Thursday 29 February 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: The Buffet

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The team opt to try quietly handle the rest of the goblins in what turns out to be a very humorous and fun sequence which involves a lot of pushing guards off high ledges into the yawning Underdark below (insta-kills). The drow leader suffers the same fate while the hobgoblin leader gets his minions exploded via volatile barrel (hilarious) and then is bear food when his throne is wrecked out from under him, leaving him prone and vulnerable to Halsin's fury.

With the leaders gone, Halsin promptly evacuates with the other captive: Volo (master at getting himself into trouble). Lucky Kerz, a half orc paladin prisoner decides to help out, especially since Lae'zel has a brainfart and tries to murder Catharina while they rest. Catharina obviously kills her first.

The team murders their way out of there with Gale recruiting some ogre mercenaries in the process before he reveals he has a condition that requires him to consume magic items or "something bad will happen". In regular D&D this would be annoying or even dangerous. Here, there's a literal buffet of things to keep him satiated.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Goblin's Lair

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The bard Alfira joins the team at camp for one night and Catharina gives in to the urge to murder her in her sleep, hiding her crime from her companions as they continue their journey in the morning - straight into a goblin base! The tadpoles psychic influence prove useful in coercing the guards to let them pass unmolested, but that's exactly what Lae'zel wants to be when she approaches the goblin priestess for help in the parasite removal.

While the others check out the traveling slavers wares, Lae'zel is isolated and is convinced to take a tonic to put her to sleep. When she wakes, she finds herself imprisoned, chained, stripped and branded: a new scientific project for the goblin priestess to cut into. Lucky for her a hooded assassin saves her ass and kills the priestess and her guards to boot. Upon rejoining the team her savior's patron appears to the party - a devil named Raphael.

He tells them that he can remove the parasites but it will come at a cost, and it can't be now. Typical devil, he's such a tease. In a separate dungeon they find some goblin kids meanly torturing a bear, so they let the bear out and help it kill the goblin jailors nearby. Turns out the bear is a shapeshifting druid named Halsin and he wants help in wiping out the goblin leadership.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Little Tadpoles

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Catharina wakes up with a jolt as she stumbles out of the Illithid pseudopod with the horrible realization that there was now a tadpole in her brain, ready to transform her into a mind-flayer at any moment. Why it wasn't doing so, or how she got here in the first place is all a blur to her... where is "here" anyway? Some beach where the nautiloid ship crashed.

Another tadpoled survivor, the cleric Shadowheart, is nearby and they decide to stick together as they fight through a few injured intellect devourers (brains on feet) and rescue the wizard Gale from a minor black-hole situation as well as the Githyanki warrior Lae'zel from a more mundane trap - both of whom are equally tadpoled. The quartet make their way inland and witness a goblin raid fail against the walls of a druid encampment. Rather than going in they opt to skirt around as Lae'zel claims to know of a way to remove the tadpoles from their brains - a usually fatal operation.

En route to Lae'zel's solution the team happens on old lady Ethel being bullied by two guys whom they deal with. As thanks, Ethel invites them to her nearby tea house where she reveals herself to be a hag, offering to remove the tadpoles for the cost of an eye. Shadowheart agrees, but after losing one eye is still left with the parasite as Ethel's magics are useless against its Netherese protection. Instead, the witch gives a single use buff item and sends them on their way.

Monday 26 February 2024

Treason and The Silence

Shows where silence is important (but broken anyway)!


"An ok story with dumb characters" is not the line I wanted to type for this currently single season (five episode) spy show starring Charlie Cox, but here we are. After the MI6 boss is taken off the board it is up to his deputy (Cox) to fill his shoes but alas he and his family are some of the stupidest people in the universe and get played like fiddles pretty much right till the end. The idiot-ball aggravation and lack of comeuppances at the end make it a hard one to recommend. Should you watch it? Only if there isn't anything else on.

The Silence

When cave spelunkers inadvertently release dangerous predatory swarms of giant bat-gremlins (who probably shouldn't have survived living in an isolated cave) the USA hilariously falls apart pretty quickly, especially those who aren't able to keep quiet. Yes, its like A Quiet Place with bats in stead of aliens. This one focuses on a family (whose patriarch is played by Stanley Tucci) trying to get out of the city who have the advantage(?) of having a deaf daughter thus all of them know sign language. While it's an alright setup there are just a few too many scenes of contrivance, from "we need to keep quiet but we brought a dog" all the way up to "the film needs a villain so lets just throw one in there". Is it a bad film? No. Is it a good film? Also no. It's just entertaining, but I wouldn't watch it again.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Ovation of the Seas

We were fortunate to go on a short eight day cruise last month on the Ovation of the Seas and it was quite the experience! Boarding was really fast as you deposit your heavier luggage early on which will just appear next to your cabin later, and the beds are cleverly tall enough to fit your luggage underneath so you don't have to squeeze around your bags - there's enough closet space so you don't live out of your bags all the time anyway.

There was no chance we'd be going hungry either with all the options on board but what we found was breakfast at the Solarium was the best, while lunch at Windjammer (provided you sit all the way past the food where it is quieter) offers more options, and the main dining for dinner is great. If you change those around it is less good in that Solarium dinner is repetitive, main dining breakfast is too little and Windjammer is very busy in general.

It's also interesting that the waiters (outside main dining) really get rotated around even from the pay-to-eat places (Chops Grille, yum) but there is alot of upselling especially when you first board and on shore days where they walk around to try get you to eat at wherever they are spruiking.

Of the snacks options, the Two70 cafe is a bit weak again in options (potato soup was good though), at the Doghouse hotdog thing you should just ask for two dogs per bun, and the Fish and Ships near the pool will require maybe three or four of their little servings to be satisfied. Sorrento's (nearly) infinite pizza is the highlight though. Just be aware that after the evening shows this place fills up really quickly!

There's always stuff happening for you to participate in too, and a handy schedule is available in the mandatory app as well as the daily ship news in your cabin TVs. Trivia, dance lessons (we danced on every dance floor we could find), competitions - and that's not even counting the sportsy / poolsy and gaming stuff near the top deck. I got my step count up (around 14-16K a day) doing the search for nations scavenger hunt where you collect signatures from staff from different countries, some of whom are really tough to find as the ship is massive.

While I only got third place I did feel that I got to see a LOT of the ship - including the beautiful gym, spacious spa, multi-roomed childcare, and pretty much every bar because bartenders are an excellent resource when finding people (apparently that's not just in the movies). Did spend a fair bit on shopping too though AND the casino - both of which are only open when the ship is out at sea. After attending an intro to gambling course (free ship activity) I finally tried my hand at a blackjack table. It went as well as you might expect (>_<), but by golly is it fun and super addictive!

For shore excursions (visiting ports) there was a bit of a line for both disembarking and re-embarking but neither took very long possibly because all the ones we visited we could walk off the ship / didn't have to be ferried off the ship. An interesting caveat here though, while you can buy food and bring it on board no food items are allowed to leave the ship! That nixed our idea of getting chocolate as a bday present for someone. We still bought and ate the chocolate though!

Disembarking was also pretty quick - we just chose to tag and leave our bags outside the cabin the night before, keeping basically just hand carry for whatever was left. There was no line for us and by the time we got back on solid ground our stuff was already there. All up a nice experience, with only one slightly rougher sea day where everyone was walking funny. That said as nice as being on that ship was, we were quite ready to get off it come disembarkation day.

Would I do it again? Maybe, but not anytime soon. It's also pretty expensive. :P

Thursday 22 February 2024

The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Threw out the old formula and it didn't go so well.

Mocking Jay (Part I and II)

After the events from the last movie the rebellion against the Capitol is now in full swing but at the same time our main heroes are now "protected" and must do everything (mainly promotional/inspirational videos) far from the front lines. The effects are actually upped for these two movies but it does feel like a few primary actors just sat on their laurels this time around.

Script wise I don't like that they left their tried and true formula or worldbuilding and then action so it's not as good for me, but hey if you want to finish the story you'll need to watch these anyway. Possibly sped up. :P

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

This prequel to the Hunger Games spends its time dropping names and focusing on how our new protagonist saved the Hunger Games from being abolished many years before Katniss' time. Honestly its a pretty decent story but does two major things wrong - and these tie into each other. First, it runs way too long. Second, they made it a musical? Almost a musical?

I know songs had their part in the original movies but here they really got a lot of attention which is fine if you're here to watch Rachel Zegler sing, but it does draw out the film as there are many parts that just focus on her singing instead of advancing the plot. Alas that puts this in the not recommended pile for me, unless you watch it first before the other movies. Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Equal parts world building and action.

Since both these movies follow the same format I'm not going to be talking about them separately. On this world the ruling Capitol forces a "mandatory viewing" televised fight to the death from randomly drawn participants taken from previously rebellious districts. One of these is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who ends up unintentionally stirring the flames of rebellion once more.

I know I'm late to this movie series but I was quite surprised at how effective it was spending nearly half the run time on simply world building, to give the audience the same helpless anger the protagonists (and basically almost all the characters) feel towards the Capitol - even before the killing starts! That said the killing is pretty quick and decent fights are few and far between but that doesn't matter since it's the surviving that counts. Good script, decent acting and nice effects leave both of these as entertaining and enjoyable movies. Recommended!

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Masters of the Universe: Revelation & Revolution

Because He-man never dies! Oh, wait...

This Netflix animated series continuation of the old He-Man TV show and is pretty well animated, nicely violent and opens with the question "what if both He-man and Skeletor got killed right off the bat?"

It's an interesting opening premise though that does make the early part of this plot very female character focused with Teela taking the lead, but it's absolutely fine especially since it isn't shy killing off and/or giving character arcs to others while they're at it.

I didn't have high hopes for this one but I was pleasantly surprised so you might like to give it a try, starting with Revelation which has two seasons followed by Revolution which is currently one season, but it would be pretty easy to add more.

Monday 19 February 2024

Gyeongseong Creature (Season 1) and The Dry

Investigations into monsters.

Gyeongseong Creature (Season 1)

In this Korean made series set during the Japanese occupation of Korea 1945, a well connected pawn shop owner and a pair of sleuths tasked with locating missing people find clues that lead them to the local hospital where it just so happens the Japanese are conducting some monstrous experiments. While there are horror/monster aspects to the plot it isn't the bulk of the story, with heavy focus on the drama / love segment of it instead with some really colorful segments. That's not a bad thing but it certainly slows the pace down a bit, and I'm not sure I would have made it if we weren't watching at 1.5x speed. Entertaining enough to watch but I'm only going to be recommending it to K-drama lovers. Season 2 is already confirmed.

The Dry

This Australian made movie focuses on a Federal Agent (played by Eric Bana) who returns to his home town for the funeral of his childhood friend thought to be involved in a murder/suicide. Obviously he is asked to investigate but to complicate matters his history with the little town is spotty at best from a murder that took place in his youth. These two events really drive the two timelines that this story follows which nicely depicts rural Australian life. Basically, it's an Aussie whodunit and it is bloody good mate - she'll be right! Recommended!

Sunday 18 February 2024

The Marvels and Pariah Nexus

Marvel vs Warhammer 40K!

The Marvels

While this puts characters together from Captain Marvel, Wandavision, and Ms. Marvel for a girl power film this is very much a Captain Marvel story (played by Brie Larson) but with the goofy tone of Ms. Marvel (gotta get those new tween viewers) - which is not a very good blend. They really need to stop using alien races as victims because no matter what world dooming thing is happening, if its not "our" Earth in danger then there's no real weight or threat (a similar flaw in Quantumania). Alas the high budget effects can do nothing to improve the story which ultimately is a *shrug*, so that happened. Only recommended if you enjoyed the Ms. Marvel series.

Pariah Nexus

Years ago I posted about Astartes fan-project. The creator of that is now officially part of the Warhammer 40K team who have released the three episode series Pariah Nexus which depicts the fall of an Imperium shrine world to the Necrons. Nice animation, bloody fights and a decent grimdark story (it is Warhammer 40K after all) make it a much better watch than the Marvels, and is recommended for any Warhammer fan or anyone who simply enjoys this type of entertainment. Like me. :P

Thursday 15 February 2024

Bird Box and Bird Box Barcelona

The best way to save on monster CGI.

Bird Box

When the world is invaded by hostile creatures, a small band of survivors makes a trek to try find safety. Starring Sandra Bullock, the concept is quite ridiculous because as soon as you look at one of these things (which are never shown) you become intensely suicidal. Clever way to save on budget, but also ridiculous as people somehow manage to navigate without tripping over more than they should. Also, since you can't see them, the monsters aren't super scary because they have no physical abilities whatsoever (other than whispering aggressively if you aren't looking)? An interesting film nonetheless but... feels dopey.

Bird Box Barcelona

This film is almost the same as the last one, except in Spanish but with more of a focus on the crazies who are affected differently when they see the still invisible creatures. Just as ridiculous as the first film but the twist is decent enough to earn it a watch if you liked the concept.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Unicornus Knights

Anime stylized box artof a happy princess doesn't do it justice.

This is one of the best designed games I've ever played. I hope that's a strong enough start for you, especially given how many board games I've already reviewed. In this cooperative war game, up to six players must somehow guide the revenge hungry princess to defeat the emperor (before time runs out!?).

The setup can be a tad lengthy especially if you aren't used to how the flower shaped tiles are meant to be joined together, but the summary is that the princess starts at the furthest part away from the Emperor. Most of the tiles in between are ruled by randomly chosen Empire leaders while the farthest edges are where the princesses allies (that's the players) start. Game play from here goes pretty quick!

On a turn each player will either be collecting knights, gathering supplies, sending those to someone else, drawing a bonus card or moving. Now each knight adds another die to your combat roll, but to move you must pay one supply per knight! This means big armies move slowly, especially over difficult terrain. If you end up in a space with an enemy, roll your dice. Some characters are better at attacking, some better at defending, and some are better not fighting at all.

When the bad guys move it's simple: blue ones stay put no matter what, white ones (or leaderless ones) will only move at you if you walk right beside them, and red ones will always move one space closer to the nearest enemy. As soon as they are one step away from a player (or the princess) most of them get a fate card which can really shift the game as some can be made friends and ALL of them have an ally power.

As for the princess, she comes in different flavors too with the easiest being one the players can control (the others just always max move towards emperor like an idiot). She can have the largest army but that also means potentially move the slowest, and in combat she doesn't roll dice. Instead the bad guys do the maximum damage they can on her (and her forces) and if she still lives - even if its just her with 1 HP left, she obliterates anything on her space - making her both the weakest and strongest piece on the board.

That's really the bulk of it, but those fate cards that make each villain different per game are awesome - meaning each telling of this tale is memorable and different from the last. Highly recommended!

Monday 12 February 2024

All of Us are Dead

Korean High School zombies!

All of Us are Dead (Season 1)

Ah, another zombie series - but this one starts at a high school, and what better way to showcase that than to put a huge emphasis on bullying? Yes, you will absolutely hate some people in this currently one season show but that makes it all the better as students band together to try to survive. The high death count is nice, and while the zombies are almost just "guys and gals with ketchup" the vast majority of them are athletic and nimble which makes for excellent physical action pieces that you can only get with this running type of zombie. There's also a unique trait for the zeds I won't spoil here, but it really clinches the show into a winner for me. Recommended! Not sure if there'll be a season two, but I'll definitely watch it if they make it!

Sunday 11 February 2024

Dorf Romantik

The most chill game in all of board gaming.

This cooperative tile laying game of up to six players is meant to be one of the most relaxing activities around. On your turn you simply open a tile, or a "quest" tile if there are less than three quests on the board and simply put it next to any other tile with the exception that rivers and railroads must makes sense with their adjacent tiles. Quest tiles let you place a request token which is a number between 4 and 6 on the tile, and if you put exactly that number of that terrain connected to the quest tile, you take the token for your points scoring at the end.

Run out of tiles and the game is over - you always win BUT you might not always UNLOCK stuff! Yes, this is a campaign game that sees you trying to score your best and while we were nice and relaxed on our first game which gave us 78 points, we tried harder on the next game for 140! What's the highest rating on the score track? 400. Holy sh*t. The escalating unlocks give you more challenges to gain more points and is the main draw for this game - so if you are the type that just opens everything right away OR just doesn't like replaying the same thing over and over this one isn't for you.

Saturday 10 February 2024

7 Seeds and Monarch: Legacy of Monsters

Letting the younger generation take over.

7 Seeds

In this two season anime a catastrophe has befallen the Earth and only members of the fallback project known as the 7 Seeds project awake from cryosleep to find a totally different landscape along with new dangers, but as usual the biggest danger is usually other 7 Seeds teams. There's a big cast of characters and some interesting narrative choices but feels very much incomplete as it got canned. The average art was ok, but as the story is left hanging I can't really recommend this one.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (Season 1)

This live action series follows a pair of step-siblings searching for their missing and presumed dead father who turns out to be connected to a covert organization monitoring kaijus like Godzilla and King Kong. This average story straddles between two time periods (with great use of Wyatt and Kurt Russell) and makes use of decent CGI when the monsters decide to show up - which is more often than I initialy thought. While I wouldn't mind a season two if it appears, I do have issue with some of the main cast who I found a tad unlikable. If you like Godzilla (specifically) then maybe give this a try. Your mileage may vary.

Friday 9 February 2024

Bloodhounds and The Silent Sea

Korean TV Series.

Bloodhounds (Season 1)

When a sleazy corporation puts small business owners in violent debt, it falls upon a pair of amateur boxers to not only find a way to get out of that debt but to also take the fight the corporation one henchman at a time! Ok I lied, there's usually 15+ henchmen at a time but you get the idea. Good acting and story backed with likeable characters and really good fight scenes make this an easy one to recommend. Season one wraps up quite neatly too so I'm not sure if there'll be another, but if so we'll definitely be watching it!

The Silent Sea (Season 1)

In the future, the Earth is running out of water and the amount you are rationed depends on what you do / who you are. As such, undertaking a dangerous mission to recover research from an abandoned moon base is a prime opportunity for our crew of protagonists but what's waiting at the station won't let all of them leave alive. An interesting story with decent sets and is more thriller mystery than horror - but expect multiple occurrences of silent long walks in dark corridors because, what could go wrong? We liked it but it might be too slow for some.

Thursday 8 February 2024

GTFO: ALT R2C1 - Triangulation

Been awhile since our last expedition here as GTFO has fallen off our regular gaming schedule, but  after an early fail this one turned out to not be so bad! A note on our loadout - Biotracker essential, Cfoam and mines also handy but sniper sentry next to useless! Jim's choice of bringing a Combat Shotty also paid off big time towards the end!

Me: Pistol/Revolver/Cfoam/Spear
DL: DMR/Sniper Rifle/Mines/Hammer
Jim: Double Tap DMR/Combat Shotgun/Sniper Sentry/Hammer
[Bot]: DMR/Hel Gun/Biotracker/Hammer

Today we need to reach three terminals and UPLINK_VERIFY 3 codes into each of them one at a time. Of course alarms will sound while doing these and the things that come for you are invisible strikers! They are probably the least of your worries though.

From the drop clear as you see fit but before heading through the Rank V-M alarm to the North, you might as well do whichever side door you need to for your first terminal, and if you so choose do the other side for gear as well which we did(no alarm on either). Note: there are scouts aplenty here but usually only one per room. Unless they are behind a security door you should probably go kill them, keeping in mind high ground lets you strike their noggins easier plus it keeps you out of the fog in the later part of the mission.

Your first terminal will most likely only have one door leading to it, meaning a simple cfoam duty + single mine will most likely see you through it. The Rank V-M alarm has three doors leading to it, and in both our attempts the bad guys never came from the Southwest doors (note we shut everything and usually our Southeast doors were broken). You then get into a big fog area where killing the central scout is top priority. Afterwards, kill the scouts in BOTH wings. This is because the next terminal is here, and strikers spawn from the opposing wing. The defense involves three doors but the enemies never came from the large bottom floor one.

You'll find fog turbines here so bring at least one with you after you clear the next door to the North which is a class III alarm. You'll be done with circles by the time the invisible strikers get to you, just make sure Biotracker man is ready to scan. Beyond this is the worst part. Thick fog, wall cancers and giants waiting in the mist. When we goofed it was Jim's combat shotty that smacked those big guys down. The final terminal is back here with a single door to defend which is again, easy. After you're done use the corner stairs to funnel the invisible strikers and clear out any that remain before making your way back to the extraction spot.

Invisible strikers will keep coming at you endlessly now (but there are gaps so not very endlessly) so just calmly fight your way to the drop point and hold. It's a pretty long hold so expect to fight and if you survive, good job! You can GTFO! :)

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Fit more into your day: Watch at 1.5x!

I'm a little late on this bandwagon but after trying to watch things sped up, I'm amazed that I like it. 2x speed is still too quick for me (maybe I'm just old) but 1.5x is just fine - especially for animes. You can do this on Netflix and Youtube by finding the settings on the bottom right of the video player.

The drawback is action bits might go too quickly but it's easy enough to slow it down and rewind for those fewer parts if you really want to. Give it a try! If it works for you at the very least it means you can watch more episodes of whatever you are watching in a shorter amount of time. :)

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Infinite and Hotel Mumbai

Movies with a body count.


Memories are a funny thing, especially if you can retain yours past death as you get reborn into a new body. This is the whole premise of this film which stars Mark Wahlberg as one such "gifted" individual who is self medicating his "crazy" but actually is the key to saving or ending the world. While the action is average, supposedly super knowledgeable characters make stupid decisions regularly which kind of breaks the whole fiction. Not recommended.

Hotel Mumbai

This tense movie depicts the night the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in India was attacked by terrorists, and isn't shy to show the violence enacted upon the people. Good points for realism and good acting too, especially by the bad guys who also get to goof around occasionally. I did find that they had a small "hotel" interior to work with though which meant sometimes it felt that the whole place was just four rooms, two hallways and a lobby but other than that, no significant complaints to be found. Recommended!

Monday 5 February 2024

Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix and Akame ga Kill!

Animated violence!

Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix

From the makers of the Castlevania TV Series and more importantly the Guardians of Justice, is this completely whacked out animated series wherein Ubisoft basically handed over all their IPs to be blended into a story about heartbreak, revolution and revenge. Much like the Guardians of Justice the format changes from animated to sprites to blurred actors? The mixed mediums work just as they did previously which is, not great. Then you have characters completely changed for the story. When the last Assassin is a talking frog (and he happens to be the best character) you can just feel something went very wrong. Somehow there's going to be a season two of this, and I can only hope they put more effort into making it better narrative wise instead of just more woke than it already is. Thumbs up on killing characters though. That's always a plus!

Akame ga Kill!

This is an older dark fantasy anime that I've only recently finished watching and it focuses on a band of assassins who are the spearhead for a revolution against an oppressive empire. The art isn't really super high quality which is why it slipped my attention previously, and while the action is just on the ok level, it has a really good story that uses the harem-style in a pretty unique way. There are only 24 episodes to it, and in each one someone dies. Sure it starts out as low level goons but as it goes on members from both sides of the war start biting the bullet. High praise for perfectly illustrating characters on the "bad" side too, who aren't all monsters and having decent music to boot. If you're looking for a fighty anime and don't mind losing a good chunk of the cast, then this one is for you. Highly recommended.

Sunday 4 February 2024

Kandahar and Guy Ritchie's The Covenant

Movies about war translators.


When an undercover CIA agent (played by Gerard Butler) gets his cover blown while he's overseas in enemy territory, he and his translator need to go on the run from multiple threats and reach the extraction site. While the action parts here actually are quite nice, this movie is just so damned slow. Script wise people also make really stupid decisions, like all the budget went to the over the top action set pieces and to hell with everything else. Not recommended.

Guy Ritchie's The Covenant

Not to be confused with the horror movie "The Covenant", this film follows a soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal), his translator, and their squad as they look for enemy weapons facilities in Afghanistan. The pacing between action and story is really good in this one, and because the fight scenes are more realistic it immediately makes it better than Kandahar. The last third could have used something more, but all up a decent movie. If you are picking between these two, this one is the clear winner.