The Changelog – October 2022

It was an October that didn’t look like October: the maximum temperatures never went under 25 °C; it was almost always sunny, and everything looked more like spring than autumn.

This threw me off a bit. At the moment I am writing, it is Halloween, yet I do not really feel it. Well, I didn’t feel the October vibes for the other part of the month, either. So I will probably call this month September 2.0, hope for a more traditional November (or not; I am okay with mild temperatures this year), and move on.

But this month was not a void blip like September. Instead, I did a lot of things I liked to do. I made pizza twice, we celebrated my father’s birthday, I went to Rome to visit the Van Gogh exposition, went plant-flower-shopping, and revisited some of the small towns around my home. In the end, it was a solid month that left many photos and memories.

As a law or retaliation, though, I had less time for what we usually discuss in this newsletter. However, it was still enough for a full newsletter. Better going, then!

We will talk about the latest King book, Fairy Tale, and, most importantly, the game Plague Tale: Requiem (I rushed to complete it just for this newsletter!)

PS: If you missed it, I translated an old philosophy article of mine. It contains a funny (or psychotic) story about my first year of school. Crazy teachers. 😒

Reading

This month I decided to read fewer books. It is better to read fewer books mindfully than force-feeding our brain book after book without having time to let them sink in. So I planned to focus on processing notes and ideas from previous readings.

However, I still read something. In fact, after the total disaster of a King’s novel I read last month, I was eager to tackle the latest King’s book: Fairy Tale.

This time, I really liked this book. It is not mind-blowing by any means; nor perfectly constructed or original; nor painfully emotional; nor is the end particularly inspired. But it is pretty good, and I was able to go over its 600+ pages without feeling its weight. Although, as usual, like many other Stephen King books, it could be 20% pages smaller without losing much.

The worldbuilding–if we can call it worldbuilding–is not particularly strong. On more occasions, I felt King just started throwing random fantasy-sounding names like a Dungeon Master forced to improvise some NPC’s backstory. Nevertheless, it is not something that makes the book less enjoyable.

Okay, I am saying I liked it, but I have listed only the negatives so far. So let’s go to the good parts. The prose is, as always, excellent and catchy. But the aspect that closed the deal, for me, is that it is full of small wholesome details. Yes, there are sad, disgusting parts and horrible people (I suppose you expect that from King), but there is an above-average number of good things happening. Good news. Good events. Good people. Good friends. Good parents.

I needed that extra bit of feel-goodness this month.

Watchlist

I watched only a few series or movies this month, but I’ve finally completed the Start Trek rewatch. I have never been a super fan of the original series. Probably, it is because it is now a 56-year-old production (for comparison, 56 years before Star Trek, a young Gladys Hulette interpreted Alice in one of the first silent movie adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).

The rewatch, though, made me appreciate it more. It also made me realize how many of what we now consider a staple of the Trek universe were just barely hinted at in the original series. Took, for instance, the Orion. They appear in two, maybe three, episodes. And yet they look like they were always there.

The Star Trek movies did all the heavy job of polishing and rationalizing the Start Trek universe consistency. The first movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, is not a great movie (but, as people say, it is a great screensaver), but it made me really appreciate how much of the “modern Trek” started there. That movie established the current Start Trek universe more than most of TOS.

Anyhow. I restarted The Next Generation once again. I’ll probably end up with that in a year. 😆

Oh, I also completed Lord of the Ring: The Ring of Power, and last month, I promised a comment. Now, though, I am unsure if I want to spend much time on it because I think you can already find every single comment covering the entire spectrum of opinions. Adding mine will be too much. Let me just say that I liked almost everything but the story, which I consider a bit too simple if compared with the ambitions of the rest. (On the other hand, you know how much I enjoy simple stories where good is good and evil is evil.)

Music

Not a lot of music this month (only ~770 tracks listened and 29 albums). Therefore, I don’t have a theme or something significant to say.

However, I want to use this space to suggest an album from the Italian doom metal band Messa (If you are not used to doom metal, do not worry: it is not too heavy as doom metal; it is closer to some heavier psychedelic rock). The album is called Close and was released in March of this year. It is definitely the best new album I listened to this month.

Gaming

Few books, a few series, and little music. What did I do this month? Well, video gaming dominated the second half of the month. And this is an achievement: it is the first month since I started with the ChangeLog that I have completed a single-player game. So let’s spend some time on it.

The game I played was A Plague Tale: Requiem, the second episode of the Plague Tale series. I played the first episode (A Plague Tale: Innocence (2019)) last year, and I really liked it. So you can understand that I jumped on Requiem with many expectations and a lot of excitement.

And it was… good. But with some bitterness in my mouth, in a good and a bad way.

The weakest part is the story. Not per se, but in the way it is told. Initially, the narration seems choppy, scattered, and incomplete. The initial chapters would benefit from smoother transitions between them. The beekeeper dream chapter could have been removed; it felt very out of place.

Then, after 6 chapters, the story flow gets better. Finally, the story gets some steam, and while I still think there are pacing issues, that feeling of watching a “storyboard experiment” disappears.

At that point, you start to realize something: the story is very intimate, and it is a slow descent toward emotional agony. (See Spoilery Section 1 for more comments with spoilers on the story).

I am not sure the game was technically ready for all that emotional display. However, Amicia’s voice actor, Charlotte McBurney, did a tremendous job. She was unbelievably great. She carried most of the game on her talent alone and saved the choppy story progression by herself. Yet, her performance amplified the technical shortcomings of the model’s face animation: the characters look stiff, unable to fully express what the story and the voice actor would like them to communicate.

On the game design side, the game is similar to the first game. Nothing really new on that front. However, even the gameplay progression feels a bit “choppy” and less elegant than the first episode. So, my feeling tells me that, gameplay-wise, the game is no better than the first.

I still appreciate that in the stealth parts, you feel significantly underpowered compared to the soldiers and enemies. It is always the best aspect of the game design, and I am happy it is still the case.

Overall, the game falls short of with it could have been. Landing with a score half-point/full-point lower than the first episode. I know very little about the development of this title, but I could think there were some problems during the development phase. If t is so, I would not be surprised.

It is still an excellent game (I really loved Innocence, so one point less than that is still great), and, at this point, I really hope there is a sequel planned to give a bit of peace to my soul.

Conclusion

And that’s it for this month. If you have any comments or suggestions for the future, let me know.

In the meanwhile, let’s see what November will bring. It is the second-last month of the year. So it is better to make it count.

Other Interesting Things

  • They Probed Quantum Entanglement While Everyone Shrugged — This is probably the most accurate report about the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2022, Alain Aspect, John Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger. If you haven’t read anything about it, this is the only one you need.
  • Unearthing Everyday Life at an Ancient Site in Greece — I love ancient history. This a beautiful reportage by Matt Stirn about the excavations near the Peloponnesian village of Iklaina that uncovered a Mycenaean palace. It is a splendid window into the everyday life of people who lived 3000 years ago.
  • God of War Ragnarök’s designers want you to express yourself (with violence) — This is an enjoyable interview with God of War Ragnarök’s designers. It is a good read if you want some fascinating insight into the decision process of GoW:R combat system.
  • Service Announcement. Due to the dark shadows over Twitter, somebody asked me if I had a Mastodon profile. If you know me, you know I am very skeptical about this social network “clones-but-free.” I think they will solve none of the fundamental problems of social media. Nevertheless, yes, I have one. I am not active on that, but if “the shit hits the fan” on Twitter, you know where to look.

Spoilery Section

  1. Plague Tale is an emotional fall into an increasing tsunami of pain. It doesn’t end well. At all. There is no emotional relief. Not even in the epilogue. There is, maybe, an opening for a sequel that may, in the future, wash the insane amount of emotional suffering from this title. But, until then, for the moment, we are stuck with pain as the natural common thread guiding the story. I think it makes the game a bit heavy. There is some beauty among all this torment, but if I should describe the story in a few words, I’d say it is a story about the “death of hope.” The ending frame, before the “epilogue that is not an epilogue," is a massive gut punch. The credits rolling without music after you were forced to kill your brother really left me speechless.
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