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.