Wednesday, 29 October 2014

"Day" is a vestigial mode of time measurement based on solar cycles. It's not applicable. I didn't get you anything.

Recently I achieved Level 26 in this mysterious Role-Playing Game (sans D20 but with plenty of diabolical skill checks sprinkled around) known as Life. Don't know how much XP I've gained, if I've got pluses to any of the relevant stats like Wisdom, Charisma or Intelligence so can't train up any skills. However, I did receive some goodies. Financial donations to my Seattle fund (sometime next year I intend to be inflicting my particular brand of madness upon America's Pacific Northwest) and a couple of video games that I feel I want to babble about for a minute or five.

To begin, there is a game called Evil Genius. I'll admit, I haven't played much of this yet and I'm still figuring my head around the mechanics. However, I'm sure once I get to it, it will prove to be great fun. For the basic premise. You are an evil madman bent on world domination. You start on your private island, where you must build and maintain your lair, shield it from prying eyes and defend it from infiltrators. All the while, deploying minions across the world, performing "Acts of Infamy" and generally stealing wealth from the various regions of the world. Once I have figured out the mechanics I will have a lot more to report...

However, it is the other game I received for my Level Up Day (credit to my friend Mako for first introducing me to this concept) that is consuming my life. It is called Sunless Sea and is from the independent game studio Failbetter Games. And in a bizarre way, true to the studio's name, I do fail a lot better at this game than any other.


First off, the premise. Sunless Sea is set in Failbetter's Fallen London Universe, a steampunk gothic fantasy universe. In this universe, during the reign of Queen Victoria, London was taken underground in a deal to spare the life of Prince Albert. Now underground, there is a vast ocean (called the Unterzee) that exists next to Fallen London. It is this great expanse of subterranean water that serves as the setting for Sunless Sea. Through various circumstances, the player becomes the captain of steamboat on the Unterzee. From this starting point, you ply your trade across the Unterzee, going from port to port, gather information, delivering cargo...the choices go on and on.

Now of course there are complications. You have to make sure, before leaving port, that you have adequate supplies of fuel and food. Run out of food and your crew starve to death, one by one...and in a grim turn of events, you can opt to eat them. Run out of fuel and you must abandon ship. When things turn dire - either running out of fuel or being sunk by pirates (or any of the many creatures that lurk in the Unterzee) - you are presented with three choices. Preserving a skill, an officer or your chart. At first I preserved a skill and took it on to my next captain, but I have found that preserving the chart is better. Either way, I have lost three captains to the perils of the Unterzee. But as I prefaced this before, failing at this game (or at least failing at the easy starting point I'm at now with a basic ship and not a lot of stuff gathered from voyages) is not that bad. With the preserve a skill, officer or chart choice, you get to take something away from dying horribly. A silver lining which makes it not that stressful. I imagine once I've bought myself a nice ship, modified it with some pretty decent engines and some bad-ass guns that I will become VERY upset at losing it, but right now, I'm pretty Zen about the whole experience.

Sunless Sea is in the Early Access stage on Steam, with Failbetter promising more stuff as the days weary on. I for one am looking quite forward to more stuff. And if this proves to be a successful endeavour for me, I might see what Failbetter's original offering, Fallen London, is all about.

Making a massive diversion now (I think we sighted a kraken off the port bow and I have a really big squeamishness about tentacles) into the realm of television and away from steampunk gothic fantasy, it's back to the real world and an Australian drama called The Code.

Six episodes long and just finished airing on BBC Four, The Code tells the story of the mysterious death of an Aboriginal teenager in the outback, mixed with a little political intrigue and some investigative journalism. The main character is Ned Banks (Dan Spielman), political reporter for tabloid website Password. Through his ex-girlfriend, the Australian Prime Minister's Director of Communications, Sophie Walsh (Chelsie Preston Crayford) he is given information on the infidelities of a cabinet minister who is being unceremoniously fed to the wolves to distract media attention. In amongst the information is a slip of paper with a single word that leads Ned to the outback and a car accident involving two Aboriginal teenagers - one who died and one survived. Befriending the teenagers' teacher Alex Wisham (none other than Lucy Lawless), Ned delves deeper. Inadvertently involving his brother Jesse (Ashley Zukerman), a hacker diagnosed with Asperger's, Ned comes closer and closer to a dangerous secret that some are prepared to kill to keep.

Thus far I have only seen the first four episodes, though I intend to rectify that this evening and watch the last two. However, I can say quite confidently that The Code is an intriguing and brilliant show. Not only does it have a great cast (including David Wenham of Faramir fame as a pretty shady government heavyweight) but a unique visual style, particularly when depicting Jesse's hacking activities. It has a engrossing plot, great dialogue and is all just...packaged very neatly, tension and intrigue abounding throughout. Also, some pretty damn good filming locations - including the exterior of Parliament House in Canberra. I'll admit, I'm mildly jealous that the Houses of Parliament don't look that cool.

Altogether, I'd give a great big thumbs up and recommendation to The Code. If hadn't guessed that part already. Whilst doing some fact-checking for this post, I discovered that all six episodes are apparently still on iPlayer. I would get on watching them all. Right now. Ish. Maybe read to the end first.

Which mercifully is coming about right now. This is the end for the third week of productive blog writing in a row. Let's see what happens if we make it to week four...

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