Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -

Welcome, fellow Giant Bombers, to my first blog of the summer.

  Those of you who keep track of my escapades will know that my blogging activity has been a little infrequent over the last couple of months, as a result of having to devote my free time to essay writing, exam revision, and part-time work. Thankfully, all those commitments (bar work) have dispersed. On Thursday morning I sat my final exam of the year, meaning that since 12 midday on Thursday, I've officially been on summer break. Seeing as the next academic year doesn't officially start until October 7th, and I have no dissertation to start preparing for, that means that I've got just over four months to myself. This will probably be the last time I'll ever have a summer break, as after graduation next year I'll have to find a job and begin that fifty-year graft most people call "life". With that in mind, there's quite a lot of stuff that I'd like to achieve over this long break. While four months sounds like a long time, it's not really all that long in the grand scheme of things, and I think that my hopes might be a little too large to fit into that time span. That's where this blog comes in. By writing it all down, I'm hoping to make it seem a little more manageable, as well as filling you all in on what I hope to achieve between now and October. Let's get rollin'.
 

Reading

What I anticipate my desk will look like over the coming months 
Believe it or not, when I'm not playing video games, or writing about video games, I'm quite partial to curling up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. Given that I'm doing a combined language and literature course, I figured a good use of my summer would be to pick up a few titles that I should have read a long time ago, but haven't gotten round to for one reason or another. I've already made a start, having recently read (and thoroughly enjoyed) H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. If ever a book was well ahead of its time, it's that one. Wells pretty much single-handedly created the archetype of invasion literature, and on top of it wrote a compelling novel that I actually had to put down on more than one occasion because it got my heart racing so fast. I paid a visit to the University library on Thursday after finishing my exams and picked up two more of Wells' novels, The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau, and I also grabbed Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. I'm looking forward to reading them all, particularly the two Wells novels. I'm sure there are other literary-minded individuals on this site, so to those I ask a question - could you please recommend me a few iconic novels that I could pick up and read over my summer break? Any input would be greatly appreciated, so thanks in advance.
 

Writing

Yes, that's a picture of this blog within this blog. Please clear up your blown mind before you leave 
As well as reading more over the summer, I'm hoping to write more too. Of course, that'll mean more blogs, but I'll get to that in a minute. My highest priority for the moment is creative writing. Since the start of this academic year, I've really let that side of my writing slip, and I want to get back on top of it. There's also a matter of song lyrics - I've had a lot of ideas for potential songs over the last couple of months, but after a long hiatus from writing lyrics, it's proving difficult to get back into. I'm hoping that with the extra time on my hands, I'll be able to cook something half-decent up. Finally, there's the subject of blogs. Just because I haven't been blogging much lately doesn't mean that I haven't been hit by inspiration for blog ideas. As a consequence, I've got a pretty hefty backlog of potential blog topics to play with, so expect to see a few of those emerge in the coming months. On a more specific note, I finished Final Fantasy XIII last week. Without giving anything away, I've got a lot that I want to say about it, so that's a prime candidate for the next blog topic. Oh, and of course, I'll be keeping you all in the loop with my adventures through Final Fantasy VII in the form of future episodes in the serial blog, Enduring Final Fantasy VII. In short, you can expect me to be pumping out a fair bit of content over the next few months.
 

And last but not least - Games!

Of course, Giant Bomb is a gaming website, so on to the meat of this blog - the games! I've already mentioned Final Fantasy VII, which I'll continue to slowly work my way through as the summer months pass by. Besides that, I think I'm just going to try and stick to the aims I outlined in my 'plans for 2010' blog from way back in November last year - attempt to clear a little more of my Pile of Shame, maybe play through some of the point-and-click adventure games I've accumulated for the PC, and revisit some older games in an attempt to squeeze a little more gameplay out of them. Below is a list of some of the games I'd really like to get around to spending some time with over this extended summer, along with reasons for it: 
 

Summer Gaming

1. Broken Sword

I bought the first two games in this point-and-click franchise based on a recommendation from a friend. While I've installed them, I haven't got around to playing them yet. Supposedly they both boast pretty compelling stories, and as that's what I usually look for in a game, I'm pretty interested in getting stuck into these.

2. Dark Cloud 2

I have a long history with Dark Cloud 2, better known as Dark Chronicle here in the UK. The problem is, most of that history has been empty. I borrowed a friend's copy way back in 2004, got about twenty hours in and was absolutely loving it until he asked for it back. Now I've finally picked up a copy of my own, I'm looking forward to finding out how it holds up.

3. Deus Ex

Deus Ex marks a seminal moment in gaming history for a lot of people. I am not one of those people. Still, as somebody who isn't put off by dated graphics and aging gameplay mechanics, I'm more than willing to give this a shot. I picked it up for PS2 late last year, and I think it's earned an outing now.

4. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

The Game of the Year Edition of Morrowind pretty much single-handedly stole my summer from me last year, as I spent well over a hundred hours over a two-month period traversing Vvardenfell. I was initially thinking about picking up Oblivion this summer, but I know full well that it would totally consume my summer, leaving no room for other titles. Instead, I'm going to pick Morrowind back up and check out the Bloodmoon expansion. I'm hoping the smaller map and fewer quests will scratch that Bethesda itch without claiming my entire summer.

5. Fable II

Despite struggling to find things to like about the first Fable, I decided to take the plunge and buy the sequel earlier this year. I played a few hours of it and really liked the improvements to the formula - the streamlined combat system and seemingly more open rendition of Albion in particular. Final Fantasy XIII's arrival on the scene cut my time with Fable II short, so I'd be very happy to get back into it and continue developing my Hero.

6. Final Fantasy VII

There's not really much to say here. if this weren't on this list, I couldn't really continue Enduring Final Fantasy VII, could I?

7. Kameo: Elements of Power

Spending a significant amount of my February with Viva Pinata and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts taught me one thing - I really dig the approach Rare have to making games. It inspired me to pick up a copy of their first 360 title, Kameo, which looks like a compelling mix between Soul Reaver and Majora's Mask. I don't think I spend enough time playing platformers and 3D adventure games these days, so it'll be very refreshing to leap into something where I'm not holding a sword or a gun.

8. Mass Effect

Buying Mass Effect was a gamble. I've never been drawn in by the "space opera" genre, leaving me indifferent towards Star Wars and apathetic towards Star Trek. Nonetheless, I decided to take the plunge and ordered a copy about a month ago. The promise of an interesting story, well-developed characters and the RPG/shooter hybrid gameplay all make it seem like a gamble worth taking. Hopefully summer will reveal whether or not the gamble paid off.

9. Red Dead Redemption

This is the big one. I've been hyped for Red Dead Redemption ever since the first trailers started surfacing around a year ago. I ordered my copy from Amazon as soon as my exams finished on Thursday and it turned up in the post today. Seriously - it's sitting in my disc tray right now, and I've held off starting it just to write this blog. I hope you're all grateful. As a huge fan of Grand Theft Auto IV and just as passionate about Rockstar San Diego's last effort, Canis Canem Edit, my hopes are high, but not unrealistically so. I've tried my best to avoid discussion of the game on the forums over the last couple of weeks, with great success, so I'll be going into the game untarnished and fairly unsure of what to expect. I'm going to boot up my 360 as soon as I've finished this blog and start my adventures in the Wild West, so wish me luck!

10. Sam & Max Hit the Road

Recommended to me by the same friend who suggested Broken Sword, Sam & Max seems like the kind of franchise I could really get behind. Wacky, irreverent humour, compelling point-and-click gameplay and charming 2D visuals make up this, the dog-and-rabbity-thing's first interactive adventure. I don't have the disc with me at the moment, so I'll have to pick it up when I head back to my parents' place, but as soon as I've got hold of it, I don't expect it to stay unplayed for long.

 
After all that, I think I've gone on long enough. Red Dead Redemption is calling me, and I really don't want to keep it waiting any longer. Once again, I'd be really grateful for your recommendations regarding reading material. Anybody else just finished their exams and looking ahead into a long summer? If so, what are your plans? Thanks very much for reading, guys. I'll see you around.
 
 
Dan
 
--- 
 
Currently playing - Red Dead Redemption (X360)
#1 Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -

Welcome, fellow Giant Bombers, to my first blog of the summer.

  Those of you who keep track of my escapades will know that my blogging activity has been a little infrequent over the last couple of months, as a result of having to devote my free time to essay writing, exam revision, and part-time work. Thankfully, all those commitments (bar work) have dispersed. On Thursday morning I sat my final exam of the year, meaning that since 12 midday on Thursday, I've officially been on summer break. Seeing as the next academic year doesn't officially start until October 7th, and I have no dissertation to start preparing for, that means that I've got just over four months to myself. This will probably be the last time I'll ever have a summer break, as after graduation next year I'll have to find a job and begin that fifty-year graft most people call "life". With that in mind, there's quite a lot of stuff that I'd like to achieve over this long break. While four months sounds like a long time, it's not really all that long in the grand scheme of things, and I think that my hopes might be a little too large to fit into that time span. That's where this blog comes in. By writing it all down, I'm hoping to make it seem a little more manageable, as well as filling you all in on what I hope to achieve between now and October. Let's get rollin'.
 

Reading

What I anticipate my desk will look like over the coming months 
Believe it or not, when I'm not playing video games, or writing about video games, I'm quite partial to curling up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. Given that I'm doing a combined language and literature course, I figured a good use of my summer would be to pick up a few titles that I should have read a long time ago, but haven't gotten round to for one reason or another. I've already made a start, having recently read (and thoroughly enjoyed) H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. If ever a book was well ahead of its time, it's that one. Wells pretty much single-handedly created the archetype of invasion literature, and on top of it wrote a compelling novel that I actually had to put down on more than one occasion because it got my heart racing so fast. I paid a visit to the University library on Thursday after finishing my exams and picked up two more of Wells' novels, The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau, and I also grabbed Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. I'm looking forward to reading them all, particularly the two Wells novels. I'm sure there are other literary-minded individuals on this site, so to those I ask a question - could you please recommend me a few iconic novels that I could pick up and read over my summer break? Any input would be greatly appreciated, so thanks in advance.
 

Writing

Yes, that's a picture of this blog within this blog. Please clear up your blown mind before you leave 
As well as reading more over the summer, I'm hoping to write more too. Of course, that'll mean more blogs, but I'll get to that in a minute. My highest priority for the moment is creative writing. Since the start of this academic year, I've really let that side of my writing slip, and I want to get back on top of it. There's also a matter of song lyrics - I've had a lot of ideas for potential songs over the last couple of months, but after a long hiatus from writing lyrics, it's proving difficult to get back into. I'm hoping that with the extra time on my hands, I'll be able to cook something half-decent up. Finally, there's the subject of blogs. Just because I haven't been blogging much lately doesn't mean that I haven't been hit by inspiration for blog ideas. As a consequence, I've got a pretty hefty backlog of potential blog topics to play with, so expect to see a few of those emerge in the coming months. On a more specific note, I finished Final Fantasy XIII last week. Without giving anything away, I've got a lot that I want to say about it, so that's a prime candidate for the next blog topic. Oh, and of course, I'll be keeping you all in the loop with my adventures through Final Fantasy VII in the form of future episodes in the serial blog, Enduring Final Fantasy VII. In short, you can expect me to be pumping out a fair bit of content over the next few months.
 

And last but not least - Games!

Of course, Giant Bomb is a gaming website, so on to the meat of this blog - the games! I've already mentioned Final Fantasy VII, which I'll continue to slowly work my way through as the summer months pass by. Besides that, I think I'm just going to try and stick to the aims I outlined in my 'plans for 2010' blog from way back in November last year - attempt to clear a little more of my Pile of Shame, maybe play through some of the point-and-click adventure games I've accumulated for the PC, and revisit some older games in an attempt to squeeze a little more gameplay out of them. Below is a list of some of the games I'd really like to get around to spending some time with over this extended summer, along with reasons for it: 
 

Summer Gaming

1. Broken Sword

I bought the first two games in this point-and-click franchise based on a recommendation from a friend. While I've installed them, I haven't got around to playing them yet. Supposedly they both boast pretty compelling stories, and as that's what I usually look for in a game, I'm pretty interested in getting stuck into these.

2. Dark Cloud 2

I have a long history with Dark Cloud 2, better known as Dark Chronicle here in the UK. The problem is, most of that history has been empty. I borrowed a friend's copy way back in 2004, got about twenty hours in and was absolutely loving it until he asked for it back. Now I've finally picked up a copy of my own, I'm looking forward to finding out how it holds up.

3. Deus Ex

Deus Ex marks a seminal moment in gaming history for a lot of people. I am not one of those people. Still, as somebody who isn't put off by dated graphics and aging gameplay mechanics, I'm more than willing to give this a shot. I picked it up for PS2 late last year, and I think it's earned an outing now.

4. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

The Game of the Year Edition of Morrowind pretty much single-handedly stole my summer from me last year, as I spent well over a hundred hours over a two-month period traversing Vvardenfell. I was initially thinking about picking up Oblivion this summer, but I know full well that it would totally consume my summer, leaving no room for other titles. Instead, I'm going to pick Morrowind back up and check out the Bloodmoon expansion. I'm hoping the smaller map and fewer quests will scratch that Bethesda itch without claiming my entire summer.

5. Fable II

Despite struggling to find things to like about the first Fable, I decided to take the plunge and buy the sequel earlier this year. I played a few hours of it and really liked the improvements to the formula - the streamlined combat system and seemingly more open rendition of Albion in particular. Final Fantasy XIII's arrival on the scene cut my time with Fable II short, so I'd be very happy to get back into it and continue developing my Hero.

6. Final Fantasy VII

There's not really much to say here. if this weren't on this list, I couldn't really continue Enduring Final Fantasy VII, could I?

7. Kameo: Elements of Power

Spending a significant amount of my February with Viva Pinata and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts taught me one thing - I really dig the approach Rare have to making games. It inspired me to pick up a copy of their first 360 title, Kameo, which looks like a compelling mix between Soul Reaver and Majora's Mask. I don't think I spend enough time playing platformers and 3D adventure games these days, so it'll be very refreshing to leap into something where I'm not holding a sword or a gun.

8. Mass Effect

Buying Mass Effect was a gamble. I've never been drawn in by the "space opera" genre, leaving me indifferent towards Star Wars and apathetic towards Star Trek. Nonetheless, I decided to take the plunge and ordered a copy about a month ago. The promise of an interesting story, well-developed characters and the RPG/shooter hybrid gameplay all make it seem like a gamble worth taking. Hopefully summer will reveal whether or not the gamble paid off.

9. Red Dead Redemption

This is the big one. I've been hyped for Red Dead Redemption ever since the first trailers started surfacing around a year ago. I ordered my copy from Amazon as soon as my exams finished on Thursday and it turned up in the post today. Seriously - it's sitting in my disc tray right now, and I've held off starting it just to write this blog. I hope you're all grateful. As a huge fan of Grand Theft Auto IV and just as passionate about Rockstar San Diego's last effort, Canis Canem Edit, my hopes are high, but not unrealistically so. I've tried my best to avoid discussion of the game on the forums over the last couple of weeks, with great success, so I'll be going into the game untarnished and fairly unsure of what to expect. I'm going to boot up my 360 as soon as I've finished this blog and start my adventures in the Wild West, so wish me luck!

10. Sam & Max Hit the Road

Recommended to me by the same friend who suggested Broken Sword, Sam & Max seems like the kind of franchise I could really get behind. Wacky, irreverent humour, compelling point-and-click gameplay and charming 2D visuals make up this, the dog-and-rabbity-thing's first interactive adventure. I don't have the disc with me at the moment, so I'll have to pick it up when I head back to my parents' place, but as soon as I've got hold of it, I don't expect it to stay unplayed for long.

 
After all that, I think I've gone on long enough. Red Dead Redemption is calling me, and I really don't want to keep it waiting any longer. Once again, I'd be really grateful for your recommendations regarding reading material. Anybody else just finished their exams and looking ahead into a long summer? If so, what are your plans? Thanks very much for reading, guys. I'll see you around.
 
 
Dan
 
--- 
 
Currently playing - Red Dead Redemption (X360)
#2 Posted by DaemonicGrim (184 posts) -

Enjoy Red Dead. It's something to be savoured (even though that makes hiding from spoilers a challenge. I'd avoid the Red Dead forum entirely because some spoilers practically appear in the topic titles alongside the warning.
 
 I've had a great time playing Fable 2, Kameo, Deus Ex and Mass Effect, I hope you do too. Though if you've played the second Mass Effect the combat in the first one will feel rather clunky. Tried to get into FFVII but I've allowed myself to become a graphics whore and found it tough to keep playing through whenever I can get shinies in so many other places, I do keep meaning to go back and experience it for myself.
 
Will we see any of your fiction or lyrics linked on GB? I'm interested in a read.
 
Good choice on TWoTW, absolutely fantastic book as you have already discovered. I've not read any of his other stuff just yet though.
 
Other books that I might recommend: The Time Traveller's Wife, The Lovely Bones (pretty intense at points, not for everyones tastes) These might both be considered of a girly vein at a surface level but they make for outstanding reads.
 
Your list has reminded me that I need to play more Okami....

#3 Posted by SpaceKangaroo (138 posts) -

Oh man, Dark Cloud 2...noooo I can't add anymore games to my backlog D:

#4 Edited by CL60 (16906 posts) -

I got stuck in Dark Cloud 2 at one point. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I don't remember though. This was a long time ago. 
 
I seem to remember a volcano or something? And I couldn't rebuild the town because ashes or something were raining down on the area.

#5 Posted by Video_Game_King (36107 posts) -

Books, eh? I'd go with some Kurt Vonnegut, some ancient stuff (Dante, Shakespeare, Sun Tzu), and Dan Brown, if you ever feel like torturing yourself. If you don't want to torture yourself THAT much (believe me, Dan Brown is that bad), then you can always try having sex with a meat grinder. Or you could try some Cyborg Justice.

#6 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6105 posts) -

Loved Time Machine and Dr. Moreau.  Not so much a fan of War of the Worlds, but I still hold it in the highest regard as I believe Wells was one hell of a writer.  My tastes are pretty wide and varied, but off the top of my head, I'd recommend Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon (and after that, the rest of the Takeshi Kovacs novels), Tad Williams' Otherland and Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, and Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora.  Yes, I'm a sci-fi and fantasy nerd, but these are all top-quality novels I feel can be enjoyed by anyone. 
 
I dug the hell out of Dark Cloud 2.  My best friend and I spent the better parts of our evenings in college golfing, building up weapons, and doing fish races.  It was one of those immensely addictive games that our friends and girlfriends never understood, which sort of cracked us up to no end.  Enjoy it, take your time with it, and explore, explore, explore.  Level 5 is one of my top developers for a few damn good reasons, that game being chief among them. 
 
Moderator
#7 Posted by natetodamax (19177 posts) -

Have you ever played Oblivion? It's such a fun game. Make sure you get the GOTY version if you don't already have it. 
 
Also, I hope you enjoy Mass Effect. If you can look past the mediocre combat and weird vehicle controls you'll love it.

#8 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

I had to start Red Dead Redemption from scratch after my Xbox 360 broke, thought my saves were corrupted and deleted everything. It's a cool game and starting over hasn't been that bad, plus, I have the knowledge and skill to be a better gamer.
 
Broken Sword is out for the Wii. I've thought about picking it up. I think I would like it, plus, on the cheap.
 
Deus Ex still sits on my hard drive. It's the longest living game that has been on my PC. I have yet to finish it.   
 
You seem to have a plethora of great gaming experience ahead of you. Enjoy your summer.

#9 Posted by ApolloJ85 (241 posts) -

Four months? That's a huge break, it's a third of a year. How in hell do you get that much time off? 
A good companion piece to H.G Wells would be Arkady & Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic. It's a really short novel from two great Russian SF writers, that isn't so much about SF as it is about the human condition.

#10 Posted by Bruce (5264 posts) -

Red Dead disappointed the hell out of me.

#11 Posted by Red12b (9081 posts) -

Do you know of Chuck Palahniuk?  
If you don't may I recommend a few books, Rant, Choke and of course Fight Club, he is an exceptional author, and I really enjoy reading his novels. 
 
Also, if you are into adventure novels, I can't recommend Clive Cussler strong enough, I would start with the Dirk Pitt Collection at Sahara and work your way up through to Trojan Odyssey, My favourite of the Dirk Pitt adventure series are Inca Gold and Atlantis Found, if you are anything like me you will be sucked into these books as soon as you read the first page, I couldn't get enough of them.  
 
Enjoy your summer, just started winter down in the great south, yaaayyy....