Citadel Miniatures: Forlong the Fat (6-Month Tale of Gamers Challenge)

With my return to work and general antipathy for painting Cavalry, my plans for my Gondor unit for the 6-month “Take of Gamers” painting challenge got diverted, even moreso since I started playing Rainbow Six: Siege this weekend. So I thought I’d spend much of this post complaining. Without enough time or the inclination to finish that cavalry unit, I found another Gondor unit that satisfies the criteria: Forlong the Fat, Captain of Lossarnach.

Forlong the Fat, Lord of the RIngs LotR, Return of the King

Citadel Miniatures’ Forlong the Fat

A casualty of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, I started Forlong at the same time as I started the Axemen of Lossarnach. That is to say, roughly a year ago, and possibly a couple of months longer. As he’d been sitting on my desk for a year, he’s actually an ideal hero figure to complete for this challenge. Now, he’s not much to look at up there, but the rear view will show why it took me so long to complete.

Forlong the Fat, Lord of the RIngs LotR, Return of the King

Forlong the Fat, pimping The White Tree of Gondor.

Sure, it looks nice now that it’s done, but that goddamned tree is such an anti-motivator to paint. It’s a combination of all of the swirls and twirls along with the need to keep it as (close to) perfectly symmetrical as possible. Anyway, like much of the Gondor army, it’s not that much fun to paint, but looks nice when it’s done. I still need to add the static flock once his spray varnish dries, but I’m calling him done now.

Ral Partha Europe, Das Schwarze Auge, Undead Skeletal Ogres, Citadel Lord of the Rings, Forlong the Fat

January’s Painting Challenge models, completed.

Of course, I got a ton of other stuff finished in January. 65 models so far, and while some of that are scenic pieces, only 22 are scenery. Off to a good start to beat my 288 from 2015. Let’s see how it goes…

Dungeon Saga: Some Small Scenics

Like most people who backed the Kickstarter, I got my Mantic’s Dungeon Saga stuff a little while ago. While the models are (almost all) quite nicely sculpted, there’s some terribad warpage on many of them. Combined with the usual Mantic Kickstarter-quality packing (I’m still waiting on replacements for a bunch of broken and missing stuff), messed-up hardcover compendium and reviews that talk about how Jake Thornton clearly lost interest as he was writing co-op and campaign rules (apparently you can see his interest wane as you read through the Adventurer’s guide as he was really only interested in the HeroQuest-level rules) means the game’s extras got placed in a plastic tub and the game itself stacked on top to get back to one day (or not). Whatever. I’ve got Black Plague to scratch my boardgaming itch for the time being without any resentful rules being mixed in.

Mantic Games Dungeon Saga Scenery Benches


The scenery items for Dungeon Saga on the other hand, are pretty damned good. The doors are made from a proper, hard plastic (ABS or HIPS, most likely) while the bookshelves, wells, barrels, and so forth are made from a softer PVC-type plastic. Both sets are actually pretty damned good – especially for stuff that comes in a boardgame – and I’ve got no hesitation in recommending them to anyone who is a wargamer. They obviously wouldn’t work so well in super-detailed dioramas, but that’s a separate category.

Mantic Games Dungeon Saga Scenery Barrels


So I decided to start painting up a few of these pieces. Now, a word of warning. I purchased several cans of Rust-O-Leum sparay paint awhile back, since the cans read that they were a primer and colour spray in one, and that they have some kind of special formulation that binds to plastic. Great! I sprayed a bunch of my PVC scenery with it, and the stuff simply never properly dried. Even after more than a week of Melbourne’s Summer Heat. This made my “quickly knock up some scenery quickly” task a lot more painful than I’d planned. The brown eventually mostly dried, but the black was still sticky and horrible, and so I threw them into some Simple Green a few days ago. I’ll get back to those, later. The point here being – DO NOT USE Rustoleum spray paint on miniatures. At least the formulation that they sell here in Australia. Never had a problem with other brands, and so I’m back to those. On reflection, though – it seems similar to problems that people have had with Reaper’s Bones PVC, so maybe it’s not the spray after all. I’ll have to do some tests on HIPS sprue and some resin offcuts….

Mantic Games Dungeon Saga Scenery Well

Desert Well!

As I have three wells in hand due to buying two of the sets + extras (I’m missing more scenery, too), I had an idea as I was taking them outside to undercoat. My first thought was to paint them all “dungeon grey”/bluestone but then as I was getting out the spray primer (damn Rustoleum) I had the thought to paint them differently. One to go with my desert mat, one to go with my green mat and one to go with the dungeon internals. So this one is sandstone.

Mantic Games Dungeon Saga Scenery Well

Field Well!

I added a bit of Vallejo realistic water at the bottom of each to make them look a little nicer than just leaving the shallow sculpted bottom (which, again is quite decent for a sculpted model.) I painted the second one here as field stone. I added a bit of variation between the stones, but that seems to have mostly disappeared after washes and highlighting. I finished it by adding some plant growth around the edges, and added a little more realistic water than the desert well.

Dungeon Saga Scenery Items.

And here’s the “group shot”. I’ll have to get onto the bookshelves next, since I didn’t spray those and therefore gunk them up at all. Sometime after that I’ll have to try and scrub that horrid Rustoleum off the other pieces. I’m not looking forward to that one bit.

Reaper Bones, 77249: Large Barrel Small Barrel, 77248: Crates (Large and Small)

Reaper Bones’ Barrels set and Crates set

As a very exciting separate bonus – here are the Barrels and Crates from Reaper’s Bones II line. I painted these last year and photographed them because I’m now trying to photograph everything I finish, but they weren’t exciting enough to even sneak into any updates until now. So here they are.

Ral Partha Europe – Undead Ogres (6-Month Tale of Gamers Challenge)

Back in August last year, I put up a post reviewing the Ral Partha Europe Undead Ogres from the Das Schwarze Auge line – Undead Ogre – Axe, and Undead Ogre – Club. I’d recently picked them up and shared my experience with ordering from RPE and showed off the figures as well as the minor conversion work I did on them. I’d originally planned to take them to work, since painting bone and metal is something I can do there with limited time and a limited palette. It never actually happened, since the models were a bit too big to find a small enough carry case for them once I’d based them on their 40mm squares. So, like so many others, they sat on my desk, staring at me for months with baleful eye(sockets).

Ral Partha Europe, Das Schwarze Auge, Undead Ogres

Paint meeeeeee….

Over on Dakka, I threw together a post one night on my Plog asking if anyone wanted to join me in a “Tale of Several Gamers” type challenge to try and finish a unit per month for 6 months – and see how we do before extending it, or setting up a second one. By the next morning, there were a half-dozen people keen to come on board, and asking me when the proper thread would be started. I took this as a sign, and wrote up the “Official Post” with fairly open, flexible “rules” to get people painting, if not gaming.

Ral Partha Europe, Das Schwarze Auge, Undead Ogres

He axed me to paint him…

People just kept coming on board, and now there’s 28 people including a bunch of people I’ve never chatted to before and I’ve stopped updating the number of people in the OP. There’s not much there yet, but it did motivate me to get back on the horse with a double-challenge of both Marouda’s Undead and my own Gondor Army. I’ve even convinced Marouda to take part with the Mythological Greeks, though I’ll be contributing help to a greater or lesser extent there as well.

Ral Partha Europe, Das Schwarze Auge, Undead Ogres

The club this guy used to wield got axed.

So here they are. As a direct result of making some rules for myself in the form of the challenge, I knuckled down and finished these guys off yesterday. Mostly it was a matter of highlighting the bone, painting the shield, and finishing off the metal. Not too much, but sometimes it’s a matter of making yourself complete these things rather than an actual lot of work.

Ral Partha Europe, Das Schwarze Auge, Undead Ogres

Undead Ogres Three.

Ral Partha Europe, Das Schwarze Auge, Undead Ogres

And an old Marauder Miniatures Undead Shield comes into play.

This trio will be used in Marouda’s Undead Army for Kings of War. We’ll use the entry for Zombie Trolls, since the stats fit well enough with these big fellas. Now I owe the Gondor Army a completed unit for January!

Fake edit – after I’d written up the above text here but before I photographed my models, I found that Subedai has also just finished the very same models for his Undead Oldhammer army. For anyone interested in using these models in Oldhammer, some stats have been created on Rab’s Weekly Digest that you’re obviously welcome to use.

Warlord/Immortal Spartans, Part Two.

And so today I finally finished the second two dozen of these. The first batch had all but two wearing the bronze bell curiass – the other couple wearing a linothorax. I realised that with the limitations of the Warlord/Immortal kit there was no avoiding having a whole lot of the models simply wearing robes and a helmet. So this lot are in essence the “secondary” group of Spartans to the first. Like the first batch, these are a little anachronistic in terms of their gear, but nomoreso than most media depictions and they look decent, so I’m fine with it.

Warlord Games Immortal Miniatures Spartans

24 Spartans lined up in a Phalanx for Skirmish-style gaming

As such, I went for a shield scheme that would be distinctive from the previous set, to mark them out as a separate unit. Black Lambdas on a bronze field, rimmed with red was a simple scheme to apply that also looks striking and effective.

Warlord Games Immortal Miniatures Spartans

Details of the linothorax and robes.

Being a mass of historical figures that will be far in excess of my “proper” Fantasy armies – and also made of figures on the low end of the detail scale, being both “historical truescale 28mm” and frankly not that detailed anyway (their feet are just undetailed hams with a hint of toes at best) I gave them as simple a tabletop job as I can stand to. I still couldn’t help going and lining the clothing of every one of them with a bit of white pattern, though. You can really only see some it from the side or behind, though.

Warlord Games Immortal Miniatures Spartans

One Horde or Two Regiments.

They’ll be predominantly used for Kings of War at this point, and so the 24 models make up either two regiments – or more likely a horde – of Spear Phalanx. Marouda helped sporadically, but didn’t enjoy the experience, so I ended up doing much more on them than I’d planned to.

Warlord Games Immortal Miniatures Spartans

Onwards! And so forth.

I did a simple conversion to mark out the leader. Not that it matters for KoW, but I like to take the opportunity to add a little bit of character in this way. I gave him his spear to hold in his shield hand so that he could wave his sword in the air, no doubt while delivering a stirring speech or battle cry to his men. If many years of warhams have taught me anything, it’s that leaders must be shouting, not wearing a helmet, pointing, or waving something around in the air. It’s simply the rules.

Warlord Games Immortal Miniatures Spartans

And alongside his little mate from the first unit.

Impressions: Shieldwolf Miniatures’ Great War Mammooth

With their new Kickstarter campaign just started, I thought it might be a good time to pull out some of the booty I received for backing Shieldwolf Miniatures‘ first Kickstarter campaign – specifically the “Great War Mammooth”and share some impressions on it as a kit. I received this towards the very end of 2015, and so – like Cthulhu Wars, it’s just sat in its box until I’ve had time to look inside. With Shieldwolf’s second Kickstarter just having started this morning (my time), I thought this was an opportune time to have a look at it and snap a few photos. As it’s clearly a fantasy Mammoth, that explains “Mammooth“, I guess.

Simple enough packaging

Packaging is pretty simple and utilitarian. I understand that the Mammooth is going to remain a Shieldwolf webstore exclusive for at least some time, so for that kind of purpose it’s fine.

Shieldwolf Miniatures' Great War Mammooth

Mammoth out of the box

The Mammooth is split into a number of pieces. The core parts – Body, head and four legs – and then the “Detail” parts.

Shieldwolf Miniatures' Great War Mammooth

Hand-sculpted fur. Nicely detailed.

The model’s fur is traditionally sculpted, with what feels like a nice, detailed naturalistic flow. I was glad to see in hand that the fur is nothing like the CAD-sculpted “fur” resembling leaves that many of GW’s more recent kits have had.

Shieldwolf Miniatures' Great War Mammooth

Mammooth’s head

The elephantine head is also nicely sculpted. They’ve left an unfurred patch around the eyes and forehead for some reason. While I’d have preferred a full-fur face, I can live with the bare skin. If it really bothers me, I can always try my own hand at sculpting some fur.

Shieldwolf Miniatures' Great War Mammooth

The smaller parts of Shieldwolf’s Mammooth

As you can see, the model comes with four tusks. Two larger and two smaller. One of the smaller one is split by design, though modifying it would be easy enough for an experienced modeller if you wanted it intact. The trunk has a number of spikes on the wrappings near the tip. A few of my spikes were broken in transit, so it might be worthwhile for Shieldwolf to put the trunk into it’s own, separate zip-lock bag to help avoid breakage. They’re easy enough to glue back, but obviously I’d rather not need to. The “shields” look to be glued down to the shoulders, hips and shins of the Mammooth, though I could personally see mounting one of them on that bare forehead instead.

Shieldwolf Miniatures' Great War Mammooth

Semi-assembled with blu-tac

As can be seen here, the Mammooth absolutely towers over a variety of other models. All of these are slightly older Citadel ones, but the size is clear to see. (L-R: Night Goblin, High Elf, Ogre, Kroxigor, Dark Elf). It’s pretty impressive in hand. I’d recommend using green stuff as well as superglue when assembling this model. Each cast join was clean and clear, but the male tabs have a roomy fit into the female sockets, so I’d bulk them out with greenstuff and superglue for a more secure and stronger fit. I usually pin larger models, but I’m not sure if I feel I need to do so with this one. I’ll be more concerned with finding an appropriately sized base for him! Shieldwolf’s website talks about having a resin base for the Mammooths coming soon, so I guess it’ll depend on what it looks like and how much it costs, since I’ve got a couple of other large models that need bases as well.

Shieldwolf Miniatures' Great War Mammooth

Shieldwolf Mammooth with Howdah Bag

The howdah comes with quite a few parts, frankly way more than I’m willing to even try to assemble for a temporary photo.

So what do I think?

I was expecting a good model, and even so I’m impressed. It’s not cheap, but it’s a huge model and will make a fantastic centrepiece for many armies. I got two and I’m glad I did. I’ll be using at least one of them in my Kings of War Ogre army, though I could see Warhammer Fantasy/9th Age or even AoS players easily using it as a better-looking Stonemaw or Thundertusk (and I don’t hate either of those models, either). I’m down at present for that $200 Shieldmaiden Campaign army in the new KS as well. I’m keen for the female warriors that look much more like warriors instead of bikini models than is usual for wargaming, but the prospect of getting a third Mammooth certainly doesn’t hurt my interest.

Since all I’ve been able to share are a few semi-assembled blu-tac shots, here’s Shieldwolf’s promo shots of both variants:

(If anyone wants any specific additional photos of the kit, just leave a comment or message and I’ll do my best!)

Shieldwolf Miniatures' Great War Mammooth

Shieldwolf Miniatures' Great War Mammooth

It’s available again in their second Kickstarter, though not as a discrete add-on as it was last time. This time it’s included as part of one of their pledge levels on offer – specifically the US$200 Shieldmaiden Campaign Army alongside 60 female viking-esque warriors in HIPS, a resin dragon, resin wolves and some resin heroes. This version on KS offer lacks the howdah, which can be added on along with a crew of 8 HIPS Shieldmaidens for an additional $50. Not bad value since the model by itself is worth US$108 by itself – though KS shipping is a separate payment, and more costly than direct from the webstore. (To be fair, you get a pile more stuff in the KS, as you’d expect.)

On their website, the Mammoth is available now as a single model, without Howdah for 100.00 or 149.50 with the Howdah. The Howdah version comes with worldwide free shipping, while it looks like the regular version uses Shieldwolf’s flat ship rate of €3.90-5.90/US$5.00-6.90/£3.10-4.70. I’m a notorious tightarse when it comes to shipping costs, but these rates seem quite reasonable to me.

After opening it up and having a play, I’d quite like to start working on this big guy now, but I need to have some discipline and finish the December models before starting any new large models…

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve been chatting to Angelos from Shieldwolf in a friendly informal way on and off for some time since they released their Mountain Orcs – and more recently have been looking over some of their background fiction (at a slack-arse rate) for their upcoming game. I have not received any payment or remuneration for any of this or this blog post, and neither having a chat nor helping them out with English grammar (their native tongue is Greek) has influenced my thoughts. I’ve paid full retail price or KS price for all Shieldwolf product that I own, and even if I were to receive any review product in the future, I’d still be perfectly honest. Because integrity is worth much more to me than a few bucks worth of models that I can afford to buy anyway. I’ve seen some blog-beggars and it’s ugly watching people demean and whore themselves out like that. No-one who I currently follow, though. 🙂


Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins – Monolith – XBox 360 (2005)

As my free time over summer starts to come to an end this year, I’ve played through another game.

So I woke up in a bad mood last Friday morning, and decided that a good, short game was what I needed to do with my time. Perusing a couple of google searches for “good, short 360 games” to see what came up that I also had, Condemned (and its sequel) seemed to make many of those lists, which reminded me that I had this game, tucked away in a shelf. Choice made, then!

Condemned: Criminal Origins, is a game that I had bought shortly after purchasing my XBox 360 back in 2007(?) It had garnered good reviews, but as so often happens with these things – both miniatures and videogames – it’s often easier to buy something with the best of intentions to get around to using them – and then taking years (or worse) to actually do so.

I dimly remember buying the game, one of the games I purchased in my initial frenzy of enthusiasm when I got my 360 back in the day. Even back then it was already in the XBox 360 “Classics” selection. While this meant that the game had sold well, over whatever the minimum was at the time, more importantly the game had garnered positive reviews across the board. At the time I’d done that thing where you put the game on, look at it for 45 seconds/play for 3 minutes and think “Yeah, this looks cool. I’ll get back to it soon!” So now – a decade on from release and 8 years from buying it – I’ve finally actually played it! Does this count as a retro-review?

Condemned was developed by Monolith Productions, who were also the people behind titles I’d enjoyed such as No One Lives Forever (NOLF), NOLF 2, Alien vs Predator 2, Contract J.A.C.K. (essentially NOLF3), F.E.A.R., F.E.A.R. 2 and much more recently – Shadow of Mordor. That’s a pretty good selection of hits over a good selection of years. So far so good!

So how does it look in 2016?

The game is dark and grainy – appropriate for a survival-horror kind of game. The graphics aren’t beautiful 1080p with ultra-detailed models, but I’m not a complete graphics whore, and the game’s setting still looks good enough to me and works well enough to be fit for purpose. Enemies and your weapons are a fair bit less attractive, looking a bit blocky at best. Your character on the other hand, along with those in cutscenes looks pretty bad. I can’t fairly recall what FPS graphics looked like back 10 years ago without rose coloured glasses, but to be blunt, the character and many of the weapon models look like arse today.

Audio fares better. A nice touch are your own heavy footsteps – there are any times you’re not sure if a sound was you, or someone else, stalking you. The audio design overall isn’t bad and is one of the stronger points of the game, even today. The exception to which is the voice acting.

I dub thee: Arseface.

I should mention the story: – only the slightest of spoilers here – You’re a federal agent. Framed for a murder you didn’t commit, you set out on a quest to prove your innocence by wandering through an endless series of dark tunnels, rooms and abandoned buildings, murdering everyone in your path.

Occasionally with firearms, but typically with improvised clubs, shovels, axes and sledgehammers. Does all that sound like a fair enough way to prove your innocence from murder?

Anyhow, there’s some serial killer stuff and the story is pretty bad, even for a video game. I’m usually happy enough to gloss over video game stories if the gameplay is good, and oftentimes for games, less is more. This game attempts to have depth and layers in the story, and while it’s not quite the nonsensical mess as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was, it’s still pretty bad. The plot and script is like a police/serial killer story – as written by a teenager whose only knowledge of police procedure, serial killers or the way that human people actually interact with one another has come from bad TV shows in those genres.

I state this because it’s terribly written and voice acted. There’s a “twist” at the end, but I’d liken its surprise and impact to looking at the bus timetable, then walking around the corner at the allotted time and watching the bus slowly meander its way down the street towards your bus stop.

Mechanically, I found early on that a few things we take for granted in modern times are a fair bit different in Condemned. There’s no mini-map. Indeed, there is no map of any kind. Nor is there any “guide” through the levels other than the fairly linear nature of the levels. I’m not horrified at the loss of the modern stalwart “Follow”, but when the environment starts to look very much the same where ever you wander in a level…

The game’s pacing is extremely slow as well. I found the controls to be unresponsive and sluggish, right down to it feeling like I needed to press down twice as hard as in other games on the stick to sprint – which is also limited by a stamina bar.

Amazingly (for a videogame), your flashlight seems to (mostly) work like an actual flashlight and the batteries don’t die after a few seconds. Which is handy, since – as mentioned – for the entirety of the game you’re navigating an endless series of (linear) dark hallways and rooms. Credit where credit is due there, though whether you have the flashlight on or off doesn’t seem to make any actual difference in terms of conflict, as enemies spring into existence and are aware of you as soon as you come near, so stealth doesn’t seem to be a thing at all in this game.

You can’t carry two weapons, even when it makes sense – such as a holstered firearm and a melee weapon in hand. Oh, you also have a taser, which gets upgraded partway through the game into pretty much a man-killer. Maybe that’s considered your offhander and therefore the reason you’re unable to carry a pistol in your empty cop-holster?

A man and his piece of conduit.

Similarly, despite the bag that you apparently carry your gear in or you bulky jacket, you can’t carry health packs at all. But that’s okay, since you can use them right off the wall. Yes, 2005-era design, so there’s no regenerating health or any of that guff. Just lots of medical cabinets conveniently located in all manner of decrepit and long-abandoned locales. Seems like a good choice to gulp down some of whatever you find in a pill bottle in places like that, amirite?

The building you start in seems to be an odd combination of old and condemned while also being a construction site. But abandoned and filled with psychotic junkies armed with 2x4s with nails in them, or bits of conduit or pipe. You lose your service pistol pretty early on, though – after having shot a guy or two to death.

Naturally, after killing a man and then having your gun stolen you do what any (videogame) cop would do. Instead of pulling out, calling for backup, or for a coroner’s meat wagon you just keep on going further in, only now armed with a makeshift club you picked up off the floor, gleefully beating perps to death as you go. Even the other cops with you at the time merely throw you a Fire Axe and tell you to pretty much keep going. Because videogame cop logic.

The game is very melee heavy, with firearms making only sporadic appearances throughout the game. As you’d expect, they’re more often seen in the latter stages, but even then still don’t make up the majority of enemies or encounters. There’s a simple block and counterstrike mechanism in place for melee combat, but it seems to be a combination of unresponsively slow while requiring pretty exact timing to effectively parry.

You have choices of various improvised melee weapons that you can rip off walls (conduit, pipe, rebar), furniture (2x4s) and so forth with sightly different stats: damage, speed, block and reach. Looking at a different weapon to the one in your hand will display either + or – with regard to each of the stats – but without numerical values. This lets you make your choices at a glance but in doing so without any way to really know the depth of the various trade-offs. There are also a few tools like the aforementioned fire axe that can be used as melee weapons as well as to open specific doors. Apparently using makeshift weapons scavenged from the nearest wall was supposed to feel visceral. It just feels like nothing.

In terms of movement through the game, there’s no duck, no jump and no climb outside of when the game very specifically tells you that you can climb through a window or up a ladder or jump down a hole. By pressing A. Now. I bumped over a chair and couldn’t get out of a room for 30 seconds. That old videogame trope of impassable chest-high walls is used to the extent of impassable knee-high junk on the floor here.

Most of the game pretty much looks like this.

The game has collectables because of course it does. At the end of the first level, I was informed by the stats page that I’d found/collected 1 of 6 dead birds, and 0 of 3 “metal pieces”. These appear to have no purpose whatsoever aside from achievement hunting and unlocking secret out-of-game dossiers that neither you nor I care about. And frankly – walking around, barely able to see while searching for them (or even doing so with the aid of a walkthrough) seems like a complete waste of time. A few points of gamerscore and a few pretty pointless X-Box achievements that are neither fun to get nor affect gameplay in the slightest really aren’t a worthwhile use of my (or presumably, your) time.

Even more tedious – when I happened to restart the second level to go back and check out an areas I’d missed, I found that the birds you collect in one “playthrough” don’t stay collected – as they often do in other games. So you’ve got to grab all of these collectables in a discrete run of each level. Nice.

Also – head bob. I know this game is a decade old now, but someone really needs to tell the makers of FPS games that HUMAN EYES DON’T WORK THAT WAY GUYS. Seriously. Go walk to the kitchen and tell me if your vision is smooth or bounces around like a yo-yo. We have millions of years of evolution that have taken care of that. You know what does bounce around and give a jerky sense to your vision? Cameras. So unless we’re controlling drone-style robots by remote control or playing Blair Witch: The Game, there’s no need for goddamn head bob in games. This includes you too, Gears of War. At the very least give us the option to turn it off.

Every so often there’s a navigation “puzzle” in the game. This usually equates to you needing to wander around a series of areas where everything looks the same with your flashlight until you find the Fire Axe/Sledgehammer/Crowbar/Shovel (yes, really – shovel) so that you can open a specific door. They each have their own specific doors that they can open, and don’t work on different door types – just like real life, a fire axe or a crowbar is useless when confronted by a padlock because you need a fucking sledgehammer for that shit.

Similarly, sledgehammers are only useful for padlocks and can’t smash their way through doors or wooden barriers. Because that’s what fire axes (and only fire axes) do. Ahem. Anyway, once you’ve found the CORRECT door-opening implement, you then wander around with your torch until you find the macguffin (switch, valve, etc) then you’re done and can move on – which may or may not involve more backtracking. This is invariably about as interesting, fun and exciting as I’ve made it sound here.

So yes, these different types of weapon are essentially a form of “you need the BLUE key” game design, grandfathered in from Quake with a light coat of paint on it.

Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.

There’s some “investigation” throughout the game. This investigation is performed when the game pretty much tells you “INVESTIGATE NOW” and you press a button for the appropriate one of your investigative tools to come out. You’d need a decent sized bag to lug these things around, actually. I’d usually let that go as videogames tend to all give their characters a bag of holding, but it feels a little more odd here in a game that pretty much has you running around with nothing but a flashlight and a 2×4 or piece of electrical conduit as a makeshift weapon for much of the game. So yes, it’s as interesting and “intuitive” as finding the correct “key” for the correct door type.

For those rare-ish times when you do manage to acquire a firearm, you can check the remaining number of rounds in the magazine, but once they’re empty they merely become sub-par makeshift weapons that quickly break. There’s no ammo or reloading in this game. At one point this led to the amusing(?) situation where I had 3 rounds left in my .45, and killed an enemy armed with an identical .45. His pistol also had 3 rounds left, but the game did not allow me in any way to combine those 6 rounds into the one weapon, so I had to leave one on the floor with bullets in it – because one weapon, no carrying. Needless to say – “horror” game or not – this felt very artificial.

Naturally, this led to that classic immersive videogame trope of backtracking for a 3-minute round trip to pick up the gun that was left on the floor once I’d emptied the one I was carrying.

Combat in general can be summed up in one word: Bad. If you’d like some more words, take: Sluggish, Unresponsive, Slow, Unsatisfying, Unfun.

That last one is a pretty good descriptor of the whole game, actually. Unlike something as frustrating and actively annoying as Metal Gear: Revengeance, this game is merely tedious and boring – so I was actually able to finish it. I’m not sure which is worse actually, a bad game that is so bad that you put it down after an hour or so or one that’s bad but not so bad that you can’t make yourself finish it.

You might ask why, if the game is so tedious and boring, did I continue to play it?  A fair question. The answer is a combination of my own bloody-mindedness and the fact that it’s listed as a short game – average of 7-10 hours, so doable in a couple of days of play at my own speed. In practice, I played through 2 levels in one day, and the other 7 in a rather bloody-minded waste of a day split over several sessions of 2-3 levels each time.

Is this what a bloody mind looks like?

While at first the game feels like you’re on a murder-rampage through the oddly-agressive homeless of “Metro City” (yes, really), after awhile it starts to feel more like a zombie game, right down to having several “types” of “zombie” with different attack patterns, etc. Rarely, you’ll come across a bunch of zombies that fight one another. If you hang back in these encounters, you can simply mop up the survivor(s) instead of wade in and take a bunch of damage for no real reason.

Mostly you chase “the suspect” deeper and deeper down into the bowels of the city’s subway system and through a collection of discrete buildings that each level is composed of. Occasionally you’ll stop to “gather evidence” as noted earlier – which you transmit to Rosa, a friendly researcher back at base via your simply adorable 2005-era mobile telephone who is then able to look up DNA results, check databases and create full 3-D models from photos of shoeprints – all in seconds. Remember, this is before modern smartphones, so it’s got buttons and a little screen on top, yet it seems somehow more capable than the latest of 2016’s phones and has no problem whatsoever with a signal about a kilometer underground under a maze of concrete, brickwork and heavy industrial machinery.

Source: Cracked

There’s a complete and utter dearth of interesting weapons in the game – and while fans of the game might argue that it’s somehow realistic, or that the game’s strength is in it’s story or investigation, the fact is that the majority of gameplay is walking in dark rooms with a flashlight, and the next most common part of gameplay is beating the homeless/criminals/zombies to death with clubs and axes.

There’s far more of that than story or investigation.

This game was an interesting experience in one way. I started out impressed and enjoying myself, and you could clearly see the shared DNA between this game and F.E.A.R. in the environments and atmosphere, but the horrible, sluggish controls, tedious gameplay and godawful story led me to go from impressed, to bemused, to bored, to really very unimpressed. As I’ve noted, the game got overall excellent reviews for gameplay and even story back when it was released. I guess time has simply moved on and unlike a bottle of fine wine, this game hasn’t aged well, and in the decade since release has become corked instead.

Verdict: Avoid.


Raging Heroes: Iron Empire Mascot – Jinx (54mm)

As noted back when I started painting this model, Raging Heroes‘ Jinx was a gift for someone. There’s a little story behind it, though – which I’ll share now. Back when the RH KS1 pledge manager was a thing, I asked a question in the chat box and was answered by Mirielle. Now at times I’ve been both a strong supporter and also a strong critic of RH (sometimes at the same time), and not been shy to take the piss, either – so this led to a couple of interesting and quite amicable chats over a couple of days.

In those conversations, we talked about what we do a bit, and in there I mentioned how I worked with a young lady with ASD who is also completely in love with cats, to the point where she writes a blog based around my own cat. Mirielle made a very kind gesture, and offered to send out a 54mm sculpt of Jinx as a gift for this young lady. Fast forward to roughly a year later and the last wave of RH KS stuff arrived, including Jinx.

There was a bit of mold slip, which I was (mostly) able to clean up on a fairly tight timeframe, as I was attempting to get it finished before the 4th of December, when the young lady finished up and moved on. Since work becomes an actual nightmare at that time of year – as I’ve referenced before – it didn’t get completed – cleaning the Trollcast resin just to get started was quite problematic, but I made arrangements with her parents to catch up with them and her over the start of the New Year. This gave me a chance to keep working on the model.

Raging Heroes 54mm Jinx, Iron Empire Mascot

Since Jinx is theoretically one of those hairless cats, there’s no fur texture. I decided not to worry about the “lore” but went instead for colours that would be acceptable in animation – something that would stand out – and so Jinx became a shorthair with purple fur. Highlighting and shading was going to be an issue with a model this big on a deadline, and I’m still far from confident with an airbrush, so I went with a very careful drybrush and wash combination, which seems to have come up quite nicely.

Raging Heroes 54mm Jinx, Iron Empire Mascot

With purple, gold/brass was an easy choice for a nice contrasting colour for Jinx’ jewellery. I’m sure gold jewellery could have had something to do with the choice of purple for Jinx’ fur, but at this point I can’t recall.

Raging Heroes 54mm Jinx, Iron Empire Mascot

The faint texture of the resin gives enough of an impression of very short fur, certainly on the 54mm Jinx. Basing was a bit of a quandry – I certainly wasn’t going to add sand and flock or tufts, since this is a shelf ornament rather than a wargame model. In the end I went for classic black. I did a little more touch-up after these photos were taken, and varnish was applied immediately afterwards. Gloss varnish on the gems, eyes, etc, yesterday morning.

Raging Heroes 54mm Jinx, Iron Empire Mascot

In the end, the large details were quite nice to paint, and not one of those painful models at all. I checked the RH webstore and it seems that the 54mm Jinx isn’t available at all. I think perhaps the 54mm Mascots were exclusives limited to the Kickstarter campaign/backers?

Raging Heroes 54mm Jinx, Iron Empire Mascot

Most importantly of all, when I presented the model to her yesterday she was absolutely delighted and it was immediately decided that Jinx is an Egyptian Cat. Her parents were also touched by the story behind it, so a warm thank you again to Mirielle and Raging Heroes from the young lady, her family as well as myself.