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Sep 21 2014

Playstation Next-Gen: Three Months on…

I’ve had the luxury of a Playstation 4 for a few months now. I’ve been looking ahead to what’s coming up for the console late 2014 and early 2015, and wanted to share my experiences and impressions thus far.

First up, what happened to a whole bunch of games? I actually bought a PS4 pretty early in its release (something I didn’t do with the PS3, because I already owned a 360 and didn’t feel the need – since then Sony has usurped Microsoft in my personal, internal console war mainly because of the interface, games and built-in Bluray player). The incentive game with Arkham Knight, a game I am hugely looking forward to but was then very disappointed at its delay (from September 2014 to June 2015). I’m over it now, and glad Rocksteady are taking the extra time to make it awesome but the fact was the main driver I had for getting a PS4 had suddenly vanished.

Arkham Knight

Okay, regroup, reassess. What else was there?

I picked up Thief with the console and have yet to get much further than the opening few chapters. Not that Thief is a bad game, it’s actually pretty cool, it’s just not Arkham Knight, God of War III, Uncharted now is it? Certainly, even with my least played game, I was impressed with the abilities of the machine even if I suspected I wasn’t quite getting the apex of next-gen capability.

I quickly added Killzone: Shadowfall and Infamous: Second Son to my games library. I have both KZII and III, so was looking forward to Shadowfall, without being excited to the level of Arkham Knight. Honestly, I think KZII is my favourite game in the franchise and while Shadowfall looks great and kicks celebrated ass, it isn’t what I would describe as a flagship title and it surprised me when Sony went with this as their tentpole for the console. In the absence of a better candidate, I suppose they didn’t really have much choice. Again, just want to reiterate, Shadowfall is a good game but I wouldn’t buy a console on the back of it, and, let’s face it, that’s the only real factor that counts with games consoles of any stripe.

Killzone-Shadow-Fall-5

Second Son

The Infamous franchise was never one I totally got into, so it took some deliberation before I decided to pick up Second Son. I wasn’t disappointed but the gameplay is a little samey and the story wafer thin – I was reminded of why I had avoided the franchise previously. Definitely cool, and using superpowers to trash bad guys around a sprawling, psuedo sandbox city is a lot of fun but, as with most things, it gets old. I felt I was kind of pushed in Second Son on account of the dearth of games available that would appeal to me (Arkham, God of War, Uncharted, remember…).

Watch Dogs turned things around. After an initially luke warm start, I really got into this game. In fact, it’s the only game I have played to completion and come back to since purchasing my PS4. Running around Chicago, shooting bad guys, foiling crimes and all whilst hacking into ‘the system’ to bring down a corrupt corporation and ultimately find closure for a family tragedy was awesome. Of all my PS4 games, this is the I would come back to again and again. It has its flaws, but for me is the best game on the console right now. Sure, I realise there are a lot of great indy games out there by some fantastic developers but I want the full next-gen experience, that’s why I bought the console in the first place – for me, that doesn’t include the indies, I’m afraid.

Watch Dogs

The last two additions to my collection include both Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Lego: The Hobbit. Both are great in their own right, though the former feels like a fix up of a PS3 game and the latter doesn’t really benefit much from a next-gen format. That said, they are both a lot of fun and I actually think Black Flag is my favourite Assassin’s Creed game, even if it is more to do with being a pirate than an assassin… Neither, though, are imperative enough to buy a console.

It’s telling that Sony have gone with two next-gen fix ups to lead the line until something more substantial comes along. I’m talking Tomb Raider and The Last of Us here. I already have both of these games on PS3 and can safely say they are worth owning a console for. Both are superb games but I’m not sure I can justify purchasing an upscaled version for my PS4. When I look at what else is available, though, I’m struggling for something to get excited about.

Tomb Raider

Last of Us

The reason the PS3 became such a desirable purchase for me was on account of its exclusive games like Uncharted (the series), Heavy Rain, God of War (again, entire franchise from III) – I’ve yet to see this kind of draw in the PS4′s games catalogue. I love the console and the next-gen graphics, sound etc truly are stunning but the game offering doesn’t quite match up, as of yet.

My first few months could be summarised thusly: fun, but not quite what I was promised.

I am looking forward to what’s to come with Shadows of Mordor and The Witcher III on my pre-order list. There’s a new CoD game too (though I think this is going to end up looking rough compared to The Division) and mid-next year we’ve got Arkham Knight at long, long last.

middle-earth-shadow-of-mordor

WitcherIII

Let’s not forget about The Order 1886, either, though initial impressions look great but, from all accounts I read, don’t play too well. I hope the developers can fix that. Uncharted IV seems a long way off and Rise of the Tomb Raider is exclusive to the Xbox One for the first who knows how many months (balls). Other highlights do include Bloodborne (though I’m sure this will be infuriating as a beast, given it’s comparisons to Dark Souls) and The Evil Within (if I dare to buy then play it as it looks pant-wettingly/nightmare-inducingly scary…).

Bloodborne

The-Order-1886-trailer

I want to get excited about the future for PS4 but Sony need to get more exclusive games on their slate (and some proper world shaking games, not just the indies) to justify the faith customers have shown in them by turning out to buy their console over Microsoft’s.

So far, I give the PS4 (or rather it’s slate of games and ‘offering’) a B-. Solid start but improvement needed.

Here’s hoping…


Sep 20 2014

After–’Re’–birth

The ashes have finally settled on the First Edition release of Rebirth. Barring a few copies tucked away under drawers and at the back of the warehouse, the book pretty much sold out, so thank you to everyone who bought a copy, tweeted about it and for all the positive things I’ve been hearing and reading about it so far.

Truly, I am blessed with some awesome fans.

You guys are awesome.

Please do tell folks how much you are enjoying the book, please use social media to boast about your First Edition copy and please post reviews in all the usual places and let’s add to our ranks.

For all those who missed the First Edition of Rebirth there is going to be a standard hardback edition released before the end of the year. No extras in this one beyond the novel, I’m afraid, nor does it have the lavish cover, but it is a very fine looking book with some wonderful art courtesy of series artist Cheol Joo Lee. Keep watching Black Library.com for details of when this is available.

And… as if that wasn’t enough, I have written a short story that will be released around the same time as the hardback novel. Please do not confuse this with the exclusive short story in the First Edition of Rebirth called ‘Three Hanged Men’. That is, and shall remain, exclusive to that edition of the book. It will NEVER come out anywhere else. EVER. So, that’s that. However, I didn’t want fans of the series to miss out on all the extras, so I penned a short story that’s called ‘The Ash of Souls’ and it features everyone’s favourite captain of Seventh Company and all round Themian badass, Ba’ken.

Readers of the Tome of Fire series will know who this Salamander is, and regular readers of the blog will have heard me discuss ‘The Ash of Souls’ before. I actually wrote this I while back, just after I finished the edits on Rebirth (getting on for a year ago now…). I chose Ba’ken for a couple of reasons. The first was that I ran a Twitter vote/election to determine which character I would devote a story to (Ba’ken won hands down, although there were some very interesting suggestions around Da’kir and Tu’Shan that I may follow up on later) and the second was that of all the major characters from the Tome of Fire (and who were alive, upwardly mobile, not on the run etc, etc), Ba’ken didn’t really get any page space in the novel. You’ll see why as soon as you read the novel and the short story. I love the character too, so I was delighted when you chose Ba’ken.

‘The Ash of Souls’ is a teaser of sorts, as it does a lot of foreshadowing of what might be to come for the Salamanders (and, by extension, Nocturne) as well, I hope, tell a compelling and interesting story. It is uniquely Ba’ken, you’ll why when you read it.

Suffice to say, I loved writing about it, and it cemented the fact that Ba’ken remains one of my favourite Salamander characters. Once again, keep your eyes on Black Library.com for details of when ‘The Ash of Souls’ is released.

That’s all for now.

Unto the anvil!


Sep 5 2014

Birthing Rebirth…

So, today was the day that the First Edition of Rebirth goes on sale.

By now you’ve probably all seen the promotional video (and how awesome is that, barring my ridiculous looking face on it – not a fan of doing these but man alive the guys that put it together kicked ass) and, hopefully, have placed your order.

As promised in my earlier post, I’m going to reveal a little bit more about the book (information not in the video) so that all you folks who’ve bought a copy (and my eternal gratitude for that – this special edition, limited run malarkey is always a little bit terrifying) have a bit more of an idea about what to look forward and those that haven’t but are thinking about (or missed the announcement somehow) have a little extra something to whet their appetites.

Ready?

Okay then…

What’s it about?
Rebirth is a tale of (at least) two stories, the first of which has its origins embedded deep in the Great Crusade (that’s pre-Horus Heresy). This is the narrative ‘spine’ of the book and takes us (and the character who can trace his origins all the way back to when some of the Black Legion were Luna Wolves) all the way forward in time to the Promethean War.

Essentially, three main factions were involved in this struggle: the Salamanders, the Adepta Sororitas and the Black Legion.

This story focuses heavily on the Salamanders. This time we’re with Sixth Company (and a contingent of Fourth) who are contesting the world of Heletine with the Black Legion. Reinforcements arrive in the form of the Sisters of the Ebon Chalice but the alliance isn’t exactly smooth. This undermines the campaign, but is not actually caused by competing ideologies, rather it is a factor of the various agendas each of the characters has in the prosecution of this war.

The second strand of Rebirth picks up some dangling threads from both the Tome of Fire series (it’s set five years after Nocturne) and an audio drama called Perfection. Fans of both will recognise several characters from these stories taking centre stage. This leads me neatly to…

Who’s in it?
I’m glad you asked. As well as Ur’zan Draakgard and Elysius, there are several faces making their first appearance and latest appearance in Rebirth. Of the new flock, Zantho deserves a mention as he’s the star of the exclusive short story ‘Three Hanged Men’. Returing heroes include Adrax Agatone (the captain of Third Company, now relegated to reserve status whilst Tu’Shan figures out what to do about them), Exor and Va’lin (this badass is the Assault Marine on the front of the book toting the flamer). In addition to all these Salamanders is a maniac (and a hero) who originally hailed from the Black Dragons Chapter, Zartath. He is back with a vengeance and this time armoured in drake scale green. Zartath has a pivotal role in this story as does his Chapter, who feature prominently in the second strand storyline. I always like to include a second Space Marine Chapter in my Salamanders novels. This time it’s the turn of the Black Dragons. Last, but not least is Lufurion. I’ve mentioned him before (from Perfection). He’s got a very specific agenda too, one which I’ve have planned for a loooong time.

Exclusives
The exclusive story ‘Three Hanged Men’ is just that. Exclusive. It’s never going to be released again, not in print and not digitally. The Rebirth First Edition is your only place to get hold of this story. It’s adds to the main story, and is perfect for the completionists out there. There are several other stories in this volume. In fact, this story kicks off, in a meaty way, the Circle of Fire saga. So, everything I have written so far for the Circle of Fire is in Rebirth First Edition. Everything. Yes, they’ve been available before but some haven’t been in print and others are tricky to get hold off. This handy, shiny volumes packs in the lot.

Final thoughts
Nothing much more to add, really. My hat is doffed deeply to the production team who designed this truly beautiful book. I’d say it’s one of a kind but you know we printed more than that. It is stunning. I’ve held it in my hands, felt the faux Salamander hide, seen and absorbed the amazing illustrations, and taken in all the shiny. Huge thanks for all those involved. And thanks to you guys, for getting excited about it, for tweeting and retweeting and blogging. It’s much appreciated. The Salamanders have found a home in you.


Aug 27 2014

A ‘First’ for the Salamanders…

The upcoming Circle of Fire arc for the Salamanders is going to be kicking off in some style with a frankly awesome Black Library First Edition.

I won’t say too much more here, because I’m not allowed to reveal anything further right now, but I will return to the blog to give more insights into the new novel and the new story arc it kicks off as and when I can.

For now, I can tell you this is Rebirth and it is being released in this wonderful (it’s stunning, I’ve seen it/touched it/smelled it) premium format with some exclusive content.

Check out the teaser on the Black Library website here.

Make sure to set your reminder so that you don’t miss out.

Further bloggage to come…


May 25 2014

Unearthing artefacts

Vulkan Lives has finally reached its small paperback format release (or small ‘squishy’ as it is known in some quarters), so my time is turning once again towards the Horus Heresy, specifically the sequel to Vulkan Lives.

Beyond the fact I have a third of the plot down in a Pages document, half of it on a bunch of blue coloured Post-Its and a quarter (just under…) still to noodle (that’s a technical writing term, by the way), I can’t actually tell you that much about it. I can say it follows on from the partial sequel to Vulkan Lives, The Unremembered Empire and that, chances are, the Lord of the Drakes’ body ain’t staying on Macragge. But that’s about your lot for now.

I can discuss ‘Artefacts’. This was the lead short story in a hardback novella collection called Sedition’s Gate, launched at the most recent Horus Heresy Weekender this month.

I suspect it’s going to have a few folks scratching their heads. Good. I won’t elucidate further on that, because it’s up to you guys to figure it out. One quick thing, though: could Vulkan’s forgeship have fit in that vault? Yes. A vault has no predetermined size. It’s as big as I needed it to be. In this case, big enough to house a massive forgeship. That’s the thing you’ve got to bear in mind about 30 and 40k – everything is always huge. Keep that in your heads, okay.

‘Artefacts’ is an important story in the Vulkan ‘arc’, as I’m now referring to it with my august Heresy colleagues. It introduces a new character, a Forge Master called T’kell. He gets a namecheck in Salamander by the way. His story is integrally linked to the artefacts, the Nine as they are known in 40K lore, and will be the lead in a storyline I am planning to write about them.

Since I know a few folks don’t do Twitter and like to get in touch via the website, I figured that rather than you having to piggyback on posts about comics, monkeys and Batman, I’d provide a post right here so you can do so in context. In fact, it’s something I plan to do for all of my stuff from here on out. Want to have a longer discussion about a short, audio, novella or novel? This will be the place to do it. Of course, I’ll still be on Twitter, so you can reach me here too.

So, if you have questions about ‘Artefacts’ or the Vulkan arc (can’t promise I can answer all of those, depends what you ask) then this is the place to do it.

Thank you.