SIONL: Game of Thrones Episode: Hardhome

I haven’t done one of these before, but it is going to be something that I do a lot of in the future, because this episode was so awesome, and I have no one to jam with about how awesome this was.  I am going to be spoiling the living SHIT out of this episode, so consider yourself warned, if you haven’t seen it.  If you haven’t – see it!  Do it now!  This season has been a little slow, but man did that slow have an awesome pay-off for this episode.  All of the dramatic tension that this season had led to this one episode, and oh my god!  It was so worth it!

To start with, seeing Tyrion and Daenerys just sitting and talking.  Tyrion was giving her some tough lessons in running a kingdom.  He made a good point about how she is trying her best to be some kind of person of the people.  But it isn’t working.  Her armies are crumbling as the Sons of the Harpy are picking away at them.  She’s re-opened the Fighting Pits, and that is a good step, but the reality is that she is going to have to do some real negotiating with the wealthy, if she is going to help raise her army and retake Westeros.  Though, as Tyrion pointed out, should she really do that?  The families that she will need don’t care about her.  Her dragons can make them cooperate, to a point.  The reality is that she has to learn the politics of it.  And, for the first time, I think I saw some genuine humility in Dany, when Tyrion explained that the politics of running a kingdom is something that he knows how to do.  She is beginning to understand the limits of her experience.  That makes this all more interesting, for sure.

Next up, there was Arya beginning her first assignment.  The way that they had her describing her character in the third person, while we saw her character interacting in the real world was cool.  Also, it was a cute look.  For real, I like what they did with her hair.  And now you may all make jokes about how gay that makes me sound.  It’s okay, I’m with you.  It does.  But I’m bi, so I can make statements like that.  I have the half-gay pass.  In any case, the scenes with her were awesome.  It has also shown that she has been given her first task, to kill a man.  That may not sound that profound, but the whole reason that Arya went to the House of Black and White was to learn the ways of an assassin.  At long last, she is.  That’s pretty freakin’ cool.  I can’t wait to see how the next job turns out.

But, the big part of this story was, as the episode was named, Jon Snow’s journey to Hardhome.  In the span of ten minutes, it goes from very hopeful, to going to total shit, in the coolest scene in this entire series so far.  In the most awesome battle sequence, they have a bunch of twists.  First, the Night King is back.  They’ve given him a better look, and this dude is imposing as fuck!  Not only that, but he can raise the dead in an instant.  Which is bad, because….

The army of the dead arrives at Hardhome.  Just as they are loading up on Jon’s ships, the army of the dead arrives.  This battle sequence was fucking intense!  It shows where the budget for this episode went.  No complaints on my end!  It was so cool!  Getting to see a giant rip dead people in half was just sick.  And crush them underfoot.  I am so glad that a giant is going back to the Wall with Jon.  That makes me 9 kinds of happy.  Plus, Tormund shows his loyalty to Jon.  These two have formed a bond together.  It isn’t great, but it is enough to make their partnership feel legit.  Awesome levels?  Very high!

Next twist – valyrian steel can deflect White Walker weapons!  I love the look on the Walker’s face as it sees that Jon’s sword can fight on its level.  It was the ultimate “oh shit!” look that I’ve seen in a while.  Watching Jon then subsequently smash it into a million fucking pieces was the coolest thing that I have ever seen in this entire series.  Or, at the very least, the most badass.  Jon Snow’s level of badassery has risen by metrics I can’t calculate.  My math skills aren’t that good.  I’ve liked his character for a long time, and while he had a slow start, it’s clear that his skills as a leader are going to come back.  They lost their dragonglass daggers, but Stannis said that Dragonstone has plenty of that to spare, so I’m not worried.  They’ll get more in time for when the Army of the Dead arrives at the Wall.

Which brings me to the last point in this episode – the Night King has a Jones for Snow.  At the end, the two of them stare at each other, for quite some time.  As I watched that scene, it made me think back to the interaction between Harbinger and Commander Shepard in the Arrival DLC of Mass Effect 2.  I think that this guy sees Snow as a threat.  He just pwned a White Walker.  That’s the best way I can describe it – pwnage.  Watching him strike that fucker and it being totally obliterated was the greatest thing ever.  This guy saw it too, and it knows that Snow is not going to up and leave.  Winter is coming, and the two will meet again.  Emergency Awesome postulated that it saw something like what Melisandre saw in him, but I got a feeling that this was more a challenge.  Like when Sovereign and Shepard talked in Mass Effect.  It wanted him to know what it could do, and it added thousands of people to the Arm of the Dead.

This episode was awesome on 100 different levels.  From Tyrion and Dany having a cordial and fun discussion, to Jon Snow being involved in the most intense battle I’ve seen in the series thus far.  Everything led to this.  It got pretty fucking crazy, and what’s more, I am glad to see that it did.  This season is finally heating up, and it can only get better from here.  Oh, and I can’t help but be pleased to watch a smug bitch like Cersei sucking up water from the floor, becoming desperate.  I love this show!

Let me know what you all thought in the Comments.  I look forward to our discussion.

Until next time, a quote,

“When I served as Hand of the King, I did quite well with the matter, considering the King I served preferred torturing animals to leading his people.”  -Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

Peace out,

Maverick

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Seeking the Next Story

Something that most people don’t know about me is that I suffer from unending, soul-crushing, spirit-breaking depression.  It stems from a head injury, and the subsequent brain damage that accompanied it.  I am brain damaged.  It’s something I don’t talk about too much, because I don’t like people to think less of me because of it.  The moment someone hears brain damage, they think of something like some guy who becomes a drooling vegetable.  To be fair, that could have been me.  There was a girl in high school who was made a vegetable by a head injury.  Every time I saw her, my stomach knotted.  Like looking into the mirror of what could have been.  It was harrowing, to say the least.

Part of what came with my depression is some thoughts of suicide.  I don’t deny, I wrestle with this all the time.  It is better now, with it being summer.  Granted, the sauna that is my office during the day doesn’t help, but one thing at a time, right?  It’s money, and that’s what I need.  Especially since, I seem underqualified for this job, but I am working to learn it, because it’s a great opportunity.  Of course, the moment a better one comes along, I’m on that like stink on cheese.  It’s nothing personal.  I was born and raised lower-middle class.  I learned to do what’s best to move my position in life along as best I can.  It’s just how things work.  Nice?  Not really.  But that’s what it is.  In winter, however, or when it is late and I am at my lonely apartment, there are times when the thoughts creep into my head.  Thoughts about how a skin condition makes me look worse each day, and that my socialization is on life support and my love life has been given a time of death.

What keeps me going?  After all, I’ve been dealing with this since I was 14.  I have muscled through periods in my life when the urge was so strong that I had written an actual note.  Something I keep with me, to remind me where I’ve been.  How do I keep doing this?  Any time someone accuses me of personal weakness, I know that that isn’t the case.  That isn’t to say that I think that suicide is easy.  It’s not.  People who say that it’s “taking the easy way out” have obviously never been in a place where they have genuinely wanted to end it.  But, it is in no way easy to press on and try and make the most of one’s time.

The worst part of being me is that I’m not the best looking guy.  I am freakishly tall.  6′ 10-1/2″, to be exact.  I tower over everyone.  My face generally looks annoyed, even when I am not.  I just keep it blank, because I don’t feel the need to plaster a fake-ass smile on my face to make people think that I’m so super-happy and joyful.  No joke, the guidelines at my job said that I had conduct myself, “serious, yet joyfully.”  How does that work?  Do I sprinkle pixie dust around my office as I do paperwork?  I don’t now.  Still, I’m not a good-looking guy, and I am constantly-aware that I don’t fit into that category.  It makes my hopes for any future romance look bleak.

In any case, it’s not easy.  I press on.  Why?  What keeps me going?  After some serious examination, I have figured out what it is that keeps me going.  It’s the search for a good story.  I love stories.  Great fiction is a wonderful thing.  I look for it in all forms.  Books, movies, TV shows (well, some.  Infinitely more critical of television than other forms of media.  A LOT of garbage in there), and lastly – video games.  That’s right, I’m a grown man, out of college, who likes video games.  The horror!  It tells great stories as well.  It’s a great medium for great stories.  Anyone who looks down on those who game because it is “childish” or what-have-you clearly has their own idea about what is the way to be, and it isn’t going to change.  People like things as they do, and those outside of them can get rather-cruelly examined in a negative light.  It seems to be a human thing.

My search for the next great story is why I am still here.  When I was in the worst parts of my life, fiction is the thing that saved me.  Video games especially.  Losing myself in a story that I could get immersed in was such a nice feeling.  A gentle escape from how unpleasant life could be.  After everything with Emily went down, I logged SO many hours into the Mass Effect games.  It got a little insane.  My break-up with the last relationship was much the same, only it was different games.  Then I got into Game of Thrones, and dear god has that sucked up a lot of my time.

I get where the character Eugene Sims is coming from.  For a socially-awkward giant like me, I have had to work on my skills for ages.  I am amicable and snarky (in a fun way) when people first meet me, but the longer they know me, the more they realize that I am a weird, sometimes-cold, often-negative guy who keeps my thoughts on stuff pretty close to the chest.  Since I work at a medical office where the majority of people working there are women, I get to hear a lot of idle gossip about whatever, and I am having to say nothing, or just nod, when people want my input.  I swear, part of me wonders if they think I’m gay, and that’s why they ask me what I think about so-and-so’s relationship issues.  It wouldn’t be the first time people have thought that way.

Still, my depression is an ugly animal.  I muscle through each winter, and the summers are not long enough.  That’s part of why I mean to move down south, into the Lower 48, at some point in my life.  My end goal is to live on the ocean, for at least two years.  That happens, along with two other things that I won’t mention, and I can die a happy man.  But, until then, I have my fiction to keep me company, along with the remnants of my social life.  A strange entity.  If you have depression issues, feel free to talk about how you get through it in the Comments section.  I am always open to us being able to help out anyone else who may have trouble dealing.

Until next time, a quote,

“For years, my best friends were fictional characters.”  -Eugene Sims, inFAMOUS: Second Son

Peace out,

Maverick

Is EVERYTHING A Gender Issue Now? (A response to The New York Times)

Something to know about me – I have a decently-ranged sexual history.  I won’t go into any details.  It isn’t your business.  I’m just giving context (a thing third-wave feminists hate) as to my perspective as I get into a discussion with all of you.  I have been with skinny women.  I have been with women who have a few extra pounds.  I have never gotten with a woman where her weight was a danger to her health.  It’s a turn-off for me, and it’s dangerous for them.  Unlike what SJWs say, the Body Mass Index is a real thing, and your weight does actually affect you.  Call me a misogynist or whatever.  I know who and what I am, and I have not used or mistreated anyone I have been close to.  As it so happens, I have a VERY high opinion of sex and sexual expression.  Intimacy is the best thing that our species has going for it.  With how shitty life is, sex and love are among the few solaces that we have from how ugly a world it is.  The journey to freely express that has been part of second-wave feminism, also known as the Sexual Liberation Movement.  Some fascinating history there, for anyone who looks it up.  Along with some of my favorite women throughout history.

That was a long intro paragraph.  There’s supposed to be an article in here, right?  Don’t worry, I didn’t forget.  I came across an article on my Twitter feed today in The New York Times where a bunch of women are deciding to “say ‘no’ to thongs.”  We have decided to make what underwear women wear into a battleground.  This is just another place where the insanity of this Neo-Victorian, puritanical, third-wave feminism has made everything into a gender issue.  It’s gotten ridiculous.  Here’s a link, now let’s talk about it.

A young generation of women is discovering a new brand of sexy in the most unlikely of places: their grandmothers’ underwear drawers.

What a great introduction.  For the days when this publication was known for high journalistic standards.  But we’ll see just how low this publication’s “standards” for good reporting are.

“Within millennial and Generation Y consumer groups, it’s considered cool to be wearing full-bottom underwear,” said Bernadette Kissane, an apparel analyst at the market intelligence firm Euromonitor. “Thongs have had their moment.”

Huh.  Maybe I spoke too soon.  My bad, NYT.  I’m sorry.  I just got wrapped up in certain gender issues, I abandoned my objectivity.  This seems like a pretty decent force.  Analyzing market forces is something that’s legit.  And this woman seems to be a from a source that has some credibility.  Well, continue.

“I only wear granny panties,” Julia Baylis, a willowy 22-year-old, declared proudly. Ms. Baylis and her best friend, Mayan Toledano, 27, design the boutique clothing label Me and You. Their best seller is a pair of white cotton underpants with the word “feminist” printed in pink bubble letters across the rear. Since the line’s introduction on April 7, the panties have sold out.

Uh-oh.  I get the feeling that we are seeing the start of the abandonment of objectivity.  This seems too much like promotion.  I mean, why bring up a company that makes underwear with the word “feminist” printed on it?  You could have talked about market forces and this would have been a solid article.  Please don’t tell me that the pandering has only just begun…

Ms. Baylis and Ms. Toledano are part of an all-female creative collective founded by Petra Collins called the Ardorous that explores feminist topics from a millennial point of view through collaborative and solo art projects. For the generation that counts both Beyoncé and Lena Dunham as feminist icons, female sexuality is wielded for one’s own pleasure.

And just like that, the objectivity of this article be damned!  It’s about feminism.  What could have maybe been an interesting look at the changes in sexual expression has to be a gender issue.  I also find it interesting that you bring up Beyonce and Lena Dunham.  The first is a mediocre musician who makes mediocre music.  The second is someone who has admitted sexually abusing her sister.  What fine examples of feminist icons.  I’m amazed that I didn’t see the likes of Anita Sarkeesian on here.  She is one of the biggest proponents of this Neo-Victorian mindset where everything is seen as sexist, unless the woman is dressed in a hijab.

“Most lingerie is designed to appeal to a man,” Ms. Baylis said. “For us, that’s not even a consideration. This is underwear you wear totally for you. Maybe no one will see it, or maybe you’ll put it up on Instagram to share with everyone you know.”

I’m getting really tired of this.  Once-again, I get to be the person who says that lesbians and bisexual women are being cut out of the conversation about sexual attraction in respect to women.  Why does NO ONE else find this insulting?  I can’t be the only one!  Come on, people!  Make your voices heard!  I’m not an SJW.  I don’t mod comments.  Can some lady who is into other ladies please point out that there are plenty of women who find women in sexy clothing appealing?  Please?  Anyone?  Can we not have a segregated conversation about attraction and sexual expression, that deliberately excludes women?  Really, can we do that?

That’s not to say Me and You’s customers don’t want to feel sexy; they absolutely do. “What’s sexy for us is being natural and comfortable,” Ms. Toledano said.

And that’s a choice you can make.  One that I believe that all women should and do have the right to make.  Wear what you find comfortable.  But why are you making underwear into a big feminist issue?  Is what a woman covers her privates with so big a gender topic?  Why?  And why do you want to make this into such a rallying-cry for gender, anyway?

“I think there’s a widespread misconception that men are into pearl thong, lace contraptions,” said Ms. Javitch of Ten Undies. “To be honest, men are into girls in T-shirts and white underwear.”

Okay, no.  Who the FUCK are you to be telling US what we like?!  Seriously, bitch, who the fuck do you think you are to dictate what other people like?!  God is that insulting!  I am a fan of all kinds of things on women, but I don’t just write a girl off because she is wearing something different.  I’ve been with girls who are into thongs.  I’ve been with girls who like regular white-cotton panties and ranges in-between.  I didn’t make something of it.  Who the fuck is this person to believe that she is the arbiter of male attraction.  It’s insulting.  Just like the last thing, we still have lesbians and bisexual women being excluded from the conversation about sexual attraction to women, and it’s fucking wrong!  I can’t be the only one bothered by this.

It’s a notion mainstream lingerie companies have been slow to embrace. As the gender gap among owners of small businesses continues to narrow, female entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly empowered to fill the void in the market.

Of course, because The New York Times has decided to abandon ANY form of objectivity, they agree with this person.  Yes, let’s let a person who has NO experience being a heterosexual man (though there are plenty of gay men that I have met who can, on a certain level, appreciate sexy clothes on a woman.  Just another example of segregation in talking about sexual expression) dictate what men like. You began with market forces.  That could actually be a real discussion.  Maybe about the changing views of sexuality.  There’s a real discussion to be had there.  Instead, you devolve into a gender-battle, because you know that that will get you clicks.  This article reeks of click-bait.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Ms. Dalbesio said she was hopeful that the greater diversity of offerings was a sign that the lingerie industry is beginning to recognize that “there is not one ‘ideal body,’ but a plethora of them.”

I find it so utterly ironic that an article that goes out of its way to shame the fashion industry and make HUGE assumptions about straight men can claim that this isn’t about culture bias.  Ms. Dalbesio, your statement reeks of bullshit.  Nice work.

Can we please STOP making every single fucking thing a gender battleground?  Please? Is that really asking too much?  I’m tired of hearing EVERY fucking day about how women are so oppressed and how men like me…well, not just like me.  I’m bi, so yeah.  I guess I’m half-evil, according to the third-wave feminist meter.  Still, I hate hearing about how straight men are just the worst and how women are being told that they are doing wrong and need to act a certain way.  Where this has gone in the realms of sexuality and sexual expression is even worse.  We are turning women into paranoid Puritans, believing that all men are rapists and how every form of sex that doesn’t get a verbal consent at every phase is rape.  The power of intimacy is being torn apart by modern feminism.  The women I admired so much, like Joan Jett and Janis Joplin would beat the shit out of these social justice warriors.  How many of them would lay down and let them beat them, because they are too weak to raise up to a woman who is attacking them?

Until next time, a quote,

“I grew up in a world that told girls they couldn’t play rock and roll.” – Joan Jett

Peace out,

Maverick

Why Does Art Matter?

Aren’t you glad that you clicked on this?  It is a question that was posed to me today by a lady-friend of mine.  She was telling me about someone she knows, who has an art project that sounds SO pretentious, yet it has gotten him a lot of respect, from the university art crowd.  She doesn’t get it, and neither do I.  Though, that is a lot of modern art, isn’t it?  Like a piece of art outside of my alma mater’s art building.  It’s just a bunch of steel welded together into a weird shape.  Oh yeah, tell me how fucking “deep” that is.  Please, enlighten little ol’ Lucien.  I’m all ears.  However, as I came to see that, it did signify something to me.  It told me something about modern culture – it’s dull, uninspired, pretentious, and thinks so highly of itself, when in reality, the true works of genius are treated like they’re blaise.  Except Game of Thrones.  Against all odds, a series of books that was modeled after real medieval history became a national phenomenon.  I know, right?  It’s weird.

That said, however, it also got me to realize the answer to my lady-friend’s question – why does art matter?  This is going to get a little pretentious in and of itself, I suppose, so you can take what I’m about to say as you will.  Art is a way to express culture.  Here’s the thing about art – it imitates life.  If you believe the rhetoric of certain, social justice-inclined individuals, then you might believe the opposite.  That is so patently false.  Probably the best refutation of such is a quote by Frank Zappa –

There are more love songs than anything else.  If music could make you do something, we’d all love one-another.

He’s absolutely right.  This argument that video games cause violence or sexism or what-have-you is ridiculous, and now there is real data to show that it’s a lie.  As if we didn’t already know.  Still, getting off-track.

Early Morning at Cold Spring, Asher Brown DurandArt imitates the world we live in.  Look at the art that came after World War I.  The expressionist movement.  Some of the saddest poetry every written was done after what was called The Great War.  People believed that that would be the last major war, after how much death and destruction it caused.  Or, at least, they hoped it would be.  Shell-shocked veterans told stories and wrote poems about horror.  People who saw friends get maimed and mutilated by mustard gas.  Soldiers who watched sinkholes in the trenches eat their friends alive in an instant.  These things came home with them, and it affected the art that came after.  The 1920’s was one of the most interesting periods of artistic expression ever done. Watch Ken Burns’ film “Jazz” and you’ll see.  This time period did amazing things.

When a person talks about the role art serves, then it is impossible to miss the fact that, throughout history, art has shown where a culture is.  More important – the challenging of art can say even more about a culture.  When Igor Stravinsky wrote the ballet “The Rite of Spring,” he challenged conventions so bad that he caused a riot and had to flee Paris.  Art not only acts as an indicator of society, but can challenge it as well.  Another famous piece of artwork that challenged the world was Salmon Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses.”  This book challenged a religion and got the world talking about the problematic elements of Islam.  Something that has still been a talking point, to this day.

I am currently engrossed in an episode game called Life is Strange.  From Dontnod Entertainment, it tells the story of a teen girl named Max, who finds one day that she can alter the flow of time, and is using this talent to help solve a mystery surrounding her school, with it being connected to all of her friends.  Why do I love this game so much?  What about it has captivated me?  After all, I’m a grown man.  Though, technically, so is Max.  She’s 18.  But, to me, that still feels like teenage years.  Especially since she’s still in high school.  You get to call yourself a grown-up when you leave that.  What is it about this game that has me so eager to see the next chapter?  Well, part of it is the great characters.  These feel like real people.  They have problems that make sense.  They aren’t some contrived Mary Sues (or Johnny Sues, as the case may be).  Each of them has flaws.

When I first heard about this game, it was told to me that it is “SJW: The Video Game.”  With this most recent episode, I know that that is wrong.  It was all done in one line.  While you are in the pool area, you can explore the locker rooms and sleuth.  There is a piece of graffiti on the wall, implying that Rachel Amber was gay.  Max says one thing, “bros will be bros.”  NEVER, in all my history of SJW culture, have I heard one say that.  Never.  So yeah, that argument is out.

Thinking about all of this, it finally made me realize why art matters.  It’s because art is the way for us to talk about who we really art. A way to express our humanity.  The growth of our species is represented in our greatest works of art.  From the tapestry-style portraiture of Medieval Europe, to the gorgeous perspective paintings of Renaissance Italy. Art shows how our culture exists.  This is amazing. No other medium can do this.  Part of why I am a gamer is because video games have the ability to capture art in a way that makes me Life is Strange Episode 3want to interact with it.  Which is the major reason why I love Life is Strange so much.  I can shape this story.  This narrative is held together by me.  I sculpt it, shape it, change it to what I think is the right way.  I could be wrong!  The fact that this latest episode counts who has David’s gun as an important element has me worried.  Still, the mystery is too good to stop.  I am too engrossed!

So, why does art matter?  Art is the way that we show who we are, as a species.  It shows that humans are not mindless drones, like ants.  Well, not all of them.  I can’t help but watch just about anything on TLC and think that these people are drones.  Or their audience is, at least.  Oh well.  But even that says something about our culture.  Depressing as it is, that is an art medium that says something about humanity.  It says that our society is bored, decaying, stricken with cultural ennui. But there are signs that hope is here.  Shows like Game of Thrones and many others give me a belief that we might be able to save things yet.  With all this in mind, I realize that art is the greatest thing that humanity has going for it.  Without it, we have buildings and spaces.  Without art, there is no color in the world.  Culturally, anyway.  I watched the remake of Cosmos.  I get the science of color.

Now I put it to you – why do you think that art matters?  Or do you?  Do you think that art is just some pointless part of the world, that serves no purpose?  Let me know down in the comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“Cultural, artistic expression reflects philosophical evolution, interest in growth, perspective, observation, interpretation.  Suspect you won’t see any art in Collector base. Culturally dead.  Tools for the Reapers.  Worse than the Geth.”  – Mordin Solus, Mass Effect 2

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3The first thing to say when talking about this game is that there is a TON of stuff to do.  For real, this game can easily log over 100 hours.  It’s a completionists nightmare.  Or heaven, depending on who you ask.  Still, it’s more than a little insane.  The next thing for me to say is that I hadn’t played the previous entries in the franchise.  So, I went into this game blind to the plot.  That did a little damage to my experience, but not as much as you’d think.  I haven’t had a game that gets me back into old-school RPG experience in a long time.  The closest that I came was Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.  An excellent game, in its own right, but a totally different animal from this game.  Well, kind of.  There might just be a lot to talk about with this game.  Let’s get down to it.

The plot of this game follows Geiralt as he is looking for his ward, who is like a daughter to him, Ciri.  He is hot on her trail, trying to find her, but he isn’t alone.  A group of icy phantoms called the Wild Hunt is also after her.  The race is on to find her, and a TON of players all have their own parts.  This goes on in a changing Northern Realms, mired in war between two powerful nations, and a growing amount of religious extremism that is threatening to tear the nation apart.  And that’s as simple as I can make the plot.  Part of that is because of the fact that this game very much is the culmination of all of these games, and it expects you to know stuff.  That’s something that the uninitiated like myself have to contend with.  It’s all very complicated.

Where to start with the elements of this game.  I’m not quite sure.  I guess I will address that, according to the initiated into the franchise, this game is a lot easier than previous entries.  Since I’m a story-seeker, that didn’t do too much, for me.  It’s still pretty difficult, but I am playing it on a lower difficulty setting.  I guess that sort of thing comes down to what type of gamer you are.

Visually, this game looks fucking amazing!  No joke, this is some amazing stuff.  The texture quality varies, depending on where you are.  It seems like this game knew to not try and have Assassin’s Creed: Unity levels of fidelity, instead aiming for it to look very good, and to show off the stuff that they want to.  It looks great, but it’s no Bloodborne.  Take that for what you will.  I will say that the character models all looked phenomenal.  For a game where the main character is supposed to be emotionally muted, they were able to make expression play a big part of the game.  It’s excellent, for what it is.

This brings us to the characters and voice acting.  The voice acting in this game is TOP NOTCH.  They got the guy who plays Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones to do the voice of the Emperor of the invading army.  That is really cool.  The rest of the cast is solid as can be.  The bulk of it is very European voices, but they have some odd-ball people at strange times.  It’s an odd choice, but I have no problem with it.  Every major character is bursting with personality, and part of me thinks that it goes back to the fact that this game is the last in a franchise.  Unsure.

The leveling system they use here is kind of odd.  You earn experience points, that you can put into certain things, but these things have to be a grid that you unlock spaces on by leveling up.  The system can be cumbersome, but it incentives strategic play.  In addition to experience points, you unlock mutagen spaces, where you can augment your skills even more.  There is something of a learning curve to playing using this system, but it isn’t so complicated that you’ll be pulling your hair out.  To be honest, I sometimes forgot that I had leveled up.  It’s an odd sensation.

Oh, and the process of buying and selling and customizing weapons is also a bit much.  You’ll want to keep a close eye on where you local blacksmith is.  You’ll be visiting him often.  Every piece of equipment you have degrades.  All of it.  You find a TON of loot, which makes getting new stuff easier, but still.  You’ll have to make repairs all the time.  But don’t just pass by loot because you don’t think it is useful.  That ties in to the Alchemy system.  Alchemy and crafting are involved, complicated, and can be more hassle than they’re worth.  If this also isn’t a thing that you are into, you will get annoyed with it pretty quick.

Well, if it’s an RPG, there are a TON of side-quests.  Let’s talk about that.  First thing – this game has a LOT of fetch-quests.  A lot of them.  Some of them make up for this deficiency by having them involve fun characters.  Making it so that you are at least entertained.  Smart choice.  But, if you are like me and despise these, this game will bug you, at points.  There is also gambling, fisticuffs, all kinds of odds-and-ends side-quests that can take up hours of your time.  But the ones that you will really be enjoying are the quests where you take on contracts to kill monsters and solve mysteries.

Those quests make this game, for me.  No joke, without them, this game would score a lot lower.  My favorite was chasing down a serial killer.  Watching Geralt put his Witcher skills to work figuring out crimes and hunting down monsters and the like is just awesome.  It had a very L.A. Noire feel to it.  That really made me happy.  I could play this game over and over again just for those quests alone.  It makes slogging through some of the more monotonous stuff that much better.  Especially since slogging through some of the boring stuff can unlock the better stuff.  Stick with it, and this game can give you some amazing stuff to do.  But, if you aren’t the kind of gamer that is into this deep levels of RPG mechanics, it will get boring.  Fast.  For me, I honestly have to take breaks from the game, because I’m not super-RPG guy.  Weird, I know, since I’m a story-seeker. But boring missions can be a chore.

To sum this game up – it’s an old-school RPG done right. This is RPG gaming at its best.  For better or worse, it takes what is genre-standard and gets it done just right, with an engaging game and fun characters who will make your experience that much better.  Well, wasn’t that review useful?  I know, a lot of tangenting and bringing up random stuff.  The reality is that a perfect review of this game would go on for pages, and you would get bored.  I will say that if you like this kind of game, you are going to love The Witcher III.  As I have said before, take that for what you will.

Final Verdict:
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL/R: Life is Strange: Episode 3

There is a plot element in things that is almost-universally-hated – the Deus Ex Machina.  The simple definition of the concept is – when a completely contrived plot device solves the situation. usually out of nowhere.  However, this term can also refer to when something comes right the hell out of nowhere and completely invalidates everything that has happened beforehand.  I got to see this happen today, in something that I love.  Now, the cool thing about what I have seen is that it doesn’t have to be the end.  This could all still work out.  In fact, I genuinely believe it will.  That said, I have a word of warning to the creators of Life is Strange.

I am about to spoil the shit out of the end of Episode 3, so if you haven’t seen that, STOP READING!  I mean that.  Stop reading this right now and play that.  Because you will love it.  However, the ending is leaving me feeling uncertain.  I am on shaky ground right now.  Part of me wants to be more certain.  Part of me wants to be like, “Dude, the creators of this game aren’t crazy enough to do this.  Don’t sweat it.  But there is this other part that is scared to death that my worst fears will come true.  So, in a long and rambling way, this is my attempt to give them some very constructive criticism.

The end of Episode 3 has Max discovering a new ability.  She can go back in time even further, through photographs.  That’s SO fucking cool!  That enables her to see the past and affect it even more.  She saves Chloe’s father from death.  At first, that looks great.  Max’s life is going great.  She is the best friend of everybody.  Chloe’s dad is alive and well.  David Madsen is a bus driver.  A fitting position, for that creepy bastard.  And everything is hunky-dory.  But something is wrong.  Freaked out, Max goes to see Chloe, and finds out something awful.  She is a quadriplegic.  For those who are ignorant of medicine, that means that she’s paralyzed from the neck down.  It is implied that it was from an accident in her new vehicle.  Max sees this, and the words that I felt came right out of her mouth – what have I done?!  I did this.  Me, the player, made this happen.  And just like Max, I thought that I was doing the right thing.  It felt like this was the right thing to do.  But seeing what happened, a result that couldn’t be changed no matter what choice I made, it made me feel like shit.  I did this.  I have put Chloe through Hell and now it was too late.

But, as the player, another thing kicked in – it damn well better not be too late!  For real, if this alternate timeline stands, then I am going to be so pissed.  Why?  Because that will mean that EVERY choice that I’ve made up until that point is totally invalid.  I mean all of them.  The choice to save Chloe?  Didn’t happen.  She was never in that bathroom.  The deal with Rachel Amber (that is the driving force of the entire series)?  Probably didn’t happen, since her friendship with Chloe didn’t happen.  Me stealing the money from Blackwell to help Chloe pay off her debts?  Saving Kate Marsh’s life, probably the most emotionally-satisfying thing I have ever done in a video game?  Nada.  It never happened.

As I said before, I don’t think the creators of this game are dumb enough to let this be the case.  I am certain that they are going to take us back to the original timeline, because we have a mystery to solve.  Let me put this plainly – if they do not do this, and I am having to deal with this new timeline, which has invalidated everything I did before, then I am going to give the next episode the worst review that you have ever seen!  All my careful planning, all my plotting to get the best possible situation, would amount to nothing.  No!  Wrong!  We are not doing that.  There isn’t a single part of me that believes that the creators of the game are dumb enough to go that route.  But I’m writing this as a head’s-up to them.  I’m watch-dogging you.

That all being said, I got to thinking again, about Max and the look on her face when she sees what she’s done to Chloe.  A girl who, in the game I am playing, is starting to have real feelings for her.  I do like how the creators of the game have given us a choice on how we want this to play out, but I’m not an idiot.  I can see where your choices are going to lead.  Hell, this episode gave it to me straight.  The choice is there, but the option it gives you is blatant as fuck.  It turns out, I was right.  It is a lot like Riley and Ellie in The Last of Us: Left Behind.  Do I find that annoying?  Not at all.  You can choose to get with Warren.  I’m going to let him down easy.  No need to be cruel.  There is a date planned, and I am going to be gentle in how I break to him that I’m not interested.  A sweet guy must never be hurt.  Especially when he’s genuinely sweet and he is trying to be a good person and get with Max, romantically.  No ill will here.

Still, Max has really fucked up Chloe’s life.  First, it was when she moved away.  Then, she comes back and exposes all of the truth that Chloe had in her life as lies.  Now, she has tried to save Chloe from the darkness that is haunting her, and ends up hurting her even worse in the process.  If my assumption is right, and the makers of this game aren’t bat-shit insane, then she is going to have to go back in time and let Chloe’s dad die all over again, breaking her, twice.  That is SO fucked up!  For real, how fucked up is that?!  I bet that it’s going to kill Max.  That would make for a GREAT segment.  Her telling Chloe the truth and seeing how much her heart is breaking because of what she has done to a person who is either her best friend, or someone she is coming to love.  Man, this is some heavy shit!  I like it.

Dontnod, you have a chance to do something amazing, here.  I think I’ll let Mallory say it.

Until next time, a quote,

“Don’t cock it up.”  -Gareth Mallory, Skyfall

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Life is Strange: Episode 3

Life is Strange Episode 3Choice and consequence.  That is the best way that I can describe this episode.  You truly learn the consequences of your actions.  You truly get to see how far that your choices can take you, and the price that gets paid.  What’s more, forces around what is happening in this game are lining up against you.  It gets so much more intense!  This game gets more awesome, the more I learn of the story.  That said, I feel kind of terrible for how things turned out, because it was me who did this, and I couldn’t do anything different.  No matter what you do, you make the choice and have to own it.  This was so messed.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot of this episode picks up after Episode 2.  Depending on what happened, you are either a savior or a person who watched something awful happen.  Now, the race is on to figure out what happened to Rachel Amber and Kate Marsh.  Also, you learn more about your ability to manipulate time.  Including being able to go even further back, and change even bigger things.  But  dark forces are growing around Max Caulfield, as her powers are showing signs that even bigger things are ahead.

Before I talk about this game, I will say that glitches were a real issue for me, this time around.  Not sure why, but this was more than a little annoying.  I found myself getting annoyed at them, sometimes.  It wasn’t game-breaking, but it was a little frustrating.  Hopefully, if it isn’t just me having this issue, we get some patches or something for it.  Most of the early glitches were centered around light sources.  Lamps and stuff.  They all got blacked out by big black boxes.  Annoying.  If any of you are having that issue,, let me know in the Comments section, so the devs can know that this is a problem.  I’ll send this their way.

That said, let’s talk about this episode.  This episode got so much right.  For as much as I am torn up about how things ended, it was one hell of a trip to get there.  The characters got a lot more developed.  Max and Chloe’s relationship got a lot better here.  The cool thing is about where they go is that it’s up to you.  I like that.  Their closeness can be controlled by you.  The omniscient overseer.  I stand by what I said in an SION post, where I talked about how your character isn’t Max.  You are an omniscient being, controlling her.  It makes how this story ends that much harder, because I (and you will too) thought that I had done the right thing.  I was certain that this was what I was supposed to do..  But it wasn’t.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It was so hard.  Still, the episode got the pace right, the characters right, the setting right.  It just got everything right.

Now, of course, the lip syncing is off.  Whatever.  At this point, I hardly even notice it.  Now, it’s kind of like a cute quirk.  The graphics also get silly at point.  Like the water effects.  And the flashlight effects.  Though, with the flashlight, that might have been glitches.  For real, peeps, if you are having these problems, let me know.  This might be something that the developers missed.

However, as I said at the beginning, it all comes back to choice and consequence.  But, how it all ends shows you that the choices that you make for all the right reasons can be a total disaster.  Especially when you realize what you have become in the process.  This really forced it on the player.  Because, if you have any investment in the story at all, you are going to want to do what you do to get there.  It feels right.  The worst part is, you can’t change it.  No matter what you do, you can’t change the outcome.  That hurts worst of all.  Sure, in the process, you discover a cool time power, but still.

This episode was so much better than the last one.  The last one faltered a bit, but it found its footing again.  I am pretty damn stoked to see what happens next.  In fact, the wait is going to be the hardest part.  Were it not for the glitches, this episode would have been higher, but what can you do?

*Update: an update has been posted for Episode 3.  Download it, and it will cure your glitch problems.  Which means that I have to amend my score.  Sigh, a reviewers work is never done.*

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick