Posts Tagged: Videogames

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So, it’s that time again. 2014 is in the rear-view mirror and we’re all puking nostalgia for the year gone by. Below is a list of some of my very favourite things from 2014.

This is very intentionally not a Hugo ballot (because who likes being strapped down by those rules if they don’t have to be), as I wanted some freedom to group things as I feel they should be grouped, and because I want to be able to celebrate stuff that I enjoyed immensely, but isn’t quite right for the Hugo Ballot (*coughFantasyLifecough*). My Hugo nominations will come later, but this should give you a hint of what’s to come.)

So, without further adieu, let’s jump into my favourite things of 2014!

My Favourite Novel

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

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City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Who would have thought that Robert Jackson Bennett, author of quirky horror/urban fantasy mash-up novels, would write the best secondary world fantasy of the year? City of Stairs is an absolute delight from beginning to end. It’s a chain-smoking, edge-of-your-seat, snarl of a novel with a wonderfully grizzled cast. The broken city of Bulikov, decimated when its gods were killed, is one of the most tragic and fascinating examples of “setting as character,” and its an absolute joy to explore its mysteries as Shara and Sigurd (an odd couple that you can’t help but love) unravel its mysteries. To top it off, Bennett wraps things up with a conclusion so satisfying and epic that you can’t hardly believe the novel’s only 450 pages. Other authors only manage to fit half so much into novels twice as long.

Even as I was startled by its twisted depth, I adored every moment I spent with City of Stairs. Colonialism lies at the centre novel’s centre, and RJB handles it with equal parts boldness and delicacy. The ruined beauty of Bulikov and its fallen gods haunted me long after I turned the final page. Read More »

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Ever had one of those grey, rainy days where you needed to escape to somewhere magical? Where the rules and pressures of your daily life don’t apply? I’m sure we all have. Veronique Meignaud has discovered how to capture that plane of existence and lay it on paper (or, in pixels, at least.) The French artist, based out of Montreal, might best be known for her work creating artwork for Magic: The Gathering, but her body of work goes well beyond the bounds of Zendikar.

From her incredible use of colour, to her style that manages to straddle that line between esoteric and magical, Meignaud is responsible for some of my favourite pieces of fantasy artwork in recent years. More of her art can be found on her official website, and her Tumblr feed.

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When gamers think of Guild Wars 2, the concept art created by Kekai Kotaki and Richard Andersen (who are also two of the best fantasy/science fiction cover artists working today) comes blazingly to mind. It’s rich and unique, broad and diverse. I’ve never played a minute of Guild Wars 2, but the concept art is so wonderful that I’ve sought it out at every opportunity.

Kotaki is no longer with ArenaNet, so in comes Theo Prins, a new artist to work alongside Richard Andersen and the rest of the Guild Wars 2 art team as they continue to build one of the most vivid and beautiful worlds in gaming. Prins’ loose, impressionistic style fits perfectly alongside the art of Kotaki and Andersen, but he brings a pastel colour palette that those two artists don’t often utilize.

Prins “grew up in the Pacific Northwest and the Netherlands and spent most of his childhood drawing airplanes, cities and dinosaurs,” says his official biography. “As a teenager he financed flying lessons with aviation art commissions but dropped his idea of becoming a pilot when he discovered his passion for digital art.” More of his art can be found on his DeviantArt gallery and his official portfolio.

Kekaki Kotaki Knights

Last year was ink drawings of samurais, and this year it’s knights.

From the moment Seattle-based artist Kekai Kotaki posted the first of his thousand and one knights, I knew it’d become a weekly delight to see his new creations. Last Year, Kotaki did a small set of sketches featuring samurai designs, which featured stylish heavy inks, accented by bold colours, and showcased his ability to apply creative license to an iconic warrior. I loved the project so much, that I reached out to Kotaki to have a chat about his knights.

“I tend to try pick a theme each year and try to run with it as long as possible,” Kotaki explained when I asked him about the project’s origins. “Last year was ink drawings of samurais, and this year it’s knights.”

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I even joke about making a book called The One Thousand and One Knights, but I had to hold off on it, because 1,001 is quite a lot of knights.

Most readers of A Dribble of Ink will know Kotaki for his work as a cover artist (notably, Peter Orullian’s The Unremembered, and The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson). In addition to his work as a cover artist, Kotaki is also known for his work on Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet’s popular MMORPG with some of the most iconic world and character design in the genre. Kotaki’s fans will recognize the abstract, ethereal concept art and landscapes from his time with Guild Wars 2. He does tone and epic encounters better than anyone else in biz, so these character studies — simple armoured knights, direct and full of personality despite their facelessness — are a pleasing diversion for the artist. Read More »

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Child of Light

Publisher: Ubisoft Genre: RPG System: Multi-platform
Buy: PC Download

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tl;dr (spoiler free)

Child of Light, a side-scrolling JPRG developed by Ubisoft, features gorgeous 2D visuals (complete with great use of parallax scrolling of multiple layers), a beautiful and very non-traditional musical score, and fun strategic combat heavily inspired by the Grandia series. I didn’t like the story or the writing, but I enjoyed the game otherwise.

Full Review

Child of Light uses a modified Grandia combat system. For those unfamiliar with the system (and who haven’t played our own Penny Arcade RPGs which use a similar system), the core is that by hitting enemies right before they make their next move, you interrupt them which knocks them back on the time bar, essentially stunning them briefly. Child of Light makes a few changes to the basic Grandia system: your party consists of only two characters at a time (Grandia had a four person party); you can swap characters in and out mid-battle with ease; there is no positioning aspect (in Grandia, allies and enemies moved around the battlefield and different attacks had different ranges and areas of effect); all attacks can interrupt enemies (in Grandia, only specifically marked interrupt abilities did this); and you have a firefly friend, Igniculus, who can slow down enemies. Read More »