Bloodborne Guide Book

Guidebooks aren’t something I go for. The last one I bought was for Homeworld, way back at the turn of the century.  I mean, come on, we have this thing called the internet.  Stuck on a boss?  Just google it.  Unable to continue a quest? Just google the quest. But every once in a while a game comes along that is so captivating, oozing such quality that, even after finishing the game, you want to know more.  No, not more. Everything.

Bloodborne is one such game, if you give it the chance.  I’ve already reviewed the game itself, and now I have the pleasure of putting in a few words for the game’s official guidebook.  Let’s get the obvious out of the way: It’s massive! This isn’t some glorified softback magazine, it’s a hefty hardback volume. It’s not some mere walkthrough, it has in-depth information on almost every facet of Bloodborne.

Some may be upset at the book’s lack of detail on the actual lore of the game. It’s a fair complaint, but there is a rather insightful interview with Hidetaka Miyazaki at the back of the book that sheds some light onto perhaps why: Miyazaki-san really likes his games to be open to interpretation, so while this guidebook will confer upon the reader the knowledge to beat certain enemies, or traverse certain areas, it leaves the hows and whys to the reader’s imagination.

Much like my review of Bloodborne, I don’t want to go into specifics here in case I spoil things for anyone still playing the game for the first time.  In fact, this guidebook shouldn’t be for your first play of the game.  For successive runs through the game however, I’d say it’s essential.  The sheer wealth of knowledge it contains is invaluable, it’s the kind of extensive tome you would expect to find in Rupert Giles’ library. If you love Bloodborne, this guidebook is an excellent companion piece.

VERDICT: YAY

Ready, Player One

Set in the year 2044, the world is a pretty grim place where mass poverty rules. Our hero of the story, Wade, does what everyone else does and escapes his surroundings by logging onto the virtual reality world of the OASIS. There he is known as Parzival, he goes to school inside this virtual world and generally just hangs out with his friend Aech in his own virtual chat room.

The crux of the story revolves around the hunt for the Easter Egg. Upon the death of the OASIS’ creator James Halliday, he stipulated in his will that hidden within the OASIS is a special Easter egg that once obtained, will get the winner Halliday’s entire multi-billion dollar fortune. The stakes are high as the evil corporation IOI also want the Egg for themselves in order to take control of the OASIS, and as the story progresses it’s clear they will do anything to obtain it.

First of all, there’s one main issue I had with Ready, Player One that crept up almost constantly throughout the book. It’s Cline’s insistence on giving history lessons whenever a specific TV series, game or movie comes up. While it’s understandable that he wants to get across how much of a nerd the protagonist is, it also becomes slightly annoying when the story slows down as you’re told the history of some obscure Japanese television series.

The other slight issue I have is with certain interactions between characters. As well as Aech there’s also Art3mis, a fellow egg hunter and love interest for Wade, this is despite them never meeting in person. Indeed, the most interesting factor of the OASIS world is that you can be whoever you want to be. The problem is the dialogue can at times feel forced and unnatural. Certain parts were actually reminding me of the movie Hackers with our trio of nerds sounding incredibly unrealistic.

Still, despite my reservations I had a damn good time with this book. Is it a work of high art? No. Is it hugely enjoyable, escapist fun? Absolutely! And it doesn’t hide this at all. It’s a story of good vs evil with plenty of trials and tribulations ahead for Wade and his cohorts as they try to find the Easter Egg. You’re painted a wonderful picture of this bleak future that Wade finds himself living in that it’s understandable that people would want to escape into the OASIS.

It’s an enjoyable story, and it’s understandable why it was almost instantly courted for Hollywood but it may be a difficult adaptation. On top of the various games consoles and games that are constantly referenced and play huge parts in the plot (like Joust and Pac-Man), there are also movies and spaceships from across all media.

The OASIS being as vast as it is, travel between worlds can either be done with teleportation or using spaceships. These ships including various Star Wars vehicles, and even the Serenity from the Joss Whedon show Firefly. Oh, and the book also features Mechagodzilla and Ultraman. I’m not joking. In fact, what would be the best part of the book features these two giant behemoths, so omitting it due to license trouble (highly likely) would be a massive blow.

But anyway, that’s the movie, this feature is about the book. And while it may not set your world alight, I found Ready, Player One to be a hugely enjoyable romp that I found difficult to put down.

VERDICT: YAY

The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition

Once upon a time obtaining ‘Art Of’ books was a nightmare, usually having to import them from Japan at ridiculous cost. Of course, this means a lot of Western games were overlooked and the reams of concept art were consigned to crappy, tiny A5 books that came with limited editions. If you were lucky.

These days that’s not the case, with book publishers snapping up game rights to put all that glorious behind-the-scenes processes for us to feast our eyes on, while we lament that we’ll never be a fifth as talented. One of the finest of these publishers is Dark Horse. Usually with a Dark Horse published book you’re in for a seriously high quality treat, and The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition is no different.

It’s absolutely bloody lovely. I mean, most art books are lovely, but the detail and breadth of processes shown is gorgeous.

dragonart1

One of the great things it shows is the intricacy to detail that you can’t really appreciate when you’re playing the game. Sure, you look around the world and go “This is gorgeous. I like her armour. That looks cool.” but the processes behind the look of the armour aren’t apparent until you see them break it down into the layers that make it up. The variations of the armour for each faction and the characters is extensive as well. It’s always wonderful to see what could have been.

The explanations behind the design decisions sometimes leave you wishing there was a bit more text in the book to give you more insight into the influences and flow of process (especially into the characters), but the book is massive and packed with designs from tiny things like helmets and scabbards, to the stained glass in various buildings which you may not notice when tramping around the cities, to massive double page environmental studies.

There’s a ridiculous amount of work in here and it shows that the worlds Bioware build are born of an incredibly talented team with an abundance of imagination and attention to detail that many developers don’t (or can’t) match.

VERDICT: Absolutely YAY.

 

The Art of Destiny

Destiny might have its problems, and those problems might vary depending which side of the divide you sit on with the game, but I think most people would be hard pushed to say the art direction is nothing short of fantastic. If they do say otherwise, they’d be wrong. So there.

The Art of Destiny is a lovely hardback filled with the gorgeous kind of art you’d expect from a company like Bungie, being the size of company that has the money to bring on board super talented folks.

It’s always nice to see the processes that lead to the final in-game renderings, but here there’s also quite a bit of what didn’t make the cut, some of which makes you go “Aw. Shame.” like the giant robot hand poking out of the wastes of Mars. It’s also feels a little sad to see the kind of time and effort that’s gone into giving the various races, characters and factions of the game a history which is almost completely ignored by the awful story. It makes you wonder how much they actually cut out.

It's lovely, just look at those pages!
It’s lovely, just look at those pages!

Still, there’s a frankly glorious section on the iconography and graphic design for the various symbols, logos, banners and markers as well as some small insight as to why the 3 classes armours and aesthetic accoutrements are designed the way they are. Apparently the Hunters cloak varies in length depending on how high a level the item is. Huh.

It has the usual environment concepting and promotional paintings you expect, and overall it’s a gorgeous book. Definitely as an accompaniment to the game but also for anyone who just likes sitting and staring and lovely concept art.

VERDICT: YAY

Evo Moment 37: Book Review

“The Daigo Parry”.

The most famous moment in competitive gaming history, equalling millions of views online, this one moment catapulted the fighting games scene and the Evolution tournament to another level. Evo Moment 37 captures every moment, the birth of Evo, the rise of Street Fighter III: Third Strike and of course, the moment that cemented Daigo Umehara as the fighting game scenes greatest player.

The Daigo Parry.

It’s probably worth explaining the parry system and how it works. Basically, as your opponent attacks, pressing forwards will parry it causing zero damage to your character. This is for a high parry. A low parry work the same way only you press down. It’s difficult to parry two attacks in succession. Parrying an entire super seemed impossible. It wasn’t.

A large portion of the book is from the viewpoint of Justin Wong, the player who found himself on the end of Daigo’s full parry and his is the most interesting tale. A story of essentially lying to his parents so he can go to all these gaming tournaments, he trained and trained in order to rise up the ranks. A true underdog story that almost feels like a Hollywood story.

Not just focusing on Justin, it also jumps between a number of individuals who were involved in the tournament scene at the time, including Seth Killian who recorded the infamous footage. For someone (like us) who only has a passing interest in the fighting game community, there’s a lot more here that some people would not know. For instance, the incredible unpopularity of Street Fighter III at the time and the troubles of changing Evo from a purely arcade cabinet tournament to the world of consoles. It sounds strange now, but something that at the time was hugely controversial.

Despite being a niche product, even for those who aren’t big fighting game nuts will be able to appreciate the time and dedication that each of these players puts in. And maybe it’ll be something that gets them swept up and actually look at more Evo Tournaments. Our one recommendation for you then would be to check out the BlazBlue finals at the 2014 Evo Tournament to see some truly high level play.

If there’s one downside of the book it’s that the writing when it comes to describing the matches is staggeringly poor. Admittedly there’s very little you could probably do when describing Street Fighter fights, but it just made us want to load up YouTube and try to find the matches in full rather than reading the rather mundane match reports. In defence though the writer does try and tone down the technicality of certain aspects, so there’s no talk of “frame traps” and the like. It’s all simple fireballs, sonic booms and kicks.

Is Evo Moment 37 worth owning? Probably, yes. If you’re a fighting game fan then you’ll already know the story, but the insights into people’s lives at the time and what was going through their heads makes it a worthwhile read. This is particularly evident during the Daigo Parry as this moment is relived three times from three different angles. If you’re not into fighters as much then it’s still worth a look. It’s simple in its terminology that you’ll be able to understand, and it’s interesting enough that maybe it’ll be the doorway into the world of Evo.

VERDICT: YAY!