Monthly Archives: February 2012

Game will not be stocking Mass Effect 3!

So it appears that due to trouble with cash flow and what Game feels are unreasonable/infeasible credits agreements, they won’t be stocking any of EA’s March releases, including the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3. This does not bode well for the company (who also own Gamestation, the UK’s only other dedicated games retailer), nor for all those eager fans that pre-ordered ME3 through one of the stores. It’s unclear as yet whether this will also affect Gamestation, but it seems highly likely.

Game are offering £5 of reward card/Elite points in addition to a full refund to anyone that’s placed a pre-order with them (redeemable in-store 1st-9th March), and apparently have plenty of the N7 special editions of the game available for pre-order (well, I suppose all that stock ear-marked for Game had to go somewhere…).

Check out more details over at IGN

Happy Anniversary Warhammer 40,000!

Exactly what the title says! Today marks the 25th anniversary of Warhammer 40,000, one of Games Workshops flagship titles, and the game that – in a roundabout way – got me into science fiction in the first place.

For those of you asking “What the in the Burning Hell’s is Warhammer 40,000?” I’ll try and summarise it briefly. It’s a science fiction universe set in the 41st Millennium, where mankind has had interstellar golden ages, and dark ages, and everything in between. Then this chap known only as the Emperor pops up during Earths darkest hour, and through his amazing powers of, well, everything, unifies Earth, the Solar system, and eventually millions of other worlds out in the galaxy. Then his favoured son Horus – one of eighteen genetically engineered by the Emperor himself – turns on him when he’s corrupted by the Chaos Gods, sparking the Horus Heresy, which rips the shiny new Imperium of Man asunder with war.

The end result is that Horus dies, the people that followed him get all twisted and evil, and the Imperium becomes a very grimdark place to live. It’s besieged on all sides by aliens (such as the enigmatic Eldar, the brutal Orks, and the all-consuming Tyranids), heretics, mutants, daemons, and everything else the galaxy can throw at it.

It started as a table-top wargame back in the 80’s, but has now expanded into books, video games, board games, even a film.

It’s massively geeky at heart (assembling and painting the models, playing wargames, etc) but is so much fun and the writing that creates the universe is so masterfully written that I know people who’ve never played a game in their lives who are fanatical about the books!

I’ve no doubt that at some point I’ll write a blog where I reminisce, all misty-eyed over my twenty-year history of playing the game in various guises, and you may even get to see some of my gloriously (ahem) painted miniatures, if I’m feeling bold/generous.

But in the meantime, happy Anniversary Warhammer 40,000. Stay grimdark.

Book Review: Salvations Reach, by Dan Abnett

So, at the beginning of this week I finished reading the latest in Dan Abnett’s amazing Gaunt’s Ghosts saga, Salvations Reach. Here I’ll try and review it sensibly, but I can make no promises that it won’t turn into fanboy ramblings… Oh, and there will be spoilers, so don’t read any further than this if you’ve yet to read the book!

Gaunt's Ghosts: Salvations Reach, by Dan Abnett

For those of you not acquainted with the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, they’re set in the universe of Games Workshops Warhammer 40,000, a grim, dark place where a dystopian human Imperium is besieged on all sides by aliens, traitors, mutants, and daemons. By all accounts not a particularly pleasant place to live. The bulk of humanities defending armed forces is made up of the Imperial Guard, human soldiers in their trillions divided into regiments and spread across the warzones of the far future. The Ghosts – officially called the Tanith 1st – hail from the forested world of Tanith, which was destroyed by a Chaos (the big nasties in the Warhammer 40,000 universe) on the very day that they were founded and started to ship off world. Rather than see the fighting men of the 1st die in a fight they couldn’t win, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt got as many as he could away from the doomed planet, and lead them as part of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade.

Salvations Reach is the fourteenth novel in the series, and sees the Ghosts receiving an influx of new recruits from Belladon (the regiment has previously received re-enforcements from Vervunhive, and was merged with the Belladon 81st Light Recon), in the form of a company colours band, and a handful of others from Vervunhive itself, including one who proves to be quite a shock to Gaunt…

They are shipping out into their first combat action in a while, and are undertaking a vital yet potentially suicidal mission to a space station – the titular Salvations Reach. The novel deals heavily with the interpersonal goings-on between the members of the regiment a lot, introducing new characters – both military and otherwise – and setting up a lot of potentially interesting situations in the future. In fact, this whole book seems to be setting us up for something else. The build-up before the Ghosts reach the station overshadows the actual mission, almost to the point that the story of the mission starts to feel a little rushed, as if there was too much story to squeeze into too short a page count.

Although the writing is as always superlative, and the story is strong – and in places heart rending, including the death of at least one much loved character – I can’t help but shake the feeling that if this were written by someone like Robert Jordan or Tolkien, this book would be the first part in a much larger one. So much is left open, foreshadowing major events that are so close and clearly-going-to-be-awesome that it’s almost painful to finish that last page and close the book. It makes me wish Salvations Reach had been released at the same time as its immediate sequel, so that the two could be read back-to-back, and the two would become part of a much more complete whole.

Whenever I read one of the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels, I always compare it to my favourite in the series, Necropolis, which is an absolutely astounding book that I’ve re-read more times than I care to count. Compared to that, Salvation Reach just doesn’t seem as involved, and towards the end seems to change from having fast paced to rushed. By anyone else’s standards it’s amazing. By Mr. Abnett’s, it’s merely good.

Wow, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever criticised one of his novels!

Ranking: 4 out of 5

Lego makes…. more bricks!

Now, even when torn away from your PC by circumstances beyond your control (significant other, power cut, freak laptop-stealing hummingbird attack) you can continue to immerse yourself in a low-res world of blocks! Lego have released their Minecraft set, designed with the help of four actual Lego fans apparently.

The set’s modular, and splits into four separate parts, all of which contain hidden underground resources and their own little selection of above ground stuff, like trees and a crafting table.

As you can also see (in the top picture) it contains what Lego are terming “Micro Mobs”, namely Steve (the player character from the game) and a Creeper. I really hope they make the Creeper available on it’s own, because I want one on my desk!

Whilst I love Minecraft, and I think the two little “Micro Mobs” are pretty cool, the actual set isn’t really doing it for me. I don’t know why. When I first saw this was going to be a real thing, I was excited. Then I saw them and… meh. Might look pretty cool on a shelf somewhere, but I can’t see me rushing out to get it. Then again, I have something of a love/hate relationship with Lego, so tomorrow I may indeed be rushing out to buy one!

Check out Brothers Brick to see the full press release.

Snow White and Storm Trooper

The weekend before Christmas Rooney and I had the pleasure of taking part in an event run by a local funeral firm (Daniel Robinson & Sons) which we got all dressed up for, me as Snow White and Rooney as a Storm Trooper. The idea of the day was to basically make a group of children and their families who had had a tough year with bereavement and illness feel as special as possible.

They were picked up by limos and greeted by us in costume and staff from the funeral firm who were dressed up as different characters from Toy Story and pantomime heros and villains (from the local theatre’s panto cast) and then taken in to a church for a lunch. We went round to talk to the children and make it as magical as possible, then they then went off to watch the pantomime. The day was amazing and I hope that the children enjoyed it as much as I did –  if they did then it was a real success!

It was probably the first time in my life that I thought ‘This is what Christmas is really about.’ It was a day that I will never forget but there are two memories that will stay with me forever; I was talking to a family and the baby that the father was holding looked up at me with her big eyes and grabbed my hand and just stared at me with a huge smile on her face, and the second memory was a girl running up to me who was about 7 years old and put her arms around my waist and was asking her Mum to take a photo of us, she was so excited to be near ‘Snow White.’ It definitely made me feel like a princess for the day and made me so happy to give these children something to smile about.

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