Folks: I’m exhausted. I say this not as a 42-year-old parent of a kindergartner, but as an American citizen who can’t help but pay too much attention to the news when the day job is slow. I am depressed, hollowed out, an empty husk of a person who is just barely managing to get through the day, one day at a time, until such time as this presidential administration ends or the Earth crashes into the Sun.
As such, it is hard to come here and talk about entertainment.
I have not stopped consuming it; honestly, they’re some of the only things that are keeping me going. I’ve been neck-deep in books and TV and games and music, and I can even start to feel some of my long-dormant creative muscles itching to wake up and do something. But it feels silly to talk about them right now.
And yet, this blog is here, and I’m feeling guilty about neglecting it, and maybe it’ll do me some good to empty my head a bit with some nonsense. And considering that the AAA season is upon us, I might as well talk about some of the stuff I’ve been doing.
Bookwise: Ever since I reached my Goodreads challenge my reading habits have basically fallen apart; I’ve become undisciplined and sloppy, and I kinda just flit from book to book, putting one down if it loses my attention and starting another one, which I may or may not be able to get into. That being said, I’m currently about halfway through John Crowley’s Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, and it is astonishing. Rather than me attempting to gush over it, let me link you to the original LA Times review, which is what caused me to buy it as soon as I finished reading it; if that review moves your soul in any particular way, you’ll understand why this book is so necessary. Indeed, that review introduced me to Crowley himself, who I’d never read; I did read Little, Big earlier this year and liked it, even if it didn’t quite hit me as hard as I’d hoped it would. Still, Ka is gorgeous and extraordinary, and I can’t say I’ve ever read anything quite like it before.
TV: I’ve finally started watching Maniac. I think I’m about 4 episodes in? It is a weird show, but enjoyably so, by turns hilarious and trippy and also unexpectedly affecting. Emma Stone is magnificent; every scene she’s in, she’s incredible. This is a hard show to discuss without having finished it; I’m certainly motivated to finish it, and I’ll leave it at that.
I’m towards the end of both Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Spider-Man, and I really ought to finish at least one of them tonight, considering that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey comes out tomorrow. Forza Horizon 4 technically comes out tomorrow as well, but because I pre-ordered I’ve been playing it since Friday.
What can I tell you about these things?
Tomb Raider: It definitely feels like more of the same, as far as the last two games are concerned – which is not necessarily a bad thing, given that I like the previous 2 games quite a lot – but this one is quite a bit more dreary and gloomy and pessimistic, with a narrative that is not all that memorable. Let me put it this way – I’m a good dozen hours or so into it, and I recently hit the “Point of No Return” checkpoint, and I literally have no idea where I am, what I’m looking for, who I’m trying to stop, or what it all means. The beginning of the game did establish that Lara Croft is somewhat responsible for these end-of-the-world-type things that are happening because of her Tomb Raiding, but it hasn’t really followed through with what that actually means; she’s still raidin’ tombs and seems unaffected by it.
The game is also a lot more combat-heavy, or at least it feels more combat-heavy, which I don’t particularly care for. I mean, I don’t particularly care for the combat in most third-person action-adventure games of this particular ilk (i.e., Uncharted), even if I understand why it sorta has to be there. But here it feels gratuitous, as if the developers needed to pad out the story beats.
It’s also worth pointing out that this rebooted trilogy has been attempting to do some genuinely interesting things to turn Lara Croft into a flesh-and-blood character, rather than just an attractive player avatar. The first game saw her learn how to adapt to her environment, while also letting her get comfortable with the idea of killing people that are in her way. The second game gave her a bit more authority in that arena; killing people wasn’t necessarily the best thing to do, but she did it and moved on. Here, though, she kills a lot of people and she does it rather violently and without any remorse; and given that she is more or less alone during this whole adventure, it makes her a weird character to try and empathize with. I’ve said the same thing about Nathan Drake before, too, though in the Uncharted games they still attempt to write him as this lovable Han Solo-ish rascal; it’s weird. But Lara Croft doesn’t even get that kind of dialogue; she is all business, all the time, and it makes her all the more inscrutable.
I’m not done with the game yet, so I’m reluctant to give this a proper review. I don’t know where the story is going, even if I’m almost at the end. But the game feels like a bit of a mess, which is discouraging. Weird design choices abound. I hit that aforementioned “Point of No Return” and realized that I’d missed, like, a ton of the hidden tombs and geegaws and such, and that I didn’t really know I’d had any opportunity to go exploring. I went back and did a bunch of them, but I’m still missing certain important tools (like the improved knife), and I have no idea where I’d get them.
Spider-Man: I’ve mostly been playing this with my son, who loves Spider-Man and who’s actually quite good at swinging around the city. I’m also towards the end of the story, and I kinda don’t want it to end? It’s easily the best superhero game this side of Batman: Arkham Asylum and, like my son, I’m perfectly content just swinging from one side of the absolutely gorgeous rendering of Manhattan to the other. And kicking dudes off of buildings never gets old.
Forza Horizon 4: Well, look. This is my favorite driving series, and even after only a few hours I can confidently say that this is the best one yet. I’m still super-early but it’s very hard to put down once I get going. I can see myself dipping back into this one quite a lot over the next few months; it’s absolutely stunning to look at and it is very easy to create your own fun.