Review: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Title: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer

Author: Rick Riordan

Pages: 528

Goodreads link

My rating: 4/5

There were two things that initially attracted me to this book: Rick Riordan and Norse mythology. I’m a big fan of both, so this was a bit of a no-brainer. I’m afraid it’s been languishing unread on my shelf for a while now, but I recently had a craving for mythology, so the time was right.

I’ve previously really enjoyed Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, not just because they cannibalise the weird and wonderful library of Greek mythology, but also because Percy is not a stereotypical hero. He has some problems in the ‘normal’ world that the author elegantly turns into strengths in his fictitious world, showing both his son and now a multitude of kids and kidults that weakness is a subjective term. I rather like the ambition behind that message.

Magnus Chase is another unlikely hero that bumbles and stumbles his way to success, with, of course, some help from some unlikely friends. Every Rick Riordan book I’ve read so far is first person, and I really like that because it allows the POV character’s voice to really shine through and shape the narrative. And Magnus has a great voice: he’s really quick-witted and sarky, but in a good way. He can fire off amusing observations and understatements from the hip, which keeps you smiling throughout, even in the joke-inappropriate moments of near and actual death. It keeps the mood light and upbeat, which is not an unusual tactic for getting through the struggle, and it keeps the mythology on the silly side, when it could so easily be utterly gruesome and traumatic. It’s akin to what Disney did to traditional fairy tales: made them attractive to kids.

If I have to give one slightly negative point, it would be that the story felt a bit bitty. I recognise a lot of the stories from Norse mythology in this book, but some of them feel slightly shoehorned and just there to fill up some space because they exist. I like the modern interpretations of the stories, don’t get me wrong, but in some places it feels like they’ve been used to the detriment of the plot. It’s a bit myth first and narrative second. This is perhaps why the book is significantly longer than any of the Percy Jacksons.

Having said that, I still really enjoyed reading the first in this series, and I definitely intend to keep going. It’s good fun and has some excellent twists on the old myths. And, of course, at the centre beats the heart of Rick Riordan’s purpose: it doesn’t matter what ‘faults’ you have; as long as you have courage, you can be a hero.

Fanquilting: From Book to Quilt

Well, it was my birthday last week, and I wanted to share with you my number one present. For who knows how many hours, my mum has been secretly sewing away to make this amazing quilt inspired by Hidden Dawn.

I’ve long held the belief that my mum can pretty much do anything with a sewing machine. We had a huge trunk full of costumes when I was a kid, and I mean proper costumes, full-blown Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters, all made by her. There is no challenge – no Halloween school disco, no instrument cover, no awning, no yardage of bunting – that she won’t accept. And I’m still trying to process how completely amazing this quilt is.

It is, apparently, in the ‘flying geese’ design, with a teal background on the front and a sky-blue back (my favourite colours). Then she has gone material-scouting to find a range of patterns and colours that reminded her of my book. Around the border is a murky forest floor colour with silhouettes of antlers just visible through the gloom. The geese themselves are then patterns of trees, leaves, flowers and ferns, with water and wind geese, vast blue skies and the fiery oranges of all those sunrises that are endemic in Hidden Dawn. It all combines to bring a patch of Canadian wilderness into my den, and a bit of fiction magic.

I know fans can do extraordinary things to celebrate their favourite books – artwork, fanfiction, craftwork, cosplay – and I love the fact that one act of creativity can spawn a cascade of other acts of creativity. It’s a truly allelomimetic behaviour. The imagination is a contagious thing. But I’m left in no doubt as to who my number one fan is. Thanks, Mum!

Review: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Title: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Developer: Ubisoft

Genre: Action Role-Playing, Stealth

My playtime: 127 hours

My rating: 8/10

Well, I’m currently sat around, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Mr Amazon to deliver my copy of The Division 2. I cannot express how excited I am that it’s finally out, and how frustrated I am that it’s now almost evening and it’s still not here. Just my luck, Mr Amazon chooses today to deliver at 11.59 p.m. Anyway, I thought I’d do something constructive in the meantime and review another game I was very excited about: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

And I was right to be excited about this one. I cannot contain how thrilled I am that AC is heading in this direction. I know traditionally AC is an action-adventure franchise, and I’m not at all averse to action-adventures, but in my heart of hearts, I’m an RPG gal. Origins was a really elegant transition game, so that die hard fans weren’t shocked by a change in genre, but Odyssey is where the RPG potential of AC is really starting to bloom. And actually, this franchise is perfectly matched to this genre, as is evidenced in Odyssey. For the first time, I feel like I’m very much in control of my character. Being able to choose a female character is one of the highlights of this game for me. I played Evie as much as I could in Syndicate, but there were times in that game when you were forced to played Jacob, which I wasn’t too happy about. Committing wholly to Kassandra, however, felt like I could really own this character and hone my style with her, and be able to play as her throughout, with no annoying sidetracks into characters I’m not used to (ahem, Origins).

And then there’s the map, the sheer scale of this Greek world. It’s bloomin’ huge! I would often climb up to synchronization points just to spin the camera around and look at all the places on the horizon I could reach and explore. And actually, one of the good things about Odyssey is that there’s more motivation to go to each of these regions. Whereas in Origins, it was sometimes a slog to reach every question mark, in Odyssey, each region has a decent amount of diverse side quests (if not main quests), that make each region or island an interesting place to explore. There’s more motivation to do so. And they’ve really dug into Greek mythology for some of these places, which makes them even more fascinating and challenging.

One thing that I did not excel at was the decision-making. I’m terrible at decisions in real life, but for some reason, I have a real knack with choosing the “wrong” way in games. And these decisions are not straightforward. Most of the time, you’ll be lulled into a short-term decision that feels right, but the long-term consequences can be far-reaching and really quite bad. I made all those kinds of decisions. And then, of course, Sokrates pops up every now and then to judge you for all your bad choices and make you feel even worse. Top tip: whatever Sokrates asks you to do, do the option that seems bad at the time. To be fair, he’ll probably just judge you anyway. It also took me a while to get out of my AC head of trying to complete every single mission. I was quite shocked that a lot of the recurring missions you get from NPCs are to murder civilians without really gathering any evidence or differing points of view to see whether your victims actually deserve it. I felt really awful about doing that. And then it twigged: I didn’t have to! These missions aren’t obligatory, and you can just ignore them if they appear on noticeboards – if that’s your style. If not, murder away! Just be careful about the bounty system, as it takes ages for bounties to drop naturally (you can pay them off, but they do decrease with time, just a lot of it). But this is really the great and relieving thing about Odyssey: choice. I remember getting quite upset that completion in Origins meant having to kill war elephants, which I just did NOT want to do, because I love elephants, and in fact, never did. But in Odyssey, it’s all about what you want to do. The conquest battles, for example, were just not my thing. My melee fighting in AC has always been a weakness, and button-mashing battles just don’t appeal to me. But it didn’t matter, because I didn’t have to do them. It was just so pleasant to have this kind of choice about what I wanted to do.

To be honest, I think the civilian killing is the only thing that made me think that this game didn’t feel like an AC game. There has been a lot of stick about Odyssey not being anything to do with the actual assassin’s creed, as it doesn’t actually exist yet. But these things don’t just burst into existence overnight. They have to evolve, and Odyssey is a fantastic precursor game. Apart from the civilian murders, really at no other time did I think that this wasn’t an AC game. It’s such a good game in and of itself that it really doesn’t matter that there’s no creed or hidden blades. In fact, I really liked the Spear of Leonidas as my primary weapon. In Origins, I favoured the bow, but the bows in Odyssey are pretty pants. However, this spear was a more than adequate replacement. Once you level it up a bit, you can do some truly awesome moves with it that blow hidden blades out of the water. I’m going to be really sad in the next AC game when that disappears. Unless it’s replaced by something even more awesome …

So, in a nutshell, I think Odyssey is a fun, epic and promising evolution in the AC franchise. I didn’t care a jot that there were no hidden blades; this game is outstanding as a game on its own, and it is an engaging precursor to the actual creed. Hey, I’ve sunk nearly 130 hours into it, so it must be good. Hoorah for the direction AC is now heading in! It makes me feel like Ubisoft is really digging into the potential for the franchise, which is exciting and optimistic for future episodes.

Review: TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow

Title: TimeRiders

Author: Alex Scarrow

Pages: 425

Goodreads link

My Rating: 5/5

A while ago, I promised I’d dig out my old review for TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow, the first in a favourite series of mine. So here it is!

When I think about a time travel story, my first instinct is to go straight to the story, pick one of the many points in history that excite me, and imagine all the hilarious, awkward and hair-raising situations modern kids would get themselves into. Oh, and then I’d shove in some lame time-travelling apparatus and crowbar in a reason for the kids to accidentally fall through a wormhole. And that’s probably why I don’t have an empire of time-travelling novels and Alex Scarrow does. The time-travelling element isn’t just crowbarred in after the story has been written, it forms the incredibly – and sometimes alarmingly – robust basis of the book. It’s scientific, it’s clever, it’s comprehensive, and it’s the nearest I have ever been to believing that time travel is actually happening – we just aren’t aware of it yet.

A good example is the way that the TimeRiders have to be suspended almost naked in a vat of water when they travel in order to prevent contamination, but on the other side, this leaves them inconveniently wet and, well, almost naked when they arrive. Why would you force this on your characters? Wouldn’t you rather gear them up and give them some awesome gadgets? Not if you’ve actually thought about the mechanics and the risks of time travel, and the water vat scheme turns out to be the most practical for non-fiction time travel.

This level of detail and the consequent extreme realism is the foundation of elite science fiction – it’s what makes the world of Star Trek so popular and what creates some of the world’s most passionate fans, and Alex Scarrow has done his utmost to produce the most realistic time travel world I have ever encountered.

And then there’s the story itself, which I really struggled to find fault with. It trots along at a great pace with an infuriating lack of explanations that keep you turning over to the next page as the narrative snakes from one point of view to another. What I find really impressive is the distinctiveness of each character’s voice. It’s one of those skills in authors I really admire: to be able to switch the tone of the narrative voice seamlessly to suit the character the story is following.

It is quite a while into the book before any time alteration occurs, but the beginning is far from long-winded, as it takes you through the mechanics of the time travel and the training of the TimeRiders, which helps the reader realise that time travel and timeline alteration is not something to make light of. In fact, as the story builds, you’ll find that the most threatening bad guy is not the deluded time alterer, it’s actually time travel itself. It is very much shown to have a similar effect and threat level on the world as the splitting of the atom. As Dr Oppenheimer aptly quoted, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” The same can be applied to the fictional creator of time travel in TimeRiders, Roald Waldstein. The invention of time travel causes nothing but destruction yet cannot be uninvented, and even the good guys, the time cops, are sucked into the devastation, facing the choice of either dying horribly in their own times or sacrificing and risking everything in order to prevent time alteration. The costs of keeping their lives are immense. The responsibility of the world rests on their shoulders, yet they are only kids – kids without the choices we take for granted.

So, the observant amongst you may have noticed that I quite liked this book. It has put in place the strong foundations of a fantastic sci-fi series and unfolds a thrilling adventure with quite a serious edge. I’m really looking forward to many more exciting and intriguing time alterations.

Cover Crush – The Binding by Bridget Collins

This little beaut has just arrived, and I can unashamedly confess that I bought it for its cover. It is The Binding by Bridget Collins, a recently released adult debut from this author that is being heralded by a storm of fabulous reviews. I have to say I’m not much of a sucker for hype – I prefer to wait for a variety of unfiltered reviews to come in from real readers and then make a decision – but I really couldn’t ignore the production value that has gone into this book. It so rarely happens these days that a publisher will actually part with a decent amount of cash for production (Angie Sage’s books are another example I can think of), but I really appreciate it as a reader when it does happen and designers get to do what they do best. I like to hold beautiful books and appreciate them while they sit on my shelves. The written word is a thing of beauty, a world contained within the leaves of this small object, and it should be bound with that in mind.

Even the dust jacket is delicious on The Binding, rich blues and browns with gold foil accents, but peel that off, and there’s a gorgeous filigree of gold foil over the hard cover, which is a kind of dark French blue. The pages are thick and creamy, as they often are in hardbacks, and the flyleaves have a lovely marbled paper effect in colours similar to the dust jacket, harking back to those books of yore. There are also some sweet pencil sketches introducing each of the three parts in the book, and you can’t beat a pencil sketch in my opinion.

All I can hope for now is that the story itself does justice to the cover! Even if it doesn’t, I’m keeping this book on my shelves for purposes of aesthetic satisfaction. When it comes to books, I’m shallow like that.

Secretlab OMEGA Chair – the Chair I’ve Been Looking for

It has been many a year now that I have been looking for a comfy chair to park my butt in over long hours of work and, of course, gaming. I haven’t been searching every day over those years, mind, but I have had bursts of enthusiasm when my lower back twinged every couple of months. However, nothing I saw seemed up to the job, or if it was, it was wildly expensive – more than I’d pay for a deluxe sofa kind of expensive.

Then, this last December, my back cried out to me once more, and I had a jolt of inspiration – why wasn’t I looking at gaming chairs? They are designed for comfort over long hours of button mashing. So I went on some gaming websites to look at their reviews of chairs, and I found that the Secretlab OMEGA series was consistently coming out on top, even above much more expensive chairs. Convinced, I went to the Secretlab website and found that their chairs were on sale – even better – and even better still, there was a waiting list for deliveries, which told me this was the chair that everyone wanted. So I immediately ordered one.

And this week, it finally arrived! And I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy with a return on investment as I am with this chair. Here she is in all her glory in my hideaway.

The model I got is in their SoftWeave fabric in Charcoal Blue. I’m not a fan of leather, real or fake, and their real and PU leather models require some long-term care. The SoftWeave, however, is a really lovely material that’s soft to touch but feels sturdy.

Firstly, I’ve never known a chair to adjust in quite so many directions as this one. You can recline all the way back such that throw on a blanket and you can call it a bed. The armrests adjust along three axes (that I’ve found so far!), and you can tilt back and forth as much as you like with a perfect amount of resistance. I don’t have to push against it, and it doesn’t push back against me. It just holds me with the support I need. I’d definitely call it responsive. It really has the individual in mind, and the designers have understood fully that every person has a unique shape and set of preferences for their seating experience.

Then there’s the comfort factor. It’s an odd thing, because the seat and backrest are firm but somehow really comfy. It might have something to do with even distribution of weight, but you can keep your squishy armchairs, as this is the future for me. It’s the feeling of being truly supported on every surface and in every direction. I was a bit worried that my somewhat chunky thighs might make me too wide for this model, but I was completely wrong. There’s plenty of room for someone at least a little bit into the overweight range of their BMI. I’ve also got quite broad shoulders, and they are not too broad for this chair either. Everything is just supportive, not overly hugging, and I can even cross my legs on it, which is important for a fidget bum like me. I’m 5’7″ and it fits me spot on, but my partner, who is 6’2″, also finds it comfy, despite the fact that the manufacturers only recommend the OMEGA for folks up to 5’9″. I’m not saying definitely get it if you’re over 5’9″, but if you’re slight of frame, it would probably be fine up to folks of 6′. If in doubt, just get the next series up, the TITAN.

You also get a nice head pillow that straps securely over the top of the backrest and a memory foam lumbar support cushion, which my lower back is very grateful for.

All in all, I know it’s just a chair, but when you’ve been struggling in rubbish, cheap chairs for so many years, and your back is getting progressively worse, a decent chair can have a huge impact on quality of life, especially considering how much time I spend on one. It’s not ridiculously expensive for what you get. In fact, I’d say it’s exceptional value for money. You could pay a lot more and get a lot less. And a happy back is priceless really. I’m actually happy to sit down to work every day now. When I sit in this chair, I can hear my back sighing in relief, and I know that I’ll be perfectly comfortable all day. I won’t ever look at another chair now. This is it for me for life. Thank you, Secretlab!

Winter Solstice Book Haul

I must have been on Santa’s Nice List this year, because I’ve had one heck of a haul of books this solstice/Christmas. Check out the booty …

My lovely mum got me the two illustrated beauties at the top: The Books of Earthsea and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Now, small confession, I’ve never actually read Ursula Le Guin. I know, bad. Very bad. But I saw this complete illustrated edition and my must-have-that-book radar went off, so I put it on my wishlist with the intention of actually reading these classic books. Something to look forward to in 2019! And Beedle will be a nice addition to my growing collection of illustrated Harry Potter books.

The rest are a bunch of paperbacks I’ve been coveting for some time now. Dear old Alex Rider wasn’t a happy lad when I last left him a few years ago, but now Anthony Horowitz has written a new(ish) story to resolve his situation a bit. Patrick Ness is one of my all-time favourite authors, so I’m thrilled to get Release. Those of you who read my review of Ready Player One will know I loved Ernest Cline’s first novel, so I’m looking forward to Armada. Reviews suggest it’s not as good as RPO, but I remain open-minded.

The others are books that have piqued my interest on my book-truffling exhibitions, so these are all on my list to read in 2019 (and I’m hoping to fit them all in!).

One very happy reader here!

DNF: The Maze Runner

Oh dear. Oh deary dear.

I decided to read The Maze Runner by James Dashner because I got hold of the film while it was on sale, and I hate to watch a film adaptation before reading the book. I want to know whether the adaptation does the original material any justice. So I started reading the book. And then I started forcing myself to swallow small portions of it most nights. And then, after what felt like a month of trying, I had got to about three quarters of the way through, and I just couldn’t force myself any more. And I watched the film instead.

Just see the film.

I can’t even begin to express how much I despise DNFing. I so rarely do it I could probably count the times I have done so on one hand. I like to think I’m a fair judge, and give each book a fair trial by reading the whole thing, even if it’s not really my cup of hot chocolate. But there was just something about The Maze Runner that I just couldn’t push through. It felt like it was a lot longer than it actually is, although that was probably because I was dragging the reading out over so many weeks. I don’t think it was the story that was an issue. In fact, it’s really my kind of story, right up my genre alley. I think it was the writing. I just found it very bland and unexciting. It was a book of beige. I struggled to picture the glade and the maze and the characters. I think it just wasn’t very evocative or engaging. I’m sure it’s to a lot of people’s taste, and judging by the sales, it really must be. But it’s just not to my taste. I like to be sucked in by writing, and there was really no suction there for me at all.

On the plus side, I really enjoyed the film. As with most adaptations, there were a number of significant differences between the book and the film, but in essence, it was there. Which goes to show I really did like the story. I guess the strong visuals in the film made up for those patchy images that my own imagination had managed to cobble together, so it just came together better for me as a film.

I’m sorry. I did try. The film was great, and I’ll be watching all the others. But the book was just that bit too long with that bit too uninteresting writing for me to persevere to the end.

In search of the Best Harry Potter Reading Experience

At the end of October, as the nights were drawing in, a chill could be felt in the air, and the leaves began to turn, I found myself feeling the urge to dive once again into the soothing pages of Harry Potter. I don’t know why I associate HP with this time of year. Perhaps it’s the heavy focus in the books on Halloween and Christmas. Perhaps it’s because I find autumn is the most comfortable season of the year for me, and that’s synonymous with Hogwarts. Whatever the reason, I indulged and cracked open the latest illustrated entry into the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Perhaps the most Halloweeny of the lot, and I think still my favourite of the seven.

Once again Jim Kay has done a fantastic job of adding colour and texture to J.K. Rowling’s world. And just as the mood of the books has turned darker, so too has Kay’s illustrations. Probably my favourite page is the dementor on the Hogwarts Express – a dark, cloaked, faceless figure looming through the doorway with that gnarly hand, and a candlelit reflection of Professor Lupin staring in terror.

I have to say, on the downside, that there were fewer illustrations than my appetite would have liked. I did some reading around, and it seems that Jim Kay was a bit rushed on this job. In his own post, he expresses how good it is to be able to take his time over the next book, The Goblet of Fire, implying he had been rushed on The Prisoner of Azkaban. There are a number of spreads in a row at numerous points where the illustration is just a background wallpaper print for the text. I know the books are getting longer now, and they have to save money on the printing, but it was a bit disappointing to turn the page and find yet another wallpaper spread.

However, what I did find in this book was a fantastic new reading experience, at least for me, that made the book even more enjoyable this time round. I don’t know why, but partway through, I had the idea to listen to Stephen Fry narrate the book while I followed the text and turned the pages. It’s a complete and unabashed return to childhood, sitting in bed and looking at the illustrations and turning the pages while a grown-up reads the words. It was a total indulgence, and I absolutely loved it.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with the Audible audiobook.

I don’t care that I’m somewhere above thirty; this was by far the most enjoyable Harry Potter reading experience I’ve had yet (except, of course, for the first time I ever read the books; nothing can beat that). Stephen Fry is just the perfect person to narrate the books, and does a much better job than my rubbish internal voice, and when you add that to the illustrations, the whole experience levels up. I’m not gonna lie; I hate being an adult. It’s ghastly. So being able to return to childhood for just a short while is a wonderful antidote for the unpleasantness of adulthood. If you’re feeling rubbish, you’ve had a bad day, or the weather is being wonderfully grim, I can’t recommend this experience highly enough. Go on. Indulge.

Review: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

shadow-of-the-tomb-raider-cover

Title: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Developer: Eidos Montréal

Genre: Action-adventure

My playtime: 20 hours

My rating: 9/10

Well, I’ve just finished serving the big bad boss up some whoop-ass in the latest outing for Lara Croft, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, so I thought I’d hit y’all with my review whilst it’s still fresh in my mind. Just give me a moment to blink away the bleed-through …

I am in reality. We don’t skewer each other with pickaxes. We don’t steal resources from impoverished civilians. And we definitely don’t poke holes in endangered species …

There we go.

I’ve been a fan of Tomb Raider since Tomb Raider II, the first game I was old enough to play (oh, the hours I’ve spent pottering around blocktastic Venice). So this has to be the longest-running franchise that I’ve eagerly anticipated each release date of. Lara has been with me ever since my age had double digits, so it’s fair to say she’s had quite an impact on my life. As a child, I so desperately wanted to be her, but now I’m an adult and the opportunity to raid tombs for a living has passed me by, I’m quite content to live vicariously through Lara as she adapts and flourishes into the fourth decade of my time.

I’m a fan of all three of these latest games, but I have to say, I am particularly impressed with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It really feels like the maturation of Lara in her current iteration. They had an excellent formula is 2013, but the brew is at its best in the final episode of this trilogy. I think this is mainly due to the proportions and qualities of this world, set in the Peruvian jungle. The hub areas are vastly bigger than they are in the previous two games, and more than that, there are actual side quests. Gasp! Yes, this is a real, living, breathing world populated by actual people. Previously, our Lara has been adventuring through fantastic settings with some truly epic locations (which can definitely be said for this latest game), but they were all lacking that certain something that made them feel lifelike: life. There are NPCs galore in Shadow, beset with the usual problems that NPCs can’t solve for themselves. Poor lambs. And because you spend time in these hubs, hunting out relics and documents or completing side quests and challenges, this game feels a lot bigger than it really is. Unlike vast open worlds in which you spend most of your time trying to find the fastest way to traverse them, you’ve got to poke your nose into every nook and commit suicide several times to reach every cranny to find every bit of hidden treasure (and I’m ace at finding every way possible to commit suicide in Tomb Raider – I particularly liked being blown off a ledge, breaking my leg and then being devoured by wolves). And there is some fantastic background information about the indigenous and colonial cultures in this area. I actually stop and listen to each entry, rather than just collecting for collecting’s sake, because it’s so fascinating. The challenge tombs are also much bigger than in previous episodes, with much more involved puzzling and problem-solving. The puzzling feels far more like a significant feature of the game now, rather than just a natty bit of fun on the side. I do love a good brain challenge, and this is Tomb Raider after all. The key is in the title.

There are some nice RPG touches in this game. Right from the off, you can customise Lara’s outfit and then collect other outfits with certain bonus effects (you can even skin her in old-school Lara – ah, the memories! That bloody butler!). There are a decent number of weapons to buy or earn, and a comprehensive skill tree that allows you to build Lara’s skills in a way that’s useful for your particular play style. My preference is to be stealthy (because I just panic when all the bad guys rush me), and Lara has learned a few new tricks in this regard. She can now apply mud camo and stick to muddy walls, ready with her trusty jury-rigged knife to savage the presumably half-blind guards. The only problem I had here was that Lara was a bit too sticky for me. It took a lot of joystick waggling to get her to peel away and run to the next cover. Not great when you have to time things exactly. But as compensation, you can now put lure traps on dead bodies, attracting the presumably half-brain-dead guards to your latest kill so that a proximity bomb can blast them into oblivion. That’s great fun! Probably my favourite feature for stealth kills.

But there’s not too much RPG stuff to threaten a total change in genre. I think they’ve got the balance about right. These days, gamers expect more from an action-adventure. People like to make choices and be in control regardless of genre. It’s fun and it makes the game dynamic and personal. And at this point, we’re really getting to know this Lara and understand her choices and behaviour, even if she does cock up on an apocalyptic level. I think that’s the other aspect of this game that really makes it stand out from the others. We see Lara at her worst and best. She’s like Percival crossed with an avenging angel who’s still too young to make wise choices, but when she cocks up, she makes damn sure she puts things to rights. This is a Lara that I can really get on with: rash and flawed, but ultimately courageous and righteous. And that is just the kind of dynamic hero/anti-hero that I like in my games.

So I’m really pleased with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I think the developers should all get cake for this game. They’ve done themselves proud, they’ve done the franchise proud, and they’ve made a lifelong fan very happy.