Monday, February 24, 2020

Battle Scene #100

I believe this will be appearing in print at some point, but I'm not sure when or where. I'll update the post when I know.

Friday, February 21, 2020

So... Much... Head

Be aware, this is a nerdy post, even by my standards.

By my count, there are at least four versions of Death's Head running around the Marvel Universe. This matters to no one but me and about three other people, but it's keeping me awake at night, so let's go for a deep dive into some obscure continuity!

(Just to be clear, I'm not cataloguing every version of the character; rather I'm trying to work out how many versions of him are active in the 616 reality.)

  • Original Death's Head
    The character that was introduced back in 1987, then bounced through various licensed comics, his own series, crossovers, and many cameos. He is supposed to be destroyed, assimilated, and replaced by Death's Head II -- see below -- in 2020, but a combination of Marvel's sliding timeline and DH's own time-jumping antics means that the 2020 of 1992 is now the alternate Earth-8140 and Original DH is safe from replacement. Probably.

  • Death's Head II
    Originally the original in a new body. He's also a time-and-dimension hopper and is active in the current Marvel Universe, at one point in 2008 working for Pete Wisdom's MI13 against Dracula. Yup. Since DHII has the personality of the original -- sort of -- I'll count him.

  • Big Death's Head
    This version appeared in S.W.O.R.D. in 2009 and is somewhere near the beginning of his career. He is Transformer-sized but hasn't yet picked up the "freelance peace-keeping agent" tic, suggesting that this appearance is from before his travels into the Transformers universe in Transformers (UK) #113 in 1987.

    Big Death's Head also appears in Iron Man (v5) in 2013. He is wearing his blue outfit, which confuses matters as he gets that after being shrunk, destroyed, and rebuilt, but it's written by Kieron Gillen, who also wrote S.W.O.R.D. so I'm going to assume it's supposed to be the same version.

    There is an argument that this one should be called Original Death's Head because it's the youngest non-flashback version of the character, but that kind of thinking makes my head hurt.

  • Avenging Death's Head
    In Avenging Spider-Man #17 in 2013, the Time Variance Authority contracts Death's Head to deal with disruptions to the timeline. DH is human-sized and is wearing his blue outfit, which puts this appearance somewhere between his 1988 solo series and the present. His employment with the TVA suggests that from DH's perspective, this appearance is from around Fantastic Four (v1) #338 in 1990, but I admit that's speculation.

    Anyway, Spider-Man punches his head off, but the TVA summons DH again, from a few seconds earlier in his personal timeline. This time -- ho ho -- things go better, and DH walks off into the sunset.

    Given the TVA's involvement I don't think this is Original Death's Head, but rather a timeline-diverged version of the character. Or it is ODH, but at some point he goes back and rejoins his own timeline. For the purposes of how many Death's Heads there are in the current 616 continuity, I'm not sure it matters.

    Then it gets timey-wimey. We have seen in Death's Head (v1) #10 that beheading is at most an inconvenience to DH, which is confirmed by an easily-missed bonus panel on the "next issue" page of the Spider-Man comic, so it appears there are two versions of this version of DH active!

I reckon that makes four, maybe five, at a stretch six, versions of the same character active in the 616 Marvel Universe, a situation that looks like an excellent premise for a team-up story. One day Marvel will let me write Death's Head Team-Up and I will write that story, but it is not this day.

But we are not finished yet! For the sake of completeness, because if I were reading this post I would probably ask about them:

  • Death's Head 3.0
    I read the series in 2006 but I have no real idea how this character connects to the original. I'm not sure anyone does. He's some sort of off-shoot of DHII but there was a suggestion at the end of the story that he was a precursor to Original Death's Head but that was Earth-6216 but then a bunch of unconnected but identical drone versions appeared in an Earth-616 Hulk story and I think we'd all be better off forgetting DH 3.0.

  • Death's Head 4.0
    This unit appears in Death's Head (v2) in 2019 as an intended replacement for Original Death's Head, but is superseded by Vee and -- spoilers! -- destroyed by ODH.

  • Death's Head 5.0/V/"Vee"
    Also introduced in Death's Head (v2), Vee is supposed -- like DHII -- to replace Original Death's Head but develops his own personality and hangs around with the Young Avengers instead. Unlike DHII there's no continuity or transfer of consciousness between him and the original, so I'm happy to consider this a different character with a similar name.

    (In the final pages of Death's Head (v2) Vee opens a door into what looks like a cupboard and behind the door is what looks like an inactive Original Death's Head, but then in the next panel we see ODH active and well elsewhere, so I don't know what that bit is about.)

  • Darkhawk Death's Head
    This fellow appears in Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk in 2018 and I think he's supposed to be Original Death's Head but he looks weird as heck. The version in S.W.O.R.D. also looked off-model but at least he was a robot; I'm not sure what is going on with this more biological-looking version. I will assume he's ODH until confirmed otherwise.

Should further versions of Death's Head pop up -- which is a strong possibility given the way the character bounces about -- I will update this post, but I think four -- or more! -- concurrent versions of the same character is more than enough to be getting on with, yes?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

My Arm Hurts

This is what 140ish non-player characters looks like.

What is this for? I hope to tell you soon!

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Finished Sympathy

After my post about computer rpgs I have not completed, Jensan suggested I talk about the games I have managed to finish. There aren't many.

Update: I finished Baldur's Gate on the 8th of June, but it launched straight into Siege of Dragonspear so now I have to complete that.

Update (again): I finished Siege of Dragonspear on the 16th of June 2020. It's not very good.

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Mission AccomplishedBaldur's Gate II - I played this in 2001 or thereabouts and it remains one of my favourite gaming experiences. I adore this game. I never got around to the Throne of Bhaal expansion, although I do own it; once I've finished the first game in the series, I'll replay BGII and then finish the story.

Update #003: I completed Chrono Trigger on the 19th of July 2020. I should probably do the New Game+ at some point, but I'll leave it for now.

Update #006 (?): I completed Cosmic Star Heroine on the 20th of August 2023.

Update #005: I finished one playthrough of Dark Souls on the 22nd of January 2023. It only took eight years.

Dragon Age: Origins - I wanted to play this from the moment it was announced but it took years for me to get a copy. When I did play it what struck me most was how it wasn't much of an improvement over Neverwinter Nights; if anything it seemed like a step backwards. I didn't bother with the expansions or sequels.

Final Fantasy VII - Japanese computer rpgs were not easy to get in the UK when I was growing up. We got even fewer of the Square and Enix games than the US did, although we did get Terranigma and they didn't for some reason. As such, Final Fantasy VII was the first of that venerable series that I played, and I played it to death. I got all of the playable characters up to Level 99, broke the in-game clock, and even then didn't see everything in the game, but I did finish it.

Final Fantasy XII - As a story, this entry in the franchise is rubbish, and even seems to give up on itself by the end, but as a game it's one of the best rpgs I've played. It feels a bit like an online multiplayer rpg but with better, less random, content and no griefing from eleven year olds in Alabama.

Final Fantasy XV - I wrote about my thoughts here. but that was before I finished the game. I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about it by the end. The combat remained rubbish and if anything got even worse with the acquisition of an item that killed anything -- even optional megabosses -- with literally one button press.

Liberation: Captive 2 - Technically, I didn't finish this as it had about four thousand missions, but they were all variations of the first level and I completed the first five or so missions multiple times as a result of save game corruption, so I'm counting it.

Neverwinter Nights - It's good fun, but it's no Baldur's Gate II. Perhaps the best thing about it was all the community content; I downloaded and played loads of homebrew campaigns, some better than the original game.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - A beautiful game, but an odd one. It's sort of like a Square Enix rpg crossed with a thinly-veiled Pokemon ripoff, and it seems aimed at beginners, but it's packed full of hidden and optional stuff that you have to work to uncover, and I can't imagine many newcomers doing that.

Update #004: I completed Phantasy Star on the 22nd of January 2022, the year of the game's 35th anniversary!

Planescape: Torment - It is just as good as its reputation suggests.

Skyrim - It is nowhere near as good as its reputation suggests.

Update: I completed The Witcher 3, plus expansions, on the 5th of May 2024.

There is a third list -- rpgs that I have bought but not played -- but we're not going to get into that right now, because it's embarrassing.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Unfinished Sympathy

My favourite computer game genre is probably role-playing games, I think in part because it's possible to be good at them without having the agility and coordination most other computer games require. For the most part, anyway. There are some exceptions.

Except... I seem to have trouble finishing the things. Although I have completed some, these ones sit in a fuzzy, indistinct limbo:

Baldur's Gate - I'm about two thirds of the way into this one. It's not as good as the sequel -- yes, I am playing them in the wrong order -- but it is good fun and of all the games here is the most likely to get finished. Update: Finished as of the 8th of June 2020, although it launched straight into Siege of Dragonspear so now I have to finish that. (I finished that on the 16th of June 2020.)

Update: Battle Chasers: Nightwar - I just got this super cheap in a sale in August 2021.

Chrono Trigger - This is technically in the "now playing" category, but I have decided to take my usual approach with Japanese rpgs and spend hours upon hours building my characters to maximum level so that they can steamroller through the rest of the game. Update: I finished this on the 19th of July. It's got about fifteen different endings and I don't think I'm going to try to get them all. I will do the New Game+ at some point, because it feels wrong to not have my party at level 99 but I'll wait a bit before diving back in.

Dark Souls - I got bored. This may come as a surprise as it's one of the best games ever, except I don't think it is. Update: For reasons I don't understand, I decided to have another go at this in January 2023 and finished it on the 22nd. I didn't get explore every corner and find every secret, but I got to the final boss and shanked him. For anyone who care, I did the "walk away" ending. I may go back and get the other one too.

Update: Divinity: Original Sin II - I got this as a Chrimble present in 2020.

Fallout: New Vegas - I only started playing this a few months ago and I have hit the level cap through wandering about and completing sidequests. I just need to go and do the main storyline.

Final Fantasy VIII - I haven't played it since 1999 and I no longer own it, so I'm never going to go back and finish it. I hit a wall in the game where my party was too powerful to continue, which is a problem I haven't seen before or since.

Final Fantasy X - I am very fond of this game, but I reached a certain point and could not continue for personal reasons that would probably seem absurd if I explained them.

Golden Sun: The Lost Age - This one's quite good, but I forgot I had it until I started writing this post.

Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark and Shadows of Undrentide - I finished the base game but by the time I got the expansions I had uninstalled the original and now my current PC won't run them.

Phantasy Star - I have probably played this more often than any other rpg, but I have never got around to finishing it. I had the original on the Master System and I started it at least twice because my original save was corrupted. I started it again on the Wii, at least twice on the PS3, and I'm sure I started playing it via emulator at least once too. It's a great early(ish) console rpg but for some reason I can never finish it. Maybe in 2022, for its 35th anniversary. Update: And lo, in 2022 it did indeed come to pass. In four lengthy sessions in January 2022 I rattled through the game via emulator and completed it on the 22nd. I didn't get everyone to maximum level, but as there's no difference to the game if you do so, I don't mind. I did kill the "impossible" Saccubus though, for only the second time in all my many, many plays, so I'm considering the game finished. Now I can move on to the sequels. Ha ha ha.

Vagrant Story - I never quite got a hang of the combat system in this one and playing it is a bit of a faff as I have a US copy.

The Witcher 3 - I got bored again, although I can tell it's a much better game than Dark Souls. I think the combat system turned me off, as it's based more on the player's dexterity than it is on equipment and statistics, and dexterity is my dump stat. Update: I tried again, and 208 (!) hours later, on the 5th of May 2024, I finished it, plus the two expansions.

Xenoblade Chronicles - I stopped playing this one because I liked it so much I didn't want it to end, which is one of the best reasons to pause, I reckon. Ridiculous too, as it's had two sequels and two remakes since. Oh well.

One significant issue is that I have a stack of unplayed rpgs waiting for me when I clear this backlog. It never ends.