Thoughts and Reflections: Shadows of Mordor (PS4)

This will be more of a reflection than a true review of this title. After all, there are a ton of other full reviews floating around if you want to know about the game’s story or Assassins Creed-meets-Arkham combat, or the orcish political system and how the player can manipulate it. Or terrible editorials about how the game represents violence towards women or minorities, or encourages torture and terrorism or other insane ramblings by “commentators”. I’ll just give my thoughts on my experience with the game.

It is the thing that it says that it is.

I’ve put over 40 hours into Shadows of Mordor now, and while it certainly does suffer a little from “second island syndrome” as the gameplay is pretty samey after awhile, I’ll be quite happy to finish it shortly and then just fire it up occasionally for some random orc slaughter. So I’ll be well satisfied with the purchase.

I see it this way – I rarely buy new release games anymore, since my backlog there is as bad as my painting backlog, so the positive word of mouth is what convinced me to buy. I enjoyed GTA5, but never finished it. This is the first game in (at least) a year that has kept me up until 1, 2, 3am for just a bit more, and 90% of that has been playing with the procedurally generated Uruk Captains and Warchiefs. I’ll finish it soon and be satisfied, as despite the 40 hours so far (45 or 50 by the time I’m done with it?) it’s not felt like a grind or tedious boredom. Despite the time, it’s not over-long, either – and I’m sure it could easily be finished in a fraction of the time I’ve spent with it.

It’s far from perfect. The controls are better than AC1 or 2, but Telion still sticks to walls or jumps in the wrong direction occasionally. A toggle option for crouch/stealth run for the right trigger so you don’t need to hold the button down to sneak would be welcome. The graphics are very much cross-generation, so the environment are not a graphical showcase for the PS4 (though the Uruks look bloody good!) The cinematics are pre-rendered, so Telion doesn’t wear the alternate outfit or wield the reforged weapons you got him in them. Telion smoulders with somewhat generic rage (possibly NSFW). The challenge of fighting Uruks also takes a sharp decline once you’re fully upgraded. But then, you’d want it to, right? And you can still get overwhelmed and die.

But despite all of this, the game is simply fun. I don’t regret my pre-order purchase. Money and time well spent. I’ll buy any substantial DLC in a moment. The Nemesis system will I’m sure become a feature of many games to come, as soon as they can figure out how to shoehorn it in. I’ve heard that the ending isn’t the greatest, but again – after this much fun in the playing, I’m not too fussed if the finale of the story turns out to only be as compelling as Telion’s personality.

In fact, writing this up has made me want to go and load the thing up and play it some more, so that’s what I’m off to do. Now if you’ll excuse me…

 

Deathworld Fauna – Part 1.1 – Scotia Grendel Dungeon Crawler (Leech)

Back in March, I found two out of the three figures from the Scotia Grendel Dungeon Crawlers kit that I picked up bout 15-20 years ago. (Damn that makes me feel old!) Because of the way that things seem to work in my life and on the painting desk, the frog-thing and millipede-thing have been MIA for a couple of months now (they might be in the shed, perhaps?) and I ended up finding the leech-thing, conveniently already glued to a 60mm base with some putty ’round the edges. Not wanting to tool around too much rebasing and agonising over the scheme – since that’s a great way to never get anything finished – I decided to get that sucker painted.

So here it is:

Scotia Grendel Dungeon Crawlers Giant Leech

I figure this thing can work just as well as a 40k-sci-fi alien leech as a D&D-style fantasy giant leech. So, you know, whatever. I went with green and mustard yellow since the underside was sculpted with a bit of contrasting texture, so I thought I may as well transfer that to the palette. Same deal with the pinky-purple tongue and the bone teeth, again so they stand out.

Scotia Grendel Dungeon Crawlers Giant Leech

 

A nice thick layer of polyurethane varnish on the model keeps it looking suitable shiny and yucky. I also added some Vallejo realistic water mixed with some transparent yellow to create the slime effect on the side of the model where the slime-holes(!) are located, and some realistic water without colouring onto some of the mouth-parts and tongue.

Scotia Grendel Dungeon Crawlers Giant Leech

I found that the figure looked too small for its base, and to help fill in the empty space without going overboard – or adding in fantasy or sci-fi-specific extras, I just went for some of the larger tufts that I had sitting around in the packets. Often those are the hardest ones to find a use for and they end up on scenery, since they’re too large for use on almost all miniatures.

Scotia Grendel Dungeon Crawlers Giant Leech with Warhammer High Elf for scale.

Finally, a big-hat Warhammer High Elf for scale. I should really finish this guy’s unit off. I bet it would take less than half a day if I ever manage to pull my fist out…  Actually, I’ve got some scenery that just needs finishing off that could be measured in probably less than half an hour…

Full disclosure – I actually painted this thing a couple of weeks ago but didn’t get around to posting it. After a pretty productive two weeks or so of painting I’m in a bit of a ..not burnt out, but kinda taking a rest. Also, my wife bought me a PS4 as a belated birthday gift, and so I’ve been running around Mordor after work and on the weekends instead of sitting and painting like I’m “supposed” to…

 

Bolt Action! 28mm T-34/85 Tank Platoon

Well, I finished my first official Bolt Action models – a platoon of three Soviet T-34/85s. It took a little longer than I’d originally planned/hoped, since I wanted to get the markings more-or-less right, while still making the models look good. I found some information that the red star was used sparingly, (and that a white star was even used at times) and that individual unit markings were often left up to the company commanders, so after a fair bit of looking around, I decided that the red star added an attractive bit of spot colour to the models, as did the Guards Tank badge. I also added some freehand slogans, which was a lot of fun.

Now, LOTS of pics.

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 321 “Crush the Fascists!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 321 “Crush the Fascists!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 321 “Crush the Fascists!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 321 “Crush the Fascists!”

The commander is removable, he’s blu-taced into the hatch for a bit of variety, and for use in games where the “lead” tank might matter – to keep it obvious for the players.

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 322 “For Moscow!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 322 “For Moscow!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 322 “For Moscow!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 322 “For Moscow!”

One thing that really got me going with these tanks was their simple assembly. I often find myself getting distracted when working on models that have overly-complex assembly, as my favourite part of the hobby is really painting – and specifically completing painting – the detail work. Followed by gaming (which I don’t get to do nearly as often as I’d like). Modelling and assembly can be fun, but as much as I love multi-part HIPs figures and so forth, I’d be just as happy to have almost all figures come pre-assembled so I can just get to the painting. These really are very simple kits, so the assembly for all three was done in a day so I could get onto the fun of painting them.

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 322 “For the Motherland!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 322 “For the Motherland!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 322 “For the Motherland!”

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

T-34/85 322 “For the Motherland!”

These kits aren’t super-detailed, and won’t win any prizes in any modelling shows – nor will this paint work – but for the purposes of gaming they’re just fine. I found I enjoyed painting these up with their military greens, rough damage and weathering more than I’ve enjoyed painting any 40k tanks ever as well.

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85 Tank Platoon

The T-34/85 platoon shows off their freehand slogans.

I chose to use freehand for the slogans because I wanted to have something a little more unique than the decals provided, and because I really enjoy doing things like that. I also freehanded the ID numbers on the obverse side of the turrets (but not the diamonds). I did those in freehand because I’ve seen many images where they were clearly painted on by the crew as well. I felt making them deliberately a little wonky also works well for what they are. I can paint more uniform than that – though not nearly as perfect as a stencil, obviously!

And now – some action shots!

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

A glorious unit of Soviet tanks retakes the ground tainted by the fascists just a couple of years ago!

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

The sun shines on our glorious boys as they heroically push back the opressors! За Родину!

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

Commander of the unit, Starshina Yarik, beckons to his platoon to look beyond the dusty dragon’s teeth at their destination.

Warlord Games Bolt Action T-34/85

A ruined building provides no obstacle for the Heroic Liberators!

So yeah, I had a little bit of fun here. It also shows off some of the terrain I finished recently to provide some sense of their scale with the Bolt Action armour.

I guess now I need to get hold of a platoon worth of German Armour, so these guys have someone to fight. Panthers? PzIV? Both? Hmm…

More Fast Scenery – Confrontation Walls, DUST Dragon’s Teeth

Continuing the drive I’ve been on in knocking over fast-ish scenery projects recently, here’s a couple more things I’ve completed in the past week or so.

First up are some stone walls from the Confrontation starter set – which is also the place that the recent Hill Ruins came from. This time, I remembered to add a figure for scale. I like these walls a lot. They’re just the thing (along with the hill) that whoever owns the current rights to should be churning out en masse as cheap and great-looking scenery in hard plastic.

Because I’ve got two starter sets, I’ve ended up with 4 of each piece (the set comes with 2 of each piece, plus the hill, figures, dice, tape measure, rules, etc. Just the usual as far as painting goes on these – base coat, drybrush, wash, drybrush again, weathering powders.

Small Confrontation walls, with Elf for Scale.

Large Confrontation walls, with Elf still for scale.

Confrontation walls again, alongside Italieri Fountain

When I first showed off the Italieri fountain, awhile back, I got asked quite a reasonable question about scale. So this time I’m showing the figure to demonstrate both the scale, and also how well these ruined wall sections fit in with other scenery to create a space that could fit in anywhere from a Fantasy world to WWII to the 41st Millennium. Take away the fountain and the walls will work just as perfectly in an Ancients setting.

Confrontation walls combine nicely to make a ruined building. Call Time Team!

 

I also started and finished a second batch of 6 Dragon’s Teeth/Tank Traps from DUST Tactics sets. I started with 6 of them, from various starter sets and so forth, painted them at least a year ago, then they sat around. In the last year or so, I’ve discovered another 6 of them, gleaned from various DUST expansion sets, and so the lot of them sat around taking up space in my painting area, until last week when I finally pulled my fist out and painted the new ones. Which predictably took just a couple of hours in a day that I was also busy doing all sorts of other things in. So – probably not worth the delay in getting ’round to them, then.

DUST Dragon’s Teeth Tank Traps

Nothing amazing. Painted with a base of Woodland Scenics’ Concrete, then some washes, drybrushing and Tamiya weathering stuff. They look decent and suitably grubby with a realistic enough look on the table top.

DUST Dragon’s Teeth – Area Denial!

With 12 of them now finished, there’s enough of them to provide a fair bit of Area Denial to enemy armour. Again, suitable for battlefields anywhere from WWII through to the far future. Though I have admittedly just realised that there’s no scale shot with a vehicle for size context. I’ll get that sorted shortly.