An intense smell of body odour welcomed us to our seats on the plane, which was not a fantastic welcome present to the start of our big 2018 holiday. We had planned to sleep through the 6.5 hour flight and wake up to be greeted by beautiful hot Dubai, instead we both got pretty minimal sleep and arrived in Dubai feeling like shit.
A train across the city and then a long nap in the hotel then, we’d awake around 4pm or so, and head off towards the Burj Khalifia which we had booked tickets for prior.
The Burj is attached to the gigantic Dubai Mall, so we headed there first for a good walk around and quick snack. We hadn’t planned it this way, but we had arrived during ramadan – the holy muslim month where everyone fasts from sunrise to sunset, as a result the mall was somewhat quiet and a large amount of the food and drink shops were closed or had huge blackout curtains or wooden dividers around the shopfronts, with accompanying signs saying saying non muslims and children only. it was a strange sight and environment, but I can appreciate not wanting to see a KFC when you haven’t had anything to eat since 6am, eating and drinking in public during Ramadan is basically an offense – we didn’t feel like pushing our luck to see what is and isn’t allowed.
After having a nice walk around and seeing the huge aquarium fish tank, biggest OLED screen in the world, and the comically large indoor ice rink, we headed to ajoining Burj Khalifia for our booked slot at 6:30. if you’re ever in the area, 6:30 slot is the way to go, you essentially get the sunset view and the nighttime view for the price of one, though an unexpected side effect was that we had to queue ages for the lifts to get out. The Burj really was seriously high, the skyscrapers below look so small it kind of pulls you out of how high you are because it almost doesn’t feel real, but of course, everything looks small when you’re up 125 floors. The night view was definitely worth staying for, and I think worth the price of admission £40ish per person including Aquarium.
After a lengthy queue for the lifts back down, we went out to watch the Dubai fountain show over the beautiful man-made marina, which was really nice – not quite a singapore ‘laser projection on water mist’ level of complexity but a really solid lit choreographed water jet show with some of them really shooting up high.
Burger and frozen custard at shakeshack for dinner, which was somewhat underwhelming but oh well. We would have normally gone for something more locationally specialized but we couldn’t find any arabic food restaurants (and honestly, aren’t really sure what Arabic food would even consist of).
We’d walk around the aquarium and underwater zoo for a while afterwards, there were some impressive exhibits which are less common – huge crocodiles, sea otters, and large sharks to name a few.
by the time we decided to come home, we discovered that we had just missed the last train back to the hotel – at a surprisingly early 11:30pm.
it turns out the trains run at different times depending on the day, but we at least expected them to run until midnight. We had to catch a cab home which thankfully wasn’t too expensive at around £8 – if he wasn’t doing meter and said £20, we probably would have accepted it and paid him. Speaking of less expensive than expected, I should mention that the Dubai metro is also very reasonably priced, charged on a zonal basis, the cost is 3, 5 or 7.5 UAE Dirrhams (equal to 60p, £1, £1.50 respectively).
A late shower and then bed for us, to prepare for our second and last day in Dubai.
Granted we didn’t actually have a massive amount planned for today but waking up around half 10 was a minor concern for us.
We’d actually start the day the same as yesterday, heading to the Dubai mall to go to the IHOP we scouted out yesterday, I’m not sure i’ve ever actually been to an IHOP before, even when I was in America, so whilst I imagine quite lame to some readers, we were genuinely quite excited to have some big american fluffy pancakes with bacon.
We’d end up both ordering a combo of eggs, bacon, hash brown and then an entire plate with stack of pancakes and topping – it was way too much for brunch, or any meal of any day for that matter.
From the mall we’d head back for the metro to check out the old town, heading for the spice souk and gold souk, it would all be outdoors, and it was about 39 degrees outside.
Whilst you can kind of mentally prepare yourself for 39 degrees heat, the real deal was genuinely super draining, I have no idea how the people that live there, are able to do manual labour in that kind of weather. Even a brief walk for half an hour made us want a shower.
The spice souk was smaller and less busy than we anticipated, I kind of thought it would be a bustling hub where old women bartered for cinnamon pods but it was actually just a covered alley/street with few locals and even fewer tourists, and a whole lot of spice sellers trying to grab you to visit their shop. Personally I got a whole lot of ni hao’s and konnichiwa’s whilst Cordelia got called Shakira more times than I can count (we can only assume because her hips don’t lie), I also got called a professor, which is a new one to me.
The gold souk was honestly not that much different either, except the staff wait for you to look at the diamonds in the window before coming out and trying to entice you in with their allegedly cheap prices and (more importantly) super cool air-con. It was around this point (about 45 minutes after we left the station) that our bodies were properly sweaty, so all the small licks of air-con we got as staff came to greet us was so very lovely. I actually found a shop which had an air-con leak in the corner, just spewing out cold air, we took advantage naturally.
The next thing on the agenda was the Dubai ferry, an hour long ferry trip which goes round to the palm jumeriah and Burj al arab, unfortunately the Ferry only sails if there are at least 10 patrons – which our timeslot failed to reach, so instead it was back on the train, unsure what we were going to do next.
We ended up at the other massive mall in Dubai, the Mall of the Emirates. We got to see the arcade which had a bunch of games i’ve never seen before (a rabbids 4 player lightgun game, and a tomb raider 4p lightgun game, amongst others), and the super cool looking indoor ski area, complete with toboggan run, little hot cocoa stands and all sorts. Had a small dinner and then back to the hotel to pack and start to prep for the airport. We still have a few hours to burn, but honestly not sure what else to do with such a small amount of time left, we’ve done all of the major inner city stuff so we’ll likely just end up chilling out until it’s time to head to the airport for the next leg of our journey.
Would also like to point out that i’ve been annoyingly ‘ill’ during this holiday, with a dry cough situation and what I presume is an eyelash hair stuck somewhere in my eye which I just can’t rid of, it’s driving me crazy!
Small but solid collection of decent shows this season, or maybe i’m just getting lazier in terms of watching and filtering the trash.
QT Vampire Tier
Interviews with monster girls (Demi-chan wa Kataritai)
Featuring a teacher in a school with a bunch of demi-human girls and his journey to learn more about them – a vampire, a dullahan, a succubus and a snow woman. Comedy with a touch of harem and featuring some adorable schoolgirls. Definitely recommend giving the first episode a watch at least to see if you like it.
Also worth watching I suppose
Think anime harry potter but with more emphasis on comedy, and animated by studio trigger. Little witch academia is a joy to watch, just like the films which precede it. Each episode seems pretty self contained as well, if you’re into that sort of thing.
A former fatty gets buff and decides to take revenge on a girl who broke his heart, by seducing her only to break her heart back.
That description actually makes this show sound way more hardcore than it actually is.
Scum’s Wish (Kuzu no Honkai)
A rather dark and serious romantic drama – saying much more would be telling, but it’s lewd and way more serious than I thought it would be. Best to go in blind.
As bad as this show sounds, with it’s plotline of ‘a dragon which becomes a maid’, this show is actually surprisingly entertaining and adorable. Won’t be winning any awards, but quite enjoyable to throw on in the background.
Reminder: Konosuba Season 2 is airing as well.
7ish Days spent running around the Austrian and Czech capitals, with a train in the middle.
Some 1080 photos condensed into 416, and then further condensed down into selects for upload.
Of course if you prefer you can always VIEW ALL IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER just be cautious if on mobile data…
Notable PC games this year: Overwatch, Dark Souls 3, Owlboy, Stardew Valley, Battlefield 1, The Witness, Inside, Dishonored 2, Gears of War 4, Titanfall 2, DOOM, Abzu, Planet Coaster, Hitman, SUPERHOT, Overcooked, The Division, Zero Escape 3: ZTD, Mirrors Edge Catalyst, COD Infinite, Steep, Quantum Break, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Firewatch, Civilization 6, Darkest Dungeon, Thumper, Dead rising 4, Oxenfree, Watch Dogs 2, Street fighter 5
Top 5 Games of the Year
How the hell did this sneak on here?
I may have mentioned before that when I bought Battlerite a few months ago, I literally set a timer so I could decide whether or not to refund it just before the 2 hour mark. I’m now at 61 hours or so, which is more than everything else on this list. It’s a MOBA arena game which just manages to do everything pretty well – Any complaints of ‘not enough characters’ and ‘shit cosmetics’ will almost certainly be resolved later on down the line, as will the ‘high’ price tag of £15.
4. Planet Coaster
It has been X years since Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, and naturally we were itching for a modern release (as, let’s be honest, RCT3 was pretty barebones in terms of 3d graphics). Then just at the right time, along comes Planet Coaster, with all of it’s gorgeous visuals, it’s curved paths, it’s ‘how fucking many?’ Rollercoaster types and practically infinite ways to decorate your park and shops (provided you have the time). Aside from optimization and maybe some more variation in shops/rides, it’s hard to really think what else could be improved on in Planet Coaster as far as single player experiences go.
3. Zero Escape 3: Zero Time Dilemma
Kotaro Uchikoshi does it again. Whilst not quite on the same level as it’s predecessors, ZE3 has some great puzzling, and interesting branching story. Best of all, even though you know there is some weird shit going on, the revelation moment will still manage to catch you off guard and give you that holy shit moment. I have to say though that eric in team Q is literally the most irritating character i’ve come across.
Doom did not mess around, it threw you into this linear world filled with hellspawn, gave you a shotgun and then proceeded to just wail guitar and dubstep noises at you relentlessly until you finished the game. It was in your face, dumb and myself and just about everyone else who played doom fucking loved it’s straightforward nature. Shoot things in the face, move on, repeat – No cover, No long story sequences, No vehicle traversal between areas. Anyone looking for a fantastic singleplayer FPS campaign should give this a play.
1. The Witness
The witness undoubtedly gave me the most ‘holy shit’ moments in gaming this year, whilst I wasn’t particularly fond of the ending, the puzzles and the unique ways in which you need to approach them are absolutely amazing, similarly the world and it’s mystery and secrets provided plenty of additional things to do between getting stuck. I also really loved that the game basically doesn’t tell you anything, even the tutorials I don’t remember the game explicitly giving me any directions but rather ‘here is something simple, figure out the rules for yourself’ – and I love that, especially in an age of videogaming where developers feel the need to really hand hold the whole way through out of fear of losing the player, Blow’s masterpiece does the polar opposite and sets off with or without you. I’d imagine anyone who has played through the game will agree that it’s puzzles are genius in both creativity and design, and those who have played through and doesn’t probably didn’t ‘get it’, which is of course is a big problem in a game where all of the enjoyment is derived from eventually ‘getting it’.
Just missed the list:
Inside – Short and sweet, I completed it in a sitting or two and it was a fantastic experience throughout. Didn’t really do anything groundbreaking but it was incredibly polished and had just the right quantity of mystery to push you forward.
Hitman – A fantastic return to form for the series, it’s a shame there are so few levels, but the levels that are there are some of the best in the series. The new detection system works well too, making more sense than the old blood money system while not being as daft as the absolution ‘ima just hide my face’ system.
Dark Souls 3 – More of the same, and that’s hardly a bad thing, though I have to admit it’s not gripped me quite as well as it’s predecessors.
Titanfall 2 – I absolutely adored the first Titanfall, hitting the level cap multiple times over, so when Titanfall 2 was announced I was super hype, the potential for basically the same game with new maps, more weapons, more abilities, customization and so on sounded awesome. And then the beta dropped, and somehow they had just gotten everything wrong, the movement was slower, they changed certain mechanics, and whilst the retail version of the game has fixed some of these changes, the result is still more ‘Call of Titanfall’ than the Titanfall I fell in love with. I’m yet to really clock much time with it because I just have no urge to play, the gunplay is as solid as ever but it feels like TTK is down, the titans are crazy fragile and rarer, the new abilities are rubbish, no custom titan loadout choices, can’t change the AI voice and the maps are all really forgettable and boring. A cry everytime.
Best Singleplayer Experience:
Titanfall 2 – Okay so yeah I just finished talking about everything I’m not keen on with Titanfall 2, but you’ll notice there was no mention of the campaign that they added. The campaign was awesome, i’d actually argue better than DOOM’s. It was literally the opposite of everything I just said in the paragraph above. Awesome level design, titans feel satisfying to play with the added shield, clever use of game mechanics and a super interesting part which you won’t see coming. The short but sweet campaign was memorable and great fun.
Overwatch – I’m still struggling to see the appeal of Overwatch, the time i’ve spent with it was ‘okay’ at best, lacking much satisfaction when you do well and being a real slog if you are on the back foot.
Game whose servers are going to be empty by this time next year
Steep – Calling it now. that game is boring, people just haven’t realised it yet (or maybe they have?).
A frosty morning would greet us as we opened the door to be greeted by minus 4 degrees weather, the czech weather certainly does not play around.
It was a fairly easy train ride over to the castle district, where we would be spending the majority of our day. The station is actually kind of outside of the castley area, so we’d have to take a bit of a trek uphill to get there, to be met by armed guards and airport style equipment to search all who were to enter, the czech appear to still be using the castle as some form of actual fortress by the looks of things.
The view from the top of the hill was impressive, giving a great overview of many of Pragues landmarks, there were droves of tourists of course which was a bit of a shame, but I guess you can’t have it all. The castle was actually more of a small town or collection of huge buildings if you would prefer, cobbled roads lay inbetween tall buildings with some castle remnants spread inbetween the gift shops and cafes. Of interesting note was some random statue of a guy with a gleaming penis, a small crowd gathered around it with people taking it in turns to rub his dong.
Further on up the hill we would come across a small Christmas market and an incredible church – the Cathedral of St Vitus. Unbeknownst to us, you can actually see this cathedral atop the hill from most places in Prague, and for good reason, it was seriously gigantic.
After taking pictures of it’s impressive exterior we made the mistake (?) of paying a little extra to climb up the belltower – which turned out to be a a real challenge, I’ll be honest and say was actually expecting to turn the corner after the ticket booth and see a lift, but nope, only a narrow spiral staircase maybe 1.5m in Diameter, with 287 steps (approx 90 meters – an average 2 story UK house is approx 8 meters, for comparison). People coming down the staircase were actually cheering the ascending people on, that’s how rough that shit was. The view from the top, thankfully, was breathtaking, with pretty clear views of all of Prague.
Back down on the floor, we looked inside the Cathedral but didn’t feel like paying the additional entry cost as we could already see most of the goods from the entrance. Some real size to the hall, and some lovely detailed stained glass windows, the church was actually only completed in the 1930’s so I guess that would explain some of the interior detail.
Some christmas market lunch (delicious chorizo hotdog and some trdelnik [Chimney cake] ) and then we were off again to another church, this time the Loreto, which was a Marian pilgimage site with church and treasury inside. The entrance fee was kind of steep, and they actually didnt even want us to take photos inside without paying another 100czk for a ‘photography pass’ but the place wasnt very policed so we had our way with it, the main church area at the back was quite nice and completely empty. The treasury upstairs was a nice bonus as well, featuring a piece called the ‘Prague Sun’ which is a monstrance encrusted with 6000 plus diamonds.
Yet more walking! Downhill this time and eastward back towards civilisation, we stopped off at a chocolate cafe because we were freezing. We ended up at the Prague chocolate cafe and bistro – Cordelia ordered a chocolate beer and I thought i’d try their speciality – a hot chocolate.
What arrived in front of me was very literally hot chocolate – barely even classified a liquid, it looked almost as if thy had thrown a small bar of chocolate into a mug, warmed it up and called it a day, or perhaps my waitress confused the containers for chocolate fondue and drinking chocolate? Regardless of the case, I ended up with a mug of super sweet melted chocolate which I just could not drink to save my life out of fear of sugar overdose.
St Nicholas church would meet us at the bottom of the hill, yet another large church to marvel at, this one featuring a beautiful bright painted ceiling and some very impressively huge statues. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
We’d wander around a little more and stumble upon the John Lennon wall, a rather strange place to put it, given that the Beatles are British, and so is John Lennon but hey ho. The wall itself was graffiti’d from top to bottom with various colours and optimistic quotes.
We had finally concluded our activities west of the river, and could finally make our way across the famed Charles Bridge, the huge paved bridge adorned with various statues which you may have seen upvoted on reddit once or twice. It was equally impressive in person, especially because the Cathedral and castle district sit high upon a hill in the background, making for some really nice pictures (I hope ). We were on it long enough that eventually a huge man with a cloak and cape strolled down the whole bridge and manually ignited all of the lamps on the bridge.
My camera battery was starting to flash by this stage, unsurprising given I had taken almost 300 photos by this point in the day, and didn’t bother charging the battery yesterday. I had hoped to not go to anywhere massively impressive until tomorrow out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to photograph it.
Then as we wandered through the cobbled sideroads, we came across Old Town Square, filled with it’s golden astronomical clock, a massive Christmas market, the largest and brightest Christmas tree I’ve seen all holiday, and some form of church in the background. We blitzed them all, intending to come for a second round tomorrow.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, have some kind of underwhelming pork for dinner and then back to the flat to rest and defrost.
So I’ve been playing Battlerite for the last 2 weeks or so, and I have to say, I’ve been really impressed by it.
Unlike some other games where I spend my non-playing downtime thinking about what the hell the developers were thinking, Battlerite has a really shocking amount of fantastic design choices, and I wanted to talk about some of them.
You are always left side
Through some crazy wizardry, Battlerite has you always spawn from the left. Your enemies will always run at you from the right. I’m guessing it does this through some mirroring and client side magic but god is it cool. The maps are, of course, completely symmetrical.
You only get coins for winning
I’m guessing this is primarily to combat botting or any form of ‘cant be bothered’ attitude. If you don’t win, you won’t get any money. This effectively rules out most bots or any form of AFKing or low effort game joins, as they are essentially pointless.
Maximum health, and fulfilling the counterplay trifecta
Your maximum health can only ever be +X from your current health. What does this actually mean? Say you start at 200hp and take 20dmg, your max hp is still 200 and you can be healed to full, if you were to take 80 damage, your maxhp will drop to 150ish.
So why is this particularly clever? Because similar to other MOBA’s where you particular playstyles have counters, they exist in Battlerite as well. Heal beats poke, Burst beats heal, and poke beats burst (usually).
It also means people can’t whore 3 support/healer teams, which is nice.
Chat is disabled by default
Because nobody really needs to get called a retard.
3v3 Matchmaking tries to give a balanced team comp
Playing solo, about 90% of the time you’ll get matched into a team with 1 support, 1 melee and 1 ranged. Which you would think is just common sense, but other games have shown us otherwise.
Everything is as obvious as possible
All the big damage spells have obvious casting animations and noises, all the buffs and debuffs are obvious. This basically means you always have the opportunity to counterplay.
No shared vision
Holy shit the jukes. 1vs3? still not impossible.
The centre orb keeps the action where it needs to be
Essentially king of the hill all the time, the orb in the middle provides massive benefits and basically keeps the action in the centre.
Battlerites let people play how they want, diversifying the champions they have by 2 or 3
The perks system is fantastic. You want a damage support? You want a super slippery Ranged? The battlerites provide plenty of choices, and mostly none of them are wrong.
As an aside, The community is surprisingly nice, and everyone seems to acknowledge that if you lose, it’s almost certainly because you got outplayed. Even the few times we’ve seen people leave or AFK, the games have mostly descended into ‘1v1 me’.
Whilst it may be on the expensive side for what will eventually be a free to play game, it’s so much fun.
Here’s this season’s stuff, from best to worst. Personally I’m probably not going to follow anything under a 7 unless it gets rave reviews once the season progresses.
Yuuri On Ice – 8
Ice skater Yuuri tries to go from last in season to champion
To be hero – 8
Short (12 min eps) comedy about a sleazy toilet seat salesman who gets sucked into a toilet and given superpowers, but physically changes appearance into a perverted fat old man, not really your conventional superhero…
Keijo – 7
Pure fanservice, and absolutely fucking retarded, but maybe worth watching because of just how shit it is? It’s based on a sport where you have to push people into water using only your ass or tits, and naturally there are girls who can swing their ass into other people’s jaws so fast that they become unconscious (and that other girls can’t even see what she did). Fucking ridiculous garbage but I might have to watch another episode… Bonus pic
Kiss Him, not me (Watashi Ga motete dousunda) – 7
Otaku Fujoshi suddenly becomes a hottie
Scorching Ping Pong Girls – 7
“a scorching hot tale of girls who love ping pong.” , hmm……. The first episode was interesting though. Might be like Saki
Drifters – 7
Very stylish action show, a bunch of heroes from different era’s have been dragged from the brink of death to another world and time.
Udon no kuni no kin’iro Kemari – 7
Udon master’s son returns home and meets a tanuki disguised as a human… Looks like a slow burner but is looking like a warming story so far.
All Out!! – 7
Rugby sports anime, probably another zero to hero one, featuring some small dude who probably shouldn’t be playing rugby. Hopefully it’ll be like Slam Dunk but with rugby.
Izetta: The Last Witch – 6
40’s era post war story, and then suddenly a powerful witch appears. High production quality, but not particularly enjoying it yet.
Flip Flappers – 5
Journey to another world with some weird robot thing. Not bad, but nothing too special yet.
Magical girl raising project – 5
Looks like it might turn into battle royale with magical girls? There are 16 magical girls in the district but only enough magical energy for 8 of them… Will probably be dark and twisty but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be any good.
Tiger Mask W – 5
Wrestling anime, enough said.
3-Gatsu no Lion (Lion of March) – 5
The first episode was really boring, but I feel like it might be a good show underneath. It’s a coming of age tale about a professional shogi player, who comes out of depression with the help of family and friends?
Occultic;Nine – 5
Train wreck for the first episode, with it introducing a ton of characters and then some weird shit happening. The character design makes it incredibly hard to take seriously. It’s by the same author as steins;gate
Nanbaka – 5
Group of talented prison escapers go ahead and escape from some prisons… Everything is sparkly and very colourful.
Classicaloid – 4
Hot garbage featuring Mozart and Beethoven fighting aliens with superpowers and gigantic robots powered by their symphonies.
Long Riders! – 4
It’s Bakuon but with Bicycles – A generic slice of life ‘oh I got introduced to a sports club and look how fun it is’ show about riding bicycles.
Cheating Craft – 3
I was really optimistic when I saw the name, hoping for something vaguely kaiji-esque, but it’s some sort of weird school battle shit about students that can fight each other in an exam hall, so they can copy from other people.
Brave Witches – 1
I think this is related to Strike Witches but I honestly have no idea. I think it was the only show this season that I dropped before getting to the end of the opening sequence.
Spent majority of the weekend down near southhampton in New Forest national park.
Only last week at the aforementioned strange BBQ, was invited to go camping with some folk down at new forest, didn’t have anything already pencilled in, so I thought I’d take inspiration from that Jim Carey film ‘Yes Man’ and signed up for it, despite not really knowing how to camp.
I don’t think i’ve been camping since my days in scouts or primary school.
So we set out on Saturday morning and hit the camping area around 10:30ish, to which everyone was like “alright, time to go hiking to the nearest pub!”
2 hours and a hell of a lot of walking later, we finally arrived. Nice little lunch, drink and lay down and we were back on the long trail to return to camp, we took a different route of course.
Of worthy note is that one of the guys with us, Tim, had an OG paper map and compass, and without him we would have been very very lost, as google maps doesn’t really have hiking trails on the map, and tbh we weren’t following the paths all the time anyway.
Finally returned to camp around 6:30 (we left at 11:30), literally stumbling out through the forest and straight towards a beautifully timed ice cream van.
I was absolutely exhausted after all the walking, I think we totalled approximately 10 miles (up and down hills, over streams, through woodland and all sorts).
We didn’t actually bring any food with us, so we popped back in the car and went the local shop to buy some food, and came back with one of those disposable BBQ’s, Meat and Ciders. We threw the tent up with everyones help and then got to BBQing (the charcoal didn’t catch fire very well, so it was a lot of effort fanning the flames).
We were sitting in the dark for fairly long until maybe 11pm or so, when a sudden shower started and we were all forced back into our tents.
The night went about as expected, fairly hard ground coupled with a sleeping bag which was simultaneously too cold and too hot, the real problems began around 5am when I was woken up by birds and the sound of rain on the top of the tent. Needed to piss really badly because of the cider but oh my god the rain just refused to let up. Thus ended up laying in bed drifting in and out of sleep until 7am or so. God those birds were noisy.