Archive for ‘Reviews’


Hey, I think we all forgot one Doctor!

I’m back, well sort of, from now on I’ll be posting one glorious article a week. The sheer number of new subscriptions I’ve received in the past few months, along with how healthy my reader numbers are, have shown me that I’m probably not finished with this yet; or any time soon. “But why only one article a week?” I imagine you crying out. Well I’m short of time these days. At the moment I have a novel to rewrite, a webcomic to update (hopefully more regularly), two video blogs which I am still trying to develop, as well as learn the skills I need to make them happen…oh and I am in the middle of the second worst migraine cluster of my life. Two months, and so far no let up! Go me!

Anyway, on with the show.

So last week (while huddled in a dark room while I tried to ignore how my brains felt like they had decided to leave my body through every pore in my head) I was trying to cheer myself up by rewatching the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. How awesome was John Hurt as The Warrior Doctor by the way? So at the end of the episode we have that wonderful moment when all 13 Doctors, including a picturesque shot of Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows, fly to the rescue of a well and truly boned Gallifrey. It’s an amazing moment, 50 years in the making, a flawless piece of science fiction television; but something felt off to me. A question became embedded in my mind.

Shouldn’t there be 14 of them?




Baker…double check.


Baker 2…unfortunately check.

McCoy…delightfully check.


Eccleston…ears and all-check.


Smith…yup there he is.

Oh and here’s William Hurt.

And hey look at those eyebrows controlling Mr. Capaldi.

So yeah 13…Where’s Peter Cushing?!

“What?!” I imagine you crying in Karen Gillian’s velvety voice.

You see in 1965 and again in 1966 Peter Cushing played The Doctor in a pair of full length feature films. I remember these two films more clearly from my childhood than anything else “Who”. So clearly in fact that when I would finally see the television version of the Doctor Cushing was playing I would find myself rather put off at  first. But only at first.

Cushing was recreating the part played by William Hartnell. The older, somewhat bumbling, rambling, wise, but often foolish first Doctor. The first of the two movies was in fact a direct retelling of the very first Dalek adventure. And to my eyes it was a very good retelling. I can, and have, watched both versions back to back, and despite the differences between the two versions find myself equally satisfied by both.

The second movie was Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150AD. This one was based loosely on the 10th Who adventure “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.”

Visually they’re pretty ordinary science fiction movies of the 60’s. The special effects are…not all that special. The music is okay. The acting, with the exception of Cushing himself, is passable. But the story’s make up for all that by the simple fact that they are genuinely interesting. In other words it’s classic Doctor Who through, and through.

And yet, these movies are largely ignored by Who fans.

Well I’m a Who fan. Sylvester McCoy is my Doctor. Ace is my companion. I was there when he broke the curse of Fenric, when he recovered the Silver Nemesis. I saw as she was carefully moulded in to something more than merely another human companion; a future Time Lord? The first Human Time Lord? We’ll never know, their stories were cut off mid-stream, before they could become a cultural touchstone like Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen.

That’s how I see those two Cushing movies. An attempt to create a Doctor for the big screen, a companion piece to the television series. An alternative universe of adventures. A failed great experiment. But does that mean that his Who should be ignored, then forgotten?

Fuck No!

Cushing, to my eyes at least, sparkled as The Doctor. Different, but still equal to the great William Hartnell. A Doctor equal to all those who followed, more than an equal to Colin Baker…seriously does anyone like his version?

So here I am, left wondering, if the Cushing version had cracked America would we have a vast sea of Who movies to rival Bond, or Godzilla?

What if he has been so taken with the character to have supplanted Troughton? Would we ever have had the whistle playing jester version?

Is there any way that the movies can be seen as canon? Another universe, like Y-Space? Or Roses alternative happy ever after Earth?

Regardless the Who fandom do themselves, and the franchise they so love a disservice by ignoring the Cushing movies. And perhaps it’s time for a rediscovery of them, and to imagine a different Who that might have been.


Why I love the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek universe.

Look, let’s face it, while the Original Star Trek Universe has given us all decades of entertainment, a lot of laughs, a few tears, it’s kind of been written into a cul-de-sac. And by that I mean, they were seriously considering a series based around Worf. Worf people. You know, the guy who gets his ass kicked when they writers needed to show that someone was tough enough to actually bother fearing. (Yeah, yeah, I know he was frikkin’ awesome in Deep Space Nine, but still…no, just no) Besides with the launch of a new Trek universe the original is probably, at the very least from a studio point of view, dead as a doornail.

But where does that leave us?

Well actually it leaves us with an entirely blank slate. As of this moment the only thing the new Trek-‘verse has in common with the original is a handful of characters. That’s it, seriously. Don’t believe me, well consider the following points.

Kirk is captain of the Enterprise 10 years too early.

Christopher Pike is her captain for probably, allowing for crew assembly and equipping time, less than a year. Instead of his original five years, which are alluded to as being almost as legendary as Kirk’s two stints as her captain on five-year missions.

Robert April…is nowhere to be seen. Hang on a second. Robert April is nowhere to be seen? Hang on that can’t be right.

Ah but this is where we get to my utterly blank slate theory. Old Spock came back in time, created a parallel universe, and in so doing changed everything. He’s indirectly responsible for the destruction of Vulcan, as well as the almost destruction of Earth. He is directly responsible for bringing in to being new technologies and new concepts (the trans-warp transporter). Look reduced to brass-tacks he’s responsible for the destruction of the entire known future history of his universe.

He brought about a universe where George Kirk died thirty years too early, and so all the lives he would have touched, not least his sons, are irrevocably changed.

Kirk instead of launching the mission that will meet the actual God Apollo (Well sort of a god, it’s complex), Gary Seven (Which may explain Khan being met far too early, I’ll get to this), and will serve as inspiration for hundreds of subsequent future heroes; has instead launched on what should have been Robert April’s voyage. Have you even heard of Robert April? If you’re under thirty, and weren’t a hardcore Trek fan, probably not; but then neither apparently has Abrams.

So, Kirk will probably never end up back in 1960’s Earth, never meet Gary Seven, or his cat (sort of, again, it’s complex) Isis. So it’s possible that Gary Seven will, for all his extra-terrestrial technological and training advantages, die on that particular mission. Which (if you’ve read the Eugenics War novels) means that Khan will have faced far lesser foes. Which could well mean that he escaped an Earth that was rapidly slipping from his grasp aboard the Botany Bay far later than in the original universe. Which in itself could explain why he was found so much earlier…he simply hadn’t travelled as far from Earth.

Add in the destruction of Vulcan and suddenly we very likely no longer have the characters T’Pau, T’Pring, Saavik, Tuvok, or Valeris. Why? Well, they’re all probably dead.

With the destruction almost the entire of the Federations 2nd Fleet at Vulcan in the first Abrams movie, we probably lose a huge number of Next Generation era characters. Why? Well again, and again we meet characters in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager who come from families with a legacy of Starfleet service. So, unless they were with the 1st Fleet they’re bang out of luck, possibly out of existence too.

But guess what folks? We’re just getting started because now we get to the head-wrecking time-travel stuff.

The Enterprise under Kirk is going on it’s first five year mission a decade too early. Which means it’ll likely be going a decade of exploration too close to Earth. So as I previously said, it’s likely there’ll be no trip to the 60’s, much less two of them. But with Khan well and truly on ice, will there be a Genesis planet? A battle with Captain Kruge? A Klingon Bird of Prey to use in a desperate flight back to the 1980’s in search of a Humpback…whale, not person, whale damn it!

And here we run in to another problem. Scotty gives someone the formula for Transparent Aluminium, you know kind of how Old Spock gave New Scotty his own theory of Trans-Warp Transportation…yeah, that won’t cause any problems to the timeline.

Oh and just to add salt to some canonical wounds, this might also mean no encounter with the Guardian of Forever, or at least not ’til much later in the new universes history.

And then there’s Tasha Yar and her time onboard the Enterprise C…mmmmmm Tasha Yar…*sighs*…*coughs* anyway. We know that Tasha Yar becomes another linchpin of her own universes timeline when an alternative version of her goes back in time to fight with the crew of the Enterprise C during their Thermopylae moment against the Romulans. The means she’s captured by a Romulan commander, who fathers her daughter Sela, and then kills her for trying to escape. Leaving Sela to become one of the hottes…I mean nastiest recurring villains in The Next Generation era. (and in the extended universe one of the people fighting for the Romulan Imperial throne. But yeah, only real geeks know about that…or Robert April, so moving on.)

And then there’s the Dividians in America during the lifetime of Samuel Clemens. Hmm I wonder what happens with them in the new timeline, maybe they eat Guinan. (Well that should spark some truly filthy fan-fiction.)

But what about Sisko and his jaunts to the past? Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that there’s currently no real reason for the station K-7 to exist, much less for Kirks Enterprise to wind up there with Kirk still in command in around 12 years time. Instead let’s ask ourselves is there even a Sisko to go back, and fanboy all over Kirk? We’re assuming he exists in the later timeline here. But with the changes Old Spock has created is there even going to be an Enterprise D? Will its crew who are really, truly unlikely to include any familiar faces, be similar enough to the original version to push Q’s buttons the same way, meet the Borg, and trigger the battle which leads to Sisko being in command of Deep Space Nine when the Wormhole is found? Or instead, assuming he exists in the future of this new universes timeline, will he instead be a starship captain of little note.; thereby saving the Alpha and Beta quadrants from the ravages of the Dominion War. And remember Sisko is also important to his universes history because he plays the part of Gabriel Bell, who admittedly he is partially responsible for the death of, and right about this time my head explodes from trying to figure out timelines and temporal paradoxes.

Will Voyager ever exist? And if it does without Tuvok (remember he’s probably dead) will it end up in the Badlands so it can find itself in the Delta Quadrant (Fuck that’s far away! They wanna go home.). This is kind of important, remember they had at least ten episodes based around time travel. Most of which must have left some changes in their wake.


Yeah. Where did I start with this? Oh yes the blank slate.

The original time-line was frankly awesome. It’s probably the single largest continuous storyline in television and movie history. It covers centuries. But it’s also become very restrictive. Look at the last thousand words for evidence. All of those things happened, and have to be worked around to tell new stories. And while the various series of books have done sterling work explaining and exploring a lot of the under utilised plot devices (New Frontiers take on Apollo being a brilliant example.) they were also rather hamstrung by being written into a universe with a solidly established storyline. And in fact this has only gotten worse as various writers have filled in the blanks.

Abrams universe took the Star Trek rulebook, tore it up, set it on fire, and then pissed on the ashes.

No more Vulcan.

A Kirk who is FAR too young for his position.

A Federation which is far more aware of it’s vulnerabilities.

And best of all, no known future history.

Sure there might well be a Captain Picard in the new universe. But with the changes he’s just as likely to be the producer of the finest red wines in the Alpha Quadrant. Or a history professor in the Academy. Or a street sweeper.

Nothing in the new universe is set in stone. There’s no reason that Abrams can’t take old storylines (Gary Seven being my favourite  prime example.) and run with them, giving them the time, and polish they deserve. But there’s nothing stopping him, and his successors, from ignoring them completely.

And that’s why I love both the original and Abrams universes equally. The original gives me stories I know and understand. I get the setting, and after a lifetime of watching, and reading can see most of the connecting strings between episodes, books, comics, and films. It’s a tapestry, sometimes loosely, and sometimes tightly woven. But I know it. And that’s both comforting, like an old fairytale, and in its own way exciting.

But the new universe is just pure adventure, for everyone. Everyone who watches it is experiencing it, more or less, for the first time together. It’s an opportunity for new writers, new storytellers to tell their Star Trek story on a relatively fresh and new sheet of paper. The basic rules still apply. Kirk is still, more or less, Kirk. Spock is still logical. Scotty is Simon Pegg…ummm ya *happy dance*. And the Enterprise is still the badass of the fleet. But beyond that, who knows. Who knows what changes have extended from the distant into the (future)past of this new universe. Who knows what dangers were swept away by the new timeline, only to be replaced to newer, deadlier foes.

Well someone knows, they’re sitting behind a laptop right now, wondering how to tell that story. And probably wondering how you write in lens flare.

So in memory of the original universe, Voltaire. *Riotous applause*


The 12th Doctor.

Okay this needs to be said.

Thank fuck the Doctor is dead,
Long live the Doctor.

This guy, Peter Capaldi, is right for the part, even in look. The younger, and ever younger Doctors were so fucking annoying; seriously, it was rapidly reaching the stage where he was gonna have to be a fetus to be any younger. And that was beyond jarring when I personally grew up with old Doctors, the youngest in looks from my childhood was Peter Davison, and even he had an indefinable feeling of age to him. (Video has some serious swearing, but gives a good sense of why this guy may have the right stuff to fill the enormous boots that so many actors have left behind them in this part.)

Matt Smith, to me, never had the feeling of a depth of antiquity to him, a feeling which the Doctor needs to be pulled off as a character. He never felt like a lonely god, or an eternal warrior. He never felt like someone whose whole past was drenched in the blood of the innocent, and guilty alike. He never felt like a man on the run from himself.

Admittedly Matt Smith did have an impossible task presented to him as he struggled to fill the shoes vacated by David Tennent. Tennent had made the character so completely his own that even old timer Whovians, like myself, adored him. He had found a way, to somehow, convey extreme age, sorrow, and barely controlled self loathing in to every glance at the camera, every word from his lips. He was The Doctor, in a way that no-one since, perhaps, Tom Baker had been; and I say that as a hardcore fan of the Sylvester McCoy years.

So perhaps I am, somewhat, unfair to Matt; but I did stop watching his seasons after  the episode “Demons Run.” I simply couldn’t stand watching the show any more.

Now though, with an older actor, a seasoned actor, an absolutely brilliant actor taking over the TARDIS, perhaps we have a chance for Doctor Who to become more of what it used to be. Less of the warrior, more of the horrified whimsy. More desperate escapes, less blowing up entire Cyber-fleets  just to send a message. More running. Much more running.

I want to see a villain tripped in to a bottomless chasm again, using nothing more than a scarf pulled tight across the mouth of a tunnel. (The Hand of Doom)

I want to see the Doctor locked in a desperate game of mental chess again, with whole worlds as the prize. (The Curse of Fenric)

I want to see him have a relationship with his daughter, let her be a companion, and the genesis of a new, better race of TimeLords. (The Doctor’s Daughter)

I truly hope that this time we have a Doctor that can be the flawed hero of the past. Not a mass murderer who can barely live with himself, and is only a hero despite himself. A real hero,

give us a dash of John Pertwee’s eccentricity and dash,

a few ounces of Tom Baker’s fear-filled courage,

a cup of Patrick Troughton’s whimsy,

a smidgen of Colin Bakers weirdness,

a good pinch of Peter Davison’s Englishness,

a random dash of Christopher Eccelston’s anger,

Sylvester McCoy’s scathing humour,

David Tennent’s feeling of endless sorrow,

Matt Smith’s…odd fashion sense,

but most of all William Hartnell’s sense of deep age, otherworldliness and above all, mystery.

Give us the Doctor who can make us frightened of the night, the distant, the old, the new, of the whole universe again. Give us the Doctor who makes us feel unsettled, disquieted, unsure of ourselves. Make us wonder whose side he’s really on. Make us wonder if we should be glad, or sorry that he doesn’t really exist.

But most of all stop making him a FUCKING ADULT SCHOOLBOY! It’s getting old.


My fears for The Elder Scrolls Online.

Tamriels darkest age is drawing ever closer, daring, dedicated heroes are needed more than ever. But a feeling of disquiet has stolen over this loyal daughter of Skyrim. What if Bethesda’s upcoming MMORPG episode of their wondrous Elder Scrolls Saga turns out to be just another MMO? What if…

* They have decided to make “their” World of Warcraft? Don’t get me wrong here. I love WoW, it’s immense, consuming, and fun. But no Elder Scrolls game has ever been similar to any Warcraft game. They play differently, they look different, they feel utterly different. But every single MMO since WoW has tried to make “their” WoW and failed. Often horrifically. My hope is that this MMO Elder Scrolls will feel more like Skyrim, with extra player characters wandering around.

* I. Stand. Alone! One of my favourite aspects of the Elder Scrolls games is that, of late at least, you can have companions, but you don’t have to. If you want to you can stand completely alone. You, your skills, and the enemy. I love this aspect. Yes, sure once in a while I wish for the ability to share my adventures with my friends; but over all I want, no I need to stand alone.  I hope that Bethesda have kept this aspect of their series in mind while they designed their new game. I may choose to team up with others sometimes; but I want to be able to solo everything as well. (Insert shameful, but much loved earwig)

* That Glorious Music. So, dearest reader, would you like to know how I play most video games? Well what would you think if I told you, in total silence. I generally do not have sound in my games. I find most game soundtrack distracting, and most game sound effects infuriating beyond belief. There are very few exceptions to this, Borderlands 1 & 2, Dragon Age: Origins, and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Skyrim. The sound, and music in the last two Elder Scrolls episodes have been nothing short of glorious. I just hope that in the inevitable rush to get Elder Scrolls Online out to the public that Bethesda  don’t let their perfect track record tumble down.

(Homework: Listen to the entire of the clip below. This is all three opening themes from the last three games. Bethesda if someone is reading this, you listen extra hard sonny-jim.)

* Criminality. It’s so easy to  become a criminal in Oblivion or Skyrim. All you have to do is have a finger slip, and whoops the entire town are out for your criminal blood. That said, it’s even more fun to do it on purpose. To rob every last character in the game blind. To become the death that creeps in the night. Or just the best/worst horse thief to ever walk the land of Tamriel. Elder Scrolls Online will lose something special about it’s predecessors if this is not included in this latest part.

* Dragons, Shouts, Vampirism, Lycanthropy and Dungeons everywhere.  Dragons are just awesome, and awe inspiring when you see them. They’re huge, dangerous, kind of random and deadly; and Bethesda got them exactly right. You can and do run in to dragons randomly, fire/frost breathing mountains of reptile flesh that bears down on you out of frikking nowhere. I hope that they’re much the same in the new Online format.

Shouts made for an interesting addition to the magical segment of Skyrim. And again represent something which would be a true loss if they were removed from the online game. Obviously they should only be available to Nords. And only after that Nord works her ass off finding, and developing the skills needed.

The curses of Vampirism, and Lycanthropy really need to always be a part of any Elder Scrolls game. I know people who immediately start looking for a vampire when they play, just so they can spend the game as one; complete with all the advantages and disadvantages this entails. And with Skyrim, ditto werewolves. They add an immensely entertaining, and enjoyable extra layer of game play to this series. So it would be a shame to see them left out of the Online experience.

And finally dungeons need to be frikking everywhere; and I do mean everywhere. Part of the joy of the last two games in particular has been the fact that you stumble on dungeons left, right and center. Not just a generic dungeon type either; but dungeons of every type imaginable.

Don’t feel like wandering the world? Find a hole in the ground and explore it.

Don’t feel like a hole in the ground experience? Raid a crypt filled with the undead.

Don’t feel like that? How about a day of hunting mammoths/wolves/bears/your fellow humanoids.

The greatest joy of the Elder Scrolls Saga, lately especially, is that you can do anything in this world. You can cook, you can make a home, get married, hunt, make new and better equipment, you can explore for hours, delve in to dungeons that take anything from 5 minutes, to hours to complete. It’s joy is the sheer flexibility of the games, and how that flexibility translates in to fun.

And that leads to my greatest fear.

* This kills off the Elder Scrolls. No matter what, the Online experience will not be precisely what we expect from an Elder Scrolls game. It may be close, or it may be so far away from what we’ve come to expect that it leaves us totally disheartened. I honestly see Elder Scrolls Online as a bold, and potentially dangerous experiment by Bethesda. If it’s successful, if it’s well received, and well loved by long established Scrolls fans, like myself, it will be a blinding success. But if it drifts too far from what we expect from the Elder Scrolls…it could end in absolute disaster.

But regardless of how it ends up, right now, I am holding all judgement until I’ve played it, and I can’t wait to get my greedy hands on the latest installment of my favourite fantasy role playing game series of all time.


Antibiotics suck. But Ulysses 31 is awesome.

They really do, I feel like someone’s beaten me within an inch of my life. So instead of boring you with a long rambling moany post, I have decided today to share with you one of my favourite childhood memories. The first two full episodes of Ulysses 31. Prepare yourself for the awesome.

How frikkin great is the theme tune?

Have a great weekend.


Okay, really, my last Skyrim post for the time being. Smithing revisited.

Last week I wrote a piece on easily leveling up smithing, enchanting, a weapon skill, and your speech skill in Skryim. Uh sorry, but I found a better way. I’m certain I am not the first person to have figured this out, but it may be a help to someone out there. So, very quickly (because it’s frikkin roasting here and it’s more effort than I can handle to even type right now) here it is.

1: Find or buy the Alteration spell Transmute Mineral Ore, and read it.

2: Find, mine, beg, borrow, or steal iron ore. If you find iron ingots you can still use them for the iron dagger approach, but when you have ore, leave it as ore.

3: Using the Transmute Metal Ore spell to convert all your iron ore into first silver, and finally gold ore.

4: Now smelt the gold ore to ingots.

5: Forge 2 Golden Rings worth 75 gold from each ingot.

6: Enchant and sell as before.

This will make you more money at sale, raise your smithing skill faster, and add the Alteration school of magic to the skills you’re raising.

And now I’m going to find a dark corner and die. Man I hate this heat. See you Tuesday, if I’m still alive I promise it won’t be Skyrim post.


I love a challenge. The Skyrim Edition Part 2 – Bored of the Ring.

Yeah I know, I’m posting a lot about Skyrim at the moment. But right now while my body and mind are doing their very best to shred what’s left of my sanity, I’ve found SKyrim to be a surprisingly healing experience. So much to see, so much to do, so many creatures to hunt down and kill. It’s just so relaxing. And as I play it suddenly hit me that you can play a version of basically every major character from the Lord of the Rings if you really want to.

So if you really want to, here is how you can play what I think of as The Fellowship of The “By Talos! Is that a dragon?!” (For the record, because all of the Fellowship let loose a decent war-cry at one stage or another over the course of the three movies, they can all use shouts.)

1: “They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard!”

Yes, you too can play a character named Legolas. He won’t be as pretty. But he can be just as bad-ass. For this character you are limited to two bows over the course of the game, an a pair of elven daggers. You can only wear cloth (or if you’re some sort of wimpy girlie-elf leather) armor. Oh and no magic that affects other creatures, self buffing only thank you!

2: “I don’t want to be king…but sure why not.”

Who doesn’t want to Aragorn? So bad-ass he can kill orcs with just his scruffy boy beard. Aragorn gets a long-bow, any one or two handed sword (since in the movies he’s seen using both swords with whatever number of hands he feels like), an elven dagger, and leather armor. Oh, and a horse too. Has to marry an elf-maiden. But can not own a house. The last one is a huge handicap in playing Skyrim. Can use no magic of any kind, smithing, or enchanting, but feel free to use all the sneaking, and alchemy you can get your hands on.

3: “Do you think my beard is flowing enough?”

Everyone who doesn’t want to be Aragorn, wants to be Gandalf. And who can blame you when as Gandalf you get any staff, any one handed or two handed sword (for the same reason as Aragorn.) But Gandalf can only wear cloth armor…so you know, clothes. Nor can he own a house. That said he can use any magic, alchemy, and enchanting. And he gets an awesome black horse to emote at.

4: “Never mind me, I die at the end of the first movie, and you’ve never read the book…” *gasp, thud*

Would anyone really want to play Boromir? Well actually, yes. Of all the Fellowship characters he is one of only two who actually fits the Nord of Skyrim template. Give him a one handed sword, a good one. Give him a shield, and the best frikkin armor you can find; any heavy armor for pre-Fellowship days, any light armor for Rivendale up to riddled with arrows. No bows though, and definitely no magic. But perhaps, seeing as he was the student of Gandalf in brighter days, a good grounding in alchemy. But not too much sneaking about, it is after all an act beneath the contempt of this Son of Go…Whiterun. But he can have a horse, and even have as many houses as he likes.

5: “No-one tosses a Dwarf, the armor weighs way to fuckin’ much laddie.”

Gimli would be the other character who fits in to the inhabitant of Skyrim template particularly well. He can obviously wear any heavy armor, and wield any axe. Hell he can even ride a horse, badly; no charging at all for you mister Dwarf. He can also smith absolutely anything, while proudly owning a house. But that’s pretty much it. No bows, no magic, not even any alchemy. Better brush up on those cooking skills.

6-9: “They’re taking us all to Isengard…well two of us anyway.”

Make your character look short. No swords, daggers only. No magic at all. No missile weapons, no horses, no shoes. But, let’s face it, since you’re probably going to play Pretty-Boy…I mean Frodo anyway, your Hobbit can wear enchanted armor. Just no shoes. Oh and he can definitely own a house. One house. But to make up for all the suckage why not max out that sneaky, lock-picking, and pickpocketing type stuff? And you better carry lots of food, seeing as they’re too naive to bother to learn alchemy that doesn’t involve getting high.

And that is probably it for my Skyrim posts for a while. You know, unless I want to write another. But in the mean time I will leave you with possibly the cruelest earwig of the present age. After all they really are…


Things I’ve learned while wandering Skyrim.

As a quick follow up to my recent Skyrim article, I’ve decided to share a couple of the things I’ve learn about playing Skyrim. Little tips to make life easier, and sometimes more entertaining.

1: Neigh, neigh, snuffle, snuffle, neigh! (Man you’ve put on weight!)

In Skyrim your horse is your (temperamental see below.) best friend. She carries you in to danger, bearing up under the insane weight of you, your armor and all of your loot. And all this without complaining. Even if say you’ve just cleared out the Forsaken Cave and Crypt, meaning that you’re inventory now weighs in at a respectable 900 pounds. And better yet, you can still fast travel while you’re riding your horse, even if you now weight about the same as Jabba the Hutt. A great time saver when you consider all the tooing and froing you’d have to do otherwise to get all your stuff to any vender.

2: You like it? I made it.

There is very little more satisfying in Skyrim than to cut down a dragon with a weapon you forged yourself. Or survive a hail of arrows due to armor you made for yourself. But training the Smithing skill can be kinda time consuming, right? Not so young Dragonborn. First of all don’t make any steel, it’s a waste of iron ore. Instead make, loot, mine and buy as many iron ingots as you can. Iron ores and ingots can be bought from blacksmith NPC’s and sometimes in smaller amounts from general stores. While you’re at it buy, or loot every last petty soul gem you can find. Again general stores and mage vendors. Now move on to the next step.

3: Charge the bastards down!

Filling soul gems is a pain in the arse at lower levels. Cast the spell, kill the bugger in under the timespan of the spell, all the while hoping nothing blindsides you. Well I’m here to tell you that it need not be that way. Find yourself a sword, axe, or mace (one or two handed based on what you want to train up) that comes pre-enchanted with the “of binding” suffix. Fill your inventory with all the petty soul gems. Climb up on your horse, and start practicing those cavalry charges on Mudcrabs. I’m not joking, not even a little. Hold down the trigger, and powerstrike as you charge past. Boom “Soul Gem Filled”. This works great on deer of different types, wolves, foxes, even rabbits. It’s also faster for gathering leather than hunting them down with a bow…but if you just have to use a bow get your Mongol on and do it from horseback. So you’re not only filling soul gems, gathering Alchemy, Enchantment, Cooking, and Smithing materials. But you’re also leveling up your weapon, or even magic skills.

4: Bang, bang, bang went the hammer.

Head home, and forge a lot of iron daggers. Hundreds of them. They each cost one Iron Ingot, and one Leather Strip. Making them a cheap way to level up your Smithing. Then head to the nearest enchantment table, disenchant any weapon (not your soul binding one) and just enchant dagger after dagger. This will let you sell them for a profit, thus making you filthy rich, but it will also quickly level your Enchantment skills. I would advise however against using any perks you gain until you decide what type of Enchantment and Armor you want to wear end game. Also keep the higher level Soul Gems for when you have a piece that is really worth enchanting in a serious way, because leveling these skills is based on the number of uses of the skill, not on the effectiveness of the product.

And finally.

5: Lydia, you may look all delicious in your armor, but please stay away from me in combat. (That goes for you too horse!)

Companions in Skyrim can be useful. But if you’re like me and tend to sneak constantly, taking pot-shots with your bow to wear down targets before charging in with your sword, they can be a liability too. Lydia, the first companion you gain, is a perfect example. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve ended up with my brains clubbed out because she refused to stay hidden. I’ve also lost track of how many times she’s gotten me killed by charging in and engaging ever enemy in a room, instead of taking them out, one by one. Personally I think she’s just trying to get me killed so she can go back to serving in Dragonsreach.

My horse is even worse. I think she’s waiting safely for me behind a boulder, and the next thing I know she’s attacking someone who wandered too close to me, and oh, oh, oh…yes she’s now dead. I’m overburdened, and now I have to walk the whole way home with my bow fully drawn so I can move at a speed slightly faster than a crawl. Or even worse than that, she’s decided “No fuck you human, I’m gonna walk back to the stables…on the other side of that mountain range.”

The companions can be so random in what they decide to do, that generally I just adventure alone. Using my horse only when I’m hunting, or I know I’ll be going underground, or into a building immediately. It’s just less hassle. Besides, Lydia looks so much better lying on my bed back in Breezehome.


The Hellgate has returned to London. Templars assemble!

The sky is eternally bruised, ash floats on every breeze. The streets no longer ring to the sounds of human voices, or the laughter of children. The scents of smoke, and sulphur fill the air. In the distance you hear shuffling feet, low moans, skittering noises come at you from around every corner. Your sword feels heavy in your hand. Sweat runs down your face inside your helmet. And far ahead you see a flicker of movement as cadavers in various states of decay shuffle aimlessly.

This is the London of the future. Stripped of virtually all life by the demons which poured out of a Hellgate years before. And you are one of the last defenders of the human race, a Templar. And now it’s time to shred zombie flesh to get to the heart of the infestation. Well that or die trying.

Hellgate:London was originally released in 2007. I was lucky enough to receive the gift of a copy a year later. And it quickly became one of my favourite games of all time. It was exciting, sometimes scary, always action packed. In structure it was a little odd.

You had the 3rd party/1st person display modes available in World of Warcraft, and other similar role playing games.

The item gathering, and inventory management of the Diablo series.

The ability to be melee, ranged or a reasonably balanced mixture of the two.

So far, so normal, so how was it odd?

Well first of all, it also felt rather like a 3D environment take on an old school Hack’n’Slash game. Think Golden Axe, with zombies, demons, and demonic beasts all set in a post apocalyptic London. A rather different take on the role playing game, for that the time at least.

And secondly, the maps were largely very, very, linear. You’d have a series of tunnels, or a street level map. It would have an entrance, and sometimes an exit. Fight to the exit/target. Hand in quest.

In truth it’s very hard to describe Hellgate: London in any way that makes sense. But I can describe it in three words, for myself.




Fun because, well you’re wandering London’s streets, underground, and sewers hunting demons with swords, guns, and magic. And parts of the game are very recognisable places. Even some of the tube stations are recognisable, even if the scale is really, really off. It meant for me that the first time I ever went to London, I was fascinated to see the real world places I’d hunted down imps in on my PC. The fun followed me in to reality. And experience I have yet to have repeat itself with any other game.

Addictive, there’s so much to see. Yes, many maps are randomly generated, but some are always the same. The mix means you’re never totally sure what you’re going to see next. The sheer volume of items is mind boggling. You can spend hours just hunting, looking for that perfect sword, or gun, or focus to drop, to round out your equipment.

Infuriating, you can spend hours looking for that one piece of equipment, and never see it.

Well Hellgate: London has been re-released as a Free to Play, micro-transaction based online game. And after playing five hours of it so far I can share with you the follow feeling. It’s Hellgate: London. It plays, and feels almost identical to the original. The missions/quests all seem to be the same, though some are now repeatable so you can raise faction friendliness. The items are the same. It’s the same.

But it’s also a little different. As I said there are now micro-transactions in place with in the game. These vary from inventory size boosts, to the ability to unlock, locked mod slots on your equipment. New, but so far as I can see, not in any way intrusive. It certainly does not feel like you HAVE to spend money to get further.

In addition, it is now online only. That’s not to say it’s mandatory multi-player, though you do have the option to play with others if you wish to. More that the single-player campaign has to be played while logged in. Which can be a slight drag now and then if you end up on a laggy channel, or if your connection has gone down.

Also there are now daily quests, for various items. A nice, and unobtrusive addition to the game. And finally the, sometimes, terminal graphics overload when too many creatures, and special effects were going off on screen seem to have been ironed out.

Apparently this new release also includes the two expansions from the original as later stage content. As well as the Hellgate: Tokyo areas. I can’t confirm the latter as I am still crawling through Covent Garden at the moment.

It’s a pretty enough game. With reasonably good character creation options, certainly on a par with World of Warcraft prior to the Cataclysm expansion. Though the colouring of the game is rather more muted than most gamers might like. That said, I do think that the graphics may have had something of an overhaul, as I don’t remember there being quite this level of model detail on the creatures and NPC’s. Though that may just be my failing memory.

(Image via

The sound quality is pretty average. The music is, nice. There’s not much more to say about it. But the voice acting is fairly okay, if a little annoying at times. Seriously, I wonder did the original developers actually bother listening to real Londoners, or just watch Mary Poppins a few times.

So about now you’re asking yourself is this worth my playing it?

And I have to answer, maybe.

If you were a fan of the original then I would have to say, absolutely yes. This is, again from my perspective, the Hellgate: London we all remember, with a few tweaks that actually make it better. And if you liked it back then, but if like me you missed the expansions then definitely go for it. After all, it’s free to play. And as it comes in a relatively small, 5 Gigabyte download it won’t have you waiting days to play it either.

Otherwise, well I don’t think you have anything to lose by trying it out. The storyline is good fun, and has an interesting ending for the “single-player” campaign unless it’s been changed. And as I said it is free. But this is not WoW. There’s not a lot of carefully thought out attack rotations. Though it does have 3 characters classes with 2 sub-classes each, and each class has a wildly different play style, so that combined with the many randomly generated maps does make for some replay value.

All said I truly believe this game matches up reasonably well against Star Wars: The Old Republic, Aion, and most definitely Rappelz or the other Korean grindfest games. So maybe give it a try, and let me know what you think of it yourself.

Graphics: 8/10

Sound: 7/10

Gameplay: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

It may only compare as okay to more modern titles, but I feel it wipes the floor with most other free to play games, with the possible exception of Star Trek Online.

(But personally 10/10 because I am a Hellgate addict. I even read the comic, and the novels after all.)

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