Monday, 18 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: Vivienne

[Part of my Dragon Age: Inquisition play through. Spoilers ahead!]

This weather is not ideal for travel in the mountains, my dear. I should have brought my fur coat.

Dresses with chest windows don't keep you warm? I wonder why...

Leliana's reports were correct. The Red Templars at Emprise du Lion did have a charming red lyrium mining operation here, the poor dears. These renegades who sully the name of the templars were easily ousted through the responsibly supervised use of our more magically inclined conscripts. I just wish we had more proper chevaliers in the Inquisition and fewer... lowlife thugs to pursue them to the forests.

I do hope you've given some thought about Cole, my dear. Whether he is a spirit or a demon is irrelevant. Neither can be trusted. The harmless-looking ones are always the most dangerous. All it can do is harm. Remember that.

You know, darling, this place gives me an idea for redoing the small winter breakfast room in Chateau Ghislain. I shall be happy to return to civilization again.

Insight: There are three dragons at the end of Emprise du Lion who you fight individually in coliseums. The one in the middle uses the most tricks, having adds, bombing runs, and armor. If you take stairs up, prepare for ice dragons. If you take stairs down you'll find a sleeping fire dragon.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: Cole

[Part of my Dragon Age: Inquisition play through. Spoilers ahead!]

The people in Crestwood need help. They're frightened inside. Trapped by the walls that protect them.

Dead things come from the lake. They want to go home. That's why they take the bodies. They watched the dead and dying, pressing close, clustered to hear, and forgot how to go back.

So many old songs under the water. It sounds different. The water changes the song. The mayor dreams about this place. Shock and shame and hurt. His shame had this shape. The shape of the dam controls. I could help him. Make him forget. But the others won't. He's hurt so many.

It's not just Cole's hat that takes some getting used to.

So much water. Where does it go? It's very wet.

It's quiet. The dead at peace. Soldiers have taken the mayor away. It's time to go back but the mud wants my feet to stay.

Insight: Somehow, the lightning dragon of Crestwood (on paper, second lowest level of all the dragons) is one of the hardest ones I've fought in the game. It doesn't use any tricks or unreachable spots but the wide open ground and its sniping ability made it a very long fight. Maybe I was just under geared?

Tales of the Blight II: Blackwall

[Part of my Dragon Age: Inquisition play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Sounds like legitimate banditry.
As the only Grey Warden in the Inquisition, it was no surprise that I'd be the one sent to secure an alliance with the dwarves of Orzammar especially now they've asked for aid with all the recent earthquakes disrupting their trade routes and reopening passages for the darkspawn to pour out from.

Soon enough I made contact with a unit of their "Legion of the Dead" in the Deep Roads. They're a good bunch. Tough in a fight. Fearless. Two of them, Renn and Valta, decided to come along to try determine the unnatural nature of the quakes. Down and down we went, killing darkspawn by the dozens, until we reached a place of darkness that even the darkspawn knew better than to enter.

Renn died there in that darkness, against "pure" dwarves infused to lyrium armor. Valta and I pushed on, found what they were guarding: a lyrium heart which Valta thought to be part of a sleeping titan. Somehow she managed to calm it down, stopping the quakes it was causing. She chose to stay with it, with them, to let me return to the surface. She fulfilled her duty. Orzammar was happy with this result, accepting the Inquisition alliance.

Upon my return, Bull asked how I was still alive. I told him the Maker has a soft spot for fools.

Insight: I didn't realize the Deep Roads is a DLC which means it is WAY harder than other content. From it I learned early on you can actually revive downed companions which makes a rogue's invisibility very useful. Doubly so in that you can abuse enemy leashing, and the fact they don't heal. Fights might take awhile but as long as you can get far enough away to get everyone up, you can make progress.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: The Herald

[Part of my Dragon Age: Inquisition play through. Spoilers ahead!]

The Herald of Andraste's second attempt at closing the breach is a success, now that he is backed by the Redcliffe mages conscripted to the Inquisition - but the victory party is short lived as a massive enemy force descends upon the hamlet that night: An army of templars, dubbed "Red Templars" by Varric, as they are all clearly under the effect of red lyrium like the templar leader in Kirkwall slain years ago.

A young boy named Cole manages to alert the town in time to get their trebuchets and other defenses ready which eliminates much of the enemy force, but not enough to stop a red lyrium dragon and the Elder One. The Herald confronts him alone to buy time for the others to escape, and this Elder One who calls himself Corypheus accuses the Herald of stealing the "anchor" from him - using his big magic ball to try reclaim the rift power in the Herald's hand... but fails.

I love fondling my magic ball.

Accepting he'll have to find another way to achieve his goal of god hood, Corypheus tries next to simply kill the Herald, but an avalanche that destroys Haven forces him to flee and buries the Herald in a cave. Somehow touching Corypheus' ball has made the anchor grow more powerful - and the Herald uses it to blast his way out of the mountain and regroup with the survivors.

With the village lost, it falls to Solas to lead the Inquisition to Skyhold, a forgotten fortress high in the mountains to begin anew - and it is here where Cassandra proclaims the official leader of this Inquisition to be the Herald, now officially "the Inquisitor", to the cheers of many.

Insight: If you are a kleptomaniac like I am, you'll want to get the perks which increase inventory space. You'll also want the fine tools perk to open the "harder" locked doors.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: Iron Bull

[Part of my Dragon Age: Inquisition play through. Spoilers ahead!]

So much rain. The Storm Coast reminds me of Seheron, only colder. The Inquisition has sent me and my chargers to the region for a two prong mission, like a pincer attack! First, to find the missing Grey Wardens because somehow that entire group has just vanished, and second to provide cover for a dreadnaught laying down fire from the shore on a Vint operation here to secure an alliance with the Qunari.

If the reports are true, the inquisition is going to need all the alliances it can muster as all the templars just suddenly decided to defect from their sacred Chantry to join the bad guys. Maybe that's why the boss hired us despite telling him up front that I was a Qunari spy.

After searching all the spider infested caves and questioning many bandits we finally found one Grey Warden called Blackwall who maybe we can use. As for covering the ship against the Vint mages and their magic crap, we did our duty. The alliance is secured at the cost of all my guys.

His real name is "Liar".

Shit. Damp just gets in everywhere, doesn't it. I need a drink!

Insight: You can only get to the lightning dragon in this region once you are level 16 or higher. I recommend being level 20+.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: Varric

[Part of my Dragon Age: Inquisition play through. Spoilers ahead!]

The Herald of Andraste, that's what they're calling him now - and because of that some muscle brained Avvar barbarian down in the mire decided to challenge him to a duel to the death. The chosen of their gods against the chosen of ours, with only the lives of some hostages at stake. I could not make this shit up if I tried, and believe me - I've made up a lot of shit in my time.

So while the Herald deals with that, I now find myself in the ass-end of nowhere recruiting people and horses and mercenaries for this new Inquisition. At least I'm no longer a prisoner said the Seeker, yet here I am doing what she asked. Did I just get downgraded to a slave? That's a funny thought.

He still has some of the best lines.

Not many are willing or able to join though, not with Blondies' war still going on. Mages and templars, and innocent people caught in the middle. At least the rebel mages in Redcliffe are willing to meet, but it turns out they've basically sold themselves to some Tevinter magister who wants to personally negotiate with the Herald.

If your money's on this being a trap, you were right. Dorian, an apprentice of this magister with the most sparkly Tevinter mustache you'll ever see, confirmed his master is part of the "Venatori" - some radical group serving "the Elder One". With a few well placed bolts and some magical protection from Sparkles, the magister was convinced to hand over both the mages and the Elder One's plans which involve the assassination of the Empress or Orlais and a demon army. Like I said, I could not make this shit up if I tried.

Insight: In the mire map, walking into the water spawns undead. Contrary to what is suggested, do not avoid it. Spawn as many undead as you can to level up. There's also a fire dragon in the Hinterlands whose fight is almost exactly like the high dragon in Dragon Age 2, where is summons adds and flies to unreachable places to snipe. Have potions ready for it!

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: Trevelyan

[Part of my Dragon Age: Inquisition play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Trevelyan awoke as a prisoner of Seeker Cassandra (who has changed much from the last time we saw her). With some missing memories, he had no answers to the charge of killing the Divine (the "pope" of the Chantry) by exploding her entire temple and leaving a huge breach to the fade in its place, nor to how he walked out of it alive with a strange green glow his left hand now possessed.

At least we know where to go!

As evil spirits and demons were now entering the world, Cassandra had no choice but to trust the elven apostate Solas, self proclaimed scholar of the fade, who suggested this power might be able to close the breach if Trevelyan got close enough. With a few chantry soldiers and her personally led expendable forward team of Solas, Trevelyan and dwarven prisoner Varric, they pushed through the numerous demons, closing the smaller door-sized rifts on the way before reaching the main breach. With much strain, Trevelyan uses his new power on it and... passes out.

He awakes in the small, snowy village of Haven - where survivors salute and kneel before him, coining him "the Herald of Andraste" since he was able to make the breach dormant (but not closed entirely). With this momentum, Cassandra declares the Inquisition reborn - to uncover who created the breach and killed the Divine to bring them to justice.

Insight: Interrupting rifts can stun and debuff the demons around it, but this was only most useful against the armored pride ones or the annoying despair ones that hop around. For all other types it was often fastest to just fight and kill them directly (unless they got too far).

Monday, 11 October 2021

Wonder Woman 1984

Wishes are bad. Guess someone wished for a sequel.

When a wish granting magical stone falls into the wrong hands it is up to super heroine Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to save the world. While it has funny moments, cool effects, and the beautiful Gal Gadot, there's something very tame about the whole thing. For starters, remember how she massacred Germans in the first film which was awesome? Yeah. Not so much this time around.

Bad guys lucky day.

There's also a problem in making Wonder Woman use new skills, which she uses exactly once. Indeed the highlight for me surprisingly turned out to be Chris Pine's sections. Not really recommended, I give it two geologists out of five. 

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: Blood Politics

[Part of my Dragon Age 2 play through. Spoilers ahead!]

With the viscount dead, there is continued squabbling among the leadership of the anti-magic templars and safe-magic Circle of who to take charge. Only the leader of the religious chantry provides the balance to prevent a war between these two, and while Hawke is away slaying a high dragon who destroyed the mines and helping Merrill rebuild a demonic mirror which EVERYONE says is bad a idea, paranoid Anders goes the terrorist route and blows up the entire chantry proving once and for all that ALL MAGES ARE BAD AND MUST DIE.

It was me! I was the bad guy the whole time!

This notion is built upon even more when Merrill kills her entire ex-clan when they confront her about her own illegal magic. As usual it is up to THE CHAMPION OF KIRKWALL to sort this mess out, by killing Merrill and executing Anders. Luckily, the templars share Hawke's views and assist him and his remaining allies Aveline and Varric (whom they first have to rescue from said mages) in storming their local headquarters to massacre them all. As they say, the only good mage is a dead mage!

Once the dust settles it is revealed the leader of the templars is also a bit crazy thanks to her sword being infused with the cursed idol she had bought from Varric's brother years ago. Knowing Hawke would be the next one to challenge her authority someday, she orders him executed immediately but is easily slain by her quarry.

Fearing for their lives, the remaining soldiers and citizens kneel down to worship their new, rightful leader: Hawke, who orders Aveline and her guards to do horrible things to anyone breaks any of his laws and sends Varric to start hunting down and executing mages in the surrounding areas. Not bad for someone who arrived as a penniless refugee.

Insight: The two hardest fights of the game for me were the initial assault on the circle mages HQ as they had barricaded themselves well and the high dragon, who cheats a lot / is a very smart dragon. As a rogue, stealth and lots of stam and HP pots were the key to winning.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Free Guy and Escape Room (1 & 2)

All about trapped protagonists.

Free Guy

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is mostly content at his bank job in Free City, until he learns that its not all as it seems. For a predictable plot this is actually very good, with excellent special effects and many funny moments that will appeal to everyone, especially online gamers. Good script + good acting = highly recommended, I give it four out of five and would easily watch this one again.

Escape Room

Six strangers all take the bait to participate in an escape room scenario to change their lives. What they don't know is this particular one is tailored for them, using a seemingly implausible unlimited budget, and features many death traps. While the rooms themselves border on unbelievable, this makes for great entertainment to see which of the six - if any - will survive the ordeal, which is definitely a genre in my wheelhouse! It's not perfect by any means but definitely worth a watch once (be warned, one room has flashing lights the entire time), I give it three lighters out of five.

There's no getting out.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

A direct sequel to Escape Room sees more hapless fools drawn into even crazier puzzles, but this time we get to see more of the people behind the dastardly design. Highly recommended if you enjoyed the first movie as it is very much more of the same just with even more nonsensical solutions (or explained away too quickly for me) in some cases. Another three sea shells out of five.

Tales of the Blight II: Champion of Kirkwall

[Part of my Dragon Age 2 play through. Spoilers ahead!]

Despite their best efforts, Arishok launches a full scale attack on Kirkwall - somehow overpowering the locals with inferior numbers and executing the viscount. With the city full of death, Hawke's team confronts Arishok at the keep and learns the only reason the Qunari are even still here is because a thief had stolen their precious book relic years ago.  

By taking action, you proved them all to be correct in their hate for you.

Isabella fesses up that she is that thief and hands over the book she had not yet found a buyer for, so the Arishok agrees to take his people and go - as long as they can also take Isabella with them to punish her in many undisclosed ways. To her shock, Hawke agrees. Too many people suffered and died due to that stupid bitches greed. With that "sacrifice", he ends the war and saves the entire city to be rightfully proclaimed THE CHAMPION OF KIRKWALL.

The city spends the next three years rebuilding (ANOTHER TIME SKIP?) while Hawke's fame soars to new heights, and he uses it to setup a meeting between Fenris and his sister. This trap works wonderfully as Fenris' hated abusive ex-master arrives and offers to purchase the idiot back. Hawke readily agrees as the master is quite influential in his country of Tevinter and offers the first step to an alliance with Kirkwall - a no-brainer win compared to keeping the back stabbing, word-breaking, cowardly Fenris who, for all his bluster about living to kill his master, meekly submits like a bitch when he has no backup. Everyone cheers as Fenris is led away in chains for another amazing victory for THE CHAMPION OF KIRKWALL! HUZZAH!

Insight: Act III has a lot more bugs than the earlier segments. Spread out your save games to counter this.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Kate, Yasuke and Kenshin: The Beginning

Two tragedies (and one animated WTF) set in Japan.


When the titular assassin (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is poisoned, she is on borrowed time to enact revenge and perhaps become a better person for it. While the plot is pretty straight forward, it is in the telling that kept us captivated - especially when set against the backdrop of modern day Japan. I'm pretty sure there was a cameo of the Tokyo Ghoul anime in there too.

She's having a bad day.

Of course it helps that there is a decent body count and some exciting action scenes to help things along, though some of Kate's kicks really don't look like they have much power behind them. Still something I'd watch again, I give it two and a half Boom Boom Lemons out of five.

Yasuke (Season 1)

Set in Japan during the honorable times of the samurai, spell casters and giant mecha, a black man (the titular Yasuke) gets roped into saving the country. This animated series definitely goes off the rails early and the art is well animated with action sequences aplenty. Most importantly Yasuke himself is a good character, making us eager to watch him every episode. The plot is actually mostly ok too, despite being a really odd blend. Recommended if you want something different, I give this two and a half Nobunagas out of five. I don't really care if there's a Season 2 for this one though.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning

While it's funny that "The Final" comes out before this, I can safetly say that its because this is a better movie story wise. All throughout the other films people keep mentioning how Kenshin was once a cold blooded killer - well, this film focuses on that part of his life and it actually helps that most of the fights, while still epic and cool, are not too over the top like some of the previous ones have been (no mid air dodging a chain gun here lol).

That said, the antagonists certainly make a lot of mistakes and if you've seen the anime counterpart of this movie it plays almost exactly the same (but this one is superior). Also towards the end there are a lot of "let the camera stay on this character who isn't doing anything" shots which is a bit odd, but this is still a good movie and a must for Kenshin fans. I give it three and a half scars out of five.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: The Peacekeepers

[Part of my Dragon Age 2 play through. Spoilers ahead!]

The Qunari are a strange, horned race and their leader Arishok insists that despite having been in Kirkwall for years now, they are unable to go home. Almost daily, anti-Qunari sentiment grows as Hawke tries to keep everyone calm. Aveline is too busy trying to get into the pants of one of her subordinates to help so he relies instead on the magical talents of Merrill and Anders, and the "other" talents of Isabella who he has a fling with.

Since Isabella is also seeing Fenris, Hawke gets roped into defending him against cronies of his old masters who tell Fenris about his long lost sister. Despite promising to spare them for the information, Fenris kills them, solidifying to Hawke that the white haired elf shouldn't be trusted.

That's a lot of bad guys! Glad I have stealth... :)

When assisting a dreamer from magical nightmares (by going into his dream), Hawke also learns he can't really trust Merrill who puts her clan above her loyalty to him (despite them exiling her), and Isabella who "likes big boats" and all things materialistic. Indeed, only paranoid Anders seems to be the only reliable companion. Him and Varric that is.

While Hawke's team is running around, beating up people to convince them violence isn't the answer, Varric finally finds and kills his brother who left them in the Deep Roads. Surprisingly, there is proof he had sold the cursed idol to some unfortunate buyer. Varric hopes whoever that was is long gone from Kirkwall.

There's no time to look though as Hawke's mom is abducted by the resident Kirkwall serial killer, a mage who is using pieces of his victims to Frankenstein his own mother back to life. They are too late to save anyone, but the experience certainly instills in Hawke a huge distrust in all mages. Sorry Anders. It seems only Varric can be trusted!

Varric has the best lines.

Insight: For the casters, learn the spell Rock Armor. It's super effective! Also after each time skip expect to be exploring the same areas you've already explored to fight things you've fought before in other areas. Nice game design... not!

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Blood in Space: Templar Battleforce Tharsis

Two turn based games with death among the stars.

Templar Battleforce

With deadly xenos threatening to invade the colonies, it is up to you and your battleforce to save the day in this turn based strategy game. Don't let the simple cover art fool you, despite the many similarities this is no Warhammer 40K as you need to manage more than just the endless swarm of xenos (and other enemies)... each of your templars are in battle suits which have a huge problem in that they overheat & explode!

Not so bad if you just have to hold position (overwatch is awesome) but in the majority of the levels, speed is the key to victory (and engineer turrets help). Do you risk losing your men to win the mission? Especially when said soldiers level up through the campaign with you? Highly recommended for tactics buffs, and there's a decent story to boot. Three Spear Cutters out of five.


Going to Mars was never going to be easy, but no one expected it to be this hard either! Left in command of a damaged space ship, you must organize your crew to survive the many hazards en route. In an interesting twist, most of this is by dice rolling, and those dice can do various other things depending on the character and the location they are in meaning you might be tempted to not fix every problem.

Eat the weak. Muahahahaha!

With such a strong board game feel you'd think I'd like this more, but I guess it just feels too random. Got a few bad rolls? Welp, that's probably the beginning of the end as things just pile on without any hope of getting better. Two mini meteorites out of five. Not really recommended. 

Monday, 4 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: Band of the Hawke

[Part of my Dragon Age 2 play through. Spoilers ahead!]

One of the tasks Hawke's team undertakes is to be the unsuspecting assassination target in place of elven ex-slave and mage hater Fenris. This results in Hawke and company killing their smuggler employer and moving onto the more lucrative task of clearing out some baby dragons nesting in the local mine. Soon after, Hawke finds Fenris' counterpart, ex-Grey Warden mage Anders who hates all the things that oppress mages and is willing to donate some maps for the Deep Roads expedition.

Finally ready with a heavy coin purse, Hawke and Beth join the dwarves on their expedition - spelunking with Varric, Bianca (his crossbow) and Isabella, an ex-pirate captain and tavern regular with low morals who is on the lookout for some special relic. During this time Varric's brother finds a cursed idol and abandons the team in a bad spot, resulting in Beth's demise but the rest of the party return richer than before... so much so that Hawke buys a mansion in the posh high town over the next three years (another time skip!?) for his mother.

Isabella is a klepto.

During this time, Aveline is promoted to guard-captain, Merrill now fully exiled from her clan moves into Kirkwall's elven alienage in the low town slums, Anders continues being paranoid in the dark town sewers, and Isabella and Varric waste all their earnings at the tavern. Before he can get too out of shape, Hawke is summoned by the viscount of Kirkwall for a most important task: to keep the peace between the populace and the Qunari who have been given an encampment down at the docks district.

Insight: If you play a thief, get stealth ASAP. Without it you get smashed easily. With it you are OP as you can just wait for your potion cool downs or even run off to abuse enemy leash mechanics, meaning you can come back to pick off piece meal what was once a big group.

Squid Game (Korean TV Series)

Might make you want to try Squid Game. :P

Drowning in debts and desperate for money, Gi-hun decides to join a mysterious game that involves hundreds of others who are in the same financial situation. To win a massive cash prize, all they have to do is pass six games. The only catch is being eliminated means you die.

There is a lot of elimination.

Backed by a high budget, good acting and a really great script this has easily become one of my favourite series. Obviously this also means there's a fair bit of violence, gore and a high body count but it makes for some excellent viewing. Highly, highly recommended and I would definitely watch all this (currently) one season show again. Four squid games out of five.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Tales of the Blight II: Kirkwall Refugees

[Part of my Dragon Age 2 play through. Spoilers ahead!]

With darkspawn coming from all sides, Hawke flees with a handful of other refugees into the wilds and is saved in the nick of time by a huge red dragon, who turns out to be the witch Flemeth. In exchange for delivering an amulet of hers, she helps them reach the harbour where Hawke and the remaining survivors sail to Kirkwall (and not to Dunwall, too many Dishonoreds there) to meet his uncle at the gates. Alas said uncle has squandered the family fortune, so he sells Hawke, his sister Beth, and traveling companion Aveline into a year of indentured service to some smugglers while taking Hawke's mother through the city gates.

One handy time skip later and a year has passed, during which time the Hero of Ferelden stopped the blight. Knowing this is the prime time to enter the Deep Roads (home of the darkspawn) in search of treasure, a dwarf named Varric and his brother begin setting up an expedition to delve below. Hawke is welcome to join if he can front the gold as a partner, and knows this is the opportunity to change his family's fortunes now that he's no longer a slave. With zero coin to his name it's time to look for work, starting with his old friend Aveline - now part of the Kirkwall guard who is so good at her job, she finds proof the current guard-captain a corrupt scum and gets him fired.

Guess who is back to eat more of her daughters?

With Beth, the trio can finally also deliver Flemeth's amulet to the Dalish gypsy camp up the mountain where apprentice in exile Merrill performs some blood magic at a mountain top altar, revealing the necklace was a phylactery. Her spell revives a thankful Flemeth, who transforms again into a dragon and flies off. Since none of this really helps his financial situation, the trio soon head back to the smugglers to look for work - at least this time they'll get paid!

Insight: Inventory space is limited so always sell the junk treasure and buy the bag that increases the holding capacity. Also, geez - what a decrease in quality from Dragon Age: Origins!

Tales of the Blight II: More Dragon Age

Because there's more than Dragon Age Origins, and I've only gotten around to playing it now. Once again edited for my amusement but there are still spoilers for those who haven't played it! Be warned!

Dragon Age 2
Chapter 1 - Kirkwall Refugees
Chapter 2 - Band of the Hawke
Chapter 3 - The Peacekeepers
Chapter 4 - Champion of Kirkwall
Chapter 5 - Blood Politics

Dragon Age Inquisition
Chapter 6 - Trevelyan
Chapter 7 - Varric
Chapter 8 - Iron Bull
Chapter 9 - The Herald
Chapter 10 - Blackwall
Chapter 11 - Cole
Chapter 12 - Vivienne

This story is on going! Please return for updates!

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Saints Row the Third

Introduces Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax!

When the Saints, now local celebrities, are captured by a rival crime syndicate it is up to you and the gang to claw take their island city away from these scumbags piece by piece. Much like the previous game, this open world has a lot of activities to do on top of the actual plot and is quite funny. The wide variety will ensure that while there are some you will hate, others will be very fun and nothing ever really feels grindy especially as most of them are optional. There is a good deal of customization too and thankfully the vehicle controls are pretty good, because you'll be spending a lot of time in them.

Even more crazy than last time!

While there are no huge story branches I did like that there were choices to be made during the main story which had some minor effect. Alas I wasn't too keen on the radio stations this time around - less catchy tunes I suppose and there was one mission where the NPCs kept failing the mission for me (colliding helicopters lol) which required a fresh restart of the game. Also Steelport, where this game takes place, feels inferior to the Stilwater map from the last game. Still very fun and quite addictive, I give this three penetrators out of five.

Friday, 1 October 2021

State of Decay 2: The Forsaken

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

With more and more enemy enclaves appearing Kraken takes the lead and begins sending out execution squads to eliminate all of them, especially when informant Guy arrives seeking asylum with a warning that all these groups are banding together under a new coalition. Daniel manages to locate some of these and Kraken takes Guy to confront and kill them, leaving the last one alive: it's Chavez!?

He spills the beans on the coalition HQ at a nearby factory then somehow dodges Kraken's execution shot and escapes (bugged out as she fired the completely wrong way). Kraken and Guy race to the factory and kill what they think is the coalition leadership, returning to Fort Marshall in victory. Elsewhere the true leader, Ray Santos, meets with Chavez and IzzBee - saying Kraken's group have killed more humans in the past few days than the zombies. Chavez indicates Beebo Bee has already modified the Haven protocol at the base, all that is needed is for IzzBee to send the kill order against these Forsaken.

Unwilling to be part of another mass murder/accident IzzBee refuses, but Dr. Hoffman has no qualms about testing CLEO's capabilities and sends the order herself. Everyone at Fort Marshall is suddenly wracked with excrutiating pain as their brains begin to boil and one by one their heads all explode. They aren't so much different from the zombies after all, and CLEO is happy to continue to meet her mandate of "protect the most humans". Community killed from legacy screen - only Beebo Bee survives!

Heads go pop!

Insight: It was fun to revisit Trumbull again after Heartland, I just wish IzzBee's Red Talon drop quest wasn't so repetitive. Also at a guess, there's a good chance Quincy, Helena, Keesha and Isaac are dead too from the Jurassic Junction incident as those are all optional characters to play/encounter. On the flip side Captain Logan has a better chance of showing up again than those four as he is a mandatory character from Heartland.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

September 2021 Review: Death Count

Now Month 3 of Lockdown 2, this one just flew by for me. Busy with work and dealing with the death of my grandmother who now joins her husband. It's also highlighted how weak I've grown though, as I really struggled and needed help lifting my corner of her coffin.

For those wondering: no this was not a Covid related death, but the tally of "people we knew who died due to Covid" is now at five, three of whom passed this month, one being my brother in law. Of the five this includes one who simply had the misfortune of their ambulance not being able to find a hospital with a free bed in time and one who probably had a fatal reaction to their second vaccine dose. I'm currently only on my first one of that, with the second shot coming next month.

All this has made me break my usual rule of not buying games for myself, which you can be sure I'll be posting about in the future. For now stay safe and take care, don't let that reaper get you.

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GTFO: R5A2 - Recollect (Overload)

State of Decay 2: Leaderfall

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

No longer happy with the cramped Red Talon fairground fort, Hailey moves the team to Fort Marshall - a massive military space on the East end of town where they immediately reinstall the Haven protocol. They continue to help IzzBee crack some requisition code on CLEO which slowly brings her and Chavez back together again - revealing that a past decision of IzzBee's led to the destruction of their old base of Jurassic Junction (now covered in oil) where "lots of their friends died".

Eventually IzzBee does crack the code (repeatedly) and gets the months old Red Talon requisition drops to deploy adding to the groups arsenal. Somehow all this hardware does not save Poldo who is ripped in half by a surprise juggernaut ambush while travelling through the swamp. Hailey replaces him with druggie Timoteo, his best bud Daniel and Shan (who also gets juggernauted soon after) but is forced to turn away other plebs who come seeking refuge.

En garde!

Those rejects eventually form a group to attack the base and for some [CLEO controlled / Dr. Hoffman is happy] reason Hailey decides to try fight them with a cutlass, slaying the first two but getting killed by the last guy who smashes her face in with a shovel. Anselmo and Buck track the survivor back to his base and murder him and his remaining buddies while Zeb takes charge, hoping to establish a trade summit with their allies much like squidman Dan did back for Hamlet Squad.

Hearing one of their allies wants to attack the summit leads Zed and Timoteo on a trippy rampage that eliminates that enclave. At the Summit this is revealed to be a trick, and the ones that provided the false information attack instead - killing two other enclave allies at the "no weapons" meeting. Zeb survives using scavenged gear but is demoted as leader for this failure.

Insight: Fully exploring structures creates temporary safe zones where zombies can't spawn. To best leverage this, always go for quickly explored things first if you can, like the tiny sheds beside a house. You can also scout a bunch of areas first before looting to increase the safe zone radius. These temporary zones last around a day.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049

Older is better.

Blade Runner (1982)

In the grim future of 2019, bio-engineered people known as "replicants" are used as slave labor for the human race, especially in off-world colonies. When a group of these arrive on Earth illegally it is up to Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) to track them down and retire them, fatally. It's a strange, cramped and dirty world we are introduced to here, complete with flying cars, glowstick umbrellas and constant rain. The plot is an interesting one, and watching Deckard get thrown around by the physically superior (but occasionally retarded) replicants makes for good viewing as everyone likes the underdog. Not super actiony, but sci-fi fans will definitely enjoy this. Three loaded questions out of five.

Kinda glad current technology isn't near where these films envisioned.

Blade Runner 2049

The replicants are more active than ever it seems, and our protagonist Blade Runner (this time played by Ryan Gosling) gets involved investigating a most peculiar case. While the effects are clearly more high budget than the previous scale models (which were fantastic and tactile) there are some really odd design decisions - particularly with the annoying moving lighting in one location. The plot also could have used some upgrades as there are more than a few scenes that could have been cut out or shortened. In the end, lots of questions are left unanswered and more than a few threads felt incomplete leaving this movie way more soulless than the last. Not recommended, I give it one and a half holograms with feelings out of five.

State of Decay 2: Odd Friends of Haven

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

Hearing that Trumbull Valley is open again, Zeb, Hailey and Kraken from Hamlet Squad arrive to the radio welcome of Ray Santos, "the valley's protector", but find rumors of it being safe are false as it is home to plague hearts just like everywhere else. Luckily, since Kraken assisted an odd stranger named "Clutch pinya" (multiplayer for 15 minutes) she was gifted some godlike (definitely hacked) weaponry from him: a trio of automatic weapons with 999 bullets all in one clip!

Mmm, that looks legit...

Hailey and Zeb use these weapons and within the first day eliminate all the plague hearts around (standard difficulty only) and start doing jobs for bounty salesman Cash Beaumont and a group of scientists up in the mountains working on some computer gizmo called CLEO. This group includes Dr. Hoffman, IzzBee the hacker and reformed thug Mickey Wilkerson who comes along for some scavenging missions and find the grave of someone named Malik while doing so.

Taking the leadership position, Hailey decides to go recruit loner Al, gardener Poldo, sexter Raney, soldier Rhino, electician Buck, and lawman Anselmo to move from their checkpoint base to a Red Talon fort at the fairgrounds where ex-Red Talon Chavez and his buddy Beebo Bee assist in getting things running again and after over a week of helping the scientists they eventually them to visit the base to install CLEO's Haven defense protocol.

The zombies launch a siege during Haven's installation but are outmatched by the guns the team has. More so when the Haven finally activates as it boils the head of any zombie within safe zone distance to make their heads explode! Zombie sieges are now a thing of the past.

Insight: Haven is fueled by spare parts. LOTS if you don't have power and water. Only 25 per day if you do.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Stupid Kids: Safe (Mini Series) and Walker (TV)

Probably the same ones that enjoyed Yooka-Laylee.

Safe (Mini-Series)

When widower Tom (Michael C. Hall with a British accent) has one of his daughters go missing, he goes to great lengths to find her as the mysteries pile on. This thriller will keep you guessing and asking each episode until the end, and the casting is pretty great. 

My main problem with it is that most of the kids important to the story are fucking stupid. I mean, I was pretty stupid as a kid (and nothing has changed lol!) but these ones even make me look good. That said Safe is still worth a watch as it is very entertaining. Three and a half gated communities out of five.

No one's really safe when Dexter is around. :P

Walker (Season 1)

In this reboot Walker (Jared Padalecki) has less round house kicks and action pieces, but still goes after the bad guys in his spare time when not dealing with DRAMA. Now I've not watched much of the original series, but I can say without a doubt that I hate this ineffective main character and his conniving, "but it's for a good cause", criminal children who get away with things because "they're just kids". I purely watch every episode in hopes that they DIE HORRIBLE DEATHS. Luckily the rest of the cast is mostly decently written but not good enough for me to recommend this show. I'm going to stick with it (Season 2 confirmed) to see how much worse it can get. :P

Saturday, 25 September 2021

State of Decay 2: The Gauntlet

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

Despite how sneaky Quincy is (he's so sneaky that he lets all other companions sneak) it is new recruit Isaac, who joined to get away from his husband, who has the best solution to harvesting bloaters: he can produce scentblock, which effectively makes the users undetectable to zombies. With this, Helena and Keesha go on a harvesting spree while Quincy gains a new partner in Chavez, a Red-Talon merc abandoned in the region to help hacker IzzBee take control of the AI called CLEO to provide support drops for the team.

The girls harvesting results in 31 plague busters, while Quincy manages to make some extra ammo and masterwork rifles in preparation for the assault on Marshall back at base. Malik and Logan clear a pub near the outer most plague wall of Marshall for easy access to the gear then Captain Logan sends the civilian away to handle the siege personally.

Winners use high ground.

Using Malik's small car as a combat platform, Logan destroys the first wall but is thrown from the roof by a plague juggernaut! Luckily he has spare busters to take down the horde and the big guy (2 to down a jugg) before resupplying an working on the next three walls - all of which have great firing positions from on top of containers! It really comes down to using every single plague buster and bullet though, with some wiley-pete grenades at the end to defeat the gauntlet of plague walls - and destroying the last one seems to kill all the zombies in the area!

As expected, there is something in the middle of all of it - a CLEO drop pod which seems to be the source of the plague!? Dr. Hoffman gets to work in finding answers but none are revealed as this results in a map victory!

Insight: By now you know zombies are vertically challenged so always look for high perches to fight from. Pressing jump THEN forward lets you climb higher stuff than if you press forward AND jump.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Combo Breaker: Four game mixtures that don't quite work!


Mixes robots and food?

This puzzle game is all about delivering food in a restaurant with the catch that everything is automated. In your limited space you must place ingredient dispensers, food prep machines, grills to cook things, an assembler to put things all together and robotic arms and conveyor belts to move everything around to deliver finished plates to the diners - all while being within budget, minimizing ingredient waste and excess power usage.

Luckily you have as many test attempts as you need to get it right, because I'd rate this difficult on my puzzle scale - and I'm only a few kitchens in! Certainly not my cup of tea, as I have more fun with the Overcooked style of game play, but if you like puzzles (especially of the jigsaw variety) this one should be on your radar. Two smart robot arms out of five.


One of the protagonists would probably eat the other...

A kid's game where you play as a lizard and bat team, out to recover a book taken by the silly villain whose evil plan involves stealing all the books in the world. It's cute enough but this 3D platformer gets old quick as your controls are cameracentric but the camera position lags behind your turns. Easiest way to describe it is if you press the button to move left and hold it down in most games you just strafe left. In this game you go in a circle, which is horrible when coupled with moving platforms and timed events.

The final nail in the coffin is the stupidity of the pages though. Surely you can just grab it through those bars if it doesn't fly out on its own. Not recommended for anybody.

Oh noes, it's totally trapped.

Yoku's Island Express

A pinball platformer.

A cockroach tied to a circular rock makes for an odd hero, but this game does make him look kinda cute as he takes on his new job as island postmaster. True to form, most of the quests involve delivering stuff around the large island and while it is a pseudo-platformer there is no jumping. Instead, you can activate pinball like mechanics all over the island to send your little guy flying all over the place.

Where this falls down for me is the grinding. Some pinball levers need to be unlocked by fruit currency which you gather in larger pinball segments. This means having to repeat these until you get the required amount which can get old really fast. It's a shame because this is actually a fun concept and plays well, but alas - I have enough games that require grind. Sorry Yoku. Two fruits out of five.

Speed Brawl

Side scrolling brawler with a time limit!

This game has some nice cartoon style art and one of the best openings I've seen in a while. In it you play as a tag team of racing pugilists who need to complete each race course as quickly as possible. Obviously enemies block your path and you can't move on until they are all defeated - meaning you have to fight REALLY well.

It's an ok premise and while the controls take a little getting used to what kills it for me is the sound effects which boils down to the repeated yelling and grunts of your character. Yep, brawlers are noisy but this just gets painful really quickly. Two poles out of five. Not recommended.

State of Decay 2: Network Expedition

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

Quincy and Helena arrive in Trumbull Valley in search of Ray Santos, an old friend of their boss. The first person they find is Malik though, and for the little task of clearing out his old base he is happy to provide information and so they do this, taking his small yet spacious car to Jurassic Junction - the biggest base ever! Quincy uses his stealth skills to farm up some plague samples and supplies afterwards before he and Helena head off to the coordinates Malik provides - finding Ray and his mechanic gang to be having easily solved radio problems.

Sometimes cars just fly off on their own. Best fix if you are at base is to quit and load.

One of Ray's associates, Keesha, also reveals they are having "rent" problems with Mickey - a scum bandit thug in the area who is easily scared off. Keesha decides to join their proactive group thanks to this and helps establish outposts in town while at the same time avoiding plague hearts as for a change, that doesn't seem to be the main goal here... instead that is spelled out when Keesha and Malik meet Captain Logan, the last soldier in the valley, and his ally Dr. Hoffman. They explain the military had come in and were wiped out trying destroy a new type of growth: a plague wall!

He demonstrates the resilience of one such plague wall at a downed aircraft. Only with Dr. Hoffman's newly invented "plague buster" grenades crafted from plague bloaters can the hard outer shell be exposed (temporarily) to damage the bulbous growth within. Like plague hearts, the walls also summon zombies to defend it but with the supply of "plague busters" the Captain brings, they aren't a problem (lethal to them too) as the plane wall is destroyed.

Logan then explains the town of Marshall is surounded by plague walls, and believe that whatever lies in the center is the key to undoing the blood plague. After collecting equipment to let them produce their own plague busters, the Network Expedition crew is tasked with the onerous task of harvesting plague bloaters.

Insight: Heartland has no customizable difficulty setting. All zeds have blood plague and you have a limited pool of fixed survivors, however all these survivors are pretty strong and the combat difficulty itself is below dread since you can ram your car into many enemies AND there are many cars available.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Birds of Prey and the Rise of the Black Swan

Two action movies that go in completely different directions.

Birds of Prey

"and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn" is a really long winded way to get the Harley Quinn name into this title which actually takes place in between Suicide Squad and The Suicide Squad. Told from Harley's point of view this takes place right after she gets dumped by the Joker which removes her "protection" from all the many people she has wronged. Margot Robbie does a great job again as Harley, but the intentional disjointed story telling at the start as well as her narrating the tale really does make it suffer a bit, along with the usual blind luck and idiot bad guys that seem to permeate superhero shows. There's also an obvious boys vs girls theme going on which should be expected.

That said it still is quite entertaining to watch if you can stick with it, and there are some really good fight scenes thrown in - especially one which lets Harley display her proficiency with a bat. If she wasn't crazy I'd say she should always be carrying one! Definitely one for Margot Robbie or Harley Quinn fans and one that should at least be on the radar for action fans. For kicks my wife also tried recreate the breakfast sandwich featured here and it was pretty good, so there's that too! Not the best superhero flick but not a terrible one either. I give it three diamonds out of five, and I'd only watch the bat fight scene again.

SAS: Rise of the Black Swan

Hunting season is open!

A band of train hijackers have a wrench thrown into their plans as SAS operative Tom Buckingham (Sam Heughan) happens to be onboard for a vacation. An excellent script, exciting action sequences and good acting all around make this a very enthralling movie with very few slow parts. Also, now I know about the Channel Train tunnel between England and France which is probably common knowledge to most people but that was a new one for me.

Yes the baddies do goof a bit, especially at the end, but that just makes for a more exiting tale. Highly recommended for action fans, Outlander fans, or simply fans of good movies as this "Die Hard on a train" will satisfy most viewers. I'd definitely watch it again and give it four train loos out of five.

Monday, 20 September 2021

State of Decay 2: Lethal Zone

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

Pretty good start!

Having lost contact with Sanctuary II, Team Humanity sends Umoren, Nestor and David to find out what happened but the trio get lost and crash into a Lethal Zone where it seems the only vehicle is the one they came in. Using caution and well placed outposts, they manage to recruit lichenologist Ursula who can craft medicines at will -since she's a lich- and move into a bridge fortress.

While foraging, David and Nestor run into too many zombies and Nestor saves David from a feral as they run back to base. Unfortunately Nestor is infected by the blood plague and with no cure available David shoots him in the head. Wandering hordes hear this and attack - killing David in the process before Umoren can take them all down. Umoren then goes to resupply with Cash Beaumont but also gets infected en route, so he brings his supplies as close as he can to base before heading off to a hill top graveyard to die.

Ursula reaches these supplies with new recruits Ana Maria and Keene, and the pair decide to move base back to the safer starter house. Ana Maria is infected en route and also ends up being put down by Ursula. With enough fuel and tool kits to repair the starter car now, Keene tries to make his way there but is jumped by a blood feral (all zombie types have the infection now) and while he wins the fight, he makes it back to the house only in time to turn and for Ursula to shoot him in the head.

Somehow, Ursula can maintain her solo survival (cost wise) indefinitely - so she figures why fight the plague hearts when she can just head far into the wilderness where there will surely be less zombies? COMMUNITY ABANDONED (map fail).

Insight: "Legacy characters" you bring into the new game always come with whatever is in their inventory so if you like planning ahead gear up like mad before finishing a legacy quest so that they can start with a leg up.

Sunday, 19 September 2021

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Awesome story telling.

It is a very trying time for the De Rune family in France, with teenager Amicia having to protect her younger brother Hugo not only from the inquisition that is after them, but also from the English invaders and from a plague of hungry, yet light fearing, rats in the region. Due to being kids armed only with a sling, you are not going to be able to win any face to face fights here meaning this is mainly a stealth game.

They are very, very sneaky.

However, there is a LOT of killing here - especially as your projectiles become more and more deadly. While there is usually a non-violent or "good" approach to many of the puzzles I found it quite liberating when I could finally start killing all the bastards after the children. The rat puzzles are great too (not too hard) and the story and voice acting are really what hooked me into the game. Stay away only if you dislike stealth or animal cruelty. For everyone else, I highly recommend this. Five ignifers out of five.

State of Decay 2: Sanctuary II

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

The war against the plague hearts is going well with five destroyed now and no losses to Sanctuary II. Meanwhile ex-con Delara continues doing personal quests of collecting Donte's drug stashes. This bites the community terribly as a horde with two plague juggernauts follow her back into the base and smash Parniyan into paste before being killed off with loud gunfire. This only draws more and more hordes and specials into the base!

Erica, Beau and Little Joe are torn in half by juggernauts while Leland is crushed underfoot. Delara and Donte succumb to the swarm of plague zombies and both turn. Catherine gets her throat torn out by a feral and Krissy decides to flee to the nearby "Happy Campers" who aren't much better off as they are under attack by a plague juggernaut and three ferals themselves! She manages to recruit Alex from them before getting her face eaten by one of the ferals.

At least no zombification for her.

Somehow, Alex makes it to the police station and clears the left over zombies (the rest moved on or despawned) and recruits Dr. Jessica, body builder Dmitri, and city girl Bree as backup. It doesn't change their fate though, as they need to enter plague territory to loot more supplies. Alex and Dmitri are pounced on by ferals while Dr. Jessica gets caught by screamer hordes on top of her car. Eventually she tries make a run for it but is swarmed by the living dead.

Bree manages to get resupplied by Cash Beaumont then assaults the nearest plague heart in a dirty and cramped mens toilet at a local pub. While hiding in a stall provides excellent cover to destroy the heart, getting there she was scratched too many times and gains blood plague. Pinned in that tiny room she can do nothing as the timer runs out and the infection kills her right there at a rusty urinal. COMMUNITY LOST (map fail).

Insight: Much like the last game, all the "action" takes place near your active character. If you get far enough away from something, that something becomes dormant / inactive and in the case of most random zombies: despawn.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Zombie Army Trilogy

Because magical Hitler must be stopped!

This spin-off from Sniper Elite has slowly fixed a number of things for our co-op sessions, given I've written about it twice before. This trilogy has all the missions from the last two Nazi zombie games and adds five more, bringing the total to 15. Well 14 since Chapter 1 of Book 2 still had connection problems for three of us (DL, Jim and myself) right at the end so we had to skip it which thankfully is a valid option.

Indeed, you can pick whatever mission you want to try - no unlocking required - but must rely on the mission checkpoints to save your progress through it. The last book sees the sniper heroes return to a much better looking apocalypse graphics wise, and for a change there are other friendlies in a few missions. Also introduced are new enemies, such as the terrifying chainsaw elite and heavily armored zombies and giant zombies.

That's one big Fuhrer!

There's definitely a difficulty increase towards the final mission (to kill Hitler) with some ludicrous amounts of zombies needing to be killed (looking at you book 3 chapter 3 finale) but its all good fun and definitely one a co-op team would enjoy. I give it four relics out of five, but won't play it again. Killing the millions of zombies once was enough, thanks. :P

Insight: In the final chapter(s) most goals switch from kill the zombies to get "x" done, because the zombies won't stop spawning anymore which is especially true fighting Hitler (unless he's having a migraine, then you can relax and prepare first before the next phase). Jumping from the balcony there can be a real life (and time) saver!

Thursday, 16 September 2021

BDO: Return to Port

[Part of my Adventures in Black Desert Online]

A visit to the Temerian Night Market (hmm, I wonder if there were any Witchers there?) proved to be just the thing my corsair needed as from it she gained a 7-day Fish Suit, a gun-harpoon-sword (awakening) which she now can defeat Garmoth with, and a cute yellow bikini. She also learned about a mystical infinite HP potion but was unable to find even the very first component while using all the boons I had saved from the Heidel Ball.

That's ok though, since her specialty is water based she was far more successful doing the dive and fishing quests at Port Ratt - recovering all the sunken temple treasure easily since she can "sprint" under water with her mermaid skills. The fish suit boosts even that, meaning where I struggled to reach the objectives in the deepest trench with breath potions, she can zip down there AND back to the surface without running out of air!

Perfect for ocean exploration.

Indeed the most annoying part for her was catching the elusive Skate fish, but with perseverance and the knowledge to camp at the South West corner of the small tree isle on the edge of the Juur Sea (South of Nada Island) she finally passed that part of the quest line. This means that since the rest of the Kingdom or Haso is closed, I'm done with Port Ratt for now and have sent both characters back to Velia just as this season comes to an end.

I'll definitely keep my corsair around for her swimming utility but I'll retire her from active questing now. As a bonus, I've also used Fughar's magical Time Piece to auto boost a striker character to my corsair's level 61. Not sure when I'll get to play him though, as another season is starting up immediately with another available time piece. All I know for sure is I hate the equipment enhancing in this game. The odds suck and without any clear method to improve them, it's just really takes the wind out of my sails.

It doesn't help that there are hordes of add on items that do different things, but only for particular pieces of gear. Why do I need an Advice of Valks, or Valks Cry, or Cron stone or Caphras stone, etc? It's just stupid. I wish they just treated weapons like ships: Sure, buy or make this best weapon in the game but there's a lifespan but after one week/so much use it is destroyed. Buy or make another one. Obviously the game designers here haven't heard of the KISS method.

Anywho if Black Desert interests you at all this season gives you a chance to permanently play for free. All you have to do is level a character up to level 50 before this event ends. Reaching level 50 is pretty fast and quite achievable in four to five days of casual game play, so give it a try!

Insight: If you log off or disconnect while on the ferry, expect to be in the drink when you return as it will happily drop you into the sea. Carry adventurers maps (teleport to nearest town) just in case you want to avoid a long swim.

State of Decay 2: Nightmare Zone

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

Little Joe, Krissy, and Parniyan of Team Humanity abandon their destroyed vehicle and cautiously decide to go looting before heading to their target house base. The first thing they spot is a feral, and a plague horde with a plague screamer and plague bloater. Indeed, in Nightmare mode everything but ferals have the blood plague. They befriend the nearby enclaves "the Long Rangers" (who are useful as cover against the zed armies) and "wrench turners", mechanics who help repair vehicles. Leland and Erica of the latter group are recruited thanks to their useful skills as cars are very precious now.

Krissy manages to kill the first plague heart but it doesn't stop the plague in the area as the hearts are more numerous and closer to each other now so Leland recommends moving base to the local police station which seems to be very well fortified. Parniyan, voted leader of this group "Sanctuary II", agrees especially when the Long Rangers are wiped out by zeds and quickly befriends the nearby enclave of "Happy Campers" as well as recruits hopeless Beau, Catherine, ex-con Delara and her dealer-boyfriend Donte.

It's safest to attack plague hearts from outside AND on a vehicle!

To supplement their arms, Parniyan also starts doing bounty missions for traveling trader Cash Beaumont - someone that all the previous leaders had simply ignored (which is a mistake, as the progress of his missions carry over regardless of community). Over the radio they also hear members of the Network trying to save displaced locals flee from the captivity they found at the hands of Red-Talon, who apparently are looking for humans immune to the plague. It seems like dark days indeed, but Parniyan is sure of a light at the end of the tunnel.

Insight: Toilets are awesome for morale. Clean toilets more so. Also if you come across a locked door you DON'T want to bash, press the crouch key again to let it go.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Skyline, Beyond Skyline and Skylines

Don't look at the light!


Attending a birthday party in LA turns out to be full of surprises for Jarrod (Eric Balfour), the biggest one being that aliens decide to invade the very next day while everyone should still be having a hangover! Pity the aliens are in no mood for laughs as they send in hunters to catch those who eluded their opening, super effective vacuum cleaner attack. Never mind those poor saps, our unlucky protagonists are stuck in a posh penthouse of a huge building. Whatever should they do?

Silly decisions and bad luck drive the script at this point but you know what? It's still quite entertaining in a B-grade horror type of way. Most importantly, it sets up for the next movie. I just hope you enjoy your popcorn with cheese. Two fire doors out of five. Strangely I think I would watch this again!

Beyond Skyline

Set at the same time as the first movie (which is fortuitous as it means they can reuse CGI shots from last time), this one follows a group led by Mark (Frank Grillo) who is put through the wringer when the aliens arrive. Combat experience, iron will and a ton of HP from our main hero makes this a far more action orientated outing, especially in the surprising second half which randomly features some pretty good martial arts.

All up a better flick than its predecessor, though you might get confused if you don't watch that one first. This one gets three wrist blades out of five, and yep - I'd watch this one again too since I'm a Frank Grillo fan. The blooper reel during the credits is worth sticking around for.

Skylines (or Skylin3s)

What happens if you didn't watch  the first two movies first...

I sure hope you watched those first two movies before attempting this, otherwise you'll be reliant on the info dump narrator at the start to understand what's happening. Also, the aliens have learned to speak growly alien-english now so you'd best have those subtitles turned on as Rose (Lindsey Morgan) is recruited to travel to an alien planet to find a cure for an illness spreading on Earth.

While this movie leans heaviest into the Sci-fi genre of all three it still randomly features some epic martial arts sequences which always get thumbs up from me. The plot is way more flaky though, and I'm not sure they really needed all the "meanwhile back on Earth" segments which feel like filler. Two and a half tentacles out of five. Again stick around for the blooper reel, and yes I think I'd watch this one again too!

State of Decay 2: Team Fortress

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

As the sole survivor, Goose becomes the defacto leader of Team Fortress and recruits Doctor Drew, hard nose Mia, Len, and ex-con Bryson in the continuing battle against the plague hearts. Alas Bryson is killed by a feral after destroying his target and Len falls to the same southern fast food heart that Maddie did. They are replaced by Aaron, Adriana, Sera and old Mary who learn from past mistakes and successfully clear all remaining hearts from the map!

It's safer to attack plague hearts from outside if possible.

During this time, Goose also befriends a representative of "The Network", a large commune of cooperative individuals on the radio as well as an odd group that sells "mystery meat". While this meat isn't so mysterious to her, at least they are sociable enough unlike the numerous zombies all over the place and she lets them stay - taking two of them and Doctor Drew as backup when the inevitable bandit invasion arrives.

While the two cannibals are killed against the bandit scouts, Goose works out the bandit base location then makes good use of noise makers and stereos to let zombie hordes do most of the work. She and Drew then chase the remaining three survivors to the rooftop where it comes down to good shotgunning and taking cover to win the day. With that her legacy is secured (map victory)! She only can hope that the other away team (now going into the Nightmare zone) finds less losses than she did to achieve it.

Insight: One feral seems to consistently spawn when attack plague hearts on this difficulty and above so look out! Also if you are in a non exploded but upside down or on the side car - keep driving and turning, somehow the vehicle will right itself.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Spectral Travelers Batman Ninja

Two movies and a TV show where weird things happen!

Spectral (2016)

Having strange encounters with spectral beings in war torn Moldova, the US Army brings in a specialist engineer (James Badge Dale) to help investigate the phenomenon as it soon proves deadly - a trait befitting that of a horror movie. Only it's not really that scary. Given that it can't even be seen without special gear (great way to save on the FX budget btw) makes some serious scenes hilarious. The plot demands some stupid decisions too, even from the entities that fail to realize their full abilities.

I do have to give credit to the entity design though in that it is a unique one, and for all my dissing above it is actually a pretty entertaining movie. If you like the combination of horror and war, this will probably be right up your alley. I give it two and a half cameras out of five. Not sure I'd watch it again though.

Travelers (TV Show)

When the only way to try prevent a grim future for humanity is time travel, you know things are going to get strange really fast. The writing is superb and we found each episode to demand our full attention, not because our brains were melting trying to connect the pieces (though there is some of that) but more because we really loved all the characters and each mini-cliffhanger just wanted us to hit play on the next one.

It's now easily one of my favorite shows.

This is how you make an epic TV show. I only wish there were more than three seasons of it! Highly recommended to everyone, even those who aren't of a sci-fi slant. I'd would watch this entire series again and give it five messengers out of five.

Batman Ninja

When Grodds time machine sends Batman and a number of other well known Arkham regulars back to ancient Japan crazy hijinks ensue. How can Batman possibly survive as his toys run out? How did the Joker get so good at close combat? How much more absurd can the story get? Well, I can definitely answer the last one: A lot more absurd.

With most of the best story arc in act I, it only gets worse from there and it is surprisingly reflected in the art: mostly it is realy stylish high quality CGI but there's a segment in the middle where its like they ran out of budget and just went with line drawing, crayons, and stills. Why? It's not even one of those 10 second comedy bits that Japan likes doing. It's an entire segment that actually matters to the ridiculous story. All up, even as a Batman fan I disliked this one and give it one banana out of five. Not recommended as it just makes a monkey out of Batman.

State of Decay 2: The Dread Zone

[Part of the Diary of Zombies]

Des, Goose and cowgirl Maddie head to the dread zone and setup camp at a Firewatch tower. Since this is a higher difficulty than previous wins, the boons from the previous leaders cannot be used to help them forcing them to start from scratch. It is instantly obvious how much less stuff there is in each location, and how conversely there are far more zombies, plague hearts and a high infection rate. A plague juggernaut is even sighted right on day one but thankfully the girls can easily avoid it as they find fuel and tools to repair the initial vehicle they arrived in.

This car doesn't last long as when Des helps neighbor Casey to confront some thieves, Casey is killed, the car exploded and Des brought near death before a horde of plague zombies actually save her from the enemy shooters. The other two manage to hike and find a replacement vehicle (two actually, after a horde accident destroys the first). Des then takes on the first plague heart with molotovs as per usual and while she succeeds in destroying it, she also burns to death in the process.

Due to this loss Maddie recruits locals Yolanda and Taylor before moving base to a fortified truck stop. She also tries recruit Sharon who is hunting a southern plague heart at a fast food place. Unfortunately it is Sharon and Maddie on the menu as they are ambushed by hordes of hungry zombies. The other girls attack a different plague heart and while Yolanda's sword skills are awesome she still perishes to the hands of a feral. Goose finishes off that heart and takes a badly wounded Taylor back to the truck stop. Alas, Taylor now has the plague and without any remedy (rare to find samples on this mode) - Goose decides to euthanize her instead.

Bullets can also be the cure.

Insight: At this difficulty you should try avoid hitting things with your car, as not only are they great transportation devices but if you stand on the roof most zombies can't get to you. This is your safe spot for attacking plague hearts visible from the street, a lesson I learned during this play through.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

The King (2019), Outlaw King & Kingdom (Korean TV Series)

People with heavy heads.

The King (2019) (geez so many movies have this title, putting the year is mandatory!)

Prince Hal (Timothée Chalamet) has no desire to be king or to war with anyone, but despite his best intentions fate has other plans for the young prince. Especially since this is basically a war flick! That said, the story and acting is decent and the fighting scenes are cramped, dirty, messy "do what needs to be done" type which is probably more realistic than flashy displays of swordsmanship.

I'm also glad they didn't try force a love story in there for the sake of it, this way we can just focus on Hal's growth and all the people influencing it. Good movie and one I can recommend. I give it three and a half Dauphins out of five and would probably watch it again.

Outlaw King

The English have all but conquered Scotland as the remaining nobility including Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) bend the knee to King Edward I. Anyone that knows history though can tell that Robert doesn't bend the knee for long and instigates a rebellion. While the action bits are good and the opening is one of the best I've seen in a while, later cuts are very strange but keep the film moving at a reasonably fast pace.

Not a great title nor promo pic, but an OK movie.

There's a fair bit of singing too as I suppose was the way back then, but there's actually enough to make mention of it. All up this film is better than what I thought it would be but could have been better still. Give it a watch and see if you like it - especially if you've watched Mel Gibson's Braveheart recently. I give it two and a half bogs out of five.

Kingdom (Seasons 1 & 2) & Kingdom: Ashin of the North

During the time of swords and funny hats in South Korea, the cure to "save" / revive their dying king quickly turns into a pandemic... of zombies! This one surprised me in that a) it is a period piece and b) they found a way to make their zombies unique. It also helps that the action scenes are very good and the secondary plot of succession helps move things along when the zombies don't. Definitely recommended for zombie fans to try out!

Ashin of the North is a prequel to the tale, and while it is decent there are more holes in the plot and much fewer zombies. If you enjoyed Kingdom then by all means you should broaden the world building by watching this. Otherwise you can probably skip this and not miss out on much, should a season three ever arrive.