These are the things that made my year. They’re in no particular order, but each one of these took up a significant amount of time.
1. Dragon Age: Origins. Bioware’s game was released last year. But I spent several hours – at my last estimate around a thousand hours, playing the game and all its add-ons – Warden’s Keep, The Stone Prisoner, Awakening, The Darkspawn Chronicles, Lelianna’s Song, The Golems of Angmarrak and Witch Hunt. I was expecting something on the scale of Baldur’s Gate. But it was nothing like BG and not as good as I hoped it would – which did not prevent it from being quite good. High points were the Tower of Ishal, the Mountaintop, the Dead Trenches, especially the Broodmother battle and the Climax – especially the run up to the climax, through the Market District and the Alienage, via the Palace Grounds with a detour at the city gates and the battle in front of Fort Drakon.
Best Moments: Watching your warden evade a lunge by the Flemeth, and leap on its head, hanging on with his knees around its neck and saw through the dragon’s throat , pulling her down and land the final blow in slow motion. Made all the more awesome if your warden is on fire and all your companions are dead.
Letting your dog take down the Orange Hurlock Emissary in the Refugees quest. The dog knocks the bugger down, and starts chomping on his throat and when he manages to get up charges at him, knocking him down again. Very satisfying.
2. The Mahabaratha. I spent most of the middle months poring over the Mahabaratha, reacquainting myself with the old tales that I knew and reading stories I did not. It started when I came across Arjuna’s rage – and how the only time he had gone berserk was after hearing of his son’s death. This led me to the Abhimanyu Badha Parva, the turning point in the war where the pre-agreed rules of battle were discarded. And it makes Abhimanyu one scary badass. The whole tale – breaking into the chakra vyooha, cut off from his uncles by Jayadratha’s boon, alone and surrounded by enemies, taking down every one who battled him is the kind still provides a rush. A 16 year old kid scares the crap out of the largest army in the world. Its a fantasy, of course, like the climax of a Rajnikanth movie, but it still makes want to cheer.
Best Moment: Attacked from behind, his bowstrings destroyed, his charioteer killed, his standard broken, his shields shattered, the boy jumps down and picks up a chariot wheel.
3.Morrison’s Batman Storyline: Wasn’t very impressed with the Final Crisis storyline. My mind rebelled against the idea of Damian Wayne. I was quite unhappy with the idea of Jezebel Jett, but given her name, I was quite sure she would turn out to be one of the bad ones. But after I started reading Rikdad’s summaries, I got drawn in and before I knew it, I had become a Morrison fan.
Best Moments: Joker’s “Apophenia” speech. The Bat Radia and the Arkham lockdown. The Damien Batman story. Joker “Reiki to the rescue”.
4. The Kingdom of Loathing: As many pop culture references as TV tropes. Including lobstrosities that bite your fingers off and say dad “a chick, dod a chok”, snow queen crowns that “makes you feel like the Queen of the World. For some reason, when you wear it you feel like hanging off the front of a ship, then freezing to death when your lover dumps your ass into ice-cold water.”, rolling stone monsters that try “to roll over you, but can't get no satisfaction” or “Its grotesque mouth puckers and it whistles. A couple of wild, wild horses gallop up and kick the stone so it rolls right over you” and many many others. Also, the weapons, the meat as money, sleaze and stench as elemental. Jick/Mr.Skullface rule.
To put it in their own words,
In the depths of your boredom, you stumble across an amazing game you can play on your work computer. It's an unbelievably detailed simulation of life in both dimensions and both colors, with every simple line of the universe rendered in the same lack of detail you see every day. Even better, the writing of the game is amazingly clever, almost as clever as the disembodied voice that describes everything you do and every item you examine. As you continue playing, you can tell that there's a robust set of mechanics underlying the whole thing, too, so it has endless replayability. But then it starts to get all up its own ass with self-referential fourth-wall-breaking, so you know you have to end it.
5. WoT: The Crossroads of Twilight – book 13 of the WoT was published in October. Since then I have read the book 3 times, updated my collection with “The Gathering Storm” (which I hadn’t bought), The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn and The Shadow Rising – which my niece took without remembering to return.
Thankfully the books I have have the Serpent/Wheel logo on them, and not those horrible scenes from the books.
I reread the series twice and started going to the old WoT websites – and the WoT Encyclopaedia is one of the sites that I look at when I have to wait without anything to do.
More to come…