Friday, March 17, 2023

Once More, With Filling

A genuine Friday Grab-Bag this week, I think. Not some music or TV post trying to pass. The plan is to keep them all short but I reserve the right to extend and also repeat, as in come back another time with a full post. I might be glad of a few of these topics if next week's slow for news.

Renewal of Interest

First up, a return to EverQuest II. Yes, well, I never actually left, of course. I just haven't been playing all that much for a few weeks. Yesterday's EQ-oriented post reminded me of a couple of things. Firstly, that I still really enjoy both the EverQuest games and secondly that I'm still paying for them. 

Not only do I have an annual All Access subscription, the only one I've kept for any publisher, but I also bought the latest EQII expansion, Renewal of Ro, back in December. By this point, I'd normally have completed both the Adventure and Tradeskill storylines on several characters and be pretty much done until the next big update. Not so this year. I need to get back to it if I'm going to get my money's-worth.

As of yesterday, I was only about halfway through the Adventure timeline on my first character and I hadn't even started the Tradeskill signature on any of my half-dozen max-level crafters. The Tradeskill questline is usually much faster to complete as well as more relaxing and less demanding so on my return I decided to begin there instead of picking up where I left off with my Berserker. He was just about to go into a solo dungeon last time I played him. That was also why I stopped. 

Crafting my way to success feels a lot more like fun just now. I finished the Tradeskill line this morning. I guess it took me a couple of hours. Technically, I haven't quite finished it yet because I need to do fifteen of the repeatable public research missions to unlock flying on my Sage, the character I chose to go first, but as far as storyline goes, I'm done. And it was great.

As a player of multiple characters in EQII, I'd happily swap the long Adventure questline, which will probably take me fifteen hours or so at least, for the much shorter Tradeskill version.  I could take all my characters through the craft quest it in around about the same time as one adventurer and it would be more fun, too. 

Back to Collage

Remember Disco Elysium? It was pretty good to begin with and it gets better all the time because Za/Um can't seem to leave it alone. They keep tinkering with it, adding new bits and pieces, to the point where a second run is starting to tempt even me, someone who generally can't be bothered to play through games twice to see what would happen if I made different choices.

That said, the latest update doesn't ask that I play the game at all. It's a typically left-field idea from the developers called Collage Mode, which "grants you full access to characters, environments and props from the game, along with filters and frames". 

What it does is allow you to select character models, backgrounds and filters from a menu, then slap them all together however you like. You can also give the characters dialog of your own and frame the whole lot to look like a set-piece suitable for illustrating a blog post or a magazine article. I imagine you could make comic strips or even a graphic novel if you had the patience.

I spotted it last night, just before I logged out of Steam and couldn't resist fiddling around with it for half an hour. The new mode is free to to anyone who owns the game, which itself is on sale for a massive 75% off right now. If you don't have it in your Steam library, you should probably go do something about that. 

Is it Spring already?

Ah, well now. That's the question, isn't it? As the Met Office explains "How you define the first day of spring depends on whether you are referring to the astronomical or meteorological spring". Astronomical Spring begins on March 20th but Metereological Spring started over two weeks ago, back on March 1st.

Valve clearly can't make its mind up because Steam's first ever Spring Sale opened yesterday, which is neither one thing nor the other. As the video, which acknowledges the confusion, explains, the sale runs until March 23rd, which is indisputably Spring, however you count it.

I had a quick skim through the offers this morning. There seem to be a lot of bargains. I might even buy something. Spring is possibly the worst time to start selling games, though, wouldn't you think? Just when the weather's clearing up and the nights are getting lighter. That's probably why Steam has never done a Spring Sale before. 

Game Over!

Speaking of buying games on Steam, I actually finished one of the ones I bought last month. Nine Noir Lives took me just over seventeen hours by Steam's count, although you can knock a couple off for the times I left the game idling while I had tea or took the dog out. It also crashed on me twice, something I can hardly remember any point and click adventure ever doing, and since it only seems to autosave when you quit to the menu, I had to redo a substantial amount of dialog both times, adding to the running time.

I'll probably do a whole post about this one and all the other noirish adventure games featuring anthropomorphic animals I've played. It's getting to be a lot and I'm starting to wonder why it's such a popular sub-genre, at least with indie developers. 


For now, I'll just say that I enjoyed the game, for the most part. The humor can be hit or miss but I found it generally more amusing than not. The voice acting can be overly arch on occasion but that's hardly inappropriate given the setting. Mostly the lines are well-written and land solidly.

Visually it's pleasing in the main but the cut scenes have a weirdly unfinished feel to them, almost as though they're placeholders waiting for the real artist to come along and finish things up.

Mechanically, I found the puzzles fair enough. There were a few occasions where I knew what to do but couldn't figure out how to do it, which I much prefer to having no clue at all. I used a walkthrough on several occasions but not for much more than a nudge in the right direction.  

The real strength of the game is the characters, all of whom are strongly individuated. If most of them are one trick ponies, which they are, then at least it's generally a good trick. I particularly liked the existential Russian bouncer and the effete Henchtigers but every character had something going for them.

All in all, I'd firmly recommend Nine Lives Noir to afficionados of the furry detective point&click and mildly to anyone else.

Finish With A Song

It's just as well I wasn't relying on a roundup of what I've been listening to this week to fill my Friday posting quota. I've earmarked precisely two songs for consideration since the last time I posted. It's not that I haven't been listening to a bunch of new tunes; it's just that none of them have been anything special.

This is, though. It's the third single from Lana del Rey's upcoming album, Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd. Added to the first two, the title track and the sublime A&W, it makes the strongest imaginable case for Lana's ninth album being yet another classic, her fourth such in a sequence beginning with the monumental Norman Fucking Rockwell. She's already my favorite songwriter and performer of the 21st century and if she carries on like this she's going to end up being my favorite of all time. 

The new song's called The Grants and it's about family, Elizabeth Grant being Lana's birth name. I'm guessing that's her dad, Rob Grant, on piano, although the surprisingly lengthy Wikipedia entry that's already up for the track doesn't mention it. It'd be a shame if it wasn't, though, wouldn't it?

That's Friday. I'm out of here.

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