Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Rise of the Tomb Raider

On writing, gaming and drinking coffee

Yes, yes, I know. I promised a snippet and you will get it. Not today or even tomorrow. I am going to start doing snippets on the weekends. I am hard a work on the final edits for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). I am also starting the preliminary draft for Dagger of Elanna, the follow up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). After that, not necessarily in this order, will come Nocturnal Challenge, a secret project I can’t discuss just yet, Skeletons in the Closet, and a host of other books demanding to be written.

One thing I’m learning is that I have to take a little bit of time between projects to not only switch “voices” but to decompress. That week or so is when I try to catch up on my reading, see movies and trying out new video games. I don’t buy a new game after every finished product but I do when something interesting catches my eye or someone I trust recommends a game.

That’s why I played — and later reviewed — Rise of the Tomb Raider – Digital Deluxe Edition [Online Game Code]. It is why I am now playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – Gold Edition – PC. This is the first time in a long while I’ve bought the actual disc for a game. But this particular edition was a much better buy than going to Steam and paying for the game and then buying the season pass. So, I bought the disc, installed it on my laptop and started playing.

And found what has, so far at least, been my favorite Assassin’s Creed game to date. Part of it is the story and mechanics. Part is the fact I can, on many of the missions, choose which character to play. I can go more for brute strength by playing Jacob or stealth by choosing his twin Evie. Yes, for those who feel there needs to be a female playable character, Ubisoft has given you one.

I’ll follow up with a full review when I finish the game but, for the moment, I am enjoying it a great deal and it has helped with the decompression from finishing Slay Bells Ring and doing edits (which I hate doing) on Honor.

So where, you ask, does coffee come into all this? That’s simple. Like a lot of writers, I seem to live on caffeine. My brain doesn’t get going in the morning without that kickstart you can only get from a cup of coffee. I grew up in a household that used a Corningware stove top percolator, even after the company recalled them. My dad’s philosophy was that your coffee wasn’t strong enough unless your spoon could stand, unaided, in the middle of the mug. Not that he would ever ruin a cup of coffee by adding anything to it. Coffee was meant to be drunk black as night and hot as Hell (or cold as the Arctic in the summer).

Fastforward to today. I’ve done the Mr. Coffee route and the Keurig k-cups. Mr. Coffee and those type of coffeemakers can leave you with scorched coffee because you leave it on the burner. The alternative is to brew into a carafe that is a bitch to clean. K-cups will never, ever make a full-bodied cup of coffee. Sorry, it just isn’t going to happen.

So someone finally recommended Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee, The World’s Strongest Coffee, Fair Trade and USDA Certified Organic – 16 Ounce Bag. I balked at first. After all, you may as well say it is $20/lb. Ouch! Then I started looking at what I was paying for Peet’s or Starbucks to put into the reusable k-kups as well as what I spent to drink regular k-cups. By the time I added up the cost per cup and how many cups per day I was drinking, I thought I might as well give Death Wish a try. After all, if it was as strong as they said, I might not drink as much.

Boy has that been a good decision. My four or five cups (read large mugs) of coffee each day minimum I’d been drinking is down to two cups max. A pound of Death Wish lasts approximately 2 weeks. So my monthly coffee budget is $40. If I were buying k-cups (Green Mountain because that is the brand the rest of the family likes), and if I were averaging 4 cups a day, my monthly budget would be over $80 ordering from Amazon. It would be less if I were lucky enough to find a sale locally but those are few and far between. Starbucks whole beans would run somewhere between the two. So, for a great tasting coffee that has enough caffeine to get me going and that doesn’t leave me crashing later in the day, I’ll pay the price. It works out to be less in the long run.

Now, if only I could find chocolate as good as Death Wish is as coffee and that was as affordable per use, I’d be a very happy camper, er, writer.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Yes, I know. I’m late to the game when it comes to reviewing Rise of the Tomb Raider – Digital Deluxe Edition [Online Game Code], the latest installment in the Tomb Raider series of games. There is reason for it. First, I have moved away from console gaming almost completely. So I had to wait for Square Enix to bring the game to PC. In a move only understood by Square Enix and probably Microsoft, Square Enix initially released the game only on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. However, the day finally came and I snagged a copy. I’ve been playing at it for a couple of weeks and have finished my first play through and the Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch DLC.

For those who aren’t familiar with Rise of the Tomb Raider, it is the second game in the re-imagined Tomb Raider Series. The first, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – PlayStation 4, (also available on PC and XBox) came out a couple of years ago. Instead of picking up the series where it had left off, Square Enix did something smart. It rebooted the series with the story of how Lara Croft became the Tomb Raider. That game, while good, felt a bit short and wasn’t quite the Tomb Raider I, or many like me, remembered. It was more a run and shoot than a searching of tombs and solving of puzzles. Gamers and reviewers let their displeasure, mild though it was, be known and Square Enix listened.

This latest installment picks up after the events of Tomb Raider. There are tombs aplenty and enough moments when a big bad — whether it be animal, human or something else — to cause a few starts and nervous laughs. This Lara is not only older but a bit more jaded. Part of that is because of what happened in the first game, although I don’t recall those events being directly mentioned, but mainly because of what she remembers of her father and the events leading to his death. In short, Lara is on a personal quest to prove that the mystery her father had been chasing not only exists but that he had been right all along. As the story progresses, she has to decide whether that quest, and the quest to clear his name of the shame that had been attached to it, was more important than the truth she was uncovering.

This is, in truth, a story about choices, not only Lara’s choices when it comes to either using stealth to avoid danger or approaching it headlong but also with regard to what she will do when she come to the truth surrounding the secrets her father had been chasing. Then there is the truth about the circumstances surrounding his death.

For anyone who saw the travesty that was the Tomb Raider movies, no, the Illuminati is not part of this plot. However, there is a super secret organization with ill intent out there. Called Trinity, you never see the leaders. That is part of how the developers have set us up for another game to come. Part of it is also because one of the big baddies we do meet in this game, Ana. She plays a pivotal part in not only what happens in the game but in the events that are the background for it.

If you buy the season pass, you will have access to some new outfits and such and one playable DLC right now. That DLC, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch DLC,  was a fun addition to the game. I played it as part of the general progression of the game instead of finishing the game and going back to it. Part of that was strategy. I wanted to see what sort of weapon upgrades I might find in the DLC but I also wanted the experience upgrades before heading off to do the final mission of the game.

As the title of the DLC suggests, the plot draws its inspiration from the Baba Yaga tales. Yes, there is a house on chicken legs — or is there? There is an evil witch with ill intent in mind. Or is there? Those are only two of the questions Lara much answer in the DLC. It’s not a huge DLC, certainly nowhere near as long as The Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 Digital Deluxe Version [Download]. But then, there weren’t as many upset fans with Rise of the Tomb Raider as there were for ME3, not by a long shot. Still, if you are a perfectionist and want to work to get 100% on the DLC, you will have several hours — or more — of game play.

The graphics on the game are great. It is one of the best looking games I’ve seen. While there is the occasional camera angle problem, those are so few that I almost hate to mention them. The background score is good and the plot is interesting if somewhat derivative at times. The bad guys, while bad, aren’t necessarily truly evil. They are flawed and those flaws blind them to the folly — and evil — of their intentions. One of the good guys isn’t quite as good as you think at the beginning. Lara herself is flawed and that is one of the things I like. She has doubts. She has a temper.  She is driven, often to the point where it puts others in danger. Yet she does make the right decisions when she needs to.

If I had to complain about the game, it’s a bit short. After playing the Dragon Age series and some others (and yes, I know. Different types of games), Rise of the Tomb Raider seems short. Still, it costs less per hour of game play than going to the movies, much less. I also am not a fan of releasing DLC so soon after a game comes out. Game developers have, for some reason, started releasing playable DLC within a month or two of the release of the games and that, to me, feels like cheating. Then there was releasing on only one platform for awhile. That bothered me more than any of the rest of it.

But those are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things. I would give this game a 9 out of 10. It is a definite recommend. I am looking forward to seeing what Square Enix does next with the franchise.

Since I mentioned Dragon Age, let me add a quick note here about the last playable DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Dragon Age: Inquisition – Trespasser – PS4 [Digital Code] (and it too, is available on Playstation, XBox and PC platforms) is one of the best playable DLCs I’ve played in a very long time. It takes place several years after the end of the main game. It not only lets you get reacquainted with the characters from Inquisition, but you find out what has happened to them in the interim. Some of it is determined based on choices you made during the main game. The basic conflict begins because the governments have grown concerned about the power — and respect — the Inquisition holds. The danger to their lands is over and now they want to rein in the Inquisition and hamstring it. Before that can happen, trouble once again breaks out and it is up to the Inquisitor to find out who is behind it and stop it before war breaks out.

The writers of the DLC left everyone who played Trespasser nodding their heads, convinced not only that there will be a sequel but that they know where on Thedas it will take place. Then there is the fact that, if we aren’t misreading the seemingly obvious hints in the DLC, Solas will play a major role in the next game and it isn’t going to be as the hero.

So, if you have played Inquisition and haven’t played Trespasser yet, do so. The only negative I can say about Inquisition — and it doesn’t play much of a role in Trespasser — is the endless collecting of resources and a crafting menu that gets too complicated if you are a completionist. But, it is one of those things you can do as little or as much with as you want. But, if you’re like me and you do your damnedest to get a 100% completely, that hunting-gathering gets old and does make it less inviting to play the game a second time.

Still, I give DA:I a 9 and Trespasser is the one playable DLC that I say is a must get if you enjoyed the game. The others are okay but they don’t really expand the story like this one does.

So there you have it. One game and one DLC review.

Snippets will follow later today.


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