Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #7: My Favourite Fantasy Video Games

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post! Thank you to Kritika, who participated in the last Fantasy Friday!

Today I want to talk about: my favourite fantasy video games.

Along with reading, gaming is another one of my big hobbies (and a major time suck!). As you can see from my Steam profile, I have way too many unfinished games. But those I actually have finished – well they were definitely worth my time, and probably yours too. So I’d like to share with you today some of the best fantasy themed video games that I’ve played. This also ties in nicely with another video game themed post I have planned for next week, and another one that me and the lovely Paola are writing together. Oh, and just a note: there will be no Final Fantasy on this list. I’ve never gotten along with that particular series… So without further ado:

The Dragon Age series

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Platform: PC & Mac, XBox 360, Playstation 3

I won’t say much about these games, because Paola and I will be discussing them soon. In fact I’ll say nothing. Apart from they’re amazing. And you should play them. Also that’s my Warden above!

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

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Platform: Nintendo Gamecube

I first played this game when I was about 16, as my boyfriend at the time had just gotten a Wii, so gave me his Gamecube. This is probably the game that got me back into adventure-RPGs again – it is absolutely beautiful with its cell-shaded graphics and fantastic soundtrack composed by Koji Kondo. Don’t let the word RPG put you off though – that side of this particular game is very simplified. It’s so fun just to be able to sail around the seas, discover hidden islands and collect ALL THE THINGS!

Tales of Symphonia

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Platform: Nintendo Gamecube

The first big RPG that I ACTUALLY finished, Tales of Symphonia is one of my absolute favourite games ever. An incredibly detailed and at some times complex Japanese RPG, it hosted a whole array of varied characters including my first video game crush: Kratos Aurion.

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I have a thing for redheads, okay?! And his voice is beautiful… But, ahem. Another favourite character is Sheena Fujibayashi, a warrior with a tough exterior, but a sad past. She’s also voiced by Jennifer Hale, the same actress who provides the voice of female Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, which equals awesome. My usual team consisted of Lloyd (the main protagonist), Kratos (where I could use him), Raine and either Sheena or Presea. Sorry to all the other characters but… just no. Regal was the most useless, I found. There is also a sequel for the Wii, which I own but haven’t finished. It just doesn’t compare to the first!

The Elder Scrolls series

Platform: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

If you haven’t heard of the Elder Scrolls series, I would be quite shocked. Sprawling, open-ended RPGs, they are incredibly detailed and allow the player to do exactly as they want, when they want. One aspect I really love about games is if they have a sandbox quality to them, meaning the world is open and completely free for the player to explore: and the Elder Scrolls games definitely are. You can build your character as you want – pick a couple of skills and specialise in them, or work on all the different weapon and armour types, as well as magic. If you wanted, you could even just become a trader, gathering items in the wild and selling them on. For example, in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I collected garlic. And kept it in a display case in my castle. Because I could. Then it all disappeared – I still blame the servant. The rules are totally up to you, and quests are entirely optional. Skyrim is the only game I play with headphones in, because it’s so immersive. But more on that in next week’s post! Oh, and those are my Skyrim characters above.

Orcs Must Die! 2

orcs must die

Platform: PC, XBox 360

A strategic defense game with a fantasy theme, Orcs Must Die! 2 is a perfect game to play with a friend – co-op mode is just so much fun, and it’s really satisfying to see all your traps working together to take out the evil orcs! It gets pretty challenging though, especially when the ogres and dragons decide to join together…

Lord of the Rings Online

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Platform: PC, Mac

Okay, perhaps this is no longer a favourite game of mine, I kind of tired of it. But it really is a brilliantly crafted version of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, with such an amazing attention to detail. Travel to the Trollshaws and find the stone trolls, climb to the top of Weathertop and find Gandalf’s rune carved into a rock, visit the Green Dragon for a pint – as a Tolkien nerd this game is an absolute delight, and the creators are clearly incredibly passionate about his work too. So many hidden gems! I stopped playing in about July/August 2013, and if anyone is interested I was on the Withywindle server. I had quite a few characters – Isolde (85 Hobbit Hunter), Rinn (85 Human Minstrel), Ailis (56? Human Captain), Lunathien (38 Elf Rune-keeper), Inarra (33 Hobbit Warden) and a low level Hobbit Burglar that I’ve totally forgotten the name of. Plus I had a hobbit house, which was the best thing EVER (you can see it in the screenshot above).

And the honorable mention goes to…

Bastion

Bastion

Platform: PC, Mac, XBox 360

I haven’t played that much of this one which is why it’s an honorable mention at the moment. But what I have played, I’ve really enjoyed – not to mention it’s an absolutely gorgeous game with hand-painted graphics.

Do you play video games? What are some of your favourite fantasy themed ones?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 2013

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks. This is replacing my Exciting New Releases feature, which may be integrated into this one.
 
 
I read ten books this month. Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age #1) by David Gaider, Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer, Every Day by David Levithan, Fire (Graceling #2) by Kristin Cashore, Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas, Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence, Guardians of Paradise by Jaine Fenn, I Am Venus by Barbara Mujica, The Daylight War (Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett and Article 5 (Article 5 #1) by Kristen Simmons. Which meant that by the end of September, I had read 68 out of 75 books for the 2013 Reading Challenge!

 

Currently reading:

 

Reviews on the blog this month:

Book group related posts:

Other stuff on the blog:

Upcoming:

  • A couple of reviews, including Every Day by David Levithan and Aphrodite: Goddess of Love by George O’Connor.
  • My Horror October posts, every Tuesday this month! My schedule is here.
  • My account of the Cheltenham Literature Festival – this weekend I’ll be seeing/meeting David Levithan, Sarah J. Maas, Maureen Johnson, Patrick Ness and Meg Rosoff, then Mary Beard next Sunday!
Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #1: Common Themes in Fantasy Fiction

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my new feature, made to replace Why You Should Read This Book. It will be posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: common themes in fantasy fiction.

1. Royalty

In many fantasy worlds, there is a monarchical system, or the story often involves bringing back the rightful heir to the throne (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). Or, as in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, there are many rival houses fighting for the throne, each with their own aims and ways of life. Or in books such as Prince of Thorns, the story is told from the point of view of a member of the royal family – but Jorg is perhaps not your typical monarch! Like King Joffrey Baratheon, many royals are not best suited to ruling the people – it often seems to me that in fantasy fiction, rulers go either way. They are either evil and hated, or wonderful and kind. And you know, sometimes they just deserve to be slapped.

e.g: The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Broken Empire, Graceling Realm

GO TYRION!!

2. A ‘Chosen One’

Often, our once normal seeming main character finds out that they are destined to do something. Just look at Harry Potter. It feels like a bit of an overused concept – the idea that this one person is the only one who can bring peace to the world – but it works. Peter V. Brett has a interesting spin on this with his Demon Cycle series, where the Deliverer could either be Arlen or Jardir. This sort of plotline often involves a prophecy of some kind, predicting the events that the hero(ine) has to undertake.

e.g: Harry Potter, Eleven, Percy Jackson and the Olympians

3. A ‘Dark Lord’

And with the Chosen One comes the Dark Lord! The evil foe that our Chosen One has to overcome, and many series actually just use the title ‘Dark Lord’ (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter). In many books the Dark Lord seems to do little himself, and frequently uses minions or messengers (Nazgul, Dementors, Death Eaters) to do his bidding.

e.g: Harry PotterThe Lord of the Rings, The Echorium Sequence, Mistborn

4. An epic quest

Many times in fantasy novels, our heroes have to save the world – and they’re the only ones who can do it. Whether it’s destroying a magical object or an enemy force, it’s normally a long and arduous process with many trying events.

e.g: The Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time

5. Elves and dwarves

Although fantasy novels tend to cover many different races, elves and dwarves seem to be the most common. And, as in Tolkien’s work, rivalry between the two is common. Of course, the two mythological races have been part of folk tales for many centuries – but it was Tolkien that gave elves their taller form that is frequently seen in fantasy today. In The Lord of the Rings elves are a proud and majestic race, in stark comparison to their down-trodden counterparts in the Dragon Age series, where elves are enslaved.

e.g: Anything by Tolkien, Dark Legacy of ShannaraDragon Age

You tell them, Gimli.

6. Dragons

Tough old beasts, dragons. Sometimes they’re not too bad. But other times… you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Smaug. I really see them as the ‘ultimate’ fantasy beast, there’s something about them that is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. They often appear majestic, the fantasy equivalent of the lion. Often king of the mountain, rather than of the jungle though… 

e.g: The Hobbit, Dragonriders of Pern, A Wizard of Earthsea, Eragon, The Neverending StoryA Song of Ice and Fire

7. A question of loyalty

With our Chosen One and his epic quest, comes the trusty companions. But sometimes they’re not so trustworthy. Whilst it is not always the fault of the character – for example, Boromir turning against Frodo at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring/beginning of The Two Towers because of the influence of the Ring – there are many sudden betrayals and shocking twists when it comes to friendships.

e.g: The Lord of the RingsPercy Jackson and the OlympiansThe Demon Cycle

8. Knights

Brave knights in shining armour, swooping down to save the damsel in distress… yeah, not always a feature in fantasy. Often you’ll find that the knights aren’t quite as brave or honourable as they should be. A Song of Ice and Fire is full of Sers, and many of them are not at all deserving of such a title – but it’s the kind of place where you don’t rise up the food chain by being nice. Plus there are many fantasy novels based around Arthurian legend, which of course feature knights, and play upon the familiar figures in their own way.

e.g: A Song of Ice and Fire, The Mists of Avalon, The Pendragon Legacy

9. Assassins & thieves

I always find something fascinating with this particular type of person. In video games I tend to play the sneaky assassin type classes (my newest Skyrim character is a heartless assassin and a thief). There has to be someone for the knights to protect the common people from! But then there are stories like Graceling where the main character does not want to do these things, but has no other choice.

e.g: Throne of Glass, Graceling, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Assassin’s Apprentice, The Princess Bride

10. Magic

And of course – magic! A very, very common theme in fantasy, it works in so many different ways. In Harry Potter, it’s a case of waving your wand and saying the right words. In The Name of the Wind, magic, or ‘sympathy’, requires some sort of sacrifice. Magic in The Demon Cycle series is dark and involves demon remains – whereas the Abhorsen trilogy covers necromancy. And sometimes magic just doesn’t feel like the right word for the kinds of skills characters have; it feels too juvenile.

e.g: Harry Potter, The Name of the Wind, The Demon Cycle, The Black Magician trilogy, Abhorsen trilogy 

If you want to join in with this week’s Fantasy Friday, feel free to leave your link in the comments!

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #28

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought

  • Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age #1) and Dragon Age: The Calling (Dragon Age #2) by David Gaider – so I recently finally played Dragon Age: Origins after owning it since it was released, and I LOVED it! I’ve been fangirling over the series (and Alistair) with Paola from A Novel Idea, and she said she enjoyed the books. I haven’t been impressed with Bioware’s previous books (Mass Effect ones) but… when I love a series I kind of soak up everything to do with. Even if it’s bad. But I’m hoping I’ll enjoy these ones! Now I’m onto Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, and then Dragon Age II (and a long wait for Inquisition…).
  • Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence – this is the Fantasy Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks. I bought it before the result was chosen though, because it was half price on Amazon and I’ve wanted to read it for a while.
  • All Our Yesterdays (Cassandra Chronicles #1) by Cristin Terrill – so I kept seeing this book everywhere, with such good reviews. I got approved for it on Netgalley but when I went to download it, it had been archived… so I bought it instead! And it was worth every penny.
  • Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas – I own Throne of Glass but haven’t read it yet… and even so, I bought the second book. It’s another series I’ve heard such good things about – and my friends Charlene and Paola got to meet Sarah recently! I’m hoping I’ll get to meet her in October, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss – the sequel to the aaaaaaamazing The Name of the Wind (I’ve done features on the book here and here), I want to read this as soon as possible!

 

From the library

  • Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer – so I picked this up forgetting the order of the books, and I haven’t read Cinder yet – but I’ve ordered it from the library to read first! Marissa is taking part in my Sci-Fi Month event, as Nara from Looking for the Panacea is interviewing her.
  • Article 5 (Article 5 #1) by Kristen Simmons – I’ve wanted to read this one for a while, and spotted it in the library – not my usual one, but one a little further from home that I should visit more often!
  • Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld – this is another one that I’ve seen around the blogosphere quite a bit. It’s an alternate history, which sounds pretty interesting as I haven’t read too many of those.
  • Guardians of Paradise (Hidden Empire #3) by Jaine Fenn – I’m interviewing Jaine for Sci-Fi Month, and read one of her books, Downside Girls (review here) at the beginning of the year. I thought it would be good to check out some more of her work!

 

That’s everything from last week! I bought more brand new books that I have in a long time – what did you get this week?

Thoughts

Thoughts #6: Video Game Novelisations

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I love video games. I’ve always played them, ever since I was a kid. My dad has always worked in IT, so we always had a PC at home. From a young age I was playing Doring Kindersley games, Mia Mouse – and Tomb Raider, Return Fire, Thief or Age of Empires.

It’s a hobby that has continued throughout the years. Some of my favourite games include the Mass Effect series, Tales of Symphonia, The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker, The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim, Borderlands and most recently, L.A. Noire.

       

I am, or more aptly was, a big online gamer. I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online on and off for two years, and have played so many different MMOs in the past. That was why I was so excited to read Ready Player One, a truly brilliant and completely geeky novel based in our future, where almost everyone escapes from their miserable real life to the online universe known as OASIS.So really, what could be better than combining two interests of mine, video games and reading?

Well, in all honesty, it hasn’t been quite the successful venture I’d hoped for.

As I wrote in my review of Mass Effect: Ascension, when the Mass Effect series finished I was pretty disappointed. If you’re a fan of the games you will understand, but if you’re not: the premise of the game series is that every choice you make has a consequence. You are essentially in charge of the path the game takes, your actions have a real effect. So when Bioware promised that there would be over sixteen different endings for Mass Effect 3, and your actions throughout the entire trilogy would affect it, fans were excited. But what we actually got was essentially three endings that were exactly the same, apart from being different colours. There was so much backlash that Bioware released a patch to improve the ending and clear up so many unanswered questions.


Genuine reactions to the game ending.

It really wasn’t enough. I was left with this need for more Mass Effect: so what better to turn to than the books?

It would have been better for me to turn to fanfiction.

I’ve read some brilliant Mass Effect fanfiction (Garrus and FemShep. I ship it. Hard.) – and I plan on covering the subject of fanfiction in a future ‘Thoughts’ post. The writing in the four Mass Effect novelisations that I devoured soon after the series ended was clunky, the plots were paper thin and so full of holes, the characters (even those fleshed out in the games themselves) flat.

And honestly, video game books, just like the film adaptations, have a pretty bad reputation. I was surprised by the average rating of a lot of the novels on Goodreads. But despite all this, despite knowing that the quality won’t be great, that the authors are most likely in it for the money and link to an established series more than a love of the series itself, I will probably read more of these. I know that I’ll read any Mass Effect book I can get my hands on – and I’m keeping my eye out for Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim adaptations too (though I’m interested to see how a Skyrim book would work, since the main character is completely your own). It’s probably for the same reason that I’ve stuck with a series like the Sookie Stackhouse novels, even when the quality has gone downhill – I have some great memories and feelings associated with the series, and through reading the books I’m hoping to get them back. Mass Effect is truly one of those games where you get really attached to certain characters – especially as you can be responsible for their deaths if you’re not careful.

However, I’m sure there are plenty of gamers out there who aren’t readers. Seeing a novelisation of their favourite game series might encourage them to pick up the book – and maybe more books after that. If a book gets someone into reading, then who cares what that book is? It doesn’t matter what they’re reading, whether it’s good or not (although that is completely a matter of opinion), what matters is that they are reading. The reverse may be true also: although you’re less likely to pick the books up if you haven’t played the relevant game, as many assume a basic knowledge of the game’s plotlines; a video game novelisation may introduce someone to the game series who would not have played it otherwise.

And now I turn to you, my dear readers: do you read video game novelisations? If so, what have you thought of the ones you have read? Are there any video games you’d love to read a novelisation of? Please leave your thoughts and comments below, I’d love to hear them!


Atlas and P-Body hugs for anyone who comments!