DOOM Eternal Review: Nearly a Masterpiece

Here it is, my latest gaming review/essay on Doom Eternal’s design! Take a look, I’m happy how it turned out.

DOOM Eternal is the most intense first-person shooter I have ever played and would’ve been a masterpiece, if not for a few strange, bizarre, and downright bad design decisions which take away from the experience. Which is a shame, because the underlying design philosophy of DOOM Eternal is excellent.

There’s also a story! I don’t think anyone much cares for it, so I spoil it a bit — but this is Doom, you really shouldn’t care about the story.

Update on the Denuvo Anti-Cheat Software I speak about at video’s end: Over the last few days (as of 25.05.2020) DOOM Eternal’s executive producer Marty Stratton announced that the software will indeed be removed come the next patch of the game: “Despite our best intentions, feedback from players has made it clear that we must reevaluate our approach to anti-cheat integration,” Stratton said. Good riddance, I say.

Blight Marked (Ethereal Earth #3) by Josh Erikson: Book Review Excerpt

Hullo, everyone! I got a gig as Assistant Editor for the Fantasy Hive, which means that I’ll be posting plenty of fantasy reviews over on the site. I’m beyond excited to get started, so without further ado, here’s the link to the first one, my review of Josh Erikson’s Blight Marked!

Below, of course, you’ll find an excerpt of the review:

“Josh Erikson continues to astound in Blight Marked, the third outing of the Ethereal Earth series,” is how I began writing this review. Then, I realized I’d said something almost exactly the same in my review for Josh’s previous book, Fate Lashed. I hate to repeat myself – it would be nice, JOSH, if you screwed up once in a blue moon. (!) Would make my job a lot EASIER, Josh!

But no, Josh Erikson does an excellent job indeed, chronicling the continued exploits of former con artist Gabriel Delling in his boldest adventure yet. Never have the stakes been as high as in Blight Marked, with the Darkness that ends universes encroaching on our own. Gabe and his allies, armed with guns, pointy things, and a dash of magic, find themselves racing against the literal End Times in their attempt to collect the only magical items in the world that may hold the Darkness back from ending reality. Ambitious lot, Gabe and his pals!

Unfortunate, then, that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. As a result of Gabe and Heather’s activities during the climax of Fate Lashed, everyone who doesn’t know our protagonists well enough to trust them has it in mind that Gabey is up to no good. That means a whole slew of new enemies making the life of our charming leads harder. Templars, pointy-eared fae, the bloody sasquatch, Blight Marked has it all!

Read more at fantasy-hive.co.uk!

Sunday Star Wars: Darth Maul by Cullen Bunn – Graphic Novel Review

I enjoy works set out as prequels to the prequel trilogy – Master and Apprentice is one of my most favourite reads. I didn’t always like Darth Maul, but catching up on the Clone Wars series has warmed me up to ol’ Red’n’Spiky! And if I needed another reason, just look at that cover. It would make for a great effin’ movie poster in its own right. To make things better, the internal art is no less impressive from the get-go:

What’s this graphic novel about?

Darth Maul grows restless as his master bides his time and weaves his web, awaiting for the opportunity to strike. So restless, in fact, that when Darth Sidious sends him on a task to aid the Sith’s allies in the Trade Federation, the dark apprentice jumps at the mention of a Jedi Padawan caught and held for sale to the highest bidder by a criminal, Xev Xrexus, on the planet of Nar Shaddaa. Maul’s help to the Trade Federation, for the record, is offered by way of executing dozens of aliens unhappy with the illegal operations the Federation deals in. Just in case you thought he was a good Samaritan or some such nonsense.

As you plainly see, Maul is all too happy to help his friends and allies at the Federation.

His first appearance on the very particular hive of scum and villainy that is Nar Shaddaa is stylish:

The Sith definitely have a stylistic edge over the Jedi. Might that have something to do with how Palpatine got one over that little green muppet?

Of course, criminals don’t like the kind of questions Maul asks, and before long, he’s fighting a good half dozen of them. Enter a few familiar faces from Season 2 of the Clone Wars!

I never was a fan of Cad Bane but plenty of folks out there are. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the appeal – he’s very much the kind of character that draws inspiration from the Western aspects of the Star Wars Saga – the kind of mercantile villain riding from one town to the next, caring precious little about the moral hue of his actions, long as his pockets line up. Something always bugged me where he was concerned. Aurra Sing is more my speed – she’s observant and has fine intuition.

There’s a tragedy to Maul, too. Stolen from his birth mother by Palpatine, fed the worst of his poison, taught only to hate and to destroy — there’s plenty appealing to the Zabrak warrior. As the result of the training he has received, his philosophy is very different to that of Sidious:

These panels, digging into Maul’s way of thinking and revealing aspects to him hitherto unseen are likely my most favourite element of this entire graphic novel. The parallels he draws to his Master, the differences he sees, make him an awful lot more interesting a character:

Eldra Kaitis, the Jedi Padawan captured, makes for an excellent foil to Maul. He wants her to fear him, yet she does not; he seeks vengeance for past wrongs but she has little interest in them; The conversations they have in issue four are only equaled by their excellent duel in the final issue in this volume. From her first appearance to her last moments, she encapsulates some of my favourite elements about the Jedi Order.

Also, she’s a very hot twi’lek, and y’all know I can’t say no to that.

Every page of the duel between Maul and Eldra showcases the finest in the art of Luke Ross. Listen to Duel of the Fates while you read Issue #5, I promise, you will not regret it.

I cannot heap enough praise on that last issue, in fact. It does so many things right – as does the entire volume. The consistent art, the excellent characterization, even the bounty hunters’ side adventure; these make for an excellent, self-contained story that I won’t soon forget.

And here’s one of my favourite quotes, on a panel that isn’t much to look at (one of those panels that set up location, I don’t mean that it’s drawn badly or anything of that sort):

My Master…
If he knew about my plans…
Would likely find this amusing.

Like the very best Star Wars comics in the neo-Marvel era, this easily fits to the Clone Wars animated format – it reads much like It’s solid work, and one of my favourite graphic novels in the Star Wars universe. I’m happy to give it a score of five out of five stars on Goodreads!

Join me again next week for another dose of Sunday Star Wars!

Sunday Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Vol. 04 Catastrophe Con by Simon Spurrier and Kev Walker

Some spoilers ahead.

This is the most conflicted I’ve been when it comes to poor, tortured Chelli Aphra. On one hand, some of the dialogue in the second and third issues of this volume make for a downright gag-inducing reaction. Some of the jokes are bad, owed to the kind of self-referential humour you’d get from someone who is all too-aware of the Star Wars franchise, rather than from someone who lives and breathes in the universe.

On the other hand…in the later issues, some ridiculous awesomeness transpires, courtesy of everyone’s favourite Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader!

What I expected to be little more than a cameo turned into a full-blown appearance which, as always, had lasting consequences for our favourite evil archeaologist. He’s such an enormous part of Aphra’s identity in the Star Wars universe and whether by his absence or his presence, Vader’s shadow defines Aphra’s status quo and shapes her actions.

Speaking of, Aphra’s voice remains consistent with what the ever-brilliant Kieron Gillen set out in the first edition of Darth Vader and again in the first two volumes of this run of Doctor Aphra. The moments when Aphra goes to absolute insane degrees of singular purpose just to enrich herself and satisfy her curiosity…these are when this volume and run both are at its finest.

‘Sir’ knows Aphra so well.

Despite my complaints, some of the issues click and come together exactly because of Aphra’s personality, as well as thanks to the drama some of her supporting characters (Magna, in the picture above) bring to the table. The conflict is solid and the emotional highs are quite high.

I saw one of the two final twists coming a mile away, and I really wish the author hadn’t gone with what he did — but I’ll admit to being morbidly curious as to how Aphra will get out of her latest gauntlet.

I find that I’ve gotten exhausted by evil C-3PO-alike, Triple Zero, as well as by his little astromech helper. Though that problem is somewhat addressed, I’d gladly see the once-amusing droid come to an unfortunate end in the next volume. He’s overstayed his welcome as is.

My score for this is a very tentative 3.5 out of 5 stars – I wanted to go higher, I wanted to go lower. I hope the next volume doesn’t suffer from some of the problems of this one. If you’ve stuck around for this long…Catastrophe Con still makes for an engaging Doctor Aphra story, despite some issues.

I read this through Comixology’s Unlimited Subscription – sweet!

Month-in-Review: April 2020 At the Grimoire Reliquary

April was a great month for the blog in terms of views, my best to date! I had over seven hundred views which, granted, is what anyone who is anyone gets in a microsecond – but I’m well-pleased with it. What do I owe that to?

I Experienced A New World With The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence shared and retweeted my review of his latest release a bunch of times, and that seems to have done the trick! I appreciate the eyeballs – The Girl and the Stars is one of those fantasy books that awakened in me a sense of wonder and excitement. Its protagonist, Yaz, is a survivor and a fighter, and a decent human being faced with enormous hardship.

You can read the proper review here.

I Found True Joy with Giant Days Volumes 01 and 02

Ah Esther. Esther, Esther, Esther. It’s so rare that I find a fictional character who I can crush on because of how bloody similar I am to them. But I have found you, Esther, and nothing will tear us apart!

Giant Days by John Allison is comedic slice-of-life gold. The heroes are the trio of friends, Esther, Daisy and Susan, whose University adventures make for some of the funniest, most adorable everyday adventures I’ve come across in recent memory. I’ve spoken about the first volume at length here, and about the second one here. Both are so frickin’ goooooooood!!!

A Whole Bunch of Star Wars Nonsense

Well, to be fair, I have my work cut out for me, having written a post whose sole reason for existing is to remind me that I’ve got plenty of stuff to catch up on. The catching up has begun with the two volumes of Star Wars: Rebels’ Kanan. I should warn you: The Last Apprentice is better than First Blood. Just by a little, but it’s noticeable enough.

I Inspected the Mysteries of the Ancient Greeks in my Essay on Medea!

Vengeance, Bloody Vengeance…In Medea, the tragic could not be of a more personal nature. This is a tale of a woman scorned, a wife betrayed by the father of her children, for whom she’s spilled the blood of countrymen and kin alike. Medea, child of king Aeëtes of Colchis and granddaughter of Circe, grew up in the territory of present-day Georgia. The easternmost shores of the Black Sea were, to the Hellenistic people, a “wild place” (Paul Roche, Introduction to Medea). Though she bears the blood of the sun god Helios, she is foreign to the inner world of Ancient Greece.

To read the whole essay, click here.

Last but not least…

I Caught Up on Reviewing One of My Most Fun Reads of Last Year – Traitor’s Blade by Sebastian de Castell…

…Even if I didn’t give it five stars, I enjoyed it plenty! Fun book, and I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the tetralogy.

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences by June Casagrande – Book Review

It’s rare that you find a book on sentence construction that has so warm a tone. June Casagrande’s It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Longest of Titles is an excellent guide on writing, chock-full of common and uncommon issues that plague the amateur and the intermediate writer alike.

“A writer’s guide to crafting killer sentences,” the cover quips at you, and with good reason — why, only yesterday I wrote a sentence so sharp, my fingers are still bleeding. Casagrande offers so much in this tiny 220-page package; her half-amusing hatred of semi-colons alone makes the price of admission well worth it.

What topics can you look forward to reading about? Murderous conjuctions, unparalleled parallels, gerunds to dream nightmares of, and my favourite – short versus long sentences. Plus, appendixes full of well-explained grammar, punctuation and more. It ain’t Tolkien-level extensive but it’s English, not Elvish.

A small complaint – as someone who has studied English for a long time now, plenty of the grammar explanations were at a very basic level. If you’re a grammar noobie, though, this might offer some extra value!

Jokes aside, I learned a lot from this one. Some of the concepts introduced in the chapters, I knew at an intuitive level. Others were familiar. A few surprised me. Either way, I’m glad to have a deeper understanding than I did before, thanks to Casagrande’s approachable book. I’ll be coming back to it time and again. In fact…

I’m planning on writing a post for each chapter of the book over the coming weeks – I’ll need something to do come summer!

Non-Sunday Star Wars: May the 4th Be With You!

I love Star Wars day, don’t you?

This clip accurately represents my feelings for Star Wars every May 4th

To mark the celebration, I viewed one of the few remaining arcs of the Clone Wars I hadn’t seen yet — The Shadow Collective, composed of the following episodes: ‘Revival’, 514 ‘Eminence’, 515 ‘Shades of Reason’, 516 ‘The Lawless’.

It’s an epic trio of episodes, which I know not everyone enjoys since they are all about Darth Maul’s return and grasp to power via the taking over of several crime syndicates, the most significant of which is the Black Sun. Most long-time Star Wars fans should be familiar with the name, at least — it has weight in multiple Expanded Universe sources.

The crux of the conflict is on Mandalore — Darth Maul and his brother, Savage Opress (I can’t help but snort any time I have to write the name down) have come to an uneasy alliance with the terrorist Death Watch, which has long attempted to undermine Mandalore’s rightful ruler, Duchess Satine. Betrayal aplenty as the Death Watch and Maul execute their plan and then come to blows. Maul comes out ahead, but his actions attract unwanted attention – that of the Dark Lord of the Sith himself. The result is one of my favourite battles in Star Wars history, with Sidious at last making one proper appearance in the series, showing mastery in a different lightsaber combat style and being an all-around cackling menace.

There’s more than a touch of the tragic to this arc, as well — enter Obi-Wan and Satine’s relationship, which up to this point had been hinted at but here got a truly heart-wrenching conclusion. Knowing what was coming for Obi-Wan was part of the reason I took some weeks off from my rewatch – Kenobi’s one of my favourite characters, and I had some trouble seeing the scene I knew was coming.

I was happy to see more of Mandalorian culture; these are a people torn between pacifism and the notion of honourable war as a way of life, and I enjoy seeing more about them. With the connection between Clone Wars/Rebels and The Mandalorian, I’m curious to see how the Death Watch connects with the Mandalorians we saw in the live-action series of last year,

I know I’m seven years too late, talking about an arc originally aired this far off in the past when Season Seven has yet to air, but watching the latest season of the Clone Wars without Disney+ is a pain!

What did you do to celebrate this nerdiest of holidays?

The World Maker Parable by Luke Tarzian – Book Review

Self-Published
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 140
Format: ebook

This is an interesting short novel, whose strengths include worldbuilding, an all-encompassing sense of mystery and intrigue, plenty of misdirection and a hell of a clincher.

But first, lend me your ear. It’s okay, come ‘ere, come a wee bit closer. I’ve a secret to tell you — the only reason I wanted to read this book was the design. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. It’s really good design, though – and it extends past the gorgeous cover. The two PoV characters each receive page-wide character pieces, at once minimalistic and very stylized. Wonderful work, truly.

The World Maker Parable is a game of misdirection. How things are is never certain, always in flux, ever in doubt. The characters of Rhona and Varésh are as unreliable a pair of narrators as you’re likely to find on short notice, and both of them are haunted hounded by past mistakes. There’s enough there to make you connect with them early on, both Rhona and Varésh have something to

The language is a draw…most of the time. This is highly stylized prose, both in speech and in description, and it is well-written. Often, it strikes deep. Sometimes, however, it feels a tad clichéd, a little too familiar. And once or twice, you can even hold the author suspect of trying too hard:

With utopia comes darkness. Every candle lit is another shadow cast. Perfection is a lie. Law requires chaos. It is a vicious circle; one I fear we have realized far too late.

“A little too thick on the universal truths there,” I thought as I read this particular paragraph. Despite that, I enjoyed this one. It was a quick, pleasant read that took me a little over an hour, and it was an hour filled with plenty of surprises, each of them more delightfully dark than the previous ones.

The World Maker Parable is a story of guilt and lost love, and the depths of depravity duty might lead you to. I think, if it were another thirty pages shorter, it would’ve been even stronger. It’s not that it isn’t – but the punch it packs by the closing pair of chapters could’ve been even stronger.

Some of the novel, I disliked. The accents to names and words — especially those I saw as unnecessary or as making little sense — really bothered me. That’s very When it comes down to it, I often find myself disliking the use of fictional words, and those found in the Parable weren’t used in a way that made me overcome this dislike. I also caught a number of typos, annoying little mistakes that they are, early on in the novel.

My score for The World Maker Parable is a 4 out 5 stars on Goodreads and Amazon.

This review was part of the World Maker Parable blog tour! Thanks to Timy and Justine for organising this, and for offering me a copy of the book for the review.