New Titan Theory + Review: Honor Among Thieves

Engage tinfoil:

If you’re not familiar with Project: Titan, here’s a quick rundown. Titan is the codename given to a new massively multiplayer game being developed by Blizzard Entertainment. We’re not technically supposed to know about it, but enough info was leaked that Blizzard had to acknowledge its existence.

/tinfoilBut aside from the fact it’s an MMO, we still know only a few small things about it, such as the fact that it will involve product placement and/or in-game advertisements. This means it will likely be set in the modern day or maybe a near-future sci-fi setting.

Blizzard is also on record as saying it will be a new intellectual property — IE: not Warcraft, Starcraft, or Diablo.

But a new rumor challenges this notion. This rumor states that it is not entirely a new IP but instead occupies some strange gray area where it both is and isn’t a new franchise. It’s described as a “spin-off” of a current IP.

Now, it is just a rumor, but supposedly, the source is fairly credible. (Information on the source can be found here.) If true, this may be the final clue we need to figure out what Titan is, because I can think of only one thing in all of Blizzard’s lore that would fit everything we think we know about Titan.

I think Titan is set in the Starcraft universe, but takes place on Earth.

Earth is something of a non-factor in the Starcraft universe. The UED invasion in Brood War aside, Earth has been largely forgotten by the Koprulu Sector, and after what happened to DuGalle’s fleet, it’s doubtful the people on Earth want anything to do with Koprulu.

Furthermore, everything that makes Starcraft Starcraft is intrinsically linked to the Koprulu Sector. A game set on Earth would not involve the Zerg, the Protoss, the Xel’naga, the Dominion, Raynor, Mengsk, or Kerrigan. If Blizzard is true to their own backstory, there wouldn’t even be any telepathic humans.

Thus, Titan would technically be a part of the Starcraft universe, but it would be so different that it would, for all practical purposes, be a completely new game.

Think Portal and Half-Life. Technically, both those franchises take place in the same universe, but barring a few Easter eggs, there’s almost nothing to connect them.

Titan would also be set in a future version of our world, opening up the possibility for those in-game ads and product placements. Granted, it’s a little far-fetched for corporations from our time to still be running 500 years from now, but it’s not completely implausible.

There’s also no guarantee Titan would be set at the same time as the Starcraft games. It could take place closer to our own time, perhaps even before the launch of the super-carriers. In which case telepathy would be back on the table.

Because let’s be honest: if we can’t play as Nova clones, what the Hell is the point?

A banner based on the Nova Terra character of the Starcraft universeThis leaves us with a dystopian, over-crowded Earth lorded over by a totalitarian government possessed of a fanatical belief in “human purity.” That certainly seems like a concept with a lot of potential for interesting stories and gameplay.

Food for thought, at least.

Review: Honor Amongst Thieves:

“Honor Amongst Thieves” is the final installment of David Chandler’s “Ancient Blades” trilogy. It continues the story of Malden, the witty thief; Croy, the absurdly chivalrous knight of the order of Ancient Blades; and Cythera, whose most noteworthy personality trait is that she has a vagina.

Cover art for “Honor Amongst Thieves” picks up where the last book left off, with the barbarian hordes of the east poised to invade the kingdom of Skrae. Through a series of ludicrously improbably events — even by fantasy standards — Malden finds himself with the responsibility of saving the kingdom from the onslaught.

Meanwhile, Sir Croy struggles to regain his honor by protecting Skrae’s royal family, and Cythera tries to earn the award for Most Uninspiring Heroine in a Fantasy Series.

Unfortunately, David Chandler seems to have decided to shift gears and write this book as a serious fantasy epic. This was not a good move.

“The Ancient Blades” is a series with many flaws, but its wry humor and light-hearted sense of adventure made it fairly easy to overlook them. The books never seemed to take themselves terribly seriously.

Now I’m forced to wonder if Chandler meant this to be a serious trilogy, and not a self-parody, from the start. If true… yikes.

Without the books’ trademark humor, Malden is just a cliche do-gooder, Croy is just a pompous ass, and Cythera… Well, she always sucked.

Art of Cythera from At least Cythera stopped letting her life be entirely dominated by men in this book. Instead, she let it be entirely dominated by her mother.

I don’t think Cythera has any will of her own. Maybe it’s supposed to be some commentary on her being raised as a slave, but it sure doesn’t make for interesting reading. Good characters forge their own destinies; they don’t just let themselves be led around by the nose.

The ending of the book was very weak and inconclusive, too. Very little was resolved, and all in all, it felt more like an ad for the inevitable second trilogy than anything.

“Honor Amongst Thieves” isn’t totally without its strengths. It’s still very fast-paced and action-packed, and even despite all my complaints, I still found it to be very much a page-turner.

I’ll also grudgingly admit the villain was interesting. Normally, I don’t care for villains with more brawn than brains, but this guy was so evil and nuts I just had to appreciate him.

Overall rating: 5.7/10 Not completely without merit, but largely mediocre.

Mists of Pandaria Now Live + Review: A Thief in the Night

Cry havoc, and let slip the pandas of war!

The mists have parted, and the lost continent of Pandaria is at last open to World of Warcraft players.

Pandas everywhere!I’m still feeling my odd lack of excitement over this expansion. I guess I just don’t feel any connection to Pandaria. It’s a blank slate, and that’s good, but it also means the nostalgia that is my main reason for playing WoW is mainly absent. Still, I’ll give it a fair shake.

Not for a few days, though. I dislike crowds in any reality, so I’m not going to bother playing Mists of Pandaria until a couple of days have gone by. Once I do start playing, I will of course share all my thoughts on the Land of Pandas here on Superior Realities.

In the meantime…

Review: The Ancient Blades: A Thief in the Night:

“A Thief in the Night” is the second book in David Chandler’s “The Ancient Blades” trilogy. You may recall I found the first book to be a thoroughly enjoyable, if somewhat simple-minded, adventure.

Cover art for "The Ancient Blades, book two: A Thief in the Night" by David Chandler“A Thief in the Night” is largely in the same vein, though I feel a bit of the charm was lost this time.

Once again, it focuses on the trio of Malden, the silver-tongued thief; Sir Croy, the comically heroic knight of the sacred order of Ancient Blades; and Cythera, the sorceress/set-piece who anchors the love triangle. “A Thief in the Night” adds a fourth character to the mix: Morget, a barbarian warrior out to prove his manhood by slaying a terrible demon.

Morget is not technically a member of the Ancient Blades, but he does bear one of the magical demon-slaying swords that gives the order its name, and he seeks out Croy for assistance in defeating the demon. Croy immediately agrees because he’s Croy.

He then invites Malden, whom Croy hopes may become a new Ancient Blade. Malden reluctantly agrees after learning a sadistic assassin is on his trail. Cythera comes because… I guess she realized she doesn’t have a reason to exist without Croy and Malden mooning over her.

Art of Malden, star of the "Ancient Blades" trilogyThey pursue the demon to an ancient and supposedly abandoned Dwarven city that was also the site of the last stand of the Elves before humanity wiped them out. But, of course, a demon is not the worst thing in the ruin, and they find more than they bargained for.

As before, it’s a rollicking adventure with nary a dull moment. There’s a bit less humor than before, but “A Thief in the Night” does a lot to flesh out the “Ancient Blades” universe and make it seem like more of a legitimate fantasy epic.

Unfortunately, that greater level of seriousness is a double-edged sword (no pun intended). The humor was one of the main things that made the first book so charming, and without it, it’s harder to overlook the weak points of the story, like the fact that Croy is less a character and more a collection of adjectives.

Cythera is even worse. I didn’t like her before, but I’ve now developed a passionate dislike for her. She’s a feminist’s worst nightmare: an erratically emotional but largely passive and useless “character” whose existence is defined entirely by the men in her life. Now, I’m not really a feminist, being a guy and all, but I do live in the twenty-first century, and I expect better.

Art of Sir Croy of the "Ancient Blades" trilogyCythera serves no purpose in the story but as a prize for Croy or Malden (depending on her mood) and as a minor plot device to deal with magical enemies. She has no thoughts or goals beyond which man she’ll settle down with.

Even her powers are passive. She can stand there and absorb magic, but she has no abilities that can be used proactively.

The handful of other women in the book are no better off. What I’m saying is that, if you’re a fan of strong women in fantasy, well… Go read Ian Irvine.

I also found myself missing the original setting, the Free City of Ness. David Chandler did an excellent job of developing Ness and the way its pervasive poverty informed Malden’s unique morality and worldview. It’s a shame that aspect of the world was left behind.

Art of the Free City of Ness, setting of the "Ancient Blades" trilogyHowever, flaws aside, “A Thief in the Night” is still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of light reading. If you want to put your brain in neutral and lose yourself in a rousing adventure for a while, it’s a good option.

Overall rating: 7/10