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Sword of the Stars : Complete Collection (PC DVD)
Sword of the Stars : Complete Collection (PC DVD)
Price: £1.99

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scratch the surface and you will realise that this game has far more depth than most., 9 Sept. 2010
A friend bought me this game, having raved about it. Being a fan of Homeworld and the Total War series, I was intrigued to see how a game that sounded like a mix of the two would work.

Initially I was a little sceptical, being used to Total War games where you could spend a good portion of a turn deciding precisely what to build where. Turns in Sword of the Stars, at least initially, are actually very quick and you may well spend the first few turns waiting for the technology you want to be researched. However, once I started getting into this game, I realised that it was something really special.

There are a number of things about this game that set it apart. It's not just that each of the eight races play differently (largely due to their drive modes and ship builds) but that no two games will turn out the same. For a start, you can change the size and make-up of the star map (certain races will struggle on certain types), but the main reason is the tech tree. There are a few technologies that are unique to each faction (most commonly drive modes, but others too), but the majority of technologies are theoretically available to all factions. I say theoretically because the tech tree is randomly generated each game. Each race will have a percentage chance of a technology appearing and may be lucky enough to get short cuts to them. But some technologies will be missing and these change from game to game. So you can't do what many 'traditional' RTS games depend on and rapidly tech up through the same pathway every time, because the technology you want may not be there. Combine this with the fact that each technology has a number of counters and you end up with a game that will continue to be challenging for a long time.

The AI is also very good and will adapt to circumstances. A ship design that is initially successful against an enemy may not be when they have analysed what you are doing and adapted. Similarly, the game includes a number of 'grand menaces' that turn up with little or no warning and can wreak havoc if you are ill prepared.

There's also a lot of fun to be had from customising your ships and weapons. I would certainly recommend this game to other people. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you enjoy games that require genuine thought and that offer a challenge, then this game may be what you're after.

Blood Bowl (PC DVD)
Blood Bowl (PC DVD)
Offered by sneakyhotdeals
Price: £3.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Supremely addictive., 16 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Blood Bowl (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
I first encountered Blood Bowl in the mid 1990s as a tabletop game which I played with friends. The rules were detailed, but at their core, pretty simple and the board game was quick, yet still provided a real challenge. Developing your team and your players' skills was great fun and highly addictive. The slightly off-the-wall humour also gave it a nice touch.

I'm pleased to say that the PC game has successfully retained this fun element. Building your team and taking it from success to success is extremely addictive and this means you'll keep coming back to it (can I get enough star player points to be able to throw a Goblin with the ball into the End Zone?). Each of the teams supplied (now including Dark Elves, downloadable for free) has a different play-style, meaning that there is plenty of longevity in the game if you want to try out each team. Options to play on-line or play a friend on the same PC (using the turn-base version), make this a lot of fun, as does the option of exporting a team to use in other matches.

There are still some issues with the skills, which will hopefully be resolved in future patches, and I wouldn't be surprised if further teams are added in the future. Overall this is an enjoyable game that plays pretty well on an older PC (mine is a 3.3Ghz single core, with 2.5GBs RAM and a NVidia 8500GT graphics card). Loading times are a little long at times, but that doesn't bother me too much.

One word of caution - this is a strategy game that just happens to be about sport. Reading the 'living rulebook' (a link to which is provided) is essential to know what you're doing. Treating this as the boardgame it is rather than as a 'jump straight in' PC game is the key to enjoying it.

So overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable game if you have the patience to unlock it's potential.

Good Omens
Good Omens
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and a great introduction to the two authors!, 15 May 2007
This review is from: Good Omens (Paperback)
I'll try and refrain from using too many superlatives for this book (having used one already in the title of the review).

This is the book I lend to friends to introduce them to the worlds of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It's far too easy to dismiss their writing as silly fanatasy or humourous, lightweight stuff. This book disproves most of that; it is humourous, but it isn't lightweight. It is by turns dark, creative, twisted and yet philosophical and it is set in a very familiar Britain. In fact, this is where much of the humour arises; yes, there are groan-worthy puns, but there are also wonderful parodies and all of the characters are drawn with sympathetic eye. The sheer creativity is hard to deny, but it never obstructs the story.

In short, the book creates a world that you'll want to visit again and again.

I would recommend it.

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 11 and the Final Solution in Poland: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 11 and the Final Solution in Poland: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
by Christopher R Browning
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important work with implications for the modern day., 18 April 2007
Amongst historians this book has quickly reached the status of a classic. But it deserves to have a much broader readership as the subject it tackles - that of how 'ordinary men' can end up doing morally repugnant deeds - has implications that go far beyond its historical context. There is a human tendency to categorise and blame groups of people because it is easier than facing the possibility that anyone is capable of horror. An example would be the claim that 'religion causes wars' - it places the burden on an external agency, on the 'other' rather than the fact that anyone can commit an atrocity.

This is what Browning's book illustrates beautifully; the gradual steps these ordinary men take on the path to atrocity. Browning refers to a number of psychological studies as well as the historical record to illustrate his points and the book is nothing if not frightening in that you can see how this could all to easily happen again. From a reluctance to let down their comrades to the difficulty of disobeying orders from a higher authority you can see how some of these men ended up becoming killers.

Browning's prose is succinct and he explains his points clearly and logically. Whilst the complex ideas don't always make for easy reading, Browning deftly provides examples and explanaions that illustrate his point.

This is an important book and it deserves a wide audience.

The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Hardcover

32 of 96 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A valiant attempt, but ultimately flawed., 26 Feb. 2007
This review is from: The God Delusion (Hardcover)
Dawkins is an interesting character. He clearly believes in scientific methodology (which is reasonable) and that science can be of great benefit to mankind. So far, so laudable. However, Dawkins never quite seems to escape the vitriol of his own convictions and he never quite manages to view things objectively. Now, judging by many of the reviews here, he is certainly not alone in that, but considering he is a scientist (who, after all, are supposed to be objective) this is somewhat concerning. For example, he will pick and mix various sources and arguments to suit his own views, and, instead of providing evidence or constructive argument to illustrate his points or support his arguments, he persists in belittling and simplifying complex ideas without properly considering them (please note that I'm not talking about creationism vs. evolution here, but rather his simplistic view of belief). His idea of what constitutes a Christian is particularly risible; perhaps it might be suited to a Bible-belt nutcase, but they don't make up the entirety (or even the majority) of Christian believers, with whom Dawkins fails to engage. One suspects that that is because evangelicals make (understandably) easier targets.

So what should you make of Dawkins' book? Well, if you are an evangelical atheist or one of Dawkins' disciples you'll probably think its wonderful. If you're an evangleical Christian you'll probably hate it. If you are a moderate Christian you'll probably roll your eyes and ignore it. If you're someone who is looking for a measured approach to the question of whether or not there is a God and the evidence for or against religion then you will be sadly disappointed. This book is a polemic that misrepresents arguments and evidence in a way that would do David Irving proud.

It's a shame really, as Dawkins has a profile that would allow a candid and sensible debate to take place. Sadly he seems to revel in argument at the level of a radio phone-in rather than engaging with the subject in any meaningful way. We should really expect more from our academics than this, especially one who claims to champion science's rationality. But then, one wonders if it would have sold as many copies if it was reasoned?

Overall a disappointing polemic. Try not to let it put you off scientists - they're generally a nice bunch who have much of value to say!

Dawkins has stated that if you read his book with an open mind then you will be converted to atheism. Surely one would expect somone with a truly open mind to consider a broad range of argument and evidence and to retain that open mind after considering it? It's ironic that what Dawkins and extremist Christains have in common is that they believe all the answers to the question of whether there is a God (or Gods!) or not can be contained in one book. Surely the greater challenge should be to read what is presented from both perspectives and decide for yourself rather than having it dictated to you?

This is what has resulted in the single-star review - Dawkins' has written something that is biased, just as have many Christian writers. This is an important debate and we are ill-served by what has been produced so far. The biggest challenge would seem to be to write a truly balanced work and that is something that no-one seems to be able to do.

So my advice to people who are set on reading this book is to bear in mind that you are only getting one side of the argument. In short - keep an open mind!

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