The Elder Thoughts

RPGs, miniatures, books and other rants

On Looter-Shooters and Adventure-RPGs

As I'm having some disappointment with Final Fantasy VII remake, which I am playing but far from enjoying as much as I expected (and sometimes even dreading "yet another tiring crappy quest to fill hours of content"), I decided to recap other games that I have played recently or that I am currently playing that relate somehow with RPGs. To be specific, with two sub-genres that keep getting better and better the more titles that appear.


Outriders screenshot

Looter-shooters are a curious genre. Derived from "lite RPGs" like Diablo, translate the same loop mechanics of "kill kill kill, and upgrade your equipment and hunt for better loot" to first or third-person shooters. The first game that I can remember did this was Borderlands (I have only played and finished the 1st, now it's a series), but there have been quite a few titles with varied success. In my case, I've played the main campaign of Outriders, and recently finished all the main and secondary missions of The Division, the later featuring an early slow game, but picking up the pace and becoming quite interesting near the end. Too bad I'm not often in the mood of endless gear grinding, not even in the Diablo games (I've done some in Diablo 3, but I get tired), and thus the "end-game" becomes more boring as the random missions you can repeat get less interesting, and PvP is not my thing.

Anyway, an interesting subgroup, especially now that I have FPS-fatigue after so many years playing so many games. And I have The Division 2 awaiting some other games that go first, so more fun incoming.

The Division screenshot


Assassin's Creed Origins screenshot

This is my own personal classification for the genre of games that combine adventure, action and lite-RPG items: quests, a few stats or "things to improve" and loot seeking. In the past my beloved Zelda: Breath of the Wild gave me now more than 200 hours of entertainment, but other titles that have slowly moved and even advanced further towards that trend are the Assassin's Creed videogame series. AC Origins was incredible to me as I love the pyramids, and after some years of pausing playing the series, was a breath of fresh air to have such a rich, incredibly detailed and awesome Egyptian open world. Then, last year I played AC Odyssey, and while I exhausted my patience with the (literally) hundreds of secondary quests before finishing the expansions/DLCs, again the rich Greek world depicted was extraordinary, plus finally you could play a female character in the series, and the tiny bits of humour in some conversations derived of playing a Spartan woman were priceless.

And now, I also recently purchased AC Valhalla to enjoy some nordic landscapes and classic culture. I'm just beginning the game, but clearly Ubi Soft are one of the best in creating virtual worlds... the scenarios go from spectacular to breathtaking, the weather effects are almost real, and details like watching Northen Lights (Aurora Borealis) or the intricate nordic designs and lore (viking women were probably more dangerous than spartans!) are signs that I will spend a great amount of time roaming the snowy lands and admiring the landscapes.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey screenshot

Book review: Neuromancer

Neuromancer book cover

I've always enjoyed the cyberpunk setting, especially since I played as a teenager a few Cyberpunk 2020 RPG adventures, so reading Neuromancer was something always on my "pending readings list", but I had never really decided to do act and go for it. Well, not anymore. Last week I bought the book, and read it in a few nights.

I really don't like spoilers, as one of the reasons I enjoyed so much this reading was not knowing much about it except that it was the source of so many futuristic materials and terms, so I'll just briefly mention that we'll follow certain adventures of Case, an ex hacker that got his nervous system damaged as punishment, not allowing him to connect to the cyberspace (to the matrix) anymore. After some events, he will embark on a job that will get his body healed and allow to hack again, with a very special and dangerous mission...

I think that many if not all the basic cyberpunk setting pillars are present: mixture of noir and hardboiled style, grim, decadent future where technology has advanced but life sucks and is really hard to survive, low-tech and high-tech weaponry, cyberspace and hacking, action... even razorblades (a la Wolverine).

An excellent and intriguing read, my only issue with it was that, as I'm not a native English speaker, the street jargon dialogs, including cut words and the like, was quite a challenge to understand sometimes (except for the key words).

I also learned that this title is part of a trilogy, so I'll surely get into the remaining books in the future.

Interesting notes:

Similarities with The Matrix movies' Zion:

They called him Mir, which to these people meant “the world beneath the world.”

The descriptions of The Matrix that clearly the films were inspired by:

he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he’d cut in Night City, and still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colourless void...

jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix.

And the way to connect...

‘The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games,’ said the voice-over, ‘in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks.’

And kind of the source of "the machines"

[...] the construction of our artificial intelligences. She was quite a visionary. She imagined us in a symbiotic relationship with the AIs, our corporate decisions made for us. [...], a hive, each of us units of a larger entity. Fascinating.

I didn't knew the term ICE was invented in this book:

‘Icebreakers,’ Case said, over the rim of the red mug. ‘Ice from ICE, intrusion countermeasures electronics.’

But also, after the following reference to Johnny Mnemonic, I digged and found that both the reference and the movie are based on a short story!

Johnny, see, he was smart, real flash boy. Started out as a stash on Memory Lane, chips in his head and people paid to hide data there.

Book review: The Art of Diablo III

The Art of Diablo III book cover

I love the Diablo videogame series. I've easily poured in hundreds of hours on each title, both when they came out and afterwards, as I'm now using DevilutionX to play the original Diablo under Linux, Diablo 2 Resurrected on PC/Windows, and Diablo 3 on Nintendo Switch. Each of them has its unique flavour, but I've come to the conclusion that Diablo 3 is the most varied and entertaining one, and visually also the one not only most pleasing but also richer in dungeon and monster themes.

At a bit above 200 pages, The Art of Diablo III was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting an average art book, with a mixture of some cool but other mundane drawings, and instead the book contains an amazing selection. The videogame graphicsare excellent, and it looks gorgeous despite being in 3D, zoomed out and already more than 10 years old. But then, you see the sketches and coloured drawings of the cultists, the beastmen, the demons, even the money goblins... and it is a new level of quality. I'd like to print some of the pictures, if that serves as a measure. There are a few 3D screenshots, and small paragraphs of explanatory text, but mostly you get what you'd expect: drawings, concepts and sketches.

I know I'm biased, but to see different concept sketches of Diablo, the characters and even some of the backgrounds, is just great. Pretty much everything is around the quality of The Art of Blizzard Entertainment. If you like the game as much as I do, this is a great piece of art to collect.

Book review: The Art of Tom Clancy's The Division

The Art of Tom Clancy's The Division book cover

I recently read The Art of Tom Clancy's The Division because I'm playing the game from time to time; I got it for free a while ago and, despite initially discarding it, the truth is that, reality aside (even the most basic enemies are bullet-sponges), it is an entertaining shooter-looter (with tiny bits of RPG elements) and the setting and visuals is really great (and yes, the virus outbreak and "fighting against it" idea is one way for me to cope with our still ongoing pandemic).

And that's why I decided to grab the art book. A bit below 200 pages, with heavy graphical content and not much text (sometimes with terrible contrast, making it hard to read!), it is an amazing gallery of not only the final game locations, enemies and player clothing (there are tons of customization options), but also shows sketches, different iterations and discarded ideas both for characters and scenarios.

I am biased as I tend to love these kind of books, even for games that initially you'd think are not such a big deal, but one thing that Ubi Soft does really well is crafting incredibly detailed and ultra-realistic settings for their games. So much that they feel "more real than reality". The game is so full of details that I often stop to appreciate them before getting back into action. And with this book, you can get a bunch of nice examples without fear of getting killed by an enemy 😆

Comic Book review: Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy

Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy comic book cover

I wanted to read some "Star Wars Legends" lore (the now non-cannon fiction), but I also wanted to read more about Admiral Thrawn because reading an article about SW: Tie Fighter PC game I recalled he appears on it and always wondered "who was that blue-skin baddie". The Thrawn Trilogy looked like a good entry point, consisting on 3 comics drawn in the early nineties, and set a few years after the original Star Wars Trilogy and depicting the Admiral as the main antagonist.

Well, I don't know if it's just me having different expectations, or the way the story was written didn't appealed to as much as I was hoping for, but they felt... dull; very slow paced sometimes, other times over-complicated and a bit silly, the plot and its unrolling doesn't convinces me.

The drawing is nice (specially the main characters, really nice resemblance of the movie actors), the ships, the main arc by itself are all good, but the execution didn't attracted me. I sometimes read through omnibus collections in a few days, meanwhile here for around 400 comic pages took me a substantial effort.

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