s “Oops, sowry, Baht-mahn!” when he catches you with a charge attack when you’re fighting the squad of Tyger elites together.

-Harley Quinn skanks it up less than the packaging art implies; this is not necessarily a bad thing.

-Something I would’ve liked to have seen more of was the conflict between the opposing gangs. Coding a dynamic gang-war in Arkham city probably would’ve been a nightmare, though. Still, it struck me as odd that when Two-Face & Penguin’s men are there side by side, they’ll call each other names but not really do anything. But when Batman shows up, everyone is all “It’s the Bat!” and with a startling amount of confidence which lacks any justification they all put aside their differences and try to jump you. You’d think that after awhile, “It’s the Bat!” should be a cue to drop what you’re doing and run like hell; this is never the case. While there are a lot of things the game recreates from Batman comics, chasing down scared thugs running for their lives is not one of them.

-Did I mention that the boss fights were better than in Arkham Asylum? Because, man, those were some awesome boss fights.

-M. Night Shyamalan would be jealous of the twist Joker cooked up.

-That was one hell of a powerful ending.

-Watching the credits all the way through should give you an achievement unlock.

-Mark Hamill, you are one hell of a creepy dude, and you are the definitive Joker.