Measuring the World in Science Packs Per Minute: Factorio

Factorio - Linux Cover

Aside from the occasional outlier like Frostpunk, I’m not a fan of city construction and management games. I suppose my main issue is that I don’t much care for abstracted gameplay; there’s been many times in my life when I picked up a game that had a cool setting, only to discover that most of the game actually consisted of watching a bar of numbers tick ever upward or of staring at line graphs for hours on end. It is to the credit of the Prague-based developer Wube Software that they have managed to create a base-building game that appeals to both hardcore engineers and mercurial arts majors like myself.

Factorio is a game that has been in the oven for a very long time. Work started on the game back in 2012, and after a wildly successful Indiegogo campaign the game saw the light of day in 2016. Since then the game has spent almost four years in “public beta”, with the final official release expected for September of 2020. While public betas have gained a dubious reputation in recent years as developers kick half-finished games out the door to make a quick profit, Factorio is the sort of game that is ideally suited to the model. Factorio, like the sprawling factory complexes its players construct, is a game perpetually being refined and optimized to achieve the maximum possible performance under the most stressful conditions.

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A Curdled Disappointment: The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire, Parts Two and Three

TLOK - Ruins of the Empire 2TLOK - Ruins of the Empire 3










This will be much shorter than most of my usual reviews. While the subjects of this post both disappointed and frustrated me, the feelings they provoked were sadly not of the creatively productive kind. For months I was actually thinking I would write nothing more about the final two parts of The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire, as I felt there was nothing I could say that would not simply rehash earlier criticisms I’ve made on this blog. Still, this comic roused enough bile that I decided I would write a short piece just to flush it out of my system before I move onto something more enjoyable. So, with a quick link to my more hopeful review of Part 1, let the healing begin.
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The Mannikin’s Pagent: The House of Small Shadows, by Adam Nevill

House of Small Shadows - Cover

This is my second attempt to sample the work of Adam Nevill, one of the new stars of Britain’s literary horror scene. My first experience with him was with Apartment 16, a novel that seemed to have everything I could ask for (A haunted apartment! Modernist artists who flirted with the right-wing occult underground! Vorticism!). However, the novel didn’t really gel with me, so I put Mr. Nevill to one side for a time. Lately, though, I’ve developed the itch to read a little horror again, and after watching Netflix’s decent-if-truncated adaptation of The Ritual, Nevill’s third novel, I decided to give him another try.

For anyone out there unfamiliar with Adam Nevill’s work, I would heartily recommend reading this review by my old Ferretbrain colleague Arthur covering Adam Nevill’s first four novels. As it so happens The House of Small Shadows (2013), was Nevill’s first novel after the group covered in the review, and as such represents a major evolution in his work. Nevill has grown in confidence as a writer, able to deftly wield both psychology and the supernatural, and he pays homage to one of his major influences while making the work wholly his own.
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An Uncertain Start: The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire, Part One

TLOK - Ruins of the Empire 1

I felt a certain amount of trepidation when I picked up this comic. After all, while I am a great fan of The Legend of Korra and of the character of Kuvira in particular, I have also been strongly critical of how showrunners Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino handled various elements of their show, even to the point of coming up with my own pitch for a version of Book 4 that avoided the pitfalls of the actual show. Still, curiosity won out, and I picked up my own copy of the comic last week to see how it handled the various issues The Legend of Korra left dangling after its finale. The fact that Michael DiMartino himself was handling the writing duties was another small inducement, if only for a chance to see what the showrunners had in mind for the ultimate fates of both the former Earth Kingdom and Kuvira herself post-finale.

Having finished the comic, I confess that I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it. The comic is only the first part of a projected three-part story, and as such it is both difficult and foolhardy to render judgement on a work that has yet to be completed. That said, the comic is an odd duck. While it shares many of the problems that plagued The Legend of Korra as a whole, there are also parts that could be the seeds of far more interesting developments further down the line.

(Before I begin, I must mention that in this review I am treating Ruins of the Empire, Part One as the first act of a three-part story. As such, I will be spoiling everything. Additionally, I will assume everyone reading this is familiar with the basics of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, either by having watched the original shows or by reading my earlier discussions on the subject.)

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Before the Rows, the Lens: Experimental Film, by Gemma Files

Experimental Film - Cover

I’ve been having trouble finding something to read for a while. I’d started this year intending to reread some of my old favorites, but every time I tried I couldn’t focus on them and just ended up drifting off again and again. To remedy this, I decided to try something new, so I dug out my copy of Gemma Files’ 2015 novel Experimental Film that I’d purchased a while back and left on a shelf. As it turned out, Experimental Film was one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in a good long while.

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Interval 2 – Initiation

Hello, internet. It’s been a while, but with the coming of the new year I will be returning to this blog with my erratic, long-winded discussions of things I found lying around my room. For now, please enjoy these warm holidays wishes from an unholy monstrosity (and an oblique hint of things to come).

P.S. There will be no “year in review” post, since 2018 never happened. At least not as far as I’m concerned.

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A Word

Hello, internet. It’s been a while. I know periods of radio-silence are not unusual for me, but I’ve been quiet longer than usual, and I feel it’s about time to just write something just to explain what’s been going on to both you guys and myself.

So, here goes.

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My Initial Thoughts on Frostpunk


By the skin of its teeth, New London had weathered the storm. In no small part this was not due to my leadership, but in spite of it. While I had build infrastructure and homes, I had neglected to fully exploit my coal resources, and I had disbanded my outposts far earlier than I should have. By the fourth day of the blizzard, the generator was running on coal dust, and was desperately trying to keep the great machine running while I held services, delivered sermons, and organized public displays of penance to keep the people from losing all hope. Though conditions were awful and many died, the city and most of her people survived. The people rose to greet the day, rebuild, and turn their eyes to the future once more. Overall, a happy ending.

The game, however, had different ideas. As the ending title cards played, the game painted a picture of New London as a theocratic society, viewing everything through a religious prism, and worried the people had “gone too far” in adapting themselves to this new world. Given all of what had happened, I couldn’t help but feel a touch let down by this pronouncement from on high.

I suppose that sums up my current feelings towards Frostpunk, the new game by independent Polish developer 11 Bit Studios. While the game is quite enjoyable on the mechanical level, its thematic concerns don’t seem to be quite in line with my own interpretation of the game.

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Comedy Without Tears: The Death of Stalin

Death of Stalin - Poster

From left to right: Vasily Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Georgi Malenkov, Nikita Khrushchev, and Marshal Georgi Zhukov. Yeah, I know.

I must admit that I approached this movie with a great deal of trepidation. As someone with a serious interest in the history of the Soviet Union, I confess I have a touch of humorlessness on the subject. Rather than getting into the spirit of things when people poke fun at it or take it lightly, I dig in my heels, affect a pretentious tone, and go “well, actually…” On top of that, years spent listening to Russian reactions has made me increasingly wary of how many popular Western depictions of Russia and Russian culture lean on caricature and straight-up bigotry. There’s even a word for it in Russian – klyukva – which gives an indication of how widespread the problem is (and how unaware of it we in the West seem to be).

Still, it was a setting I was interested in, and I had quite enjoyed the original French bandes dessinée the movie was based on, so yesterday I suited up and took the plunge.

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I Should Have Saved That Pun For This: The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Book One: Deus lo Vult

The Saga of Tanya the Evil - LN1 Cover

When I said I wanted to start reading alternate history stories again back in January, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. About a month ago, I was browsing a small hole-in-the-wall forum and was intrigued by a few scattered mentions of a recent animé series set in a magically-charged version of the Great War. Since I’ve always been a sucker for alternate histories centered around the First World War, I threw the title into Google and was surprised to find a show from the Winter 2017 season that somehow managed to combine about a half-dozen of my interests into one package.

That said, this rambling post is not a review of that show. The Saga of Tanya the Evil, henceforth abbreviated to Tanya, started life in 2013 as a web serial written by the pseudonymous “Carlo Zen” with illustrations by Shinobu Shinotsuki. Since then, it has been republished as ongoing light novel series, and has been adapted into an ongoing manga and a limited-run animé series. While the animé is far and away the most popular version of the three in the West, I have decided to tackle the first light novel instead. There have been plenty of reviews and discussions of the animé in the past year, so I was more interested in approaching the material from a different angle, one that sticks closer to the (tidied-up and translated version of the) original text. I also find it much more comfortable and enjoyable to dig through a book than a television series, and judging from my daily statistics it seems like the feeling among all you guys in Internet Land is mutual.

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