Sunday, September 17, 2017

Kill Six Billion Demons

Spoilers pertaining to the webcomic in question follow here, though this one's certainly no mystery novel.

First off, let us doff our hats to that truly stellar title! I mean, that's the sort of title you normally only find emblazoned in a dripping blood font on death metal album covers. Yet it just rolls off the tongue like bile, an effect the author seems to have quite consciously created, given the one panel in which it visually rolls in incendiary glory from the mouth of an otherworldly terror. And... AND! that's just as you learn this proclamation of doom's no less than somebody's . freaking . Name .

Whew. That's setting a loud decibel level, alright.

I hold world-building to greater relevance than most, and this comes with a staunch appreciation for bombast, for the lavish grandiloquence which built up our ancestors' folklore from the depths of Tartarus to the top of Mount Olympus, from Diyu to Sheol and Niflheim. It's hard to go over the top with material inspired by the rantings of witless, illiterate, flea-bitten bronze-age bards who thought caves and mountaintops were whole separate realms of existence, so a story drawing on classic mythology usually does well to include a primitive's incredulity and sense of wonder at the vastness of the world ("We're going to see the elves, Mr. Frodo!")

Like most modern media products, Kill Six Billion Demons falls into a lot of politically correct posturing, so the revelation that the prophecied hero simply must (naturally!) be replaced by a heroine prompts exhausted eye-rolling rather than raised eyebrows. The frequently trite interpersonal side of the story falls in step, with one of the heroine's two advisors being a trans-sexual angel who at one point rails against her fellow angels' trans-phobia: if god made us sexless, what sense does it make to insist all angels are male?
Actually, by that same logic, what sense does it make for you to want to play dress-up in the first place? If it's no big deal, why are you making such a big deal out of it?
The second heroine's advisor's arguably much worse, being an author avatar, and any of their scenes together comes across more like an embarrassingly overemoting self-insert slashfic of a more dignified plot running in the background. Needless to say this good demon's a quirky, plucky little girl who nonetheless embodies awesomah powah! And she wants to be good but wouldn't you know it the universe is somehow plotting to temp her to evil, presumably to be redeemed by love's true lesbian kiss or some schlock at a later date.
Though eschewing heroes in favor of heroines, villains of course remain decidedly male, with the most notable exception launching into a rant against the male gaze as her self-justification.

Despite such all too common tendencies, that background running behind the trite, shallow, snowflake moral posturing more than makes up for it. That villainness eventually gets called out on (part of) her bullshit, if not nearly as strongly as I'd have preferred, and the frequent by-the-numbers railing against male sexuality (every villain owns a brothel in this story) is halfway allowed to meld into a much wider landscape. KSBD sidesteps the pitfall of its contemporaries like Eth's Skin of grinding the story to a complete halt to bring you this public service announcement. Locale after locale of its mythical world is illustrated in ludicrously detailed crowd scenes, and the splash screens expositing each new backdrop are (and no other word would fit) epic. Basing its story largely on the mythical themes of south-western Asia instead of the elves and dragons we've all grown to yawn at, the artist also puts staggering amounts of work into the convoluted, endlessly re-iterative Rococo parade of angels and devils this entails. If nothing else the sheer visual detail, easy to grasp at a glance but always offering more under closer scrutiny, makes KSBD stand out among the usually perfunctory or amateurish comic "art." It rarely forgets its sense of grandeur and fantastic exploration.

It's not enough to render the comic's bouts of sour old political correctness palatable, but it's enough to mask the taste. It makes "what fresh hell is this" sound appealing. And, when not playing in tune to modern moral guardians, the dialogue proves itself very endearing in its flowery bazaar manners and rhetoric. An attention to detail ranging from the cadence of syllables to wondrous vistas to scuffs on clay pots to the expression of wing-eyes goes a long way.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Self-DeterminEd to prove - ?

"Therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
[...] 
I am determined to prove a villain"

 
Billy Wagglepoker - Dickie Tres

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"I'm the last of my guy friends to have never gotten married, and their wives - they don't want them playing with me. I'm like the escaped slave - I bring news of freedom."

- Some Other Billy


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Consider the world feminists declare is defined by patriarchal oppression, where any man deemed unfit by women or not subjugating himself to female whims must be immediately brought to heel or if not, branded a villain. Consider that the irrational slavishness to which any American man must swear allegiance in order to run for any political office higher than dog park commissioner includes not only superstitious belief in the supernatural but marriage as well.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Far Cry

Despite being the talk of the town when it came out, Far Cry failed to even temp me into buying it. Damned if I know why it's even in my GoG library now, except as part of some package deal. Still, having bought it I feel somehow obligated to give it a chance, so off I go!

I won't bother with many screenshots. As a graphics card trial-by-fire, Far Cry's been proudly shotted and screened all across the internet by endless l33t-d00dz in the thirteen years since it came out. Suffice it to say there's lots of pretty foliage to admire. I must admit the game successfully both marketed and delivered its main selling point of large, lush, smoothly landscaped outdoor levels, and as level design goes it's quite good. As for everything else, well...
I can't tell whether that magazine was left lying around as ironic self-mockery or whether FarCry's developers really had deluded themselves into thinking they held some kind of artistic high ground over redneck shoot-em-up games. Granted, the high damage/health ratio of gunfire makes you think more actively about cover, positioning, steady shooting and such than you would in the Dooms and Duke Nukems of the '80s and '90s, but this was nothing special. By 2004 the trend toward "realistic" FPS games was already in full swing and other examples like the Half-Life mod Day of Defeat had years prior already implemented frailty more decisively, and done it online both ways through the snow.

I'm not a big FPS fan. To me, FPS is a user interface, not a game genre, and the ones I can stomach are the ones which manage to provide an immersive atmosphere, like Half-life and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. In contrast, pretty rustling bushes aside, Far Cry's aesthetic portion was almost entirely phoned in. You play some kind of nondescript badass secret-soldier-super-agent-type... guy... dude... of sorts, yet one whose dialogue can't even muster the questionable dignity of Connery's "'elloe Pushy" all the while your enemies are taunting you with crotch-grabbingly witty one-liners like "I'm gonna tear you a new one!" that would've seemed trite and tired even in junior high - all voiced by only the finest-quality unpaid interns.
Somehow, this is all delivered in earnest.
You trudge through lots of box-filled warehouses. The villain's an unabashedly German mad scientist. Also, there are goblins. Or, y'know, big muscular growly simian things with claws and teeth and somehow even less personality than the chimps they're supposed to have mutated from.

I suppose all this might yet pass muster if the enemies' AI was not as simplistic as their aesthetic, but the grand total of two behavior patterns wears thin after the first five or six chapters. Dumb as bricks but heavily armed and abundant, it's more the randomized, utterly nonsensical nature of their movements which can surprise you. Yet, again, getting shot by some random grunt who ran aimlessly into the brush and got lost for five minutes only to come up behind you accidentally makes clearing each level a mind-numbing pixel-hunting chore. That's not even counting the part where they can see through walls.

All in all, Far Cry's actually not as terrible a game as I always assumed, though as always I have to ask why developers have historically tended to cut corners on easily amenable bells and whistles. Good ideas cost no more than bad ideas, especially when you're already spending an arm and a leg on your fancy new graphics. Would it have killed them to think up some enemies that are... not goblins? Big guns, big trucks indeed.

Whatever, they were selling graphics and the graphics sold, no matter how unimaginatively they were used. I wonder, how many of these hopelessly generic "grunt with boomstick" shoot-em-ups have I missed over the years?
And do I really care?