technolustNow this is my kind of game: a cyberpunk first-person adventure set in a dystopian future. Native Oculus Rift support. A NSFW TRON poster (though I bet they will take that out). This just looks too awesome for words. I backed the Kickstarter for $50 bucks, but I’m willing to up the ante later in the campaign if necessary. Really anyone with an Oculus Rift, or that plans to buy a Rift, should throw some money down on this project. Of all the things I’ve played in VR, I think this is my favorite. And I’ve played a LOT. Get on this.

Freedom

Personally I hate spoilers, so I will keep this brief. Freedom™ is the sequel to the best-selling book Daemon by Daniel Suarez. If you haven’t read the original, you should go do that now. It’s great.

The premise of the first book is that of a famous game developer that dies, and spawns an AI that goes rouge and starts killing people. It then follows the investigation into the Daemon and the people that try to stop it. The whole thing is an action-packed ride, and is especially fun for anyone into computers or gaming as there are several scenes with hacking and bringing gaming concepts into real-life. There is also a science-fiction element with augmented reality glasses, autonomous robots and things of that nature. Top notch.

This second book, Freedom™, picks up where the first book left off. I don’t really want to explain further as I feel that would give away too much of the first book (if you haven’t read it). That said, I did enjoy this sequel. Granted, it was not as gripping as the original (but what sequel is?). There is a lot of action, but I feel some of the suspense of the first book was lost. However it was still enjoyable and worth reading.

Shadowrun Returns

Let me just say this right off the bat: Shadowrun for Super Nintendo is my all-time favorite game. All time. It was great. Set in a future cyberpunk theme urban sprawl, you are basically a gun for hire. Or at least you were. You wake up in a morgue back from the dead with no memory of your life. You spend the rest of the game trying to discover what happened. It had RPG elements, action elements, adventure elements. You could hack computers and get money or steal information. You could go to a bar and hire guns to help out on your mission. It had an innovative dialogue system where you would get words in your “dictionary” that you could ask people. You started with nothing, but as you talked to people you would get more words to ask. It was awesome. Especially for 1993.

While Shadowrun Returns might not quite match what I remember of the original SNES title, it does a damn fine job at what it does. Basically the world is similar, and even the main character from the SNES game makes a cameo. Magic has returned to the world, along with ogres and elves and all that. Shadowrunners rule the streets. From simple hired guns (street samurai) to hackers (deckers) to mages, there are lots of different classes to choose from. The story follows a string of mysterious murders and the investigation to find the killer. Well, there is more than that but I don’t want to give anything away. The game is what I would call a turn-based strategy RPG. There are lots of RPG elements and stats you can level up. This effects everything from your hit points, to the chance of success with any particular weapon. So this takes a note from the mechanics of the original pen-and-paper game. This works well, and the combat is still satisfying. There are also some cool missions, or at least one really good one at the end, where you have to hack into security systems and fight of guards on an espionage mission. Good stuff.

So the game is great, and you should buy it. However, I did feel like it was extremely linear.  In the Genesis version of the game (1994) you could take all sorts of side-missions to beef up your stats or make money. It was awesome. They had drug deals, extractions missions, VIP escorts (no, not that type of escort), hacking, the whole nine. In Shadowrun Returns there is only really one side-mission in the whole game. So you are basically watching a good interactive movie. Granted, it’s a 17-hour movie, and it’s great, but I would have liked more choice. There is also very little exploration, it mostly feels like an “on-rails” affair. That said, it’s still a blast and any fans of cyberpunk fiction will probably get a kick out of it.

All in all a great addition to the Shadowrun universe, and a refreshing break from all the first-person 3D games that are all the rage. I do wish it were a little longer, and more of an open-world, but I guess you can’t have everything. However, it appears the modding tools are good, and there is already a good amount of user generated content available. Plus, a DLC campaign is slated for early next year. This game has my cyber-seal-of-approval.

Vernor Vinge - Rainbows End

I went into this book not knowing much. Well I heard it was set in the future, and was recommended on some internet forums. So that was enough to pique my interest. After listening to the 14+ hours of the audio-book, I’m not sure I can say I know anymore.

OK, I will be blunt. I don’t think I enjoyed this journey. It was not that it was badly written. Vernor Vinge seems like a competent writer. It’s just that the story did not grip me, nor were the characters particularly recognizable or likable. I mean, I was not expecting something on the level of Snow Crash, but I was hoping for at least a passable sci-fi novel. I came up short.

When I say the story was lacking, maybe I should be more specific. I am not sure what happened in this book. In fact, I am not even sure anything happened at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. I know the main character is some old geyser that gets out of the hospital and doesn’t know much about modern technology. And they have these wearable computer contact lenses. That part is actually kind of cool. So the beginning half of the book is about this old guy trying to get hip to the new tech, going to high school again, and stuff like that. There is dialogue with his family members. There is some hint of hackers. This is all vaguely interesting, but a real story never materializes. I guess I am used to books where you are hooked in from the first page. Don’t expect that here. I kept thinking to myself: “OK, this is going to get better.” but sadly it never does.

Granted, about 10 hours into the book finally something, and I mean anything, started to happen. Without any spoilers, the characters go on a dangerous mission together. However, if a book has to make the reader wait until the end for even a hint of excitement, they have failed. To make matters worse, the whole premise didn’t make much sense to me. Weak characters, weak story, really no reason for me to care.

I feel bad, actually, giving this book such a horrid review. I am usually pretty forgiving, and I did give this title and honest chance. Unfortunately it let me down and there is not much more to it then that. Not sure what other people were talking about when they recommending this book. I appreciate the effort but, sadly, the book doesn’t deliver.