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Archive for December, 2011

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5th day in London

Then it was sadly the last day in London and we had to check out by 11, so we got up kinda early and started packing. Managed to check out just after 11, which all things considered isn’t that bad. Funny to see how you always leave with more stuff than you brought with you, despite me losing my gloves and forgetting to pack some stuff again. We could leave our bags at the reception to pick them up later when we needed to get to the airport, so that was pretty nice.

Feet still hurting, we went to the main shopping street again and decided to check out the HMV as they have a big metal selection, and indeed they do. Ended up buying 4 cd’s and a DVD there. I was tempted to buy much more, but they are rather pricey. Nath also bought another 2 albums, one of which was a christmas metal compilation, which turns out to be pretty neat.

After that we checked to see if perhaps one of the metalbars was open since 1 of them also served as a pub, so we could have lunch there, but it was closed. So we ended up sitting down at a pretty traditional english place where we had some delicious pastries and Nath got a kettle of tea. The food was simply delicious so we took it easy and enjoyed it to the fullest. Approaching the time that we’d have to leave to catch our flight, Nath wanted to visit the bookstore across the street quickly where I ended up buying a book on the Celts and Nath one on Norse Mythology.

Then we finally headed to the hotel to pack up our bags and headed for the airport. Where we were supposed to switch from the metro onto the train that’d take us to the airport’s terminal, there was no rail service there at all. We asked some of the personnel what we could do instead and we had to get to another station from which we could get to the airport.

So we had to take a detour and make another 2 stops to get there. However as we had taken 1 line, one of these lines wasn’t going so we got recommended another reroute which we followed. When we finally got to the 2nd station to catch our train we noticed that it was departing at :22 and :52, guess what time it was? Yeah, :53. So we had to wait another 29 minutes and as such certainly missed our flight. So that sucked, on the plus-side, we had a nice talk with one guy who worked there. He again guessed my accent to be Canadian, which I again found funny.

When we finally got to the airport we booked for the next flight, which would be 12 hours later at 7am. So that then meant paying a lot for a hotel or staying at the airport and try and get some sleep there. We ended up doing the latter, charged up our phones at one of the cafes and sat at the burger king for a while doing some reading. Then we walked around to look for some benches/seating without armrests so Nath could maybe lie down and at least be somewhat comfortable. We managed to find the last one in the far corner of the airport and as such we dumped our bags there and sat down.

Nath ended up lying down with her jacket as a sheet and using my leg as a pillow, pretty much as comfortable as it could get, meanwhile near us there was a girl who was looking very angrily at us which had us laughing quietly. Just the smell/feel of jealousy was very fun. I have to say though that that night took forever as I wasn’t able to sleep at all, I was tired before.. but as I actually wanted to sleep, I was wide awake.

So that next morning I was dead tired as I had been up past 24 hours and we got back to my car and I drove to her home… not the safest, but I had to. We watched the Nightwish End of an Era DVD I had bought and then I decided due to circumstances that I should head home and that turned out to be not entirely safe, but I did make it home with some stops along the way.

That then ended my London trip, which I really enjoyed.

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4th day in London

After a rather long rest we both felt better and decided we’d go to a meeting that Nath wanted to go to and I’d join in to keep her company as well. When we got there it seemed like nobody was there and the building seemed closed as well, so we hung around it for a while to see if people would show up for a while, but they didn’t. So we ended up going to Tower Bridge to fill up time until the next musical.

So we walked over to Tower Bridge and Tower Hill which was pleasant to look at, though I’m not a fan of there being a million and one tourists around. After that we decided to check out the London Dungeon briefly but on the way there, we derped on navigation which led to us wandering around the wrong area for a brief time when we realized that we didn’t have time to even lunch anymore before going to the theatre. So even if we hadn’t derped, we still wouldn’t have had time to actually go in and check it out.

As we got to the Dominion theatre we could go right in, order some drinks and popcorn and sit down for We Will Rock You. If you don’t know, you might’ve guessed it from the title already; yes, it’s the Queen musical. Now I expected it to surely have some queen songs in there and the story would be paper-thin. Turns out there was indeed a lot of queen songs, some of which I didn’t recognize, but there was also a lot of great dialog and likable characters. I found myself laughing quite often or otherwise just smirking at the remark or nudge towards other bands, songs, artists, etc. It truly was well written and the songs themselves did an overall great job too, giving me goosebumps occasionally. The songs just clicked with me and my emotions at that time, as I found myself looking away from the stage and towards Nath. :)

After that show we had planned to go join a jack the ripper tour/walk, when we got at the metro stop we found there were a couple of them and as we were looking a cleaning guy walked up to us to give us advice on which ones were good and worth going to. This then turned into a rather long and funny conversation and we got out of it with a recommendation for a walk and a nearby pub as well. So we went to the pub and ordered there and we were sitting next to the window giving me a nice view of the Tower Bridge, which was nice. The food also was pretty darn good and incredibly cheap, made us wonder why the hell we don’t have pubs over here. Ideal places to sit down and have a drink/meal at.

So then it was time for the Jack the Ripper walk which lasted for just under 2 hours, which was fun and kinda interesting. It was also the moment where it got to be pretty cold and I wanted to wear my Turisas gloves, which Nath has seemingly left at the pub we just ate at. I remember her trying to play it off as a joke, but it came out all sad and apologetic. Yes, I lost my gloves, but hell, they’re only gloves. I forgive ya (should you ever read this). ;)

The only downside of the tour was that my feet were absolutely killing me at this point and I really couldn’t stand still for more than some seconds so that aspect of it was rather painful. Along the way Nath also started having issues with her combat boots as it was scraping over her foot, which hurt a lot. But I’m still glad we did it though I had to explain some of the things the guide said as Nath couldn’t make out what he was saying. I reckon a bunch of people on the walk were having trouble with this too.

After that we looked for a bus to get back to the hotel as the tubes weren’t going anymore due to the strike, which ended up taking quite a while longer than we expected but then we found one line that would take us within a couple of blocks of our hotel, by accident. Good find that. :)

When we got to the hotel Nath was so tired that she just crashed on the bed and fell asleep lying next to me while I was still sitting upright, I found this to be very cute and as such took a picture of it which she hates. :D

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3rd day in London

After a lengthy night’s rest and a lunch we didn’t really have a solid plan for what we were going to do during the day. No public transport didn’t help much with that either.

We ended up going through Hyde park which was quite nice and full of squirrels, adorable little buggers. :) It really is a nice place to go for a nice walk and I’m glad we did.

After that we walked through some major shopping streets and had lunch. It’s rather funny to see it being a lot more quiet and peaceful in such a big town. I rather enjoyed the architecture on a bunch of the buildings, which you could now look up at more easily.

We then walked off Oxford street to sit down briefly at a church courtyard which had a very unique mix of old/new buildings around it which is very typical for England.
When leaving it we made a little trip past the British Museum when we sat down in a pub for a little. Had a talk with a guy at the bar who tried to guess my accent as “he’d never gotten it wrong before and he’s known for that”. After 5 guesses I had to tell him and he was completely shocked, which I found to be hilarious.

After that we went around some of the tourist traps such as the London eye, big ben and westminster abbey and took some pictures of them like everyone else there. After that we walked to Buckingham Palace and went through the park next to it briefly to get back to Soho where we’d look for some of the metalbars we hadn’t come across before, only to find them closed.

So then we sat down at a restaurant for a bit to talk and relax, to then walk back to the hotel since it had become late already and we both were very tired from all the walking.

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2nd day in London

We got up late and ofcourse there was plenty of waiting to be done before heading out. Went to Soho and checked some recordshops and went to look for a metalbar which when we eventually got there it ended up being closed until the last day of our stay, bummer.

So we then got a late lunch and headed for camden. Camden is the alternative part of London with all kinds of metal/rock/whatever stuff. There we did some shopping and we got some more albums and clothes.

As it was getting pretty late and shops were roughly closing around that time so we decided on some fish’n’chips.

Afterwards we had a quick walk around Camden and headed for the Hobgoblin again as that proved to be rather fun the night before.

Stayed there for some hours and then headed back to the hotel with the hope of some good night’s rest.

We’re told that in the 2 following days there will be (practically) no public transport due to strikes and it being boxinh day, so that should prove to be interesting indeed.

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My picks for Game of the Year 2011

This post is mainly sparked by this forumthread which had me first think about it and I figured I would write out why I picked the games I picked here. I have to say up front that I find it quite hard to pick one game above another as it at times really doesn’t feel fair.

1. Sequence

Sequence when it came out really seemed to go unnoticed, which for the most part hasn’t changed at all. So this may even be the first time you’re hearing of it, though I wrote a post about it before. Sequence is one of these hidden gems that needs to be shared with people. It’s a completely unique game combining DDR with RPG mechanics, clever writing and very enjoyable humor.

I’m struggling to even think of any downsides to the game, but I can’t think of anything other than me wanting to get all the drops and create all items, which isn’t necessary by far. Even the grinding for that was pretty minor all things considered. I can’t stress enough how much sheer pleasure this game has given me, while serving as a breath of fresh air in the release season.
As it’s such a unique game, it may not be for everyone, but at the cost of only a couple of dollars/euros, I really encourage you to give it a shot!

2. Portal 2

Now this one may not come as a big surprise to a lot of you, but I really enjoyed my time with Portal 2. The singleplayer was a lot of fun to go through, especially the voice acting was great. I’ve heard of a lot of people that they saw the twist coming, but I didn’t have that “problem”. I just played along with the puzzles and occasionally got stuck in between the actual puzzles as you had to move through the deserted facility. All around though, it was very entertaining and a fun experience that didn’t get frustrating.

The singleplayer’s fun and all, but the real fun lies in the multiplayer. I went through it with a friend while using voice communication (you really can’t do it without…) and it is immensely fun to figure out puzzles with 2 people. At times one will have an idea and the other will finish it, or disprove it.. or you might both be stumped for a while, which I remember happening on several occasions. I remember thinking “How’s Portal ever supposed to work with 2 players?” before the game was released and I don’t think Valve could’ve done a better job than they have.

3. Red Orchestra 2

Red Orchestra was one of the games that I had been hearing about for a while and that looked pretty interesting but I never got around to playing. Thus with Red Orchestra 2’s release, I hopped on the bandwagon and boy was I in for a ride. Tossing aside all conventions about teambased multiplayer first person shooters, RO2 is much more based around a realistic setting of the battle for Stalingrad in World War 2. This means that there will not be regenerating health, crazy weapons and over the top action, instead you’ll be lying or crouching around cover with your bolt-action rifle.

Because of this the action flows really differently in RO2 than in most other games. You’ll have incredibly tense moments that you won’t have in other shooters as the action feels completely different and more fast paced. While I’m not normally someone to take it slow in an fps, I have no problem actually doing this in RO2. It just feels right to be careful as it only takes a shot to blow your brains out. It’s a great immersive game that keeps you on your toes at every moment you’re playing.

4. Binding of Isaac

This little indie gem is the second biggest surprise this year. It has gotten a lot of attention as the setting is so unique and because of the way it was made, by a single developer in his free time. Despite that, it’s a a terrific game altogether. Though I have to say that I’m really bad at it, only having “completed” it once or twice. But that doesn’t matter, this is a game where you will die a lot and then just start over again immediately after.

This game also is a lot like Eufloria where it’s windowed and thus incredibly easy to alt-tab. The way the gameplay works it’s also perfect to just play for a couple of minutes and tab out again to return to it a little later. This makes it perfect for when I’m listening to music, talking with some people or maybe reason reading some things. This has caused my steam stats to say that I’ve played 56 hours of it at the time of this writing, but in reality it’s much much less. All in all though, this is a great indie game that is cheap and will entertain you for a good while.

5. Skyrim

I was going to put this at #1, but then I took an arrow to the knee. All kidding aside, Skyrim is a pretty darn good game and I feel that’s something that goes without saying. I hardly heard anyone seriously critique it. It’s a huge game with tons of things to do in it and it’s all around very good and solid. The leveling system in it is much improved over the previous games as skills go up by simply using the skill. This is a really intuitive system and a milestone jump from Oblivion’s system which was needlessly complex and tough to understand and min-max your character.

Furthermore I love the nordic setting and the mythology it’s based on, I even expected to see some actual runecarvings in there, but if they’re there, I haven’t seen them. The game still suffers from some scaling issues where you’ll run into an impossible opponent or will get one-shotted by an arrow, both of which are frustrating. Despite that, it’s a good game with a lot of content in it to keep you entertained. You really ought to pick it up.

Honorable mentions: Bastion, Dead Space 2, The Witcher 2, Battlefield 3, Trine 2