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The Dead Walk The Earth: Volume 1
The Dead Walk The Earth: Volume 1
by Luke Duffy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.50

4.0 out of 5 stars British-based apocalyptic zombie action!, 17 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Prologue:

12 years after the apocalypse the world is ruled by the dead, and the occupants of what might be one of the last bastions of humanity to remain contemplate survival - the chances of which appear slimmer each day. 'The Dead Walk the Earth' is the beginning of the story of how we got here...

In the present day we are introduced to the members of a British military team so specialist - more so even than the fabled SAS - that officially they dont exist. No record of them can ever be found, no acknowledgement of their actions ever made, and each of their members is officially listed as having been killed in action to protect their identities - identities that are changed after each and every mission.

One such mission occurs in Sierra Leone, where the seemingly routine assassination of an African warlord suddenly becomes much more complicated by the arrival of a new enemy that cant be stopped by conventional means, cant be negotiated with, and will never ever stop - the living dead!

What follows is the slow descent into chaos as the undead slowly spread to every corner of the world - including the British Isles where the authorities there try their best to identify the cause of the infection, evacuate the population, whilst combating the ever increasing number of people who die as a result of it only to rise again and attempt to consume the living, with the books protagonists at the knife edge of the battle for survival...

'The Dead Walk the Earth' is a read that utilises pretty much every trope of the zombie genre. The source of the outbreak is unknown, the world doesnt believe what they can see with their own eyes, and the authorities - who have known the truth of the matter for long enough to do something about it - fail to do so because of their reluctance to let the truth be made public, resulting in pretty much the entire country getting eaten.

The stars of the book are done somewhat by the numbers - a 'man of few words' squad leader, a hulking machine-gunner, an angry Scotsman, a welshman called 'Taff', and a few others who generally just make up the numbers for a bunch of badasses who have more than a hint of Schwarzeneggers team from the film Predator.

Despite this the book still manages to be hugely entertaining and exciting with no shortage of action and even plenty of humour. Honestly, the author won me over when he had one of his characters use a zombie as a matress, and use the dead mans sock as a recepticle to obtain drinking water from a turd-filled toilet bowl!

I also found it endearing because - where as the vast majority of books of the genre are located in the United States - this one is primarily based right here in good old Blighty. The team are also distinctly and appealingly British, theres enough military jargon and lingo thrown into their dialogue to suggest that the author may have served himself or is at least well read enough to really know his stuff, and it never feels forced or anything less that authentic, and results in the team being a bunch of fellas who entertain pretty much everytime they open their mouths.

Its tense too. The zombies in this series are more akin to Danny Boyles infected from '28 Days later', or Zach Snyders 2004 'Dawn of the Dead' remake, retaining for the most part the mobility and speed they had in life, but with the endless stamina and viciousness they now have in un-death, which means - as good as our team is - there is always that pervasive feeling of dread and threat, and it never feels as if our guys are indestructable. Indeed, some of them prove not to be...

The book isnt without its faults however (tropes of the genre aside). My biggest issue with it being the team being sent off in the middle of a crucial evacuation of only the most essential personnel in order to retrieve a completely non-essential low level royal and his family from their stately home in Scotland, being introduced to the plot it seemed for no reason other than to provide some kind of excuse to land the team up the creek without a paddle more than they already were.

Then we have the team being declared completely expendible assets despite the entire book making it quite clear that they were anything but, just so theres an excuse to provide a reason to show just how inexpendible the team is by having them make their way back to safety using nothing but their own ingenuity.

All in all though the book is still well worth the price of purchase and I'll definately be picking up the next volume because I'm intrigued enough by the tantalising glimpse that the author gives us of the somewhat distant future to want to know how we get there.


Snake Pilot: Flying the Cobra Attack Helicopter in Vietnam
Snake Pilot: Flying the Cobra Attack Helicopter in Vietnam
by Randy R. Zahn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars PUTS YOU IN THE SEAT OF ONE OF THE MOST AWESOME WEAPONS OF THE VIETNAM WAR, 17 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Randy Zahn wasnt conscripted against his will to fight for the US in the Vietnam conflict, nor was he some starry-eyed idealist volunteer with dreams of bringing freedom to the oppressed people of South East Asia. No, Randy Zahn just wanted to fly, and he got his chance in 1970 as an attack helecopter pilot in the seat of the world very first specialist gunship, the Bell AH-1 'Cobra'.

The Cobra became the backbone of the United States Armys attack helecopter fleet for decades, and whilst it would eventually be replaced it was a piece of equipment so effective that it is still used by the US and other nations around the world to this day.

In Vietnam however it was bleeding edge technology, and became a symbol of a new era of air war - and despite not being old enough to buy a drink or hire a car in the US, Zahn was entrusted with $12 million (in adjusted dollars) worth of helecopter, wrapped up in a sleek, aerodynamic package, capable of exceeding 170mph, and of carrying more than 4000lbs of ordinance that included twin 7.62mm mini-guns, a grenade launcher, 20mm vulcan cannons, and 2.75" rocket pods, all capable of utterly destroying its targets - the grisly effects of which were witnessed by Zahn first hand from tree top level.

Zahn arrived in Vietnam at a crucial point in the conflict. US forces had recently been authorised to conduct operations in neighbouring Cambodia which - despite apparantly being neutral - had been providing the NVA and Viet Cong shelter throughout the conflict, and the success of these operations (in which Zahn participated), where hundreds of enemy combatants were killed, and thousands of tons of enemy equipment and supplies destroyed and seized, created an air of optimisim amongst those that participated that the war could be won by America and its allies.

Unfortunately the optimisim was not to last as new President Richard Nixon later introduced his policy of 'Vietnamisation', which involved greatly reducing Americas presence in a theatre which had become increasingly controversial and unpopular back home, and handing more and more responsibility for the conflict back to a South Vietnam that appeared to be incapible of bearing it.

Zahns twelve months in-country provides a fascinating reflection of the changing feelings and attitudes of those who participated in the vietnam conflict, and wouldnt have been possible at all if not for the many, many letters and cassette tapes that he had sent home to his parents detailing his experiences and feelings, and which his parents handed back to him years later to become the basis for this book.

Its a deeply personal account of someone who was no more than a boy when he first joined the military. It details the full spectrum of human emotions felt by those who served in Vietnam - from the exhillaration of piloting one of the most advanced aircraft of the era, to the camaraderie and tight bonds formed by serving with others like yourself in a combat zone, to the intense fear generated by incoming enemy fire or a call over the radio of 'bird down!' (the code used to indicate a helecopter grounded by enemy fire, crash, or malfunction), the fury that results from being lead by officers not even trained to do the job that they were required to direct others to do, and the cost of the decisions they make, and the anger generated when even your own loved ones cant understand that which you experience.

Its one of the best, most detailed, most personal and ultimately heart-rending accounts of the Vietnam conflict I've ever read, and I cant recommend it enough!


Hail to the Chin
Hail to the Chin
by Bruce Campbell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.88

5.0 out of 5 stars TAKE IT ON THE CHIN!, 17 Sept. 2017
This review is from: Hail to the Chin (Hardcover)
Sixteen years have passed since iconic B-movie star Bruce Campbells last biography 'If Chins could Kill', and boy has a lot happened in that time!

During this period Bruce Campbell has played a geriatric Elvis with cancer on his unmentionables in 'Bubba Ho Tep', himself in 'My Name is Bruce', had guest appearances in best friend Sam Raimis Spider-man tilogy, played a washed-up, overweight, cynical former Navy SEAL in 'Burn Notice', and gone full circle back to the franchise on which he really made his name with the release of the 'Ash vs Evil Dead' TV show.

He's done a hell of a lot more beside:

Want to know why Bruce arranged to have one of his best friends arrested and shipped to a Syberia gulag?

Want to know why Bruce built an entire town in his own backyard?

Want to know whether a bear really does poop in the woods? Bruce can tell you.

Want to know how Bruce and Steven Seagal teamed up to provide the world with fragrant essential oils?

Want to hear how Bruce got high and forced his wife to confront the Bulgarian police because he was convinced he was the target of an elaborate attempt to collar an American actor?

Want to hear how Bruce nearly lost the same wife to a dreamy Roma gypsy?

Want to know why Bruce Campell REALLY hates the Lord of the rings movies despite never having seen one?

Want to know why the most important characters of director Sam Raimis Spider-man movie trilogy are those played by Bruce?

Want to learn how Bruce managed to do what Al-Queda failed to do in more than a decade of Middle Eastern conflict by destroying an M1 Abrams tank?

READ THE BOOK!

Writen in Bruce Campbells signature style (seriously, you can pretty much hear his voice when you read the words!), and punctuated with dozens of photos - some from his personal collection, many others hillarious mock-ups designed to illustrate his adventures in the world of B-movie acting - 'Hail to the Chin' is a book I found impossible to put down, and gets my highest recommendation!

And like Bruce says in his foreword - if you dont like it - tough, no refunds!


Transformation: A Personal Journey Through the British Transformers Comic Volume 2: 1987-1989
Transformation: A Personal Journey Through the British Transformers Comic Volume 2: 1987-1989
by Stuart Webb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.00

5.0 out of 5 stars and at one point was the UK's best selling comic (at a time when the UK still ..., 17 Sept. 2017
I was there in 1984 when the Transformers first appeared on our shelves, our TV screens, and in the case of the UK comic book material this volume deals with - in our newsagents - and it became a massive part of my childhood which endues in the present day.

It became a phenomenon, and at one point was the UK's best selling comic (at a time when the UK still had a vibrant comic book market of its own), and during its prime it was selling nearly 300,000 copies a WEEK - which when you consider that currently the very most popular US comic would be lucky to sell 100,000 in any given month - puts just how popular the UK Transformers comic would be into perspective.

I still proudly possess all 332 issues of the UK Transformers comic book series - a series that I have long thought was never given the credit it deserved as both a piece of Transformers lore, and also as a piece of comic book literature, or taken as seriously as it should be. To this day there remain many, many people who would consider themselves hardcore Transformers fans -mainly from accross the pond in the United states - but simply have no idea that this series even existed, even now in the internet age.

Author Stuart Webb does know his stuff however, and takes the UK Transformers comics VERY seriously having run a popular online blog since 2011, the content of which forms the basis of this book - and I'm delighted to say that he's back with the follow-up to his highly detailed, encyclopedic, often humorous series 'Transformation', with volume 2!

This volume covers UK issues 113-222, and the years 1987-89 - a period in which the title would not only arguably reach its peak both commercially and creatively, with such iconic stories as 'Legacy of Unicron', 'Space Pirates', 'City of Fear', and 'Time Wars', but would also start its long decline towards cancellation as those who first picked up the comics as children now approached their teens and instead chose to spend their time and money on more 'grown up' pursuits.

This volume also covers the Transformers annuals and collected comics covered by this time period, as well as featuring an expose on related properties such as the Deaths Head solo series (read it and stay healthy, yes?), and Dragons Claws/Teeth/Claws (who really knows?). Also included are an interview conducted by Stuart with James Roberts - the writer of some of the very best current Transformers comics being published by IDW - as well as bonus essays surrounding Transformers lore, written by Stuart and reprinted here for the first time.

As was the case with the previous volume, Stuart displays an amazing level of knowledge, thought, reasoning, and insight into the series which has rarely been seen from any single fan, and provides us with a book that is both hugely entertaining and incredibly illuminating, even to life long fans like myself. Who knew that Blaster was such a psychotic bastard, or that Space Pirates was the worst example of sexism the world had seen until stories about Donald Trumps dating tips started to come out during the 2016 Us Presidential election!?

The main Transformers stories obviously receive the lions share of attention (including art, writing, colouring, dialogue, mistakes, double-entendres etc), but back up stories such as Inhumanoids, visionaries, Ironman, and Action Force, 'funnies' such as Robo-capers and Combat Colin, covers, the letters pages, the free gifts, and even the adverts for non-Transformers related products are all examined in almost forensic detail.

In terms of criticisms there are some.

First amongst these - as was the case with the previous volume - to best enjoy this book, you really need to have have access to those 332 issues in their original format, because Stuart will frequently refer to things that it can be very difficult to fully appreciate unless you have the issue in question in your hands or a very intimate knowledge of what he speaks of.

Of course its neither easy or cheap to come across a complete Transformers UK collection (although it is worth the effort and cost of doing so, I promise you!), so in the absence of that, then your next best option is to cobble together what you can through things such as 'Collected Comics' or the 'Complete Works' published by Marvel, several of the more popular stories that were reprinted by Titan a number of years ago, or IDW's current series of 'Best of UK' volumes.

The fact remains though that without a fairly expensive and difficult to obtain series of original comic books in your hands, your enjoyment of this book is always going to be reduced to some degree, because even if you have those reprints youre still not going to have any of the back up material that also cqme with the originals, although I am lead to believe that there may be places online where complete scans of original issues can be viewed.

There are some other minor quibbles. It can be a difficult book to initially pick up - being none too visually attractive, pretty much lacking in any kind of illustration (presumably because this is an unofficial and entirely unlicensed work), and comprised of large, somewhat unappealing blocks of text. Having read the previous volume however, I didnt find myself with anywhere near the same reluctance to pick this volume up. There is as well a fairly generous number of spelling mistakes scattered throughout the books near 400 pages, but nothing for which I think the author should be too heavily criticised for.

As with the previous volume, this is also unashamedly and admittedly a subjective opinion piece by the author - opinions that you may or may not agree with.

I STILL dont agree with Stuarts opinions on the Action Force/G.I Joe comic series that often backed up the main Transformers strip, and I personally really enjoyed the (sadly incomplete) Inhumanoids story (the animated series is well worth picking up!). Nor do I agree that 'Fire on High' was *that* bad a story, or 'Carwash of Doom' *that* good of one - but thats okay, its just opinions, and as far as I'm concerned Stuart pretty much hits the nail on the head nine times out of ten with his.

In general though what you have here is yet another brilliant piece of work fully deserving of a five star review, written by a true fan of the series, that was clearly a real labour of love, and is absolutely packed cover to cover with interesting and often humorous opinions and observations.


Hell Divers (Hell Divers Trilogy)
Hell Divers (Hell Divers Trilogy)
by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.40

5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping, exciting, and fresh new angle on the post-apocalyptic genre!, 17 Sept. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Set more than 250 years in the future. When World War III really did prove to be 'the war to end all wars', Earth was left a desolate nuclear wasteland on which human life is incapable of surviving.

The bombs that killed the world were dropped by massive airships that - in a cruel twist of irony - subsequently went on to provide refuge for the last dregs of humanity to survive the apocalypse that followed. Now however, hundreds of years after the bombs fell, only two of these airships remain - 'Ares' and 'The Hive' - each providing a home to a little over five hundred men women and children, who as far as anyone is aware are the last of humanity.

Life on the airships is hard and short, and split into two distinct social classes - 'upper deckers' (crew, and those with specialist skills), and 'lower deckers' (those with no specialist skills). Food is scarce and limited to what little can be grown in the onboard nursery. Medicine is almost non-existant. The average lifespan is just 37 years of age, with cancer being commonplace thanks to the airships radioactive power souce.

The fact that the airships are able to stay afloat at all is all thanks to the efforts of the 'Helldivers' - highly trained personnel who parachute down to the treacherous surface of the planet below, braving radioactive air, storms that can strip the flesh of a man from his bones, and the vicious mutant lifeforms that now live in that environment, in order to retrieve the essential equipment and componants that has barely kept their ramshackle homes in the air.

Xavier Rodriquez is one such Helldiver - in fact the most capable and famous of them all, having survived ninty five missions in an occupation where the average number of missions before meeting a grisly end is just fifteen - but when his home, 'The Hive', is crippled by a fierce storm, he finds himself and his fellow Helldivers required to conduct their most dangerous mission of all to a place with the most severe conditions anywhere on the planet, and so inhospitable that no Helldiver has ever returned from it - the city now only known as 'Hades', with the future of the entire human race relying on them....

As a regular consumer of books in the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre, I found this to be an exciting, gripping, and - the main characters typical macho BS name aside (Preferring to be referred to as 'Commander X' or just 'X'!) - considered it to be quite a fresh new angle for a genre that can quite often end up formulaic and written by the numbers.

'Helldivers' was a real page turner that I found difficult to put down, and I'll definately be getting in line for the next two volumes!


Pillars of Eternity (Xbox One)
Pillars of Eternity (Xbox One)
Price: £32.99

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 70+ hours of traditional, in-depth, tactical role-playing in the best traditions of the genre!, 31 Aug. 2017
Originally released in 2015 on the PC thanks to the crowd-funding efforts of more than 70,000 contributors who raised more than $4 million, award winning RPG 'Pillars of Eternity' finally makes its way onto the console platform and proves to be worth the wait for fans of of traditional role-playing games!

Set in the fantasy world of Eora, in the nation of Dyrwood, you play 'The Watcher', a foreigner travelling to the land from abroad in search of a new life who - after being exposed to the unnatural energies of a supernatural event - awakes with the power to see and interact with the souls of the living and the dead.

You soon learn that the land of Dyrwood has been afflicted by a strange curse that causes children to be birthed as 'hollowborn' - catatonic, and seemingly without souls of their own. Using your newly found powers you elect to investigate the mystery, learning that the souls of the hollowborn have in fact been stolen...

Pillars of Eternity is an RPG in the finest traditions of the genre, involving a main plot along with myriad optional side quests featuring in-depth character creation and advancement, party-based adventuring, interactions via multiple choice conversational options, decision making that shapes how the game and your characters reputation develops, dungeon crawling, treasure hunting, crafting, trade, and real-time combat with tactical elements.

Prior to diving into your adventure, you must first create your unique character. Character creation options include:

- Physical appearance, including gender, race (such as human, elf, dwarf etc), hair style and colour, skin colour, and clothing/armour colour.

- 11 different character classes - barbarian, paladin, chanter, priest, cipher, ranger, druid, rogue, fighter, wizard, and monk.

- Attributes - Might (representing a characters physical strength), Constitution (a combination of your character health and stamina), Dexterity (hand-eye coordination, balance and grace), Perception (representing a characters senses), Intellect (your characters powers of logic and reasoning), and Resolve (determination, drive, and willpower).

- Culture. Your characters background, origins, and upbringing - the options for which can provide additional attribute bonuses.

- Background, such as Aristocrat, Drifter, Explorer, or Mercenary - the options for which can provide bonuses to the skills of survival, atheletics, lore, mechanics, and stealth.

- Character voice and name.

Your character can equip a variety of weapons, including both ranged weapons (such as bows, crossbows, and firearms), and close-combat weapons (both one and two-handed weapons, such as swords, sabres, battle axes, maces, shields and bucklers), and can also wear several items of clothing (hoods, belts, gloves etc), armour (breast plates, helmets, gauntlets etc), or jewellery (rings, necklaces) which can provide bonuses to defence, attack, skills or attributes, or alternatively are simply aesthetically pleasing.

Gameplay involves navigating your character and their party around an isometric world viewed from a top-down '3/4' perspective, and utilizing a ;fog of war' whereby new areas only become visible as you gain line of sight on them, with the world essentially split into a vast series of maps representing locations such as towns, dungeons, and forests, with each map also including numerous sub-locations that can be entered, such as caves, lairs, and buildings.

Each map is occupied by various characters who you can meet on your travels. These may be characters that can be recruited to your party, NPC's who may provide side missions, information that may assist you on your quest, or just trivia and anecdotes, or enemies - which can range from humans and other races, to wild animals, supernatural beings, monsters and many other mythical beasts and threats, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Once an enemy has been defeated an entry will be made in your grimoir which will include important information to help you combat such threats in future.

Maps are also littered with obsticals (which if you have the right abilities or tools to cross may provide you with treasures), traders (such as the blacksmith or merchant to whom you can purchase new weapons, armours, potions, scrolls and spells), plants, minerals and fungi that can provide you with the ingredients and componants required to make potions or meals that can provide buffs to your characters, as well as other points of interest that simply enhance the depth of your playing experience by proividing information and background on the world around you.

Combat - when it occurs, as it frequently does - pauses the game and brings up a tactical interface which allows you to choose actions for each of your party, allowing you to switch between them in order to best position them, choose which weapons, spells or abilities they should use, and choose which of the availible enemies they should target. Once actions are chosen, you can end the tactical phrase in order to enter combat, at which point your party will engage in the actions you have chosen for them.

Attacks play out automatically, and the speed and success of those attacks are determined by your characters attributes, and modified by any buffs or bonuses provided by your weapons, armour, abilities, or spells.

Each round of combat is essentially a series of digital 'dice rolls' which when added to your attributes and skills determine the probability of success. For example dexterity influences the speed of your attack, your chance to hit a target, and your chance to avoid/deflect an incoming blow, where as might determines damage, whilst constitution represents you ability to absorb damage with your character being killed should it be reduced to zero.

In terms of graphics the game hardly stretches the capabilities of the next-gen console format, but visuals remain functional, pleasing, and easy on the eye, with each map or location packed with interesting features and points of focus, whilst character animations are smooth. Sound and the musical score meanwhile are atmospheric, whilst the quality of voice acting is solid and varied.

In terms of criticisms - the limitations of the visuals aside - its fair to say that Pillars of Eternity is a somewhat stodgy and old fashioned RPG entirely in the style of games such as Neverwinter Nights, Baldurs Gate, and Icewind Dale that helped spawn the genre, and as such is only really going to appeal to hardcore fans of those games. It is also somewhat liniar, usually providing a quite obvious path through each map, and requiring previous locations to be revisited on few occasions.

If you are such a fan however, Pillars of Eternity will provide you in excess of 70 hours worth of nostalgic, in-depth tactical role-playing action and story telling in the finest traditions of the genre!

This version of the game is also the definitive edition, and includes the DLC 'The White March: parts I and II'.


Pillars of Eternity (PS4)
Pillars of Eternity (PS4)
Price: £32.99

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 70+ hours of traditional, in-depth, tactical role-playing in the best traditions of the genre!, 31 Aug. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Originally released in 2015 on the PC thanks to the crowd-funding efforts of more than 70,000 contributors who raised more than $4 million, award winning RPG 'Pillars of Eternity' finally makes its way onto the console platform and proves to be worth the wait for fans of of traditional role-playing games!

Set in the fantasy world of Eora, in the nation of Dyrwood, you play 'The Watcher', a foreigner travelling to the land from abroad in search of a new life who - after being exposed to the unnatural energies of a supernatural event - awakes with the power to see and interact with the souls of the living and the dead.

You soon learn that the land of Dyrwood has been afflicted by a strange curse that causes children to be birthed as 'hollowborn' - catatonic, and seemingly without souls of their own. Using your newly found powers you elect to investigate the mystery, learning that the souls of the hollowborn have in fact been stolen...

Pillars of Eternity is an RPG in the finest traditions of the genre, involving a main plot along with myriad optional side quests featuring in-depth character creation and advancement, party-based adventuring, interactions via multiple choice conversational options, decision making that shapes how the game and your characters reputation develops, dungeon crawling, treasure hunting, crafting, trade, and real-time combat with tactical elements.

Prior to diving into your adventure, you must first create your unique character. Character creation options include:

- Physical appearance, including gender, race (such as human, elf, dwarf etc), hair style and colour, skin colour, and clothing/armour colour.

- 11 different character classes - barbarian, paladin, chanter, priest, cipher, ranger, druid, rogue, fighter, wizard, and monk.

- Attributes - Might (representing a characters physical strength), Constitution (a combination of your character health and stamina), Dexterity (hand-eye coordination, balance and grace), Perception (representing a characters senses), Intellect (your characters powers of logic and reasoning), and Resolve (determination, drive, and willpower).

- Culture. Your characters background, origins, and upbringing - the options for which can provide additional attribute bonuses.

- Background, such as Aristocrat, Drifter, Explorer, or Mercenary - the options for which can provide bonuses to the skills of survival, atheletics, lore, mechanics, and stealth.

- Character voice and name.

Your character can equip a variety of weapons, including both ranged weapons (such as bows, crossbows, and firearms), and close-combat weapons (both one and two-handed weapons, such as swords, sabres, battle axes, maces, shields and bucklers), and can also wear several items of clothing (hoods, belts, gloves etc), armour (breast plates, helmets, gauntlets etc), or jewellery (rings, necklaces) which can provide bonuses to defence, attack, skills or attributes, or alternatively are simply aesthetically pleasing.

Gameplay involves navigating your character and their party around an isometric world viewed from a top-down '3/4' perspective, and utilizing a ;fog of war' whereby new areas only become visible as you gain line of sight on them, with the world essentially split into a vast series of maps representing locations such as towns, dungeons, and forests, with each map also including numerous sub-locations that can be entered, such as caves, lairs, and buildings.

Each map is occupied by various characters who you can meet on your travels. These may be characters that can be recruited to your party, NPC's who may provide side missions, information that may assist you on your quest, or just trivia and anecdotes, or enemies - which can range from humans and other races, to wild animals, supernatural beings, monsters and many other mythical beasts and threats, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Once an enemy has been defeated an entry will be made in your grimoir which will include important information to help you combat such threats in future.

Maps are also littered with obsticals (which if you have the right abilities or tools to cross may provide you with treasures), traders (such as the blacksmith or merchant to whom you can purchase new weapons, armours, potions, scrolls and spells), plants, minerals and fungi that can provide you with the ingredients and componants required to make potions or meals that can provide buffs to your characters, as well as other points of interest that simply enhance the depth of your playing experience by proividing information and background on the world around you.

Combat - when it occurs, as it frequently does - pauses the game and brings up a tactical interface which allows you to choose actions for each of your party, allowing you to switch between them in order to best position them, choose which weapons, spells or abilities they should use, and choose which of the availible enemies they should target. Once actions are chosen, you can end the tactical phrase in order to enter combat, at which point your party will engage in the actions you have chosen for them.

Attacks play out automatically, and the speed and success of those attacks are determined by your characters attributes, and modified by any buffs or bonuses provided by your weapons, armour, abilities, or spells.

Each round of combat is essentially a series of digital 'dice rolls' which when added to your attributes and skills determine the probability of success. For example dexterity influences the speed of your attack, your chance to hit a target, and your chance to avoid/deflect an incoming blow, where as might determines damage, whilst constitution represents you ability to absorb damage with your character being killed should it be reduced to zero.

In terms of graphics the game hardly stretches the capabilities of the next-gen console format, but visuals remain functional, pleasing, and easy on the eye, with each map or location packed with interesting features and points of focus, whilst character animations are smooth. Sound and the musical score meanwhile are atmospheric, whilst the quality of voice acting is solid and varied.

In terms of criticisms - the limitations of the visuals aside - its fair to say that Pillars of Eternity is a somewhat stodgy and old fashioned RPG entirely in the style of games such as Neverwinter Nights, Baldurs Gate, and Icewind Dale that helped spawn the genre, and as such is only really going to appeal to hardcore fans of those games. It is also somewhat liniar, usually providing a quite obvious path through each map, and requiring previous locations to be revisited on few occasions.

If you are such a fan however, Pillars of Eternity will provide you in excess of 70 hours worth of nostalgic, in-depth tactical role-playing action and story telling in the finest traditions of the genre!

This version of the game is also the definitive edition, and includes the DLC 'The White March: parts I and II'.


Punisher: Suicide Run
Punisher: Suicide Run
by Steven Grant
Edition: Paperback
Price: £29.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A Punisher story so huge it needed three titles to contain it!, 29 Aug. 2017
This review is from: Punisher: Suicide Run (Paperback)
Collecting 'Punisher' # 85-88, 'Punisher War Journal' # 61-64, and 'Punisher Warzone' # 23-25, and written by Steven Grant, Chuck Dixon and Larry Hama.

Frank Castle - 'the Punisher' - is dead after an extravagant hit on a collected group of organised crime bosses in a skyscraper results in the destruction of the entire building and everyone inside, including apparantly the murderous vigilante himself whos crushed body is pulled from the rubble.

This creates a vaccuum in the vigilante community which prompts a whole host of killers to lay claim to the Punisher legacy, donning his iconic skull symbol and planning to mete out their own particular brands of lethal justice.

This group of Punisher inspired acolytes includes:

- Jaded cop Lynn Michaels - the 'lady Punisher' - frustrated at the laws inability to do what must be done to combat the forces that threaten to destroy the society it is sworn to protect.

- 'Payback'; an embittered ex-cop with a grudge against Frank Castle.

- Slovenly, couch dwelling postal worker and gun-nut Desmond Kline, inspired by the example of Frank Castle to don a hastily made Punisher costume of his own.

- Media savvy author Dean Swaybrick - the 'Yuppunisher' - who plans to turn the idea of the Punisher into a profitable business franchise of private security operatives intended to keep the streets safe whilst also lining his own pockets.

- The British Punisher-inspired vigilante 'Outlaw'.

- Jimmy Pierce, the mobs very own Punisher-inspired enforcer, the skull faced 'Hitman'.

This rise in vigilantism also sees the rise of V.I.G.I.L, an anti-vigilante organisation funded by the US government and determined to stamp out the burning embers of the Punishers legacy forever!

Theres something of a misconception that the Punisher only became a book worth reading in the mid 2000's when Garth Ennis started to write his Punisher MAX series.

Whilst that series deserves all of its many plaudits, its often forgotten that if there was ever a golden age for the Punisher character, it started twenty years earlier, and 'Suicide Run' is very much one of the high points of that era - a story so huge and so important that it required three ongoing Punisher titles to contain it - and has now finally been collected in one concise volume for the first time!

As a lifelong Punisher fan, 'Suicide Run' remains even after all of these years one of my very favourite Punisher stories, so much so that even though I still own the original issues this story was published in, I had no hesitation in paying out for this collected edition. Whilst the standard of art does vary wildly throughout the story and sometimes leaves a little to be desired, and its still probably possibly to get the original issues (that are neither especially rare of expensive) for less that the cover price of this volume, this is still an important part of Punisher lore that no fan worthy of the name should be without, and provides a hugely entertaining read!


Occupy Avengers Vol. 1: Taking Back Justice
Occupy Avengers Vol. 1: Taking Back Justice
by David F. Walker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Does Occupy Avengers do enough to occupy your mind?, 23 Aug. 2017
The story opens in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, where the citizens of that town shower Clint Barton with praise for his actions in pre-emptively killing Bruce Banner (AKA the Hulk) in Marvels big 2016 crossover event 'Civil War II'.

Barton laments the fact that he doesnt wear a mask anymore, because everyone now knows who he is and he cant go anywhere without being recognised - and whilst society at large sees him as a hero for ridding the world of an uncontrollable monster, Barton monologues internally that what he actually did was kill his good friend, who was so afraid and desperate that he *begged* him to do it, and Barton doesnt see that as very heroic...

In the meantime however the adulation is attracting a crowd, which includes Ortiz, the local Sheriff, and her deputy, the hero Red Wolf. They have heard of Bartons endeavors accross America, helping small communities like their own, and are curious as to exactly what Bartons arrival in Santa Rosa means for them.

With Barton bemoaning that he cant get a glass of water in the town - only bottles - the penny drops that Barton has arrived to do something about their contaminated water supply, that was poisoned and became undrinkable because of hazardous waste containers dumped in an underground stream and have recently started leaking.

Red Wolf takes Barton to the Indian reservation of Sweet Medicine, where the occupants there- 100% of whom were already living below the poverty line - at least used to suppliment their meagre incomes by selling fresh water to the surrounding communities, but now even that has been taken from them.

Barton - like most Avengers - knows exactly how to deal with cosmic threats trying to destroy the world or shape-shifting aliens invading your planet, but what do you do when the rights of the poor and powerless are being ignored or abused? How do you fight a contaminated water supply?

He isnt sure, but he knows that he has to try and help somehow - and he wants to be remembered as something other than just the man who killed the Hulk. Unfortunately Bartons arrival has also attracted the wrong kind of attention - that of a 'Mr Beckar' and his large group of bad guys armed with machine guns, who want to capture him alive. Then theres Hydro-man, who doesnt seem to be too bothered about the 'alive' aspect of capturing Barton...

The verdict?

I really enjoyed this first story arc.

Putting aside the fact that the Civil War II event that spawned this title has been pretty terrible, and the fact that theres no realistic way that Barton wouldnt be staring at the inside of a prison cell for killing the Hulk - if we simply accept that we are where we are at this point and go from there, then on the basis of this first volume we have the makings of a first class comic book series.

This is clearly going to be a politically charged series, and anyone with any level of awareness should realise that in having Barton tackle an illegally contaminated water supply, writer David Walker is clearly referencing similar events that happened in real life recently in Flint, Michigan which resulted in widespread lead poisoning and a state of emergency being declared.

The fact that it was obvious from previews that this was going to be a politically orientated series initially gave me pause for thought, and I had more than my fair share of trepidation about picking it up in light of the ham-fisted and partizan manner in which other Marvel writers (I'm looking at you, Nick Spencer!) have handled the big issues in their own series.

I'm delighted to say that Walker does an excellent job and gives us a story in which the main bad guy isnt a super-villain (or another hero as has become the trend at Marvel recently!), but rather a social problem that all people should universally acknowledge as being unacceptable in the 21st century, but more importantly he does it in a way that isnt preachy or patronising, and without weighing it down with his own opinions or using the book as his own personal soap-box.

In short, Walker remembers that whilst comics have always had a political bent to them, and theres nothing wrong with alluding to political events and issues, a comic book writers job is always first and foremost to entertain, and he's helped along nicely by the bold and traditional comic-book style of Carlos Pacheco on artistic duties.

With Clint Barton at the helm of the title - an everyman hero with no super-powers, more than his fair share of weaknesses, and a lot to make up for (in his own mind anyway), he nails it!


Money Belt for Travelling - Hidden Security Pouch worn Under Clothes for Cards and Passports - High Quality RFID Waterproof Breathable Material - Protect your Cash and Conceal Valuables by MountFlow
Money Belt for Travelling - Hidden Security Pouch worn Under Clothes for Cards and Passports - High Quality RFID Waterproof Breathable Material - Protect your Cash and Conceal Valuables by MountFlow
Offered by MountFlow
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simple product that does the job its designed for perfectly, and with no obvious issues., 22 Aug. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm off to Germany to Oktoberfest, and as I'm sure you all know there are no pockets in lederhosen, so I'm in need of somewhere to keep all of my valuables whilst I'm out and about.

I chose this product based on its average of five stars from more than 350 reviews, and having received it can find no complaints whatsoever with it.

The money belt is made out of a tough, water-resistant material and has three different sized pockets secured by zips, each capible of holding passport, money, mobile phone and other smaller items. It is secured around the body with an adjustable elastic strap that can be fastened or unfastened through the use of an attached quick-release buckle. The rear of the money belt is slightly padded with a breathable material for increased comfort, although my advice would still be to wear it over a T-shirt or vest to avoid chaffing if youre going to be wearing it for any length of time.

Overall however, a simple product that does the job its designed for perfectly, and with no obvious issues.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2017 6:37 AM BST


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