What I’m up to + New Article

I haven’t really done or experienced anything lately that deserves its own deep-dive post, but I thought I might do a quick run down of the various nerdy passtimes I’ve been engaging in as of late.

Official art for the audio drama Welcome to Night ValeFirst, after finishing Limetown, I bounced around for a bit, trying different podcasts before I found one I like: Welcome to Night Vale.

The friend who first recommended Night Vale went on and on about how indescribably weird it was and how I just had to experience it for myself. I thought he was exaggerating.

He was not exaggerating.

Welcome to Night Vale is spectacularly strange. The best way I can describe it is it’s like Douglas Adams on acid, with a hefty dose of conspiracy theories and Lovecraftian influence. It takes the form of a community radio show operating out of a small desert town that appears to exist in a surreal alternate universe dominated by a ruthless totalitarian government and filled with eldritch horrors as a matter of every day life.

I think?

It’s best described as a dark comedy, but it really is unlike anything else. My only complaints are it can be a bit samey, and that the overwhelming scattershot weirdness prevents it from being as relaxing as you might expect from such a silly show. It really demands your full attention.

On the reading front, the most interesting book I’ve read recently is Diablo’s Book of Adria. This continues the series of lorebooks that also included the Book of Cain and the Book of Tyrael.

As with its predecessors, it’s a beautifully made book full of stellar artwork. I was a bit disappointed by the lack of any significant new lore revelations, but it does provide a very interesting insight into Adria’s motivations as a character. I wouldn’t say it makes her more sympathetic per se — she remains a viciously ruthless schemer — but it does provide some nuance to her beyond the power hungry madwoman one might take her for at first glance.

All in all, I’d say the Book of Adria is less revelatory than the Book of Cain, but more interesting than the Book of Tyrael. I’d recommend it.

When it comes to gaming, I’ve little to report. Still messing around with ESO and feeling very ambivalent about it. I’ve been trying to get my consular caught up in the story in SWTOR, and I’ve started running my TSW homebrew mini-campaign in D&D, but I’ll have more to say about both those things later.

Finally, I’ve had another article published at MMO Bro, in which I discuss the importance of stability in MMO design.

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Review: Mass Effect: Andromeda: Annihilation

If there’s one question Andromeda left me wanting an answer for, it was the fate of the Quarian Ark. Oh, there are many more unanswered questions from the last Mass Effect game, but none of the others have such an immediacy. Questions about the Kett, Jaardan, and Benefactor can wait for the sequels — and yes, for all the doom-saying around Bioware in general and Mass Effect in particular these days, I do expect Andromeda sequels, though perhaps not for a while.

Cover art for Mass Effect: Andromeda: Annihilation by Catherynne M. ValenteThankfully, that burning question has at last been answered. In the new novel Annihilation, author Catherynne M. Valente uncovers the true fate of the Keelah Si’yah.

I will say off the bat: This is a delightful book. Initiation was fun, but not really essential reading, even for hardcore fans. Annihilation, on the other hand, is something I’ll recommend to any fan of any of the Mass Effect games. Not only because it answers a crucial mystery from Andromeda, but just because it’s so good.

In the truest Bioware tradition, the best feature of Annihilation is its characters. The Keelah Si’yah carries not just Quarians, but members of many other less influential Milky Way races, allowing for a cast as diverse and colourful as any of the Mass Effect games. Particularly memorable are the acerbic Volus fashion designer Irit Non, lovesick Quarian outcast Senna’Nir, and the Elcor wannabe thespian known as Yorrick.

What really surprised me is how funny Annihilation is. I was expecting a very dark, unhappy book, and in some ways it is, but the characters are such oddballs and the writing has such a wry, quirky style that I found myself laughing out loud on almost every other page.

Not to say that it can’t be serious when it needs to be. Actually I found the mystery of why so many things are going wrong aboard the Ark quite effective. The ultimate reveal is not at all what I was expecting, though it makes perfect sense in retrospect — everything a good mystery’s conclusion should be. It’s also far more interesting — at least in my opinion — than any of the popular fan theories for what wrong aboard the Keelah Si’yah.

It is not entirely perfect, of course. I really only have one complaint, but it does cut down on the enjoyment of the book a fair bit: It’s much too short, and much too rushed. These characters could have carried a book twice this long. They could have carried a trilogy, or a quartet. I wanted to spend more time with them. I wanted to see their relationships continue to grow and evolve.

Annihilation is like a delicious, inventive meal, but the portions are all too small, and it leaves you hungry for more.

Overall rating: 8.1/10