Friday, 16 June 2017

Welcome to Planet F**k You!

"Let's f**king do this!"

...screams the heroine in Tormentor X Punisher, E-Studio's twin-stick shooter before a hoard of crazed demons emerge from burning hexes. Cue a lot of heavy firepower, demon-gore and some very bad language.

My favourite facet of video games is graphics and design, and TXP is a real retro-clone treat. Inspired by 16bit outings like Doom, Splatterhouse and Primal Rage, artist Tuuka Stefanson has done a great job on the title. His busy, detailed logo is superb and embodies the kind of heavy metal gore-porn that typifies the game.

Once you get past the loading screens and options menu, massive, red demon-hands rip open the view to reveal the arena where you're going to be making a lot of things die. At this point the genius of the design is its simplicity. The animation is smooth, the sprites stand out in such a way that the frenetic carnage never becomes unintelligible. A neat trick they pull is that the bright red gore quickly fades to a deep crimson so as not to obscure the next tide of attackers. The naive, balloon font used for text is both easy to read and a great signifier that the designers are not taking this game too seriously. But you probably already guessed that.

TXP is published by Raw Fury Games and is available on Steam.



 




Wednesday, 14 June 2017

When a stealth bomber has sex with KITT in a Lovecraft story

I'm usually disappointed at how slowly the look of tech changes. The cases and chassis seem reliably homogeneous and largely ignore any other trends in, say, surface design.

Don't get me wrong, there are great reasons why progress is so glacial. The UI is the thing that changes according to the zeitgeist, and the current trend is to minimise the presence of the casing altogether, so putting the UI at the forefront. Also, these products are expensive to manufacture and there is a lot at stake. Each model is worth hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds in revenue. Hence flirting with a trend just isn't viable. So how about we just give it a matte black or silver case, eh?

When something like the Shadow turns up, it's really striking. The company makes weird, illuminated-but-black boxes of non-Euclidean geometry. They look like a stealth bomber had sex with KITT in a Lovecraft story. In fact, it's so weird I can't quite work out what it does or if Shadow makes just one product or several (but that might be due to the 'Fringlish' copy on the website). But, you know what? I don't care. I just want one. And 'Shadow' is definitely not an ominous name for a tech company.

I am reminded of the Sandbenders in William Gibson's Idoru. A colony of craftspeople, they make bespoke tech using a very Arts and Crafts approach to the externals. A chassis made out of mahogany and slate? Yes please. But no hokey Steampunk tomfoolery - I want good design, without superfluous frivolity.




Saturday, 3 June 2017

Bloody Haemonculi

Welcome to another irreverent battle report! If you're looking for tactical insights and strategic tips, you should probably just pass along right now. But if you do get to the end there is a treat in store for you...

My regular opponent, Mr T, decided to shed his Tyranid carapace and instead threw his lot in with the Haemonculus Covens. He's done a smashing job painting a small force which was pitted against my Blood Angels. Queue set-up, roll offs and missions and all that jazz. I think we were capturing objectives and slaying Warlords. Or something. I was mainly there to kill Xenos.

To be honest, things started off pretty badly for me as I managed to chuff-up my deployment. I got excited handling my newly-painted Razorback and inadvertently put it in a stupid place. The roof-surfing Death Company mini is a reminder that the tank driver was ever-so-pleased to be sharing his shiny ride with five frothing lunatics.


My 90s Scouts took up position in a ruined building. They did their best at trying to hide against the grey walls but found their bright red armour and yellow undercrackers didn't make this an easy task.


Everybody ran forwards. There was a bit of killing. Notably a combat squad of Tactical Marines foot-slogged up the right flank to be greeted by a Raider full of angry Haemonculi. The Marines held out surprisingly well and succeeded in slowing down the Xenos for a couple of turns. I'm now more at-peace with seeing my troops whittled down if they're tying up more expensive enemy units like this.

The Razorback driver was palpably relieved when his cargo of maniacs disgorged into the fray around an objective. They tore through a Haemonculus squad then rushed the enemy Warlord. The puny alien was doomed. Stupid Xenos.


However, behind a rocky outcrop my Warlord wasn't having fun. The Chaplain vaguely imagined the  steadily increasing buzzing sound he could hear was a large, angry bumblebee. But then a massive pain engine hove into sight. Uh oh! Smack down. He lost and the filthy Xenos machine buzzed with alien pleasure.


All told, it was pretty close and the Haemonculi won by a narrow margin. Mr T had his fair share of bad luck and did a good job of pulling apart my red chaps.
So the prize for getting to the end of this post is that this battle report (and a couple previously) have been 8th edition games. I can wholeheartedly assure you that the system is a dream to play - smooth, accessible and fast-paced. GW has also made a herculean effort to update all the stats for every unit, so you'll be able to play all factions from day one. All the new datasheets are found in the new Index books (akin to the Grand Alliance books for Age of Sigmar). Mr T and I have always used the new Power Level system to build our armies as that suits our mid-core style. We found the system gives a very balanced game with the outcome often decided in the last turn (and sometime on the last die roll). Of course, 8th edition sees the release of the new Primaris Marines, and I'll definitely be adding units of these beautiful models to my Blood Angels army.

While the Dark Imperium is a dismal place to live, it's a new dawn for 40K hobbyists.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Vikings - Wolves of Midgard

It's time to strap on your walrus furs, grab your axe and get ready for some pillaging! And by that I mean; take another look at the graphics of another gorgeous game.

Vikings - Wolves of Midgard is a hack-and-slash RPG developed by Games Farm and published by Kalypso Media. You play a clan chief facing the arrival of some very historically inaccurate beasties who are intent on raiding your settlement and ruining your day. Cue some excellent hack and slash action, loot gathering and item crafting, all set in a gorgeously rendered fantasy vision of Scandiwegia. This is Diablo with furry boots, big axes and longboat-loads of Norse mythology. And wolves. Lots of wolves.

Games Farm have done a stunning job of realising the environments in this title. The naturalistic landscapes range from snow-covered mountain sides, to grassy uplands to beaches with rockpools. And they all look amazing. The textures do a lot of this work and the studio deserves an award for them. But they're combined with some awesome lighting work that gives the game a genuinely cinematic feel. The designs of the world and characters is ace as well, blending a lot of very naturalistic and historical items with some great fantasy visions, like floating ice monsters and goblin huts that resemble oversized poppy seed pods. I also need to give a shout-out to the art on the loading screens, which is beautifully done in a loose natural-media style and really evokes the mythic quality of the world.

So if you fancy some beautiful fantasy-Viking action this is definitely the game for you, my friend. It's available on console and PC, Mac and Linux.







Tuesday, 16 May 2017

You might be gurning and lumpen, but I still love you!

It transpired my cunning plan to use five, near-identical Oldhammer Scouts wasn't so sensible after all. A recent game of Shadow War: Armageddon mainly consisted of me trying to remember which Scout was which, and who was armed with what. This is neither fun, nor fair on your opponent. I needed something more WYSIWYG. And hence the two guys below.






These are from the plastic sprue released with Advanced Space Crusade. Admittedly they hail from the era of gurning, lumpen plastic miniatures, but I love them all the same. While they don't have the dynamism of their metal counterparts, they do have a kind of solid charm. Plus you really can't miss that MASSIVE gun and bright yellow chainsword, which helps with my 10th Company's identity crisis.

The eagle eyed nerds among you will notice that the Sergeant's pauldrons are rather mis-matched. After Rogue Trader there were several revisions to the Codex scheme of Space Marine iconography and livery. When these Scouts were released this IP was entering its current incarnation but still bedding in, as you can see in this scan below:


What I love about this cra-zy era is the liberal incorporation of  heraldry. I took the the Dave Gallagher White Dwarf cover and 'Eavy Metal miniature below as reference points.




I'm not sure what I'll be painting next for my Blood Angels. Perhaps a Primaris? ;-)

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Wode Warrior completed

Having posted a WIP a few weeks go I managed to finish this guy. To be honest, I'm not overly pleased with him, but I did learn a few good lessons so it was worth it.


Early on I got rather intimidated by the amount of detail on him. I spent ages highlighting the top of his shield and decided I couldn't go on that way without risking a melt down, cannibalism or some other malady. So I mixed up a subtle first hightlight dry brushed it on. This worked really well and I added two more highlights, this time using more precise strokes. I carefully dotted-on pin pricks of almost white too, which I'm getting better at and I find really lifts miniatures. Any resulting sloppyness was mitigated by adding the 'scratches', which are really quick to do. The result is a much for equitable balance of effort-to-result.

I managed to mess this up with his wode tattoos. These look really awful and only serve to break up the shape of his body. Never mind. However, the hallucinogenic blood worked quite well and the red vibrates against the olive drab of his shield exactly as it does in the Bisley artwork.

Visual research for Solonchak

I've been thinking more about Solonchak, the dried sea basin this guy inhabits in the Realm of Fire. It's a crazy mix of white-hot salt dunes shot through with luminous oxides. The depressions have become bone-fields where the cartilaginous remains of leviathans slowly crystalise. These Silurian carcasses eventually shatter and are ground to powder under their own weight. There is no sun in the sky that beats down all hours, but a borealis of fire that merely waxes and wanes according to the whim of the gods. In this toxic wasteland a living can be eeked out, but only by denizens that strike first. What remains of society is groups of apex predators, united not by race or species but by their ability to survive.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Synskin Shinobi

If men in flak vests or giants in gaudy Power Armour rock up, you can be certain you've annoyed the Emperor. But whem men in black, skin-tight rubber suits arrive, you know the Man Upstairs is properly miffed.

I wanted to intimidate my opponents more and the recent Made to Order Assassin was an ideal choice. As with all Jes Goodwin's sculpts, he was a joy to paint. Plus he reminds me of Joe Musashi, the hero from the Shiobi series of video games.

I've seen some lovely alternative colours for Assassins, but I chose to stick to the traditional black as an homage to Rogue Trader IP. I used the same technique as I employed on my Death Company - paint black over metal, zenith spray grey, then dump a wash of black ink mixed with black paint over the top. The wash settles in the recesses and knocks the grey back, just leaving it on the raised surfaces, to which you add a few highlights. Boom. There is a vent on top of his backpack which you can just see in the boxout. I highlighted this up with blues and that worked well to separate the element from the rest of the zentai suit (sorry - "synskin").


I also got both the Inquisitor and Demonhunter in Terminator armour to swell the ranks of my retro-clone Imperial agents. They are nowhere near the front of my painting queue, but shuffling around at the back, trying not to stand out while noting down people's names and nodding in a totally un-threatening manner.