Dovah-cookery: Skyrim-inspired cooking

Lots of the food in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, (a game which I’m sure needs no introduction from me) looks remarkably appetizing.

Good grief; that salmon steak looks almost real.

Salmon Steak, Seared Slaughterfish and a “Homecooked Meal” look particularly nice, assuming you’re not vegetarian.

But there’s one food above the others that impressed me in Skyrim, though for the life of me, I can’t put my finger on why: Grilled leeks!

Here they are, in all their crispy glory.

Here they are, in all their crispy glory.

You can buy Grilled Leeks from from almost any tavern in Skyrim, and find them on plates in dungeons and fortresses. For some reason, though, the Dovahkiin (player character) can never master the recipe.

Well, I decided that I needed to exceed my Dovahkiin’s cookery skills; since grilled leeks looked so nice in Skyrim, I would learn to cook them for real… Continue reading

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Game Review: Game of Thrones, a Telltale Games Series

Type of game: Interactive movie / point and click graphic adventure
Developed & Published by: Telltale Games
Year:  Episodic release dates from December 2014 – November 2015.
Played on: Steam

Telltale's Game of Thrones series logo

Westeros: there are certainly more festive and joyful destinations in which to spend your Christmas vacation. This game proved absorbing, challenging and emotionally devastating, but a jolly experience it certainly was not. But, while my real-life December proved unseasonably – even alarmingly – warm,  a large chunk of this episodic interactive adventure game is set frozen north so at least I got a White Christmas!

There was also a lot to be said for the opportunity the break afforded me to play all six episodes in quick succession. Like all their episodic adventure games, Telltale’s Game of Thrones was released at intervals from December 2014 to November 2015. Releasing in parts like this – usually with a cliffhanger ending to each – mirrors the format of popular TV shows, allowing space between episodes for reflection and discussion and, of course, ratcheting up anticipation for the next instalment. I can see why they do it. Telltale’s phenomenally good Tales From the Borderlands was my 2015 game of the year and, after a slightly delayed start, with that one I played each episode as it was released. There, I did actually appreciate being forced to wait and make the deliciously entertaining story last. While Telltale’s signature relationship web-spinning and complex moral decisions were still a key component, the plot and characters in Tales from the Borderlands were – just like its distinctive, cel-shaded art style – still rather cartoonish and larger than life. So, even with lengthy gaps between the episodes, it was easy to remember the choices I’d made and the truths and lies I’d peddled.

Telltale’s Game of Thrones is just as true to the spirit of Westeros as Tales… was to Pandora, which makes it an altogether more subtle, bleak and sombre affair. The cast is large, with 5 playable characters plus a whole host of supporting figures, both familiar faces from the HBO show and new personalities. There’s also a lot of negotiating to be done, with multiple identities, names, promises and lies to remember, particularly in the King’s Landing sections of the story. For this reason I think I would have struggled if I’d tackled each episode months apart. But played intensively, an episode a day over the course of a week this builds into an immersive and gut-wrenching (often literally) narrative that feels extremely true to the world George R.R. Martin has created – a verdict that applies as much to the flaws of that world as to its many strengths.

Spoiler Alert!

The game’s action weaves cleverly around key events from the HBO TV show and therefore contains massive spoilers for season 3 and season 4. This review will replicate those spoilers but it doesn’t give away the specifics of this game’s actual plot. By the way, if you consider “several beloved main characters die in this” to be a spoiler then I’ll assume you’re probably not a Game of Thrones fan.

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Looking back: 2015 and our First Year of Blogging

Greetings! We’ve had a little break for the festive season, but now we’re back and in reflective mode. The end of the year is customarily a time to sum up and reconsider the events and happenings if the past 12 months and that’s doubly the case here on Addaltmode, since not only is it almost 2016, it’s also our one year blog anniversary. We set up the site just before Christmas last year and made our first proper post on New Year’s Day 2015, so we’ve just turned one!

Spot the Transformer!

In this post we’ll be reflecting on some on the highs and lows of the year gone by, both in on this blog, and in pop-culture more generally. We’d love to hear your highlights too, so do let us know in the comments or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

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Game Review: A Study in Steampunk: Choice by Gaslight

Type of game: Text / interactive fiction
Written by: Heather Albano
Published by: Choice of Games
Year: 2015
Played on: Steam

Exercising your brain, and your conscience rather than your aim and your reflexes, text-based interactive fiction games make an enjoyable change from the more graphically intensive FPS games and action RPGs that I tend to play the most. Choice of Games have published some real crackers in this genre – Choice of Robots, particularly, remains not only one of my favourite games and favourite reads, but one of my downright favourite experiences – so it’s great that so many more of the publisher’s outputs are becoming available on Steam, both games from their back catalogue and new releases. Heather Albano’s A Study in Steampunk, falls into the latter category, a brand new game released with the following blurb:

Steam-powered mechs meet forbidden sorcery in this interactive steampunk novel, inspired by Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, and Jack the Ripper!

Given my love for the mecha, for the steampunk aesthetic, and for all things Victorian-noir, this was an insta-buy for me. Did it live up to its promise?

A Study in Steampunk: title screen

A Study in Steampunk: title screen

Let’s survey the evidence, shall we Watson?

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Geekily Ever After? AddAltMode’s Top 10 Tips for a Lasting Geek Relationship

This summer B and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. According to UK tradition this apparently was our “woollen” anniversary – although a more appropriate material for us would surely have been plastic seeing as we spent our anniversary weekend at Auto Assembly! Who says romance is dead? Now a Transformers convention may not be too many people’s idea of a romantic date but it’s fitting for us in many ways as our geeky interests and passions have always been an central element in our relationship. Like any partnership, ours has had its ups and downs over the years, but we’re glad to still be going strong after 7 years of marriage and almost 15 together as a couple (yeah, we didn’t exactly rush down the aisle).

PixelHeartWe’re often asked what is the secret behind our successful marriage, and I’m not sure there is one – although friendship, compromise, stubbornness and yes, just sheer luck certainly all have had their roles to play. But even if there’s no magic formula we’ve learned a few things over the years about making a relationship last and we thought we’d share them today. Now, relationship advice isn’t a topic we’d normally cover here on AddAltMode but, as you’ll see, it isn’t a million miles away from our regular programming. This is a geek blog, and over the years we’ve come to realise that the fact that we’re both massive geeks isn’t just a key element in why we get along so well, it also provides a shared language and some handy frames of reference for many of things we’ve learned on our journey together to date…

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Game Review: Transformers Devastation

Type of game: Action beat ’em up
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Activision
Year:  2015
Played on: Steam

“Good things come in small packages” sounds just like the sort of thing Bumblebee might say. On my first run through of this brand new Transformers-themed brawler by Platinum games I played entirely as Bumblebee; partly because he was always one of my favourites to play in the High Moon Cybertron games and partly just because, with only five playable characters on offer here, there isn’t that much choice anyway. But it turns out Bee was a highly appropriate starting selection since he’s a rather fitting embodiment of the game as a whole. Just like that iconic yellow Autobot, Transformers Devastation is bright and pleasingly designed, drawn to fast paced action and tons of nostalgic fun to be around, but more than a little on the short side…

Fun, fast-paced, nostalgic but short. Bumblebee model screencap from Transformers Devastation

Fun, fast-paced, nostalgic but short. Bumblebee model screencap from Transformers Devastation

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Creepy Countdown: Scariest Magic Cards

Part of AddAltMode's Creepy Countdown series

Part of AddAltMode’s Creepy Countdown series

Here at AddAltMode, we have a reasonably-sized collection of Magic The Gathering cards. For those who don’t know what Magic is, it’s the archetypal trading card game, the ur-CCG. It’s a game involving decks of cards which represent lands (which generate resources), creatures (which fight the players enemies) and spells (which can do just about anything). Players take the role of reality-hopping über-wizards called Planeswalkers, and battle opponents across a setting which encompasses a vast Multiverse.

Each card features art, which is created specifically for the cards, and is often very good indeed, often nominated for Spectrum awards. Some cards are rather creepy, with creepy art, creepy flavour text or both.  This article is where I’ll show some love for some of the creepiest — not necessarily the strongest or best cards  — just the creepiest and most wrong.

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Pandora comes to Plymouth: Borderlands Tannis and Salvador Cosplay at DEVCON

Here you go then, the finished results of our Borderlands Tannis and Salvador costumes, which we wore yesterday to day one of the October DEVCON in Plymouth:

Borderlands cosplay by AddAltMode

Borderlands cosplay by AddAltMode

What do you think of the finished result?

Although this was our third DEVCON it felt like a first for me because previously I’ve always gone either as Arcee or Slipstream so this was the first time I had a costume that actually let me see properly and move freely! It was the also the first event for a long time where B had suited up and cosplayed alongside me. My favourite thing about Borderlands is what a great co-op experience the games provide, so it felt right to be sharing the guntastic Pandoran love as part of a pair! B enjoyed being a Gunzerker although by the end of the day his mouth was hurting from continually pulling Salvador’s manic feral grin everytime someone asked for a photo!

Thanks to our pals Sadie and Maysie for taking the photos. More after the break…

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Borderlands Cosplay work in progress: Patricia Tannis part 2

I hinted in my last post that I was making good progress on my Borderlands Dr. Tannis costume but I really should back up the claim with some evidence. I confess I’ve probably been a better cos-maker in the last month than I have a cos-blogger; as I’ve just been motoring on with the costume rather than pausing to take as many work in progress shots as I probably should have done along the way. But I think things are going pretty well…

Tannis coat, vests and backpack: front view

Tannis coat, vests and backpack: front view

Tannis coat, vests and backpack: rear view

Tannis coat, vests and backpack: rear view

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Borderlands Movie News: reactions, concerns and speculations

You may have heard that Lionsgate now have the rights to develop a Borderlands movie.  So what was your first reaction to the news? Excitement? Apprehension? As someone who has played all the games and is currently knee deep in foam, fabric and paint working on Borderlands cosplay, I have to say it was certainly an announcement that made me sit up and take notice. The sci-fi frontier world of Pandora is a distinctively cinematic one and, done right, the franchise could make for a fantastic big screen experience. But done right is a fairly weighty qualifier. Let’s not kid ourselves, video game movies in Hollywood do not exactly have a stellar history and the producer tied to the project, Avi Arad, has more than a few misses on his CV. So I’m more intrigued than excited at this point.

Just two of the things we should expect from a Borderlands movie. Screenshot from the Borderlands The Pre-Sequel intro sequence.

Just two of the things we should expect from a Borderlands movie. The third is guns. Screenshot from the Borderlands The Pre-Sequel intro sequence.

I thought I’d take a few moments to share some of the things about this franchise that I’d like to see done justice on the big screen, as well as my initial concerns on the “danger zones” – that is, the things I fear Hollywood is most likely to ruin.

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