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Games To Play: 2009

1 Jan

It’s a good thing I’m not interested in any games for the PlayStation 3 in a must-have way, given how many games I have for the PlayStation 2 which I haven’t played yet. Here’s the list:

Breath of Fire
Kingdom Hearts II
La Pucelle: Tactics
Legacy of Kain: Defiance
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2
Odin Sphere
Primal
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Shadow of the Colossus
Soul Reaver 2
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Unlimited Saga

+ a bunch of other games I started but never finished.

Then there are the PC games:

Civilization IV: Colonization (SecuROM 7)
The Witcher

+ a bunch of other games either half finished or not even started yet.

I’ll be occupied for years to get through all of them. Let’s hope that it still is some time before a really great, must-have PlayStation 3 game turns up.

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December 2008: Some Comments

31 Dec

Books

  • Jo Beverley – Christmas Angel
  • Suzanne Brockmann – Body Language
  • Kristin Hardy – Bad Behaviour
  • Kristin Hardy – Hot Moves
  • Julie James – Just the Sexiest Man Alive

beverley-jo-christmas-angelJo Beverley – Christmas Angel

A marriage of convenience
This is book # 3 in the “Company of Rogues” series and while some of the characters from the previous novels appear 1) they are actually integral to the story and 2) Christmas Angel is well able to stand on its own. It’s the story of Leander, Earl of Charrington, who “wants a home, a wife and a good old-fashioned English Christmas.” Thanks to the marriage of his parents, he’s afraid to fall in love – he honestly believes he just can’t – and so he looks for a sensible wife who isn’t likely to fall in love with him either. Enter Judith Rossiter, a impoverished widow with two young children. She has a reputation for having loved her late husband a lot and after his death, she is known as the “Weeping Widow.” Judith can’t turn down Leander’s proposal for the sake of her children, and they enter into a marriage of convenience.
I enjoyed reading how the characters adjusted to each other. Leander is a few years younger than Judith for example (not much of an issue but I liked it), and Judith worries about doing the right thing. After all, marriage means giving someone a lot of power over herself and her children. I liked this part of the story the most. Later, the focus shifts to the mystery surrounding Leander’s inheritance, and there are more revelations about Judith’s poet husband. But despite the title, it’s only at the end that the “Christmas spirit” invades the story a bit much.

Grade: 4 / 5

~ * ~

brockmann-suzanne-body-languageSuzanne Brockmann – Body Language

Friends-turned-lovers
I bought this one because I liked Kiss and Tell. It’s a friends-turned-lovers story and it’s quite sweet. If there is one drawback, it’s that both characters are actually in love before the story starts. One of them for years, while the other realized it only recently. So the realization part is actually over before the story starts. But there are still quite a few awh!-moments to be had because before Clint can say anything, Sandy tells him she’s in love with someone (figuring she would always just be seen as a good friend by Clint). He agrees to help her get that man, wanting the best for her, and so he teaches her about body language. There are quite a few fun scenes and despite Clint being and expert on body language, the mis-communications continue. At the end, they got a bit much and I wondered why they didn’t talk about what was happening. I mean, they ruined their friendship with pretending to be lovers and I don’t think they once voiced concerns about the potential for that when they got into it. But all in all, a good and nice read.

Grade: 4 / 5

~ * ~

hardy-kristin-bad-behaviourKristin Hardy – Bad Behaviour

Second chance at love
This is the sixth and the last book in the mini-series “Sex and the Supper Club” by Kristin Hardy about six girlfriends making their way in life and finding love. Delaney Phillips held out the longest of the women, always on the lookout for fun and leaving the men before it could get ugly or hurtful. On a vacation, she meets her first boyfriend, Dom Gordon, by accident (and you could make the case that her way to deal with men comes in part from that time). They spent a few wonderful days full of fun and sex, and for Delaney, that’s all that it is supposed to be. But Dom, even though he has a lot on his plate with his expanding business, doesn’t want it to end just like that, so after some time, they resume their affair again back home.
This was a fun read. I probably liked it a bit less than Hot Moves but this could easily have to do with the fact that I read them both on the same day and Hot Moves was the first that I read. Incidentally, the heroines are nearly opposites in the way they deal with men. Delaney, always the one to leave, and Thea, the heroine from Hot Moves, always the one unable to leave.

Grade: 4 / 5

~ * ~

hardy-kristin-hot-movesKristin Hardy – Hot Moves

A one-night stand turned into something more
This is the fifth entry in Kristin Hardy’s “Sex and the Supper Club.” As always, the other women of the “Sex and Supper Club” are part of the story, but it’s not like you need to have read the previous novels to read this one. Thea just turned thirty and her one wish is for her to get her life back on track. She worked as a model in her past but something happened in New York, and she turned her back on that life and now works “Mcjobs” to keep her occupied even though she doesn’t need the money. A call from a friend leads her to Portland to help that friend with her dance studio. Dancing was the first and is now the only passion of Thea’s life. There she meets Brady and – totally blown away by the instant attraction between them – she has a one-night stand. Only, Brady doesn’t see it that way, for that it was way too good. But there is something in Thea’s past that made her swear off men – she has a clean record of always picking the wrong man and Brady shows all the signs to be one of those controlling assholes.
I really liked this story. Their first meeting and their instant attraction – very good. And despite the short page count, there was enough room to deal with Thea’s issues with men in an satisfying way.

Grade: 4 / 5

~ * ~

james-julie-just-the-sexiest-man-aliveJulie James – Just The Sexiest Man Alive

Lawyer meets movie star
Overall, I liked this story. I had a few problems with Taylor. Her sarcasm seemed too forced at times and in general, I felt there was a bit too much “nudge-nudge, look-look” going on with Taylor’s character (especially for the first half). I also wondered a bit about her willingness (and having the time) to be seen repeatedly with several celebrities when she’s in trail.
That said, I loved the beginning of the novel. The cross-examination scene of Jason is great. Taylor’s reluctance to be impressed by Jason was understandable – she had already done the womanizing-man thing, so no. I thought the middle part a bit sagging and off. But the last few chapters, reminiscent of Notting Hill IMO, made up for that. Jason’s line, “Not this time, Taylor. No sarcasm.” Awwh.

Grade: 3,5 / 5 (for the sagging middle part)

~ * ~

Comments planned*:
– Ann Aguirre – Grimspace
– Lisa Kleypas – Devil in Winter
– Sherry Thomas – Private Arrangements
– and look at this:

laurens-stephanie-a-secret-love_draft

Stephanie Laurens – A Secret Love – draft written on December, 4!

If A Secret Love wouldn’t be a re-read, I probably would need to read it again to finish writing that draft.

* We’ll see how that turns out!

Games

Shadow Hearts: From the New World (PS2)

see: Currently Playing: “Shadow Hearts – From the New World”

~ * ~

Civilization 3

Yes, I’m trying for a Deity game in Civ 3. So far, no chance because I don’t even manage to get a decent starting location. I have started over 10 games now and I always – always – end up with the worst starting location for my civilization compared to the AI’s starting locations. No water, no iron, no luxury in my immediate surroundings. I play til the Middle Ages come around and then I’m so ticked off that I quit and start new. I mean, is it too much to ask for at least a decent starting location and not the worst when I’m already heavily handicapped on this difficulty level? Bah!

~ * ~

Titan Quest

Finished this game on the first difficulty level. I don’t think I’ll play the other two. I liked it but (at the moment) I don’t want to take the time to really get into it like I did with the similar Diablo 2. Titan Quest is more comfortable in the gameplay than Diablo 2 (it’s also not as “old”) but something is missing. I don’t know. My Grade would probably be 4/5 or 4+/5.

Also:

titan-quest-next-difficulty-level

For all my troubles I just get this measly info window informing me I made the next difficulty level?
Meh!

Currently Playing: Civilization 3 (PC) Again

11 Dec

I guess the fact that I finally finished Diablo 2 with my screwed up amazon character reawakened my old dream for Civilization 3: beating it on Deity difficulty (the highest difficulty level of the original game).

Sunday evening, I sat down to play. I started a game on Emperor difficulty, the fifth highest difficulty level. Back when I last tried becoming good enough to beat Civ 3 on Deity difficulty, I was fairly comfortable on that level. I didn’t always win, but I knew what to do and had my chances.

So, a game on Emperor. I choose to play the Ottomans. They have a good Unique Unit and I like their civ traits.

This is the game one turn after I founded my second city, the other civs have at least four already:*

second-city-1950-bc

I’m orange, the Sumerians are teal, the Mayan are blue, and the Chinese are rose. The white spots mark the places of the future cities (this picture and the two following are taken from after the game; I didn’t think to take screen shots).

The Sumer bothered my a lot, so in 1450 I declared war on them (this was Tuesday evening). This is what the map looked like then:*

war-declared

This is after I made peace in 1530. The Sumer (teal color) had lost four cities, and I not only had caught up to the other civs, I had a slight lead. Things were finally looking better and I decided to stop for the night:*

peace

I picked it up this evening (Wednesday, that is). I consolidated my tech lead and settled down for an easy space race victory. This is 1760:

looking-good

One turn later (one hour ago):

ups

OUCH!

(How could I be so stupid to forget that possibility?!?)

* pictures from after the game

“Diablo 2” – I Finally Did It!

25 Nov

diablo-2-lod
I started to play Diablo 2 (PC) back in 2001. I play solo, and my first character was an amazon because I like to use bows in RPGs and she’s good with them. I don’t know if I started with patch version 1.08 or 1.09. What I know is that with each new patch the skills of my amazon got dumped down more and more. Or in other words: skill combinations that worked in 1.08 (or 1.09) no longer worked so well in 1.11 (my current version). Result: my amazon has a lot of trouble on the highest difficulty level with (bow)skills more or less all over the place. Plus, she has rather crappy gear.

I started other characters. My cookie-cutter sorceress played on the same difficulty level as my amazon in no time at all. And with no trouble at all. Grrr. But I wanted to beat Diablo 2 with an amazon first, and preferable with my first one. The last time she was seen was on Hell difficulty before “The Ancients” quest at the end of July in 2006. That was the last time I played this game.

quest-the-ancients Yesterday night, it snowed outside for the first time this winter and there it was. I felt like playing Diablo 2 again. So I sat down and crap – I had forgotten a lot! I was slow and had trouble remembering the keys for my skills so it took me some time to get back into the game. I did my level-up and well, it was time to face the Ancients. After some tries, I thought I had “manageable” modifiers on them and got down to business. My merc got killed early and then it was only my valkyrie and I. The last Ancient standing had stone skin (very high resistance to/immune to physical attacks) and was immune to cold. Ups, not so manageable, and without my valkyrie, I would have had no chance. I think she killed him all by herself. But yeah, I did the quest and soldiered on to the last waypoint before the final boss Baal.

baal-is-dead So today, this evening, I sat down again, intent on finally finishing this game. It was high time for Baal to die for the first time on hell difficulty on my PC.

Umh, yeah, I did it, all right, but I got my ass seriously kicked! Baal kept summoning his “twin” and draining my mana (and life) and I kept swallowing potions and making sure my valkyrie attacked the “real” Baal while also trying to attack Baal myself. Many trips to town to stock up on potions and arrows were in order. I also revived the merc often. Most of the time, he died right away, but sometimes he managed to chuck away at Baal’s hit points quite nicely for more than 20 seconds, so I kept doing it. Again, without the valkyrie, I would have been toast.

I didn’t look at the clock, but I was busy longer than I thought before I started playing. But I finally did it and that’s what counts. My all-over-the-place-skilled amazon beat Diablo 2 as my first character on Hell difficulty!

finally

And I’ll never go to face Baal again with her on that difficulty level.