Thursday, 28 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

[Post #29 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Hey, a somewhat current movie for a change! This story follows Peter Quill (aka "Starlord"), a rogue who unknowingly gets his hands on an important and powerful artifact and is subsequently chased by those who want its power and those who want the huge bounty on his head. Apart from the start, most of his interactions are with aliens of all colours who happen to be humanoid, some of whom look rather silly but hey - maybe aliens ARE just people with face paint? You'll probably overlook that for all the high quality CGI going on though. There are spaceships and explosions and 70's tunes aplenty and while some sections might make you go "WTF", the plot is quite enjoyable to watch having a good blend of comedy and tragedy.

Just give him back his walkman.

Now a quick word about my favourite character in the movie: it's tree-form Vin Diesel. You'd never know if you didn't read the credits. He also only says variations of one line so while it might have been an easy paycheck, this silly tree plays a big part in making the movie work for me. That's a pretty hard task when you think about it movie wise: you're introducing all these aliens who folks won't really identify with, or know about beforehand unless they were comic junkies. Definitely one I can recommend people to see, I give Guardians of the Galaxy four cassette tapes out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I should just say writing prompt time huh? Belghast's topic for today is "What is the most thankless job in gaming?  I am trying to keep this broad on purpose because I am not meaning the holy trinity. There are so many roles from ore farmer, to sniper that are played in various games. What one gets the least credit?".

I think I'll be one of the choir here and say Healers (trinity or not). They are often the first scolded when a team fails doing something which is one of the reasons I avoid that class. I also try to be self sufficient so that I never should actually -need- a healer to survive. Hey if the paper rogue/stealthy guy can do it I'm not sure what's wrong with everyone else.

The "thankless" part of the question is pretty across the board though. "Thanks team," or "thanks for the revive," are the most common I hear these days. I've heard "Thanks for keeping us alive healer person," just as much as I hear "Thanks for killing that monster killer person,". If you're wondering, that number is zero.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Attack Force

[Post #28 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

I'm pretty sure I've spoken about this before but as I've not yet done a proper review of it, I didn't want any of you to miss my thoughts on this outstanding film. Outstandingly bad that is. The story is that a drug dealer who has their hands on addictive yet DNA altering drugs is creating murderous and crazy people for ... SCIENCE!? One test subject kills a bunch of soldiers and thus Steven Seagal gets involved to hunt them down. Just as well too because said drug dealer is about to release the DNA altering drug into the water supply! Oh noes!

I made it sound pretty decent huh? Unfortunately the extent of "DNA alteration" just relates to giving people funky eyes, and for an action film the main hero remains in a sitting position for around half the movie. Also, some of his usually soft southern drawl lines were dubbed over by someone with a grindy and angry voice who sounds nothing like Steven Seagal. This is because the original plot involved aliens but they got changed post production into druggies. Yeah, they're pretty similar... cough.

Standard procedure for all druggies I suppose.

To top it off it felt like the director used ALL the footage he had for some shots. There are just so many that would have worked better if he cut some parts out. For example, there's a section where the military guys have a convoy on the move. We see car A enter the gate from a forward shot, then we see car A going through from a rear shot. Then forward shot of car B. Rear shot of car B. Again with car C. Then a long shot of the entire convoy slowly going down a road. There's literally five minutes of watching cars move at this point, with no voice overs.

I also suspect that towards the end there, even the director lost the plot as at least one pretty major plot point was forgotten and unresolved. It also makes it funnier. :P You will enjoy this more if you treat it as a comedy, but I should warn you properly by giving this film only half a bullet out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Going straight for another of Belghast's writing prompts today - "Has there ever been a game encounter you were afraid of? For example I am spooked of tanking Garuda hard… has there ever been a fight or encounter you dreaded?". The grim reapers (aka walkers) of Wizardry Online quickly come to mind.

You can only encounter them when you are in the spirit world and thus cannot fight them so your only hope is to either sneak past behind their backs or sprint and zig zag like mad to a priest or revival fountain, often an interesting task since they enjoy patrolling narrow corridors. While they are quite slow when unalerted, they can easily boost faster than you and each time they catch you not only do they put you back at your corpse, meaning you have to try get past them again, but they also reduce your revival rate by 10%. Ten captures in a row and your character is instantly lost to permadeath. In the later dungeons there would be groups of these wandering together. Easiest solution to avoid them? Don't die. :P

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bleach Online

[Post #27 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Fans of the manga and anime Bleach now have another medium to enjoy their hobby... somewhat. This browser based game plays a lot like Blood and Jade and League of Angels except with Bleach characters and anime styling. I still question how they got the rights to do this but whatever. The game begins with the player creating a soul from a choice from 6 "new" characters (not seen in Bleach before). There is no customization apart from adding a name to your avatar.

You will then find yourself with what I am guessing is the only quest hub in game. A gigantic area where all the NPCs regardless if they are on Earth or in the Shinigami realm or I suppose in Hueco Mundo (didn't get that far) show up to talk to. A portal leads you to battle zones which looks like a map with chibi versions of opponents. There are no divergent paths though. You have to beat monster A to get to monster B and so forth. Actually it's quite funny that the first person you fight is Aizen (one of the big bad guys), followed by what seems to be the series actual plot. I'm still not sure why because the translation is hilariously bad in most parts.

Yoruichi handles the cash shop in a maid outfit. Woo?

Fortunately random characters decide to join your team for some fights. You can also hire them to permanently be on your team from the tavern or from winning a best of 3 rock paper scissors gamble. Sounds like childs play? Well each attempt costs something like half a million gold so good luck. That's still around 75% cheaper than hiring them out right. You can gain a lot of skills as you level up, but in combat each character will only use the one you select as active, every other round. That is the extent of your input as in battle you basically just sit and watch, even in the pseudo PvP arena where you take on other players teams. Oh, you can try enslave the other players too and force them to work at your homestead - because uh... that didn't happen in Bleach.

And then there are the... "bonus" events. There's a lucky cat and gift timer boxes that give you money and items just for being logged in. You can try strip some random females of Soul Society as a daily task. You also have a homestead that you can upgrade and hunt down female hollows to steal their bikinis which you then use to upgrade your girlfriend who lives in your home (i think the first upgrade costs 500 bikinis?). And by upgrade I mean ditch the old one for a hotter one with bigger boobs. Oh you can interact with them too. Higher level girlfriends can give you more rewards when you talk to them, party with them, or "accidentally" fondle their breasts. There's actually a button for that.

While they got some voice lines directly from the anime I think, the music that I've encountered is repetetive and is not of the quality of League of Angels for example. The best part I think is the quiz which lets you answer one question about Bleach everytime you gain a level. Get it wrong and you gain a little money. Get it right and you get a lot of money. Nowhere near enough to save it though, because I give this game just one bankai out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: These are getting harder and harder to do so again I'll go with another of Belghast's writing prompts, one that has a short answer as to not let this post get too long. "Do you follow a games lore? There is often tons of lore both in game and out of game, do you follow it and even track down the tidbits that are not obvious.. or are you mostly oblivious to it?"

Generally speaking, no. The in-game story or world has to give it right to me (or at least feeds it passively through tasks for example) otherwise I don't actively look for it. Doubly so for anything outside the game because it's outside the game.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Man of Tai Chi

[Post #26 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

This Chinese martial arts flick follows the life of Tai Chi practicioner Tiger Chen, who is manipulated by a very charismatic antagonist in the form of Keanu Reeves to begin fighting for all the wrong reasons which causes all sorts of problems in Tiger's life. Balance is a strong theme here, and almost all the fights are spectacular displays of hand to hand combat. Yes, there is some light wire work until the very end where due to the nature of the combatants there is heavier use of it, and there is one unexplained (BS) move that might trouble the UFC die hards.

So fighting. Much intense. Wow.

As a story it works pretty well, though there are some questions not answered in the telling and obviously there are subtitles for those of us linguistically challenged. The hero is likeable enough, as are the female leads, but it's Keanu who steals the show as the slightly insane bad guy. I did have issue with the "fight announcer" lady though - her lines are wooden (possibly intentional) nor is she decent eye candy (given her dress codes I assume she's meant to be).

I also took some issue with not seeing the full length of some fights and for some inexplicable reason the movie tries to give you epilepsy right at the start and around halfway through with a burst of intense flashing lights. Obviously the heavier use of wire work for the final fight also makes it a bit of a let down after all the previous combats. Despite all that it is a decent film, one I give three kicks out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I never was into sports of any kind during my school years (though I did like badminton) so I've always been quite unfit. Not enough to be fat or obese but just ... weak? :P It was only after I was working when I decided to try out capoeira. I can still remember the first class where I could barely do one pushup and that irritating noise of berimbau music. Well I soon found myself enjoying that music and while I never became Superman I did manage to shed a bit of weight. Being sore all over after each class became an awesome feeling, and I think it did wonders for curing some shyness. I stuck with it for a number of years but eventually had to give it up to concentrate my funds elsewhere (aka. I got married :P). 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Riddick (2013)

[Post #25 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

This is actually the third film of the Riddick series, where we find antihero Vin Diesel abandoned on a remote planet inhabited by many awesome CGI creatures that all want to kill him. In a bid for freedom he decides to alert random bounty hunters to try come and get him while he basically makes a play to steal their spaceship to escape (he's a nice guy :P). It's also pretty funny that in the second "arc" of the movie it is Riddick who is the monster, with panicked bounty hunters getting taken down by the incredibly sneaky Furyan.

You might say that in some parts. :P

Plot wise it's ok, though due to it being action focused it is very light and some people do really stupid things. There are also some parts that may not make sense if you didn't watch the very good Pitch Black and less good Chronicles of Riddick but you get enough information to get by. Be warned, your questions of how he manages to be so sneaky will never be answered. With a decent amount of action, some comedy, a little bit of full frontal female nudity and a lot of very well done CGI monsters who have a decent budget and aren't afraid of broad daylight, I give it three and a half bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Like Riddick, I like to play as sneaky yet violent characters in games. My avatars usually have more hair though. My standard order of preference begins with someone that has a stealth mechanic followed by someone that can easily out range opponents with use only of conventional (world dependent) means. I like the idea of magic or super powers existing but that doesn't mean I want to be one of the people using them. In fantasy worlds this usually leads me to playing a rogue or ranger type. My least favorite classes are any that rely on "magic" (either for damage or healing) followed by the straight up fighters and tanks. Being able to stand toe to toe against a boss is nice, but being able to beat the same boss without ever being hit is even better.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Taken and Taken 2

[Post #24 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

I had the pleasure of watching these movies back to back so I thought I'd review them both in one hit. Taken tells the story of a stupid girl who manages to get herself kidnapped by some very bad Albanians. Unfortunately for them, a borderline obsessive and sadistically psychopatic Liam Neeson is quite attached to her and happens to be excellent at tracking down scum and making them suffer.

While my summary might be brief, it is an awesome to watch Liam's character on the hunt. There are a few intentionally annoying characters, but they all get their comeuppance during the course of the film. There are also very good action sequences and plausible enough gun play (though there's a bad guy at the end who must have been drunk to have missed someone of the protagonist's size with an automatic weapon).

He does benefit from some good luck too.

Taken 2 continues the story where the relatives of the Albanians killed in the first movie are out for revenge, so they do the logical thing and try to kidnap the protagonist and his entire family. Of course this doesn't quite go as planned as Liam's kill count just keeps going up. Fewer annoying characters this time around, replaced by a truck load of stunt men and women on narrow roads during chase scenes. The combat here is also pretty good, though the bad guys are hampered somewhat by occasionally not using lethal force (the perils of capture missions).

Both movies do have plot holes, mainly dealing with "how the hell do you kill so many people or throw grenades into public areas and not get arrested," sort of thing but they are easily overlooked with the enjoyment factor while watching. I give Taken four bullets out of five and Taken 2 three and a half bullets out of five - slightly less than the first movie because I felt the plot wasn't as tight, but still very enjoyable. 

Blaugust Bonus: I don't really have a strong urge to travel to see the world, so instead I might just talk about another of Belghast's writing prompts today -  "What is your favorite game biome? Games often have the same kinds of generic climates spread through the zones and levels. What is your favorite type of climate and why?"

An environment that's pretty is common place these days, which is why I'm picking a strange one - an environment that puts the player on edge is my current favorite. I am talking about the infested ships circling Eris in Warframe, especially the hive missions there where you (and your team if you have one) are sent to eradicate the infestation spawning pools on warped and partially broken space vessels. Ok, more than partially as you have sections where there is no atmosphere and you take constant damage while on your space walk. Of course, the endless swarm of aberrant creatures have no problem with it.

If you aren't outside running out of breath then you are in the claustrophobic, twisted maze of broken metal melding into the disgusting infestated biomass of growths and tumors. Bodies of the previous inhabitants can be found here too, and the blood curdling violin music helps set the scene nicely. No, it's not a pretty place. It's not even a nice place to visit, but it is one of the best "horror" setups I've run into which perfectly fit thematically to the game.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Neverwinter Online: Tyranny of Dragons

[Post #23 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Neverwinter Online's Tyranny of Dragons has been out for a few weeks now and in my opinion it is a clever and resource saving way to expand. Instead of having entirely brand new zones like they did previously (though there is still a new dungeon and skirmish to unlock and for those interested a new race and class to try out), this time they just expanded a few of the existing areas and added the new encounter sets for the quite troublesome Cult of the Dragon in each zone, all at "skull" level which means the percentage of damage they take and receive is based on the level of the player they are fighting. It's a clever system as the first zone of Neverdeath Graveyard has people around level 30 still able to participate in the content and be just as effective against the enemies as the sudden influx of level 60s.

That said, there are campaign instances, again on reused maps but with the new baddies set at level 61 which may catch some people unprepared. The biggest draw card of course are the heroic dragon encounters out in these new regions where they and their timers are clearly marked. Zone chat has never been more useful in finding the soonest dragon brawl you can get into. As always, the campaign tree to unlock content and feats is grindy. At least this time I haven't found any PvE competitive tasks thus far, and that you can grind to what suits you. You can do a short 10 minute stint a day, or if you want to get ahead you can collect more currency items than needed so that you can either have rest days or have extras readied to unlock bonus reward chests and the like.

I think Tiamat is also waiting in the new dungeon...

Personally I quite like it, though I find the dragons (the first three anyway) much easier to fight at range. You have to be a bit more on the ball with the evades if you are up close. Standing on the side often lets you evade the tail swipe and breath attacks but all the dragons do a radial stomp that can kill an unprepared hero.

While we're on the topic I figure I should put up my latest foundry creation. You might have to hunt around for it though in the "New" or "For Review" tab. I tried something different this time and made it optionally stealth based, but due to that it can probably be finished quickly. :P Please give it a try when you get the chance.

Quest Name: Arroway Manor
Short Code: NW-DP3GLWRDP

Quest List so far:
Arroway Manor [NW-DP3GLWRDP] (8-15 minutes)
Spiders of the Glade [NW-DUWK7BEE7] (15-25 minutes)
Dirty Rats [NW-DGLB37WLW] (15-25 minutes)
Rebel Incursion [NW-DFHLFGNQY] (15-20 minutes)
One Step to Darkness [NW-DNJC9SK7A]  (1 hour running time)

Blaugust Bonus: I quite enjoy creating and playing through player generated content. Not only does it speak of the devotion of the said players to the game but it also usually produces some of my favorite experiences. I actually started making quests back in the free shards of Ultima Online by painstakingly hiding stuff around places, making flash animated "cut scenes", and getting guildies to help lure monsters to desired combat points (some across oceans) and act out parts of the quest. Soon after, I was invited to become a game master to even better my quest generation stuff which I gladly accepted. I did it again on a later shard and once more became a GM. Those were some great times.