Manifest Destiny: Europa Universalis 3 and Beyond

I recently bought all (or well most) of the Paradox published games in a Steam Sale, I’ve been curious about playing some of them for a while now anyway, and it seemed like as good a time as any.

Paradox typically publish hardcore grand strategy games in a similar vein to Civilisation and the Total War franchise, but with a difference. They tend to play in real-time with the player having the option to pause at any time to dish out commands etc. Another interesting thing about these games is that many of these games overlap slightly in time and as a result it is possible to convert your save of one game into the next and play through four games, over nine centuries, and by the time you get to world war 2 the world looks utterly mad.

The first game is Crusader Kings, but for good or ill it wasn’t in my steam bundle, so I skipped to game two, Europa Universalis III.

I wanted to pick a faction that wasn’t too powerful, but wasn’t too small, and had room to grow. After an agonising 20 minutes (any nation that existed at this time is playable, including some that no longer do so) I picked Swahili. As you can see below, it was a good size, but was in a good space to grow out across the largely unclaimed Dark Continent.

So I jumped in hoping for the best. First thing I discover is I can’t yet recruit explorers and take unclaimed territory until much later when you unlock the ‘New World’ ideal, so I decide to play it cool for now and consider taking one of my neighbours in a while after I’ve got myself set up.

My first action as Warchief of the Swahili Horde is to micromanage my government sliders. You get to do this every few in-game years and they can effect everything from tax values, national stability, and troop effectiveness (at the same time mostly). I decided to move my ‘government centralisation’ slider closer to centralisation. It’s still close enough to de-centralisation that I don’t feel like a tyrant, but over just enough to improve my income somewhat. Unfortunately…

One of my key provinces, Mozambique, immediately revolts. Turns out Swahili provinces are split between the state religion of Sunni Muslims and Tribal Animism and the Animists are pissed at this new centralised crackdown. I zoom over to inspect the damage and it’s bad. There are 4000 rebel soldiers fighting against my paltry leaderless 2000 in Mozambique and several other provinces are on the brink. First things first I pause the game and try to recruit a general to my cause. They’re expensive but it might make the difference and I can’t recruit any more troops this fast.

I suspect it’s because my troops were already in battle (and losing) but I was unable to attach my general to them. But no matter, because while I was scrambling to stamp out fires, I’m under attack from my neighbours.

Mutapa has decided to attack me, and their ‘Just Cause’ is ‘Tribal Feud’. No that’s not petty or opportunistic at all.

To be fair, Mutapa never make any substantial movement against me, and from what I saw of their provinces, they didn’t have any troops in the first place but like so many internet nerds were just beating their chests in my general direction for ‘mad props yo’.

Naturally my soldiers are crushed by the revolt.

I lost Mozambique, and every soldier under my control, and decide to call it there after approximately 10 minutes.

I think I may try this over again with a different faction, but I might try some of the scenarios first so I can get a little more familiar with the game, I spent the whole time flailing at the interface looking for anything to help me.

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A Poem About Something Close To Me

I fear it’s now,

My time to write.

You don’t seem to listen,

Things don’t seem right.

 

Things have changed,

You’re now so needy.

I remember the days,

When you’d never see me.

 

I feel now as if,

You want to stay.

And come and see me,

Almost every day.

 

We used to go weeks,

Maybe even two at a time.

Before I’d see you,

And even that was fine.

 

You used to be soft,

And warm and fuzzy.

Now you’re rough,

And dark and ugly.

 

You grate me down,

And hurt this skin.

To prove some point?

You shall not win.

 

Now this is no girl,

So don’t despair.

I’m talking obviously,

About my facial hair.

 

Now, that was just a short poem but I think it pretty much captures how I currently feel about having to shave EVERY single day if I want to remain stubble free. Ya know what beard, I thought we were bros. You’ve changed.

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Terribly Terrific: Terraria

Before I start, I need to talk about Minecraft. It’s quite easy to see why people compare the two games (I’ve seen plenty of people scoff at Terraria as if it were cashing in on Mojang’s success). On the surface, they are both indie hits whose gameplay involves mining, exploration and building. Hell, in my first few hours with it, I thought it was just Minecraft but short of one dimension. But beyond the obvious similarities between these games, they are very, very different.

My first hour of Terraria is probably identical to that of the majority of other player’s. I spent the first 10 minutes wandering about in both directions with no real idea of what I was doing. I then spent the remainder of that hour flicking through my inventory and wondering how the hell I’m supposed to build a house. Night was approaching, I figured a house would be important. I cut down a few trees and crafted a work bench. With that in place, my crafting possibilities had increased fairly considerably.

Crafting in Terraria is very different to that of Minecraft. Instead of having the 3×3 grid in Minecraft and trying to work out the right pattern of materials, Terraria instead presents you with a list of items that you can craft, given the materials you have on you. If you stand near a work bench; or later on an Anvil or Forge, you’ll be presented with even more options. Because I was playing way before the most recent patch (1.0.5), I started the game without a weapon. This meant keeping Slimes at bay was dangerous work with just a pick axe, a sword would be a much better option. I now had a house, a work bench and a wooden sword.

It was also at this time that I decided to check the Terraria wiki. I accidentally started with the unofficial wiki; which at the time, contained user uploaded pornographic images. Although the wiki was useful, I didn’t want to have to keep looking over my shoulder every time I accessed it, so I started using the official wiki. As it turned out, it was a lot more useful as well as being SFW.

One of the biggest problems with Terraria is the reason why I looked for the wiki. I didn’t have any sense of what I was supposed to be doing. I had no immediate or long term goals put in front of me, other than “get better stuff”. Even talking to the in-game Guide NPC for help wasn’t particularly useful. I had heard there were bosses in the game and that they were bringers of loot and shiny stuff, but I had no idea of how to get to them. And once I did find out that I needed to get better armour by mining for ore, I also needed to get lucky.

Scattered throughout the underground are chests containing valuable items to help improve your character. Some of them are bits of equipment that allow you to double jump for example, some of them allow you to regenerate health. Finding the chests however, seemed impossible for me. I desperately needed some equipment to buff up my character so I could mine deeper more safely, but I just couldn’t find any. TheMi3 started playing at a similar time to me and would regularly update me by telling me which sweet new piece of loot he’d found in a chest. It was frustrating. I wasn’t able to advance my character through no fault of my own. I was just plain unlucky. It was at this point that I was getting fed up of Terraria.

And then I found the materials to make a Grappling Hook.

Spelunking suddenly became a lot easier and more enjoyable. I was able to build a few more houses and various NPCs started to move in. I was able to afford a Mining Hat. I eventually made Silver Armour and died to the first boss. But I didn’t care, I was having fun.

And the fun wasn’t short lived. I had a hoot finding new and interesting items, upgrading my gear and killing bosses. You can also increase your life total by finding Heart Crystals, by as much as up to four times your starting health. Increasing your mana total is also possible, although it takes some time to find any items that require mana for their use. That wooden sword I was so excited about when I started the game has since been replaced by a Fiery Greatsword, an item I was equally excited about making.

Now, although this is a fantastic game, it still needs some work. Currently there are only three bosses in the game, with the first two feeling far too close in difficulty. I think the game would be improved if there was a boss designed for each tier of armour/weapon quality to give the game more flow and structure. I felt like I wasn’t able to fight the first boss successfully until I was in Gold Armour, but the 2nd boss was very much on the same level of gear requirements. And once I was done with the 2nd boss, I still had another 3 or 4 tiers before I would be ready for the last boss, something I still haven’t done despite sinking 20 hours or so into the game already. One of the tiers; The Jungle Armour, found in the Underground Jungle, seemed completely useless to me. I was already in armour with the same amount of Defense. Finding the Underground Jungle also wasn’t easy (this has been addressed now by having a jungle type area directly above the underground area, making it a lot easier to locate).

But with the regular updates this game is receiving, I’m hopeful that some of my concerns are addressed. It probably hasn’t come off well, but I do like this game. Exploration and mining is always rewarding (whether you’re lucky or not), and doesn’t feel like such a chore that it can become in Minecraft. Nothing quite compares to dropping down a massive chasm, using your Rocket Boots at the bottom to break your fall, and then flinging a Flamarang into the face of on looking skeletons. It really is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played this year and I’m quite ready to sink some more time in to it. For £5.99 on Steam, this is an absolute steal.

Oh yeah, there’s also Co-op.

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TV Column: Weeds Season 7 Premiere

I’m not really sure what Loz has in mind for this blog, but he asked me to write reviews etc to pad it out with content. Ergo I’ve decided to write about what shows I’m watching and games I’m playing once or twice a week. It won’t necessarily be what’s current, just what I’m enjoying at the moment.

However this week Weeds started up again for what is likely it’s final season and it seemed like as good a place as any to start.

By the way, I like blabbing about spoilers so come back after you’ve seen it if you want.

First things first, it’s pretty mental how much this show has changed since it started.

The most glaring change is obviously in backdrop. Gone are the days of just trying to get by in Agrestic, and hiding from the law in Mexico. Even the initial premise of the show, middle class mum sells drugs to pay bills, is long gone (hell I’m not sure any of the characters are dealing anymore).

Andy wasn’t even in the show for most of the first season and even then it seemed like he was going to just disappear after a couple of episodes anyway. He was an unreliable failure and existed somewhat as a foil for Nancy and her family, just getting in the way. Silas was the slacker teenage son in love with a deaf girl, Doug was a city councillor and Shane was the kid from The Shining.

Now however the show sprawls between continents, Nancy’s been released from prison early and is confined to a Manhatten halfway house, Andy’s the responsible (enough) patriarch, Silas is some sort of Danish model, Doug’s a vagrant who just follows the Botwins around and Shane’s…well Shane’s still creepy, but given his personal story arc he seems surprisingly well adjusted.

Weeds has always been a show about the long haul and delayed pay-off but this episode might be a good place to start if you can’t be arsed to catch up as it quite clearly severs itself from the past. Esteban’s dead (at least one whole season too late), Nancy’s no longer wanted by the authorities and the kids are all grown up. For long haulers this episode might feel somewhat like an epilogue as it’s set 3 years after season 6 rather than a direct continuation of what came before.

However, numbered list below aside, it’s not clear what direction it can take given how much of a fresh start it’s afforded itself (and even last season the show seemed unsure of itself as it rambled so much). Nancy’s always been a survivor, but her family’s supporting itself now, and it’s pretty well established that the cartel that was hunting them is long gone. And what did she want with a bag of grenades and guns and why didn’t she want her family to know she was out anyway?

It’s an entertaining enough episode but even with the clean slate it’s given itself it doesn’t really shine in the way other shows picking up again about now might. For fans, well, you’ll probably enjoy some of the scenes with the male Botwins (and Doug) getting by in Copenhagen, but it’s a fairly weak, albeit expensive looking (all those locations!) opener and promises very little besides an awkward reunion next week.

Numbered list time, I expect the following to occur in this season given the vague hints in this episode;
1-Drawn out, yawn worthy custody battle over Stevie.
2-Anti-climactic stand-off featuring the bag of goodies.
3-Suspicious residents with murky pasts at the halfway house.
4-Silas gets fired from his modelling gig.
5-Andy sighs a lot.
6-Shane finally feels something about killing whats-her-face in a trite scene with way too much soft focus.
7-Doug gets stoned.
8-Mexican gangsters demanding money.

Best Quote Andy explains how he’s running for ‘king’ of Christiania, an autonomous semi-state in Copenhagen.
Imagine that? Me! King of a whole country! Of course, they’re anarchists so they won’t do what I tell them either.

Leave a comment and tell us what you think, or don’t, whatever I’m not your boss.

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Armed and Nerdy : Vector Work

Hey websphere! This is my first post, and this is the first image post on Fairly Impressive (so hoorah! on both fronts).

This is something I’ve been working on for the past day, trying to expand on my skills with Illustrator and making one of those slightly clever minimalistic images. It’s still in demand of some tweaking with the type and layout needing some care, but the core idea is down.

Next step : printing on mugs and mousemats!

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Welcome to Fairly Impressive

Welcome to Fairly Impressive, a collaborative blog between friends with no real theme or cohesion. Hopefully there’ll be some more interesting content than just this post soon enough. In the mean time, you can enjoy staring at our beautiful banner. Isn’t it yellow?

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