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Andrew Walter
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www.andrewwalter.co.uk Illustrator/Curmudgeon/Drifting Observer/Gamer
www.andrewwalter.co.uk Illustrator/Curmudgeon/Drifting Observer/Gamer

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My partner has an exhibition of her awesome paintings in February in London. If any G+ers would like to come along to the Private View, let me know.
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My awesome partner has an exhibition of her awesome paintings in February in London. If any G+ers would like to come along to the Private View, let me know.
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What I don't like about the best game of the year compared to the other best game of the year from the same publisher

New Blood Interactive are fucking killing it at the moment if you are not one of the pod-people and know what Doom 1 and 2 are and Heretic and Hexen are and Quake is and actually have an interest in FPS games that have sci fi/fantasy/horror themes where you don't feel like you're slowly moving through slurry while a bunch of eagle-eyed 13 year old Americans pop you in the head with boring laser focussed sniper rifles again and again and call you an islamic gay libtard. ("Military shooters" are some of the dullest fucking shit ever made and have nothing to do with the games I love so if you try to tell me there's a modern day game out there for me that I've missed then I think you're probably wrong but I'm willing to be convinced, I'm not an arsehole. And yes I've played Autumn Night 3D Shooter and Ziggurat and no I haven't played Apocryha 'coz it looks a bit dodgy but has potential and I don't want to spend the money cheers)

So they've recently put Dusk out after it being in early access for a while and I've played through some of the early levels (first six or so) and have also played twice through the current entirety of their other game Amid Evil (same publisher, different developer) and I've had a few beers and I'd like to talk about the two and what I like and what I don't so there.

Short answer - both 'feel' like the vibe they're trying to capure and I imagine for a lot of younger people that's going to be mind blowing and exciting and that is seriously a good thing. If you'd ever told me that 2018 was the year I'd be into FPS games again I'd have spilled your beer and gone to talk to someone else. AND both games nail the speed and reactivity and feel where you jump and yourcharacter goes "hough" just so and then you fire the game's equivalent of the SSG and gib an enemy and all is right with the world. They both feel like they're made by people young enough to remember these games, but not too old that they're a bunch of putrid old fucks that have decided the internet represents a world turned against them (i.e. they're in their early 30's, like me - I assume....or at least I'm clinging onto the 'early 30's' box while I can until next year).

AND YET:

One of them feels like true art and the other feels like a really good pastiche - at least from what I've played so far (and again in the case of AE that's the entire game as is, and only 2-3 hours of Dusk, so I'm probably proclaiming out of my fundament).

Amid Evil is the fantasy one, seemingly designed as a perfect node between Quake 1 (my angle, my darling angle, closer than my peeps you are to me) and Hexen/Heretic. The weapons are strange orbs, bizarre staves, and twisted hunks of metal that I can see on the shelves of Iucounu's manse. The enemies are blocky angry wireframes with some deliberarely lo-res textures over the top, with a handful of behaviours that seem to merge hatred for the protagonist with a complete lack of boring grimdark.

The rendering of all of these is done in a way that took some getting used to. They've somehow managed to mix the shoddiness people (unneccesarily) associate with old 3D games and a unique feeling of real fantasy, but it works. I find it difficult to explain why exactly...some combination of strange twisty narrative level design, misty skyboxes, crusty textures and modern approaches to FPS architectures. There's nothing that will surprise you here if you don't have a yearning for different fantasy, but it's all just done so well. If you DO have yearning for non D&D/non Tolkien /non mainstream fantasy, then I think you'll find it here, provided you're then prepared to fill it full of fantasy buckshot. It's a FPS where I enjoyed the downtime as much as the killing, I found a few vistas where I just wanted to stop and gaze and I thought...well this is real art. Cathedral-esque spaces, big reverent temples, otherworldly shorelines, monolithic cybernetic nexuses, it's all here and on occasion it's pretty jaw dropping. The only real criticism I would have is that even on Nightmare (sorry, EVIL) difficulty it feels like it's not hard enough, until it is - and then it's hard enough because it's bullshit because of certain enemy types being placed awkwardly or traps. Needs more hordes I think.

How does it feel? Weeelllll mostly like Quake 1 I think. There's a slight floatiness to the combat and the hough jumps combined with the powerful (but sometimes slightly underwhelming) blasts of magic you'll be emitting from the weaponry, and you'll never be rewarded with a true gib feel like you get from Quake or the visceral squelch you'll get from SSG-ing a Chaingunner in Doom 2 and seeing the top of their skull pop off. It's like...you pay for the feel of awesome oneric fantasy by having enemies that sort of crumble to the touch when you kill them, or something. It still feels frantic, but it's like you're fighting crowds of animated armour as opposed to hateful adversaries like in Quake or Doom. Actually that's not right, because there's a real feeling like you're intruding when you enter some bizarre non-human space and hear a Dale Gribble-like "sssSSssAHHH" and have to commence to slaughtering. I dunno.

It's elusive I think is what I'm saying, and that's why it works as true fantasy. I haven't had my sense of wonder jingled like this for a good few months. It's still in early access with 5 episodes and there's another 2 on the way and the music is otherworldly and trippy and the price is 100% guaranteed not to rise. GET IT.

DUSK is different because it seems to have aimed for a a particular vibe and then got there immediately and built on that instead of exploring its way there through development. We're in Blood Redneck Rampage, and Quake 1 territory here. In theory I should love this game more than anything. I love old-school horror, I love blood and Blood and Quake 1 FPS games, and I love death metal more than the average Dad-core G+ OSR people that say they love metal and then talk about Maiden or whatever. It should be my perfect game. But it's almost too right. It's like meeting someone at a party and finding that you get on with them perfectly but there's a nagging feeling they might have read your diary.

I constantly complain about new FPS games and about how nothing feels likes Doom. And this game takes my complaints, tells me to shut up, and kisses me. It's quick, the shooting is fast and brutal, the enemies brook no quarter, and you're forever on your toes. It's impeccable as far as the speed goes. The weapons feel fairly powerful I guess (but more on that later).

BUT the graphics feel like they're catering to me. Quake 1 and 2's enemies weren't blocky by choice, they were "realistic", at least within the parameters they were going for. Dusk's enemies feel like South Park characters. They're blocky and wave their limbs about like they're trying to kill me rather than trying to kill me. (I mean, they kill me a lot too, but that's beside the point). There's something about it that's a bit too cartoonish, and I'm not feeling this sense of awe and menace that everyone seems to be feeling. There's no set piece in it like the first time you fight a Fiend in Quake E1M2.

Blood was ridiculous, but still felt malevolent, ugly, hateful even along with its extreme sense of FUN and cartoonishness. Dusk feels like it's winking and nodding at you all the time, and it always feels fun - I want to be clear about this, it is an excellent game - but I can't help but feel like someone behind the curtains is holding back on the reins.

Honestly, I feel like a churl for complaining about this. I bought Dusk in eaely access and refunded it after 30 minutes, then this time around I bought it again, and burned through my 2 hour refund period without even thinking about it and played til 1.30AM and fucked up my sleep patterns, so it's clearly tickling my shooty-bone. In terms of 'feel' it's on point. But it just feels like...

A 12 horror film I suppose? The County Medical Examiners to Carcass? Difficult to put my finger on. It feels disappointing yet I can't stop playing it. Not that I would dream of writing any of this in a Steam review of course, because my thumb isn't turning up or down.

Anyway, Arcane Dimensions kills them both, so get that too, then spend the money you think it's worth on one of these games. Support the games you feel.

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12/16/18
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Spare a thought for your illustrators, they're the ones hand-lettering and freehanding bastard circular borders.
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I am determined to run it in 2019. My excuses are nuncupatory.
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I think the main thing I've gotten from social media (actually the internet as a whole, but acutely with social meda) might be a massaging of that feeling in the back of my mind that I don't have a fully formed set of mental processes, opinions, or depth of thought. Like I'm somehow not a proper person and don't have proper passions or creative urges. That's "normal" right.

Should that be normal, or.....?
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+Ben L. Just ran Through Ultan's Door as a one-shot for some colleagues because the normal game fell through. They sold the Cleric's only acolyte into slavery to a lizardman to afford Ultan's fee, then fought a 5HD oneiric slime and killed it, had some flasks of oil hurled at them by some Guildless, then stole the explorers' green canoe and rowed off stage left in it. Great stuff.

So what I'm saying is I need issue 2!
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How is this efficient packaging for a single bottle of gin? Aren't they fucking themselves over at this point?
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Well, look what came through the post at some point today! Slightly mangled by an over enthusiastic postman, but that's ok, underground comics should revel in their ephemerality and dinged corners. I hope to find the time to read it and post some thoughts soon!

+Michael Gibbons
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Current theme song on a bleak back at work day. Particularly evocative after a weekend with my mind immersed in the worlds of make-believe. Reality is overrated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhzEsQtkGF0
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