Top Ten Tunes from the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Soundtrack

Whilst the Elder Scrolls series isn’t strictly speaking within the boundaries of science fiction, the franchise does have a fair amount of science fiction elements to it – the mysterious and technologically advanced Dwemer, the strange alternate ‘dimension’ that is Oblivion, and the fact that the series is set on another planet, to name but a few. In light of this, I present this review of my second favourite video game soundtrack of all time, after Halo, and that is the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim soundtrack. This selection of ambient tunes is absolutely spectacular, and even if you’ve never played the games the soundtrack is still amazing to behold, making great use of chanting and choral singing to get into the Nordic theme of the game, and beautiful string pieces for ambient exploration music.

#10 – The Road Most Travelled, Dragonborn Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is technically cheating, since its basically a remake of the song of the same name from the Morrowind soundtrack. But it is always nice when Elder Scrolls games retain the same musical cues to maintain that sense of progression between games and link the three Bethesda Elder Scrolls games together. Whilst this isn’t strictly speaking a Skyrim track in itself, it certainly adds to the Skyrim experience by invoking serious Morrowind nostalgia and making the task of exploring the ashfields of Solstheim that bit more fun.

#9 – Solitude, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the theme that plays when you step into the capital of Skyrim, the heart of Imperial presence in the game, and it does its job of conveying the sense of security almost cradling nature of the great city of Solitude as this soft piece creates an atmosphere of tranquillity. For me this theme brings back memories of living in Proudspire Manor, with Ysolda as my wife and Meeko as the family dog, that was secretly a front for my evil obsession with Daedric weapons and armour. Regardless, the track provides a peaceful backdrop for milling around cities in Skyrim with a gentle atmosphere, particularly if it rains in-game.

#8 – From Past to Present, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is another track that is particularly nostalgic, since it always seems to play when you first start a game. Interpreted by many players as synonymous with peace and safety due to its connection to towns like Riverwood and Whiterun, this track inspires a feeling of adventure even now, seven years later, which is truly a testament to Jeremy Soule’s skill as a composer. Nothing sucks you in to Skyrim more than the feeling you get when listening to this majestic track and exploring the fields around Whiterun…

#7 – Watch the Skies, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This track is perfect for dragon-battling, and it will be the only inclusion of combat music on this list. Why? Well, Skyrim’s combat music isn’t bad but it is repetitive, particularly since there are so few combat tracks. Too often does Steel on Steel play whenever any random mudcrab decides to so much as wander near you, making the combat music in Skyrim more of an annoyance than the awesome feature it is. As such, hearing Watch the Skies play is somewhat refreshing since it occurs more rarely, and signifies that a great battle is about to take place. Ultimately, Watch the Skies is the supreme combat track.

#6 – Secunda, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This tune tops polls for best ambient soundtrack, and it’s not hard to see why. This track is one of the most iconic in the game and was one of the few that I actually remember by name. Skyrim does a fantastic job of creating atmosphere, and the mellow staccato notes of Secunda make nighttime sombre and melancholy, but also creates an ambient air of caution towards the surroundings, since you never quite know what can be lurking in the dark at night in Skyrim…

#5 – Far Horizons, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regarded by many to be the best piece of music on the soundtrack, Far Horizons is a perfect tune for exploring. Aside from the fact that it would not seem out of place being played over scenes in The Lord of the Rings, this piece goes through distinct phases as it plays but never loses that sense of beholding that runs throughout, as if we are constantly in sight of something that inspires awe. Fitting, really, since exploring in Skyrim can often have that effect.

#4 – Unbroken Road, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it might seem like an odd choice since it is heard so rarely in the game, Unbroken Road is actually a fantastic track if one takes the time to listen to it. I wish that this piece had been in the game more, possibly unlocked as a regular exploration theme after the player completes the main quest, perhaps. But when this song kicks in, it invokes some heavy emotions, and it is easy to see why they chose this song from the soundtrack to be the music that plays the first time you ride a Dragon.

#3 – Streets of Whiterun, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This piece, rather like Solitude, is associated for many players with feelings of security and tranquillity, since it is most often played within the protection of big cities like Whiterun, Riften or Solitude, although it doubles as a perfect exploration tune. What makes this piece so emotive is the swelling and receding of the strings and the repeated light, staccato plucks that resemble the steady flow of nature that is ever present in Skyrim.

#2 – Sovngarde, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theme for Sovngarde is simply awesome. Not only does it perfectly contextualise the main theme of the game, but it also provides a constant drum-beat like rhythm to urge the player on when faces the challenges of the Nord afterlife. It adds a particular ambient air to the section in the fog, and encapsulates the grandeur of the Hall of Valor, meaning it essentially kills two birds with one stone and perfectly sets the scene for the Sovngarde section of the game.

Honourable Mentions

Ancient Stones – Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Soule uses horns very well in the Skyrim soundtrack, and particularly well in Far Horizons. But Ancient Stones is no slouch, and contains its own unique harpsichord-like feel that slowly transitions into another horns section. This tune is perfect for exploring forests, mountainous areas or encounters with small towns or Orc villages.

Kyne’s Peace – Skyrim Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

Like Secunda, Kyne’s Peace is a track that plays exclusively at night, and it certainly invokes a feeling of chill with its hollow choral howls. As it begins, this tune is perfectly mellow – it is a staple of night times in Skyrim to hear this piece, and no bad thing – and the crescendo into the higher-pitched singing is fairly subtle, the vocals are quiet and almost angelic. This track is called Kyne’s Peace for a reason, in that it certainly invokes a peaceful feeling.

Forgotten Vale – Dawnguard Soundtrack

 

 

This piece is chilling. Similarly to Unbroken Road, Forgotten Vale is only heard at a certain point in the Dawnguard questline, and as such it is rare to actually hear this piece in game, but it is definitely worth it when you do. This perfect use of choral melody creates a feeling of sympathy for the Falmer and their grim fate, particularly since you see for the first time the long-forgotten achievements of their ancestors.

1 – The Jerall Mountains, Skyrim Soundtrack

 

This tune inspires the same feeling in me as many people get from the Shire theme from Lord of the Rings, particularly since I closely link this song with memories of playing Skyrim for the first time on my Xbox 360. A lot has changed since then, but this tune hasn’t, and it sounds just as fantastic today as it did seven years ago. Jeremy Soule has composed many masterful tracks that invoke feelings of adventures and wonder, and this is undoubtedly one of his best.

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Ranking the Levels – Halo 3

Often stated to be the best out of all the Halo games, Halo 3 has some fantastic levels, continuing the tradition of maintaining open spaces for most encounters and keeping the consistency of on-foot and vehicle sections (for the most part…)

Whilst Halo 3 does not have as many levels as its predecessor, they are all jam-packed with detail and variety, so it can be hard to actually rank them when it gets to comparing the best levels. As for the worst, well, there really is only one option:

10 – Cortana, Mission 9

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Realistically, nobody likes Flood levels. Especially when the only type of enemy in the entire level is Flood, and the level is one long continuous monotonous maze of samey corridors and passageways. Basically, Cortana is the reason why The Library is not the worst Halo level of all time. Make of that what you will.

9 – Arrival, Mission 1

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Again, like Halo 2 with its opening missions The Heretic and The Armory, Arrival is basically just the opening cutscene with a very minute amount of gameplay, basically a recreation of the ‘look up and down at the lights’ segment from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. There is a pretty cool cutscene where Chief and the Arbiter meet as allies for the first time, and Sergeant Johnson’s quote changes based on what difficulty you are on or what skulls you have enabled.

8 – Crow’s Nest, Mission 3

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Crow’s Nest suffers from the same problem that Pillar of Autumn had in Halo: Combat Evolved, in that it is all set indoors. One of the greatest strengths of all Halo games is the ability to seamlessly transition between on-foot gameplay and vehicle segments, and levels that lack this ability seem lesser as a result. Nevertheless, Crow’s Nest does offer some interesting encounters, particularly the section in the barracks and the battle with the Brute Chieftain.

7 – Sierra 117, Mission 2

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The opening gameplay mission for Halo 3 broke a few rules, in that it introduced Jackals in the opening level, something that Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 refrained from doing to establish a form of difficulty curve. Sierra 117 throws us right into a lush and dense jungle to battle against Brutes, Jackal Snipers and even Phantoms. Thankfully, we get the Arbiter helping us, which is always a good thing, although this level does start the unfortunate trope of Sergeant Johnson being kidnapped whenever he goes to do anything.

6 – Floodgate, Mission 6

floodgate

Floodgate is an exhilarating horror experience, and it does the job of demonstrating the virile and insidious nature of the Flood as it quickly overtakes a graveyard of corpses that you had previously created, quickly overrunning the local town and even the contingent of Elites sent to aid you (for the first of only two instances in the entire game, I might add) to great effect. The music enhances this atmosphere and there are some fantastic details that heighten the shock factor of this level, such as the insane suicidal Marine or the horrific instances in which you fail to save a Marine and he or she is infected and transformed into a combat form before your very eyes.

5 – Tsavo Highway, Mission 4

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This is the first proper vehicle level in the game, and as a result it seems Bungie enhanced the openness factor a bit to make up for the lack of vehicles in the previous two levels. Tsavo Highway pits the player and a band of ragged Marine survivors against a Covenant army, with only a handful of Warthogs to transport your ragtag rabble across the charred Savannah. The imagery of the space elevator’s shattered support rings scattered all over the Savannah shows how the Human-Covenant War is creating such devastation that the very foundation of Human society is beginning to crumble, to the extent that the natural world is now at risk.

4 – The Storm, Mission 5

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When the Scarab was first introduced in this mission the first time I played it, I was in awe. The buildup to the boss fight is to intense, and the best thing about this level is that after you defeat the Scarab, it isn’t even over. This level truly represents a desperate battle to save Earth from the Covenant, as for the first time in the series civilians take up arms to aid the player and the Marines against the invaders. Also, this level first introduced us to the devastating combo that is the Mongoose and a Rocket Launcher Marine, a tool of total destruction that no Covenant vehicle can ever outmanoeuvre.

3 – Halo, Mission 10

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Odd that it is that Bungie decided to call the last level of Halo 3 the same thing as they called the second level of Halo: Combat Evolved, this level lives up to its name. It is, essentially, an essential Halo experience wrapped into one level. The lead up to the boss fight harkens back to the classic large-scale battle layouts of previous Halos, and it is great to finally reunite Chief, Cortana, Arbiter, Johnson and Guilty Spark all in one place for one final effort to save the universe. Needless to say, the final Warthog run is awesome. And trust me, I completed the Vidmaster Challenge: Annual.

2 – The Ark, Mission 7

the ark

Halo 3 does a great job of invoking nostalgia, but not least in its level design. The Ark is loads of other levels wrapped into one, starting out as a sniper section like in Truth and Reconciliation before shifting to a vehicle section like in Delta Halo and then turning into Metropolis for the tank section and finally morphing into The Silent Cartographer as you delve into the Ark’s map room and challenge a Chieftain to honourable combat. The music in this level is particularly spectacular, the entire Farthest Outpost suite is fantastic and the Small Victory section that plays when the Phantom attacks the map room is one of my favourite Halo soundtracks.

1 – The Covenant, Mission 8

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Of course, which other mission could it be? This one has it all – Hornet section, Elite allies, Tank fight, Two Scarabs at once, the Anti-Air Wraith glitch, the list goes on. Not to mention that you have a huge army in this level – dozens of Marines help you fight the Flood, until you actually get the Flood as allies. Truly, no level can even come close to claiming the mantle of Best Halo 3 Level than The Covenant. 

So what are your thoughts? Be sure to like this post if you enjoyed my thoughts on how the Halo 3 levels compare, and be sure to follow Sacred Icon and like us on Facebook for more content like this!

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Top Ten Creepiest Halo Easter Eggs

As any Halo fan will tell you, every Halo game has a lot more to it than just gunfights with aliens. One of the deepest aspects to Halo is its Easter Eggs, and the series has played host to several widely known Easter Eggs, both legendary and infamous. However, there is a specific category of Easter Egg that particularly peaks my interest, and that is creepy Easter Eggs that are there to freak players out. Bungie didn’t hold back when it comes to secrets to hunt down in the Halo campaigns, and thanks to their love of all things mysterious and (at times) bizarre, Halo boasts a wide variety of really weird things to find if you take the time to look hard enough.

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10 – Hidden Marine on 343 Guilty Spark

hidden marine

If you thought the insane screaming Marine that you find inside the Forerunner structure was bad enough, you are not prepared for this guy. He can be found using a glitch whereby spamming the grenade button at the start of the mission 343 Guilty Spark will prompt Chief to forget to get out of the Pelican, allowing you to ride it outside the level boundaries until it lands in an indent. You can then dismount and after about a minute of walking you will come across this poor soul, with his head planted firmly against a tree. If you aren’t paying attention and then you turn around and see him it can be quite startling. In the classic graphics its even spookier, as the trees are not there and he instead slowly appears out of the shadows as you approach, standing and staring but saying absolutely nothing.

9 – Standoff Dish Operator

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This Easter Egg is so tiny that its almost impossible to notice unless you’re looking for it. But on the map Standoff in Halo 3, if you zoom in really close to the Radio Telescope that is closest to you with a Sniper Rifle or Beam Rifle scope, you can find this man – he cannot be killed, or interacted with in any way, and he is apparently a joke inserted by the programmer who rendered the model for the dish, the Halo wiki rather simply and rather spookily states: “This man is Travis Brady”, whoever he is. The reason why he is particularly creepy is that he just stands there – no matter how long you stand there looking at him, he will stand and stare right back at you. And he doesn’t even have a scope to see you properly, but he knows you’re there.
Oh, and this map has another real person’s face as the face of the man in the moon.
Seriously, this map deserves to be read about.

8 – Megg Easter Egg

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Megg is an Easter Egg that involves performing a very specific set of steps on the first mission of Halo: Combat Evolved on Legendary, including jumping on and off a yellow barrel and murdering Captain Keyes. Once you find the Easter Egg however, you will be filled with pride at knowing that you sacrificed humanity’s best hope for survival to get a look at a letter ‘M’ made out of blood splatters and bullet holes. Seriously though, why is this here? It seems very incongruous, and quite creepy if you think about it – perhaps there is a violent murder loose about the Pillar of Autumn, and the letter ‘M’ is his calling card? Who knows…

7 – Skulls

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Although the concept of Skulls is now firmly ingrained into the consciousness of the Halo lexicon thanks to Oddball and the inclusion of the Skulls as Easter Eggs, with many players simply seeing the skulls as game modifiers that are implemented in a fun and intriguing way, but if you think about it, the Skulls are creepy in a way. They are just lying there, scattered around UNSC bases and Forerunner installations and even the African Savannah and the depths of High Charity, but why? Whose Skulls are these? Am I thinking to deeply into this?

6 – Why Am I Here? Easter Egg

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It is always fun to find those hidden messages that programmers leave in seemingly random terrain shapes, but this message suggests a deeper meaning that could simply be a Red vs Blue reference but could also be a sign that one of the people working on Halo 2 really didn’t want to be at his desk that day. Considering the nightmare development that Halo 2 had, I don’t blame him, but in-universe this message represents the possible last words of a former occupant of Beaver Creek, who was trapped and scrawled his last before his body was consumed by nature.

5 – Cortana on High Ground

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This Easter Egg is prevalent throughout several missions of Halo 3, but is most prominent on the multiplayer map High Ground. If one stares long enough at the live security camera footage of a hangar in Crows Nest that can be found on all portable UNSC computers in Halo 3, eventually an image of Cortana staring blankly at the player will appear for a few seconds. Creepily, if one uses theatre mode to observe a panel in a game that is in progress, you can see that Cortana does this every so often whether players are looking or not. That means that every time you play Halo 3 near a UNSC computer, Cortana can periodically drop in to take a look at what you’re up to…

4 – Microsoft SAM Easter Egg

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This is a funny but still rather creepy Easter Egg that can be found in The Covenant in Halo 3. To find this Easter Egg, one must start the level on Normal or higher from the beginning and take a Hornet to the end of the outer rail of the Citadel on the left hand side. Going to the right hand side will trigger the song Siege of Madrigal to play, a whole different Egg entirely. When you reach the end of the prong, wait about 2 or 3 minutes and eventually, out of nowhere, the voice of Microsoft SAM will breathe down your neck, saying:

Sam: "OMG (Oh My God) this game needs more guitar wank. Am I right?"

Sam: "Happy Easter Marty."

Sam: "I am a monument to all Marty's sins lololol."

Sam: "J and C Paul, you are so totally fired."

3 – Halo: Reach Radio Conversations

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Throughout Halo: Reach, in both campaign and multiplayer, the player constantly encounters these tiny radios that often loop nothing but static – although some of them contain hidden messages or conversations. Most of them are fairly routine, some are calls for help, some are military personnel giving orders, and some are even just casual conversations about zombie plans. What makes this Easter Egg really creepy, though, is the thought that in several hours from when the game is set, every voice you hear on the radio represents the voice of someone who dies on Reach…

2 – The Halo 3 Cavemen

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As strange as it may seem, Halo 3 has a resident population of cavemen. Each of the diminutive monkey people has the face of Marcus R. Lehto, the former Creative Arts Director of Bungie Studios who left in 2012.  This Egg is as confusing as it is disturbing – where did the monkey men come from? Why do they have a bear? Why is the largest member of the family holding the bear, and why is it bigger than the smallest child? Most importantly, in the final cutscene of Halo 3: ODST, why does Edward Buck pick an insect off one of these creatures and eat it before your very eyes?

1 – Reversed Messages in the Soundtrack

I have already written an entire list on how good Halo’s soundtrack is, but one aspect of it that I didn’t mention in that list was the Hidden Messages that can be found within certain songs of the soundtrack. Halo 2 has Destroyer’s Invocation, the first movement of the Mausoleum Suite, which has a very deep and underlying guttural vocal melody that is totally indecipherable unless played backwards. If you are able to listen to the song backwards, the voice is revealed to be possibly that of Mendicant Bias, an A.I. trapped within High Charity. Regardless, the voice says as follows:
…I have walked among men and angels for three thousand years.

Time has no end… no beginning… no purpose. 

I wander the earth, seeking forgiveness for my horrible crimes against God and man. 

I live to see death and destruction, evil… over the light, but the light cannot be extinguished.

 I live in a prison of my own demise.

I am lost…in time.

Halo 3 has Black Tower, there is another reversed message that appears to frequently reference T.S. Elliot’s The Hollow Men, which is interesting since several aspects of Halo 3’s marketing campaign also referenced that poem. The backwards messages appear to say:

Eyes from Death’s dream kingdom,
Appear as sunlight on a broken column.
There in Death’s other kingdom walking alone,
Trembling lips form prayers to broken stone.
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2qk2yTTCwY

Finally, Dread Intrusion from Halo 3 has perhaps the most interesting reversed message of them all, since this message seems to attempt to give us an insight into what goes on inside the minds of the Flood as they further their onslaught:

Side by side, we march as one,
Humans and Elites will die,
The Earth will fall if we strike together,
So forth shall all of life.

So what are your thoughts?

What did you think of this list? Do you agree? If you can think of any other spooky Halo Easter Eggs, feel free to leave them in the comments, and look down below for more Halo related content!

 

Red Dwarf: Is Holly faking Senility?

————–Spoilers for certain episodes of Red Dwarf ahead————–

Red Dwarf is one of those shows that you can’t stop coming back to. Kind of like Star Trek: The Next Generation or The Simpsons, if you haven’t watched any episodes for months or even over a year, coming back to the show feels like you can take a fresh look at every episode, particularly if you’re like me and take a strongly critical approach to TV shows and movies. I have been watching Red Dwarf since I was a child, I was so young when I first started watching this show that I didn’t even get any of the jokes, I just liked the fact that it was set on a spaceship with a robot and a toaster that talks.

Regardless, coming back to Red Dwarf after a prolonged period of watching Doctor Who non-stop made me think to myself – is Holly actually senile or is he/she just putting it on? This is a question that can take the show in a whole new direction if you watch certain key episodes while considering the idea that Holly is in fact simply pretending to be senile as part of an elaborate act to help keep Lister sane. But first, I have to actually prove this.

To start with, I will discuss possibly the most telling piece of evidence that Holly isn’t actually senile – the Queeg prank. This prank which Holly plays on the crew during the episode Queeg essentially forms the plot of the entire episode, which is telling of the elaborate nature of the jape. Basically, Holly doesn’t take too kindly to the crew badmouthing his competency after a meteor hits the ship and Lister is injured mixing the damage. To get back at them, Holly pretends that another AI, Queeg, is attempting to take over Red Dwarf on the grounds that he is the ship’s backup computer. Holly, deemed by Queeg to be useless, is put on guard duty and Queeg takes over. This is the important part, and when considering this next part, remember that Queeg is Holly all along

After Holly is ‘demoted’ and Queeg starts running the ship, Rimmer is initially very impressed. He mentions how Queeg has managed to repair many of the ship’s broken equipment, such as the fire extinguishers, and how the skutters are ‘charging up and down the corridors’ performing tasks such as sweeping the floors. This takes a turn for the worst, however, when Queeg informs Rimmer that he will have to perform ‘holographic exercises’ in order to stay alive, and takes control of his body to get him to do a run. In the meantime, Lister and the Cat are forced to work to earn food, and this situation continues until Holly steps in and ‘challenges’ Queeg for Red Dwarf. What is interesting is that Holly is able to not only control his own TV body, Queeg and Rimmer all at the same time, he is also apparently capable of managing Red Dwarf  to a capacity beyond that of any senile computer.

So the question remains – why does Holly ‘pretend’ to be senile?
There are a few potential answers. The first, and most simple, is that the events of the episode Queeg are simply depicting a ‘one-off’ event that doesn’t really impact the rest of the show as a whole. The same can be said of the ending scene of Timeslides, in which Rimmer is alive but it is never explained how. Or, the aftermath of the episode DNA, which is never shown to us, we are left to assume that Kryten and Lister get their proper bodies back, but it is never explained.
The issue with this hand-wave assumption, however, is the fact that Queeg isn’t the only time that Holly shows unexplained feats of intelligence. In Parallel Universe, he builds a functioning dimension-hopping device, allegedly ‘by accident’, in Quarantine she is able to dispose of the Despair Squid with ‘Limpet Mines’ in order to save the crew, and also figures out how to prevent them from committing suicide. Holly also gets certain scenes in which he/she explains certain scientific elements of the plot to the crew. Although these were mostly given to Kryten after Series III, notable examples include Future Echoes and Polymorph. 

However, this does not explain the myriad of examples of Holly certainly showing signs of computer senility, which are common throughout the show (as this is the common assumption). Holly does on occasion perform acts of such monstrous stupidity that it could be said to genuinely put the crew at risk. Notable examples include Bodyswap, in which she allows Lister to go through with the entire risky ‘bodyswap’ operation that could have wiped out his mind rather than simply tell the crew that they are in no danger. In Marooned, Holly thinks she can see multiple black holes approaching, and so send the crew out of the ship for their own safety (which leads Rimmer and Lister to crash on a snowy planet) only to realise that there were no black holes, it was grit on the monitor. Also, so that it cannot be said that only female Holly is guilty of this, in Confidence and Paranoia Holly sits idly by while Lister romps about the ship with the potentially dangerous Confidence.

Despite this evidence seeming to prove my theory wrong, if the fact that Holly clearly shows that he is not computer senile in Queeg also applies to all the other episodes, it is possible that another explanation can be found for Holly’s apparent stupidity. The most likely theory is that Holly is merely pretending to be stupid in an elaborate gambit to keep Lister sane. Holly knows that Lister relies on him/her to survive, and so pretends to be stupid in order to allow Lister some sense of superiority. As explained in the Red Dwarf novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, Lister always found the concept of Holly a tad creepy – not overtly, but it is obvious by his reaction that it at least unnerves him. After awakening from stasis, in the novel Lister spends days wandering around the ship drunk, hurling ‘abuse’ at Holly’s face. Perhaps, then, when Holly revives Rimmer, he makes the decision to put on an act – perhaps his 3,000,000 years alone did impact on his IQ somewhat, explaining his/her occasionally irrational behaviour, but not to the extent that it renders him/her as incompetent as he/she claims to be.

 

Doctor Who Customs Collection – Leftovers: Four Sonics and a CyberLord

Since I have done showcases of custom Daleks and Cybermen it seems only fair that I also do a tour of my other custom Doctor Who memorabilia, starting with custom sonic screwdrivers. Some of these were made quite some time ago, one in particular that I am especially proud of I finished over two years ago. Let’s see if they stand the test of time…

Custom Red Laser Screwdriver

 

This custom uses my old Laser Screwdriver toy as a template, since I had this device since 2008 and it had long since broke. I therefore decided to attempt a custom design for the Laser Screwdriver using red as the primary colour rather than yellow, which I always thought was an old choice. I painted the adjustment dial a porcelain white, and added slight damage scoring in black to the main grip and the emitter.

Custom ‘The Rani’s Sonic Screwdriver’

 

This essentially originated from the idea of ‘What if The Rani had a sonic device? What would it look like?’ and this was my answer. I painted it red to match the outfits we see her wear in the two episodes in which she appears (Dimensions in Time is not canon.) I also used purple and black paint to simulate the interior colours of her TARDIS.

Custom Alternate Sonic Screwdriver

 

This is another example of a custom being created from an old toy I had as a child. Indeed, this was my sonic screwdriver toy when I was little, it didn’t work very well and the sound eventually cut out leaving it as little more than a very weak torch that flashed green, but I loved it all the same and now it enjoys a new lease of life as my custom damaged ‘evil-looking’ Sonic Screwdriver. I was fascinated by the idea of the claws being a different material to the rest of the device, at one point I even considered attempting to make it look as though the claws were made of the same crystalline-like substance as the emitter, but this seemed too challenging. I added damage to the inside of the device that is visible only when it is extended, and painted on significant wear and tear to the handle and the interior. Overall, I think it turned out quite well.

Custom Alternate River Song Sonic Screwdriver (BOXED)

 

For whatever reason at the time, I decided to box up this custom in its original packaging. For anyone wondering, this custom uses the inferior ‘single-colour’ cheap alternative River Song Sonic Screwdriver and not the original, better version with the working LEDs on the inside, so don’t panic. It is boxed in the packaging of the better version, however, so if I ever sell it I shall have to make that clear. Nevertheless, the sonic underwent several paint jobs over the years as I bought this sonic to replace my Matt Smith version only for this one to be rendered obsolete when they released the War Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver, my personal favourite.

Bonus – Custom CyberLord Figure

 

I have included this here at the end simply because I don’t know where else to put him. He didn’t feature in my Damaged Cybermen Collection Tour because he isn’t damaged, but he is a custom so I will showcase him here. This started as a hand-me-down  Cyber-Leader figure that I purchased at a ComiCon in London, with the middle panel already missing. The face was also badly worn away – so worn in fact that the face mask almost looked black. This game me an idea for a custom, and this is the result. I used black Humbrol paint on the facemask, ‘ears’, pipes and back panels which gives it a nice shiny metallic finish.

Next – New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Intensive Care Asylum Daleks Part 1

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Ranking the Levels – Halo 2

Welcome to the next in the ‘Ranking the Levels’ series, in which I rank all the levels of a single game. For this installment, we will be looking at all 15 levels of Halo 2, my favourite game in the Halo series. Let’s start with everyone’s best guess as to the automatic worst level in the game:

15 – The Heretic, Mission 1

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It doesn’t seem fair that the first mission of Halo 2 is ranked as the worst, but don’t be dismayed – the only reason why this level ranks so low is that it isn’t really a level at all. In fact, The Heretic is just one long cutscene. And it’s a very good cutscene, the prologue establishes where we are in terms of continuity from Halo: Combat Evolved and also where exactly Halo 2 is based in the timeline. We know who the Arbiter is and we understand why the Master Chief is where he is (sort of, with help from the manual…)

14 – The Armory, Mission 2

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Again, a boring choice – at least you actually get to have some facet of gameplay in this mission, but it isn’t much – there are no enemies, and all you really do is walk around the armory section of Cairo Station in a way reminiscent of the opening section of The Pillar of Autumn from Halo: Combat Evolved, except you ride in a lift with Sergeant Johnson while he talks about his time in the corps. Actually, this level should be higher on the list…

13 – The Oracle, Mission 7

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The Oracle introduced players that were already shocked at the development that you would be playing as the Arbiter in the previous level, The Arbiter, to another stunning revelation about this new Halo game – the introduction of boss fights. The Oracle does its boss fight fairly well, involving an airborne Elite with the shield strength of an Ultra that also duel wields Plasma Rifles, which is already a fairly tough enemy, given the ability to disappear into pipes when damaged in order to regenerate health. That sounds like the perfect Halo boss fight to me, but unfortunately this level falls behind on the list because of several design problems – the tedious laboratory section, the elevator descent into hell that involves the player standing still for minutes on end waiting for enemies to spawn, the premature introduction of the Flood, it all culminates in a fairly dull and tedious experience. At least the music is good, although it will become apparent that is a given in Halo 2.

12 – Sacred Icon, Mission 10

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Despite the fact that this blog is named after it, the mission Sacred Icon is ranked low on this list. Why? Well, for one, I haven’t really named this blog after the level specifically, although I already explained that in a previous article – and second, the level itself isn’t really that bad – it’s just that all of the levels in Halo 2 are good, and ranking them is only possible based on a scale of relative quality. Overall, Sacred Icon is definitely interesting – it includes the only instance of having Jackals as allies in the entire Halo campaigns, and it introduces the unique varieties of Sentinel that Halo 2 has to offer, the Sentinel Major and the Enforcer. It just involves a lot of tight corridors and Flood encounters, and so like The Oracle it ranks fairly low on this list.

11 – High Charity, Mission 14

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The penultimate level of Halo 2 should have been spectacular, and although High Charity is a fairly entertaining romp through the rapidly Flood-infested Covenant Holy City it suffers from tight corridor syndrome which limits gameplay options. It is the only level in which Flood can be seen using Brute Plasma Rifles, but other than that there’s not much that’s unique about it. There is a strange glitch involving a Brute Chieftain sometimes being seen lying dead in a doorway, although more often than not it is simply an Honour Guard. This glitch was even carried over to the Anniversary version.

10 – Outskirts, Mission 4

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The first level in any Halo game to be set on Earth, Outskirts sets the scene for Halo 2’s desperate struggle against an oncoming Covenant invasion. Some of the best parts of this level are in tight enclosed spaces, because the level uses its tight sections to its advantage with atmospheric music and plenty of cover against the onslaught of Jackal Snipers. Overall, this level has a great vehicle section but too much emphasis on defence against waves of enemies in the early segments.

9 – Cairo Station, Mission 3

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The first level of Halo 2 jumps players right in, fending off an invasion from a Covenant boarding party almost as soon as the level begins. The level allows players the choice of starting weapon, unlike Halo: Combat Evolved which forces players to pick up a Magnum and then an Assault Rifle when combat begins. This level also has a fantastic space segment, in which the player fights outside the station in low gravity. The music creates a fantastic atmosphere here, and the final battle with the Elites has music that is timed to the repeated firing of Cairo Station’s SuperMAC that creates excellent ambience when fighting the final squad of Elites. Like Outskirts, wave defence style gameplay lets this level down, other than that, it is very enjoyable.

8 – The Arbiter, Mission 6

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The Arbiter’s introductory level was controversial back in the day, and few people accepted the level for what it was – a chance to attempt a more stealth-orientated style of gameplay into Halo. In that sense, The Arbiter does a very good job of encouraging players to adopt to this new style of gameplay – rewarding stealth kills by having enemies that notice you spawn more enemies to help them, and by killing them stealthily you prevent them from doing so. The music in this level is fantastic, tracks like Flawed Legacy and Follow for the Banshee section create the perfect atmosphere for their respective sections.

7 – Quarantine Zone – Mission 11

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This level is interesting in that it is the first and only instance of the Flood using vehicles, making them even more deadly. The addition of the Enforcers and their ability to crush vehicles with their huge arms create some unique encounters between them, the player and the Flood-controlled vehicles. This level also marks one of the few examples of Rtas ‘Vadum aiding the Arbiter for an extended period of time, allowing the player to exploit his invincibility for multiple encounters.

6 – Regret, Mission 9

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This level is all about atmosphere. From the initial section on the Forerunner ruins to the Gondola segment the music seems to be all about action and dramatic chorus,  when suddenly the player delves into an underwater complex and the tone shifts to be more sombre and delicate, until eventually returning to the surface onto an outdoor grassy section, only to board the final Gondola ride and take on the Prophet of Regret. Halo 2’s second boss fight is a little less intuitive than its first, but it is entertaining nonetheless – the Chief boards the Prophet of Regret’s Gravity Throne and beats him to death…

5 – Uprising, Mission 13

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This mission has no objective. Your only instinct is to destroy. After witnessing the betrayal of the Elites by the Brutes from the point of view of the Arbiter, Uprising gives the player a chance to blow off some steam and deal out sweet revenge. The level is made even better by the fact that you can build a small army of Elite supporters as the level progresses, and if you defend them (and help them out of situations in which they might get stuck) your allies will follow you for the entire level. If you’re lucky, some allied Grunts might even survive to the end, where you can give them a Rocket Launcher and watch as they blow themselves up.

4 – Metropolis, Mission 5

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The first chance you get to grab a tank is great in Halo 2 because for the first time in Halo history it was actually useful. As powerful as the Halo: Combat Evolved Scorpion was, it’s main cannon was so inaccurate and the machine gun so wide-spreading that it was sometimes frustrating to use. The Halo 2 Scorpion is much improved, although as we see in this mission it is no match for the Scarab. The Scarab section of this mission is hilariously fun, made even better by the fantastic music. The Elite Ultra serves as a simple mini-boss fight, and the level lives up to its name – combat among skyscrapers was a new concept to Halo when Halo 2 was released, but it would return to Halo soon enough…

3 – The Great Journey, Mission 15

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Although many were disappointed to discover that The Great Journey was Halo 2’s last level, that was only really because they so desperately wanted to play more of the game. But as it stands, The Great Journey is a pretty good last level. You team up with Hunters, Elite Councilors, Zealots and a Scarab to take down Tartarus, not to mention you ally with Humans as the Arbiter, marking the first time in the history of Halo that Humans and Elites work together. The final boss fight is fairly well executed although it would have been nice if your Elite allies were actually useful for something…

2 – Gravemind, Mission 12

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This level is damn-near perfect. Aside from the dodgy initial start. But it’s got everything – a grand tour of the inner workings of High Charity, the initial stages of the Covenant Civil War, the first time Master Chief encounters Brutes in the Halo games, and the introduction of the Brute Plasma Rifle and Brute Shot. What makes this level fun is the concept of sneaking around inside this behemoth Covenant space station trying to rescue Marines and track down the Prophet of Truth. You also get to witness Breaking Benjamin’s Blow Me Away in action during a huge battle between Elite Ultras and Brutes that takes place in the Mausoleum of the Arbiter. Awesome.

1 – Delta Halo, Mission 8

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This level has it all. For a start, the music is perfect. This is almost like a level of Halo 2 Soundtrack’s greatest hits – tense combat music like Peril, the fantastic Heretic, Hero, the remastered return of an old classic in In Amber Clad, and of course the fantastic Delta Halo Suite. But this level’s environments are simply stunning. This level set to top the introduction to the original Halo found in Halo: Combat Evolved and it succeeds. This level also features the debut of the ODSTs, who went on to become a vital staple of the Halo mythos.

Halo 2 Menu

So that’s all for this week, be sure to check out last week’s ‘Ranking the Levels’ to read my thoughts on Halo: Combat Evolved’s levels, and next week I will of course be uploading my thoughts on Halo 3’s campaign.

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Top Ten Star Wars Video Games

Star Wars is one of the few movie franchises that is able to maintain excellent quality in both its films and its games (apart from a slight dip in the early 2000s…) so it comes as no surprise to most people who know Star Wars fans that just as many people like the video games as the movies, so it makes sense to do a list ranking those as well. Now bear in mind, I’m only ranking the games that I have actually played here, and although I have played a lot of Star Wars games, I haven’t played them all. Noticeable absences will be The Force Unleashed II, Rogue Squadron and all the early Jedi Knight/Dark Forces games. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the list, and coming in at number 10:

10 – Obi Wan

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Poor Star Wars: Obi Wan. If only you had been in development for another 2 years. The main reason why this is even on the list at all is that I used to have great fun with it as a kid, and for the life of me I can’t understand why. It has terrible controls, terrible gameplay, terrible dialogue and terrible voice acting. Not to mention the graphics are terrible, and the game crashes more times than I could count. They tried to get Ewan McGregor to play Obi-Wan in this game and I presume he said no, so they got another Scottish actor to take his place. Unfortunately, he doesn’t drop his Scottish accent, and so Obi-Wan goes through this entire game sounding like a Scotsman with a cold pretending to be Obi-Wan. But theres something about the game still… maybe I’ll give it another chance. Until then, Scottish Obi-Wan saying “DUH YUH UNDERSTAHND MAH LANGUAGE” will haunt my every waking thought.

9 – Republic Commando

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Republic Commando is one of those games that you have to play to truly understand. On the surface it looks like just another Clone-orientated first-person shooter like the Battlefront games, but it is altogether different to what you might expect from a game in this genre. In much the same way as Halo defies its genre to deliver excellent story, world-building and music, Republic Commando delivers a refreshing new look on the internal composition of the Clone Army as we take control of an elite squad of Clone Troopers who are sent on daring covert missions involving stealth and tactical teamwork. The plot is excellent, and there will be no spoilers here – but it’s great.

8 – The Force Unleashed

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Hype was in the air when The Force Unleashed was first announced, particularly due to the announcement that you would be playing as a dark side warrior, an angle that had been touched upon before in Star Wars games but had rarely been the sole focus, certainly not of a whole game. The Force Unleashed offers the ability to truly unleash the rage of the Dark Side of the Force, but the Wii’s controls make it obscenely difficult to do that, so I got the DS version instead. The story is fairly good, but what really makes this game fun is customising your lightsaber and collecting all the points necessary to upgrade your character.

7 – Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

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Come on, this couldn’t not be on the list. Lego Star Wars is a masterpiece of videogaming, not least because it is quite literally fun for all ages. The game is straightforward and simplistic, and yet it offers a certain level of challenge with the collection of minikits and other bonuses. I chose Complete Saga to go here because it really is the best of both the earlier games combined, allowing for seamless cross-trilogy travel with a huge amount of levels. Admittedly, I completed this game 100% my sister over the course of 3 months, and its arguably the greatest achievement of my life.

6 – Battlefront II

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It may interest some people as to why Battlefront II is 6th and yet its predecessor, Battlefront, is 5th. It seems to be a commonly accepted belief that the second game improves on its predecessor in almost every conceivable way, and it is true that Battlefront II has many added features – the ability to play as heroes, space battles, sprint, more units, tracking points, ranking etc. I love this game in its own way, not least because of the excellent array of mods that are available, but there is something about the original game that means I can’t put the sequel higher.

5 – Battlefront

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This game was one of my absolute favourites as a child, and I still play it to this day. What is undeniable now is that Battlefront trumps Battlefront II in terms of maps. Bespin: Platforms, Geonosis: Spire, Rhen Var: Harbour, Kamino: Tipoca City, Tatooine: Dune Sea, the list goes on. And the original Battlefront had much more focus on the Episode II era, which the sequel lacked due to the hype surrounding Episode III at the time.

4 – Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast

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Since this was probably one of the first games I ever played I have a nostalgic attraction to Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast. I used to play the first level over and over again when I was younger, not understanding how to progress but just loving the idea of shooting up Stormtroopers. As I got older and actually managed to complete the game, the story enthralled me, not least because I had been baffled by it to such an extent as a kid. The multiplayer was brilliant too, even against bots, and there is a fantastic depth to the customisation in this game.

3 – Knights of the Old Republic

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I am not normally a fan of RPGs, but KOTOR is the exception. The best thing about this game is that it is set so far before any of the Star Wars films are set that it can essentially create its own universe, having the Jedi be an Enclave of peaceful monks on Dantooine, the Sith a legion of soldiers who destroy planets with orbital bombardments, and the Galaxy an unknown place for your character to explore. This is like Star Wars as you have never seen it before…
And there’s a fantastic twist at the end. But again, no spoilers.

2 – Empire at War

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Addictive games are sort of cheating when it comes to ranking lists, because when I’m in the mood for a game of Empire at War I’m usually there until 4am. The Galactic Conquest mode is fantastic, allowing you to build your own fleet and defend planets as you attempt to seize control of every corner of the Galaxy. One of the best things about this game is the ability to choose whether or not you wish to personally take control of land or space battles, so if you want to just focus on space then you can have the computer auto-resolve your land battles and turn the game into a fleet command simulator. Or, you can forego the space encounters and turn the game into a Star Wars version of Age of Empires. Speaking of which…

Honourable Mentions

Galactic Battlegrounds

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Shockingly, I didn’t have this as a child. Despite putting countless hours into Age of Empires II: The Conquerors in my younger years, I didn’t realise there was a Star Wars version, which is strange since it uses the same engine and you’d think that searching for cheats and secrets about AoEII would have led me to encounter something about Galactic Battlegrounds. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, probably because very few people even remember that this game exists anymore, which is a shame.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (DS Port)

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Bit of an odd one here, but this is another Star Wars game I used to play a lot as a child and it’s actually quite good, the side-scrolling 2-D sections when playing as the Jedi remind me somewhat of beat-em-up games that you find in arcades, until the game suddenly shifts to a fully 3-D space battle simulator. The only thing that really brings this game down is the boss fights, which mostly boil down to memorising the enemy attack patterns and whacking them when they’re vulnerable.

Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords

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The problematic little brother. Of course, this game was not made by BioWare, and was actually created by Obsidian, who unfortunately shipped the game but forgot to put most of the things they had made onto the disk. Using mods this game can be returned to its original state but the release version remains a broken mess with too much content missing.

1 – Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

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The undisputed King of Lightsaber Combat. Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy lets you take control of a budding young Jedi apprentice with a great deal of raw untapped power. Thanks to massive upgrades from the previous game, Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast the already fantastic sandbox is bolstered with new moves, new force powers, new enemies, new vehicles and even new types of lightsaber to use: double-bladed and duel-sabers. Overall, this game builds on all the successes of its predecessors by refining the already damn fine lightsaber combat system and telling a well-crafted, self-contained story.