Since returning from vacation, I’ve been playing a lot of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. It’s a co-op game, but I’m playing it single player as my limited co-op experience with Bill and my extensive single player experience has led me to believe that the game would kind of suck in co-op. Well, if you were playing Caddoc, the big, burly melee guy. Then again, the entire game sucks as Caddoc, so it’s not much of a stretch to think co-op would suck with him as well as it would have the added suckitude of pissing off your partner because you keep dying. At least that’s how it would go for me.
The problem, as I see it (and don’t worry, we’ll get to the food soon enough) is that Caddoc doesn’t pull his weight in co-op. He’s melee, so he should be drawing the aggro off of the archer lady, and he does, but he’s also a bit of wuss and it doesn’t take much to kill him. Oh sure, blocking is key, but when you’re mobbed, shields only work for the beasties in front of you. The rest of them can get at you quite nicely, and when they get into their four swing attack animations, you can get killed fairly quickly. Caddoc doesn’t have the same area of effect spells that E’lara does, so when he gets mobbed, he’s limited in how he can deal with him. Based on this, you would think that the best way would be for Caddoc to deal with the up close guys while E’lara helps him out with her magical arrows when things get too crazy. You would be right except for the fact that while Caddoc is getting mobbed, E’lara usually is too so she has her own problems to deal with. The other, common scenario is that while Caddoc is being mobbed, a gaggle of archers are perforating both of you, requiring E’lara to turn her magic elsewhere…
The revive system in this game certainly doesn’t help matters. Caddoc and E’lara can each carry vials that can revive their fallen teammates. As you progress through the game you’ll be given a higher capacity for vials based on how much you revive one another. Limiting the number of times you can revive your partner is, to put it bluntly, an extremely stupid decision. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a risk/reward system in place for revivals, but in this case, if you revive your partner and then don’t find another vial, you’re essentially penalized for reviving them, or they’re penalized for being downed, and it seems a tad bit harsh. In Gears of War, you had to balance your ability to get to your partner and revive them with the current engagement. Yeah, he may be bleeding out, but if you don’t deal with some more of these dudes, you won’t be able to get there any way. In Borderlands, the downed player has the ability to revive themselves if they can somehow shoot through the darkening vision and kill someone. In Halo, if you die, at least one person in the squad has to survive until you can come back. All of these games offer some seriously tense moments around a partner’s death or downing, but none of them seem like they’re penalizing you for dying. Hunted seems like it’s penalizing you, and maybe that’s the point, but if you’re looking to play a fun night of co-op monster slaying, there’s no need to engender animosity between the players due to a cruddy revive system. The fact that the vials you pick up have to be actively picked up, as opposed to health and mana potions that you pick up automatically makes the system seem even more punishing. In the heat of battle, if I run out of vials, I know not only have to be on the lookout for them on the battlefield, but also looking at the on-screen prompt to make sure I’m not stopping to pick up gold instead of revive vials while my partner bleeds out.
So, with this in mind, it got me thinking to food and how really good dishes can use different textures and flavors to play off of each other to a harmonious end, just as good co-op games can use the different play styles of the players to good ends, even within the restrictions of the game. A couple of months ago I found a recipe for a paella that uses soy chorizo and edamame in it. I’m not a big paella fan as the traditional dish has a lot of shellfish in it, and I don’t dig on shellfish, but this seemed like a winner. The only problem I could see was that it would combine the softness of rice with the crunch of soybeans and my wife is not a big fan of mixing textures within dishes. I can sort of understand that as mouth feel is a big deal for me, but I thought it would be worth it. In the end, we both loved it and my son inhaled it as if he had been in the desert for a month. My only complaint is that having the bell pepper in the mix the entire time the rice is cooking makes it too soft and I’d rather put it in with the edamame at the end. Then again, maybe that would raise the crunch factor too much, so who knows. Bottom line is that this is a great dish, full of flavor and with some really different but complimentary textures that play off each other wonderfully, like a good co-op game in your mouth. Best of all, no one has to be Caddoc.
Paella with Soy Chorizo and Edamame – Cooking Light
1. 6 oz soy chorizo – I made this with real chorizo and it was to die for. Obviously, I’m not advocating you break your moral or religious code for pork, but dayum.
2. 2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
3. 2 1/4 cups chopped yellow onion – sure it says yellow, but feel free to use frozen onion if time is an issue.
4. 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed – OK< saffron is very expensive, at least it is when you buy it at Kroger. Maybe you can get saffron for less at ethnic markets, but I haven't checked. You've been warned.
5. 4 garlic cloves, minced
6. 1 cup Valencia or other medium-grain rice
7. 1 cup (1/2-inch) pieces red bell pepper - use whatever kind of bell pepper you want, but red is nice and colorful. I think I used orange. I'm crazy that way.
8. 1/2 cup dry white wine
9. 2 cups organic vegetable broth
10. 1/4 teaspoon salt
11. 1 1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed
12. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
13. 1/4 cup chopped green onions
1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook until browned. I don’t know how soy chorizo is, but the coloring of the “real” stuff makes it hard to tell when it’s brown. Shoot for around ten minutes or so. Make sure it’s all crumbled up by the time it’s done. Once done, remove it from the pan and set aside.
2. Return pan to medium heat. Add the oil, swirl the pan to get even coverage with the oil and the add the onion, cooking for ten minutes.
3. Add the saffron threads and garlic and stir constantly for a minute.
4. Add the rice and bell pepper and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Add the white wine and cook for two minutes or until the liquid is almost gone, stirring frequently.
6. Add the vegetable broth and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. It’s ok if the rice is a little wet, you just don’t want soup.
7. Return the chorizo to the pan and stir in the edamame. Cook for five minutes or until everything is fully heated. Sprinkle on the parsley and green onions and dinner is served.
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