Thursday, 30 July 2015

Saturday, 16 May 2015


Olympiakos, Istanbul, West Ham....

One man has come to embody a football club and today he plays his last game at Anfield.  Today he says goodbye.

Where the hell we go after today is anyone's guess.  We won't be the same though, it will all be very different.

I love my football club, in a fairly sensible way.  I don't spend a fortune going to games and I'm not the least bit afraid to say we've got things wrong, or call out players for dragging us through the mud.  Sitting and watching twitter sometimes, when a game is on, leaves me bewildered: the delight at others failure (I'm as guilty as any of this) and faux anger over nothing often leaves me speechless.  But when it comes to Gerrard the common sense leaves me.  Maybe it leaves most of us who love the club.  

No League titles.  A club in terminal decline since the late '80s.  It doesn't make any sense to love one player quite so much from a side that's produced so many 'nearlys'.  But within all those broken dreams and false dawns there have been moments of utter, unbridled, joy.  True joy.  Maybe even the best night of my life is in there somewhere.  And within everyone of those moments from the last seventeen years has been Steven Gerrard.

I remember watching Match of the Day and Hanson describing the young kid playing at right back as being special.  He wasn't wrong.  He was priceless.

When I look at Gerrard play, it looks like how I would want to be able to play for my club.  He's our Roy of the Rovers.  He's... us.  He's the Kop on the pitch.  The Scouser.  Our captain.  The best I've ever seen in red.

It's twenty five years since the League has been won.  Twenty five seasons.  Too long.  But we're not the power we were.  We're like a fading star, but at times the only thing that kept us burning was Gerrard.  He literally dragged us past Olympiakos with one of the greatest goals ever seen at Anfield. He forced himself off the floor to score that goal against West Ham to bring us level in the Cup Final a year later.  And what a goal it was.  The best ever in a Cup Final?  Probably.  And May 2005?  I only have to think about it for the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up.  I've never experience anything like it and I hope I never do again.  But without him, it never happened.

The slip?  It broke his heart I think.  Without it, even if we'd lost to Chelsea anyway, he'd be giving us another season beyond this one.

The club will move on.  Somehow.  But after today, will it ever feel quite the same again?  I doubt it.

Cheers SG.  You made us all feel like we didn't walk alone.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Raid

Destiny is an odd game in so many ways.  Satisfying shooter?  Yep.  Great with friends?  Check.  Grind central?  Check.  Terrible story?  Oh yes, so so bad.  Peter Dinklage?  Yes.

Somewhere in the middle of all the chaos though is the Vault of Glass, a six man raid that pretty much bears no resemblance to the rest of the game.  There's a maze.  A MAZE.  There's a jumping puzzle.  Seriously.  Jumping.  And there's insane fire fights.

It begins with a battle to open a door.  Basically your team of six splits into three teams of two protecting three plates in order for a giant key to form.  This is the door to the main content of the raid.  It took us an hour to open the door.  Apparently it can be done in under two minutes.  We struggled a bit...

Next up was a fight to protect three conduits, shoot some Orbs and enemies and that... it went on for ages.  Like at least another hour of repeated fails before we did it.

Then came the maze.  To be honest it's not really a maze but the one thing Destiny lacks (it lacks more than one thing) is a map.  You're this amazing soldier of the future with an epic cape, but no map.  Makes sense... So anyway the maze in the Vault of Glass (I'm not sure I saw much glass) is patrolled by Gorgons.  If they see you it's instant kill for the whole team.  We tried all sneaking through together but, well, we were terrible at it, so we let two people have a go, cross the check point and pull the rest of us through.  Still, we did all make it to the chest...

After that, the jumping.  I liked this bit.  I did it first time.  I like jumping.

We didn't finish the next bit.  It was 1am in the morning and I was dying a lot and I need a better gun and and and... WOW.

I guess my immediate reaction to The Vault of Glass is, this is what Destiny could have been, may well end up being.  It's hard.  Like really hard.  Old school hard at Level 29 in a game with a level cap of 33.  If Bungie can keep putting out content like this people are going to keep coming back to Destiny although apparently the new raid isn't in the same vein.

I thought I might be done with Destiny, turned out had a Vault of Glass.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition - Review

It didn't take long to fall in love with Dragon Age: Inquisition.  It is a beautifully realised experience, a true labour of love for its creators that shines brightly through the hundred or so hours of content.

Bioware make great role playing games, the Mass Effect trilogy will always have a special place in my heart, but I struggled with Dragon Age 2 and never finished it.  The first one just passed me by, but Bioware's decision to start each new game with a new protagonist means that doesn't really matter.

The story in Inquisition is pretty straight forward.  The mages are at war with the templars and during a peace conference a rift opens up in the sky and kills everyone there apart from you.  The character you create (you can choose sex and race) is the only survivor but has no memory of what has happened.  However she (in my play through I played a female human mage) has the ability to close the rifts that have opened up around Thedas.  You set off closing them with three companions, some of whom believe you to be a gift from God, while others believe you probably killed everyone.

Slowly but surely the huge areas available start to reveal themselves and the scope and ambition of Inquisition becomes truly apparent.  They are all a joy to explore, stunning vistas, barren deserts and frozen wastes each have their own sets of side quests and mysteries.  There's ten vast maps and a smattering of smaller ones.  Is it bigger than Skyrim?  I think it probably is, but to be honest it just feels more varied.  Rather than just one huge open world environment Inquisition gives you huge areas you can fast travel between.  I preferred that approach.

Combat is satisfying, there's a top down old school RPG option I didn't use, or you can be in the thick of it, switching between characters on the fly in real time.  Your companions AI is decent, but I did miss the more subtle instructions I could preset in DA2.  Once I'd upgraded my mage to a Knight Enchanter I felt like I was cheating a bit, she could basically stay healthy, looked like she was hitting things with a lightsaber and take on a Dragon on her own.

Bioware games are all about characters and Inquisition does a brilliant job of bringing its cast to life.  Each of the nine companions you can take into the field have their own quests as do the three advisors you interact with back at base.  The majority of them an be romanced, but that can be race and gender specific.  They're incredibly well written, my personal favourites were the mad as a badger Elf, Sera, the Freddie Prinze Junior voiced Qunari, Iron Bull and the mage, Dorian.  The banter between them is brilliant out in the field and the conversations feel natural and dynamic back at base camp.

I don't mind a wealth of content, I have the time to put the hours in, but I can see why some have found it a little overwhelming.  There is so much to do in each area, so much to see that many people found themselves spending hours in the first and growing frustrated.  The game has a tipping point though.  Getting to it can take while, I hit it at around 25 hours of gameplay because I was off exploring, but the pay off and subsequent change in emphasis it well worth the wait.

Some of the menu screens can be frustrating, crafting in particular isn't well explained and while there's some fun to be had in building new armour for your team, it can, at least on normal difficulty, be ignored.

To be honest Inquisition just oozes class throughout.  I encountered the odd glitch, but nothing that was a deal breaker.  I loved the story, the hidden depth in the entangled history of Thedas left me deeply impressed.  My only disappointment was the slightly rushed final quest and cliff hanger ending.  But those are minor quibbles and I'm hungry for more content, whether that be DLC or a direct sequel.

Game of last year then?  No question.