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DayZed and Confused

War. War never changes. It was the tagline to an old game I used to play back before the war. Back before...all this. Its been nearly a month since the power went out. I don't know if the military shut it off, or it died from neglect. Doesn't matter. Its gone. Ain't comin' back.

Life wouldn't be so bad if that were the only problem. Hell, with most of the population gone, I could make a pretty damn fine life for myself here in Chernarus. Well, If it weren't for those....things....I guess. Don't know where they came from but it sure as shit don't look like they're goin anywhere. Some fucked up government experiment maybe. I dunno...who the hell knows what those commie bastards were up to down in their secret steel caves. All I know is they ain't friendly, and I'm pretty sure they think I'm dinner.

How'd I get here, you ask? Heh... well that's an easy one. Don't really know. I was stationed a few clicks inland. Small town called Stary Sobor. Camp was set up to be a military checkpoint. We were keeping an eye on the locals who were traveling between the coast and farther inland. Can't say it was very exciting, but after what I've seen, it was a welcomed change. I suppose we got pretty complacent in the months we were stationed there. Boredom will do that to ya. Between chasing the local pussy, and trying to find out what was so exciting at the bottom of all those vodka bottles, I guess we sort of forgot why we were there. Eventually we saw the same people traveling back and forth. Became pretty lax with our duties. That's what killed most of us.

I think it was a Tuesday night. The days lose their meaning when you spend them in either one of two places, your post, or the bar. We maned the guard shack 12 hours at a clip. 12 on, 12 off. Ad nauseum. Most guys hit the town the second they were off shift. Get as much booze and tail as you can in the next 8 or so hours, sleep for 4, then back to the post. If the Russians weren't gonna kill us, this lifestyle was. Then it happened.

It had been an unusually early night for me. After a few days on the "Russian Diet", as we had come to calling it, most guys took a breather by sleeping straight through one of their off shifts. I was so exhausted from last nights escapades, and today's little slice of Purgatory that I nearly collapsed in my bunk. Wild, fever dreams danced though my head. I've never had much of an imagination so I'm chalking it up to the vodka, but all I could hear was screaming. Her name was Danuta. It was late. Really late. I don't remember much about that night; My memory being more like a photo book than a movie. Snapshots of a few small details. She was tall for a woman. Reddish hair. Not a particularly pretty face, but her curves made up for it. She was standing near then end of the bar looking at me. She was next to me. Her smile. Our clothes on the floor. A glass falls off the nightstand. She's screaming in extasy... She's screaming in extasy...darkness... It was a good dream. But why can I still hear her screams?

What I woke to was worse than any nightmare. Being torn from sleep by the sound I heard that night have made damn sure I'll never get a good sleep again. At first it was screams, then gunshots. But not enough. Why isn't there more shooting if we're being attacked? Training had taught me to leave my BDUs and boots in the same place every night. I was getting dressed on auto pilot. As I grabbed my rifle and ripped open the flap, I'm not really sure what I expected, but it definitely wasn't this.

Should I be relieved is wasn't the Russians? Probably at first. I'd give anything to be fighting them now. I guess to say it wasn't a Russian army wouldn't quite be accurate. Some of them were. Some of them were simple villagers. Plumbers. Grocery clerks. Bakers. Mechanics....Once of them spots me. With a growl that sounded like he was partly choking on vomit, he turned towards me. Its at this point that my whole fucking world was turned upside down. This guy...or really, I don't know what it was, had huge gashes all over him. It almost looked like he had been chewed on. Whatever had happened, he was sprinting towards me. Before I could even tell him to stay back he was on me. I raised the butt of my gun up to his chin just as he slammed into me. He dropped like a sack of dead flesh. I didn't stop to see if he was alive. Sprinting towards the end of the camp I dove into the bushes and lay silent. Held my breath for so long I felt like my lungs were going to explode. There was no one near me. The one I had struck laid motionless 50 yards away. Gunshots. I stayed there for what seemed like hours. Every growl, every rustle of leaves freezing me in my breath and thoughts. I watch two other soldiers shuffle into a tent nearby. Not sure if they were running from something or just looking to hide. It had been minutes since I had heard anything now. I crouched from my prone position, trying to get a better view, finally standing up after deciding there was no movement. What I saw has be seared onto the backs of my eyelids forever. On the tarmac, next to our tents lay most of my company. The whole road was stained red. Men in their fatigues, men in nothing more than their boxers and t-shirts. They were all equal now. The faces of horror. That's what I'll always remember. These guys were eaten alive. They were in various stages of consumption, but all died of the same thing. Stumbling backwards at the sight, I turned to puke. Between the heaves, I heard more gunshots, saw a squad mate sprinting to the old farm building. Those things. They were chasing him. He turned around and fired two shots. One of the man-eaters fell. He disappeared into the barn. I started running towards him using the abandoned warehouse for cover I peaked around the corner. Nothing. Jumping from cover I sprinted to the side of the building, then inside. As I ran through the door, he fired a few more shots. I saw one of the eaters fall as bullets slammed into the wall behind me. FRIENDLY!!!!! I yelled. But the bullets kept flying. I stumbled back and saw more of them rounding the far corner of the building, ready to make him dinner.

Maybe firing on them was a bad decision but it doesn't matter now. I stumbled back to the warehouse. Turning to kill a few of them as I ran. I scrambled up a ladder to the catwalks above the warehouse floor. Falling into the corner I turned to train my crosshairs on the ladder. But they never came. Sure I could hear their moans and growls, but somehow, they never made it up.

Its been about 9 hours now and I was starting to get really hungry. The eaters were all around, but I think they had forgotten about me. I had to make a move soon but where? They were covering most of the ground around the structure and I didn't have enough ammo to kill them all. I stalked around the catwalks looking for an opening. Didn't seem to be much movement down there. A few of the eaters hopping around, most just shambling along. Started to think this was the end. None of the conceivable options I could think of were all that promising. I wasn't crazy about the idea of suicide, but I couldn't see how any of the many avenues I could take wouldn't lead to my death. Gotta keep focused though. I can wait this out a lot longer if I need to. As I was gazing back a the camp I had spent the past few months at, I caught a glint in my eye. The sun had come up and was reflecting off something in the bushes. That's when I heard the crack of a gunshot. I remember feeling a dull pain and looking down. It looked like someone had opened a valve, blood rushing to be free of its prison of veins. Confused, I stepped forward, heard another crack and with a thud, I faded to black.

All of the pain was gone. There were no bodies, no eaters, no military base. Just a warm light. The ocean. I always loved going to the ocean as a kid. The salty sting of the wind. Grains of sand running between my fingers. Warm rays of sunlight bleaching my hair... I sat up. Where am I? Looks to the left and right saw nothing but beaches and trees. What happened? Last thing I knew, I was miles inland. I felt a tickle on my lip. I had at least three weeks worth of a beard going. My head hurts. It was then that I noticed the coyote pack on the ground behind me. It was a beat up old military pack similar to the ones the Russians used in World War 2. I opened it up to find a few cans of beans, some bandages and few other odds and ends, and....a Makarov?

What I though were the events of the last few hours were apparently weeks ago. I don't know what happened, or who the hell brought me here, but I sure as shit aim to find out. I've got to get back to Stary Sobor and find out if there's anything left of my Company.


Getting Grim in Grimrock ( 2-3 hours in)

So I caught a glimpse of this game a few weeks ago and though it looked interesting. Being 28, I sort of just missed the original run of dungeon crawlers as I was a bit too young to understand what was happening (or too impatient to really dig in). I've always been a fan of these types of games in theory so I figured this was a great way to get started.

As an aside, I did give The Dark Tower on DS a shot and while I could definitely see the appeal, that one was just a bit too minimalistic (not to mention obscenely difficult) for me to push past the third or fourth floor.

Fast forward to about 3 hours ago and I take the plunge into the Legend of Grimrock.

I started out with a Human fighter specced for damage, Minitaur Fighter specced to tank, a lizard rogue and a bug wizard. My first mistake was not putting enough points into one of the spell categories so for most of the first floor, I had a nearly useless mage in my party. Don't do that.

My party is tossed into the top of the mountain and away I go. The first thing I noticed was just how good the graphics are. I honestly just sat in one spot looking at the four walls around me for a few minutes. I think one of the issues with the older dungeon crawlers is that almost every plain wall looked exactly the same. Now I don't know if the textures change at all the deeper you descend, but if they didn't, it would be ok.

The first few halls and rooms are filled with small puzzles and signs that do a somewhat decent job of explaining the rules. There are pressure plates that can be activated with rocks, levers, switches, keys and secret walls activated by loose stones on walls. Sound plays a big part with all of this as well. So far, most of the doors and gates have been pretty close, but we'll see if that persists. Nothing was worse in Doom than hitting a switch and having to walk the whole level a million times to figure out just which wall opened up.

Next comes the combat. Initially it seems like you just stand there and right click the weapons in each characters hand to attack (or the rune system for spells). Theres a bit more to it as the combat system is actually more like Chrono Trigger with an active battle system. Each character has a speed rating that modifies the time between attacks. This goes for the enemies as well as your party so If a giant snail winds up to attack and you move, he'll whiff. You can kind of game the system in open rooms with this and take little to no damage.

The puzzles so far have been pretty clever. I got stuck once because I didn't realize I could reach through the bars to grab some stuff, but the other few that I encountered were pretty good. I don't want to spoil any more so I won't go in to the details but the best advice I can give is to pay close attention to the hints they give, and look out for hidden switches/torches etc...

All in all, I've had a pretty good time so far. There have been some moments of sheer terror as I get locked in a room with several enemies, and moment of total joy as I realize the (admittedly easy) solution to a puzzle that had me stumped for a few minutes. If thing continue as they have, Legend of Grimlock could turn out to be a surprise hit.

ADDENDUM: Just past floor three and...SHIT JUST GOT REAL. The battles are getting really tough. Those effing spiders are coming out of nowhere and I just met up with some slimes that can attack you though grates. Awesome. I think I need to go back through a few floors and try to find some new weapons. My human fighter is rocking a decent sword, but the minotaur fighters hand axe just ain't cutting it. More to come.


Mein Kampf or My Struggle to Beat Kid Icarus

*Note:  I've always been told that I am a good writer (highschool/college professors etc), and have recently decided to start practicing a little bit.  Any constructive criticism on style etc is welcomed

Let us step back for a moment, to a time long ago.  A time when games were maddeningly difficult on purpose.  A time when you put "cheap" AI in your game and thought you were doing a good thing.  A time when you literally had to play through the entire game in one sitting, just to see the end and were rewarded with fabulous endings like "Thank you for playing! you are the best!  Now buy ______!  

I believe i had a similar experience to many of my peers when it came to growing up with a Nintendo.  I only purchased games a few times a year (more likely got them for X-mas), and pretty much relied on my Friday night trip to the video store ( 2 games for $2, return on Sunday FTW)  to satiate my apatite for new content.  My local rental store had somewhere around 40ish games.  They didn't get new games all that often, but there was such a huge library of Nintendo games, it didn't matter if the games they bought were new or not, since I most likely hadn't played them.   Well being that there are 52 weeks in a year, and most of the time I was getting 2 games at once, it didn't take long for me to get through the lot of them.  I played a lot of weird stuff, rented a lot of "duds" (fucking Rambo on the NES made me seethe with anger) but one game I fell in love with very quickly, was Kid Icarus.  The only problem was, I couldn't even beat the first level.  Fast-forward 20 years, and here I am, trying to complete a game that I couldn't even touch when I was 7 or so.  

Now on the surface, Kid Icarus doesn't look like all that difficult of a game.  Go up, shoot some enemies, collect hearts (which were actually currency) rinse repeat.  Well let me explain some of the game mechanics of Kid Icarus and the issues I have with them.  You see, Kid Icarus, although fairly novel in many ways, subscribes to the idea that harder = better.  The genius in here, is that you have the tools to win within the game, you just really need to master them to succeed.  Take your bow for instance.  I hope Pit (the main character,  no his name isn't "Kid Icarus" although thats what he was called in Captain N, The Game Master) got it on the clearance rack at Cabelas, because it sucks...  Bad.  It shoots arrows at the real world equivalent of about 4 feet.  Yeah.  Awesome.  If you reach the top of the 3rd level (currently as far as I've gotten) you can get a new arrow that will shoot twice as far...which is great, except now almost all of the hearts the enemies drop with be out of reach, so have fun buying other upgrades.

To be fair, Pit has a pretty decent jump.  Even after he leaves the ground, you can control his direction in the air, and the hit detection when it comes to platforms you can stand on is pretty good.  Well it would be good if you didn't slide about 5 pixels in the direction of the jump every time you land.  This can be a mega pain when you hit the parts where the platforms are only as wide as your body.  It can however be remedied by hitting "up" on the d-pad upon landing, which stops you dead in your tracks.  Oh, and the pixel sliding thing comes into play when you stop running in a direction as well.  So we've got that going for us.

The game is structured into 3 levels, each with 4 stages (3 normal levels plus a dungeon), then the Castle in the Sky as the final stage.  It wasn't until I downloaded the game on Virtual Console that I found out that the whole game didn't consist of trying to go up.  Its basically broken up into Underworld (go up) Overworld (side scroller) Skyworld (up again) and finally the castle, which plays like a mix of Zelda II and Megaman.  So far, I have no opinion of the levels past 1-3, which I've read is one of the hardest levels in the game.  (Tested by the fact that I spent about 3 hours just playing it over and over and over again last night.)  I can tell you the first 2 levels, while not impossible were both very difficult.  As is the case with nearly all NES games, the is no hand holding what-so-ever.  

At this point,  I'm stuck on 1-3.  The first 2 levels, I got through with a few deaths here and there but nothing controller-throwing worthy.  Once key item to get is the next level of arrows near the end of the second level (not the distance increase I talked about earlier).  This makes dealing with some enemies and situations in the third stage much easier as they only take one hit instead of two.  So here I am, probably about 30-40 tries into the third level.  I've made it to the point where Zeus gives you a present if you can stay alive in his training room.  I did on my first try, and got the power crystal, then promptly died about 5 seconds outside the door.  So if you'll excuse me, I have a long dark tunnel that is trying to complete a very early Nintendo game to enter.  Until we meet again, I bid you fucking adieu.