Category: Articles

The Sound of Silent: Music in Silent Hill

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There are jobs monkeys can do, and then there are jobs you can’t give to a monkey because the soul-smashing tedium would be considered a form of animal cruelty. Scanning the items on supermarket shelves to make sure they all have the right price was one of those soul-smashing tedium jobs – just empty aisles and buzzing fluorescent lights until nine p.m. rolled around and I could go home.

On the walk home I normally didn’t see anyone. But on this night the lights were on in a home entertainment store where a friend of mine sold expensive car stereos and huge TVs. He was still in there, working late on the books when I went in to say “hi”. Too busy to talk, he said he had something to show me and shoved me into the back room and out of his way. There was a projector hooked up to a PlayStation back there, and a new game I apparently had to try. Then he went back to his books.

That was how I played Silent Hill for the first time. Head fuzzy from a job that used such a small slice of brain the rest shut down in despair, alone in the dark, holding a controller that burred and thudded in time with the heartbeat of the game’s protagonist as he ran through the streets of an abandoned town. The locations were ordinary – a school, a hospital, shops – the kind of public places it feels wrong to be in when the rest of the public aren’t.

Afterwards, I walked the rest of the way home flinching at every flicker of a streetlight.

Two years later I bought my own copy second-hand. I immediately caught the flu and spent the next three days lying on the couch, coughing and sneezing and playing while not sure what was real and what was feverish hallucination.

I remain convinced Silent Hill dislikes being played in a normal frame of mind.

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Skyrim Travelogue: A Little Rain Never Hurt No One

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There’s a popular Skyrim mod called Frostfall I’ve had installed for a while. It takes all those background weather effects, the snow and rain and fog, and pushes them into the foreground where you can’t help but notice them. It achieves this by letting them kill you. You know that expression “a little rain never hurt no one”? Yeah, forget that.

Somebody at Bethesda put a lot of effort into modelling the climate of Skyrim in the regular game, but apart from that one area near the top of The Throat Of The World that can chill you to death, it normally doesn’t affect you. Frostfall, on the other hand, models temperature and exposure and dampness, and will slowly freeze you to the bone if you wander off without adequate protection. To prepare you for that, Frostfall also lets you craft cloaks and sleeping tents, makes eating soup and standing near fires grant warmth and dryness, and also lets you take that wood you chopped just to watch the animation and light an actual fire with it.

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I’ve been messing about with Frostfall on a savegame where I’m playing a Khajiit – one of the catfolk – named Hunter. He’s a hunter, yes. I’m imagination personified. Thanks to another mod called Live Another Life, Hunter S. Tomcatson isn’t the Dragonborn, hero of prophecy. He’s just an ordinary catman with a bow and a cloak who has been tooling around for nine levels shooting wildlife, skinning them, and selling the bits. That’s literally it. Sometimes he gets attacked by bandits, but since I didn’t initiate the main questline, Hunter lives in a Skyrim that doesn’t even have dragons in it.

The main supernatural occurrence in Hunter’s Skyrim is fast-travel. Memories of slogging through the ash wasteland in Morrowind, or being funnelled by those tedious mountain passes while Cliff Racers swooped down like broken pterodactyls, have made me rely on the fast-travel in more recent Elder Scrolls games (and ride horses a lot too). But to get the most out of Frostfall you need to see it on foot and you need to see it continuously.

To that end I’m going to spend an afternoon travelling across the country, and I’ve banned myself from fast travel while I’m doing it. No carts or boats or mounts either. I’ll visit all the capital cities of the various Holds and see if I can do it without freezing to death. How long will that take? Let’s find out.

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Opinion: Why I’ll Be Saying “No Thanks” To The Elder Scrolls Online

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The Elder Scrolls games have always strived to deliver – largely with success – expansive, open, fantasy worlds and the ability to explore them in your own way. For me, this epitomises the function of video games in my life: the ability to temporarily leave the day-to-day troubles of my life behind and enter a crafted world full of wonder.

Several times while I was playing Skyrim, I caught myself actually saying (yelling?) out loud “Wouldn’t this game be even more awesome if it was an MMO?” So when The Elder Scrolls Online was announced, I was struck by a severe case of “the hypes”.  This condition, which affects every gamer at some point, is marked by symptoms which include tunnel-vision, episodes of mania, and in my specific case a wee bit of mouth foam. Thankfully, two weeks ago I rid myself of this illness. If you are still affected by the particular strain of the hypes that was induced by The Elder Scrolls Online, read on.

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Zoo Tycoon: The Age Problem

It’s fairly odd that one of the Xbox One’s exclusive launch titles is a new Zoo Tycoon game – but not because the Tycoon franchise isn’t popular, and the games are certainly fun. Zoo Tycoon’s biggest flaw, and what makes it questionable as a launch title, is it’s seemingly blatant disregard for a very basic and important marketing technique – the target market.

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A Guide to BF4’s Commander Mode (PS4)

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It is said that a good leader does not simply lead. A good leader inspires. A good leader can take any ragtag assembly of layabouts and transform them into a steel python, ready to strike on command.

But we’re not commanding soldiers here. We’re commanding Battlefield 4 players. So forget all of that, and for the love of fuck put away that copy of The Art Of War.

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Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 8


Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 8

End At The Ending

In part seven of this diary, Alice discovered that Sheogorath (the prince of madness) and Jyggalag, (the god of order) were actually the same person, a twist so shocking it could be used as electroconvulsive therapy. Then Jyggalag took over Sheogorath’s body so he could begin the cyclical destruction of the Shivering Isles called the Greymarch. The only way to prevent it is for Alice to stop unsuccessfully trying to throw a tea party long enough to create a staff of office so she can replace the Prince of Madness as ruler of the Isles. To do that she needs to visit a library. (A good tea party would be more exciting, that’s all I’m saying.)

The great library of Knifepoint Hollow isn’t that great, and it isn’t really a library either. It’s actually just one man, a servant of order named Dyus who was imprisoned here by Sheogorath. Dyus was once Jyggalag’s librarian, which is why he knows essentially everything there is to know. An entire library inside one man’s head. You can call that perfect order if you like, but I think it just sounds fussy. What kind of a man would want to know everything?

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Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 7



Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 7

 Putting Him Together Again

In part six of this diary, Alice chose a side in the conflict between Mania and Dementia that divides the Shivering Isles. She plumped for Mania, siding with the Golden Saints in their battle with the Dark Seducers because, honestly, look at those names. Then Alice became Duchess of Mania by poisoning the previous regent  having already poisoned the Gatekeeper to gain entrance to the Isles. A theme is developing.

Murdering the Gatekeeper giant seemed like a good idea at the time, but that was a time when the Shivering Isles weren’t being threatened by the chessboard dirtbags of the Knights of Order. Now Alice has had to befriend a witch named Relmyna so that she can assemble a replacement ogre to guard the gates. Apparently, once you’ve got the right parts building a giant is a simple matter of connecting tab A to slot B. Here’s Alice trying to choose which limbs to attach to her homebrew monster.

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Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 6

Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 6

A Question Of Eating & Drinking

In part five of this diary, Alice met two members of the ruling class of the Shivering Isles: Thadon, the Duke of Mania, and Syl, the Duchess of Dementia. They were precisely as crazy as those titles make them sound.

All this shooting arrows at agents of Dementia and swinging a sword at Knights of Order has improved Alice’s skills. She’s ready to ascend to level two. That’s not a good thing, though. I’ve tried to spare you this so far but at some point I have to explain something that is more insane than the inhabitants of the Shivering Isles, and that’s the levelling system of Oblivion. Just skip the next four paragraphs of whinging if you want to get to the next bit with the prince of madness saying things that are zany.

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Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 5

Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 5

The Duchess & The Duke

In part four of this diary Alice met a lizard who was obsessed with collecting forks and became a dungeon master for a day. It’s difficult to say which experience was stranger. Then she met the Knights of Order, who were less friendly than the chessboard knights she’s used to, and returned to the palace to report back to Sheogorath, god of madness.

We’re back at court, and Haskill the steward is covering up how excited to see us he is by pretending to be bored. Sheogorath is more demonstrative when he finds out we’ve done his bidding.

Wonderful! Time for a celebration… Cheese for everyone!

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Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 4

Alice’s Adventures in The Shivering Isles: Part 4

New Sheoth, The Town So Nice They Named It Once

In part three of this game diary Alice met Sheogorath, god of madness and ruler of the Shivering Isles. Then she got annoyed at his accent and poked him with a fork, so he magicked her up into the sky and she fell to her death. That last part was actually a dream she conveniently woke from, like many of the stranger things that happen to Alice, because happily her life comes with the ability to save and load.

Alice snaps out of a daydream about doing violence to Sheogorath to find herself falling not out of the sky but into the dishy brown eyes of Sheogorath’s steward, Haskill. Haskill is explaining that the next stop on our tour of the Isles is Xedilian, which is some kind of trap designed to deal with the riff-raff of wannabe heroes who travel to the Isles looking for “mad loot”. Xedilian has been in disarray since the birth of the Gatekeeper, who used to keep adventurers out until we sort of murdered him on our way in.

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