Chris Shooter

Chris Shooter

Big Aussie living in the Lovely UK. Network Admin, Linux Lover, Musician, Part Time Cartoonist and Video Game Addict

Mar 132012

Discworld: Anhk-Morpork – the Board Game (available from most book shops, price varies)

Welcome to Ankh-Morpork, the largest, smelliest, and most ‘interesting’ city on Discworld. The city’s patrician, Lord Vetinari, has disappeared, and the citizens are calling out for firm leadership. Will one of the noble families take control of the city, or will the people welcome the return of the king to restore peace? Then again, Vetinari’s absence may have been temporary and his spies could be spreading around the city, ready to start pulling the levers of power for their master…

Growing up in Far North Queensland, Australia meant there was plenty of rainy days when I was a kid, plenty of Monopoly, Cluedo, Polconomy and my personal favourite Chopper Attack. Now days in the age of computers, game consoles and dozens of channels on TV it seems to me that the humble board game is almost a thing of the past.

So pretty much every other Thursday night for the past two years, me and two of my good friends abandon the comforts of Xbox Live and venture out into the real world, travelling across town on our trusty epic mounts to gather together in person to play games. We have a love for Magic the Gathering and we have also played a lot of the World of Warcraft trading card game as well, but this Christmas my long suffering wife bought me Discworld: Anhk-Morpork the Board Game. This was to go along with all my Terry Pratchett paraphernalia – books, audio books, posters, maps and calendars etc.

Set in the fictional Discworld’s cesspit of a capital city, the board is a map of the city broken up into different areas or districts and to win the game you have to have control in the majority of those areas in some manner. Now that may sound a little vague, and it is, but this is due to the fact that each player plays as a secret character based on people from the fantasy book series.

Each character has a different criteria for winning the game. For instance if you get Crysoprace ( the mafia boss-like Troll ) then when your cash total hits $50AM then you win the game (bank debts withstanding) or if for example you’re Lord Vetenari then you have to have one of your minions in 10 different districts. All in all there are 8 secret characters but disappointingly only 5 of them have different winning criteria.

The game starts with each player randomly picking their character card, and each player duly has a supply of minions ( a torso and head-shaped block of wood). At the start of the game each player has minions in The Shades, The Scours and Dolly Sisters districts. The controlling of minions is the crux of the game as where they are placed (or not placed as the case may be) can determine if the area is a designated “Trouble Spot” and which player also controls that area.

Each player is given $5AM (Anhk Morpork Dollars) and dealt 5 playing cards which act as the catalyst for each turn. The player can use one card per turn (or more if the specific card allows you to play another) to manipulate the environment. For instance:

The different symbols across the top determine the actions this card allows you to do in your turn. Place a minion in a district, play out the action text on the card if it has some, build a house, assassinate another minion. Some effects are rarer than others such as the one that triggers a random event – like a horde of demons or trolls turning up in different areas of town.

So as the game develops, each player is contriving to manipulate the situation to meet their winning criteria, whilst at the same time trying not to give away what they’re doing but also along with that trying to figure out what the opponent’s intentions are as not to inadvertently help them win. In the games we’ve played there was a lot of bluffing, double bluffing and downright dirty misleading tactics – very enjoyable.

There is no doubt about it, when you get past what at first may seem like some complicated instructions, this game is very engaging and highly entertaining and it’s re-playability is very good given the different random factors involved in play. Terry Pratchett fans will enjoy seeing the various characters from the books – I even had my trusty Discworld companion out as we played and was regaling my fellow opponents with tales and tid-bits of information on the different playing card characters as they turned up.

“Ah! It’s Mr Pin and Mr Tulip – the New Firm. They appeared in the 25th Discworld Novel, The Truth….”

I’m really sure they loved every minute of it as well, given the glazed look of concentration in their eyes. At least I think it was concentration. But even if you’re not a fan of Terry Pratchett’s work this game still stands on its own as a good way to pass a rainy day…


Chris “Battleships” Shooter, webmaster for 

Mar 022012

Since I bought the game on its launch day on the 11th of November a lot of things have tried to get in the way of me playing Skyrim. I have started a new job, had a baby son to go with my 2 ½ year old daughter, done the Christmas thing and even moved house. Well now it is mid-January and I’ve still managed to put 105 hours in game so far……and I am nowhere near finished. This game is huge. HUGE. Which is pretty much something that you can say about most Bethesda RPG games really – Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout3 etc – all have been mighty titles of gaming that, to me, have eclipsed normal everyday life, but Skyrim in my view takes it to a whole other level again. Unlike its predecessors I find that I can’t walk a virtual mile in it’s varied and stunning landscapes without finding something to do, or being attacked by something. I love poking around and this game lets you poke to your heart’s content. I’ve put in over 100 hours and I am still only level 38 (of 81). And on top of all that, you get to fight dragons. DRAGONS.

A Story:

I was riding my horse slowly uphill to a bandit hideout, taking it easy, trying to scope the place out, my usual approach. Have a look about, don’t get too close. Leap off my trusty steed and sneak up the hill with my enchanted bow at the ready, pick them off one by one Spintercell-style ( without having to hide the bodies ), until the s.h.i.t hits the fan and I have to switch to a sword in the right hand and destructive magic fireballs in the left, with a shout or two to back me up. This particular foray was about to begin when suddenly, the ground shakes, the horse starts to jitter and a massive winged shadow slips over the ground and a mighty roar is let out overhead ( this is a game to play on LOUD by the way…) – a Blood Dragon flies over out of nowhere and turns a circle over the bandit camp. The bandits, still completely unaware of my presence, start to let loose on the Wyrm, which promptly lands and burns most of them to cinders.

Quick as a flash I’m off my horse, bow out and firing as I advance on the creature from the side – it was still being distracted by the few hardy bandits left with some fight in them. Under my volley of thunderbolt enchanted arrows the creature goes down, skin burning away and I stand by and absorb its very soul…

Skyrim to me, more than any other game I’ve played, is a game of stories. Not a game of achievements or kills and leveling up or grinding for gold. Most of my playing time in Skyrim has been accompanied by a very good mate on Xbox live chat, navigating his way through his own adventure in Skyrim. Almost all of our chat consists of “Wow, this just happened…” or “ Jesus, have you seen this…” or even in some cases “Ah crap! that was tough…”. Said mate and I get together with another friend and gamer once a fortnight for Magic the Gathering, and the last few month’s sessions have turned into “What are you doing in Skyrim?” talks, cards almost forgotten for hours on the table in front of us. A lot of people have complained about bugs and glitches, or have an preference to play it on PC – several mates of mine fanatically state – “ This is a PC only game, don’t play it on a console!”  I haven’t seen these things, and I don’t actually care about these things. Well yes, I’ve got it on PC as well but I get a LOT of pleasure out of the Xbox version. I’ve sat there with both the PC and Xbox version loaded up and yes the PC version looks better. It doesn’t play any different and the stories are the same and that’s all that matters to me with this game.

On the technical and gameplay side, Bethesda have improved on the previous titles with a more streamlined interface which at first I thought was a little too simplistic but as I’ve gone on I’ve actually come to love it. The menu system almost fades in from the gameplay P.O.V. and starts out from your basic top level items of Magic, Map, Items and Skills.

Bethesda have integrated the skills system from Fallout3 into the leveling system. 251 perks in 19 categories, such as light and heavy armour wearing, one and two handed sword wielding, alchemy, enchanting, archery and different schools of magic such as destruction and conjuration. Every time you level up you choose to level one of the three major stats. Magicka, which increases your mana pool. Health which increases your hit points and Stamina which determines some special moves and how much weight you can carry around.

But you also get one point to spend on a perk, which is used to enhance your chosen skill path. With my character, for example, I have spent some perk points on the black-smithing skill which gives me the ability to forge different types of weapons and armour, like dwarven or elven pieces, and you can also improve existing armour and weapons. This system really opens up the game to be played over and over again with a different approach each time – and I can hardly wait.

One thing that has been removed from this game is items degenerating through use and needing repair. Thank the gods I say. The world is a lush environment full of things to pick over for selling, books for reading; filling out masses of lore and background, and some even (upon opening the pages) level up different skills, and some books start new quests. There is food to gather and cook, and herbs and flowers etc to gather-taste-test and blend into various potions by using the different alchemy tables scattered through out the world. There is wood to chop – making good money and even ore to mine – which is especially handy if your character is a blacksmith like mine.

The quests are varied and numerous, quite often chained and send you all over the world to complete. And it’s a BIG world but this doesn’t pose much of an issue as the map is easy to navigate and nicely presented with goals clearly marked and the quest journal a button touch away when you’re in map mode, making organising yourself simple. Various guilds and factions can be joined such as The Thieves Guild or The Dark Brotherhood that have their own quest lines and activities as well. I’ve found Skyrim far easier to understand with regards to what I’m supposed to be doing, more so than in the previous iterations of Elder Scrolls games. Although with that said I still spend an awful amount of time just poking about…

A Story:

I was wandering off road looking for a way to ford a river, carefully avoiding being spotted by a nearby giant’s camp. I crept up over a rock straight into the path of 3 roving higher level bandits who immediately turned and started in on me. I stood and ran back the way I came. With arrows shooting past my ears I suddenly remembered the giant’s camp I had so deftly avoided minutes previously – I headed straight for it, the bandits followed. I ran up over a rise and cut across the edge of the camp, the bandits still following,  firing arrows as they went. Which the giants for some reason took offense at, so it was on. Two giants stepped forward, massive clubs swinging, taking out the three bandits in very short order – one of them flying 30 feet in the air with the force of blunt justice…I was still chortling 5 minutes later as I cross the river further upstream.

I haven’t got too much negative to say about this game except maybe that it’s called Skyrim, which presents itself for plenty of jokes involving “rimming” – most of them coming from my wife. The one drawback I have found is that sitting on my games shelf in the computer room at my house I have got Deus Ex: HR, Arkham City, Saints Row 3 and Space Marine all still in their shrink wrap, and Forza 4 and Portal 2 to navigate fully. Skyrim makes you want to play, think, breathe and eat nothing else but Skyrim.You’ve been warned.

by Chris “Thane in the App” Shooter, co-creator and webmaster of

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is out now on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, prices vary.

Oct 222011

Last weekend during the Extra Life charity gaming marathon one of the events we did was to play Gears of War 3 co-op campaign on hard-core setting straight through all in one sitting. That took three of us 12 hours and also gave me a very good look at the new Gears.

My initial reaction was “have I somehow accidentally put Gears of War 2 in the xbox by mistake?” but then realised that the multiplayer was working quite well so I soon shunned that idea. Gears 3 doesn’t really break any new ground for me but if you’re a fan of the series then you’ll know what to expect – blokes (or sheilas) with guns shooting stuff while going from point A to point B, reloading while the whole time ducking and covering. Interspersed with in-game cut scenes that frankly don’t try very hard to engage you to the point where you end up yelling at the screen. “Come on who gives a toss Dom she’s dead mate get on with it!”

I have to admit that I am quite a fan of the series (ask my wife about her most hated object of clothing I own – my Gears t-shirt) but I was seriously underwhelmed with the campaign play through. Yes it was fun, but I found some of the “co-op” elements sadly lacking and am disappointed Epic didn’t make more of that side of the gameplay.

I would have loved to have seen something along the lines of a Splinter Cell type of co-op mode gameplay instead of the lame “come here and help me open this door” ( even though I’m a 300 pound brute of a fighting machine and have previously opened doors in the levels before with my lancer chainsaw or just by kicking them ) or “Come here and hold this barbed wire apart so we can get through” – which then goes to a cut scene where the player is forced to do nothing but sit there and watch the on screen protagonists go through the barbed wire.

That’s a cumulative 5 minutes of my life I’ll never get back Epic Games! I could have been spending that time solving level puzzles in that actually needed 2 or maybe 3 people to do. Levers. Geographically dispersed levers are always good co-op fair. Or what about ground plates, disarming traps, maybe having one member of your team who is a medic who can patch you up? Here is a novel concept: one of your team could be an engineer that could build and repair guns? Or detect and disarm traps set by those nasty locust or lamberts? Just saying, you know. “Help me open this door because I’ve somehow turned into a girly armed pansy”, or “Oh this Barbed wire is pointy!” when I’m wearing masses of body armour and have a wicked chainsaw on my gun is truly unimaginative.

Graphically it’s a gears game and to me was no different from Gears 2. (which in my humble opinion was not as good as Gears 1) and things seemed to work well although we did come across one bug where we triggered an event not in the intended order which left us trapped in the level and we had to restart at a previous checkpoint. The big boss fights were verging on the side of long and tedious due to the fact that once you worked out the pattern you just had to sit and grind it out until it fell over – circa 1990’s platform gaming. Maybe not to be played in one 12 hour stint (but it WAS for charity) as it really seemed to grind towards the end and I think if it wasn’t for the company of my other two players then I may have had to save and revisit at a later stage.

Now then onto the multiplayer: the only mode I’ve tried so far is Horde. This time around they have introduce a slightly different mechanic with this by adding in Tower Defence elements where you fight and kill to earn “money” that then buys and placing certain useful objects in the level. Caltrops and mounted guns for example. That made it interesting and it was a mode I really enjoyed.

I think that GoW3 will now be a multiplayer game for me and I will jump into it when I want to wreak some bloody violence and I think in that frame of mind it will be an enjoyable game. I intend to do an update when I’ve had more
experience of the multiplayer modes over the next couple of weeks.


Sep 172011

Humanity has become increasingly dependent upon technology. We have externalised vast amounts of our collective memory in print while our personal moments are committed to public databases and web connected devices. We augment our experience of the world through various devices every day. Already we can see the effects of Technopoly on our culture as those less privilege or less adaptive have been disadvantaged. The vast majority of the world’s population has no access to the internet, our greatest and most democratic cache of information. Meanwhile others voluntarily implant chips to streamline their morning routines. It is not unreasonable then to expect that some may feel now, as the Luddites felt about the mechanised loom during the early 19th-century.

While it’s unlikely that our existence will resemble that of Deus Ex: Human Revolution come 2027 with its Blade Runner meets Ghost in the Shell dystopia. Human Revolutions near future, cyber punk universe feels familiar. It presents a world sent into shock by technological creep as humans broadly adopt biomechanical augmentations. A world divided by those who regard the technology as humanities next vital step and those who value the purity natural evolution.

Set twenty five years before the events of Warren Spectors legendary Deus Ex, the player commands Adam Jenson an ex-SWAT team leader with a troubled past define by moral struggle. An incident at Sarif industries, a leading biotech firm where Jensen is employed as security chief, leaves Jenson clinging to life and key Sarif staff missing. After receiving extensive augmentations to preserve his life, Jenson is called back to Sarif, ultimately travelling the globe in search of his colleagues.

Jenson is conflicted by the work of his employer and distrusting of his cutting edge augmentations. Creating an ambiguity which allows the player to shape the morality of their protagonist with little compromise. In contrast to the dichotomous morality systems typical in so many videogames, Human Revolution provides subtle feedback in conversation to reflect the players choices. Rewarding perception while allowing players to develop their own conclusions and ultimately dabble in shades of grey. Far more potent and satisfying then a collection of points. This approach provokes greater consideration of the story, the human condition, political and economic effects of transhumanism, among other themes presented. It allows the player to engaged with the material more intellectually.

This engagement is only enhanced by the profound side stories, interesting news reports and personal e-mails spread throughout the experience. Each one building context for Jenson and the world he inhabits. Granting the player a deeper insight into the ambitions and struggles within this dystopia.

Stylistically, Human Revolution is a melting pot of east and west with Renaissance era influence, black and gold colour palette and transhumanist overtones. The characters are thoughtfully detailed bearing comic book like qualities. Dressed in contemporary high fashion resembling out fits by Gareth Pugh or Alexander McQueen with baroque and 16th-century details. Jonathan Jacques-Belletête’s art direction is superb, which only emphasises the stylistic disparity of the pre-rendered sequences and poorly resolved mattes. Both feel like relics of an era past, much like the highly criticised boss encounters.

These skirmishes are an uncharacteristic departure from the otherwise well crafted scenarios and player guided narrative. If approached aggressively these moments appear natural. However, if the player has perused a non-lethal approach to the story, Jenson will almost certainly find himself ill prepared, with no alternative but to face his bristling opponent, armed only a re-purposed animal tranquilizer.

The environments are detailed and superbly flexible, concealing a great number of solutions to each problem. Each path feels natural, with many options only apparent once committed to the first. Players will gravitate to solutions that suit their motives, perhaps never encountering others. The sparse corporate interiors and dark, dirty streets are welcome staples of the genre and a strong aesthetic tie to franchise.

Human Revolution is a worthy successor to the decade old Deus Ex, and an outstanding launch title for the newly established Eidos Montreal. Both its characters and narrative are well resolved, mirroring the tone and rhythm of the first instalment. Third person hand to hand and cover mechanic, improved conversation system and hacking mini games, all improve and modernise the experience. Untimely, Deus Ex devotees will not be disappointed.

Developer: Eidos Montreal

Publisher: Square Enix

Designer: Jean-François Dugas

Platform: Windows, PS3, Xbox 360

Games Reviewer – Bjorn Rust.

Sep 122011

Swords and/or Sorcery...

Dungeon Siege III release in the EU 17th July 2011 / £12 – £15

Back in the day…

…before the onset of World of Warcraft in my life (2002), I used to play a decent, pretty much unheard of (in my circles at least) RPG “party system” game called Dungeon Siege. Back in the day it was an intuitive take on the genre with masses of loot, big maps, excellent variety of environments and a great mulitplayer component. What really intrigued me at the time was the you leveled up in what you used there was no “Pick a class of player” system. If you used a sword then your melee leveled, bow: then ranged. The same with combat and nature magicks aswell. It was made by the excellent Chris Taylor and Gas Powered Games who were also responsible for Total Annihilation and the Supreme Commander series

Dungeon Siege III was developed by Obsidian Entertainment (Kotor II, Neverwinter Nights II and Fallout: New Vegas) and produced by Square Enix (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Tomb Raider…). With a legacy like that I was expecting great things from this game and so far I’m….well I’m O.K with it. It hasn’t knocked my socks off and I don’t get the same tingly feeling I get when I play the original, but to be completely fair I’ve just gotten as far as the first big boss fight about 2 hours in.

This iteration of the game instigates the class sytem where you can play as a Warrior, Combat Mage, Nature Mage or Ranged attack person. (Which I find disappointing because the one thing that set it apart from a lot of other bog-standard RPG’s has been taken away). All of these characters join your party eventually through the course of game. So at this stage of gameplay I have the Warrior I started with (I always roll warrior first) and the Combat Mage – Anjani. It’s fairly effective so far with each character taking a different role in combat.

At first it took my a little while to adjust to the combat machanics – it’s not quite all hack and slash – and how to manipulate your character’s abilities, to the point where I almost gave up on it in the frustration of constantly dying. But I walked away from it, pulled my head together, sat down with a fresh start on Saturday night and actually didn’t end up going to bed until after 1am. Yes. I got engrossed.

If I was goaded into making a comparison I would say it has more now in common with the Fable series then the original game, in as much as the close-in camera positioning and the “Walk this way” corridor feel of the gameplay, if you’ve played the demo then you know what to expect from the stages I have played so far, but the graphics are nice and smooth and the combat animations are quite neat aswell.

So although a little frustrating at first and despite its linear feel, Dungeon Siege III is slowly winning me over. As I delve deeper into the game I’ll report back my later impressions.

Chris Shooter – Geekzine Games Editor.



Sep 032011

Part two of Geekzine UK’s Q & A with the Sarcastic Gamer UK podcast crew is Yamster, otherwise known as Jon Brady by day. (Part one with Captain Average is here)

Now if you’re a gamer like myself and my geeky pals here at Geekzine UK, then you should have heard of the U.S based video gaming website Sarcastic Gamer (and if you haven’t then shame on you and click that link RIGHT NOW!) Sarcastic Gamer has a great community and is an excellent site for reviews, opinion, sarcasm, forums and most of all great podcasts.

It’s not all Stateside though and good ol’ Blighty has it’s own podcast crew: Sarcastic Gamer UK. Hosted by Captain Average, Mighty Mutt and Yamster they bring their own reviews, opinions, discussion and good ol’ sterling British humour to our podcasty devices and let’s face it, Brits know how to do sarcasm better then anyone.

Coming up on October 15th is Sarcastic Gamer’s Extra Life charity event aimed at raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through a sponsored 24 hour video gaming marathon. If you’d like to sponsor a gamer or even participate in this exciting event then go over to the Extra Life website.

Jon is doing 2 x 12 hour Rockband drumming stints for this event – PHEW!

You can sponsor Yamster’s Extra-Life efforts by going here.

[editor note – Despite popular opinion we’re not perfect here at Geekzine UK and Jon was very gracious when I accidently spelt his last name wrong in the interview questions aswell – note to self – ALWAYS check 4 times]

Who is Jon Brody[sic] – ?
Not sure, but I can tell you who Jon Brady is. He’s a twentysomething games blogger from Glasgow, writing for and being “the Scottish one” on the iTunes-featured Sarcastic Gamer UK podcast.

Why ‘Yamster’?

It was originally “Youlikeyams?”, a name I used on an Internet community around 8 years ago, itself a quote from an episode of the web series Weebl and Bob. When it came to choosing a name to write under for Sarcastic Gamer I was told to cut it, thus “Yamster” was born.

How old are you?
Far too young.

Where are you from?
I was born in Dundee but have been Glasgow-bred for as long as I can remember.

What’s your day job?

I’m a sales assistant in a toy shop by day. Which is great, since I’m a manchild.

How did you get involved with Sarcastic Gamer and the UK Podcast?

Writing for the site came about as an accident. The Sarcastic Gamer forums became another internet hangout a few years ago and the forum software included a blogging facility: I wrote and wrote on it, just because I could, and got a message from one of the site staff asking if I wanted to come on board.

As for the podcast, CapnAverage, MightyMutt and I started indepdently podcasting on what we called “On Her Majesty’s Sarcastic Service”, and it featured a lot of the things that remain in SGUK today: the Great British Debate, news, acting like idiots. It proved so popular that SG saw fit to capture us before we did a runner and set up shop elsewhere. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So you play Video Games (d’uh…)?
Occasionally. Life is hugely busy right now, meaning I barely have time to game unless it’s for review or for discussing on the podcast. I look forward to the hopeful blip of free time I’ll get next March, or somewhere equally far off as that.

What systems do you have?
I game at home solely on my PS3, save for some indie Steam titles on my Mac and some Robotek on my Android. It keeps things affordable, owning only one dedicated system.

Favourite system of all time?

The PS3 has had some stunning first-party and exclusive titles: MotorStorm, Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted, you know the ones. The power to properly engage the player has only really come along with this generation: I’m never huge on saying graphics make everything better, but they really did. That, and the Move is okay in small doses…

Favourite Game of all time?

Never ask me that, as there’s far too many for a variety of different reasons.

What are you playing at the moment?

Sinking my teeth into Deus Ex: Human Revolution. A stealth playthrough, complimented by some pre-order bonus firepower, is my current choice.

Do you have a favourite book?

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson.

What are you reading at the moment?

Games Brief Unplugged Volume 2, a collection of articles from the Games Brief website by games business genius Nicholas Lovell. It explores things like why APB failed, how free-to-play games will change the current business, things like that. Hugely interesting and it’s eye-opening in terms of what goes on behind the scenes of everything we play.

Comics? Or Graphic Novels?




Do you roll dice?

Monopoly, I guess?

Do you trade cards?

Business cards?


Keep sticking at what I do in the hope that one day I can start to live off of writing about games. It’s a difficult thing to try and do but I can only hope that by sticking at it, perseverance will pay off.

What’s next in life for you?

I honestly don’t know. I could walk outside and get reduced to smush by a bus for all I know. I tend to live one day at a time and, as cliché as that sounds, it’s worked out pretty well for me so far.

Sarcastic Gamer UK Podcast available through iTunes or RSS feed – go have a listen